Archive of August 2, 2010

US priest appointed as secretary of Vatican council for religious

Rome, Italy, Aug 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Redemptorist Fr. Joseph William Tobin was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as the new secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on Monday.

He follows Archbishop Gianfranco Agostino Gardin of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor in the position. The Vatican congregation for religious is headed by prefect Cardinal Franc Rode of the St. Vincent de Paul-founded Congregation of the Mission.

According to a brief biography released by the Holy See, the Detroit-born Fr. Tobin was ordained a priest in 1978 after having received a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Holy Redeemer College in Wisconsin and a Master of Religious Education from New York's Mount St. Alphonsus Major Seminary. Following his ordination, he earned a Master of Divinity in 1979 from the same institution.

For the next decade, he served in a parish in Detroit while also working as the episcopal vicar for the archdiocese from 1980-86.

In 1991, he was elected the general consultor of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, known as the Redemptorist Fathers, and then, in 1997, became the order's superior general. He held the position until Nov. 2009.

As superior general, he was a member of the Union of Superior Generals, for which he served as the vice president. His post as head of his order also resulted in Fr. Tobin being named as a member of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, where he was appointed as secretary on Monday.

This Vatican dicastery oversees the government, discipline, studies, goods, rights and privileges of both men's and women's institutes of consecrated life, societies of apostolic life, monks, consecrated virgins and their related associations and new forms of consecrated life.

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Human trials for embryonic stem cell treatment a crime, says Bishop Sgreccia

Rome, Italy, Aug 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following Friday's news that a U.S. company has been given the go ahead to experiment with embryonic stem cells on human patients, a former head of the Pontifical Academy for Life told Vatican Radio that the trials are unacceptable. He said that regardless of whether the result of testing is positive or negative, "morally it remains a crime."

Biopharmaceutical developer Geron, which has its headquarters in California, announced last Friday that it was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin testing injections of an embryonic stem cell derivative in treatments for severe spinal-cord injuries.

Geron celebrated the FDA's approval which, they said, gives them the ability to legally "move forward with the world's first clinical trial of a human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-based therapy in man."

The clearance had been blocked since last January after preliminary trials on animals resulted in the growth of small cysts in treated regions. Further testing led to the FDA's recent approval.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, who led the Pontifical Academy for Life for more than three years, told Vatican Radio in an interview released on Saturday that the use of human embryos in treatments should be rejected, "not only from the Catholic moral code but by whoever respects the human individual."

Bishop Sgreccia noted that researchers carry out their experiments under the assertion that embryos remain only "a human being in the making." But considering that embryos are "sacrificed" for the treatments, he said, "from an ethical point of view (it) can only receive a negative judgment."

Looking at the results of embyronic stem cell testing, he said, it can be seen that, to date, the expected results have not  been obtained. This, said Bishop Sgreccia, is due to the fact that embryonic stem cells are meant for the creation of a human being, not just other cells.

"In any case," he added, "in the remote possibility that there was a positive result, morally it remains a crime."

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Mexican bishops express solidarity with Arizona immigrants

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 2, 2010 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico published a message of solidarity with those affected by Arizona’s new illegal immigration law.

The bishops expressed their “profound sorrow” and the solidarity of “all the bishops, priests and religious of Mexico, in communion with our people and with federal officials and other leaders of the country.” The bishops also lamented the “profound suffering experienced by our fellow countrymen and our Latin American brothers and sisters in the United States in general.”

“We pray with insistence to the Lord of Life and of all the earth that He move the hearts of all those who because they do not know the Father of all have not been able to find brotherliness, tolerance and mercy within themselves,” they added.

The bishops condemned “the selfish and irresponsible position of a few groups in power who wish to separate, endanger and sink into the most frightful misery innumerable families who, with enormous sacrifice, have risked all in the search of a better life and a future of well-being and justice for their children.”

“We join the cry of so many people of good will who have raised their voice, calling on officials, Mexican families and all parishes in Mexico to exercise the social ministry of welcoming with special cordiality and charity those who are forced to return,” the bishops said.

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First of 53,000 altar servers arriving in Rome on pilgrimage

Rome, Italy, Aug 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

On Monday, St. Peter's Square and the streets of Rome were already teeming with youth from many places in Europe who have come to the Eternal City as part of an altar server pilgrimage. Organizers explained in a press conference that they have a record turnout, despite any problems in the European Church.

Young people representing 17 countries and numbering more than 50,000, will celebrate two days of events in Rome. The Aug. 3-4 schedule includes talks, prayers, singing and time with the Pope for the thousands of altar servers.

Speaking to journalists at Vatican Radio's headquarters, the leaders of the European association of altar servers, Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium (CIM), noted that the turnout was unaffected by any so-called "crisis" within the Church.

The majority of participants come from Germany, according to organizers, who explained that much is being done in the country to provide for the safety of their youth. Out of the 52,904 European male and female servers involved in the pilgrimage, more than 45,000 come from Germany. Italy, Austria and Hungary are the next three largest contributors.

"This pastoral ministry is very important and the young people are glad to be here," said CIM vice president and lead organizer of “Roma 2010" Dr. Peter Hahnen in a translation provided by Swiss emcee Claudio Tomassini. "Their parents are confident that the people in charge will do everything to ensure the safety of the youth."

Tomassini noted that this is the best turnout they've ever had for the Rome pilgrimage, which takes place every 4-5 years.

The president of CIM, Auxiliary Bishop of Basil, Martin Gächter, also explained that the organization is celebrating 50 years of offering the European dioceses "experiences and the drive" to promote altar serving.

Youth ministry for altar servers is "possible and important for every parish," and through their service, they "develop their personality, deepen their faith” and experience good friendships with other boys and girls, Bishop Gächter said.

Also taking part in the press conference was artist Bernhard Lang, who created a 15-foot tall sculpture of the young Roman St. Tarcisus now on display in St. Peter's Square. The 12-year-old acolyte, who is one of the patron saints of altar servers, was killed as he attempted to take the Eucharist to prisoners.

The highlights of the young pilgrims' time in Rome, said the organizers, will be Vespers in the Vatican square on Tuesday evening and the papal audience in the same venue on Wednesday morning.

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Venezuelan cardinal praised for civility before National Assembly

Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 2, 2010 (CNA) -

After Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez called Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas a "neanderthal" and said that the Pope is not the ambassador of Christ on earth, Cardinal Urosa spoke before the country's National Assembly in a civil and measured way, confounding some lawmakers who predicted he would use aggressive and arrogant language.

The undersecretary of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, Father Jose Gregorio Salazar, stated that “With Cardinal Urosa we have given a great lesson for the National Assembly. They thought he would address them with arrogant and aggressive language. They thought he would be insulted but nothing of the sort happened. We were prepared to speak before country or to do so in private, as happened,” he said.

The undersecretary noted the cardinal reminded lawmakers that “as a Venezuelan, he has to right to voice an opinion, and he made it clear, as St. Augustine said in his time, that with us he is Venezuelan but as pastor of the Church he is a cardinal. We cannot forget that his investiture (as a cardinal) corresponds to the dignity of a prince. And as such he spoke in a spirit of dialogue, with profound civility and absolute respect,” Father Salazar said.

“He reiterated his position with solid arguments and made it clear that he fears God and not men,” the priest continued. “When you pick on a cardinal, you are picking on the Church. The best part of his message was that once more he made it clear that we must treat each equally, whether we support Chavez or the opposition, because in the end we are all Venezuelans,” he added.

Father Salazar also referred to the accords between the Vatican and Venezuela, saying that if President Hugo Chavez wants to do away with funding for the Church’s works, he would be doing her a favor, as “what would happened is what happened recently in Spain, where the citizens are the ones who decide how much they want to voluntarily donate, and the Church’s income has increased every since.”

“Venezuela would have a Church like that of Germany, totally autonomous and strengthened because the faithful would become more aware of their duties as citizens,” the undersecretary said. “More than 90 percent of the country professes to be Catholic, let us support the Church. I am sure we would end up benefiting greatly,” he reasoned, underscoring that it was “the State that assumed the commitment of subsidizing the works, it was not from a request by the Church.”

Father Salazar concluded by reiterating the right of the bishops to voice their opinions on politics in the search for the common good, noting that recent polls show the Church enjoys a 67 percent credibility rating.  “This gives an idea of what the country believes in,” he said.

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Colombian authorities sign accord to grant absolute protection to human life

Santa Marta, Colombia, Aug 2, 2010 (CNA) - During the 10th Meeting of Colombian Governors, 30 governors, Mayor Samuel Moreno of Bogota and other top administration officials, singed a public agreement to, among other things, defend the right to life of the country's unborn children.

The non-binding document recognizes the obligation of the family, society and the government to assist and protect children. It also reiterates the four fundamental principles of the Convention on the Rights of Children: non-discrimination, devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.

It also urges that special care and protection be given to children “both before and after birth,” and that life “should be given absolute respect and protection.  From the first moment of existence in his mother's womb, the human being must have his rights as a person and his inviolable right to life recognized.”

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Jerusalem Catholic Patriarch profoundly resents city's gay pride parade

Jerusalem, Israel, Aug 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A "gay pride" parade held in Jerusalem last week was met with "profound resentment" by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and opposition from other religious groups in the city. The Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal said that those who support the yearly event "care neither for the feelings of families, nor for the holiness of this City."

Nearly 3,000 participants saw widespread non-violent protests from the holy city's inhabitants along the parade route, which stretched from Independence Park to the Wohl Rose Garden, according to the Jerusalem Post. The event was sponsored LBGT community of Israel and has been held annually since 2002.

Patriarch Fouad Twal of the Latin Patriarchate issued a statement on Friday in which he underscored that the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze religious communities of the city continue in their "tough opposition" to the event.

He blasted the premise for the event, saying that it "takes place not only to proclaim the rights of homosexuals, but also to defy family and marriage, both instituted by God, who blessed the union of man and woman."

To highlight this point, the patriarch's statement began with the passage from Genesis: “Male and female God created them.”

In the patriarch's words, the parade, as well as "its organizers and the authorities who allow it, care neither for the feelings of families, nor for the holiness of this City.

"Let the homosexuals have their parade wherever they want, however, leave Jerusalem to her pilgrims and her faithful," Patriarch Twal continued. "This city has suffered enough wounds and humiliation, and it is painful to prevent millions of Arab believers, including inhabitants of the areas of the Palestinian Authority, from visiting Jerusalem's Holy Places – for 'security' reasons – whereas such a parade is permitted."

He went on to say that, considering his responsibility for safeguarding the "holiness and sanctity" of Jerusalem and seeking inter-religious cooperation, the Latin Patriarchate expresses its "profound resentment in the face of such parades.

"These demonstrations take aim at our holy cities and express blunt opposition to the teachings of the Holy Books concerning the holiness of marriage that unites man and woman, blessed by God with children," he said.

The Thursday parade was held on the first anniversary of a still unsolved attack at a gay bar last year in Tel Aviv that left two people dead and 15 injured. An organizer of the parade told the Jerusalem Post that they have no plans to change cities.

"We will continue to come here every year, to Jerusalem, because this is the most important place, not only for the gay community, but for everyone who cares about the free and democratic character of the State of Israel."

Patriarch Twal ensured the "profound respect" of the Church for each human being, but said, "we proclaim the truth of the Ten Commandments, which are the basis of happiness according to the Lord’s word: 'If you wish to enter into eternal life, keep the commandments.'"

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