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Archive of August 4, 2010

Institute warns Mexicans of gay adoption's negative impact

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 4, 2010 (CNA) - The Mexican Institute of Sexual Orientation (MISO) recently launched a campaign to inform the public of the negative consequences of adoption by same-sex couples. The initiative comes as the nation's Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to uphold a law allowing the practice in Mexico City.

Mexico’s attorney general, Arturo Chavez Chavez, filed a court challenge against the law allowing homosexual adoption which was passed by the Mexico City Legislative Assembly. The court agreed to hear the case in its new session that opened this week.

MISO distributed fliers around the capitol reminding citizens that “adoption is a right of the children, not of the adopters,” and that the State should not subject the well-being of children to any political agenda.

The institute also pointed to numerous studies around the world showing that same-sex couples are prone to violence, drug use and emotional instability. 

Speaking to the media, Carlos Guerra, a member of MISO, noted that “having a child raised by a father and a mother is not the same as if he or she is raised by two persons of the same sex.”

He said the institute is calling on the government to carry out its own study to see the negative consequences of gay adoption.

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Benedict XVI statue planned for famous Spanish pilgrimage route

Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Aug 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A sculpture of Pope Benedict XVI will be erected in Santiago de Compostela, Spain by the time he visits the city this fall. The work is being promoted as a "public homage" to the Pontiff.

The city is celebrating the Jacobean Year, a jubilee year observed every time the Feast of St. James, July 25, falls on a Sunday. The Holy Father is taking advantage of this year-long celebration to make a stop in the city on November 6.

In light of Benedict XVI's visit, the city is dedicating a monument to him that is made out of bronze and looms more than seven feet tall. According to the artist, Candido Pazos, it will be placed along one of the routes by which pilgrims enter the city while on the famed Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James).

When Pazos unveiled the plans last month, he was quoted by EFE news agency as saying the spot had been chosen for the sculpture "so that, in the entrance of the pilgrims to Compostela, they may find themselves beside the Holy Father."

There are several different ways to walk “the Way," which has at least 10 official routes, including the "English" route and the popular "French" Route. Pilgrims have been making the trip for over 1,000 years now.

According to the statistics released by the pilgrim's office in Santiago for July, there were over 42,000 pilgrims who arrived in the city over the course of the month, 200 of them came by horse. This is an increase by one-third over the number of pilgrims who made the trek in the same month during the last Holy Year in 2004.

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Bishop defends marriage, says laws must stem from reason, not feelings or emotions

Santiago, Chile, Aug 4, 2010 (CNA) - This week, Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Chomali of Santiago spoke up in defense of marriage and remarked that all laws must be founded in reason, according to the truth about man.

The bishop made his statements after Chilean Senator Fulvio Rossi announced his plans to introduce legislation that would permit same-sex “marriage.”

Bishop Chomali underscored that public policies ought to ensure the good of the country and must conform to the truth about man. For this reason, he continued, politicians must reflect on the meaning of humanity and on man’s deepest longings.

“Public policies must stem from reason and not feelings, emotions or the opinions of the day.  They must not be subjected to the latest fad or what is taking place in other countries,” he added.

Public policy cannot be tailored to suit merely the needs of minority groups or special situations, the bishop continued. Proponents of same-sex “marriage” are “saying that in the end, getting married and staying married is irrelevant and that lawmakers must simply rubber-stamp whatever personal desires people have and grant them legal status,” he said.  This is an erroneous view of the human person and of the purpose of legislation, he warned.

Bishop Chomali went on to say that altering the institution of marriage in order to satisfy the demand for rights is wrong, arguing that there would be no end to the different scenarios that could be conceived. “Should each and every situation be given legal stature? Why can’t we recognize that we already have legal solutions for non-marital unions?” the bishop asked.

“The law cannot address all of these different scenarios to the point of denying its own reason for existence, which is to watch over the common good,” he continued. “Today more than ever, what we need is conceptual clarity and profound reflection on which direction we wish our beloved country to take,” the bishop said.

He called on lawmakers to consider the consequences and reflect on what they want for their own children. “Those who promote these laws impoverish the efforts of thousands of parents who day in and day out teach their children with their testimony and life of sacrifice, the value of marriage and fidelity,” he added.

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Holy Father prays for victims of fires and floods, asks for solidarity

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

After Wednesday's general audience, the Holy Father prayed for the victims of the recent natural disasters in different regions in Asia.

He said that his thoughts go out to those "populations stricken by grave natural catastrophes, which have caused loss of human life, injuries and damages, leaving numerous people homeless."

"In a particular way," he specified, "I'm thinking of the vast fires in the Russian Federation and of the devastating floods in Pakistan and in Afghanistan."

Pope Benedict XVI said he is praying for the victims and is "spiritually close to all who are tested by such adversity."

Reuters reported early Wednesday morning that widespread forest fires in Russia have killed 48 people and destroyed at least 2,000 homes. The government has declared a state of emergency in the seven Russian provinces where the damage has been extensive.

The U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP) reported on Tuesday that Pakistan is dealing with the worst flooding in more than 80 years and that the organization is assessing the food needs of what they estimate at more than two million people affected by the floods. WFP warehouses containing food stockpiles previously in place for distribution have also been inundated.

In Afghanistan, as many as 50,000 people have been affected by the rains, according to the WFP's most recent report.

For all the victims, the Pope asked God "for relief in the suffering and support in the difficulty." He also also implored the "solidarity" of all people for those being impacted.

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K of C program helps Haitian children who lost limbs in earthquake

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2010 (CNA) - Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson announced today that the Knights of Columbus will “come to the aid of every Haitian child who lost a limb in the January earthquake” that claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives.
 
The Knights of Columbus have been involved in efforts to assist the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti through their well-known wheelchair program. So far, 1,000 wheelchairs have been sent to the injured, and 1,000 more wheelchairs are slated for delivery over the next several months.

On Wednesday, during their 128th  Supreme Convention, the Knights of Columbus announced a new program – “Hope for Haiti’s Children” – to make assistance available to every child in Haiti who lost a limb in the earthquake.

Mr. Anderson announced during a press conference that the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus approved a resolution last weekend that commits the organization to providing prosthetic limbs and therapy over the next two years for all of the approximately 800 children who lost an arm or leg in the earthquake. The estimated cost of providing the prosthetic limbs and therapy is $1 million.

“We believe that this program for the injured children of Haiti will not only alleviate their mobility issues in the near term, but also will provide real, concrete hope for their future,” Anderson explained.

Each child will receive three prostheses and physical therapy over the course of a two year treatment program. The program will be administered by Medishare, which operates the University of Miami/Medishare hospital in Port-au-Prince, and is the premier children’s medical facility in Haiti.

Individuals can contribute with donations for the project at: http://www.kofc.org/un/eb/en/about/charities/relief.html

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Archbishop of Toledo walks 13 miles with youth on pilgrimage route

Madrid, Spain, Aug 4, 2010 (CNA) - This week Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez of Toledo, Spain accompanied 750 young people on a 13 mile leg of the Way of St. James, the pilgrimage route leading to Santiago de Compostela, where the apostle’s remains are buried.

The archbishop met up with the large group of young people on Monday in the city of Gijon. He then walked 13 miles with them to the city of Aviles.

The young people from Toledo will meet up with thousands of their peers for a national youth meeting this coming Sunday in Santiago.

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California judge strikes down Prop. 8 citing 'fundamental right to marry'

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A California federal judge issued a ruling this afternoon striking down Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between man and one woman. The judge ruled that the measure violated the rights of same-sex couples.

In a landmark case that is expected to reach the Supreme Court, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on Aug. 4 that Prop. 8 – an initiative which passed in Nov. of 2008 with the support of 7 million Californians – both “unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Judge Walker concluded that Prop. 8 “fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.”

“Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples,” he added. “Because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and Equality California, joined by the first lesbian couple to contract a legal same-sex “marriage” in California, filed a lawsuit immediately after the election to try and overturn the measure.

Today's ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then up to the Supreme Court by the pro-traditional marriage group, ProtectMarriage.com.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which is involved in litigating the case, responded to the ruling on Wednesday afternoon.

“We will certainly appeal this disappointing decision. Its impact could be devastating to marriage and the democratic process,” ADF Senior Counsel Brian Raum said. “It’s not radical for more than 7 million Californians to protect marriage as they’ve always known it.”

“What would be radical would be to allow a handful of activists to gut the core of the American democratic system and, in addition, force the entire country to accept a system that intentionally denies children the mom and the dad they deserve,” he added.

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Pro-family groups decry Prop. 8 ruling allowing same-sex 'marriage'

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Critics are denouncing Wednesday's ruling by a U.S. district judge who struck down the voter-approved Proposition 8, a measure that defined marriage as between one man and one woman in California. One pro-family group reacted saying the decision's impact could “be devastating to marriage and the democratic process.”

In a landmark case, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8, an initiative which passed in November 2008 with the support of seven million Californians, both “unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”

The constitutionality of Prop. 8 was challenged immediately after it was approved in 2008. Today's ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then up to the Supreme Court by the pro-traditional marriage group, ProtectMarriage.com.

Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, responded to the decision saying, “Today’s ruling is clearly a disappointment. The judge’s invalidation of the votes of over seven million Californians violates binding legal precedent and short-circuits the democratic process. But this is not the end of our fight to uphold the will of the people for traditional marriage, as we now begin an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Noting his confidence that the decision will be overturned, Pugno stated that reversing the decision “will also serve as a reminder that the role of the courts is to interpret and apply the law only as enacted by the people and their elected representatives, not to impose new social policies.”

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, said on Wednesday that should today's ruling be upheld in the Supreme Court, it “would become the 'Roe v. Wade' of same-sex 'marriage,' overturning the marriage laws of 45 states.”

“As with abortion, the Supreme Court's involvement would only make the issue more volatile,” he cautioned. “It's time for the far Left to stop insisting that judges redefine our most fundamental social institution and using liberal courts to obtain a political goal they cannot obtain at the ballot box.”

"Marriage is recognized as a public institution, rather than a purely private one, because of its role in bringing together men and women for the reproduction of the human race and keeping them together to raise the children produced by their union,” Perkins underscored. “The fact that homosexuals prefer not to enter into marriages as historically defined does not give them a right to change the definition of what a 'marriage' is.”

Also reacting to the ruling on Aug. 4 were members of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) who are involved in litigating the case.

“We will certainly appeal this disappointing decision.  Its impact could be devastating to marriage and the democratic process,” ADF Senior Counsel Brian Raum said. “It’s not radical for more than 7 million Californians to protect marriage as they’ve always known it.”

“What would be radical would be to allow a handful of activists to gut the core of the American democratic system and, in addition, force the entire country to accept a system that intentionally denies children the mom and the dad they deserve,” he added.

Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute (CRI) – a group that promotes pro-family policies within the California legislature – also weighed in on Wednesday's court decision.

“Today's ruling is indicative of an out-of-control judiciary willing to circumvent California's direct democracy by imposing their point of view,” England asserted. “Family values are under constant assault now more then ever.”

“We will continue to battle interest groups who wish to redefine one of our oldest institutions; the institution of marriage,” she noted. “We will continue to represent the 7 million Californians who took to the polls in favor of marriage.”

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US Catholic bishops say Prop. 8 ruling misuses the law

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - After U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California's Proposition 8 on Wednesday afternoon, Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the chairman of the bishops' Committee for the Defense of Marriage, described the ruling as a "misuse of law."

Cardinal George stated, “Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of any society. The misuse of law to change the nature of marriage undermines the common good.”

“It is tragic that a federal judge would overturn the clear and expressed will of the people in their support for the institution of marriage. No court of civil law has the authority to reach into areas of human experience that nature itself has defined,” the U.S. bishops' president insisted.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, also weighed in on the ruling, saying, “Citizens of this nation have uniformly voted to uphold the understanding of marriage as a union of one man and one woman in every jurisdiction where the issue has been on the ballot. This understanding is neither irrational nor unlawful."

“Marriage is more fundamental and essential to the well being of society than perhaps any other institution. It is simply unimaginable that the court could now claim a conflict between marriage and the Constitution,” the Archbishop of Louisville said.

The Catholic bishops' reactions were echoed by other pro-family and pro-marriage groups.

The lawyers for Protectmarriage.com, the defendants in the ruling, plan to appeal the case.

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Caritas facing 'massive' difficulty in helping Pakistani flood victims

Vatican City, Aug 4, 2010 (CNA) -

The international Catholic charity Caritas is reporting that relief efforts for flood victims in Pakistan are being hampered by high waters, which are causing “massive” difficulties for aid efforts and making communities accessible only on foot.

Northern Pakistan has been ravaged in recent days by monsoon rains which have caused disastrous flooding in the area. A press release from the charity released on August 3 shows the damage and the death toll to be far more catastrophic than originally estimated. Although Caritas reported last Friday that 300 people were killed, the number has now risen to 1,500 with an estimated 3 million affected by the natural disaster.

In an update provided to CNA, Caritas spokesperson Michelle Hough said that reporting on the incident has been challenging for staff members.

“As you can imagine, the severity and the extent of the flooding makes it very difficult to do assessments,” Hough said in an email. “Staff have been stranded in some instances as roads are blocked and bridges are down.”

Eric Dayal, emergency officer for Pakistan, said in Tuesday's press release that the “situation is going from bad to worse and more rains are predicted.”

“As we try to do assessments and deliver aid we’re faced with the major challenges of high waters, which means staff are sometimes traveling by foot in the worse-hit areas, and broken phone and electricity lines which make communications very difficult,” he added.

Hospitals and health centers have also been damaged, complicating the care for those injured in the floods. The damaged health facilities are also increasing concerns about the preventing and treating water born diseases once flood waters recede.

While Caritas reported in their press release that the difficulties in getting aid to victims is “massive,” they are forging ahead with their plans to provide 1,500 families in Peshawar with water, food, cooking utensils, and health and hygiene kits. The charity will also distribute mosquito nets, water purification tablets, hygiene kits and kitchen supplies to 1,350 households in Karkhan and Kohlu.

Last week, Caritas provided emergency relief items to 1,300 families in two districts of southern Punjab.

The group is looking at setting up cash-for-work programs to provide people income after the floods damaged their cattle and crops.  “As a clearer picture of the extent of the disaster emerges, Caritas is looking at launching an initial three-month program to cover the worst-affected areas,” the Catholic charity said.

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Proposed federal rules for private colleges could endanger academic freedom

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2010 (CNA) - New substantive regulations on higher education could restrict the freedom of private colleges and universities and result in further “politicization,” a former U.S. Senator has said. An official with a Jesuit educational association similarly voiced concern about academic freedom, saying the new rules are “far-reaching and unnecessary.”

Bill Armstrong, former Republican Senator from Colorado and current president of Colorado Christian University (CCU), sent a July 30 letter to the Department of Education regarding new federal regulations for higher education.

The proposed rules are the result of the department’s effort to curtail fraud and abuse and to ensure federal funds are well-spent in federal student aid programs.

Armstrong warned that the proposed regulations would undermine the authority of regional accreditation bodies and would open both public and private schools to “substantive” regulation by state governments. In his reading of the rules, individual states would have to establish “guidelines, standards and requirements” for such institutions.

“Many states may exercise restraint in doing so. But, inevitably, some state legislatures or agencies will get deeply involved in setting course requirements, quality measures, faculty qualifications and various mandates about how and what to teach,” Armstrong commented, warning that this outcome will “seriously compromise” the independence of higher education.

Substantive regulation of private schools raises questions of academic freedom and First Amendment rights, he continued, adding that the regulatory burden and costs of compliance would pose “a serious problem” for small private institutions.

The CCU president also warned that regulation could result in “politicization of higher education” as various interests try to press for requirements adopting or repudiating certain curricula, teaching methods and policies.

The proposed rules “almost guarantee that states will have to cope with noisy arguments over teaching methods, degree requirements and culture wars over textbooks, evolution versus Intelligent Design, phonics versus whole language, campus ROTC, climate change, family policy, abortion, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.,” he warned.

While institutions already face such controversies, Armstrong acknowledged, the proposed rules weaken the “crucial” presumption in favor of each institution’s academic freedom and autonomy. Substantive regulation, in his view, adds an “explicitly political step”

Armstrong asked for an extension of the comment time by 60 or 90 days to allow further study and response of the regulations.

In a Tuesday phone interview, CNA spoke about the proposed rules with Cynthia Littlefield, director of federal relations at the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU).

She explained that the AJCU defends the interests of Jesuit institutions “to preserve the uniqueness of our mission and academic integrity and the way we operate it.” Commenting on the new Department of Education proposal, Littlefield said, “as innocent as they may appear,” they merit consideration because of their possible impact.

Noting that the AJCU had also filed comment on the rules, she said one of the organization’s concerns focuses on the Department of Education’s desire to define a “credit hour” for the purposes of regulation.

Private institutions, including religious-affiliated ones, have designed the “credit hour” for their purposes and have had this authorized by their creditors. According to Littlefield, the federal government’s definition of such a concept could create a “one-size fits all” solution that intrudes on curriculum oversight and academic freedom.

She added that Congress never wanted the credit hour to be defined in its deliberations on the legislation which prompted the Department of Education action. Discussion during the legislative sessions about credit hours was “minimal,” Littlefield said.

A bigger concern for the AJCU involves the state authorization process which normally approves private institutions. The proposed regulations are “somewhat confusing” and no higher education organizations are certain whether their implementation would keep those state laws in place or “sort of throw them up in the air.”

According to Littlefield, the Department of Education’s involvement is based on one particular problem regarding a non-profit educational institution in California whose oversight was not reauthorized by the state for several years.

“That opened the door to the Department of Education thinking and believing that we needed more oversight,” she told CNA.

AJCU members are regulated by every federal agency. “We are highly complicated institutions,” she explained.

Her organization believes the controversial rules are “far-reaching and unnecessary.”

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Peace Bridge on Niagara River to honor Mother Teresa’s birthday in lights

Buffalo, N.Y., Aug 4, 2010 (CNA) - In honor of the 100th birthday of Bl. Mother Teresa, on Aug. 26 the Peace Bridge spanning the Niagara River will be illuminated with blue and white, the colors of the Missionaries of Charity. The lighting of the bridge, which connects Buffalo and Fort Erie, will be a “beautiful tribute” to the missionary, a local bishop said.

Bishop of Buffalo Edward U. Kmiec and Msgr. Wayne Kirkpatrick, administrator of the Canadian Diocese of St. Catharines, jointly requested the action from the Peace Bridge Authority.

“Blessed Mother Teresa was truly a child of the light whose life was a shining example of Christ our Light reaching out to people everywhere promoting love and peace in our world,” commented Msgr. Kirkpatrick. “The lighting of this bridge which spans two dioceses and two countries, symbolizes her light reaching out across the great chasm to all people.”

Bishop Kmiec said the action is a “beautiful tribute” to Mother Teresa.

“Her missionary spirit lives on through the countless lives she touched, and I am grateful that this unique structure will pay tribute to her on this special occasion,” the bishop commented. “This is symbolic in that Blessed Mother Teresa’s light continues to shine around the world.”

Mother Teresa’s service to the poor in India won worldwide admiration. The sisters of her order, the Missionaries of Charity, serve in Canada, the U.S. and around the world in homes for the dying, in orphanages and in hospitals.

At present the Vatican is considering Mother Teresa’s cause for sainthood.

The bridge’s lighting system is controlled by sophisticated software that allows unlimited color options, timings and themes, the Diocese of Buffalo reports. It has special color schemes for American and Canadian national holidays, sports team home games, and days such as Halloween.

The lighting system operates from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. and from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights submitted a request that the Empire State Building in New York City also honor Mother Teresa’s birthday with a lighting scheme in the blue and white of the Missionaries of Charity. The denial of the request prompted protests.

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Catholic Church remembers St. John Vianney, the 'revolutionary of love'

Rome, Italy, Aug 4, 2010 (CNA) - The secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, wrote an article for today’s feast of St. John Marie Vianney, the Cure of Ars. The Vatican prelate highlighted the saint's untiring service to God and neighbor, calling him a true “revolutionary of love.”

During the saint’s time, Archbishop Piacenza said, human reason was removed from faith and religious expression in an atmosphere that was very hostile to the Church.  Amidst it all, “The Cure of Ars demonstrated heroism in the faith.  In response to attempts to de-legitimize Catholic dogma, the saint offered a clear, relentless catechetical and preaching effort, both in public and private,” Archbishop Piacenza wrote.

The saint responded to secular practices of the day with “a enormous sense of the sacred” that permeated his liturgical celebrations, the archbishop continued.  “He became prayer himself, bringing all those who were close to him into his relationship with God.”

While those in power at the time sought to destroy the faith, St. John Marie Vianney never wavered. He often spent up to 18 hours a day hearing confessions, continuously demonstrating “an availability without limits, which alone spoke of the love of God,” Archbishop Piacenza continued.

The Cure of Ars fully embraced virtue, living authentically poor in spirit and faithfully adhering to the virtue of chastity, “understood not only as a necessary consequence of celibacy, nor as a mere church law, but as a true act of total donation to his Lord,” the archbishop said.

St. John Marie Vianney was truly counter-cultural and an authentic “revolutionary of love,” Archbishop Piacenza added. “We priests must all renew our gratitude to our brother …  and ask that his example and virtues will be followed by many, so the splendor of holiness will never be lacking in the Church and in the world,” the archbishop said.

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Eucharist is Jesus' greatest gift to us, teaches Pope Benedict XVI

Rome, Italy, Aug 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Benedict XVI underscored the importance of the Eucharist on Wednesday as a "treasure whose value cannot be measured." Illustrating a young third century martyr's dedication to the Body of Christ, he exhorted the tens of thousands of altar servers present at the audience to also give their lives in service to the Lord.

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi estimated the number of people in St. Peter's Square at more than 80,000.

The Holy Father addressed the faithful in German, out of consideration for the native tongue of the great majority of the 53,000 young people present at the audience as part of a pilgrimage of European altar servers.

After donning a white pilgrim's handkerchief himself, he remembered St. Tarcisius in the catechesis. The young boy was martyred in Rome in the year 257 in the act of protecting the Eucharist and is now one of the patron saints of altar servers.

Reflecting on this life given in devotion to God, Pope Benedict told the young people in the square that St. Tarcisius teaches us "the profound love and great veneration that we should have towards the Eucharist."

"It is a precious good," he said, "a treasure whose value cannot be measured, it is the Bread of life, it is Jesus who makes himself food, support and strength for our daily path and open road to eternal life; it is the greatest gift that Jesus left us."

Offering advice to altar servers everywhere, the Pope exhorted them to give generous service to Jesus in the Eucharist. "It is an important task," he explained, "which permits you to be particularly close to the Lord and to grow as his true friends." He went on to ask them to protect this friendship as St. Tarcisius did, "ready to give (their) lives so that Jesus might be brought to all," and to be courageous and joyful in communicating it to their friends.

And, while our calling may not be to martyrdom, "Jesus asks faithfulness of us in the small things, the every day tasks, the witness of His love, attending Church and to the many friends with whom we learn to know him ever more. "

Speaking on the significance of their help, present at the altar when the bread becomes Jesus' body and the wine His blood, the Holy Father told them, "You are fortunate to live this great mystery closely!

"Carry out with love, with devotion and with faithfulness your task of serving; prepare yourselves well for the Holy Mass! Helping your priests in the service at the altar you contribute to making Jesus closer, to being ever more present in the world, in everyday life, in the Church and in every place."

He concluded by asking the for intercession of St. Tarcisius and St. John Vianney to aid them in their service.

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Supreme Knight renews consecration to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl A. Anderson opened the first session of the 128th Supreme Convention on Tuesday by re-consecrating his mission and responsibilities to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Before delivering his annual report to the more than 2,000 delegates of the world’s largest Catholic fraternity, Anderson – who is celebrating his 10th anniversary as Supreme Knight – recalled that he began his tenure by visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, to consecrate his responsibilities to the Patroness of the Americas.

“I consecrated all my responsibilities to Her and I renew my consecration to her auspices,” the Supreme Knight said.

In his extensive report, Anderson recalled that “to be a Christian is truly a very different way of living and of loving. From its earliest days, Christianity was often known simply as ‘The Way.'  It was so unique in the First Century that no further explanation was necessary.”

“You had only to observe the manner in which the early Christians went about their daily lives – the way they cared for others – to sense that there was something very different about them,” he added.

“Two thousand years later,” Anderson continued, “it cannot always be said that today’s Christians stand out in the way the first Christians did in the days of the Roman Empire. In some ways, our secular society seems to be a more difficult environment than the pagan society in which Peter and Paul first spread the Gospel.”

“And yet the continuing appeal of membership in the Knights of Columbus, with its devotion to charity inspired by faith, is undeniable: During the last fraternal year, more than 74,000 Catholic men joined our ranks. They too, have answered ‘yes’ to the question, ‘Am I my brother's keeper?’”

In his yearly report, Anderson reviewed a long list of items such as the growing membership, education,  insurance and investments, support to vocations and chaplains, military and veteran affairs, the inauguration of the Knights of Columbus Museum,  Faithful Citizenship, charitable contributions as well as fraternal and financial highlights.

On Faithful Citizenship, the Supreme Knight noted that “the vast majority of Knights of Columbus activity is directed toward matters of faith, charity and family life. We are not a political organization, and partisan politics is expressly prohibited by the Constitution and laws of the Order.”

“Our members include people of many political persuasions, and our goal is unity in faith and fraternity, whatever our political differences might be,” Anderson said. However, he explained that “we do, however, take positions on a limited number of key issues that we believe are fundamental to faithful Catholic citizens and involve matters that must transcend partisan politics.”

“Our guides in this area are two of the great documents of the Second Vatican Council: 'Gaudium et Spes,' which addressed the role of the Church in the modern world, and 'Dignitatis Humanae,' its teaching on religious freedom and the fundamental dignity of the human person.”

The Supreme Knight’s annual report can be found on the Knights of Columbus official website.

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All political prisoners to be released 'soon,' Cuban cardinal announces

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, Cuba, announced at the Knights of Columbus' annual States Dinner that thanks to the mediation of the Catholic Conference of Cuban Bishops, fifty-two prisoners of conscience will be released within three to four months.

Upon receiving the Gaudium et Spes award on the evening of August 3, Cardinal Ortega said that “regardless of the distance, and the differences in our social or political systems, you have been brothers to the Cuban Catholics and have shown us your solidarity.”

The Cuban cardinal especially mentioned the Knights of Columbus' support in the construction of the new San Carlos y San Ambrosio National Seminary in Havana. The seminary is scheduled to open in November and will be able to house 100 seminarians.

Cardinal Ortega also highlighted that lay people have played a significant role in Cuba, “especially in the last 40 years, not only by the work they have carried out in some ministries due to the shortage of priests, but also by the social role they have played within families, at work places, schools and society in general; sometimes they have had to face hardships given the constrains and limitations suffered by believers in past decades.”

“The laity's role in Cuba is very well-known by the Knights of Columbus, who were present  in my country since the beginning of the Republic in 1902, carrying out  a  fruitful work that has left its imprint on us,” he added.

The cardinal also revealed that “nowadays the situation is more favorable for the action of charity services characteristic of the Knights of Columbus in the Cuban Church,” since “plenty of social works” have become real possibilities and have enabled the Church in Cuba to have a social presence.

The Archbishop of Havana also described a growing phenomenon: “the Mission Houses that gather communities of 60, 70 or even 100 people in family homes. Many times, these communities are looked after by catechist laymen who prepare the faithful to evolve from evangelized communities to Eucharistic communities. In my archdiocese, several of these communities have turned into parishes. Now we must build parish churches.”

“The Church,” Cardinal Ortega explained, “has always been duly interested—in a discreet, direct and non-violent way—in everything related to justice and the common good.”

“Lately,” he informed the Knights, “the Cuban government, responding to our request, has asked us to mediate between the political prisoners' relatives and the government authorities in order to know their proposals. In this way a process began, which has led to the recent announcement  that fifty-two convicts, considered prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, will be released in a period of three to four months.”

More than 20 of these prisoners have already traveled to Spain.

According to the Cuban cardinal, these discussions with the government “have been unprecedented, and they bring about a  new situation of  social appreciation for our Catholics.  We hope that this process of dialogue, in which we are immerged (sic) now, ends successfully.” 

The Knights of Columbus has previously conferred the Gaudium et Spes award on Catholic leaders such as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the late Cardinal John O'Connor.

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Cardinal Rigali to Knights of Columbus: 'The Church needs you'

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2010 (CNA) - During Mass on Tuesday morning for the 128th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, encouraged the members of the Catholic fraternity to be faithful followers of Christ.

Noting the centrality of Jesus in the life of the Church, Cardinal Rigali explained that it “is a question of being faithful to God’s word in the role of discipleship as it is offered this morning in the Gospel.” 

The prelate then spoke in his homily of the Knights of Columbus founder, Father Michael J. McGivney, who “lived his priesthood in perfect continuity with the same great ideals of pastoral charity,” as those of St. John Vianney, “whose feast we celebrate today.”

“And it is because of this that the theme of our Convention is so meaningful: 'I am my brother’s keeper,'” the Cardinal explained. “From this theme, inspired by the tradition of the Church and by the particular legacy of Father McGivney, there emerges a great challenge for the Knights of Columbus and their families to express solidarity with every brother and sister in society.”

“For the Knights of Columbus,” he added, “it is a question of being numbered among the successors of the seventy-two disciples whom Jesus sent out to prepare His coming.  And it is a question of being faithful witnesses by word and example to the truth of Christ’s Gospel and His Church.”

“To all of you the Church repeats these words: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus ... proclaim the word; be persistent, whether it is convenient or inconvenient,” Cardinal Rigali stressed.

“Hence in this Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Knights of Columbus are invited once again to mobilize, in the charity and truth of Christ, to support His Church and to be of service to every brother and sister in need.”

In his concluding remarks, the Archbishop of Philadelphia urged those in attendance to “be assured that the Church needs you and blesses you,and urges you onward, in the name of Jesus.”

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