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Archive of August 9, 2010

CNA launches 'Catholic Womanhood' site for reflections on faith and living

CNA STAFF, Aug 9, 2010 (CNA) - Catholic News Agency is officially launching a new resource, focusing on the experiences and spiritual lives of Catholic women. “Catholic Womanhood” is a place for women of faith to consider and discuss issues of today's culture and society, everyday life and work, and the pursuit of holiness within the universal Church.

Nearly 30 columnists, commentators and bloggers are slated to contribute their thoughts and reflections to the site. Topics to be covered, from a faithful Catholic perspective, include motherhood and child care, mature womanhood, adolescence, personal and spiritual growth, family and friendships, methods of renewing Catholic culture in the modern world, advice on finding time to pray and living the Church's liturgical year, as well as tips on traveling, fashion and maintaining good health.

Catholic Womanhood is the successor to the website operated by Phases of Womanhood, a nonprofit organization of Catholic laywomen. Many of the columns and commentaries which readers enjoyed at the Phases of Womanhood site can still be found through the new site at www.catholicnewsagency.com/cw.

Catholic Womanhood can also be accessed through banners on CNA's main page or in the section below the Asia – Pacific news items.

CNA will be posting new contributions to Catholic Womanhood on a daily basis, alongside its daily coverage of all news pertaining to the Church around the world. Catholic Womanhood will also feature writings by, and about, some of the Church's greatest and wisest women saints and spiritual writers, such as St. Theresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and Julian of Norwich.

Marie Buonforte, president of the Phases of Womanhood organization, was excited about the group's new venture with CNA:

"Phases of Womanhood is thrilled to partner with CNA to help bring the new Catholic Womanhood pages to Catholic women around the world.  The new Catholic Womanhood pages are an excellent opportunity for CNA readers to discover top-notch writers who love the faith and share terrific practical insights on Catholic life! I hope women will stop by and visit every day!

“This partnership with CNA helps us to continue our mission of sharing a Catholic view of life with women, offering them encouragement and practical resources from a solidly Catholic perspective."

The site launches today with an exclusive Scott Hahn interview.

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Today's world requires lower age for first communicants, stresses Vatican prefect

Rome, Italy, Aug 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Children must not be deprived of the Eucharist, a source of grace and assistance to them as they begin their walk with Jesus, stressed the Vatican prefect of the congregation for sacraments.

In an article in L'Osservatore Romano to mark the 100-year anniversary of a papal decree which lowered the age of first communicants, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares underscored that children should still be allowed to receive the Eucharist as soon as they are able.

The Vatican newspaper published an article by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, titled "Jesus and the Children" on Sunday. In it, the cardinal remembered Pope St. Pius X's "Quam singulari" decree from Aug. 8, 1910 which gave children the ability to receive the Eucharist once they had reached the "age of reason," deemed then at around seven years of age.

"With this decree ... he taught the entire Church the meaning, the opportunity, the value and the centrality of Holy Communion for the life of all of the baptized, including children," wrote the cardinal prefect of St. Pius X.

"At the same time, he underscored and reminded everyone of the love and the predeliction of Jesus for children ... ," added the cardinal, noting in from Bible passages that the youngest "are always very special friends of the Lord."

Emphasizing that there is "no greater love, no greater gift" than that of communion, he said that being with the Lord is "worth more than every other thing in the life of each man" and first communion, as the beginning of our "walk together with Jesus" should not be put off.

"We cannot, (by) delaying first communion deprive children ... of this grace, work and presence of Jesus, of this encounter of friendship with him, of this singular participation of Jesus himself to be able to mature and thus reach fullness."

In today's world, he said, children are in great need of this sacrament and, "thanks to their immaculate and open souls," no one is more disposed than them to the union, friendship, strength and presence it offers.

Citing the 100th anniversary of Pope Pius X's decree as a "providential occasion to remember and insist" on the fact that children can receive communion from the time they are able to reason, Cardinal Cañizares said that rather than continuing a trend which sees children receive communion ever later, if nothing else, today they should be able to receive it earlier than ever.

"In the face of what is happening with children and to the very adverse environment in which they grow up, let's not deprive them of the gift of God," he concluded, " ... it is the guarantee of their growth as children of God, generated by the sacraments of Christian initiation in the bosom of the holy Mother Church. The grace of of the gift of God is the most powerful of our works, and of our plans and programs."

And, today, he said, as Pope Pius X urged a century ago, "we must accompany this same 'anticipation' of age with a new and vigorous pastoral plan of Christian initiation."

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Attempted theft of Padre Pio reliquary thwarted

Rome, Italy, Aug 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A gold reliquary containing Padre Pio relics was the apparent object of thieves' interest on Sunday evening. Sacrilege has been ruled out by a Capuchin spokesperson, as the attempt was likely for the gold, not the relics themselves.

Embedded in the altar of a chapel in the San Giovanni Rotondo cemetery in Italy is a glass and gold reliquary that contains some hair, wrappings that would have covered the saint's pierced side, and a pair of gloves, reported Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.

St. Pio bore the wounds of Christ in the stigmata for 50 years, the same wounds that also afflicted the likes of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine of Siena.

According to Italian news reports, the only thing stopping the thieves from making off with the relics was the strength of the reinforced glass in which they are encased.

Teleradio Padre Pio director Stefano Campanella told Italy's TGCOM that thieves were likely not interested in the relics, but had probably mistaken the reliquary for a piece of solid gold. He ruled out sacrilege, saying that "if they had wished to act in this sense they would have been able to hit the tombs of St. Pio's parents, brother or spiritual director, that have a stronger symbolic value" and are found in the same cemetery.

The Italian "carabinieri" police force are investigating the attempted theft.

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Bishops call for dialogue and understanding in task of building up Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia, Aug 9, 2010 (CNA) - The Bolivian Bishops’ Conference has called on the nation to seek out dialogue and understanding in building up the country and to reject the closed-mindedness that “shies away from the confrontation of different ideas, which is the basis of every mature democracy.”

“Truth and justice prevail because of their own internal strength,” the bishops said. “There ought to be no fear of different ideas.” Such rejection, they noted, “sows a climate of mistrust and fear, which prevents free expression, the building of model of society through consensus and just and peaceful co-existence.”

The Bolivian prelates added that the country’s upcoming independence celebrations should be an opportunity to reflect on the direction the country is taking. “We think it opportune to make this proposal to believers and all upright persons who believe in dialogue and understanding as the means for building a country for all,” they underscored.

The bishops urged Bolivians to overcome partisan and ideological differences to seek out together paths of hope, progress, equality, liberty and justice.

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Australia prepares for Blessed Mary MacKillop's canonization in October

Rome, Italy, Aug 9, 2010 (CNA) - Great excitement is emanating from Australia as the date for the canonization of Blessed Mary MacKillop approaches. She will be officially welcomed into the ranks of the saints by Pope Benedict XVI in a little over two months.

Bl. Mary MacKillop, the foundress of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, will become Australia's first saint when she is canonized in Rome along with five others on Oct. 17. Included among the other five is Blessed Andre Bessette of Montreal.

The Archdiocese of Sydney has acclaimed Blessed MacKillop's canonization as "a milestone in our nation's history" and "an uplifting and celebratory occasion," promoting her influence and legacy on the entire population of the island continent.

"Mary epitomizes the strength of our forebears which made Australia the nation it is today," according to the archdiocese.

Catholics in Sydney will be celebrating a feast day Mass late in the afternoon at St. Mary's Cathedral in the heart of the city before the canonization ceremony is televised there. In traditional Aussie fashion, a "sausage sizzle" will accompany the viewing.

AAP reported that further south, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis J. Hart announced over the weekend that a morning Eucharistic Celebration will take place at St. Patrick's Cathedral and will be followed by a "colorful procession" beginning at Blessed MacKillop's first home.

The Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens, will be the venue for music and entertainment, a prayer service, followed by the live feed of the ceremony from Rome.

The canonization ceremony, which will celebrated in Rome in the morning, is to be broadcast after 7 p.m. Australian time. The ceremony will consist of a brief biography read about each of the candidates for sainthood, the presentation of readings or prayers, and then Pope Benedict XVI will proceed with the Rite of Canonization.

The canonization is also drawing interest from outside the Church. For example, social network www.xt3.com launched an initiative at the end of July called the "Looking for Mary" video competition. From Aug. 18 to Sept. 20, participants will be able to submit a two to three minute video on how they see Blessed MacKillop in the world. A $5,000 cash prize will go to the winner.

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Archbishop denounces post-Christian paganism of Christian societies

La Plata, Argentina, Aug 9, 2010 (CNA) - The “post-Christian paganism fervently practiced by people who call themselves Christian,” is what makes people oblivious to the increasing inhumanity of society, said Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina in a recent homily.

During an August 4 Mass at the archdiocesan seminary, the archbishop warned of a “common slip-up today” which consists of “being concerned about the social, cultural and political consequences of the faith, without asking oneself about the truth and credibility of the faith - which is taken as a given.”

“People of faith are here on earth to preach the faith, which centers around the death and resurrection of Christ, in order to show clearly its foundation and lead others to discover its harmonious beauty,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Aguer also stressed the importance of strong preaching in response to the challenges of today’s culture. “According to Catholic tradition, man cannot permanently observe all the precepts of the natural law without the help of grace. In other words, only by entering into redeeming contact with Jesus Christ is complete fulfillment of human existence possible,” he declared.

“Without the faith, without the grace of redemption, man cannot reach the fullness of humanity,” he continued. He also denounced the country's recent legalization of same-sex marriage, which “lay bare the pathetic de-Christianization of Argentina, and most especially, the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of its leaders.”

“The lack of faith of so many baptized people, the depth of their religious ignorance and their indifference to the mystery of Salvation explains why these people cannot perceive the natural order of creation and its reflection in their consciences. It escapes them. The true humanity of man is hidden from them, leaving nothing more than a caricature in the secular religion of human rights,” the archbishop said.

He added that “it is a sort of post-Christian paganism fervently practiced by people who call themselves Christian.”

For this reason, priests must embrace their mission to reach out to all without exception. “This requires study, prayer, penance, great love that is patient and understanding, and perhaps the testimony of a moral martyrdom, the prelate concluded.

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Brazilian Congress considers proposal to reject legalized abortion

Brasilia, Brazil, Aug 9, 2010 (CNA) -

Brazil’s Congress is considering accepting a motion that would free the country of any obligation to adhere to the “Brasilia Consensus,” a July 16 document which proposes that abortion on demand be allowed in Brazil and throughout Latin America.

The document, which was promoted by Nilceia Freire, Brazil’s Minister for Women’s Affairs, was signed at the conclusion of the 11th Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Congress, which was held in Brasilia in July, was promoted by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, an entity linked to the U.N. Freire hosted the event and was an enthusiastic promoter of the final document, titled the “Brasilia Consensus.”

The document calls on countries in Latin America to review their own laws that impose punishment on women who undergo abortions.

According to the Defense of Life Movement, such an action would violate Brazil’s Constitution and Brazilian law. Both currently grant protection to human life without distinction. In addition, the “Brasilia Consensus” violates the American Convention on Human Rights, a binding agreement that carries the force of law in Brazil.

Brazil’s legislature has set a vote to decide whether to reject the document in its entirety. A number of lawmakers have pointed out that Freire’s proposal to change the country’s laws is a usurpation of the powers of Congress and that interference by the U.N. seriously affects the sovereignty of countries in Latin America.

Carlos Polo, director of the Population Research Institute’s Office for Latin America, explained to CNA that the Brasilia Consensus exhibits the logic of “sexual and reproductive rights + reproductive health = legal abortion,” something that is not a part of the legal framework of many countries in the region and therefore contradicts the idea of a consensus.

“For example, in Peru, a bill on Reproductive Health has not received enough support for passage even after attempts over eight years, and there is no indication things will change in the future,” Polo said. “For years, the promoters of this ideological discourse of ‘reproductive and sexual rights’ and ‘reproductive health’ went to great lengths to claim it did not include abortion. Today we see clearly and in writing from this document that they were not telling the truth,” he affirmed.

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Scottish cardinal criticizes 'vengeance' in US justice system

Rome, Italy, Aug 9, 2010 (CNA) -

A "culture of vengeance" is behind the U.S. justice system's desire to investigate the Lockerbie bomber again, said the U.K.'s only cardinal on Sunday. He defended Scotland's decision to release the convicted criminal last year and said that the U.S. should respect this verdict and take another look at "compassion" in its own legal system.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, in a Sunday statement, supported the decision of Scottish government officials who did not attend a hearing in Washington D.C. for a further inquiry of Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi, saying that the Scottish justice system operates on “compassion” rather than “vengeance.”

Al-Megrahi was convicted and jailed for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 which claimed 270 lives, 189 of which were American, on Dec. 21, 1988. He was released by the Scottish legal system in Aug. 2009 for medical reasons.

The U.S. Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee has been recently investigating the possibility that petroleum giant BP played a role in the criminal's release because of oil drilling contracts in Al-Megrahi's home country of Libya. After Scottish officials declined the request to participate in the Senate inquiry in Washington, a July 29 hearing was postponed.

According to the BBC, the Scottish government insisted that the bomber was released "on compassionate grounds alone."

Backing the ministers' decision not to attend the hearings, Cardinal O'Brien noted that a "clash of cultures" could be an underlying cause of the dispute between the governments. He said that while in Scotland the justice system has worked to build a "culture of compassion," on the contrary, "there still exists in very many parts of the USA, if not nationally, an attitude towards the concept of justice, which can only be described as a ‘culture of vengeance’."

The desire for justice and even vengeance after such an "unbelievable horror and gratuitous barbarity," is "completely natural" for those most directly affected by the bombing, he conceded.

"It is in the midst of such inhuman barbarism, however, that we must act to affirm our own humanity, it is in these moments of grief and despair that we must show the world that the standards of the murderer and his disdain for human life are not our standards," he said.

"They may plunge to the depths of human conduct but we will not follow them."

Reflecting on Christian teaching on such matters, he said that "revenge is not a path we should take."

Cardinal O'Brien pointed out that the frequent exercise of capital punishment puts the U.S. in the company of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and China which are not "known for placing human rights on a pedestal.

"It is certainly invidious company for the world’s leading democracy to find itself in," he said.

Referring to a couple of specific cases from among the 1,221 executions in the U.S. since 1976 in which, he said, there was a need for pity, the cardinal noted that "perhaps the consciences of some Americans, especially members of the U.S. Senate, should be stirred by the ways in which ‘justice’ is administered in so many of their own States.

"Perhaps it is time for them to 'cast out the beam from their own eye before seeking the mote in their brothers.' Perhaps they should direct their gaze inwards, rather than scrutinizing the working of the Scottish justice system."

He expressed his full support for Scottish justice in the Al-Megrahi case, saying within it is "embedded, alongside punishment, the idea of reform," which is "one reason why the finality of the death penalty has rightly been rejected."

Driving home his point, he stated in conclusion, "I believe that only God can forgive and show ultimate compassion to those who commit terrible crimes and I would rather live in a country where justice is tempered by mercy than exist in one where vengeance and retribution are the norm."

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Bishop William Callahan to be installed in La Crosse on Wednesday

Lacrosse, Wis., Aug 9, 2010 (CNA) - William Patrick Callahan on Wednesday will be installed as the new Bishop of La Crosse in Wisconsin. The incoming bishop will celebrate one of his first Masses in the diocese at a church where the parish priest stepped down after charges of possession of child pornography.

The 60-year-old Bishop Callahan, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, will succeed Jerome Listecki, who is now Archbishop of Milwaukee. He will be installed on Wednesday afternoon at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral.

The incoming bishop told the La Crosse Tribune that he will learn about the diocese, over 15,000 square miles in area, and meet its people and priests.

"I've stepped in more than one cow pie in my life, so I have no fear in any of that," he commented. "People are people, whether they live in cities or on farms. And I love the people. I think the most important thing to do is to make contact with the people."

He said everyone has told him that the diocese is “wonderful.”

"My coming is a little bit different, because I'm not coming in with degrees after my name. I am basically a parish priest. I want to come in with a pastor's heart,” he told the La Crosse Tribune. "We have a common faith, so let's try to work from there."

On Sunday he will celebrate Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Onalaska, where parish priest Fr. Patrick Umberger recently stepped down after being charged with possession of child pornography.

"I want to be with those people. That's the high priority," Bishop Callahan commented. "I want to pray with them. I want to listen."

He told the La Crosse Tribune that the turmoil at St. Patrick’s was “a sad way to start” but he wants parishioners to know “I’m their guy.”

"The most important thing is our faith in Jesus Christ and that we come together. In praying with them, I'll have the opportunity to listen. I'm sure they'll want to talk."

The bishop said his new assignment makes him “a little nervous, a little excited, happy, enthused, ready to come and do my job.”

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Archdiocese of Mexico City rejects Supreme Court ruling on same-sex 'marriage'

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 9, 2010 (CNA) -

In a press release, the Archdiocese of Mexico City criticized the country’s Supreme Court for ruling in favor of the constitutionality of same-sex “marriage” in the country's capital city. The statement added that the testimony leading to the ruling was “conducted with a flippant and sneaky attitude.”

After lamenting the decision allowing gay “marriage” in Mexico City, the archdiocese stated that “Once again, we have been witnesses of the inequity with which laws are interpreted to unilaterally favor extraordinary situations that do not reflect the activity of a natural human society or its reason for existence.”

“The ruling of the nation’s Supreme Court that the legal recognition of marriage between two persons of the same sex is constitutional manifests an incapability of seeing in nature and the laws of God the legal boundary that prevents humanity from destroying and confusing itself,” continued the archdiocese. The statement added that the discussion leading up to the ruling “was conducted with a flippant and sneaky attitude.”

“We cannot help but express our hope that this ruling is not binding on all the States of the Republic and that state legislatures, as on other occasions, will come to the defense of the human and family values of the Mexican citizens who have given them their vote of confidence to respond to these debates.”

Likewise, it continued, “the Archdiocese of Mexico City hopes the Court’s discussion on the adoption of children by same-sex couples will take into account and give priority to the greater good of children and protect their fundamental human right to have a family made up of a father and a mother.”

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