Rome, Italy, Aug 26, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The “exemplary model” of Blessed Mother Teresa was highlighted in a letter from Pope Benedict XVI released for the 100th anniversary of her birth. An accompanying message from the current mother superior of the Missionaries of Charity reproposed Mother Teresa’s call to change the world through small acts performed with great love.
Celebrations of all types, especially Eucharistic ones, are being observed across the globe on Thursday to honor the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity (MC) and her legacy of love. According to a letter dated May 18, but just released for the Aug. 26 occasion, the Pope has also been “spiritually” joining in with the year’s celebrations.
The Holy Father remembered Mother Teresa as an “exemplary model of Christian virtue” in the brief message to MC superior general, Mother Mary Prema. He expressed his confidence that this year’s celebrations of her life would be “an occasion of joyful gratitude to God for the inestimable gift that Mother Teresa was in her lifetime and continues to be through the affectionate and tireless work” of the order she founded.
The Holy Father also asked that the love showed by Mother Teresa continue to inspire the order’s members as they carry out their service, drawing from her example and spirituality and choosing, as she did, to “take up Christ’s invitation, ‘Come, be my light’.”
In a letter sent to members of the order this month, Mother Mary Prema wrote that their foundress is a continuing inspiration to people of all ages, economic standings, religions and origins.
Mother Teresa’s message that “'God has created us for greater things – to love and to be loved’,” wrote the superior in the note made public by the Mother Teresa Center on Wednesday, “makes us look beyond the struggles, loneliness and grievances of our daily life.”
We are called to love God and to share that love with others, “beginning with our families,” she stated.
Quoting again the words of the foundress, she wrote, “Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family, we never know how much good just a simple smile can do.”
Mother Mary called for the centenary to be observed by “sharing the joy of loving and being loved” and by praying “to know better God’s love for us.” She also suggested that small acts done with great love “will ‘make our lives something beautiful for God’.”
These simple actions will serve to transform the world, she concluded, because, as Mother Teresa said, “A smile generates smiles and love generates love.”
Around 5,000 sisters and nearly 500 brothers are currently working to carry out the work that Mother Teresa began 60 years ago.
Washington D.C., Aug 26, 2010 (CNA) - Two ethicists have praised a court’s ruling that the Obama administration’s federal funding policy for human embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) is illegal, saying it upholds the ethical treatment of human beings. However, they warned that the ruling would prompt further political challenges to the funding restrictions.
On Monday U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth said the funding violated the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which prohibits federal money for research in which an embryo is destroyed.
The 17,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA) was one of the plaintiffs in the legal case, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“People forget that each one of us was an embryo, and if someone destroyed us for biological parts, we wouldn't be around today,” CMA executive director David Stevens commented in support of the ruling.
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), claimed that the ruling “has the potential to do serious damage just at a time we were gaining momentum” in stem cell research. He and other scientists who back ESCR claim the ruling will put the United States at a disadvantage.
ESCR scientists have already received $131 million in grants and can continue to use the money until it runs out. However, the NIH has abandoned its planned review of new grant applications and will not proceed with a second-level review of about a dozen other applications. A review of another 22 grant applications totaling $54 million is also on hold, the Journal says.
Because human embryonic stem cells are sometimes used as a “control” to judge the success of other stem cell research, the Journal reports, the ruling could also affect research focused on adult stem cell alternatives.
CNA spoke about the ruling in two separate Wednesday interviews with Edward J. Furton, an ethicist on the staff of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), and Fr. Thomas Berg, director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person.
Furton thought the decision was “a great court ruling.” He said that Judge Lamberth recognized a contradiction between the Obama administration’s willingness to fund the research and its pledge to treat human embryos with the kind of respect that the Dickey-Wicker Amendment requires.
“Judge Lamberth simply says you can’t separate these two events. You can’t say ‘as long as somebody else destroys the embryo, we’re happy to fund the destruction of the embryo.’
“The destruction of the embryo is an essential part of the research.”
Fr. Berg said he thought the court “correctly interpreted the intention of Congress in the original wording of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment.”
“The decision was spot on.”
In his view, the amendment was intended to disallow all federal funding for research that causes, brings about or involves the destruction of human embryos. However, subsequent loopholes were created to obscure that intention.
Asked about continued challenges to the amendment, which Congress must renew annually, the priest said that the amendment had been “in the crosshairs” of many entities and legislators who “see it as an obstacle to much easier funding.”
The court ruling is “certainly” going to prompt further attempts to block the amendment, he predicted.
“My sense is the Dickey-Wicker Amendment is certainly more in danger now than it ever has been,” he continued, recommending that pro-life advocates “really need to speak very clearly and loudly to our representatives and let them know we want to preserve Dickey-Wicker.
Fr. Berg said the amendment arguably reflects the views of a majority of Americans, referring to a 2009 poll which reported that most Americans do not want their taxpayer dollars to fund the destruction of human embryos.
Furton addressed Collins’ claim that the ruling could do “serious damage” to embryonic stem cell research.
“There’s a lot of money at stake, hundreds of millions of dollars,” he told CNA. “There hasn’t been much momentum on ESCR, it’s been very slow going.
According to Furton, alternatives such as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell research have attracted “all the research money” from the business community and are “making great strides.”
The ethicist said that ESCR therapy is “plagued” by inherent and unsolved problems like immune system incompatibility, uncontrollable cell growth and the creation of tumors.
“The adult stem cells are much easier to direct down a particular path,” he explained. “If you’re looking for cures for diseases, then adult stem cells are the way to go.”
He deemed claims about the potential use of embryonic stem cells to be “highly theoretical and speculative.”
Asked about the description of embryo-derived stem cells as the “gold standard,” Furton said it was an “odd” expression but “understandable from a scientific standpoint” because other stem cells are compared to the embryonic cells to see if they have the same properties.
“If your gold standard is the human embryo, then it is the so-called gold standard. But it is funny that you have a gold standard that doesn’t seem to work very well.”
The Westchester Institute’s Fr. Berg addressed the ethical objections to ESCR funding, saying the practice is “complicity in the destruction of individual, embryonic human persons.”
Asked about objections to the claim that the embryo is a person, he replied:
“You were once an embryo. That’s a simple matter of scientific and biological facts … In a way, we cannot become something that we aren’t already. An acorn is not going to grow up to be a birch tree, it can only become an oak tree.
“The human embryo is already a human being. It is already a human person at an early stage of development. The arbitrary isolation of that embryonic stage has no logical footing to stand on,” he continued, opposing the claim that embryos aren’t persons but “somehow” become persons at some other time.
“The fact that a human embryo is a member of the species homo sapiens is a simple matter of biology, it’s not a religious statement.
Furton also discussed the origin of the individual human being, saying the human person begins when sperm and ovum meet.
“You and I were both human embryos at one point. If those embryos were destroyed we wouldn’t be here today,” he told CNA.
“Killing a human being, no matter what advances you might gain from it, is not sufficient reason for carrying out such an act.
“Human life is sacred and ought to be treated that way by the scientific community,” Furton stated.
Lincoln, Neb., Aug 26, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Hoping to win funding for a new and much needed kitchen, Pius X High School in Lincoln, Nebraska is competing in a department store's national contest for a $500,000 cash prize.
Pius X High School, as of today, is the leading Catholic school in the nation competing in the Kohl's Cares online voting contest on Facebook.
“The company is donating $500,000 to 20 schools nationwide who receive the most votes,” explained Pius X development director Michelle Birkel in an e-mail to CNA.
The high school is currently listed as being in 12th place, with the voting ending on Sept. 3. Birkel noted that the school is “working really hard” to spread the word.
“We are in great need of a new kitchen,” Birkel said. “For years, the food services have been housed across the parking lot and the lunch workers have to cart it across the parking lot,” she continued, adding that the “harsh” Nebraska winters make the situation more challenging. Adding to the problem, the building that houses the food services “is slated to be torn down.”
“Several schools in the lead have banded together and are getting nationwide if not worldwide coverage asking their faith community to vote, and they are zooming up,” the development director added. “We desperately need our own Catholic faith community around the country and even worldwide to help us.”
“It's free,” Birkel said, noting that anyone with a Facebook account “can give us 5 votes.”
Pius X High School is one of two Catholic schools listed in the top 20, and there are reportedly five Catholic schools nationwide in the top 100.
“Voters can cast up to 20 votes, with a 5 vote maximum for each school,” Birkel said. “Wouldn't it be wonderful if your readers can lift up all of the Catholic schools in the top 100?”
For more information, please visit: www.facebook.com/kohls
Raleigh, N.C., Aug 26, 2010 (CNA) - A required University of North Carolina health plan’s coverage of abortion is “deeply disturbing,” two regional Catholic bishops have said. They called on the state’s Catholics and the university’s governing board to oppose the requirements, noting that abortion targets the lives of the weak and defenseless.
All university students must purchase the university’s health care plan unless they provide proof they have other coverage. However, the plan’s coverage includes elective abortions.
Responding to pro-life advocates’ concerns, university officials said students may opt out of the portion of the plan which funds an abortion. However, even students who opt out pay the same amount for the plan as others. The Catholic Voice NC says that in effect this forces pro-life students to “participate in deliberately bringing death upon another student’s child.”
Bishop of Charlotte Peter J. Jugis and Bishop of Raleigh Michael F. Burbidge voiced concern about the regulations.
“It is deeply disturbing that a state sponsored health insurance plan is providing coverage and therefore funding, for the direct destruction of innocent human life. We call on the UNC Board of Governors to halt the requirement of students to underwrite those who support this unacceptable practice which seeks to end the life of the weak and defenseless,” the bishops said, according to the Catholic Voice NC.
Both bishops called on the more than 800,000 Catholic faithful across their dioceses to contact the UNC Board of Governors to request that the board rescind the portion of the health care policies which provides payment for abortions.
New York City, N.Y., Aug 26, 2010 (CNA) - A recent Harvard orator who intends to become a Dominican sister says that the Catholic Church has promoted the well-being of women throughout its existence. Discussing how she discerned her vocation, she reports that the elite campus has a “very active” Catholic presence.
A native of Queens, New York, Mary Anne Marks is an alumna of Manhattan’s Dominican Academy. Graduating from Harvard University in 2010 with an undergraduate degree in classics and English, she delivered an oration to her graduating class in Latin.
Speaking in an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online (NRO), Marks discussed her intention to join the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
She told Lopez that she felt privileged to be a visible representative of the Catholic Church because it is “an organization of sinners and sinners-turned-saints, emphatically alive, expanding, and responsive to the needs of the time.” The Church, she said, has been “enormously effective in promoting the spiritual and material well-being of women and men throughout the 2,000 years of its existence.”
Marks credited the Church’s teachings about human equality and Catholic reverence for Mary as the Mother of God for elevating the status of women. The Church’s “unequivocal opposition” to abortion and contraception make the Church “a lone voice above the chaos, promoting women’s dignity and happiness,” she told NRO.
Noting the need for women religious to witness to “supernatural realities” through their lives, she told how she committed herself entirely to her vocation during a trip to Lourdes before eighth grade.
“I had lived a double life, drawn on the one hand to immerse myself in the beauty of my faith, on the other to imitate the less than edifying dress, speech, and behavior of my classmates,” she commented.
At Lourdes Marks was filled with a yearning to love God “at all times in everything I did.”
“Freed from the need to conform to others’ standards and willing to make Love the ruling principle of my life, I could speak unashamedly and sincerely of my desire to become a sister.”
She said she was discerning with the Ann Arbor Dominicans because they are “on fire to spread the witness of faithful religious life.”
“They combine love for the monastic traditions of the Dominican order passed down since the thirteenth century with a zeal for Pope John Paul II’s new evangelization and for the challenges of today,” Marks commented. “Their particular devotion to Mary and to Christ’s Eucharistic presence is evident in the community’s name.”
Asked how she pursued a spiritual life at Harvard, Marks replied: “Only the grace of a religious vocation gave me the insight and willpower to carve out a part of each day for prayer.”
She reported that Harvard’s strong Knights of Columbus group, its “very active” Catholic Student Association, and men’s and women’s nearby Opus Dei houses are complements to the two parish churches within walking distance of the campus.
Harvard faculty expressed “many positive responses” to her plans. Some had siblings in the religious life, while one suggested that academics could appreciate a life of contemplation. Classmates were generally happy to learn of her plans and some also began deeply personal discussions with her about unbelief and Catholic sexual ethics.
Marks is not the only recent Harvard graduate to pursue a religious vocation in the Church. She told NRO’s Lopez that a young man who finished Harvard in three years entered the seminary several years ago, while before him a woman joined the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. One of Marks’ friends who pursued a degree at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government joined the Religious Sisters of Mercy, while on July 25 two Harvard men joined the Eastern Province of the Dominicans.
Marks wants to become a teacher because she has always been “exhilarated” by the prospect of giving to children “the solid grounding in their faith that I never received in school.”
She advised young women considering a vocation to spend time each day in conversation with Jesus, especially before the Blessed Sacrament.
“You can’t know what He desires for you if the two of you aren’t good friends. Ask Him and His mother for guidance.”
“When Love asks you to be His spouse, you don’t quibble about the when and where … anything worthwhile in life requires an ongoing, freely willed surrender of one’s freedom,” she told NRO’s Lopez.
Malibu, Calif., Aug 26, 2010 (CNA) - The U.S. Ambassador to Malta, Douglas Kmiec, was reported to be in good condition after a one-car collision on Wednesday in Malibu, California which killed a religious sister and injured a priest.
The Malibu Times reported on Thursday that Sister Mary Campbell from Our Lady of Malibu Catholic Church was killed at the intersection of Las Virgenes Canyon Road and Mulholland Drive on Aug. 25.
Ninety-five year-old Msgr. John Sheridan from the same parish, as well as Ambassador Kmiec were injured in the crash, but were reported to be in good condition after both underwent surgery.
The U.S. ambassador to Malta, a well-known scholar and popular law commentator, is a former professor of Pepperdine University. Ambassador Kmiec also served as dean and St. Thomas More Professor of Law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., additionally serving for nearly two decades on the law faculty at the University of Notre Dame.
The ambassador was nominated by President Obama to serve as the Ambassador to Malta on July 2, 2009.
Leon, Mexico, Aug 26, 2010 (CNA) - A young pro-life leader from the International Youth Alliance has denounced the World Youth Conference in Leon, Mexico as a “farce.” He explained that the United Nations-promoted event is working to impose an agenda on delegates that is contrary to life and the family.
Pro-life leader Rafael Becerra explained that the “the International Alliance of Youth was born from the need to spotlight issues of the family and human life.”
“We believe the conviction that brought the Mexican delegates here and what will be worked on at the World Congress is a farce, a farce that will be developed during the entire week, as a pre-established agenda, backed by organizations that were mysteriously invited by the Organizing Committee of the Mexican Youth Institute, to legitimize proposals against life and the family was imposed on the state delegates.”
The conference is taking place August 23 – 27.
Wednesday, a document defending sexual abstinence, human life, and family values was circulated among the participants of the conference, which organizers pulled after claiming it caused “alarm” and “indignation.”
According to Samantha Singson’s blog for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), one of the organizers interrupted a panel discussion to make an “urgent announcement” denouncing a “phony” draft document circulating among the participants.
“According to organizers, the unauthorized document does not reflect the views or the discussions being held. Organizers urged participants who had received the phony document to throw them out to prevent confusion before governments started deliberations tomorrow. (today),” Singson said.
“The 'offending' unofficial document includes provisions calling for the promotion of 'sexual abstinence' and the promotion of 'values in the family' because it is 'the fundamental basis of society',” she added.
“An angry representative from the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) took the microphone to demand that organizers take control of the conference and prevent "infiltration."” Singson also reported.
Guadalajara, Mexico, Aug 26, 2010 (CNA) - The press office of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara released a statement today indicating that Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez “is prepared to respond” to the lawsuit filed against him by the mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard.
The mayor is suing the cardinal for comments he recently made charging that Ebrard and international organizations pressured the justices of the Supreme Court to recognize the constitutionality of same-sex “marriage” and their right to adopt.
The statement by the archdiocese stated that the cardinal’s lawyers will study the case and provide appropriate responses to judicial authorities as well as to the public.
“For the moment we have no other response until we have seen firsthand all the documents that the officials ... are presenting. At that time we will begin outlining the position of the defendant,” the statement said.
New York City, N.Y., Aug 26, 2010 (CNA) - Thousands of New Yorkers will gather for Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on Thursday evening to pray and commemorate the life of Blessed Mother Teresa. The event is being organized by area Albanian Catholics who seek to continue her works of charity and faith.
Our Lady of Shkodra Church, an ethnic Albanian parish in Hartsdale, New York, is arranging the 7 p.m. Mass at the cathedral on the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s birth. She had visited the parish church at its previous location in the South Bronx, near where she opened her first Missionaries of Charity mission in the United States.
The church is named after a miracle in the northern Albanian city of Shkodra, where Mother Teresa's family hails from.
Organizers of the Mass said in a press release that although the saintly woman served everyone regardless of background, “she held a special place in her heart for her Albanian kinfolk, especially during the dark days of the cold war when Albania’s communist government banned religion in the country.”
They also described her as a special “source of pride” for Albanians.
In her trips to New York she reported that she still prayed in Albanian. One of her most well known comments refers to her background: “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”
After the fall of communism, in 1993 Mother Teresa attended Pope John Paul II’s inauguration of Shkodra’s cathedral. Before her death in 1997, she said she is “praying much for all my dear people of Albania.”
Upon her death, New York’s Albanian community celebrated a special Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. An overflowing crowd attended.
Our Lady of Shkodra Church has named its community organization The Mother Teresa Center and plans to have an annual community day of service inspired by Mother Teresa’s works of charity. Parishioners are helping to raise funds to build a large cathedral named for Mother Teresa in Prishtina, the capital city of Kosovo.
“Her legacy is the thousands of Missionaries of Charity sisters who continue to serve the poorest of the poor in almost every country throughout the world,” organizers of Thursday’s Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral said. They encouraged everyone to attend the Mass and to follow Mother Teresa’s counsel to “show great love for God and our neighbor.”
Santiago, Chile, Aug 26, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic, encouraged Chileans this week to seek the national unity that was achieved 25 years ago during the country's transition to democracy.
“In 1985, a climate of polarization undermined national unity, leading to confrontations between people that went to violent extremes,” the bishop recalled.
Nevertheless, he explained, “amidst that scenario of pain, a group of visionary leaders strove create a minimum of understanding between the different groups that were seeking a peaceful return to institutional normalcy.” Then-Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Juan Francisco Fresno, worked together with a number of public officials to achieve this end, the bishop said.
Dialogue, the acceptance of differences, and respect for dignity were the pillars of that process, he continued, noting that years later, John Paul II would say, “Chile has a vocation to understanding and not confrontation.”
“May the democratic unity that we achieved through dialogue half a century ago translate into other agreements our society needs, especially in the overcoming of inequality and the protection of the poor and most vulnerable,” Bishop Goic said.
He then turned to the unity Chile is currently experiencing as a result of the efforts to rescue the trapped miners. “During this month of solidarity, the unity, hope and faith of these miners, their families and those who have untiringly worked to find them … is a source of pride,” the bishop said.
Rome, Italy, Aug 26, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica remembered at Mass on Thursday how a promise he made to Mother Teresa 40 years ago preserved his vocation. She taught him that without prayer, charity cannot exist.
Cardinal Comastri presided over the Eucharistic celebration at Rome's San Lorenzo in Damaso Church, which had a very welcoming feel with the presence of more than 100 Missionaries of Charity sisters, over 20 concelebrating priests, local government leaders and a very diverse collection of faithful.
Church-goers were pleasantly surprised by the presence of newly-arrived prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who also concelebrated and read a message from the Pope at the beginning of Mass.
In a homily which emphasized that love is the foundation of our existence, Cardinal Comastri remembered a personal encounter he had with the Missionaries of Charity's founder when he was just a young priest.
His first contact with Mother Teresa came when he mailed her a letter just after he was ordained a priest. Her "unexpected" response was especially striking, he recalled, because it was written on "very poor paper, in a very poor envelope."
At a later date, Cardinal Comastri sought her out when she was visiting Rome to thank her for the answer. When he found her, she asked him a question that left him "a little embarrassed."
"How many hours do you pray a day?" she asked.
In 1969-70, he recalled, the Church was in a time of "dispute," so thinking that it was "near heroism, then-Father Comastri explained to her that he said daily Mass in addition to praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary.”
To this, she responded flatly, "That's not enough.”
"Love cannot be lived minimally," she said, and then asked him to promise to do half an hour of adoration every day.
"I promised," said Cardinal Comastri, "and today I can say that this saved my priesthood."
Trying to defend his case at the time, he told Mother Teresa that he thought she was going to ask him how much charity he did. She answered him, "And do you think if I didn't pray I would be able to love the poor? It's Jesus that puts love in my heart when I pray."
She helped the poor, but it was "always Jesus' love," the saintly sister told him.
Then, Mother told him something that he would never forget: she told him to read Scripture.
Through Jesus' teachings, she said, we are reminded that "without God we're too poor to help the poor.” This, she explained, "is why so much assistance falls into the void. It doesn't change anything, it doesn't contribute anything because it doesn't bring love and it isn't born of prayer."
Concluding, Cardinal Comastri said, "Through this little woman ... we are reminded that charity is the apostolate of the Church and that charity is only born if we pray."
Rome, Italy, Aug 26, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Civil war could be on the horizon in Iraq, according to a high-ranking Catholic prelate in the country. Minorities, including Christians, would suffer most if that were the case, Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako told SIR news on Thursday.
As President Barack Obama brings the number of American troops in the Middle Eastern nation down to 50,000 by next Monday, Archbishop Sako told the Italian bishops' news agency that the future looks grim for the country's minorities.
"The war of 2003 turned Iraq upside down," said the archbishop, referring specifically to the nation's army, security, economy and national unity. He also lamented that the country has become polluted, corrupt and "intellectually impoverished" in recent years, the latter due to the loss of teachers who have been killed or fled the violence.
While granting that there is generally greater liberty in the country, he said that the movement towards democracy is "slow" due to the long-term plans of the U.S. government.
"It seems to me that the U.S. may have never wanted to resolve the problems of Iraq (by) fostering and protecting the formation of a strong government," he noted, adding that the pressure being exerted on the local government by neighboring nations is "worrying."
And with the U.S. withdrawal, he told SIR, "Iraqi fear of a civil war that could bring ethnic and religious division to the country is increasing."
He predicted that Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions would each be able to gather an army, while leaving the minorities as "the scapegoats of this situation."