Vatican City, Aug 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - If religious leaders teach their adherents about other religions in an "objective way," they can have "a decisive impact" on the peaceful coexistence of religions, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran wrote to the world's Muslims on Friday as Ramadan came to a close.
In a note sent to Muslims to mark the end Ramadan, which falls on or around Sept. 10 this year, the president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Religious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, expressed his hope for efforts to overcome violence among followers of different religions.
Speaking to all Muslims, Cardinal Tauran and the secretary of the dicastery, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, greeted the upcoming conclusion of the month-long Muslim time of fasting as "a favorable occasion" to convey to Muslims with their "heartfelt wishes of serenity and joy."
Cardinal Tauran wrote that he was "delighted" with the results of "various friendly meetings" that have taken place recently and have brought believers from different religions, especially Christians, spiritually closer to Muslims.
Noting this year's theme for Christian and Muslim dialogue as that of cooperating to overcome inter-religious violence, the council president pointed to several causes of this phenomenon that have come to light during discussions so far this year.
The cardinal and archbishop also detailed many of the reasons for violence among believers of different religions, including: "the manipulation of the religion for political or other ends; discrimination based on ethnicity or religious identity; divisions and social tensions." They also cited ignorance, poverty, underdevelopment as "direct or indirect sources of violence among as well as within religious communities."
Cardinal Tauran consequently called upon civil and religious authorities make efforts to remedy the situations that fuel inter-religious violence. He particularly focused on the government's duty to uphold the law and ensure true justice, thus putting "a stop to the authors and promoters of violence!"
"Important recommendations" in this context, said Cardinal Tauran, are the needs to open hearts to mutual forgiveness and reconciliation as well as recognizing common ground and respecting differences for peaceful coexistence." Additionally, he underscored, there is a need for recognition and respect for the dignity and rights of every man, just laws which guarantee fundamental equality and proper education in social and religious arenas to improve relations.
In these ways, he highlighted, "we will be able to oppose violence among followers of different religions and promote peace and harmony among the various religious communities."
Concluding his recommendations, Cardinal Tauran wrote, "Teaching by religious leaders, as well as school books which present religions in an objective way, have, along with teaching in general, a decisive impact on the education and the formation of younger generations."
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 27, 2010 (CNA) - This week numerous religious denominations in Mexico banded together to publish the “Interdenominational Manifesto of Mexico,” reaffirming that no religious minister should be silenced under any circumstance.
The manifesto states that religious leaders must not be silenced because “it is our duty and obligation to guide the consciences of the members of our communities.”
“The secular state cannot and must not persecute religious ministers because of their opinions or attempt to silence their public statements,” because these things are necessary to “sustain the relationship between the being and God the Creator,” the manifesto continues.
“In any revision or analysis of laws that relates to human life, morality or bioethics, the opinions of various religious leaders must be heard,” it adds, noting that this was not the case with the recent laws passed on same-sex “marriage” and adoption.
The manifesto says the secular state must not overreach its authority and engage in militant secularism or persecution. The natural law must be respected above every human law, it continues, urging leaders to revoke anti-life anti-family laws and to cease all efforts to silence religious leaders.
The manifest was signed by the Methodist Church of Mexico, the Lutheran Church, the Maronite Church, the Anglican Church, the Greek-Melkite Church and the Hare Krishna Movement.
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Former students of Pope Benedict have gathered in Castel Gandolfo for their annual summer seminar sometimes called the "Ratzinger Schulerkreis." According to L'Osservatore Romano, the theme of this year's encounter will focus on the Second Vatican Council.
Forty priests, professors, religious and laity will participate in the Pope's summer school which was first held for former students when Joseph Ratzinger became Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977. This year's meeting, according to the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano (LOR), runs from Aug. 27-30 and is comprised of the usual Austrian and German majority. Five other nations are also represented including India and South Korea.
LOR reported that the topic of the four-day seminar was chosen by the Pope himself from among several options proposed by the association of his former theology students. Also selected by the Pope was the main speaker, Archbishop Kurt Koch, the recently appointed replacement for Cardinal Walter Kasper as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Archbishop Koch's addresses to the group will examine "The Second Vatican Council between tradition and innovation" and "Sacrosanctum concilium and the post-Conciliar reform of the liturgy."
Pope Benedict himself will be present at the meeting hall, located near the Castel Gandolfo town center, for several events on the schedule. After Archbishop Koch's Friday and Saturday sessions, the Pope will participate in discussions on the subjects he presents. Then, on Sunday morning, he will preside over Mass for his ex-students and join them, along with new members of the association, for breakfast.
As LOR described, three years ago a new group of people was admitted to the association of former students based on the fact that they have studied and written about the Pope's thought, although they never attended his classes.
Another major moment of the encounter will come on Sunday, when participants will gather in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolfo along with many other faithful and pilgrims to join the Pope in reciting the Angelus prayer.
Santiago, Chile, Aug 27, 2010 (CNA) - The 33 miners trapped in the San Jose Mine in Atacama, Chile have requested that statues and religious pictures be sent down to them as they wait to be rescued, reports CNN.
Chilean officials say the rescue could take months but that they hope to reach the miners by Christmas. The copper mine collapsed on August 5, and the 33 miners have been trapped in a space nearly half a mile underground ever since.
A small passageway has already been put in place so messages and supplies can be sent to the trapped miners.
Although a crucifix has already been sent down, the miners are continuing to request more statues of Mary and the saints – as well as a Chilean flag to construct a make-shift chapel. “The miners want to set up a section of the chamber they are in as a shrine,” Chilean’s Minister of Health, Jaime Manalich told CNN.
This week, President Sebastian Pinera spoke with the miners by phone and then placed a statue of St. Lorenzo, the patron of miners, in the presidential palace together with 32 Chilean flags and one Bolivian flag to represent each of the miners trapped since August 5.
Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2010 (CNA) - The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has produced a video recapping its eventful Summer for Marriage tour and has announced the creation of an initiative to organize two million Americans to defend marriage from political redefinition.
The 23-stop tour began in Centreville, Virginia on July 4 and ended with a rally outside the U.S. Capitol on August 15. About 300 people attended the final rally. With religious and community leaders, they called for the right to vote on the same-sex “marriage” law enacted in the nation’s capital.
A new video recapping the tour recounts the events and tour speakers, who included Dr. Alveda King, niece of slain civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The video also notes efforts by same-sex “marriage” activists to disrupt the rallies. At the Albany stop, activists intimidated a nursing mother, while in Providence, Rhode Island they physically surrounded a rally speaker and tried to shout him down.
At a rally in Madison, Wisconsin counter-protesters booed Bishop of Madison Robert Morlino as he prayed the Our Father.
“Little did we know how threatened our opponents would be by our tour,” Brown said in a NOM e-mail to supporters. “But their protests, all too often characterized by hateful intolerance, only raised the profile of the tour, drawing media attention and new supporters to our cause.”
In the recap video, Brown said he was proud that rally participants didn’t respond “in kind” to the aggression but stood their ground. He said that while the tour started out as an effort to rally support in “key battleground states where marriage is under attack,” the poor behavior of counter-protesters and the federal court ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8 gave extra urgency to the tour.
“If allowed to stand, Walker’s decision will change marriage nationwide forevermore,” Brown remarked in the video.
Noting that one purpose of the summer tour was to expand the base of pro-marriage activists, he announced the launch of the Two Million for Marriage website.
“We’re already more than 700,000 strong and well on our way toward our goal of identifying and organizing an army of two million Americans willing to stand up to protect marriage,” he commented.
Brown also announced a major new initiative before the November elections to reach out to Americans through the new website, Twitter, Facebook, phone calls and direct mail as well as through radio, TV, and internet ads.
The recap video is available at the new website, http://TwoMillionforMarriage.com
Santiago, Chile, Aug 27, 2010 (CNA) - One of the 33 miners trapped in the San Jose Mine in Atacama, Chile has promised his family that once rescued, he and his wife will officially marry in the Catholic Church.
According to the Spanish daily, La Razon, Esteban Rojas received a note from his wife, Jessica, expressing her hope that once he is rescued, “we will finally get married in the Church.” The two have been married civilly for 25 years.
Rojas responded: “Hi Jessica, thanks for your concern and for praying that we are all right. Say hello to the children, the grandchildren, my in-laws and my parents … I love you all, and keep praying that we get out of this place. And when I get out, we’ll buy a wedding dress and get married in the Church.”
Jessica says she trusts Esteban will keep his promise, and has told friends she will be sending them a gift registry soon. “As you know, I need a stove and refrigerator!” she joked.
According to La Razon, the trapped miners have lost 22 pounds because of the underground pressure and temperatures in the mid-90s. Each day after eating and planning their schedule, they read their messages and organize the supplies that are being sent daily.
Anchorage, Alaska, Aug 27, 2010 (CNA) - Catholic support was critical to the passage of an Alaska ballot initiative requiring parents to be notified before their minor daughter has an abortion.
In elections Tuesday, Proposition 2 passed with 56 percent of the vote. Jim Minnery of the Prop. 2 backer Alaskans for Parental Rights said the support of the Catholic Church “played a crucial role in our success.” While tax rules prevent U.S. churches from advocating for or against political candidates, they may advocate for and against ballot issues and other legislation.
Speaking to the Catholic Anchor, he praised Archbishop of Anchorage Roger Schwietz for his “decisive leadership” in rallying support. He also praised the “dozens of parishes” which helped gather signatures to place the measure on the ballot.
Knights of Columbus councils from around Alaska, with help from the national organization, raised over $80,000 for radio and television advertisements. By contrast, abortion provider Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion advocates spent $800,000 on opposition ads.
Notices supporting the proposition appeared in Catholic Church buildings and prayers for the initiative’s success were offered at Mass. Catholic families distributed yard signs and bumper stickers and demonstrated at busy intersections.
Knights of Columbus also offered rides to the polls on election day. District deputy Cal Williams told the Catholic Anchor that the group provided 23 rides in Anchorage alone.
Williams added that the campaign had the positive side effect of encouraging parents to speak with their teens about the issue.
“Mothers and fathers, hopefully, did have discussions with their teens and the lines of communication are going to be wider open,” he remarked.
Joe Miller, a pro-life candidate challenging incumbent U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski in Tuesday’s Republican primary, said the pro-life vote was “important,” CBS News reports. He credited Prop. 2 with boosting his supporters’ turnout. Though 7,600 absentee ballots are still uncounted, he presently leads his pro-abortion opponent by about 1,600 votes out of more than 90,000 cast.
Archbishop Schwietz told the Catholic Anchor that common sense prevailed in the passage of the notification measure.
“Parents, no matter where they are on the abortion issue, understood: to be parent is to be a parent. You have responsibility for your children and therefore you should be able to know what they’re doing, and not have other people take away the right to know.”
He said that keeping parents ignorant of their daughters’ abortions amounted to “stabbing at the heart” of family life. He explained that God brought man and woman together to bear children in love and to prepare them for life.
“If their ability to do so is taken away from them, then the state is usurping, it seems to me, the right of parents and the power of God, himself,” the archbishop remarked.
Alaska joins 35 other states which require an abortionist to contact a minor’s parents before he performs an abortion. However, legal challenges to the law are expected.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 27, 2010 (CNA) - With World Youth Day Madrid less than a year away, young people from various countries in Latin America are coming up with creative ways to raise the money needed to attend the event.
According to WYD Madrid 2011 organizers, young people like Karen, Paulina and Nataly in Medellin, Colombia, are holding bake sales and making breakfast at their parishes.
“After WYD in Sydney, we saw a video of the Pope announcing that the next one would be in Madrid,” Karen said. “We were filled with emotion and we asked the Lord to help us attend,” she added.
Deissy and her friends, also from Colombia, have been selling lunches in their city and going door-to-door to ask for donations.
In the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, many young people are taking on extra jobs in order to raise money. “We are doing everything we can,” says a young Brazilian named Ieda.
Young Catholics in Arequipa, Peru are selling homemade key chains, bookmarks and books with religious pictures.
Most of the young people agree that the trip to Spain begins with their work to raise money.
Santiago, Chile, Aug 27, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic, called on the laity this week to remain engaged in the dialogue between faith and culture.
“It is urgent that we have specialized organizations in the diocese run by well-formed laypeople in order to generate dialogue between the faith and the culture and to defend the human dignity of men and women,” the bishop said during a conference on Chile’s bicentennial.
The bishop went on to say that believers exercise the greatest influence in the media not through programs of religious content but by achieving a natural presence and underscoring Gospel values creatively and skillfully as Christian journalists.
Bishop Goic noted that Catholics have a enormous presence in volunteer work for the poor and needy, but that their presence in unions is minimal. “Believers who are gifted organizers should be on the forefront of issues related to jobs and the dignity of workers,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of educating young people in civics, since “social justice, national and international peace and the promulgation of laws respectful of human dignity depend in large measure on politics. It is here where the Christian is called to be a witness to Christ in politics,” he said.
Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2010 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops added its support on Wednesday to an initiative that seeks to protect religious organizations' right to hire and maintain employees on the basis of their faith.
Over 100 leaders of various religious groups signed the letter distributed this week to all members of Congress, urging them to oppose provisions in HR 5466. The signatories to Wednesday's letter contend that parts of the law will unfairly burden religious charities that receive federal grants, by forcing them to make staffing decisions that contradict or disregard their beliefs.
The coalition of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish leaders includes the evangelical charity World Vision, the Salvation Army, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and the activist organization Sojourners among many others.
In their letter to Congress, they warned that developing efforts to undermine the religious identities of charities and other faith-based organizations “would be catastrophic to our efforts to serve those in need, and to all who value the protection for religious liberty.”
The letter reminded the members of Congress that the right of religious organizations to base their hiring decisions on principles of faith was specifically protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act under President Lyndon Johnson.
Then, in 2007, the Department of Justice cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, as the basis for its judgment that religious charities which receive federal grants do not forfeit the right to hire on the basis of their beliefs.
The signatories to Wednesday's letter affirmed that federal grant money may not be used for proselytism or activities of an “inherently religious” nature. However, they maintained that the matter of staffing and hiring decisions was a separate question, having to do with their essential identity and basic rights.
Anthony R. Picarello Jr., who signed the religious leaders' letter to Congress on behalf of the USCCB as its general counsel, recalled the long history of allowing religious organizations to make staffing decisions on the basis on their foundational beliefs.
“The law has long protected the religious freedom of both the people who receive government-funded services, and the groups that provide the services – long before President Obama, and long before President Bush,” the USCCB's general counsel commented in a statement accompanying the letter.
Richard Stearns, the president and CEO of World Vision U.S., warned that the pending house bill, along with other calls for Congress to eliminate religious hiring exemptions during its fall session, would jeopardize countless charities, “and, more importantly, the people they serve.”
“Too much is at stake,” he said, to allow charities' hiring rights to be sacrificed for political gain. “Our nation needs religious charities. For decades, we have relied on and benefited from religious charities receiving federal grants.” Undermining such groups' essential identity, he continued, is a step towards eliminating them entirely.
Picarello, speaking on behalf of the USCCB, agreed that both religious liberty and the welfare of millions of people are being endangered.
“Stripping away the religious hiring rights of religious service providers violates the principle or religious freedom,” he said, “and represents bad practice in the delivery of social services.”
Rome, Italy, Aug 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The day of her baptism was actually more important to Mother Teresa than her birthday. Although she may not have celebrated her 100th birthday herself, August 26 was marked by her order in Rome, and many other places, "to give honor and glory to God."
Many of the Missionaries of Charity (MC) sisters and brothers based in Rome came together at San Lorenzo in Damaso Church on Thursday. Two main events highlighted the afternoon: the inauguration of a nearby exhibit documenting Mother Teresa's life and a Mass presided over by Cardinals Angelo Comastri and Marc Ouellet.
In the break between the events, CNA was able to speak to some of the members of the MC community in Rome about the significance of the day for them. According to their responses, the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa's birth is important not so much for the fact that it's her birthday, but rather, as a celebration of her continued presence.
One sister thought that the foundress "would have been laughing" at all of the fuss made for the occasion.
Community members, however, didn't let the opportunity to better themselves slip away, as Sr. Elia, who works in the office for Mother Teresa's cause for canonization, told CNA.
She said, "For us, honestly, we prepared the celebration with great joy to give honor and glory to God, but the rest is actually to deepen our spirit, so that we are more faithful to the spirit that Mother left behind.
"That's actually how we are trying to live (the day)," she said, "and really to follow Jesus more closely and to be more dedicated to what he has called us to do."
As for Mother's 100 years, Sr. Elia explained that Mother didn't even celebrate her birthday.
"Everybody thought she was born on the 27th, which was her baptism date, (and) for which it is also the 100th anniversary, but I think it's important for me ... because it shows that life and what you make of your life comes from God. That you can see in Mother."
The life she received, said Sr. Elia, she gave totally back to God. "And what a life God gave to such a small person!”
Turning to the bigger picture, the young sister said that everyone today has the same graces that were offered to Mother Teresa, "the same Eucharist, the same Jesus, the same call," and everyone is able to make a difference.
Of the centenary celebration, she concluded, "it's not so much remembering the person that left," rather, it's about the fact "that you and I have the same call, the same God, the same grace and you can do something good for God, to do small things."
As for Mother Teresa's cause for canonization, Sr. Elia said, "keep praying for a miracle."
Mother Teresa's birthday was marked on Thursday with special celebrations taking place in Calcutta, India, her birthplace of Skopje, Macedonia and dozens of other cities worldwide.