Archive of September 17, 2010

Malibu pastor emeritus passes away after car accident

Malibu, Calif., Sep 17, 2010 (CNA) - After a severe car accident last month that killed a religious sister and injured U.S. Ambassador to Malta Doug Kmiec in California, the third passenger – Msgr. John Sheridan who was in critical condition – has died at the age of 94.

On Aug. 25, Ambassador Kmiec, retired pastor of Our Lady of Malibu Msgr. John Sheridan, and Sister Mary Campbell were involved in a one car collision at Mulholland Highway and Malibu Canyon Road.

Sr. Mary Campbell, 74, died at the scene.

The Malibu Times reported that Msgr. Sheridan, who had been critical condition following the accident, died early in the morning on Sept. 17 from heart failure.

"We all are very saddened," OLM Parish Manager Peggy Thomas told the Malibu Times, which noted that there will be a prayer service at the parish this evening. 

After surgeries at the UCLA Medical Center Trauma Center following the collision last month,  Ambassador Kmiec was reported to be in good condition and  improving. 

California Highway Patrol Officer Leland Tang said Ambassador Kmiec was driving westbound on Mullholland on Aug. 25 when his 2009 Hyundai Accent crashed into a drainage ditch after veering off the road. Tang said that the cause of Kmiec losing control of the vehicle is unknown.

Authorities have said the accident remains under investigation and that dashboard control adjustment may have been a factor in the collision.

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Bishop calls Catholics to assist in ‘true development’ of Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 17, 2010 (CNA) - As Mexico celebrates its bicentennial, Bishop Mario De Gasperin of Queretaro spoke, urging the faithful to assist the country in growing in humanity, culture and reconciliation.

“The ideals of liberty, justice and equality, which our ancestors fought for in the wars of Independence and the Revolution, still challenge us today, as the demands of today are even greater,” the bishop said.  Catholics must “take part in such a marvelous opportunity” that constitutes a time of grace for the country.

Bishop De Gasperin thanked God for “the precious gift of freedom.”  However, he warned that there is still great suffering in the country.  “We have been created by God to be free and to progress. Progress is not something mechanical or merely economical,” but rather something that encompasses each and every person.  “All true development is centered on Christ and finds in Him its full realization,” he said.

The Church desires that in Mexico there be “equality of opportunities for all.”  “We want Mexico to grow in humanity and culture through comprehensive and quality education for all,” he continued.

In severing her ties with the ruling class of Mexico, the Church also recovered her freedom, “which she still seeks to perfect as a fundamental human right. As we give thanks to God, we pray for a country and a Church that will enjoy all of its rights and freedoms,” the bishop said.

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Holy Father encourages unity among Christians at Westminster Abbey

London, England, Sep 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Presiding over an ecumenical celebration on Friday evening at Westminster Abbey, Pope Benedict XVI noted that faith and fidelity to Christ will lead Christians to unity.

The Holy Father presided over the celebration with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Delegates from all of the major Christian churches of England were present for the prayerful occasion in the enormous Gothic abbey church.

The Holy Father told those present that there were two reasons for his pilgrimage to the abbey: "to pray before the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor and to join you in imploring the gift of Christian unity."

Calling the impressive effect of the abbey a powerful reminder of the Christian faith that "shaped the unity and culture of Europe and the heart and spirit of the English people, he said: "Here too, we are forcibly reminded that what we share, in Christ, is greater than what continues to divide us."

After giving thanks for the "remarkable progress" in ecumenical relations since the modern movement began a century ago, he said that despite the advances, "much yet remains to be done."

Noting challenges in spreading the Word to an increasingly diverse world filled with indifference, or even hostility to the Gospel message, he said, "we are all the more compelled to give a joyful and convincing account of the hope that is within us ..."

The Church's unity, he said, "in a word, can never be other than a unity in the apostolic faith, in the faith entrusted to each new member of the Body of Christ during the rite of Baptism.

"It is this faith which unites us to the Lord, makes us sharers in his Holy Spirit, and thus, even now, sharers in the life of the Blessed Trinity …”

Entrusting the challenges, blessings, disappointments and signs of hope along the path to improved unity to God, he expressed his confidence that established relations and hope would continue to "provide strength and direction as we persevere on our common journey.

"At the same time," though, Benedict XVI added, "with evangelical realism, we must also recognize the challenges which confront us, not only along the path of Christian unity, but also in our task of proclaiming Christ in our day.

"Fidelity to the word of God, precisely because it is a true word, demands of us an obedience which leads us together to a deeper understanding of the Lord’s will, an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age."

This, he said, was his encouragement given in fidelity to his own ministry of "particular care for the unity of Christ’s flock."

In conclusion, he prayed that the model of St. Bede the Venerable would guide Christians to rediscovery and fidelity.

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Pope discusses ecumenical relations with Archbishop of Canterbury

London, England, Sep 17, 2010 (CNA) - In his Friday visit to Lambeth Palace, Pope Benedict XVI met with Archbishop Rowan Williams to discuss the state of Catholic-Anglican relations. In public remarks, the two leaders recalled the example of Cardinal Newman and noted both the difficulties and the promise of ecumenical dialogue in Christian friendship.

Speaking in the Great Hall of the Archbishop’s Library, Pope Benedict opened by saying it was a pleasure for him to return the courtesy of visits the Archbishop of Canterbury had made to him in Rome. After greeting the assembled Anglican and Catholic bishops, he noted the “historic meeting” at Canterbury Cathedral in 1982 between Pope John Paul II and then-Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie.

They had prayed together for the “gift” of Christian unity at the place of St. Thomas of Canterbury’s martyrdom, the Pope continued.

“We continue today to pray for that gift, knowing that the unity Christ willed for his disciples will only come about in answer to prayer, through the action of the Holy Spirit, who ceaselessly renews the Church and guides her into the fullness of truth,” he continued.

While controversies in the Anglican Communion have arisen over the ordination of women as priests and bishops, the ordination of homosexuals and other theological and ethical issues, Pope Benedict did not speak of “difficulties” which are “well known to everyone here.”

Rather, Pope Benedict gave thanks “for the deep friendship that has grown between us and for the remarkable progress that has been made in so many areas of dialogue.”

“Let us entrust the fruits of that work to the Lord of the harvest, confident that he will bless our friendship with further significant growth.”

Anglican-Catholic dialogue has evolved in “dramatic ways” since Pope John XXIII and Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher met in 1960, he explained. The surrounding culture is “growing ever more distant from its Christian roots, despite a deep and widespread hunger for spiritual nourishment.” At the same time there is increasing cultural diversity and encounters with other religions.

This opens for Christians the possibility to explore with others the ways of witnessing to “the transcendent dimension of the human person and the universal call to holiness” which leads to the practice of personal and social virtue. Ecumenical cooperation is “essential” in this task and will “surely bear fruit in promoting peace and harmony.”
“At the same time, we Christians must never hesitate to proclaim our faith in the uniqueness of the salvation won for us by Christ, and to explore together a deeper understanding of the means he has placed at our disposal for attaining that salvation,” continued Pope Benedict.

Citing 1 Tim 2:4, he said that the eternal Son of the Father Jesus Christ is the truth “who has reconciled all things in himself by the power of his Cross.”

“We recognize that the Church is called to be inclusive, yet never at the expense of Christian truth,” the Pope added, calling this the “dilemma” of genuine ecumenism.

He cited the life of the 19th century cleric, theologian and Catholic convert John Henry Cardinal Newman. According to the Pontiff, Newman was nurtured by his Anglican background and matured during his ministry in the Church of England.

“He can teach us the virtues that ecumenism demands: on the one hand, he was moved to follow his conscience, even at great personal cost; and on the other hand, the warmth of his continued friendship with his former colleagues, led him to explore with them, in a truly irenical spirit, the questions on which they differed.”

“Your Grace, in that same spirit of friendship, let us renew our determination to pursue the goal of unity in faith, hope, and love, in accordance with the will of our one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” the Holy Father told the Archbishop, concluding his remarks with a blessing.

According to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Williams’ remarks praised Pope Benedict’s “consistent and penetrating analysis” of the state of European society as a “major contribution” to the debate on the relationship between Church and culture. The Archbishop of Canterbury also cited the Pope’s comments at his 2005 Inaugural Mass in which he said that nothing is lost by letting Christ into our lives because only in Christ’s friendship is humanity’s great potential revealed.

Discussing Cardinal Newman, Archbishop Williams said that when he decided to convert to Catholicism his Anglican friend Rev. Edward Bouverie Pusey meditated on the “parting of friends.” Discussing Anglican-Catholic relations, Pusey said, “it is what is unholy on both sides that keeps us apart.”

After their public remarks, the two religious leaders met in private. According to Vatican Radio, this meeting affirmed the need to proclaim the Gospel message of Salvation in Jesus Christ amid profound cultural transformation while also living lives of holiness.

The two leaders agreed upon the importance of improving ecumenical relations and of continuing theological dialogue in the face of new internal and external challenges to unity. This theological dialogue should focus on the notion of the Church as a local and a universal communion.

Additionally, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury reflected on the serious situation of Christians in the Middle East and called upon all Christians to pray for and support their brothers’ and sisters’ peaceful witness in the Holy Land. They also discussed the needs of the poor and urged international leadership to fight hunger and disease.

Following their private meeting, the two traveled together to the Palace of Westminster and to Evening Prayer at Westminster Abbey.

Pope Benedict will beatify Cardinal Newman on Sunday.

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New Archbishop of Quito calls on priests to ‘form one body and one spirit’

Quito, Ecuador, Sep 17, 2010 (CNA) - The newly appointed Archbishop Fausto Travez of Quito, Ecuador sent a special message to priests this week encouraging them to be faithful to their vocation and to “form one body and one spirit” in order to better serve the Church.

Archbishop Travez was appointed on September 11.

In his message to priests, religious and laity, he called for prayers that he “may be enlightened by the Holy Spirit in this new pastoral task.”

“No priest can persevere or do good work if he does not feel supported by his brother priests, and therefore priests are the ones who must mutually encourage each other and form one body and one spirit as Jesus instructed them,” the archbishop said.

The archbishop added that he hopes to do devote himself particularly to the formation of priests, religious and catechists.

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Archbishop denounces religious indifference of Catholic teachers in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 17, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Radrizzani of Mercedes-Lujan in Argentina exhorted Catholic teachers this week to fulfill their mission as disciples of Christ, as some have fallen prey to religious indifference and atheism.

The prelate noted that he would be “failing the truth” if did not share his concern and sorrow, that in some Catholic institutions, there exists “a religious indifference and even an atheism.”

The archbishop made his comments during a Mass for members of the Institute of Teachers from the city of Mercedes.

Education is not only the imparting of knowledge, but also the formation in values, the archbishop continued, adding that in the case of Catholic teachers, they are also responsible for bearing Christian witness to the new generations.

He also lamented the “lack of a clear Christian commitment” and obliviousness to God that often leads teachers to see their educational task as merely a means of sustenance, a “job” or “a place of prestige.”

“We need to understand our identity as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ in his Church to bring the Good News to world. It is essential that our starting point be the awareness of our own vocation as evangelizers,” the archbishop said.

Embracing this vocation, he continued, will enable teachers to help young people “escape from the relativistic snares that lead to a misguided understanding of freedom.”

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Holy Father addresses 'question' of existence

London, England, Sep 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following the recent claim by U.K. physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking that the universe “created itself from nothing,” the Holy Father spoke about “the most important question” of existence on Friday. Addressing interfaith leaders, the Pontiff explained that religion operates on “another level” than science in the question of explaining human existence.

The Holy Father spoke to leaders from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh traditions present for an inter-religious meeting on Friday morning. There was a visible mutual respect and warmth between the leaders, especially the Pope and the two other speakers, Dr. Khaled Azzam, a school director and Muslim, and Chief Rabbi Baron Sacks of Aldgate.

In his address, the Pope told all present that he appreciated their commitment to religion at a time "when religious convictions are not always understood or appreciated.

"The presence of committed believers in various fields of social and economic life speaks eloquently of the fact that the spiritual dimension of our lives is fundamental to our identity as human beings, that man, in other words, does not live by bread alone," he said.

Noting the importance of cooperation and dialogue to all the religions, he said that all are in search of an answer to the "most important question of all - the question concerning the ultimate meaning of our human existence."

The initiative for this "adventure," he said, "lies not with us, but with the Lord: it is not so much we who are seeking him, but rather he who is seeking us, indeed it was he who placed that longing for him deep within our hearts."

Observing that human and natural sciences provide humanity with "invaluable understanding of aspects of our existence and they deepen our grasp of the workings of the physical universe," he emphasized that "these disciplines do not and cannot answer the fundamental question, because they operate on another level altogether."

"They cannot satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart, they cannot fully explain to us our origin and our destiny, why and for what purpose we exist, nor indeed can they provide us with an exhaustive answer to the question, 'Why is there something rather than nothing?'"

This takes nothing away from the scope of human investigation, noted the Pope. "On the contrary, it places them in a context which magnifies their importance, as ways of responsibly exercising our stewardship over creation."

In Genesis, he pointed out, one can read of God entrusting mankind with "the task of exploring and harnessing the mysteries of nature in order to serve a higher good," when he says, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it."

This higher good, he explained, is the love for God and neighbor in the Christian faith, from which inspiration is drawn to "engage with the world wholeheartedly and enthusiastically."

But, he added, this is always done "with a view to serving that higher good, lest we disfigure the beauty of creation by exploiting it for selfish purposes."

"So," said the Pope, "that genuine religious belief points us beyond present utility towards the transcendent. It reminds us of the possibility and the imperative of moral conversion, of the duty to live peaceably with our neighbor, of the importance of living a life of integrity."

"Properly understood, it brings enlightenment, it purifies our hearts and it inspires noble and generous action, to the benefit of the entire human family. It motivates us to cultivate the practice of virtue and to reach out towards one another in love, with the greatest respect for religious traditions different from our own."

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Benedict XVI warns Western societies against keeping faith out of public debate

London, England, Sep 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Addressing a group of political, cultural, business and religious leaders at Westminster Hall on the second day of his state visit to Great Britain, Pope Benedict discussed what he described as “fundamental questions” about the moral responsibilities of government, and the role of religious faith in society. Decrying how Christianity has been marginalized in some Western societies, he urged leaders to engage in a “profound and ongoing dialogue” between reason and faith “for the good of our civilization.”

The Pope reflected on the significance of Westminster Hall as the site of the British Parliament, symbolic of the democratic political tradition which has influenced history and the modern world in profound ways. He drew particular attention to the figure of Saint Thomas More, “the great English scholar and statesman” who was imprisoned and executed in 1535 for obedience to the Church over the King of England.

“He followed his conscience,” the Pope noted, “even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign,” and “chose to serve God first.” The case of St. Thomas More, he continued, raised “fundamental questions” about the nature of government and the role of religion in society. “What are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far to they extend?” More fundamentally, “By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved?”

Merely resorting to a social consensus as is done now, Pope Benedict pointed out, cannot sustain the democratic process which has been central to life in Great Britain and the English-speaking world for centuries. “If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus,” he explained, “then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.”

Comparing the political situation of Western democracies with the financial instability which had culminated in a global economic crisis, he observed that a “lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity” had clearly “contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people.”

“So too in the political field,” he commented, “the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore.” The central question in contemporary politics, the Pope asserted, “is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found?”

Drawing upon Catholic tradition, which holds that the basic truths of morality can be known by human reason, Pope Benedict clarified that “the role of religion in political debate” is “not so much to supply these norms ... but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles.”

The Pope explained how the Catholic faith, in its commitment to reason, natural law, and the common good, differs essentially from “distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism,” which negate or sharply restrict the role of reason, and prevent a productive engagement with the broader society.

However, he also articulated a danger involved in relying purely upon reason in public decision-making. “Reason too can fall prey to distortions,” he observed, “as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person.” The misuse of reason, he noted, had played a significant part in the development of institutions such as slavery and modern totalitarianism.

“This is why I would suggest, that the world of reason and the world of faith –the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief—need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.” Religion, the Pope said, “is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation.”

“In this light,” he continued, “I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance.” Some political and cultural voices, he said, “would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere,” often preventing the freedom of believers from acting in accordance with their own consciences.

To counteract this movement toward a radical secularization of society, the Pontiff urged the leaders in attendance “to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.”

“Your readiness to do so is already implied in the unprecedented invitation extended to me today,” he stated. “And it finds expression in the fields of concern in which your Government has been engaged with the Holy See,” such as global peace, human rights, development, and environmental responsibility.

The Holy Father called particular attention to the need for “effective action” and “fresh thinking,” to improve living conditions of peoples in the developing world. Emphasizing the contrast between government aid to financial institutions and the needs of the developing world, he observed that “surely the integral human development of the world's peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise ... that is truly 'too big to fail'.”

Pope Benedict concluded by reminding his listeners that within the society of Great Britain “there are many areas in which the Church and the public authorities can work together for the good of citizens,” provided that “religious bodies, including institutions linked to the Catholic Church” are “free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teaching of the Church,” in order to preserve their freedom of conscience, action, and association.

Noting the carved wooden angels which adorn the beams of Westminster Hall, Pope Benedict said they were a reminder to government officials and all people “that God is constantly watching over us to guide and protect us.”

“And they summon us,” he concluded, “to acknowledge the vital contribution that religious belief has made and can continue to make to the life of the nation.”

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Fr. Lombardi: Vatican entourage calm despite possible terrorist plot

London, England, Sep 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father and those accompanying him on the U.K. trip are "totally calm" in spite of the news that five arrests were made because of a possible terrorist plot. Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the trip will go on as before.

On the second day of the U.K. papal visit, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said things continue to go "very well." He spoke to journalists gathered at St. Mary's University College about the morning's events.

Reviewing the meeting with religious in the university chapel, the outdoor encounter with several thousand youth that had great reach across Britain and the meeting of 200 interfaith leaders, Fr. Lombardi said that the Pope is "very pleased" with how things went.

BBC had broken the story earlier in the day that five non-British citizens were arrested under suspicion of planning a terrorist act. Speculation continues to circulate on whether or not the Pope was the object of their plans.

Answering questions from the media about the arrest, he said he has "no idea" if there is a link between them and the visit. Asked by reporters why Vatican officials were told about it if it has nothing to do with the trip, he responded that "it is normal" for them to be informed about possible speculations so they can respond to the press.

He said, "we don't have any particular preoccupation, we are totally calm. The Pope is happy and we go on with the same joy as before."

Alexander DesForges of the U.K.'s Catholic Communications Network added that it "is important not to make the link," that there are ongoing investigations since the arrests this morning, and that they have "absolute confidence in the police security operation to protect the Pope and the public.

"Meanwhile, wherever the Pope has been he has been warmly welcomed, as Fr. Lombardi has said, he is very calm."

The Vatican spokesman urged the press forward to the important ecumenical events on Friday afternoon to be followed be Pope Benedict's meeting with British society in Westminster hall.

He encourage the press to be "very attentive" and to try to take in completely the Pope's "fundamental speech" at Westminster Hall, which he called "one of the main points of this visit."

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Pope: Science becomes 'dangerously narrow' when religion, ethics ignored

London, England, Sep 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Benedict XVI stressed the need for open minds in science on Friday, adding that researchers must be ready to consider religious and ethical perspectives. His words came as the U.K. prepares to pass provisions protecting sex changes next month.

The Holy Father told students in a live broadcast that reached every Catholic school in the U.K. that they must "always remember" to maintain sight of the "bigger picture" in their studies. "Never allow yourselves to become narrow," he told them.

"The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerously narrow if it ignores the religious and ethical dimension of life, just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding."

Ethics, especially sexual ethics, have been on Catholics' minds lately as the U.K.'s Equality Act will enact new provisions on Oct. 1. Among other proposals that seek to protect the disabled and breastfeeding mothers are others concerning sexual themes.

One aims to alter the definition of "gender reassignment," or the process of changing a person's sex, and another seeks to extend protections in "private clubs to sex, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, and gender reassignment."

Another provision still under consideration seeks to establish legislation for the right to celebrate civil partnerships on religious premises.

In London on Friday, Holy Father also told the students that the world is in need of "good" historians, philosophers and economists. But, he cautioned, "if the account they give of human life within their particular field is too narrowly focused, they can lead us seriously astray."

Pope Benedict XVI closed by emphasizing that "good" schools work to provide "a rounded education for the whole person."

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Benedict XVI urges children to pursue sainthood

London, England, Sep 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Today the Holy Father encouraged schoolchildren in the U.K. to aim high and "not to be content with second-best." Seeking holiness and "true happiness" in their lives, he said, will lead them to sainthood.

An estimated 4,000 children were in attendance from all over Great Britain for the event, which was held on the sports field at St. Mary's University College campus in London. The encounter was broadcast to all the Catholic schools in Scotland, England and Wales.

Observing that it is rare that a Pope, or anyone at all, has the opportunity to speak to all of the Catholic schoolchildren in the U.K. at the same time, he said he had something he wanted to tell them.

"I hope," he said, "that among those of you istening to me today there are some of the future saints of the 21st century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy."

"He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness."

He told the children to think about what kind of people they would like to be, and in doing so, he asked them "not to be content with second best ... not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others."

One of "the great tragedies" in the world, he said, is that people never find happiness. It is not to be found in money or fame, but the "key to true happiness," said the Pope, "is to be found in God.

"God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue."

And, in doing so, they will begin to avoid selfishness and greed, to feel greater compassion and to act with charity, empathy, kindness and generosity, he told them, and they will be "well on their way to becoming saints."

Urging them to maintain sight of the "bigger picture" in their studies, he turned to educational institutions. "A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person," he said. "And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints."

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Pope reaffirms faith as 'driving force' behind UK Catholic schools

London, England, Sep 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic identity must be present in every aspect of Catholic schools, but, moreso, the life of faith must be their “driving force,” Benedict XVI told U.K. religious teachers today. Religious are a “powerful reminder” of this in schools, he said, as they form individuals who can “live life to the full” and ensure a safe environment for children.
The Holy Father met with 300 teaching religious at St. Mary's University College after celebrating a private Mass in the Apostolic Nunciature first thing Friday morning. The event took place in the intimate, candlelit atmosphere of the university's chapel, where participants were treated to organ music and the university choir.

First expressing his “deep appreciation” for all men and women in education, the Pope reminded teachers that the knowledge and faith, but also the sense of maturity and responsibility of citizens, is in their hands.

He spoke of the “transcendental dimension of study and teaching,” that “education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian,” but is about “forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full.”

In brief, he said, “it is about imparting wisdom," which, in its "true" form, "is inseparable from the Creator.”

Saying that he himself owes Venerable Mary Ward's “English Ladies” a debt of gratitude for having taught him in his youth, Pope Benedict gave thanks to God for the Church's many mission teachers who have historically laid educational foundations in distant places, often establishing programs before States.

He urged religious to never forget their “unique contribution to this apostolate, above all through lives consecrated to God and through faithful, loving witness to Christ, the Supreme Teacher.

“Indeed," he added, "the presence of religious in Catholic schools is a powerful reminder of the much-discussed Catholic ethos that needs to inform every aspect of school life. This extends far beyond the self-evident requirement that the content of the teaching should always be in conformity with Church doctrine.

"It means that the life of faith needs to be the driving force behind every activity in the school, so that the Church's mission may be served effectively and the young people may discover the joy of entering into Christ's 'being for others'.”

Concluding, he expressed his appreciation for all those who ensure that schools are a safe environment for young people. "Our resonsibility towards those entrusted to us for their Christian formation demands nothing less," he said

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Poll: 57 percent of informed Americans oppose federal funds for embryo-destroying research

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2010 (CNA) - Almost half of Americans oppose federal funding of stem cell research which involves destroying human embryos, a new survey reports. Their opposition increases when they are informed of other options, and comparison with previous polls shows a “consistent level of moral concern” on the issue, the survey’s sponsor says.

On Aug. 23 U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the U.S. government’s funding policy for human embryonic stem cell research (hESCR) violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which prohibits funding for research that destroys human embryos. The judge barred the funding, but his injunction was overturned on Sept. 9.

The U.S. Senate is preparing to hold hearings on the issue while legislators such as Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) have proposed ways to secure the funding.

Seeking public opinion on the issue, International Communications Research (ICR) surveyed 1,006 adults from Sept. 8-14. Its survey claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points and was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB)  Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

The USCCB reports that the survey initially found that about 47 percent of Americans oppose federal funding of human embryo-destroying stem cell research. About 38 percent support such funding.

The pollster then told respondents that stem cells can be obtained from adults, human placentas and other sources which do not harm the donor. They were also told that scientists disagree about whether stem cells from embryos or stem cells from other sources may be most successful in treating diseases.

According to the USCCB, 57 percent of adult respondents then favored funding only research which does not harm the donor, while only 21 percent favored funding all stem cell research, including research that involves killing embryonic human beings.

By comparison, a Rasmussen Reports poll published Aug. 27 found 57 percent of likely voters did not favor federal funding for hESCR and 33 percent favored taxpayer funding for the research.

“The Senate should not be misled on this important issue,” commented Richard M. Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

“Most Americans do not support federally funded research that requires destroying human embryos. They want their tax dollars used for stem cell research that is ethically sound as well as medically promising – the kind of research that has attracted the interest and commitment of more and more stem cell experts in recent years.”

The ICR survey found that 83 percent of respondents opposed human cloning to provide children for infertile couples while 76 percent opposed cloning to produce embryos that would be destroyed in medical research.

Previous identical surveys found that approval of federally funded hESCR has declined from a high of 43 percent in August 2004.

“When informed of their options, most Americans consistently support funding only stem cell research that does not require destroying embryos,” the USCCB commented in a press release.

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Rep. Smith calls for crackdown on US child trafficking

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2010 (CNA) - Testifying before a House of Representatives subcommittee yesterday, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) called for a harsher enforcement of laws against domestic trafficking of minors, which he referred to as a current “crisis” in the U.S.

The New Jersey congressman, who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking, gave his remarks before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security on Sept. 15.

“Driven by demand and fueled by the ease and secrecy of the internet,” he observed in his opening comments, “we are facing a crisis of child exploitation in this nation.”

The hearing occurred as Congress reviews legislation introduced in June by Rep. Smith and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), titled the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010 (H.R. 5575).

A press release from Congressman Smith's office explained that the new bill is a legislative response to the 2009 National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, America’s Prostituted Children, conducted by Shared Hope International. H.R. 5575 would fund shelter care for victims, as well as assist law enforcement in identifying and rescuing victims.

The legislation would also help to jail perpetrators, require the timely and accurate reporting of missing children, and would promote prevention programs.

According to Rep. Smith, an estimated 100,000 U.S. minors are victimized annually with the average age of initial exploitation between 12-13 years old.

“Tragically, homegrown demand, enabled by the misuse of the internet drives much of the domestic minor sex trafficking in the U.S.,” Congressman Smith noted.

“The internet has opened a whole new front in the war with human trafficking – allowing demand to run free without practical obstacles,” he added. “We must develop more effective safeguards and enforcement of existing laws to ensure that neither obscenity nor child pornography is protected speech, therefore we must stop the criminal misuse of the internet for human trafficking and child pornography.”

“I heartily applaud the hard work and remarkable coordination of state and federal resources to stop domestic minor sex trafficking,” Rep. Smith said. “But there is a huge gap in the numbers we rescue versus the estimated 100,000 victims out there.”

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Upcoming assembly to elect new leadership of US Catholic bishops’ conference

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2010 (CNA) - The Fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will take place Nov. 15-18 at the Baltimore Marriot Waterfront Hotel. The assembled bishops will elect a new conference president and vice president, the chairmen of six committees and a treasurer.

Nominees for the USCCB treasurer are Bishops Paul J. Bradley of Kalamazoo and Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston.

Candidates to head the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance are Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy Broglio and Bishop of Reno Randolph R. Calvo.

Possible new chairmen of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs are Bishop of Lexington Ronald W. Gainer and Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore Denis J. Madden.

For the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, the candidates are Bishops Paul Coakley of Salina and David L. Ricken of Green Bay.

Bishop of Brooklyn Nicholas DiMarzio and Archbishop of Baltimore Edwin F. O’Brien are the candidates for the Committee on International Justice and Peace. Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Steubenville and Bishop of Amarillo Patrick J. Zurek are the nominees for the Committee on Child and Youth Protection.

The Fall General Assembly will also elect the next president and vice-president of the USCCB. The nominees for these posts will be chosen at the assembly.

Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, is the current USCCB president, and Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona is presently the conference’s vice-president. Traditionally the sitting vice president is elected as the conference's next president, but nothing is certain until the actual vote takes place.

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