Archive of October 1, 2010

Religion isn’t a 'feel good' solution, teaches Argentinean bishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 1, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Lozano of Gualeguaychu in Argentina warned this week that relativism in the faith is what leads many to seek their own individual well being in religion and consider it a “feel good” solution.

“We are in a climate of narcissism and hedonism, and we run the risk of being led by a self-referential conscience, in which the 'I' becomes the center of the universe and the only thing that matters is what 'I' feel like doing, what 'I' want, what 'I' desire, like someone who is constantly staring at themselves instead of looking at others,” he explained.

“This can happen at a community level also,” the bishop said. “There are communities that are hedonist and only care about themselves, without taking into account the other communities around them.”

This is a kind of relativism that invades the faith, he continued, and leads people to say, “I live the faith my way, the way I see it.”  “We sometimes here this said at family gatherings or among our friends.  Someone says I am of this religion or I see the faith like this because it works for me, etc.  Or someone says, ‘What’s important is that you feel good,’ as if religion were some kind of medicine for an upset stomach, a sentiment for self-satisfaction,” the bishop stated.

We are living “in a time marked by uncertainty, with songs that tell us: ‘everything changes.’  And we see this in people who think one thing today and another thing tomorrow.  We see it in young people who can’t decide on a career or are uncertain in their jobs.”

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Dawn Eden responds to Dr. Janet Smith's thesis criticisms

Washington D.C., Oct 1, 2010 (CNA) - Following professor Dr. Janet Smith's recent criticisms of author Dawn Eden's master's thesis critiquing Christopher West's approach to John Paul II's Theology of the Body, Eden responded on Friday, saying the professor “largely” misinterpreted the paragraphs cited.

Eden’s thesis – which gained public attention in June when she published her official defense – has sparked controversy among some Catholics, as it critically examines popular speaker Christopher West’s presentation of John Paul II’s teachings.

The author successfully defended her master’s thesis this past May 19 at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. 

In an article on the Catholic Exchange posted on Sept. 29, however, Dr. Janet Smith – who holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit – offered a critique of Dawn Eden's thesis, saying she believed it to be “seriously flawed and may potentially do much harm.”

“I fear some people have taken a mere glance at her thesis, and since they are predisposed to accept her conclusions, they are dazzled by the number of quotations and footnotes into thinking that she has provided a worthy critique West’s work,” Smith wrote.

“Go to the sources that she cites and see if her representation of West’s views is accurate,” the professor said. “I think they will discover that Eden regularly distorts what West says.”

Smith added that in her opinion, it was unfortunate that Eden's thesis is “being used to attempt to thwart the work of Christopher West.”

In her article, the professor outlined and commented on multiple paragraphs from Eden's thesis, taking issue with Eden's criticisms of West's approach to certain Theology of the Body terms and also finding fault with what she believed to be Eden's “tone.” Smith also cited Eden's “faulty evidence,” “snide remarks” and “refusal to admit error” as points of contention.

Responding to Smith's criticisms in an e-mail to CNA on Friday, Eden said she was genuinely “honored” that the professor “would engage my M.A. thesis with such passion.”

“However,” Eden wrote, “I find Dr. Smith's essay confusing, in that she directly critiques only a few paragraphs of my thesis, which she largely misinterprets.”

“For example, she writes, 'Eden seems to disapprove of West’s claim that it is a major development in Catholic thought to say that the imago Dei is located 'not only in the individual man or woman but also (in the pope’s words) through the communion…which man and woman form right from the beginning.'”

“In fact,” said Eden, “nowhere do I 'disapprove' of Christopher West's saying that the pope's words express a 'dramatic development;' my thesis makes no judgment whatsoever on that claim.”

“By Mr. West's account, John Paul means that 'everything God wants to tell us on earth about who he is, the meaning of life, the reason he created us, how we are to live, as well as our ultimate destiny, is contained somehow in the meaning of the human body and the call of male and female to become 'one body' in marriage.' I maintain here and in my thesis that this interpretation of Mr. West's – with its inference that the male and female human bodies, understood within the call to marital union, contain within themselves the entire content of the mysteries of Christian faith – goes beyond the late Holy Father's words.”

Additionally, wrote Eden, “Dr. Smith's assessment reduces my thesis to a critique of a single author and speaker. On the contrary, my thesis demonstrates an overriding concern to critique a certain approach taken by West and his 'disciples' to interpreting recent teachings articulated by the Holy See.”

“In the wake of Vatican II, there were many who asserted that the open windows of the Council enabled a radical break that would bring fresh air inside a stale and fetid Magisterium.”

“It remains my contention,” she added, “that Mr. West and a number of popularizers formed by his catechesis – while intending to be faithful to Holy Mother Church – often use language disconcertingly similar to those propounding what Pope Benedict XVI calls a 'hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture.'”

“I recognize that the paragraphs Dr. Smith cites from my thesis do not give full support to my contention on that point – because they are not meant to do so. The entire paper, taken as a whole, supports it, and I do not believe that her critique of a few paragraphs adequately or fairly assesses my work. I hope that readers of her essay will also read my thesis in its entirety – particularly the preface, in which I explain my reasons for writing it.”

“The real questions,” Eden said, “as I see them, are these: Where does the content and spirit of John Paul's Wednesday catecheses, taken as a whole, line up with what is being currently taught under the name “theology of the body” – or does it?  To what extent does it help the instruction of the faithful to isolate these Wednesday catecheses – which John Paul II himself said were by their nature incomplete, omitting 'multiple problems' that belong to the theology of the body, such as 'the problem of suffering and death, so important in the biblical message' – and present them as a self-contained compendium of Church teachings on 'the meaning of life'?

“Having posed these questions, I will leave it to others to continue discussing them, as I have answered them in my thesis to the best of my ability,” Eden concluded. “Current commitments preclude my engaging in an extended public discussion. I do not intend to publish further responses to critiques of my thesis from anyone other than Mr. West himself.”

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Holy Father to meet with government heads of France, Spain

Rome, Italy, Oct 1, 2010 (CNA) - In the last week, media sources have confirmed that the Holy Father will be meeting with French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Spanish president Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on separate occasions in the coming months.

According to French religious news source, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with president Sarkozy in the Vatican on Oct. 8. The Pope and French president have met twice previously, in Paris in 2008 and in 2007, less than a year after Sarkozy's election.

The visit comes on the heels of a situation brought about by tighter restrictions by the French government on camps of undocumented Roma-ethnicity peoples, some 200 of whom were expelled from the country in August. According to France's La Croix, this could enter into possible items on the agenda for the audience, especially because the government took the Pope's encouragement to French pilgrims in an audience shortly after the fact to "accommodate legitimate human diversities" as a critique of their policy.

La Croix also reported that with just 18 months before elections, Sarkozy is interested in Catholic votes.

A brief audience between the Pope and Spanish president Zapatero will also take place during the Holy Father's pastoral visit to the Spain this fall. On Nov. 7, according to Spanish vice-president, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, the Pope will host Zapatero while in Barcelona.

Europa Press reported that after a meeting with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone in the Vatican this week, De la Vega said that the Holy See can be sure of "the full institutional collaboration of the Government of Spain" during the two-day trip.

The Spanish president last met with the Holy Father in the Vatican last June when they discussed ethics in the midst of the economic crisis that has hit Spain and spoke of protecting the unborn.

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US priest chosen as superior general of international Oblates order

Rome, Italy, Oct 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A 58-year old Buffalo, New York native will soon be in charge of the 4,000 brothers of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Accepting the responsibility with "fear and trembling" but aware of brotherly support and God's assistance, the superior general-elect donned the cross of the congregation's founding saint to carry on the missionary service that began nearly 200 years ago.

On the twenty-first day of a month-long general chapter in Rome, Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI, was chosen in the first round of voting by the majority of the other 88 brothers present to lead the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He will step into the position from his role as provincial superior of the religious congregation's U.S. province.

Founded in 1816 by St. Eugene de Mazenod to re-evangelize the villages of France's Provence region, the Oblates soon branched out to other nations throughout the world. Today, they are actively present in 66 countries.

Asked by the current superior general, Fr. Wilhelm Steckling, if he was ready to lead the 4,000-member congregation, Fr. Lougen answered in the affirmative, saying, "Yes, I am ready, with fear and trembling and the support of my brothers and the help of God.”

Fr. Lougen has a wealth of experience in leadership. After making his perpetual vows in 1976, the Buffalo-native was ordained to the priesthood three years later. He worked extensively as a parish priest, formator and novice master in the Oblates' Sao Paolo Province in Brazil, also serving on the provincial council for nine of the 17 years he spent there.

Returning to Buffalo in 1996, he was appointed as the assistant director of the pre-novitiate program and pastor of Holy Angels Parish. In 2002, he was made novice master at the congregation's Godfrey, Illinois location and, in 2005, he became the U.S. provincial. As provincial superior, he put emphasis on encouraging his brothers to foster new Oblate vocations.

Speaking to Vatican Radio about the current pastoral challenges of the Oblates, he pointed to four in particular. He aims to address the mission of relaunching dialogue, especially that with other religions, in the midst of a violent and secularized world; promoting "communion" in society; forming young adults for "what is really important" and forming Oblates to leadership in service of others.

Following his election last week, he made his Profession of Faith and received the Oblate cross of St. Eugene de Mazenod from Fr. Steckling, thus beginning the transition into the position which he will take on fully at his installation sometime in the next three months. Fr. Lougen is the 12th successor of the congregation's founding saint and succeeds Fr. Steckling, who has served in the position for the last 12 years.


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Artist's Madonna with baby Hitler work plays with fire, states Italian bishop

Rome, Italy, Oct 1, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Domenico Mogavero is wondering just what was meant to be accomplished through a work of art that makes a joke of Nazism. Poking fun at an ideology that "trampled man," he said, is a "risky operation."

A painting by Sicilian artist Giuseppe Veneziano has again drawn the attention of Church officials and the media in Italy. "The Madonna of the Third Reich," which depicts the Virgin Mary with a child Hitler in her arms, has before been met with disgust but is now on display again in the city of Solemi, Italy.

Italian Bishop of Mazara del Vallo, Domenico Mogavero, told SIR news that the work has been the subject of controversy for some time, but that he himself is not "upset, nor worried by the punches to the stomach dealt by single artists and those who hold them in esteem.

"But," he added, "I ask myself … what is the message they intend to communicate?"

He said that with the work, Veneziano commits a "very serious wrong" against victims of Nazism, an "ideology that trampled man, his dignity" and his values.

Explaining that he was not asking for censorship of the work in defense of values, the bishop did say that "making such an idea pass for a joke is a risky operation, because ... you don't play with fire."

When the work was presented at an exhibition in Verona, Italy a year ago, it was met by similar comments from diocesan spokesman, Fr. Bruno Fasani. The priest said that such art was disrespectful and when one witnesses such a piece, instead of seeing the genius of the artist, he sees only a "banal profiteer of provocation."

As Bishop Mogavero, neither did Fr. Fasani ask for the removal of the work, proposing rather that "it remain in its post because those who count more on scandal than their own artistic qualities deserve only one payment: disinterest and silence."

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Cardinals invite world to join Pope in prayer vigil for unborn

Vatican City, Oct 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - To encourage a commitment and witness within the Church to love and life, a prayer initiative to be led by Pope Benedict XVI is being promoted by a pair of cardinals. All bishops of the world are being asked to invite the faithful to pray for the unborn  during the prayerful season before Christmas.

On Nov. 27, to mark the start of Advent, Pope Benedict will preside over first vespers in St. Peter's Basilica as is customary. According to a note from Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, however, this will take place within a broader scope than usual.

Vespers will be included in Sunday's "vigil for nascent life," in light of the beginning of Advent and the proximity of the Lord's Nativity.

Benedict XVI will not be the only one leading the vigil, as the initiative is being promoted through bishops' conferences throughout the world. A letter from Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and Cardinal Ennio Antonelli of the Pontifical Council for the Family has been sent to the bishops of the world to invite a similar celebration and prayer initiative on a local level throughout the Catholic Church.

Fr. Lombardi said through Vatican Radio that the events will take place "in spiritual union with the Holy Father, to promote the commitment and the ecclesial witness for a culture of life and love.”

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Researchers pioneer new method to generate non-embryonic stem cells

Boston, Mass., Oct 1, 2010 (CNA) - In what one expert calls a “major paper,” researchers have reported new advances in creating efficient and safe alternatives to human embryonic stem cells.

A team led by Derrick J. Rossi of the Children’s Hospital Boston used laboratory-made versions of natural biological signals to quickly convert ordinary skin cells into cells that appear virtually identical to embryonic stem cells. They can then coax these cells to change into specific tissues that would be a match for transplantation into patients, the Washington Post reports.

Douglas A. Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, said the research produced a “major paper” in the field of regenerative medicine.

Previous research pioneered in 2006 involved the creation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells by activating four genes. However, the process involved inserting genes into cells using retroviruses, which raised the risk the cells could cause cancer.

The new approach involves the use of messenger RNA (mRNA). According to the Washington Post, the DNA inside cells use mRNA to create proteins needed to perform various vital functions. The researchers created mRNA molecules carrying instructions to tell the cell’s machinery to produce the four key proteins needed to reprogram the cell into an iPS cell.

The researchers found their method to be surprisingly fast and efficient at reprogramming the cells. The cells were converted in about 17 days, about half the time of previous methods. In other aspects the method proved up to 100 times more efficient than previous approaches.

Tests indicated the cells had not experienced any disturbance to the DNA and were virtually identical to embryonic stem cells. The researchers successfully coaxed the cells to become muscle cells.

Embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) is controversial because it involves the use of cells harvested by killing human embryos. Its opponents include pro-life ethicists and Catholic bishops.

According to the Washington Post, Rossi and other researchers said ESCR is still crucial because the embryonic stem cells validate alternatives.

The legality of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is currently being contested in court.

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Baja California modifies state constitution to protect marriage

Mexicali, Mexico, Oct 1, 2010 (CNA) - By a vote of 18-1 the state Congress of Baja California in Mexico approved a reform of the state constitution that defines marriage exclusively as the union between one man and one woman.

Lawmakers said the measure was needed to prevent homosexual activists from imposing recognition of same-sex “marriage” on the state.

On Thursday, lawmakers approved a constitutional reform that recognizes marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

Juan Manuel Molina of the National Action Party said the reform is not based on intolerance but rather is intended “to establish that the union of man and woman is the pillar of society and must not be altered by social experiments.”

Representative Jose Alfredo Ferreiro, who sponsored the measure, said it does not take away anyone’s rights but rather strengthens the concept of the family.

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Holy See confirms papal visit to microstate of San Marino in Summer 2011

Vatican City, Oct 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Next June, Pope Benedict XVI will make an apostolic visit to the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro. The visit will not be a first by a Pope to the unique diocese which spans two nations.

The news was announced on San Marino public radio and confirmed to CNA by Fr. Ciro Benedettini of the Holy See's Press Office on Friday. Being from San Marino himself, Fr. Benedettini clarified that the visit would not only be to the Republic of San Marino, but also to the Italian part of the diocese, which includes the territory of Montefeltro.

The Holy Father will make a day trip to the diocese on June 19, 2011, spending the morning in San Marino and the afternoon in the Montefeltro area. No specific details are immediately available as the visit is still in the planning stages.

Montefeltro is a historical division that covers areas several Italian provinces that now border the "Most Serene Republic of San Marino" and the diocese dates back to the 8th century. The bishop's see is at the city of Pennabilli, on the Italian side, but the diocese has a total of three cathedrals. One, the basilica co-cathedral of San Marino is within the walls of the republic.

Sixty-nine of the parishes in the diocese are Italian while another 12 are located in San Marino, Europe's oldest republic and, along with the Vatican, one of a handful of "microstates" on the continent.

The last time a Pope visited the area was when John Paul II did so in August 1982, a visit qualified as "apostolic" rather than "pastoral" because part of it took place outside Italian borders.

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Brazilian presidential candidate denies supporting abortion

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Oct 1, 2010 (CNA) - Brazilian presidential candidate, Dilma Rousseff, met with Christian leaders on Wednesday this week and explained to them she is “against abortion.”  However, yesterday she clarified that her position on the issue has not changed and that she considers abortion to be an issue of “public health.”

According to the Spanish daily El Pais, “With the Brazilian presidential elections just 36 hours away, the legalization of abortion has put the President Lula da Silva’s candidate in a bind.  Her changing opinion on abortion, which she firmly defended before, and the cases of corruption she has had to confront recently, are threatening to derail the prospects of crushing victory in the first round of voting.”

The newspaper pointed out that in 2009, Rousseff told the magazine Marie Claire that she supported abortion. “Abortion isn’t easy for any woman. I doubt anyone feels comfortable having an abortion. However, that cannot be the reason why it shouldn’t be legal.”

El Pais said Rousseff’s falling poll numbers led President Lula to organize a meeting between her and leading religious leaders in Brazil in order to assure them that she is against abortion.  Speaking to voters in the city of Aracaju on Thursday, Lula said, “I can vouch that she is against it.”  The newspaper reported that Brazil’s Catholic bishops as well as the majority of evangelical pastors have urged their faithful not to vote for Rousseff because of her pro-abortion stance.

In a story published today the Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo reported, “The Labor Party’s presidential candidate, Dilma Rousseff, repeated yesterday that she has not changed her position on abortion and expressed ‘regret’ over comments by candidate Marina Silva, who said she has  adopted a conservative position to gain votes.”  Rousseff chided her opponent for “making comments about my convictions,” saying her opposition to abortion is “a personal position.”

Those comments echoed her statements in August, in which she softened her support for abortion by saying she was “personally opposed” to the practice but that it should be available for women with limited resources.

In a presidential debate, Rousseff said abortion in Brazil was not a private matter but rather a “matter of public health” and should  be available especially to poor women who resort to the procedure “out of desperation” and who endanger their lives with back-alley abortions.

Rousseff has been roundly criticized for skipping a debate organized by the Catholic media in Brazil on August 23 and for her past involvement in guerrilla movements between 1967 and 1968. 

Venezuelan’s president Hugo Chavez has referred to Rousseff as “my candidate.”

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Volunteers for Catholic schools honored at annual dinner

Southington, Conn., Oct 1, 2010 (CNA) - More than 600 people honored the many men and women who volunteer their time and talents to support Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford at a dinner Sept. 26 at the Aqua Turf Club.

The 33rd annual HOPES (Help Our Parish Elementary Schools) Dinner honored 126 people who support 49 schools and singled out three people for special recognition.

Joan Jespersen of St. Anthony School in Winsted received the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, named after the patron saint of Catholic education. Father Joseph V. DiSciacca, Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Bristol, was named the 2010-11 Distinguished Elementary School Pastor; and Margaret Williamson, principal and chief administrator of Northwest Catholic High School, was named the 2010-11 Distinguished Catholic School Administrator.

Dale R. Hoyt, superintendent of Catholic schools, announced that St. James School in Manchester and St. Martha in Enfield had received the national 2010 Blue Ribbon Schools Award for academic excellence. The Blue Ribbon award is the highest honor a school can receive from the U.S. Department of Education, which this year selected 50 private and parochial schools and 254 public schools in the country to receive the recognition.

Mr. Hoyt said that Catholic Schools continue to perform exceptionally well on standardized testing, exceeding the mean test scores of public schools.

Such accomplishments would not have been possible without the strong and zealous commitment of Catholic school volunteers, he said.

"Our volunteers know first-hand how Catholic schools make a difference in the lives of our students," he said. "They serve as ambassadors, advocating for our schools by sharing the good news of our exceptional standardized test scores, the exemplary teaching and learning that occurs, the advantages of blending knowledge and faith, and the positive results represented by alumni who provide our nation and our Church with good moral citizens and proud contributors to society."

Archbishop Henry J. Mansell expressed his deep gratitude to those who work hard to support and strengthen Catholic schools. He helped to distribute the 2010 St. John Neumann Awards for Volunteer Service to the 126 recipients.

Mrs. Jespersen is a 1954 graduate of St. Anthony School. She has volunteered there since the 1980s, assisting with or spearheading such efforts as fund-raising, establishing an endowment fund and landscaping the school grounds.

Mrs. Jespersen’s children and grandchildren also are graduates of St. Anthony, and a great-granddaughter currently is enrolled there.

"The diversity and longevity of Joan Jespersen’s contributions to the school are so impressive. She is not a volunteer who looks at a job well done and rests on her laurels. Instead, Joan looks beyond each accomplishment and asks, ‘What next?’" said Anne T. Clubb, director of school advancement.

The Northwest Catholic High School Choir provided music.

Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn.

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Excommunication for Philippines president ‘a possibility,’ bishop states

Manila, Philippines, Oct 1, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has said there is “a possibility” of excommunication for the Philippines president if he insists that the government distribute contraceptives.

Bishop Nereo Odchimar, in an interview with the Church-run Radio Veritas, responded to President Benigno Aquino III’s comment that Filipino couples who decide to use artificial contraceptives should be allowed to do so. The comment came amid a push for “reproductive health” legislation as part of a population control program.

“Well, being the President of all, you must consider the position of the Catholic Church because we are approaching these issues from the moral aspect like the unborn,” the bishop told Radio Veritas, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.

The prelate noted that abortion is a grave crime which carries the penalty of excommunication.

Asked if the president might be excommunicated if he insists that government should distribute artificial contraceptives, Bishop Odchimar replied: "That is a possibility.... Right now, it is a proximate possibility.”

Some artificial contraceptives are believed to have abortifacient effects, the bishop noted, but the Philippines Daily Enquirer does not report whether he connected this to excommunication.

Bishop Odchimar said the bishops are “open for dialogue” with President Aquino but there has been no response from the country’s president.

“The CBCP issued an open letter stating our position that there should be a dialogue," he explained. "We do not have any feelers. We don’t want to be confrontational. We want a dialogue. We are just waiting.”

The bishop reported that he has spoken with bishops in other areas and they supported lay Catholic groups’ calls for protests against the plan to distribute artificial contraceptives.

He also repeated the Church’s opposition to the reproductive health bill, saying that population increase is not a problem in his view. Rather, he blamed the migration of people and suggested that the agriculture industry should be enhanced to provide jobs.

Bishop Odchimar reported that the bishops are aware there is “much money” to lobby for the passage of the disputed bill.

"It's an open secret that the pharmaceuticals and laboratories will be the ones who will benefit, because they are the ones supplying the pills and other contraceptive devices," he commented, according to the Enquirer. "We will be planning our next move ... We do not have police power, we don’t discount the possibility of mobilizing the lay organizations.”

Update, October 6, 2010

After the publication of the original story, Radio Veritas issued an apology which said that an error was made in the transcription of the interview with Bishop Odchimar. The bishop actually said, "It can be a possibility. I don’t see right now na (that) it is a proximate possibility.”

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Franciscan order sees massive increase in Cameroon

Konigstein, Germany, Oct 1, 2010 (CNA) - Membership in a small Franciscan order is booming in Cameroon after only ten years in the country. One of its brothers says its spiritual commitment has a “deep social impact” in the life of its members and in the life of the African country.

The Franciscans of the Emmanuel, founded in Montreal, Canada in 1985, has 75 members. About 60 of them are now based in Cameroon.

Speaking to the charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in a visit to its headquarters in Germany, Br. Denis-Antoine said the order arrived in the African country after a diocesan priest from Nkongsamba city in the west read about the order in a newspaper and requested that they help a group of parishioners who desired to live the spirituality of St. Francis.

“At the request of the (diocesan) bishop, we came and started to form a fraternity of lay members. With time, the groups have expanded, established themselves and multiplied,” he reported.

Several of the young lay members soon asked to become friars. Br. Denis-Antoine said he arrived in Cameroon with a young lay brother from Canada to begin the first house of formation there.

“With the help of benefactors, including ACN, the brothers built the friary with 18 bedrooms and the facilities for the community and its mission,” he explained.

The growing community in Nkongsamba has 17 friars in formation to become consecrated members. Eight are already professed.

They are being trained for duties in health care, catechesis, agriculture and farming. The community is also involved in parish work such as youth and prison chaplaincy. It ministers to the poorest members of society.

At the local bishop’s request, the Franciscans have established a spiritual center to host retreats and formation sessions for groups from across the country.

The order’s service has also expanded into the neighboring dioceses of Bafoussam and Douala. In Douala the order recently began a lay fraternity composed mainly of young adults.

There are plans to open a friary there next year. Br. Denis-Antoine told ACN that these will help the Franciscans’ regular mission and will take charge of an existing orphanage of 30 children. The order is also working to establish a dispensary and a maternity house in one of Douala’s poor neighborhoods.

“The main message that we want to leave to you is that we are there, present with the people, hoping to give them this testimony of the life of the Gospel in the footsteps of our father, St Francis,” the Franciscan brother continued.

He explained that a spiritual commitment to the evangelical life has a “deep social impact” both in the life of individuals committed to it and in the life of society.

He also expressed “heartfelt gratitude” for the help of ACN, which supported the order’s first friary in Cameroon and its spiritual center.

“Thanks to ACN and all the benefactors for the previous help received and for listening to this new call for support, giving us the opportunity to be your hands and heart to the people of Africa.”

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