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Archive of October 28, 2010

Science leads to truth about God, humanity, Pope says

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Science in the 21st century must work for the "true good of man," the Pope told a group of scientists Oct. 28. The "positive outcome" of this century largely depends on it.

The Holy Father hosted members of the Pontifical Academy for Science in audience at the Vatican. The group is gathered in Rome for the academy's plenary meeting examining "The Scientific Legacy of the Twentieth Century."

Noting the great advances in science in the last century, he said that the field can be neither categorized in the extreme of being able to answer all questions of man's existence nor as a source of fear from the "sobering developments" it has created such as nuclear weapons.

The task of science, rather, "was and remains a patient yet passionate search for the truth about the cosmos, about nature and about the constitution of the human being," said the Pope.

The Church, he added, supports ongoing scientific research and is grateful for scientific endeavor.

The Church “is convinced that scientific activity ultimately benefits from the recognition of man’s spiritual dimension and his quest for ultimate answers that allow for the acknowledgment of a world existing independently from us, which we do not fully understand and which we can only comprehend in so far as we grasp its inherent logic," he said.

As scientists commit their experience to observing a world they did not create and attempt to imitate it, said the Pope, they are led to "admit the existence of an all-powerful reason, which is other than that of man, and which sustains the world."

And, it is here that the "meeting point between the natural sciences and religion" is found, he explained. "As a result, science becomes a place of dialogue, a meeting between man and nature and, potentially, even between man and his Creator."

Pope Benedict closed by offering two thoughts to guide their discussions during this year's meeting. He asked them first to examine the perception of the ever greater need to tie philosophical reflection into an interdisciplinary approach to research.

Secondly, he pointed out that science should be guided in this "new century" by "imperatives of fraternity and peace, helping to solve the great problems of humanity, and directing everyone’s efforts towards the true good of man and the integral development of the peoples of the world.

"The positive outcome of twenty-first century science," he concluded, "will surely depend in large measure on the scientist’s ability to search for truth and apply discoveries in a way that goes hand-in-hand with the search for what is just and good."

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Vatican wishes world’s Hindus a happy Deepavali

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican is wishing the world’s Hindus a “joy-filled Deepavali.”

In a letter to mark the annual Hindu festival of lights, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran asked that God, "the Supreme Light," enlighten minds and hearts and strengthen the bonds of friendship and respect among religious believers.

Deepavali is celebrated on Nov. 5 this year. The holiday marks the lunar new year in the Hindu calendar.

Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, expressed hope that Hindus and Catholics could work together to address "the grave and unresolved challenges of our times."

This requires, he added, "mutually ensuring and enhancing respect and trust."

"Respect and trust are not optional extras but the very pillars on which the edifice of our engagement itself stands,” he said. And the greater the engagement of the two religions, he explained, "the fuller our respect and trust become, leading us to an increase in cooperation and common action."

He expressed hope that "as people who hold in common the well-being of individuals and communities, may we give greater visibility with every means in our power to a culture that promotes respect, trust and cooperation."

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Holy Land Church official finds no ‘anti-Zionist’ bias at synod

Rome, Italy, Oct 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Many Christians in the Middle East harbor “anti-Zionist” resentments, but those resentments are rooted political injustices and not theology, according to a top Church official in the Holy Land.

Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa said the tensions were reflected in the recent Synod for Bishops on the Middle East, but he rejected charges that the synod was biased against Israel.

"I don't think the Synod Fathers were taken hostage by anyone," he told the Italian newspaper Il Foglio Oct. 27. 
Father Pizzaballa is the Vatican-appointed custodian of the ancient Christian holy sites in Israel and Palestine. In an interview with the paper’s Vatican analyst Paolo Rodari, he responded to charges made by Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon.

Ayalon charged that the synod had become an "important forum for political attacks" and was "taken hostage by an anti-Israeli majority."

"That the Arab world might have little sympathy for Israel is evident," Father Pizzaballa said, noting that 90 percent of Christians in the Middle East are of Arab origins. He called it a "normal thing" that this sentiment might surface "in some way" during the synod’s discussions.

But the synod's final message also included condemnations of  anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism and a reminder that Christians must study both the New and the Old Testaments, he said.

It is "not a given," that the synod fathers of the Middle Eastern world would write these words, he said.

Father Pizzaballa also pointed out that the synod’s final message condemned all forms of racism and “Islamaphobia,” and called Jews, Muslims and Christians to greater commitment to dialogue.

While individual bishops might express their opinions on these issues, only the final message of the synod reflects the official position of the assembled Church leaders, he stressed.

The synod’s message, Father Pizzaballa said, is “not the voice of the Vatican nor the Church.” It is rather "simply the voice of the synod fathers."

The synod’s final message offered little new with respect to Israel, he added. The gathering of bishops condemned Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine and any use of God's name to justify violence. These are positions "already expressed in the past” by Church leaders, he noted.

Accusations that the synod fathers harbor an “anti-Zionist” bias are misguided. Zionism, the belief that Israel has the right to a homeland in the territory promised to the Jews in the Bible, is a “Western category,” Father Pizzaballa said. “It is a way with which the West tries to describe a situation."

"That a certain anti-Zionism might be present also among Christians in the Middle East is evident,” he said. “But this anti-Zionism, if it exists, it does not have theological foundations. It is more than anything a sentiment motivated by the Israeli-Palistinian conflict. It is a reaction to a dramatic situation and in which immediate solutions are not seen"

The issue of anti-Zionism surfaced after remarks by Melkite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros of Newton, Mass. in the concluding press conference of the synod, Oct. 23. 

Archbishop Bustros said the biblical ideas of the “chosen people” and the “promised land” could not be used to justify “the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of Palestinians." He added, "Sacred Scripture should not be used to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestine.”

Father Pizzaballa said the controversy reinforces the need for greater dialogue between Jews and Catholics and deeper study of the ways Scripture is interpreted in each tradition. Christians, he said, “are accustomed to making a spiritual and allegorical reading of the Scriptures and our reading does not always fit together with that of the Jews."

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Pope’s visit to Santiago de Compostela to draw 200,000

Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Oct 28, 2010 (CNA) - Spanish Archbishop Julian Barrio of Santiago de Compostela stated this week that he is “very satisfied” with the preparations for Pope Benedict's upcoming visit to the city. He noted that it will likely be many years before a Pontiff returns to the region.

“It’s true that His Holiness John Paul II was in Santiago in 1982 during his apostolic visit to Spain and for World Youth Day in 1989,” he recalled during comments after meeting with officials organizing the visit.

However, he continued, this will be “the first time” that a Pope “expressly comes to participate in a Holy Year, as Benedict XVI will do.”  “I hope there will be many more times, Lord willing, but it is likely that many years will pass before a Pope will be able to come to participate in an event like this,” the archbishop said.

Pope Benedict will visit Santiago de Compostela on Nov. 6.

The archbishop went on to say the Pope’s visit to Santiago during the  Holy Year of St. James is of “great importance and transcendence, not only for the city, but for all of Galicia and Spain and the many people who will follow the broadcast on television and radio beyond the ocean.”

While Santiago has significance for Spain and Europe, the archbishop said, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit will highlight the city’s “universal dimension.”

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Cardinal-designate Burke speaks about obligation to vote for truth

Rome, Italy, Oct 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke stressed to Catholic voters in a recent interview that they have a “very serious” obligation to uphold the truth of “moral law” in the upcoming mid-term elections. He specifically cited protecting unborn children from abortion and defending traditional marriage.

The American Vatican official, who was recently named by the Holy Father as a future cardinal, spoke on Oct. 20 to Thomas McKenna, president of Catholic Action for Faith and Family, just hours after the Pope’s announcement. 

Cardinal-designate Burke opened his remarks by saying that “as a bishop it’s my obligation, in fact, to urge the faithful to carry out their civic duty in accord with their Catholic Faith.” Clarifying that he does not endorse particular candidates, the prelate also spoke of his duty to relay “principles” to the faithful to help inform their vote.

Speaking on the contentious topic of abortion in the upcoming mid-terms, Cardinal-designate Burke said one “can never vote for someone who favors absolutely the right to choice of a woman to destroy a human life in her womb or the right to a procured abortion.”

“You may in some circumstances where you don’t have any candidate who is proposing to eliminate all abortion, choose the candidate who will most limit this grave evil in our country,” he explained, “but you could never justify voting for a candidate who not only does not want to limit abortion but believes that it should be available to everyone.”

The Vatican prelate also addressed the issue of same-sex “marriage,” asserting that maintaining the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman is not unjust discrimination.

“Where there is unjust discrimination –for instance, where you say that a fellow human being, because of the color of his skin, is not a part of the same race as someone, say, who is a Caucasian, that is a kind of discrimination which is unjust and immoral,” he said.

However, he added, “there is a discrimination which is perfectly just and good, and that is the discrimination between what is right and what is wrong.”

“Between what is according to our human nature and what is contrary to our human nature. So the Catholic Church, in teaching that sexual acts between persons of the same sex are intrinsically evil, are against nature itself, is simply announcing the truth, helping people to discriminate right from wrong in terms of their own activities.”

In his interview, Cardinal-designate Burke also urged Catholic politicians who have caused “scandal” by endorsing positions contrary to moral law to repent through a “genuine reform of heart.”

“That’s done through the Sacrament of Penance,” he said, adding that political figures must publicly “renounce” their errors, recognizing and recanting the “evil” they have promoted.

Cardinal-designate Burke's remarks on voting can be viewed at: http://www.catholicaction.org/

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Mexican archdiocese encourages Catholic traditions on Halloween

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 28, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Xalapa, Mexico has called on the faithful to preserve Catholic traditions associated with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day amid the increasing celebration of Halloween in the country.

The archdiocese noted that the two feast days are traditionally celebrated in Mexico with symbolic decorations and colorful flowers “to remind us that the feast of All Saints is upon us.” 

“Our homes are decorated with colors that are very typical of Mexico, especially the decorations we place upon our altars to renew the tradition of drawing near to our dear faithful departed,” the statement said.

The archdiocese urged Mexican Catholics to reinforce their traditions “that bring families together and foster peace with each other. In this case we need to preserve these traditions from the invasion and commercialization of Halloween.”

“These feast days are not supposed to be an occasion to dress up as monsters or to frighten others with the most violent costumes we can find.  This is not in harmony with the spirit of these traditions” and does not “foster peace.”

Instead, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day “provide us an opportunity to reflect on the theme of death,” which remains a “mystery” and “reflection of our condition as humans and our limitations,” the archdiocese stated.

The archdiocese also rejected the veneration of “St. Death,” a practice in some parts of Mexico. “Personal death is the only death that exists, and our Lord Jesus Christ has rescued us from it with his glorious resurrection.”

“Let us revive our traditions by decorating our altars for the faithfully departed, visiting the places of final rest, sharing in the traditional dishes of these celebrations and adorning our homes and churches with Mexican colors,” the statement concluded.

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Archbishop rejects re-zoning that would allow casinos in Mexican city

Leon, Mexico, Oct 28, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon has rejected re-zoning proposals that would allow casinos to be built in the Mexican city. He charged that such places promote addiction, drug trafficking and prostitution.

During a press conference on Oct. 25, the archbishop said casinos are always linked to “easy money, to the presence of drug trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and the fostering of addictions.”

He noted that games of chance can lead to psychological problems and added that compulsive gambling leads to family conflicts.

“It’s hard to imagine that these evils could be prevented with the new zoning laws.  We can only conclude that the laws would be taken advantage of to legitimize or expand the presence of casinos,” he said.

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Argentina bishops offer condolences over death of former president

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 28, 2010 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Argentina offered its deepest condolences for the death of the country's former President Nestor Kirchner. The Argentinean leader died Oct. 27 from a massive heart attack at the Jose Formenti Hospital in the city of El Calafate.

“We are filled with sorrow and profound sadness over his passing,” bishops' conference spokesman Father Jorge Oesterheld told the AICA news agency.

“The Argentinean bishops and the entire Church pray for his eternal repose and for the (current) president and her family.”

The country's president, Cristina Fernandez, was married to Kirchner.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio offered Mass on Oct. 27 for Kirchner at the Cathedral of Buenos Aires.

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Malawi students’ Bible desecration could signal new Muslim militancy, priest worries

Lilongwe, Malawi, Oct 28, 2010 (CNA) - Reacting to Muslim primary school students’ desecration of Bibles in Malawi earlier this month, a local priest said that their vehement reaction is novel and a sign that militancy is a possible danger.

Representatives of the Gideons Bible organization had offered a Catholic primary school in a predominant Muslim area free copies of the New Testament, the local parish priest Fr. Medrick M. Chimbwanya told the Germany-based Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Although the school had made it clear that no Bibles were to be given to the Muslim pupils and that no one was obliged to take a copy, some Muslim youths created an uproar.

They tore up the Bibles, threw them at their teachers and then threw torn pages on the streets. Some of the students denounced the Bible distribution to their religious leaders as an “insult to Islam” and claimed that they had been forced to accept a Bible.

In the days after the incident, Catholics feared violent attacks from Muslim groups, Fr. Chimbwayna reported.

"The behavior of the youths has been an indicator of a danger in our midst. Normally, the primary school youth in Malawi would not have the courage of tearing up any book in the presence of their teacher, let alone a Holy Book,” he said. “My conclusion is that there must be some awful training given to these youths which if left unchecked, means that we may have dangerous militants in Malawi in the near future.”

The local daily, The Nation Newspaper, falsely indicated that the Bible distribution included Muslim students. It did not interview Christian witnesses or indeed any actual eyewitnesses, the priest reported. Its incorrect information also included the claim that the parents of the pupils had torn up the Bibles.

The day after the incident, Muslim religious teachers had come to the school to demand an apology. One Muslim teacher, an actual witness of events, drew severe attacks when he tried to correct the record. A few days later the religious leaders were called upon to speak with the pupils who had torn up the Bibles to demand an apology from them.

Sheikh Disi, the leader of the Muslims in the region, called upon all the students to respect the faith of others. However, other Muslims were not happy.

Fr. Chimbwayna told ACN there is need to begin a grassroots dialogue with representatives of Islam. While misunderstandings and incidents like the Bible uproar tend to “come and go,” they have not yet led to the establishment of an organized discussion with ordinary Muslims.

"I expect that there will be opportunity for us religious leaders in the area to sit together to discuss on how we can work together in this area without clashes," the priest said.

The southeast African country of Malawi has about 14 million people, about four million of whom are Catholic. Christians compose about 80 percent of the population and another 13 percent are Muslims.

The Diocese of Mangochi, where the Bible desecration took place, is predominantly Muslim but has about half a million Catholics served by 59 priests. It has 255 primary schools, 34 kindergartens and 27 secondary schools, all of which are also attended by Muslims.

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Baltimore sisters auctioning rare baseball card to raise mission funds

Baltimore, Md., Oct 28, 2010 (CNA) - A Baltimore-based group of religious sisters is auctioning off a rare baseball card to raise support for the community’s missions to the poor.

A member from Baltimore’s School Sisters of Notre Dame received the highly valued card featuring Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner in her deceased brother’s will.

Sister Virginia Muller told the Associated Press (AP) that the slightly damaged card of Wagner, one of only 60 that exist, was bequeathed to one of the sisters in a safety deposit box with a typewritten note explaining its value.

"It just boggles your mind," Sr. Muller said. "I can't remember a time when we have received anything like this."

A card in mint condition from the same early 1900s batch went for $2.8 million in 2007 – the highest price ever paid for a baseball card.  

Wagner, known as the “Flying Dutchman,” was one of the five original inductees into baseball's Hall of Fame and compiled a .328 batting average during his career.  

Although the sisters’ card is wrinkled and laminated, its estimated value is between $150,000 and $200,000.

Sr. Muller explained that the proceeds will go to the order’s mission work in 35 countries throughout the globe.

"The money that we receive from this card will be used for the many School Sisters of Notre Dame who are around the world, who need support for their ministries for the poor," Sr. Muller said.

The auction, taking place on the Heritage Auction Galleries website, ends Nov. 4. The highest bid as of Oct. 27 was $140,000.

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Regnum Christi visitation to focus on consecrated members, leaders say

Rome, Italy, Oct 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Contrary to previous reports, leaders from the Regnum Christi Movement stressed that the visitation to be conducted by Church officials will focus on the 900 or so consecrated members and not on the group’s 70,000 lay people.

Although Regnum Christi leaders in the U.S. emphasized that consecrated members will be the primary focus of the visitation, a spokesman in Rome clarified to CNA that lay people will not be excluded from the visitation and are free to contact Church officials during the process.

Last month, Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, Pontifical Delegate to the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, announced the names of the four counselors who will assist him in reorganizing the beleaguered religious order. He also announced that the apostolic visitor to Regnum Christi, the lay movement associated with the Legion, will be Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez of Valladolid, Spain.

The main task of the counselors will be to help Archbishop De Paolis revise the constitutions of the Legion.

Contrary to recent news accounts, Regnum Christi leaders said that the visitation of the group will not encompass all of the laity involved, but consecrated members only.

“We continue to read media reports of a pending visitation to the Regnum Christi Movement,” read an Oct. 25 statement. “Our understanding is that the announced visitation is to the consecrated members of the Movement.”

“In other words, the visitation will focus on the 900 or so consecrated members, not the 70,000 members of the laity,” the leaders added.

“Archbishop Blázquez, who will conduct the visitation of the consecrated, has not announced the details of his visitation plan, but the direction is clearly described in last week’s letter from Archbishop Velasio De Paolis to Legionaries and consecrated Regnum Christi members.”

In his letter, Archbishop De Poalis wrote that the “visitation will be carried out under the responsibility of the papal delegate and in coordination with the responsibility he exercises over the entire Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.”

“The Regnum Christi Movement is a treasure that is indivisibly connected to the Legion, which should feel responsible for it and continue offering it its help,” the archbishop noted. “Nevertheless, this relationship must also be the object of serene reflection and it is part of the path of renewal regarding the Legion itself and its constitutions, also in relation to the members of Regnum Christi.”

Clarifying aspects of the visitation in an e-mail to CNA, Fr. Andreas Schöggl – spokesperson for the Legionaries of Christ in Rome – said that “the visitator will actually visit the centers of the consecrated members,” since “a visit to each family involved with Regnum Christi would just not be feasible.”

However, he added, “this does not exclude” non consecrated lay people, who “can also contact the visitor on their own initiative.”

“Archbishop Blázquez and Archbishop De Paolis are working out the concrete details according to the instructions given by the Holy See and then they will inform us and those to be visited,” he said.

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