Archive of October 29, 2010

Over 50,000 prepare to celebrate canonization of Br. Andre

Montreal, Canada, Oct 29, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Quebec is expecting over 50,000 people to attend ongoing celebrations for the recent canonization of Canadian saint, Br. André Bessette.

On Oct. 17, Pope Benedict XVI canonized the beloved Holy Cross religious, Br. Andre, known throughout the world for his tireless service to Quebec’s poor.

After the canonization Mass at St. Joseph’s Oratory last week, an icon of the saint was blessed and waits to be installed in a new chapel for Br. Andre.

From Oct. 29-31, large scale celebrations will be held during the “Rendez-vous saint frère Andre.”

On Saturday, 26 buses will transport 1,500 pilgrims to a commemorative Mass at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

Jasmin Lemieux-Lefebvre, Communications Director of the Archdiocese of Quebec, told CNA that more than 40,000 people are expected to attend the event, which will feature performances from violinist Alexandre Da Costa and Quebec pop singer Chantal Pary.

The Mass, presided over by Cardinal Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte of Montreal, will be attended by the premiers of Canada and Quebec, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister Jean Charest, as well as many of Canada's Catholic bishops.

The gathering at the Olympic stadium will be broadcast live by Salt + Light Television.

On Sunday Oct. 31, pilgrims will process with the icon of the new saint to Br. André’s first small chapel, where it will be installed.

The Oratory of St. Joseph announced that the celebrations will continue into the New Year with a tour of Br. André’s relics, starting in January.

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Pope Benedict to visit Croatia next year

Rome, Italy, Oct 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Croatia's Cardinal Josip Bozanić has announced that Benedict XVI will make a trip to Croatia in 2011. This will be his first time to the country as Pope.

Vatican Radio cited Croatia's Catholic news agency IKA, which reported that the announcement came after a meeting between Croatia's president Ivo Josipovic and Cardinal Bozanic, the current archbishop of Zagreb.

A commission to decide on the particulars of the trip will be comprised of Church and State officials, the president told IKA. One detail of the schedule is already known: the Pope will pray at the tomb of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, an archbishop of Zagreb in the mid-20th century.

He died in 1960 after much persecution by communist authorities, even being jailed for a number of years while he was the standing archbishop. He was declared a martyr of the Church and beatified by John Paul II in 1997.

Benedict XVI remembered the 50th anniversary of Stepinac's death during the general audience last Feb. 10. Speaking in Croatian, he remembered the bishop and martyr, "who sacrificed his life ... in testimony for the faith."

He told the Croatian pilgrims present, "protect the memory of your martyrs, and on their heroic example in today's Church, be "the salt of the earth and the light of the world."

Pope Benedict XVI will have the chance to spread that message during next year's trip, which will likely come in the first half of 2011.

John Paul II visited Croatia three times during his pontificate. The first of the three visits came in 1994, at which time he remembered Bl. Stepinac at his tomb as "undoubtedly the most prominent" martyr in Croatian history.

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Expert encourages culture of global solidarity in response to financial crisis

Lima, Peru, Oct 29, 2010 (CNA) -

The former president of the World Monetary Fund and advisor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Dr. Michel Camdessus, said this week a culture of global solidarity firmly grounded in ethics and that promotes the common good is needed to overcome the global financial crisis.

According to the Bishops’ Conference of Peru, Dr. Camdessus made his comments during the third session of the 11th National Social Week in Peru.

Dr. Camdessus said the world has been overcome by a culture of profit and that an economic model geared towards solidarity and selflessness needs to be developed.  He underscored that the current financial crisis affecting the world is not typical, but rather is the first crisis of globalization.

Its origins, he continued, stem from other factors, such as climate change, the food crisis, the energy crisis and a “cultural crisis,” which in his opinion is the most troublesome of all and receives the least attention from society.

Dr. Camdessus said the lack of ethics resulting from a culture that seeks immediate profit, and in which man views his life in exclusively economic terms, is another reason for the financial crisis.

In response, he said, a culture of the global good needs to be strengthened, based on a solidarity that is also global with respect to nations. The financial expert also urged that steps be taken to prevent a repeat of the crisis in the future, including ethical changes, the strengthening of institutions, the combating of poverty and corruption.

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Bishop denies reports Brazilian president threatened to revise Vatican accords

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct 29, 2010 (CNA) - The secretary general of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil, Bishop Dimas Lara Barbosa, and the spokesman for the Brazilian president, Gilberto Carvalho, are denying reports that President Lula da Silva threatened to revise the accords with the Vatican if Church leaders continued to question Workers’ Party candidate Dilma Rousseff’s stance on abortion.

In an article published by the newspaper O Globo, Carvalho denied a report several weeks ago by the Italian news agency ANSA that claimed the president had made the statements.

According to O Globo, Bishop Dimas Lara said, “I have received nothing on this. I was surprised by the news. There was no threat.” 

“That would be the last thing somebody would say during the middle of the presidential campaign,” he added.

The newspaper noted that the accords between Brazil and the Holy See “were signed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and govern legal aspects of the Catholic Church in the country, including tax-exemption, freedom of religion and religious education in public schools.”

ANSA had reported that the Brazilian government threatened to reassess the accords if Church leaders continued to question Workers’ Party presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff’s stance on abortion. It cited the Brazilian newspaper Valor Economico as the source of the story.

Dilma Rousseff has voiced her support for legalized abortion on various occasions. Her position cost her some seven million votes in the first round of Brazil’s 2010 presidential elections.  As part of her strategy for the Oct. 31 run-off vote, she said she was “personally opposed to abortion” and promised that if she is elected, she would not sent proposals to legalize the practice to Congress.  Her change in stance has not convinced Brazilian pro-lifers.

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Catholic magazine denounces violence against pro-life women in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 29, 2010 (CNA) - In its November edition the Argentinean Catholic magazine Familia y Vida (Family and Life) has published a full report on the violent attacks against pro-life advocates that took place at the National Women’s Conference in the city of Parana between Oct. 9 and 11.

While the country’s secular media completely ignored the story, Family and Life published its November edition early in order to provide readers complete coverage, including analysis, eye-witness accounts and exclusive photos filed by its team of journalists.

The magazine reported that the violent attacks by pro-abortion feminists left 50 women injured, and one hospitalized.  The story was passed over by the vast majority of local and national news media.

It also detailed how pro-abortion groups sought to expel women who were identified as Catholics from a workshop in which the issue of abortion was debated, to keep them from voicing their opinions.

Likewise, it provided ample coverage of how left-wing and pro-abortion groups that were unable to attack nearby Catholic churches—which were being guarded by hundreds of Catholics—resorted to spray-painting local homes, business and public areas with anti-Catholic slogans, as well as vandalizing the public schools that they were allowed to use for their accommodations.

Since 1980 similar women’s conferences have taken in place in various cities across Argentina. They often provide a forum for the development of proposed legislation that later makes its way into state and federal legislatures.

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Catholic League president spars with NPR over religious 'double standard' charge

New York City, N.Y., Oct 29, 2010 (CNA) - After National Public Radio fired commentator Juan Williams on Oct. 20, for saying on a television program that he felt unnerved by Muslims on airplanes, a number of persistent questions resurfaced about public discourse in a post-9/11 world, and the line between civility and censorship.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, has another question for NPR: Does the network have one standard for discussing Muslims, and another for talking about Catholics? He believes it does - but NPR has stood by its record, saying that Donohue's examples don't add up.

On Oct. 26, Donohue jumped into the debate over Williams' firing, wondering why “no one has been terminated by NPR” for what he called “anti-Catholic fare.” He cited a local affiliate's program that mocked the Eucharist, a nationally aired performance of Tom Lehrer's “Vatican Rag” (also satirizing the sacrament), and discussions of whether “too many Catholics” were on the Supreme Court.

“As I've documented, there are many instances where National Public Radio has acted in the most offensive way to Roman Catholics,” Donohue told CNA. Those instances, he alleged, were much worse than what Williams had been fired for saying about Muslims. Donohue called the remark “fairly innocuous,” saying it had “probably been made by so many Americans over a cup of coffee.”

Donohue pointed out that a mockery of the Eucharist, “the heart and soul of our religion,” was particularly egregious.  Likewise, he doubted that any speculation about “too many” Supreme Court justices of another religion - such as Judaism - would have been allowed.

The Catholic League president clarified that he was not calling for NPR to fire anyone else in response to his concerns. Rather, he said, NPR should “begin ... thinking of Catholics as if we were Muslims.

“Because if they thought of us as Muslims, they would never offend us for the rest of our lives.”

Anna Christopher, NPR's Senior Manager for Media Relations, contacted the Catholic League on Oct. 26, telling Donohue that he was “cherry-picking” a small number of instances to present a misleading characterization of the network. Two days later, she addressed some of the league's concerns in a telephone discussion with CNA.

Christopher pointed out that NPR had “no editorial control” over the local affiliate that had aired the program parodying the Eucharist. She described the Lehrer performance from 1997 as an isolated incident, and said the song's performance from “13 or 14 years ago” had no connection to any commentator's remarks about religion and the Supreme Court in 2005.

NPR's spokeswoman also strongly denied Donohue's allegation that the network had ever applied different standards of discourse to different religions. In fact, Christopher went further, denying that there is evidence of any bias - at NPR or any other American media outlet - favoring Muslim sensitivities over those of Christians.

Christopher said that NPR's journalistic record speaks for itself and urged those who share Donohue's concerns to listen NPR's “diversity” of discussions and topics online.

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Hollywood celebrities record audio dramatization of New Testament

Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2010 (CNA) - With the support of a Vatican imprimatur, a celebrity voiced audio production of the New Testament is set to be released this week.

The audio series, featuring celebrities such as Neil McDonough,  Julia Ormand and Kristen Bell, was produced by New York Times bestselling author and broadcast journalist for EWTN, Raymond Arroyo.

Available on November 1, the 18-CD, 22-hour series is called Truth & Life Dramatized Audio Bible New Testament, with contributions from over 70 actors.

“They're not just reading,” Arroyo explained, “these actors are performing, sharing these stories in the same way they were originally communicated – passed from person to person as part of an oral tradition.”

“The stories come alive (think radio drama style with sound effects and original music), propelling us right into history, the way it might have happened,” he added.

Arroyo noted that reading "or listening to Scripture being read is often a confusing, dull experience."

"But performed like this," he said, "you are thrown into the middle of the action. The Bible is suddenly not only understandable, but arresting and compelling."

More information can be found at:

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Congressman criticizes conviction of six Catholics in Vietnam as ‘sham court’

Hanoi, Vietnam, Oct 29, 2010 (CNA) - After being arrested in a clash with police in a church-state property dispute, six Catholic villagers in Vietnam were convicted in a quick trial on Wednesday. One U.S. congressman criticized the proceeding as a “sham court,” noting the defendants’ lack of a lawyer.

The six villagers were among the 59 people arrested after clashes between 500 Catholics and government agents at the parish cemetery of Con Dau on May 4. Catholics had conducted a funeral procession for an 82-year-old woman and tried to bury her in the cemetery, which had been seized by the local government to build a tourist resort.

Chief Judge Tan Thi Thu Dung imposed a sentence of 12 months on one of the defendants, nine months on another, and gave a suspended nine-month sentence to the remaining four. The judge said they had incited riots, falsely accused the government and instigated others to attack state officials on duty.

The accused said they were innocent and were only engaged in self-defense against police attacks, VietCatholic News reports.

In two separate Oct. 26 letters to the Vietnamese president and prime minister, U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-La.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) have said one villager, Nam Nguyen, died after repeated beatings by police. Two women also reported miscarriages. The congressmen also cited reports that the six villagers on trial were tortured and forced to sign confessions.

"The government of Vietnam needs to abide by internationally recognized standards for the protection of human rights. Having a sham court to convict people on trumped-up charges without (a) lawyer is not the conduct of a nation following the rule of law," Rep. Cao said in a statement his office provided to CNA on Thursday.

The congressmen’s letter asked for an investigation into the reported torture incidents and the death of the villager. They also asked that the villagers have “timely and sufficient access to legal representation” and a trial open to international observers.

Attorney Cu Huy Ha Vu, who was denied permission to defend the six, said an anonymous source from the Cam Le People’s Court had told his associates that the sentences had already been decided and approved by leaders of the local government and the Communist Party. Thus a defense lawyer was unnecessary.

He told the BBC that the “widespread” land seizures are the real cause of the Con Dau incident.

“However, the incident at Con Dau stands out from the others as the local authorities have employed police and armed forces to violently dismiss the protest. That’s why it has caused fury not only among Catholics but also among those with conscience,” he explained.

Thousands of Catholics attended two candlelight vigils in Hanoi and Saigon. They joined non-Catholics in prayers against the trial.

A letter from Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, the president of the Vietnamese Bishop’s Peace and Justice Commission, was read at the vigils. The letter challenged the legality of the government’s property seizure.

Skyrocketing property values have prompted the government to lay claim to many properties, citing the Communist principle that land is under the people’s ownership and is managed by the State. According to VietCatholic News, in practice the land is often seized and sold to developers who profit from their government ties.

Bishop Nguyen asked whether the decision of the local authorities to seize the parish properties to sell them to Sun Investment Corporation can be justified.

He asked why the government is “pushing the peaceful Con Dau parishioners into current tragic situation, causing one death, many arrests, others facing total loss of properties, and dozens fleeing to another country seeking asylum.” He also noted that the government is supposed to protect the rights and welfare of citizens.

The U.S. congressmen’s letter to Vietnam’s leaders said they looked forward to a “future prosperous” relationship between the United States and Vietnam.

“(B)ut we, and many others in the U.S. Congress, will continue to consider human rights as a vital U.S. interest and a prominent part of our bilateral relationship,” it concluded.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy told AFP that the embassy is continuing to monitor the situation and had expressed concern over the use of force in the Con Dau incident and over reports of harsh treatment of detainees.

The embassy has urged “all sides” to exercise restraint.

Vietnam is presently hosting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend the event.

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Pope 'very happy' for chance to visit Spain

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Fr. Federico Lombardi met with the press on Oct. 29 to present the schedule for the Pope's Nov. 6-7 visit to Spain. The trip is divided between two major Spanish destinations, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the Northwest region of Galicia and the Holy Family Church in Barcelona, the capital of the Northeastern Catalonia region.

They are different places, said Fr. Lombardi, "but both seem to have a very universal, very broad significance." Having never visited either place, Fr. Lombardi said that the Pope is "very happy" to be able to go now.

The Pope will first go to the popular and historic pilgrim destination of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where St. James' tomb is located.

The occasion for his visit is this year's jubilee celebration. The jubilee is referred to as the Jacobean, or Compostelan,Year and occurs every year the July 25 Feast of St. James is celebrated on a Sunday. It is a special year for pilgrims as it is the only time when one can enter the Church by way of the "puerta santa," or holy door.

As the goal of pilgrimages from all over Europe, Fr. Lombardi said, it has been "a dear place for Christian devotion, to piety for centuries."

Nearly 40,000 people officially completed a part of the "Walk of St. James" just in September of this year. The traditional pilgrimage route can be traversed on a number of different trails, the so-called "French Route" being the most common.

Fr. Lombardi explained that during the visit to the historic location, the Pope will also complete the "rite of the pilgrim," entering through the "puerta santa," and embracing a statue of St. James. The visit, which includes a brief meeting with Archbishop Julian Barrio of Santiago de Compostela, will conclude with the lighting of incense in a massive thurible, or incense burner, called the "botafumeiro" that swings from the ceiling of the cathedral.

After lunching with Spanish cardinals and bishops at the local archbishop's residence, Pope Benedict will return the cathedral to preside over Mass in the outer Obradoiro Square. An estimated 8,000 pilgrims and faithful will be in the square with many others able to join in by way of large television screens set up around the city center.

Fr. Lombardi said that the Pope will speak to them about the pilgrimage of the Church today and will likely touch on the idea of new evangelization in secularized societies.

That evening, he will fly to Barcelona to be ready for the next day's events.

On Sunday, Nov. 7, the Holy Father will begin the day by meeting privately with the King and Queen of Spain in the Museum Hall of the church of the "Sagrada Familia" (Holy Family). He will celebrate Mass in the recently completed central nave of the otherwise unfinished structure, dedicating it as a basilica and consecrating the altar.

The Sagrada Familia church is "truly an absolutely extraordinary work that thus deserves attention and also a very deep reading, a reflection, a meditation for its significance," said Fr. Lombardi. The future basilica, designed by the famous and devout Catholic architect Antoni Gaudi, ingeniously mixes natural and religious themes into its design.

Many are expected to follow the Mass from the area outside the church, where they will be able to follow along again by way of large television screens. At the conclusion of the celebration, the Pope will address those gathered outside the basilica and pray the Angelus with them.

Two events remain on the Pope's schedule for the afternoon. He will join Spanish cardinals and bishops for lunch at the Archbishop of Barcelona's residence and meet with seriously disabled children at a social benefit center called Nen Déu.

At the airport on his way out of the country, he will meet with Spanish president Jose Luis Zapatero and members of the Spanish monarchy before returning to Rome.

The only previous visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Spain was in 2006, when he participated in the World Meeting of Families in Valencia.

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