Cordoba, Spain, Nov 5, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain has asked that the city’s historic cathedral be referred to as a Catholic church and not as a “mosque,” in reference to its past.
In an October column, Bishop Fernandez wrote, “Cathedral or mosque? Undoubtedly a cathedral. It is the main church of the Diocese of Cordoba, where the chair of the bishop is located, thus the name 'cathedral'.”
The bishop noted that the Cathedral of Cordoba has been a place of Catholic worship for eight centuries. Saint King Ferdinand III took over the city without bloodshed on June 28, 1236, and ordered the temple, which had been built as a mosque, to be consecrated, Bishop Fernandez explained.
“It was saved from destruction because of the successful negotiations between Ferdinand and the Muslim occupiers of the city, who wanted to destroy it rather than turning it over. When the Muslims invaded in 711, it was already a sacred place, as it was the location of the ancient Basilica of Saint Vincent the Martyr.”
The bishop noted that the Muslims destroyed the basilica “so a mosque could be built instead.”
Bishop Fernandez acknowledged the stir caused by his column, telling the Diario de Cordoba that he wrote it because “I knew it would be reported around the world, so that everybody would know that the ancient mosque in Cordoba is today a cathedral. The ones offended are those who think it’s wrong to call it a cathedral.”
“The cathedral has been a cathedral for eight centuries … I don’t mind if it is called a former mosque, but what I don’t want is it to be called just a mosque,” the bishop said, explaining that he does not want to confuse visitors to the city.
“The Catholic Church, and the Bishop of Cordoba, are the first to treat Muslims with respect and friendliness. I am friends with many in the Muslim world,” he noted, adding he supports inter-religious dialogue in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
“People get upset, but this is for the good of Cordoba,” he stated.
Rome, Italy, Nov 5, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican’s top doctrine office says a once-controversial association the promotes veneration of the angels is now in full conformity with Church teaching.
Opus Sanctorum Angelorum (Work of the Holy Angels) was founded by Gabriele Bitterlich, an Austrian woman who claimed to have received visions of the angels, including their names and their functions in Heaven.
The Vatican began investigating the movement shortly after her death in 1978, when certain followers, including priests and nuns, began circulating sensational theories of “spiritual warfare” between angels and demons based on her visions.
Since 1992, the group has been under the authority of a Vatican appointed overseer, Dominican Father Benoit Duroux, who handed over his responsibilities to his fellow Dominican Fr. Daniel Ols in March 2010.
In a letter issued to the world’s bishops Nov. 4, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pronounced Father Duroux’s work to be a “success.”
“Today, thanks to the obedience of its members, the Opus Angelorum can be considered to be living loyally and serenely in conformity with the doctrine of the Church and with canonical and liturgical law,” the Vatican said.
“Therefore, in its present state, the Opus Angelorum is a public association of the Church in conformity with traditional doctrine and with the directives of the Holy See.”
The ruling means that local bishops can welcome the Opus Angelorum in their dioceses. The movement is largely confined to Austria and Germany, but there is a U.S. branch based in Detroit.
One Vatican official with close knowledge of the situation, told CNA that problems remain with some ex-members of the Opus Angelorum, including some ex-priests, who follow the original controversial practices of Bitterlich.
The official, who requested that his name not be used, said the Vatican is concerned that these ex-members may attempt to “deceive” Catholics into engaging in practices that the Vatican has prohibited, including referring to the angels by the names allegedly revealed to Bitterlich, and receiving Communion multiple times in one day.
In its letter, the Vatican warned bishops of “very discrete propaganda in favor of this wayward movement, which is outside of any ecclesiastical control, is taking place, aimed at presenting it as if it were in full communion with the Catholic Church.” Bishops, the Vatican said, must remain “vigilant” and “forbid” these activities.
However, in the main, the order is now in step with Vatican directives, the Vatican official told CNA.
Those members who did not abide by the regulations established were dismissed from the order, he said. In this way, problems were "totally eliminated" and incongruencies with Church teaching within the order are no longer an issue.
“As the letter says, it is an ecclesial movement that like all movements has its particular aspects, its spirituality, but everything is in order,” he explained.
Opus Angelorum is formed of lay members, religious sisters and priests. It has full pontifical status as a religious order within the Catholic Church, but its uniqueness is found in the practice of its members consecrating themselves to both their guardian angels and to the entire body of holy angels to attain "active" status in the order.
Father Paul Haffner, a theologian at the Regina Apostolorum University in Rome who has studied the Opus movement, said there is nothing wrong with venerating angels. Problems arise, he said, when veneration crosses over into worship. He noted that “worship of angels,” was specifically forbidden by St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians.
"Worship," Father Haffner explained, "must always be Christ-centered." Devotion to saints and angels, must be limited to "reverence." This proper reverence can also be shown through a consecration or special dedication to the angels similar to that promoted by Opus Angelorum.
He added that the Church "is very positive towards angels” but does not sanction the use of names for angels other than those angels specifically named in Scripture.
As for whether Mrs. Bitterlich's private revelations might one day be examined and possibly approved by the Church, the Vatican source familiar with the situation said that is not under investigation at the moment.
“There are many things that are good in these visions and revelations, useful things for the Church, along with these there are things that are not in conformity with the Church and must be put aside," he said. "Surely, she was a very religious soul and she had a very strong relationship with God."
Rome, Italy, Nov 5, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - When Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Spain this weekend he will find a society facing an economic crisis and the social implications of growing secularization and indifference to religion.
The Pope’s Nov. 6–7 pilgrimage will concentrate on Spain’s Catholic landmarks in an effort to inspire and renew a shrinking local Church and help Spaniards rediscover their deep Christian roots.
Salomé Adroher Biosca, a dean at the Pontifical University of Comillas law faculty in Madrid, said the Pope will find a Spanish society facing a host of challenges — an economic crisis, the threat of domestic terrorism from ethnic Basque separatists, and an increasingly individualistic public morality.
Spain has been among the countries in Europe hardest hit by the worldwide economic downturn. With more than 5 million Spaniards out of work, government assistance programs are being stretched to their limits and social unrest is growing.
The implications of the economic crisis have had ripple effects throughout Spanish society, Androher Biosca said. "If a society is not capable of providing work and giving a decent life to its people, something is going wrong,” she added.
The Spanish family is also suffering. Adroher Biosca said there has been a real “ideological turn” in the family policies of the socialist Prime Minister Jose Louis Rodriguez Zapatero. This can been seen in abortion legislation approved last June that permits abortions for unborn children with apparent "grave anomalies which are incompatible with life" at any time during a pregnancy.
The government has established a standard in which the "rights" of the woman trump those of the child and even those of her husband or partner, she said. The right to abortion is now considered to “take precedence over other rights worthy of protection."
In the past, abortion was illegal in all but a few cases. Now, it is categorized as a mere "health provision."
The family in Spain is seeing other consequences of widespread individualism and secularism in society, she said.
She pointed to rising levels of domestic violence, more divorces, more children being born outside of stable homes, and a difficulty in finding homes for orphaned children.
"This perhaps should be read from a Christian perspective, to ask what we're doing with our families and how the consumerist society and individualism is unsettling the family customs of many people in such a major way."
The Pope is expected to take up these issues —especially the rights of the unborn and the handicapped — during his brief trip. On the second day of his visit, he will be visiting an institution in Barcelona that offers assistance to disabled and poor children.
The encounter will take place after he consecrates the Church of the Holy Family, an extraordinary work designed by the architect Antoni Gaudi, whose cause for sainthood is currently being considered by the Vatican.
In Barcelona, the Pope will confront a deep skepticism about religion and a rising tide of moral relativism.
Many in Spanish society are living in a sort of "absence of God, not exactly for an ideological reason, but as part of a lack of concern, of trivialization and loss of meaning," said Josep Miró, president of E-Christians and a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Pope Benedict has spoken out frequently against what he calls the "dictatorship of relativism," in which individuals and societies deny the existence of moral truths. He has also decried a sort of “practical atheism,” in which people live as if God does not exist.
Jesuit Father Josep Benitez observed that Spanish society, in the name of rejecting the "moralizing asphyxiation" of the past, has wound up with no points of moral reference or meaning.
But he and other Spanish Catholics have high hopes for the papal pilgrimage.
The Pope’s tour will connect the ancient and the modern. He will start in Santiago de Compostela, an ancient pilgrimage site that holds the remains of St. James the Apostle, who is credited with bringing the Gospel to Spain. And his trip will end at Holy Family, Gaudi’s masterpiece of modern Catholic architecture.
Father Benitez, former head of the history department at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, expressed confidence that the Pope’s visit "will bring about a renewed appreciation for that which has been the Catholic tradition in Barcelona."
Miro agreed. The pilgrimage, he said, is "a reason not only for happiness and thanksgiving, but also for hope that his visit will be a strong impulse to help our Church be reborn."
Asunción, Paraguay, Nov 5, 2010 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Paraguay has called for the defense of human life and the family, noting that a series of bills before the country's Congress could pose a threat to the fundamental values of society.
As they met for their plenary assembly, the bishops noted that a number of laws being considered deal with issues such as maternal health, discrimination, domestic violence, responsible parenthood and the implementation of comprehensive sexual education.
The bishops said these types of laws must focus on the proper development of the human person and must respect four key points: the value of life from conception to natural death, a proper anthropological vision, the value and mission of the family, and the inalienable rights of parents over their children.
Pope Benedict XVI “clearly says that there can be no true social development and social ethic without a connection to personal ethics and the defense of each human life,” they stated. Legislative measures must be based on an anthropological vision that is “faithful to the identity of Paraguayans and their families. They must clearly express and underscore, without ambiguity, the richness of the meaning of life, and promote education in which human sexuality in its physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of male and female are expressed.”
Referring to the importance of the family, the bishops stressed that the government has a duty to protect it as “the foundation of society.” The family “contributes to the stability of society” and “through marriage is called to fulfill a specific mission in society, occupying an essential place.”
Lawmakers must work together with parents and ensure that their rights as the primary educators of the children are respected, the bishops added. “No institution should substitute the fundamental role of the family,” the bishops concluded.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 5, 2010 (CNA) - Pro-family leader Ramon Novella spoke out on Nov. 4 emphasizing that the Pope's upcoming visit to Spain comes at a time when the country needs to hear his messages in support of life and the family.
Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Santiago de Compostela, Spain on Nov. 6. The following day, he will travel to Barcelona and consecrate the Church of the Holy Family.
Novella, president of Catalonia's Professionals for Ethics, stated, “our society needs a clear message in defense of life, the family, education and the common good.” He pointed out that the values are “under heavy attack” by government policies.
Illustrating this, Novello pointed to measures the country has adopted such as “increased access to abortion, cuts in pensions and aid for families, approval of same-sex marriage,” as well as the “indoctrination of children” through the controversial classroom course, Education for the Citizenry.
The education course has come under fire for promoting secularism, gender ideology and an erroneous vision of human sexuality. Parents and family organizations have charged that the obligatory nature of the class violates the rights of parents to educate their children according to their own personal convictions.
Benedict XVI’s voice “in defense of the truth about the human person stands in stark contrast with today’s relativism and notions based on the prejudices and stereotypes of gender ideology,” Novello said.
Washington D.C., Nov 5, 2010 (CNA) - Pro-life Republican gains in Congress are “substantial” and are likely due to the Catholic vote, according to two pro-life leaders. However, a pro-life Democrat lamented her caucus’ losses, noting the need for reconciliation with the Catholic Church after a tough political fight over health care legislation.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), told CNA that the pro-life issue motivated a lot of voters. From the NRLC’s perspective, there were “very, very substantial” improvements in about 65 House seats.
“Either a hardcore pro-abortion candidate was defeated by a pro-life challenger, or someone with a mixed record, like on the health care bill, was replaced.”
The bulk of the candidates, about 40, were “hardcore pro-abortion people” who voted for pro-life legislation “seldom if ever.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said her organization’s “Votes Have Consequences” program was a “huge success” in targeting supporters of the health care legislation.
“When you can successfully defeat 15 out of 20 members of Congress, you know something about the future of the movement,” she continued, calling its future “extremely bright.”
Expressing her “excitement” about the state of contemporary politics, she discussed a “strong pro-life trend” in America among women as well.
“We are seeing a surge of women candidates who are strongly pro-life.”
Such enthusiasm was not shared by all pro-life leaders. Democrats for Life of America head Kristen Day said the election was “disappointing” for pro-life Democrats.
“We lost so many good members of our pro-life caucus,” she said, reporting the caucus had been halved from about 40 to about 20.
“We’ve been there before though,” she added. “We’re very encouraged, which sounds odd, seeing the massive defeat that we had as Democrats as a whole.”
She reported that the new Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchem, is a pro-life Democrat.
Day also noted an “outpouring of support” for and new interest in her organization from people “concerned about the partisanship of the pro-life community, and the targeting of all these good pro-life Democrats.”
She thought concern over the health care bill and whether it funded abortion played a role “because the conservative groups really used it, to a bad degree.”
She cited a hometown newspaper ad against Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Penn.) which said the congresswoman called the Catholic Church “liars” in defending her position that the health care legislation does not fund abortion.
The NRLC’s Johnson also he suspected opposition to the health care legislation was a motivating factor for voters, especially the “abortion-related problems” with the bill.
Criticizing “smokescreens” from what he called “phony front-groups like Catholics United and Democrats for Life of America,” Douglas said that President Obama’s health care law contains “many provisions which will expand abortion if they are allowed to go into effect.”
“Fortunately, most of them have not yet gone into effect,” Johnson added, advocating the repeal and replacement of the law.
In his view, the broader problem is the “piecemeal, patchwork fashion” of addressing abortion funding restrictions.
“The Hyde Amendment itself expires every year. A lot of people don’t realize it has to be reenacted.”
The proposed No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would be a “comprehensive fix,” according to Johnson. At the National Right to Life Convention this summer, presumptive House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) endorsed the bill. It was also mentioned in the Republican leadership’s Pledge to America.
The act would “permanently prohibit federal funding and subsidies for abortion in all programs, and it wouldn’t expire every year.” Johnson deemed this a “top priority” to avoid a “charade” accompanying new federal programs which under present law constantly require new abortion funding regulations.
This proposal will be “a tough fight” because it will face opposition from Democratic leadership in the Senate and from President Obama, Johnson predicted. He charged that the president has been a proponent of abortion funding “despite his verbal position.”
SBA List’s Dannenfelser likewise backed uniform restrictions on abortion. She also proposed the defunding of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States.
“Planned Parenthood gets $300 million a year from taxpayers. This props up abortion centers across the nation and makes us all culpable in something most Americans disagree with.
Asked about likely pro-life legislation from the new Congress, Kristen Day said it would depend on Republican action in the House.
“I’m not sure that we have a pro-life majority in the Senate,” she explained.
Concerning the Catholic vote, Dannenfesler thought it was “a significant factor in restoring a pro-life Congress.”
“The more frequent churchgoers, those are the people we need to reach,” she told CNA. “The life issue is at the heart of the Church.”
For her part, Day said post-election reconciliation is needed.
“The Democratic Party really agreed with the Catholic Church a lot, and a lot of Democrats felt abandoned by the Catholic bishops for not standing up for their positions.”
She said she had to remind critics of the health care legislation that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) mainly endorsed the legislation and opposed it because of the abortion issue.
“The truth will come out on this health care bill, particularly with the election case in Ohio. People are going to come to realize what a mistake the pro-life community made in targeting these good pro-life members.”
Day charged that conservative pro-lifers have been trying to cut down pro-life Democrats “for some time” because “they feel like the abortion issue is a winning issue for the Republicans and they don’t want the Democrats to take that away.”
“I’m a Catholic, so I really want these pro-life Democrats and the Catholic Church to reconcile their differences over this health care bill so we can continue to work together on pressing policies that help pregnant women, reduce abortion and make sure that we do have universal health care.”
Des Moines, Iowa, Nov 5, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - When U.S. voters are asked whether or not their state should retain its judges every two years, many aren't quite sure how to make their decisions. But a majority of Iowa voters knew exactly what they were doing, when they voted against retaining three of the state's Supreme Court justices on Nov. 2.
In April 2009, Justices David Baker, Michael Streit, and Chief Justice Marsha Ternus agreed with four other state justices in ruling that the Iowa state constitution's equal protection clause implied a right of same-sex couples to marry.
Their ruling overturned a 1998 state law specifying that “only a marriage between a male and a female is valid.” Suddenly, homosexual “marriage” was legal in Iowa.
This year, three of the deciding justices were up for retention or rejection by voters. As election day approached, organizations opposing the redefinition of marriage invested significant funding and energy to make Iowa voters aware that this year's judgment on judges was far from routine.
This time, it was the voters' turn to make a dramatic change. On Tuesday, Baker, Streit and Ternus became the first judges ousted by Iowa voters since 1962.
The vote does not end homosexual “marriage” in Iowa, a goal likely to require a constitutional amendment. But Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference told CNA that the election results signaled popular support for traditional marriage, and opened up possibilities for its legal defense.
Because it speaks for the state's bishops, the conference doesn't endorse candidates. Iowa's bishops called instead for a constitutional convention, where an amendment could have been proposed defining marriage as a union of one man and woman. The people of Iowa voted against holding the convention, with some social conservatives worrying a high-stakes assembly could turn against them.
For his part, however, Chapman was clearly satisfied with the non-retention campaign's outcome, and the prospects it heralded.
“Obviously, it was clear that the people of Iowa aren't buying into same-sex 'marriage',” he observed, also calling attention to a new Republican majority in the state House of Representatives. “Clearly, between the judges not being retained, and the changing control in the (legislative) chamber, we're in a better spot today than we were a few days ago.”
Although the conference does not associate with a political party, local Republican representatives have declared their intention to put forth a marriage amendment, while Democrats oppose the plan. That opposition, Chapman said, would make the passage of such an amendment difficult for the time being.
“You have to have it pass through both chambers, in two different sessions … While we think we'll be able to (pass a marriage amendment) through the House, we're going to have a tougher time in the Senate.” Although votes for Iowa's state Senate were still being recounted, Chapman expected Democrats to maintain control of that chamber.
Iowa's voters would also have to approve any change to the state constitution. Chapman said he believed the popular will for such a change was present, as was evident from the judges' defeat. He was hopeful, in the long run, for an amendment affirming traditional marriage.
“Iowa is not really any different than any other state,” he said. “If you put the question to the people, about marriage, they'll vote in favor of traditional marriage … Hopefully we can move it through the House, and hopefully that puts pressure on the Senate to try to move the bill.”
Commenting on the 2009 decision that abruptly changed Iowa's definition of marriage, Chapman said the decision was arbitrary, and seemed to reflect a political agenda rather than the state constitution's intended meaning. “The Supreme Court could have found the other way, if they had wanted to,” he said.
The relevant section of the state constitution said the legislature could not “grant to any citizen or class of citizens, privileges or immunities which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.” That statement, however, was made to explain the prior declaration that “all laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation” – meaning not that all people had the same privileges, but only that no individual or group could be given the privilege of legal immunity.
Chapman reflected that Iowa citizens were holding their judges responsible for an act of “social engineering.” But he made clear that the effort to strengthen marriage, as the “fundamental building block for society,” would involve much more than just defending against efforts at any redefinition.
“Regardless of whether you have same-sex 'marriage' or not, we know (traditional) marriage itself is in a lot of trouble,” he said. “Family life is in a lot of trouble.”
Chapman called attention to the full range of Catholic social teaching – which takes the protection of family life as the first principle, in its broader vision of the common good.
“All the policies we should have,” he pointed out, “should support the family.”
Havana, Cuba, Nov 5, 2010 (CNA) - Entrusting the new Cuban seminary to Our Lady of Charity, Pope Benedict in a message invited Cuban seminarians to identify themselves with Christ the Good Shepherd through prayer and study.
The new headquarters of the archdiocesan seminary of St. Charles and St. Ambrose was inaugurated on Wednesday. It is a complex of salmon-colored buildings organized around a chapel with stained glass windows located about five miles south of Havana.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, delivered Pope Benedict XVI’s message at the opening of the seminary.
The Holy Father said in his message that he hopes the inaugural may be simultaneously “a sign and a stimulus for a renewed commitment to strive for the careful human, spiritual and academic preparation” of those preparing for the priestly ministry.
He invited the seminarians to identify themselves with “the sentiments of Christ the Good Shepherd” by means of “assiduous prayer,” serious dedication to study, “humbly” listening to the divine Word, and dignified celebration of the sacraments. He advised them to be “courageous witnesses” to God’s love as “authentic disciples and missionaries of the Gospel of salvation.”
Pope Benedict extended a blessing to all those who have contribute to the building’s construction.
He also entrusted the seminary to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, noting Cuba’s devotion to her under the title Our Lady of Charity.
The seminary’s predecessor had been seized by Cuban authorities in 1966 and turned into a military barracks and then a police academy.
About 75 percent of the island nation’s priests left after the communist revolution. However, relations between Church and State have improved in recent years.
President Raul Castro attended the Wednesday ceremony and toured the facility.
“In the name of the Church, I thank the former president as well as current President Raul Castro, who honors us with his presence, for the state’s support of this work, to its completion,” Cardinal Archbishop of Havana Jaime Ortega said at the ceremony, according to Reuters.
Also in attendance were bishops from the Vatican and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami.
Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 5, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas has called on Venezuelans to remain united in Christ, ignoring attempts by the country's leaders to divide the Church.
On several previous occasions, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has attempted to influence the appointments of bishops in the country. Most recently, Chavez called Cardinal Urosa “unworthy” and a “liar,” as he expressed his desire for Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristóbal to become a cardinal.
When there are people who wish to divide us, Cardinal Urosa stated last week, “we must unite ourselves around Jesus Christ, the Holy Father Benedict XVI … and around the bishops designated by the Holy Spirit through the Roman Pontiff.”
The cardinal also exhorted Venezuelan Catholics to acknowledge the connection between the Eucharist and holiness. This link “is something we must learn to appreciate more. For this reason, Christians are called to always practice charity, which is the queen of all virtues,” he stated.
“For a Christian not to pursue the road to holiness is a contradiction, as the Eucharist moves us in that direction.” Cardinal Urosa added that Catholics “should have an attitude of great reverence, devotion, and above all, respect for the living faith that Jesus Christ wishes to convey in the sacrament of communion that we celebrate.”