Archive of November 10, 2010

Pope says Spanish pilgrimage ‘inscribed in my heart’

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Nov. 10, Pope Benedict XVI described his recent pilgrimage to Spain as "unforgettable days which will remain inscribed in my heart."

"I went there to strengthen my brothers and sisters in the faith, and I did so as a witness of the Risen Christ and a sower of the hope that does not disappoint and does not fail," the Pope said of his Nov. 6-7 pastoral voyage.

The Pope met with pilgrims in the shelter of the Paul VI Hall on a blustery morning in Rome. Large groups of pilgrims attended from the Czech Republic and the Italian city of Carpineto Romano. They came to thank the Pope for visiting them during his pontificate.

In his remarks, the Pope repeated the core of his message while in Spain, which was to urge Europe to return to its Christian roots and "to open itself to God and so favor prospects for authentic and respectful encounter, united with peoples and civilizations of other continents."

The Pope told the audience that Santiago de Compostela, the traditional pilgrimage destination that he visited is “an extraordinary spiritual place which continues to be a landmark for Europe today."

He said that the Basilica of the Holy Family in Barcelona, which he consecrated during the visit, was an “immense catechesis on Jesus Christ, as a hymn of praise to the Creator."

He praised the basilica’s architect, Antonio Gaudi, for “expressing the unfathomable mystery of God in material reality.”

The Pope also underscored his defense of human dignity while visiting Nen Deu (Child of God), a Church-run home for needy children in Barcelona.

"Everything done to support marriage and the family, to help people in need, everything that serves to enhance man's greatness and his inviolable dignity, also helps to perfect society," he said.

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In vitro part of the holocaust of abortion, says Argentinean archbishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 10, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata has criticized in vitro fertilization as a technique that plays with “the lives and deaths of thousands and thousands of people.” Therefore, he continued, “we could call this a new holocaust that is part of the holocaust of abortion.”

On Nov. 6, during his program, “Keys to a Better World,” Archbishop Aguer referred to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Medicine to Robert Edwards, for his efforts to conceive the first child through in vitro fertilization.

“This belated recognition again raises the issue of the judgment that must be made regarding this technique that has spread notably throughout the world,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Aguer pointed to “the fundamental ambiguity” that the procedure presents.  “It would seem that through the manipulation of gametes, as if they were an industrial product, a human being can be manufactured.”

He went on to note that “despite being conceived under such circumstances, the human embryo is still a personal being.” He explained that "it is a well known fact that in order to achieve a birth, a number of embryos are destroyed, and it is very common that only the best ones are chosen and the others thrown away as unusable biological material.”

Archbishop Aguer also pointed out that today there are “thousands and thousands of frozen embryos all over the world” whose fate is unknown and that a multi-million dollar industry has developed from artificial fertilization.

For this reason, he continued, in seeing the Nobel Prize awarded to the creator of in vitro fertilization, we must reflect on “the importance of recognizing the fundamental truths that have to do with the dignity of human life and its sacred nature, from conception to natural death.”

“Bringing about the birth of a child at any cost to satisfy the understandable desire of a couple to have a child must not be done,” he stressed.  “This desire must be conformed to objective ethical criteria.”

Catholic teaching is opposed to IVF because the procedure is contrary to the natural order of sexuality. The technique also involves the elimination of human embryos both inside and outside the mother’s womb, which constitutes abortion in each case.

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Martin Sheen stars in 'The Way,' a film about the Way of St. James

Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Nov 10, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - Director Emilio Estevez and his father, Martin Sheen, have debuted their new film, “The Way,” in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The movie, which focuses on the Way of St. James, is being dubbed “the great film of the Year of St. James.”

At the premiere of the film, which will eventually be shown on 150 screens across Spain, Culture Minister of Andalusia Roberto Varela remarked that the movie is “a beautiful story” that perfectly represents what the Way of St. James means.  “It exemplifies the physical and exterior journey, but above all the journey of interior transformation,” he added.

The film’s producer, Julio Rodriguez, said the film will be seen on 150 screens in the country and later in U.S. theaters.  He said he hopes the movie will be viewed “all over the world” because of its “universal” appeal.

Rodriguez and Estevez have been pleased with the response to the film especially among young people.  Trial screenings in the U.S. drew an average audience of 300-400 people.  Estevez said 97 percent of those who screened the film said they would recommend it, and 90 percent said they would like to walk the Way of St. James.  “This is about educating Americans about what the Way is,” he stated.

A “love letter”

“This film is a love letter addressed to Spain,” Estevez told reporters, noting that his father and grandfather are both from the Spanish region of Galicia.

Martin Sheen said the film has fulfilled “a life-long dream” and that he was happy to “return home” to his roots in Galicia. Returning one year later to Santiago to see the finished product was an emotional experience, he added.

Estevez said it was a “blessing” to work with his father and that he witnessed “many miracles” while directing the film, especially “finding the right people at the right time for the right thing,” he said.

Filmed during September, October and November of 2009 along the ancient Way of St. James that leads to the city of Santiago de Compostela, “The Way” recounts the story of Tom Avery, an American doctor who travels to France after learning of the death of his son, killed in the Pyrenees while walking the Way of St. James.  He decides to finishes his son’s journey and experiences his own spiritual awakening.

Co-starring Deborah Kara Unger, Yorick Van Wageningen and James Nesbitt, the film was shot entirely on location along the Way of St. James.

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Cardinal Bergoglio exhorts bishops to serve with steadfast hearts

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 10, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina encouraged the country's bishops to pray for strength to serve “the people of God with meek hearts.”

During his homily at the opening Mass of the bishops’ 100th Plenary Assembly, Cardinal Bergoglio invited his brother prelates to pray for meekness of heart.  Like charity, he explained, meekness translates into patience and unselfish service, rejoicing always in the truth, “believing all things, bearing all things, hoping all things.”

“We were chosen to help our brothers and sisters to be poor and humble people who find refuge in the name of the Lord,” he said.

“In the exercise of this choice of the Lord to lead, sanctify and teach, we must be careful not to break away from him, not to scandalize him, not to become bosses and supervisors distant from the faithful,” he said.

“As long as we remember that we belong to the faithful people who walk trusting in the Lord, we will not fall into those attitudes that … give scandal,” the cardinal told them.

The meekness of heart required of a bishop is not “a mere psychological attitude, but rather a fruit of the Holy Spirit that must characterize us as pastors,” he added.

Cardinal Bergoglio recalled the words of St. Paul to Timothy: “A shepherd must not be given to quarrels. On the contrary, he must be kind to all, able to teach and be patient in trials.  The shepherds who love their people, like good Christians, always manifest a serene meekness in their constancy and strength,” he concluded.

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New wave of attacks targets homes of Iraqi Christians

Baghdad, Iraq, Nov 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Coordinated anti-Christian attacks in Baghdad killed at least three and injured several dozen on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Mourning the deliberate targeting of Christians, Iraqi prelates said that the attacks “have come to our doorstep” and charged the government with doing nothing to stop the violence.

Using homemade bombs and mortars, the evening attackers bombed homes in the Christian neighborhoods of Baghdad's Mansour district. The next morning saw attacks in Dora, once a largely Christian neighborhood in southern Baghdad, as well as in Baladiyat and at a market largely run by Christians in the Kamp Sara area. A church was also attacked.

One of today's bombings targeted the family of a victim of the Oct. 31 attacks on the Syriac Catholic Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral, where more than 50 people were killed. The terrorists identified the family by the funeral signs still hanging outside their home, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports.

National Public Radio's Baghdad correspondent Kelly McEvers noted that when the militant group Islamic State of Iraq attacked the cathedral they demanded the release of women who supposedly converted to Islam and were allegedly being held against their will in Egypt.

“But now, it seems the group is targeting Christians simply because they’re Christians,” she said. “Survivors of the church siege said militants called them ‘infidels’ during the siege. Lately, statements on jihadi websites are saying that Christians are ‘legitimate targets’.”

The Islamic State of Iraq, a reported al-Qaida associate, has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“Al-Qaida said churches and Christians would be a target. This is proof that they are serious and that they mean what they say,” Archbishop Bashar Warda told ACN.

Warda, who is the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil in northern Iraq, said the people are suffering “so much fear.”

“There is anger and distress and they don’t know where to turn,” he continued. “I have only one message and that is please pray for us. This is a really difficult time for us. It is just a mess.”

Archbishop Warda called for pressure on the government to provide adequate protection for Christians.

“What we are faced with here is not just a failure of security but a deliberate targeting of Christians,” he warned.

The prelate said the attacks would prompt a further exodus of Christians from Baghdad. He told ACN that until 2003 there were up to 40,000 Christian families living in the city but now there are barely 50 families.

Attacks against Christians in the Iraqi capital peaked in 2004 and again in 2006 but after 2008 seemed to decrease. Archbishop Warda commented that Christians had been returning to Baghdad, especially to the Dora district, before the Oct. 31 attack on the cathedral.

The Dora district’s large number of Catholic churches and religious houses has earned it the nickname “The Vatican of Iraq.”

Other prelates also lamented the attacks.

Bishop Philip Najim, the apostolic procurator representing the Chaldean Church in Rome, says such violence is designed to terrorize the whole population and drive the Christians out of the country. The terrorists are “taking hope from the mind of the Iraqi population,” he said.

“Yes, this is against the Christian people,” he continued. “There is a persecution, (Christians) are attacked because they are a minority in the country.”

Acknowledging that terrorists are also attacking Muslims, he said the whole Iraqi community is being targeted. The bishop noted that the issue of violence in Iraq is a threat to regional stability. He called on the international community to help Iraq achieve peace and security.

Archbishop Atanase Matti Shaba Matoka, the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad, also responded to the violence.

“Despite the proclamations, the government does nothing to stop this wave of violence that overwhelms us. There are policemen in front of the churches, but now the homes of our faithful are being attacked.”

Among the Christians affected are Syriac Catholics, Assyrians and other denominations in the district of Dora.

“Terror knocks at our doors. Families are upset. This is no life, they say. They want to drive us out and they are succeeding,”Archbishop Matoka added. “The country is in the throes of destruction and terrorism. The suffering of Christians increases and they want to leave the country. We are left speechless."

Like Archbishop Warda, Archbishop Matoka appealed for swift action from the international community, beseeching Pope Benedict XVI and the Universal Church to aid Iraqi Christians.

“Today we cannot help but hope and pray, entrusting our lives in God's hands. Iraqi Christians, amidst their tears, cry out: In manus tuas, Domine," he commented. The Latin phrase, meaning “Into your hands, Lord,” alludes to the last words of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, responded to Archbishop Matoka’s appeal. He affirmed that the protection of Christians in the Middle East "has already been discussed with the Iraqi authorities and taken in serious consideration."

"We are reflecting, as the Synod of Bishops already has, on this huge problem of the persecution of Christians, on this unutterable suffering of the Christian community spread throughout the world in this moment, especially in Iraq,” the cardinal commented to L’Osservatore Romano.

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Theologian consultant named for Catholic Campaign for Human Development

Washington D.C., Nov 10, 2010 (CNA) - Fr. Daniel Mindling, OFM, Cap., will serve as the new consulting theologian for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The move comes in response to a review of the campaign, whose choices of grantees have been criticized.

The priest is an academic dean and professor of moral theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He is presently a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the Task Force on Catholic Health Care.

According to the bishops' conference, the priest will provide ongoing consultation on the moral and ethical dimensions of campaign's work.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) had come under criticism for funding groups and joining associations which promoted abortion and homosexuality. Its new guidelines give priority funding to Catholic groups and screen other recipients with more rigor.

Speaking of his new role, Fr. Mindling said this service “connects greatly with my own interest in the life and justice issues facing the Church.”

“I look forward to working together in this most important ministry,” he continued.

Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York said those leading CCHD know “the importance of having a sound theological voice” as an integral part of the campaign. “Father Mindling’s readiness to offer theological advice and counsel is very important for this outreach of helping the poor and the vulnerable in our Church and in our local communities.”

The bishop added that the appointment was an “important step” to deepen the Catholic identity of the campaign’s work without losing its original vision of creating an “essential and unique expression” of Catholic commitment to the poor.

Cardinal-designate Donald Wuerl recommended Fr. Mindling, who served as an advisor to the working group which prepared the review of the campaign.

Bishop of Biloxi, Mississippi Roger Morin, who chairs the bishops’ CCHD subcommittee, said the review report reaffirms CCHD’s priority to serve the poor while also making commitments to strengthening the organization’s faithful expression of Catholic teaching and the Gospel.

On Tuesday CNA spoke with John Carr, executive director of the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development 

Fr. Mindling’s appointment, he said, was a “big step” but “there are lots of other steps.”

Carr said that the consulting theologian was required to be named this year and the review board will be named next year.

“My hope and expectation is that it will be early in the year,” he commented. At present, Carr said, his department is “redoing all the contracts through CCHD,” including the grant applications and criteria.

He added that the USCCB subcommittee will consider Catholic Campaign for Human Development issues at their meeting Nov. 15-18.

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Assisted suicide promoter preys on fearful and abandoned, opponent says

Ontario, Canada, Nov 10, 2010 (CNA) - The prospect of a television ad promoting assisted suicide is causing a stir in New Zealand. One anti-euthanasia advocate is arguing that the doctor behind the ad is preying on the depressed and the mentally troubled.

Dr. Philip Nitschke, based in Australia, is an advocate for assisted suicide in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Last month in Canada he held a seminar at the First Unitarian Church of Toronto for about 50 people, giving them information on how to commit suicide.

Alex Schadenberg, international chairman of the Ontario-based Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said Nitschke has been on an international tour to promote his “suicide manual” and to explain how people may circumvent the law if they assist in a suicide.

He characterized the doctor as a “suicide predator” who searches for people and encourages or counsels them to commit suicide.

“The predator is not concerned about the frame of mind of the person, they are only concerned with the fact that this person has expressed some interest in death,” Schadenberg told CNA.

He compared Nitschke to William Melchert-Dinkel, a man being prosecuted in Minnesota after he allegedly used fake identities to establish relationships with the depressed and suicidal and then encouraged them to commit suicide.

Nitschke’s advocacy has also drawn criticism in New Zealand, whose Commercial Approvals Bureau recently approved the screening of an advertisement by Nitschke which promotes assisted suicide.

Right to Life New Zealand expressed disappointment in the decision, asking that Television New Zealand uphold “the common good” and promote “a culture of life” by assuring the public that the 45-second suicide video will not be screened.

The group said it would be inconsistent for the state-owned broadcaster to show a video promoting suicide while also spending millions of dollars on suicide prevention programs.

“There are on average about 500 suicides reported each year in New Zealand. Suicides have a profound effect on families and whole communities. The screening of Dr. Nitschke’s suicide video would be socially irresponsible and could result in an increase of suicides,” Right to Life New Zealand said.

“The prevailing community attitude towards suicide is that it is unacceptable behavior, promotes a culture of death, is contrary to the common good and is destructive of the social fabric,” the group added.

It argued that the broadcast violates rules against ads which support violent behavior and which lack due social responsibility to society.

“Suicide or self murder is in itself the ultimate in violence against oneself, it is unacceptable to the community,” Right to Life New Zealand said.

Noting that Nitschke cites the principle of freedom of speech to protect himself from criticism and legal action, Schadenberg said that freedom of speech has limits.

“These kind of actions are not only irresponsible, but they are dangerous to vulnerable people,” the anti-euthanasia advocate told CNA.

Schadenberg also characterized legalized assisted suicide as “the ultimate form of elder abuse.” He questioned whether the elderly will ask for assisted suicide under pressure from relatives.

He also warned that legally required psychological assessments for those who request suicide in Oregon – where assisted suicide is legal - are not taking place.

“People who are planning to kill themselves or be involved with killing another are often going through depression, mental breakdown or experiencing a life-changing challenge, like few others. These are people who, without the necessary support, are not freely choosing to die, but rather dying out of a sense of fear, last resort or abandonment.”

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Bishop Tobin launches campaign to help Rhode Island’s poor through the winter

Providence, R.I., Nov 10, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island recently launched a $50,000 campaign to help the state’s poor stay warm throughout the approaching winter.

The 2010-11 Keep the Heat On Campaign will provide heating assistance to citizens who are not eligible for private or state funding, the Rhode Island Diocese of Providence has reported.

Bishop Tobin announced the $50,000 grant at the local St. Martin de Porres multi-service center on Nov. 9.

Since 2005, the campaign has provided more than $1million in heating assistance to over 3,600 Rhode Island households. The initiative is backed by Catholic Charities USA.

“In just five years, Keep the Heat On has made a significant difference in the lives of thousands of Rhode Islanders with no place left to turn for heating assistance,” Bishop Tobin said.

“I am pleased that the Catholic Church is able to sponsor this critical program that helps families stay warm at night, regardless of financial struggles,” he added. “Through the generosity of individuals and the Catholic Charity Appeal, Rhode Island families in need are provided the basic human need of heat.”

Speaking on the social justice work of his diocese, Bishop Tobin said that the campaign “is but one of many charitable services offered by the Catholic Church in Rhode Island.”

“The diocese is blessed with many individuals who work tirelessly each day to provide for those in need of life’s most basic services. I am proud to recognize those individuals who have been instrumental in the success of our charitable efforts here in Rhode Island for many decades.”

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As bishops convert, Vatican moving on plan to welcome Anglicans

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Just weeks after a papal pilgrimage to England, the announcement that five Anglican bishops plan to resign by year’s end and join the Catholic Church is setting wheels in motion at the Vatican.

The Nov. 8 announcement seems to have caught Vatican officials by surprise. And the question of just how these bishops and other former members of the Church of England will enter the Catholic Church has quickly become an important topic of discussion inside the Vatican.

The bishops — Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet, Keith Newton of Richborough, and John Broadhurst of Fulham, along with retired bishops Edwin Barnes and David Silk — cited Pope Benedict XVI’s “generous” invitation last year to Anglicans who are seeking “full communion” with the Catholic Church.

In Nov. 2009, the Pope issued the invitation in an apostolic constitution, "Anglicanorum Coetibus.” The document proposed that former Anglicans could enter into “full communion” with the Church as members of specially-tailored jurisdictions, or “personal ordinariates.”

According to the Pope’s plan, these jurisdictions would be under the authority of local Catholic bishops, but members could maintain their “liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions,” including the traditional permission for priests to be married.

With the five bishops’ announcement, eyes are now on the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has yet to provide details on the final shape these ordinariates, might take.

But a timetable does seem to be on the horizon. The doctrine office’s head, Cardinal William Levada, will be leading a special closed-door discussion of the matter with the College of Cardinals on Nov. 19.

One of the resigning bishops, Bishop John Broadhurst, told CNA that his decision to leave the Church of England came after many years of hoping that the Anglicans would move closer to Rome.

Instead, he said, Anglicans have distanced themselves further by embracing such radical departures from Christian tradition as permitting women bishops and blessing homosexual unions.

But Bishop Broadhurst, who has been a priest for 40 years and heads the traditionalist group, Forward in Faith, said disaffection with Anglicanism did not lead to his decision.

As one who “believed in unity with the Catholic Church for a very long time," he said, "I don't think I can say no to it. It's as straight forward as that. You can't become a Catholic because you don't like being something else. That's not where we are, any of us."

The difficulties facing Anglicanism, he said, have less to do with issues such as gay clergy or women bishops.

“The problem with Anglicanism is the nature of authority — we have no proper concept of authority so decisions are made that tear us apart," he said.

In their joint letter of resignation, the five bishops said they were “distressed by developments … in Anglicanism which we believe to be incompatible with the historic vocation of Anglicanism and the tradition of the Church for nearly two thousand years.”

They said Pope Benedict’s invitation was “a generous response” to distressed Anglicans and “a bold, new ecumenical instrument in the search for the unity of Christians. … It is a unity, we believe, which is possible only in eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter.”

Bishop Broadhurst said there remains a debate in more traditional Anglican parishes in England. Priests and lay people alike are contemplating their next steps. "Lots of people are interested" in pursuing the Pope’s invitation, he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Alan Hopes of Westminster is the point man on the Anglican issue for the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales. He said the bishops will be considering the new “personal ordinariates” in their countries during their annual meeting next week.

Vatican Radio reported Nov. 10 that the head of the English Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, will travel to the Vatican next week. He is to take part in celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Nov. 17.

Archbishop Williams is not scheduled to meet with the Pope. However, last year, when tensions arose after the Pope’s invitation to Anglicans, Archbishop Williams did travel to Rome for a private meeting with the Pontiff.

Archbishop Williams greeted news of the five bishops’ resignation with “regret.” In a statement, he said: "We wish them well in this next stage of their service to the Church." he said.

Whatever shape the ordinariate takes, for now, they are interested in having a good relationship with English Catholic hierarchy and maintaining their friendship with the Anglican Church, Bishop Broadhurst said.

He compared it to a failed marriage in which the spouses "break up." Some "are nasty," while in others "people manage to be decent to each other. Well, I hope as Christians that we can be respectful.”

"I really do think that it's got to work, but it's a sensitive situation both within the Church of England and in the Catholic Church," he concluded.

Msgr. Marc Langham of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told CNA that the new Anglican jurisdictions may produce some unexpected fallout in Catholic-Anglican relations.

“It perhaps will mean that there will no longer be a voice within Anglicanism ... speaking in defense of that relationship with the Roman Catholic Church,” he said.

Pope Benedict has repeatedly said that he has no interest in encouraging the further splintering of the Anglican communion, Msgr. Langham said.

As for the unprecedented question of ordinariates, Msgr. Langham said that the interested Anglicans he has spoken with "really want to wait and see what the ordinariate looks like."

Questions such as "how it will work, how it will run, how it will be financed, what it's relationship will be to the local Catholic community" are on the top of their minds.

"Anglican ministers are going to give up a great deal before moving to this, and so I think are waiting really for a bit more information about it," he said.

The "short answer," Msgr. Langham said, is that no one knows how many people might eventually join the U.K. ordinariate.

An interesting ecumenical point for him so far in the dialogue about the creation of ordinariates is that Catholic authorities are receiving advice from their Anglican counterparts on how best to do so. This, he said, "is a great thing."

"It means that the ordinariate is helping to bridge the ecumenical divide rather than to exaggerate it."

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