Archive of November 29, 2010

Pope did not legitimize condom use, affirms Spanish bishop

Madrid, Spain, Nov 29, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - The secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference recently remarked that the Pope's comments in the newly-released book, “Light of the World,” do not legitimize the use of condoms.

Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino noted on Nov. 26, at the conclusion of the Spanish bishops' 96th plenary assembly, that the use of condoms “always” takes place “within a context of immorality.” Thus, he continued, it “can never be recommended.”

He said the Pope’s comments did not represent anything new in Church teaching and therefore the Spanish bishops did not address the issue during their meeting.

“There is no cause for alarm” for Catholics, he said, as they know that the Church’s teachings “are not learned from news headlines” but rather from “catechesis, religion classes and confession.” 

Bishop Martinez underscored that the media has been filled with “inaccurate headlines” about the Pope’s comments on condoms. He added that the book, “Light of the World,” by German journalist Peter Seewald, is “an excellent introduction to what it means to be Christian.”  It conveys “the perfect compatibility of the Christian faith with the positive aspect of modernity” and it reveals “the heart and mind of the Pope in order to interpret his actions and decisions properly.”

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Bishops urge Congress to condemn persecution of Iraqi Christians

Washington D.C., Nov 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The United States Conferences of Catholic Bishops urged Congress on Nov. 29 to pass a resolution condemning religious violence in Iraq, and insisting on better protection for Christians and other minority faiths.

Two representatives of the conference, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany in New York, wrote to the sponsors of House Resolution 1725, in their respective positions as the national chairmen for migration and social justice. They commended the seven sponsors of House Resolution 1725, and called for the act's immediate passage.

Rep. Chris Smith (R – N.J.), a Catholic and an outspoken advocate for international religious freedom, introduced the resolution along with six co-sponsors from both the Republican and Democratic parties. The proposal follows a wave of attacks targeting Iraqi Christians this fall, the worst of which left over 50 worshipers dead at Baghdad's Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation on Oct. 31.

Several Iraqi Christians now living in the U.S.--including a board member of the international charity Iraqi Christians In Need, and a former seminary professor of two priests killed at Our Lady of Salvation– have told CNA that the government is not doing enough to stop an epidemic of violence that has forced more than half of the country's Christians to flee.

Although Rep. Smith voted in favor of the American invasion of Iraq –which Pope John Paul II warned would destabilize the region and lead to sectarian violence– he has also demonstrated a willingness to speak out against cases of abuse or negligence by the ruling Iraqi government. Last year, he co-sponsored a resolution condemning Iraqi security forces' attacks on a group of Iranian refugees.

Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Hubbard praised Rep. Smith's introduction of HR 1725, as a means to “focus attention on the situation of the vulnerable religious communities in Iraq.” They particularly appreciated its call for a “comprehensive plan” to prevent religious persecution, and to increase the representation of Christians and other minority groups in Iraq's government.

The bishops described the attack at Our Lady of Salvation, along with other assaults intended to drive Iraqi Christians from their homes and businesses, as “horrific reminders of the appalling lack of security that has condemned many in Iraq to live in fear.” The resolution expresses concern for Iraqi refugees, urging that barriers to their resettlement or return be lifted.

“We sincerely hope that H. Res. 1725 will be adopted quickly by the House of Representatives as we believe it will help improve security for all Iraqis, especially Christians and other vulnerable minorities,” the bishops wrote, noting that the resolution's proposals would help the troubled country achieve peace and address its refugee crisis.

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Pope reflects on Advent experience of expectation

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI welcomed the season of Advent during the Angelus prayer on Sunday, remarking on the nature of “expectation” and calling it a “profoundly human” experience.

On the afternoon of Nov. 28, the Pope appeared at the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square and addressed the crowds gathered below. He greeted pilgrims several times in different languages.

The Pontiff opened his comments by discussing what he called the “dual nature” of the Advent season. The Church during this time, he said, focuses both on the first coming of Jesus as an infant born of the Virgin Mary and also on “His glorious return, when he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

He described the Church's expectation and reflection on both events as a “profoundly human” experience in which “the faith becomes, so to say, a single thing with our flesh and our heart.”

"Expectation and awaiting represent a dimension that touches our entire individual, family and social existence,” he added, saying that it is “present in many situations, from the smallest and most insignificant to the most important.”

The Pope mentioned the examples of a couple expecting a child, a person waiting for the results of an exam, someone expecting the arrival of a friend from far away, or the anticipation of someone meeting a loved one.

“We could say that man is alive so long as he expects, so long as hope remains alive his heart.”

Pope Benedict continued to say that men and women can be recognized by their expectations, and that “our moral and spiritual 'stature' may be measured by what our hopes are.”

In “this time of preparation for Christmas each of us may ask ourselves: what do I expect?

“This same question can be posed at the level of the family, the community, the nation.

“What do we expect together? What unites our aspirations, what brings us together?” he asked.

The Pope also recalled how the nation of Israel had a strong expectation of the Messiah before Christ's birth, hoping this figure would save them from moral and political slavery.
“But no one could have imagined that the Messiah would be born of a humble girl like Mary, who had been promised in marriage to the good Joseph,” he said. “Neither could she have imagined it; yet in her heart the expectation of the Savior was so great, her faith and hope so ardent, that in her He could find a worthy mother.”

Mary is “the woman of Advent,” the Pope declared, urging those in attendance to “learn from her” in order to “live a daily life with a new spirit, with feelings of profound expectation which only the coming of God can satisfy.”

“There is a mysterious correspondence between the expectation of God and that of Mary, the creature 'full of grace,' completely transparent before the Almighty's plan of love,” he said.

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Cardinal's visit to Pakistan gives new hope for release of Asia Bibi

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue met with Pakistani President Ali Zardari on Nov. 25 to discuss the case of Asia Bibi.

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of four, was convicted of blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad and sentenced to death by hanging in the town of Sheikhupura, near the capital city, Lahore.

Bibi has stated that she is being persecuted for defending her faith to Muslim co-workers who claimed that Christianity was a "false religion." She was jailed days later, brought to trial and convicted for blasphemy.

The meeting between Cardinal Tauran and President Zardari, as well as the country's Minister for Religious Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti had already been on the calendar but the events surrounding Bibi provided greater relevance to their discussions, reported Vatican Radio.

Cardinal Tauran celebrated Mass Nov. 26 at the Cathedral of Rawalpindi and expressed Pope Benedict XVI’s solidarity with the local Catholic community.  The next day, he met with Pakistani bishops in Lahore and attended a conference on inter-religious dialogue.

Vatican Radio also reported that the Pakistani Parliament is considering a proposal to punish blasphemy with five years in prison rather than with the death penalty. That idea has been met with rejection by Muslim extremists who also argue that President Zadari does not have the power to grant a pardon to Bibi.

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Catholics remember Dorothy Day on 30th anniversary of her death

Denver, Colo., Nov 29, 2010 (CNA) - Catholics are honoring the life and work of humanitarian Dorothy Day on Monday, marking the 30th anniversary of the Catholic Worker Movement founder's death.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver noted in comments to CNA that Day was a “radical” in the truest sense of the word, because she was deeply committed to “the Christian vocation.”

Thirty years ago on Nov. 29, 1980, Dorothy Day – the famous 20th century convert known for her tireless work in defending the poor – passed away at the age of 84.

Born in Brooklyn and eventually raised in Chicago, she was baptized Episcopalian at the age of 12. She displayed signs at a young age of possessing a deep religious sense, editor-in-chief of CNA David Scott noted in his 2002 book, “Praying in the Presence of Our Lord.” As a young girl, Day fasted and mortified her body by sleeping on hardwood floors. One journal entry from those early years expresses her desire to suffer for the sins of the world.

Her life soon changed as the 1910s brought about a stark shift in the U.S. social climate.  Day read Upton Sinclair's scathing depiction of the Chicago meat-packing industry in his book called “The Jungle,” which marked a turning point in her personal ideology.

She dropped out of college and moved to New York, where she took a job as a reporter for the country's largest daily socialist paper The Call. After fraternizing with the Bohemians and Socialist intellectuals of her time – and after a series of disastrous romances, one of which included a forced abortion by a man who eventually left her – Day fell in love with an anarchist nature-lover by the name of Forster Batterham.

She eventually settled in Staten Island, living a peaceful, slow-paced life on the beach with Batterham in a common law marriage. Conflict arose, however, when Day became increasingly drawn to the Catholic faith – praying rosaries consistently and even having their daughter, Tamar, baptized as a Catholic. Batterham, a staunch atheist, eventually left them and Day was received into the Catholic Church herself in 1927.

She returned to New York City as a single mother where her deep-rooted and long-standing concern for the poor resurfaced. Along with French itinerant Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker movement in 1933. Living the Catholic notion of holy poverty and practicing works of mercy, the two started soup kitchens, self-sustaining farm communities and a daily newspaper. In the course of her 50 years working among the poor and marginalized, Day never took a salary.

Her legacy lives on today in the 185 Catholic Worker communities in the U.S. and around the globe. In 2000, 20 years after her death, then-leader of the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal John O'Connor, submitted Day's cause for canonization to the Vatican. With this approval, she was given the title of Servant of God, which is bestowed on a candidate for sainthood whose cause is still under investigation, prior to beatification.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver marked the occasion of Day's passing 30 years ago by reflecting on her life and work in a Nov. 29 e-mail to CNA.

“Like Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day sought to live the Gospel sine glossa – without ‘glosses,’ caveats or exceptions,” he said. “She was radical in the truest sense of the word, committed to the root of the Christian vocation.” 

Day was also “heroically consistent” in her love for the poor, the infirm and the unborn child, Archbishop Chaput added.

“Most importantly, she loved the Church as her mother and teacher, and she refused to ignore or downplay those Catholic teachings that might be inconvenient.”

“At its best, the Catholic Worker movement she founded continues to witness her extraordinary virtues,” he said.

CNA also spoke with Donna Ecker, the co-director of a Catholic Worker community called the Bethany House in Rochester, New York. The community dedicates itself to serving homeless women and children.

“Our work is emergency housing, an emergency food cupboard, a clothing room, a drop-in center, a place of worship and volunteer center,” Ecker explained via e-mail. “Although I never personally had the honor of meeting Dorothy, my Uncle and Aunt were the co-founders of St. Joseph's House and good friends of hers.”

St. Joseph's House was founded in 1941 and helped give birth to Bethany House in 1978.

Ecker said that the community strives to live out Day's philosophy, noting that the house's sign by the front door states, "Let all guests be received as Christ."

When asked what her community had planned in honoring the late humanitarian, Ecker said that in  “keeping with the message of social justice in honor of Dorothy,” the weekly liturgical celebration at Bethany House will remember four Catholic women who were murdered during the civil war in El Salvador several decades ago.

One missionary lay woman and three religious sisters from the U.S. were brutally killed while attempting to do charity work in the country in 1980.

“It is the 30th anniversary of their deaths,” she explained. “Somehow, I think Dorothy would want us to remember them for their courage as we remember her for her strength and tenacity.” 

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Officials block plans to build abortion clinic in Colombian city

Medellin, Colombia, Nov 29, 2010 (CNA) - Colombian officials recently blocked plans to build an abortion clinic in the city of Medellin.

The Colombian Department of Antioquia’s Secretary for Health, Carlos Mario Rivera Escobar, said officials decided against the proposal on Nov. 25 because “there is no need for the kind of clinic that has been suggested either in Medellin or in the metropolitan area.”

He said the women's clinic was presented as a facility that would offer “limited gynecological care,” a need that is already being sufficiently met by the Medellin General Hospital and the local health care system.  “This is a proposal to do something that is already being done,” Rivera noted.

The proposal called for nearly $8 million in taxpayer funds to build the clinic.

The Antioquia Pro-Life Network called the decision to block the construction “a triumph for citizens and a 'yes' to life.”  The organization’s executive director, Lina Marcela Zapata, said thousands of Colombians “have spoken out against this project that was intended to be an attack on women, life and the family.”

She urged officials in Antioquia to heed the will of the people and remain committed to the defense of life, women and the family by “promoting public policies that are of benefit to the community and lead to respect for human dignity.”

In Colombia, pro-life leaders are gaining ground in their fight to overturn the 2007 ruling by the Constitutional Court legalizing abortion.  The ruling allows for abortion in cases of rape, fetal deformation or to protect the life of the mother.  The court also ruled that schools must teach students that abortion is a “right.”  Thousands of Colombians have voiced their opposition to the decision.

On Oct. 27 the country's bishops met with a group of politicians who put forth a measure last March that would modify the country’s Constitution to protect human life from conception to natural death.

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