Archive of December 10, 2010

China trying to prove it is 'master of the Church,' missionary priest warns

Rome, Italy, Dec 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Father Bernardo Cervellera, a longtime observer of Sino-Vatican affairs, is deeply troubled by recent moves made by China’s communist authorities.

"We are back in the 1950s,” said Fr. Cervellera, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and editor of institute’s influential Asia News website.

"Honestly, I would say that with these elections we are taken back to the time of Mao Zedong and the foundation of the Patriotic Association,” the state-authorized Catholic Church established by the communist ruler.

Fr. Cervellera has for many years been a sharp critic of the regime in Beijing and a cautionary voice on the Church’s relations with the regime. In a Dec. 9 interview with CNA he said recent developments do not offer much cause for optimism.

The troubles began Nov. 20 when communist authorities appointed Father Guo Jincai a bishop, in express defiance of Vatican wishes and without the Pope's approval. In a gesture that sparked further outrage from the Vatican, authorities forced at least eight bishops loyal to Rome to participate in the rogue ordination.

This week, communist officials again forced bishops loyal to Rome to take part in elections for the government-run Catholic Patriotic Association and Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church.
Neither institution is recognized by the Vatican.

While others see recent developments reflecting a more delicate political balancing act by the two sides, Father Cervellera believes many in the Church are being overly optimistic about the intentions of the communist government in Beijing.

Fr. Cervellera said Chinese officials are sending a clear message that the communist party — and not the Vatican — is in charge of the Chinese Church.

He said the recent elections to the Patriotic Association and the so-called Bishops' Conference were meant "to wound the Vatican" and set up obstacles to unity in the Church.

The elections installed a bishop ordained without papal approval to head the bishops’ conference. A bishop loyal to Rome was elected to head the Patriotic Association. Both bishops were the only candidates nominated to run for the posts.

Installing a legitimately ordained bishop to the presidency of an organization not approved by the Vatican is another show of force by communist officials. The move is intended to signal that Beijing, not Rome, is "master of the Church," he said.

Fr. Cervellera, who worked for a time as university professor in Beijing and is former head of the Vatican’s missionary news agency, Fides, serves as an unofficial counselor to the Vatican on Chinese affairs. 

He believes that Vatican officials have been “perhaps too optimistic” in thinking that Pope Benedict XVI’s outreach to Chinese Catholics and government authorities would lead to new respect for the Church. In fact, he says, little has changed since the Pope’s historic 2007 open letter to Chinese Catholics.

In part, Fr. Cervellera believes, the government's provocative actions were motivated by the Chinese Patriotic Association, which feels threatened by any moves to strengthen ties with Rome. He said association members are keenly concerned to preserve power and thus their jobs and control of Church finances.

"The more the Vatican tries to have a dialogue with the government, the more the Patriotic Association thinks that it's coming to its end," he said.

He also believes the government sees control of the Church as a way to maintain power over a population dissatisfied with rising inflation and a growing disparity between rich and poor.

Then, there is the issue of communist ideology. "I think they really cannot understand what freedom of religion means, that there is something in the conscience, in the awareness of the person which doesn't belong to the party or the state, but belongs only to God," Fr. Cevellera said.

Catholics in China, he explained, have “freedom of worship, but not freedom of religion.” True freedom of religion would mean that the Church would have the power to govern itself without interference from government officials.

The situation now, he said, is “terrible.” Chinese officials have created "a problem with our communion from the sacramental point of view."

Chinese Catholics loyal to Rome have been put in a difficult position. They fear that the bishops not approved by Rome will from now on preside over or be present at all ordinations of new bishops. That would render these ordinations illegitimate from the Catholic point of view. The result would be a Church led by bishops who are fact bishops in name only.

In the meantime, both the official state-sanctioned Church and that which remains "underground," unwilling to subject itself to communist authority, continue to be united and, paradoxically "strengthened" by their persecution. There is no freedom for either, Fr. Cervellera said.

As for the future, he hopes that recent Popes’ initiatives to open the Church for China's nearly six million Catholic has not been in vain.

"My hope is that all the work done for the unity of the Church by John Paul II, Benedict XVI and the Church in China can continue,” he said.

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Abandonment of God carries dehumanizing consequences, warns cardinal

Valencia, Spain, Dec 10, 2010 (CNA) - The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments remarked that Catholics “cannot remain indifferent to the problems that arise in social, cultural, economic and political environments,” because “nothing that is truly human is foreign to her.”

Cardinal Antonio Canizares spoke Dec. 8 as he received an honorary doctorate from the St. Vincent the Martyr Catholic University of Valencia, Spain.

In his acceptance speech, Cardinal Canizares lamented the “extremely serious bankruptcy of ideals affecting people in the West today, who live only for comfort, money, sex, narcissistic pleasure and consumerism.” 

For this reason, “the transcendent and religious expression in the people of the West  are only skin-deep, and God is relegated to the sidelines of life,” he said.

However, the cardinal continued, “The Christian faith embraces the totality of life. The Christian experience cannot, therefore, be reduced to one’s private life or be lived out in an individualist way.”

“While respecting the autonomy of the temporal order,” the Church “cannot remain indifferent to the problems of today’s world,” he stressed.

“Amidst the dark night of the current collective atheism,” Christians “must sense the pressing duty and urgent call to remind others that the only thing necessary for man is God,” the cardinal said.

“The abandonment of God is the gravest event of these times of poverty in the West.  It is an event with the most serious of dehumanizing consequences,” he added.

Cardinal Canizares concluded his remarks praising the university for its “defense of inalienable human rights and fundamental freedoms, which include the right to life in all of its stages, the protection of the family, freedom of education and of religion.”

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Colombian bishops praise announced release of hostages by rebel forces

Bogotá, Colombia, Dec 10, 2010 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba Villota, has praised a decision by rebel forces to release five hostages.

FARC announced on Dec. 8 that it would release three soldiers and two civilians kidnapped by the Marxist rebel group. 

Bishop Cordoba responded to the group, saying, “The Church always rejoices at the release of hostages.  This is a reason for joy and for giving glory to God.” He added that the Church is ready to assist in the release if needed.  “We are always willing to serve the cause of Colombians as a humanitarian gesture and not for any other reason,” he said.

Bishop Cordoba also expressed his hope that the release would be a step “toward dialogue in which all Colombians can have a chance to be a part of this country, in which everyone can have opportunities” without the fear of kidnapping.”

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Chilean bishop calls for prison reform following tragic fire

Santiago, Chile, Dec 10, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Chilean bishops’ conference is calling for prison reform in the country after 81 inmates died in a fire at the San Miguel Prison on Dec. 8.

Conference President Bishop Ricardo Ezzati called the fire a “sad tragedy for the country.”

The fire broke out at the prison located in the country's capital city of Santiago during a fight among inmates.  Eighty-one people were killed and 14 were left injured. Chilean officials said overcrowding was one of the main reasons for the high death toll, as the prison only has room for 900 inmates but is holding 1,900.

The bishop urged government officials to make the issue a priority, noting that in addition to the problem of overcrowding, “prisons are often violent and dehumanizing environments that make the rehabilitation of inmates impossible.”

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Pope decrees sainthood for Italian, beatification for 11 others

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has advanced the sainthood causes of 16 Catholics. The announcement was made following the Pope’s meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican’s office for the causes of saints, Dec. 10.

The Church’s newest saint will be Blessed Guido Maria Conforti, a missionary order founder and Italian bishop who died in 1931. The Pope has authorized a miracle attributed to Bl. Conforti’s intercession, the second needed to affirm his sainthood.

He founded the Pious Society of St. Francis Xavier for Foreign Missions, the Xaverian missionaries, who through his guidance brought about a renewal of the missionary spirit at the turn of the 20th century. The missionaries first spearheaded evangelization efforts to China. They are now present in a variety of countries throughout Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

While his most recent miracle was not described, the first miracle attributed to Blessed Conforti came about in 1965. After prayers for his intercession from Xaverian sisters in Burundi, 12-year old Sabina Kamariza was cured of pancreatic cancer. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

In addition to the miracle attributed to Bl. Conforti, the Pope has also authorized miracles attributed to an Italian priest, the Spanish foundress of a religious institute, the Portuguese foundress of an order of hospitalier sisters and a Brazilian sister who died in 1992. They will all be beatified for miracles attributed to their intercession.

Further papally-authorized decrees will recognize the martyrdom of German Father Alois Andritzki killed in the Nazi’s Dachau concentration camp in 1943 and six Spanish priests who all died for the faith during their country's civil war in 1936. No dates have been released yet for the ceremonies that will recognize them as blesseds.

"Heroic virtue" was decreed in the lives of a 20th-century Italian priest, a Lebanese religious brother of the Melkite Catholic tradition, an Italian sister and foundress of a religious congregation and a Spanish religious sister.

A series of steps marks the road to sainthood. First, the cause is begun on a local, diocesan level at which time information is collected on the person known to have led an exemplary or "heroic" Christian life.

Information is collected at the local bishop's request, resulting in a biography of the person, any writings they created, and testimonies from witnesses being sent to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints. After further investigation by a panel, those who advance are either recognized for their "heroic virtue" and declared "venerable" or declared martyrs for the faith, thus bypassing the venerable stage to be beatified and declared "blessed."

"Venerables" to whose intercession a miracle is attributed advance by further papal decree to be beatified and declared “blessed.”

Once a person is declared “blessed,” the final step to canonization and recognition as a saint is the attribution of a second miracle for non-martyrs and a single miracle for those who suffered martyrdom.

The following is a complete list of the new saints, blesseds and venerables, as released by the Vatican.

New Saint

• Blessed Guido Maria Conforti, Italian archbishop-bishop and founder of the Pious Society of St. Francis Xavier for Foreign Missions (1865-1931).

New Blesseds

• Servant of God Francesco Paleari, Italian priest of the "Cottolengo" Institute (1863-1939).

• Servant of God Anna Maria Janer Anglarill, Spanish foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Holy Family of Urgell (1800-1885).

• Servant of God Marie Clare of the Child Jesus (nee Libania do Carmo Galvao Meixa de Moura Telles e Albuquerque), Portuguese foundress of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (1843-1899).

• Servant of God Dulce (nee Maria Rita Lopes Pontes), Brazilian religious of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (1914-1992).

Newly Declared Martyrs to be Beatified

• Servant of God Alois Andritzki, German diocesan priest who died in the concentration camp of Dachau (1914-1943).

• Servants of God Jose Nadal y Guiu (1911-1936) and Jose Jordan y Blecua (1906-1936), Spanish diocesan priests, killed in hatred of the faith during religious persecution in Spain.

• Servants of God Antonio (Miguel Faundez Lopez), Spanish professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor (1907-1936) and Bonaventura (ne Baltasar Mariano Munoz Martinez) Spanish cleric of the Order of Friars Minor (1912-1936), as well as Pedro Sanchez Barba (1895-1936) and Fulgencio Martinez Garcia (1911-1936), Spanish priests and pastors of the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi, killed in hatred of the faith during religious persecution in Spain.

New Venerables

• Servant of God Antonio Palladino, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (1881-1926).

• Servant of God Bechara (Selim Abou-Mourad), Lebanese religious of the Basilian Salvatorian Order of the Melkites (1853-1930).

• Servant of God Maria Elisa Andreoli, Italian foundress of the Congregation of Reparatrix Sisters Servants of Mary (1861-1935).

• Servant of God Maria Pilar of the Sacred Heart (Maria Pilar Solsona Lamban), Spanish religious of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary, Religious of Pious Schools (1881-1966).

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Catholic radio network having an impact in western US, survey suggests

San Francisco, Calif., Dec 10, 2010 (CNA) -

Immaculate Heart Radio network listeners who responded to a survey say they are more active in their parishes as a direct result of listening to Catholic radio.

The California-based radio network has 24 stations in northern and central California and New Mexico as well as in the cities of Reno, Salt Lake City and Phoenix. The network carries 18 hours of programming from EWTN every day.

The survey was commissioned by the radio network to measure the impact of its programming. Over 1,900 people responded to the internet survey.

About 94 percent said they were more spiritually engaged and inspired as a result of listening to Immaculate Heart Radio. Almost half said the radio network has helped them learn more about their faith and has influenced them to attend religious services more frequently. Close to 40 percent said they were more likely to tithe to their parish and other charities and 51 percent said they are more involved with and generous to their parish because of their radio listening.

According to the survey, 581 respondents said the radio channel helped them teach their children the truths of the faith. Additionally, 265 said Immaculate Heart Radio helped them return to the Catholic faith while 58 said the radio network helped them convert from another religion and 28 said they were helped to convert from agnosticism or atheism. Just over 100 respondents said the radio network helped them save their marriage, 23 said they were helped when contemplating suicide, and seven were helped to “choose life for my baby.”

More than 70 percent of respondents said they attended Mass weekly while 25 percent attended daily.

Doug Sherman, founder and president of Immaculate Heart Radio, said the survey results were “overwhelming.”

“We knew we were having an impact on people. We get calls and emails all the time thanking us for being on the air. Over the years, we've heard from literally thousands of people who tell us that our programming has brought them back to the Church, or closer to God, or strengthened their marriage. But we had no idea what a profound difference our stations were having on local parishes. It's truly humbling!"

Archbishop George H. Niederaurer of San Francisco has said the radio network is a “very important” tool to reach others and help them deepen, broaden and share their faith.

CNA contacted Karen Walker of Walker & Associates Strategic Communications to learn more about the poll. She reported that MBA students at the San Diego-based John Paul the Great Catholic University conducted the survey.

The survey was e-mailed to listeners of the network and the radio network promoted the survey over a period of three to four weeks.

Walker reiterated how surprising it was for the network to find that its impact was much greater than individual.

“It affected parishes as well,” she said.

For more information about Immaculate Heart Radio, you can go to

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Court case and congressional inaction put embryonic stem cell research in limbo

Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2010 (CNA) - The fate of federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research remains in question as a federal appellate panel considers its legality. Pro-life leaders have backed broad restrictions on the funding, saying congressional inaction is due both to uncertainty and to the success of adult stem cell research.

In August federal district judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the funding violated the 1995 Dickey-Wicker Amendment. In Dec. 6 court arguments, a lawyer for two scientists who filed the lawsuit said federal grants for the research encourage the private sector to create more of the cells.

"There is now an incentive for the future destruction of human embryos," said the scientists' lawyer Thomas Hunger, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Justice Department lawyer Beth Brinkmann, arguing on behalf of the Obama administration, said that Congress intended to distinguish between promoting the study of embryonic stem cells and paying to create them.

The Dickey-Wicker Amendment prohibits taxpayer funding from being used to destroy embryos. President Obama’s present policy holds that the research can be funded so long as the embryos were destroyed using private money.

A congressional bill sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) could allow funding for the research. She told The Hill that her bill is “still not off the table” during the lame-duck session of Congress, but that  it's an issue of timing. The House leadership sees no point in passing the legislation if it will not also advance in the Senate.

Co-sponsor Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) said the legislation is less likely to pass each day and he is “not exactly holding my breath.”

DeGette said that “real results” of the research are now becoming visible, citing two human-subject studies approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the past two months. She also was optimistic about her legislation’s future, saying a recent Harris Interactive poll found 72 percent of Americans favor using embryonic stem cells left over from in vitro fertilization procedures for medical research.

However, pro-life leaders were critical of these efforts.

Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, commented that Judge Lamberth has “exactly the correct view” of the law.

“We’ve always said the Dickey Amendment … forbids funding any research that relies upon destroying human embryos,” he told CNA on Dec. 9. While both the Clinton and Obama administrations have read the law “very narrowly,” the bishops’ conference and the amendment’s sponsors have said its restrictions are broader.

Asked whether Judge Lamberth’s decision would mean a return to a Bush-era stem cell funding policy, Doerflinger said it would create “a vacuum” and result in no policy for funding research involving stem cells from destroyed embryos.

“We don’t know what the final decision will look like. It may be that the decision allows a window for reinstating the Bush policy.

“But right now there’s no Bush policy to refer to. It was canceled out,” he added, saying President Obama would have to consider what is possible within the law or would have to support an effort to change the law.

Doerflinger said that proponents of embryonic stem cell research have not passed legislation allowing the research funding because there is “uncertainty” about whether such legislation is necessary since the court decision is unresolved.

“This court case is going to wend its way through the system for some time to come. So they don’t know whether they even need to go through that battle.”

He added that the “lame duck” congressional session will end soon and other “must-pass” bills have top priority.

“So they’re tending to edge out any action on embryonic stem cells.”

Anna Franzonello, staff counsel for Americans United for Life, told CNA on Dec. 9 that her organization is “hopeful” that Judge Lamberth’s decision will be upheld.

She similarly credited the legislative failure to a political climate in which economic issues are more prominent. She also referred to a Rasmussen poll which reported that 57 percent of likely voters opposed using their tax dollars for the research.

“It’s not a secret that embryonic stem cell research has not been successful, but adult stem cell research has,” she continued. “People are concerned about money going to things that are effective and not failed policies.”

Opposing the research is “sound ethics” but also “sound policy from a fiscal standpoint as well.”

She acknowledged the possibility that the failure of embryonic stem cell research is resonating with members of Congress and the Obama administration.

“Even people who used to support embryonic stem cell research have come out and said it is not necessary, and actually obsolete,” Franzonello continued. She named former National Institutes of Health director Bernardine Healy as one person who has reconsidered the need for the research.

Doerflinger noted that there will be increased pro-life voting margins in both the House and the Senate in the next Congress. There will be “a decent chance” of stopping House legislation that would fund the research.

“Our hope is that if the courts do the right thing and read this legislation the way it was intended, we can then stop any new legislation from coming in and changing the law to reinstate the funding of destructive research.”

He added that the ethical issues involved in the research are hard for many people to appreciate because the embryos are at an early stage of development and their creation in a laboratory has a “depersonalizing” effect.

“But the fact is that each of us was once an embryo just that small,” he said. “The educational challenge is to help people to get past their aesthetic feelings and to a real appreciation of the truth about the beginning of human life.”

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Cardinal appoints commission to revise Legion of Christ constitution

Rome, Italy, Dec 10, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the pontifical delegate to the Legion of Christ, has appointed the members of the commission which will oversee the revision of the constitution of the troubled religious congregation.

The committee will include two of the cardinal’s personal advisors, Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., and Fr. Agostino Montan, C.S.I. Four Legion priests will also be on the commission: Fr. Roberto Aspe Hinojosa, Fr. Anthony Bannon, Fr José García Sentandreu and Fr. Gabriel Sotres.

None of the Legionaries on the commission are from its current leadership.

Cardinal De Paolis will preside over the commission, which will initiate and guide the revisions of the Legion of Christ’s governing constitution. The process will involve all Legionaries and will last several years, the Legion of Christ reports on its website. The revision will conclude with an extraordinary general chapter to examine the proposed changes and present them to the Holy See for approval.

In upcoming weeks the commission will present its methodology and the first texts for individual and community reflection.

“We invite our readers to keep the work of revising the Legion of Christ’s constitutions in their prayers,” the Legion of Christ said.

The religious congregation is trying to recover from revelations that its founder, Fr. Marcel Maciel, sexually abused seminarians and fathered several children. The discovery led to questions—and an apostolic visitation ordered by Pope Benedict—about whether the charism and formation process of the order were affected by the founder.

Cardinal De Paolis was appointed July 9, 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI to oversee the renewal of the religious order.

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Vatican delegations meet with Palestinians, Israelis, in separate negotiations

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Talks appear to be moving forward for the Vatican in Palestine and Israel. Vatican delegations met with representatives this week to discuss the Church's status in each of the two contentious Middle Eastern areas.

Talks between the Holy See and the Palestinian Liberation Organization took place in Ramallah on Dec. 7. According to the Holy See's Press Office, the two sides  are working to reach "a comprehensive international agreement" to govern the Church’s operations in the Palestinian territories.

The meeting took place in a "cordial atmosphere" and both delegations agreed to establish a working group to bring about such an agreement, the Vatican said.

Some of the same Vatican officials crossed the heated border into Israel to take part in a plenary meeting with the representatives from Israel's foreign affairs ministry on Dec. 9.

The ongoing meetings are seeking to negotiate the details of an accord to establish the legal and economic status of Church properties and workers in the Holy Land. Delegations have met on and off since 1993 and the official joint communique issued this week reported a "good and open atmosphere."

The meeting started with talk of the telegram sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The telegram conveyed assurances of Pope Benedict XVI's prayer and solidarity following devastating fires in forests around Israel's Mt. Carmel that took more than 40 lives.

The next working meeting with the Israeli delegation is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2011.

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