Archive of January 10, 2011

Bishop Olmsted opens legislative session with prayers for Arizona shooting victims

Phoenix, Ariz., Jan 10, 2011 (CNA) - After a mass shooting in Arizona that killed 6 people and left over a dozen wounded, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix wrote a prayer grieving for the victims and their families and expressing hope that violence will never again “scar the social fabric” of the state.

The six who were killed in the violent attack Jan. 8 included 63 year-old U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, both of whom were involved in Tucson Catholic parishes.

Bishop Olmsted offered his prayer at the convening of Arizona’s 50th Legislative Session on Jan. 10. He prayed that God would grant eternal rest to Judge Roll and the others who died in this weekend’s attack, and provide healing to Congresswoman Giffords and all those who were injured.

The incident began on Saturday when 22 year-old Jared Loughner opened fire at a local supermarket where recently elected Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was giving a community address. Loughner, a socially isolated, anti-government youth with a history of mental instability, was reportedly intent on killing the congresswoman with whom he took personal issue.

Rep. Giffords is alive but in critical condition after being shot in the head at point-blank range.

The full text of Bishop Olmsted's prayer is as follows:

O loving God, Creator and Father of us all, We come before you with hearts weighed down by the terrible violence that took place in Tucson on Saturday.

We grieve for Judge John Roll and all those who have died; we stand in prayerful solidarity with their families and friends. We pray for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and all who were injured and for those who love and care for them.

Father of mercy, we commend them all to your loving hands, asking you to grant eternal life to the deceased, healing and full recovery to the wounded, and comfort and peace to their loved ones.

And Blessed Lord, we earnestly pray, may such senseless violence never scar the social fabric of Arizona again.

We pray today, too, God of justice and of peace, for Governor Brewer, for all our Senators, Representatives, other elected officials and all who serve in public office.

Protect them and guide them with your wisdom. Give them the light and grace to build up the common good, and to protect the rights and dignity of every person

God of goodness and Father of compassion, on this day when keen sorrow clouds our hearts and so many difficult problems lay before us, we pray with the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, union;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light, and

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love;

for it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and

it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

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Catholic community grieves Arizona shooting victims

Tucson, Ariz., Jan 10, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A mass shooting in Arizona that left 6 dead and over a dozen injured has caused an outpouring of grief from individuals across the nation, but it is being even more deeply felt by the local Catholic community in Tucson.

The six who were killed in the violent attack Jan. 8 included 63 year-old U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, both of whom were involved in Tucson Catholic parishes.

Fr. Richard Troutman, pastor of St. Odelia's where third-grader Christina received her First Communion and sang in the children's choir, condemned the violence as an “unnecessary loss” in a Jan. 10 phone interview.

The incident began on Saturday when 22 year-old Jared Loughner opened fire at a local supermarket where recently elected Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was giving a community address. Loughner, a socially isolated, anti-government youth with a history of mental instability, was reportedly intent on killing the congresswoman with whom he took personal issue.

Rep. Giffords is alive but in critical condition after being shot in the head at point-blank range.

Nine year-old victim Christina Taylor Green was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and was featured in a book called "Faces of Hope" that followed the lives of one baby from each state born on the day of the terrorist attack nearly a decade ago. The young girl is a granddaughter of former New York Yankees and Mets manager Dallas Green, and the daughter of John Green, a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

She was recently elected to the student council at her local school, Mesa Verde Elementary, and “as a result had an interest in government,” Fr. Troutman told CNA.

Christina had been invited by a neighbor, “who was like a grandmother to her,” to go to Rep. Giffords' Saturday talk, the priest said. Because of her small size and enthusiasm for the event, Fr. Troutman speculated that Christina was able to meander close to the front of the crowd.

“She was probably standing right next to the congresswoman when this all happened,” he said.

When Loughner opened fire, Christina was hit in the chest, Fr. Troutman reported. Although “she was alive when they took her to the hospital” she later died at the medical facility.

The priest added that Christina's parents – Roxanne and John  –  are reeling from grief. “I talked to them that day – they were in shock,” he said.

Fr. Troutman said a host of events are being planned to honor the third-grader's memory including a vigil, viewing and Scripture and Rosary service for her on Wednesday evening. Christina's funeral will be held the afternoon of Thurs., Jan 12.

A Mass for all victims will be presided over by Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson at St. Odelia's on Jan. 11.

Bishop Kicanas, who was at an event in the Holy Land during the shooting, said in a Jan. 9 statement that he is “shocked and devastated” by the incident.

“We weep in our sadness, and we seek comfort from each other,” he said. “We pray to be a channel of peace, that where there is hatred we will bring the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Kicanas noted the death of Federal Judge John Roll in his remarks, emphasizing his prayers “for the comfort and consolation of Maureen, his wife, their children, and all members of their family.”

The bishop said that Judge Roll “was a person of great faith and great integrity” and lived as “as a devoted parishioner” of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish and St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Tucson, often serving at early morning Mass.

“He lived his faith as a servant of our nation for the cause of justice,” Bishop Kicanas said.

In the aftermath of the attack, religious and political leaders across the U.S. are decrying the violence and offering condolences to victims and their families.

"The senseless carnage in Tucson is a terrible tragedy for the victims, their families, the people of Arizona and people of good will everywhere," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, head of the Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus. 

"We feel a tremendous sense of loss at Judge Roll's death, and for all, young and old, who lost their lives in this attack,” he said. “We pray for God's mercy on all who have been touched by this tragedy."

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York also offered his condolences as president of the U.S. bishops' conference and lamented the effects and future implications of the shooting.

“When the target of a violent act is a public official, it shakes the confidence of the nation in its ability to protect its leaders and those who want to participate in the democratic process,” he said.

“As bishops we call once more for respect for the life and dignity of every person as we work together for the common good, seeking to address the various social and political issues that face us as a nation.”

Gunman Jared Loughner is currently in custody and refusing to cooperate in questioning by authorities.
The 22-year-old was known by acquaintances and professors to be an outcast who often posted incoherent political diatribes online and behaved erratically in classroom settings.

According to the New York Daily News, a shrine containing a skull replica, decayed oranges, candles and soil – often used in occult ceremonies –  was found in his backyard.

Loughner was scheduled to make his first court appearance on Jan. 10 at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

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Mexican bishop emphasizes importance of religious freedom

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 10, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Martin Rabago of Leon, Mexico recently reflected on the necessity of religious freedom.  As he recalled Pope Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace, the archbishop noted that religious freedom is the foundation for all other rights a society needs in order to live in justice.

Archbishop Rabago asserted that without religious freedom “it is not possible to create a just society, and consequently, establish authentic and stable peace for the entire human family,” reported the Mexican bishops' conference.

The archbishop then underscored the need for the freedom of education that ensures parents can decide what they wish their children to be taught, even in public schools. The imposition of religious education by any church, or of anti-religious education, directly or indirectly, by the government, would be a true injustice against religious freedom,” he added.

Archbishop Rabago stressed that his comments were not meant to encourage the establishing of a sectarian state but rather the strengthening of the public dimension of religion, while at the same time respecting the secular character of state institutions.

“For this reason,” he continued, “the state must be more tolerant and welcoming. In modern nations no religious confession is established as the state religion.  However, neutrality does not prevent cooperation. Public officials should exercise their right to religious freedom by expressing their own religious convictions,” the archbishop said.

He noted the timeliness of the Pope’s message, especially given the violence that is spreading across Mexico. The archbishop said that the building of peace “requires that the human rights of every citizen be recognized and respected and that the State create appropriate conditions for them to be properly exercised.”

“In this moment of grave violence our country is experiencing, there is a universal clamor for peace.  We must not be confused about the paths that will lead us to an authentic peace,” he concluded.

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In address to diplomats, Pope condemns limits on religious freedom

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has once more urged Muslim religious leaders and repressive governments to do more to protect the rights of Christians and other religious minorities in their countries.

The Pope used his annual address to diplomats Jan. 10, known as his “state of the world address,” to highlight the growing assault on religious freedoms around the world. His tough language underscored the urgency of the conditions facing Christians around the world.

He again condemned attacks in recent months on Christians in Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria.

“This succession of attacks is yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities,” the Pope said.

He decried the assassination of the governor of Punjab state in Pakistan and urged Pakistanis to “abrogate” a blasphemy law that has been used by Muslim extremists to intimidate and imprison Christians.

“The particular influence of a given religion in a nation ought never to mean that citizens of another religion can be subject to discrimination in social life or, even worse, that violence against them can be tolerated,” the Pope said.

Benedict XVI also offered words of encouragement to Catholics in China, who he said were facing “a time of difficulty and trial.” 

He praised a recent effort by European Union leaders to defend the rights of Christians in the Middle East. He also welcomed a move last October by the Council of Europe to protect the rights of health care workers to “conscientious objection” against participating in abortions.

However, the Pope also had strong words for European governments and others in the West for their “marginalization of religion,” especially Christianity. 

Despite their professed interest in “pluralism and tolerance,” the Pope said, in many countries in the West “there is a tendency to consider religion, all religion, as something insignificant, alien or even destabilizing to modern society, and to attempt by different means to prevent it from having any influence on the life of society.”

“Christians are even required at times to act in the exercise of their profession with no reference to their religious and moral convictions, and even in opposition to them, as for example where laws are enforced limiting the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care or legal professionals,” Pope Benedict said.

In addition, the Pope criticized efforts to ban Christian holidays and symbols “under the guise” of showing respect for non-Christians and atheists. “By acting in this way, not only is the right of believers to the public expression of their faith restricted, but an attack is made on the cultural roots which nourish the profound identity and social cohesion of many nations.”

The Pope also took aim at efforts in Latin American countries to limit Church-run schools.
The Church and religious believers must have the freedom to make decisions about how best to educate their young, he said.

He added: “I cannot remain silent about another attack on the religious freedom of families in certain European countries which mandate obligatory participation in courses of sexual or civic education which allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason.”

The Pope's address was delivered to a group of diplomats representing the 178 nations that maintain relations with the Holy See in the picturesque Sala Regia at the Vatican.

In his lengthy discourse he said that it is time for world leaders to recognize that religion is a fundamental part of human nature.

"The religious dimension is an undeniable and irrepressible feature of man’s being and acting, the measure of the fulfillment of his destiny and of the building up of the community to which he belongs," the Pope explained.

Religious freedom is "the first of human rights," because it is about man's relation with his Creator, he said.

Freedom of worship, he reminded diplomats, is not full religious freedom. Believers must be able to practice their faith in all aspects of their life in society. Religious institutions, too, must be free to operate in society.

He pointed to a kind of double standard that exists in the way the world regards religious freedom.
“One cannot create a sort of scale of degrees of religious intolerance,” he said. “Unfortunately, such an attitude is frequently found, and it is precisely acts of discrimination against Christians which are considered less grave and less worthy of attention on the part of governments and public opinion.”

He urged the diplomats to remember that religion is a force for peace and development in their countries. He pointed to the example of the late Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcuta, whose 100th birthday was celebrated in many countries last year.

“People like her show the world the extent to which the commitment born of faith is beneficial to society as a whole,” Pope Benedict said.

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Venezuelan bishops oppose law giving more power to Chavez

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 10, 2011 (CNA) - The bishops of Venezuela are standing behind Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas and his criticisms of the country's President Hugo Chavez.

Cardinal Urosa recently charged that Chavez is working to “install a Marxist regime” by enacting “laws that are contrary to the Constitution and the 2007 referendum.”

Archbishop Ubaldo Santana of Maracaibo denounced the laws passed by Venezuela's government in the last two legislative sessions, including the controversial Law of Empowerment. The recently passed law grants Chavez the authority to rule by decree, as “contrary to the spirit and letter of the Constitution.” 

The archbishop's remarks came during his opening address of the 95th ordinary assembly of Venezuela's bishops' conference.

He said the bishops’ conference would continue to issue moral judgments about political issues that “affect human rights,” and he lamented that the Venezuelan state has questioned “the right of the bishops and the Church to participate in the political life of the country.”

Archbishop Santana also highlighted the actions of Caritas during the recent torrential rains that pounded Venezuela, noting that communities across the country were assisted through the efforts of the Catholic organization, “thanks to coordinated action that involved priests and the faithful.”

Caritas delivered 180 tons of food, 2,000 hygiene kits, 37 tons of water, 100 sleeping mats and many other supplies to the flood victims.

The archbishop said the bishops’ conference will continue to work to create stronger fraternal bonds in the county and to foster open dialogue despite the position of the government. 

The Law of Empowerment

Chavez asked the National Assembly Dec. 10 to pass a law that would grant him power to rule by decree in order to address the crisis caused by the heavy rainfall. On Dec. 17, the assembly passed the measure and gave Chavez 18 months to enact laws by decree on territorial regulation, public and legal security issues, transportation and public services. 

The law also gave him authority over finances and taxes, rural and urban land use and development, international cooperation and emergency aid for the flooding crisis. 

Opposition leaders are concerned that the new law will allow Chavez to restrict the freedom of his critics.

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