, Jan 25, 2011 (CNA) - Preliminary results of a recent referendum indicate that Sudan's southern region is on track to become Africa's newest country. It will be known as “The Republic of South Sudan,” beginning in July 2011.
Officials in the semi-autonomous southern region announced their prospective country's likely new name, “South Sudan” for short, on Jan. 23.
During the week of Jan. 9-15, more than three million Sudanese citizens who belong ethnically or religiously to the country's southern population, participated in a long-awaited vote on independence from the country's north.
Most of these self-identified Southern Sudanese are black Africans, and practice either Christianity or native religions. They have, as expected, voted overwhelmingly to separate from the largely Muslim and Arab north.
By Jan. 24, with just over one percent of the votes remaining to be counted, 98.8 percent of the voters had chosen secession for the south.
As of that date, 98.7 percent of votes cast in southern locations had been counted by the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau, based in the southern administrative capital of Juba. All of the votes cast by southerners living in the north have already been tallied by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission in the capital city of Khartoum.
Most southern districts reported that voters had chosen secession almost unanimously, at rates typically approaching 99.9 percent. The southern state most favorable to maintaining unity with the north, Western Bahr El Ghazal, still voted for secession at a rate of more than 95 percent.
Only among the 70,000 self-identified southerners living and voting in the north, was there any significant ambivalence about secession. They favored southern secession over unity by a margin of only 15.3 percent. However, this population represented a small percentage of the nearly 3.8 million total voters who participated in the referendum.
Sudan's two dominant populations have fought two civil wars –over resources, religion, and political power– that left 2.5 million people dead between 1955 and 2005. The most recent peace treaty between the two sides gave the south, already semi-autonomous, the right to vote on becoming an independent country.
A final result is scheduled to be announced between Feb. 7 and Feb. 14, depending on whether the vote counts are challenged in any way. However, international monitoring agencies have not disputed the results, and the Khartoum government has indicated it will accept the referendum as legitimate.
Once certified, South Sudan's independence will not take full effect until July of 2011. A number of issues still remain to be worked out between the north and south, including questions about borders, debt, water rights, and the status of southerners living in the north – many of whom are concerned that the Khartoum government will attempt to implement Islamic law more strictly in the future.
Chicago, Ill., Jan 25, 2011 (CNA) - CatholicVote.org president Brian Burch announced on Jan. 24 that grassroots political group Catholic Families for America will now join their growing family of organizations.
The latest move broadens the widening scope of CatholicVote.org's initiatives. CatholicVote – which describes itself as a lay movement of committed Catholics and patriotic Americans – will now collaborate with and have the support of Catholic Families of America, a group oriented towards shaping public policy in favor of pro-life values.
Catholic Families of America lists topics such as the sanctity of life, education, taxes and foreign policy as among its core focus issues.
Burch noted in his Jan. 24 announcement that Dr. Kevin Roberts, founder of Catholic Families for America, will join CatholicVote.org's Political Action Committee (PAC) advisory board.
“Catholics must be dedicated advocates for life, marriage, and freedom at the ballot box,” Burch said, adding that “Dr. Roberts continues to be a strong champion for the Faith and we’re pleased to welcome him and his organization into the CatholicVote.org family.”
Dr. Roberts will continue to provide his personal daily podcast commentaries at capitolhillcatholic.com, in addition to his PAC advisory board role.
“The opportunity to become part of CatholicVote means that the movement by lay Catholics to reclaim the public square continues to gain momentum,” Dr. Roberts said on Jan. 24. “I look forward to continuing my efforts in cultivating Catholic political activism as part of the CatholicVote team.”
CatholicVote.org PAC launched its inaugural year during the 2010 election cycle. Seven out of the 10 congressional leaders it endorsed won their campaigns.
Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2011 (CNA) - Around 10,000 Catholics, many of them young people from schools around the nation, met to pray for an end to abortion at a pro-life vigil Mass in D.C. on the eve of the annual March for Life.
The Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Jan. 23. On Jan. 24, crowds thronged to the D.C. area to participate in the annual March for Life, which occurs near the date that Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the U.S. in 1973.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, was the principal celebrant and homilist at the vigil Mass. During his remarks to the thousands in attendance on Sunday night – including numerous bishops, priests, seminarians and religious – he underscored the significance in the amount of young people participating in the annual March for Life.
“I want to thank all the young people here, the seminarians, postulants and novices, the children, youth in high schools, the university students and young adults,” he said. “You have been, have become and remain the genuine leaders and pioneers of this March for Life and this Vigil Liturgy.”
“We your elders become exhausted just watching you!” he said. “May you never cease to give your beautiful witness to the gift of human life.”
Cardinal DiNardo also reflected on the “astonishment” of the “jaded media” at the young people who have gathered from throughout the U.S. to serve as “unflagging witnesses to the inestimable worth of each human person.”
“The sad anniversary recalled each year on January 22 has become an invitation to you, one that calls for prayer and vigil, marching and testifying, and a joyous love for human life that is unable to be defeated,” he said.
Cardinal DiNardo then recalled the late Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical “The Gospel of Life,” which he said “proclaimed the good news of the dignity of personal human life with boldness and candor.”
Pope John Paul II “called on us to be a luminous conscience for many whose conscience on the dignity of the human person is distorted and lives in shadows,” he said. The cardinal decried threats against human dignity in current American society, such as denying medical workers conscience rights and funding abortions though taxpayer money.
“The blindness against the rights of the unborn seems to move to an inability to respect the rights of those of us who respect and fight for the rights of the unborn,” he stated.
Cardinal DiNardo said that he spoke “especially to the hearts of the young” in attendance and urged them to be “a pro-life witness among your friends, in your schools and in your parishes.”
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI strongly condemned the Jan. 24 terrorist attack at a Moscow airport, which took the lives of 35 people. He also sent his deep condolences to the families of the victims.
The Pope joined with the Russian people and others mourning the loss of their loved ones by sending a telegram to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. In Moscow, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin declared Wednesday, Jan. 26 to be a day of mourning for the city.
The telegram, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in the Pope's name, said that the attack has caused Pope Benedict “profound suffering” and that he firmly condemns this “serious act of violence.”
The Pope asked Medvedev “to transmit his sentiments of spiritual closeness and deep condolences” to the relatives of the 35 people who were killed and 180 who were injured in what authorities believe to be a terrorist attack by Islamic separatists at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport.
Pope Benedict prayed to God that He would give “heavenly comfort" to those mourning the tragic loss of their loved ones and to those who were injured.
The bombing targeted the international terminal of the airport, which had just received several flights from Europe 30 minutes before the explosion.
Authorities suspect the attack was carried out by separatists from the Chechnya region, who have vowed to bring their fight from the North Caucasus to Russia's heartland as the 2012 presidential elections approach.
No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the bombing.
Lima, Peru, Jan 25, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima, Peru recently spoke out against the push to legalize same-sex “marriage” in the country.
The cardinal criticized the proposals of some presidential and congressional candidates to legalize gay “marriage” or civil unions for same-sex partners. In reality, he said, they are the same thing.
Cardinal Cipriani's remarks came during his radio program Dialogue of Faith on Jan. 22.
He then noted that the Peruvian state does not have to reflect the beliefs of a particular religion, but it should base its laws on respect for the natural order.
“The non-sectarian state understands that from the anthropological, philosophical and anatomical point of view, the natural order … is the complementarity between one man and one woman in the institution of marriage,” he explained.
The cardinal called it strange that a society claiming to be “pluralist and tolerant” does not want the Church to teach Catholics “that marriage has always been between a man and a woman.”
The Peru Posible Party's vice presidential candidate, Carlos Bruce, told the newspaper El Comercio on Jan. 17 that his party will advance same-sex “marriage” if it wins the April 10 presidential elections.
Presidential candidate Manuel Rodriguez Cuadros, as well as congressional candidate Kenji Fujimori of the Social Force Party are also backing proposals for gay “marriage.”
Candidates Luis Castaneda of the National Solidarity Party, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of the Alliance for Great Change, have voiced their opposition to such proposals, but they said they would support “civil unions.”
In Latin America, only Argentina and Mexico City have made same-sex unions equivalent to marriage.
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict said in a message on missionary efforts that the Gospel is not an “exclusive” message to an elite few but rather a gift to be shared and “a piece of good news to be passed on.”
On Jan. 25, the Vatican released the Pope's official statement for the 85th annual World Mission Sunday which will be held on Oct. 23. The event is organized by the Propagation of the Faith and is set aside for Catholics worldwide to recommit themselves to the Church's missionary activity through prayer.
The theme of this year's celebration is, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Pope Benedict opened his remarks by emphasizing that the “announcement of the Gospel is destined for everyone.”
“The Church exists to evangelize,” he said. “Her activity, in conformity with the word of Christ and under the influence of His grace and charity, becomes fully and truly present in all individuals and all peoples in order to lead them to faith in Christ.”
The task of spreading the Gospel, then, “has lost none of its urgency,” the Pope said. The Church cannot “rest easy” at the thought that “there are people who still do not know Christ, who have not yet heard His message of salvation.”
Pope Benedict also addressed the growing number of individuals who've heard the Gospel but have forgotten it, abandoned it, or no longer identify themselves with the Church. He said that in modern times, even traditionally Christian societies are “reluctant to open themselves to the word of faith.”
He cited a cultural shift – influenced by globalization and increasing relativism – as leading to mentalities and lifestyles “that ignore the Evangelical message as if God did not exist, and which exalt the search for well-being, easy earnings, career and success as the goals of life, even at the expense of moral values.”
To those who hear and believe, the Pope said, the Gospel “is not the exclusive prerogative of those who received it, but a gift to be shared, a piece of good news to be passed on.”
“This gift-commitment is entrusted not just to the few, but to all baptized people,” he underscored.
Pope Benedict noted that the mission of evangelization entrusted to the Church is a complex process that includes “various elements.”
He said that missionary activity must “maintain solidarity and sustain the institutions necessary to establish and consolidate the Church,” as well as contribute to improving the living conditions of people in countries most affected by problems of poverty, malnutrition, disease, and lack of health care and education services.
“Ignoring the temporal problems of humanity,” he said, “would not be in keeping with Jesus' own behavior, who 'went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.'”
“Thus, by responsible participation in the mission of Christ, Christians become builders of the peace and solidarity that Christ gives us, and they collaborate in achieving God's plan of salvation for all humankind,” Pope Benedict said.
Rome, Italy, Jan 25, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Loris Capovilla, former personal secretary of Pope John XXIII, recently recalled the late Pope's announcement of the Second Vatican Council.
Media outlets broke the news of the announcement before John XXIII could tell the cardinals because a celebration that day ran longer than expected, the bishop explained.
Bishop Capovilla, 95, spoke about the events on the 52nd anniversary of the council's announcement in an article published Jan. 25 by L’Osservatore Romano.
He noted that the then-Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Domenico Tardini, wrote the following on his calendar for Jan. 20, 1959: “Important audience. Yesterday afternoon His Holiness spent time in reflection and set in stone the agenda for his pontificate. He came up with three ideas: a Roman Synod, an Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) and an update of the Code of Canon Law. He wants to announce these three things next Sunday to the cardinals after the ceremony for the feast of St. Paul.”
Bishop Capovilla said on that Sunday, Jan. 25, 1959, the Pope got up and prayed, but after celebrating Mass, “He remained kneeling longer than usual.”
He then went to the ceremony for the feast of St. Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The ceremony ran longer than scheduled, and before he could announce the convening of Vatican II, the press embargo on the announcement expired. The council was then “broadcast by the media before the Pope could communicate it to the cardinals,” the article said.
The Pope still addressed the Roman Curia, “with trembling and a bit of excitement,” about his plans to hold “a twofold celebration: a diocesan synod for the city and an ecumenical council for the universal Church.”
Bishop Capovilla said the council was given three clear directives: to promote interior renewal among Catholics, to raise awareness among Christians of the reality of the Church and of the tasks she is charged with carrying out, and to call on bishops, with their priests and the laity, to assume responsibility for the salvation of all mankind.
The bishop said that 52 years after announcing the council and 46 years after its conclusion in 1965, four Popes have continually emphasized that it was “an event willed by God” and led by “an old man who rejuvenated the Church” at a time when many thought John XXIII was going to be a “transitional Pope.”
“If Vatican II has not yet achieved its goals, this means that our conversion is a task yet to be fulfilled,” he added.
Thanks to John XXIII, Bishop Capovilla said, referring to certain Vatican II documents, “We know today more than ever who we are and where we are going (Lumen Gentium), what language we should speak and what message we should convey (Dei verbum), how much and how hard we should pray (Sacrosanctum concilium), what attitude we should adopt towards the problems and tragedies of contemporary humanity (Gaudium et spes).”
“These are the four pillars that sustain the building of renewed pastoral ministry and encourage us to listen to God’s voice, to speak to God as his children, and that oblige us to dialogue with all the components of the human family,” he concluded.