Manila, Philippines, Jan 27, 2011 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of the Philippines and other leaders have condemned recent acts of violence in the country, which include a deadly bus bombing and the murder of a Catholic radio journalist.
On Jan. 25 at least five people died and at least 13 were wounded when a packed bus was bombed in Makati City, a suburb of Manila. Initial investigations showed the explosive device was an 81-milimeter mortar which used a cell phone as a detonator.
The country’s police force had already been placed on full alert after President Benigno Aquino’s warning of an elevated terror threat, CBCP News reports.
Teodoro Bacani, retired Bishop of Novaliches, said the Church “firmly denounces” the violence.
“We hope you will realize that killing people will do nothing good. Violence does not solve any problem,” Bacani said, addressing the perpetrator.
Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez of Caloocan called on the government to reach a quick resolution of the incident. He also called on authorities to be more vigilant and proactive in preventing crimes.
“Let the enforcers of law and order wake up. We cannot just ignore this alarming incident,” he remarked.
Violence also took the life of Catholic radio journalist and environmental advocate Dr. Gerardo Ortega. After his Jan. 24 morning radio show he was gunned down in a store along the national highway in Palawan City, in the western island province of Palawan.
Ortega, who was also a veterinarian, had been receiving death threats since his radio program went on the air in 2009, his daughter said.
He was involved in a campaign to protect the indigenous communities of the island and his show often featured missionaries, NGOs and environmental groups opposed to large mining projects authorized by the central and provincial governments of the Philippines.
The mining projects put the indigenous peoples’ survival at risk.
Artiso Mandawa, Chairman of Ancestral Land Domain Watch Network of Palawan, said Ortega exposed bribery in the government, especially in the endorsement of mining projects.
A suspect has been arrested in the case and is in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation.
Ortega is survived by his wife Patty and five children.
Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Health Association has endorsed legislation to restrict federal funding of abortion in the health care law passed last year despite its belief that the legislation already prevents it.
In a Jan. 24 letter to Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-Penn.), Catholic Health Association president and CEO Sr. Carol Keehan offered support for the Protect Life Act, H.R. 358. She praised the congressman’s efforts to “ensure the protection of the unborn and of providers’ conscience rights.”
“While we continue to believe the current provisions of the Affordable Care Act prevent federal funding of abortion, your legislation will provide further protection by codifying the ‘Hyde amendment’ relative to the new health care reform law,” she wrote.
The bill would also prevent the use of federal funds to subsidize health care plans that cover abortion.
The place of abortion funding in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was a point of major controversy. The Stupak Amendment, which would have restricted abortion funding and subsidies for abortion-providing insurance plans in the health care legislation, initially passed the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate.
When the passage of the health care bill was still in doubt, the Catholic Health Association broke from the U.S. bishops and other pro-life opponents of the bill to support the legislation.
Pro-life Democrats, including Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, later settled for a compromise executive order from President Barack Obama in exchange for their support of the bill.
Critics of the executive order said its funding restrictions would not withstand judicial scrutiny and did not prevent subsidies for health plans which cover abortion, unlike the Hyde Amendment. They also suggested the very existence of the order indicated the legislation itself was flawed.
President Obama gave Sr. Keehan a presidential pen he used to sign the final legislation.
In the Catholic Health Association’s recent letter to Rep. Pitts, Sr. Keehan also expressed appreciation that the Protect Life Act adds to the Weldon Amendment’s conscience protections for hospitals and health care providers.
“(W)e must continue to work for the Hyde and Weldon amendments in the annual appropriations cycle until we can make those protections for unborn life and conscience rights truly permanent,” Sr. Keehan said.
Rep. Pitts, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, is sponsor of the Protect Life Act. The legislation presently has 97 co-sponsors, including pro-life Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinksi of Illinois.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, urged Congress to pass the legislation in a Jan. 20 letter.
He said the proposal would bring the health care reform law into line with policies on abortion and conscience protections that have “long prevailed” in other federal health programs.
Honolulu, Hawaii, Jan 27, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Larry R. Silva of Honolulu, Hawaii says he was “shocked and extremely disappointed” to discover that his second-in-command at the diocese, Fr. Marc Alexander, was leaving his ministry for a post he had already accepted in the administration of Governor Neil Abercrombie.
“He was a well respected priest,” Bishop Silva told CNA on Jan. 26. “This news has been quite devastating to many.”
Fr. Alexander, who had served as a diocesan priest for 25 years, told Bishop Silva on Jan. 16 that he had lined up a job as the governor's Coordinator on Homelessness, and would be leaving the responsibilities he had taken on during the past five years as Bishop Silva's Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia.
The priest had submitted his resume through the governor's transition website and was hired. While acknowledging the change as “shocking” and “not something that happens every day,” Fr. Alexander told reporters on Jan. 20 that he had felt called “in a different direction.” He mentioned that he had long considered leaving the priesthood, saying he believed Bishop Silva would understand.
His bishop, however, had not seen the move coming. “At the end of December,” Bishop Silva recalled in a statement released by the diocese on Jan. 20, “I announced that I had granted Father Marc Alexander the six month sabbatical he had requested for rest, study, and spiritual renewal.” In light of his departure, he said, “I am sure that many will be as shocked and surprised as I was.”
As Bishop Silva explained on Jan. 26, Fr. Alexander has not lost either the spiritual gifts, or the sacred obligations, that he received at ordination. However, having abandoned his ministry, he is no longer permitted to celebrate the sacraments, or perform other priestly functions, under all but the most urgent circumstances.
“Marc Alexander is still a priest,” the bishop explained, “but his faculties have been withdrawn. He has not requested dismissal from the clerical state, nor has it been granted.”
“However, in light of his decision to abandon the active priestly ministry, his 'license' to minister, granted by the bishop, has been withdrawn. He may not licitly perform any specific priestly functions. He may give absolution to someone only if that person is in danger of death. Otherwise, he is not to function as a priest,” the bishop said.
He also rejected Fr. Alexander's implication that his secular career could be considered as simply another kind of “calling.” Instead, he expressed hopes for the priest's return to the work of his vocation.
“Father Alexander has served the Diocese of Honolulu with great distinction as a priest for twenty-five years,” he said, highlighting how he had “contributed greatly to the Diocese in his last five years as Vicar General.”
“We are grateful for all he has done,” Bishop Silva said. “Let us pray for him.”
Although Fr. Alexander's move to a secular political post is highly unusual, it is not without precedent. Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and onetime Filipino Governor Eduardo Panlilo were both ordained as priests, and Paraguay's current President Fernando Lugo is a former bishop.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 27, 2011 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Xalapa, Mexico is warning that the abuse suffered by Central Americans traveling through Mexico is “an evident sign of societal decay.”
The archdiocese added in a Jan. 23 statement that Christians must not remain indifferent to the injustice. The message was sent in order to raise awareness of the mistreatment suffered by Central American migrants on their way to the United States.
The statement noted that being a Christian is not only about fighting against personal sin but also about working for a more just and kind world.
Mexico and Honduras need to improve relations in order “to ensure the security and unrestricted transit” of immigrants, the archdiocese continued. The “State Commission on Human Rights should also insist that the humiliations, abuse, kidnappings and extortion of all of these brothers and sisters of ours cease.”
The archdiocese thanked the priests, religious and laity who “as good Samaritans,” offer food, shelter and clothing “to those most in need.”
A serious problem
On Jan. 6, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission reported that in 2010 there were 214 cases of migrant kidnappings. One of the most chilling cases took place last August when 72 migrants from Central and South American were murdered by members of Mexico's drug gangs.
At the time, Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar of San Salvador, El Salvador condemned the massacre and asked that agreements be established to protect the undocumented.
Rome, Italy, Jan 27, 2011 (CNA) - A parish priest in Turkey is calling for a “fair trial that establishes the truth” about the murder of Bishop Luigi Padovese.
Bishop Luigi Padovese was the apostolic vicar of Anatolia and the president of the bishops' conference of Turkey. He was stabbed and killed by his chauffeur in June 2010.
Fr. Domenico Bertogli, a parish priest in the Turkish city of Antioch, spoke with the Italian news agency SIR on Jan. 26 calling authorities to move forward on the case. “There is no news about a possible trial in the homicide of Bishop Padovese. Perhaps the investigations are moving forward but we do not know.”
The priest noted that Murat Altun, the man who killed Bishop Padovese, was moved to Istanbul to receive medical treatment.
Fr. Bertogli also recalled a Jan. 23 gathering of Christians in Turkey to celebrate both the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. He emphasized that “these are special moments in which the small number of faithful our churches have can come together and regain our confidence and hope for the future.”
“As a small minority we often feel alone and abandoned. We are anxiously awaiting the appointment of the man who will succeed Bishop Padovese,” Fr. Bertogli said.
Bishop Luigi Padovese
Bishop Padovese, 63, was stabbed to death at his home in Ikerendum by his chauffeur Murat Altun, on June 3, 2010. That morning, the bishop was preparing to travel to Cyprus to participate in Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island.
Originally from Milan, Italy, he joined the Capuchin Friars Minors and was ordained a priest in 1973. He was elevated to bishop in 2004.
He was very committed to ecumenical work, dialogue with Islam and the revival of the various Christian communities in Turkey.
Peoria, Ill., Jan 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Diocese of Peoria has resumed its promotion of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s cause for beatification despite its dispute with the Archdiocese of New York over the final resting place of the great evangelist’s remains.
In November 2010 the diocese said it was no longer in a position to continue its nine years of work on Archbishop Sheen’s beatification and canonization. The Archdiocese of New York’s failure to transfer Sheen’s body to a cathedral tomb in his hometown of Peoria had upset the diocese and stalled plans to create a national shrine for him there.
Now Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria has announced that the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation has resumed its efforts to advance Sheen’s cause.
“After further consultation, and having heard the desire of the faithful to see the cause advance, Bishop Jenky, as president of the Sheen Foundation, is happy to work with the postulator in Rome and is hopeful that the cause will advance quickly,” the foundation said in a Jan. 27 statement.
The foundation added that the Archdiocese of New York’s failure to fulfill a verbal promise to transfer Sheen’s remains caused “great upset and even scandal among those who had so long supported the cause.” The people and clergy of the Diocese of Peoria were “particularly distressed,” it said.
Patricia Gibson, chancellor of the Diocese of Peoria and an officer of the Sheen Foundation, explained that Bishop Jenky felt compelled at the time to pause the beatification effort “in light of the months of unresolved questions regarding the transfer of the remains.”
“Even though this issue remains unsettled, Bishop Jenky received encouragement from cardinals, bishops and the faithful from around the world, and especially from within his own diocese,” she said. Bishop Jenky has asked the Vatican congregation for saints to help resolve the question of the tomb, while also definitively deciding to continue the foundation’s work to advance Archbishop Sheen’s cause.
Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Sheen Foundation, said he was “so happy” to see the foundation’s work continue in Peoria.
“Sheen was born in Peoria. His cause for sainthood was begun in Peoria. And I look forward to seeing this good work completed in Peoria,” he commented.
Sheen has a significant history in both Peoria and New York City. He first served as an altar boy in Peoria’s cathedral and was ordained a priest for the diocese in 1919. After international studies, he briefly served as a pastor there in 1926.
He was ordained as an auxiliary bishop in New York City in 1951 and broadcast his famous television program “Life is Worth Living” from there. He was Bishop of Rochester from 1966 until his 1969 retirement and he was buried in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City after his death in 1979.
Sheen was one of the first national television personalities and an author of bestselling works on Christianity and Jesus Christ.
More information about his life is available at the Sheen Foundation website: http://www.ArchbishopSheenCause.org
Rome, Italy, Jan 27, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genova, Italy said that priests should follow the model of Pope Benedict XVI in fulfilling their missions without fear of criticism.
The country's bishops were gathered in Ancona, Italy for the conclusion of their winter meetings on Jan. 27. Cardinal Bagnasco, president of the bishops’ conference, gave the homily during the closing Mass in the city's cathedral.
"If the nihilistic culture tends to erase the interior life of people, priests must help the faithful to rediscover it,” Cardinal Bagnasco. “And in this mission they cannot be afraid of incomprehension or criticisms."
"The example to follow is that of Pope Benedict XVI, who teaches us humility, the disarming clarity of the truth, the lucid wisdom of dialogue, the ardent prudence of action, freedom before the world and the courage that comes from knowing he is in the hands of God."
Cardinal Bagnasco added that priests have the task of maintaining their hope without hesitation. This hope enables them to respond to the expectations "not only of the Catholic community, but also those the whole of society demands of us — despite our limits and weaknesses — words that echo those of the Lord."
"We are called and driven to put the light of our priesthood in service to the world, to relate it to the many spheres of life, and to illuminate the perennial questions of the mystery of pain and death, the meaning of our being, each of our destines, the reason for this extraordinary and dramatic universe and the moral good and evil," the cardinal said.
He encouraged priests to fight against the routine that makes "life fade" and "dulls the faith," which "numbs the vibration of the soul before the Eucharistic mystery."
The cardinal exhorted his fellow priests to "remember daily the 'yes' to him who chose us by his mercy and who invested us with his priesthood."
Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2011 (CNA) - Speaking for the U.S. bishops, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 26 that the country should not return to a model of immigration enforcement based on workplace raids. Instead, he urged lawmakers to seek immigration reform that is both humane and just.
“Immigration is ultimately a humanitarian issue, because it impacts the basic human rights and dignity of the human person,” he explained in his written testimony. “The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops believes that the humanitarian costs of workplace raids are immeasurable, and unacceptable in a civilized society.” Archbishop Gomez chairs the conference's Committee on Migration.
With their new majority in the House of Representatives, some Republicans are seeking a return to the immigration enforcement strategies of the Bush administration, which focused on arresting groups of unauthorized migrant workers. The Obama administration has actually deported greater numbers of illegal immigrants, while shifting its enforcement focus onto employers that hire them.
Archbishop Gomez rejected any notion that the government should place its highest priority on rounding up those who have broken U.S. immigration laws. The workplace raids, he said, often had the effect of breaking up families, especially by separating children from their parents for significant periods of time.
While acknowledging the nation's duty to secure its borders and enforce civil law, Archbishop Gomez indicated that the family –as an institution which is prior to any state– must be given priority, as a matter of natural law.
Law enforcement, he said, should not be carried out in a manner that destroys the stability and integrity of vulnerable families. “The U.S. Catholic Bishops have witnessed first-hand the sufferings of immigrant families, and are deeply troubled by the collateral human consequences of enforcement raids on the family unit.”
“The U.S. Catholic Bishops believe that immigrants should come to the United States lawfully,” he stated. “But we also understand that the current immigration legal framework does not adequately reunify families, and is non-responsive to our country's need for labor.”
The economic aspect of illegal immigration is a priority for House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R–Texas), who said on the day of the immigration hearings that “citizens and legal immigrants should not be forced to compete with illegal workers for jobs.” Kumar Kibble, Deputy Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, responded to the chairman's concern by noting that a “focus on holding employers accountable” was addressing the same problem more comprehensively.
For his part, Archbishop Gomez noted that citizens and legally authorized immigrants were often unwilling to take jobs in the difficult, low-skilled industries that employ unauthorized workers. He also observed that many of these workers, particularly those from Mexico, had found it “impossible for many to earn a living wage and meet the basic needs of their families” in their country of origin.
“It is clear that another approach is necessary,” he said. “We support comprehensive immigration reform to fix what has become a broken system.”
He explained that such reform would include earned legalization for immigrants of proven character, reform of the family-based immigration system, expansion and streamlining of temporary worker programs, and greater care for immigrants' right to due process under the law.
“By increasing lawful means for migrants to enter, live, and work in the United States,” he noted, “law enforcement will be better able to focus upon those who truly threaten public safety: drug and human traffickers, smugglers, and would-be terrorists.”