Archive of February 7, 2011

Catholic nurses seeing rise in threats to consciences, association reports

Vatican City, Feb 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic health care workers are facing a worldwide erosion of spiritual and moral standards in their profession, according to the leader of a Vatican-affiliated organization for Catholic nurses.

"In the United States, the biggest problem that Catholic nurses are facing is the ability to use their conscience," said Marylee Meehan, president of the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medical-Social Assistants, or CICIAMS.

The International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medical-Social Assistants is a Dublin-based umbrella organization that unites national associations of Catholic nurses, midwives and health assistants from 26 active nations on five continents.

The international scope of the nurses' organization allows it to see trends in ethical and moral realms.

In Rome to speak at a Vatican seminar on world health issues, Meehan told CNA that pro-life issues are at the top of U.S. health workers' concerns.

Many young nurses and health assistants are "timid" about breaching the subject, especially in regard to abortions. Veterans fear that if they speak out, or refuse to take part in certain procedures they will be fired.

"It's a problem, when you want to apply for a job and you will not provide abortions, they will not accept you," said Meehan about some U.S. hospitals.

She explained that an applicant to a maternity unit can be screened out with direct questions about their position on the issue. Those with the courage to call themselves pro-life at a job interview could be blocked from serious consideration.

Meehan seeks to provide support for these men and women through their national associations to give them voice and a place to share their stories. It is necessary, she said, because "somebody made abortion legal, but that didn't make it moral."

On an international level, the association is witnessing an "implosion" where "new cultural trends" are eroding the spiritual side of health care, she said in her address at the seminar. The "circle of Catholic health institutions" is not immune to these cultural changes, she said.

She cited the recent stripping of the "Catholic" status of St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona for providing an abortion in "clear violations of the U.S. Bishops' Ethical and Medical Directives" as an example of an action "contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church."

In addition to abortion and euthanasia, the committee is seeing concerns related to "children's condoms," in-vitro fertilization, AIDS transmission and the concept of bearing children as a "right." There are also questions about adequate medical attention for the elderly.

Amid the many issues that assail the nurse's conscience today, "it takes extreme courage to be a Catholic living the Catholic life in their professional environment," said Meehan.

The concern of American nurses is apparent from the most recent member statistics. The National Association of Catholic Nurses in the U.S. saw its membership triple in 2010, said Meehan.

She said the increase was also due to the fact that the Catholic association is recognized by employers who require staff to hold membership in a national association. The NACN is a valid option for anyone, even non-Catholics, she said.

Although European memberships have been on the decline in recent decades, some places such as Ireland remain strong. Mission nations like India, which now has more than 10,000 members, have shown solid growth. Mexico also has a strong association.

The Catholic nurses association seeks to provide a forum for collaboration and communion among all of them. It holds a world congress every four years to bring member-associations together. The next will be in Croatia in 2013.

It also serves in an intermediary with the Vatican and provides them a collective voice at the United Nations or the World Health Organization.

National associations are united by more than just their membership, said Meehan. "When you talk about Catholic health professionals, it means that they are united by an understanding and the protection of the sanctity of life. Catholic nurses are doing it for God and we're conscious of doing it for God."

To those people who see Catholicism as "anti-everything," Meehan hopes the good things Catholics are doing in health care worldwide will knock down barriers.

"Ears will be opened" when people hear about the good works of Catholic nurses, said Meehan. "And then, when we have to talk about issues they don't want to hear, they'll start listening."

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Catholics in Argentina applaud priest for courageously defending faith

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 7, 2011 (CNA) - An organization in Argentina has launched a campaign in support of Fr. Jorge Daniel Gomez, a priest  being attacked by the media for stopping an anti-Catholic performance.

The organization,, said it decided to start the online campaign because priests should be supported when they stand up for the truth, and not just criticized for their failings.

A video posted on YouTube shows a clip from a Jan. 13 event known as the Chivo National Festival. After Fr. Gomez, a priest from the Diocese of San Rafael, and his folklore band performed, a group called The Lutherieces took the stage to perform a number from “Les Luthiers.”

The Lutherieces were dressed as friars and performed a number mocking priests, saints and Catholic devotions, especially chastity. 

Fr. Gomez, who was in the audience, bypassed security, came on stage and took one of the microphones. He addressed the group in a firm but calm voice. “Could we please ask the group to continue with a different number because we are all Catholic here, I am a priest and I won’t allow my chastity to be tarnished.”

“I know you are excited to be here, but could you do something else?” The crowd of more than 8,000 broke out in applause, and the group went on to perform a different song.

The next day, members of the media and social networking groups began attacking the priest. then stepped in to defend Fr. Gomez.

Fr. Gomez is a “courageous priest who did not hesitate to publicly stand up for the faith of his people which was being attacked on stage,” the organization said.

“Fr. Jorge teaches us that we need to be courageous when defending the faith, that when our pastors speak out, the people will follow them, that it is possible to be respectful and firm at the same time.”

The video can be viewed at:

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Vatican looks to expand dialogue with non-believers to US

Rome, Italy, Feb 7, 2011 (CNA) - As Paris prepares to host a new forum for dialogue between believers and non-believers, the Vatican official in charge of the initiative sees interest cropping up all over the globe.

The first major "Courtyard of the Gentiles" meeting is due to take place this March 24-25 in the French capital. The Pontifical Council for Culture-promoted program aims to engage leaders of French culture in dialogue on issues of religion, enlightenment and common reason.

Important sites of culture, including the storied Sorbonne University, have been chosen for a series of encounters.

There will also be a moment for young people to meet in a more public "courtyard," the large square outside the Basilica of Notre Dame, to have discussions. Pope Benedict XVI will address the young people in a video message. Inside the basilica, the ecumenical Taize community will be leading a prayer service.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the head of the council for culture, told Vatican Radio Feb. 5 that interest is being generated around the world. The council has heard from a number of cities interested in the possibility of hosting such a forum of their own.

One institution, the University of Bologna, Italy – called the Alma Mater Studiorum ­– plans to hold a gathering next week, ahead of the Paris event in March.

On Feb. 12, the university will bring back the tradition of "disputed questions." Cardinal Ravasi said that this was traditionally an exchange of opinions on a variety of subjects, whereas questions in the coming event will pertain to matters of belief and non-belief.

During the talks, four professors will exchange viewpoints on God while examining law, philosophy, literature and science. Teachings from Pascal, St. Augustine and Nietzsche will be read aloud by another participant in between the academics' remarks.

For Cardinal Ravasi, the amount of interest is "very surprising." His original plan in Paris –what he called "the city-emblem of secularism" – was to host a more low-key event at a Catholic institution.

"Then, though, I saw this branching out. And this branching out is extending itself ever further and with very different typologies. It will now be our task to continue it, but most of all to allow others to do it."

The council is thinking of staging one in Tirana, Albania and is thinking about setting up another in Stockholm, Sweden in November of this year. The latter event would be particularly "curious," he said, because of the initiative's Catholic roots and expected participation from Lutherans.

For the cardinal, there is no limit to the possibilities. He spoke of "crossing the ocean and going to the most remote countries, beginning with the United States, where there has already been interest in Chicago and Washington."

Afterwards, he is setting his sights on countries with a small population of Catholics but a presence of "a religiosity of another kind."

"Let's think to Asia," he said.

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Pope urges new archbishops to draw people out of 'stormy seas'

Vatican City, Feb 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI ordained five new archbishops Feb. 5 at the Vatican and called upon them to "throw out the nets of the Gospel into the stormy seas of our time" to draw men and women out of "the salty waters of death."

The five are beginning their service either in posts in Vatican departments or in its diplomatic service. Among them was Savio Hon Tai-Fai, the new secretary of the Vatican's congregation for mission churches who hopes to improve relations with China.

Of the other four, Marcello Bartolucci is the new secretary for saints' causes and Celso Morga Iruzubieta that of the Congregation for the Clergy. Both Antonio Guido Filipazzi and Edgar Peña Parra are destined for diplomatic service.

Archbishop Peña Parra was appointed as nuncio to Pakistan last week. Archbishop Filipazzi has not yet been given a destination.

The Pope told the five during his homily that "the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few."

"Although it may seem that a large part of the modern world, of the men and women of today, turn their backs on God and consider faith as a thing of the past, there is still a longing that justice, peace and love will finally be established, that poverty and suffering will be overcome, that mankind may find happiness," he said.

As bishops, the Gospel passage on the harvest sheds light on two of their missions: to work to bring about God's will on earth and to cooperate with Christ along the way, said the Pope.

The line from the Acts of the Apostles, "they devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers," gives them guidelines for being pastors, he explained.

Devotion and constancy are essential because "only where there is stability can there also be growth," he said.

Communion with the Apostles and God is another task of a pastor, said the Pope. "May this chain of communion not be broken!" he exclaimed. "The essence of apostolic succession is to maintain our communion with the people who visibly and tangibly met with the Lord."

Unity in the Church must be ensured, he said.

For the "breaking of the bread," he told them that the "core" of the Church and of the Christian being is the Eucharist. "The Lord gives himself to us; the Risen One enters my intimate self and wishes to transform me, bringing me into profound communion with Him."

Pope Benedict also spoke about prayer, telling the archbishops that it is personal, but "never an exclusively private affair. Only in community "can we be children of our Father, to whom the Lord taught us to pray."

The Pope's words on communion were particularly far reaching with the presence of several hundred Chinese faithful in St. Peter's for their countryman's ordination. The first reading at Mass was read in Chinese by Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai's niece.

It is hoped that the Chinese archbishop will be able to improve Vatican-China relations which have been on the rocks since November when the Chinese government sanctioned a bishop's "ordination" without approval from the Pope.

Benedict XVI concluded his homily with a call to action aimed at the new archbishops. He told them to "throw out the nets of the Gospel into the stormy seas of our time, to obtain the adherence of men and women to Christ, so as to draw them out ... from the salty waters of death and from the dark where the light of heaven does not reach.

"You must bring them onto the earth, to live in communion with Jesus Christ."

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New papal representative faces great challenges in Pakistan, says Mexican archbishop

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 7, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Christophe Pierre of Mexico recently remarked that the new apostolic nuncio to Pakistan will have an important mission in proclaiming Christ to the Muslim country.

Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra was recently named nuncio – or papal representative – to Pakistan. He had previously served as an advisor to the Nunciature in Mexico.

“I am thrilled about the Holy Father’s decision to choose Msgr. Edgar Pena Parra. He has been a great collaborator,” Archbishop Pierre said in an interview published by the Archdiocese of Mexico City’s News Service on Feb. 4.

Archbishop Pierre is the apostolic nuncio to Mexico.

Archbishop Pierre called Archbishop Pena Parra “a man of great human experience.” Born in Venezuela, he has served the Church in Africa, Europe and Latin America for 18 years. “The nature of the work he is taking on will be different than in Mexico. Circumstances will require that he work closer with a minority Church,” he said. “As a member of the Catholic Church he will be charged with proclaiming Christ …  in Pakistan.”

The new nuncio will face “great tensions that result from the differences between religions and cultures, and he will have to observe, listen, accompany and dialogue. He will have the important task of maintaining diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Pakistani government,” Archbishop Pierre said.

Archbishop Pena Parra is “a good priest, devoted to the mission of the Church, a good servant of the Church. Personally I admire the way in which we have formed a community of brothers at the Nunciature, working together in service to the Church and to Mexico,” he continued.

The new nuncio to Pakistan comes amid debate over the country’s blasphemy law, which punishes any speech or action against Allah, Mohammed or the Koran.

The blasphemy law is linked to the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother accused of insulting Mohammed. Since her detention, she has denied the charges and argued she is being persecuted for her Christian faith.

The bishops of Mexico will hold a ceremony on Feb. 18 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to thank Archbishop Pena Parra for his work at the Nunciature.

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