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Archive of February 8, 2011

EU calendar publishers reverse course, will include Christian holidays

Brussels, Belgium, Feb 8, 2011 (CNA) - A European Union-published school calendar made a “regrettable omission” in excluding Christian religious holidays, the publisher announced. It has sent out corrections to all teachers who have ordered the edition.

“There was never an intention to discriminate against the Christian religion in this publication,” the European Commission’s Consumer Affairs department stated.

The European Commission and the EU Economic and Social Committee funded the distribution of 3,275,500 copies of the 2010/2011 Europa Diary, a school calendar for secondary school students to help them in homework. Its weekly pages include footnotes to teach students facts they might not know, including holidays of other religions.

The publisher said the omission of Christian holidays occurred in the footnotes. The calendar did include both Muslim and Jewish holidays.

The Christian Democratic Party in France called the omissions “unacceptable.” It filed a petition asking that the calendars not be distributed as printed but replaced with versions that include Christian holidays.

The 2011/2012 edition of the calendar will include the main public and religious holidays celebrated in each of the EU countries.

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Philippines bishops rally Catholics against 'reproductive health' bill

Manila, Philippines, Feb 8, 2011 (CNA) - Church leaders in the Philippines are leading the outcry against the the country's proposed and highly controversial Reproductive Health Bill which would attempt to control population growth through widespread distribution of contraceptives and compulsory sex education in schools.

Local leaders Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa and Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon even encouraged “civil disobedience” among Catholics in response to the legislation, which is currently under congressional consideration.

Although Bishop Arguelles clarified in remarks to the Radio Veritas on Feb. 3 that the intent is not to be “subversive” or anti-government, he underscored the importance of Catholics publicly rejecting the bill. He also defended the bishops' right to “proclaim” Church teaching as the bill makes its way through the country's legislature.

The bishops' comments came shortly after the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral letter strongly condemning the legislation and calling for local Catholics to fight against it.

“Far from being simply a Catholic issue, the RH bill is a major attack on authentic human values and on Filipino cultural values regarding human life that all of us have cherished since time immemorial,” the Jan. 30 pastoral letter read.

The House of Representatives' Committee on Population and Family Relations approved a consolidated version of several measures on the country's Reproductive Health Bill on Jan. 30, according to the Philippine Star.

The bishops' conference argued against the claims of the legislation in their statement, saying that the ideas and methods associated with “reproductive health” fail to protect the health “of the sacred human life that is being formed or born.”

“Placing artificial obstacles to prevent human life from being formed and being born most certainly contradicts this fundamental truth of human life,” they said.

The Church leaders also asserted that spreading contraceptives and teaching sex education in schools to stave off population growth will not effectively address problems related to poverty in the country.

Instead, the bishops called on legislators to allocate resources to building more hospitals and clinics in rural areas, increasing access to health care services, constructing more schools, increasing aid to education for the poor and improving infrastructure.
 

 

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Refusal to air John 3:16 Super Bowl ad censored Jesus, media watchdog says

Washington D.C., Feb 8, 2011 (CNA) - The Fox Broadcasting Company’s refusal to air a Super Bowl commercial which encouraged the reading of the Bible verse John 3:16 “censored” Jesus Christ while ignoring objectionable material, Media Research Center president L. Brent Bozell III said.

“Any censorship of Christianity is analogous to anti-Christian bigotry,” Bozell commented in a Feb. 7 interview with CNA. “When they refuse to show something as simple and as innocent as this, there’s real bigotry at play. They’d never censor a Muslim and they’d never censor a Jew. But Jesus Christ gets censored. And they can’t deny that.”

“Nothing better illustrates how hopelessly out of touch Fox Entertainment is with reality than this,” he continued. “For Fox Entertainment there was absolutely nothing wrong with airing commercials that openly promoted premarital sex, but they considered it ‘offensive’ to cite the Bible. It absolutely boggles the mind.”

The advertisement, produced by the Birmingham, Alabama-based Fixed Point Foundation, encourages viewers to visit the website LookUp316.com, which gives an Evangelical interpretation of the Bible verse John 3:16.

The Fox Broadcasting Company rejected the ad nationally, but it was broadcast just before the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl in the Washington, D.C. and Birmingham markets.

Bozell noted the national controversy over last year’s Super Bowl ad featuring college football star Tim Tebow. Opponents of the Focus on the Family-sponsored ad claimed it would explicitly condemn abortion. Instead, it showed Tebow’s mother Pam talking about her son and urged viewers to “celebrate life.”

The media commentator said that ad “elicited a national yawn, because it turned out there was nothing controversial.”

Bozell, who saw the ad air in the D.C. market, said he thought the reaction to it would be “a smile of surprise” that “something as nice as this gets on television.”

He suggested that Christians, Catholic or Protestant, should contact Fox Entertainment and tell them the ad was a good thing.

“I suspect it will shock them. Thank them.”

He said the entertainment industry is hearing from “the anti-Catholics, and the anti-Christians.”

“It’s time for them to start hearing from Catholics and Christians in general,” Bozell said.

In his view, the unwillingness to market to Christians is a business failure as well as a moral one.

“If Hollywood put its audience above its ideology, it would reach out to the faith-based community, given that it’s probably the biggest single market in America.

“And yet it claims it’s offensive to do so.”

Fox said that as a matter of policy it “does not accept advertising from religious organizations for the purpose of advancing particular beliefs or practices … the advertising submitted clearly delivers a religious message and as a result has been rejected.”

Attendees at sporting events regularly hold up signs referring to the Bible verse John 3:16. In that verse, Jesus declares: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

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Cardinal calls for pro-family policies in Peru

Lima, Peru, Feb 8, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani called on the Peruvian government to implement policies that promote family stability.

In his Feb. 5 radio program, “Dialogue of Faith,” the cardinal noted that family stability “improves economic and social output, diminishes violence and establishes more stable democratic conduct.”

For this reason he urged the government to reform labor laws to allow parents more time with their children and to be more involved in their education. He also said stay-at-home mothers should be given tax-breaks and “some type of special privilege.” 

“If they devote a portion of the workday to caring for their families, they should receive financial recognition,” he added.

Cardinal Cipriani also called on presidential candidates to be consistent in their statements. “If what you say does not correspond with what you think, we have a big problem. I think it is telling that candidates are asked certain things and don’t give answers,” he said.

“The Church has the duty to call people to the moral order and to truthfulness. The lack of truth is a great tragedy in this country, and people have gotten used to be being told lies. We need to salvage the truth more and the debates need to go forward,” the cardinal continued.

He pointed to John Paul II as an example of living the truth consistently. “He went about the world with the truth, exciting young people because they saw him as believable,” the cardinal said.

John Paul II will be beatified May 1.

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Archbishop Gomez reminds Catholic business leaders Christ was an immigrant

Naples, Fla., Feb 8, 2011 (CNA) - Immigration is a “religious and spiritual issue” as much as it is a matter of politics and economics, Los Angeles Coadjutor Archbishop José H. Gomez told Catholic business leaders Feb. 3.

“Immigration tests our commitment as disciples and our faithfulness to the Gospel and mission of his Church,” he said in a keynote address to participants in the annual Legatus Summit. 

He recalled that as an infant Jesus himself, along with Mary and Joseph, were forced to flee into Egypt and lived for a time as immigrants and refugees.

Christians, he said, must ponder the mystery of “why did Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, choose to experience the conditions of an immigrant?”

The Feb. 3-5 meeting of Legatus drew more than 500 top Catholic executives and business owners from around the country to pray and hear talks from a variety of Church and other leaders, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

In his address, Archbishop Gomez, head of the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration, acknowledged that Catholics are as deeply divided over immigration as their fellow citizens.

But he insisted that whatever their political or economic concerns, Catholics are obliged to consider immigration in light of the teachings of Christ and the Church.

“We cannot separate our faith in Jesus from the policies we advocate as citizens,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“Right now in this country, there are a lot of people – a lot of good people – who are saying things they know they should never be saying about immigrants,” he said. “Their anger and frustration is understandable. But their rhetoric and many of their political responses are not worthy of the Gospel. And they are not worthy of America’s proud history as a beacon of hope for the world’s poor and persecuted.”

Archbishop Gomez devoted much of his 35-minute talk to exploring the roots of the Church’s teaching on immigration.

“We care for the immigrant because Jesus commanded it,” he said. “Because he told us that we must seek him and serve him in the least of our brothers and sisters. This is why our Lord endured the humiliations of the immigrant and the stranger.”

Archbishop Gomez also noted that in his parable of the final judgment of souls, Jesus said love for God would be judged by love for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and the immigrant.

“Jesus calls us to true love,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Not love in words alone. But love in deed. A love that reflects the love that God has for each of his children. We cannot say we love the God we do not see unless we love our brothers and sisters whom we do see.”

Archbishop Gomez said current U.S. enforcement policies  – including workplace raids and deportations – do not measure up to the standards of the Gospel and Christian love.

“We are destroying families in the name of enforcing our laws,” he said.

“It is true that many immigrants are in our country illegally. That bothers me. I don’t like it when our rule of law is flouted. And I support just and appropriate punishments. But right now, we are imposing penalties that leave wives without husbands, children without parents. We are deporting fathers and leaving single mothers to raise children on little to no income,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“We are a better people than that,” he added. “We have always been a nation of justice and law. But we have also been a nation of mercy and forgiveness.”

Archbishop Gomez said that Catholics should lead the way in changing the way immigrants and treated. 

“We need you to help remind our neighbors that we are all brothers and sisters, children of God – no matter where we come from, or how we got here, or what kind of documents we possess,” he told the business leaders. 

He said that the nation’s Hispanic immigrants are people with “strong traditions of family and faith, community and hard work.” In addition, he said, most are Catholic and hold “deep conservative values.”

“I believe that the more we get to know them, the more we would want them to be our neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens,” Archbishop Gomez said. “That’s why I believe that today’s immigrants – like generations of immigrants before them – are the hope for tomorrow’s America. We need to find the political will to make them our fellow citizens. If we can, I know that together we will build an America that is stronger, more religious, and more moral.”

Archbishop Gomez, a U.S. citizen born in Monterrey, Mexico, is the highest-ranking Hispanic member of the American Catholic hierarchy. He will assume leadership of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest archdiocese, when Cardinal Roger H. Mahony retires on Feb. 27. 

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Secularism should motivate Christians to evangelize, says Spanish archbishop

Madrid, Spain, Feb 8, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Juan Jose Asenjo of Sevilla, Spain said the attack of secularism should motivate Christians to “proclaim Jesus Christ in word and deed, in order to further evangelization.”

In an interview with the Diario de Sevilla on Feb. 7, Archbishop Asenjo said, “The secularized culture seeks to erase God from public life” through non-Christian media and laws that do not respect the right of parents to educate their children.

He acknowledged that one of the consequences of secularism is the decreasing number of religious marriages, as well as the drop in Mass attendance. However, he also pointed to positive signs such as the increase in the number of Catholics who “take their faith seriously,” who “perhaps live more consistently now than several years ago. 

“That faith also gives us hope for the future,” he said.

Archbishop Asenjo recalled the Pope's Nov. 6-7 visit to Spain and said it was a positive event that strengthened the faith of Catholics and gave an “incentive for hope.”

He said relations between the Church and the Spanish government “are now smooth and cordial” but that “some issues still need to be addressed, such as religion classes and other issues related to morals and customs.”

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Diocese of Rome launches JP II beatification website

Rome, Italy, Feb 8, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Diocese of Rome launched a new website in honor of the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II on May 1.

The site, Karol-Wojtyla.org, is published in seven languages and offers news updates and background information on the late Pope and his cause for canonization.

In addition to showing a live webcam of pontiff's tomb in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica, the site also provides a diocesan-approved prayer for the intercession of John Paul II in 31 languages including Arabic, Russian, Swahili and Chinese.

The website also announced that the much-anticipated beatification ceremony will be open to the public and no tickets will be required to attend.

In what some have called record time, the late Pope's cause sped through the initial trials to prove his sainthood.

At Pope Benedict's bidding, norms stipulating that causes for possible saints begin five years after the individual's death were waived. His cause, as those of others Popes and special cases, also leapfrogged others in what is usually a "first in, first examined" process.

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi assured at a Jan. 14 press conference announcing the beatification that "each of the legislative steps of the inquiry have been fulfilled, they have been taken with care. They have not been facilitated, rather the cause has proceeded with great attention and fidelity."

Pope John Paul II’s cause is also extraordinary in the history of the Church because it will be his immediate successor to preside over the ceremony.

His beatification on May 1, Divine Mercy Sunday, will be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square. Fr. Lombardi explained that the choice is full of significance for the late Pope, who died just a day before the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.

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