Archive of February 9, 2011

New College of St. Mary Magdalen president pledges renewal, service to Church

Warner, N.H., Feb 9, 2011 (CNA) - Music scholar Dr. George Harne has been appointed the new president of New Hampshire’s College of Saint Mary Magdalen. “Our best years are ahead of us,” he declared.

“I am humbled by the unanimous support of the Board of Trustees,” said Harne in a Feb. 7 announcement.

“The College of Saint Mary Magdalen has a future that is at once bright and filled with hope,” he continued. “We are committed to renewing Catholic higher education through our program in the liberal arts and we look forward to serving the Church regionally and nationally through our new Liturgical and Catechetical Institutes.”

Harne has served as the college’s academic dean since 2009. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University and master’s degrees from Princeton, St. John’s College and the University of Washington.

He succeeds President Jeff Karls, who will stay on as the college’s vice president of finance and operations.

“I am honored to follow in the footsteps of Jeff Karls who has led the College of Saint Mary Magdalen to a position of national prominence,” Harne stated. “His love for the College and the Church, and his vision for the future of the College have been an inspiration.”

He said the college would take Bl. John Henry Newman, St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope Benedict XVI as its guides in its efforts to “renew the College of Saint Mary Magdalen as a model of Catholic collegiate life that is faithful to the Magisterium and deeply rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition.”

Harne’s scholarly work includes published papers on medieval music, Renaissance music, music in antiquity, and the contemporary philosophy of music. As a tutor at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen, he has taught courses in philosophy, Latin and Mathematics. He has also taught in the college’s honors program.

At Princeton he was active in the Center for the Study of Religion and the Program in Hellenic Studies. He has been honored with Princeton’s Stanley J. Seeger and Naumberg Fellowships and the Mustard Seed Foundation’s Harvey Fellowship.

The College of Saint Mary Magadalen changed its name from Magdalen College in 2010 to place a greater emphasis on the name of its patron saint and to emphasize its desire for renewed Catholic identity. The school was founded in Warner, New Hampshire in 1973.

The college’s website is

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Indonesian Muslim mob attacks priest, burns three churches

Temanggung, Indonesia, Feb 9, 2011 (CNA) - An estimated 1,500 Indonesian Muslims destroyed three churches before attacking an orphanage and hospital in Central Java on Feb. 8. The mob was protesting a court's decision not to sentence a Christian man to death for defaming Islam.

Antonius Bawengan, 58, received a five-year prison sentence – the maximum penalty allowed by law – under the “blasphemy law” that has been invoked to silence critics of Islam. However, the crowd  assembled at his trial believed the sentence was too lenient, and demanded his death. They assaulted a group of police officers that reportedly numbered around 1,000 before moving against the churches.

The crowd first attacked the Catholic Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, in an assault that seriously wounded a missionary priest of the Holy Family congregation. The missionary, identified only as Fr. Saldanha, was beaten by the mob as he attempted to defend the tabernacle containing the Eucharist against desecration.

The crowd later set fire to two Protestant churches, Bethel Church and Pantekosta Church, before terrorizing a Catholic orphanage and a hospital run by the Sisters of Providence.

Archbishop Johannes M.T. Pukasumarta of Semarang, the Secretary of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, told Fides news agency that he believed the outbreak of violence seemed to have been “planned and orchestrated” by extremist groups elsewhere in the country, as a response to the Bawengan case. 

“We are shocked by this event,” said Archbishop Pujasumarta. “The town of Temanggung is normally a quiet place. The extremists have come from outside.”

He urged Christians to work for reconciliation and forgiveness to the greatest possible extent, rather than retaliating. “Violence is never a good solution,” the archbishop observed, calling on “everyone, Muslims and Christians, to address issues with a sense of civility and in a spirit of fraternity.”

“I invite the Catholic faithful and all Christians not to react to the violence. We want to be a sign of peace to all.”

Nevertheless, the archbishop admitted to Vatican Radio that he felt profoundly “disappointed” by the mounting intolerance of a “group of fanatics” in his country.

Two days before the church attacks, a mob of Muslim extremists in West Java attacked and killed three members of a small Islamic sect, the Ahmadiyah. Video footage of the attack showed attackers stoning their victims to death, then beating the corpses as police officers looked on.

Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, described the mob's killing of the Ahmadiyah followers as “just more deadly evidence that blasphemy laws are the cause of sectarian violence.” 

Domestic and international observers have also noted the negligence of police in both of the recent attacks. Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, called for a “a full investigation into why the police absolutely failed to prevent this mob from going on a violent rampage” against the Ahmadiyah in West Java.

Fr. Ignazio Ismartono, a Jesuit priest who oversees inter-religious dialogue for the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, observed to Fides that “the violence in Temanggung was in preparation for days” before the church burnings and other anti-Christian violence actually occurred.

During those preceding days, he said, “the police did nothing to prevent public disorder.”

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Vatican liturgy committee welcomes new US members

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix and Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey met in Rome February 2-3 with the other new members and staff of the Vox Clara Committee which advises the Vatican about English-language liturgical books.

Both U.S. bishops were new to the committee, which met in the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome. Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, who is the congregation prefect, and congregation secretary Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, O.P., met with the Vox Clara Committee on the meeting’s second day.

Committee chairman Cardinal George Pell of Sydney thanked the congregation for its consistent support. With the work of the translation of the missal being substantially complete, he said, work should continue on ensuring its effective reception.

Both the prefect and the secretary stressed the importance of providing authentic translations to strengthen communion in the Church.

Retired Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans was the only other American bishop at the meeting, according to a Vox Clara press release published on the blog of committee member Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa.

Bishop Olmsted was named Vox Clara’s first vice-chairman, while Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay was named second vice-chairman. Bishop Serratelli was named secretary of the committee, while the treasurer was Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, who did not attend the meeting.
The Vox Clara Committee expressed satisfaction that the English-speaking world has welcomed the missal’s new translation. The committee said it is convinced that the new translation has spiritual and catechetical value for the liturgical renewal envisioned by the Second Vatican Council.

The committee heard reports on the congregation’s recently published study guide for the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Members were hopeful that the text will help bishops in the English-speaking world establish programs to prepare priests for their work to implement the Missal.

Also discussed were the process for the completion of the Roman Missal and the actions of various bishops’ conferences to publish the Lectionary for Mass.

The committee also examined the continuing translation of the rest of the texts of Roman Rite liturgical books as envisioned by “Liturgiam authenticam,” a Vatican instruction concerning authentic liturgy.

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New Confession app is no substitution for the sacrament, Vatican says

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The sacrament of Confession "cannot be substituted by any computer application," the Vatican said Feb. 9. The remarks by papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, came amid a flurry of misleading international media reports on a new application developed for Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod.

"Confession: A Roman Catholic App" helps Catholics prepare for confession by offering a “step-by-step” guide to the sacrament and a “personalized examination of conscience.”

Many media outlets wrongly reported that the application allowed Catholics to go to Confession on the phone or online.

Fr. Lombardi said the essence of the sacrament involves the intimate conversation of the believer and the priest and the presence of Jesus Christ.

"It is essential to understand well that the Sacrament of Penance requires necessarily the rapport of personal dialogue between penitent and confessor and absolution by the present confessor," he said.

"This cannot be substituted by any computer application. There needs to be emphasis put on this to avoid misunderstandings. One cannot speak in any way of 'confession by iPhone'.”

He said that the new application might have “true pastoral” uses as a “digital pastoral aid.” But, those who use it, must be aware that it is “not at all a substitute for the sacrament.”

The application was developed by Patrick Leinen, developer and co-founder of Little iApps and has been approved by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend and by the U.S. bishops’ top doctrine official, Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM. Cap.

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St. Peter Canisius a model for how to spread the Gospel, Pope says

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - To spread the Gospel, a believer needs a personal relationship with Jesus, an upright moral life, and a good prayer life, Pope Benedict XVI said Feb. 9.

Speaking to some 5,000 people gathered in Paul VI Hall for his weekly general audience, the Pope continued his series on the “doctors of the Church,” those saints whose teachings are held by the Church to be especially important for Catholics.  

He spoke on 16th-century saint and doctor, St. Peter Canisius. He was remembered in particular by the Pope for the task entrusted to him of “revitalizing” Germany after the Protestant Reformation.

Canisius was born in Nijmegen, Holland in 1521 and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1546. He ministered and taught at civil and Church institutions in what is now Germany and Austria. He led the Jesuit presence throughout Germany and created a network of communities from which the counter-Reformation sprang.

The saint discussed religion with Protestants in Germany, worked as a Vatican diplomat to Poland and was in Italy to attend the closing session of the Council of Trent. His accomplishments included the editing of the complete works of Cyril of Alexandria and of St. Leo the Great, as well as the Letters of St. Jerome.

He died in 1597. In 1925, Pope Pius XI canonized him and proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church.

Pope Benedict remembered him during the general audience address for his ability to “harmonize fidelity to dogmatic principles with the respect due to each individual.”

He called it “extraordinary” that in the difficult period following the Reformation, the saint “avoided severity and the rhetoric of anger ... and sought only to explain our spiritual roots and to revitalize faith in the Church.”

St. Peter Canisius emphasized the liturgy and the sacraments in his writings – namely the three part “Catecheses” series – which were directed to youth and the greater public to improve basic spiritual education.

“Catholic doctrine was displayed with questions and answers, briefly, in biblical terms, and with much clarity and without controversial side notes.”

Pope Benedict remembered that the effects of the saint's catechetical teachings were so powerful for German Catholics that in Bavaria region in the early 1900s his own father still referred to the catechesis simply as the “Canisius.”

“His significant contribution to catechesis is second only to the example for us of his disciplined Christ-centered spirituality, finding in the liturgy, daily prayer and devotion to the heart of Jesus the strength and inspiration to carry out well his countless tasks,” said the Pope.

The saints' focus on the liturgy, combined with an emphasis on personal prayer are both important today, said the Pope.

“In the midst of the thousand activities and the mutliple stimuli that surround us, it is necessary to find moments of meditation daily before the Lord to listen to him and speak with him,” he said.

At the same time, he concluded, this saint “clearly teaches that apostolic ministry is incisive and produces fruits of salvation in people's hearts only if the preacher is a personal witness of Jesus and knows how to become his instrument, closely bound to him through faith in his Gospel and in his Church, through a morally coherent life and incessant prayer.”

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Vatican denies clampdown on liturgical reform

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican has denied an Italian newspaper analyst's claim that one of its departments will be dedicating itself to a stricter interpretation of the Second Vatican Council's liturgical changes.

Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli of Italy's Il Giornale paper announced early on Feb. 9 that Pope Benedict XVI will soon modify the responsibilities of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Tornielli is known for having advance knowledge of important Vatican information. But the Vatican has denied the Vatican analyst's latest report.

Tornielli reported that the Pope's coming changes would make it possible for the worship congregation to promote a liturgy “more faithful to the original intentions of Vatican II.” This would leave “less room for arbitrary changes” and put greater emphasis on the sacredness of the Mass, he said.

The papal order, he wrote, will have the principal function of shifting the jurisdiction of cases of marriage in the Church that remain unconsummated from the worship office to the Vatican's “Roman Rota” court.

He explained that around 500 such cases exist per year. The majority of cases come from Asia, where arranged marriages are common. In the West, cases result from couples psychologically incapable of carrying out the conjugal act. Without that caseload, the worship office would be responsible only for liturgical matters, said Tornielli.

The Vatican analyst said the Pope’s order “could cite that 'new liturgical movement'” which the congregation's prefect, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, has referred to in the past. In an interview with Il Giornale last December, the cardinal said that liturgical reforms were hastily carried out after Vatican II and that it is "necessary and urgent" to revisit them.

In this case, the development could mean a return to Second Vatican Council teachings to undertake a “reform of the reform,” said Tornielli.

The divine worship department would assume this “new liturgical movement” as part of its function, he explained. He also predicted that a new section of the department would be created for art and sacred music.

Tornielli's report evoked a response from the Vatican just hours after it was published.

Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, confirmed that the department has been studying the possibility of a “motu proprio” – the title of the Pope's order – to transfer the caseload of unconsummated marriages to the Rota.

“But,” added Fr. Lombardi, “there is no foundation or reason to see in this an intention to promote a 'restrictive' type control by the congregation over the promotion of the liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council.”

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Church offers mediation between gangs and government in Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 9, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Julio Cesar Vidal Ortiz of Monteria, Colombia says he is confident the Catholic Church can help bring about the eventual surrender of the criminal organization, Bandas Criminales.

Monteria is located 500 miles north of Colombia's capital city of Bogota.

Bishop Vidal said the members of Bandas Criminales, known as BACRIM “do not want a situation similar to that of Mexico, they only want the Church to help them open a channel of surrender to the government.” The bishop spoke to reporters during the 90th Assembly of the Bishops' Conference of Colombia, which will run until Feb. 11.

BACRIM brings together a number of criminal organizations in the country that are strongly linked to drug trade, including the mafia, paramilitary groups and street gangs that formed after the dismantling of the United Self-Defenses of Colombia in 2006.

The United Self-Defenses was a vigilante organization founded to oppose terrorist groups like FARC and the National Liberation Army.  Its most well-known leader is Carlos Castano, who was killed in 2004.  Under his leadership, the organization carried out massacres across Colombia, occupied lands and engaged in the drug trade. In 2006, it began a process of dismantling an accord with the Colombian government and international organizations.

Bishop Vidal said he has not met with leaders of BACRIM, but that they have “sent communications and have often expressed their desire that the Church help them surrender to the government with dignity.”

He said confronting crime and the drug trade demands a comprehensive response, involving the military and the police. “But this needs to be accompanied by proposals to vindicate rural residents, allow them to improve their lives and have access to education,” the bishop said.

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Amid criticism, President Obama moves to fill vacant religious ambassador post

Washington D.C., Feb 9, 2011 (CNA) - In the wake of criticism from religious leaders and political experts, President Obama has moved to appoint a religious freedom ambassador, a post he has allowed to remain vacant for the more than two years he has held office.

On Feb. 7 the White House announced that the President had re-submitted the nomination of pastor Suzan Johnson Cook as the Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom, a position created by Congress in 1998.

Her re-nomination came only days after Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver urged the president in a letter to demonstrate a stronger commitment to global religious freedom.

Although President Obama had nominated Cook last June, her nomination encountered difficulties and expired in Congress.

Thomas Farr, the first head of the U.S. State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom, said that the administration’s failure thus far to appoint an ambassador shows a troubling indifference to the issue.

In a Feb. 8 interview with CNA, he expressed concern with the president’s nominee, citing Cook’s lack of any prior diplomatic experience.

Cook is currently pastor of Bronx Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in New York City and founder of the Worldwide Wisdom Center. She also served as an advisor on President Clinton’s Domestic Policy Council and as Chaplain to the New York Police Department.

“Frankly, it's hard to know whether the thing to do at this point is to get behind the president's nominee,” said Farr, who heads the Religious Freedom project at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

He added that “there is an argument to be made” that the U.S. simply needs “to get somebody in that job.” Cook, he said, is “an accomplished woman of good will who wants to do the job well and can learn.” 

However, Farr said that the crisis in Egypt shows the need for an experienced diplomat and a strategic understanding of the religious dimensions of foreign policy. 

Farr said that if the ambassador’s post had been filled from the start, the administration would have at least a working knowledge and more thorough understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamic group is rising in prominence amid Egypt’s protests and is considered to be the best-organized opposition to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party.

However, “we don't know their proximity to power and one of the reasons we don't know is because American diplomacy does not do religion very well,” he said. “We have not thought very carefully about the religious aspects of the Muslim Brotherhood in power or near power, but we need to do that.”

“Imagine if we'd had somebody for the last two years,” he added, who had “the resources and the authority” needed to effectively comprehend the situation. “We would be in a better position than we are today.”

Farr called the ambassador’s position crucial in terms of representing the U.S.’s stance on protecting religious freedom to other countries.

The religious freedom ambassador, he explained, “is empowered to go anywhere in the world” and “have substantive talks with any group and any government in the world on issues of religious freedom.”

The position also allows for appealing to Congress to fund programs for the advancement of religious freedom and to “empower indigenous forces” in countries throughout the world, including Egypt, he said.

“Unfortunately, I know nothing about this administration that suggests they see any religious freedom issue in what's going on the Egypt,” he said.

CNA contacted the White House on Feb. 8 to discuss Cook's re-nomination. A spokesperson declined to comment.

In a Feb. 1 letter, Archbishop Chaput – a former commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom – warned President Obama of “a growing worldwide crisis in religious freedom.” He urged the president to fill the post of religious freedom ambassador and to “develop an international religious freedom strategy that engages all elements of our foreign policy establishment.”

“Some 70 percent of the world's people live in nations – regrettably, many of them Muslim-majority countries – where religious freedom is gravely restricted,” the archbishop wrote. “The concern of many Catholics in my own diocese – and I believe across the United States – is that insufficient policy attention has been given to this mounting problem.”

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Illness is an opportunity to appreciate life, says Mexican bishop

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 9, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez Botello of Antequera-Oaxaca, Mexico recently recalled that illness is an opportunity to appreciate life and to unite the family in difficult times.

The archbishop spoke in a reflection published Feb. 7 for the upcoming World Day for the Sick. Archbishop Chavez Botello cited Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the day, in which he “calls for a new approach to the suffering of millions of brothers and sisters.

“He invites us to show compassion, not in the sense of pity but in sharing the experience of the sick moved by love.”

The World Day for the Sick will be celebrated Feb. 11.

The archbishop also expressed the need to handle suffering with an attitude of hope. He added that the Pope calls “on society to accept suffering, on young people to understand it, and on our leaders to invest more in healthcare structures that support those who are suffering, especially the poor and those in need.”

“For many, illness has been an opportunity to reflect and appreciate life more, to even have a new perspective and live more responsibility and usefully. This has been the case for many handicapped or chronically ill people who go on living with a different attitude and purpose, overcoming themselves, serving others and doing good,” the archbishop said.

He noted that many people struck by illness “bring out the good in every person: solidarity, comfort, support, friendship, love. Sometimes a limitation or chronic illness becomes the bond that reunites a marriage and gives a new drive and meaning to our actions.”

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Aging Argentinean population will hurt economy, pro-life leader warns

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 9, 2011 (CNA) - The president of a pro-life organization in Argentina is warning that current policies promoting birth control will prevent the country from maintaining a 2.1 annual replacement index.

Roberto Castellano of Pro-Vida said on Feb. 7 the country’s aging population will have a negative impact on Argentina’s economy.

Castellano said that the country's 2010 census data indicates that “the birth control or demographic discouragement policy” that promotes contraception, abortion, the undermining of marriage and the absence of pro-family programs appears to be working.

He warned that the boom in the number of senior citizens will impact the economy and that not enough young people will be paying into the Social Security system to support retirees. This could also result in less foreign investment because of Argentina’s “slim population and consequently small domestic market.”

“Thus Argentina would be relegated to the role of simply providing raw materials for more developed economies, with little or no population to ensure that the surplus of its exports goes towards addressing the external debt,” he said.

Castellano also criticized the adoption of “foreign colonial ideologies” disguised as “sexual rights and reproductive health,” which have “belittled and degraded” Argentina.

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