Archive of February 17, 2011

'World's finest' Catholic school principal awarded with cash, chocolate

Chicago, Ill., Feb 17, 2011 (CNA) -

A Catholic school principal from West Virginia was chosen out of 400 nationwide contestants to win a cash prize and 60 cases of chocolate for being titled the “World's Finest” principal.

A competition sponsored by World's Finest Chocolate and Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine recognized Karen Wynne – principal of St. Francis de Sales School in Beckley, West Virginia – after she was nominated by her staff and 150 students.

At a Feb. 15 ceremony at the school, Wynne received her title as World’s Finest principal and a check for $1,000. The school will receive 60 cases of personalized chocolate bars to use in fundraising.

“Unbeknownst to me, my student body and staff nominated me to be the World’s Finest Principal,” Wynne told the local Register-Herald Feb. 16. “In December, they asked me to come to the gym and surprised me by showing me all the things they had done to nominate me for the position.

“It was a national contest, and I never dreamt that we had a chance of winning,” she said.

St. Francis de Sales School’s assistant principal and third-grade teacher, Mary Grace Peck, lead the initiative to nominate Wynne for the award. Throughout the last several months, the staff and student body worked to prepare posters, essays, videos, and pictures for Wynne's nomination.

Wynne noted that students at St. Francis came up with creative entries, including a song written by the second grade, a picture collage of Wynne's daily activities by the third grade, and a newsletter on Wynne's accomplishments created by the seventh grade.

The competition was administered by Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine and garnered entries from Catholic elementary and high schools across the U.S. The winning entry was selected based on the creativity of each entry and the personal merits of the nominated principal.

Chairman and CEO of World’s Finest Chocolate Edmond F. Opler, who attended the award ceremony for Wynne, said that his Chicago-based company helped sponsor the competition to recognize all Catholic school principals.

Wynne said that of the 60 cases of chocolate – around 3,000 bars –  every student and staff member would get one to eat.

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Korean cardinal’s influence seen in increased organ donation

Seoul, South Korea, Feb 17, 2011 (CNA) -

The second anniversary of the death of Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-Hwan of Seoul comes at a time of increased organ donations attributed to his advocacy.

Organ donation pledges in Korea have exceeded 100,000 for the second straight year. The Korean Network for Organ Sharing said that 124,300 Koreans pledged to donate their organs, down from about 185,000 in 2009 but still ahead of previous years.

“Cardinal Kim’s donation greatly changed the social atmosphere,” an official from the organ network told Yonhap News Agency. “We expect that the number of donation pledges will be on a steady rise in the long term.”

The cardinal, who died at the age of 86, was respected by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. He had inspired the public by donating his eyes to two patients. He became a pledged organ donor as early as 1990, saying he wanted to “give everything and leave with nothing.”

In 1988 he established the organ donation group One Body, One Spirit. It received 36,500 pledges last year, up from 34,000 in 2009.

Yoon Kyung-joon, an official with the group, said it is important to see that sharing life is a good deed.

“In line with this, religious circles and private organizations’ efforts to increase organ donation will expand the base of donation,” he explained.

The group plans to expand its public campaign to promote organ donation, powered by Cardinal Kim’s example.

A memorial Mass for the cardinal was scheduled to be held at the Catholic cemetery in Yongin in Gyeonggi province on the afternoon of Feb. 16. Another memorial Mass was scheduled for that evening at Myeongdong Cathedral.

Pope Benedict XVI himself was an organ donor until his election to the papacy, but Vatican officials said on Feb. 5 that this status was invalidated when he became Pope.

In a 2008 address to a conference on organ donation, Pope Benedict praised organ donation as a “testimony of love.” He also stressed that organ donation should take place in an ethical manner: vital organs should be removed from a donor only when his or her death is known with certainty to have taken place.

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Pope’s meeting with Russian president signals new era in relationship

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2011 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI met with president Dmitry Medvedev at the Vatican on Feb. 17 in their first meeting since the Holy See and Russia decided to upgrade their diplomatic relationship in 2009.

Medvedev was accompanied by his wife and several assistants, including his minister for foreign affairs, Sergey Lavrov. The Russian president is also in Italy for two days to meet with government leaders and inaugurate a year of cultural exchange between the two nations.

“This is a very important meeting,” the Pope told the Medvedev as they exchanged greetings briefly before closing the doors for their private audience in the papal library.

After an unusually long encounter of more than a half-hour, the doors were opened again to reporters who witnessed the exchange of gifts.

The Pope received a two-volume set of letters from the former Russian president to foreign heads of state and Pope John Paul II from 1996-99. He also was given “Orthodox encyclopedia” and a painting of the Moscow with a view of the Russian government headquarters of the Kremlin.

Medvedev was given a depiction of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican in mosaic.

Diplomatic relations between Russia and the Holy See were only upgraded to “full” status at the end of 2009. The improvement in state-to-state relations is also hoped to be reflected in Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations in the near future.

No patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has met with a Pope for nearly a millennium and many think a first encounter is approaching.

Russian Patriarch Kirill has long made statements in line with those from the Vatican on issues affecting an increasingly secularized Europe and in favor of the rights of the Church to work at improving social conditions.

The Feb. 17 encounter between the Orthodox Christian president and the Pope was followed by a second meeting with top officials of the Vatican secretariat of state.

The two leaders held “cordial discussions,” on a range of issues, including “the international situation, with particular reference to the Middle East,” according to a Vatican statement.

They also discussed inter-religious dialogue and the “promotion of specifically human and Christian values, and in the cultural and social field,” the Vatican said.

They concluded with discussion on the “positive contribution inter-religious dialogue can make to society” and the overriding matters affecting international relations at the moment.

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Pope Benedict XVI receives World Youth Day backpack

Rome, Italy, Feb 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid, Spain recently presented Pope Benedict XVI with an official World Youth Day 2011 backpack.

World Youth Day will be held August 16 – 21 in Madrid, the capital of Spain.

Cardinal Rouco Varela gave the backpack to the Pope during an audience on Feb. 14. As they met in the private library of the apostolic palace, the cardinal updated Benedict XVI on the latest arrangements for World Youth Day.

Those who attend the events will receive the red and yellow backpack. Inside the young Catholics will find a Rosary, the pilgrim’s book, a guide and a copy of “Youcat,” a catechism designed specifically for young people. The book includes a prologue written by Benedict XVI himself.

The backpack will also contain a transportation voucher, a hat and a hand fan. 

World Youth Day attendees will also have priority access to the cultural events and the main celebrations in the city, as well as accident insurance that will cover them throughout the week.

The logo on the backpack was designed by Jose Gil-Nogues. He explained that it symbolizes “young people from all over the world joining together to celebrate their faith together with the Pope, at the foot of the cross.”

He added that the young people on the logo form the “crown that Our Lady of Almudena, Patroness of Madrid, wears.”

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Vatican prefect concerned about ongoing secularization of religious orders

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Religious orders face continued pressures to “secularize” and this threatens their identities and their mission in the world, according to the retiring leader of the Vatican’s office on religious life.

In a Feb. 16 interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal Franc Rode warned that secularization that “has penetrated many communities and consciences.”

“Secularization,” he said, “is expressed in prayer (that is) often formal and without meditation and it damages the concept of obedience, introducing a certain “democratic” mentality that excludes the role of legitimate authority.”

Cardinal Rode, a Slovenian, is stepping down as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for religious, a position he has held since 2004. He will be replaced by a Brazilian, Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI on Jan. 4.

Cardinal Rode told Vatican Radio that religious communities have been “hotbeds of spiritual liveliness and missionary dynamism” throughout the Church’s history.

The “great reforms” within the Catholic Church have been pushed by religious, he noted. Religious have historically been the most persecuted, but also “the most canonized,” he added.

In travels to Latin America, Africa and Asia in recent years, Cardinal Rode said he continues to see an “admirable devotion” among the many varieties of religious men and women of the world, which number around 1.1 million.

The situation in the religious communities of the world is not all roses, however. “Religious life is in difficulty today and this must be recognized,” said the cardinal.

It also threatens to turn works of charity into pure social service, which he said causes harm to the proclamation of the Gospel.

In such an atmosphere, “a society of well-being” is pursued over questions of eternity, explained Cardinal Rode.

He warned that there are signs of secularization all over the globe, but that they are most prominent in the West.

Cardinal Rode said that since his appointment he has been working on “seeking to overcome this mentality of secularization and reasserting the fundamental values of consecrated life - making of religious men and women ... a force of renewal of the Church.”

He has turned both to the “healthy strengths” of traditional communities and the “new spiritual currents” of the more recently founded communities in the process.

The cardinal expressed his confidence in the new religious communities cropping up in places such as France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Peru and the U.S. which are “surging against the spirit of secularism.”

“These communities give great importance to prayer and to the fraternal life lived in community; they insist on poverty and obedience: all take the religious habit, a visible sign of their consecration,” he explained.

“(They) call man to his transcendent destiny and constitute a force of renewal, of which the Church has a great need.”

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Catholics should not vote for pro-abortion candidates, explains Peruvian archbishop

CNA STAFF, Feb 17, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Javier del Rio Alba clarified his position that Peruvian Catholics should not vote for candidates who back abortion.

“As Catholics, we can never support a candidate that proposes the killing of defenseless children and who attacks the common good of society by attacking the institution of marriage,” the archbishop said in a Feb. 16 interview with ACI Prensa.

He explained that while voting for a pro-abortion candidate is a grave offense, it does not incur the automatic excommunication that participating in an abortion does.

“We bishops do not get involved in politics,” the archbishop continued, “but the doctrine of the Church does require we teach on matters of faith and morals.”

Archbishop Rio Alba has been the target of criticism since his Feb. 13 homily in which he said, “Catholics can never cast their vote for a candidate who by word or deed says he will support abortion.” Critics charged he was referring to presidential candidate Alejandro Toledo, who has brought the issue of legalized abortion into the presidential campaign.

The archbishop said that last Sunday’s Gospel was explicit about the commandment not to kill, and that therefore it was important to address this “very relevant” issue.

In his interview, Archbishop Rio Alba exhorted Catholics to think through their votes and study both the “concrete proposals and the character” of those running for office. Only after considering all of these factors together should Catholics decide how to vote.

In recent days presidential candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski underscored that his political party “does not believe in abortion, period.”

Alejandro Toledo, who currently leads in the polls, said he was open to the legalization of abortion.  “Nobody should allow a human being to be born under forced circumstances,” he said.

Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, said she does not support abortion. “I am a woman and a mother,” she said, adding that she does support “therapeutic” abortion.

Luis Castaneda, currently third in the polls, said he does not support abortion, “except for therapeutic reasons.” 

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Church is more than her weaknesses, affirms Argentinean archbishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 17, 2011 (CNA) - An Argentinean archbishop recently reminded Catholics that the Catholic Church is more than the criticism she receives. 

Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz, Argentina spoke about the upcoming season of Lent in a message Feb. 16. He recalled  that the Church has Christ as her center and therefore represents much more than the criticism she receives. He noted that the Church's weaknesses are due to human fragility.

“The Church is not an idea we adhere to, but rather a concrete reality that we experience in our human fragility and to which we belong through our baptism,” the archbishop explained.

He went on to note that many of the faithful are Catholic in name only and participate little in the life of the Church. “The Church is asleep in us and is losing her apostolic fervor. I would say we don’t think of ourselves as following God’s call to a life of sacrificial holiness, nor do we think of the Church as expecting our presence or commitment,” he said.

“We ought to emphasize not so much the selfish pursuit of our own fulfillment as the listening and obedience to that Word that is the real cause of our fulfillment – even though it takes us out of the routine in which we feel safe. 

“Faith is trust in God,” the archbishop concluded.

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Vatican ruling against closure of three Mass. churches might not be final

Springfield, Mass., Feb 17, 2011 (CNA) - While a decree from the Vatican held that three churches in the Diocese of Springfield should not be closed, a canon lawyer who analyzed the ruling said that the document leaves open the possibility that the churches can still be shut down if proper procedure is followed.

Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield sought “immediate clarification” about the decree from Cardinal Mauro Piacenza of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, the diocese said on Feb. 16.

Officials at the congregation told CNA that they could not immediately respond to requests for comment on the case and that replies to inquiries would only come through official channels.

The congregation upheld the diocese’s decision to merge St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Adams, and two parishes in Chicopee, Mass.—St. George and St. Patrick—with other local parishes. However, the congregation said that sufficiently grave reason was not given to close each of the church buildings and they should be used in some manner as determined by the bishop.

The diocese stressed that in each instance the parish itself is not being reestablished and any permitted use of the church buildings “will not be the same as when it was a parish church.”

The congregation “seems to be undertaking a new application of Church law,” the diocese said. In the diocese’s view, the circumstances in the three disputed cases were consistent with its reasoning in the case of another diocesan church whose closure was upheld.

Denver-area canon lawyer J.D. Flynn, evaluating the case for CNA, emphasized the immense complexity of such rulings.

According to Flynn, the decree affirmed that the bishop followed appropriate procedures to merge the parishes. However, the procedures were not followed in closing churches like St. Stanislaus Kostka.

“The Holy See admitted that there may have been grave reason to close the church (relegate it to profane use) but expressed that doing so requires observing canonical procedure,” he commented. “I'm not sure that is news.”

The “grave reasons” required to close a church were not provided in the documentation, and so the documentation is judged to be insufficient.

“But the Holy See leaves open the possibility that pastoral reasons exists to relegate the church to profane use, according to the proper procedure,” Flynn said.

Some Massachusetts Catholics have interpreted the ruling differently.

Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes, which is opposing church closures, characterized the ruling as “a major win,” according to the Boston Globe.

Over 200 of the former parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka have been conducting a round-the-clock prayer vigil since December 2008.

Laurie Haas of Adams said the parishioners “look forward to a respectful dialogue with Bishop McDonnell in an effort to bring our vigil to a conclusion and to reopen St. Stan’s church in a manner that will best serve the interests of the Catholic Community of Adams, as well as the Diocese of Springfield.”

Under canon law a parish and a church are defined as separate entities, Flynn explained. While a parish is “a stable community of the faithful,” a church is a sacred building designated for divine worship where the faithful have “the right of entry.”

The two types of entities are opened and closed by different procedures and involve different consultations.

“For me,” Flynn continued, “the real reminder here is that our buildings are truly sacred spaces, set aside for the worship of God. That is why canon law takes them so seriously.”
The Vatican ruling “is not an indictment of the bishop, it is really a technical issue—but it does remind us how important sacred worship, and respect for our sacred places, really is.”

The diocese noted that the Congregation for the Clergy upheld other decisions to merge other parishes and close the former parish churches.

With reporting by Alan Holdren in Rome.

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At Vatican budget meeting, cardinals express concerns about global economy

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Amid an economic situation still affected by uncertainty in the world marketplace, a group of cardinals expressed their gratitude to the faithful who continue to keep the Holy See going through their donations.

But in a Feb. 17 statement, the cardinals said while there are “signs of improvement,” the “uncertainty of the global economic system” remains a cause for concern.

The Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organisational and Economic Problems of the Holy See met from Feb. 15-16 to discuss 2011 budgets for the Holy See and the Vatican City's administrative authority.

Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and Cardinals Velasio De Paolis, Giovanni Lajolo and Attilio Nicora – who oversee the administrative and economic functions of the Vatican – were present together with other important members of oversight departments.

They discussed the 2011 consolidated budget which covers economic activities of the various Vatican departments and institutions, including its media agencies such as L'Osservatore Romano and Vatican Radio.

They also examined Vatican City's budget, which works on a separate budget but provides support for the Holy See and its activities. This includes upkeep for buildings and artistic patrimony as well as security.

In a July 2010 meeting, the cardinals reported that 2009 saw a more than $16 million combined deficit in the final balances, but noted that it marked an improvement from previous figures.

In their statement, the cardinals announced that “the overall picture emerging from these budgets, though showing clear signs of improvement, is still marked by the uncertainty of the global economic system and by increased administrative costs.”

They said that there is evidence of this most of all in the Holy See's budget as it is subsidized largely by the donations of Catholics around the world.

According to the statement, “the members of the council expressed their profound gratitude for the support people give, often anonymously, to the universal ministry of the Holy Father, and exhorted them to continue this good work.”

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