Walloon Brabant, Belgium, Feb 18, 2011 (CNA) - A 15th-century crucifix which survived the Battle of Waterloo has been stolen from a chapel at the site of the battlefield.
The wooden artwork, known as the Hougoumont Christ, miraculously survived a fire with only charred feet during a June 18, 1815 battle at the Château Hougoumont, the site of a pivotal engagement. It is about six feet tall and six feet wide and weighs about 440 lbs.
The crucifix is one of the emblematic symbols of Napoleon Bonaparte’s final battle and was described in Victor Hugo’s famous novel “Les Miserables.”
The battelfield’s curator, Yves Van Der Cruysen, was outraged by the theft.
“We know that the cross must have been seriously damaged by these wicked people,” he told the British newspaper The Independent. “We found large splinters of wood which must have come from the figure of Christ itself.”
He said the cross had no particular value except as a memorial of the battle. Because its sale would be “impossible,” he blamed the theft on “vandals” and “people who just want to draw attention to themselves.”
The thieves dismantled stonework around the alarmed chapel’s door and removed the bolt. They then restored the lock and masonry, which helped disguise the theft.
British Major-General Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter, who chairs a group planning commemorations of the battle of Waterloo in 2015, also condemned the thefts.
“Enormous trouble was taken by these people. The cross is unsaleable publicly but there are some very strange people out there, who are obsessed with the Battle of Waterloo,” he told The Daily Mail. “I fear the cross may have been stolen on the orders of some very rich person who fancied having it in his own possession.”
Its loss would be “an enormous blow,” he added.
A memorial stone to British troops and their allies, located at Quatre-Bras farm in another part of the battlefield, was also stolen.
Interpol officers have issued an international arrest warrant in connection with the theft.
Toronto, Canada, Feb 18, 2011 (CNA) - A priest from Quebec has launched a $500,000 libel suit against LifeSiteNews Canada, a sum which the pro-life news provider says could shut it down.
Fr. Raymond Gravel, a former Member of Canada’s Parliament, suggests in his suit that articles from LifeSiteNews caused him to lose his position as a chief catechist in the Diocese of Joilette.
He has previously complained about the website. In April 2009 he said that when his bishop received a letter from the Vatican which forced him to retire from political life, an accompanying file was full of negative comments from “those ultra-conservative media.”
The priest’s suit also argues that he is not “pro-abortion,” while he has in the past said he is “pro-choice.”
“We wish no harm to Fr. Gravel, and that, in fact, we are concerned for his wellbeing,” LifeSiteNews’ editors John-Henry Westen and Steve Jalsevac said in response. It added the suit could “severely, even permanently, disrupt our life- and culture-saving work.”
The sum of $500,000 in damages is a full year’s budget for the website.
In 2008 Fr. Gravel defended awarding the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award, to legal abortion crusader Henry Morgantaler. The priest has also repeatedly and publicly criticized Catholic teaching on homosexuality and abortion.
LifeSiteNews said the legal case adds “a potentially very large and currently impossible extra financial burden.”
“We simply have no money to spend on potentially crippling legal fees,” the LifeSiteNews editors added, noting that the suit comes at a time of increasing attacks on the free speech rights of Christians and pro-life, pro-family citizens.
“We simply cannot let the opponents of life and family shut down one of the few media voices that upholds the right to life and the sanctity of marriage and the family.”
The Thomas More Society of Chicago has offered its help in the case, but LifeSiteNews is seeking professional Canadian legal help and donations to fight the suit.
Denver, Colo., Feb 18, 2011 (CNA) -
A new audio version of the New Testament dramatized by numerous celebrities is being heralded as a “significant” contribution to modern evangelizing and for sparking a renewed interest in the gripping narrative of Scripture.
The audio series – which has the support of a Vatican imprimatur – features over 70 actors such as John Rhys-Davies, Neil McDonough, Julia Ormand and Kristen Bell. The Truth & Life Dramatized Audio Bible New Testament was released Nov. 1 of last year and is comprised of 18 CDs, or 22 hours of audio.
New York Times bestselling author and broadcast journalist for EWTN Raymond Arroyo, who helped produce the audio Bible, explained that the actors aren't simply “reading” the text but “sharing” the Gospel story by means of oral tradition.
British actor John Rhys-Davies – perhaps known best for his role as the dwarf Gimli in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy – served as narrator of the series.
In a phone interview from his home in New Zealand, he praised the audio Bible for being “extremely well done.”
He said that the release of the series comes at a pivotal time for Christians in modern history, given the rise of extremist factions of Islam and the growing influence of secularism. Davies, a member of the Church of England, said that the vibrancy of the Christian narrative takes on new life in the series and will serve to renew interest among the faithful as well as effect those outside Christianity.
“This is a great project and really, very important,” he said, adding that high caliber audio versions of Scripture are among “the most significant contributions to evangelizing in the 21st century.”
Raymond Arroyo explained that he and fellow producer Carl Amari felt strongly that “the Catholic market needed a credible, artistically sound audio Bible.”
He mentioned that before he started on the project a couple years ago, he had listened to “a good number” of audio Bibles which he said were ideal “to wreck your car to.”
“They're so boring,” he said, adding that “the Gospel shouldn't be that way.”
Arroyo went on to explain that the four Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John “were originally proclaimed orally.”
“It was part of an oral tradition – it was a lively art,” he said. “I think in the ensuing centuries we've sort of forgotten that. And the Bible has consequently lost it's edge – lost it's vitality.”
Arroyo said he was heavily involved in choosing a “lyrical and orthodox” Bible translation for the series, which ended up being the Catholic Revised Standard Version.
He also helped in the “scripting of the project – it's not only the Scripture itself, it's all the audio cues, when do you bring music in, etc.,” he said.
Arroyo was also involved in the casting and said the series has “some of the great actors of stage, screen and film” who were “all so excited about working on it and so enthused about it.”
“It was important to have world-class talent because this is a world-class text,” he added. “It's worthy or this sort of treatment so, no expense was spared and we spent literally a couple of years in this project together to make sure everything was right.”
He explained rather than there being a set at one location, recording was done in actors' cities throughout the world such as New York, Paris or Los Angeles.
“By and large, they recorded in isolation and then it all comes together in post production with sound effects and music, cross-fading and various techniques,” he said. “It demands a certain unity of understanding when you go into a project like this, as very rarely is anyone in the same room.”
Arroyo called the finished outcome of the audio Bible “complete and credible” yet having a “dramatic dimension that we've never seen before.”
He noted that the audio series, while intrinsically Catholic, is intended for everybody. “The Gospels are not confined to the Catholic Church, they're for the whole world.”
For more information about the Truth and Life Audio Bible, visit: http://shop.truthandlifestore.com/index.aspx?dc=TL_CN_20111011
Vatican City, Feb 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The head of the new Vatican office in charge of the “new evangelization,” said he is encouraged by the support he has received from local churches around the world.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the newly minted Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, spoke about his plans a press conference Feb. 17. The conference marked the Vatican’s release of a book documenting the Church’s celebrations of the Year of St. Paul, which closed June 28, 2009.
Archbishop Fisichella said the new council is working to establish its scope in collaboration with many international institutions and associations already in place in the world.
When Pope Benedict XVI announced the new council’s creation last June, he asked the council to address the “progressive secularization” of historically Christian areas of the world.
“There is not only much enthusiasm, there is an enormous expectation about the what could be the work of this department,” said Archbishop Fisichella. He noted particular support from episcopal conferences and bishops, but also from “many, many lay people and associations” internationally.
“Many are already acting specifically in new evangelization and it’s not surprising because ... new evangelization was spoken about during the entire pontificate of John Paul II,” he said.
The council, he said, is planning two encounters for this spring to improve its vision of existing programs in the world. A two-day event will take place in March with “specialists in new evangelization” and another in May to examine the “first forms of new evangelization” in the current environment.
Archbishop Fisichella said that things are not moving forward too quickly, but he is also keeping in mind the upcoming Synod of Bishops in October 2012. Bishops from all over the world will gather at the Vatican to study “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith” over a matter of weeks.
The council will have a more defined idea of its mission after the deliberations of the bishops and especially after Pope Benedict XVI releases his reflections on the synod’s results, the archbishop said.
The Pope’s reflections and instructions come in the form of an Apostolic Exhortation, which can take years to be produced. The document from the Vatican’s Synod for the Bible in October 2008 was released in November 2010, for example.
On the occasion of the new book on the Year of St. Paul, the archbishop spoke of the importance of remembering the saint’s teaching and evangelizing mission and their relevance to life of the Church today.
The evangelization and doctrine of St. Paul, he said, is “a stimulus, if not a guarantee, for the consolidation of the Christian identity of each of us and for the rejuvenation of the entire Church.”
The new council is closely tied to St. Paul. The announcement of its creation came from the Pope during a prayer vigil on the eve of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-walls, where the apostle’s tomb is located.
Vatican City, Feb 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican has released new details about the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II.
The celebrations will run from April 30-May 2, with the beatification itself taking place on May 1. For most events, the Vatican said, no tickets will be required and all will be welcomed.
The festivities will begin with a prayer vigil in the massive open field of the Circus Maximus - where ancient Romans once held chariot races -- on the evening of April 30. The vigil will be led by the diocese's vicar general, Cardinal Agostino Vallini. Pope Benedict will also join the gathering by way of a video link.
The beatification will begin on Sunday, May 1 in St. Peter's Square. The Vatican said police will regulate access to the square, but that there will be no tickets required for the event.
Immediately following the beatification ceremony, the remains of Pope John Paul II will be in front of the Altar of the Confession in St. Peter's Basilica for veneration.
The Basilica will be open to pilgrims for “as long as the faithful continue to arrive,” according to the Vatican announcement.
The following day, Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone will preside over a Mass of thanksgiving again in St. Peter's Square.
After the celebrations, the remains of John Paul II will privately be interred in the Vatican basilica's Chapel of St. Sebastian.
Brasilia, Brazil, Feb 18, 2011 (CNA) - The National Conference of Bishops of Brazil issued a statement on Feb. 17 criticizing the immoral nature of reality shows, which have huge ratings in the country but are a “disease in our society.”
The most popular reality shows, “Big Brother Brasil” on the Globo Network, and “A Fazenda” (The Ranch) on the Record Network, feature contestants who live together in a mansion and share daily life. The only difference between the shows is that “The Ranch” features celebrities. In both cases, the audience decides who gets kicked off the shows.
The Brazilian bishops criticized the obscene language, sexual conduct and lack of a positive message in the programs.
All of this “attacks the human dignity of the participants, who are wooed by cash prizes or the brief chance to be a celebrity in the eyes of the viewers, who are the families of Brazil.”
The bishops urged parents and teachers to be mindful “of the moral formation of their children and students” and recommended that the come up with ways to foster “an essential sense of criticism to protect themselves” against these abusive and immoral messages.
The bishops also called on media outlets to “reflect more deeply on their role and limits in social life,” keeping in mind the reason they were given a license to broadcast by the State.
Freedom of expression does not mean the right to attack “the moral values that sustain society” with impunity, they said. The bishops also pointed out that sponsors of these programs should be aware that they are associating their brands with “this process of degradation of our society’s values.”
Washington D.C., Feb 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - President Obama's Secretary for Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, issued new regulations on Feb. 17, canceling out numerous conscience protections for health care workers who have moral or religious objections to certain procedures.
The new rules claim to leave in place the protections for health care providers who oppose abortion and sterilization. However, they remove many other protections for caregivers, including those who are morally opposed to providing services such as in vitro fertilization, contraception – including chemical contraceptives that can cause an abortion – and facilitating sexual practices they consider wrong.
In her report describing the changes, Sebelius criticizes the Bush-era regulations, which clarified the rights of many conscientious objectors to opt of procedures, as “unclear and potentially overly broad in scope.”
Sebelius acknowledged in the final report that “a substantial number of comments in opposition to rescinding the 2008 Final Rule maintained that Roman Catholic hospitals would have to close, that rescission of the rule would limit access to pro-life counseling, and that providers would either leave the health care industry or choose not to enter it.”
In her Feb. 17 report, Sebelius sought to respond to Catholic health workers' concerns by noting that “under this partial rescission of the 2008 Final Rule, Roman Catholic hospitals will still have the same statutory protections afforded to them as have been for decades.”
However, it was precisely in order to solidify those decades-old “statutory protections” in significant ways, that the 2008 rule was made in the first place.
“The Department supports the longstanding federal health care provider conscience laws,” the secretary continued, “and with this Final Rule provides a clear process to enforce those laws.”
The purpose of the 2008 rule, however, was not simply to reiterate the content of existing laws, but to clarify how they should be applied, and to provide explicitly for their enforcement.
For this reason, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had praised the previous rule as a “much-needed implementation of long-standing laws” – saying it clarified many “undefined terms” that allowed state and local governments to “attack conscience rights as though they do not exist.”
With those “much-needed” rules and clarifications gone, Catholic hospitals and health care workers may find themselves facing difficult situations without explicit protections.
Sebelius pointed out that her department would still be willing to receive and consider their complaints.
The portion of the 2008 rule that enables the Office for Civil Rights to investigate complaints from conscientious medical objectors is “being retained,” she said.
“Under this Final Rule,” she offered, “health care providers who believe their rights were violated will now be able to file a complaint with the Department’s Office for Civil Rights in order to seek enforcement of those rights.”
Dr. J. Scott Ries, a board-certified family physician and a vice president of ministry at the 16,000-member Christian Medical Association, said the rule change touched on areas of “critical concern for pro-life patients, healthcare professionals and institutions.”
“The administration has made changes in a vital civil rights regulation without evidence or justification,” Dr. Ries said. He criticized the regulatory action as a move that “diminishes the civil rights that protect conscientious physicians and other healthcare professionals against discrimination.”