Archive of March 11, 2011

World Youth Day takes steps to be eco-friendly

Madrid, Spain, Mar 11, 2011 (CNA) - World Youth Day 2011 will be an environmentally friendly event, said Eva Latonda, director of the project “100% Natural.”

“Passing on land in good condition to future generations is a concern of every Christian, and thus also of World Youth Day,” she added.

The youth event will take place August 2011 in Madrid.

The Spanish company, Zeroemissions, will assist World Youth Day in compensating for the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the event, Latonda noted.

Zeroemissions said it will compensate for any climate damage from the massive event by collaborating on five environmental projects in New Caledonia, Honduras, Uganda, China and Turkey.

Latonda said carpooling will also be encouraged during World Youth Day to help prevent excessive traffic. A pedestrian route from Madrid to the Cuatro Vientos Airfield will also be created so young people can travel back on forth on foot or bicycle.

She added that Madrid city officials will place waste receptacles at various points around the city to help keep the streets clean.

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Anti-Catholic students protest at university chapel in Madrid

Madrid, Spain, Mar 11, 2011 (CNA) - Some 70 college students stormed into the chapel of Madrid’s Complutense University on March 10, shouting insults against the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI and priests.

Several females from the group stood on the altar, undressed from the waist up.

Another female student who was in the chapel praying at the time told the Spanish daily ABC that two of the young women on the altar “boasted about their homosexual tendencies.”

The group of students stormed into the chapel with a megaphone and pushed the chaplain out of the way. They proceeded to shout insults against the Catholic Church and her teachings. The group also placed posters in the pews and on the bulletin board at the entrance to the chapel.

The entire incident was caught on film.

Another student interviewed by ABC asked, “what would have happened had this taken place in a mosque? These people should know that Catholics will never respond to a provocation with another provocation just to defend themselves.”

“Nobody will silence us by acting with hostility, mockery, intimidation or any other illegitimate pressure that offends the religions sensibilities of everyone,” she continued. “Moreover, acts like these are punishable by law. How easy and cowardly it is to do something like this anonymously!”

University administrators condemned the act and said an investigation will be carried to identity those responsible. They reiterated the university’s commitment to respect for freedom of worship and belief and urged students to be tolerant of each other’s religious sentiments. “The neutrality of the government in religious matters means no specific belief can be imposed or subjected to persecution.

“Tolerance and respect are absolutely indispensable,” they said.

ABC reported it was not the first time the chapel has been the target of anti-Christian acts. Last week the doors and walls of the chapel were painted with anti-Catholic graffiti.

The Archdiocese of Madrid released a statement condemning the desecration of the chapel and filed a formal complaint with the university. “These actions are an attack on freedom of worship and a profanation of a sacred place, which carries with it canonical penalties for any baptized parties who took part.”

The archdiocese called it “shameful that in a democratic society where there is supposed to be respect for others, for religious institutions and for the right to celebrate one’s faith in public,” a group of young people would tarnish the good name and hard work of the Complutense University.

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Pope urges priests to preach on uncomfortable topics

Rome, Italy, Mar 11, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Priests must not preach “Christianity 'a la carte'” and should be willing to approach even uncomfortable aspects of the Gospel, Pope Benedict said in a meeting with priests this week.

In a meeting with priests and religious from the Diocese of Rome on March 10, the Pope led a Scripture meditation as the “pastor of the pastors.”

He based the meditation - called a “lectio divina” (sacred reading) - on a chapter from the Acts of the Apostles in which St. Paul leaves the faithful in Ephesus with instructions on how to continue preaching the Gospel after his departure.

Paul's advice to be humble and vigilant in preaching the faith, to make themselves completely available in service to Christ and the Church, and prayerful as they protect their “flocks” are all relevant characteristics of priests nearly 2,000 years later, said the Pope.

He implored priests to show “full-time” fidelity to their vocation as priests, “being with Christ and being ambassadors of Christ.”

The Pope also called on priests today not to shrink from proclaiming “the entire plan of God.”
“This is important,” said the Pope. “The Apostle does not preach Christianity 'a la carte,' according to his own tastes, he does not preach a Gospel according to his own preferred theological ideas; he does not take away from the commitment to announce the entire will of God, even when uncomfortable, nor the themes he may least like personally.

“It is our mission to announce all the will of God, in its totality and ultimate simplicity. But the fact that we must instruct and preach is important - as St. Paul says - and really proposes the entire will of God.”

In a world where people are curious to know everything, “so much more should we be curious to know the will of God,” said Pope Benedict.

“What thing could be more interesting, more important, more essential for us than to know what God wants, to know the will of God, the face of God?”

He called on priests and religious to respond to this curiosity and awaken it in others, assisting them in “knowing truly all the will of God and knowing then how we can and must live, which is the path of our lives.”

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Japanese Church 'in shock' after massive earthquake and tsunami

Tokyo, Japan, Mar 11, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic relief workers are mobilizing to help the victims of a tsunami caused by the largest earthquake in Japanese history on March 11. The waves are expected to reach countries throughout the Pacific Ocean, including New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The chancellor of the Diocese of Niigata in northern Japan, Fr. Koichi Otaki, said the country was “still in shock over what has happened.”

The 23-foot waves reportedly hit the nearby Diocese of Sendai hardest. Government officials say they have already found up to 300 bodies in Sendai, near the epicenter of the earthquake, where more than 100 people are confirmed dead and 350 are reported missing.

Fr. Otaki communicated the support of Bishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Niigata, telling Fides news service that Japanese Catholics, while few in number, “will not walk away from our commitment and solidarity with the victims.”

Bishop Kikuchi is also the president of the relief agency Caritas Japan, which will be working to assist victims of the earthquake and resulting waves.

“The tsunami reminds us of the precariousness of life,” said Fr. Otaki. “Solidarity and assistance to the victims will certainly be our Lenten commitment.”

As Caritas takes stock of the situation in Japan in order to help victims, Catholic Relief Services is mobilizing to provide support in other countries in the Pacific, anticipating the violent waves' arrival on their shores.

Sean Callahan, Catholic Relief Services' executive vice president for overseas operations, said personnel were prepared to assist victims directly and through their partnership with Caritas.

“We know from 2004 the devastating impact that these tsunamis can have,” said Callahan. An earthquake and Tsunami on Dec. 26 of that year killed nearly 230,000 people in Indonesia, Thailand, and other nearby countries.

“As with all such disasters,” he stated, “CRS will help people recover from the emergency and stand with them as they recover in the months and years to come.”

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N. Dakota bishops: Catholics should not donate to ‘objectionable’ groups

Bismarck, N.D., Mar 11, 2011 (CNA) - Catholics and Catholic organizations should not endorse organizations with “morally objectionable” missions, North Dakota’s bishops said, citing  Amnesty International, the March of Dimes and Susan G. Komen for the Cure because of their links to abortion or unethical research.

Bishops Paul A. Zipfel of Bismarck and Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo in a March 10 statement called upon pastors, clergy and the lay faithful to be prudent and just in making their charitable decisions, particularly on issues related to human life and marriage.

“All human life is sacred and must be protected,” the bishops said. “This is why we should not support or endorse individuals and organizations that provide, promote, or advocate for abortion, contraception, ‘reproductive rights/family planning,’ or embryonic stem cell research.”

They also noted the foundational nature of marriage to the common good of society. Therefore, Catholics should not support individuals and organizations that “seek to redefine marriage” or devalue its importance, the bishops said.

Catholic entities should not support the human rights group Amnesty International because in 2007 it adopted a “pro-abortion” position. The March of Dimes, which aims to prevent birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality, also supports embryonic stem cell research, pre-implantation diagnosis for embryos, and mandatory contraceptive coverage in insurance plans.

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure anti-breast cancer organization, known for its “Race for the Cure,” has helped fund Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider. It also “refuses to acknowledge the link between abortion and breast cancer,” Bishops Zipfel and Aquila wrote.

The two bishops also singled out the child welfare organization UNICEF because it now supports contraceptive and abortion services. The American Association of University Women, which often provides scholarships with money raised through book fairs, “strongly supports” abortion rights and same-sex “marriage,” while opposing “parental choice in education.”

The CROP Walk hunger awareness effort, sponsored by the National Council of Churches’ agency Church World Service, has partners which support the handing out contraceptives in their overseas missions.
Catholic Church facilities should not be used to promote, endorse or fundraise for organizations if their policies are contrary to Church teaching, the bishops explained.

“We applaud the charitable giving and social justice efforts of our parishes, Catholic schools, and individuals. At the same time, we urge attentiveness to the possibility of endorsing an organization whose mission or affiliation may be morally objectionable or, at least, questionable.”

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Historic Spanish church vandalized with satanic symbols

Almeria, Spain, Mar 11, 2011 (CNA) -

A 100-year-old church under restoration in the Diocese of Almeria, Spain was vandalized with graffiti and satanic symbols the weekend of March 5.

Workers found the interior of the church vandalized with satanic drawings and graffiti on March 7. Experts said it appeared the intention was to give the impression of a satanic ceremony.

The vandalism took place after the diocese won a long-fought legal battle against a private company that wanted to turn the church into a dance club and tourist site. The diocese was waiting for an official construction permit from local officials to begin renovation.

The Church of Las Salinas de Cabo de Gata, built in 1907, has been closed for worship since 2004 due to its deteriorating structure.

The diocese issued a press release the following day, condemning the vandalism and “senseless profanation.” The release stated that the diocese also had finally received the construction permit authorizing the renovation. “This act offends the religious conscience and common sense of every civilized person and in itself constitutes a gratuitous attack on a space that is sacred to the Catholic faith.”

After an examination by several experts, the damage, graffiti and disarray caused by those responsible “seem to rule out the conclusion that this was a satanic act,” the diocese said.

“Everything indicates that this was a deliberate act of vandalism, the purpose and intention of which the diocese does not wish to discuss for obvious reasons. In any case, no one will force the diocese reverse its decision, supported by the law, to carry out the renovation of this symbolic diocesan church, so that it can be re-opened for worship,” the statement said.

The diocese has filed a formal petition demanding authorities apprehend and punish those responsible.

All parishes of the diocese have also been asked to offer a special prayer in reparation for the profanation of the church on the First Sunday of Lent.

Luis Santamaria del Rio, an expert from the Ibero-American Network for the Study of Sects, told CNA he agreed with the statement by the diocese and that act of vandalism “does not appear to have anything to do with Satanic rituals.”

He said the act was clearly aimed at the diocese over the issue of ownership of the church.

Vicente Jara, an expert on Satanism with the Network, agreed with Santamaria. “This was not a black Mass or a satanic ritual,” but rather “an act of vandalism that included both satanic and non-satanic symbols,” he said.

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Toddler cancer patient’s vision inspires prayers to Mother Teresa for miracle

Washington D.C., Mar 11, 2011 (CNA) - Family and friends of a two-year-old boy suffering from severe cancer are seeking a miracle through the intercession of Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. They believe the child has seen an apparition of her and two angels.

Joseph “JoeJoe” Wahlin is the seventh child of Chad and Kim Wahlin, who are stationed at the U.S. naval base in Naples. On March 2 doctors discovered that the toddler has category four cancer.

“Without a miracle, and barring a misdiagnosis, he may not have long to live,” reported Fr. Mark Withoos, a friend of the boy’s parents.

But the parents have seen signs for hope.

Chad Wahlin told Fr. Withoos that one afternoon he was lying in bed with his two-and-a-half year-old son.

“Joe looked past the foot of the bed and told me ‘Mommy's grandma is there’,” the father said. The boy had only seen photos of the woman.

“Kim's grandmother looked exactly like Mother Teresa,” Wahlin wrote.

Joseph also said he saw “angels” at his hospital room in Naples.

His father had been crying at his sleeping son’s bedside when Joseph awoke and asked him why he was crying.

“Don’t you see the two angels standing next to the bed? They are bewdiful,” the boy said.

He told his father the angels said to him they would be back.

Joseph has returned to the United States and has undergone surgery and chemotherapy. He and his parents are presently at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Sisters from the Missionaries of Charity have been frequently visiting Joseph and have brought a relic of Bl. Mother Teresa. They placed it on the boy while praying for him.

“Joe was perky and silly while there were there and enjoyed playing with a balloon with them,” reported Fr. Withoos, who is telling Joseph’s story in several e-mails requesting prayers for a miracle.

Joseph presently has tumors above his kidneys, in his spinal area, in the lower part of his lungs and in his skull. Tests show he has bone marrow disease and he will need marrow rejuvenation, though his white cell and platelet counts remain normal.

He is in “good spirits.” He can turn himself in bed and push himself up without pain because the chemotherapy has reduced the size of the tumors pressing on his nerves.

“The family and many around the world are asking Mother Teresa for a miracle,” Fr. Withoos said. “Perhaps she has already visited, based on the story above. Maybe she was ready to accompany JoeJoe to his eternal home.

“We will pray nonetheless for a miracle, because if we don't ask, miracles won't happen. Our World needs miracles sometimes. But in the end, the Lord's will be done!”

The family is asking that prayers for a miracle cure be directed specifically to Mother Teresa to help advance her cause for canonization. The religious woman of Calcutta needs one more recognized miracle to be declared a saint of the Catholic Church.

In a March 10 e-mail, Chad Wahlin told CNA his son is visibly better. The family is on day five of a novena to Bl. Mother Teresa.

“We are praying fervently and are thankful for your prayers,” he continued. “Bl. Mother Teresa, we ask your intercession for full and miraculous restoration of JoeJoe's health. Please let JoeJoe be the second miracle.”

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Patriarch urges offering Lenten sacrifices for end to Middle East turmoil

Damascus, Syria, Mar 11, 2011 (CNA) - Patriarch Gregorios III, head of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, is encouraging his faithful to offer their prayers and other Lenten observances for peace in Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

The patriarch leads a worldwide flock of 1.6 million Eastern Catholics, most of whom either reside or have roots in Syria and Lebanon. In his Lenten letter for 2011, addressed to all clergy and laity of the Melkite Church, he explained the importance of Christian asceticism in light of current events.

“We can help our people’s way of the cross, sufferings and endurance to become the way of resurrection,” the patriarch wrote.

“Through fasting, prayer, penitence, alms-giving, works of charity and mercy, we accompany the birth-pangs of several of our Arab countries, shaken from the beginning of this year by painful events.”

Patriarch Gregorios said he hopes that the ongoing turmoil, particularly in many North African countries, would eventually lead to “social justice, rectitude in government, service for the well-being and development of Arab citizens,” and to their “spiritual, human and social progress.”

To encourage a spirit of sacrifice and union with the oppressed, he urged Melkite Catholics to observe their “sacred rule of fasting,” which differs from the traditional Roman Catholic discipline.

The Melkites' practice of fasting, also observed by Eastern Orthodox Christians, involves abstaining from most animal-derived foods – such as meat, eggs, and dairy products – for the entirety of Lent, and from wine and oil on most weekdays. 

“Despite different dispensations which were put in place for different situations in life,” observed the patriarch, “the discipline of fasting according to the old, Eastern tradition remains firm – and, thank God, fairly well practiced in many monastic religious institutions and among the clergy and faithful.”

Patriarch Gregorios also encouraged the faithful to revive the practice of tithing, as another form of solidarity with the poor and needy. He said that the contribution of one-tenth of one's income to the Church “has spiritual as well as social and humane aspects.”

“Indeed,” he reflected, “by observing this rule, we are practising charity to the poor, sick, sufferers, students, unemployed and anyone in need.”

The patriarch has been strongly emphasizing the importance of worldwide solidarity with Middle Eastern Christians. In another recent message, he asked “all Christian people” to remember the bond between themselves and other believers, “at this very difficult moment for Arab countries.”

Patriarch Gregorios quoted the words of St. Paul to remind his followers that “in the body of Christ, when one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.”

During Lent, he said, “we shall not be merely passively following events on the media, but actively praying for justice, social peace, unity and liberty.”

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Pakistani Catholics encouraged by Pope’s concern, Bhatti legacy remembered

Rome, Italy, Mar 11, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI expressed his concern for the protection of human dignity and religious freedom again this week as Pakistani Catholics recalled the legacy of murdered government minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

Father Shahzad Niamat, a Pakistani priest, was among the parish priests of the Diocese of Rome present for a traditional Lenten audience with Pope Benedict on March 10. He represented the Pakistani clergy and religious in the diocese as he spoke briefly with the Pope to inform him of their situation.

“We explained to the Pope the situation of Christians in Pakistan, where to witness to the faith can sometimes lead to death,” Fr. Niamat told Fides news.

“The Holy Father seemed very concerned,” he said. “He expressed his solidarity and his support and assured us of his prayers.”

The priest also thanked the Pope for his words in support of the Church and religious freedom in Pakistan after the assassination of minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti on March 2.

“The Holy Father communicated to us his hope that things may change and that in Pakistan there may be full respect for human dignity and religious freedom. He gave us his blessing,” concluded Fr. Niamat.

Pakistan's ambassador to the Holy See, Mrs. Ayesha Riyaz told CNA that the legacy of Bhatti lives on in Pakistan's government. His assassination “is something that across the board, all of us have felt deeply and we have endured and we have condemned,” she said.

“He was a remarkable man with a very good heart who did a lot of good things.”

“I think he is a man who has a legacy, and that legacy is for interfaith harmony and interfaith dialogue. And, I think that legacy will continue and we are all committed to it,” said Riyaz on March 10.

Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari said that, “Bhatti's sacrifice for the Country, for religious minorities, to promote inter-religious harmony and tolerance will not be in vain and will be remembered for long to come.”

Fides reported the declaration after a March 8 meeting with Bhatti's mother, four brothers and sister.

In a resolution adopted at the European Parliament on March 10, diplomats condemned the assassination and called for the appointment “without delay” of a new, “strong and impartial minority representative to take his place.”

They also urged a thorough investigation of the “brutal murder” and warned that the “next candidate for murder” could be former Pakistani minister, Sherry Rehman, for whom a death order has reportedly been issued by extremists.

A candidate favored to assume the murdered Bhatti's role at the head of the Ministry for Minority Affairs is his brother, Paul Bhatti, a surgeon. He has already been elected to succeed his brother as the director of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance.

Ambassador Riyaz did not exclude the possible succession. The younger Bhatti's candidacy must first go through the election commission.

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