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Archive of March 15, 2011

One in five future Catholics in England and Wales headed for ordinariate

London, England, Mar 15, 2011 (CNA) - About 900 prospective members of the new ordinariate, including 61 former Anglican clergy, prepared for their reception into the Catholic Church in England and Wales over the weekend.

They were among the more than 4,700 others who gathered for the Rite of Election in cathedrals across England and Wales over the weekend of March 12-13 to prepare to be received into the Church during Holy Week.

“I am greatly encouraged that these people will be received into the Catholic Church at Easter as members of the ordinariate,” said Fr. Keith Newton, the ordinary heading Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. “During the next few weeks they will continue their prayerful preparation for this significant step.”

Pope Benedict XVI established the ordinariate, a special church structure, to allow Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while retaining some of their customs and liturgy.

Figures from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales indicate that former Anglicans will have a significant presence among new converts.

In the Archdiocese of Westminster, a reported 62 of the 829 participants in the Rite of Election will join the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. In the Archdiocese of Birmingham 100 of the 302 prospective Catholics will join the ordinariate, as will 167 of the 512 participants in the Archdiocese of Southwark.

In the Diocese of Brentwood, which includes Essex and East London, 240 of the 362 participants were bound for the ordinariate.

In southwest England’s Diocese of Plymouth, those joining the ordinariate also made up the majority undergoing the Rite of Election: 60 out of 80.

They will join five former Anglican bishops who have already become Catholic, including Fr. Newton.
 
“The witness of so many people taking this life-changing step is so very encouraging,” said Bishop Kieran Conry, chair of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for the bishops’ conference. “Each year people freely choose to come forward from all walks of life, bringing with them unique experiences and talents. The Catholic Community welcomes them with love, friendship and the assurance of prayer.”

The bishop encouraged anyone considering entering the Catholic Church or exploring it further to contact their local Catholic church or to ask a Catholic friend for help.

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Spanish priest faces excommunication after claiming to have paid for an abortion

Barcelona, Spain, Mar 15, 2011 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Barcelona announced it has opened an inquiry to “verify” whether Fr. Manel Pousa incurred automatic excommunication when he paid for an abortion.

In the book, “Father Manel: Closer to the Earth than to Heaven,” which was released on Feb. 28, Fr. Manel says he previously “blessed” same-sex unions between prison inmates and that he supports “voluntary” celibacy and women priests.

He also admits that he paid for an abortion. Until now, he adds, his actions were only met with a warning from the Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach.

On March 8, the cardinal issued a brief statement summoning the priest to “speak personally with him about some of the content of this book and to make whatever decisions are appropriate.”

In the statement sent to CNA on March 15, the archdiocese said Cardinal Sistach, together with Barcelona's Auxiliary Bishop Sebastia Tatlavull and archdiocesan Chancellor Msgr. Sergi Gordo met with Fr. Manel on March 14 “concerning statements about abortion made by this priest in the book about him.”

“Since according to the Code of Canon Law, cooperation in an abortion carries the penalty of latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication, the code directs that procedures must be followed to verify the facts, and therefore this administrative procedure has been initiated,” the statement said.

The archdiocese added that the canonical procedures are not intended to reflect negatively on “the social work that this priest has carried out for many years in service to the neediest groups of our society.”

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Scottish cardinal accuses UK of 'anti-Christian foreign policy'

Glasgow, United Kingdom, Mar 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland has accused the U.K. of adopting an “anti-Christian foreign policy,” after the government announced it would double foreign aid to Pakistan without setting any conditions to help the Islamic country's endangered religious minorities.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Archbishop of Edinburgh, said on March 15 that U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague should “obtain guarantees from foreign governments before they are given aid,” ensuring that Christians and other religious minorities in countries like Pakistan would not be deprived of their basic religious rights.

The cardinal made his remarks at the Glasgow launch of a new report on religious persecution, compiled by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. Their report “Persecuted and Forgotten?” shows that 75 percent of all worldwide anti-religious activity is now directed against Christians.

These “shocking and saddening” figures, the cardinal said, should prompt a reconsideration of how the U.K. distributes foreign aid. Currently, however, no such conditions will accompany the country's latest contribution of 445 million pounds (over $700 million).

“To increase aid to the Pakistan government when religious freedom is not upheld and those who speak up for religious freedom are gunned down is tantamount to an anti-Christian foreign policy,” said Cardinal O'Brien, in an evident reference to the March 2 murder of Pakistani religious minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

Bhatti, a Catholic who could be declared a martyr, predicted his own death after dedicating his life to opposing Pakistan's “blasphemy law.” A branch of the Pakistani Taliban said they killed him for criticizing Islam and supporting the law's repeal.

“Here in Scotland,” Cardinal O'Brien noted, “we value our freedoms, particularly the freedom of religion and the right to practice our faith free of persecution.”

But this freedom, he said, is far from universal. “In countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, Christians face violence, intolerance and even death because of their beliefs,” Cardinal O'Brien stated. “This issue is perhaps the biggest human rights scandal of our generation.”

Iraqi Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who is visiting the U.K. this month, welcomed the “Persecuted and Forgotten?” report. He said it would contribute to building “international support and solidarity” for Christians in countries “where our human rights and our religious freedom have been stripped away.”

“In many countries, like Iraq, the situation for Christians seems to be worsening, sometimes to the point were we wonder if we will survive as a people in our own country,” said Archbishop Warda. “There is no doubt that the political turmoil and growing nationalist struggles in Iraq are contributing to the loss of our religious freedoms.”

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, head of the Pakistan bishops' conference, has previously stated that foreign governments should demand protection of religious minorities and respect for their rights as a precondition of foreign aid. He told CNA on Jan. 6 that it would be a “very effective” means of getting Pakistan's government to take human rights concerns seriously.

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Church in El Salvador presses President Obama on immigration reform

San Salvador, El Salvador, Mar 15, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador, El Salvador is calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform.

The archbishop made his comments after Mass on March 13, in light of President Obama’s upcoming March 22-23 visit to El Salvador. It will be the president's third stop on a trip that will also take him to Brazil and Chile.

“We would like to ask the U.S. president for his efforts, his good will and his firm leadership in bringing about comprehensive immigration reform during his term as president,” Archbishop Escobar Alas said.

El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes will also ask President Obama to push for comprehensive immigration reform and for the permanent benefits of those under the Temporary Protected Status. The designation currently allows 217,000 Salvadorans in the U.S. to work.

The program has been granted an extension on numerous occasions. It grants legal status to immigrants from countries engaged in armed conflict or suffering from natural disasters. Immigrants from various countries in Central America hit by hurricanes and earthquakes have benefited from the program.

“We know that not everything depends on (President Obama), but we would like to hear an expression of commitment, a word that in some way gives hope that comprehensive immigration reform will be achieved. I think that is the main thing,” the archbishop said.

“Laws that criminalize innocent persons are unjust. Laws that separate families, fathers from children, are not just.”

“So I hope in that respect we receive good news,” he added.

Archbishop Escobar Alas encouraged Catholics to pray that God would “enlighten the minds and move the hearts of our leaders to make the best decisions.”

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Young cancer patient improves as parents ask for more prayers to Mother Teresa

Washington D.C., Mar 15, 2011 (CNA) -

Toddler cancer patient Joseph Wahlin is showing some positive signs following medical treatment and many prayers to Bl. Mother Teresa.

Joseph’s father Chad Wahlin in a March 12 message to CNA said that “JoeJoe’s” latest medical scan showed about a dozen small and large tumors.

“While this was not good news, it wasn't necessarily unexpected from the doctor's perspective,” Wahlin said.

The two-year-old is presently under treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He was flown there from Naples, Italy where his parents are stationed at the U.S. Navy base.

Joseph’s father saw a “positive answer to prayer” in a visible reduction of tumor mass. The tumor above his right eye is now “nearly unnoticeable.” Probably more important, biopsy results are favorable and indicate Joseph has a type of cancer more vulnerable to treatment.

On March 11, Joseph began to walk again with “barely a limp,” something he had not done in almost two weeks. He also kicked a football with his uncle, which would have been impossible the day before.

“These are all wonderfully positive signs and we are eternally grateful for the prayers that are making this miracle happen,” Wahlin said.

He asked for prayers for Joseph so that he will be healthy enough to start his next regimen of tumor-killing chemotherapy.

The family has asked that people pray to Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta for her intercession because they believe Joseph may have seen a vision of her from his hospital bed. They would like a miraculous cure for Joseph to be the miracle which allows Mother Teresa to be canonized as a saint.

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

To read more about Joseph’s story, click here.

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Cuba frees 10 political prisoners, including Nobel peace prize nominee

Havana, Cuba, Mar 15, 2011 (CNA) - Cuban officials released 10 more political prisoners, including prominent dissident  Oscar Elias Biscet, who was recently nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Biscet, a doctor who had been serving a 25-year sentence for being accused of activities that endangered state security, was released on March 11 with nine others. The dissidents were among 75 who were jailed during a repressive wave in the country nearly eight years ago.

The office of Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, made the announcement of Biscet’s release by e-mail on March 10.

The release is the latest of several, following unprecedented dialogue between Cuban officials and the country's Catholic leaders. In 2003, 75 dissidents were arrested for what the local communist government viewed as treason. The prisoners have reportedly suffered harsh conditions while incarcerated, with some going on hunger strikes as a sign of protest.

Many of the political prisoners who have been released in the last several months are living in exile in Spain, which agreed to accept them, and three remain imprisoned in Cuba. However, Biscet belongs to a small group of dissidents who refused to be exiled to Spain in exchange for their release. He returned to his home in Havana last Friday.

The 49 year-old doctor is the president of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights. He became one of the most well known opponents of the communist government in Cuba and has earned the respect of both human rights groups and African American activists in the United States.

Biscet suffered numerous arrests beginning in 1998. He was convicted in 2000 and arrested again in 2002. For his opposition to Cuban authorities, then-president George W. Bush awarded him the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.  

Earlier this year, Biscet was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban. In a Feb. 1 letter to the peace prize committee, Orban called the dissident a “man of courage and dignity” and an “ardent defender of human rights.”

Biscet is also the subject of a documentary from U.S. director Jordan Allott titled “Oscar’s Cuba.” The film was a selection of the 2011 John Paul II Film Festival.

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