Vatican City, Apr 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The 40-year old bishop newly elected to lead the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has ambitious plans to resist growing secularism in his country, drawing on help from Rome and a "strategic alliance" with the Orthodox Churches.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk visited Pope Benedict XVI on April 1 in his first official act since being elected March 23 to leadership of the world’s 4.3 million Ukrainan Greek Catholics by a synod of bishops.
Archbishop Sviatoslav and brother bishops from the synod made the trip to Rome during the week of his enthronement to confirm their communion with the Successor of Peter, he said during a Vatican press conference. They wish to manifest the "nature and essence, the being of our Church," he said.
"We are an Eastern Church with its tradition and inheritance, ... a synodal Church which is governed by the synod of bishops together with the major archbishop. But, we are also a Catholic Church that lives its identity in a full, visible and real communion with the Holy Father," he declared.
He takes over the largest of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, which he described as being "resurrected" in the early 1990s as the totalitarian system of the Soviet Union fell apart. The previous century was a bitter one for Ukrainian Greek Catholics.
Priests and faithful were routinely arrested, martyred for the faith, generally forced to go underground. Church property was usurped by Orthodox Churches and the Church operated under all manner of restrictions.
At the fall of communism, "young people were looking for strong values, something that could guide them through their life," Archbishop Sviatoslav recalled.
The "Church of the martyrs" was an attractive option to return to their Christian roots.
According to the major archbishop, it continues to grow and develop beyond the post-communist era boom years. After an initial "big explosion" of vocations to the priesthood, their seminary still has the bittersweet task of having more candidates than parishes.
For Archbishop Sviatoslav, the "blood of the martyrs ... is the main reason for our young, resurrected Church."
The average age of priests serving this Church of the Byzantine Rite is 35 years old, "more or less my age," said Archbishop Sviatoslav, by far the youngest of Eastern Rite Church heads today.
In his audience with the Pope, he expressed his gratitude for "confirming the action of such a young bishop." He called it a "demonstration of the great trust the Holy Father has placed in me and others."
Though he is young, he brings a wide variety of experiences into the position, including time as personal secretary to the now-retired Cardinal Archbishop Lubomyr Husar, work as a seminary rector and more recently as a bishop and apostolic administrator in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He holds a doctorate in moral theology from Rome's Pontifical Angelicum, the university Pope John Paul II attended.
As he takes the reins of the Church, he said its "number one priority" today remains preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the world.
Amid the pattern of secularization in Europe, they must protect the "great treasure" of the faith in the Ukraine, he said. "We must not only not lose it, but develop it, to transmit it to the new generation."
"Inculturation" is also a vital issue for the Ukrainian Greek Catholics dispersed worldwide, he explained. "(It) means sinking the Christian values and our tradition into today's culture. This inculturation is a very important instrument of evangelization."
Full translations of the liturgical texts are still needed in many nations where the Ukrainian Catholic Church is active.
He observed a further need for the Church to be more active in providing Ukrainians with social services. He called it an "instrument" and a fundamental part of the evangelization of a society still rebuilding from communism.
The nation, he said, "is asking for this type of witness."
He also sees ecumenism as an important issue for the evangelization of society.
There has been great interest from the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine as well as from Moscow in his election. In the days before he was chosen, he spoke with other Catholic and Orthodox leaders of a building a "strategic alliance for a harmonious and single testimony from Christians" which he thinks will help to evangelize Ukrainian culture.
"There is interest, a concrete proposal, and on my part we are moving ahead to collaborate in this ecumenical, Christian and evangelizing perspective," he said.
Through open and fraternal dialogue, the ecumenical work continues to seek solutions "to all of the problems that we have received as an inheritance of the history of our nation," he said.
The new major archbishop said he has taken notes from Pope John Paul II in this realm. Through personal relationships, all walls, prejudices and divisions fall, he said.
Catholics and Orthodox Christians are not against each other, but "together," he emphasized. "We are present to bear witness to the our same faith."
If they concentrate on what unites them and not what divides, "all the prejudices and fears will disappear," he said. He also spoke of a "symphony of the traditions" between Latin and Byzantine Rite Catholics.
Referring to the future, he quoted the Ukrainian expression, "The youth is our hope." This, he said, is true in the Church and in political life.
He places great hope in a new generation of young, capable Ukrainian politicians with whom the Church can build constructive relationships for a better future.
Archbishop Sviatoslav said that for now, he will be returning to the Ukraine confirmed in the faith and supported by the rock of St. Peter. "This," he said, "gives me great courage to move ahead."
Madrid, Spain, Apr 1, 2011 (CNA) - Vatican Cardinal Antonio Canizares recently emphasized that the “public testimony of Christian families is very important” for responding to the “ferocious” attacks on the institution.
Christians reaffirm the “unique and irreplaceable value of the family,” the cardinal said in his March 28 remarks. He spoke during the week of the family in the Spanish city of Cordoba.
The cardinal said that in the case of Spain, the lack of pro-family policies has put the country last among the nations of Europe with its low birth rate and increase in abortions.
He called for social measures to support and defend the family. The Church’s official teachings can help in this regard, he added.
Cardinal Canizares also encouraged spouses to overcome their problems with God’s help, remaining faithful to their vocation and participating frequently in the sacraments.
“The family is the Church’s pathway, and this pathway is inseparable from Christ.” For this reason, “A new evangelization to renew and revitalize the Christian family is urgent,” he concluded.
Irondale, Ala., Apr 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Eternal Word Television Network said its decision to halt programming by the popular speaker Fr. John Corapi followed the lead of legitimate Church authority.
“EWTN has an obligation to uphold the discipline and teachings of the Church,” president Michael Warsaw said on April 1. “In the network’s thirty years of existence, our practice has always been to discontinue airing programs featuring any cleric whose priestly faculties have been suspended, even if temporarily,” Warsaw said.
EWTN pulled Fr. Corapi’s programs following the priest’s announcement on Ash Wednesday that he has been publicly accused of drug abuse and sexual relationships with several women. Fr. Corapi has denied the allegations.
In the weeks since then, EWTN has come under intense criticism for its decision.
In his statement, Warsaw said that much of that criticism has been “shrill and uncharitable.” He said that many people have threatened to withhold donations and have made personal remarks attacking the network’s employees.
“When I see messages and web postings that malign the character and intentions of people who have served this mission for years, often at great personal sacrifice, I cannot allow those assertions to stand unanswered,” he said.
Warsaw stressed that it “is simply illogical to assert, as some have, that the very people who have worked personally with Fr. John over the years and who have made certain that he has had a continued presence on EWTN would suddenly and immediately take league with the enemy and turn against him.”
Fr. Corapi was suspended from priestly ministry on March 18 by his superiors in the Texas-based Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.
A three-page letter submitted by a former, unidentified female employee claimed that the 63-year-old priest took part in sexual encounters with several adult women and engaged in habitual drug use. Fr. Corapi said in a March 19 statement that the accusations were entirely “false.”
In response to the allegations, the television network pulled the broadcast of Fr. Corapi's homilies and teachings until further notice.
“In this case, Fr. John’s own religious superior has made the determination to place him on administrative leave and feels it best that Fr. John not exercise public ministry at this time,” Warsaw said.
“Fr. Corapi’s religious superior obviously believes that this was the prudent and appropriate course of action.”
Warsaw said that although the network does not know the details of the case, “as Catholics, we are obliged to give deference and the benefit of the doubt to the religious superior who does know.”
“A priest,” the network CEO noted, “has no right to public ministry in the Church on his own. He cannot function publicly without the express permission of his bishop or religious superior. That is the discipline of the Church.”
Warsaw emphasized that EWTN had “an obligation to remove Fr. John’s programming from the air” and that the decision was reached with “much prayer and careful consideration.”
“Some have said this showed a lack of courage by the network,” he said. But, he countered, the “hard decision was to remove the programs.”
“Fr. John is not just a face on television or a voice on the radio to those of us here at EWTN. He is a man many of us know personally and admire greatly. That made the decision all the more difficult for us.”
Warsaw also underscored the network’s stance that Fr. Corapi “is absolutely innocent of any and all charges unless proven otherwise by the investigation that is now underway.”
“I have been privileged to know Fr. John for more than a decade. He is a gifted preacher and has done tremendous work leading souls to Christ. That is a fact.”
“Fr. John has asked us to pray for all involved,” Warsaw said. “That is what we are doing. I would also ask our EWTN Family to continue to pray that this matter will be resolved quickly and that Fr. John’s programs can be returned to the airwaves.”
San Rafael, Calif., Apr 1, 2011 (CNA) - Manga Hero, a California company that produces Japanese-style comics with Catholic themes, will offer World Youth Day attendees a special comic about the life and papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, called “Habemus Papam!”
“The point of 'Habemus Papam!' is to introduce Pope Benedict XVI to those who may not know much about him,” said Jonathan Lin, a producer and editor at Manga Hero.
Lin told World Youth Day organizers that the story shows the Pope's time as a cardinal working with Pope John Paul II, leading up to his papal election in 2005. “The story also shows how he grows into his role as pope,” said Lin.
“We want to use manga as a tool to show the youth and the world that the Church is not afraid of modernity and evolving culture,” Lin explained. “It is not afraid to use, in this case, new and compelling forms of media to meet young people where they are.” Manga Hero has already published two previous comic series, on St. Paul and the Biblical figure Judith.
Lin said his company was working with a Spanish publisher to distribute over 300,000 English and Spanish-language editions of “Habemus Papam!” to World Youth Day participants and the general public.
“We are aiming to distribute the manga throughout Madrid,” he said, “at locations such as churches, schools, hotels or hostels, metro stations, the airport, information kiosks, tourist attractions, and other event locations.”
The comic, written by Gabrielle Gniewek with illustration by Sean Lam, takes its name from the traditional announcement that follows a papal election. Gniewek is a graduate of San Diego's John Paul the Great Catholic University, a school that focuses on business, technology, and media in the service of the Church.
Lin's own desire to make a positive impact in the business world drew him to the manga format, where he found that Catholic stories and themes could be presented in a new and dynamic way.
“With media playing such an influential role in our culture, especially on the youth,” he said, “I felt this was an area that I could make a difference.”
Lin also believes that the soon-to-be-beatified Pope John Paul II – the founder of World Youth Day, and the patron of this year's event – would approve of the manga tribute to his successor Pope Benedict XVI.
“Pope John Paul II called for the use of new and different forms of media, to reach young people where they are in order to build a culture of love and dignity,” Lin observed. “Manga is one such medium.”
Phoenix, Ariz., Apr 1, 2011 (CNA) - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed legislation to ban abortions based on the race or sex of the unborn child or based on the race of a parent.
“Governor Brewer believes society has the responsibility to protect its most vulnerable, the unborn,” the governor’s spokesman Matthew Benson told The Arizona Republic. He described the bill as consistent with the governor’s “pro-life track record.”
The law makes it a Class 3 felony knowingly to perform or finance an abortion sought on the grounds of sex or race, with a maximum punishment of 3 1/2 years in prison.
Illinois, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania already have laws barring sex-selective abortion, but the Arizona law is the first to ban race-based abortion, the New York-based Guttmacher Institute says.
Supporters of the legislation said discrimination-based abortions should be prohibited.
State Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Scottsdale) said that some cultures are “bringing their traditions to America that really defy the values of America, including the cultures that value males over females.”
Opponents said abortion-performing doctors could face jail time if they lose a newly required affidavit testifying that an abortion is not for race- or sex-selection purposes.
Those against the law also questioned whether there was evidence that such abortions are taking place in Arizona. Rep. Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) said the only proof bill sponsor Rep. Steve Montenegro (R-Litchfield Park) offered concerned India and China.
A 2008 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted by researchers Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund examined figures from the 2000 U.S. Census which showed “son-biased sex ratios” among U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean and Asian Indian parents.
The researchers concluded the imbalanced sex ratios were evidence of sex-selection, “most likely at the pre-natal stage.” Similar sex imbalances have been documented among Canadian Asian immigrant communities.
Sex-selective abortions can have significant effects when practiced on a large scale. In China, millions of men have no women to marry in their age group because a traditional preference for sons has encouraged parents to abort unborn girls.
Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 1, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani and Archbishop Jose Gomez visited the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice session on March 30, meeting with the team and talking basketball with the players.
The Cardinal Archbishop of Lima, a former player on the Peruvian national basketball team, found he had common ground with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.
“Kupchak and Cipriani spoke,” archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg, who was at the event, told CNA. “They determined that they knew players in common whom they played against in international competition. I think that’s what kept Kupchak there for so long. He and Cipriani were really talking basketball.”
The two archbishops witnessed a full-court scrimmage and also had one-on-one conversations with Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, forward Pau Gasol and coach Phil Jackson.
The conversations centered on the Lakers’ recent success, which include a division championship and a 15-1 winning streak. However, the cardinal also talked about his own time in the sport. He was on Peru’s national team from 1961 to 1967.
“When I see basketball practices, I lose about 30 or 40 years (off my life),” Cardinal Cipriani, 67, told the Los Angeles Times. He said he talked basketball offense and defense with Kupchak.
“We offered them some prayers so they could finish a good tournament,” he continued. “They're doing really well in these last games and hopefully they'll be ready for the playoffs. Maybe they'll repeat.”
The cardinal told Bryant that his competitiveness set a good example and asked the Spanish-born Gasol how he has adjusted to life in the United States.
Bryant said the visit was uncommon and “pretty cool.”
“We have people come in and want to watch (practice), but that was the first time in my 15 years that that's happened,” he said.
Cardinal Cipriani was able to make the visit because he was in Los Angeles to travel with Archbishop Gomez to Rome for a meeting of the Pontifical Council for Latin America.
Archbishop Gomez, who was installed as Archbishop of Los Angeles in February, had been a San Antonio Spurs fan from his time as archbishop in Texas.
“It was a perfect opportunity for us to come and enjoy the practice of the Lakers,” he said. He reported that the prayers for him to switch his allegiance to the Lakers have worked.
“Now I'm a Lakers fan. I'm also praying for the Spurs but a sign from God is that the Lakers are playing much better,” he said.
The Lakers were “very gracious” to invite the archbishop and the cardinal, Tamberg said. People “gravitated” towards the two churchmen once they knew who they were.
“One person within the Lakers organization came up with a rosary and asked the archbishop to bless it,” Tamberg said. “They had a nice little conversation. It was one of those small moments where the Church is present.”
Archbishop Gomez is “a big basketball fan.” When he announced in his first homily as Archbishop of Los Angeles that he had become a Lakers fan, the news went around the city quickly.
Tamberg explained that the archbishop’s ministry was related to the visit.
“Archbishop Gomez is the Archbishop of all of Los Angeles, and that means he should be equally at home in any environment in this city. Certainly the Lakers are part of that.”
He added that the Church can be present in many different places.
“This time it was at a practice. They were able to have fun and enjoy a chance to see the Lakers practice. At the same time, their presence speaks of the Church’s universality. The Church can be everywhere and should be everywhere. You never know where the points of contact are going to be.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 1, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City expressed sadness over the increase in the number of suicides in the country.
The cardinal spoke to 2,000 young people gathered for Mass on March 29. He told them, “you need to seriously think about where you are going, what kind of happiness you wish to attain. Jesus offers us a happiness that never ends, an eternal joy, a bliss that no one can take away.”
A study released March 26-27 by researcher Guilherme Luiz Guimaraes Borges revealed that the number of suicides in Mexico increased 275 percent from 1970 to 2007. The study found that young people ages 15-29 are especially at risk.
Researchers found that drug and alcohol use, as well as a lack of goals, increased suicide risk.
Cardinal Rivera also urged the young people to draw close to Christ in order to find meaning in their lives. Wisdom is not the accumulation of knowledge or information, but “finding meaning for one’s life,” he said.
The cardinal then called the young people to imitate the Good Samaritan and reach out to those in need.
He added that studying is not simply a means for earning money, prestige or power, but for putting one’s gifts at the service of others.
Vatican City, Apr 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - New laws to prevent possible money laundering and terrorism financing from being channeled through the Vatican went into force on April 1.
The provisions are aimed at preventing money from being funneled through the Vatican using accounts that had historically provided anonymity in international banking.
The law was originally issued on Dec. 30, accompanied by a letter of approval from Pope Benedict XVI. According to an April 1 note from the Holy See's Press Office, the legislation resulting from the two documents constitutes "an event of great importance which has wide-reaching moral and pastoral implications."
In 2010, several large-sum transfers between bank accounts managed by the Vatican were frozen by European banks because of a lack of information on account holders and benificiaries. In response, the Holy See decided to ramp up its controls and bring its financial activities up to the most rigorous international standards.
According to Wall Street Journal, they had little choice as local Italian banks gave them an ultimatum: adjust to current standards or lose their business with them. Untraceable transactions were at the root of the problem.
The Journal reported that while in court to recover frozen assets of the Institute of Religious Works -popularly known as the "Vatican bank" - its president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi said, "The water was already up to our throats."
In the wording of the new law, all internal entities of the Holy See, including the Institute of Religious Works, are obliged to collaborate. The umbrella legislation also includes all organizations dependent on Holy See or associated with it.
A watchdog agency called the Financial Information Authority (FIA) has been put in charge of overseeing compliance with the new rules and keeping the financial activities of the Holy See up to date with international standards.
The authority is responsible for improving transparency, careful monitoring and more stringent record-keeping. Among the requirements are periodic reports due to Cardinal Attilio Nicora, its chairman.
The financial agency’s representatives are being charged with improving the Vatican's status on the international scene by collaborating with the major European oversight groups, specifically in the areas of anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing. They hope to eventually be included on the "White List" of compliant institutions.
The Vatican said in the April 1 note that these efforts fit into its overall commitment to the Pope's most recent document on the social doctrine of the Church, called "Caritas in veritate."