Hanoi, Vietnam, Apr 6, 2011 (CNA) - Vietnamese officials arrested and beat a group of Catholics for attempting to peacefully attend a trial of prominent lawyer and human rights activist Cu Huy Ha Vu on April 4.
“At least 29 Catholics were arrested at 8 a.m. on Monday morning when they were on their way to the courthouse to observe the proceedings,” read a statement issued by the Catholic Youth Association of Vinh.
Eyewitnesses told VietCatholic News that shortly before the arrests, the 29 were closely followed by local police who monitored their cell phone use and eventually used physical force to apprehend them. Bystanders who tried to help were repeatedly beaten and forced to let go of the victims.
The local Catholics were attempting to show support for 53 year-old Cu Huy Ha Vu – a well known Vietnamese legal scholar and human rights campaigner – who was due in court on Monday in Hanoi.
Vu, who has called for multiparty democracy in the country, has been in prison since November and is being held on a charge of “maligning party and state institutions and policies” with anti-state propaganda. According to the government, the charges stem from critical articles he’s posted online.
Although Vu continues to gain widespread support among citizens, he faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.
Local Catholics have shown particular solidarity with the activist for his public defense of parishioners, and churches have organized prayer vigils and expressed gratitude to Vu's wife.
The legal scholar is one of dozens of Vietnamese lawyers and activists who have been imprisoned throughout the last five years for challenging the government.
Among them was Le Quoc Quan, a Catholic lawyer who had recently filled out his application to run for Congress. Another prominent Catholic, reporter JB Nguyen Huu Vinh, was summoned for interrogation after his article on police brutality against innocent people was published on a Catholic website. Vinh was also severely beaten at the Dong Chiem parish during a police crackdown last year.
The recent beatings of the 29 in Hanoi join a string of human rights abuses involving Vietnamese police using violence against the country's inhabitants.
In January, the U.S. State Department lodged a sharp protest with the Vietnamese government after an American diplomat was beaten for attempting to visit an ailing Catholic priest who was under house arrest.
U.S. leaders such as Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) have urged the Obama administration to reinstate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern.
“Congress, the president, and all those who espouse fundamental human rights ought to be outraged at Vietnam's turn for the worse,” Rep. Smith said in a December 2010 hearing. “We should stand with the oppressed, not the oppressor.”
Lahore, Pakistan, Apr 6, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore has asked the U.S. government to take action over the burning of a Quran by a Christian pastor in Florida.
“The U.S. government talks about religious freedom – but we call upon the U.S. government to prevent such actions by extremists and other fundamentalist Christians,” the president of the Pakistan bishops’ conference told Aid to the Church in Need.
“The U.S. government should detain the pastor for some time,” the archbishop continued. “In view of the effects his actions have had all over the world, he should be controlled and understand the harm that has been done.”
On March 20, Florida pastor Terry Jones of the non-denominational 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida presided over what he called an “International Judge the Koran Day.” He supervised the burning of the book in front of about 50 people.
Video posted on the church’s website showed a kerosene-soaked book going up in bright flames in a metal fire pit located inside the church.
News of the event enraged thousands of protesters in northern Afghanistan, according to news reports. They stormed a United Nations compound on April 1 and killed at least seven U.N. staff. At least 24 have been killed in protests in Afghanistan and demonstrations have also taken place across Pakistan.
Archbishop Saldanha questioned reports from Pakistan that unrest sparked by the Florida event led to recent attacks on three churches. However, he stressed the strength of feeling expressed by Muslims.
“Although there have not been any reactions against Christians, it could become ugly,” he continued.
Churches in Pakistan have put extra security measures in place in recent months, including armed guards, concrete blocks, security cameras and sand bags.
On April 2 President Barack Obama responded to the Quran burning and the violence.
“The desecration of any holy text, including the Quran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry,” he said. “However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous and an affront to human decency and dignity.”
Shortly after the burning, Rev. Jones said the event participants believe that parts of the Quran “if taken literally, do lead to violence and terrorist activities, do promote racism or prejudice against minorities, against Christians, against women.”
He told the BBC he did not feel responsible for the killings of the U.N. employees in Afghanistan.
In September the 58-year-old pastor drew international condemnation for his announcement that he would burn the Quran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. International figures such as Pope Benedict XVI asked him not to go through with his plans, which he canceled.
New York City, N.Y., Apr 6, 2011 (CNA) - Catholic League President Bill Donohue says Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire “crossed the line” with comments threatening to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church in their state and by associating the league with cases of child abuse.
“I've never seen such an incredible reaction from state lawmakers in my entire life,” said Donohue, describing the response he received from state representatives after speaking out against remarks by Republican state representative David Bettencourt. The leading Republican called Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester a “pedophile pimp” after the bishop criticized proposed budget cuts.
Bettencourt eventually apologized for the remark and is scheduled to meet with the bishop on April 7. But several of Bettencourt's fellow party members lashed out at Donohue for asking state legislators to censure him. Donohue highlighted two messages in particular, one accusing the league of defending an enabler of sexual abuse, and another threatening the Church's tax-exempt status in New Hampshire.
“I am now considering a bill to remove the Church's tax exempt status in New Hampshire, for you have clearly shown that you no longer want it,” Rep. Andrew Manuse wrote in an e-mail to the league, after Donohue called for Bettencourt to be censured.
Donohue said another Republican, Representative Lynne Ober, told him it was “certainly unfortunate that the Catholic League chooses to harbor a person who helped pedophiles continue abusing children.” Bishop McCormack, who became head of the Manchester diocese in 1998, was once an administrator for Cardinal Bernard F. Law in Boston and investigated sexual abuse complaints.
Rep. Manuse told CNA that he had received a large volume of e-mailed responses after Donohue informed Catholic League supporters of the threat. Manuse confirmed that he was now “no longer considering legislation” to begin taxing the Church and said he retracted the threat.
A colleague of Rep. Ober said she was not available for comment on April 6.
New Hampshire lawmakers, unlike those in many other states, are “citizen legislators” who do not hold a full-time government position. While Donohue sees some advantages to this system, he also believes it may partly account for the conduct of Bettencourt, Ober, and Manuse.
“I wish the rest of the country had part-time legislators,” said Donohue, who believes the system tends to make government less intrusive. “But, there's a negative side. They don't know what's expected of the public servant, because they're not full-time public servants.”
Donohue believes that the entire incident shows political discourse reaching a low point. “If that's the road we're going to go down, it means everybody who disagrees with someone, on whatever issue, can have a free-for-all – and we can all now engage in the most incredible vitriol and name-calling of the most scurrilous sort, and expect that to stand.”
“It'd be one thing if we had a bunch of bratty teenagers throwing a temper tantrum – one might expect that. But you're talking about public servants, who are there to represent the citizens of New Hampshire, carrying on in this manner.”
“The standards of discourse in our society have collapsed to such an extent that I think we're at a dangerous level. We at the Catholic League, along with others, are prepared to hold up a 'STOP' sign and call attention to it.”
Colorado Springs, Colo., Apr 6, 2011 (CNA) - An all-star roster of speakers will challenge men in the state of Colorado to “become a man of God,” the theme of the annual Rocky Mountain Catholic Men’s Conference May 7 at World Arena in Colorado Springs.
The conference is cosponsored by the dioceses of Colorado Springs and Pueblo and the Archdiocese of Denver.
This year’s speakers are: Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa, EWTN host and biblical scholar; Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Benedict Groeschel, internationally known lecturer and retreat master; Father Larry Richards, founder and president of The Reason for Our Hope Foundation and author of the recently released book “Be A Man” (Ignatius Press); and Patrick Madrid, publisher of Envoy magazine, widely published author of apologetics books and director of the Envoy Institute at Belmont Abbey College.
Now in its third year, the Rocky Mountain Catholic Men’s Conference has grown in attendance each year, with nearly 1,200 men from Colorado and surrounding states filling Pikes Peak Center in downtown Colorado Springs last year. In addition to four high-profile keynote speakers, the day will feature an opening prayer, blessing and Mass celebrated by Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan and plenty of opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and to attend eucharistic adoration. Bishop Sheridan is scheduled to be joined by at least one other Colorado ordinary, Denver Auxiliary Bishop James Conley.
Music will be provided by liturgical musician and recording artist Santiago Fernandez, and the emcee will be Dan Cochell, a host for Colorado Springs KRDO news radio and a member of St. Joseph Parish in Colorado Springs.
The theme of “Aspire, Achieve, Become a Man of God” was chosen because it reflects a desire for men to grow in their spiritual lives and have a greater impact on their families and on the world, said Christian Meert, Colorado Springs diocesan codirector of Marriage and Family Life.
“In our ever-changing world, we men could give in to the temptation to follow the flow and forget and that we belong to God first — the unchanging Truth,” Meert said. “Men long to get closer to God with other men and listen to his message. We know what it is to be a ‘man of God,’ but still we need to be comforted in our own mission as sons, husbands, fathers, men in society and men in the church. If we don’t step in, nobody will do it for us.”
Each speaker will discuss a key aspect of the theme, according to Meert.
“All of our speakers are men of God. They know what they are talking about,” he said. “They will send a very strong message to all of us. I expect to receive what I need to step in in a stronger way after the conference.”
Phil Webb, director of the archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life in Denver, said that it is important for men to hear the message that “God promises to work through (them) so that the faith will run down through the generations of their families and communities.”
“This is why it is so important that their faith be fortified. Conferences like this do just that,” he continued. “Today we need men filled with this spirit more than ever.”
In special sessions for Bishop Sheridan’s Catholic Radio Network show “Bishop Sheridan Presents” recorded in early March, both Father Richards and Madrid touched on their upcoming talks and the growing men’s conference movement in America and shared excitement at being able to speak at the conference.
“I love going to these and when I get a chance to speak at one, even better,” Madrid said. “I very much value what is accomplished for men at these conferences. From time to time, I’ve had some experiences at men’s conferences where I’ve felt that the Holy Spirit seems to be working and I was able to witness some things that were very powerful.”
Father Richards, whose talk will include a focus on one of his favorite topics — the sacrament of reconciliation, will be coming to the Rocky Mountain Catholic Men’s Conference on the heels of the recent release of “Be A Man.”
“I’m giving a talk on confession and it challenges men to look at themselves and accept God’s mercy for them,” he told Bishop Sheridan. “I do a lot of parish missions, and the second or third night is on confession. And the average of when the last time someone went to confession — at a mission — is 30 years. . . . They get on fire and say, ‘Father, I’ve been so afraid.’ I say the last thing you need is to be afraid of meeting Christ in the confessional. He loves you so much. . . . The whole reason Christ was born was just to save us.”
Pueblo Bishop Fernando Isern attended his first Rocky Mountain Catholic Men’s Conference last year. He told The Colorado Catholic Herald that his experience often brought to mind the expression “Real men love Jesus.”
“It’s a chance for men to come together to share their love of the Lord,” he said.
For tickets and other information, go to www.rmcmc.org.
(NOTE: Bishop Sheridan’s radio shows with Patrick Madrid and Father Larry Richards can be streamed at www.rmcmc.org and heard on KFEL 970 AM in Colorado Springs/Pueblo and KPIO 1570 in Denver/Loveland. A session with Father Pacwa is scheduled for recording on April 7 and should appear on the RMCMC site shortly after.)
Printed with permission from The Colorado Catholic Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Colorado Springs.
Cincinnati, Ohio, Apr 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI appointed local priest Fr. Joseph R. Binzer as a new auxiliary bishop for the Cincinnati Archdiocese on April 6.
“I am honored and humbled that our Holy Father would make this appointment,” said Bishop-elect Binzer, who will serve as the archdiocese's first auxiliary bishop in four years.
The 55-year-old currently holds the positions of chancellor for the archdiocese and also serves as the pastor of St. Louis Church in downtown Cincinnati. He was introduced at a press conference Wednesday morning at the local Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains.
Archbishop of Cincinnati Dennis M. Schnurr said at the conference that he was “very grateful” to the Pope for appointing Bishop-elect Binzer to assist him “in shepherding the archdiocese.”
He added that the new auxiliary “is an excellent administrator, but also a priest of great simplicity and compassion. His love of the Church shines through in his tireless service to the people of God.”
“He is extremely well respected by his collaborators at the Chancery, by the parishes he has served and by people in general,” Archbishop Schnurr said.
Bishop-elect Binzer, a Cincinnati native, was born in 1955 and eventually attended Miami University in Ohio to study accounting.
He worked for 11 years as a Certified Public Accountant before joining the seminary in 1988 to study for the priesthood. After attending Mount St. Mary’s of the West Seminary, he was ordained a priest for the Cincinnati archdiocese in 1994.
He earned a licentiate in Canon Law from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and returned to Ohio to serve in local parishes.
Bishop-elect Binzer was appointed chancellor and pastor of St. Louis Church in 2003.
He will be ordained a bishop on June 9 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in Cincinnati.
“I will do my best to continue to work under Archbishop Schnurr to serve the people of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to the best of my ability,” he said.
Lima, Peru, Apr 6, 2011 (CNA) - The former spiritual advisor for Courage Latino recently explained how the organization ministers to homosexuals while remaining faithful to the Catholic Church.
“This apostolate is entirely spiritual,” Fr. Leopoldo Sanchez told CNA. “The way we help people with same-sex attraction is by creating support groups where they can discuss and share their life experiences in a spirit of fraternity.”
He added that prayer and spiritual direction are also essential elements of the program.
Courage Latino is part of Courage International, an organization founded by Fr. John Harvey in 1980 to minister to those struggling with same-sex attraction. In Latin America, Courage has offices in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Fr. Sanchez said Courage Latino offers psychological counseling to help members “grow in maturity as human beings and as Christians, so they can live with their attraction according to the Gospel, as the Church teaches”
He noted that his experience with the ministry was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. “It was truly a resurrection experience,” he said.
Countless members of the program “regain their self-esteem,” as well as their “ will to live,” Fr. Sanchez recalled.
“Sometimes the Church is accused of being homophobic and promoting a culture of condemnation and rejection of homosexual persons. But with this apostolate, the Church shows that what she really wants is to fulfill the Lord’s desire that all men be saved.
“And everyone means everyone,” he said.
“Within the Church there is a percentage of people who have same-sex attraction,” Fr. Sanchez said. “They are sons of the Church, they are our brothers, children of God, living temples of the Spirit, and they – like everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation – need our support and the genuine help of the Church to attain a life of fulfillment and happiness as human beings and as Christians.”
While Fr. Sanchez has been given a new position in his diocese and no longer serves as spiritual advisor for Courage, he continues to promote and support the ministry. “It has been a blessing for me to serve this part of the Church,” he said.
Vatican City, Apr 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI described ongoing conflicts in the African countries of Libya and Ivory Coast as a “defeat” for humanity, in remarks following his Wednesday general audience.
“Violence and hate are always a defeat!” said the Pope. “I therefore make a renewed and heartfelt appeal to all parties to the cause, to initiate a process of peacemaking and dialogue, and to avoid further bloodshed.”
Pope Benedict said he continued to follow the “dramatic events” in Ivory Coast and Libya “with great apprehension” and prayer for those involved.
The Pope also offered an update of sorts about a peacemaking mission that he sent Cardinal Peter Turkson on to Ivory Coast. “I hope that Cardinal Turkson, whom I have commissioned to visit Ivory Coast to demonstrate my solidarity, may soon be able to enter the country.”
In Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, Archbishop Jean-Pierre Kutwa told Fides news agency that “violent fighting” was continuing. Presidential incumbent Laurent Gbagbo has locked himself inside the presidential residence, following an influx of troops loyal to his rival Alassane Ouattara.
Gbagbo's attempts to negotiate a cease-fire on April 5 have reportedly failed. Gbagbo has sought a recount of ballots from the November 2010 election – which international authorities say he lost – while Outtara is maintaining his demand for Gbagbo to step down immediately.
In Libya’s capital of Tripoli, Bishop Giovanni Martinelli thanked the Pope for his appeal. “It is a further boost to diplomacy to not give up strength, and to act in a way that keeps the possibility of reconciliation alive,” said the bishop, who has questioned airstrikes intended to protect civilians.
“Fighting does not help to create peace,” said the bishop.
His remarks came as Libyan rebels, who seek to overturn the government of Colonel Moammar Gaddafi, criticized NATO for what they described as the alliance's slow response time and ineffectiveness. Questions continue to surround the scope of NATO's commitment and the rebels' chances of success.
Dublin, Ireland, Apr 6, 2011 (CNA) - Ireland has entered into new territory by recognizing civil partnerships for homosexuals, a move which has prompted more calls to recognize “gay marriage.” The Catholic bishops have said the partnerships undermine marriage and the family, while a gay political analyst has argued that Ireland should refuse to redefine marriage.
Gay people should defend the traditional understanding of marriage “as strong as anyone else,” Richard Waghorne said in an essay for the Irish Daily Mail. “Given that it is being undermined in the name of gay people, with consequences for future generations, it is all the more important that gay people who are opposed to gay marriage speak up.”
A law creating civil partnerships for homosexuals came into effect in Ireland on January 1. Six partnerships were registered after the parties sought court exemptions from a three-month waiting period. The first two people to register without an exemption were Barry Dignam and Hugh Walsh, who registered on April 5.
Dignam told the Irish Times he supports “gay marriage,” but unlike some he did not believe the partnerships should be boycotted until same-sex unions are recognized by the state as marriages.
Waghorne, however, said the creation of civil unions would be “a good time to declare victory and go home.”
He criticized the drive for same-sex “marriage” as not only unnecessary, but verging on “selfishness.”
“The support and status that marriage entails is not a societal bonus for falling in love and agreeing to make a relationship lasting,” he commented. “Marriage is vital as a framework within which children can be brought up by a man and woman.”
Marriages tend towards child-raising and same-sex partnerships do not, he pointed out, saying that “a wealth of research” demonstrates the benefits the marriage of a man and a woman provides children.
“Why should a gay relationship be treated the same way as a marriage, despite this fundamental difference?” Waghorne asked.
He voiced his “growing irritation” that “principled opponents of gay marriage have put up with a stream of abuse for explaining their position” and have to contend with the charge that they are “bigoted or homophobic.”
The Irish bishops’ conference said that the civil partnership legislation “is not compatible with seeing the family based on marriage as the necessary basis of the social order.” It contradicts the Irish Constitution’s pledge to “guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the family is founded.”
“Marriage is a unique union, a relationship different from all others,” they continued in “Why Marriage Matters,” their March 2010 pamphlet. “God is (the) author of marriage.”
Same-sex unions, the bishops said, are “contrary to God’s plan for sexual love” and all Christians are called to holiness and chastity.
They acknowledged the “real issue” about how the law should protect those involved in long-term, mutually dependent relationships, such as elderly siblings or a man who shares a house with his wife’s sisters after she dies.
However, the bishops noted the bill only protects those who are in a sexual relationship.
“This is real discrimination – choosing to help one vulnerable group over another when they are in similar circumstances,” they said.
They also warned of the “very alarming aspect” of the legislation which penalizes a civil registrar who refuses to carry out a partnership ceremony will face a fine and up to six months in prison. They called this “an extraordinary and far-reaching attack” on freedom of conscience and religion.
Vatican City, Apr 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Though just 24 at the time of her death, St. Therese of Lisieux left a lasting imprint on earth through the “highest form of science,” the science of love.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the “science of the saints” --a deep and masterful love of God--in his April 6 general audience in St. Peter's Square.
Continuing his series on the “doctors” of the Church, the Pope said St. Therese led a “very simple and hidden life” yet became known and loved universally through her writings.
Therese was the youngest of nine siblings when she was born in 1873 in Alencon, France. Driven to pursue a vocation to the religious life, she made a pilgrimage to Rome at 14 years old with her father and a sister to ask permission to enter the Carmelite convent of Lisieux.
Leo XIII gave her permission a year later and in 1888, she entered the convent. She took her vows two years later.
During this time of transition, her father was incapacitated by mental illness. In his suffering, Therese saw the holy face of Christ in his Passion, said the Pope.
In 1896, she herself was afflicted by great physical and spiritual suffering, which would last until her death from tuberculosis in 1897 at just 24 years of age.
The faith she showed through this great suffering was "faith at its most heroic, as the light in the shadows that invade the soul," observed the Pope. "In this context of suffering, living the greatest love in the littlest things of daily life, the saint realized her vocation of becoming the love at the heart of the Church."
"My Lord, I love You!" were her final words and these, he said, "are the key to all her doctrine, to her interpretation of the Gospel," the focal point of her writing.
The saint's writing, namely her autobiography titled "The Story of a Soul," is the means through which many have come into contact with her. In it, said the Pope, "Therese expressed this science, in which all the truth of the faith is revealed in love."
He called the book "a marvelous story of love, recounted with such authenticity, simplicity and freshness that the reader cannot but be fascinated!"
This love she speaks of, said the Pope, "has a face, has a name, it's Jesus!
"Little Therese," he said, "never failed to help the most simple souls, the little ones, the poor and the suffering who prayed to her, but she also illuminated all the Church with her profound spiritual doctrine."
Her effect was so great, in fact, that John Paul II named her a "doctor of the Church." The late pontiff later referred to her as an "expert in scientia amoris."
This, said Pope Benedict, is "science, that makes all of the truth of the faith shine in love."
Jesus' mercy, trust and love were all discovered by Therese through her reading of the Gospels, he noted.
She exhibits the "'little way of trust and love' of spiritual childhood" for the faithful still today and leads others to make a "radical commitment to the true love that is the full giving of oneself," he added.
Therese is "one of the 'little ones' of the Gospel who allow themselves to be led by God, into the depth of his mystery."
She continues to be "a guide for all" and especially for theologians, the Pope said.
St. Therese, Pope Benedict explained, “continually entered the heart of the Scriptures which contain the mystery of Christ” with faith and humility.
Reading the Bible in such a way, "enriched by the science of love" is not in opposition to academic science, said Pope Benedict. Rather, it is "the 'science of the saints' ... the highest form of science."
At the conclusion of the catechesis in various languages, the Pope made a special appeal for peace and dialogue in Libya and the Ivory Coast. "Violence and hate are always defeat!" he exclaimed.