Archive of April 8, 2011

Brazilian archbishop laments school shooting

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Apr 8, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil expressed deep sadness over the worst school shooting in the country’s history.

“As pastor of this archdiocese, I deplore what happened. I am praying and uniting my sorrow with all those who were killed, and with their parents, families and friends,” the archbishop said in a statement following the massacre.

Fire department spokesman Evandro Bezerra explained that Wellington Menezes de Oliveira arrived at his former school “well dressed and carrying a backpack” the morning of April 7.

He told school officials “he had been invited to speak with the students for a conference,” Bezerra continued.

Once he was inside the school, Oliveira went to the building's third floor and began shooting. Two students managed to escape and located two police officers nearby, the Associated Press reported.

The officers ran into the school, shooting the gunman in the leg. Oliveira then turned the gun on himself.

Twelve students were killed and 12 others were wounded in the rampage.

Bezerra added that Oliveira “came to the school prepared to do what he did. The letter that was found on him is something that no normal person would write. It is an incomprehensible letter written by an eccentric person, by someone who has no love for life.”

Archbishop Tempesta's statement noted that the shooting “has wounded us all.” 
He prayed that “the Lord Jesus, in this time of Lent, will console us all and send upon a special blessing, that these kinds of acts may never happen again in our city.”

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Catholic bishops release prayer for Royal Wedding

London, England, Apr 8, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - As excitement builds over the upcoming marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have issued a prayer in honor of the couple.

“We wanted to offer our prayers and best wishes to the happy couple as they embark on their married life together and continue their service to the nation and the Commonwealth,” a spokesperson from the Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales told CNA on April 6.

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is set to preside over the April 29 wedding, which will take place at the historic Westminster Abbey, a representative at Lambeth Palace confirmed.

Archbishop William's spokeswoman, Marie Papworth, told CNA that the Church of England head has issued his warm “congratulations” to the couple. Papworth noted that although Archbishop Williams will conduct the vows during the ceremony, Bishop of London Richard Chartes will give the homily.

The Church of England has also published a prayer in advance of the wedding for the couple to live in lifelong faithfulness to each other.

Throngs of people are expected to fill London in celebration of the wedding and an estimated 2 billion people are set to view the event on televisions worldwide. The congregation alone will be comprised of 1,900 friends and family, and the BBC is planning to have 30 cameras inside the Westminster Abbey to broadcast the ceremony.

Papworth said that in anticipation of the event, “people are applying for licenses to have street parties on the day of the wedding.”

Some 4,000 applications for parties have been filed so far across England and Wales, including one reportedly from Prime Minister David Cameron for a party outside his official Downing Street residence.

The prayer issued by the Catholic bishops of England and Wales reads:

Heavenly Father,
we ask your blessing
upon his Royal Highness, Prince William and Catherine
as they pledge their love for each other in marriage.
May your love unite them through their lives.
Grant them the strength to serve you, our country and the Commonwealth
with integrity and faithfulness.
Through Christ our Lord.

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California priest takes break from TV ministry after news of past affair

San Bernardino, Calif., Apr 8, 2011 (CNA) - Founder of global Wordnet TV network Fr. Michael Manning is taking a leave of absence from his public ministry after news recently broke of a past affair that ended over two years ago.

The Diocese of San Bernardino confirmed on April 7 that Fr. Manning had engaged in an intimate relationship with his second cousin, Monterrey County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski.

News of the affair came to light when correspondence between the two was sent to the local San Bernardino Sun.

“It's very hard when you care for someone, but I love my priesthood more,” Fr. Manning told the San Jose Mercury News. “I admit the fact of my sinfulness. I've done wrong. That's why I've stopped.”

The 70 year-old priest founded the non-profit Wordnet in 1978, and the Catholic television ministry  has since gone worldwide. He has appeared on several national TV shows including “Larry King Live.” 

“The reality is I was living two lives: one as a priest who was vowed to celibacy and another life as a sexually active man in our sexual intimacy,” Manning wrote to Kotowski in the leaked correspondence.

He told Kotowski that he struggled with the hypocrisy and deception involved in keeping their relationship secret.

“The burden of deception in hotels, and with the community with whom I work and live has become overwhelming,” he wrote.

Kotowski, 59, recently said that she and Fr. Manning are “kindred spirits and soul mates,” telling the Monterrey Herald that she hopes the news of her relationship with the priest will increase dialogue within the Catholic Church over clerical celibacy.

“The reality is that we love the Church, we're committed to the Church, but I'm hoping a dialogue will open up (about) obligatory celibacy, the whole question of celibacy,” she said on April 6. “Is it right for all people?”

Kotowski said the since the relationships ended, the two have been embracing celibacy. “It's a struggle, but we know God is calling to us, so we honor that,” she said.

Kotowski also told the Montery Herald that she doesn't think she did anything wrong or illegal.

Fr. Manning has maintained that the celibate life is beautiful and legitimate calling, and he says that the affair was wrong.

“I think we're all sinners and I'm not above admitting we're sinners,” Fr. Manning said. “The important factor is what do you do after you sin? Can you accept forgiveness? And I've been able to accept forgiveness for what I've done.”

Although Fr. Manning's network has not confirmed his involvement in the future, John Andrews –spokesman for the San Bernardino diocese –  said the priest is being encouraged to take time away from his public work.

“And that was something that we and Father Manning mutually came to, (that) it would be good for him to take a leave of absence,” Andrews said.

“It's unfortunate that this has happened, and that is not the conduct that we expect from the priests and it's not consistent with the vows a priest takes,” Andrews told the San Jose Mercury News.

“At the same time, in our faith, you always have an opportunity to seek forgiveness from God and reconciliation. Father Manning has done that and we support him in that 100 percent.”

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Vatican seeks greater interaction with bloggers in first-ever meeting

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican is inviting Internet bloggers to Rome next month for an unprecedented meeting to foster “informal exchange and contact.”

The May 2 event aims to take advantage of the influx of international bloggers coming to Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II a day earlier.

While all are invited to apply, only a limited number of blogging attendees will receive a formal invitation. The objective of the Vatican departments organizing the event is to fill the 150-seat St. Pius X auditorium with a group representing the diversity of the “blogosphere.”

Participants will be selected with reference to the timeliness of request, blog subject and the language and geographical location of the blogger. Attention will also be given to the nature of blogs as institutional or private, multi-voice or personal.

The encounter marks a first for the Church, which has put emphasis on opening up channels with new media platforms through a series initiatives in recent years.

The Vatican has only gradually entered social networks, setting up YouTube and Facebook accounts for the Pope and even promoting John Paul II's May 1 beatification through Twitter.

The Holy See's relationship with blogs, however, has been a little more prickly. During a press conference to present Pope Benedict XVI's message for World Social Communication's Day last January, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli decried “aggressive blog sites that excommunicate and don't have a Christian style of presence.”

While it was not clear to which Church-themed blogs he referred, he said that Internet users needed to approach blogs with an eye on “to what point they are truly Catholic.”

But the May 2 event aims give bloggers and Church representatives a chance to move beyond the relatively impersonal medium of the Internet and establish a more personal connection.

According to an April 7 statement from the two Vatican departments in charge, the objective is “to allow for a dialogue between bloggers and Church representatives, to listen to the experiences of those who are actively involved in this arena, and to achieve a greater understanding of the needs of that community.”

During the one-day meeting, Church initiatives to engage those who work in new media will be presented and panel discussions will be held.

The first panel will include five bloggers representing the Italian, English, French, Polish and Spanish languages, respectively. Each of the five will take on a specific subject relevant to the blogosphere.

A second panel of still unannounced Church communications personnel will offer their experiences in new media and look at initiatives meant to engage bloggers.

Interpreters will be on hand to provide simultaneous translation for the five chosen languages.

Vatican representatives taking part in the encounter include Archbishop Celli of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, director of the Holy See's Press Office, Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center.

According to the Vatican statement announcing the initiative, the organizers see the meeting as “an opportunity for informal exchange and contact between those attending with a view to opening further avenues of interaction.”

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Movie explores faith in Cristero War against forced secularism

Cuajimalpa, Mexico, Apr 8, 2011 (CNA) - The director of the upcoming movie “Cristiada” describes his film about the armed resistance against the attempt to secularize Mexico by force in the 1920s as an inspiring tale of faith and religious freedom.

“Our film follows the stories of five ordinary people from across the country who chose to stand up for their rights,” director Dean Wright told CNA on April 4. “Ultimately, once they found themselves in this little civil war, they had to decide what they were willing to do and how far they were willing to go to stand up for freedom.”

The director has said Catholics have been “overwhelmingly supportive” of the film and filmmakers are “very excited” about the high level of interest in the movie’s portrayal of a tumultuous period in Church history.

In 1926 Mexico’s President Plutarco Elias Calles began strict enforcement of anti-clerical laws, sparking opposition from the Catholic Church.

These laws were discriminatory and quickly became “a frontal attack” on Catholic beliefs, Wright explained. The Mexican bishops suspended all public worship in Mexico in hopes of forcing a resolution.

“There was no negotiation, and people were left in the middle,” the director said. They protested and marched in the street, actions which President Calles interpreted as a threat to his rule.

“He responded with violence, in an attack on a church in Guadalajara. Dozens if not hundreds were killed.”
Opponents of Calles organized into home-grown armies of Cristeros, “soldiers for Christ” who united to stand up for their freedom of religion. They took up the rallying cry “Viva Cristo Rey,” which means “Long live Christ the King!”

“Cristiada,” planned for release in late 2011, is the first movie Wright has directed. He has previously worked as a visual effects producer and supervisor on movies like “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Chronicles of Narnia” series.

He was introduced to the Cristero War through his friendship with Mexican producer Pablo Jose Barroso, who sent him a script he had developed about the event.

Wright was intrigued by the “incredibly inspirational people” whose lives form the basis for the movie.

“They’re ordinary people who are thrust into a position of monumental decisions that affect not just them and their family but their whole community and their nation.”

Actor Andy Garcia plays Enrique Gorostieta Velarde, a very respected and successful general who would take command of the Cristero armies.

“He was living the life of a man who feels his best days are behind him,” Wright explained. He was accused of being an atheist and had “issues with the organized Church.”

“His goal was to help reestablish the right to freedom of religion for everyone,” the director said, but in the course of the film “we see him rediscover not only the meaning of his life, but the meaning of his faith.”

Other characters in “Cristiada” are not so admirable.

Fr. Jose Reyes Vega, played by Santiago Cabrera, is a priest “you won’t see canonized,” Wright dryly remarked. He took up arms against the anti-clerical government, seeing war as the only way to bring his country back “from the brink of complete loss of faith.”

“He makes mistakes,” the director added. “And he causes an incident that almost single-handedly kills the Cristero movement.”

The priest was responsible for the burning of a train in which dozens of civilians were killed. The attack caused people to become extremely fearful of the Cristeros.

“This is something he is haunted with the rest of his life,” Wright said.

Peter O’Toole plays Fr. Christopher, a priest who unlike Fr. Vega is committed to peace.

President Calles is played by Ruben Blades, a onetime candidate for the presidency of Panama. The director said Blades is “fantastic” in portraying a man who is “pushed and pushed by the successes of the Cristeros.”

“His counter-reaction … creates an image of someone almost Nixonian in his belief that everyone is out to get him.

“That’s how things go so far afield and why it becomes so bloody,” explained Wright.

Other characters include General Gorostieta’s wife Tulita, played by Eva Longoria, who is instrumental in keeping the leader motivated.

Eduardo Verastegui plays Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, a brilliant lawyer and an ardent pacifist. Flores was executed by the Mexican government in 1927 and beatified as a martyr by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

Actress Catalina Sandino Moreno plays Adriana, a composite of real-life women involved in helping the Cristeros.

Oscar Isaac plays Victoriano “El Catorce” Ramirez. He received his nickname “The Fourteen” after he single-handedly killed 14 federales sent to kill him.

“His story becomes that of legend, and he ultimately becomes a great leader and a general in the movement,” Wright said.

The filmmaker also alluded to the story of a young teenager named Jose.

“It’s heartbreaking at times what he has to go through, because he has that purity and innocence of faith and belief.”

“Cristiada” raises questions about whether someone would risk his or her life or do what the Cristeros did to ensure the freedom of their families, Wright said. It also raises the question of whether the Cristeros had to fight, or could have secured freedom through peaceful means.

The director connected the events of the film to U.S. history and to the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

“We came here from religious persecution, we came for freedom of speech,” he pointed out.

Wright also said he was amazed that the Cristeros War, an event “so universal in its appeal,” has never really been explored as a movie. If someone took away Americans’ freedom of belief “we wouldn’t stand for it.”  “Well that’s what was happening in Mexico.”

“Thankfully, the war ended, and Mexico is a free country,” added Wright, a self-described Christian.

Wright said he met with priests and Barroso met with many bishops and cardinals while making the movie.

“It resonates with many of them, especially in the U.S.”

The persecution caused a northward mass exodus from Mexico, and there are a number of bishops with Cristero heritage in prominent positions in both countries.

“I believe they will be very happy with the story and the movie that resulted from all of that,” Wright said.

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Vatican: JP II beatification process marked by professionalism, accuracy

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A powerful sense of the late Pope John Paul II's holiness – and not popular pressure – has driven his beatification cause forward so swiftly, according to the Vatican’s top saint-making official.

Cardinal Angelo Amato said the investigation into the former Pope’s holiness has been “conducted with extreme accuracy and professionalism.”

His remarks came in a speech at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross that was published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano April 5.

Some critics have complained that the former Pope’s cause is being rushed through to satisfy ordinary Catholics’ demands that John Paul be declared a saint.

But Cardinal Amato, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said that is not the case.

He acknowledged that spontaneous chants of “Santo Subito!” (Saint Now!) erupted in St. Peter's Square on the day of his death, April 2, 2005.

And he said the cause moved quickly at first because the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI had waived the normal waiting period for considering the cause.

However, he maintained there was no special treatment or exceptions made in studying the evidence.

“The invocation of the people of God was received, but the millennial prudence of the Church suggested to meticulously obey norms passed by John Paul himself in 1983,” Cardinal Amato said.

“Santo subito', yes, but above all 'Santo sicuro' (sure saint). An incautious haste was not to prejudice the accuracy of the procedure.”

The cardinal took pains in spelling out the procedure for examining a person's sanctity.

Special importance, he said, is given to the “sensus fidei,” or the universal agreement of the faithful about the holiness of the person whose cause is under investigation.

He listed several elements that must pass the test of “sensus fidei.” A person must have a reputation of sanctity among the people, a “fame” for having lived a saintly life beyond “common goodness.” The deceased must also be a point of reference for intercession in heaven on behalf of the faithful.

The candidate cannot just be a “good” person, he must be “holy” in the likeness of Christ to be considered for sainthood. It's not about recognition of greatness in theology or for single charitable acts, said the cardinal, “but a constant attitude - a habit - of charity, as a continuous expression of grace.”

This reputation of sanctity must lead to a “spontaneous” eruption of devotion and support for the potential saint after his death.

“One cannot begin a process if there was no widespread, genuine and spontaneous reputation of sanctity,” said Cardinal Amato.

“The faithful, in fact, are endowed with the divine grace of an undeniable spiritual perception in locating and recognizing the concrete existence of the heroic exercise of the Christian virtues in certain baptized people.”

He pointed to examples such as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta or St. Pio of Pietrelcina in this regard.

These criteria for recognizing the saintly reputation of a candidate are just the first of several steps in the process, said the cardinal, but they are all part of the “sensus fidei” and “indispensable” to beginning a cause.

It is primarily generated by the faithful and “not by the hierarchy” of the Church, the cardinal explicitly noted. The “voice of the people” who venerate the holy person are often joined by the “voice of God” through which graces, heavenly favors and even miracles are granted through the person's intercession.

Finally, the “voice of the Church” enters to examine and evaluate the person's heroic virtue and miracle - except in cases of martyrdom - and then the process moves on to beatification and canonization.

“This full theological concept of sensus fidei ... has powerfully emerged in the case of the preparation of the beatification process for John Paul II,” said Cardinal Amato.

He said that the late-Pope's Catholic orthodoxy was clear in his writings and teachings. Witness accounts were pored over and heroism was found in his manifestation of faith, hope and charity.

“Such heroism confers on the pontiff a perfection that surpasses the forces of human nature, signifying that the virtue is not only human effort but a gift of grace from God and a consequence in the heart of he who does not place obstacles (to it), but collaborates with it.”

His cause was approved by theologians and clergy of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and he was declared “venerable” in Dec. 2009.

The healing of French Sister Marie Simon Pierre Normand of Parkinson's disease through Pope John Paul II's intercession was carefully examined and declared “inexplicable” thus constituting a miracle. On Jan 14, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree approving the miracle and at the same time officially gave legitimacy the sense of the faithful about the late-Pope's reputation for holiness.

“The undeniable and constant pressure from the faithful and mass media on the urgent conclusion of the cause - contrary to what could be thought - did not disturb the procedure. Actually it permitted action with greater attention to the screening of testimonies and events,” admitted the cardinal.

While the “door is opened” to canonization with Pope John Paul’s beatification, Cardinal Amato cautioned that time - and a miracle - will be necessary for him to be declared a saint. He invited people to spend that time “getting to better know the holy life of the blessed and imitating his virtues.”

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Catholics cannot vote for pro-abortion candidates, states archbishop

Lima, Peru, Apr 8, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Javier del Rio of Arequipa, Peru recently stated that Catholics cannot vote for presidential candidates who support abortion.

“In no way can one vote for a candidate who has explicitly stated his or her intention to go against marriage, human life and the family,” the archbishop told CNA in an April 7 interview.

The country's presidential elections will take place Sunday, April 10.

“An informed Catholic can never vote for a candidate who supports these kinds of policies, because that is expressly stated in the compendium of Social Teachings of the Church,” he explained.

Catholics have a duty to participate in the political life of their country and to inform themselves about the positions of those running for office, he continued. “We must not be influenced by whether we like or don’t like a candidate, but rather we must conscientiously study their plans for governing,” the archbishop said.

The backgrounds of the candidates must also be evaluated, he added, including their “credibility, their dedication to work, their seriousness and their honesty.”

“This, together with the Social Teachings of the Church, should form the basis for our vote,” he explained.

Bishop Miguel Irizar of Callao, Peru told CNA that voters must pray for discernment in choosing the best candidates. All Peruvians must be treated with dignity and respect, he said, adding that those who will assume public office must carry out the mission for which they were elected.

He exhorted future lawmakers “to follow the law, God’s law first, and to enact legislation based on the common good.”

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SBA List says budget fight about population control, not women's health

Washington D.C., Apr 8, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The president of the Susan B. Anthony List has rejected House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's description of the effort to defund Planned Parenthood as a “war on women,” saying it is really a fight over whether the U.S. government funds an organization dedicated to population control.

“Primary care is not the mission of Planned Parenthood – to achieve a stable population is the mission of Planned Parenthood,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. She spoke to reporters on an April 8 conference call, as legislators prepared for a government shutdown that will come at midnight on Friday unless several budget questions – including Planned Parenthood funding – are resolved.

“Primary health care for women is something that we should be fighting for,” said Dannenfelser, “and it's something that Planned Parenthood cannot claim the mantle of providing.” She said Rep. Pelosi's remarks only served to promote the an image of Planned Parenthood that the organization's own statistics do not support.

“They have done a great job, with their large budget, of convincing folks that they are a primary health provider for women. However, in their own documents they have acknowledged that they have only provided primary care to 19,700 of their 3 million unduplicated clients.” She said Planned Parenthood's health care numbers have been “trending downward,” while abortion services were “ratcheting up.”

During the same period, Dannenfelser noted, Planned Parenthood's funding had been increasing as well, reaching $363 million last year. “Funding is up, abortion is up, and primary services are down.”

Speaking to CNA later that day, Dannenfelser gave her further response to Senator Pelosi's charge, made in an April 7 speech to the Feminist Majority Foundation, that the effort to take away Planned Parenthood's federal money was part of a “war on women” and their health.

Dannenfelser said Pelosi was forced to use such terms in order to gloss over the reality of almost $400 million dollars of funding for a population control organization. She wondered whether the congresswoman would be willing to come out in favor of Planned Parenthood's “own stated mission” of controlling population growth.

“That's not a popular thing to say anymore,” she observed. “What's way more popular is to say 'We care about women's health.'”

“Achieving a stable population is not what they're communicating – these are not the terms they have used in this debate. And yet, that is what their own stated mission is.”

Amid the fight over whether to fund Planned Parenthood in the next federal budget, SBA List has been drawing attention to how the organization uses its resources. SBA List's current advertizing campaign, running on stations in Washington, D.C., features testimony from former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson.

Johnson says Planned Parenthood's “bottom line” is driven by an “abortion quota,” because other services are not profitable enough to support its nationwide network of 785 clinics.

“You do have to perform so many abortions on women every month – and that is how they come up with their budget,” Johnson explains in the ad. “Ninety-eight percent of Planned Parenthood's services to pregnant women are abortion services. There is only money for Planned Parenthood in abortion.”

Planned Parenthood is technically barred from using its federal funding directly for abortions. But Congressman Jim Jordan (R--Ohio), who joined Dannenfelser in the April 8 conference, said the breakdown of Planned Parenthood's budget and other numbers clearly show that taxpayers are helping the group meet its “abortion quota.”

“Money is fungible,” said Rep. Jordan, noting out that government funding of Planned Parenthood's other services allowed the organization to concentrate on promoting its most profitable enterprise, abortion.

“It's just common sense. We think that taxpayers understand this, and that they don't want their dollar to be used in this manner – particularly at a point in history when the country's broke.”

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