Madrid, Spain, Apr 14, 2011 (CNA) - A video allegedly showing Christians being burned alive by Muslims in Ivory Coast is a fraud, the Salesians recently confirmed.
“The Salesians working in Ivory Coast wish to make it clear that these acts have not occurred in any Salesian mission in the African country. It is absolutely false that there have been attacks on anybody at Salesian missions, and they have no knowledge of any cases of religious persecution.
“It is not true that people have been killed at the Salesian mission in Duekoue,” the congregation said.
The video, which spread around the internet earlier this week, falsely reported that the footage was of Muslims burning Christians alive at a Salesian mission in Duekoue, Ivory Coast.
The Salesians urged the public to be cautious about online reports. They noted while the people in Ivory Coast are experiencing “dramatic situations of violence,” there is “no religious motivation behind the conflict.”
However, they called for “urgent action by international agencies to provide aid to the many people living in deplorable conditions at the Duekoue mission. The current amount of aid is “not enough to meet the needs of the thousands of refugees,” they said.
“The Salesian Congregation, despite the difficulties being experienced in a country at war, continues to reach out to the young people most in need through its missions in Duekoue, Korhogo and Abidjan,” they concluded.
Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2011 (CNA) - In honor of the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II, the U.S. bishops' conference launched a new website featuring a 17-minute video with footage from the late pontiff's life.
“Pope John Paul II touched the lives of many people across the globe, in particular Americans during his seven visits to the United States,” said conference spokeswoman Helen Osman on April 12.
“The bishops’ conference created the web site to assist people in realizing the magnitude of his work, and the video to illustrate his remarkable relationship with the American people.”
The “John Paul II Memorial Video” shows clips of his most touching moments captured on camera as well as key messages during his visits to the United States.
Other site content includes a biography and a timeline of Pope John Paul as well as many of his major writings. The site also holds several essays by U.S. bishops' conference experts also explore the Polish pontiff’s influence and legacy in areas from East-West relations, the social mission of the Church, his interaction with mass media and ethical uses of technology.
The launch comes as global excitement continues to build over John Paul II's upcoming beatification in Rome.
The celebrations – which are expected to draw over 300,000 people – will run from April 30-May 2, with the beatification itself taking place on May 1. For most events, the Vatican said, no tickets will be required and all will be welcomed.
The website can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/popejohnpaulii/
New York City, N.Y., Apr 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The chief Vatican representative to the United Nations said that pushing population control methods on underdeveloped countries offends human dignity and ultimately proves ineffective in eradicating global poverty.
At a U.N. gathering on April 12, Vatican observer Archbishop Francis Chullikatt condemned international efforts intended to stifle population growth – such as birth control distribution or sterilization – in poor nations worldwide.
“This distorted world-view regards the poor as a problem to be commoditized and managed as if they were inconsequential objects rather than as unique persons,” he said.
In his remarks to the Commission on Population and Development – which focused on the theme of “Fertility, reproductive health and development” – the archbishop called instead for global education and economic initiatives to help impoverished families “realize their full potential.”
“Unfortunately many discussions in the present day continue to be led by a false notion that, in the context of population growth, the very act of giving life is something to be feared rather than affirmed,” he said.
“This flawed understanding leads to the distorted view that population growth, especially among the poor, must be decreased in order to address poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition.”
Archbishop Chullikatt decried what he called the “consistently disproven” theory that population increase will devastate the environment, lead to global competition and confrontation for resources, and undermine the ability of women to interact fully with society.
“These apprehensions contribute to the advancement of forms of reproductive technology which denigrate the nature of human sexuality” and have also led to governments adopting laws and policies which discourage parents “from exercising their fundamental right to have children free of coercion,” the Vatican observer said.
Archbishop Chullikatt said that instead of focusing on political and financial efforts to reduce the number of poor “through methods which trivialize marriage and the family and deny the very right to life of unborn children, let us instead focus these resources on providing the promised development assistance to the approximately 920 million people living on less than $1.25 per day.”
“Let us feed the nearly 1 billion people who are malnourished, and let us provide skilled birth attendants at every birth to reduce the incidents of maternal and child mortality.”
“Let us achieve our promise of providing primary education to the 69 million children who risk becoming another generation without such basic assistance,” he added. “These children of today will be the citizens of tomorrow who have much to contribute to the welfare and common good of all.”
“It is important that the international community continue to reflect on the relationship between population and development,” the archbishop said. “Yet, in doing so, governments must always remember that people are an asset and not a liability.”
“The more governments recognize this, the more they will be able to put in place programs and policies that truly advance the well-being of all persons, and thus contribute to the development of the entire human community.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 14, 2011 (CNA) - Officials at the shrine of St. Francis of Assisi have installed two video cameras in the crypt of the basilica so Catholics worldwide can make a “virtual pilgrimage” to the saint's tomb.
The installation of the cameras, which can be accessed at www.sanfrancesco.org, coincides with the re-opening of the crypt of St. Francis, which closed on Feb. 25 for renovation and maintenance.
The crypt has been the resting place of the saint’s remains since 1230.
Devotees of St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscans, can also send their prayer requests to [email protected].
The president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, presided at the re-opening of the crypt on April 9.
The general custodian of the Convent of Assisi, Fr. Guiseppe Piemontese, told L’Osservatore Romano, “The preparation and expectations for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit next Oct. 27” were motivators for restoring “the original splendor of this place, which is the center and heart of Assisi and of Franciscans all over the world.”
Thanks to the work of Sergio Fusetti, the walls of the crypt – which were blackened from candle smoke – were restored to their original red color. A new lighting system was also installed.
The last restoration of the crypt took place in 1818 at the quest of Pope Pius VII. Workers carefully excavated the area around the tomb so that it could be visible to pilgrims for the first time in centuries.
London, England, Apr 14, 2011 (CNA) - A Grammy winning music director has delivered a stinging attack upon modern Church music. Joseph Cullen, choral director at the London Symphony Orchestra, says that since the 1960s there has been a “glaring lack of sympathy” for “worthy sacred music.”
Writing in the April 9 edition of the English weekly The Tablet, he praised the music used during last year’s papal visit to the United Kingdom. But he added: “Sadly such excellence is untypical of the vast majority of our Catholic churches. There is a glaring lack of sympathy for the heritage which should be the bedrock of worthy sacred music in today's Church.”
In recent years Joseph Cullen has risen to prominence due to his close collaboration with some of the world’s leading conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Valery Gergiev and Sir Colin Davies, with whom he won a Grammy Award in 2006 for their recording of Verdi's “Falstaff.”
In his analysis, Cullen says the rush to find new musical settings for the Novus Ordo mass in the 1960s led to little artistic scrutiny being applied to the process. As a result, he says, most parish Masses now have poorly composed hymns being used inappropriately as mere “filler” throughout the sacred liturgy.
He writes, “Low-quality material in both inspiration and facility is commonplace. Hymns are set to popular music (for example, "My God Loves Me" to the tune of "Plaisir d'amour") with little regard to the inappropriateness of the original and well-known words.”
He also criticized the practice of a lone cantor leading the singing in parishes. “The misuse of one booming voice behind a microphone, an ecclesiastical karaoke, seems to have killed off unified congregational singing.”
Perhaps his most stinging attack, though, is aimed at official diocesan musicians who both commission and promote their own music. “The elected church music committees of the bishops' conferences cannot have vested interests in promoting their own music, or type of music. This would be regarded as corrupt in any other field.”
Cullen is now calling for a greater adherence to the Church’s documents on sacred music and increased training for parishes by those schooled in the choral traditions of the Church.
Brussels, Belgium, Apr 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The head of the Catholic Church in Belgium told CNA that he won’t be taking legal action against the pro-gay activists who attacked him with pies made from shaving foam.
Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard was ambushed on four occasions while on a visit to the Catholic University of Lovain-la-Neuve, near Brussels, on April 5.
His spokesman told CNA on April 13, “The Archbishop will not pursue legal action against the pie throwers” but added that he “does not take the attacks as a joke.”
According to the French news agency AFP, one of the people who threw the pies told Belgian reporters, “For all those homosexuals who dare not tell their parents they are gay, for all those young girls who want to have an abortion, he absolutely deserved it.”
Footage of the attacks posted on YouTube shows the archbishop being hit with a “cream pie” while walking to the venue and, again, inside it. The footage was posted by a well-known Belgian prankster who goes by the nick-name “the Glooper.” He has also claimed credit in recent years for similar attacks upon the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Curiously, the pie has long been used by gay rights campaigners as a form of protest. In 1977, the American singer and pro-family campaigner Anita Bryant was “pied” at a press conference in Florida after opposing the adoption of children by gay couples.
The spokesman for Archbishop Leonard says he won’t be intimidated or silenced by such attacks, “Even if it were sure that the attacks were inspired by the views of the Archbishop about homosexuality, the Archbishop does not consider changing his views.”
Vatican City, Apr 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican is describing the recent ordination of a Chinese bishop without the approval of Rome as “gravely illegitimate” but is stopping short of definitely declaring him excommunicated.
Father Joseph Guo Jincai was ordained as Bishop of Chendge in northern China last November. In a communiqué issued April 14 the Vatican said on the basis of the information and testimonies it has received so far, it has “no reason to consider it invalid,” although it “does regard it as gravely illegitimate, since it was conferred without the Papal mandate.”
The Vatican said that the manner of Bishop Jincai’s ordination “renders illegitimate” the exercise of his ministry.
The statement was published at the conclusion of a three-day Vatican conference entitled, “The Commission for the Catholic Church in China.”
At present, the Chinese government only allows the state-controlled “Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association” and a similarly run bishops’ conference to operate within the country. Neither organization acknowledges the authority of the Pope and they in turn are not recognized by the Church.
Until the ordination of Bishop Jincai last year, an agreement by which the association’s nominations for bishops would receive tacit approval from the Holy See seemed to have emerged. Indeed, last month’s appointment of a bishop in the city of Jiangmen, approved by Rome, would suggest that protocol is now back in place.
In the meantime, the Vatican says it’s not absolutely certain that Bishop Guo Jincai or the other bishops involved in his ordination have been excommunicated. “The external pressures and constrictions could mean that excommunication is not automatically incurred. However, there remains a grave wound, perpetrated on the ecclesial body,” the April 14 statement said.
Overall, one of the pressing issues for the Commission is the fact that numerous Chinese dioceses remain vacant due to the government’s restrictions on Rome’s ability to appoint bishops. The China Commission made that point by referencing a statement from Pope Benedict in which he said “the Holy See would desire to be completely free to appoint Bishops” and that he trusts an accord can be reached with the government.
The final session of the Commission was joined by the Holy Father. Pope Benedict XVI entrusted “the Chinese faithful to the intercession of “Mary, Most Holy, Queen of China” and invited “all the Church to dedicate May 24, liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, to prayer for the Church in China.”
It’s estimated there are some 6 million Catholics in China, although millions more are worshiping outside the government-approved Church.
Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A ban on federal funding for Planned Parenthood passed the U.S. House but failed in the Senate on April 14.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said the ban would have freed up funds to meet the basic needs of the poor.
“The current and future debate will involve hard choices and much shared sacrifice,” Cardinal DiNardo wrote Congress in an April 13 letter ahead of the vote. “Whether to fund the largest abortion network in the country is not one of those hard choices.”
The House voted 260-167 on a bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the year. A separate vote on a ban on Planned Parenthood funding passed by a vote of 241-185.
However, the ban failed in the Senate by a vote of 58-42. Republican Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine voted against the bill. So too did self-described pro-life Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Cardinal DiNardo, the U.S. bishops’ point man on pro-life activities, defended the proposed funding ban.
He said it was “indisputable” that Planned Parenthood is “by far the largest provider and promoter of abortions nationwide.” The organization performs about one third of all abortions, over 332,000 in the Fiscal Year 2008-2009, and abortions account for over a third of its income.
“The organization has aborted over five million unborn children since 1970,” the cardinal said.
Planned Parenthood’s involvement in abortion has “substantially increased” in recent years while its provision of other services such as prenatal care and adoption referrals has declined “markedly.” The national organization now insists that all affiliates provide abortions by 2013, he said.
Cardinal DiNardo also charged that the organization has led “numerous” campaigns and legal fights to oppose “any meaningful limits on abortion.”
While defenders of Planned Parenthood have pointed to its provision of women’s health services, DiNardo said that these services can be provide by others.
“When low-income women need these legitimate health care services, should the federal government insist that they receive them from the local abortion provider?” the cardinal asked.
Vatican City, Apr 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Japanese Ambassador to the Holy See says he’s “very grateful” to Pope Benedict XVI, after the Vatican announced that earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan would benefit from money collected on Holy Thursday at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Hidekazu Yamaguchi told CNA April 14, “My message to the Pope is that I am very grateful for his charity and all the people of Japan are very grateful for his support.”
The ancient custom of distributing alms on Holy Thursday is seen as a response to the “new commandment” of Christ at the Last Supper to “love one another, as I have loved you.” The name of Maundy Thursday or “Dies Mandatum” meaning “Day of the New Commandment” is drawn from this tradition.
Ambassador Yamaguchi explained how the money raised would be put to use. “All this money will be directed to the victims because they have flown from their homes with nothing, completely nothing. ID cards, everything is missing. Every family needs money to survive. So the money will go towards them.”
He did stress, however, that he wasn’t simply grateful for the material support provided by the Catholic Church. “Three days after the earthquake the Pope prayed for us at the Angelus. He said he was beside us spiritually. All Japanese people were grateful for that and, especially, Japanese Catholics very much rejoiced at these words.”
The giving of alms to the people of Japan comes as just one part of the Pope Benedict’s schedule for Holy Week, which was unveiled today. Other highlights include the traditional Way of the Cross or “Via Crucis” at the Coliseum on Good Friday and his address to the city and the world, “Urbi et Orbi,” on Easter Sunday itself.