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Archive of April 26, 2011

Bishops denounce disruption at Mexico cathedral on Easter

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 26, 2011 (CNA) - The Mexican bishops' conference condemned a “violent disruption” that took place during Easter Mass in Mexico City.

They denounced the incident in a message released April 25. This act is an attack on the faith of the majority of Mexicans and exacerbates the “climate of uncertainty, violence and lack of security that has become a scourge for Mexico,” the bishops stated.

The disruption took place Easter Sunday at the Cathedral of Mexico City. Seven people interrupted Mass by shouting epithets against the Church and destroying a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Just before the gospel reading, the individuals stormed into the cathedral with megaphones and began shouting insults against the Church and Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City. They were quickly detained by security guards.

The secretary general of the bishops’ conference, Bishop Victor Rodriguez Gomez, published a statement the next day expressing solidarity with Cardinal Rivera and lamenting the “unfortunate events” that took place.

He said the bishops are concerned about the growing frequency of disruptions that are occurring, especially at Mexico City's cathedral. He noted that 29 similar incidents have taken place there in recent months.

Civil authorities “have yet to enact effective measures for preventing such incidents,” he added.

Mexico City’s attorney general, Miguel Angel Mancera, said April 25 that the seven people arrested for the disruption were released after investigators determined that the property they destroyed did not belong to the church.  “They were investigated for property damage but it was determined that the statue of the Virgin Mary that was destroyed was one they had carried into the cathedral themselves,” he told reporters.

Mancera said all seven were members of a religious sect known as “The House of God.”

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Pope gives new bishop to Indiana diocese

Washington D.C., Apr 26, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict appointed Kentucky priest Fr. Charles Thompson as bishop of the diocese of Evansville, Ind. on April 26.

Bishop-elect Thompson, 50, currently serves as vicar general at the Archdiocese of Louisville and will replace Evansville Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger, who will soon retire, having reached the age of 75 last October.

Vatican nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi publicized the appointment and resignation acceptance in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday morning.
           
Bishop-elect Thompson was born in Louisville and holds a Master of Divinity degree from St. Meinrad School of Theology, and a Licentiate in Canon Law from St. Paul University in Ottawa.
           
He was ordained a priest for the Louisville Archdiocese in 1987.
           
Following his ordination, Bishop-elect Thompson served at multiple parishes in the Louisville area as well as on the diocesan tribunal. He was appointed vicar general of the Louisville archdiocese in 2008.
           
The bishop-elect will now shepherd a diocese of 500,000 in Evansville, of which 65,000 – or 17 percent – are Catholic.

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Abortion debate takes center stage at downtown Denver campus

Denver, Colo., Apr 26, 2011 (CNA) - Amid graphic images and vitriolic jeers, the pro-life group Justice for All held an event on Denver’s Auraria Campus April 11 and 12 to promote fruitful dialogue about life-issues.

“We’re opening the casket on abortion,” said Justice for All spokeswoman Tammy Cook. Justice for All is a pro-life group that travels around the country putting up huge displays of images and facts related to abortion on many of America’s college campuses to spark dialogue and change minds about abortion.

Some students were shocked at the images, some were moved, and some refused to look.

“The images stick with people when they see them,” Cook observed. “Some women who saw these images when we were here in the past come to me now and say they decided not to have an abortion just from seeing the images.”

Others were not so convinced that the shocking images have value. “You’re doing it the wrong way!” a defiant young man bellowed several times as he walked past the display. Another student blocked the images from his sight with a notebook.

Underneath the charged surface, however, there was productive dialogue taking place among the students and volunteers. Alaina Parsons, 19, said that the discussions she had were mostly fruitful. “I was enriched and enlightened.” Parsons, who is in favor of legalized abortion, said she was upset with the educational system for not presenting the facts of abortion that she learned from Justice for All. “We’re simply not taught the facts of it all in our education. We have never seen the sight of it, and that’s not fair.”

Metro State student, James Yarovoy, said that the dialogue he engaged in with Justice for All volunteers persuaded him to change his view on a few particular issues. “I’m still pro-choice,” Yarovoy said, “But I was persuaded that late-term abortions are morally impermissible and that affirming unborn life as much as possible is a general principle we ought to hold.”

The 15 feet high and 30 feet wide displays include images of fetuses at various stages of development and also some disturbing images of aborted fetuses. The images are supposed to create dialogue and also awareness of what actually happens when a woman has an abortion. “Our aim with these images is to make abortion unthinkable,” said Cook. According to her, the images have power because they give a voice to groups of people who would not even be considered human otherwise.

The Justice for All spokeswoman cited the 1955 case of Emmit Till, a young black boy who was killed and his body mangled for whistling at a white woman. Till’s mother insisted on an open casket so people would see the treatment blacks were receiving – subhuman. Jet magazine published a picture of the body, a picture that inspired Rosa Parks to remain sitting in the famous bus incident. The goal of these pictures, Cook said, is to get another class of humans the respect they deserve – the unborn, “Just like Jet magazine did for Emmit Till, we’re opening the casket on abortion,” she said.

Cook explained that the group has visited “about fifty college campuses” around the country, and that this is the fourth time they have been on Auraria Campus since 2004.

The pro-life group provided several ‘Free Speech Boards’ where students could write their opinions or arguments on the matter. Many students took advantage of the opportunity to voice their position, while others seriously considered what was written.

Though Justice for All was responsible for the event, another group was also present. The Pregnancy Resource Center of Northern Colorado, represented by Anne Wunder, was there to offer resources for women who are pregnant and provide support for women who have had abortions in the past.

Wunder, who wore a button that said “I regret my abortion,” told CNA that after her abortion as a young woman, she was haunted by nightmares for years. “I spoke with young women here who have had abortions and I offered my support because I know what they’re going through,” she said. The pregnancy resource center offers pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, pre-natal vitamins, Doppler heart monitor exams and advisement, all free of charge. Justice for All also had resources available for pregnant women.

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New survey shows public admiration for John Paul II

New Haven, Conn., Apr 26, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new survey conducted by the Knights of Columbus shows that both Catholic and non-Catholic U.S. residents overwhelmingly admire Pope John Paul II and believe that his upcoming May 1 beatification is a fitting recognition of his life and work.

“It is not surprising that the American people – to whom Pope John Paul II reached out so directly so many times – think it fitting that he is declared ‘blessed,’” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, head of the Catholic fraternal and charitable organization.

The Knights' survey, a collaboration with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, questioned 1,274 adults and differentiated between non-Catholics and practicing Catholics.

The poll showed that 78 percent of Americans, and 98 percent of Catholics, have at least some admiration for Pope John Paul. Majorities of each demographic – 55 percent of all Americans, and 82 percent of all Catholics – said they had a “great deal” or “good amount” of admiration for his achievements as Pope.

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans, and more than 80 percent of Catholics, said they considered Pope John Paul  to have been among the best Popes in the history of the Church.

Three-quarters of Americans agreed that he deserved the Church's honor of beatification, the last step before sainthood, a view shared by 90 percent of all Catholics and 94 percent of those who currently practice their faith.

More than 40 percent of all Americans, and 87 percent of Catholics, said that the soon-to-be-beatified Pope had some impact on their spiritual lives. Nearly two-thirds of all Americans remember his various trips to the United States, and 46 percent of them watched the broadcast of his funeral in 2005.

“Pope John Paul II was a truly historic pope,” said Anderson, who worked closely with the late Pope during his lifetime and helped establish the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. “He visited more than a dozen American cities during the course of his pontificate, and clearly left a meaningful mark on the minds and spirituality of the American people.”

The late Pope, currently known as “Venerable John Paul II,” will be beatified on May 1. A delegation from the Knights of Columbus, including Supreme Knight Anderson, will travel to Rome for the ceremony, carrying a collection of letters written by young admirers to Pope John Paul’s tomb.

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Law firm drops DOMA defense after gay activist pressure

Washington D.C., Apr 26, 2011 (CNA) - A prominent law firm has withdrawn from an agreement to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act following pressure from homosexual activist groups. Former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement has resigned from the firm rather than abandon the case, warning that the incident is a threat to the legal system.

“Defending unpopular decisions is what lawyers do,” Clement wrote to Robert D. Hays, chairman of the Atlanta-based King & Spalding LLP. He cited his “firmly held belief” that representation should not be abandoned “because the client’s legal position is unpopular in certain quarters.”

“The adversary system of justice depends on it, especially in cases where the passions run high. Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law,” he said.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said that Clement demonstrated that he is “a man of courage” who adheres to “the highest standard of professional ethics.”

Brown charged that Clement’s former law firm showed “cowardice under fire.”

“The actions of King & Spalding would suggest that they believe an accused murderer is entitled to a vigorous defense, but the thousands-year old understanding of marriage is not, even though our marriage law was passed with overwhelming bi-partisan majorities and signed into law by President Clinton.”

The Defense of Marriage Act, enacted in 1996, recognizes marriage as a union between a man and a woman in federal law. It also protects individual states from being forced to recognize same-sex “marriages” contracted in states which recognize the unions.

The Obama administration had defended the law in court for two years, though critics said it did so in a half-hearted and ineffective manner. In February the administration announced that it deemed the law unconstitutional and would no longer defend it.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other House Republicans announced plans to defend the law and hired Clement and King & Spalding as counsel.

House Democrats, homosexual organizations and other advocacy groups attacked the firm for defending the law, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Criticism took the form of ads against the law firm in legal journals, letters to the firm’s clients, letters to law schools and an e-mail and Twitter message campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign and its affiliates planned news conferences and demonstrations in major cities attacking the law firm as defenders of discrimination against homosexuals, the California Catholic Daily reports.

Hays, the firm’s chairman, did not cite pressure from homosexual advocacy groups. His statement said that the approval process for taking on the case was inadequate. His comments could refer to a clause in the contract with House Republicans that prohibited the firm’s lawyers from any advocacy for or against bills that would change or repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Legal experts told the New York Times that the clause is broader than most contract restrictions and could have severely limited the activities of the firm’s partners and employees.

Clement’s resignation letter said that if there were problems with the vetting process the firm should fix the process, not drop the representation. The attorney, who has not stated his personal opinion of the marriage Act, said there was “no honorable course” for him other than to complete his agreement to represent the House.

He has joined the law firm Bancroft PLLC, where he says he will continue to defend the federal law.

New York University School of Law professor Stephen Gillers told National Public Radio that Clement was “entirely right” and the law firm was “scared off by the prospect of becoming a pariah.” He also told the Times that the firm’s “timidity” will hurt “weak clients, poor clients and despised clients.”

Richard Socarides, president of the homosexual advocacy group Equality Matters, disagreed.

“While it is sometimes appropriate for lawyers to represent unpopular clients when an important principle is at issue, here the only principle he wishes to defend is discrimination and second-class citizenship for gay Americans,” he told the Times.

The National Organization for Marriage warned of the possible precedent set by the law firm’s withdrawal under activist pressure.

“This tantrum and its seeming success tell us that many on the left believe they have a veto on the principle that everybody deserves to be represented in court. It also suggests that there are few limits on what gay marriage supporters will do to marginalize those with whom they disagree.”

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Vial of blood to serve as relic for John Paul II beatification

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A vial of blood drawn from John Paul II will serve as a relic during the late pontiff's upcoming beatification Mass in Rome on May 1.

The Vatican announced on April 26 that the relic will to be presented to Pope Benedict XVI and exposed for veneration during the Mass in St. Peter’s Square this coming Sunday. The vial will then be stored in a shrine by the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, along with other relics.

Four vials of blood were drawn shortly before John Paul II's death on April 2, 2005 by a personal physician, in case of the need for a transfusion. The Vatican explained in a April 26 statement that the blood in the vials is in a liquid state due to an anticoagulant substance which was present in the tubes at the time of collection.

One vial will remain in the custody of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul at the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome.

The remaining two vials are now in the possession of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow and former secretary of John Paul II and will be installed in a Polish church soon after the beatification.

Piotr Sionko, the spokesman for the John Paul II Center in Krakow, said the vials will be encased in crystal and built into the altar of a church in the city. The church, which is still under construction in Krakow’s Lagiewniki district, will open sometime after the May 1 beatification. The building is part of a planned center devoted to cultivating the memory and teachings of the late Pope, a former archbishop of Krakow.

Sionko said that Cardinal Dziwisz proposed the idea of using the blood as a relic, saying that the cardinal “is of the opinion that this is the most precious relic of John Paul II and should be the focal point of the church.”

As part of Catholic tradition, the veneration of relics is a practice that recognizes the God-given sanctity of a saint or blessed and anticipates his or her bodily resurrection.

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St. Barnabas Society giving financial aid to Anglican priest converts

London, England, Apr 26, 2011 (CNA) - The England and Ireland-based St. Barnabas Society gave over $160,000 to help Anglican priests make the transition into the Catholic Church.

“It is a very generous gesture and one that will be widely appreciated,” Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols said on April 15. “It is a concrete expression of the generosity which the Holy Father asked us to show towards those who are seeking full communion in the Catholic Church.”

About 20 priests and 600 lay people from around England were expected to enter the Church this past weekend. Five former Anglican bishops and their wives were among the first to join the Our Lady of Walsingham Ordinariate, this past Jan. 15.

Many of the priests left behind their former Anglican parishes and salaries in the move and are having to rely on the ordinariate for financial support. On April 15, Our Lady of Walsingham announced that that it had received $160,000 (100,000 pounds) from the St. Barnabas Society.

The organization said it viewed financial assistance to new Catholics as vital, since many will lose not only their jobs but also their homes as well. The money will be distributed among the clergy and religious in response to their individual needs in the period between their reception into the Catholic Church at Easter and their ordination at Pentecost.

The St. Barnabas Society is funded by donations from Catholic congregations, individuals, and estates. Over the year, it has helped other former clergy and religious from a variety of denominations who have become Catholic.

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Detroit archbishop speaks out against Terry Jones rally

Dearborn, Mich., Apr 26, 2011 (CNA) - Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron joined with a group of religious leaders in opposing a Florida pastor's plan to hold an anti-Muslim rally during Holy Week.

“It is possible for an interfaith community of believers to live in peace and liberty, and to do so while promoting social justice and moral values,” the archbishop said in an April 21 appearance at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan. “May we never let the negative voices of the few deter us from working together toward these worthy goals on behalf of the many.”

Pastor Terry Jones, whose burning of a Quran in March caused international controversy and prompted violent retaliation in Muslim countries, had planned to hold a rally outside the Islamic center on Good Friday. Jones' demonstration was scheduled to demonstrate in the evening in front of the center. He announced that the protest would be against "jihad, sharia, and the radicalization of Muslims in America."

More than 700 members and supporters of the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit held a vigil outside the center, in opposition to Jones' plan.

“Mutual respect and a common purpose should not just be the hallmarks of relations between Catholics and Muslims,” Archbishop Vigneron said at the rally. “Rather, they they should be the hallmarks of relations between peoples of all faiths living together in our community.” He praised the heavily Muslim city of Dearborn as an example of peaceful coexistence.

“We have an opportunity to show the nation and the world that it is possible for peoples of many different faiths to respect one another and to foster mutual understanding. It is possible for an interfaith community of believers to live in peace and liberty, and to do so while promoting social justice and moral values.”

He cited the Second Vatican Council's document “Nostra Aetate,” which urges cooperation between Christians and those who practice other religions. “The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council,” he noted, “explain the goals that Catholics and Muslims should work toward in society” – including “mutual understanding for the benefit of all men,” and peace between their respective religions.

“As a Christian leader,” he stated, “I am committed to this respectful attitude and to these worthy goals.” Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini, a scholar and religious leader at the Islamic Center of America, said local Muslims were “indebted to our Christian friends who have showed us absolute support.”

The show of support for Muslims, however, was not what ultimately caused Pastor Jones' planned demonstration to be canceled. City officials denied him permission to hold the public demonstration, and used an 1846 law to require him to post a one-dollar “peace bond,” as a pledge to the city that he would not cause a disturbance.

Because he refused to pay the bond, Jones was arrested along with his assistant, Wayne Sapp, who is said to have carried out Jones' previous threats to burn a Quran during a March 2011 mock-trial of the book. The two men spent a brief time in jail on Friday evening, and were released after someone else reportedly paid the bond on their behalf.

Jones described the incident as a “mockery of the judicial process” and a “total violation of our constitutional rights.” He also stated that he was considering suing the city of Dearborn, and holding another protest outside its city hall on April 29.

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