Montevideo, Uruguay, May 19, 2011 (CNA) - The bishops meeting at the 33rd General Assembly of Latin American Bishops elected a new council president on May 18.
Archbishop Aguiar Retes of Mexico succeeds the Brazilian Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis as head of the Latin American bishops' council.
Archbishop Retes' term will run 2011 – 2015. He is also president of the Mexican bishops' conference.
The archbishop was born in 1950, in the Mexican cit of Tepic. He was ordained a priest in 1973 and was sent to Rome to study at the Pontifical Latin American College.
He returned to Mexico and was rector of the Tepic Seminary from 1978 – 1991. Later, he went back to Rome and obtained a doctorate in Biblical Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Between 1996 and 1997 he was a professor of Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical University of Mexico and rector of the John XXIII residence for priests there.
He was named Bishop of Texcoco on May 28, 1997, and was ordained a bishop on June 29 of the same year.
London, England, May 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - England’s bishops say the upcoming new English translation of the Mass is not “change for change’s sake,” but will “ensure greater fidelity to the liturgical tradition of the Church.”
In a letter to be read in all parishes May 29, the bishops say the current translation of the Mass does not express the full meaning of the original Latin and loses some of the “teaching of the faith,” meant to be communicated in the liturgy.
“In the earlier translation not all the meaning of the original Latin text was fully expressed and a number of the terms that were used to convey the teachings of the faith were lost,” the Bishops of England and Wales say in the letter, which was obtained by CNA.
The bishops note that the language is important for passing on the true teachings of the faith because “the way we pray forms the way we believe.”
The present English translation of the Mass was prepared in 1973 by an international team appointed by bishops conferences in the 11 countries where English is a dominant language.
The new translation, known as the third typical edition of the Roman Missal, will be fully introduced throughout the English-speaking world on the first Sunday of Advent.
In their letter, the bishops say the new version provides “a closer connection with the Sacred Scriptures which inspire so much of our liturgy.”
In order to prepare parishes for the change-over, the English bishops plan to phase in the texts beginning in September. They will also provide resources explaining each change as it happens. A similar program of catechesis is being planned for schools. Meanwhile, new musical settings are also being composed.
Implementing the new translation “offers an opportunity to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the mystery we celebrate each week,” they added.
They also quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who said on his visit to England in 2010 that the new edition of the Missal should be welcomed with “in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist, and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration.”
Denver, Colo., May 19, 2011 (CNA) - Religious pages on Facebook attract significant engagement and pages about Jesus and the Bible recently beat out pop stars like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga in attracting user activity.
The “Jesus Daily” page led user activity rankings, with nearly 2.3 million interactions in the week of May 9 to May 15, the social media analysis site AllFacebook.com reported. The page broadcasts daily devotional material, including the words of Jesus from the Bible.
Over 900,000 interactions took place on the page for “The Bible,” which was second-highest in the rankings. It too shares daily Bible quotations.
The Spanish-language page “Dios Es Bueno!” ranked ninth in user interactions, with nearly 460,000 in the week monitored by AllFacebook.com.
A page titled “Jesus Christ” came in 16th with almost 316,000 interactions, ahead of the NBA.
Other high ranking pages included sports teams, pop culture stars, and prominent figures from around the world.
Facebook pages can be created by individuals or organizations to spread information to followers. According to Facebook statistics, there are over 900 million interactions with pages, groups, events and community pages on the site each month.
Sydney, Australia, May 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal George Pell of Sydney is backing calls to scrap the 310 year-old law banning Catholics from the British throne.
“I would welcome a change,” the Australian cardinal told CNA.
His comments come just hours after Scottish Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien of St. Andrews & Edinburgh claimed in a BBC documentary that the 1701 Act of Settlement was fuelling anti-Catholicism in his country. He describes the law as “the country's shame.”
Just a few weeks ago the manager of the predominantly Catholic-supported soccer club, Glasgow Celtic was assaulted during a match by an opposing supporter and sent a parcel bomb in the mail. Arrests have followed each incident.
Meanwhile, Cardinal O’Brien has revealed that he received a bullet in the mail prior to the September 2010 papal visit to Scotland.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has said that “in principle” he supports reforming the law on royal succession to allow Catholics to become king or queen or marrying the heir to the throne. However, he also says the decision would have to be approved by all Commonwealth countries – hence the significance of Cardinal Pell’s opinion.
“I would welcome a change. It is not a first order issue, and there is no great urgency about it, but I anticipate that the law will be changed at some time,” the Australian archbishop said.
“It would certainly be welcomed in Australia.”
At present, there is no similar prohibition on the British royal family marrying members of other faiths such as Islam or Judaism, or those who profess to be agnostic or atheist.
The Act was originally passed to prevent the descendants of the Catholic King James II from ascending the throne. He was deposed in the 1688 "glorious revolution" by supporters of the Protestant William and Mary. Mary was the eldest Protestant daughter of James II and was married to William of Orange, who later became William III.
In recent years, the Act has effected several members of the British royal family.
In 2001, Lord Nicholas Windsor, the youngest son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, permanently forfeited his right to the royal succession by converting to Catholicism.
In 2008, Autumn Kelly, the Canadian fiancee of the Queen's grandson Peter Philips, converted from Catholicism to Anglicanism, thus preserving her husband's chances of becoming king.
Today’s news coincides with Queen Elizabeth making the first trip to Ireland by a reigning U.K. monarch to predominately Catholic Ireland since it gained independence in 1922.
Washington D.C., May 19, 2011 (CNA) - In the wake of a disastrous earthquake and tsunami, Japan has encountered help from Catholic charities who are working around the clock to assist in rebuilding efforts across the country.
Through “the generous work of volunteers, assistance to refugees and the victims is provided, helping them return to their normal life,” said Cardinal Robert Sarah who heads the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.
Caritas Japan reported that staff members and volunteers have been providing food and other aid to 10,000 survivors following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The recent disaster, which killed over 15,000 people, was largest to have hit Japan on record with over half a million people now homeless.
With the additional problems of nuclear meltdown threats at the Fukushima power plant, the overall cost could exceed $300 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in history.
Caritas is administering ready-to-eat meals and other relief items such as hygiene kits, clothing and school kits. The organization has received assistance from more than 600 volunteers from all over Japan.
In a move of solidarity, Cardinal Sarah visited the hardest hit areas in the country, focusing on the city of Sendai.
The cardinal's visit was “a clear expression of will of the Holy Father,” Papal Nuncio Archbishop Alberto Bottari de Castello told Fides news on May 17. “That is what the Japanese need today, at this stage of reconstruction and difficult recovery, after the earthquake and tsunami.”
His “presence was that of a friend and fellowship, able to inspire great courage and to give precious spiritual help, as well as material, to the Church and the whole nation."
Cardinal Sarah traveled first to the Diocese of Saitama, where he met the local bishop and attended a prayer service on the shores of the sea, leaving flowers for the victims of the tsunami.
On Sunday, May 15, he celebrated the Mass in the Diocese of Sendai. The cardinal prayed for the victims, expressed his closeness to them and gave a blessing.
Washington D.C., May 19, 2011 (CNA) - The U.S. Catholic bishops expressed appreciation on May 17 for the Obama administration's decision to extend the “Temporary Protected Status” of Haitian immigrants, in keeping with the bishops' own recommendations.
“It is simply the right thing to do,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the U.S. bishops' chairman on migration. “This action will permit those who entered the United States in the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster to remain and work to support their families.”
The administration's decision will extend Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for another 18 months, beginning on July 23. It will apply to Haitians who entered the U.S. up to one year after the earthquake that struck the island on January 12, 2010.
Tucson, Arizona Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, chairman of Catholic Relief Services, noted that many of these immigrants were sending money back to a country hit hard by disease and natural disasters.
“The re-designation of TPS to Haiti will preserve the flow of much-needed remittances to that stricken country,” he said. He said these money transfers from friends and relatives were “vital to bolstering the fragile Haitian economy and supporting the national recovery.”
However, both bishops are concerned about deportation of some individuals back to Haiti. The deportations stopped temporarily after one deportee died of cholera in a Haitian jail, but resumed in April 2011.
“We remain troubled by the resumption of deportations to Haiti,” said Bishop Kicanas, noting that the country may be “ill-equipped to handle them” in a manner that would respect prisoners' human dignity.
More than a million Haitians remain homeless due to last year's earthquake, and there are fears that the coming rainy season will worsen the ongoing cholera epidemic.
Manila, Philippines, May 19, 2011 (CNA) - Champion boxer Manny Pacquiao has sided with the Philippines’ Catholic bishops in a continuing controversy over a reproductive health bill that would fund access to free contraceptives.
Pacquiao said he would never have been born or become an international boxing champion if his poor, unemployed parents practiced birth control.
“God said go forth and multiply. He did not say go and have just one or two children,” the boxer said after a May 17 meeting with officials of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
In addition to being an eight-division world champion and the first boxer in history to win 10 world titles, Pacquiao is also a member of the Philippines House of Representatives.
He said that life is God’s gift that no man or government can rip asunder, according to CBCP News. He blamed poverty on corruption, not population size.
The boxer called on his fans to rally behind the Catholic Church and “follow God’s command, not man’s.”
Bishop Nereo Odchima, president of the bishops’ conference, praised Pacquiao’s stand.
“We are happy to have him with us, that he came on his own accord to be one with us and to assure us that he is with us in this fight, to defend human life,” he said, according to the Philippines Inquirer. “We welcome anybody who is as popular as Manny or an ordinary person who would promote the value of life.”
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a backer of the proposed reproductive health bill, charged that Pacquiao was acting like a “fundamentalist.” She also saw an “element of hypocrisy,” as the boxer’s wife has been quoted as saying she was on the birth control pill. However, Pacquiao has said he was using self-discipline to space the couple’s children.
Pacquiao also clarified that his stand against the bill does not mean he opposes the government of his fellow party member Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, a strong backer of the bill.
In addition to funding contraceptives, the legislation would require sex education in schools. The bill has also drawn criticism for provisions which would jail critics who promote “inaccurate” opposition to it.
Aquino has said the bill would help control the population and help individuals exercise their “free will.”
Backers of the bill have said rapid population growth contributes to the poverty of the country, where about one third of its 94 million people live on $1 a day. They also claim it would help combat the spread of the AIDS virus and would cut down on unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions.
Polling has reported strong public support for the legislation and Aquino’s supporters have a majority in congress, but there is no guarantee of passage. The country’s bishops halted dialogue with the government on the topic because the president is likely to push the measure ahead despite their concerns.
Bill opponents have tied red ribbons around Catholic churches in metro Manila as a symbol of life.
Debbie Rodrigo, a mother of five who is an advocate of Catholic teaching on natural family planning, told Channel News Asia that she opposes the bill not only because of her religious duty but because she is worried about the negative effects of artificial contraceptives on a woman’s health.
She also voiced concern about provisions that will teach sex education to children as young as 10.
“I am very concerned that the schools are already now supplanting the role of parents so this is not right. We feel that it's too much information for too young a child and for too long,” she said.
While Aquino has said the bill will not allow abortion, Fr. Melvin Castro of the bishops’ Commission on Family and Life said that reproductive health is an “initial step” toward abortion.
“The succeeding step will be the dissolution of marriage, to divorce. It will be one step at a time. So here they are introducing this contraceptive mentality. Because their basic idea is, when you promote contraceptives, you are promoting a mentality which is anti-life,” he said.
Some backers of the bill are trying to split Catholic opinion.
Bishop Leo Drona of Laguna, the region southeast of metro Manila, has warned that a group calling itself “Catholics for Reproductive Health Bill” is not an authentic Catholic group.
“The public espousal of measures that directly undermine these non-negotiable principles of the Catholic faith is a sharp wedge that cuts the unity of the Church,” the bishop said. He added that any Catholic who affiliates with such a group endangers his or her “spiritual well-being.”