Washington D.C., May 25, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami recently emphasized the contradiction between supporting abortion and defending human rights.
The archbishop recalled that the first and most basic of all human rights is the right to life. He added that “there is a manifest contradiction between the promotion of abortion and the defense of human rights.”
Archbishop Wenski spoke at a Mass in Miami, organized by the Argentinean Consulate there to celebrate the 201st anniversary of the May Revolution. The revolution opened the door for independence in the South American country.
He then exhorted Argentineans living in Miami to care for their culture and values inspired in the Gospel, as Catholicism is the greatest treasure of Argentina and of all of Latin America.
Catholicism “is not a political ideology, a social movement or an economic system. It is faith in the God of Love, born, died and raised up in Jesus Christ, the authentic foundation of this hope that produced such magnificent fruits from the first evangelization until today,” the archbishop said.
He also encouraged illegal immigrants not to lose hope and faith in God, and he warned that there can be no authentic social progress without supporting family life based on the stable union between one man and one woman.
Austin, Texas, May 25, 2011 (CNA) - Heroic Media is hoping MTV will have a change of heart and reconsider pulling a pro-life ad campaign from its airwaves.
“Heroic Media has asked MTV to reconsider the decision and allow Heroic Media and other organizations to make women aware of the availability of life-affirming resources,” group spokeswoman Marissa Gabrysch told CNA on May 24.
The Texas-based pro-life group recently announced its We Can Help campaign, which was set to air for several weeks on the MTV and BET networks, starting May 2.
However, the ads – which provided practical information for women with unexpected pregnancies – were pulled after one airing.
MTV spokeswoman Jeannie Kedas told Fox News that the network cut the ads because of a controversial billboard campaign in New York City by a group with connections to Heroic Media.
On February 22, pro-life group Life Always displayed a prominent billboard depicting a young black girl beneath the phrase “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” The ad was removed within days, despite the protests of pro-life supporters around the U.S., including Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York.
Although MTV claims that the billboard is the main reason behind the cuts, Bill Eisner – head of Nonbox, a brand agency representing Heroic Media – argues that the real issue is the ads' conflict with some of the promotions between the network and Planned Parenthood.
Although the television network has denied the connection, Eisner says one of his network sales representative confirmed that MTV president Stephen Friedman chose to nix the ads because of the projects currently in place with Planned Parenthood.
Eisner added that MTV did not inform Heroic Media its ads had been canceled, and that the pro-life group reportedly found out after being contacted by a reporter.
Despite having its spots canceled, Gabrysch said, “Heroic Media remains committed to airing positive messages that connect women with hopeful alternatives to abortion.”
“Everything Heroic Media does is designed to reach women where they are,” she added, noting that when a woman learns “about compassionate, positive alternatives to abortion, she’ll choose life.”
Joplin, Mo., May 25, 2011 (CNA) - In the aftermath of the deadly Sunday tornado in Joplin, Missouri, Bishop James V. Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau tried to comfort survivors and expressed gratitude that more were not killed.
“We’re just encouraging survivors of the prayers and the support of the Body of Christ. We’re just trying to bring the charity of the Church to bear in the suffering of the people here. We’re just trying to reassure and comfort the people here right now, because there’s still just a lot of recovery to continue,” he told CNA from Joplin on May 24.
The bishop and Kyle Schott, executive director of the local Catholic Charities agency, surveyed the damage of the deadly tornado.
“It’s just so hard to fathom the destructive power of the storm,” the bishop said, describing the scale of the destruction as “mind-boggling.”
“When you’re out there in the middle of it, you can’t see anything but devastation: leveled houses and rescue crews trying to find people in the mess,” Schott said.
At least 117 people died in the Joplin tornado on Sunday, the deadliest single tornado in almost six decades.
St. John’s Regional Medical Center was hit hard. The nine-storey building took a direct hit, blowing out windows and throwing gurneys a distance of five blocks away. About 183 patients and 200 staffers were evacuated, according to media reports.
St. Mary’s Church, its grade school and its rectory were at the center of the tornado. They were “totally decimated” and “almost flattened,” Schott said.
Fr. Justin Monaghan, the pastor of St. Mary’s, was in the rectory when it was blown away. He survived by jumping in the bathtub and was later pulled from the rubble, without physical injury.
All that remains of the church is its outer structure. Its walls and interior have been blown away, leaving a tangled mess of wire and debris.
Most survivors are still in a state of shock. Schott wondered how anyone could have survived.
Prayers and messages of support have poured into Joplin, including a letter from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy See’s Secretary of State.
The cardinal told Bishop Johnston that Pope Benedict XVI has followed the aftermath of the tornado “with deep concern” and he wants the bishop to assure the community of his closeness in prayer.
“Conscious of the tragic loss of life and the immensity of the work of rebuilding that lies ahead, he asks God the Father of mercies to grant eternal rest to the departed, consolation to the grieving, and strength and hope to the homeless and the injured,” the cardinal’s message said.
Bishop Johnston said it was “really wonderful” to receive the message from the Vatican, saying it “will really boost people’s spirits.”
Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri, which was launched only in 2008, is working to develop a response plan in cooperation with other groups, Schott said. Normally the agency focuses on intermediate and long-term recovery. It will focus on housing needs with the help of other Catholic Charities offices in neighboring dioceses.
“I’m grateful for the folks around the country who are keeping us in their prayers and have offered to support our Catholic Charities agency here,” Bishop Johnston said.
The bishop asked that donations be directed through Catholic Charities, whose website is http://ccsomo.org/.
Vatican City, May 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI said today that God can be found when we persevere in times of personal darkness.
Continuing his weekly teachings on prayer, the Pope drew upon the Old Testament story of Jacob and his nighttime struggle with a mysterious assailant at the ford of the Jabbok.
“Jacob is wounded and must reveal his name to his rival, suggesting his defeat, yet he receives a new name – Israel – and is given a blessing,” Pope Benedict recalled.
“At daybreak Jacob recognizes that his opponent is God; limping from his wound, he now crosses the ford.”
The Pope told the 15,000 present in St. Peter’s Square that the lesson for each of us is clear.
“The Church’s spiritual tradition has seen in this story a symbol of prayer as a faith-filled struggle which takes place at times in darkness, calls for perseverance, and is crowned by interior renewal and God’s blessing.
“This struggle,” the Pope said, “demands our unremitting effort, yet ends by surrender to God’s mercy and gift.”
Pope Benedict concluded by suggesting that the prize for Jacob’s struggle is the same prize awaiting those who persevere in prayer today – a glimpse of the face of God.
“At daybreak, Jacob called the place of his struggle Peniel, which means ‘face of God,’ for he said: ‘I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ In our prayers, let us ask the Lord to help us as we fight the good fight of faith, and to bless us as we long to see his face.”
This is the fourth week Pope Benedict has used his Wednesday audience to teach pilgrims about Christian prayer. His previous theme—the lives of the saints—took two years to complete.
Vatican City, May 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The canonization of Archbishop Fulton Sheen moved a step closer today as the official document outlining his cause – known as a “positio” - was presented to Pope Benedict XVI.
“America is in need of a saint like Archbishop Sheen. He brought so many people closer to Christ during his life here on earth and continues to do so even today through his many writings, television and radio shows,” said Father Andrew Apostoli, Vice Postulator for the cause.
Archbishop Sheen was born in El Paso, Ill. in 1895 and ordained a priest in the Diocese of Peoria in 1909. Appropriately, it was Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria who presented the positio to Pope Benedict at the conclusion of his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square. The book was bound in white silk and summarizes the life and holiness of the late archbishop.
The positio will be filed formally with the Congregation for Saints’ Causes as the initial step in the Vatican’s process to determine whether Archbishop Sheen should be beatified and canonized.
“Once the Congregation for Saints’ Causes officially approves the Positio they will begin the investigation into an alleged healing,” said Monsignor Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation.
The healing in question involves a 72-year-old Illinois woman’s recovery from major complications during lung surgery. Her husband had prayed for the intercession of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
Archbishop Sheen is most widely known for his appearances on television programs in the 1950s and 1960s.
It was this aspect of his life that was highlighted by many bishops from around the globe who submitted letters to the Pope today. Each explained why they support the canonization bid.
Cardinal Pell of Sydney, who is presently in Rome, told the Australian Catholic newspaper The Record on May 18 that he admired Archbishop Sheen’s “skill at harnessing the media to present Catholic teaching in a compelling and faithful way.”
“I’m also impressed by the number of people from many walks of life who have been moved by Archbishop Sheen’s example and teaching.”
“Archbishop Sheen had a gift for touching the lives of people in enormously varied circumstances and states of life.”
“This gift continues to be evident through the inspiration his writings provide to people today,” Cardinal Pell said.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen died in 1979. His cause for sainthood was officially opened in 2002. He is presently referred to as a “Servant of God.” The next major step toward being declared a saint would be his beatification by the Pope.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 25, 2011 (CNA) - A Brazilian lawyer is claiming that another miracle has taken place through the intercession of Blessed Dulce Lopes Pontes.
Attorney Ana Lucia Aguiar said the alleged miracle took place through the intercession of the woman who could become Brazil’s first native born female saint. ANSA news agency reported the claim on May 22.
Aguiar was charged with presenting to the Vatican the report on the miracle that led to Sr. Dulce’s beatification. According to the Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo, there is new evidence that points to a possible second miracle.
“The second miracle, the miracle of sanctification, will also come from Sergipe,” she said, referring to the place where Bl. Dulce worked and where the first miracle occurred. However, she did not reveal any more details about the report and said it must remain confidential until the Vatican authorizes an announcement.
Life of Maria Rita Lopes Pontes
Maria Rita Lopes Pontes was born May 26, 1914 and in San Salvador de Bahia and later joined the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God.
Sr. Dulce devoted her life to the needy, founding hospitals and a social support network she managed until her death on March 13, 1992, at the age of 77. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988 for her charitable works. Then in October 1991 she was visited on her deathbed by John Paul II during his second visit to Brazil.
Her network of hospitals and clinics for the poor in Bahia continue to serve more than five million people each year.
Sr. Dulce was beatified on May 22, before some 70,000 people by Cardinal Gerarldo Majella Agnelo, who represented Pope Benedict XVI.
Konigstein, Germany, May 25, 2011 (CNA) - A Catholic bishop in Uganda has advocated for more education to counter a rapid growth in Islamic influence.
Bishop Matthias Ssekamanya of Lugazi in central Uganda discussed the situation in his country during a visit to the Königstein, Germany headquarters of the international pastoral charity Aid to the Church In Need.
He said that Arab states like Libya are investing increasingly in Uganda. Muslims have gained key positions in a number of Uganda’s important ministries, including the economy and education departments.
Official statistics say about 12 percent of Uganda’s 33 million people follow Islam, while Muslim sources claim around 33 percent of the country is Muslim.
These statistics about religious affiliation are often used as a political weapon, Bishop Ssekamanya said.
The bishop’s answer to the increased Islamic influence is a broad and extensive education effort in his overwhelmingly rural diocese.
About 42 percent of the 1.5 million people in the Diocese of Lugazi are Catholics. The diocese currently runs 194 primary schools and 26 secondary schools. About 75,000 students attend these schools, which are staffed by 2,300 teachers.
The bishop aims to improve the quality of education and the training of the staff. He wants to achieve a rounded scholastic education with a solid human formation so that as many graduates as possible can study at university.
Because education is not limited only to the schools, the bishop is also focusing on the family apostolate.
“We want to strengthen the awareness of the dignity of marriage and of the family among the faithful,” Bishop Ssekamanya told Aid to the Church in Need. “Parents have a prophetic role to play in the parishes.”
Rome, Italy, May 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Moral theologian Father Juan Jose Perez-Soba recently stated that abstinence is the choice a married couple must make when one spouse is infected with AIDS.
The use of the condom in these cases not only poses a moral dilemma, but also an objective health risk, the priest said in a May 24 article in L'Osservatore Romano.
Fr. Juan Jose Perez-Soba is a member of the San Damaso Theology Department in Madrid, Spain and the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Rome.
“It’s worth noting that while the use of the condom in one sexual act could have some effectiveness in preventing AIDS infection, this does not guarantee absolute reliability, not even in the act in question, and much less over the entire sexual life of a couple,” he explained.
Consequently, the priest continued, “it is inappropriate to recommend the use (of the condom) as an effective means of preventing infection.”
“The numerous campaigns that encourage its indiscriminate use have fed the false belief that there is no danger, and they have ended up increasing the chances of infection,” Fr. Perez-Soba said.
For this reason, “Choosing to use it as a habitual practice shows a lack of responsibility towards the other person.”
Fr. Perez-Soba said the use of the condom also poses an ethical problem. “The sexual act carried out with a condom cannot be considered a fully conjugal act as it has been voluntarily deprived of its intrinsic meanings.”
He noted that according to Catholic teaching, all sexual relations between spouses have two dimensions: the unitive, which makes the spouses “one flesh,” and the procreative, which enables them to have children.
“The condom, acting as a barrier, distorts the realization of the sexual act in every way and deprives it not only of its procreative meaning, by presenting an impediment to fertilization, but also by attacking the meaning of being ‘one flesh’ in the sense of the total gift of self in the spousal union,” he explained.
Fr. Perez-Soba acknowledged the demanding nature of abstinence, but noted that the marriage vows include “the effort to respond with generosity: in this difficult situation, they should commit themselves to the effort they have undertaken and embrace the strength they need to live the truth of their vocation, trusting in God’s grace and seeking out the counsel of the Church, which is there to help them throughout their journey.”
Vatican City, May 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI did not have a papal tiara until today. At the May 25 General Audience he was presented with one by the Catholics of his native Germany.
The man behind the project, Dieter Philippi, met with CNA before the handover ceremony.
“Well, we thought how every Pope in the past had a tiara. Even John Paul II had one. That was a present from Hungarian Catholics given to him in 1981. So we thought about making a tiara from German Catholics to hand over to the present Pope.”
Dieter is from Kirkel in the Saarland region of western Germany. By day he’s a chief executive of a telecommunications company. In his spare time, though, he’s an avid collector of religious headgear. In fact, he now has over 500 hats from numerous world religions.
And it was Dieter who commissioned the tiara from a workshop in the Bulgarian capital of Sophia.
“They specialize in Orthodox vestments and Orthodox mitres. So they have the knowledge and skill to make a tiara, because in other countries it’s now very difficult to find craftsmen and women with the knowledge of how to make a tiara. That’s because it takes such specialist skills.”
The metal used is a mixture of zinc, silver and brass. This made it very malleable when sculpting fine detail. The stones used are semi-precious.
Milka Botcheva, who was part of the team that worked on the project, explained, “When we were working on it we never expected it would come this far, that it would come to Vatican.”
“So I’m proud of all of us, all the team. I believe this really is a miracle,” she said.
The papal tiara was worn by Popes at their coronation between the 14th and 20th centuries. The last Pope to have a coronation was Pope Paul VI, in 1963.
It seems there’s no absolute certainty about the symbolism but during papal coronations the following words were uttered as the tiara was placed on the Pope’s head:
“Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art Father of Princes and Kings, Ruler of the World, Vicar of Our Savior Jesus Christ on earth, to whom is honor and glory in the ages of ages.”
Pope Benedict, of course, didn’t undergo a coronation. Neither does he have the tiara on his papal coat of arms. Dieter Philippi, though, would like to see some of the traditions surrounding the papal tiara revived.
“I think nowadays it would be very difficult because people wouldn’t understand the symbolism of a coronation … But from my personal view I would be very happy if we had a Pope who was crowned again like a king or a queen of any other country, yes.”
His more immediate concern is to find a home for the new papal tiara. There’s a possibility it might be put on display in at the birthplace of Pope Benedict—Marktl am Inn in Bavaria.
As for what Dieter planned to say to the Pope today?
“I will tell him that I’m very, very happy that I had the chance to hand the tiara over to him and that I’m very happy that a German Pope gets a tiara from the German Catholics.”