Rome, Italy, Jun 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A leading Italian politician is giving his support to plans for a museum in Rome to commemorate the memory of the wartime pontiff, Pope Pius XII.
“I’ve taken on the impetus of this important idea that wishes to give the proper place in history to this great Pope,” Italian Senator Stefano De Lillo told CNA.
“During his life he was exalted by all, and at the time of his death the Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, said that he died a ‘grande giusto’ – a ‘great, just man.’”
The plans for the museum are at an early stage but they have already been discussed at an international conference organized by Sen. De Lillo this month. The idea has also gained the support of the former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks, however, is the continually recycled accusation that Pope Pius didn’t do enough during the war to save Jews from persecution. Sen. De Lillo hopes the new museum can help set the record straight.
“There are so many writings from Italian and Roman Jews who thank the Pope for having permitted them to seek refuge in convents, institutes and churches throughout Rome. It is estimated that at least 5,000 people were saved through the direct action of the Pope.”
“We can say that a museum of this type can help give back a just historical truth, in full harmony with our elder brothers of the Jewish religion, with whom our rapport is extremely good,” the Italian lawmaker said.
The museum idea was initially given to Sen. De Lillo by the 90-year-old New Jersey nun, Sister Margherita Marchione, who has been campaigning since 1995 to clear the name of Pope Pius XII. In fact, over the past 16 years she’s become one of his leading biographers.
Sen. De Lillo says the museum would “bring together all of the documentation that the sister possesses, along with other documentation possessed by other sites.”
He also wants to mark what he sees as the bravery and loyalty of Pope Pius towards the citizens of Rome during the war.
“Thanks to Pope Pius XII, Rome was declared an ‘open city’ during the Second World War so it was prohibited by an international convention to bomb the city,” Sen. De Lillo recalled.
Actually both before and after the granting of this status in 1943, Rome was bombed by both Allied and Axis powers. But unlike the Italian king, Victor Emmanuel III, and the country’s dictator, Benito Mussolini, who fled Rome due to the threat of bombing, Pope Pius XII remained in the city throughout.
“After the war, the citizens and the city of Rome put up a plaque in Pius XII Square near the Vatican thanking the Pope for having saved Rome,” the senator noted.
The Romans also honored him with the title “Defensor Civitatis” or “Defender of the City,” which is the name Senator De Lillo would like to give to the new museum.
Lima, Peru, Jun 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Paraguay may move toward the legalization of abortion, according to the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva.
Federico Gonzalez said that while abortion is illegal in his country, “An open debate is going to take place in order to analyze this issue in depth.” He made his comments while attending the 17th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council taking place May 30-June 17.
The Universal Periodic Review is a mechanism of the United Nations which consists of the review of the human rights practices of all countries in the world.
The reviews take place once every four years.
During the current review taking place in Geneva, the country of Norway recommended that Paraguay study “the scope of illegal and unsafe abortions taking place and introduce measures to protect the universal right of women to life and health.”
“Paraguay is grateful for the 124 recommendations received during its participation in the Universal Periodic Review. All of the recommendations have been accepted,” Gonzalez said.
In response to the recommendation by Norway, the Paraguayan delegation in Geneva issued a statement on May 31 announcing that a government resolution is currently being drafted to address the issue of “humane health care for patients in situations of abortion.”
However, Paraguay’s Director of Human Rights of the Ministry for Foreign Relations, Ines Martinez, told CNA the government “has made no commitment” regarding the legalization of abortion.
“A legislative measure” does exist, she said, and is currently “in the hands of the Legislative branch. There is no policy (of the State), there is a measure in the sense that there is law like in any other country and it is currently before parliament.”
Norway and other European countries often use these “recommendations” to pressure countries in Latin America and Africa to legalize abortion.
Nicaragua has become an emblematic case in this regard, as the country has fought hard to resist pressure to change its laws, which do not allow abortion under any circumstances. The country has been continuously threatened with cuts in financial aid from European nations.
Reaction from pro-lifers in Paraguay
Maria Celia de Meyer, the secretary general of the Federation of Pro-life and Family Associations in Paraguay, told CNA, “Several cabinet officials in Paraguay are talking about introducing the issue of abortion again.”
“There is a lot of pressure from the U.N.” to pass this measure, Meyer said. “We are told that it has been passed in such-and-such country and so it should be passed here as well, as if we were the only country defending life. This is not the case, but (the promoters of abortion) always use this argument,” she added.
Meyer said pro-life groups are mounting a massive campaign against the proposed law. “They are not going to be able to just freely pass (this law); they are going to have to deal with opposition from a lot of people” she said.
Marcela Brodon of the organization Generacion Provida, told CNA, “As young people who fight for the protection of human life from the moment of conception, we completely disagree with the idea of modifying our national laws, as do the majority of Paraguayans.”
Generacion Provida recently mounted an online protest on Facebook which 14,000 signed in opposition to a visit by Spain’s former Minister of Equality, Bibiana Aido, who came to Paraguay to attend a gathering of health ministers.
Brodon said some lawmakers in Paraguay are orchestrating a maneuver to modify two articles of the Constitution: Article 229 forbids presidential reelection, and article 120 forbids Paraguayans from voting from abroad. They also want to change article 4, which establishes the right to life, she said.
“For this reason we are watching and we will respond accordingly to always defend life,” Brodon said. “Paraguay is pro-life. The young people and all those who participated in our small initiative and in all pro-life activities demonstrate this,” she said.
Vatican City, Jun 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - “When God disappears, man falls into the slavery of idolatry,” Pope Benedict XVI said at the June 15 General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.
This phenomenon, he said, is clearly “shown by the totalitarian regimes of our time and with various forms of nihilism, which make man dependent on idols and idolatry, which enslave.”
The Pope said that this “seduction” of “the illusion of being able to ‘serve two masters’” has been a “constant temptation to believers” throughout salvation history.
To make his case, Pope Benedict drew upon the Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah. He lived in the kingdom of Israel in the 9th century B.C. , during a time of famine. As a result, King Ahab and most people worshiped both God and the idol Baal who, they believed, brought life and fertility to both humanity and nature.
“While claiming to follow the Lord, God, invisible and mysterious, people also sought safety in a god who was understandable and predictable,” the Pope observed.
In response to Israel’s divided allegiance to God, Elijah proposed a contest to be held on Mount Carmel. Two altars were built on top of the mountain and Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to bring down fire upon the prepared sacrifice. The rival priests resort to even spilling their own blood to convince Baal to send fire, but to no effect.
Elijah then ordered that the altar to God be drenched with water three times and asked him to accept the sacrifice. Fire fell from the sky, and Elijah prayed intently for rain to fall to end the famine.
“In response to Elijah’s prayer, God reveals his fidelity, mercy and saving power through the consuming fire sent down from heaven. He also enables the people to turn back to him and to reaffirm the covenant made with their fathers,” said the Pope.
The story of Elijah, he said, should also remind people to pray for the conversion of others.
“As we look to Elijah’s example, let us be ever more convinced of the power of intercessory prayer, so that we can help all people to know the one true God, to turn away from every form of idolatry, and to receive the grace offered to us on the wood of the Cross and in the fire of the Holy Spirit.”
This was the sixth Wednesday audience delivered by Pope Benedict on the topic of prayer. His previous theme – the lives of the saints – took two years to complete.
New York City, N.Y., Jun 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan is concerned that state senators might “re-invent the very definition” of marriage—society's basic institution—as five more lawmakers pledged to support a same-sex “marriage” bill.
“Not every desire, urge, want, or chic cause is automatically a ‘right,’” the archbishop explained in his June 14 blog post titled “The True Meaning of Marriage.” True freedom, he said, is not “the license to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what we ought.”
Later that day, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo presented the “Marriage Equality Act” to the state legislature after a key Republican senator voiced support for it. Four Democrats who previously voted against same-sex “marriage” said on June 13 that they would support the bill.
Governor Cuomo's administration is reportedly pursuing a strategy of gradually pressuring lawmakers to give their support.
“We’re in a very precarious situation,” New York Catholic Conference director Dennis Poust told CNA on June 15. According to a New York Times tally, the law needs only one more committed vote to ensure its passage.
“We are doing everything we can to convince the remaining 31 senators who have not said that they are going to vote ‘yes’ that this bill is a terrible mistake, and we have not given up,” Poust explained. “There is still hope, although certainly it is hanging by a thread.”
If the bill does pass, “there is very little that can be done,” he said, because New York does not have a system of initiatives and referendums like California and some other states do.
New York's legislature rejected a previous proposal to redefine marriage in 2009, by a vote of 38-24.
The state's large population makes its decision on the marriage question especially important. New York is home to 19 million people, more than the combined populations of the five states – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont – that already permit homosexual “marriage” along with the District of Columbia.
Archbishop Dolan warned that the proposal would exert government control over an institution more fundamental than the state itself – a prospect that he compared to the communist regimes of China and North Korea.
“In those countries, government presumes daily to ‘redefine’ rights, relationships, values, and natural law,” he observed. “There, communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of ‘family’ and ‘marriage’ means.”
The bill under consideration in New York specifies that no religious institutions will be forced to honor or facilitate homosexual “weddings.” However, it will eliminate all gender-specific language regarding the rights and responsibilities of individuals and couples.
Archbishop Dolan also responded in his blog post to those who say the Church discriminates against homosexuals. He pointed out that the Church seeks, rather, to maintain the truth about human nature, sexuality, and the family.
“This is not about denying rights,” he said. “It is about upholding a truth about the human condition. Marriage is not simply a mechanism for delivering benefits. It is the union of a man and a woman in a loving, permanent, life-giving union to pro-create children.”
“Please don’t vote to change that. If you do, you are claiming the power to change what is not into what is, simply because you say so. This is false, it is wrong, and it defies logic and common sense."
Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Jun 15, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - A priest in Spain was suspended after he was elected to public office in the northeastern city of La Gudina.
The suspension will remain in effect until Father Antonio Fernandez has “irrefutably shown—in the judgment of the bishops” that he has renounced “all public office, commitment or political activity” and displays “willingness to act in communion with the Catholic Church.”
Fr. Fernandez, who ran for a spot on the city council, was elected and took office on June 11. The Diocese of Ourense announced he would be suspended as pastor of the four parishes under his care, prohibited from “interfering in any way” in the choosing of his successor, and forbidden from exercising priestly ministry.
The diocese said it exhausted every means before making “this difficult determination” once the priest’s decision had been made known and that he had been respectfully and clearly notified “of the canonical consequences that could result from such a decision.”
According to Canon Law, members of the clergy are not permitted to hold public office or to actively participate in political parties.
Krakow, Poland, Jun 15, 2011 (CNA) - A reliquary of Bl. Pope John Paul II’s blood has been placed in the altar of a new church in Krakow named for him.
Leading churchmen placed the relic in the new sanctuary of Bl. John Paul II in Krakow, the city where he rose from being a parish priest to archbishop.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow said in a Mass that the blood recalls the sacrifice John Paul II made in serving Christ when he was shot by a Turkish gunman in 1981.
He also invoked Pope John Paul II’s slogan “Be not afraid!”
Leading churchmen in attendance at the ceremony included apostolic nuncio Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw, Cardinal Franciszek Marcharski and Cardinal Stanslaw Nagy, according to the John Paul II Institute.
Other attendees included Polish officials from all levels of government. University leaders, students, youth leaders and teachers representing schools named for the late Pope also attended.
Archbishop Migliore said that the relics of saints are particularly important for Christians because they testify that not only the spirit but the body and all worldly life has its share in the holiness of God.
Damascus, Syria, Jun 15, 2011 (CNA) - One of Syria’s most respected bishops is condemning the violence in Syria but is also defending the Syrian government’s response to the uprising there. He said the insurgents are “fanatics” who seek “destabilization and Islamization.”
“The fanatics speak about freedom and democracy for Syria but this is not their goal,” said Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo. “They want to divide the Arab countries, control them, seize petrol and sell arms.”
If President Bashar al-Assad is ousted, he warned, Syria would suffer the problems of Iraq, such as the widespread breakdown of law and order.
“We do not want to become like Iraq. We don’t want insecurity and Islamization and (to) have the threat of Islamists coming to power,” the Jesuit bishop told Aid to the Church in Need.
“Syria has a secular orientation. There is freedom. We have a lot of positive things in our country.”
The Syrian government has received strong criticism for a hard-line military response to the uprising.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned Syria’s armed response against protestors as “unacceptable.”
Protests erupted after the mid-March arrest and torture of 15 youths in the poor southern town of Dara’a. Demonstrations quickly spread across the country.
Armed elements have carried out attacks on security forces, with the government saying hundreds of their forces have been killed. The opposition said that more than 1,300 protesters have been killed.
Earlier in June, over 120 servicemen were killed at the predominantly Sunni town of Jisr al-Shughour near the Turkish border. State media blamed unidentified gunmen, while government opponents said troops mutinied after refusing to fire on unarmed demonstrators.
Many Syrians who joined the Sunni Islamist insurgency in Iraq against U.S. forces came from the region.
Syria expert Joshua Landis, associate professor of Middle East studies at Oklahoma University, told Reuters that the country is “sliding towards civil war.”
The conflict also has provoked worries of sectarian tensions between the Sunni Muslim majority and the minority Alawite sect to which the family of President Assad belongs. The Assad family has held power in Syria for 41 years.
One Obama administration official in Washington, speaking anonymously to the New York Times, said that they do not know who the armed groups are, but they are “religiously based, absolutely.”
Vatican Radio director Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., has said the situation in Syria is “especially worrisome” because of its “persistent violence” and apparent lack of solutions. In his weekly editorial for Vatican Radio, he asked that all parties reject violence and oppose “the disintegration of Syrian society.”
He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the new Syrian Ambassador to the Vatican, in which the Pope called for “true reforms in political, economic and social life” and increased “respect for the truth, for the rights of peoples and communities, of coexistence and reconciliation.”
Fr. Lombardi continued: “It is important to oppose the disintegration of this region and to speak out against the conflicts that force people to flee from one country to another: from Iraq to Syria, from Syria to Turkey … we must convert to dialogue, reconciliation and peace.”
For his part, Bishop Audo argued that the government had a right to defend itself, noting that more than 100 police were killed within a few days’ time.
He criticized a “war of information” against Syria, calling media reports “unobjective.”
“In some media organizations, such as the BBC and Al Jazeera, there is an orchestration to deform the face of Syria to say the government does not respect human rights and so on,” he said.
“Syria must resist – will resist. 80 percent of the people are behind the government, as are all the Christians,” Bishop Audo told Aid to the Church in Need.
The situation of Syria’s 1.5 million Christians is not much different than other communities, he said.
“We want peace and security ... we do not want war and violence and we very much hope that in the next few weeks the situation will be better.”
Denver, Colo., Jun 15, 2011 (CNA) - Corrected June 15, 2011 at 1:45 p.m. MDT. Corrects error in headline.
Catholic leaders are calling a recent National Catholic Reporter article “ludicrous” for criticizing Kansas City Bishop Robert W. Finn in the context of a discussion about scandal-plagued figures such as New York Rep. Anthony Weiner and French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
In her June 8 piece entitled “Who are these guys and where did they come from?” Phyllis Zagano discussed four prominent men who've made headlines for alleged or admitted sexual indiscretions. In a column touching on Weiner and Strauss-Kahn along with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar, she also raised concerns about Bishop Finn's failure to deal swiftly with a priest who possessed questionable photos.
Zagano's essay compared Bishop Finn to the four figures in politics and finance, who she said lacked “respect for women, or anyone else for that matter.” After analyzing a series of chauvinistic and obscene behaviors she chalked up to “testosterone,” the former Fordham University professor abruptly zeroed in on the Bishop of Kansas City: “Where did Finn come from, anyway?”
Her criticism of Bishop Finn comes after he publicly expressed his remorse for neglecting to heed warnings about local priest Fr. Shawn Ratigan that were raised in a letter sent by Saint Patrick School principal Julie Hess to the diocese’s vicar general. The letter detailed parents' concerns about the priest’s behavior around children.
However, Zagano's remarks did not sit well with Catholic League president Bill Donohue and the internationally-known author Fr. Alfred McBride, O Praem., who both believe she went too far.
“Arnold Schwarzenegger impregnates his housekeeper, Rep. Anthony Weiner sends porn pictures of himself to strangers, and Dominque Strauss-Kahn allegedly rapes a hotel maid,” Donohue said.
“To be sure, they have something in common, but to conflate their sordid behavior with Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn's failure to move quickly against a problem priest is so forced as to be ludicrous,” he told CNA in a June 12 interview.
“That, however, is exactly what Phyllis Zagano has done.”
Zagano also criticized Bishop Finn's celibate formation, saying she felt “sorry for him” that he entered seminary at age 12. She wrote that the bishop is a “product a system left over from the Council of Trent,” which directed dioceses to create minor seminaries to provide initial formation for diocesan clergy.
“An all-male environment from the age of twelve can ensure celibacy, but at what price?” Zagano said. “If the only way to get celibate clergy is to lock up twelve-year-olds until they are ordained, maybe the hierarchy should reconsider requiring priestly celibacy.”
Donohue said in response that “her lashing out at Bishop Finn, and her inane analogies comparing Finn to sexual deviants in public life, smacks of an agenda.”
Fr. Alfred McBride, a professor at St. Norbert's College in Wisconsin who has helped form hundreds of seminarians, also took on Zagano's criticism of priestly celibacy. He told CNA that it's inaccurate to blame celibacy for sexual misconduct or mismanagement of cases within the Church.
“When we look at the celebrity politicians of late who broke their marital promises to their wives, did that happen because they were married?” he asked. “No. It happened because they failed to nurture their vow of fidelity which they pronounced on their wedding.”
Fr. McBride, a popular speaker who's authored over 40 books and appeared regularly on TV networks such as EWTN, said that the “central issue of our culture is fidelity, not adultery or sex abuse.”
“Whether one is married or celibate, the virtue of fidelity is central to their lives.”
“Marriage does not cause adultery,” he added. “An evil soul causes that. So also celibacy does not cause what Pope Benedict calls the 'filth' of sex abuse, but the permission given by priests to let evil overtake their souls.”
Fr. McBride said that the real reason for sex abuse and sexual misconduct by priests is not celibacy but “the failure to practice the virtue of chastity when faced with temptations to abandon their vow of celibacy.”
He noted that people often make the unfortunate mistake of defining celibacy in a negative way as if it's simply the act of giving up marriage and and children.
However, “the positive view of celibacy,” he said, “is that it is a form of loving God and people with an undivided heart.”
“Celibacy did not block Blessed John Paul II from being admired as one of the most courageous priests on earth,” Fr. McBride underscored. “See how one celibate priest stood up against one of the most corrupt governments of his time.”
“Priests that abused children did not do so because of their celibacy, rather they failed because they broke their vow to be chaste,” he said.
“When four million people elbowed their way into the Vatican to pay tribute to a celibate priest, what does that tell you? It states that John Paul knew how to keep his promises,” he said, referring to Bl. John Paul II’s funeral.