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Archive of July 7, 2011

Priceless medieval manuscript stolen from Spanish cathedral

Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Jul 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A priceless 12th-century Catholic manuscript is missing from the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela in Spain and is presumed to be stolen.
 
The Codex Calixtinus is a medieval guidebook written for those on pilgrimage to the historic Galician town where the apostle St. James is traditionally believed to be buried.

Fr. Jose Maria Diaz Fernandez, the dean and archivist of the cathedral, told a July 7 press conference that “The Codex is so much part of Santiago that around the world people do not cite one without mentioning the other.”

Fr. Fernandez says he was first alerted to the loss on Tuesday evening. He called the police to the scene on Wednesday.

“We do not know if it’s been stolen by a collector or a band of professionals. What we can do is offer our full cooperation to the police.”
 
“It is the first time that such a thing has happened in this archive. Pray to the Apostle (St. James) to help us to recover the book as soon as possible.”
 
“We are investigating its disappearance,” said a local police spokeswoman, according to the AFP news agency. “It is usually kept in a room to which only half a dozen people have access,” she said.
 
The local newspaper, Correo Gallego, reports that only five security cameras were used to monitor the archives and none were pointing directly at the safe where the medieval manuscript was stored.
 
“Although security systems have been improved considerably, it is true to say that they are not of the kind one might find in a bank or a well-protected jeweller,” the newspaper opined.

The manuscript, possibly commissioned by Pope Calixtus II, helped popularize a pilgrimage route that drew over 270,000 pilgrims in 2010. The author of the book tells how medieval pilgrims traveled from as far away as Scotland to the north and Asia to the east to pray at the tomb of the apostle.

Its purpose, though, was largely practical with advice for those traveling to the shrine. It also includes a history of St. James, sermons ascribed to the apostle and songs and poems in his honor.

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Pope Benedict begins his busy vacation

Vatican City, Jul 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI will spend his summer vacation praying, reading and writing, according to his official spokesman.

“I was also struck in the past, talking to the Pope’s personal secretary, who said to me very naturally: ‘The best way for the Pope to rest is for him to study and write about theology, Sacred Scripture, because they are topics that fascinate him,’” said Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., in a July 7 interview with Vatican Radio.

The Pope left today for his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, a tiny hilltop village overlooking Lake Albano, just 15 miles south east of Rome. The town has been the traditional holiday spot for Popes since the 15th century.

“He enjoys his stay at Castel Gandolfo very much and perhaps has a greater guarantee of the rest which he needs and desires by going directly to Castel Gandolfo, rather than traveling to an unfamiliar place for a short period,” the papal spokesman said, referring to Pope John Paul II’s preference for sometimes vacationing in the Italian mountains.

Fr. Lombardi says that Pope Benedict chooses the familiar surroundings of Castel Gandolfo “in his discretion and kindness,” as it makes for more relaxed summer atmosphere for all the papal entourage, particularly the security staff.

The papal spokesman describes the village as “a quiet place, where even the altitude is suitable - cooler than Rome, but not particularly high. It has gardens to walk in, and environments conducive to the Pope’s intellectual and cultural work as well as for time spent in prayer, both particularly dear to him.”

But Pope Benedict’s summer will not be overly relaxed by most people’s standards. He has a trip to World Youth Day in Spain planned for mid-August and a September pilgrimage to his homeland of Germany. He also intends to use his stay at Castel Gandolfo to finish his three-volume biography of Jesus.
 
“He told us he wanted to complete it with a third volume, though smaller, perhaps a bit different in nature and approach, which is about his (Jesus’) childhood, about the infancy Gospels,” said Fr. Lombardi.

“He has already started working on it in his free periods of the past months, but probably this is the right time to bring the work to a conclusion or at least to forge ahead on it.”

On top of all that, Pope Benedict will still greet pilgrims every Sunday with his noontime Angelus address. One regularly scheduled meeting that will be off his plate is his weekly Wednesday audience, which is canceled for the month of July.

The Pope will return to Rome in September.

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Pope appoints new heads for Vatican’s financial departments

Vatican City, Jul 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Domenico Calcagno has been appointed by Pope Benedict as the head of the Vatican’s financial policy department, following the resignation of Cardinal Attilio Nicora earlier today.

However, Cardinal Nicora will stay on as head of the Vatican’s financial watchdog body, the Financial Information Authority. The paring down of Cardinal Nicora’s duties is being seen, in part, as a further attempt by the Vatican to comply with international rules on money laundering.

“If the Holy See hopes for success in getting onto the European Union’s ‘White List,’ this is a move it has to make,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., said to CNA July 7. The “White List” is the E.U.’s register of countries that are in compliance with the union’s rules aimed at combating money laundering.
 
“If you are in charge of an economic institution it is better if the same person isn’t also responsible for monitoring it,” Fr. Lombardi said.
 
“There were procedural ways to make sure there was no contradiction in duties but the situation is clearer now.”

The Vatican financial policy body—officially called the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See – was created in 1967 to administer the estates of the Holy See and provide the necessary operating funds for the Roman Curia.

The Financial Information Authority was created by Pope Benedict XVI in late 2010 after Italian prosecutors seized 23 million Euros (32 million dollars) of Vatican assets as part of a money laundering investigation. The funds were released back to the Vatican in June 2011, with no further action being taken.

Cardinal Attilio Nicora has been in charge of the Vatican monetary policy department since 2002. At 74-years-old the Italian cleric would have tendered his resignation next year.

Given that the Financial Information Authority is not a department of the Roman Curia, Vatican officials have told CNA he will be able to stay on as head of that organization beyond his 75th year.

Archbishop Domenico Calcagno, 68, is also Italian. For the past four years he has been the secretary of the policy-making body. He will now be replaced in that role by Monsignor Luigi Misto, who is presently in charge of the finances for the Archdiocese of Milan.

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Salvadoran coalition responds to US ambassador's push for gay 'rights'

San Salvador, El Salvador, Jul 7, 2011 (CNA) - The U.S. ambassador to El Salvador has violated rules of diplomacy and international laws by writing an article encouraging homosexual “rights,” according to a coalition of pro-life and pro-family groups in the country.

Speaking directly to Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte, the coalition wrote, “(I)n clear violation of the rules of diplomacy and international rights laws, you intend to impose (a) new vision of foreign and bizarre values and intend to disguise (these) as ‘human rights.’” The statement was published July 6 in the local newspaper El Diario de Hoy.

The rebuke of the ambassador occurred after she called for the recognition of “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights” in an article that appeared in the June 28 edition of La Prensa Grafica newspaper.

Aponte said that ensuring this change falls not only on the government but also on “each one of us.” She added that each generation had to bring their countries closer to equality and noted that progress would take time, but that the “diversity of the Americas” would be celebrated.

In response to the ambassador’s article, a combination of domestic and international pro-life and pro-family groups accused Aponte of violating the Vienna Convention of the U.N. General Assembly, which states that diplomats are obligated not to interfere in the internal affairs of the receiving state, and that other states have the duty to respect the character of other states.

The coalition for life and family agreed with the ambassador when referring to the need to “repudiate violence against homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, etc.” At the same time, they clarified that this “does not mean accepting the legal union between same sex individuals or to add new types of families.”

“Not accepting the legitimacy of ‘sexual diversity’ does not mean we are violating any human right,” the group said.
 
The statement noted that the U.S. is a place where “millions of defenseless and vulnerable unborn babies are murdered legally in the most cruel and merciless ways,” which goes against human rights as well.

An official from the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, who asked not to be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, said in a July 6 interview with CNA that the ambassador “was not commenting on foreign culture and laws; (she) was restating U.S. policy,” because President Obama and Secretary Clinton have stated this position previously.
 
“One of the reasons that we have ambassadors around the world is to explain U.S. policy outside of our border, so that is what she was doing,” he explained. “She is the president’s representative in this country.”

But the pro-life and pro-family coalition did not want the ambassador to define what progress meant for the country.
 
“We prefer to feel proudly ‘old fashioned,’ keep our moral values, preserve our families and posses the clarity of what defines good and evil,” their statement concluded.

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Critics slam 'public hearing' on Lima's homosexual ordinance

Lima, Peru, Jul 7, 2011 (CNA) - Pro-family leaders in Peru have criticized a public hearing held by Lima city officials to discuss an ordinance that would promote the homosexual movement in the city.
 
The director of the Population Research Institute’s Office for Latin America, Carlos Polo, attended the hearing held July 5 in Lima. Polo explained to CNA that the moderator of the meeting, Silvia Loli, told those opposed to the gay ordinance, “If you do not give an opinion about the text that has been presented, you will have to live with it as it is.”
 
The ordinance sponsored by city council member Manuel Cardenas aims “to promote gender equality and prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.” Critics of the proposal say it would violate the religious freedom of 80 percent of the Peruvian capital.
 
The ordinance would force the residents of Lima to accept “public displays of homosexual affection in businesses or areas open to the general public,” including schools. The July 5 hearing was billed as a forum and a neutral debate for residents of the capital city to provide their feedback on the proposal.
 
However, Carlos Polo said, “What Silvia Loli did was very different. She said from the outset the purpose of the hearing was to receive input on the draft of the ordinance, and she warned us to only address it in that sense.”
 
Upon opening the floor for comments, “She gave special treatment to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) activists, who were allowed to speak more than once. When there began to be criticism of the ordinance, she fired off the threat (mentioned above), giving the impression that she did not need us there because the ordinance would be approved anyway.”
 
Polo said some of those who spoke against the ordinance were “verbally assaulted by gay activists.” 
 
“A number of us had to raise our voices to demand order because neither moderator nor the city council members did anything about it. It seems they were bent on receiving ‘feedback” and ‘carrying out procedure’,” he said.
 
During the hearing, city council member Marco Zevallos told residents, “We do not legislate based on whatever we happen to think of. We legislate based on the fact that the people voted to put us here.  It’s not the other way around. In any case, there are recall measures that apply not only to the mayor but to all city council members.”
 
Polo said Zevallos comments demonstrated “the level of intolerance and arrogance that characterize not only Lima city council members, but also Mayor (Susana) Villaran.”
 
Speaking on Peruvian radio, Polo said the ordinance would impose an ideology on the city that not everyone agrees with.  He called it “ridiculous” to pass something at the city level that has already been rejected in the legislature and that opposition to the ordinance has nothing to do with discrimination or intolerance.
 
“We are not talking about intolerance, we are talking about promoting something that only certain groups believe in,” Polo said, adding that Mayor Villaran should focus her attention instead on fulfilling “the campaign promises she has not kept.”
 
A campaign to gather signatures against the ordinance is currently underway and can be viewed at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/contraordenanzadeideologiagay

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Nearly one million in Spain assisted by Caritas in 2010

Madrid, Spain, Jul 7, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - Almost 950,000 Spaniards received assistance from Caritas to meet basic needs in 2010. 
 
The figures were up 550,000 from three years ago, according to a Caritas report on the impact of the economic crisis in Spain.
 
Of the 950,000 people who received aid, 300,000 were assisted by Caritas for the first time, mainly due to growing unemployment. According to the coordinator of the Caritas Study team, Francisco Lorenzo, 74 percent of those seeking aid were families. Seven out of every 10 people requesting assistance came after receiving little aid from government-run social services, he added.
 
Lorenzo said social services programs are burdened by excessive bureaucracy, limited resources and a lack of personalized follow-up. While applicants usually wait four days for their first interview with a Caritas representative, they wait almost one month to be interviewed by a government social worker.
 
Most applicants, Lorenzo pointed out, are people who have been left unemployed and unable to find work for an extended period, parents between the ages of 20 and 40 with one or two small children, unemployed young people seeking first-time employment, and single mothers.
 
Amid the increase in applicants—which so far this year numbers 1.8 million—the Catholic Church in Spain has doubled the amount of money it has set aside for economic assistance for families, totaling $43 million. Roughly 42 percent of funds set aside last year were used for food assistance, while 32 percent went to help pay for rent and mortgages.
 
The secretary general of Caritas in Spain, Sebastian Mora, said the report was not meant to be a “criticism” of public services but rather “a call to social and political institutions and organizations to work responsibly.” Caritas seeks to complement and not substitute the work done by social services, he said.

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Successful Dublin pro-life rally draws thousands

Dublin, Ireland, Jul 7, 2011 (CNA) - Thousands of people attended a large pro-life rally in Dublin to oppose attempts to force abortion on Ireland by changing its laws.

Organizers said the July 2 “All Ireland Rally for Life” was “hugely successful” and serves as a warning to the political party Fine Gael that the Labour Party’s plans to legalize abortion in Ireland are “unacceptable to the majority of Irish people.”

Speakers called on Irish prime minister Enda Kenny to keep his promise that his party would be opposed to the legalization of abortion, according to rally co-sponsor Youth Defence.

The European Court of Human Rights in December ruled that Ireland’s abortion ban breached the rights of a woman who had to leave the country in order to procure an abortion. Fine Gael has set up an expert group to examine the judgment.

The “rush” by Ireland’s Labour Party to call for abortion legislation after the ruling hurt their  performance in the 2011 elections, Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute told the crowd.

She said that pro-lifers will not accept a review committee that is “stacked against the unborn child” or ignores “the evidence that clearly shows that abortion is never medically necessary.”

Carolyn Johnston of Youth Defence said Irish pro-lifers demand that the government “listen to the pro-life majority who say ‘Yes to Life’ and ‘No to abortion.’”

“Enda Kenny needs to tell the European Court not to interfere in the right of the sovereign people to decide Ireland's pro-life laws,” Johnston said.

Bernadette Smyth, the director of rally co-host Precious Life, said that Ireland’s protection of life was a light to the world and that pro-life people had united to ensure that politicians opposed the legalization of abortion.

Dana Rosemary Scallon, the singer and former MEP, also addressed the crowd.

“Our Constitution belongs to the people. It does not belong to the Dáil – the majority of people in this country do not want legalized abortion in Ireland,” she said, according to the Irish Times

“Europe has no right to force abortion on the people of this country.”

Participants in the rally, including Bishop Séamus Hegarty of Derry, began their march from the Garden of Remembrance and ended at the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament. They carried signs saying “Keep Ireland abortion free” and “Protect Life.” Some signs of babies were captioned “Abortion? We can live without it.”

Official police figures said about 8,000 people attended the rally, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children reports. Several hundred counter-demonstrators who support abortion protested the event.

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Holy See and Azerbaijan strike historic agreement

Rome, Italy, Jul 7, 2011 (CNA) -

The Catholic Church has signed an historic treaty with the central Asian state of Azerbaijan which may provide a template for agreements in other countries with a Muslim majority.

“It is very good and very meaningful day. It’s a great day,”Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the papal nuncio to Azerbaijan, told CNA July 6.

“The Church in Azerbaijan has already been treated very well but now we have a safeguard for the Catholic community here.”

The agreement, signed at the Vatican this morning, gives a secure legal status to the Catholic Church in the Republic of Azerbaijan and guarantees religious freedom.

The Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, said at today’s signing ceremony that “It provides evidence of the respect for a minority religious community shown by a country with a conspicuous Muslim population.” He  suggested it was also “an indication of how Christians and Muslims can live together and respect one another.”

Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. It borders Russia to the north and Iran to the south. It gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Although its government is officially secular, its population is 99 percent Muslim. The Catholic population numbers only around 400 people in total.

“At a practical level, things will change as a result of today’s agreement,” explained Archbishop Gugerotti. The Catholic Church and its institutions will now have greater recognition and security in law, he said. That will likely make visas for clergy and religious sisters easier to obtain.

But the nuncio thinks the biggest change will be a symbolic one.

“I think this is an agreement that could well be copied in other parts of the world. It shows broad-mindedness on the part of the Azerbaijani government to recognize that even a small minority can have freedom of religion within the law,” Archbishop Gugerotti said.

A positive relationship between the Holy See and the government of Azerbaijan flourished following the visit of Pope John Paul II to the country in 2002.

During the visit Azerbaijani President Geydar Aliev gave a plot of land to the Church to build a parish, the first in over 70 years. The building was completed in 2007 and opened by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

“Today’s agreement comes at a time when things between Islam and Christianity are tense in other parts of the world. So this agreement is a symbol of how Christians and Muslims can live together in peace,” Archbishop Gugerotti stated.

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