Vatican City, Jul 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization unveiled a new project today to re-evangelize some of Europe’s major cities.
“The goal is simple: to give a sign of unity among the diverse dioceses present in the largest European cities that have been particularly affected by secularization,” wrote Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the council’s president, in the July 12 edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
Archbishop Fisichella chaired a summit of bishops from a range of European cities who met at the Vatican July 11 to discuss the proposed project.
The bishops came from Barcelona, Budapest, Brussels, Cologne, Dublin, Lisbon, Liverpool, Paris, Turin, Warsaw and Vienna. The scheme is being described as a “metropolitan project.”
“At the moment, the initiative is limited to some of the larger European dioceses in order to more concretely test its effectiveness,” said Archbishop Fisichella, suggesting that it could be rolled out in other cities around the globe if it is found to be successful.
The initiative will take place in Lent 2012 and will be based at each city’s cathedral, which will host a range of activities.
Events planned thus far are: a continual reading of the Gospel, the local bishop teaching young people, families and those converting to Catholicism, the promotion of confession, and a charitable initiative of some form. Archbishop Fisichella also mentioned an event that will be both spiritual and cultural in character, such as reading from the Confessions of St. Augustine.
“These initiatives will begin in the cathedral because of its important symbolic significance, but the intention is to extend them to the parishes of the dioceses for a more direct impact in the territory,” he said.
According to Archbishop Fisichella, the metropolitan missions will be aimed at those who live the faith but often do so in a way that “lacks an awareness of how this can infuse their lifestyle.” The missions also hope to engage those who are far from the faith, but are “nonetheless attracted by the person of Jesus Christ.”
The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization was established in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI. He said he wanted it to “promote a renewed evangelization” in traditionally Christian countries which are living through a “progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God.’”
Rome, Italy, Jul 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has entered the moral discussion surrounding the controversial message of the Harry Potter films. The newspaper has offered a positive review of the saga’s last installment, which will open worldwide this weekend.
The new film is the last in the series of movies based on the seven-volume fantasy novel written by J.K. Rowling.
L’Osservatore Romano reporter Gaetano Vallini writes in his piece, “The finale is epic, with a battle worthy of this saga of unequaled planetary success. The decisive meeting between the forces of good and evil is truly the final one, played out in an atmosphere that is almost too dark.”
“Fans of the saga already know everything: for them, the challenge is to compare how faithful the film is to the book. So far, they haven’t complained and we believe they will not have reason to with this film either."
Nevertheless, Vallini warns, “The atmosphere of the last few episodes which had become increasingly dark and ominous, reaches its pinnacle in this last film with Hogwarts reduced to smoldering rubble. This may not sit well with all moviegoers, as occurred with the previous film, and could make the youngest among the audience uneasy.
“Death, which before was a rare occurrence, here is a protagonist. This violence may not be welcomed or suitable for everyone.”
“In the final encounter there is much bloodshed and death: wizards large and not so large, expert and not-so-expert professors. Because of this increasingly violent nature, the film may not be pleasing or adaptable for everyone.”
Vallini argues nonetheless that “evil is never presented as fascinating or attractive in the saga, but the values of friendship and of sacrifice are highlighted. In a unique and long story of formation, through painful passages of dealing with death and loss, the hero and his companions mature from the lightheartedness of infancy to the complex reality of adulthood.”
“And thus it ends,” Vallini writes. “And for some, especially those who never liked the saga, it will be a sort of liberation.”
Chicago, Ill., Jul 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholic Charities of Illinois plans to challenge the Department of Children and Family Services' unexpected decision to end its foster care partnership with three local dioceses.
“We are going into court tomorrow in an attempt to stop this, because we believe it's an illegal action for several reasons,” said Peter Breen, Executive Director and Legal Counsel at the Illinois-based Thomas More Society, in a July 11 interview with CNA.
“What the Quinn administration has done,” he said, “is a statement of wanting to end, unilaterally, an over 30-year partnership with Catholic Charities to provide foster care for the children of the state of Illinois. He said the move would “displace 2,500 children in foster care across the state, who are under the care of Catholic Charities.”
Catholic Charities' dispute with the state centers on Illinois' recently-implemented Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, which gave a measure of legal status to same-sex partnerships.
The three dioceses claim that their Catholic Charities offices remain free, under that law, to place foster children only with married couples and single individuals without live-in partners. In June 2011, Catholic Charities sued the state of Illinois, seeking to confirm their status as a foster care agency under the new law.
However, on July 8, Department of Children and Family Services Director Erwin McEwen wrote to inform Catholic Charities that their contracts could not be renewed, over an alleged refusal to comply with the civil unions law.
“The Department of Children and Family Services is unable to accept the offer and execute the contracts,” McEwen wrote, “because your agency has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.”
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn confirmed the decision at a press conference on July 11. He said Catholic Charities had “made a choice” not to “voluntarily participate with the state,” and that the state was “not going back,” according to the Capitol Fax website.
Breen criticized Quinn and the department for an action he described as “reckless” and an “end-run around the court.”
“The legislature made clear that it was protecting religious entities as it passed the civil unions law,” Breen stated.
“Now the executive branch is ignoring the legislative intent of the law, and pushing a partisan political agenda instead of enforcing the laws as they were written and intended by the General Assembly.”
He said the Department of Children and Family Services' decision violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, “which protects firmly held religious beliefs and religious practices of people and organizations.”
Breen also argued that the relationship between the state and a competent long-time contractor was subject to “different rules” than those which would govern a situation where no prior contract existed. And he noted that the state did not have the right to withdraw its contract over a “bad interpretation of state law.”
He drew an analogy between the Department of Children and Family Services, and an employer who terminates an employee on illegal grounds.
“In employment law,” he noted, “you can have an at-will employment relationship with someone. But if you terminate that person for a reason that's illegal, then you can't terminate them.”
Madrid, Spain, Jul 12, 2011 (CNA) - Organizers are billing the August 17 “Night of Joy” as one of the biggest evening events of World Youth Day. It will feature a procession, Eucharistic adoration and opportunities for confession along with music, speakers and guest bishops, including Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver.
Guests who will provide “impressive testimonies” include world champion soccer player Jesús Navas, magician Andrés O'Hagan, and Chiara Amirante, the founder of the Italy-based youth social advocacy group Nuovi Orizzonti.
Other bishops attending the event are Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Alcalá, Spain, Bishop Joaquin Maria Lopez de Andújar of Getafe, and Bishop Yves Le Saux of Le Mans, France.
The event is organized by the Emmanuel Community, a missionary and evangelization group. The community’s PriestBand will perform during the event, as will the Alegria Band. Translations into 10 languages will be provided via FM radio or mobile phone.
The event will take place at 7 p.m. in the air-conditioned Madrid Arena, a 30-minute walk or a 15-minute metro ride from the Plaza Mayor. Dinner will be served to all registered World Youth Day pilgrims between 6 and 7:30 p.m.
Santiago, Chile, Jul 12, 2011 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile encouraged the 4,000 young people planning to attend World Youth Day to be “the springtime of the Church” and “sentinels of the morning.”
Bishop Ricardo Ezzati made his comments during a commissioning ceremony on July 9 at the Father Hurtado Shrine in Santiago. He invited the young people “to experience of the joy of an encounter with Jesus, for it is worth it to be a Christian.”
He also recalled the words Pope Benedict XVI addressed to the Chilean delegation, in which he encouraged them “not to be overcome by difficulties and to be generous in the faith in order to share the joy of belonging to the People of God with others.”
The send-off concluded with a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Cristian Contreras of Santiago. The bishop invited young people “to experience this World Youth Day as a gift that demands our commitment and an opportunity to extend the bonds of communion with the Pope and with other young people and cultures.” He said that this bond will “strengthen the roots of our faith in Jesus and thus return to Chile with renewed vitality, as builders of a new culture.”
Although the official Chilean delegation includes 2,203 people, a total of 4,000 Chileans will attend World Youth day, including a group from Easter Island.
Panama City, Panama, Jul 12, 2011 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Panama called on leaders to overcome the divorce between the needs of the people and the interests of the political class.
“We have observed with sadness the attitude of some politicians who are far from inspiring confidence and respect. It is necessary and essential that politics be humanized and that its ethical sense be recovered by giving priority to human dignity, the common good and respect for the will of the electorate,” the bishops said at the conclusion of their plenary meeting July 8.
“It is also important to show coherence between one’s personal conduct and moral principles in carrying out one’s duty.”
According to the Fides news agency, the bishops acknowledged efforts being made to improve formation at seminaries, to foster better organization in parish life and the generosity of many missionaries working to evangelize. However, they expressed “concern for the absence of committed lay people in the political, economic and social life of the country.”
They emphasized that the family is the foundation of society and that those “who promote the family, promote man, and those who attack the family, attack man.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The ordination of another Chinese bishop without papal approval would be a “new step backwards” in relations between China and the Vatican, says Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, the secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
“The government and Chinese politicians are convinced that the Church must be managed by the government,” the Hong Kong-born cleric told the Italian newspaper La Stampa on July 12.
Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai’s comments were made only two days before Father Joseph Huang Binzhuang is due to be illicitly ordained as the bishop of Shantou diocese in the southern province of Guangdong on Thursday July 14.
The ordination will be the third without papal approval in nine months. Each has been organized by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which is run by Beijing and does not acknowledge the authority of the Pope.
“Certainly, with the illegitimate ordinations of November 2010 and this past 29 June, the government took some steps backward, going back to the situation during the ‘50s,” said Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai.
“They wanted bishops ordained under the control of the government. This surprises me, as we have taken so many steps forward to bring us closer together.”
Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai says he believes that the Catholic Church has become an indirect casualty of internal communist party politics.
“Within the Politburo, the top leaders are all doing their jobs. There are still 18 months before some big changes happen in China. Hu Jintao, President and Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, must be replaced. So to save themselves, everyone tries to be as leftward-leaning as possible, taking an ever-more intransigent position. It is a subtle form of electoral campaigning.”
Today’s interview comes only a week after the Vatican warned Catholic bishops who participated in another illicit episcopal ordination in the Diocese of Leshan in June that they could be facing excommunication.
Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai explained that some of the bishops involved have already written to Rome to explain “the pressure they were under” or that they “were forced to do it.” Others, however, “have returned to their dioceses as if nothing happened,” thus “creating disturbances among the faithful.” For both, he says, penance is now required.
“They must apologize to the people of God, offering a day of prayer and penitence in their diocese. This way they can recover their credibility and so continue to govern their diocese.”
Canon 1382 of the Catholic Church's Code of Canon Law states both a bishop who “without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person as Bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.”
Cleveland, Ohio, Jul 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland has asked the Vatican to investigate his decision to shut down dozens of churches in his diocese after some local parishioners reacted strongly to the closures.
“While I am confident that I am faithfully handling the responsibilities entrusted to me, I personally made this request earlier this year because a number of persons have written to Rome expressing their concerns about my leadership of the Diocese,” Bishop Lennon said in a July 11 statement.
Bishop Lennon said that in response to his request, the Vatican has sent emeritus Bishop John M. Smith of Trenton, New Jersey to investigate the Cleveland diocese this week.
“Following the conclusion of his visit, Bishop Smith will submit a report to The Holy See,” Bishop Lennen said, adding, “no timetable has been announced.”
The news comes as a massive downsizing program announced in 2009 has closed over 50 parishes – many of them operating in the red – due to falling attendance, a priest shortage and financial problems. Although some churches were closed, others were merged, leaving 174 parishes remaining in the diocese.
Reacting to the move, some parishioners expressed anger and questioned the leadership of Bishop Lennon.
In August of 2010, Catholics from downtown Cleveland’s St. Peter’s Church formed a group called the Community of St. Peter when the diocese closed their church earlier that year. They rented space for their group and held Mass despite a warning from Bishop Lennon.
Fr. Robert Marrone, former pastor of St. Peter’s, celebrated the unauthorized Mass last August. The liturgy had about 350 people in attendance and included a baptism.
Bishop Lennon said on Monday that Bishop Smith's investigation “will be an opportunity to gather extensive information on all aspects of the activities of the Diocese and will allow for an objective assessment of my leadership.”
“I ask for prayers that this process will support the vibrancy and vitality of our Diocese going forward,” he said.
Officials from the Cleveland diocese did not return calls requesting more information.
Denver, Colo., Jul 12, 2011 (CNA) -
New York state Senator Mark Grisanti ran as a Catholic Republican opponent of same-sex “marriage” in 2010. In June 2011, he became a key vote ensuring its passage, telling a local newspaper: “If I take the Catholic out of me, which is hard to do, then absolutely they should have these rights.”
Richard E. Barnes, Executive Director of the New York Catholic Conference, said Grisanti showed a lack of integrity as a Catholic by “ignoring” the “teachings he knows full well” on the subject of family life.
“Obviously, he's acknowledging that he does understand the Catholic position,” Barnes said to CNA on July 8. Grisanti seemed to be “making the assessment that, while it was 'hard to do,' he has 'taken the Catholic out of him' for the purposes of this vote.”
“I don't think that a public official should ever 'take the Catholic out' of himself or herself, because Catholic positions are meshed perfectly with public policy positions,” said Barnes, who directs public policy advocacy efforts for the New York bishops.
“No person should say that they are a public official and need not live according to the tenets of their faith. And I find it disappointing that he felt he had to do that.”
When Sen. Grisanti cast his vote in favor of legalizing gay “marriage,” he stated that he could not “deny anyone in my district and across New York the same rights I have with my wife.”
But this reasoning contains faulty logic, Barnes said.
“He substitutes the notion of marriage as a relationship between any two people, in the place of the longstanding legal state interest of a man and woman having and raising children in a stable family,” Barnes observed.
Further, “as a lawmaker, Senator Grisanti set aside the analysis of marriage as having a state interest that the courts in New York have always acknowledged that it has.”
“In 'Hernandez v. Robles,' the New York Court of Appeals – our highest court – firmly rejected the notion of same-sex 'marriage' as a constitutional civil right in this state, and declared that in fact the state has a legitimate interest in the rearing of children.”
The New York State Catholic Conference director said his organization has “warned both elected officials and the judiciary in New York, for a long time,” that ignoring this state interest and redefining marriage “will open the door to a situation where marriage is viewed simply as granting benefits for a relationship between two individuals.”
If this occurs, Barnes said, “the door will be open to abandonment of all principle of natural law underlying marriage.”
On June 29, just days after the “marriage” bill's passage in New York, Senator Grisanti's chief of staff Doug Curella told CNA that the senator was no longer giving any public comment on his vote.
“Senator Grisanti's floor comments explain his vote in the affirmative for Marriage Equality,” said Curella.
Grisanti said in those comments, that “under this bill the religious aspects and beliefs are protected, as well as for (sic) not-for-profits,” The senator went on to explain why he believed the bill should be passed as soon as possible: “If this bill fails, I believe the next time around those religious protections won't be there.”
But Barnes said it is far from clear what the supposed protections, which he recalled were “introduced as a chapter amendment in the last moments of the legislative session,” actually accomplished.
“It wades into an area of law that is, in many ways, brand new,” he noted. “It touches on constitutional protections, which are now overlaid with a law declaring same-sex 'marriage' to be a civil right. Much of it is untested, and its impact will not be fully known for many years, I believe.”
Maggie Gallagher, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, said the supposed protections trumpeted by Grisanti are seriously flawed.
“It protects some religious organizations; it doesn't protect religious people,” she told CNA on July 8. “If you're a marriage counselor, it's not going to help you stay in business against a claim that you're discriminating if you are not willing to help gay people keep their relationships together.”
“It's not going to protect others in the wedding industry, who feel they cannot in good conscience assist in a gay 'marriage.' And it's certainly going to do nothing for parents who do not want their children taught that gay 'marriage' is a fundamental civil right.”
Grisanti himself acknowledged, in his floor speech, that “many people who voted for me will question my integrity” because of his change of position. Gallagher recalled that her organization was among the groups courted by Grisanti as he touted support for traditional marriage last year.
“He was such a vocal opponent of gay 'marriage,'” she recalled. “He came to us, and he came to a lot of other people, when he was running against a Democrat who had voted for the gay 'marriage' bill in 2009, and he said he was unalterably opposed to same-sex marriage.
“'Unalterably' – that's a quote from him.”
Dr. Kevin Backus, chairman of the Grand Island Conservative Party, has claimed that Grisanti privately confirmed himself as a “No” vote on “Marriage Equality” only 11 days before the final vote.
Gallagher noted that at the national level, there are powerful forces working to flip the votes of wavering social conservatives.
“At the elite level, in the Republican party, there is a powerful desire to make both parties functionally pro-gay 'marriage,'” she noted. “What happened in New York is part of a deliberately orchestrated campaign, from some major Republican elites, to eliminate marriage from the portfolio of the Republican Party.”
“They are betting that if they raise enough money, they can protect the Mark Grisantis of the world from the displeasure of actual Republican voters,” she said.
But she observed that the apparent lack of integrity is likely to cost Grisanti – who pled in his floor speech with “those whose support I may lose,” telling them that “in the past what I was telling you, and what I believed at that time, was the truth.”
Yet three days later, on June 27, he acknowledged that the strength of some of his past rhetoric against redefining marriage “was probably more political than actually conscience.”
Gallagher pointed to a recent New York Times article, featuring interviews with constituents in the districts of four senators who had changed their votes on the matter.
“They actually talked to a 27-year-old Republican who favors gay 'marriage,' who said he would never vote for Grisanti again – because he's such a liar,” she said.