Archive of July 29, 2011

Vatican official: Norway killings were an offense against God

Vatican City, Jul 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The president of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization says the recent shootings in Norway, whose perpetrator claimed to be defending historically Christian countries against Islam, had nothing to do with God and authentic Christian faith.

“This is a sad moment for everyone. We could never make religion an instrument for violence. God cannot be present in the killing of people,” said Archbishop Salvatore “Rino” Fisichella, president of the Vatican's newest pontifical council, in a July 28 interview with CNA.

Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to attacks that killed 77 people in Norway on July 22, said the bombing and shootings were a strike against the multicultural attitude he believes will allow Muslims to dominate Europe.

In an online manifesto, Breivik said he was “not an excessively religious man” but “a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe,” and therefore, he reasoned, a Christian.

Archbishop Fisichella took pains to differentiate this attitude from an approach rooted in the Gospel message. Christianity, he said, is not the cultural weapon of Breivik's imagination, but “a religion of love, of rejoicing, and of respect.”

“We could never accept violence made in the name of religion and in the name of God,” he stated.

The archbishop said that amid changing European demographics, Christians must love their neighbors regardless of religious differences.

“The word 'respect' is very important for us and very Biblical. It means that we know that there is someone else who probably does not think the same way or know my religion, but we respect them, and they should respect our own thoughts and religion.”

He pointed out that the recent increase in Islamic immigration can challenge Europeans to develop a deeper grasp of their own Christian tradition.

“We cannot forget that in Europe, the Christian identity is very weak. Many people do not know what the main content of the faith is, and the challenge that Islam and other religions present is (for them) to better understand their own traditions and origin.”

“This is why I think one of the instruments for the New Evangelization should be to understand our identity and our belonging to the Church.”

Archbishop Fisichella said an authentic re-awakening of faith in Europe would require “Christians that are credible for their way of living and not just their intentions,” to show their countries the “new lifestyle” that Christ proclaims.

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Archbishop Sambi's funeral moved to Italy, stateside memorial Mass scheduled

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Updated July 29, 2011 at 6:07 p.m. MDT. Includes details about funeral location and book of condolences.

U.S. bishops involved in planning memorial arrangements for papal nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi told CNA on July 29 that his funeral has been moved to Italy.

Archbishop Sambi's funeral will be held at his hometown of Sogliano sul Rubicone, Italy.

According to an official from the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., the nuncio's body is expected to arrive in Italy on July 31.

Although a stateside funeral was originally planned for August 6, Archbishop Sambi's family decided on the evening of July 28 that his funeral and burial would take place in his hometown.

For those wishing to offer their sympathies, a book of condolences will be available at the nunciature between  August 1 and 5, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and then from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day.

Instead of a funeral in the U.S., a memorial Mass for Archbishop Sambi will be held at noon in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 14. The Mass will be televised on EWTN.

Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, rector of the basilica, confirmed plans for the memorial Mass with CNA on July 29.

Archbishop Sambi began his duties as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States in Washington, D.C. in 2006. He died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on July 27, at the age of 73, after complications from a delicate lung surgery.

Since his passing, tributes and condolences have poured in from all over the United States.

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World Trade Center cross still consoles victims, priest says

New York City, N.Y., Jul 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The World Trade Center cross is still a “sign of comfort” to many people, says the Franciscan priest who describes himself as its “unofficial guardian.”

On Sept. 13, 2001 construction worker Frank Silecchia found a 20-foot, cross-shaped T-beam from World Trade Center 1 standing almost upright in the wreckage of World Trade Center 6.

Fr. Brian Jordan, O.F.M., blessed the cross later that year on Oct. 4 and promised that it would be preserved.

Now almost 10 years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the priest again blessed the cross in a July 23 ceremony before its relocation to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

“It’s a sign of consolation and comfort for those who lost loved ones,” Fr. Jordan told CNA on July 28. “For the dead, the cross signifies the death of Jesus Christ. It also gave hope and support to the living, especially the rescue and recovery workers, the firefighters, polices officers, construction workers and many others.”

The Franciscan priest, who is in residence at New York City’s Holy Name Parish, played his own role in responding to the destruction which killed thousands. He ministered among construction workers, worked with family members and uniformed service members, and blessed “many bodies and body parts.”
“We saw evil at its worst, but goodness at its best,” Fr. Jordan said. “The goodness was that Americans came together in those weeks. New York City came together in those weeks. People of all ethnic and religious groups and economic backgrounds came together. I was very proud of that.”

In the months afterward, the cross “dramatically” affected others, both Christians and non-Christians.

He particularly recalled a Mother’s Day Mass in 2002, when mothers who lost children or grandchildren and their husbands all gathered at the cross.

Two groups of U.S. Army special forces also attended, without telling anyone else in advance.

“One group had just returned from Afghanistan, while the other was preparing to go,” the priest reported.

“At the kiss of peace, to see these mothers embrace these young men who came from war, who were about to go, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Fr. Jordan said. “I don’t care if you are John Wayne. Anyone who has any heart or emotion in them will start crying when they see the mothers who lost their children embracing soldiers who are going to war.

“They looked at the cross, and they knew that Catholics were with them.”

He noted that what people call the “cross” is simply an interpretation of the T-beam shape. But even so, he explained, the shape has significance of for Christians.

Jesus is “both the victim and the victor of the cross.” Despite the cruelty of his death, Jesus is also the victor of Resurrection, of life over death.

“The cross, (is) for us, we were all victims on 9/11. We’ll be victorious,” he said. “America and the rest of the free world will roll over terrorism and show the poignance of God’s overwhelming love for all people.

Joe Daniels, president of the 9/11 Memorial, said that the cross will be an important part of the memorial’s commitment to “bring back the authentic physical reminders that tell the history of 9/11 in a way nothing else could.”

The group American Atheists has filed a lawsuit to stop the display of the cross, claiming it is a “government enshrinement” and an “impermissible mingling of church and state.”

Fr. Jordan was not sympathetic to their claim.

“They don’t have a prayer. Not to be facetious,” he said, noting that the Metropolitan Museum of Art shows many religious icons, as does the Holocaust Museum, on public land.

The cross is “an interpretation,” he repeated.

“They’re going to judge interpretations? Then move every telephone pole out of New York City, because those look like a cross to me too,” he countered.

“These people are just looking for 15 minutes of fame. They’re exploiting 9/11 for their own selfish public posturing and they should be ashamed of themselves because of this baseless lawsuit.”

Fr. Jordan closed his remarks by recommending the Decalogue of Assisi, a short 2002 document signed by world religious leaders that rejects violence and advocates peace and religious dialogue.

“God bless America,” he said.

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Nicaragua lacks rule of law, distrust growing among populace, says bishop

Lima, Peru, Jul 29, 2011 (CNA) - The announcement that President Daniel Ortega will seek reelection is a sign that there is no rule of law in the nation and that the people are losing confidence, said a bishop in Nicaragua.

“These institutions have even made decisions that go against the Constitution itself, and thus the rule of law does not exist. This has cultivated distrust among the people,” said Bishop Socrates Rene Sandigo Giron in an interview with CNA.

Bishop Sandigo Giron  is the secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua.

The bishop said he was concerned about the political tension that has gripped the country in recent months. He also rejected the pressure the current government is putting on the country, after a questionable ruling by the Constitutional Court is allowing Ortega to seek reelection.

“We think partisan interests have dominated. There has been a lot of manipulation that has destroyed the government system and institutions. There is no transparency or honesty in the different governmental institutions,” he said.

“There is a lot of talk about the common good, but the reality is quite different, because if we were truly seeking the common good, we would not be denying people jobs because they do not support the government’s vision or belong to the ruling party. In Nicaragua, this is happening. Government workers are obliged to be card-carrying members of the ruling party, and if they refuse, they are denied employment,” Bishop Sandigo Giron said.

The bishop went on to note the level of unhappiness in the country with the current political situation. “People are disappointed with their politicians on both sides, because those in public office have failed them greatly. There is no confidence in promises that are not carried out.”

With elections just a few months away, he added, there is little interest in what the candidates are saying and in the upcoming presidential vote.

“We have asked the people not to be discouraged and we have made them see the importance of going to the polls. It is important to become involved in political life so that the historical direction of the country is not mapped out by only a few, but rather that all the people participate,” the bishop said.

Manipulation of the faith

As the country moves towards the Nov. 5 elections, Bishop Sandigo Giron called attention to the Ortega campaign, which has used terms like “revolutionary Mass,” “Sandinista faith” and “revolutionary faith” in its rhetoric.

“I think they all know that the Nicaraguan people are a people of great faith and therefore it is not right to use these words. There is a lot of manipulation behind the use of these terms to push their own agenda and interests,” he added.

Bishop Sandigo Giron recalled that the bishops of Nicaragua have already released a statement about this issue.

“We have asked the government to be respectful of the expressions of faith of the people because they are using religious signs in their campaigns, and ultimately they are using terms from the Church’s theology and social doctrine.”

“Nicaragua has gone through difficult times in the past, times of war, conflicts and governments out of tune with the reality of the country, which have caused so much pain and division, and therefore cannot allow a few individuals to take the reins of the country’s history.”

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Pope praying for World Youth Day and Western Christians in August

Vatican City, Jul 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict will be praying in August for the success of World Youth Day and for a revitalization of Western Christians' faith.

The Pope's general intention for the month is “that World Youth Day in Madrid may encourage young people throughout the world to have their lives rooted and built up in Christ.”

His mission intention is "that Western Christians may be open to the action of the Holy Spirit and rediscover the freshness and enthusiasm of their faith."

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Bangalore's own 'Mother Teresa' can remain after visa extension

Bangalore, India, Jul 29, 2011 (CNA) -

A British Catholic religious sister, compared to Mother Teresa for her three decades of work with leprosy victims, says she'll remain in India indefinitely now that her visa troubles are resolved.

On July 27, Indian Home Affairs Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram announced that 63-year-old Sister Jacqueline Jean McEwan, known as “Sister Jean,” can “stay as long as she likes.” He said the government's previous order, which would have forced her to leave on one week's notice, was “a mistake, presumably based on the grounds that complete documents had not been submitted.”

“There is no meaning in going back to U.K. when my people are here,” Sr. Jean told the Times of India on July 25, declaring her intention to remain in Bangalore among her “own kith and kin … those inflicted with leprosy.”

On July 26 she told Britain's Daily Mail that she felt “overjoyed and very confident that I would live here forever,” after receiving an initial one-month reprieve that was extended indefinitely the next day.

Sr. Jean, a member of the Montfort Missionaries, had previously received a government order denying her December 2010 request for an extension of her resident status. The order would have ended her work at Bangalore's Sumanahalli Society, where she has helped leprosy sufferers since her arrival as a volunteer in 1982.

The unexplained order came as a shock to Sr. Jean – for whom the visa renewal had been an annual formality – and brought sadness to the community.

“Even people on the streets told me they were praying for the extension of my visa,” she told Calcutta's Telegraph newspaper.

The British-born sister came within hours of boarding a flight back to England, where she was planning to continue the visa application process in order to return.

“Nobody would look after leprosy patients like her,” said Mastan Saab, Sr. Jean's field coordinator. “Without her, we are in the dark.”

He told the Times of India that the British-born sister was instrumental not only in caring for the immediate physical needs of those with leprosy, but also in helping them find education and

Sr. Jean lives and works at the Sumanahalli Society, a facility with four clinics and a rehabilitation center for people with HIV/AIDS and other disabilities as well as leprosy. Although India's government claims to have “eliminated” leprosy by World Health Organization standards, 130,000 Indians still develop the disease each year.

The purported “elimination” of the disease in 2005 allowed the government to end funding for services many leprosy sufferers relied on.

The Sumanahalli Society's in-patient facilities provide care for 340 patients, while Sr. Jean's mobile clinic gives additional assistance to almost 1,000 people with leprosy in the slums of Bangalore.

Father George Kannanthanam, the society's director, told the Guardian newspaper that she “knows every leprosy patient by name, even though Indian names are difficult.”

The priest says there is no one else available to take care of the clinics “who is as trained and committed as Sister Jean.”

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Release Fr. Ly immediately, US religious freedom commission urges Vietnam

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2011 (CNA) -

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has condemned the Vietnamese government’s latest arrest of religious freedom advocate Fr. Nguyen Van Ly.

“Father Ly should be immediately and unconditionally released,” said commission chair Leonard Leo. He characterized Fr. Ly as a “frail” priest who has “peacefully advocated for the fundamental right to freedom of religion.”

Vietnamese officials seized him “without any warning” and despite his caretakers’ statements that he is not well enough to travel, Leo said.

Fr. Ly, 63, is under treatment for several strokes and an apparent brain tumor. Since March 2010 he has been on medical parole. In May 2007 he was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years of house arrest on charges of spreading anti-communist propaganda.

The priest is known for his peaceful protest of the communist state and its human rights violations. He is a founding member of Bloc 8406, the first well-organized pro-democracy group in his country, where many Catholics suffer because of communism.

Authorities re-arrested Fr. Ly at a home for retired priests on July 25.

The religious freedom commission, an independent bipartisan entity of the U.S. government, called the priest “one of Vietnam’s most prominent advocates for religious freedom and related human rights.”

Leo charged that Vietnam ignored the United States’ concerns about the priest’s treatment. He said it is time for the Obama administration to re-designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern, a designation which highlights “particularly severe violations of religious freedom,” in commission recommendations to the State Department.

The designation would help produce “tangible” religious freedom improvements and help signal that the United States sides with the peaceful advocates of human freedom, Leo said.

Fr. Ly was imprisoned in 2001 after he submitted testimony to the U.S. religious freedom commission and released in 2005 after Vietnam was designated as a Country of Particular Concern. In 2007 he was re-arrested shortly after the Bush administration lifted the designation.

In January the U.S. State Department lodged a sharp protest with the Vietnamese government after police beat U.S. diplomat Christian Marchant when he attempted to visit Fr. Ly, then under house arrest.

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Madrid residents encouraged to welcome Pope with papal flags

Rome, Italy, Jul 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Aid to the Church in Need is encouraging residents of Madrid to hang papal flags on their balconies as a way to welcome Pope Benedict XVI for World Youth Day.

“Make a public expression of your faith and closeness to the Holy Father,” who will be in Spain in August for World Youth Day, organizers said. “Do not forget to decorate your balcony or window, and do not go on vacation in August.”

The charitable organization is selling the flags to help church ministries in poor dioceses and dioceses that are suffering persecution.

The campaign is also intended to be a sign of welcome to the Catholics who will be visiting Spain from all over the world.

The flags can be purchased at

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