Archive of September 2, 2011

Divine Mercy congress inspires quake-stricken New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand, Sep 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Catholics in Christchurch, New Zealand drew inspiration from a recent Divine Mercy Congress as they work to rebuild from a series of devastating earthquakes that have hit the country in the last year.

“The blessings and graces which all received at the congress have and will continue to inspire all those who attended to greater acts and greater works of mercy in their homes, workplaces, and missionary endeavors,” Pat Barrett, national coordinator for the event, told CNA on Sept. 1. 

“This is particularly important right here now in Christchurch,” he added, “which has suffered exceptional losses and destruction over the past 12 months.”

Since Sept. 2010, four major earthquakes and over 7,000 aftershocks have shaken the city and “reduced its center to a demolition site,” Barrett said. 

Over 200 people have been killed in the series of quakes and 27,000 have left the city permanently. More than 5,000 damaged homes need to be razed to the ground, “to say nothing of the 900 plus city buildings that will have to be demolished,” he said.

The New Zealand Apostolic Congress, which was held at the local St. Bede's College from Aug. 26-28, was launched under the title “Divine Mercy - God's Gift for our Time.” The event began with a Votive Mass of Divine Mercy, celebrated by Bishop Barry Jones of the Christchurch diocese.

Bishop Jones was accompanied by Archbishop Alapati L. Mataeliga of Samoa and Fr. Patrice Chocholski, Secretary General for the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy and parish priest in Lyon, France.

"Fr. Patrice Chocholski has traveled around the globe over the past three years, visiting every continent, and attending every national and regional congress and encouraging all to greater trust in Divne Mercy and greater works as servants for the Lord, " Barrett said. "He spoke of the need for modern witnesses to Divine Mercy in a world infused by hate, revenge, and self."

Barrett said upwards of 500 people attended Masses, Eucharistic adoration, presentations, films, and talks given by “witnesses to and for mercy.”

One of the best aspects of the congress was the “high caliber of the keynote speakers,” which included Fr. Rory Morrissey, a spiritual director for the congress, and EWTN host Fr. Antoine Thomas of the Brothers of St. John who offered a special adoration session for children.

Other notable guests included the American Deacon Bob Digan –the husband of Maureen Digan who received a miraculous cure of lymphodemia at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland in 1981.

Barrett sees the Christchurch conference as an extension of the various congresses held around the globe over the past three years after the 2008 World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Rome.

He said that those gatherings have established “a clear link between the Pontificate of John Paul, that of Pope Benedict, and the urgent and universal call to become apostles of mercy in these days according to the model established and proclaimed by St. Faustina Kowalska.”

The Polish saint, who lived from 1905 to 1938, received prophetic visions and instructions from God to write her now famous diary, “Divine Mercy in My Soul.”

He noted that several attendees who came from the local Catholic community were unaware of the call and urgency of Divine Mercy. But they were “captured by this message and mission and now desire for it to transform their lives as new apostles of mercy.”

“With Pope Blessed John Paul II, we can say, 'There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy,' and with St. Faustina, 'Jesus I Trust in You!'”

Updated Sept. 2, 2011 at 2:41 p.m. MDT. Adds material about Archbishop Mataeliga and Fr. Patrice Chocholoski in paragraphs 7 and 8. 

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D.C. Padres baseball team promotes priestly vocations

Washington D.C., Sep 2, 2011 (CNA) - A baseball team of 11 Catholic priests and seminarians from the Archdiocese of Washington will play a team of high school and college varsity players to help promote vocations. The team’s first baseman, Fr. Larry Young, can’t wait for the game.

“We’re going to start something were we can play three games a year around the archdiocese. This is a forum to promote vocations to the priesthood in a fresh, different way,” said Fr. Young, the pastor of Our Lady’s Church in Leonardtown, Md.

Many of the players have experience in college or high school baseball.

“There’s talent among the seminarians and the priests. I think we’ve got a good team,” the priest said.

The team, named the D.C. Padres, has a roster of five priests and six seminarians. Their first game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4 at Bowie Baysox Stadium in Bowie, Md.

The Catholic community is rallying around the D.C. Padres. One parishioner at Our Lady’s Church ordered the shirts and hats for the men, while St. Mary’s Ryken High school is lending the team their equipment.

During the game’s “third inning stretch,” the team will talk to the crowd about the gift of the priesthood. They will invite young men to pray and consider whether God is calling them to follow him as priests.

Almost 500 game tickets have been sold, Fr. Young told CNA on Sept. 1.

“It should be a nice crowd of people to watch this. People seem to react favorably. It’s a novelty, the first time,” he said.

“It’s kind of extraordinary for people to hear that priests and seminarians are playing fast-pitch baseball. Softball is one thing, and there’s basketball. But playing varsity baseball players is a little unusual.”

Fr. Young developed the idea with Fr. Larry Swink, pastor of Jesus the Divine Word in Huntingtown, Md. Both men witnessed the success of the D.C. Hood basketball team, which is also made up of priests and seminarians.

The basketball team has been around for several years, and Fr. Young has played in a few games.

“The basketball team this year is going to be awesome,” he reported. “Their team is stacked.”

The team travels to area parishes and has four or five games a year. During halftime the crowd hears from a priest or seminarian who talks about vocations.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore also has a basketball team called Men In Black. Fr. Young recommended that other dioceses consider similar sports programs to encourage vocations.

“It seems like it’s spreading,” he said. “If nothing else, it creates buzz and people talk about these things. It just keeps it in people’s minds.”

“It’s a nice, light, fun event that lets people see their priests out there in a different setting than they’re used to.”

Tickets to the 2 p.m. Sept. 4 Baysox game will serve as admittance to the later D.C. Padres game. The team is also offering discounted tickets through the parish office at Our Lady’s Church.

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Radical branch of Socialist Party pushing Spain toward euthanasia

Madrid, Spain, Sep 2, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - The organization Professionals for Ethics has warned that pro-euthanasia associations, working together with the radical wing of the Socialist Party, are hoping to “achieve their ideological goal of making death legal.”
The organization said Sept. 1that pro-euthanasia forces are attempting to influence local governments until euthanasia is approved at the national level.
Ramona Estevez, a 90-year-old comatose woman in the city of Huelva, has become the poster child for supporters of euthanasia. Her son recently won approval from officials in the province of Andalusia to have her feeding tube withdrawn. 

Dr. Maria Alonso of Professionals for Ethics pointed out that the regional law establishes that every person has the right to reject any procedure in writing that is suggested by health care workers. This can be done even if such rejection would endanger that person’s life, she added.
“In cases like these, to withdraw food and hydration from a patient in a coma is contrary to … professional ethics because by doing so the patient’s death is directly brought about.  A coma puts a dependent patient in a state of vulnerability that requires that food and hydration be provided as a part of basic care,” she said.
“A coma is not the same as brain death, in which the patient is already clinically dead and the vital organs are artificially kept alive,” Alonso added.

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Pope urges Catholic-Orthodox cooperation on new evangelization

Vatican City, Sep 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is encouraging Catholic and Orthodox Christians to work together in  re-evangelizing traditionally Christian countries.

“For a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in the modern world we need evangelizers animated by the same apostolic zeal of (Saint) Paul,” the Pope said in a letter to mark the close of the twelfth Inter-Christian Symposium.

Over the past four days, the symposium has brought together both Catholic and Orthodox scholars in the Greek city of Thessaloniki to discuss the topic of “The witness of the Church in the Modern World.” The Pope described the theme as “very timely and central” to his “concerns and prayers” for a “new evangelization” of traditionally Christian countries where the practice of the Christian faith has declined in recent times.  

Pope Benedict noted that although the Church has never ceased to “proclaim the salvific mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” the regions in need of re-evangelization are “currently experiencing the effects of a secularization capable of impoverishing the most profound aspects of man.”

People living in these regions seem to give a “contradictory” response to the Christian Gospel, the Pope said. On the one hand, “there is widespread disinterest, even a lack of sensibility” towards transcendent things, and on the other hand  there seems to be “a profound nostalgia for God” that “persists in the hearts of many, expressing itself in various ways.”

Christianity was brought to the city of Thessaloniki by St. Paul in the first century. The Pope asked for his intercession that the talks between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches encourage “a climate of fraternal charity,” and observed that the “mutual understanding of our traditions and true friendship are already in themselves a contribution to the cause of Christian unity.”

Pope Benedict also pointed out that the current cultural, social and economic environment “presents the same challenges to both Catholics and Orthodox.” Instead of divisions, these challenges should call forth a Christian evangelizers who are “mature in faith and capable of finding a meeting point beyond the real tensions,” he said, quoting Pope Paul VI. 

The Inter-Christian Symposium is co-organized by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality at Rome’s Pontifical Antonianum University and the Orthodox faculty of theology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.  The initiative hopes to help heal the rift between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches which has persisted since the 11th century.

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Spanish doctor explains why he would rather quit job than perform abortions

Rome, Italy, Sep 2, 2011 (CNA) - In 2008 Esteban Rodriguez Martin became the first Spanish gynecologist to defend his right to conscientious objection in court. Three years later, he said he does not regret his “resounding no” to performing abortions even though he has had to pay a high price with his career.
Speaking with CNA on Aug. 31 in Rome, where he is attending an international conference, Rodriguez Martin said he has had to limit his work to assisting at births and treating women in their third trimesters because of his opposition to performing pre-natal tests often used by women to decide whether or not to obtain an abortion. “The better the prenatal diagnosis, the more abortions are performed,” he explained.

“As a doctor, my mission is to protect life,” he said. His request to be relieved of performing such tests was denied by hospital administrators.
“I have no other option than for a judge to rule on the conflict for the defense of a right as basic as that of freedom of conscience and of reason, which is the foundation of a democratic system, because otherwise we would be living in a dictatorship or a tyranny,” Rodriguez Martin explained.
“Will I have to leave my profession if the courts do not side with me?  Only God knows, but many times the truth is shown through martyrdom.  And that is what we Catholic obstetricians are dealing with by acting morally consistent, because we are charged with caring for life at its beginning, and that is our mission in society,” he said.
Rodriguez Martin said his objection to abortion is not only based on conscience but on science as well.  “It’s a human being that dies, and there is another human being that does the killing, and there is a woman who suffers the consequences, and a father that nobody talks about. But the human being who does the killing is not the woman, but the doctor, and that goes against the essence of medicine. Therefore the argument is strictly scientific,” he said.
Because there are so many interests at stake, the scientific society is not willing to acknowledge these scientific facts, Rodriguez Martin continued.  “Obstetricians have no other choice but to appeal to conscience, but the reasons are ethical and scientific, not only religious,” he said.
“I do not want to be an accomplice, I do not want to be an instrument, I do not want them to use my technical knowledge to support an ideology, to support a pro-euthanasia culture, to support the commercial, political and ideological interests of people who have intentions contrary to the dignity of man and human dignity, and that are totally unethical,” the Spanish doctor said.
Catholic obstetricians “should recover the value of opposing the attacks against life, of being a sign of contradiction, of calling things by their name, calling evil, evil, and good, good, sin, sin and grace, grace,” he said.

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India’s bishops brief Pope on persecution of Christians

Vatican City, Sep 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops of India briefed Pope Benedict XVI Sept. 2 on the level of anti-Christian persecution in their country.

“These have been a cause of worry and the Holy Father specifically asked also if there is violence,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai in a Sept. 2 Vatican Radio interview.

Cardinal Gracias is in Rome as the Indian bishops conclude their 2011 “ad limina” visit to the Vatican in order to update the Pope on the health of the Church in India.

Today’s meeting involved the bishops from Karnataka in south-west India telling Pope Benedict about the continuing threat posed in their region by Hindu fundamentalists. Only last week, extremists attacked a church and threatened its pastor.

Cardinal Gracias said such fundamentalists want to create “animosity towards Christians and the Gospel” by making it appear as if “the whole of India is in danger because of the activities of the Christians and the missionaries.” But the cardinal dismissed that assertion as “not true at all.”

“The Gospel is a message of love and peace and joy and human growth which does not threaten anybody,” said Cardinal Gracias. The response to this message however has been mixed.
“It’s not all over India, it is only in certain pockets, but really, I would not be honest if I did not say that there is violence in parts of the country even today. But it is certainly much, much better than before.” 
The Bishops Conference of India is the fourth largest in the world and so their ad limina visit has to be staggered over four sessions.

“It was a very good meeting with the Pope. We spoke about the situation in India, the challenges we have, the good news we have and also about the hopes we have for the future,” said Cardinal Gracias, who is also president of the Bishops Conference of India.

“The Holy Father was very interested in knowing about the situation of how Indian Christians are treated, our efforts for inter-religious dialogue and also about how we go about our pastoral work.”

Although India is the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.18 billion people, only about two percent are Catholic. The Church, however, does play a significant role in providing health care, education and welfare services across the country.

Many Indian bishops hope this year’s ad limina will pave the way for Pope Benedict to visit their country. An invitation to the Pope was personally issued during a previous ad limina session in May. If the visit does happen, it will be the fourth by a Pope to India following trips by Pope Paul VI in 1964 and Pope John Paul II in 1986 and 1999.

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