Archive of September 13, 2011

US bishops back reversal of Alabama immigration law

Washington D.C., Sep 13, 2011 (CNA) -

The U.S. bishops have backed efforts in Alabama to turn back a state law they say would threaten the Catholic Church’s ministry to undocumented immigrants.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chair of the migration committee of the U.S. bishops’ conference, offered his “solidarity and support” to Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, and other religious leaders in the state who are trying to reverse the law.

Archbishop Rodi and several Protestant denominations are seeking relief from a law they say criminalizes parts of the Church’s mission and interferes with the free exercise of religion.

“The Catholic Church provides pastoral and social services to all persons, regardless of their immigration status,” Archbishop Gomez said Sept. 8. “Our mandate is to provide for the pastoral and social care of all of God’s children. Government should not infringe upon that duty, as America’s founding fathers made clear in the U.S. Constitution.”

He called upon the Obama administration and Congress to enact “comprehensive” immigration reform.

“Our nation is in great need for a federal solution to the challenge of illegal immigration, one that balances the rule of law with humanitarian principles,” Archbishop Gomez said.

The Alabama legislature’s HB 56 requires law enforcement officers to attempt to determine the immigration status of a person “who they suspect is an unauthorized alien of this country.”

It also criminalizes the “transport, concealment, harboring and housing of unauthorized aliens,” in a broad manner that critics say will make most forms of assistance to immigrants illegal.

In an Aug. 1 letter to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Archbishop Rodi said the law makes it illegal for a Catholic priest to baptize undocumented immigrants, hear their confessions, or preach the Gospel to them.

“Nor can we encourage them to attend Mass or give them a ride to Mass. It is illegal to allow them to attend adult scripture study groups, or attend CCD or Sunday school classes,” he said.

He charged that the law prohibits “almost every activity” of St. Vincent de Paul Society chapters or Catholic social services and could even make it illegal for these immigrants to attend Alcoholic Anonymous meetings.

“This law,” the archbishop said, “attacks our very understanding of what it means to be a Christian.”

The Justice Department has filed its own lawsuit charging that the law intrudes on the federal government’s immigration policies and responsibilities.

The law was scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 but a federal judge temporarily blocked it. A decision on the law is expected by the end of September.

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On Sept. 11, Catholic bishops reflect on event’s spiritual implications

Washington D.C., Sep 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

On the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, leading American Catholic bishops mourned the dead, commemorated their sacrifices and looked for signs of renewal and resurrection.

Their Sunday homilies noted the consoling power of God, the struggle between good and evil, and the need for fellowship, peace and reconciliation.

In New York’s  St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Archbishop Timothy Dolan told how the city’s firemen regularly inspect the cathedral’s wooden ceiling. They have a custom of etching their names in the high, grime-encrusted windows.

“On there are four names of firefighters who were here just days before 9/11 and who lost their lives trying to rescue others on that dreadful day we recall right now. We might renovate this cathedral, but we are never going to clean those windows, because those names are going to remain etched there, as those names remain engraved on our hearts,” he declared.

Turning to spiritual concerns, the archbishop spoke of “the intense battle that is being waged in the human heart.”

“It’s that battle, that war, that is going on in the human soul that gives rise to all the violence, and battles and wars that we see outside … It’s a battle between sin and grace, between darkness and light.  It’s a war where evil is against good, where death is versus life, lies versus truth, pride against humility, selfishness against selflessness, revenge versus mercy, hate versus love, Satan versus Almighty God.”  

The Sept. 11 attacks made it seem that darkness had conquered, he said. But goodness “triumphed” when temptations to despair, fearful panic and revenge gave way to “rescue, recovery, rebuilding, outreach and resilience.”

“The side of the angels, not of the demons, conquered. Good Friday became Easter Sunday. And once again God has the last word,” Archbishop Dolan said.

He recounted a commemoration on the previous night in which the children of firefighters who perished in the attacks spoke about their fathers with “immense gratitude and pride.” The New York Fire Department commissioner is “amazed” at the number of these children who now want to be firefighters and rescuers. Anthony Palumbo, the son of deceased firefighter Frank Palumbo, is now preparing for the priesthood.

At St. Peter Parish in Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, delivered a 5 p.m. homily. He recalled that he was in Washington at the U.S. bishops’ annual meeting on that fateful day. They immediately adjourned and did “the only thing the Church can do.”

“We prayed. We walked from our conference building to the Basilica of the National Shrine where we all joined in the celebration of the Eucharist,” he said. “We were not alone. The basilica was filled. Thousands of students gathered at the Mass.”

There was “an instinctive need” to stand with each other before God and a “re-awakening of our need for God,” the cardinal said in his homily published in the Washington Post.

The anniversary of the attack is a time “to hear all over again what Jesus has to say.”

“When we listen to the consoling yet challenging words of Jesus we find not just an ethical or moral system, but a whole vision of the purpose of life. Jesus came to reveal to us who his Father is, and therefore who we are. As we come to know our relationship to God, we come to know our role in life,” he said.

“We are to live in solidarity with one another recognizing that only if we put on the ‘new person’ — this new man or new woman in Christ — is there any hope for peace,” the cardinal continued.

While bringing violent perpetrators to justice is beyond most individuals, what everyone can do is renew his or her personal commitment to “bring that peace to our world, our community, our families, our lives – peace that is rooted in God’s plan and in that justice to which he calls all of us.”

“Love does conquer hatred,” he insisted, stressing the need to banish “those things that are sources of division: ethnic and racial bias, religious bigotry, political opportunism.”

“Do not let the darkness extinguish the light. Do not let hatred smother love,” he encouraged the congregation.

On the West Coast, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles addressed congregants at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. He remembered a “moving moment” in the aftermath of the attacks: the discovery of a huge cross-shaped beam in the ruins of New York City’s World Trade Center buildings.

“Ten years later, this cross reminds us that Jesus Christ is with us always, even in the midst of the evil in the world and the suffering and difficulties in our lives.”

He said Christians should ask God to “bring lasting good from out of this evil.”

“Let us ask that he inspire in all the people of this great country, a new spirit of fellowship, reconciliation and common purpose.”

The archbishop spoke of Jesus’ call to forgive sinners and at the same time his will that we “work with his grace to help repair the damage that is done by their sin – in our personal lives and in our society.”

Archbishop Gomez said that since Sept. 11, America seems “less unified and more divided” with a culture and politics that seem “more angry and judgmental.”

He said that Jesus “calls us to forgive those who do evil.”

“But he also wants us to work in love to fight injustices in our world. And our world needs to know a new spirit of forgiveness and mercy.”

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Bishops of Colombia repudiate murder of priest

Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 13, 2011 (CNA) - The bishops of Colombia have condemned the murder of a priest from the country's northwestern Diocese of Apartado.

“The Catholic Church mourns for this new act of violence that has deeply saddened the Colombian people,” read a statement from the Colombian bishops' conference.

Caracol Radio reported that 34-year-old Father Gualberto Oviedo Arrieta, pastor of Our Lady of Carmel parish in Capurgana, was found shot to death on Sept. 12 at the parish rectory.  He had been a priest for 10 years.

The bishops' statement noted that the number of priests killed in 2011 now stands at six. 
“This is highly troubling figure that reveals the level of violence and moral deterioration our society is experiencing,” said Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba, general secretary of the bishops’ conference.
He urged Colombian leaders to provide adequate security to the Church’s ministers. “These acts of violence should be rigorously investigated and punished with the full force of the law.”
According to data from the bishops, between 1984 and September 2011, two bishops, 79 priests, eight religious and three seminarians have been killed in the country.

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Family must be a sanctuary of life, says archbishop

Piura, Peru, Sep 13, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren of Piura in northern Peru has encouraged families to always be a cenacle of love and a sanctuary of life.
The archbishop called on Catholics to pray that the family be “defended and respected as the true cenacle of love and sanctuary of life.” His words came during Mass on Sept. 11 as the country marked the National Day of the Family.
“If we want to put a truly human face on our future, we cannot ignore the precious gift of the family, founded upon the marriage between one man and one woman in a life-long consortium of love,” the archbishop said.
Speaking on the Gospel passage in which Jesus tells his disciples to forgive 70 times seven times, Archbishop Eguren said this means believers must follow the example of the Lord, who always forgives a repentant heart.
“Brothers and sisters,” he said, “in an act of merciful love, God canceled original sin, paid the debt for the sins of humanity of yesterday, today and tomorrow, by sending his only Son, Jesus Christ, who became incarnate in the virginal womb of Holy Mary and died on the cross for us, for our salvation.”
“The great problem today is that we have lost the sense of sin ...  Our sins have been paid with the death of Christ on the cross, with the sacrifice of His body and the shedding the last drop of his blood in order to achieve perfect reconciliation for us,” the archbishop continued.
He also reminded the congregation to remember “God’s infinite mercy for us. 

“Let us move our hearts toward forgiveness for each other. If God has paid the debt of our sins, should we not be more disposed to showing love and mercy?” the Peruvian archbishop asked.

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Fr. Pavone appeals suspension by his bishop to Rome

Amarillo, Texas, Sep 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, says he has begun the process of appealing his suspension from active ministry outside the Diocese of Amarillo.

In a letter to the United States bishops, Fr. Pavone denied charges made by Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo—whose jurisdiction he is under—that he had disobeyed the bishop and had failed to allow the Priests for Life to undergo auditing.

Bishop Zurek announced in a Sept. 9 letter to his fellow bishops that he had suspended Fr. Pavone from public ministry outside the diocese, beginning Sept. 13.

The bishop cited “deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization.” The 990 Forms submitted to the IRS from 2008, the most recent date available, show Priests for Life had income totaling $10.8 million.

He said that persistent questions have been raised about the way millions of dollars in donations made to the pro-life organization were handled. These questions have remained unanswered, the bishop said, because Fr. Pavone “has consistently refused to subject the PFL to a transparent and complete auditing of all expenditures.”

In addition, Bishop Zurek expressed concerns about Fr. Pavone’s obedience. “Father Pavone has gradually lost his need to show appropriate obedience to his Bishop,” he said. “It seems that his fame has caused him to see priestly obedience as an inconvenience to his unique status and an obstacle to the possible international scope of his ministry.”

In an official response, Fr. Pavone said that he was “perplexed” by Bishop Zurek’s demand.

“I have begun a process of appeal to the Vatican,” Fr. Pavone said. “This process aims to correct any mistaken decisions of the bishop in my regard and to protect my commitment to full-time pro-life activity for my whole life. We are very confident that the Vatican will resolve this matter in a just and equitable fashion.”

Fr. Pavone also responded to Bishop Zurek in a Sept. 12 letter to the American bishops. “Priests for Life has provided the diocese of Amarillo with full and complete annual audits of the finances of the Association every year since I have been incardinated in Amarillo,” he said in the letter.

Fr. Pavone stated that independent audits were conducted on Priests for Life between 2005 and 2010, but that the diocese never acknowledged the receipt of those audits.

He added that he does not receive a salary from either Priests for Life or the Diocese of Amarillo. He acknowledged that the organization does provide for his residence and ministry-associated expenses, but said that “these expenses are very small,” around $2,000 per month.

In addition, Fr. Pavone denied the charges of disobedience in connection with his ministry, saying, “I acted at all times in full obedience to my Ordinary.”

Fr. Pavone also noted that, according to the Church’s canon law, his appeal to Rome has effectively put his bishop’s order that he return to Amarillo on hold.

“Nevertheless, because of my great respect for this Bishop and my commitment to be fully obedient at all times, I am reporting to Amarillo this Tuesday, in hopes that I can sort this problem out with the Bishop in a mutually agreeable and amicable way,” he said.

Fr. Pavone has been featured for several years on EWTN’s audio series, “Defending Life.” EWTN responded to the news of Fr. Pavone’s suspension by saying that it is “in ongoing conversations with both the Diocese of Amarillo and Father Pavone to clarify the exact nature of the restrictions and their potential impact on EWTN's ability to continue to air programming featuring Fr. Frank.

“While these discussions are continuing, the Network encourages our EWTN Family to keep this matter in your prayers.”

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