Havana, Cuba, Nov 14, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana expressed gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for considering a trip to the country in the spring of 2012.
Cardinal Ortega told reporters on Nov. 11 that the Pope “has given priority to Cuba,” adding “the fact that he chose us has great significance.”
He recalled Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in 1998 and said it had a profound impact “on our history as a Church and also on our nation. There is something in the way we see things that made it possible for that trip to leave a mark on us.”
He said the reasons for the trip are related to the improving relations with the Communist government, which paved the way in 2010 for the first massive national pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity since Fidel Castro took power in 1959.
“Let’s look at the map of Latin America. He has not visited many countries. But (the Pope) said, 'I want to encourage the Cuban people, especially next year as they commemorate the 400th anniversary of the presence of Our Lady of Charity,'” Cardinal Ortega said.
The Bishops’ Conference of Cuba issued a statement saying that they “welcome with great joy and hope the news of a visit.”
“We received this joyful news as a gift of Our Lady of Charity, the Mother of all Cubans, whom the Holy Father will venerate as a pilgrim together with all of us during the Jubilee Year,” the bishops said.
Pope Benedict XVI’s visit would coincide with the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of Our Lady of Charity in the waters of Cuba’s coast. The image was crowned by Pope John Paul II during his 1998 visit.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 14, 2011 (CNA) - The bishops of Mexico sent their condolences to president Felipe Calderon after a helicopter crash took the lives of the Interior Minister and seven others.
“We raise our prayers to the Lord for the eternal repose of the deceased, in the firm hope that God will welcome them into glory and grant strength and consolation to their families,” the bishops said.
Jose Francisco Blake Mora, Mexico’s Interior Minister, died on Nov. 11 while his helicopter headed to Cuernavaca from Mexico City crashed in a field in the region of Temamatla.
Seven other government and military officials also died in the crash. Officials said investigators are looking for possible causes of the accident.
Blake Mora was appointed in July of 2010 and was the fourth person to hold the post of Interior Minister since President Calderon took office in December of 2006.
“During his time as Minister of the Interior and during his visits to the Mexico bishops, Jose Francisco Blake Mora always showed respect and understanding, as well as a special sensitivity to the challenges facing the country, giving the best of himself to build a more just Mexico,” the bishops said in a statement.
“We trust that officials will give a full explanation of this tragic incident,” they added.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The U.S. bishops must work to “renew the appeal of the Church,” which has wounds, like Christ did, said Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan in his first presidential address to the bishops' conference.
“Christ and his Church are one,” said Archbishop Dolan.
“Perhaps, brethren, our most pressing pastoral challenge today is to reclaim that truth.”
Archbishop Dolan gave his first presidential address to the United States bishops at their three-day fall General Assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 14.
In the address, he emphasized the “sacred duty” of the bishops to shepherd the Church and encouraged them to lead their flocks to embrace “Jesus in and through His Church.”
Archbishop Dolan pointed to “chilling statistics” that show fewer and fewer Catholics believe that Jesus and the Church are one.
He said he is concerned at the growing number of people drifting away from the Church and warned that the problem must be taken seriously.
The U.S. bishops must “reclaim the role of fishermen” as they carry out the work of the New Evangelization, inviting the world to see Christ and his Church as one, he said.
The archbishop explained that the mission of the New Evangelization requires an authentic turn to the Lord.
“Jesus prefers prophets, not programs; saints, not solutions,” he said.
He recalled the exhortation of Pope John Paul II, “Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives.”
Archbishop Dolan also spoke of the sins of Church members.
“Since we are a spiritual family, we should hardly be surprised that the Church has troubles,” he said.
He acknowledged that in a world fixated on the sinfulness of Church members, temptations might come to run and hide from sin. But the bishops must fight this temptation and instead lead the faithful in acknowledging their sinfulness and recognizing their great need for the Church, he said.
The archbishop explained that the Church has wounds, just as Christ did, and must show them as Christ did on the first Easter night.
Despite the threats to the Church, Archbishop Dolan also noted that glimmers of hope can be seen in young people, new converts and Catholic immigrants.
He encouraged the U.S. bishops to reach out to these and all people, strengthening “the Catholic conviction that Christ and His Church are one.”
To do this, he explained, they must lead people into an encounter with the person of Jesus.
Archbishop Dolan noted that the world sees the Church as an outdated organization, but the bishops must work to show the truth that “the Church invites the world to a fresh, original place.”
The Church must not be viewed as a mere “system of organizational energy and support,” he said.
“The Church is Jesus – teaching, healing, saving, serving, inviting.”
Allenspark, Colo., Nov 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Camp Saint Malo, a historic Catholic retreat center in the Archdiocese of Denver, Colo., has suffered serious damage in a Nov. 14 fire that is being blamed on gas buildup in a chimney.
“This is a very, very tragic loss, because many emblematic elements of the Church in Colorado were here at St. Malo, and most of them have been lost to the fire,” said Jose Ambrozic, director of the Saint Malo Catholic Retreat, Conference, and Spiritual Center,
“Nevertheless,” Ambrozic told CNA Nov. 14, “the Church is much more than its buildings, so we will be back whenever God wants, serving as we have been doing in the Catholic community of Colorado and beyond.”
Ambrozic, four of his fellow consecrated members in the Christian Life Movement, and one aspirant to the community, saw the flames as they returned to their residence after Mass on Monday morning.
The blaze, which reportedly started around 7:45 a.m., caused no injuries or deaths, however the movement's brothers living at St. Malo lost all their belongings.
Three members of the maintenance and kitchen staff also escaped safely from the site, which was otherwise empty. Guests at the retreat house had been sent home on Sunday because of a power outage caused by high wind gusts.
By 11 a.m. on Monday, firefighters reported that they had contained the fire that began with an explosion on the roof of the retreat center's main building. But its lounge, dining room, kitchen, library, and common areas had burned and collapsed, along with a small chapel on the building's third floor.
The fire did not affect the Church of St. Catherine of Siena, a well-known Colorado landmark on the property. But firefighters say the retreat center may be totally lost because of the structural damage, even though three floors of the lodging area remain standing.
While they have not officially confirmed a cause, Estes Park and Allenspark firefighters believe the fire started when flammable gasses built up inside a long chimney and ignited. The determination of the official cause will be made known once an investigation is completed.
As they battled the fire, firefighters encountered difficulties due to continued high winds and, according to some reports, ran out of water.
Built as a camp for young people during the 1930s, Camp St. Malo was renovated into a conference center during the 1980s. Blessed John Paul II stayed in room 314 of the retreat house during his 1993 visit to Denver for World Youth Day.
That room remains intact following the containment of the fire. Many photographs and other mementos of the Pope's visit, however, have been lost.
Washington D.C., Nov 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Despite multiple legislative and judicial efforts to fight the Defense of Marriage Act, senators and legal experts agree that the law will most likely not be repealed in coming months.
“People understand what marriage is in their gut, but they struggle expressing it,” said William B. May, founder and chairman of Catholics for the Common Good.
He pointed to the fact that in all 31 states where the issue has been put before the people, they have voted against redefining marriage.
“They know marriage is a reality that can only be between a man and a woman,” he said. “And that’s why every time it’s put to a vote of the people, marriage is protected.”
But despite the will of the people, certain courts and legislators continue to fight the Defense of Marriage Act, May said in a Nov. 9 interview.
“You have a very, very powerful and well-funded and well-organized special interest pushing for redefining marriage,” he said.
The 1996 U.S. Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for all federal policies. It also prevents any individual state from being forced to recognize another state’s redefinition of marriage.
Six states and the District of Columbia currently recognize same-sex “marriage,” while 41 states have adopted statutory or constitutional Defense of Marriage Acts of their own.
But despite the widespread support among the states, a bill to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 10 to 8 on Nov. 10.
The so-called Respect for Marriage Act was sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). A corresponding House bill, sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), was introduced in March and is currently in the Subcommittee on the Constitution. The House is expected to reject the bill if it comes to a vote.
Supporters of the controversial Respect for Marriage Act argue that it would return the issue of marriage to the individual states.
Opponents point to Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, which requires all states to give “full faith and credit” to the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings” of other states. They argue that without the protection of the Defense of Marriage Act, one state’s recognition of same-sex marriage could force every other state to follow suit.
Several senators believe that the Respect for Marriage Act will not ultimately become law.
Senator Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) argued during the committee debate that the bill stands no chance of ultimately passing and distracts from important issues including federal debt and unemployment.
“No matter what the Senate does with this, it isn’t going through the House,” he said.
Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) agreed. He argued that Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has no intention of bringing the bill to a vote in the Senate before the next election.
“I think it's a transparent appeal to a special interest group that our Democratic friends believe is a key to their electoral victory in 2012,” Cornyn said.
In addition to the proposed legislative repeal, the Defense of Marriage Act has also faced multiple challenges in federal courts across the country.
In February 2011, President Barack Obama argued that the law was unconstitutional and instructed the Justice Department to stop defending it in federal court.
In response, members of the House of Representatives convened the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend the law.
However, House leaders have said that the group will not appeal all cases, particularly those that are costly and unlikely to lead to the Supreme Court.
Congressman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) also sought to respond to the Department of Justice’s refusal to defend the law. This past March, he introduced The Marriage Protection Act of 2011, which states that no federal courts would have jurisdiction to hear cases on same-sex “marriage.”
Rep. Burton said that the bill aimed to fight activist judges who “have been trying to unilaterally define marriage for too long.”
The bill currently has 26 co-sponsors and has been referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution.
Joshua Gillespie, communications director for Rep. Burton, said Nov. 10 that he was not aware of any hearings, debates or markups scheduled for the bill. He explained that this means the bill does not have a high likelihood of advancing.
With legislation unlikely to pass in the current Congress, the issue could be decided by the courts.
Mathew Staver, founder of the non-profit litigation group Liberty Counsel, commented on the multiple challenges that the Defense of Marriage Act has seen in federal court.
“It’s hard to really predict which case could make it to the Supreme Court,” he said Nov. 10.
Staver explained that so far, no federal court of appeals has struck down the law. But if one were to do so, the Supreme Court may review the case.
“At some point in time, I’m sure that the Defense of Marriage Act will be before the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. “I just don’t know when or which case.”
Staver does not think that the law will come before the Supreme Court or be repealed by Congress before the 2012 election.
Ultimately, he said, the fate of the Defense of Marriage Act could hinge on who wins the next election.
A new president might renew efforts to defend the law, Staver speculated. However, if President Obama is re-elected, he will almost certainly continue fighting the act.
“I think this particular president has done everything he can to undermine natural marriage between one man and one woman,” he said.
Washington D.C., Nov 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The new apostolic nuncio to the United States extended Pope Benedict’s love and greetings to the Catholic Church in America in his first address to the U.S. bishops since his Oct. 19 appointment.
“Despite the many challenges you may encounter today in modern society, the Holy Father is putting great hope in the Church in this country for the future of the Universal Church,” said Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò on Nov. 14.
The Pope’s new representative to the U.S. made his remarks to the country’s conference of bishops at their fall General Assembly in Baltimore. Archbishop Viganò told them he was looking forward to working with them and growing in friendship with them, and that their first meeting has brought him “deep joy.”
The nuncio said that Pope Benedict’s hope in the American Church presents “a very encouraging and challenging mandate.”
“I know that the Church has exercised a unique influence in the formation of American society,” he said.
“This nation, at its very core, maintains the very notion of trust in God.”
The archbishop also spoke about his predecessor, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died on July 27, 2011, after serving as apostolic nuncio to the United States since 2006.
The new nuncio reflected on Archbishop Sambi’s death, which he described as the “great loss of a good friend.”
He recalled Sambi’s “great love for the Church, particularly here in America.”
Archbishop Viganò also reflected on his new position and described the United States as a rich and diverse nation, “filled with vitality, with a spirit inherited from its forefathers.”
He invited the U.S. bishops to take part in the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict as an opportunity to explore the deep roots of the Catholic faith, and to do so with their eyes “fixed on Jesus.”
The nuncio thanked the bishops for their warm welcome and their continued prayers and good wishes as he begins his new mission in the United States.
As apostolic nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Viganò is the Holy Father’s personal representative to the country.
Ordained a priest in 1968, Archbishop Viganò entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1973, serving in diplomatic missions to Iraq, Great Britain and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.
In addition, the archbishop served as the nuncio to Nigeria between 1992 and 1998, and has worked for over a decade in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
His most recent position was as the second in command of the commission that runs the government of the Vatican city-state.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops must be “watchmen for the Church” in defending religious freedom, said Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., head of the bishops’ new committee on religious liberty.
He warned of current laws, regulations and court decisions that treat religion “not as a contributor to our nation’s common morality” but “as a divisive and disruptive force better kept out of public life.”
Bishop Lori made his remarks at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' meeting on religious liberty at their fall general assembly in Baltimore, Md. on Nov. 14.
He said that the bishops have watched with growing alarm as religious freedom has been increasingly eroded in the United States and is at risk of becoming a second-class right.
Bishop Lori emphasized that basic human freedoms are “inherent to human dignity” and not granted by the government, to be taken away at will. Americans, he added, “rightfully look to our government to fulfill its duty to protect religious liberty.”
The bishop noted that the American founders listed freedom of religion first in the U.S. Bill of Rights, and acknowledged that the Church “serves the common good with extraordinary effectiveness and generosity” in areas including education, health care, charity and other social services.
He argued that those who seek to stifle religious liberty are ignoring the role of churches in ending slavery, promoting civil rights, opposing child labor and working in other ways to better society.
Bishop Lori then observed that religious rights belong to both individuals and to churches and religious institutions. Freedom of religion includes not only the right to worship, he said, but also the right to bring religious values into the public square.
While religion is a personal matter, it is not a private matter, he added.
Among the factors that have contributed to the threats against the Church’s freedom is a false understanding of what religious liberty means, said Bishop Lori.
He argued that the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution has been expanded to the point that it no longer fulfills its original purpose.
“The Establishment Clause was meant to protect the Free Exercise Clause, not the other way around,” he said.
Bishop Lori called on the U.S. bishops to take action to defend religious liberty by teaching, leading their dioceses, and speaking up against injustices throughout the country.
He also encouraged priests, religious and laity to cooperate in the fight to defend religious freedom.
Another venue for protecting religious rights, said the bishop, is the new ad hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, which met for the first time on Nov. 13.
He pledged that the committee would work on behalf of all the bishops to promote religious freedom. By working together, Catholics can strive to create “a new appreciation for religious liberty and a renewed determination to defend it,” he said.