Archive of December 5, 2011

Pope, Mexican cardinal to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 5, 2011 (CNA) - Pope Benedict invited Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City to celebrate Mass on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and to honor the bicentennial independence of Latin America.

“Celebrating Holy Mary of Guadalupe on her feast day is like saying to the entire continent: remember her, remember the Church, who was with you during the process of independence,” Cardinal Rivera told Mexico City's archdiocesan paper Desde la fe.

The cardinal said he interprets the Mass invitation as a gesture of closeness from the Pope, and said “I am happy that he is thinking of Mexico.”

He will be joined by two additional Latin American cardinals at the Vatican to celebrate the feast day on Dec. 12 with Pope Benedict.

Cardinal Rivera observed that the Pope has not only recognized the patronage of Mary in the countries of Latin America but also the influence the Church had on their struggles for independence.

“We always have dependencies, we free ourselves from some and fall prey to others, sometimes economic, sometimes ideological, but we always need the Church to be present to motivate and accompany the nation, that it might gain independence in a wider sense,” he said.

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Colombian priest retracts alleged support for abortion

Bogotá, Colombia, Dec 5, 2011 (CNA) - In the wake of increasing criticism, Colombian priest Father Carlos Novoa retracted previous statements that appeared to support abortion using documents from the Vatican and Blessed John Paul II.

“I wish to make it clear that in no way can my words be interpreted as a justification for abortion or as support for those who defend the right to terminate a human life,” Fr. Novoa said in an editorial for local newspaper El Tiempo.

His remarks come after the bishops of Colombia held a meeting between Fr. Novoa and nearly twenty pro-life leaders on Nov. 30.

Controversy began over comments the Jesuit priest made to the paper El Espectador on Oct. 15 that seemed to support the ruling by Colombia’s Constitutional Court to legalize abortion. 

Fr. Novoa, who teaches at the Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogota, also appeared to defend the procedure through his own interpretation of passages from Blessed Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” documents from Vatican II and canon law.

His statements were praised by leading abortion advocates but harshly criticized by Catholics and pro-life supporters.

On Nov. 12, dozens of young people gathered on campus to protest Fr. Navoa's comments. Human Life International president Father Shenan J. Boquet weighed in on the controversy in a Nov. 17 statement underscoring that “there is absolutely no justification” for abortion in Church teaching.

In a Nov. 25 piece for El Tiempo, Father Pedro Mercado—chaplain of the Colombian Congress—also called the priest's support for abortion unacceptable.

However, in his own op-ed piece over the weekend, Fr. Novoa argued that his position has been misinterpreted and that he in fact opposes the legalization of abortion.

“In no way do I hold that Pope Wojtyla directly or indirectly supported the legalization of abortion,” he wrote. “Likewise, I declare that I do not subscribe to the ruling by the Constitutional Court that legalized the termination of pregnancies in three cases.”

In previous statements, Fr. Novoa had said, “As a person I respect that ruling.” However, in his recent editorial, he claimed his “respect” actually meant “rejection.” 

“The meaning of that word is determined by its etymology and its use. In our media, it is used as a delicate way of stating that one disagrees with somebody, of saying, 'Your position is respectable but I do not share it,' or to put it more briefly, 'Your position is respectable,'” he wrote.

Although he said “I respect the ruling,” what he meant was, “I reject the ruling,” Fr. Novoa said.

“Catholic tradition in its purest form defends life, especially human life, which is a gift from God that is not at our disposal and which we must protect and cultivate,” he emphasized.

“For this reason, the Catholic Church rejects abortion. With all my heart I embrace this rejection, as a priest in service to the Church.”

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After ABC interview, Gingrich insists life starts at conception

Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - After drawing criticism for suggesting that human life begins at implantation, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich reaffirmed his commitment to protecting human life from conception.

In a statement sent by the Gingrich campaign to CNA, the former Speaker of the House reiterated his belief that “human life begins at conception” and that “every unborn life is precious, no matter how conceived.”

He vowed to support pro-life legislation aimed at the ultimate goal of legally protecting “all unborn human life.”

Gingrich, a Catholic convert, sparked controversy when he said during a Dec. 2 interview with Jake Tapper of ABC News that life begins at implantation.

“I think that if you take a position when a woman has a fertilized egg and that’s been successfully implanted that now you’re dealing with life,” he said. “Because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions.”

He added that he is opposed to taking life “for the purpose of doing research” but supports stem cell experiments “that do not involve the loss of a life.”
Gingrich’s comments resulted in protests from pro-life groups, which led to a Dec. 3 statement clarifying his position.

He said in the statement that life begins at conception and that he is opposed to federal funding of research that destroys human embryos “because we are also dealing here with human life.”

Promising to do everything in his power “to foster reverence for life,” the GOP frontrunner assured Americans that his beliefs on human life “are longstanding, deeply felt, and irrevocable matters of conscience.” 

He referenced his Nov. 19 remarks at the Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, where he voiced his support for federal legislation defining “personhood” as beginning at conception.

Gingrich also repeated a previous campaign promise to sign an executive order on his first day in office to reinstate the Mexico City policy to prohibit taxpayer money from being used to fund overseas abortions. 

In addition, he said that he will work to defund Planned Parenthood and “transfer the money so it is used to promote adoption and other pro-family policies.”

Throughout his 20 years in Congress, Gingrich maintained a strong pro-life voting record. He supported the Hyde Amendment and other bans on federal funding of abortion, as well as legislation prohibiting partial-birth abortion. 

The National Right to Life Committee has given him a 98.6 percent lifetime rating for his pro-life voting record.

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Election results in Egypt worry Catholic leaders

Cairo, Egypt, Dec 5, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic leaders in Egypt voiced surprise and alarm at the success of Islamist groups in the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections but stressed that the process is still in an early phase.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party took 36.6 percent of the vote while the Salafist Al-Nour Party—an even more extreme Islamist group—garnered 24.4 percent.

By contrast, the secular Egyptian Bloc won only 13.4 percent of the country's 9.7 million valid ballots, the Associated Press reported on Dec. 5. 

Fr. Antoine Rafic Greiche, official spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, said leaders expected the Muslim Brotherhood “to do well but we did not expect at all the success of the Salafists.”

“Their success is a big surprise and a cause for alarm not just for Christians but for moderate Muslims who will be very annoyed by what has happened,” he told Germany-based charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“The Salafists’ attitude to Christians is to say that they can get their passport to go to the USA, France, UK or somewhere else in the West,” the priest said. “They always talk about Egypt as a Muslim country even though there are up to 13 million Christians living here.”

Fr. Greiche reported that the Salafists have discussed forbidding tourism, barring women from wearing swimming costumes, and forcing them to be “totally covered up.”

They want to implement Sharia Islamic law “rigorously” and they “look at Christians and even moderate Muslims as 'Kuffars,'” a derogatory term for non-Muslims.

Fr. Greiche said that the Muslim Brotherhood is also hardline but would be angered by the Salafists who, by comparison, have very limited political experience.

Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut in Upper Egypt also responded to the election.

“We are not afraid of the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “The success of the Salafists has surprised us but we must wait and see what happens in the next two rounds of the elections.”

Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza, another Coptic Catholic, said the Muslim Brothers “know what they are doing.”

“I am afraid what they, and the Salafists, might do if they got power,” he said.

The two bishops and Fr. Greiche warned against pre-judging the situation.

“We have to wait and see what happens next,” said Bishop William. He said the secular and liberal parties are “very young” and may develop and collect more support.

“It is too early to say what these results are going to mean,” added Bishop Aziz.

In Cairo and Alexandria, accusations of electoral malpractice resulted in part of the vote being thrown out and scheduled for a re-vote, Fr. Greiche reported.

The strong Islamist showing left many of the youthful activists who took part in the uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak feeling that their revolution had been hijacked, the Associated Press said.

The new parliament is supposed to select a 100-member panel to draft Egypt’s new constitution. However, the ruling military council has suggested it will set criteria for the choice of 80 parliament members, and has also said that parliament will have no mandate over the formation of a new government.

The next stages of the vote will take place on Dec. 14 and Jan. 3.

In a Dec. 1 interview, Coptic Catholic Patriarch Antonios Naguib told CNA that he remains hopeful that there will still be “a good place” for democratic and civic groups that work to secure a place in society for Egypt’s historic Coptic Christian communities.

It will be “a great problem” if Islamists attain a real majority, but if they have a place in “a moderate and amicable way” then life in Egypt will be “much easier for everybody.”

There are also ruptures between Islamist groups. The Salafists do not want a place for the Muslim Brothers because they view them as too moderate, the patriarch noted.

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Holy See joins International Organization for Migration

Geneva, Switzerland, Dec 5, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See has become a full member state of the International Organization for Migration, pledging its commitment to support the organization and its mission.

“Around the globe, the movement of people who are looking for work or survival from famine, conflicts and the violation of their basic human rights continues to increase,” said Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva.

It is the international community’s responsibility to respond in an “effective and humane” way, he added.

Archbishop Tomasi addressed the organization’s council and praised its “record of great service to displaced people,” noting that the Holy See’s membership intends to support this tradition.

The Holy See officially joined the organization on Dec. 5. The organization is observing its 60th anniversary and will hold its 100th council from Dec. 5-7 in Geneva, gathering about 50 government ministers, deputy prime ministers and deputy ministers from around the world.

Economic crisis does not decrease the numbers of uprooted people, but further complicates their lives, the archbishop said.

The current situation seems to require renewed discussion about people trying to “escape” from their countries across the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Arizona desert, or across transit countries like Egypt or Indonesia.

Archbishop Tomasi stressed the need to focus on the ethical dimension of migration.

“When the dignity of the human person and the right to life are at stake, these values should take priority,” he said.

Catholic organizations’ experience in Geneva and on the ground around the world is “well established and extensive.” Their response is dictated by the needs of the person and embraces “everyone” regardless of their race or religious belief.

These organizations are motivated by their belief in the “unique dignity” of every human person, and their service combines professional care and “generous love.”

“Thus it seems only right that public authorities acknowledge this contribution and, in a genuine sense of democracy, make room for conscience-based service that, in turn, becomes a guarantee of freedom for everyone.”

The International Organization for Migration has over 130 member states.

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