Wilmington, Del., Dec 6, 2011 (CNA) -
Around 5,000 runners are participating in the 10th annual relay from Mexico to New York in honor of the upcoming feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The massive run shows the widespread “love and respect for Our Lady of Guadalupe,” organizer Mirian Dominguez told CNA. “When we run, there's so much love, so much emotion.”
Dominguez explained that the tag-team journey begins each year in October and passes through cities in Mexico and the southern and eastern United States.
The 10th annual run, organized by Dominguez's parish of St. Paul's in Wilmington, Del., kicked off in Mexico City and will end at New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.
Each segment of runners carries a torch for Our Lady of Guadalupe, which Dominguez calls a symbol of hope for Catholics around the world.
The torch and pilgrims will arrive at Wilmington's St. Paul Parish on Dec. 6 and be greeted by Mass, a meal and fellowship. Runners will stay overnight at parishioners' homes.
The frigid weather conditions that sometimes plague the runners this time of year don't phase the participants in the least, Dominguez said. They keep going “because of their faith, their love,” she noted.
Portland, Ore., Dec 6, 2011 (CNA) - Demands for face-to-face questioning of Vatican officials were denied by a federal judge in a case involving a Washington man who claims he was abused by a priest in the 1960s.
U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman ruled on Dec. 1 that prosecutors have yet to produce enough evidence to justify the need for personal testimony from members of the Holy See.
An anonymous 63-year-old plaintiff from Washington filed suit against the Vatican in 2002, several decades after Fr. Andrew Ronan—an Irish priest with a record of sexually abusing minors—was transferred from Ireland to the U.S. and eventually moved to Portland, Oregon.
Fr. Ronan, a Servite priest from the Friar Servants of Mary, died in 1992.
In the case of John V. Doe v. Holy See, the plaintiff claims he was abused by Fr. Ronan several times in 1965. His lawsuit against the Vatican and the priest's order charges that the Catholic Church was responsible for transferring the priest and conspiring to cover up the allegations.
The plaintiff's lawyers have attempted to circumvent the Vatican's sovereign immunity by arguing that the Holy See was effectively Fr. Ronan's employer.
However, Vatican lawyer Jeffrey Lena has maintained since 2002 that Doe and his lawyers have not provided evidence the Vatican moved the priest or had any control over him.
The Vatican released internal files online on Aug. 17 of this year showing that despite prosecutors' claims, it had no prior knowledge of the Irish priest's history of abuse before he was sent to the U.S. in the 1960s.
After reviewing the documents, however, the accuser's attorney's claimed that face-to-face questioning of Vatican officials was necessary.
Lena said in August that the plaintiff’s lawyers have “never had support for their calumnious accusations” that the Holy See transferred a priest it knew was abusive.
“They have nonetheless chosen to misuse the legal system as a vehicle to pursue a broader agenda—a decision that has misled the public and wasted considerable resources,” he said.
Bogotá, Colombia, Dec 6, 2011 (CNA) - The bishops of Columbia announced that relics of Blessed John Paul II will arrive in the capital city of Bogota for a two-day visit in January.
The relics are intended to be “an offering of spiritual reparation for the victims of violence and kidnapping,” said Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba of Fontibon, secretary for the bishops' conference, on Dec. 5.
Pope Benedict XVI decided to send the relics to Colombia as gesture of his closeness and solidarity, the bishop added.
Blessed John Paul II's relics will arrive on Jan. 20 at the Cathedral of Bogota for veneration and later that evening, will be taken to the local Cristovision Catholic television network. On Jan. 21, the relics will arrive at the parish of Mary Queen of Heaven.
Bishop Cordoba Villota noted that the relics are “a symbol of the blood of all Colombians that cry out for the liberation of the kidnapped, the return of their lands and peace.”
Family members of kidnap victims and victims of the violence in Colombia were present at the Dec. 5 announcement.
Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dec 6, 2011 (CNA) - Catholics in Sri Lanka are boycotting the government over the detention of four Missionaries of Charity who were accused of child trafficking by an anonymous caller.
“I asked the sisters about the accusations against them and they were clear in their response that they have never sold a child nor given a child up in adoption without following the appropriate legal procedures,” said Cardinal Malcom Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo.
He called the accusations against the sisters “lies” and urged local members of the faith to not participate in any activities organized by the government during the month of December.
Cardinal Ranjith also criticized police for entering the sisters’ convent on Nov. 23 on orders from the National Authority for the Protection of Children. They detained the superior, Sister Mary Eliza, who was later released on bail.
The cardinal defended the work of the sisters and noted that the Missionaries of Charity, “unlike other organizations” that promote abortion, help children “to be born and to have a life of dignity.”
He noted that Christian organizations in southern Asia are often pressured by governments and accused of “proselytism.”
In Sri Lanka, 70 percent of the population is Buddhist, 15 percent is Hindu and the remaining 15 percent is Christian, Muslim and other religions.
Washington D.C., Dec 6, 2011 (CNA) - A religious liberty expert is concerned that the U.S. State Department appears to be collaborating with a group that has worked to outlaw criticism of Islam around the world.
“The U.S. government should not be getting into the business of trying to shape what people say about religion,” said Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.
Marshall made his remarks to CNA on Dec. 5, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited the Saudi Arabia-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation to attend a Dec. 12-14 conference in Washington, D.C. to build "muscles of respect and empathy and tolerance."
In Marshall’s view, Americans should be “very concerned” that Clinton and the State Department “are taking the organization seriously.”
He explained that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has explicitly campaigned against free speech for years, pushing resolutions at the United Nations to ban anti-Islamic speech. The group has also worked for more than two decades to encourage states to ban speech that is insulting to Islam and to punish “Islamophobia.”
In a Dec. 5 opinion article in The Wall Street Journal, Marshall joined Nina Shea, also a senior fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom, to raise concerns about the upcoming conference.
Marshall said that preparations for the conference are vague enough that questions about what it will entail are going unanswered. He noted that the conference has not been officially announced and a list of its participants and schedule has not been released.
There is very little chance that the United States will adopt the speech-limiting legislation proposed by the organization, which blatantly violates the First Amendment, said Marshall.
However, the conference could still be influential because the U.S. government exercises substantial power through the State Department’s diplomatic channels and its funding of various groups.
Clinton’s invitation, Marshall said, “raises expectations” that the Obama administration will cooperate with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which could lead to an increase in self-censorship.
Marshall described the appearance of cooperation with such a group as “demoralizing” to those people in the Muslim world who have suffered because they were accused of insulting Islam.
Holding this conference is “sending exactly the wrong message” to the world, he argued.
Instead, the United States should be vigorously “defending free speech,” upholding the “unique stance” that it has traditionally held on the subject, he said.
Vatican City, Dec 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput is using his December “ad limina” visit to Rome to pause, pray and reflect upon the whirlwind that has surrounded him these past six months.
“2011 has been an extraordinary year of change for me. The world seemed to stop on July 5 and turned my life upside down,” Archbishop Chaput told CNA while in Rome.
That was the morning he received the phone call from the U.S. papal nuncio informing him that Pope Benedict XVI wanted him to leave the Archdiocese of Denver and head the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
“Since then, the time has passed very quickly,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine that it’s already December and the year’s almost over.”
The archbishop said his “basic experience” in the intervening months has been “one of dependence on God, gratitude to God for his kindness to me, and I beseech the Lord quite often and quite intensely to help me be a good bishop of Philadelphia.”
The learning curve, he said, has been vastly helped by his priests who have been “very warmly welcoming and so have the people.”
Although he describes the past three months as “interesting,” and “exciting,” Archbishop Chaput inherited an archdiocese that was shaken by a clerical abuse scandal.
“It will take a while for the archdiocese to recover from that,” said Archbishop Chaput frankly. “But because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ we recover from everything and we have hope for the future.”
His hope for the future is both natural and supernatural.
It is rooted in the “extraordinary talent and resources in terms of the energy of the people” within the archdiocese but also in the fact that they are a “diocese of saints,” he explained. The Philadelphia archdiocese has two canonized saints—St. Katharine Drexel and St. John Nepomucene Neumann—who have roots in the area.
Two saints “is a whole lot in the United States,” said the archbishop, “and we know that they’re interceding for us and they’re models for us to imitate.”
Archbishop Chaput now has nine days in Rome, along with his brother bishops from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It is a time for meetings and discussions with Vatican officials but also time for prayer and reflection at the tombs of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul.
“Our schedule here isn’t hugely busy. We have a couple of meetings per day with the offices that serve the Holy Father,” Archbishop Chaput explained. “So we have a lot of time on our hands that we can use very well in terms of prayer and thought and preparation for Christmas, so it’s like having a nine-day Advent retreat.”
“Advent,” he said, “is a great time to be attentive and to be meditative, imitating Mary who pondered the mysteries of faith in her heart.”
The visit also provides another opportunity for Pope Benedict to meet with the American bishops, something that Archbishop Chaput did on the first day of the visit last week.
“It’s going to be hard for anything to follow after that,” he observed, explaining that “the Holy Father was very kind to us.”
The Pope “always offers a word of hope but also a challenge” and in doing so “shows extraordinary leadership,” he said.
“We hope to follow his example of encouragement and leadership in our own local churches.”
Archbishop Chaput believes that leadership in the U.S. is required in two key areas at present – religious liberty and a commitment to the new evangelization.
“Freedom gives us the ability to be confident and articulate in proclaiming the faith in our country,” whereas conversely “evangelical enthusiasm” is muted wherever freedom is curtailed.
“So, I think it’s very important for us to insist that people be aware of the dangers to our religious liberties.”
That requires Catholics to “stand strong,” both “politically and publicly,” and from there to “evangelize our culture in new, fresh and enthusiastic ways.”
Vatican City, Dec 6, 2011 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI elevated Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need to the status of a pontifical foundation, emphasizing its decades of service.
“ACN will continue as before, in a spirit of active charity to help wherever the Church faces hardship or persecution,” the organization said Dec. 6.
“As a pastoral charity, acting in the name of the Church, it is committed to strengthening and deepening Catholic faith and moral life.”
The change in the Germany-based organization’s status means it is now under the umbrella of the Vatican.
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, was assigned by the Pope to be the foundation’s new president.
Cardinal Mauro has nominated Baron Johannes Heereman von Zuydtwyck as executive president effective Dec. 1. Baron Heereman previously served as secretary general and executive president of the Knights of Malta in Germany.
The new ecclesiastical assistant of the charity is Fr. Martin Barta, a member of the clerical association “Work of Jesus High Priest.”
The international headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need will remain in Königstein near Frankfurt, Germany.
After World War II, Pope Pius XII appealed for help for the 14 million postwar refugees in Germany. He inspired the Norbertine priest Werenfried van Straaten to work for reconciliation through charitable deeds.
The priest’s organization grew into Aid to the Church in Need, which now has 600,000 friends and benefactors supporting about 5,000 aid projects every year in over 140 different countries.
The charity has 17 national offices around the world. Its 2010 donations totaled over $100 million.