Minneapolis, Minn., Jan 12, 2012 (CNA) - Two proposed new stadium sites for the Minnesota Vikings professional football team, especially one only 300 feet from the Catholic Basilica of St. Mary, have the church’s rector “very concerned.”
“I can't imagine how our thousands of Sunday worshippers would be able to compete with the more than 60,000 people who attend a Vikings game – there simply isn't that much room in this area and the traffic, congestion, tailgating and parking issues alone could be disastrous for our Sunday worship schedule,” Fr. John Bauer said at a Jan. 10 press conference.
In a Jan. 9 letter to members and friends of the basilica community, the rector said that the congregation of 6,300 households comes from throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area for weekend Masses and weekday programs. Thousands of visitors also attend liturgies, concerts, outreach support, lectures, classes and other events.
Parking for present events is already challenging, he said, and traffic for the construction and operation of the stadium and event center would adversely affect the basilica’s ability to continue its programs.
Gov. Mark Dayton and city officials are collecting feedback and proposals for stadium sites for a 48-hour period ending Jan. 12, the archdiocesan newspaper The Catholic Spirit reports.
A proposed site on Linden Avenue is two blocks from the basilica, while a site at the Farmer’s Market is also a concern to the rector.
The stadium site could also affect the historic buildings of the basilica and its school, which are sites on the National Historic Register.
“The basilica is currently a beacon on the skyline, and the notion of a major stadium so close to this historic building is not comforting,” Fr. Bauer said.
The construction could cause additional structural damage to the historic buildings and interfere with ongoing long-term maintenance efforts.
A new stadium nearby could also harm the financial health of the parish.
The basilica uses a site near Linden Avenue for its Basilica Block Party, one of its major fundraising events. It presently rents its school building to a charter school, a source of “significant revenue” that could also be affected.
“I support the Vikings and want them to stay in Minnesota,” Fr. Bauer said in his letter. “I think they are an asset to our state and to our local community. It is good that we work to retain them.”
He hopes that the basilica’s representatives are able to be “a voice at the table” in any discussion about a new stadium at nearby sites.
“I am convinced that working together in good will, with mutual respect, and with an openness to a variety of ideas and possibilities, no issue is insurmountable,” he said.
Previous urban projects have significantly changed the basilica community.
The basilica was almost forced to close after the construction of I-94 in the 1960s. The project resulted in a “huge” loss of parishioners and almost ended the congregation, according to the Basilica Landmark, a nonprofit organization that supports the Basilica of St. Mary.
The basilica has since raised $30 million for efforts to restore the campus.
“After four decades, the Basilica has finally rebuilt its membership and reestablished its position as a community destination for so many individuals,” Fr. Bauer said Jan. 10. “If a stadium is built a football's throw away from us, it will severely limit who will be able to get to us and how we can help them.”
Fr. Bauer told The Catholic Spirit that he has talked with legislators, city officials and others involved in the process.
The Vikings team has contacted the basilica and has been “very gracious about our concerns,” he reported.
The team has not advocated for one particular site and it seemed to have “a willingness to listen to other opinions.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The departing Australian ambassador to the Holy See says that countries without a resident diplomatic presence in Rome are losing out diplomatically.
“It is so much easier to do the job if you’re on the ground in Rome,” said Ambassador Tim Fischer, who is stepping down from his post this month. He was appointed in 2008 as the first resident ambassador to the Holy See for Australia since the two states established relations in 1973.
“The Vatican is not entirely a closed shop, but you have to know where to look, which conferences to attend, which contacts to pursue. And if you’re only flying in for four times a year from Dublin or from the Hague or from Geneva, then that becomes very difficult to do in a comprehensive and professional way,” he explained in an early January interview with CNA.
Ambassador Fischer’s comments come only two months after Ireland chose to close its embassy to the Holy See in Rome, citing budgetary pressures as the deciding factor. The new Irish ambassador to the Holy See will live in Dublin.
The Holy See currently has diplomatic relations with 179 states, with about half of them maintaining a permanent embassy in Rome.
Ambassador Fischer explained that being so close to the Vatican allows governments to tap into an unparalleled diplomatic network.
“It is the oldest organization in the world, and it does have a huge network,” he said. In fact, “as recently as the Balkans War some of the best information as to what was really happening on the ground was not held by the CIA or the KGB but, in fact, right here in Rome by the Holy See.”
While Ambassador Fischer respects each country’s decision about how to deploy its diplomatic resources, he says that the “general concurrence” within the diplomatic and political community in Rome was that the recent Irish embassy decision “was more political than anything budgetary.”
Since arriving in Rome in January 2009, Tim Fischer has become one of the best connected members of Rome’s diplomatic community. Standing at well over six feet tall and usually sporting a distinctive bush hat, the 65-year-old former Australian deputy Prime Minister has also become one of the best-known and most easily recognizable figures in Vatican circles. During his tenure at the Australian Embassy to the Vatican, he has prioritized the issues of religious freedom, inter-faith dialogue and food security.
As a Catholic, he says his time in Rome has been “uplifting personally as well as professionally,” and that it has been “an absolute delight” to meet “some very wonderful and very senior people, starting with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.”
He was also keen to praise numerous Vatican officials he has dealt with and who are “beavering away behind the scenes and below the radar and who are the most dedicated, dynamic people.”
Ambassador Fischer was given a fond farewell on Jan. 11 at the recently opened center for Australian pilgrims to Rome, Domus Australia. Invited guests were treated to a concert in the center’s St. Peter Chanel chapel, followed by a farewell reception.
The Australian government will announce Ambassador Fischer’s replacement in the coming months.
Washington D.C., Jan 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Republican presidential candidates urged fidelity to America’s founding principles as they spoke at the New Hampshire primary and turned their sights to the upcoming vote in South Carolina.
“In difficult times, we can’t abandon the core values that define us as a unique nation,” said primary winner Mitt Romney. “We are one nation under God.”
The candidates addressed Republican voters on Jan. 10, the evening of the nation's first primary election in New Hampshire.
Economic issues dominated the speeches, as candidates promised to institute policies that would reduce the national debt and unemployment rates. But several candidates also appealed to faith in their talks.
Romney, who won almost 40 percent of the primary votes, said that the election is not merely about choosing a president, but about “saving the soul of America” from being fundamentally altered from its founding principles.
He vowed to undo what he called President Barack Obama’s harmful policies, arguing that “the last three years have held a lot of change, but they haven’t offered much hope.”
The GOP frontrunner appealed to America’s faith in a better future, saying, “We still believe in that shining city on a hill.”
After a strong performance in Iowa, Rick Santorum won only about 10 percent of the votes in New Hampshire, finishing fifth.
However, the former Pennsylvania senator promised to continue to “campaign in every single state,” working to promote a message based on “faith and family as the bedrock of our society.”
Santorum stressed the need to promote and protect families, which he said serve to “instill virtue and faith in our children” in order to solve problems in society.
Texas congressman Ron Paul placed second in the state primary, capturing 23 percent of the vote.
In his speech, Paul insisted that he is the best candidate to protect liberty in America. He urged a return to the fundamental question, “What should the role of government be in a free society?”
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who skipped the Iowa caucuses, came in third in New Hampshire with approximately 17 percent of the vote.
Huntsman declared that third place is “a ticket to ride,” and said he would remain in the contest and turn his attention to the upcoming South Carolina primary.
Candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry both fell in their rankings, winning about 10 and 1 percent of the vote, respectively. Both candidates, however, vowed to continue the race.
Although Romney holds a steady lead as the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary approaches, recent polls indicate that Santorum may be closing in on him.
A Jan. 5 Rasmussen poll of likely South Carolina voters showed Santorum with 24 percent of the vote, up from just one percent two months ago.
The poll indicates that Romney has the support of 27 percent of likely voters in the state, while Gingrich comes in third with 18 percent.
Recent polls by the American Research Group and Public Policy Polling also suggest that Santorum and Gingrich will surge ahead towards Romney in South Carolina, with the other candidates trailing significantly behind.
Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 12, 2012 (CNA) - Philadelphia Catholic schools will have a chance to appeal recently-announced closing and merging decisions, the archdiocese said on Jan. 10.
“Sometimes commissions, when they study issues, make mistakes, and it may be that our analysis of the situation can be corrected,” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said during the Jan. 6 press conference on the changes planned for nearly 50 schools.
“So if there are issues of fact that people can bring forward, and they want to make sure that I know that, I'll be happy to hear their concerns,” the archbishop said in response to a question about the appeal process.
On Tuesday, the archdiocese announced details of the review process for school administrators who want officials to reconsider a recommendation by the Blue Ribbon Commission.
In last week's “Faith in the Future” report, the commission said up to 45 of the 156 elementary or regional Catholic schools – as well as four of the 17 Catholic high schools – may have to close or merge due to financial and enrollment problems.
But school officials who disagree with its conclusions can appeal to one of two review committees, established separately for parish elementary schools and high schools.
These groups will hold meetings with school administrators, beginning Jan. 12, and concluding in early February, to discuss the reasons for the planned changes. Members of the education commission and other archdiocesan staff will also consider facts and documentation offered by the schools.
Both review committees will convey this information to the archbishop, whose final decisions will be made public in mid-February.
At Friday's press conference, Archbishop Chaput stressed that a new plan was needed for Catholic schools to survive and grow in the future. But he also observed that greater public support for school choice could have prevented the closings.
“If we'd had vouchers in place 15 years ago, we probably wouldn't be closing any of these schools, or at least most of them,” the archbishop noted, as he explained that the Church regards broad access to education as “a social justice issue.”
Vatican City, Jan 12, 2012 (CNA) - The new head of the Vatican's social communications council Archbishop Claudio Celli recalled the rich legacy of his predecessor, Cardinal John Patrick Foley, who died on Dec. 11.
Archbishop Celli remembered the American cardinal as “a man of faith, an evangelizer and a communicator” at a Mass celebrated at the Church of St. Mary in the Roman suburb of Traspontina.
“In him one could not only discover but also see the face of a Church able to speak to the world with cordiality and to dialogue with the utmost openness, without ever imposing the truth,” he said on Dec. 11.
Cardinal Foley passed away at the age of 76 in Pennsylvania after a struggle with leukemia and other ailments.
One month later in a Jan. 11 L’Osservatore Romano article, Archbishop Celli reflected on Cardinal Foley's contributions to the pontifical council. He noted that as president of the council for more than 20 years, the cardinal was the first to share doctrinal and cultural reflections on the role of the internet.
He also said that Cardinal Foley was one of the driving forces behind the drafting of “important documents on the dangerous assault” of online pornography.
The late cardinal was “a man of God who became a man of communication,” Archbishop Celli observed.
Cardinal Foley was born to John and Regina Foley in Darby, Pennsylvania in 1935. He grew up in Holy Spirit Parish in Delaware County outside of Philadelphia.
The future cardinal was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1962 and edited the archdiocesan paper, the Catholic Standard & Times. He served as editor of Rome’s archdiocesan newspaper from 1970 to 1984. Ordained a bishop in 1984, he served as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from that year through 2007.
For 21 years, he provided the English-language commentary for the global TV broadcasts of Christmas and Easter Masses.
He became a cardinal in 2007 after Pope Benedict appointed him Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, which gives spiritual and financial support to the Catholic Church in the Holy Land and helps maintain Christian shrines there.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 12, 2012 (CNA) - During the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Jan. 15, the archbishop of Madrid called on Christians to welcome immigrants in Spain and to help them remain steadfast in their faith.
Catholics should be “builders of integrating unity, capable of embracing everyone beyond the differences in our origins,” Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela said in a Jan. 10 letter to parishioners.
He emphasized the need to create “appropriate conditions for immigrant families” to be able to live fulfilling lives. Rather than be considered foreigners, they should be able to live side-by-side with Spaniards in a society based on unity and fraternity, he said.
Cardinal Rouco observed that migrants often undergo culture shock in their new countries and that this suffering “has serious implications for their faith lives.”
For this reason, he said, it is important they be welcomed and that special ministries be created to reach out to them.
He invited Catholic immigrants in Spain “to occupy the place in the Church and in society that corresponds to them, and to be open to the values” of their new home.
Rome, Italy, Jan 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict said Jan. 12 that the economic crisis hitting much of the West is the result of self-centeredness but that it also presents an opportunity to reshape society.
“The present crisis can, then, be an opportunity for the entire community to verify whether the values upon which social life is founded have generated a society that is just, fair and united,” the Pope said Jan. 12 at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.
The Pope, as Bishop of Rome, was addressing the political authorities of the City of Rome, the Region of Lazio, and the Province of Rome during their traditional annual exchange of New Years greetings.
Pope Benedict told them that it is necessary at this present time to “undertake a profound rethink in order to rediscover values which are the basis of a true renewal of society.” This means not only promoting economic recovery but also “promoting the integral good of human beings.”
He proposed that the present crisis has its roots in a form of “individualism” which “obscures the relational dimension of man and leads him to close in on himself, in his own little world, to take care of his own needs and desires above all, caring little for others.”
He said that this individualistic outlook has led to speculation in the housing market, increasing difficulty for young people in finding work, isolation for many elderly people, the anonymity that often characterizes urban life, and the “sometimes superficial attention paid to situations of marginalization and poverty.”
The first step towards creating a more human society, Pope Benedict said, is for people and institutions “to rediscover relationships as the constituent element of our lives.”
He called to mind the famous fable told by a renowned consul of ancient Rome, Menenius Agrippa, who persuaded a group soldiers not to strike by explaining how each unit of society is interdependent on the other in the same way each part of the body depends on other parts of the body to function properly.
“The challenges we are currently facing are numerous and complex,” the Pope observed. And they can only be overcome “if we reinforce our awareness that the destiny of each of us is linked to that of everyone else.”
He paid particular tribute to Christian organizations that help refugees who have fled their homeland for serious economic or political reasons.
“Charity and justice require that, in times of need, those with the greatest resources should look after the disadvantaged,” he said.
He particularly urged legislators to “defend the family founded on marriage as an essential cell of society,” to encourage large families with “grants and tax breaks that encourage a positive birth rate,” and to guarantee “decent living conditions.”
The Italian economy has been particularly hit by the recent financial crisis, with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government being forced to resign in November 2011. The former government has been replaced by an emergency coalition of technocrats.
Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Port-au-Prince Archbishop Guire Poulard marked the second anniversary of 2010's earthquake with a call for Haitians to build a better future for themselves and their country.
“The reconstruction will be Haitian or will not be,” the archbishop proclaimed in a message carried by the news outlet Haiti Libre.
He said Haitians “cannot accept to live only from international begging,” but must take on the task of reconstruction in the same way that national independence was achieved: “by rolling up our sleeves.”
“Put your hope in God and in yourself,” the archbishop urged, saying the “other promises do not offer any guarantees” for the future.
Archbishop Poulard was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI on Jan. 12, 2011, on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that killed his predecessor Archbishop Joseph S. Miot along with 250,000 other residents of the island.
On the second anniversary of the earthquake, the archbishop described his appointment as a message to Haiti from Pope Benedict XVI.
“He wanted to say to Haiti, battered, traversed by all kinds of misery: take courage, get up, dry your tears and put yourself to work,” Archbishop Poulard recounted.
“Thus, on this second anniversary of this tragedy,” he proclaimed, “I turn towards the refugee camps of the earthquake, towards the homeless of before and after the earthquake, to the physically and mentally handicapped, towards the victims, finally towards the people in general, to say to all: courage!”
The Port-au-Prince archbishop explained that the Haitian Church stood in solidarity with the whole country, especially in light of the “slow progress of the reconstruction.”
“Haitian people, people of my country, people of this country that I love with great passion, the Church is with you and will continue to walk with you,” he pledged.
He noted that the archdiocese has no headquarters, while many priests and religious remain homeless alongside hundreds of thousands of other Haitians.
In these conditions, he said, “we show really our solidarity with the poor” and those who lack the means to “lead a decent and dignified life.”
The Pope’s representative to Haiti Archbishop Bernardito C. Auza told Fides news agency that 600,000 Haitians still live in tents two years after the earthquake, including students of Port-au-Prince's seminary.
“The Church has dozens and dozens of reconstruction projects, but the technical preparatory stages are long and difficult,” he said.
Archbishop Auza was among the first residents to convey news of the disaster to international media in 2010. Two years after, he sees the recovery efforts lacking direction and momentum.
“The reconstruction in Haiti was and is particularly difficult and expensive because everything is imported, even the sand,” he noted.
In a further complication, an international commission that had been helping with the rebuilding lost its mandate on Oct. 21. Now, Archbishop Auza said, “there is no longer a structure or an institution that guides or directs the efforts.”
“Parliament has yet to address the issue, and the question is not in the legislative program. The issues of management on who manages the funds, and especially who gets the contracts, are very hot these days.”
Under these circumstances, Catholic Relief Services' new president says communities must be empowered to deal with their own local needs.
Carolyn Woo, who became the organization's president and CEO on Jan. 1, recently visited Haiti together with her predecessor Ken Hackett and Catholic Relief Services board chairman Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas.
In a report on their visit, Woo and Hackett said they were “impressed with what has been accomplished” in Haiti, “and equally struck by the amount of work still to do.”
They explained that Catholic Relief Services' strategy of local self-empowerment was necessary “to get this recovery right for Haiti,” and have “ordinary Haitians – who had lost so much – leading their own reconstruction in dignified and sustainable ways.”
Some of these ways include organizing local cleaning and building crews, making loans and grants to entrepreneurs, and providing small-scale technology that can be easily used by individuals.
Woo says Catholic Relief Services “doesn't pretend we can solve the myriad problems in Haiti” but is committed to “working with communities – not for them,” as they forge their own future.
Washington D.C., Jan 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Several dozen religious leaders joined together against redefining marriage in America, warning that such a move would have “far-reaching consequences” for religious freedom.
In a Jan. 12 open letter to all Americans, the leaders described marriage and religious liberty as “fundamental goods that stand or fall together.”
They noted that if the civil definition of marriage is changed to include same-sex couples, the government “will compel special recognition of relationships” that many communities “cannot, in conscience, affirm.”
Those who signed the letter included Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York – president of the U.S. bishops' conference – and Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, head of the bishops’ ad hoc Committee for Religious Liberty also signed the letter, along with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Ft. Wayne - South Bend, who leads of the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
The bishops joined with more than 35 religious leaders representing a wide variety of communities across the United States, including Evangelical, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish and Mormon groups.
In their statement, they said that marriage is a universal and foundational institution that “precedes and transcends” any government, society or religious group. This, they explained, is because it is rooted in the nature of the human person as male and female and the children that are born from their union.
The religious leaders argued that changing the civil definition of marriage changes hundreds or even thousands of laws that are dependent upon marital status, including taxation, housing, property, employment discrimination and benefits, adoption, education and health care.
New laws in these areas will have “grave consequences” for religious individuals and groups who serve in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, adoption agencies, counseling centers and many other facilities, they said.
The leaders warned that religious groups are already being targeted as bigots for adhering to their firmly-held religious convictions.
The letter gave examples of “government punishments and pressures” against adoption agencies who object to placing children with homosexual couples, marriage counselors who deny counseling services to same-sex “married” couples and employers who do not wish to extend married health benefits to same-sex “spouses.”
They also pointed to situations in which religious groups across the country have faced other government sanctions, losing service contracts, grants and tax-exempt status because they refused to treat same-sex unions as marriages.
If civil marriage is redefined, the punishments will become “more frequent and more severe,” as the government forces religious people and groups to violate their beliefs by recognizing homosexual conduct “as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.”
The religious leaders urged Americans to recognize that the union of one man and one woman is a fundamental institution that contributes to the “common good” of society.
They urged “all people of good will” to work together in supporting laws that protect both “the unique meaning of marriage and the precious gift of religious freedom.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The announcement that dozens Philadelphia Catholic schools might close has caused “confusion, anger and grief,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput acknowledged on Jan. 12, as he asked people to react with Christian charity.
“It's useful to wonder how many of our schools might have been saved if, over the last decade, Catholics had fought for vouchers as loudly and vigorously as they now grieve about school closings,” Archbishop Chaput said in his Jan. 12 weekly online column.
Catholics are “discriminated against” because they must pay once for public schools and again for Catholic schools, he noted.
“School choice may not answer every financial challenge in Catholic education; but vouchers would make a decisive difference. They'd help our schools enormously,” he said, characterizing vouchers as “a matter of parental rights and basic justice.”
The closures affect four high schools and 44 elementary schools. They will displace almost 24,000 students, according to media estimates.
Many parents, students and employees have protested the closures.
The archbishop defended the Blue Ribbon Commission which made the recommendations. He stated that its members were “speaking truthfully” about “enrollment and financial realities nobody wants to face.”
“The resource challenges we face in 2012 are much harsher than 40 or 50 years ago when many of us attended Catholic school. No family can run on nostalgia and red ink,” he said.
Archbishop Chaput praised Catholic schools’ work and stressed the need for schools that are “vigorously Catholic” and “academically excellent.”
The “hardest part” of the commission’s deliberations was considering the burdens that many families and teachers will face, the archbishop said. He made assurances that the archdiocese will try to place students and teachers in new positions and assist those who will lose their employment.
He urged Catholics to remember their duty to treat one another with “charity and civility in Jesus Christ.”
Commission members and archdiocesan staff worked “selflessly” on the report and deserve “thanks and respect,” not “the bitter – and unjust – criticism” shown by some parents and students.
Catholic schools exist to form believing Catholic Christians who are people of the Gospel and of justice, mercy and charity, the archbishop said as he brought his column to a close.
“If they produce something less, then we need to ask ourselves whether they deserve to survive.”