Abuja, Nigeria, Jan 26, 2012 (CNA) -
As many as 35,000 people have fled their homes in northern Nigeria after continuing attacks from the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. Their numbers include a large number of Catholics who report that churches have been destroyed.
“There is panic. Many just leave everything behind, and run for safety, because they do not know when violence might flare up again,” a source told Aid to the Church in Need on Jan. 24.
On Jan. 20, Boko Haram killed at least 185 people in attacks that rocked Kano city, located in the state of Borno, the Associated Press reports. The coordinated attacks used cars with heavy explosives and suicide bombers who targeted police stations. Men in security uniforms gunned down government officials.
Churches have also been destroyed in Maidiguri in Borno and the city of Bauchi, in Bauchi state.
“It is the stated goal of Boko Haram to make the whole of the north free of Christians,” one source told Aid to the Church in Need.
At the beginning of January, Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa gave Christians a three-day ultimatum to leave the area.
Refugees are headed to where they believe it is safe, especially the city of Jos.
Boko Haram’s name means “western education is sinful” in Nigeria’s Hausa language. The group has killed at least 935 people since its 2009 uprising, and more than 250 since the beginning of 2012, Human Rights Watch reports.
The Catholic bishops of Nigeria have decried the actions of the group.
Analysts believe the group intends to make the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, appear unable to control the country.
Minneapolis, Minn., Jan 26, 2012 (CNA) - Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton does not want the Vikings' new football stadium to be built near the Basilica of Saint Mary, where it was seen as a potentially serious threat to parish life.
“We are grateful that Governor Dayton considered our concerns and valued the work we do in making a decision to remove the Linden Avenue and Farmers Market sites from the list of potential sites for the Vikings Stadium,” officials at the basilica said in an online statement.
Church representatives said they “support the Vikings staying in Minnesota” but had “very serious concerns about the impacts of building a stadium and event center so close to the basilica.”
“I understood their concerns, and they were very valid,” Gov. Dayton told the Associated Press on Jan. 25, following his two recent meetings with the basilica's rector Father John Bauer.
The priest reportedly told the governor that the basilica would consider legal action against plans for a stadium in its vicinity, due to concerns over impacts on ministries, parking, and other effects on the historic church.
Dayton now says a new stadium at the location of the Vikings' existing Metrodome is “the only viable option,” if the team is to receive public funding for the project in the 2012 legislative session.
State senator Julie Rosen, the stadium bill's main sponsor, also says the Metrodome site is the most realistic choice. A third proposed site, in a suburb of St. Paul, would require a sales tax increase.
In a Jan. 24 column for the Minnesota Star Tribune, Rev. Bauer explained why it was not in the community's best interest to build a stadium only 300 feet from Basilica of St. Mary.
“Leaders need to look beyond the numbers and consider the negative human impact that will occur,” the basilica's rector wrote.
He explained that thousands of people obtain food, clothing, and other assistance from the church's ministries each year.
“Not only will this location affect the 6,500 households that call this parish their spiritual home, but it will also jeopardize our efforts to bring stability and provide a lifeline to those who are most in need.”
During the 1960s, the basilica temporarily lost a large proportion of its parishioners due to highway construction that nearly forced its closure. Fr. Bauer insisted it should not face the same kind of threat permanently, from the hundreds of stadium event days that would take place only 100 yards away.
“Thousands of activities fill the calendar each year at the basilica, involving parishioners and the community we serve,” he wrote. “From liturgies to our employment ministry, from concerts to outreach programs, from the Basilica Block Party to art exhibits, the life of a thriving community is at stake.”
On the day Fr. Bauer's editorial ran, Gov. Dayton said he believed the Metrodome site held promise, even though the Vikings' owners would prefer a change. Local NBC affiliate KARE quoted him as saying the site could be made “very attractive,” with “the kind of investment to build a world class stadium.”
Madrid, Spain, Jan 26, 2012 (CNA/Europa Press) -
Spain’s Minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, announced on Jan. 25 that the government will work to change the country’s abortion law to require parental consent for minors who wish to undergo the procedure.
Gallardon, a member of the People’s Party, said the reform would “change the model of current abortion regulations to reinforce protection of the right to life and of minors.”
In 2010 the People’s Party filed a petition before the Constitutional Court questioning eight articles of Spain’s abortion law, arguing that it should be reformed in accord with the court’s 1985 ruling that established that the state has the duty to protect developing human life.
Gallardon criticized the law, which went into effect July 2010, for allowing abortion on demand up until the 14th week of pregnancy. He said the provision violates article 15 of the Spanish Constitution, which recognizes that “everyone has the right to life.”
He also questioned why the limit was set at 14 weeks and not 12 or 16. He said there was no explanation as why the unborn should be protected after the limit but not before.
In cases of abortion up until the 22nd week that are allowed for the health of the mother, the People’s Party noted that this exception is broad enough to justify almost any reason for an abortion.
The party said the justification for abortion in cases of “risk of grave fetal anomalies, which would appear to include blindness or deafness, missing arms or limbs, or Down syndrome,” bring to mind the “eugenic theories” of the 20th century that deemed some people “unworthy of living” or “burdensome.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2012 (CNA) - Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. believes that the Church can win its fight against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate if it takes its case to the public.
“We still have before us the opportunity to make the case to the American people,” said Cardinal Wuerl to CNA on Jan. 21.
“Americans by our tradition, by our heritage, are a people who tend to be very fair and don’t readily admit to excluding blocks and groups of people from participation in the common good,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Jan. 20 that it would not expand a religious exemption for employers who object to a requirement that their insurance plans cover contraception as part of a list of “preventative services.”
The policy requires free coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortions.
Cardinal Wuerl underscored that the mandate will affect Catholic schools, hospitals, universities and charitable outreach to the poor.
“This is all new, in the sense that never before in our history has any government simply issued a decree emptying the religious convictions and conscience protections of all the institutions that serve the poor,” he said.
“All of a sudden, with one stroke of the pen, this administration has indicated that our objections to doing what the government wants us to do, our objections have no place.
“It is an outrageous situation.”
Cardinal Wuerl was in Rome as part of a delegation of bishops from the Mid-Atlantic states. The group spent the week updating the Vatican on the health of the Church in their dioceses.
On Thursday, Jan. 19 they met with Pope Benedict who warned of them of a “grave threat” to religious liberty in the U.S., something he described as “the most American of freedoms.”
Cardinal Wuerl thought the Pope’s address was a very timely reminder that the Gospel “implies and even demands that we be engaged in the public effort to mold a good and just society.”
With this in mind, the Pope told the bishops that the preparation of a new generation of “committed lay leaders” should be the “primary task of the Church in your country.”
“I think this new generation that the Pope is speaking about is already present,” said Cardinal Wuerl.
He believes that after two generations of young Catholics who suffered from “a devastating lack of solid catechetical teaching,” there is “a generation coming along that has been nurtured in the faith.” He credits that change to the production of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, and the influence of Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
“This generation is already rising up to say, ‘What can we do to restore the sense of gospel values in our lives, in our families, in our institutions, in our communities?’
“We’re seeing something wonderful happening.”
Vatican City, Jan 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The official Vatican spokesman says an Italian television broadcast claiming to disclose financial corruption at the Vatican exaggerated the situation.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., questioned the “debatable” journalistic methods employed in the broadcast’s “diffusion of private documents.”
The information in the program stretched “well beyond reality,” he said in a Jan. 26 statement, adding that “the general situation of the government is not as negative as they want to make people believe.”
Accusations of financial mismanagement in the Vatican were broadcast Jan. 25 on a prominent Italian television network in a show entitled “Gli intoccabili.”
The program claimed that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò – now the Pope’s official representative to the U.S. – wrote a private letter to Pope Benedict XVI on March 27, 2011, asking not to be transferred to the U.S. while new measures aimed at cleaning up the Vatican’s financial situation were being implemented.
Archbishop Viganò was serving as the second in command for the Governatorate of Vatican City, before he was appointed as the new nuncio to the United States in October 2011.
In his work at the Holy See, he introduced financial controls and accountability procedures that transformed a multi-million dollar deficit into a significant surplus in just one year.
In a Jan. 26 statement, Fr. Lombardi responded to the broadcast, lamenting that it has become “all too familiar” to find biased reporting about the Catholic Church.
He stressed that governing the Vatican City-State is very complex, and said that the situation was presented in “a partial and banal way” so as to exalt “the negative aspects.”
Fr. Lombardi noted the many positive effects of Archbishop Viganò’s actions as Secretary General of the Government. He said that an accurate analysis of the financial changes within the Holy See must take into account changing markets and economic situations, as well as a notable increase in visitors to the Vatican Museums.
He also commented on the “significant expenses” required to meet the Vatican’s important non-economic goal of supporting the universal Church.
The Vatican spokesman also underscored that Archbishop Viganò’s appointment as the apostolic nuncio to the United States showed Pope Benedict’s great trust in him.
Holy See officials, Fr. Lombardi said, continue to be guided by the standards of “healthy administration and of transparency” to which Archbishop Viganò committed himself.
Fr. Lombardi also said that the Vatican government is willing to “pursue all appropriate options,” including possible legal action to defend the reputation of the Vatican officials mentioned in the broadcast.
Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Today's world can learn a lot from St. John of Avila, according to those who have studied the life of the next Doctor of the Catholic Church.
"St. John of Avila is far from us in time, but nearby for his figure, his life, his evangelizing witness and for his teaching," Archbishop Juan del Río Martín of Spain's Archdiocese for Military Services told CNA.
Archbishop del Río Martín was one of three experts on the Spanish saint who gathered in Rome on Jan. 20 for the presentation of a new book in Spanish that explores the writings of St. John of Avila.
The archbishop, who wrote his doctoral thesis on St. John of Avila’s teachings, believes that Pope Benedict made an investment in the future of the Church by choosing the 16th-century saint as the Church's newest doctor.
The Pope has called the Church to a new evangelization, he notes, and in the “Apostle of Andalusia” she has a “model of how to evangelize."
St. John of Avila was born in 1500 in the town of Almodovar del Campo, 155 miles south of Madrid. A Christian of Jewish descent, he studied law at the University of Salamanca, before being ordained a priest. He went on to become a great preacher, author and mystic, writing works that influenced St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Francis Borgia, among others.
He is credited with re-evangelizing the southern Spanish region of Andalusia after it was reclaimed from the Moors.
The Apostle of Andalusia is now venerated in Spain as the patron of the nation's priests.
In fact, Pope Benedict chose a meeting with priests and seminarians during World Youth Day celebrations this past August in Madrid to declare that the saint would become a Church "doctor."
He hoped that "the word and the example of this outstanding pastor will enlighten all priests and those who look forward to the day of their priestly ordination."
The recognition places St. John of Avila among 33 others, such as Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Augustine and Therese of Lisieux, whose contributions have been declared a source of truth and of value to Christians in all times. Church "doctors" are also required to have manifested "eminent learning" and "great sanctity" in their lives.
María de la Encarnación González, the postulator of the saint's cause for being declared a Church doctor, said that John of Avila truly lived out his faith and knew how to share it.
"St. John of Avila was a great communicator. Therefore, the work he did has led him to this point where the Pope considers that he demonstrated all of the requisites to become a Doctor of the Church," she said.
Though no date has been announced for his installation, it is significant that the Pope has chosen him to be a doctor as a "new evangelization" movement gears up in the Catholic Church.
Not only has a special Vatican department been created to oversee these efforts in the West, but bishops from around the world will come to Rome in Oct. 2012 to discuss the topic for three weeks.
"How do we evangelize in the 21st century?" asked Archbishop del Río Martín. Catholics must learn to express their love for Jesus Christ the way St. John of Avila did when he said he felt “leased by Christ,” the archbishop remarked.
"In Jesus Christ," he said, "was revealed a God of love, who preaches and sends out love. And that love must be shown to men through the word, the sacraments and charity."