Madrid, Spain, Jan 30, 2012 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI will place a golden rose before the statue of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba, during his March 26-28 visit to the country.
Cuban officials also said it was “foreseeable” that the Pope would meet with 86-year-old Fidel Castro, reported the Efe News Agency.
Cuba’s current president, Raul Castro, may attend the papal Mass, as Fidel did in 1998 during Blessed John Paul II’s visit.
Meanwhile, on Jan. 25, the Spanish government honored Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana with the Order of the Great Cross of Isabel the Catholic.
The ceremony took place at the residence of the Spanish ambassador to Cuba, Manuel Cacho.
Ambassador Cacho praised Cardinal Ortega for “his efforts and dedication” to the Cuban people, while Cardinal Ortega praised the legacy of the Catholic Queen Isabel of Spain.
Saltillo, Mexico, Jan 30, 2012 (CNA) - A group of police officers desecrated the Eucharist at a prison chapel in Saltillo, Mexico on Jan. 23 during an unannounced search for weapons.
In the early hours of Jan. 23, federal, state and local police officers, together with members of the special forces, arrived at the prison for a surprise weapons search.
According to the Council of Catholic Analysts, the security forces “opened the tabernacle, removed the ciborium containing the consecrated hosts, and threw it on the ground. The hosts were left broken and scattered all over the floor. “This information was verified by the chaplain in charge of prison ministry for the diocese,” the council said.
The Diocese of Saltillo issued a statement acknowledging the need to maintain security in the prison but criticizing “the disproportionate use of public force, and in this case, the profanation of a chapel, which regardless of whether it had belonged to protestant brethren or to members of another religious confession, would equally have obliged us to issue a protest.”
“There is no possible justification for what has happened,” the diocese continued. “These actions are a profound assault not only on the Catholic community of Saltillo, but on the entire diocese, the universal Church and society, which is angered by the violent actions contrary to human dignity committed at this detention center.”
“In addition to attacking the faith of the majority in Mexico, they also violate the rights to religious freedom, as well as the rights enjoyed by those persons deprived of their freedom and that are recognized by the Constitution of Mexico,” the diocese said.
The Diocese of Saltillo held an act of reparation at the chapel on Jan. 27.
Barcelona, Spain, Jan 30, 2012 (CNA) - Hundreds of pro-life supporters gathered in Barcelona, Spain on Jan. 25 to protest the abortion services offered at hospitals linked to the Catholic Church in the Spanish region of Catalonia.
According to Tania Fernandez of the Right to Life in Barcelona, the march took place amid “the shouts of 100 radical and furious supporters of abortion, who were continuously hurling shouts and insults.”
“Sensing their powerlessness in the face of our peace, joy and calm despite their shouts, blasphemies, idiocy, spitting and more, the abortion supporters began throwing ‘rocks’ and trash at us. This was all caught on video and the police have been informed,” Fernandez said.
She thanked those “defenders” of life who participated in the march, including “mothers, fathers, children, aunts and uncles, grandparents, brothers and sisters, grandchildren, friends, etc., who once again were there to bear witness to life.”
Fernandez also thanked police for helping to protect the crowd from the attack. She noted the testimony of Father Custodio Ballester, who attended the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. on Jan. 23.
Fr. Ballester has frequently protested the abortions performed at several hospitals in Catalonia that have ties to the Catholic Church.
“Seeing the massive pro-life crowd in Washington, I thought: Barcelona is not alone! We are not alone! We have a vast world at our side,” the priest said.
“This war against death is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our city and our country. This war was not ended on the day the abortion laws were passed,” he added.
“This war was not ended on the day abortions began to be performed at San Pablo Hospital, at San Juan de Dios Hospital, at Granollers or Sant Celoni,” Fr. Ballester said. “This war was not ended on the day church leaders decided to remain silent … This war is worldwide.”
Pro-life forces “can triumph in the future with the superior strength that the Lord of hosts will give us. The destiny of the world is at stake. No matter what happens, the flame of resistance will not and must not be extinguished,” he said.
Indianapolis, Ind., Jan 30, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Indianapolis’ St. John the Evangelist Church is located in the heart of the Super Bowl Village, and the historic Catholic church intends to open its doors to everyone.
“I think it’s a gift that our city is hosting the Super Bowl and that we can be in the heart of it with our Catholic presence,” parish administrator Fr. Rick Nagel told CNA on Jan. 27.
The church is three blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium, the site of the Feb. 5 NFL championship game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.
The Super Bowl Village features four 800-foot zip-lines, the longest temporary lines yet built.
Those zip-lines end right outside St. John the Evangelist, where the church has posted a sign that reads: “If you think the zip-line was a thrill, come on in to meet Jesus.”
The church has incorporated the hugely popular sports event into its “Open Wide the Doors” outreach program, which was set up to minister to visitors to the area.
“We’re opening our doors to evangelize, particularly in a city that’s hosting a major world event,” Fr. Nagel explained.
During these events, the parish offers more Masses, increases confession availability, and adds Eucharistic adoration hours.
“The New Evangelization really calls us as Catholics to sometimes reach out and bring what we believe to the street. That’s our hope: that we can share this amazing Gospel message that we know to be true and right with others,” Fr. Nagel said.
Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have used the exhortation “Open wide the doors to Christ,” which inspired the parish program’s name.
Fr. Nagel said that the phrase encourages Christians to open the doors of their churches and to “open wide the doors of our hearts to receive Christ, who has the words of eternal life.”
The 175-year-old parish has trained about 70 volunteers to give tours of the 140-year-old church building.
The tour “evangelists” also incorporate catechesis into their tours and explain why Catholics believe what they do, what sacred art represents, and what the function is of different parts of the Church.
“We’re going to have a little bit of fun,” the priest added. “We’ve got a life-sized cutout of Pope Benedict and it looks very real.”
Visitors can have their picture taken with the cutout.
The parish also hopes to set up some stands where those who have questions about the Catholic faith can ask them.
“We’d love to have them go to Mass,” Fr. Nagel remarked.
“If they need to be reconciled to God, or want to know more about the Church and the sacredness of our Church. They can ask questions about who we are and why we do what we do.”
At least one former Super Bowl champion will also visit the parish.
St. John the Evangelist traditionally has a First Friday event for young adults where they can hear a talk about their faith and break into small groups for discussion over dinner.
The First Friday before the Super Bowl, the guest speaker will be Chris Godfrey, the former NFL Giants guard who played on the team that won Super Bowl XXI in 1987.
“He now spends his life evangelizing and bringing the Gospel to the country. He’ll be giving a reflection on the call to holiness and how to answer God’s call in our lives,” Fr. Nagel said. “We’re hoping to pack the house that night. It’ll be a wonderful night of adoring our savior Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”
Priests will hold confessions and there will be praise and worship music.
“In the heart of this secular event will be a very sacred night.”
Fr. Nagel said that he is looking forward to having visitors at the parish.
“I think it’s great that we’re going to be able to host a lot of folks from the East Coast. There are a lot of Catholics coming from the East Coast. We’ve already received a lot of phone calls from folks asking about Mass times.”
The church’s outreach effort began in fall of 2011 when crowds of young people were at the Future Farmers of America gathering at the convention center across the street from the church.
Despite the large crowds, no passersby went into the church until Fr. Nagel opened its main doors.
The church has since held outreach efforts for the Big Ten Conference college football championship game and the National Catholic Youth Conference.
“In the future, we are prepared to do this for any major event in the city,” the priest said.
The website of St. John the Evangelist is http://www.stjohnsindy.org.
Lincoln, Neb., Jan 30, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics may have to suffer for the integrity of their institutions, Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska announced in his response to the Obama administration's contraception mandate.
“We cannot and will not comply with this unjust decree. Like the martyrs of old, we must be prepared to accept suffering which could include heavy fines and imprisonment,” Bishop Bruskewitz wrote in a letter he ordered to be read at every Sunday Mass in his diocese on Jan. 29.
“Our American religious liberty is in grave jeopardy,” he warned, describing the impact of new rules that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has instituted as part of federal health care reform.
Those rules, confirmed as final on Jan. 20, will require most religious employers to cover contraception and sterilization, including some abortion-causing drugs, in new health care plans. Sebelius has given religious groups an extra year to comply, but rejected calls for a broader exemption clause.
“This means that all of our Catholic schools, hospitals, social service agencies, and the like will be forced to participate in evil,” Bishop Bruskewitz explained.
The bishop recalled that the Church “has pleaded with President Obama to rescind this edict, but all pleas have been met with scorn and have fallen on deaf ears.”
He described Secretary Sebelius as a “bitter fallen-away Catholic,” and called her one-year deadline extension for non-exempt religious employers “an act of mockery” – because, he noted, “during that year, they must 'refer' people to the insurance that covers wicked deeds.”
A proposed U.S. Senate bill, the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” would amend the health care law to let employers opt out of covering some services. Bishop Bruskewitz urged Catholics to call their elected representatives in support of the bill, and to protest the “outrage” of the contraception mandate.
Meanwhile, he said, the faithful should “pray and do penance that this matter may be resolved.”
The bishop of Lincoln was one of a large number of U.S. Church leaders voicing alarm over the weekend, in letters distributed to parishes and read at Mass regarding the Health and Human Services order.
In the Diocese of Phoenix, Catholics heard a message from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who declared that people of faith would not be “made second-class citizens” and “stripped of their God-given rights.”
In Marquette, Michigan, Bishop Alexander K. Sample said that if the rule takes effect, “we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees and suffer the penalties for doing so.”
New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond stressed the need for action in his letter to the faithful over the weekend, as he decried the “unprecedented attack on religious liberty” by which the state was “violating our rights to make choices based on our morals and Church teaching.”
Archbishop Aymond is in Rome for meetings with Vatican officials as well as Pope Benedict XVI, who issued his own warning to the U.S. Church just before Health and Human Services finalized the mandate.
In remarks to bishops of the Mid-Atlantic states on Jan. 19, the Pope said all U.S. Catholics must “realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.”
Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2012 (CNA) - A new “Protect Our Conscience” campaign has been launched to help Catholic individuals, families, and parishes voice their opposition to the newly-confirmed federal contraception coverage mandate.
Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate, announced in a statement that his goal was “to have at least 100,000 faithful Catholics participate each month until Congress acts” to protect the rights of institutions that could be forced to cover contraception and sterilization for their employees.
“There are 17,782 parishes in the United States,” Smith noted. “If faithful Catholics were able to average 115 letters per parish to their representative and each senator, Capitol Hill would receive over six million contacts on this issue. We would send a powerful message that cannot be ignored.”
The campaign is currently seeking “parish leaders,” who will receive a set of tools designed to answer questions, facilitate letter-writing, and help raise awareness within their churches.
Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, has called on Catholics to “let your elected leaders know that you want religious liberty and rights of conscience restored and that you want the administration’s contraceptive mandate rescinded.”
Along with the reversal of the mandate, the Protect Our Conscience campaign aims to build support for the “Respect for the Rights of Conscience Act,” a bill that would amend federal health care reform to let employers opt out of covering some services.
Under the proposed legislation, health plans could “decline coverage of specific items and services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan or the purchaser or beneficiary (in the case of individual coverage) without penalty.”
Over the weekend of Jan. 28-29, a large number of U.S. bishops spoke out against the coverage mandate in letters read at Mass. The letters called for prayer and civic engagement, appealing to believers' right against state coercion in matters of faith and conscience.
Health and Human Services' contraception mandate, enacted as part of federal health care reform, has draw criticism for its narrow religious exemption, which applies only to groups that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith for the purpose of inculcating religious values.