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Archive of February 2, 2012

London designer’s style classes encourage God-given potential

London, England, Feb 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A London fashion designer is teaching young women to dress virtuously, after her brother's death made her rethink her life and career.

“I want to invest some time and love into the next generation,” said Helena Machin, who also works with high-profile clients as the creative director for a French milliner. Through her “Style Masterclasses,” she is showing women how to be “well-dressed” in every sense of the word.

“I want to have them embrace their femininity by modest and attractive dress and in doing so, fulfill their God-given potential,” Machin recently told CNA.

Helena came up with the masterclass idea after her twin brother James passed away from a terminal illness three years ago.

“He spent his life serving others, showing them the way to Christ through his heroic example, despite being unwell for a lot of the time,” she recalled. “Through his good humor and good example he brought many people back to their faith.”

Around the same time Machin discovered Opus Dei, and its emphasis on the spiritual dimension of work and everyday life. Through the teachings of the organization's founder Saint Josemaria Escriva, she grew determined to sanctify her work in the fashion industry.

In a talk given at a charity foundation on Jan. 26, the designer discussed different body types and gave tips on dressing accordingly.

Art-criticism student Amy Mulvenna, 23, said Machin teaches women to reflect their true femininity and personalities – a welcome change from the approach of magazines that can encourage “presenting yourself without respect.”

Emily Green, a 19-year-old business student at King's College in London, said the Style Masterclass “redefines the roles and distinction between men and women.”

“Women have become too manly in order to fit in the workplace,” Green observed. “This confuses the men and reasserts their position in a violent way, yet women don't expect or desire that.”

“I love Helena's approach to design,” said Green. “She has perfect terminology so you can tell she knows what she's talking about and she's on top of it, and this just captivates the audience. She believes dressing is a language, and it's so true.”

“We all want social recognition, and sometimes girls may dress just to fit in. But they don't realize they're just attracting less respect. If you don't respect yourself, others can't respect you.”

Medical student Vicky Weissmann told CNA she considered it “polite and a courtesy to others to dress well.”

According to Machin, this message of decorum works both ways.

The designer offered a tip to all young women: “If you want to be treated like a lady, dress like a lady.”

While continuing her professional work in the world of women's hats, Machin will also be giving presentations in schools and university chaplaincies. She will bring her Style Masterclass to London's Baytree Centre during the Easter season, in an intensive short course for 14 to 18-year-olds.

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World Youth Day 2013 to unveil logo

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb 2, 2012 (CNA) - The official logo for the 2013 World Youth Day in Brazil will be unveiled on Feb. 7 at the event headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.

More than 100 Brazilian bishops as well as civil authorities and public figures will attend the ceremony.

Archbishop Orani João Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro and the head of World Youth Day’s local organizing committee will introduce the creator of the logo, which was selected in a contest.

On Feb. 6, lights will illuminate Rio’s famous statue Christ the Redeemer with the colors of 150 countries whose citizens will attend World Youth Day.

The logo’s original launch date of Feb. 1 was postponed because of the collapse of two large buildings in downtown Rio on Jan. 25. The disaster killed at least 17 people.

The archbishop and World Youth Day organizers expressed their condolences to the victims and families.

The 28th World Youth Day will take place from July 23 to 28 next year.

World Youth Day symbols such as the Youth Cross and an icon of the Virgin Mary are passing through all Brazilian dioceses and the countries of the South Cone (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) to prepare for the event.

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Business leaders decry HHS contraception mandate

Washington D.C., Feb 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic leaders of both religious and secular businesses across the country are denouncing the Obama administration's contraception mandate for forcing a moral dilemma on them and negatively impacting their companies.

Jonathan Reyes, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver, said that the “horrific” decision is a “violation of conscience” that will negatively impact his ability to operate his business.

On Jan. 20, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized a “preventative services” mandate that will require virtually all employers to purchase health insurance plans that cover sterilization and contraception – including drugs that cause early abortions – at no cost to employees.

A narrow religious exemption to the mandate exists, but it applies only to organizations that restrict their service and employment primarily to members of their own faith, and exist for the purpose of inculcating religious values.

Despite an outcry from the U.S. bishops and other religious individuals and organizations who morally object to the demands of the mandate, the administration refused to broaden the religious exemption.

Reyes said that he agrees “entirely” with the bishops’ objections. By issuing the mandate, he explained, the Obama administration is actually harming the thousands of poor and needy who are aided by Catholic organizations.

According to its website, Catholic Charities in Denver serves more than 80,000 people each year through more than 40 ministries. 

“If we can’t offer our employees health care that doesn’t violate our conscience, that will impact our ability to serve those in need,” Reyes said.

“This will ultimately hurt the people we serve because it will reduce our ability to help them.”

Dr. Michael Ebertz, who is president and CEO of Skin Care Doctors, P.A., said that he is “very upset” by the ruling.

Ebertz sees the mandate as “a direct attack on the tenets of our faith and our individual freedoms and liberties.”

Ebertz, who runs five dermatology clinics in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, said that the contraception mandate places his faith in direct conflict with federal regulation.

And while he is “praying hard” for the mandate to be overturned, he is also struggling with the question of what to do if it is not.

If he is forced to violate federal regulations in order to practice his faith, Ebertz says he would see that as civil disobedience, “not going to the back of the bus, so to speak.”

He has even been wondering if, in a worst-case scenario, he would have to consider dissolving his company, which he helped found in 1998.

“I’m really at a very difficult crossroads,” he said.

Ebertz is very troubled by what he sees as the latest “broken promise” in a trend of “prejudice towards Judeo-Christian values” that has developed in the Obama administration.

A firm belief in God-given freedoms is “what separates the U.S. from other countries,” he explained.

Kevin Hostutler, CEO and president of ACGI Software, said that he faces a dilemma as a Catholic, a business owner and a citizen.

Based in Columbia, Md., Hostutler’s company creates software for professional associations throughout the country.

His company does not do business with industries that he has moral objections to, such as abortion and pornography companies.

“That’s the decision I’ve made as a business owner,” he said. “I don’t want my resources going to that.”

Hostutler is concerned that his ability to run his company according to his principles as a Catholic will be compromised by the new regulations.

Although Hostutler is not required to provide dental or vision benefits for his employees, that same reasoning does not apply to the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.

“I can’t opt out of it,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Hostutler also mentioned that he expects the mandate to financially impact companies because more services are being covered in the insurance plans they have to purchase.

“You’re boxed into a corner,” he said. “It’s definitely coercion.”

On Jan. 31, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced legislation that would protect the rights of both individuals and organizations who object to the mandate for religious reasons.

The bill would protect Catholics who run companies that are not religiously-affiliated.

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Pope to strengthen faith of Mexican Catholics, says vicar of Leon

Leon, Mexico, Feb 2, 2012 (CNA) - Monsignor Fidel Hernandez Lara, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Leon, Mexico, expressed his hope that the Pope’s upcoming visit will reawaken the country’s faith.

Pope Benedict’s visit will be an encouragement to all Mexicans, Msgr. Hernandez told CNA. It “will help to confirm us in the faith and to awaken in us greater fidelity and surrender to Jesus Christ.”
 
He called on Catholics to prepare themselves for the visit and to be open to listening to the Pope “speak to us of Jesus Christ and bring us a message. We need to be ready to hear it.”

Msgr. Hernandez recalled that the history of Mexico bears witness to the principles, values and faith of the people “who were willing to shed their blood for their faith which was being trampled upon.”
 
He noted that many of the martyrs of the 1920s cried, “Long live Christ the King,” as they were killed.

“The fact that the main celebration (the Mass at Bicentennial Park) will take place close to the monument of Christ the King is as if Christ the King was telling us today, ‘here is my vicar, standing on the land watered by the blood of the martyrs.’”
 
Pope Benedict XVI “is a great blessing for the Church in our times, with all of his pastoral and doctrinal teaching … and above all because of his fidelity to the Church and to Jesus Christ,” Msgr. Hernandez concluded.

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Archbishop Schnurr reflects on unworthiness at St. Peter’s tomb

Vatican City, Feb 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Nobody is “worthy” of the call of Christ, and yet, Jesus still calls everybody to him, Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati said at the tomb of St. Peter on Feb. 1.

Archbishop Schnurr said he often hears young men who think they are called to the priesthood exclaim, “Archbishop, I’m not worthy of that!”

“But that’s the point isn’t it?” he said, “none of us is worthy to be considered an instrument of God shaping his Church, shaping his people, making them into the livings stones upon which the Church is built.”

Yet “in humility we accept that role,” especially since anything can be achieved by a person “filled with Christ and filled with confidence in faith.”

Archbishop Schnurr was joined by 16 other bishops from the Provinces of Detroit and Cincinnati at the start of their ad limina visit to Rome. The visits take their name from the Latin phrase “ad limina apostolorum” (to the threshold of the apostles), which indicates that one of the main purposes for the visits is to pray at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Over the next six days the bishops will also meet with Pope Benedict and various Vatican departments to discuss the health of the Church in their dioceses.

As is traditional, the bishops began their visit with Mass at the tomb of St. Peter.

In his homily, Archbishop Schnurr drew inspiration from the numerous papal tombs surrounding the bishops in the crypt, which is situated below the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Today as we celebrate Mass in this crypt we realize the call to faith, the faith upon which the Church is built,” he said, noting, “we are surrounded by the mortal remains of individuals who have surrendered their life for the faith and have built up the Church in significant ways.”

He said that many saintly Popes had managed to achieve great things despite their human frailties – including St. Peter.

“We know how his faith was tested and how, in fact, Peter did fail at times.

“But ultimately he triumphed by his martyrdom for the faith,” thanks to the grace he received from Christ, Archbishop Schnurr said.

The example of St. Peter and his successors should remind the bishops that they “are not the ones who are achieving things in our own churches,” he said. Instead, they are “instruments through which Christ is working.”

The bishops will spend their first day of their ad limina in meetings with the Congregations for Bishops, Clergy, and Institutes of Consecrated Life.

The bishops were also treated on the evening of Feb. 1 to a reception at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, hosted by Ambassador Miguel Díaz.

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Religious leaders remind Europe of Christianity’s social good

Rome, Italy, Feb 2, 2012 (CNA) - The Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe and the Conference of European Churches are encouraging Christians to demonstrate the positive influence Christianity can have in the public sphere.

The churches “have the opportunity to participate in the intellectual debate and to show that the Christian faith is a force for good in society,” the councils said following their Jan. 26-28 meeting in Geneva Switzerland.

The committee discussed the situation facing Christians in a “secular and atheist” Europe, where religion “is seen as a private affair that should have not have an impact on the public sphere,” and where the secular position “is erroneously considered a neutral position.”

The leaders said the source of the spiritual crisis affecting Europe needs to be found. They encouraged Christians “to resist the temptation to diminish their presence in the public sphere, because the credibility of their testimony in the eyes of public opinion is at stake.”

On the other hand, they warned that the family in Europe is deteriorating and that the number of children born out of wedlock is increasing.

A new “internal evangelization” is urgently needed to strengthen the faith of Christians and reinforce “external evangelization,” they said.

The Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe and the Conference of European Churches have met each year since 1972 for ecumenical dialogue and discussion on the work of evangelization.

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Komen's Planned Parenthood decision prompts tentative pro-life praise

Denver, Colo., Feb 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Abortion opponents have praised Susan G. Komen for the Cure's decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood, but they remain cautious on lending support to the breast cancer charity.

Eve Sanchez Silver, founder of International Coalition of Color for Life, told CNA that “God is served whenever funding is cut to the human abattoirs of Planned Parenthood.”

But Silver, who spent four years on Komen's Hispanic Latina Advisory Council before quitting over its funding of Planned Parenthood, says she is “cautious” and believes Komen “will most likely choose to continue funding” the abortion provider in the long run.

Under recently adopted policies, Susan G. Komen for the Cure will no longer fund organizations that are under government investigation. The category includes Planned Parenthood, the subject of a congressional inquiry over financial irregularities and possible involvement with criminal acts.

In a Feb. 1 statement, Susan G. Komen for the Cure said there was no “political” motivation behind the choice to de-fund the abortion provider. They said their “more stringent eligibility standards” were meant to “safeguard donor dollars” and “free up dollars for direct services to help vulnerable women.”

“We regret that these new policies have impacted some longstanding grantees, such as Planned Parenthood, but want to be absolutely clear that our decision is not about politics,” the foundation stated.

Janet Morana, who co-founded the Silent No More Awareness Campaign to help post-abortive women, appreciates Komen's decision but told CNA that “it's a little too soon to be writing checks” to the cancer charity.

Morana would like to see Komen take a stronger position on the link between abortion and breast cancer. She said Komen's previous Planned Parenthood grants were “nonsensical” and akin to “the American Lung Association donating to a tobacco manufacturer.”

The cancer charity takes the position that evidence “does not support a link between abortion and breast cancer.” But Komen acknowledges that “some case-control studies have suggested abortion may increase the risk” of the disease.

But Morana says an “uncanny” number of post-abortive women have suffered from the condition. She shares the view of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, which describes abortion as “the single most avoidable risk factor for breast cancer.”

Pro-life activist Lila Rose, whose Live Action group filmed undercover investigations of Planned Parenthood, released a statement praising Susan G. Komen for the Cure for its “pro-woman decision.”

Rose said the nonprofit's money was “better spent elsewhere,” since “not a single Planned Parenthood even has the equipment to do a mammogram.”

The Family Research Council agreed, praising the charity for a new policy that would “only award grants to organizations that actually do mammograms.”

The group noted that Komen's alliance with Planned Parenthood was an “unlikely” pairing, “with one group setting out to save lives, and Planned Parenthood dedicated to ending them.”

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New Vatican exhibition reaches for the stars

Vatican City, Feb 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican’s Observatory is helping organize an exhibition that will delve into the history of the universe at both the human and celestial levels.
 
“Stories from another world: The universe inside and outside us,” will run from March 10 to July 1 in the Italian city of Pisa.
 
“This exhibition will tell the story of the universe outside us, the galaxies and stars, and the universe that is within us,” explained Jesuit Father José Gabriel Funes, Director of the Vatican Observatory, in remarks to CNA on Feb. 2.

The exhibition was announced at the Vatican’s press office this morning. It is being organized in conjunction with the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics, Pisa University and the “Palazzo Blu” cultural foundation, which will host the event at their headquarters in Pisa.

“The history of the universe could not be told without our ‘small’ human stories,” said Fr. Funes, a 49-year-old Argentinean priest and astronomer. He believes the city of Pisa has “a privileged place” in this story about the “intersection of cosmic history and human history.”

Pisa is the birthplace of the famous astronomer Galileo Galilei, but it is also the hometown of Cardinal Pietro Maffi. He was both archbishop of the city and president of the Vatican Observatory in the early 20th century.

“Cardinal Maffi lived a dual existence: the world of the Church and that of science,” said Fr. Funes, explaining how the cardinal always saw “an opportunity for cooperation and growth between these two aspects of human experience,” since they work in harmony “in the search for the deeper meaning of human existence.”

Fr. Funes stressed that the complementarity of faith and science is a message Pope Benedict XVI is particularly keen to impart to young people.

He recalled that in 2010 the Pope encouraged school children in the United Kingdom to remember that “every subject you study is part of a broader horizon.”

With that perspective in mind, Fr. Funes said the exhibition will be aimed at young people. It will attempt to “make complex and difficult knowledge accessible, while at the same time avoiding the risk of superficiality.”
 
Cosimo Bracci Torsi, the President of the “Palazzo Blu” Foundation, told journalists that the event “is the outcome of fruitful collaboration between lay scientists and religious scientists – all members of scientific institutions of great prestige but with very different origins.”

And he promised that the exhibition will include “spectacular images, instruments and exhibits, such as Lunar and Martian minerals.” Torsi said visitors will embark “on a fascinating journey which begins in the solar system and our material nature, reaching the stars of this and other galaxies, up to the spatial and temporal confines of the universe and of our current knowledge.”

Today’s announcement comes only two weeks after Pope Benedict established a new foundation aimed at building a “philosophical bridge” between science and theology. The Science and Faith Foundation will be headquartered within the Vatican, under the auspices of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
 
“Catholics must see in the cosmos a gift from God,” explained Fr. Funes, adding that everybody, Catholic or otherwise, can clearly “admire the beauty in the universe, the cosmos, beauty that somehow leads us to the beauty of the creator.”

“Also, because God has endowed us with intelligence and reason, we can find the logos, the rational explanation in the universe that allows us to do science ... and which also explains to us the creative plan of God.”

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Pope reflects on Christ, the light of the world

Vatican City, Feb 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI marked the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord with vespers and explained that the presentation of Jesus in the temple reveals Christ as the light of the world.

“In the encounter between the old man Simeon and Mary, a young mother, the Old and New Testaments come together in a wondrous way in giving thanks for the gift of the light that shone in the darkness and has prevented it from prevailing: Christ the Lord.”

The Pope presided over solemn vespers at St Peter’s basilica for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Feb. 2. 

The feast recalls the occasion when Mary and Joseph, in observance of Jewish custom, presented their first born son to the priest in the temple in Jerusalem 40 days after his birth.

There they were met by the old priest Simeon who was promised that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” It is he who declared the infant to be “the light to enlighten the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”  

This “ritual act” of the parents of Jesus is in the “style of humble obscurity that characterizes the Incarnation of the Son of God,” said the Pope. 

He noted that the feast is “one of the cases in which the liturgical season reflects the historical because today is precisely 40 days from the feast of Christmas.”

“The theme of Christ the Light, which has characterized the series of Christmas feasts and culminated in the Feast of the Epiphany, is taken up and extended to the celebration today.”

Indeed, one of the traditional names given to today’s feast is “Candlemas” denoting the blessing of candles which often takes place and the candlelit procession that begins and concludes the liturgy of vespers.

Pope Benedict also noted that today is the World Day for Consecrated Life. The term “consecrated” applies to those Christians who have taken public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Many monks, nuns and others who live consecrated lives were present in St. Peter’s basilica for vespers.

The Pope told them that the presentation of Jesus “is a significant icon” for those who serve both Church and world “through the evangelical counsels, the characteristic traits of Jesus, chaste, poor and obedient, the Anointed of the Father.”

He recalled how the day had been instituted by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1987 to give “praise and thanks to the Lord for the gift of this state of life, which belongs to the Church’s holiness.”

He also said that the day is an occasion for those who live the consecrated life to give “testimony” to the world and to “renew and revitalize” their own vocation.

“This we do today, this is the commitment that you are called to carry out every day of your life,” he told them. 

He concluded by looking ahead to his Year of Faith which begins in October 2012. He told those living the consecrated life that the “most important and distinctive element” of their existence was their “deep closeness to the Lord” and that this would have a “positive influence” on everybody during the Year of Faith.

His hope was that they will “engage enthusiastically in the new evangelization,” through “the contribution of your gifts, in fidelity to the Magisterium, in order to be witnesses of faith and of grace, credible witnesses for the Church and for the world today.”

 

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Obama, Metaxas call for authentic religion at prayer breakfast

Washington D.C., Feb 2, 2012 (CNA) - The need for a genuine faith that translates into action was the theme chosen by both President Obama and keynote speaker Eric Metaxas at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast in the nation’s capital.

The breakfast, which was held in the district’s Hilton Hotel on Feb. 2, attracted more than 3,000 guests.

“We can’t leave our values at the door,” President Obama said, highlighting the importance of having a faith that is lived out “not just with words, but with deeds.”

The president stated that the values of his Christian faith motivate the decisions he makes in office.

As a Christian, he said, his economic policies coincide with the biblical principle of “requiring much from those who have been given so much.”

He also cast his efforts to “prevent atrocities” in other countries and “take on issues like human trafficking” as being “about the biblical call to care for the least of these.”

President Obama added that his administration is “linking arms with faith-based groups,” such as Catholic Charities, to work towards “strengthening adoption” and serving those “who are struggling with poverty,” among other initiatives. 

At the same time, he said, “our personal religious beliefs alone can’t dictate our response to every challenge we face.”

Absent from the president’s speech was any mention of a recent mandate issued by his administration which many religious organizations say violates their freedom of conscience.

Keynote speaker Eric Metaxas asserted that it is not enough to simply pay lip-service to Christian ideas without actually living them out.

Metaxas, the acclaimed author of two New York Times bestselling biographies, delivered a humorous speech that contrasted “phony religiosity” with “real faith in God.”

He warned of those who use impressive language and quote Scripture to justify actions that violate the teachings of Jesus, saying that this is a sign of a “dead religion.”

The claim to be Christian will “mean absolutely nothing” if it is not lived out, because real faith “must change your life and the lives of others,” he said.

True faith is not “some moral code,” but rather, it is a relationship with God that leads to action.

Metaxas recalled the heroic lives of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the subjects of his bestselling biographies.

Motivated by a true faith, they fought to defend the slaves in America and Jews in Germany, respectively, during times when they were not considered human.

“Who do we say is not fully human today?” Metaxas asked the audience, later adding that “those of us who know the unborn to be human beings are commanded by God to love those who do not yet see that.”

The real difference between true faith and dead religiosity, he said, is the ability to love one’s enemies.

Metaxas challenged his audience to allow their lives to be changed by embracing true faith and authentic prayer, which does not consist in empty words but comes “from the heart.”

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