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Archive of March 7, 2012

Holy See calls attention to plight of rural women

New York City, N.Y., Mar 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

In a March 6 address, the Vatican’s delegation to the United Nations highlighted the important role of women in society and advocated for the rights of suffering rural women around the world.

“Full respect must be accorded to the dignity of women, which is grounded in the very nature of being human and from which flow both rights and responsibilities,” said Dianne Willman, attaché at the Holy See Mission, in an address to the fifty-sixth session of the U.N.’s  Commission on the Status of Women.

Willman delivered the March 6 statement on behalf of Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

She acknowledged that rural women account for a significant portion of the world’s population and that the obstacles confronting these women are often great.

In addition to facing challenges such as hunger and poverty, rural women often suffer from limited healthcare access, poor nutrition, lack of water, discrimination and exposure to violence, she said.

Rural women are frequently subjected to “deplorable” working situations, including long hours of work without pay and unhygienic conditions.

Willman also underscored how they are sometimes forced to migrate to urban settings or other countries in order to survive, she said. While this move may mark a “real opportunity” for some women, it can also lead to exploitation and abuse for those who are most vulnerable. 

These challenges can impede their ability to care for themselves and their families, and can have far-reaching negative consequences, since rural women often serve as “caregivers in the family and the broader community,” she told the committee.

Helping rural women, Willman said, will therefore play an important role in solving some of the “most serious global challenges” by easing problems of child neglect and strengthening the family, which is the most fundamental unit of society.

The Holy See attaché called for “ongoing reflection on the essential role of women in society,” adding that women “should be given the recognition that is due to them” and should be able “to make an impact on the world around them.”

She observed that poverty and hunger are often largely brought about by “unfair social and political systems” that deny women the opportunity to have “a voice in decisions that affect them.”

She also highlighted the need for men to cooperate in implementing “an authentic human-centered approach” to overcoming prejudice and reducing suffering among rural women.

Willman urged the current session of the Commission on the Status of Women to be used as an opportunity to share experiences and develop practices that will aid women. Both national and international stakeholders should work towards policies that free suffering women from “oppressive circumstances,” she added.

Emphasizing the importance of human dignity, Willman reiterated the Vatican’s commitment to protecting the most poor and vulnerable members of society and to “contributing to the common good of all.”

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Bishops urge diplomacy with Iran versus military action

Washington D.C., Mar 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The U.S. bishops are calling for diplomatic efforts rather than military action in addressing concerns over the possible development of nuclear weapons in Iran.

“In Catholic teaching, the use of force must always be a last resort,” said Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

He urged the U.S. government to “explore all available options to resolve the conflict with Iran through diplomatic, rather than military, means.”

In a March 2 letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Bishop Pates expressed “profound concerns” about Iran’s “lack of transparency” and refusal to allow international inspectors to access its nuclear facilities.

This behavior, along with the country’s failure to acknowledge its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, raises suspicions that it may be developing its nuclear capabilities for the production of weapons rather than merely energy, he said.

Noting an “alarming escalation in rhetoric and tensions,” the bishop said that he is particularly troubled by recent speculation on the use of force against Iran, including a possible Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Due to the lack of immediate threat against the U.S. or our allies, current military action “would constitute an act of preventive war,” he cautioned.

He explained that the Church teaches that engaging in a preventive war without “clear proof” of an imminent attack raises “serious” moral questions.

Although there are reasons for concern in Iran, military action cannot be justified before exhausting all alternatives, he said.

These alternatives include “effective and targeted sanctions” in addition to the ones that are currently in place and “incentives for Iran to engage in diplomacy” and cooperate with international inspectors.

Bishops Pates said that the suggestion of military action “is unwise and may be counterproductive.” Even the perceived threat of a military strike will likely strengthen the current regime in Iran and isolate those who wish to cooperate with international standards, he said.

The bishop recalled the recent statement by Iran’s supreme leader that the country is not pursuing nuclear weapons because it considers the possession of them a sin and believes holding such weapons would be “useless, harmful and dangerous.” He called on Iran to back these words up with actions by allowing international inspectors to access the country’s nuclear facilities.

Observing that Iran poses a “significant threat” to global security, Bishop Pates said that the situation should be viewed in light of the broader goal of “a just and peaceful world built on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.”

“A morally responsible nonproliferation strategy must be tied to a clear strategy for reducing and ultimately ending the reliance on nuclear weapons by any country,” he said.

The bishops believe that nuclear weapons violate just war principles of “proportionality and discrimination in the use of force,” he explained, adding that the U.S. bishops’ conference has previously voiced objections to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, believing that it would destabilize the already fragile region and hinder nonproliferation efforts.   

Bishop Pates pointed to Pope Benedict XVI’s call for “tireless efforts” towards a “negotiated solution” in Iran that satisfies both “the legitimate demands of the country and of the international community.”

He called on the Obama administration to focus on engaging Iran in ways “that reduce the threat of nuclear non-proliferation while maintaining stability in the Middle East.”

“In Catholic teaching, the use of force must always be a last resort,” said Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

He urged the U.S. government to “explore all available options to resolve the conflict with Iran through diplomatic, rather than military, means.”

In a March 2 letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Bishop Pates expressed “profound concerns” about Iran’s “lack of transparency” and refusal to allow international inspectors to access its nuclear facilities.

This behavior, along with the country’s failure to acknowledge its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, raises suspicions that it may be developing its nuclear capabilities for the production of weapons rather than merely energy, he said.

Noting an “alarming escalation in rhetoric and tensions,” the bishop said that he is particularly troubled by recent speculation on the use of force against Iran, including a possible Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Due to the lack of immediate threat against the U.S. or our allies, current military action “would constitute an act of preventive war,” he cautioned.

He explained that the Church teaches that engaging in a preventive war without “clear proof” of an imminent attack raises “serious” moral questions.

Although there are reasons for concern in Iran, military action cannot be justified before exhausting all alternatives, he said.

These alternatives include “effective and targeted sanctions” in addition to the ones that are currently in place and “incentives for Iran to engage in diplomacy” and cooperate with international inspectors.

Bishops Pates said that the suggestion of military action “is unwise and may be counterproductive.” Even the perceived threat of a military strike will likely strengthen the current regime in Iran and isolate those who wish to cooperate with international standards, he said.

The bishop recalled the recent statement by Iran’s supreme leader that the country is not pursuing nuclear weapons because it considers the possession of them a sin and believes holding such weapons would be “useless, harmful and dangerous.” He called on Iran to back these words up with actions by allowing international inspectors to access the country’s nuclear facilities.

Observing that Iran poses a “significant threat” to global security, Bishop Pates said that the situation should be viewed in light of the broader goal of “a just and peaceful world built on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.”

“A morally responsible nonproliferation strategy must be tied to a clear strategy for reducing and ultimately ending the reliance on nuclear weapons by any country,” he said.

The bishops believe that nuclear weapons violate just war principles of “proportionality and discrimination in the use of force,” he explained, adding that the U.S. bishops’ conference has previously voiced objections to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, believing that it would destabilize the already fragile region and hinder nonproliferation efforts.   

Bishop Pates pointed to Pope Benedict XVI’s call for “tireless efforts” towards a “negotiated solution” in Iran that satisfies both “the legitimate demands of the country and of the international community.”

He called on the Obama administration to focus on engaging Iran in ways “that reduce the threat of nuclear non-proliferation while maintaining stability in the Middle East.”

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Hawaii lawsuit shows civil unions help redefine marriage

Honolulu, Hawaii, Mar 7, 2012 (CNA) -

A Hawaiian lawsuit asking a federal court to instate “gay marriage” shows that the recognition of same-sex domestic partnerships and civil unions is just a stepping stone to redefining marriage, several critics say.

“Same-sex unions and domestic partnerships are never a compromise, because they’re creating pseudo-marriages which confuse and undermine the understanding of young people about what marriage is all about,” William B. May, president of the California-based Catholics for the Common Good, told CNA March 6.

Hawaiian Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said he will not defend several parts of a state law defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman against a legal challenge from a same-sex couple living on east Oahu.

He said he agrees with their December lawsuit’s charge that not granting marriage rights to homosexual partners violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

The suit also claims that the state’s new civil unions law, which took effect Jan. 1, is unequal because an opposite-sex couple may contract a marriage or a civil union, while a same-sex couple may only contract a civil union.

May said the legal challenge is similar to that mounted in California based on its domestic partnership laws.

California Supreme Court judges reasoned that since same-sex couples “already had the rights and privileges of marriage, but not the word, then the word was important for equal treatment,” May said.

“Going the domestic partnership and civil union route is just a stepping stone to the civil redefinition of marriage,” May stated.

The Hawaii Family Forum, represented by lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund, is petitioning for permission to intervene against the legal challenge.

“Society should protect and strengthen marriage, not undermine it as this lawsuit clearly seeks to do,” Holly Carmichael, Alliance Defense Fund litigation counsel, said March 2.

“Anyone who believes so-called ‘civil unions’ will preserve marriage need only look at this lawsuit and countless others. Civil unions are a Trojan Horse used by activists to undermine marriage, not protect it,” she said.

“Hawaii’s marriage statute and constitutional amendment uphold marriage, and we are seeking to give those protections an adequate defense.”

James Hochberg, an ADF-allied attorney who is local counsel or the Hawaii Family Forum, said Hawaii has been fighting against the redefinition of marriage since 1993.

“Our state should not now succumb to demands that we ignore marriage as society’s time-tested way to bless as many children as possible with both a mom and a dad. Marriage expresses the truth that men and women bring distinct, irreplaceable gifts to family life.”

May also emphasized the need to recognize the reality of marriage between a man and a woman.

Marriage, he said, “creates an institution that unites kids with their moms and dads.”

“When it’s redefined merely as a committed relationship, there is no longer any public institution that connects kids with their moms and dads.”

Under these circumstances, he warned, “it becomes discriminatory to promote that unique relationship, to promote men and women marrying before they have children. They have to be taught in schools that there is no relationship between marriage and children and family.”

May observed that when same-sex unions are legally equivalent to marriage, “gay rights groups maintain that it’s discriminatory to promote one kind of family over another or to promote one kind of relationship over another.”

For those who believe public policy and school curriculum should promote “the unique relationship between a man and a woman,” the proposal for civil unions or domestic partnerships is “really no compromise.”

The consequences of not promoting marriage are already apparent and “horrendous,” he added, citing statistics showing that unmarried births to women under 30 are now a majority.

“More and more children are deprived of fathers. This is wrong. We need to promote the unique value that marriage brings to our society,” May said.

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Vice President Biden moved by visit to Guadalupe basilica

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 7, 2012 (CNA) -

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is Catholic, visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City where he prayed before the miraculous image and recalled how devoted his mother was to the Patroness of America.

Vice President Biden arrived the evening of March 6, accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Wayne. Placing flowers before the image, he knelt down to pray for a few minutes and afterward took out a white handkerchief to wipe tears from his eyes.

In comments to reporters, an emotional Biden said, “My mother was very devoted to the Blessed Mother. She taught her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother and I regret that she’s not here with us.”

Biden is on a tour of Mexico and Honduras to promote regional cooperation in an effort to bolster security and fight drug trafficking.

Earlier he had met with the three leading candidates of the presidential race in Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Enrique Pena Nieto and Josefina Vazquez Mota. He also held a private meeting with current President Felipe Calderon.

“I’d rather not talk about the candidates,” he said in response to questions by reporters. “I had a wonderful day with the candidates, but I had a better day here. I would have come just for this. It’s a great treasure.”  

The Vice President was escorted on his visit to the basilica by the rector, Msgr. Eugenio Glennier and by Msgrs. Eduardo Chavez and Pedro Tapia.

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Noisy world is enemy of prayer, says Pope Benedict

Vatican City, Mar 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The constant noise that accompanies modern life is an enemy of God’s word being heard in prayer, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“Interior and exterior silence are necessary in order to hear that Word,” and yet, “our age does not, in fact, favor reflection and contemplation,” the Pope said March 7. On the contrary, “it seems that people are afraid to detach themselves, even for an instant, from the spate of words and images which mark and fill our days.”

The Pope was addressing over 10,000 pilgrims who gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience. This was the first audience of the year held in the open air. It was also the last in the Pope’s series of catecheses on the personal prayer of Jesus.

Today, his particular focus was on Christ’s silence on the cross, as well as the need for silence in our own prayer.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is repeatedly “withdrawing alone to a place far from the crowds, even from his own disciples, where he can pray in silence,” he observed.

The “great patristic tradition,” the Pope said, also teaches Christians that “the mysteries of Christ are linked to silence, and only in silence can the Word find a place to dwell within us.”

He then explained to the pilgrims that this “principle” of silence “holds true for individual prayer” and for Catholic liturgies, which, “to facilitate authentic listening, must also be rich in moments of silence and of non verbal acceptance.”

Silence has “the capacity to open a space in our inner being, a space in which God can dwell, which can ensure that his word remains within us, and that love for him is rooted in our minds and hearts, and animates our lives,” taught the Pope.

Even when people feel “a sense of abandonment” in the silence of prayer, and they worry that “God does not listen and does not respond,” Pope Benedict said that they should be reassured that “this silence, as happened to Jesus, does not signify absence.”

“Christians know that the Lord is present and listens,” the Pope assured, “even in moments of darkness and pain, of rejection and solitude.”

This is why the prayer of Jesus, as recounted in the Gospels, “is a reminder that we need to stop, to experience moments of intimacy with God, ‘detaching ourselves’ from the turmoil of daily life in order to listen.” In doing so, we return “to the ‘root’ which nourishes and sustains our existence.”

Pope Benedict then quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church as he reflected on Jesus’ silent prayer reaching its apex during his passion and death on Golgotha.

During that time of suffering, when “his cry to the Father from the cross encapsulated ‘all the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history are summed up in this cry of the incarnate Word,’” he said.

“Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them by raising his son,” he concluded. “Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation.”

Pope Benedict then addressed the pilgrims in various languages before leading them in the singing of the Our Father in Latin and imparting his apostolic blessing.

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Hackers allegedly crash Vatican website

Rome, Italy, Mar 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - An affiliate of the loose-knit hacker group Anonymous has claimed it attacked and took down the Vatican’s website on March 7.
 
The website www.vatican.va went down at about 3 p.m. Rome time.

The Vatican’s internet office and its spokesman have not yet released a statement about the alleged hacker attack.

An entry on the blog of Anonymous Italy said the attack was in response to the “doctrines, liturgies and the absurd and anachronistic precepts” that the Church spreads worldwide. It cited the sexual abuse of children, various historical and alleged misdeeds, and Church “interference” in Italian daily life and public policy as motives for the digital assault.

The hackers also objected to the Catholic stance against abortion and contraceptives.

They claimed the attack was not on the Christian religion or the Christian faithful but targeted the “corrupt Roman Apostolic Church.”

In August 2011, a faction of Anonymous unsuccessfully tried to attack the website of World Youth Day during the international Catholic event.

That campaign tried to recruit others to take part in the attack using YouTube videos, Twitter, and Facebook. It similarly cited clergy sex abuse as a motive, but also attacked Catholic practices like confession to priests.

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Bishops decry religious education cuts in Argentina province

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 7, 2012 (CNA) - Bishops in Argentina's Salta province criticized a local court ruling banning Catholic religious education in public schools, arguing that it should be available for those who want it.

“We are not saying that all children should be taught the Catholic religion but rather that all children should be allowed to receive religious education, or to opt out of it, according to the decision of their parents,” the bishops said on March 5.

In his ruling, appeals court Judge Marcelo Dominguez banned Catholic practices such as classroom prayers, grace before meals, the reading of the Bible and the celebration of Catholic feasts.

The bishops stressed that expression of one’s faith privately or publicly is a right that cannot be curtailed as long as it “does not obstruct legitimate activities, such as the functioning of institutions, and does not constitute a imposition or a denial of the rights of others.”

“It is the duty of the public school to respect and creatively pass on the culture and identity of a people,” the bishops said.

They underscored that parents and children have a right to religious education, and that public schools have a duty to provide it.

“Religious convictions are a positive factor in personal and social life,” they said. “In a pluralistic society and within the framework of religious freedom, the contents of religious education in schools should be adapted to the convictions of parents.”

The bishops' statement was published by the AICA news agency and was signed by Archbishop Mario Cargnello of Salta, Bishop Marcelo Colombo of Oran, Bishop Mariano Moreno of Cafayate and Bishop Pedro Olmedo Rivero of Humahuaca.

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God's word trumps popular opinion, archbishop teaches

Rome, Italy, Mar 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishops should imitate St. Peter as leaders of the Church by following the word of God instead of shifting popular opinion, said Archbishop Jerome G. Hanus of Dubuque, Iowa.

“According to Jesus' words, a leader in the manner of Peter must be solid as a rock, he cannot be fickle, he cannot change with the winds of popularity, he must subject himself to God’s word,” the archbishop said at St. Peter’s tomb on March 7.

Archbishop Hanus is one of 21 bishops from Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas who are beginning their “ad limina apostolurum” (to the threshold of the apostles) visit in Rome.

The visit kicked off with an early morning Mass on March 7 in St. Peter’s Basilica. Over the next six days they will meet with the Pope and Vatican officials to discuss the health of the Church in each of their dioceses.

Archbishop Hanus preached about Matthew 16:18, in which Christ proclaimed “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.” He noted how “Jesus assigns the leadership responsibility to Peter only after Peter proclaims his faith in Jesus,” adding that “any leader must begin service by professing faith in Jesus.”

He also said that the way Peter “did not choose to be a leader” is still the way leadership is given in the Church today. It still comes as “a gift, a call from Christ.”

In terms of the papacy, “what Jesus entrusted to Peter is entrusted to the successors of Peter – the bishops of Rome – and in our day to Pope Benedict XVI,” he explained. This is because since the days of the early Church “someone had to decide” on matters of faith and morals. 

“According to the meaning of today’s Gospel, that responsibility of ultimate decision was given by Jesus to Peter and his successors.”

This is why Christians, and particularly Catholics, have always “understood that Peter’s leadership role in the Church is so essential, it is an essential component of the Church,” he said.

“It is part of what we believe, what we profess in our faith.”

Like any leadership role in the Church, it is also a ministry based on service, so that “episcopal leadership, papal leadership, is for Christians and particularly for us Catholics a source of appreciation, assurance, guidance, peaceful acceptance.”

The bishops’ schedule for today also included a meeting with the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. This evening they will be guests of honor at a reception hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

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