Atlanta, Ga., Jun 8, 2012 (CNA) - The Atlanta-area St. Catherine of Siena Church is producing a movie called “Five Blocks Away” to tell the story of a young man focused on his career and his social life when new experiences force him to search for “what really matters in life.”
Kevis Antonio, the movie’s writer, described “Five Blocks Away” in an introduction on YouTube. He predicted that it will have “an incredible power to positively impact an immeasurable number of people in this country.”
Executive producer Richard Martin said the movie is about a young man who is more concerned about worldly status. The man recognizes that he is “making mistakes” and is “living in that worldly life of greed and power and wanting more.”
“But he eventually learns through compassion, through understanding of another, of a woman he falls in love with.”
Martin said the moviemakers want “Five Blocks Away” to be “something that Christians around the world will rally around and say ‘that is a message that I want my son or daughter to see.’”
It is intended for a young adult audience.
Antonio said he started to think about making a movie after years of hearing others ask why the Catholic Church doesn’t make any movies and why Hollywood doesn’t make movies for Catholics.
He said the movie is “unprecedented” because it is the first to be produced by a Catholic church.
Fr. John Matejek, the pastor of St. Catherine of Siena in Kennesaw, Ga., said the parish decided to produce the film to “inspire” people to love Jesus Christ.
“We’re all excited about this,” he said. “We are so excited, we can’t wait.”
Antonio’s previous work includes the documentary “Bread of Life,” a selection of the John Paul II International Film Festival that was aired on EWTN Global Catholic Television Network. Martin was a producer for “Bread of Life” and is a career educator.
The filmmakers are soliciting small donors over the internet with the goal of raising $550,000. They are also asking supporters to tell others about the movie, especially through social media.
The filmmakers hope to release the movie in 2013.
The movie’s website is http://www.fiveblocksawaymovie.com.
Karachi, Pakistan, Jun 8, 2012 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Pakistan are giving their “full solidarity and support” to Asma Jahangir, a human rights advocate in Pakistan who says her life is being threatened by factions in the country’s ruling establishment and intelligence services.
Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, praised Jahangir’s commitment to “freedom of expression, legality for religious minorities, democracy and the rule of law,” Fides reports.
Jahangir is the founder and former president of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a non-governmental organization that is represented in the United Nations Council for Human Rights.
She told Deutche Welle that “extremely reliable” sources have told her that some in the government, including the Inter-Services Intelligence security agency, have planned to kill her.
“I am a very responsible person, and I do not usually make these kinds of allegations,” she said. “I have been threatened many times in my life but I never went to the police and never made any hue and cry about it. I believe now it is my duty to speak up and say what is needed to be said.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has expressed “serious concern” about the allegations and has appealed to the international community.
The threats are mainly due to Jahangir’s recent commitment to issues in the West Pakistan province of Baluchistan, a site of rebellion where the armed forces have allegedly committed acts of lawlessness and abuse for some time, Fides news agency says.
Jahangir has denounced abductions, disappearances and extrajudicial killings of Baluchistan activists. Over 2,000 people are missing, and 550 terrorist acts have taken place in recent years. More than 100,000 people have fled because of the disorder.
Catholic lawyer Naeem Shaker called for the condemnation of “any form of intimidation, violence and oppression” against those committed to human rights in Baluchistan.
Rome, Italy, Jun 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Organizers for the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janerio announced that the official song for the event will be released on July 22.
Father Leandro Lenin, a member of the organizing committee, said in a post on the event's official website, “Without a doubt, the face of Rio de Janeiro, and the face of the Church in Brazil will be present in the song.”
The “memorable” song will be presented during the July 20 – 22 “Pre-World Youth Day,” which will host hundreds of young people at a Rio de Janerio gymnasium.
Judges are now in the final phase of selecting the top 20 lyrical submissions, which were drawn from a field of 180 entries received during a six-month contest.
The lyrics were judged based on their creativity, spiritual values, harmony, composition and connection with the theme of WYD 2013, which is taken from the Gospel of Matthew, “Go and make disciples of the nations.”
The jury selecting the winning entry is made up of a variety of music professionals, including professional recording artists and music professors. It also includes members of the World Youth Day committee who will review the religious and doctrinal content of the lyrics.
“Everything that comes to us goes through an evaluation process, mainly in the area of doctrine and matters of faith,” Fr. Lenin said, “but the creative process of those who are submitting lyrics is being respected.”
Once the World Youth Day lyrics are chosen, they will “go through a process of approval and adjustments for the big debut,” he explained.
The winning submission will be put to a melody by the World Youth Day Rio organizers.
Rockville Centre, N.Y., Jun 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Diocese of Rockville Centre on New York’s Long Island will receive two new auxiliary bishops following Pope Benedict XVI’s appointment of two priests who will be ordained for the diocese.
Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre welcomed the appointments.
“I wish to express my fervent thanks to the Holy Father for responding so quickly to my request for two auxiliary bishops to help me pastor this fifth largest diocese in our nation,” he said at a June 8 press conference with the bishops-designate.
“Dear friends, this is great news. We thank the Lord and his Blessed Mother. Praised be Jesus Christ!”
The bishops-to-be are Monsignor John Brennan of the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Monsignor Nelson J. Perez of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
“I hope and pray I am up to the task,” Bishop-Designate Brennan said. “I would like to especially thank the Holy Father who has extended this call to serve the Lord in a new way. I ask your prayers that I may offer to the Lord and you my joyful, humble loving service.”
Bishop-designate Perez addressed Bishop Murphy and the faithful of the diocese.
“I come to all of you with a deep love for the Lord, his Church, and a profound love for the priesthood, that I received as a wonderful gift 23 years ago,” he said.
“I am filled with excitement and enthusiasm to get to know my brother priests, deacons, religious and faithful of this great diocese and learn all I can possibly learn to serve you, with the grace of God, to the very best of my ability.”
Bishop-designate Brennan was born in New York on June 7, 1962 and ordained a priest in 1989. He has been a pastor in several parishes and served as private secretary to bishops of Rockville Centre. He has also served as vicar-general of the Diocese of Rockville Centre since 2002 and will continue in that position.
Bishop-designate Perez was born in Miami, Florida on June 16, 1961 and was ordained a priest in 1989. His parents were immigrants from Cuba. He has served at several Philadelphia-area parishes and taught at La Salle University and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He also worked in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Hispanic Catholics.
He will serve as vicar for the Rockville Centre diocese’s Eastern Region, filling the role of Bishop Peter Libasci who now heads the Diocese of Manchester in New Hampshire.
Bishop Murphy praised the new bishops.
“God has blessed this Diocese with good and holy priests and now two new auxiliary bishops, one a native son, the second, a Cuban American,” he said.
Bishop-designate Perez prayed “in a special way” for the Catholic Church in Philadelphia, which is witnessing severe financial difficulties and the trial of a senior church official accused of conspiracy and child endangerment for allegedly transferring sexually abusive priests to new parishes.
The bishop-designate prayed that God grant the archdiocese “the grace, the healing, and the wisdom to face the many challenges that it confronts.”
Bishop Murphy will ordain the new bishops at St. Agnes Cathedral on July 25.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre presently has two auxiliaries, Bishops John Dunne and Paul Walsh, who are both just months away from the retirement age of 75.
The diocese has 1.7 million Catholics in a population of 3.5 million, making it the fifth largest diocese in the U.S. It has 133 parishes, 369 priests, over 800 vowed religious, and 250 permanent deacons.
Pittsburgh, Pa., Jun 8, 2012 (CNA) - The Catholic Church has challenged the U.S. government's contraception mandate to protect faith, not to influence politics, Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik explained in a June 7 USA Today editorial.
“These lawsuits have nothing to do with politics,” the Pittsburgh bishop wrote. “We did not pick this fight nor this timing during a presidential election year. The government chose to impose this on us now.”
“In fact, the lawsuits take the issue out of partisan politics and place it before courts that exist to protect our constitutional freedoms. These lawsuits ask that religious freedoms be recognized and respected as they were before the mandate.”
On May 21, 43 Catholic dioceses and organizations announced lawsuits against the mandate – which requires employers to provide health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs, regardless of their moral objections. Eleven similar lawsuits had been filed previously.
In his editorial, Bishop Zubik highlighted the Obama administration's refusal to broaden an exemption for groups with religiously-rooted objections to the rule.
“The only church-sponsored organizations exempted are those that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith,” he noted. “This means that none of our social service agencies – hospitals, universities, free health clinics and soup kitchens – would be exempt.”
And despite the president's talk of a further “accommodation” for faith-based organizations, “the mandate remains firmly in place,” with ministries expected to come into compliance by August 2013.
Bishop Zubik stressed that representatives of the Catholic Church “already have” tried to negotiate with the administration.
“But what exactly can we negotiate when it comes to religious freedom already guaranteed by the Constitution?” he asked. “Why are we now forced to concede to the government religious freedom that has always been guaranteed by the Constitution?”
Some critics have suggested that the bishops are challenging the mandate as a political move against the Obama administration. But Bishop Zubik stressed that the Church was not acting on a partisan agenda.
The Church, he said, had been forced to defend its rights, and those of others, against an unwanted attack.
“The Church cannot be forced to violate its own sacred beliefs,” he stated. “To do so starkly contradicts everything we have been taught and know about religious freedom in the United States.”
Warsaw, Poland, Jun 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is urging those participating in soccer’s 2012 European Championship to promote “noble human values” during the tournament which begins on June 8.
“I encourage all those involved to work to ensure that this event is experienced as an expression of the most noble human virtues and actions, in a spirit of peace and genuine joy,” the Pope said in a message to the President of the Polish Bishops Conference, Archbishop Józef Michalik.
The month-long competition will take place in Poland and the Ukraine June 8 to July 1. It features the top 16 national sides in Europe, including the Pope’s motherland of Germany and his adoptive nation of Italy. The tournament begins with an opening match in the Polish capital of Warsaw between the host nation and Greece, the 2004 champions.
The Pope’s comments come amidst fears that the tournament could be dogged by racist abuse aimed at black soccer players.
The governing body of European football confirmed June 8 that the black members of the Dutch national team had been subjected to “isolated incidents of racist chanting” from Polish fans during the open training session in Krakow.
“Team sports such as football are an important way to educate people to respect one another, including their adversaries, to show a spirit of personal sacrifice for the good of the entire group, and to respect the gifts of each member of the team,” the Pope said in his message.
He also reflected on how soccer can help “overcome the logic of individualism and selfishness which often characterize human dealings, and so leave space for the logic of fraternity and love … .”
The Pope recalled that this was very much the opinion of his soccer-loving Polish predecessor Blessed John Paul II, who believed that “the potentialities of sport make it an important instrument for the overall development of the person” and a “useful factor” in the “construction of a more human society.”
This was because, said Pope John Paul, the sense of “brotherhood, magnanimity, honesty and respect for the body” promoted by team sports helps build a civil society where ‘competition replaces antagonism, where agreement replaces conflict and loyal confrontation replaces rancorous opposition.”
Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2012 (CNA) - Speakers and attendees at religious freedom rallies across the United States stressed that Americans are committed to defending their liberties from threats like the contraception mandate and that opposition to them is building.
Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) told CNA that the issue “is not going to go away.”
“There are enough people in this country that are committed to the cause of religious freedom,” he said. “They understand that it’s the basis of all other freedoms, and they will not abandon this cause.”
He described the mandate as an attack on religious liberty that forces people to choose between their violating their faith and facing “government fines or federal condemnation.”
“That is simply not going to be something the American people will swallow,” he said.
Rep. Franks was one of several speakers at the Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally in the nation’s capital on June 8.
The event was held as part of the second round of national protests against the federal contraception mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The first round of protests was held on March 23, attracting more than 63,000 participants. The June 8 event was expected to top this number, with rallies being held in 164 cities, an increase of nearly 20 locations.
Eric Scheidler, national co-director of the effort, said that the first rally “was a tremendous success,” offering encouragement to both those who attended and those who saw the event in the media.
Continuing the rallies helps “advance the coming judicial, legislative and electoral battles” against the mandate by “keeping the injustice before the public,” he said.
The Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally united tens of thousands of Americans concerned about a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The mandate has drawn widespread criticism for the threat that it poses to the religious freedom of those who object to it.
Speakers at the Washington, D.C. event emphasized that religious freedom is worth fighting for, and its advocates will not become discouraged.
Participants agreed, saying that they were seeing growing opposition at the grassroots level to the mandate.
“It’s just going to keep building up,” said Mary Castellano, a 16-year-old who attended the rally.
She explained that she was not able to attend the first rally in March, but was eager to attend the second one and would attend future rallies if given the chance.
“I’m here because the government has no right to take away what our country was founded on,” she said.
Religious freedom is “one of most basic” elements of American liberty, and it must be respected for all people, she stressed.
Amy Martinez echoed these sentiments, saying that it was “scary” to think about religious liberty being eroded in America.
As a 30-year-old woman, Martinez said she does not believe the Obama administration’s contraception rule serves her best interests.
“I don’t need the mandate,” she said.
Martinez thinks that Americans will continue speaking up to defend their right to live according to their faith.
“A lot of people are starting to wake up,” she said.
Havana, Cuba, Jun 8, 2012 (CNA) - Berta Soler, the leader of the protest group Women in White, said she trusts Havana’s archbishop will be able to help end political repression in Cuba, following their recent meeting.
“It was a very open discussion and we left very content,” Soler said of the June 7 meeting. “The cardinal was very receptive, and he listened to us.”
The meeting between the members of the Women in White and Cardinal Ortega, which lasted over three hours, allowed the women to express their concerns for their imprisoned family members and seek the cardinal's intercession in ending repression by the communist government.
“The Cardinal can pass on our concern to the Cuban government, to Raul Castro, and the (appeal for) violence against the Women in White to diminish–that is in Raul Castro’s hands,” she said.
However, Soler noted that the “freedom of political prisoners is not in the Cardinal’s hands but rather in the Cuban government’s.”
The Women in White also gave a letter to the cardinal, asking him to help them obtain a meeting with Pope Benedict.
“The doors of the Church have never been closed to the Women in White,” Soler said. “We are going to continue knocking on the doors of the Catholic Church.”
“We have confidence and faith in him, since we have a lot for which to thank him,” Soler said.
In 2010 Cardinal Ortega played a role in the release of 130 political prisoners and in ending the “acts of repudiation” the government carried out against the Women in White for their protests.
The Women in White announced via Twitter that they would be meeting June 8 with the Apostolic Nuncio to Cuba, Archbishop Bruno Musaro.
They plan to deliver a letter to him requesting his help in obtaining an audience with the Pope, along with a list of the current political prisoners and the women from the group who were detained during the Holy Father’s visit to Cuba in March.