Asunción, Paraguay, Jun 25, 2012 (CNA) -
On June 22, President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay was impeached by the country's senate for “poor performance of duties,” after recent clashes between police and farmers left 17 people dead.
Six police officers and eleven farmers died in the clashes took place on June 15 when police attempted to expel farmers from a piece of land in northeastern Paraguay. The country’s interior minister, Carlos Filizzola, and national police chief Paulino Rojas were forced to resign as a result.
Although Lugo tried to ease the political crisis by forming a commission to investigate the incident, this was not enough to keep the Paraguayan Congress for beginning impeachment proceedings against him for his role in the tragedy.
The Senate, which came together in a special session to try the impeachment, voted to oust President Lugo from office.
While the country’s armed forces vowed to respect the democratic process, outside Congress hundreds of supporters of Lugo clashed with police over the ouster.
On the previous day, the Bishops’ Conference of Paraguay had issued a statement calling “on political leaders, social organizations, unions and the citizenry to maintain calm and avoid any confrontations and violence that would jeopardize the wellbeing and lives of the people.”
Lugo launched his candidacy for the president while still a Catholic bishop, which prompted the Holy See to strip him of his clerical state on July 30, 2008. His impeachment does not mean he can return to his activities as a bishop, contrary to some reports in the media.
“The Holy See, after attempting to dissuade Bishop Fernando Lugo from running as a candidate for President of the Republic (cf. CIC can. 285&2), suspended him from the exercise of the priestly ministry,” the decree explains.
The office “of president of the Republic of Paraguay is not compatible with the obligations of the Episcopal ministry and the clerical state,” it adds.
The Nunciature in Paraguay said that the Church’s action in the case of Lugo “is due exclusively to canonical and pastoral reasons.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 25, 2012 (CNA) -
Reports are surfacing in the Argentinean media that Bishop Fernando Maria Bargallo of Merlo-Moreno has submitted his resignation after acknowledging a romantic relationship with a woman.
Although no official announcement has been made, local newspapers such as Clarin cite Church sources who say Bishop Bargallo admitted to the priests of his diocese that he was involved in an inappropriate relationship.
Last week, photos appeared showing Bishop Bargallo and a woman on a beach in Mexico. He initially acknowledged that the photos were of him but that the woman was only a “childhood friend.”
The 57-year-old bishop had served as president of Caritas Argentina until last year and is currently president of Caritas Latin America. He has served as bishop of Merlo-Moreno since May of 1997.
Clarin claims Bishop Bargallo has tendered his resignation to the Nuncio in Argentina, Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig.
Vatican City, Jun 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Parents should be careful not to block their son’s calling to the priesthood, new Vatican guidelines on promoting vocations say.
“Even though a sense of respect for the figure of the priest is cultivated in Christian families, it is still noticeable, especially in the West, that they have a certain difficulty in accepting that their child may have a vocation to the priesthood,” said the document launched by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education, at the Vatican June 25.
However, “if families are animated by a spirit of faith, charity and piety they become, as it were, an ‘initial seminary’ and they continue to offer favorable conditions for the birth of vocations.”
The 29-page document, entitled “Pastoral Guidelines for Fostering Vocations to the Priestly Ministry,” is the culmination of four years of work by the Congregation for Catholic Education. It draws together the responses received to a questionnaire issued to the universal Church in 2008.
The guidelines call on parishes to help parents become more aware of their role as “educators in the faith so as to develop in the heart of the family the human and supernatural conditions that make possible the discovery of a priestly vocation.”
While the Church around the world is seeing an overall rise in seminarians in recent years – including in North America – Europe continues to show a slow but steady decline.
The new guidelines also identify other stumbling blocks to discerning a priestly vocation. It points to the spread of secularism, the marginalization of the priest in social life “with consequent loss of his relevance in the public square,” a lack of appreciation of priestly celibacy, including by some Catholics, the fallout from Church scandals, and the bad example of some priests who exist in a “whirlpool of exaggerated activism” that can “weaken the shine of priestly witness.”
As for fostering new vocations, the document highlights the fruitfulness of families, schools, parishes and movements rooted in prayer.
“The experience of many local Churches is that young men, in large numbers, sense the call to the ministerial priesthood, especially where prayer is a constant and profound dimension of the community’s life,” it says.
As well as the family, Catholic parishes are emphasized as “the place par excellence where the Gospel of the Christian vocation is proclaimed” and “where the ideal of priestly ministry is presented.”
In this setting, priests are “crucial for openly suggesting priestly vocation to boys and young men” with the help of “a well –founded and effective educational program” that raises the question.
This role of openly suggesting a priestly vocation can also be undertaken by others in the parish and by current seminarians, since “no-one is better suited to evangelize young people than young people themselves.”
Interestingly, the document suggests that a vocation to the priesthood should not be suggested “to persons who, even though they are praiseworthy in their journey of conversion, show signs of being profoundly fragile personalities.”
In terms of priestly celibacy, it states that those considering the priesthood “should see with clarity the commitments he will have to take on” and that any discernment process should contribute “to healing any individual deviations from his vocation.”
Teachers in schools can also play a crucial role as they “can extend the family’s educational role by broadening cultural horizons.”
Meanwhile, the document observes that a young man’s college years are increasingly “becoming a fruitful period for young people with regard their life choices.”
Among its many other recommendations, the guidelines note that numerous priests were “part of the group of altar boys and have served at the altar” before going to seminary. It therefore suggests that “vocation ministry for priesthood gives special attention to altar boys” when promoting the priesthood.
Rome, Italy, Jun 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The head of the U.S. bishops' religious freedom committee, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, will address the first meeting of Italy's Religious Liberty Observatory on June 28.
The group, formed by the Italian Ministry of External Affairs and the City of Rome to monitor global threats to believers' rights, will host Archbishop Lori as he delivers an address entitled “Religious Liberty: God’s Gift to all Nations is our Responsibility to Defend.”
Open to media, the observatory's inaugural meeting will take place at 11:30 am at the Foreign Press Association in Rome.
Hours later, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the country's health care reform law. The result will determine the course of the Church's efforts to fight a rule implemented under that law, requiring employers to cooperate in providing contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs.
Archbishop Lori will follow his talk with a 4pm Mass at the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. The historic church was assigned to Cardinal James Gibbons, Baltimore's ninth archbishop, on his 1887 elevation to the College of Cardinals.
Appointed to the U.S. Church's “Premier See” in May 2012, Archbishop Lori opposed local efforts to undermine the Church's self-governance during his time as the Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
On June 29, he will receive the pallium, a traditional wool garment worn by metropolitan archbishops, from Pope Benedict XVI on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
Washington D.C., Jun 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
More than 1,000 people gathered in the nation's capital on June 24 to celebrate religious liberty and recall its importance in American life.
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C. observed that “the history of the United States is the story of the struggle for religious freedom.”
“Each one of us individually and all of us collectively need to be free simply to be who we are, people of faith,” he said.
The cardinal spoke at the “Celebration of Freedom” rally at George Washington University, which featured videos and speakers, along with music from the local St. Augustine parish choir.
The rally highlighted the rich heritage of religious freedom in America, as well as the contribution of Catholics in building and supporting the nation through various ministries, including schools, hospitals and charitable agencies.
The event drew large numbers of lay Catholics, including many families. Numerous local priests, bishops and consecrated men and women also attended.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, papal nuncio to the U.S., led the crowd in prayer for the protection of religious liberty. He told those gathered at the rally that Pope Benedict XVI supports efforts to promote and defend religious freedom in the U.S.
The archdiocesan event – which concluded with Benediction – was part of the Fortnight for Freedom called for by the U.S. bishops in a statement by their religious freedom committee.
The bishops have voiced concerns over growing threats to religious liberty both at home and overseas. Chief among these threats is 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.
Bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have joined individuals and organizations from a wide variety of religious backgrounds in protesting the mandate for infringing on the religious freedom of those who object to it.
During the Fortnight for Freedom, which runs June 21-July 4, activities at the local and national levels encourage Catholics and others of good will to engage in prayer, education and advocacy in support of religious liberty.
Cardinal Wuerl told the crowd that in addition to working to protect freedom, the current fortnight “is also a time for us to count our blessings.”
“The greatest gift that humanity has received is the Son of God, Jesus Christ,” he explained, and it is in Church – the “living witness” – that we embrace Christ today.
“We look to the Church, alive and active, as the presence of Christ in our world today, just as when he walked among us, they felt his touch,” the cardinal reflected.
He added that Christ’s followers must be “free to embrace” the Gospel message and live it out.
Religious liberty is therefore “our freedom not only to worship God but to follow Christ, his Gospel and live according to the demands of conscience,” he said.
This is not a right given by the government, he stressed, but is rather “from God.”
In discussing the great need to protect religious freedom, Cardinal Wuerl highlighted the importance of prayer.
He also emphasized the role of the laity, pointing to Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks to a group of U.S. bishops in January. The pope said that the best defense against the growing “radical secularism” in American culture is a "engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity.”
The faithful must be active participants in the New Evangelization, growing in their own faith so that they can confidently share the truths of this faith through their lives, said the cardinal.
While the challenge to live out our faith “may at times seem daunting,” we are a people of hope, he said, adding that when we feel overwhelmed, we can remember that “Jesus already has won the victory.”
Cardinal Wuerl urged the faithful to remain strong in faith and hope as they continue in the ongoing struggle for religious freedom.
“There’s a time to be on one’s knees,” he said, observing that his remarks would be followed by Benediction and all would kneel to acknowledge the “presence of our Lord.”
However, he added, there is “also a time to stand up.”
“Today, we are reminded as we look back over our history and we look at our freedoms, that there are some things worth standing for,” the cardinal said. “And religious liberty is one of them.”
Washington D.C., Jun 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Supreme Court's decision on an Arizona immigration law drew both praise and concern from the bishops' leader on migration issues, as well as a renewed call for federal immigration reform.
“The U.S. Catholic bishops across the nation will urge their state governments to not pursue laws such as in Arizona, but rather to pursue humane reform on the federal level,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ migration committee.
On June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down several provisions of a rigid Arizona immigration law, while allowing another controversial provision to stand.
Archbishop Gomez was both hopeful and cautious in reacting to the court’s decision in Arizona v. United States, which arose when the federal government challenged the state’s 2010 immigration law, claiming that it was incompatible with federal law.
The court rejected much of the law, determining that the state of Arizona cannot require immigrants to carry registration papers nor allow for warrant-less arrests based solely on the suspicion that someone is an illegal immigrant.
Nor can it make it a crime for undocumented immigrants to apply for or hold a job, the court ruled.
Archbishop Gomez said that the court’s decision to strike down these provisions "reaffirms the strong role of the federal government in regulating immigration.”
However, the court allowed another part of the law to stand, while leaving the door open for future legal challenges. This provision requires state police to check the immigration status of any detained person if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally.
Archbishop Gomez said that the bishops are “concerned with the Court’s decision to lift the injunction” on this part of the law. At the same time, he said, they are “encouraged” that the court did not explicitly rule the provision constitutional.
He explained that this regulation “could lead to the separation of families and undermine the Church’s ability to minister to the immigrant population.”
“We stand in solidarity with our brother bishops in Arizona, as they prepare to respond to the implementation of this provision and its potential human consequences,” he said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had submitted a “friend of the court” brief in the high-profile case, arguing in favor of a single unified approach to immigration throughout the nation rather than a “patchwork” of different policies in each state.
The bishops’ conference asserted that the Arizona law threatened important American values such as family unity, human dignity and religious liberty.
It voiced concern that such laws might criminalize the Church’s charitable aid, which is offered to all those in need, regardless of their immigration status.
Opponents of the law have also argued that it would encourage racial profiling and pose a threat to innocent children.
Archbishop Gomez emphasized the continued need for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.
“Humane enforcement of our nation's laws are part of any solution, but enforcement by itself, unjustly administered, only leads to abuses and family breakdown,” he stressed.
“The Church will continue to stand by immigrants and their families and seek justice on their behalf,” he said.
Vatican City, Jun 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican says that Pope Benedict XVI will continue to consult with key figures from the universal Church in a bid to re-establish a “climate of serenity and trust in the service of the Roman Curia.”
“Naturally the Holy Father will, over coming days, will continue his discussions and reflections, also taking advantage of the fact that many pastors have come to Rome for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the media June 24.
He added that the global gathering, which will see 44 archbishops receive their palliums at a June 29 ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica, will provide “an extraordinary opportunity for the community of the universal Church to feel united to the Pope in prayer, service, and the witness of faith for mankind in our time.”
On the morning of Saturday, June 23, Pope Benedict met collectively with the heads of every Vatican department. In recent months the administration of the Curia has been shaken by the continued leakage of confidential papal information to the media, the so-called “Vati-leaks” scandal.
Fr. Lombardi said that Pope Benedict called for the meeting because he wanted to “deepen his knowledge of the situation through continuous dialogue with those people who share with him the responsibility for governing the Church.”
He added that the meeting was “particularly important and urgent today in order to bear effective witness to the spirit of union which animates” the Roman Curia.
In the afternoon, Pope Benedict held an additional meeting with five senior figures from the Sacred College of Cardinals: Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue; Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar General Emeritus of the Diocese of Rome; and Cardinal Jozef Tomko, former prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Fr. Lombardi said that the five cardinals were selected by the Pope for their “vast and varied experience serving the Church” in Rome and internationally, so that they “may profitably exchange ideas and suggestions with the Holy Father in order to help re-establish that climate of serenity and trust in the service of the Roman Curia.”
On June 23 the Vatican also confirmed that American journalist Greg Burke will be the new “senior communications adviser” to the Secretariat of State. The 52-year-old from St. Louis has spent the past decade as a correspondent with Fox News, covering the Vatican, Europe and the Middle East.