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Archive of June 26, 2012

Catholic leaders react to Egyptian presidential election

Cairo, Egypt, Jun 26, 2012 (CNA) - The victory speech of newly elected Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi has encouraged Coptic Catholic Bishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor, who expressed optimism about the future despite others’ concerns.

“Once people listened to Mr Morsi’s speech, they were not worried. Things are calmer. The people are waiting to see what he can do in the future,” he told Aid to the Church in Need.

The bishop said Christians hope he will honor his promises.
 
While the Muslim Brotherhood has not lived up to its promises in the past, the bishop said that when a political party is in power with the responsibility of government, it faces a “very different” situation.

He added that the narrow margin of Morsi’s victory means that he will not wish to alienate those who voted for his rival.

Morsi won 51.7 of the vote in the June 16-17 elections, – a margin of 800,000 votes – over opponent Ahmed Shafiq, former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister.

Christians have feared that the party’s apparent openness masks an Islamist agenda that will be intolerant of them. However, the president-elect said June 24 that Egypt is “for all Egyptians” and that everyone has equal rights.

“We Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, are advocates of civilization and construction,” the president-elect said.

In Bishop Zakaria’s view, the speech suggested a positive approach to tourism, countering fears that the Muslim Brotherhood would shut it down. He said Christians hope Morsi’s new government will involve all parties, not only the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Catholic Coptic Church of Egypt advocated a “civil, democratic and modern state”  in its letter of congratulations to President-Elect Morsi.

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the apostolic nuncio in Cairo, told the Missionary International Service News Agency that the Church congratulated the president and hoped that he might be able to lead the country “in the interests of all its children, in order to safeguard the cohesion of the social fabric.”

President-elect Morsi has said his government will respect international covenants and treaties.

Christians who have voiced concern about the Muslim Brotherhood include Bishop Antionios Mina of Giza, who said last month that the party’s rise is worrisome because of its track record of unfulfilled promises of tolerance to non-Islamist groups.

The full power of President-elect Morsi might also be diminished.

Last week the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been the interim ruler of the country, issued constitutional amendments that stripped the president’s office of most of its major powers. A court has also dissolved Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament, which was freely elected.

Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, a columnist for the Canadian newspaper The National Post, warned of the possibility of violence and even civil war between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, with negative consequences for the region, Egypt as a whole, and Christians in particular.

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Poll finds Americans respect immigrants, want 'non-partisan' solution

New Haven, Conn., Jun 26, 2012 (CNA) - Most Americans have a respectful view of immigrants, and would support long-term measures to make legal residence possible, a Knights of Columbus-Marist poll has found.

“There is a consensus among the American people on the issue of immigration,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a June 25 statement, announcing the findings of a survey conducted by the Catholic fraternal order in collaboration with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

“There is a real, viable, long-term solution to this problem that would transcend partisanship, have the support of the American people, and actually resolve this issue,” observed Anderson, who thinks the survey “has potential to recast our national debate if this non-partisan solution is embraced.”

The Knights of Columbus-Marist findings show that 74 percent of Americans would back legal residence for illegal immigrants, provided they paid a fine, learned English, and had a job that would pay taxes.

Asked about their attitude toward immigrants, 83 percent of respondents said most of them are “average people who come to the United States to seek a better life for themselves and their families.” Only 17 percent held a negative opinion about immigrants' motives for coming to the U.S.

Eight out of 10 Americans said they believed the U.S. could act to secure its borders while also respecting immigrants. The same proportion of respondents approved of immigrants' hard work and family values.

The release of the poll results coincided with the Supreme Court's 5-3 decision to strike down parts of Arizona's immigration law. However, the court allowed the state to maintain its requirement for authorities to check the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants who are stopped by police.

Controversy over immigration has continued following President Obama's June 15 executive order, allowing some unauthorized residents – who are under age 30, arrived before age 16, and have been in the U.S. five consecutive years – to avoid deportation under certain conditions.

Although the Knights of Columbus-Marist research showed widespread respect for immigrants and broad support for a legal residence program, concerns persist about the impact of immigration on the country.

According to the same poll, 76 percent of U.S. adults are worried about the effect of immigration on the country's health care system. Two-thirds of respondents voices similar concerns about the public school system.

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49ers head coach describes joy of Peru mission work

Piura, Peru, Jun 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - It's not every day that children in Piura, Peru, learn to play American football from the coach of a National Football League team.

Jim Harbaugh, the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, told CNA that impromptu lessons with the kids during a recent eight-day trip to the town brought him joy.

Harbaugh was one of several U.S. volunteers who traveled in June to Piura – a small town nearly 600 miles north of Lima – to help the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish with its daily ministries to the poor.

The parish's outreach includes a women’s shelter, an orphanage, a drug rehabilitation center, a hospice facility and, most recently, tuition-free Catholic school for kindergarten through eleventh graders.

“It’s incredible the amount of work they do and they joy that they do it with,” Harbaugh said, noting that more than 60 percent of Piura’s population live in poverty and over 20 percent in extreme poverty.

The coach said he first learned about the mission trip through friends at St. Raymond's, his parish in Menlo Park, Calif.

Now, four years and three trips later, Harbaugh said he has seen Most Blessed Sacrament become a “very vibrant and growing parish.”

“I’ve always been struck by the attendance and the joy they have for Mass,” Harbaugh said, adding that the pews are filled with faithful at daily evening Masses. “You can only describe that as the fruit of the Holy Spirit.”

Harbaugh also credits the growth of the parish and community to the support of volunteers and the leadership of Father Joe Uhen, a native of Milwaulkee who has been pastor of the parish since 1993.

He estimates that the school, which Father Uhen opened in 2011, now has an attendance of more than 600 students.

“Every desk was full,” he said. “Three years ago when we came down here, the school was just an idea.”

He said volunteers this summer helped build twenty homes and packaged and delivered locally produced rice and beans to supplement meals for 1,400 families this month.

Piuran farmers started producing rice and beans after Father Uhen invested in their crops and farming techniques, Harbaugh said.  

Father Uhen also spearheaded a family sponsorship program between the United States and Peru. Through the program, titled Santisimo Sacramento, an American family “adopts” a Peruvian family, supplying scholarships, food and basic housing items including beds and stoves.

Harbaugh, who sponsors a family through Santisimo Sacramento, said he plans to continue the service trips because they give him “the feeling of going down the right path.”

“The doors that God will open for you by the people you meet or by the circumstances you’re in (allow) your character to be shaped and your spirit to grow,” he said. “Those kinds of doors are opened for (me) here.”

For more information about Most Blessed Sacrament Parish or the Santisimo Sacramento program, visit: santisimo.org.

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Supreme Knight says HHS mandate has re-shaped country's political landscape

Indianapolis, Ind., Jun 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Whether the federal contraception mandate stands or falls, it has changed U.S. politics forever, the head of the Knights of Columbus observed during the 2012 Catholic Media Conference.

“It definitely has changed the political landscape,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson told CNA in a June 22 interview at the convention held in downtown Indianapolis.

“What we see clearly, is an attempt to redefine the role of religion in American society.”

The Obama administration, he said, is applying a “very narrow” conception of religion and its social role. “So that leads us to ask the question: What will the administration do next, whether or not it wins on the HHS mandate?”

He predicted that U.S. politics would be permanently changed by the assault on the Church's freedom and its role in society, even if the HHS mandate eventually fails.

“Once of the 'genie is out of the bottle,' it's going to be difficult to put it back in,” the head of the Catholic fraternal order noted. “It ought to give us all very serious concern.”

Anderson, a veteran lawyer, explained that the administration's restrictive view of religion was previously seen in the “Hosanna-Tabor” Supreme Court case, pitting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a Lutheran church and school.

In that 2011 case, Anderson recalled, the government attempted “a redefinition of what constitutes 'ministry,'” claiming that a teacher of religious and secular subjects was not a “minister” and could not be fired at the school's discretion. The school's rights, however, were unanimously upheld by the court.

Shortly after that decision was handed down, Health and Human Services finalized its contraception mandate, forcing religious institutions – except those covered under a narrow exemption – to provide services that violate their moral principles, including sterilization and abortion-causing drugs.

According to Anderson, both the Hosanna-Tabor case and the HHS mandate are part of a larger effort to redefine religious freedom and marginalize faith-based institutions.

In Hosanna-Tabor, “the administration was arguing for the most narrow possible, most restrictive possible, definition of ministry.” Similarly, the HHS mandate granted an exemption only to institutions that primarily employ and serve those of the same faith for the purpose of spreading “religious values.”

The Obama administration, Anderson said, “has continued to attempt to redefine religion, by taking an extremely narrow definition of what constitutes a 'religious institution.'”

“Many institutions that we would normally think of as part of the charitable or service mission of the Church, suddenly are defined out of the ambit of being a faith-based religious institution.”

Even if the HHS mandate is defeated in court, or fundamentally changed by the administration, the thinking behind it will persist and continue to shape political life.

“What we're seeing is a paradigm shift – in how religion is viewed in American society, and the role of religion. Once you make that shift, the logic leads on down a certain path. And that path is: 'Wherever we can find a less inclusive role for religion, we take the less inclusive role.'”

To turn back from this course, Anderson suggested, Americans must first “understand authentically what the Constitution intends by the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause.” These clauses exist not to marginalize religion, but to protect its integrity and allow it to shape social life.

The head of the Knights of Columbus also wants Americans to rediscover “the role of religion in society in promoting the common good,” as envisioned by the country's founders.  

“American society has traditionally found, and the Founders believed, that religion is a good – and is good for the common good,” the Supreme Knight noted. “We value a freedom because the freedom produces a good in society.”

“If you look at the history of the Catholic Church in America – where we built so many schools, and hospitals, and orphanages, and Catholic charities – it's a tremendous contribution.”

But modern Americans, Anderson said, may have a “diminished sense of the role of religion in fostering the common good.” Without this sense of religion's social role, its “free exercise” may be misunderstood as serving only the self-interests of believers, rather than the nation's common interest.

To fight this perception, Anderson suggested Catholics “need to tell our story better – and we also need to do more.” The Church's social teaching, he said, “should compel Catholics to works of greater charity in society, to promote the common good.”

By using their freedom to serve society as a whole, Catholics can help all Americans rediscover religious liberty as a universal good – worth preserving not only for the benefit of believers, but for the good of the whole country.

To preserve their religious freedom in the long term, Anderson suggested, Catholics “have to have a more visible role in society – and a more effective role in society – in actually doing those things that actually benefit the common good.”

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Pope accepts Argentina bishop's resignation

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of an Argentinean bishop who admitted a romantic relationship with a woman photographed with him on a beach in Mexico.

The resignation of Bishop Fernando Maria Bargallo of Merlo-Moreno, the diocese west of Buenos Aires, was accepted June 26 under a provision of canon law allowing bishops to resign if they become unsuited for their office for a “grave reason.”

The Pope has appointed Bishop emeritus Alcides Jorge Pedro Casaretto of San Isidro as apostolic administrator of Merlo-Moreno.

Last week, photos were published showing the 57-year-old Bishop Bargallo and a woman on a beach in Mexico. He initially acknowledged that the photos were of him but said that the woman was only a “childhood friend.”

Before the bishop admitted the relationship, he voiced regret that the photos “could lead to misinterpretations.”

“I sincerely ask for forgiveness if this incident has caused or could cause any harm,” he said.

Bishop Bargallo had served as president of Caritas Argentina until 2011 and is the current president of Caritas Latin America. He became Bishop of Merlo-Moreno in May 1997.

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Vatican outfitted with first electric car

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2012 (CNA) - The NWG auto company has given Pope Benedict XVI a gift for his consistent concern for the environment – the Vatican’s first electric-powered vehicle.

After meeting with the pontiff, the founders of the company, Francesco D’Antini and Antonio Rainone, presented the car during a ceremony with Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.

The event included a blessing of the car and a prayer to St. Christopher, the patron of travelers, that it would always be driven safely.

The NWG Zero was fitted with a Vatican City State license plate and features an electric motor that can be recharged by connecting to any regular outlet. It costs around $2.50 to recharge its battery.

“All believers should respect creation as a great gift from God, as the environment in which they live and which they should leave as an inheritance to the next generations, so that all can enjoy its fruits and live in peace together with the Lord’s other creatures,” Fr. Lombardi told CNA.
 
“We should be responsible for administering a great treasure that we have been given.”

Fr. Lombardi also said the Pope “invites all, not only believers, to have this positive relationship with creation and to also see man as the most important creation in creation, and therefore not to separate care for the environment from care for man.”

The Vatican spokesman noted that this was not the first environmental-friendly endeavor undertaken by the Holy See.  

“The Vatican naturally should carry out all of its activity in a coherent way that respects creation.  These energy-saving structures are slowly being developed, with renewable energy,” he added.

Since 2008 the Vatican has been using solar panels installed on the roof of the Paul VI Hall to create electricity.

On numerous occasions Benedict XVI has called on developed countries to coexist with the environment in an ethical way and to “cooperate responsibly for the sake of the planet’s future so that the poor nations are not the ones that have to pay the biggest price for climate change.”

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Pope grieves with earthquake-hit region of Italy

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI visited the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna to express his solidarity with those affected by back-to-back earthquakes that have killed 26 people and injured many more in the past month.

“Ever since the beginning of the earthquake which affected you I have been close to you with my prayers and concern,” said the Pope to people in the small town of Rovereto Di Novi near Modena June 26.

“But when I saw that the trial had become more arduous, I felt the impelling need to come among you in person, and I thank the Lord for having enabled me to do so.”

Today’s venue was of particular poignancy as the local priest had been killed on May 29 as he went back into his church during an earthquake to save a statue of Our Lady.

“Here in Rovereto di Novi in the collapse of a church, which I have just visited, Father Ivan Martini lost his life,” recalled the Pope who also met with Fr. Martini’s brother.   

Pope Benedict prayed before the rescued statue outside the Fr. Martini’s parish church before it was carried to the town’s main square where the Pontiff addressed a crowd that included the region’s priests, bishops and civic leaders.

The Pope drew attention to a passage from the Psalm 46 that he had recently come across while praying the Liturgy of the Hours – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

He explained that the confidence expressed is “not that of supermen untouched by normal feelings” but that of faith.

“Yes we may feel fear and anguish, even Jesus did, but above all is the certainty that God is with us,” said the Pope, “We see this Love in the crucified Christ; at one and the same time a sign of suffering and of love.”

The first earthquake struck the region of Emilia Romagna on May 20 registering 6.1 on the Richter scale. It was then followed by two aftershocks. The second earthquake occurred on May 29 which registered 5.8 on the Richter scale.

On top of those killed or injured, the quakes have also forced thousands of people to abandon their homes and have destroyed many of the region’s historic buildings.

The Pope said that the people of Emilia Romagna were respected across Italy for their “humanity and sociability, for hard work and cordiality.”

“These qualities have been dealt a harsh blow by the current situation, but this must not and cannot affect your identity as a people, your history and your culture,” he said. And he rallied the crowds by stressing that “You are not and you will not be alone!”

“My presence among you is intended to be another such sign of love and hope,” he said, “Looking at you lands I have been profoundly moved by the sight of so many wounds, but I have also seen many hands extended to cure those wounds with you.”

After taking time to greet more people affected by the natural disaster as well as civic leaders, the Pope then returned to Rome by helicopter in the early afternoon.

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