Denver, Colo., Jul 20, 2012 (CNA) - Catholics in the Archdiocese of Denver welcomed their new archbishop with enthusiasm and hope for the future following his July 18 Installation Mass.
“I am thrilled and overjoyed with the appointment of Archbishop Aquila,” Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley of Denver told CNA in July 17 interview.
Bishop Conley, who served as Denver's Apostolic Administrator for nearly a year, said he is looking forward to serving Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila in his new role.
“I consider him a friend and admire him for what he has done in Fargo,” he said, “so I am really excited (to be) serving with him and continue serving the people of Colorado.”
On July 18, Archbishop Aquila was officially installed as the shepherd of Catholics in the Denver archdiocese at the Basilica Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The ceremony drew hundreds of people, including local politicians, 400 priests, 40 bishops, Cardinal James F. Stafford, and papal representative Archbishop Carlo M. Vigano.
Monsignor Thomas S. Fryar, who serves as the pastor of the cathedral and as vicar general for the archdiocese, said having a new archbishop has caused “wonderful joy within the community.”
Archbishop Aquila filled the vacancy left by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who was named by Pope Benedict XVI to lead the Philadelphia archdiocese last fall.
“I think we can expect that the good initiatives that began under Archbishop Chaput and Cardinal Stafford will continue and flourish,” Bishop Conley said.
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who was previously an auxiliary bishop in Denver, described the experience of seeing his “personal friend” become the head of the archdiocese as “a great joy.”
“I know he is going to serve well (for) the people in the Archdiocese of Denver,” he said.
Bishop Paul D. Eitenne of Cheyenne, Wyo. said he is glad to have Archbishop Aquila “back out to the West,” but especially back in Denver, which is home to over half a million Catholics.
Cara Ryhne, a consecrated laywoman in the Marian Community of Recollection, said that Archbishop Aquilla “can count on prayers and friendship” from her community.
“We want to work together with you to be a light here in Denver and to bring the Lord Jesus to all,” she said.
Seminarian Josh Meier said that he and his fellow classmates at the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary are “excited to be under new leadership.”
“We are excited to have someone that knows the seminary,” Meier said of Archbishop Aquila, who served as the first rector of the seminary from 1999 to 2001.
His installation, which makes him the fifth archbishop and the eighth bishop to lead Denver, is especially important to the hundreds of clergy in the area, according to local Catholic Peggy Tynan.
“I am very excited for our priests to have such a loving father,” she said, “and excited for what is in store for them.”
Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2012 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have praised the inclusion of new legislative provisions that, if passed, could prevent financial penalties from being levied against institutions that don’t comply with the controversial HHS mandate that requires coverage for sterilization and contraception, including abortion-causing drugs.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston on July 18 thanked the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor/HHS action that added two provisions to the annual appropriations bill.
The subcommittee, he said, took “a first, urgently needed step toward upholding rights of conscience and religious freedom in our health care system.”
The cardinal welcomed the inclusion of the policy from the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act in the House appropriations bill. He said it will ensure that the 2010 health care legislation “allows Americans to purchase health coverage without being forced to abandon their deeply held religious and moral convictions on matters such as abortion and sterilization.”
Cardinal DiNardo said the language should be incorporated to counter the HHS mandate, which he has previously called “the most direct federal threat to religious freedom in recent memory.”
The mandate affects most businesses that have 50 employees or more. Its narrow religious freedom exemptions do not include most Catholic colleges, health systems and charities, despite Catholic objections to contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs.
While the Obama administration has said it will propose an accommodation, it is unclear whether it will address concerns.
The House subcommittee’s provision denies HHS funding for the enforcement of financial penalties against institutions which do not comply with the mandate.
Cardinal DiNardo also praised the House subcommittee’s inclusion of the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act in the appropriations bill. The act would codify the Hyde/Weldon Amendment that prevents government discrimination against health care providers who will not participate in abortion.
The amendment presently denies all Labor Department and Health and Human Services funds to states or other governmental entities that discriminate against health care entities that decline to provide, pay for, provide coverage for or refer for abortions.
Victims of discrimination presently must file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services.
In a July 17 letter, the cardinal said this approach has been criticized as “implausible and subject to legal challenge,” noting that the HHS places a low priority on these complaints and has itself been charged with discrimination.
The revised provision allows plaintiffs to defend their rights in court.
Some states have claimed that they can force all health plans on their health insurance exchanges to cover elective abortion as an “essential health benefit,” the cardinal warned.
On July 18 Cardinal DiNardo thanked Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), chair of the appropriations subcommittee, for sponsoring the conscience provisions.
“The Catholic community and many others concerned about religious freedom will work hard to ensure that these protections are enacted into law,” he said.
The subcommittee bill must pass the full House Appropriations Committee and the House of Representatives before being sent to the Senate.
Skopje, Albania, Jul 20, 2012 (CNA) - Other countries’ propagation of a stricter form of Islam in Albania is causing tensions with Christians and with other Muslims, a charity leader says.
Peter Rettig, head of the South-East Europe Section of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, said that young imams trained in Turkey and Saudi Arabia are spreading “a different form of Islam from what is customary” in Albania. The countries are strongly promoting the building of Islamic schools.
“This is leading to tensions,” he told Aid to the Church in Need.
The Catholic charity’s project partners have reported incidents that are “not dramatic” but their number “shows a worrying trend,” Rettig said.
He noted other problems in the country, such as long-term development being threatened by widespread corruption and unclear property rights.
These problems affect Catholic Church projects. Chapels, churches and parish facilities cannot be built because of the unclear situation.
Albania has a variety of religions but statistics are unreliable and many individuals lack a basic knowledge of their faith.
About 60 percent of the 3.2 million people in Albania belong to Sunni Islam, while eight percent are Bektashi, a religion similar to Islamic Sufism.
Orthodox Christians comprise about 20 percent of the population while Catholics make up 10 percent.
Denver, Colo., Jul 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley mourned with the Denver community after a gunman opened fire in a local movie theater on July 20, killing 12 and wounding 50.
“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters cast into that darkness. They do not stand alone. As Catholic bishops, we 'weep with those who weep,'” they said.
“We are shocked and saddened by this tragedy. Our hearts and prayers go out to those impacted by this evil act.”
At a packed midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at Century Movie Theater in the eastern suburb of Aurora, Colo., a man identified as James Holmes, 24, entered the front of the theater and set off what appeared to be a noxious canister of gas.
Clad in a gas mask and armed with a shotgun, a rifle, and two handguns, Holmes began shooting at random. Stunned moviegoers, many of whom initially thought the noise was part of the show, began to flee as Holmes ascended the aisle.
According to Aurora Police, Holmes was apprehended outside the theater at 12:30 a.m., shortly after the attack, and taken into custody.
In their statement released Friday morning, Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Conley prayed for the conversion of the “perpetrator of this terrible crime.”
“Evil ruled his heart last night,” they wrote. “Only Jesus Christ can overcome the darkness of such evil.”
The mass shooting has been the worst in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre, which occurred in Littleton in April of 1999. Twelve students and a teacher were killed and 26 others wounded after teenage gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire, before killing themselves.
Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Conley stressed that the Archdiocese of Denver “stands ready to assist the victims of this tragedy, and our community,” and noted that the Regina Caeli Counseling Services of Catholic Charities will “offer counseling over the next few weeks to those who need it.”
“We look for opportunities to pray with our community. And we continue to work to support families and communities in forming people of peace.”
The two bishops offered prayers especially for those who were killed, adding that they “commend their souls, and their families and friends, to God’s enduring love.”
“For those who were wounded – physically, emotionally, and spiritually, our hope is in their recovery and renewal,” they said.
“To them we offer our prayers, our ears to listen, and our hearts to love. The road to recovery may be long, but in hope we are granted the gift of new life.”
Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Elected officials at both the national and local levels have voiced grief and promised prayers and support after a shooting in Colorado left at least 12 people dead and dozens more wounded.
“It is beyond the power of words to fully express our sorrow this morning,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. “Our prayers and condolences go first to the families of those killed, and we share the grief of everyone affected by this senseless event.”
“Coloradans have a remarkable ability to support one another in times of crisis,” the governor said. “This one of those times.”
Early on the morning of July 20, during the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” a gunman entered Century Movie Theater in Aurora, Colo. According to reports, the man wore a gas mask and released at least one canister containing noxious gas before shooting members of the crowd.
The suspect, 24-year-old James Holmes, has been arrested. Current reports indicate that at least 12 individuals were killed and about 50 more were wounded in the incident.
As the deadliest mass shooting since the 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy, the July 20 event generated national concern.
President Barack Obama said that he was “shocked and saddened” to learn of the shooting.
“All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come,” the president said.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that he and his wife, Ann, are “praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief.”
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet said that his staff was offering support to legal and medical officials as they responded to the tragedy.
“This was a horrible, senseless and abhorrent act,” the senator said. “My family and I are shocked and deeply saddened this morning and our hearts are with the victims and their families.”
Numerous local officials also issued statements offering support, condolences and prayers for all those affected by the shooting.
State Rep. Rhonda Fields announced a 7 p.m. prayer vigil at the Aurora Municipal building. She welcomed people from surrounding areas to join her in praying for the victims and helping to support “the families, friends and community members whom have been impacted.”
Madrid, Spain, Jul 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A judge in the Spanish city of Alcala de Henares has dismissed a lawsuit against Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla over his criticism of the gay lifestyle, saying his comments do not incite hatred or violence against homosexual persons and inflict no harm.
According to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Judge Antonio Cervera Pelaez-Campomanes dismissed the lawsuit against the Bishop of Alcala de Henares on July 10 and notified the parties of his ruling on July 19.
“While the bishop’s words indicate a critical view of homosexuality, they do not, properly understood, inflict harm on homosexuals in general nor are they are a call to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said.
Bishop Reig Pla has faced intense criticism after remarks given in a Good Friday sermon in April in which he condemned sexual practices he believes to be harmful. As part of a larger cultural critique of sexual behavior in modern society, he lamented how some with same-sex attraction “corrupt and prostitute themselves or go to gay night clubs” in order to “validate” their struggle.
“I assure you what they encounter is pure hell,” he said on April 6.
Gay advocacy organizations joined forces with left-leaning political parties in Spain to file a lawsuit against the bishop and demand that he be expelled from the city. The People’s Party spoke out against the bishop’s critics.
In his ruling, Judge Pelaez-Campomanes said Bishop Reig Pla’s homily focused on sin and the suffering that it causes, and referenced not only homosexual conduct but also marital infidelity, abortion, unjust wages, disloyality and sexual favors in the workplace, alcohol and priests who live a double life.
The judge also pointed to an interview with Bishop Reig Pla published online, which the gay community said bolstered their charges, and said there was nothing criminal in his comments.
“While it is undeniable that the interview reveals a critical position towards homosexuality, in which it is described as a disordered inclination, it does not equate in the strict sense to either the inciting of hatred or the inflicting of harm,” the judge wrote.
Because Bishop Reig Pla alluded to Church doctrine in his comments, they are protected by religious freedom, he added.
In the wake of the attacks on Bishop Reig Pla, Catholic groups across the country rallied to his defense, and the Bishops’ Conference of Spain called the persecution against him “unjust.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 20, 2012 (CNA) -
On Colombia's Independence Day marked on July 20, a Vatican official called on the country to remember their patroness, Our Lady of Chiquinquira, as they celebrate.
Colombia “is a nation that has learned to turn to the intercession of Holy Mary to confront difficulties. It is a nation that celebrates its national holiday hand in hand without Our Lady of Chiquinquira,” said Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican City State Government.
At a Mass with 25 diplomats accredited with the Holy See, Cardinal Bertello said the faith and strength of Colombians is what has allowed them to overcome difficulties and fears throughout history.
For his part, Colombia's ambassador to the Holy See, Cesar Mauricio Velasquez, thanked the Church for its continual spiritual and material aid to many poor and abandoned communities in the country.
“In recent months, millions in aid have been sent to people across the nation. Colombia will always be thankful for the work and service carried out by the Church to the needy and abandoned,” he said.
Recently the Colombian government stepped up efforts to convince Pope Benedict XVI to visit the country before or after his trip to Brazil for World Youth Day Rio 2013.
The Bishops’ Conference of Colombia issued its own invitation to the Holy Father during an ad limina visit on June 22. According to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, the Pope responded, “God will decide.”
Aurora, Colo., Jul 20, 2012 (CNA) - Aurora priest Father Mauricio Bermudez said the murderous movie theater shootings have had a “devastating” effect on the community.
“It’s terrible. Everybody is just sad, shocked. People are really frustrated and some are worrying about what will happen with security around here,” he told CNA on July 20.
Fr. Bermudez is a parochial vicar at Aurora’s Queen of Peace parish, the Catholic church closest to the Century Aurora 16 Theater where a gunman killed 12 people and wounded 59 more during a premiere showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” early Friday morning.
“I’m really sorry about what happened,” the priest said. “I don’t understand why that happened and why this guy did the things he did.”
He is not yet aware if anyone he knows was injured or killed in the shooting.
“I’m very sad for all the people who died,” he said. “At least for now, I can offer my prayers and my support to all of them, especially the families that lost their members.”
Fr. Bermudez himself went to an early showing of the movie, but at another cinema.
“Now I’m really concerned about what the culture is becoming and the violence we are promoting, in one way or another,” he told CNA.
Queen of Peace will host a 5 p.m. Mass on Friday with the new Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila, who was installed July 18.
“We want to pray for all the victims,” Fr. Bermudez said.
Federal authorities have identified James Holmes, 24, as the suspected gunman. The gunman wore a gas mask and set off gas canisters in the theater before opening fire. He wore a bullet-resistant vest and used several weapons.
The suspect told police he had explosives in his apartment five miles from the theater. Police have evacuated nearby apartments and say his apartment is rigged with explosive devices and trip wires.
Holmes, a graduate of a San Diego high school, was a graduate student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado-Denver. He was in the process of withdrawing from classes, according to the Denver Post.
Archbishop Aquila and auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley released a July 20 statement saying they are “shocked and saddened” by the shootings.
“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters cast into that darkness. They do not stand alone. As Catholic bishops, we ‘weep with those who weep’,” they said.
Denver, Colo., Jul 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Friday evening Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver will preside over a Mass at Queen of Peace Catholic Church for the victims, families and others affected by the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colo.
Priests from the area will join the archbishop for the 5 p.m. Mass at the Aurora church. Queen of Peace is the Catholic Church closest to the Century Aurora 16 Theater where a gunman killed 12 people and injured at least 59 others during a premiere showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” early Friday morning.
Archbishop Aquila and Denver Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley issued a statement Friday morning in response to the shootings.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to those impacted by this evil act,” they said. “They do not stand alone. As Catholic bishops, we ‘weep with those who weep’.”
The bishops also mentioned the perpetrator and asked for prayers for his conversion.
“Evil ruled his heart last night,” they said. “Only Jesus Christ can overcome the darkness of such evil. We hope that all of us may find the peace which surpasses understanding.”
Archdiocese of Denver chancellor J.D. Flynn said that Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Conley will try to attend the funerals of any Catholic victims.
“They’ll do their best to be there between the two of them,” he told CNA July 20. “Everyone is important to them.”
Four Catholic parishes are in the vicinity of the theater. As of 11 a.m., two Catholic parishes reported that some of their parishioners have been affected by the shooting and were counseled by a priest, the Archdiocese of Denver said. Over the next few weeks, Regina Caeli Counseling Services of Catholic Charities will offer counseling to survivors and family members of victims.
Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has dismissed a lawsuit by Belmont Abbey College against the federal contraception mandate as being premature.
Hannah Smith, senior legal counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which was representing Belmont Abbey College in the case, said that the decision was made “on technical grounds.”
Smith explained in a statement that “the judge thinks that the case should be delayed for a matter of months” in order to give the federal government time to “fix” the mandate.
On July 18, federal judge James E. Boasberg dismissed the suit filed by the Catholic liberal arts school last year. The suit is the second of the nearly two dozen cases against the mandate to be thrown out.
The judge determined that the case was not yet “ripe for decision” because the concerns were still too “speculative.”
He noted that the federal government has indicated that it intends to issue future rules on the implementation of the mandate being challenged in the case.
That mandate – issued under the authority of the Affordable Care Act – will soon require employers and colleges to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their firmly-held religious convictions.
Belmont Abbey filed a lawsuit arguing that the mandate violated its religious freedom last November, becoming the first group to do so. Dozens of other organizations followed in the college’s footsteps over the months that followed.
In total, 23 lawsuits have been filed by more than 50 plaintiffs, including schools, charitable agencies, states, dioceses and private business owners.
On July 17, a judge in Nebraska dismissed another of the lawsuits, similarly ruling that it was not clear that the plaintiffs would suffer immediate harm from the mandate.
In both decisions, the judges pointed to the administration’s promise to “accommodate” the religious freedom concerns of objecting groups.
However, critics have voiced concern about whether the “accommodation” will be sufficient. They have noted that the mandate was finalized in law months ago, but the accommodation has merely been promised and not placed in law or even formally proposed.
Smith emphasized that this ruling “says nothing about the merits of Belmont Abbey’s religious freedom claims, and has no effect on any of the 22 other cases currently pending in federal court.”
“It simply delays Belmont Abbey College’s ability to challenge the Mandate for a few months,” she said.
Smith stressed that “the court made clear we have the right to re-file the case” if concerns with the mandate are not adequately addressed.
While she said that the group is currently “considering our options,” Smith made it clear that the battle for religious freedom was not over.
“Belmont Abbey College and the Becket Fund will continue the fight for religious liberty, even if this case is delayed for a few months,” she said.
Aurora, Colo., Jul 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his homily following a July 20 mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila reminded a crowd of faithful that though there is evil in the world, there is also mercy.
“Sin, evil and death do not have the last word,” he said, citing Jesus’ victory over death through his resurrection.
The Mass was held at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church – just blocks from Century 16 Theatre – where 12 people were killed and at least 59 were injured when a gunman opened fire at a midnight showing of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The newly-installed archbishop warned Catholics against responding to the violence with vengeance.
“That is not the way of Jesus Christ,” he said. “We must be peacemakers. We are called to love as Christ loved and commit ourselves to peace.”
Parishioner Juliet Younger said her daughter Jo Ann spent the hours leading up to the Mass at University Hospital in Denver where five of her friends are being treated for injuries. Jo Ann said one of them remains in critical condition.
They said they came to the Mass to find peace.
“And hopefully understand ‘why,’” Juliet said, with tears in her eyes. “I don’t understand this. Why go there and kill those people? Why?”
The archbishop said people like the Youngers can take hope from the fact that God is present in their suffering.
“What occurred … was an encounter with evil, an encounter with violence,” he said. “Certainly the love of the Father is stronger than the bullets that killed 12 and wounded (many more).”
Nearly two dozen priests concelebrated the Mass with the archbishop.
Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Mothers with strollers descended upon the nation’s capital on July 19, bringing their young children more than 1,000 miles to share with lawmakers how crisis pregnancy centers helped them in a time of need.
“Babies Go to Congress is Heartbeat’s proactive effort to make friends on Capitol Hill and to let our representatives and senators know that pregnancy centers are good for America,” said Dr. Peggy Hartshorn, president of the pro-life organization Heartbeat International.
In a July 19 interview, Hartshorn told CNA that Babies Go to Congress is a program designed to show the truth about pregnancy centers, which have come under attack by some members of Congress for directing women away from abortions.
In reality, she said, pregnancy centers work to offer women the love and support they need, while providing them with information and material assistance so that they can “have a true alternative to abortion.”
Heartbeat International is an organization that works with Christian communities to develop pregnancy centers, maternity homes and adoption agencies throughout the world.
Twice a year, the group brings women who have been helped by pregnancy centers – along with their babies – to Washington, D.C. to meet with their congressional representatives and tell them about the positive impact that the pregnancy centers have had in their lives.
For many of the women, it is their first trip to the nation’s capital.
“It's a wonderful experience for them to tell their positive story,” Hartshorn said. “We have such phenomenal stories.”
For logistical reasons, the group brings just a few mothers and children on each trip. They represent the many individuals who are helped by pregnancy centers each year in America.
Some mothers come with babies who are just a few months old, while others bring children who are several years old.
Hartshorn explained that this allows the congressional representatives to see the immediate benefits of the pregnancy centers, as well as “the rest of the story,” which includes continued help for the mothers in attaining other achievements, such as finishing school.
One mother, Jessica Gore, said that she had nearly had an abortion as a teenager nine years ago.
“Being pregnant at 18 was not an option,” she explained.
She visited a Planned Parenthood clinic and was encouraged to go through with an abortion. She was told that at only six weeks into the pregnancy, “the baby was just a piece of tissue, and there was really no life.”
But one week before Gore was scheduled to have the abortion, she received a free ultrasound at her local pregnancy center in Burleson, Texas.
She saw a “flicker of light” on the image and asked the staff members what it was. They explained to her that it was her baby’s heart beating.
“I knew that this was a child, and not just a piece of tissue,” she recalled.
Gore felt that she had been “lied to by Planned Parenthood.” She decided not to abort, and kept her baby girl, Janelle, who will turn 9 years-old in September.
Although she once believed that she never wanted to have children, Gore is now married, and she and her husband have two children of their own.
After nearly nine years of motherhood, she says, “I don’t regret of minute of it.”
“I’m glad that I did not go through with an abortion,” she said, stressing that the crisis pregnancy center offered critical help to her during a difficult time.
The other women in the program had similar stories. They found that the pregnancy center workers they encountered were honest and understanding, helping them with the support and attention they needed in a time of fear and stress.
Hartshorn said that it can be “very eye-opening” for legislators to see “the actual moms and babies that are helped in their own congressional districts or in their states.”
And the work done at the pregnancy centers is performed at no cost to taxpayers, she said. The way that Heartbeat International sees its work is as a service to all of the “Body of Christ.”
The Babies Go to Congress program is also a powerful witness, offering “a great message of hope and support,” Hartshorn added.
A crisis pregnancy does not mean “that your life is over,” she said. “There is help and support. You can get back on track.”