Steubenville, Ohio, Aug 10, 2012 (CNA) - The Steubenville City Council's decision to remove the silhouette of the Franciscan University chapel from the city’s logo has been met with opposition from the local community.
“A town should be able to define itself as it sees fit without being dictated to by an out of state special interest group (that has) no knowledge or understanding towards our community,” local business owner Chris Wendt told CNA Aug. 8.
The city's July 24 announcement that it would remove Franciscan University's chapel from its new logo was made after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened legal action.
Local residents responded to the decision with concern, and many of them are voicing their support for the original design.
“There's a lot of people all over the country that are concerned about this and are willing to support and stand with the City of Steubenville,” he said.
Wendt, who is founder and president of the Steubenville-based web design firm HyperDo Media, created an online petition allowing people to show support for the original city logo which was unveiled, but not officially adopted, in December 2011.
The petition site, which was launched just over a week ago and has gained over 500 signatures, was created “for those who believe in freedom of religion and self-determination,” Wendt said.
Since the threat of a lawsuit was raised, local attorneys Terry McKeegan and Brian Scarnecchia, among others, have offered pro-bono legal assistance to the city, should a case develop. Wendt hopes that his website will help “amplify” their efforts.
“What is at stake is religious freedom,” Wendt said.
When the city announced it would remove the chapel from its logo, Franciscan University, which provides over 450 jobs and millions of dollars of revenue each year to the area, declined the offer to be represented in the logo by another campus building.
“No other campus symbol or architectural feature so immediately identifies the University,” said Michael Hernon, Franciscan's president of advancement, in a July 25 press release.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation's Annie Laurie Gaylor told the Steubenville Herald-Star that the logo symbolizes “that Steubenville is a theocracy and is a Christian city where non-Christians or non-believers are not favored citizens.”
She said a Steubenville citizen had contacted her organization to complain about the logo, which Gaylor said violates the U.S. Constitution because it includes the chapel.
Wendt said that although Franciscan's chapel was not chosen for religious reasons, anti-religious intentions are behind the push for its removal.
“Because (the Freedom From Religion Foundation) made it a religious freedom issue, it's attacking every Catholic in the United States,” Wendt said.
For that reason, he asserted, “every Catholic should be worried (about) how next they will lose their religious freedom.”
“If I don't go on record fighting for my own religious freedom as a Catholic, then I'll deserve the blame of my children and grandchildren.”
For more information on Wendt's efforts to keep the chapel in the city's logo, visit:
Jerusalem, Israel, Aug 10, 2012 (CNA) - “Dramatic changes” in the Sinai peninsula region offer Egypt's government a chance to rescue trafficking and torture victims, an assembly of Middle Eastern Catholic leaders said Aug. 9.
“Due to the deployment of Egyptian troops in Sinai following the recent violence on the Israeli-Egyptian border, a window of opportunity opens up,” the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land said in a communique.
The opportunity “must be used to put an end to the ongoing, festering sore of the prison and torture camps in Sinai,” the bishops and priests wrote, renewing their March 2012 appeal which echoed the concerns of Pope Benedict XVI about criminals' treatment of migrants in the region.
Egypt deployed troops in the Sinai peninsula after militants killed at least 16 soldiers at a checkpoint on Aug. 5. The attackers took control of an armored vehicle and crossed into Israel, where six of them were killed in an airstrike.
Reinforcement were sent from Egypt on Thursday, as gunmen attacked a police station on the peninsula. President Mohammed Morsi said on Sunday that Egypt “will control all parts of Sinai,” where Al-Qaeda-inspired militants are looking to set up a strictly Islamic state.
Twenty regional Catholic leaders – including Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour, and Holy Land Custos Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa – urged the Egyptian soldiers to put an end to another crisis that has caused immense suffering near the border.
“We, the heads of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, continue to call out to the world in our deep concern for the fate of the African asylum seekers who have been kidnapped as they pass through Sinai,” the Holy Land Church officials stated in Thursday's message.
Until now, they noted, Egyptian authorities have not taken effective action against “the general lawlessness in Sinai and the bands of criminals who prey on the African asylum seekers.”
“Despite increasing international pressure, Egyptian officials frequently explained that under the restrictions of the 1978 Camp David agreement and the demilitarization of the zone, Egypt is unable to take the required action.” This inaction, they noted, “has left the torture camps in place.”
But now, having deployed forces against the suspected Islamic militants, Egyptian authorities were urged to seize the chance “to also shut down these camps and make sure the trafficking in human beings stops.”
Hundred of victims, many kidnapped in Sinai while on their way from Eritrea and Sudan, “are being tortured – suspended by the limbs, burnt by white hot irons, electrocuted on their body parts and systematically raped,” the bishops and priests warned, citing documentation by human rights activists.
“At this very moment, the relatives of the victims are paying extortion money to release their loved ones,” they wrote, calling upon the Egyptian security forces to take long-awaited action against the traffickers during their deployment in the peninsula.
“May the cry of the oppressed,” they said, “be heard by those who now have the opportunity to release them from their bondage.”
New York City, N.Y., Aug 10, 2012 (CNA) - Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori says an invitation to President Obama, to speak at a New York fundraiser alongside Mitt Romney, should not be misunderstood as a show of support for the president.
Obama's expected presence and remarks at the upcoming Alfred E. Smith Foundation dinner “do not constitute an endorsement,” the U.S. bishops' religious liberty chairman and Baltimore archbishop told Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online in an interview published Aug. 9.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the U.S. bishops' conference president, has been criticized by some pro-life groups for continuing an election-year custom of inviting both the Democratic and Republican candidates to the comedy-oriented fundraiser for Catholic charitable causes in New York.
While Obama appeared in 2008 alongside Senator John McCain, the 2012 invitation has disturbed some observers, who cited the president's recent efforts to force Catholic institutions to offer contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs through their health insurance plans.
In his remarks to Lopez during the Knights of Columbus' Aug. 7–9 Supreme Convention in California, Archbishop Lori said he believed there was no “clearer voice in the United States about the sanctity of life and religious liberty than Cardinal Dolan.”
Baltimore's archbishop urged Catholics and other observers not to “get distracted” by the New York cardinal's gesture of courtesy toward President Obama, which did not detract from his standing as a “clarion voice” for the Church's non-negotiable principles.
Cardinal Dolan has frequently gone on record against the contraception mandate in recent months, most notably through the U.S. bishops' June 21– July 4 “Fortnight for Freedom” event.
Although it is customary for the Al Smith foundation fundraiser to host both presidential hopefuls during an election year, Archbishop Dolan's predecessors made exceptions in 1996 and 2004, declining to invite either of the candidates.
Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life and Judie Brown of American Life League are among calling on Cardinal Dolan to take the same step this year. Meanwhile, Father Shenan Boquet of Human Life International issued a statement questioning the invitation and saying that the Church "cannot pretend for one moment that such an honor at any function promoting the work of the Church doesn’t give legitimacy to their position while harming the Catholic Church’s image ... ."
But Edward Mechmann, who does public policy work for the New York archdiocese's Respect Life office, said in an Aug. 7 blog entry that he did not see the invitation as undermining or contradicting the Church's witness in public life.
“There is no question that the President’s political agenda and policy record are deplorable from a Catholic perspective,” Mechmann wrote Aug. 7 in his “Stepping Out of the Boat” blog on the Archdiocese of New York website.
But “given the consistency and strength with which our bishops – particularly Cardinal Dolan – have been proclaiming the Catholic view of public policy,” he does not think the event is likely to “lead anyone to believe that the Church is softening her defense of life, the family, and religious liberty.”
“When everyone wakes up the morning after, the struggle will resume,” wrote Mechmann.
But the invitation to the president, he said, also sends a message “that is important in this time of pathologically toxic politics.”
“It says to us that we can vehemently disagree with a public official’s positions, but we can still show respect for his office, and for him as a person, and treat him with civility,” Mechmann reflected.
“It gives us an opportunity to act as Christians, and show some love to our adversaries, and even those whose policies we consider to be immoral and oppressive.”
Updated on August 10, 2012 at 12:46 MST. Corrects assertion that HLI called on Cardinal Dolan to cancel the invitation to President Obama.
Anaheim, Calif., Aug 10, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Knights of Columbus awarded a family from Kentucky for their commitment to the Catholic faith, as well as members from around the world who have shown a commitment to serving the needy in their communities.
“I love being a Knight of Columbus,” said Donald Gilbert, whose family was chosen as the organization’s 2012 International Family of the Year.
He described the organization as “a brotherhood dedicated to our families and serving in our communities.”
“It’s truly amazing what the Knights have accomplished and continue to accomplish in their local communities and across the world,” he said.
Gilbert was honored at an August 8th award ceremony during the organization’s 130th Supreme Convention in Anaheim, Calif.
Gilbert, who lives in Campbellsville, Ky., regularly volunteers for Church and school maintenance projects, runs the council’s coat drive and assists at various functions. In addition, he often works with the parish youth group and has helped teach sacrament preparation classes.
Gilbert's wife, Marcia, has homeschooled all of the family’s seven children, directs the local crisis pregnancy center and regularly gives talks about building the culture of life.
The couple’s children are also deeply involved in their faith, participating in a variety of activities ranging from altar serving and the parish choir to youth group and teaching religious education classes.
Sarah, the oldest daughter in the family, has become a novice with the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker, and is now Sister Cecilia. Daniel, the oldest son, is currently a seminarian for the Louisville archdiocese.
The grand knight that nominated the family said that he believes “that the Catholic Faith is much better off for this family’s sacrifices and good works.”
The Knights of Columbus also presented a series of international service awards recognizing councils that have responded with excellence to the needs of their local parishes and communities, as well as families, youth and the unborn.
The International Community Activities Award was presented to a Filipino council for organizing and equipping Knights of Columbus Disaster Response Teams, offering training in disaster search, rescue and recovery through local organizations.
The program was intended to “provide compassionate and efficient disaster response to save lives, to ease suffering and to minimize damage during disasters,” the Knights said in a statement announcing the award.
The community activities award was also given to a Joplin, Mo., council for its response to a devastating May 2011 tornado. The group assisted in search-and-rescue efforts and helped with food, transportation, shelter and donation coordination for those in need.
The Archbishop Duke Council from Richmond, British Columbia, was awarded for its work to promote the culture of life. The group helped organize a local “40 Days of Life” campaign by coordinating two 24-hour prayer vigils in front of a local abortion clinic.
A statement by the Knights explained that the council’s pro-life chairs “spearheaded the effort to promote the campaign and sign-up parishioners and brother Knights.”
Ninety council members participated in the effort, teaming with other pro-life groups in the parish. Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver also joined members of the council in their public demonstration for life.
The Youth Activity Award was given to the St. Louis Guanella Council in Chelsea, Mich., for its work with the Children’s Peace Project, which aims to “foster unity in Christ among Middle East and Western Christians.”
Members worked with the Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation to host high school students from the Holy Land. The council conducted fundraisers to pay for the students’ trips, and council families hosted them during their stay.
Council members also sponsored “the education of a student at a Holy Land Christian school” and held “ongoing gift sales” to support Christians in the Holy Land, the Knights said.
In addition to the annual awards given at the ceremony, the Knights issued religious freedom awards for the first time this year.
The organization presented a religious freedom award to a council in Kalispell, Mont. that has worked to defend a statue of Christ that serves as a war memorial on Big Mountain. The statue has been targeted by an anti-religious group which is demanding its removal.
The religious freedom award was also given to a council in Pitman, N.J., which has launched a grassroots campaign to protect a “Keep Christ in Christmas” banner from similar attacks.
Members of the council worked with residents, small business owners, media, parishes and government officials in the effort, which “offered a powerful public witness,” the Knights said.
Updated on August 13th, 2012 at 10:55 a.m. MST. Corrects the last name of the Family of the Year to "Gilbert," instead of "Paul." Changes status of Daniel Gilbert to being a current seminarian.
Vatican City, Aug 10, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Commemorating the 34th anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI, retired Archbishop of Milan Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi said he hopes to see the late pontiff raised to the altars soon.
“I trust and greatly desire that soon – and I am sure than many, everyone, shares this – the Church can venerate Paul VI as blessed,” he said during an Aug. 6 Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.
“This desire is ignited every time I read his writings and I think of his service of love to the Church and to humanity,” the cardinal notied, according to the SIR news agency.
The healing of an unborn child could be the miracle that paves the way for Pope Montini’s beatification, which would coincide with the Year of Faith decreed by Pope Benedict XVI to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
Paul VI decreed a Year of Faith in 1967 as well, in order to the mark 19 centuries since the martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul. It ended in June of 1968 with the publication of the “Credo of the People of God,” an in-depth reflection on the Nicean Creed.
During his remarks, Cardinal Tettamanzi also recalled the death of Paul VI at Castel Gandolfo on Aug. 6, 1978, the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
“We know that Pope Montini greatly loved the solemnity of the liturgy on the Transfiguration of the Lord: he experienced it as a moment of great and profound spirituality.”
A group of faithful from Paul VI’s hometown of Brescia in Italy attended the Aug. 6 Mass celebrated by the cardinal.
Rome, Italy, Aug 10, 2012 (CNA) -
In a recent blog post, Father Antonio Spadaro, known as the Vatican’s “cyber theologian,” said that devices such as iPads, smart phones and tablets should not be used instead of missalettes at Mass.
It is “unimaginable that an iPad or a laptop would be carried in procession, or that a monitor would be incensed and kissed during the liturgy,” Fr. Spadaro said.
The liturgy, he explained, is “the bastion of resistance” against the separation of the written word from the ink on the page. “The page remains the 'body' of a text,” he underscored.
A member of the Pontifical Council for Communications, Fr. Spadaro wrote in his blog about the decision of the Bishops’ Conference of New Zealand to deny the request by several priests for permission to allow mobile devices to be used at Mass.
He noted that while apps such as iBreviary are making it easier to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or follow the liturgical readings of the day, “The pages of the Gospel remain an integral part of the ritual action of the Christian community.”
He noted that the Council of Trent embraced the technological advances of the day, including the printing press, “and allowed for the creation of useful editions for the creation of a truly global liturgy, that is, uniform in all dioceses and parishes.”
A study carried out by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and the University of Lugano in 2010, with the support of the Congregation for the Clergy, showed that 17.5 percent of the world’s priests used the internet at least once per day to pray the liturgy of the hours, while up to 36 percent did so at least once a week.
Peoria, Ill., Aug 10, 2012 (CNA) - The Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Ill. on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the HHS mandate, charging that it requires an “intrusive government investigation” to determine whether the diocese is exempt from the controversial federal rule.
Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria believes the new federal lawsuit is necessary because of a lack of effort on the part of the federal government to correct the mandate’s flaws, the diocese said.
“I have an obligation to protect the Church’s ability to freely practice our religion,” he said Aug. 9. “As Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, I cannot remain silent while the right of Catholics to practice our faith is being so gravely threatened.”
The mandate requires most employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.
The diocese is unsure whether it qualifies for the mandate’s narrow religious exemptions, which exempt organizations that primarily employ and serve their co-religionists for the purpose of the instilling religious values.
The lawsuit said that to discover whether the diocese is exempt, it must “submit to an intrusive governmental investigation” to determine whether it qualifies. The lawsuit says the diocese’s schools, parishes and social services are “open to all.”
Bishop Jenky said that the United States’ Founding Fathers “clearly intended to keep the government out of the internal affairs of the Church.”
Patricia Gibson, Chancellor and Attorney for the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, further explained the reasons for the suit.
“This lawsuit is about one of America’s most cherished freedoms; the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference,” she said. “It is not about whether people have access to certain services; it is about whether the government may force religious institutions and individuals to facilitate and fund services which violate their religious beliefs.”
The lawsuit contends that the mandate violates the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
The Diocese of Peoria pointed out that the mandate’s religious exemption excludes Catholic hospitals, schools, universities and social service providers.
“To qualify for the exemption as it now stands, Catholic institutions would have to stop serving non-Catholics in need and stop employing non-Catholic employees,” the diocese said. “This is in direct opposition to the Church’s commitment to serve others, not because of their religious beliefs, but because of their inherent human dignity.”
The dioceses of Springfield and Joliet have filed suit against the mandate, as have more than 40 Catholic dioceses, organizations and institutions. The Chicago-based law firm Jones Day is handling the Diocese of Peoria’s suit and several other anti-mandate cases.
London, England, Aug 10, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Ethiopian athlete Meseret Defar provided one of the most emotional moments of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games when she crossed the finish line in the 5000 meter race to win the gold.
She then pulled a picture of the Virgin Mary out from under her jersey, showed it to the cameras and held it up to her face in deep prayer.
An Orthodox Christian, Defar entrusted her race to God with the sign of the cross and reached the finish line in 15:04:24, beating her fellow Ethiopian rival Tirunesh Dibaba, who was the favorite to win.
A teary-eyed Defar proudly showed the picture of the Virgin Mary with the Baby Jesus that she carried with her for the entire race.
Throughout the event, Defar kept pace with three other Ethiopian runners and three from Kenya, until speeding past them on the homestretch to win gold.
The silver medal went to Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya and the bronze to Dibaba.
Defar is also a two-time world champion in the 3000 meters. In Athens in 2004 she won the gold in the 5000 meters and in Beijing in 2008 she won the bronze.
On June 3, 2006 she broke the world record for the 5000 meters set previously by Turkish runner Elvan Abeylegesse, with a time of 14:24:53.
St. Louis, Mo., Aug 10, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Sister Pat Farrell told participants in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious assembly that talks with the Vatican will go on so long as the group is not made to change its goals.
“The officers will proceed with these discussions as long as possible,” she told the conference's annual assembly Aug. 10, “but will reconsider if LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission.”
Sr. Farrell's remarks were made in response to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith's April 18 report following a four-year study which revealed “serious doctrinal problems” throughout the group.
“While acknowledging deep disappointment with the CDF report, the members proclaimed their intention to use this opportunity to explain to Church leaders LCWR's mission, values and operating principles,” she told conference members at her Aug. 10 address in St. Louis.
The Vatican assessment noted that the group has regularly hosted presentations that demonstrated theological and doctrinal errors, as well as a “prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
In response to its findings, the Vatican placed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle in charge of carrying out a reform of the group.
The conference originally stated April 19 that it “was stunned” to hear about the Vatican's assessment, saying that it already “follows canonically-approved statutes,” but that it would take time to prepare a thorough response.
“The assembly instructed the LCWR officers to conduct their conversation with Archbishop Sartain from a stance of deep prayer that values mutual prayer, careful listening and open dialogue,” Sr. Farrell said following a series of private talks that were held with members during the annual assembly.
In her presidential address to the conference, entitled “Navigating the Shifts,” Sr. Farrell told the assembly that it would be a “mistake to make too much of the doctrinal assessment.”
“We cannot allow it to consume an inordinate amount of our time and energy or to distract us from our mission,” she told the sisters.
However, she said, “I think it would also be a mistake to make too little of the doctrinal assessment.”
Either way, Sr. Farrell said she hopes that the conference can “go forward” in a manner “that contributes to the good of religious life everywhere and to the healing of the Church we so love.”
This year's annual meeting hosted futurist author and “conscious evolution” promoter, Barbara Marx Hubbard, who praised the “evolutionary leadership” of the LCWR calling them the “best seedbed” for “evolving the Church.”
In light of Hubbard's talk, Sr. Farrell said “it is easy to see this LCWR moment as a microcosm of a world in flux.”
“The cosmic breaking down and breaking through we are experiencing gives us a broader context,” she said.
Sr. Farrell believes the reason “many institutions, traditions and structures seem to wither” is that “the philosophical underpinnings of the way we hold reality really no longer hold.”
“The human family is not served by individualism, patriarchy, a scarcity mentality or competition,” she explained.
Moreover, the LCWR president asserted that the world is “outgrowing the dualistic constructs” of “good/bad” and “domination/submission.”
“Breaking through in their place are equality, communion, collaboration, synchronicity, expansiveness, abundance, wholeness, mutuality, intuitive knowing and love,” she said.
Archbishop Sartain is expected to meet with the conference’s national board on Aug. 11 for a discussion that is expected to last two hours.
National Catholic Register correspondent Ann Carey contributed to this report.