Washington D.C., Aug 21, 2012 (CNA) -
In a statement of support and friendship toward the Muslim community, the U.S. bishops' ecumenical committee leader encouraged trust and collaboration between the two faiths, especially in the task of defending religious freedom in the public square.
In an Aug. 17 message, Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, offered his congratulations to U.S. Muslims on the conclusion of Ramadan, their holy month of fasting and prayer.
Bishop Madden, who chairs the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that he took “great joy” in sharing a message from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue with the U.S. Muslim community.
This message, issued Aug. 3 by the council’s president, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, focused on the importance of the “education of young Christians and Muslims for justice and peace,” which cannot be separated from “truth and freedom.”
Young people must be taught about the need for “solidarity and fraternal love” in order to properly build “a culture which respects the dignity and the rights of every citizen,” read the Pontifical Council’s letter.
It noted that only when men and women have the “patience and tenacity necessary for realizing these ideals” will they “be able to build societies where justice and peace will become realities.”
In addition to the message, Bishop Madden added his own greetings to his Muslim brothers and sisters as they conclude their holy month.
He explained that in working with many members of the Muslim faith “over a long period of time,” he has witnessed “the great trust that has been established in our creative work together.”
“I would like to exhort us all to continue our endeavors in the hope of preparing a sure foundation for the coming generations of American Christians and Muslims,” he said.
This is important, he stressed, because the faithful of the future will “look to us for guidance and as exemplars of the peace and harmony intrinsic to productive, positive interreligious work.”
Bishop Madden also highlighted the importance of remaining “close to our own work in the dialogues the need for supporting one another's endeavors to safeguard religious freedom.”
Growing threats to religious freedom have become an increasing concern to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as local and national policies have threatened the ability of the faithful to live out their faith in the public square.
“Together let us commit to joining our voices in support of religious liberty, both for our fellow Christians and Muslims today and for those who will come after us,” the bishop said.
On behalf of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, he offered a pledge of support and friendship to the Muslim community “as we move forward together standing shoulder to shoulder in loving service and fidelity to God.”
Islamabad, Pakistan, Aug 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A young girl who suffers from Down's Syndrome has been arrested in Pakistan for allegedly burning a page from the Quran and could face the death penalty.
Police confirmed that they arrested a young girl named Rimsha on Aug. 16 at the urging of neighbors who claim they saw her burning pages of the book outside her home, according to Vatican Radio.
Some reports describe the girl from Islamabad as a teenager, while others say she could be as young as 11 years old.
A police officer said that had they not reacted quickly, the girl could have been seriously harmed by the hundreds of angry neighbors outside her home.
The alleged offense has sparked religious tension resulting in the flight of many Christians from the area.
Parvez Iqbal, President of the Holland Chapter of the Pakistan Christian Congress has condemned the arrest and called for the Rimsha's release.
In a Jan. 2011 interview with CNA, then-Archbishop of Lahore Lawrence Saladanha said that Pakistanis “face a dark future, if the radicals take over power and impose their brand of the Islamic way of life.”
“It is time for the 'silent majority' to wake up and take action. Otherwise, they will be pushed back into the dark shadows of medieval times,” he said.
According to the anti-blasphemy laws of Pakistan, anyone found guilty of defaming the Prophet Muhammad or the Quran can be punished by death.
“The illiterate people are under the influence of the narrow, literalist interpretation of ultra-conservative Islam,” Archbishop Saladanha said.
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari has reportedly taken “serious note” of the arrest of Rimsha and has called on the Interior Ministry to look into the case.
President Zardari and his administration have come under criticism for failing to reform the rule despite some high profile applications of the law in recent years.
In 2010, Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian mother of four, was sentenced to death by hanging after being convicted of blasphemy against Muhammad.
Bibi has said that she is being persecuted for defending her faith to Muslim co-workers who said Christianity was a “false religion.”
Pope Benedict XVI called for her release during a Nov. 17, 2010 general audience, saying that she should be granted “complete freedom … as soon as possible.” But Bibi remains in prison.
On March 2, 2011 Pakistani Cabinet Minister Shabaz Bhatti was assassinated for speaking out against the anti-blasphemy law, which he said was consistently used to harass and intimidate religious minorities.
Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The head of an independent Catholic foundation says a new lay management initiative for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will help improve finances and enrollment levels.
“It clearly establishes the role of the laity here to bring significant expertise and capabilities,” said Edward Hanway, chair and acting CEO of the Faith in the Future Foundation.
Hanway explained to CNA on Aug. 20 that the new partnership unites these capabilities with the “outstanding educational product” and promotion of Catholic beliefs and values that is being offered by the schools in the archdiocese.
On Aug. 21, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced a cooperative management agreement between the archdiocesan office of education and the Faith in the Future Foundation.
Hanway said that the foundation will provide “both strategic and operational management for our 17 high schools and four schools of special education” in the archdiocese.
The Faith in the Future Foundation, an independent 501c3 organization, was created in February after a Blue Ribbon Commission on Catholic Education in the archdiocese published its report, recommending the closure of numerous schools in the archdiocese, including four local high schools.
However, after an appeals process was completed, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput decided to grant a reprieve to the four high schools, based on a plan to create a new kind of partnership with the broader community.
The Faith in the Future Foundation was established with a commitment “to raising money to support the high schools and also taking on the responsibility to fund the aggregate operating deficit of the high schools,” Hanway said.
He added that the foundation has been working collaboratively with the archdiocese for months to structure an agreement that would formalize their relationship.
Under the new arrangement, the foundation will assume “day-to-day management responsibilities for the schools,” he explained.
The archdiocesan office of education will now report to CEO of the foundation, and its efforts will be complemented by the foundation’s work in areas such as development, marketing and admissions.
This unique arrangement is innovative, he said, because it takes “the legacy and the strength of the Catholic education system here” and combines it with “a commitment of lay talent to more effectively manage those schools, to oversee the financial health and well-being of those schools and to promote them much more effectively.”
Ultimately, he said, the expectation is that the schools will “begin to grow again in enrollment as a result of these activities.”
The foundation is currently taking concrete steps to ease the difficulties experienced by the schools in the areas of finances and enrollment, Hanway said.
He explained that “the strength and the contribution of our schools is well recognized” within the corporate and public community in Philadelphia.
The foundation is working closely to “enhance” the efforts of an organization called Business Leaders Organized for Catholic Schools, which has worked for years to raise money for local Catholic schools, he said.
In addition, the foundation is encouraging businesses to sign up for the new Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program, which offers tax breaks to companies that donate money to benefit students living in the boundaries of low-performing schools.
Hanway expects this program to provide scholarships for “a significant number of the children who either attend our schools today or who would like to but simply can’t afford it.”
The new initiative in the archdiocese will require the continued “commitment and dedication” of the archdiocesan teachers, educators, parents and students, Hanway noted.
“We need the support of both the private and the public community in fundraising efforts that will assist us in reducing the cost of a Catholic education,” he added.
Success will also require the “increasing support of lay people who believe in our Catholic education system” and are willing to contribute their talents and resources, he said.
Hanway observed that many people stepped forward in the months after the Blue Ribbon Commission’s report on the archdiocesan schools was released.
“We need that to continue,” he said.
Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia unveiled a new school system this morning that will be run by an independent Catholic foundation and will serve the archdiocese's high schools and special education programs.
“Today's agreement between the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Faith in the Future Foundation is unlike any agreement that a diocese has achieved with its lay leadership,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said at an Aug. 21 press conference.
“The willingness of lay leaders with a love for Catholic education to step forward is encouraging. The commitment made by the Foundation—a commitment to professional excellence in management, guided by a strong and faithful Catholic identity—will serve our high schools and schools of special education well,” he added.
Archbishop Chaput announced that the archdiocese will pair up with the Faith in the Future Foundation as part of a renewal of the archdiocesan schools, which have been struggling in recent years.
Under the new arrangement, the Faith in the Future Foundation, headed by former Chairman and CEO of CIGNA Corporation Edward Hanway, will oversee daily management responsibilities of 17 Catholic high schools and four special education schools.
In this way, the archdiocese will be able to better utilize the expertise of members of the laity, such as Hanway, in promoting growth in Catholic schools, specifically in the areas of marketing and improving admissions.
The foundation has been working closely with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but today's announcement marks the official beginning of the partnership.
Now, the archdiocesan office of education will fall under the direction of Hanway and his organization, which will work to improve admissions, development and marketing of the Philadelphia Catholic schools.
The foundation was created in February 2012 after recommendations were made for the closure of several schools in the area, following a report from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Catholic Education.
Although the report suggested the closure of many schools, Archbishop Chaput allowed four high schools to remain open, as long as changes were made in regards to the relationship with the schools and the broader community.
Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During an ordination Mass for two priests and a deacon on Aug. 18, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas, Venezuela urged priests to value and protect the gift of celibacy given by Christ.
“It is essential that, like Jesus, we fully live out our love for the Father and for humanity,” Cardinal Urosa said.
“In this way, we can understand and live our consecration to the Lord and to the Church in priestly celibacy, which is a treasure we have received from the Lord himself, with joy, fidelity and abundant fruit.”
During the Mass at the Basilica of St. Theresa, the Venezuelan cardinal noted that celibacy is a gift to “show to the world that 'God is love' and that love for God is more sublime and fulfilling than any other kind of love.”
In this sense, he recalled, the “path to happiness is not spiritual tepidness or greed or lust, but rather love of God and neighbor.”
“In the document on the ministry and life of the priest, the Second Vatican Council teaches us that pastoral charity is precisely the unifying element of all the tasks that we are to carry out in the diverse ministries entrusted to us,” Cardinal Urosa said.
“It is essential that people see us as men full of the fire of God’s love and who consecrate ourselves in service to him for love of God and love of neighbor.”
Priests are cooperators with their bishops, he noted, and they are called to nourish themselves continually with the word of God and the Eucharist in order to be good shepherds who guide the faithful towards happiness amidst the difficulties of life.
Cardinal Urosa concluded his homily by exhorting the faithful to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and that priests would persevere in their calling.
“May there be many young men and women who desire to consecrate themselves to the Lord in order to testify that God is love and to show and communicate the immense and sublime love of the Heart of Jesus to the whole world.”
Montevideo, Uruguay, Aug 21, 2012 (CNA) -
Around twenty pro-life organizations are denouncing what they call “anti-democratic and unconstitutional” moves by supporters of a measure that would legalize abortion in Uruguay.
In an Aug. 16 statement read in the Uruguayan Congress after the bill was rejected by the Committee on Health Care, pro-life leaders warned there were numerous bills aimed at legalizing abortion, not just one, and that all of them “aim to force health care centers to perform abortions.”
They also denounced the Senate for refusing to allow pro-life organizations to testify and for rushing a bill through the Senate in Christmas of 2011 to escape public notice.
Since the measure did not gain the approval of the Public Health Committee, abortion supporters pushed for the creation of a “Special Commission” comprised of a pro-abortion majority that approved it “literally in the dark of night.”
Pro-life groups called the move by the Commission “anti-democratic” and “unconstitutional.” They noted that the measure does not address the needs of women or of the unborn and “totally ignores the rights and obligations of parents.”
“It does not address the demographic reality of our country, which is characterized by a low birth rate and an ageing population.”
They also complained that numerous proposed measures that would help pregnant women and their babies are not being debated in Congress.
Portland, Ore., Aug 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A federal judge dismissed a sex abuse lawsuit against the Holy See on grounds that the Vatican was not an employer of the accused ex-priest and cannot be held financially liable for the abuse.
Jeffrey Lena, counsel for the Holy See, told CNA on Aug. 21 that the ruling is “particularly important.”
It follows a years-long legal examination of whether the Vatican has sovereign immunity protecting it from such lawsuits.
On Monday U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman in Portland, Ore. ruled that the laicized Servite priest Andrew Ronan, who allegedly molested the plaintiff as a teenager in 1965 and 1966, did not have an employee-employer relationship with the Vatican.
Such a relationship was the only remaining legal justification for the lawsuit against the Vatican, Lena said.
He added that the federal court examined documents related to the case and found “no evidence that the Holy See was the employer of Ronan, or that it transferred Ronan, or that it knew of the abuse in question until after the abuse had taken place in 1965.”
He said that only the Servite order knew of the abuse until it petitioned for the laicization of Fr. Ronan in 1966.
When the Holy See learned of the abuse, Lena said, “it dismissed Ronan from the clerical state very quickly, in just five weeks.”
Judge Mosman compared the Vatican’s control over a priest to the Oregon legal bar’s control of lawyers through sanctions and disbarment but not through direct firing. He said the plaintiff’s argument that the Vatican has absolute control over all priests could mean that all Catholics could be considered Vatican employees, the Associated Press reports.
The plaintiff, named in the suit as John V. Doe, filed his case in 2002. He is represented by Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson.
Anderson said that Ronan, who died in 1992, sexually abused children in Ireland and Chicago before being transferred to Portland, Ore. He said the abuse was kept secret from parishioners and authorities to avoid scandal.
“We believe all of the responsibility lies with the Vatican,” he said. He plans to appeal the decision.
Doe’s lawsuit against the Friar Servants of Mary is still active. His suits against the Diocese of Portland and the Archdiocese of Chicago were dismissed several years ago.