Lourdes, France, Oct 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The recent flooding of the Gave River left a “landscape of desolation” for cleanup workers as they began to remove mud and debris from the Lourdes shrine on Oct. 21.
Cleanup crews made up of local firefighters and municipal workers began the task of removing the thick mud and debris with tractors, shovels and fire hoses from the low-lying areas of the sanctuary Sunday afternoon.
The Grotto of Massabielle, where the Blessed Mother appeared 18 times to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, was flooded with close to four feet of water and eight inches of mud during the Oct. 20 inundation. The grotto is set to reopen Oct. 23.
The pools where the sick visit in hopes of miraculous healing will remain closed indefinitely, Bishop Nicolas Brouwet of Tarbes and Lourdes said Oct. 21.
Enough progress has been made to allow for the traditional 9 p.m. candlelit Marian procession to take place Monday evening, and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which sits on higher ground than the grotto, reopened Monday morning.
An Italian pilgrimage bearing the relics of Blessed John Paul II, which was set to arrive from Rome Oct. 21, has been canceled according to the organization's president, Salvatore Pagliuca.
However, efforts are being made to reschedule the pilgrimage following the completion of the shrine's cleanup process.
The flash flood, which local officials called the worst in 25 years, began on Oct. 20 and caused the evacuation of hundreds of pilgrims and tourists.
Rain and high winds throughout the Hautes-Pyrenees region in southwestern France left some 8,000 residents without power over the weekend.
In his Oct. 21 Sunday Angelus address, Pope Benedict expressed his concern for the “serious flooding” of the shrine.
Akron, Ohio, Oct 23, 2012 (CNA) - An Ohio state government report shows that there were 24,764 abortions reported in the state in 2011, but the total number was down 12 percent from the previous year.
Patrick D’Andrea, Chairman of the Ohio Life Collaboration Campaign, said it was “heartwarming and inspiring to learn that nearly 3,000 fewer women and their babies endured the pain of abortion.”
The figures come from the Ohio Department of Health and represent the continued decline in abortion numbers which began in 2000.
The state health department said there was a “large decline” in the number of medical or non-surgical abortions, which decreased from 5,862 to 1,234. The report said it is not clear if the decline results from a shift to other abortion procedures or if it represents under-reporting of abortions.
About one in six women who obtained abortions were under 20 years old while another 33 percent were between 20 and 24. About 86 percent of women who obtained an abortion were never married, divorced or widowed.
D’Andrea credited the state’s decline in abortions to education, media and public policy efforts about alternatives to abortion, and efforts to publicize information about pregnancy assistance centers.
“It's exciting that more Ohio women are learning about the positive resources and assistance available to them, and choosing life for their babies,” he said.
D’Andrea said the Ohio Life Collaboration Campaign, a coalition of pro-life groups, is “pleased to be part of the movement to empower women to choose life.”
Coalition partners include Heroic Media, Option Line, Heartbeat International, Right to Life of Northeast Ohio and area churches and pregnancy centers. The campaign coordinates member groups’ efforts.
The umbrella organization conducted a media campaign in 2011 that resulted in 120 billboard ads and 300,000 internet ad impressions. Its present media campaign includes 400 billboards with an audience of 7 million daily. The campaign’s ad impressions for this year are expected to pass one million.
The state of Ohio requires induced abortions to be reported to the health department. The confidential reports include demographic and medical history information about the woman obtaining the abortion and information about the abortion procedure. Abortion reports beginning in year 2012 will allow the recording of specific drug types used in abortions.
The reports are intended for use in statistical reports about abortions in Ohio.
Over half of all induced abortions were performed less than 9 weeks into pregnancy, while 28 percent were performed on pregnancies 9-12 weeks.
Ohio’s abortion rate in 2011 was 11.1 per 1,000 women ages 15-44. In 2008, the national abortion rate was 16 per 1,000 women. The 2011 abortion ratio was 181 abortions per 1,000 live births, a decrease from 190 in 2010. In 2008 the U.S. abortion ratio was 234 abortions per 1,000 live births.
Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2012 (CNA) - To help Catholics learn more about the lives of the saints, the U.S. bishops’ conference has offered a list of 10 American saints for the Year of Faith.
Jeannine Marino, program specialist for the bishops’ conference’s Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis, created the list. As an advisor to several causes for canonization and a postulator, she researches the lives of proposed saints.
The list includes St. Isaac Jogues, a Jesuit missionary and North American martyr who traveled to the New World from France. In 1641, the Iroquois captured him and his companions. The Iroquois tortured and killed most of his group. He was killed by a tomahawk in 1646.
St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, the foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is also on the list. Known as Mother Cabrini, she is the first U.S. citizen to be canonized.
She came to the U.S. from Italy as a missionary. In her 35 years in the country before her death in 1917, she founded six institutions for the poor, the uneducated and the sick. She is the patron saint of immigrants.
The U.S. bishops’ secretariat also highlights St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native-born U.S. citizen to be named a saint.
She was a poor widow with five children who in the early 19th century converted to Catholicism and founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, the first order of religious women in the U.S. She helped begin the first free Catholic school in the country.
Another of the Year of Faith saints is St. John Neumann, a Bohemia-born Redemptorist priest who became the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. He founded the first diocesan school system in the U.S. and helped start almost 100 Catholic schools before his death in 1860.
St. Katharine Drexel, foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, was a wealthy young woman from Philadelphia who became a missionary to American Indians and African Americans and started many schools and missions for them. She died at age 96 in 1955. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 2000.
The U.S. bishops have put forward the Society of the Sacred Heart missionary St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, who arrived in U.S. territory from France in 1818. She founded the first Catholic school for Native Americans. The Pottowami Indians called her the Woman Who Prays Always.
St. Damien de Veuster, the Belgian-born missionary to the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii, built schools, churches and hospitals for Leprosy sufferers. He also made coffins for those who died.
He contracted leprosy but served until his death in 1889.
The bishops’ conference list includes two people whom Pope Benedict XVI will canonize Oct. 21: Bl. Marianne Cope and Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha.
Bl. Marianne Cope, a Franciscan missionary to the lepers of Molokai, was born in Germany and raised in New York. She became a leader in health care in Syracuse, N.Y. before volunteering to care for the outcast in Hawaii. She helped women and girls with leprosy and helped educate them. She died in 1918.
Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha, the “Lilly of the Mohawks,” converted to the Catholic faith in the 17th century at the age of 19. Her conversion angered her family. Her refusal to work on Sundays caused her Mohawk village to deny her meals that day. She left her family for Montreal where she could practice her faith freely. She took a vow of virginity and lived a life of penance and extreme prayer before her death in 1680.
The Year of Faith lasts from Oct. 11 through Nov. 24, 2013. It is meant to strengthen the faith of Catholics and to help evangelize. It marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962.
Vatican City, Oct 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - In the latest chapter of the "Vatileaks" saga, officials announced today that the Vatican computer technician accused of helping steal confidential papal documents will go on trial in two weeks.
Giuseppe Dalla Torre, head of the Vatican Tribunal, announced Oct. 23 that the first hearing for Claudio Sciarpelletti will take place Nov. 5. Sciarpelletti is accused of aiding and abetting the Pope’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele, in stealing confidential Vatican papers which were later leaked to the Italian press.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi offered another development in the Vatileaks case at an Oct. 23 press conference, where he announced the publication of the 15-page Vatican Tribunal document that explains how the three-judge panel arrived at Gabriele’s Oct. 6 guilty verdict.
When police officers searched Gabriele’s apartment May 23, following the publication of several confidential letters in Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book “Your Holiness,” they discovered approximately 1,000 incriminating documents and 82 boxes of evidence.
Although a nugget of gold, a check in the Pope’s name and a 16th-century copy of “The Aeneid” were found in Gabriele’s possession, the former butler’s sentence focused solely on his theft of confidential papal documents.
The judges did not consider the other items found in Gabriele’s possession because they had doubts about the way the search was conducted that uncovered them, Fr. Lombardi explained.
The report also showed that a psychiatric examination revealed no mental condition compromising Gabriele’s responsibility for the theft.
The tribunal made the distinction that Gabriele’s actions constituted theft and not embezzlement, since his actions showed no intention to obtain economic benefit.
During the week-long trial, the judges had heard how Gabriele stole copies of confidential documents from the Papal Apartments. These included personal correspondence between Pope Benedict and various cardinals, along with encrypted communications from papal ambassadors across the world.
Some of the papers were marked “to be destroyed” in German and were written in the Pope’s handwriting.
During his trial, Gabriele told judges, “I do not feel like I’m a thief,” adding that he “acted only out of visceral love for the Church of Christ and for its visible head on earth.”
The Pope’s former butler was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Oct. 6, after being found guilty of stealing the documents. In his final address, he said he acted alone and without accomplices.
The report said that Gabriele’s sentence was based on the penalties found in the Vatican City State criminal code. Though the promoter of justice had requested that Gabriele be banned from ever holding public office, the code had no such provisions allowing such a punishment.
With the publication of the report, Gabriele had the opportunity to appeal his conviction, but did not do so. The prosecution also now has the opportunity to appeal the sentence. Until then, Fr. Lombardi said Gabriele will remain under house arrest.
The possibility remains that Pope Benedict will pardon Gabriele, Fr. Lombardi said, but made no mention of a final decision being reached.
If the Pope does not pardon him, Gabriele will serve the remainder of his sentence in the Vatican prison.
Vatican City, Oct 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican Secretary of State told the synod on the New Evangelization that the planned peace mission to Syria will still happen but has been postponed following flare-ups in violence.
“Given the gravity of the situation, the visit will be postponed, probably until after the conclusion of the Synod, and the composition of the delegation will be modified, also due to other commitments on the part of its members,” Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said Oct. 23 at the synod.
Cardinal Bertone originally announced the papal delegation at an Oct. 16 session of the synod. It was scheduled to embark this week, ahead of the synod's conclusion on Oct. 28.
The most recent outbreak of violence happened Oct. 21 when a car bomb killed 13 persons in Bab Touma, the district of Damascus mainly inhabited by Christians.
Pope Benedict intends the delegates to “express his solidarity and that of the Synod with the people of Syria who, unfortunately, have for some time been experiencing a tragic situation of suffering.”
“The intention was also to express our spiritual closeness to our Christian brothers and sisters in that country, and to encourage those committed to seeking a solution respectful of the rights and duties of all.”
Cardinal Bertone affirmed that the peace mission is still on – it will “travel to Damascus at the time and in the manner which will be announced after they have been defined in the light of the contacts and preparations currently under way.”
The Syrian civil war began in March 2011 with demonstrations against the country's president, Bashar al-Assad.
More than 33,000 people have been killed since the start of the civil war, according to anti-regime activists. The United Nations has registered more than 200,000 refugees who have fled from the violence to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey.
In recent weeks, the violence has spread into Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Syria’s Christians tend to support the Ba'athist government, fearing what may happen if Islamists take control of the country. Rebels have targeted Christians, bombing several churches and driving tens of thousands of them from their homes.
Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - An analysis of Catholic women during the 2012 election season shows significant levels of agreement with Church teaching on contraception, as well as unity with other Americans in being concerned about the economy.
“I think the data here paint an interesting picture of Catholic women, in that Catholic women are more likely to agree with the Catholic Church hierarchy on both the social justice issues and also the social issues such as abortion,” said Melissa Deckman, political science professor at Washington College.
In an Oct. 22 panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Deckman analyzed how Catholics fit into “the gender gap in American presidential elections.”
The women’s vote is historically important, she said, noting that there are more women registered to vote and likely to vote than men in the U.S.
For decades, women have preferred Democratic candidates, she explained, and this held true in the 2008 election, in which Obama received 56 percent of the women’s vote while only receiving 49 percent of the men’s vote. In contrast, Republican candidate John McCain received only 43 percent of the women’s vote.
“This summer, it looked as though Obama was likely to maintain a double digit advantage among women voters come November, but polls in recent weeks demonstrate that the race for women voters is tightening,” Deckman said.
Despite the recent focus on the “women’s issues” of abortion and free employer-funded contraception, she observed that “women have been more likely to vote Democratic not because of reproductive rights issues, historically, but because of their attitudes about the social safety net.”
Polls indicate that women are more supportive of government providing benefits to those in need than men are, she explained.
Recently released polls by the Public Religion Research Institute show that among all Americans – men and women, Catholics and non-Catholics – the economy is the most important factor in determining one’s choice of presidential candidate, Deckman said.
The second most prominent issue is health care, which American women are more likely than men to pick as their most influencing factor in voting for president.
And while only four percent of Americans list abortion as the most important issue in determining their choice of presidential candidate, Deckman pointed out that Catholic women are more than twice as likely as men to choose it as their primary consideration.
Many of these women are pro-life, she added, as Catholic women are the most likely group of poll respondents to say that abortion should be illegal in all cases.
Catholic women are also more likely to oppose the federal contraception mandate when it is applied to religious hospitals and similar institutions, she said.
Deckman acknowledged that “in recent weeks, the Romney campaign has been able to close the gap” that exists between the genders.
In a campaign with a heavy economic focus, this may be the result of “the Romney campaign’s emphasis on how the economy’s affecting women – namely that there are more women in poverty under the Obama administration, and the recession has hit women harder in terms of job loss,” she said.
Other speakers on the panel explained that while the Catholic vote has long been considered an important swing vote in determining the outcome of elections, it is white Catholics who identify as politically moderate and are the true swing group within the Catholic community.
In such a tight race, predictions are difficult to make, the panelists said, but Catholics who fit into this swing category – including the women whose vote is being emphatically pursued by both candidates – could make a difference on Nov. 6.
Chicago, Ill., Oct 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has said that the “secularizing” of American culture is a “much larger issue” than political causes or the outcome of the presidential elections, warning against a rise of anti-religious sentiment and restating his fears of a future persecution in the United States.
“The world divorced from the God who created and redeemed it inevitably comes to a bad end. It’s on the wrong side of the only history that finally matters,” Cardinal George said in his Oct. 21 column for the Catholic New World.
He said the 2012 political campaigns have brought to the surface “anti-religious sentiment, much of it explicitly anti-Catholic, that has been growing in this country for several decades.” Secularism, he said, is just “communism’s better-scrubbed bedfellow.”
Cardinal George also touched on reports that he believes a successor of his will be martyred. Those stories came from his remarks to a group of priests several years ago.
“I am (correctly) quoted as saying that I expected to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square,” the cardinal wrote.
However, he said the reports left out his last phrase about the bishop who succeeds a possible martyr: “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.”
The cardinal said he was trying to express “in overly dramatic fashion” what the “complete secularization” of society could bring.
“What I said is not ‘prophetic’ but a way to force people to think outside of the usual categories that limit and sometimes poison both private and public discourse.”
Cardinal George said his predecessor Cardinal George Mundelein acted similarly in his 1937 criticisms of Adolph Hitler, whose Nazi government had dissolved Catholic youth groups, silenced the German bishops in the media and tried to discredit the Church’s work through putting on trial priests, monks and sisters accused of immorality.
Cardinal Mundelein had warned that there is no guarantee “that the battlefront may not stretch some day into our own land.” American Catholics’ silence could mean that “we too will be fighting alone.”
While Cardinal Mundelein never saw persecution at home, Cardinal George warned against trends that follow the example of the John Lennon song “Imagine,” which imagines a world without religion.
“We don’t have to imagine such a world; the 20th century has given us horrific examples of such worlds,” he said. He denounced the violence of “the nation state gone bad” which claims an absolute power to decide questions and make laws “beyond its own competence.”
Cardinal George closed by reminding Catholics that God “sustains the world, in good times and in bad.” Jesus Christ has “overcome and rescued history.”
“Those who gather at his cross and by his empty tomb, no matter their nationality, are on the right side of history. Those who lie about him and persecute or harass his followers in any age might imagine they are bringing something new to history, but they inevitably end up ringing the changes on the old human story of sin and oppression,” the cardinal concluded.
He encouraged Catholics to pray the Rosary in October so that the Holy Spirit will guide and strengthen the bishops at the Synod for the New Evangelization presently gathered at the Vatican.