Lagos, Nigeria, Nov 13, 2012 (CNA) - After his parish in southern Nigeria was desecrated on Nov. 4, Monsignor Obiora F. Ike called on his parishioners to observe a week of prayer and penance.
“Msgr. Ike has called for seven days of prayer, fasting, penance and reparation for the Christian faithfuls and for the conversion of these perpetrators,” according to a statement on his website.
Around 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 4, attackers entered St. Leo the Great parish in Enugu, vandalizing the building and destroying infrastructure and sacred items.
Everything in the church was destroyed: the altar, sacred vessels, musical equipment, seats, the pulpit, statues, religious images, and the entire microphone system.
The destruction included “the Blessed Sacrament that was desecrated,” according to Msgr. Ike's statement.
By 4:00 a.m. security agents arrived at the parish and assessed the damage. According to Msgr. Ike, the damage done totals around $63,500.
Sunday Mass at the parish was held outside “under the heavy sunshine.” Msgr. Ike's sermon that day encouraged the congregation to “remain steadfast in their faith despite all the persecution, religious intolerance and fanaticism.” He also urged them to remain dedicated in prayer and forgive the perpetrators.
A cached version of the parish website features prayers for peace, for Nigeria in distress, and against bribery and corruption in Nigeria.
Fr. Paulinus I. Ogara, a priest of the Diocese of Enugu, told The Sun of Lagos that the attackers tagged the wall of the church with graffiti “warning against the worship of idols.”
The reference to idolatry led to speculation on the Nigerian forum “Nairaland” that the attack was perpetrated either by Protestant or Pentecostal Christians, or “it's the Boko Haram in disguise? Maybe they want to set the Christians against themselves by making it look like it was done by other Christian faithfuls.”
According to an Associated Press count, the Islamist group has been responsible for more than 690 killings this year alone.
The attack on St. Leo's follows an assault two weeks ago on Seat of Wisdom, another parish in Enugu, according to The Sun.
Bishop Callistus V. Onaga of Enugu has called on Christians “to be alert and defend their faith and continue the struggle against all odds,” Msgr. Ike said.
Enugu is located in the Christian-dominated south of Nigeria. Violence against Christians in the country is usually committed in the north, where the population is primarily Muslim. In 2006, the population of the Enugu diocese was 60 percent Catholic.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Church in the United States and its bishops should play a major role in the New Evangelization by presenting the gospel values they maintain amidst a secular culture, the Pope’s representative to the U.S. said.
"The leadership of the bishops is of pre-eminent importance if the Year of Faith is to have a long-term effect and if the New Evangelization is to be not merely a temporary enthusiasm, but rather a permanent dynamic in the life of the local Church," said Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, papal nuncio to the U.S.
The nuncio addressed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at its fall general assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 12.
During the American bishops' recent series of "ad limina" visits to Rome, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the "grave challenges" presented by an "increasingly secularized society," Archbishop Viganò recalled.
In response to these challenges, the Pope has emphasized the need for a New Evangelization and has called for a Year of Faith, which is currently underway, he said.
Archbishop Viganò observed that the Church in the U.S. has "reaped untold benefits" from saints, such as the North American martyrs, Junipero Serra, Mother Cabrini and others who came from Europe and distant lands "to plant seeds and act upon the Gospel message" in an initial evangelization.
Now, he said, Europe has fallen away from gospel values, turning towards consumerism and materialism.
"Yet, these Gospel values, by the grace of God, although strongly confronted by secular society, are still very much alive in the Church in America," the archbishop declared.
For this reason, America "should take major responsibility in this New Evangelization, not only for the members of our local Church but for the Church worldwide."
"Therefore, missionary zeal must be reborn," he said, emphasizing that bishops must lead the way in witnessing to a life in Christ, showing this path to others.
"The vibrant spirit, still so much alive in the Catholic Church, should inspire those who have lost their way, those who have become absorbed in materialism, imprisoned by secularism and those disillusioned young people looking for meaning for their existence," he said.
To accomplish this mission, Archbishop Viganò said that every bishop must devote his attention to "the spiritual renewal of his presbyterate, as well as the life of the seminary."
"We must continually undergo conversion ourselves, so that our people, especially through this Year of Faith, will have a renewed trust and confidence in us who are the messengers of the Gospel," he said.
In the same vein, Archbishop Viganò urged "careful selection of those aspiring to priesthood," exercising "a discerning eye to see and to take leadership of what is the best course to follow for those who are preparing for the ordained ministry."
"Vocation directors must be priests who, working together with their bishop, have a keen and prayerful sense of those who will faithfully communicate to others the mind of the Church," he explained.
"We must choose for our seminaries the finest priests possible, not necessarily the most renowned, or the most highly recognized, or even the most intelligent, as true teachers, models and examples for our seminarians," he added. "We need priests first and foremost who draw others to the message of Christ crucified through holiness of life."
He encouraged the bishops not to distance themselves from their priests and seminarians, but to make them "feel that they can freely come to you."
"There are many optimistic signs that this renewal of the presbyterate is already taking place," Archbishop Viganò observed, pointing to bishops' participation with their priests in liturgical events, retreats and group meetings.
He also related that his "limited personal experience" seems to indicate a promising "revitalization of seminary life" in the U.S.
The nuncio encouraged the bishops to continue these positive endeavors, always remembering to ask for forgiveness in times of failing, in order to more effectively meet the call of the New Evangelization.
"With good, solid, dedicated priests and seminarians, the Church will have the future leadership it needs to face the challenges of the twenty-first century and to make the Gospel message come alive," he said.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The U.S. bishops will vote this week on advancing the cause for the canonization of Dorothy Day, a 20th century Catholic social activist and tireless advocate for the poor.
The move is being sought by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, as his archdiocese was Day's home from 1916 until her death in 1980.
Ecclesiastical law requires that the bishop pursuing a canonization consult with his regional bishops' conference on whether or not the cause is prudent. Cardinal Dolan is asking for the consultation during the U.S. bishops' general assembly being held Nov. 12-15 in Baltimore.
In 2000, Cardinal John J. O'Connor, then-archbishop of New York, submitted Day's cause for canonization to the Vatican. At that time she was given the title “Servant of God.”
That title indicates that her cause is under investigation, and should the Vatican announce Day lived a life of heroic virtue, she will then be called “Venerable.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Day was baptized Episcopalian at the age of 12. As a young girl, she fasted and mortified her body by sleeping on hardwood floors. One journal entry from those early years expresses her desire to suffer for the sins of the world.
Her life soon changed as the 1910s brought about a stark shift in the U.S. social climate. Day read Upton Sinclair's scathing depiction of the Chicago meat-packing industry in “The Jungle,” which marked a turning point in her personal ideology.
She dropped out of college and moved to New York, where she took a job as a reporter for the country's largest daily socialist paper, The Call. She eventually settled in Staten Island, living a peaceful, slow-paced life with her common law husband Forster Batterham.
Conflict arose, however, when Day became increasingly drawn to the Catholic faith – praying rosaries consistently and even having their daughter baptized as a Catholic. Batterham, a staunch atheist, eventually left them and Day was herself received into the Catholic Church in 1927.
Along with the personalist philosopher Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933. Living the Catholic notion of holy poverty and practicing works of mercy, the two started soup kitchens, self-sustaining farm communities, and a daily newspaper.
The Catholic Worker Movement continues to focus on justice and hospitality for the poor on the margins of society, and expresses pacifism and nonviolence.
It is based on the philosophy of personalism, which holds that the human person must always be regarded first and foremost as a person, and which respects human rights and freedom.
Day was also an advocate for distributism, an economic system proposed as a third way between capitalism and communism. Distributism was developed in large part by the English Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton, and seeks widespread property ownership.
Distributism is inspired particularly by the social encyclical “Rerum novarum” of Pope Leo XIII. The movement holds that a just social order is better achieved when property and capital are owned by many people rather than by the state or by a few ultra-wealthy individuals.
Poverty, performing works of mercy, solidarity with the poor, and faithfulness of scripture were the marks of Day's life.
“Because I sincerely loved His poor, He taught me to know Him. And when I think of the little I ever did, I am filled with hope and love for all those others devoted to the cause of social justice,” Day wrote of her experiences in her 1940 work “From Union Square to Rome.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The United States Catholic bishops have elected Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas as their new treasurer-elect, as well as the chairman of their Committee on Budget and Finance.
Members of the bishops’ conference also picked chairmen-elect for five committees at their Nov. 12-15 fall general assembly in Baltimore.
Nominated by the conference’s Committee on Priorities and Plans, each elected bishop will serve for one year as chairman-elect before beginning a three-year term as chairman of his respective committee.
On Nov. 12, the bishops chose Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami as chairman-elect of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
The archbishop will succeed Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., who currently leads the committee, which works to further the Church’s social mission through education, poverty awareness initiatives and advocacy efforts.
In addition, the bishops tapped Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston to lead the Committee on Divine Worship, which oversees matters related to the Liturgy.
Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., was chosen to lead the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. He will take over the position from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Ft. Wayne-South Bend, who currently leads the committee.
The bishops selected Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle as chairman-elect of the Committee on Migration and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, N.C., as the next leader of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
The bishops also added Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, Bishop Joseph Cistone of Saginaw, Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo and Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn for Maronites to the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services.
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Nov 13, 2012 (CNA) -
President Otto Perez of Guatemala canceled his visit with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican set for Nov.15 after a second earthquake rocked the Central American country.
“Fortunately no human life was lost,” Perez told reporters during a press conference on the latest tremors.
Sources at the Guatemalan embassy at the Holy See told CNA of the president’s decision to also cancel his attendance at the Nov. 16-17 Latin American Summit in Cadiz, Spain.
The second earthquake, which occurred on Nov. 11, registered 6.2 on the Richter scale and took place in the city of Champerico located southwest of the capital.
Perez explained that Sunday's quake set off landslides that were particularly severe in the area of Barranca Grande in the San Marcos province, which was hit hard by the initial earthquake last week.
The first disaster – a 7.4 magnitude earthquake – ravaged Guatemala on Nov. 7, leaving 42 people dead, 155 wounded and 1.2 million displaced.
Austin, Texas, Nov 13, 2012 (CNA) - The Austin-based pro-life media group Heroic Media has released a new video for National Adoption Month to encourage women with unexpected pregnancies to consider adoption.
“Most women don't understand the feeling of empowerment adoption brings,” Marissa Cope, Heroic Media’s Director of Marketing, Communications and Research, said Nov. 12. “We believe this video will alert women to a possibility they may not have yet considered and ultimately save the lives of unborn children.”
Cope said fewer than one percent of women with unplanned pregnancies choose adoption, even though there are 30 to 40 couples desiring to adopt for every adoptive baby.
The ad is a result of Heroic Media’s partnership with Bethany Christian Services to publicize resources for pregnant women.
The commercial, titled “The Adoption Option,” is available on YouTube. It will be exclusively broadcast on the Oxygen Network beginning Nov. 12. It will air during the reality TV program “I’m Having Their Baby,” about pregnant women going through the adoption process.
The ad features a pregnant woman who tells the viewer why she plans to put her unborn child up for adoption.
“I’m pregnant, but I’m not in a position to care for this child,” the woman says, placing her hand over her womb. “I want him to be with a family who will love him and give him the things that I can’t.”
“I’ve learned that through adoption, I can choose the family who will raise him. And I can receive help through the rest of my pregnancy,” she continues.
“Adoption just seems like the best option. For him, and for me,” she says.
About half of the more than six million pregnancies in the U.S. each year are not planned. The ad intends to target these pregnant women, especially those in their twenties who account for more than half of all abortions.
The ad can be seen at the Heroic Media website at www.heroicmedia.org/adoption.
Vatican City, Nov 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers announced Nov. 13 that its upcoming international conference will discuss how health facilities can maintain a Catholic identity in secular societies.
The conference will be “devoted to the study of all aspects of hospitals as privileged spaces, to fulfill both individually and collectively the baptismal mandate” to minister to the sick in imitation of the Good Samaritan, the council’s president Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski said.
The council’s 27th international conference will take place Nov. 15 to 17 and will address the theme, “The hospital, a place of evangelization, human and spiritual mission.”
The gathering will bring together churchmen as well as health care professionals. Up for discussion will be several key issues: respect for life from conception to its natural end, compassionate care with full respect for the sick person’s identity, and palliative care, which focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients.
Representatives from the European Congress of Catholic Doctors as well as Italian Minister of Health Renato Balduzzi will participate. They will address such concerns as maintaining hospitals’ Catholic identity in the secularized Western world, and promoting more effective health care in developing countries, where easily preventable diseases such as malaria continue to claim untold lives.
“Health care workers who are inspired by the faith and Christian morality must be the promoters and pioneers of ethical training to accompany their professional preparation,” noted the council’s secretary, Archbishop Jean-Marie Mupendawatu.
Archbishop Mupendawatu emphasized that the focus of health care should be on the patient as a person, who “reveals the face of God” in his suffering. He ended his remarks by quoting St. Therese of Lisieux, who found joy in suffering by offering up her pain to God.
“I have come to the point of suffering no more, because all suffering endured for God has become sweetness,” she wrote.
The meeting will begin with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica presided over by the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
The conference will conclude with a Nov. 17 Mass in St. Peter’s and an address by Pope Benedict XVI.
The council was established by Blessed Pope John Paul II to provide a forum to discuss Catholic-related health care issues. Some 120,000 Catholic health care facilities operate worldwide, putting into practice Christ’s command in St. Matthew’s gospel to “Go, preach, and heal the sick.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Bishops and Catholics must work to better deliver the Church's teaching on marriage in light of the recent U.S. elections, said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.
“Our role, our sacred responsibility is to defend marriage from anything – anything – that would dilute it from what nature intends and what the God of nature intends namely, a life-long, life-giving, faithful union between one man and one woman,” Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the press Nov. 13.
Catholic bishops have adamantly stressed that the Church’s definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not the result of any “prejudice to people with same-sex attraction,” Cardinal Dolan said during the U.S. bishop's Nov. 12-15 fall general assembly in Baltimore.
Rather, he explained, the Church opposes anything that “eats away” or “militates against” the sanctity of marriage, including “frivolous divorce” and “trial marriage.”
However, opponents of traditional marriage continue to “caricature us as these mean-spirited, bigoted people who are trying to impose their medieval views upon the rest of society.”
Instead of allowing such attacks to continue, the Church and those who support her teaching on marriage must strive to effectively communicate her position in a way that society can better understand.
“We’re constantly trying to think how to re-craft our message,” he said, adding that “there might be an analogy here in the pro-life movement.”
He pointed out that while abortion advocates some 20 years ago largely held public support by reducing abortion “to a matter of choice,” pro-life advocates used the opportunity to clarify their message by questioning what “choice” was being made in the procedure.
Since then, the pro-life movement has been able to “get much more pointed and effective” in the delivery of their message.
As a result, Cardinal Dolan said, “more and more Americans gradually describe themselves as questioning the unfettered abortion license.”
Those who support traditional marriage must take a similar approach in promoting the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of marriage, he said.
“It’s not that we're against gays. It’s not that we're against divorced people,” Cardinal Dolan said. “It’s that we’re pro-marriage.”
Last week, voters in both Maryland and Washington state passed referenda to approve laws legalizing “same-sex marriage,” while citizens of Minnesota narrowly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, reflecting the state’s current laws.
Maine activists seeking to redefine marriage were able to put forward a referendum to reverse the people’s 2009 vote to protect marriage. That effort succeeded, and the state will soon begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
Cardinal Dolan admitted that while this issue presents “a challenge,” he said it is nonetheless one “that we cannot run away from.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The strong protection of Americans’ religious freedom requires a long-term commitment to formation and education, particularly of young people, the U.S. bishops' leader on religious liberty issues said.
"We are prayerfully resolute in pursuing the project of defending and fostering religious liberty, in the short and mid-term and in the long-term," said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who chairs the ad hoc committee on religious liberty.
Protecting religious freedom, he said Nov. 12, "requires long-term foundational and formational work."
The archbishop made his remarks in a report on the activity of his committee to his fellow bishops, who are meeting for their annual fall assembly in Baltimore. He urged them to pursue efforts in this area "as pastors who are engaged in the process of the New Evangelization."
He highlighted the conference's recent efforts to support religious liberty, including the Fortnight for Freedom event over the summer and a Pilgrimage for Life and Liberty that included both a Mass and the launch of a novena.
The bishops' conference has also reached out through media and public relations efforts aimed at Catholics beyond the pews and at the general public. These educational overtures include brochures, a text messaging campaign and a new website to collect various resources, which were produced in both English and Spanish.
In addition, the bishops have identified the upcoming Solemnity of Christ the King as an appropriate opportunity to reflect on religious freedom and encourage its defense.
Looking at the immediate future, Archbishop Lori observed that the "political landscape is the same, but so also is our resolve to eliminate the HHS mandate and most especially the four-part definition that it contains of what constitutes religious activity."
He noted that lawsuits and legislative efforts to counteract the mandate continue, and the bishops' conference is also monitoring and participating in the ongoing rule-making process regarding the treatment of religious groups under the mandate.
At a broader level, Archbishop Lori said the bishops need to focus on the long-term goals of providing "education and formation as part of the New Evangelization."
He noted a need for "greater formation, especially to reach young people, to open their hearts to their heritage as Americans and to what the faith teaches about religious liberty."
As part of an effort to educate the youth, a religious liberty curriculum has already been developed for schools and religious education programs, he reported, and there are possibilities for other initiatives such as essay contests.
In these educational efforts, "we are stressing that this is not a Catholic issue, but an American issue," the archbishop explained.
He also pointed out that there is "a reciprocal relationship between the New Evangelization and religious liberty," because religious freedom allows the Gospel to be proposed and is also part of its message.
Archbishop Lori urged his fellow bishops not to be discouraged as the process of defending religious liberty continues to unfold.
Recent days have shown more clearly than ever that "defending religious freedom, like defending life and marriage, are not short term projects," he said.
He encouraged his fellow bishops to renew their resolve to see themselves as "not as part of a fleeting effort, but rather as part of a movement to defend, to promote and to foster life, liberty and marriage."