Archive of November 28, 2012

Conference to study father figures in television

Rome, Italy, Nov 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - At an upcoming spring conference, the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross will examine father figures and their portrayal in TV, including Lord Grantham from the British series Downton Abbey.

Many television series “portray the father as being the family's problem,” observed Professor Enrique Fuster, one of the organizers of the conference scheduled for April 22-23, 2013 at the Roman university.

Fuster, who teaches cinema history at Holy Cross, noted that screen writers often depict schizophrenic and dysfunctional families and their solution for these situations is usually “a family rupture.”

The official title for the conference will be “The Figure of the Father in Television Series,” and it will feature speakers comparing how British and American series portray the role of the father.

"We chose to speak about the role of the father because the role of the family is very vague and the father is a sort of window that represents it," Fuster explained.

Talks will include an analysis of parental models found in the British dramas “Luther” and “The Hour,” as well as the American shows “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “In Treatment,” “Shameless” and “Dexter.”

Downton Abbey's Earl of Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville, could be faulted for his involvement with a maid in season two, as well as his sometimes strained relationship with his daughters.

The popular series, launched in September 2010 and three months later in the U.S., depicts the lives of a British aristocratic family and their servants in the early 20th century.

Fuster explained that “we believe that fiction plays an important role in shaping our social habits” as a reason for examining father roles and relationships in TV.

Professor Juan José García-Noblejas, who teaches film and TV script at Holy Cross, also reflected on the importance of a father figure for series to achieve success.

“Curiously, nearly all successful TV series deal with the figure of a father, indirectly, by having him very present,” he said.

“The father in Downton Abbey is very comprehensive and accepts mistakes, but he doesn't accept what he sees as whims of his daughters,” García-Noblejas noted.

He found it interesting that “the eldest daughter has a clear opposition to her father's wish to marry her with the heir and the youngest marries the chauffeur, also against the father's wishes.”

“The aim of this event is to, without losing actuality, know that the family is an essential dimension in our society,” García-Noblejas explained.

"Series are a way of knowing our society's current problems and mirror society in small weekly doses," he added. "We simply want to gather people who have had time to analyze and watch these series, which have a huge number of viewers around the world, in order to discuss them without losing our Christian perspective."

The conference, as well as being aimed at an academic audience and lovers of television drama, is also directed at creators “in the world of television drama, offering a unique opportunity to reflect on their craft,” according to the university's website.

Guest speakers will include Italy's famous TV journalist Costanza Miriano as well as Spain's Editor of Fila Siete TV magazine and Editor-in-Chief of Aceprensa, Alberto Fijo.

For more information visit the event’s website at:

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Yad Vashem honors Italian cardinal who rescued Jews

Jerusalem, Israel, Nov 28, 2012 (CNA) - Israel’s official Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem has named the World War II-era Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, as “Righteous Among the Nations” for his help in rescuing hundreds of Jews from Nazi persecution.

Yad Vashem said on Nov. 26 that the cardinal “played a central role in the organization and operation of a widespread rescue network.”

The Nazis began to deport Jews after the German occupation of Italy in September 1943. A major rescue effort in Florence was begun by the city’s Jewish leader Rabbi Nathan Cassuto and Jewish resistance fighter Raffaele Cantoni. The operation soon became a joint Jewish-Christian effort, with the cardinal offering guidance.

Cardinal Dalla Costa recruited rescuers among the clergy and supplied letters asking monasteries and convents to shelter Jews. He sheltered Jewish refugees in his own palace for short periods before they could be taken to safety.

Yad Vashem said the cardinal was part of a network that helped save hundreds of local Jews and Jewish refugees from areas previously under Italian control.

Survivor Lya Quitt testified that she received help from the cardinal after she fled to Florence from France in September 1943. She was brought to the cardinal’s palace and spent the night with other Jews sheltered there before rescuers took them to different convents in the city.

The cardinal died in 1961 at the age of 89. The cardinal’s medal will be kept at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem.

Yad Vashem has honored over 24,000 people with the medal in recognition of their “extraordinary courage to uphold human values.” Other Catholic honorees include Latvian priest Fr. Kasimir Vilnis, who was honored in 2008.

Controversy over the actions of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust has often focused on Pope Pius XII. Some critics contend the wartime Pope did not do enough to speak out against the persecution of Jews.

The Pope’s defenders point to his numerous actions behind the scenes that helped save persecuted Jews.

Until earlier this year, the Yad Vashem memorial’s exhibit on Pope Pius XII mainly echoed his critics, saying the Pope “did not protest” the murder of Jews.

The memorial has since changed the exhibit panel, citing recent research. It acknowledges the Pope’s condemnation of ethnic persecution and the efforts of the Holy See to save Jews. It notes Pius XII defenders who say official Catholic neutrality prevented harsher measures against the Catholic Church and allowed more covert rescue efforts to succeed.

The exhibit still criticizes “a lack of clear guidance” and instances of silence from the Vatican during the Nazi era.

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Bishops decry Congo violence, urge international help

Washington D.C., Nov 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Leaders of the Catholic Church in Africa are calling for humanitarian aid and peace efforts in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo after rebel forces captured a major city.

In light of “the mission of Christian charity and solidarity,” the African bishops called on various charitable organizations to renew and strengthen their efforts to ease “the suffering afflicting these brothers and sisters.”

Meeting in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa to discuss nonprofit work in the region, bishops from 34 African nations issued a Nov. 22 statement condemning the recent violence in the city of Goma and calling for an international response.

Fighting between a rebel group known as M23 and the Congolese army intensified when the rebels seized the major eastern city of Goma, home to about one million people, on Nov. 20.

The violent clash has resulted in huge numbers of people being displaced from their homes and left without food, water or shelter.

Originally a smaller rebel group that was integrated into the national army in a fragile 2009 peace agreement, the M23 rebels broke from the army several months ago and began taking over various cities across the country. Rwanda and Uganda have both been accused of supporting the rebel group.

Witnesses in Goma have reported that the situation remains precarious.

The bishops expressed solidarity and concern for the Congolese people, along with shock and outrage at the armed violence. They warned that the continuing clashes are causing a major humanitarian crisis that demands immediate attention.

The prelates observed that among the victims of the war are the thousands of men, women and children who have been displaced and abandoned in Goma and the surrounding areas.

“They are exposed to the bad weather, hunger, rape and all kinds of abuses, including recruiting of children into the army,” the Church leaders said. “This constitutes an offence to their dignity as human beings and children of God.”

Tens of thousands of people are estimated to have fled their homes and relief camps in Congo as the violence escalated. Aid groups in the area are working to provide for the essential needs of these people.

On Nov. 27, Catholic Relief Services said that it was committing a quarter of a million dollars to distributing essential items to thousands of people in Goma and the nearby area, where many now lack access to shelter and electricity.

Working with its local partners, Catholics Relief Services plans to distribute food, water and emergency supplies to about 10,000 displaced people in the coming days.

The organization said that its international staff members “have all been temporarily relocated to a safe location in neighboring Rwanda, where they remain in contact with their national colleagues who are reported safe in Goma.”

Caritas offices in the region are open and currently assessing the needs of the community, said Fr. Oswald Musoni, director of Caritas Goma.

“The situation is calmer, but we’re still uncertain about what tomorrow will bring,” he explained.

The African bishops said that they are “convinced that the time is no longer for war or conquest, but rather to promote cooperation between peoples.” They encouraged a fair, just and transparent use of natural resources and stressed that the “territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of Congo must be protected and respected by all.”

Joining their voices with those of the bishops of the Congo, the prelates called upon the nation’s government, as well as the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union to work for immediate peace and respect for human life in Goma.

They also launched an appeal for help to other nations involved in the fighting and in multinational companies that extract resources in the area.

These international actors must use honest and transparent dialogue to “address the causes of this recurrent violence,” they said, adding that this is the only way to find real peace and end the suffering, despair and violence that the people are currently experiencing.

“The perpetrators of such violence and destruction should be brought to justice,” they added.

The bishops entrusted the situation to Mary, Our Lady of Africa and Our Lady of Peace, and asked God touch the lives of those who are engaging in acts of violence, opening their hearts to peace and fraternal respect.

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Pope counsels parents to share faith with joy, dialogue

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Sharing the faith with children and others should be done in a joyful, clear and simple manner, Pope Benedict said at the Wednesday general audience.

"In our time, a special place to talk about God is the family, the first school to communicate the faith to new generations," Pope Benedict said Nov. 28 in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

He delivered his remarks, which are part of an ongoing weekly series on faith, to thousands of pilgrims who were gathered in the hall.

“The Second Vatican Council,” he noted, “speaks of parents as the first messengers of God, called to rediscover their mission, taking responsibility in educating.”

"They are called to open small minds to the love of God as a fundamental service to their lives, being the first catechists and teachers of the faith to their children," he added.

The Pope also emphasized that "it is important to develop a critical consideration for the many influences to which children are subjected."

When it comes to teaching the Catholic faith, Pope Benedict advised parents to always have a tone of joy. "It is important to help all members of the family to understand that the faith is not a burden but a source of deep joy," he said.

He also spoke about the importance of the ability to listen and dialogue.

"The family must be an environment where you learn to be together, to reconcile the conflicts in mutual dialogue," said the Pope.

"It is done by listening and speaking to understand and love, to be a sign, the one for the other, of the mercy of God."

Pope Benedict also touched on ways everyone can speak about God.

"Speaking of God means first of all to be clear about what we bring to men and women of our time, which isn't an abstract God or a hypothesis, but a concrete God that exists," he said.

He also noted that "to speak of God requires a familiarity with Jesus and the Gospel" and one must ''follow the method of God," which is humility.

"We need a recovery of simplicity, returning to the essential, the good news of a God who is interested in us and who draws nearer to us in Jesus Christ."

The Pope spoke about the apostle Saint Paul and said he offers a lesson on how to talk to God with great simplicity.

"Paul isn't talking about a philosophy that he has developed… but speaks of God who came into his life, a real living God, who spoke with him and who talks with us," he said.

"To speak of God, we must make room in the hope that it is he who acts in our weakness. Make room without fear, with simplicity and joy, in the profound conviction that the more we put him in the middle and not us, the more our communication will be fruitful," he added.

Pope Benedict finished his address by saying that speaking of God means to understand that he is not a competitor of our existence, but rather the true guarantor of the greatness of the human person. 


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Nuncio says Church needs holy priests more than ever

La Plata, Argentina, Nov 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a message to seminarians, the apostolic nuncio to Argentina said that in today's society the Catholic Church is in dire need of “well formed” and holy priests.

During a Mass to mark the 90th anniversary of St. Joseph Seminary in La Plata, Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig drew a parallel between the formation of seminarians and the healing of the ten lepers in the Gospel.

“Of the ten, only one returned to give thanks to the Lord. Not only was he cured, but the fundamental encounter with Christ transformed his life and saved him.”

“Seminarians are called to work for the best possible human, spiritual and intellectual formation, always remembering that they should turn to the Lord. Christ should be everything for you,” the nuncio said.

“This seminary of such prestige, which has given so many vocations to the Church, proudly displays its history,” he added.  

“And it is preparing for the new challenges of these times. The Church needs well formed and holy priests now more than ever.”

Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, who is celebrating his 40th anniversary as priest, concelebrated at the Mass, together with other bishops of the region.

After the Mass, he blessed a six foot-tall crucifix erected on the grounds to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the seminary.

The occasion also marked the 90th birthday of Msgr. Gustavo Ponferrada, a professor and counselor at the seminary, who has been a priest for over sixty years.

The anniversary celebrations will continue with the ordination of two seminarians on Nov. 30.  The Archdiocese of La Plata will have a total of eight new priests by the end of 2012.

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Pope urges support for children affected by AIDS

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict is lending his support to combatting HIV/AIDS, with a special focus on advocating for children who receive the disease from their mothers.

"My thoughts turn in particular to the large number of children who contract the virus from their mothers each year, despite the treatments which exist to prevent its transmission," said the Pope at the end of his Nov. 28 general audience.

As he looked ahead to the U.N.’s World Day Against AIDS, which will be observed on Dec. 1, the Pope underscored the millions of deaths and the human suffering the disease has caused.

This suffering is “particularly great in the poorest regions of the world, where people have great difficulty in accessing effective drugs,” he said.

He also offered a "cordial welcome" to the Catholic Medical Missionary Board, "with gratitude for their charitable concern for the health care needs of our brothers and sisters in developing countries."

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Support for teen emergency contraception access deemed 'foolish'

Denver, Colo., Nov 28, 2012 (CNA) - Doctors and pro-life advocates warn that the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation of emergency contraceptives for teenage girls promotes unwise and “risky behaviors."

“It is beyond belief that the AAP would make this statement which is not in the best interest of teens … but in fact encourages them to initiate sexual activity and to do more risky behaviors. It's very foolish,” Doctor Donna Harrison told CNA on Nov. 27.

A policy statement released Nov. 26 by the American Academy of Pediatrics aims to “encourage routine counseling and advance emergency-contraception prescription as 1 part of a public health strategy to reduce teen pregnancy.”

This recommendation is disconcerting to pro-life health care professionals because at least one method of emergency contraception, known as ulipristal or ella, can work by inducing abortion.

Harrison, who is the director of research and public policy for the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, stated that “ella clearly can end a pregnancy that's already implanted in the mother's womb – it is clearly capable of killing an unborn child.

“Pro-life doctors will not prescribe ella, as an issue of conscience,” she added.

Harrison also raised concern about the safety of teenage girls who take ella.

“Because ella is a drug like RU-486,” her organization is “very concerned about the misuse of this drug for abortions, and what we see with women who use RU-486 is haemorrhage and fatal bacterial infections.”

“And we know that ella has not been tested in young girls. The testing was just in women over 18, so we have no safety data about young girls using this powerful drug.”

The other major drug discussed by the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement is levonorgestrel, or Plan B.

According to Harrison, the descriptions from the manufacturer and the FDA both note that Plan B has “a mechanism of action that can also prevent the embryo implanting, so that also ends the life of an unborn child.”

Harrison pointed out that “contraception” is generally understood to work before fertilization, but that these “emergency contraceptives” can kill an embryo.

“That becomes a pro-life issue … are you willing to take the life of another human being? Drugs that work after fertilization we don't do, because we don't kill our second patient, who is the embryo-fetus who's conceived inside the mother.”

Population Research Institute president Steven Mosher raised similar concerns about the abortifacient nature of emergency contraception, as well as fears about conscience protection for Catholic physicians.

“The AAP statement nonetheless asserts that pediatricians have an ethical responsibility to 'inform/educate about availability and access to emergency-contraception services.' There is no ethical basis for this assertion which, if enforced, would violate the conscience of all Catholic and many Christian physicians,” Mosher wrote Nov. 27.

Giving emergency contraceptives to teenage girls has in studies been shown to not decrease pregnancies or sexual activity, according to Harrison. She also said that “it does lead to an increase” in sexually transmitted diseases.

“So to give underage girls, for an organization that claims it is interested in the health of young girls, is a really stupid thing to do.”

Harrison believes that the recommendation will end up encouraging “a lot of young girls to initiate sexual activity, and get into a sexually active relationship that they find later they can't back out of, and that's the stupidity.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations “would be devastating, from a public health perspective,” Leslee Unruh, founder of National Abstinence Clearinghouse, told CNA Nov. 28.

Rather than providing teens with pharmaceuticals, Unruh said teens should be taught about “the real meaning of love and intimacy and bonding.”

“Love is the better answer,” she said, “they will see chemicals aren't the answer.”

“I believe it would be devastating for young men and women who would go that route.”

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