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Archive of November 30, 2012

Salt and Light media foundation to celebrate 10th anniversary

Toronto, Canada, Nov 30, 2012 (CNA) - Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Salt + Light Television, Canada’s first Catholic television network, will begin celebrations of its 10th anniversary in December.

“It is hard to believe that we began this bold media initiative ten years ago!” Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, said Nov. 29.

Fr. Rosica recalled how the network was “born on the wings of World Youth Day 2002” and continued its “tremendous dynamism and energy.”

Now that the foundation is celebrating its anniversary, Fr. Rosica believes it is a time for renewal.

“This is a time to repeat our ‘yes’ to the Lord as we continue working with him in producing works of art, beauty, faith, hope and joy for the world,” he said. “Salt and Light is a powerful instrument of and witness to the new evangelization!”

Salt + Light Television reaches 2.6 million homes in Canada and millions more through the internet. It covers major Catholic Church events locally and globally, including the plenary meeting of the Canadian bishops’ conference, papal audiences, World Youth Day, the International Eucharistic Congress and the annual Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus.

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, president of the Canadian bishops’ conference, wished the foundation a happy anniversary “and many more anniversaries to come.”

“Your message remains one of hope and witness, showing readers and viewers, as well as other media, how the teachings of the Church and its witness are themselves ‘alive and young,’” he said in a Nov. 23 letter to Fr. Rosica.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, sent his own congratulations and praised the network’s cooperation with SiriusXM radio’s The Catholic Channel.

His letter, dated Dec. 1, voiced hope that the Catholic Church in the U.S. will “welcome Salt and Light with open arms” as it expands its reach.

The foundation also received congratulations from Cardinal Claudio Maria Celli, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

“I am grateful for all that you and your collaborators have done over the years in producing and promoting inspirational Catholic programming,” Cardinal Celli said.

“This work,” he added, “is an important contribution to the new evangelization.”

He also praised Salt and Light for involving Canadian and other young people in their efforts to spread the Gospel through social and traditional media.

Canadian entrepreneur Gaetano Gagliano at the age of 86 founded the Salt and Light Media Foundation and its television network soon after World Youth Day was held in Toronto 2002. Fr. Rosica had been national director of the World Youth Day event and became the founding CEO of the Catholic Salt and Light Media Foundation in 2003 after encouragement from Gagliano and Pope John Paul II.

“Our network is really a living tribute to Pope John Paul II!” Fr. Rosica said. “How happy Blessed John Paul II must be as he continues to watch over Salt and Light ‘from the window’ of the Father’s House!”

Salt and Light’s 10th anniversary celebrations will begin with a Dec. 6 Christmas concert in Toronto featuring The Priests, the Irish trio of singing clergy. The “Venite Adoremus 2012” concert performers include the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario and the Toronto-based singer Rosanna Riverso. Proceeds will benefit the Salt and Light foundation.

The Salt and Light foundation produces the online radio station S+L Radio 1, which provides Catholic music, devotionals, and inspirational messages. Deacon Pedro Guevara Mann hosts its weekly radio program Salt + Light Hour, providing commentary, interviews and music. The show is available on The Catholic Channel on SiriusXM 129.

The foundation also produces a magazine with a circulation of over 90,000 and a smart phone app available for iPhones and iPads.

Salt and Light provides content in French and Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese. It will soon add Spanish-language content.

Over 25 people now work for Salt and Light and its foundation is supported by over 2,200 donors.

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Car bombs terrorize Syrian Christians in Damascus

Damascus, Syria, Nov 30, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Two deadly car bombs that exploded in a Damascus suburb Nov. 28 killed at least 34 people and are “terrorizing” the Christian population, a local priest says.

Father Romualdo Fernandez, rector of the Damascene Shrine of the Conversion of St. Paul, told Fides news agency that the “massacre” has “spread terrible panic” and some schools report that half the teachers were absent the day after the attack.

“(W)hoever are the people behind the crime, if the aim was to terrorize the Christians, they are succeeding,” Fr. Fernandez said.

Two bombs exploded in the eastern suburb of Jaramana, a district loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Assad. The car bombs exploded within five minutes of each other in a parking lot between two commercial buildings, killing and wounding laborers and employees.

“The attack had been prepared to kill as many people as possible: when the first car bomb exploded, people approached, and only then the second bomb exploded,” Fr. Nicholas Haddad of the Greek-Catholic monastery of San Germano told Fides.

He said many of the victims of the bombing were young people and students.

Most of the victims were Muslims and Druze. Fr. Haddad said eight Christians, either Greek Catholic or Greek Orthodox, were among the dead. The priest reported that at least 10 Christians were among the dozens of wounded.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the bombings.

Government officials blamed the attack on “terrorists,” a label they frequently use for the armed rebels. Opposition forces blamed the attack on a government intelligence operation.

Conflict between the Syrian government and rebel forces has continued for 20 months. As many as 40,000 people have been killed since March 2011.

Rebel forces have won several tactical victories in recent weeks, taking air bases and other strategic facilities. Internet and cell phone access failed to work on Thursday, leading to claims that the government had taken down the services to stall rebel offensives or in preparation for an offensive of its own.

Analysts told the Associated Press that most of the rebels are ordinary Syrians and soldiers who have defected because of their opposition to the government. However, foreign fighters and those dedicated to an extremist form of Islam are increasingly appearing on the battle front.

The rebels are predominantly Sunni Muslim, the majority religion in Syria. President Assad is a member of the Alawite religious minority, a branch of Shiite Islam. Other religious minorities, including Christians, tend to support his government.

The Jaramana suburb is known for its large Christian and Druze presence. Many Christian refugees, such as those “ethnically cleansed” from the city of Homs, have found refuge there.

Fr. Fernandez said there are even fewer Syrian Christians after the Iraq war.

“They give all the money they have to reach Lebanon, and from there they run away from the Middle East – while foreign powers and the international community blow on the flames, instead of forcing the parties to negotiate a settlement that puts an end to this massacre.”

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Catholics strongly support new Mass translation after first year

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2012 (CNA) - One year after the Church introduced revisions to the English-language liturgy, an overwhelming majority of Catholics continue to view the changes in a positive light.

A new poll finds that 70 percent of U.S. adult self-identified Catholics agree with the statement, “Overall, I think the new translation of the Mass is a good thing.”

The poll, conducted in September 2012 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, sought to gain an understanding of how adult Catholics perceived the third edition of the Roman Missal that went into use on Nov. 27, 2011.

The overwhelming majority of respondents either agreed – 50 percent – or strongly agreed, 20 percent, that the new translation is a good thing.

Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week were most likely to approve of the revised liturgy, with more than 80 percent agreeing that it was a good thing. However, even among those who rarely attend Mass, more than 60 percent approved of the new translation.

Respondents who said that they had noticed great changes in the Mass were more likely to view the new translation in a negative light, compared to those who had noticed moderate changes, small changes or none at all.

Commissioned by the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America, the survey asked participants whether they have a good understanding of the meaning of the prayers recited by the priest and people at Mass, and if the words of those prayers make it easier for them to participate in the Mass.

They were also asked whether those prayers of the Mass help them feel closer to God and inspire them to be a more faithful Catholic in their daily lives.

In each case, at least three-quarters of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed.  Catholics who attend Mass more regularly were more likely than others to strongly agree with each statement.

Among weekly church-goers, there were no significant differences between the responses to these questions in the September 2012 survey and a similar study conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in 2011, before the revised liturgy was in use.

The results of the new survey were first presented by Fr. Anthony J. Pogorelc of The Catholic University of America at a Nov. 9 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Religious Research Association in Phoenix, Ariz.

“This is a preliminary study,” Fr. Pogorelc told CNA, adding that various follow up projects could be conducted to explore why people have responded in various ways.

Those who do not see the changes to the Mass as a good thing may have a poor understanding of the new texts, he explained, or they may think that it is better to translate the liturgy using a method of “dynamic equivalence.”

This method, which was used in the previous edition, sought to translate the Latin into the ordinary “language of the people.” However, it was replaced with a more literal and accurate translation in the third edition of the Roman Missal in order to restore some of the theological meaning that may have been lost.

While every generation included in the survey demonstrated a positive view of the new translation, Fr. Pogorelc said that age difference could have an impact on how different groups are reacting to the changes.

For example, while they overwhelmingly believe the changes to be a good thing, members of the pre-Vatican II generation, born before 1943, may find the new liturgy challenging, struggling to remember the new responses due to their age, he said.

The millennial generation, born in 1982 or later, shows the highest rate of dissatisfaction with the new translation, although even among this group, nearly 60 percent approve of the changes.

While the reasons for this are not clear, Fr. Pogorelc suggested that it may be tied to findings in other studies that this younger generation is less affiliated with religion and churches in general.

In addition, he said, social factors could influence this group of Catholics. For example, the decline of the family meal could be leading to a weaker understanding of “ritual” in connection with the Mass.

“It would be interesting to explore this a bit more, now that we have this basic data,” Fr. Pogorelc said, observing that perhaps focus groups could be assembled in the future to better assess people’s understanding of the liturgical changes at a deeper and more thorough level.

In the meantime, he suggested, it is good for priests to continue preaching on the texts of the Mass, particularly when they fit in closely with the readings.

Much of the Mass references Scripture, he observed, and “integrating some of the texts of the Mass into the preaching” can show the people the close connection between the two.

“I think that kind of thing can be very helpful,” he said.

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Argentina bishops warn against bitter political division

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 30, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Argentina's bishops called on citizens to prevent the country from being torn into staunch partisan divides, urging a unified support for marriage and the defense of life.

“After almost thirty years of democracy, we Argentineans run the risk of dividing ourselves into irreconcilable camps once again,” the bishops said in a message for Advent released on Nov. 29.

“Fear is spreading that these divisions are becoming sharper and that pressure is being exerted to inhibit the free expression and participation of all in civic life.”

They noted that democracy has not yet fully matured in Argentina due to what they called excessive strong-man politics and the conflict between “the unitary and federal visions of the nation, which was widespread at the dawn of our country and has manifested itself intermittently at different moments in history.”

“When we say in our prayers that we want to be a nation, we are expressing a longing that is clearly manifest in our Constitution. We want to be a nation truly based on a republican, representative and federal system,” the bishops said.

In their message they also highlighted that “the dignity of life from conception to natural death is the foundation of all other human rights,” stressing that Argentinean laws must respect this right.

“The family, founded upon marriage between man and woman, is a value that is rooted in our people. It supersedes the State and is the foundation of all of society. Nothing can replace it,” the bishops added.

“A cultural mindset and a series of legislative measures that seem to undermine its importance and harm its identity is cause for concern.”

They concluded by defending the right of parents to educate their children according to their moral convictions and emphasizing that civics should be taught to students without being politicized or tainted by partisan ideology.

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Holy See welcomes UN recognition of Palestine

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican "welcomed with favor" the U.N.'s vote to allow Palestine to become a non-member Observer State, and pressed for a permanent two-state solution.

The statement came one day after the U.N.'s General Assembly voted resoundingly for the change on Nov. 29.

"The vote manifests the sentiment of the majority of the international community and recognizes a more significant presence for Palestinians within the United Nations," said the Holy See.

"But this doesn't constitute a sufficient solution to the region's existing problems," it added in a Nov. 30 press release.

"They can only find an adequate response through an effective commitment to building peace and stability, in justice and in the respect for legitimate aspirations, both of the Israelis and of the Palestinians," the Vatican said.

The decision means Palestinians will be able to participate in U.N. debates and possibly join some of its bodies like the International Criminal Court.

But the change was not universally welcomed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said this is "negative political theater that will take us out of the negotiating process."

The Holy See press office called this an ''important decision'' and said it had “actively followed the steps that led to it, while striving to remain neutral and act in accordance with its particular religious nature and universal mission, and in consideration also of its specific attention to the ethical dimension of international problems.”

Pope Benedict XVI visited the region in 2009 and appealed for a two-state solution and an end to violence.

"No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence," he said at the end of his trip.

"Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing," said Pope Benedict. "Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream.”

The Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, told the U.N.'s General Assembly last year he hoped it would adopt a decision that would help concretely apply the Pope's appeal.

The Holy See said it believes that the U.N.'s vote recognizing Palestine as an observer state should help give a definitive answer to a 1947 General Assembly resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

"This document," the Holy See explained, "laid the legal basis for the existence of the two states, of which one has not been implemented for 60 years, while the other has now seen the light."

The Vatican delegation also noted that it has made an urgent international appeal to increase commitment and adopt initiatives "to help achieve a lasting peace that respects the rights of Israelis and Palestinians."

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem thanked the Holy See for its Nov. 30 statement and congratulated Palestinians and their president, Mahmoud Abbas, calling him a "moderate man" and a "man of peace."

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Study shows Colombia's youth reject abortion, drug laws

Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 30, 2012 (CNA) - A study revealed that the vast majority of young people in Colombia reject abortion, “gay marriage” and the legalization of drugs, as the country debates measures on all three issues.

The Nov. 23-25 analysis was carried out by the Ipsos Napoleon Franco firm and published by Semana magazine.  

Among 18-24 year-olds, 74 percent oppose abortion and the legalization of drugs, while 68 percent those aged 25-34 oppose both issues.

The study also showed that 58 percent of young people aged 18-24 do not agree with same-sex “marriage” and that 56 percent of those aged 25-34 also disagree with the practice.

A total of 1006 Colombians from thirteen different cities took part in the survey.

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Pittsburgh bishop remains hopeful despite mandate lawsuit dismissal

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Federal judges in Pittsburgh and Nashville dismissed Catholic lawsuits challenging the federal contraception mandate, but acknowledged that the suits can be re-filed when the regulation is more imminent.

Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh said that he was "disappointed" that the lawsuit cannot currently proceed, but he was also "very encouraged that it was 'dismissed without prejudice.'"

"That means that we have every right to file again in the future," he explained.

In May, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, joined by Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh and the Catholic Cemeteries Association of Diocese of Pittsburgh, filed a lawsuit to challenge the contraception mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The mandate requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs, even if they have religious objections to doing so.

On Nov. 27, U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry dismissed the case on standing and ripeness, arguing that the plaintiffs had not yet experienced any real harm from the mandate.

In his opinion for the case, McVerry pointed to the one-year "safe harbor" that the government has allowed for objecting religious employers, delaying the implementation of the mandate while the administration develops an "accommodation" for religious freedom.

While the process to create this proposal for a new rule was announced last spring, the details of the proposed regulation have not been formally announced, and critics argue that the initial suggestions put forward by the administration still require objecting employers to facilitate the controversial coverage.

However, McVerry said that “any decision the Court would make today would not have an immediate impact on Plaintiffs’ day-to-day operations as the existing regulations are currently under review and are expected to be modified.”

Because he did not rule on the merits of the suit, the plaintiffs will be able to bring their case before the court again once the harm is deemed more imminent.

"We will now await in good faith the accommodation to religious freedom that the federal government has claimed it will offer," Bishop Zubik said. "However, we must all be aware that no modification to the original HHS mandate in regard to religious freedom has yet been made."
 
The bishop pointed out that the matter "remains fluid" because other courts have arrived at different conclusions in challenges to the mandate.

"I do want to make clear, however, that we cannot and will not negotiate away our constitutional rights to religious freedom and religious expression," he said.

More than three dozen lawsuits challenging the mandate are working their way through the courts. Several for-profit businesses that did not qualify for the safe harbor period have been granted temporary injunctions blocking the mandate from taking effect.

In a separate ruling filed on Nov. 27, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Diocese of Nashville, along with Catholic Charities of Tennessee and several Catholic schools and assisted living homes throughout the diocese.

U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell similarly ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing and the lawsuit was not "ripe for judicial review."

Campbell also cited the “safe harbor” period and promised adjustments from the Obama administration in his opinion. He said that any harm caused by the mandate was "merely conjectural and speculative" at this point.

Right now, the regulation "is not sufficiently direct, immediate, and traceable to the Defendants to warrant judicial intervention," he said.

As various lawsuits progress in the courts, the U.S. Catholic bishops and other religious leaders continue to speak out on the importance of religious freedom.

In an online video six months ago, Bishop Zubik reflected on the severity of the matter, noting that under the mandate, Church organizations “are required to let the government determine which of our beliefs we can follow.”

“We help people because we are Catholic, not because they are Catholic," he said, explaining that religious schools, hospitals and charities "cannot accept that the state has the right to force us to choose between our sacred beliefs or shutting our doors.”

“Religious freedom means that each of us has the right to pursue truth, embrace it and to shape our lives by it without government coercion," Bishop Zubik said. "This lawsuit is meant to protect that freedom, already guaranteed to us by the constitution, not just for Catholics, but for every American.”

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