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Archive of December 17, 2012

Palestinian president thanks Pope for his support

Vatican City, Dec 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Dec. 17 with the Pope and expressed his thanks for the Holy See’s support after Palestine was recognized as a state by the United Nations.

Abbas met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Apostolic Palace after the Vatican welcomed the U.N. General Assembly's Nov. 29 vote to recognize Palestine as a "non-member observer state."

According to a Dec. 17 Vatican statement, discussions between the leaders also included the topic of Middle Eastern Christian communities and their “contribution to the common good of society in the region.”

Abbas spoke privately with the Pope for nearly half an hour before meeting with Vatican diplomats, including secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

He gave Pope Benedict a mosaic of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem with an inscription referring to himself as the president of the state of Palestine.

"It is hoped that this initiative will encourage the international community's commitment to a just and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the Vatican said of Palestine’s new status.

“This can only be achieved by resuming negotiations between the parties, in good faith and according due respect to the rights of both,” it added.

The ongoing conflict in Syria was also raised during the meeting.

The Holy See and Palestine now hold the same position in the U.N. as non-member observer states, but the Holy See obtained its position nearly 50 years ago.

Abbas, now on a European tour to thank countries that supported the U.N. initiative, was elected in 2005 as the president for the Palestinian National Authority with a majority of 62 percent of the vote.

Pope Benedict visited Israel and Palestine four years later, appealing for a two-state solution and an end to violence.

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Boston cardinal emphasizes need for Catholics in politics, media

Rome, Italy, Dec 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston says the Church needs more and better prepared Catholic politicians and journalists who can bring the faith into the public square.

"We need to be much more proactive to prepare our laity and help them understand what a crucial role they have in public life and in the media where they're forming public opinion and educating people through different means that have a great impact in society," Cardinal O'Malley told CNA on Dec. 13.

He added, “if we're going to evangelize the culture, we need to have evangelizers in those areas.”

During the last day of the Dec. 9-12 "Ecclesia in America" congress at the Vatican, Cardinal O’Malley said he believes things are “only going to get worse because Catholics themselves don't worry about defending the unborn or teaching the true meaning of life.”

"There are just not enough legislators who favor life," he said.

The cardinal stated that the Church needs to do a better job of catechizing young people and help them see work in these fields as vocations, as a mission to embrace.

He also appealed for more spiritual retreats, seminars and continuous formation to better involve media and politicians in community life.

The cardinal mentioned the late Colombian Cardinal López Trujillo as an example to follow, since he brought pro-life politicians from the Americas together when he was in charge of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

"It was an opportunity for them to have ongoing formation in social teachings of the Church and to feel each other's support in their faith and vocation," Cardinal O’Malley recalled.

The communal dimension of formation is something that Cardinal O’Malley also highlighted, saying, "we need to give our young people more enthusiasm because the Church's vision is much more communitarian than our individualistic secular society."

In the media realm, Cardinal O’Malley said that Catholic media can also be a bridge to open relations with people in the secular media because “they speak the same language.”

He also offered his reflections on how the recent conference was able to apply the vision of the Synod for the Americas, which met in 1997.

"I was very pleased to see the enthusiasm and the wonderful spirit of fraternity there," Cardinal O'Malley remarked.

"We're all trying to evangelize the continent together so we need to be in partnership, particularly with the fluid population we have with immigration," he added.

"We also have a lot to offer to other countries in terms of the screening and the lessons learnt," he said in reference to the numerous sex abuse cases he has dealt with in three of the four dioceses he has served in.

"Obviously you need to do everything possible to prevent this from happening, but you also need to know how to respond correctly otherwise many people could be hurt," he said.

The cardinal also called on bishops to use World Youth Day as an opportunity to meet again to discuss common problems.

"Sometimes bishops tend to go with their language groups and become isolated, although we share in the celebration and liturgies, so I think we can be more proactive, and music and celebration can overcome this barrier," he said.

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Mexican cardinal warns of immigrants forced to transport drugs

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -  A retired Mexican cardinal warned that drug traffickers are leveling death threats against immigrants from Central America to recruit them to carry drugs into the United States.
 
“There is a new phenomenon in which drug cartels are using (immigrants) to transport drugs to the United States,” said Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, retired Archbishop of Guadalajara. “And when they refuse to carry the drugs, they kill them.”  

“Recently in northern Mexico, more than 60 immigrants were killed,” Cardinal Sandoval observed. “This is a very serious problem and requires greater attention from us.”

Speaking Dec. 12 at the international “Ecclesia in America” congress at the Vatican, the cardinal also denounced the cruel treatment of immigrants from Central America by Mexican immigration officials.

These officials sometimes rape defenseless women and rob vulnerable immigrants of their money and belongings, he said.

Amid these serious threats to human dignity, he praised the work of the many dioceses and immigrant ministries that have set up shelters along the main routes through the country to provide immigrants with “hot soup, a shower and a bed to sleep in.”

Cardinal Sandoval also called for immigration reform in the United States.  

“Time and time again promises are made – especially when candidates want votes – to fix the problem,” he said.
 
The Mexican prelate highlighted the plight of immigrants living in the U.S. without documentation.

“Having no legal status exposes them to exploitation and arbitrary wages for the hardest, most humiliating jobs, and to being denounced and run off by their bosses,” he explained.

He stressed that it is the task of the Church in the United States “to call for humane legislation for immigrants.”

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Costa Rica bishops urge government to defend marriage

San José, Costa Rica, Dec 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica called on the nation’s lawmakers to promote the good of the family by preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

In a Dec. 12 statement, the bishops emphasized that marriage is the foundation of the family and is therefore “a very important value that should be defended from every threat that jeopardizes its stability, its particular nature, essential properties and undeniable ends.”
 
For this reason, the bishops explained that they have repeatedly opposed various bills that would “make same-sex unions equivalent to heterosexual marriage,” noting that such legislation “undermines the institution of marriage” and distorts the “understanding of fundamental moral values.”

They cautioned that gay advocates and some lawmakers – aided by sympathetic media reports – are trying to change the definition of marriage in Costa Rica.

Such efforts must be rejected, they said, for the sake of families and the good of society.

The bishops emphasized that the Catholic Church respects every human being and rejects “all real discrimination” against persons with homosexual tendencies.  

“However, the Church distinguishes between respect for all persons regardless of their sexual orientation, and rejection of homosexual practices as acts that are objectively contrary to God’s plan for the human being,” they said.
 
Furthermore, they asserted, it is not necessary to legalize gay unions in order to secure “the common rights” that gay individuals deserve “as persons and citizens.”

They explained that it is “a grave injustice” to sacrifice “the common good and the rights of the family” in order to attain goods that “can and should be guaranteed through means that do not harm society.”
 
The bishops urged officials in all three branches of government to assess the constitutionality of “same-sex marriage” proposals.  

“We especially encourage those who profess faith in Christ to consecrate themselves with sincerity, uprightness, charity and strength to the mission entrusted to them by the people,” they said, “namely, to legislate based on ethical principles and for the benefit of the common good.”

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Papal preacher focusing on Church's three big events

Vatican City, Dec 17, 2012 (CNA) - Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Papal Household, is basing his reflections for the Pope and his staff on the Church’s three main events in 2012.

"I try to adjust myself to the graces or the problems that the Church is living, and there are three main events this year," he explained to CNA.

His previous talks for December covered the "Year of Faith," an initiative launched by Pope Benedict to help Catholics deepen their relationship with God, and the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.

The topic of his next meditation on Dec. 21 will be the New Evangelization, since his aim is to talk about the Church's priorities.

Fr. Cantalamessa is the only person allowed to preach to the Pope, and he has been offering his meditations during Advent and Lent for 33 years.

"I feel so small doing this," said Fr. Cantalamessa, one of the most well-known priests in Italy.

"John Paul II used to thank me, but I would reply that it was me who had to thank him for his example of submission because he just sits there listening to a simple priest. So this job says more of the Pope than of the preacher," he added.

Fr. Cantalamessa has served as the Pope's preacher, a role traditionally entrusted to the Capuchin Franciscan order, after Blessed John Paul II appointed him in 1980. The preacher to the Papal Household is elected after the previous one retires and the general superior of the Capuchin order presents three names to the Pope, who chooses one.

General superiors of religious orders as well as the Roman Curia's cardinals and bishops also attend the meditation, which takes place each Friday during the two holy seasons.

"My biggest challenge is to always receive the anointing of the Spirit, because otherwise I would cause the Pope to waste his time," Fr. Cantalamessa remarked.

In order to accomplish this goal, he begins by listening to God, “because you can't invent God's word, you have to first listen to it simply by praying.”

"Unless the Holy Spirit is in the words we say, it's powerless, and this doesn't depend on me, but on my prayer and on other people's prayers," he added.

But Fr. Cantalamessa said he feels relaxed when preaching to the Pope.

"I'm not nervous because what I preach isn't my own philosophical message, it's the message of Jesus, and he deserves being listened to even today," he stated.

According to Fr. Cantalamessa, the Year of Faith is "very much at the heart of the Pope" and is "a big grace."

"The grace of the Church is that, when its center launches a program, it really reaches the entire Church," he noted.

The main message of his preaching on the Year of Faith was for believers to let the faith "pass from the ears to the heart."

He explained that St. Paul said the process of believing starts with hearing the message, which then descends into the heart, where the act of faith finally happens.

"It's there where the decision of adhering or refusing the message is made," reflected Fr. Cantalamessa.

“Once you make the decision of adhering to the faith, the message comes out from the mouth, which is where you make the proclamation of faith from.”

He also spoke about St. Augustine who said that faith blossoms from the very roots of the heart.

"I think this year's big grace for Catholics is to really believe with their hearts. And (to realize) faith isn't an ideology, but a sharing of one's life, because faith is life," he said.

During his meditation of the Second Vatican Council, Fr. Cantalamessa tried to portray its image.

"Many believe it caused struggles within the Church, but in my opinion it was a big gift from the Holy Spirit," said the priest.

“The best result of Vatican Councils,” he asserted, is not found “in the structure changing, but at the root of the Church where the quality of the Christian life has changed."

This can be seen in new people showing an eagerness to joyfully preach the Gospel, and a flourishing of charisms, which are all a “result of what the Holy Spirit is doing," the papal preacher explained.

He believes that this is a result of Pope John XXIII's prayer for the council and that God has in turn responded to the Pope’s prayers.

"Many people choose Jesus as their personal Lord, and this is the Holy Spirit's work," Fr. Cantalamessa said.

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Domino's founder sues over contraception mandate

Washington D.C., Dec 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Tom Monaghan, the founder and former owner of Domino's Pizza, is suing the federal government over a controversial mandate that requires him to violate his Catholic faith in his business decisions.

The lawsuit described the contraception mandate as “an unprecedented despoiling of religious rights” that both “attacks and desecrates a foremost tenet of the Catholic Church.”

It pointed to Thomas Jefferson's statement that “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”

Filed Dec. 14 by Thomas More Law Center, the lawsuit challenges a federal mandate requiring employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs, even if doing so violates their firmly-held religious beliefs.

More than 110 business owners, non-profit organizations and religious charities have sued over the mandate, arguing that it violates their constitutionally-guaranteed right to religious freedom.

At age 75, Monaghan is best known for founding Domino's Pizza in 1960. He sold the pizza company in 1998 and no longer has any active affiliation with it. However, he remains the owner of Domino’s Farms, the property management company for a Michigan office park that is home to more than 50 corporations, professional firms, non-profits and entrepreneurial businesses.

Monaghan and Domino's Farms were both listed as plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit, which explained that they are committed to “a common mission of conducting their business operations with integrity and in compliance with the teachings, mission, and values of the Catholic Church.”

The legal challenge noted that Domino's Farms offers its tenants a Catholic bookstore and on-site Catholic chapel, which has Mass four times per day.
 
In accordance with Church teaching, Monaghan and his company believe that all human life is sacred, bearing the image and likeness of God from the moment of conception, it added.

They also agree with Church teaching on the nature and purpose of human sexuality, it said, explaining that they view contraception, sterilization and abortion as “gravely immoral practices” rather than true medicine or health care that provides for the well-being of persons.

The lawsuit observed that Monaghan is a pro-life Catholic who “has devoted his life and resources to Catholic philanthropic causes,” including the promotion of Catholic education and charity.

He has founded numerous Catholic organizations, including Ave Maria University, Ave Maria School of Law and Legatus, a group for business leaders to bring together faith, family and business.
 
In his business practices, Monaghan “is guided by his religious beliefs” and “follows the teachings of the Catholic faith as defined by the Magisterium,” the legal document stressed.

As part of this commitment to live out his “deeply held religious beliefs” in all aspects of his life, Monaghan offers a health insurance plan that specifically excludes coverage of contraception, sterilization and abortion, it said, noting that Domino’s Farms has never offered coverage of these products and procedures.

However, the mandate threatens the ability of Monaghan and Domino’s Farms to remain in business, since failing to comply with it would result in “ruinous fines that would have a crippling impact on their ability to survive economically,” it explained.

Monaghan and his company are now asking the court to grant them an injunction blocking the enforcement of the mandate. So far, two for-profit businesses have been denied an injunction, while four have secured one.

Such an injunction is necessary, the lawsuit said, so that Monaghan and Domino’s Farms may continue “to conduct their business in a manner that does not violate the principles of their religious faith.”

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