Archive of January 4, 2013

Our Lady of Guadalupe documentary to premiere in DC

Washington D.C., Jan 4, 2013 (CNA) - A new documentary about the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe will premier Jan. 24 in Washington, D.C. and explore how the event helped spread the Catholic faith throughout the Americas.

The trailer for movie “The Blood & The Rose” says Our Lady of Guadalupe “delivered hope” and shared “a message that would change the continent, and the world.”

Director Timothy Watkins said Jan. 2 that the film relates the “fascinating historic details that point to the guidance of Divine Providence.”

“It truly is our story, one that the entire world needs to hear in order to experience the impact of this incredible miracle and its relevance in our age,” he said.

The movie examines the 1531 appearance of the Virgin Mary to the Aztec Juan Diego and the miraculous creation of her image on his cloak, called a tilma. The documentary will also examine scientific investigations of the image on the tilma.

“It’s a privilege to share the complete story of Our Lady of Guadalupe at long last, from the seeds of Catholicism and its amazing journey from the Middle East through Europe, to the  miraculous events that set in motion the evangelization of the Americas,” said Watkins, whose previous work includes a documentary about U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

“The Blood & The Rose” is a production of Leo McWatkins Films.

Mexican actor Eduardo Verastegui is both an executive producer and narrator for the film. Another executive producer, Steve McEveety, helped produce the 2004 blockbuster The Passion of the Christ.

The movie’s premiere will take place the day before the National March for Life, which marks the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide.

“Given the state of modern culture, it’s nothing short of providential that the premiere is going to take place in the 40th anniversary of year of Roe v. Wade,” Watkins said.

In 1999 Pope John Paul II declared Our Lady of Guadalupe to be “Protectress of the Unborn.”

The premiere will take place Jan. 24 at Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. It will open at 6:15 p.m.

Raymond Arroyo of Eternal Word Global Catholic Network will emcee the event and several Catholic speakers will address the audience.

The premiere’s tickets cost $75 each. Proceeds will benefit Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.

More information can be found at:

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Syrian conflict could worsen Christian exodus

Damascus, Syria, Jan 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Fighting in Syria continues to put pressure on the minority Christian population, leading to fears that more Syrians will join the many Christians who have already left the Middle East.
Journalist Nasir Habish told Vatican Radio that Syria’s Christians are among those most affected by the conflict between rebel and government forces.
“The Syrian situation, right now, is very difficult, and I think in the future will be more difficult,” Habish said. “And I think the war will continue.”
He said Christians are “running away from Syria right now,” with many refugees fleeing to Lebanon and most proceeding to Europe.
“We don’t want to lose the Christianity in the Arab region,” he said. “This is the land of Jesus. I can’t imagine the land of Jesus without Christians.”

The United Nations has said that more than 60,000 people have died in the conflict. The latest fighting includes a repelled rebel attack around the Taftanaz airbase in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Government forces are seeking to recapture the Damascus suburb of Daraya, which hundreds of rebel fighters have held for weeks. Pro-government newspapers report that the latest offensive on Daraya inflicted heavy losses on the rebels, the Associated Press says.
The uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. More than half a million Syrians have become refugees.
The United States has been providing clandestine support for the rebels for months. On Dec. 11, President Barack Obama joined France and Britain in recognizing the rebel coalition, calling it “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

The conflict has some sectarian aspects. Rebels tend to be Sunni Muslims, the majority religion in Syria. President Bashar’s government is mainly Alawite, a minority Muslim group. The government has support from some Sunnis and many religious minorities, including many Christians who make up only 10 percent of the population.
Many Christians in the region fear Syria will become another Iraq, where poor security after the U.S. invasion in 2003 has allowed militant Islamic groups to target Christians for intimidation, killings and kidnappings that helped drive hundreds of thousands of Christians out of the country.
Sister Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, mother superior of the Greek Catholic Monastery of St James the Mutilated in Syria, has charged that the Syrian uprising has been “hijacked by Islamist mercenaries who are more interested in fighting a holy war than in changing the government.”
She said the conflict has turned into “a sectarian conflict” in which Christians are “paying a high price,” the Daily Mail reports.

She said at least 80,000 Christians have been forced from their homes in the Homs region. Over 300,000 Christian Syrians are believed to be refugees.
Sr. Agnes-Miriam, who is presently in Lebanon, said militants wearing the black bandanas of Al Qaeda laid siege to her monastery between Damascus and Homs for two days to try to prevent Christmas celebrations.
She is a critic of Western support for the rebels, saying this supports “extremists” who want to create an Islamic state.

Some Christians support the rebels. Aya, a 51-year-old Christian artist from Aleppo who opposes the Syrian government, told the Associated Press that Christian silence in the face of the abuses of the Assad government could make them more vulnerable to reprisals.
“Many Christians think that this regime is good for us,” she said. “They think that if they keep quiet, Assad will stay, and protect us. But this is an illusion.”
Aya herself fled to Beirut in October.
The plight of Syrian Christians is shared by many Christians throughout the Middle East. The British think tank Civitas in December released a report warning about violence against Christians in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
It estimates that between half and two-thirds of Middle East Christians have left their homelands or have been killed in the past 100 years.
“There is now a serious risk that Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands,” the report said.
The fighting also threatens the ability of Syrians to feed themselves.
Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassaké-Nisibi sent separate appeals to the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture and to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, warning that hundreds of thousands of Syrians in the region are at risk due to interrupted supply routes and looted grain silos.

The archbishop told Fides news agency the humanitarian situation “could soon become catastrophic” in the Syrian region of Jazira, which is known for its high quality wheat.

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White House petitioned to label Catholic Church a 'hate group'

Washington D.C., Jan 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - An online petition asking the White House to designate the Catholic Church as a “hate group” for its views on marriage is drawing criticism for generating unjust animosity.

The petition reveals an “underlying agenda,” which is not simply to prevent violent crimes, but to “stigmatize any disapproval of homosexuality at all and essentially to silence us,” said Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

He explained to CNA on Jan. 3 that applying the “hate group” label to organizations that are morally opposed to redefining marriage is simply “name-calling designed to cut us out of the public debate.”

Initiated on Christmas Day, a petition on the White House website had collected 1,640 signatures by Jan. 3.

The petition – which is aiming for 25,000 signatures by Jan. 24 – argued that Pope Benedict XVI’s 2012 Christmas address to the College of Cardinals “demeaned and belittled homosexual people around the world.”

“Using hateful language and discriminatory remarks, the Pope painted a portrait in which gay people are second-class global citizens,” it charged.

“Pope Benedict said that gay people starting families are threatening to society, and that gay parents objectify and take away the dignity of children,” the petition said. “The Pope also implied that gay families are sub-human, as they are not dignified in the eyes of God.”

It called for the Obama administration to recognize the Catholic Church as a hate group, as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

However, Sprigg argued that the petition is “distorting” the Pope’s words, which do not actually include hateful or discriminatory language.

In his address to the cardinals, the Pope did not directly reference “gay marriage” or “homosexuality” at all. Rather, he defended the Church’s understanding of sexuality and “the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child.”

The Holy Father refuted the modern notion of sex as “a social role that we choose for ourselves,” rather than “a given element of nature” and “bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being.”

The complementarity of male and female is part of “the essence of the human creature” and is foundational to the nature of the human being and the family, the pontiff explained.

Sprigg argued that the petition is misleading and “clearly has political purpose.”

“The federal government does not designate hate groups. It prosecutes hate crimes,” he observed, explaining that a clear distinction must be made between moral opposition to homosexual acts and violent crimes against homosexual individuals.

Such labeling can also be dangerous, Sprigg said. Ironically, the hate group label can actually create hatred toward the group being designated, he explained.

He pointed to an incident last August in which a 28-year-old Virginia man entered the Family Research Council headquarters, made a comment about disliking the group’s politics and then opened fire, shooting a security guard before being disarmed.

Family Research Council had previously been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said at the time that such reckless labeling may have led the gunman to feel justified in carrying out the shooting.

Sprigg reiterated this idea, highlighting the importance of allowing people to express their differing views peacefully in a democracy.

Suggesting that organizations such as the Catholic Church and the Family Research Council are hateful simply because of their views on human sexuality promotes “a dangerous misconception,” he said.

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Archbishop urges Christian hope for a better Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 4, 2013 (CNA) - An Argentinean archbishop invited the people of his country to cultivate an authentic Christian hope in order to face the daily trials of life and work for a better country.

Christian hope can strengthen the people of Argentina to confront “the concrete difficulties of temporal life with a different frame of mind, a different spirit,” said Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata.

During a Dec. 29 program entitled “Keys to a Better World,” the archbishop noted that the resolutions made by many people each New Year are rooted in hope, “which can be understood in a very human, natural and immediate sense.” 

“But it is good to remember that in a strictly Christian sense, hope is a theological virtue,” he said. “That means it is a gift from God that is related to grace, in the same way as faith and love.”

The theological virtue of hope is “a grace that God communicates to us and that has eternal life as its goal,” he explained.

Archbishop Aguer observed that according to St. Augustine, the object of our hope is God.

“Yes, Christian hope is a gift from God, a grace that in some way puts us on God’s level so that we might desire eternal life and entrust ourselves to it,” he said.

Every Argentinean should contribute to building a better country, the archbishop explained, with those who bear greater responsibilities striving to excel at their work and “to overcome the interests of private individuals, groups or certain sectors in order to serve the interests of the nation.”

In the case of Catholics, “(t)he Christian grace of hope helps us and encourages us to take on everything that corresponds to our vocation, to our responsibility, to our role in society, so that things will be better,” he said.

Archbishop Aguer stressed that prayer is the means for understanding the grace of hope. 

“Whatever is the legitimate object of hope should become the object of our prayer,” he said, encouraging prayer for our own improvement, “so that, obedient to the will of God, we can be better.”

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Catholic churches set ablaze in Austria and France

Vienna, Austria, Jan 4, 2013 (CNA) - Several Catholic churches in Europe were reportedly set on fire in the days before Christmas, raising concerns of vandalism motivated by an opposition to Christianity.
The Observatory on the Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe reported that three churches were burned in Austria on Dec. 23, while a Nativity scene was burned at a church in France on December 18.
In the small Austrian town of Amstetten, three churches were set aflame, with one being severely damaged. The alleged suspect – a young man – was interrogated by police, but appeared to be confused and did not provide a motive.

Anti-Christian sentiments have not been ruled out as a possible motive for the arson, since only churches in the area were set on fire.
In France, a Nativity scene at the Church of Barby in Savoy was set on fire between 7 and 8 p.m. on the night of Dec.18. There were no indications that the fire was accidental. 

The parish sacristan told reporters it was not the first time the church has been attacked. In previous years the church’s door was damaged, stained glass windows were broken and numerous books were burned. 
Parents and children of the parish set up a new Nativity scene to replace the one that was destroyed.

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Breakaway bishop: Jews, Masons, and Modernists are 'enemies of the Church'

New Hamburg, Canada, Jan 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, mentioned Jews as “enemies of the Church” in a recent address reviewing the situation of the group as it considered full communion with Rome this past year.

“Who, during that time, was the most opposed that the Church would recognize the Society? The enemies of the Church. The Jews, the Masons, the Modernists,” Bishop Fellay, superior general of the society, said during a talk Dec. 28 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Chapel in New Hamburg, Ontario.

The comment was made in passing during the wide-ranging address, which lasted one hour and 40 minutes.

The Society of St. Pius X was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church following the Second Vatican Council. Its relations with the Vatican became strained in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops without the permission of Pope John Paul II.

Since Benedict XVI became the Pope, talks to reconcile the society with the Church have intensified, with a particular increase in 2012. However, the discussions seem to have broken down over the summer.

Speaking about this impasse, Bishop Fellay said that groups “outside the Church, who were clearly during centuries, were enemies of the Church,” expressed opposition to the reconciliation of the traditionalist society with the Catholic Church. His reference to “groups” seems to have been a reference his earlier mention of “the Jews, the Masons, the Modernists.”

The bishop said that 2012 saw trials “extended to almost the whole Society,” an experience he worried could mean “some people have then lost the trust in the authority.”

Bishop Fellay said that the society has received mixed signals from Rome, and that talks eventually broke down with accusations of the Pius X Society being “Protestants,” and of Roman Catholics being “Modernists.”

The group's position, according to Bishop Fellay, is that the portions of the Second Vatican Council “opposed to what the Church has always taught” must be rejected. He said that Pope Benedict's “hermeneutic of continuity” is untenable because the council documents are in places “contrary” or “opposed to Tradition.”

But Bishop Fellay said that he remains hopeful for the situation in the long-term, even if reconciliation will not be possible in the near future.

“The situation is not desperate, no. It’s not worse than before ... there’s some hope. I don’t think for right for now, but for us, we just continue.”

We must “continue to pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, pray the Rosary,” Bishop Fellay concluded.

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Notre Dame mandate lawsuit dismissed as premature

Washington D.C., Jan 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A lawsuit filed by the University of Notre Dame to challenge the federal contraception mandate has been rejected as premature due to the government's promise to amend the regulation.

“Notre Dame's claims aren't ripe, and they don’t have standing to bring them,” ruled district judge Robert L. Miller, Jr., on Dec. 31.

Pointing to the government's promise to change the mandate for objecting religious employers, Miller dismissed the case, saying that “Notre Dame faces no penalty or restriction based on the existing regulatory requirement.”

The ruling does not prevent the university from bringing a lawsuit against the government again once the mandate is revised if it believes that its religious freedom is still in jeopardy.

Notre Dame is one of more than 100 plaintiffs that have filed legal challenges against a federal mandate issued by the Obama administration to require employers to provide health insurance covering contraception, including some drugs that can cause early abortions, and sterilization.

The mandate includes only a narrow exemption for non-profit religious organizations that exist to inculcate religious values and both employ and serve primarily members of their own faith.

Faced with widespread protests from non-exempt organizations, the government announced a one-year “safe harbor” to delay the implementation of the mandate against religious employers while an “accommodation” for their religious freedom was devised.

However, the government has not yet issued its formal proposal with details for the new rule, and critics argue that the administration’s early suggestions do not adequately protect the constitutional right to religious liberty.

Dozens of lawsuits are now asking courts across America to grant injunctions temporarily blocking the enforcement of the mandate against companies that object to it while they argue their cases in court.

Like Notre Dame, several other religiously-affiliated organizations have also had their lawsuits dismissed as premature due to the safe harbor period and promised accommodation.

However, other recent court decisions have offered hope to non-profit groups.

In December, a federal judge in New York ruled that a lawsuit filed by the local archdiocese was mature despite the government’s promise, observing, “There is no ‘Trust us changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”

Days later, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said the government must be held responsible for its promise to revise the mandate, which the court deemed a “binding commitment.”

The appellate judges pointed to the government’s statement that it would issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the new rule by the end of March 2013 and would publish the Final Rule before August 2013.
“We take the government at its word and will hold it to it,” they said, instructing the government to report back every 60 days on the progress of the accommodation.

Religious freedom advocates have also found hope in suits filed by for-profit companies, which do not qualify for the safe harbor. Of 13 for-profit lawsuits that have received a court decision, 10 have been granted preliminary injunctions.

Notre Dame has not yet announced whether it will appeal the court’s decision.

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Church of England allows gay men to become bishops

London, England, Jan 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Church of England has decided to permit gay male clergy in civil partnerships to become bishops, provided that they promise to be celibate.

“The House (of Bishops) believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church's teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline,” Graham James, Anglican bishop of Norwich, stated Jan. 4.

“All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England.”

The decision was published Dec. 20, and was made by the Church of England's House of Bishops earlier that month.

Civil partnerships were introduced in the United Kingdom in 2005, at which time those in civil partnerships were allowed to become priests of the Church of England so long as they promised celibacy.

The Church of England holds that clergy “cannot claim the liberty to enter into sexually active homophile relationships,” according to a 1991 document “Issues in Human Sexuality.”

The Church of England teaches that “sexual intercourse...properly belongs within marriage exclusively” and that marriage is “between a man and a woman,” according to its 2005 statement on civil partnerships.

The Church of England's new policy is the result of controversy surrounding Jeffery John, a priest of the church who is gay.

In 2003 he was appointed bishop of Reading, but was forced to withdraw. Then in 2010 he was nominated for bishop of Southwark but was rejected because of his sexual orientation. He has been in a civil partnership since 2006, and maintains that his relationship is celibate.

The move has drawn criticism from both Anglo-Catholic and evangelical factions within the Church of England, who in November successfully opposed plans to allow women bishops in the church.

Rod Thomas is chairman of the evangelical group Reform, and told the BBC that the decision is a grave one and will further split the Anglican Communion.

“It would be much more divisive than what we have seen over women bishops. If you thought that was a furore, wait to see what will happen the first time a bishop in a civil partnership is appointed.”

Gay advocates within in the Church of England greeted the announcement with mixed reviews. Colin Coward, a Church of England priest and director of the group, Changing Attitude, stated that the celibacy requirement was a poor one.

“Jesus, the Holy Spirit, advocates deeply loving faithful committed relationships in which people express their love sexually, and that is Biblical teaching,” he said, according to the BBC.

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