Archive of January 28, 2013

Pope stunned by Brazilian night club tragedy

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is shocked at the deaths of 233 people at a Brazilian night club on Sunday and is praying for the wounded and the families and friends of those who passed away.

In a telegram sent to Archbishop Helio Adelar Rubert of the Santa Maria Archdiocese, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said that the Pope is "shocked by the tragic death of hundreds of young people" and offers his "deepest condolences to the families of the victims, sharing in the sorrow of all those who mourn them."

Pope Benedict also "entrusts the dead to God, the Father of mercy, and prays for the comfort and restoration of the wounded and for the courage and consolation of all those affected by the tragedy," the message says.

"He sends his apostolic blessing to all those who are suffering and those who are assisting them."

Tragedy struck at around 3:00 a.m. on Sunday at the Kiss nightclub when pyrotechnics set off by the band Gurizada Fandangueria apparently caught the ceiling on fire.

Rodrigo Martins a guitar player in the band told Radio Gaucha that the group "had played around five songs when I looked up and noticed the roof was burning."

"It might have happened because of the Sputnik, the machine we use to create a luminous effect with sparks. It's harmless, we never had any trouble with it," he said. "When the fire started, a guard passed us a fire extinguisher, the singer tried to use it but it wasn't working."

The fire spread rapidly and caused panic in the venue, but most of those who perished died from asphyxiation.

Police inspector Ranolfo Vieira Junior told the media at a Jan. 28 news conference that three individuals were arrested on a temporary basis as part of the investigation into the fire and a fourth person was being sought.

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Vatican Rosary begins live broadcast

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2013 (CNA) - The Vatican is now broadcasting the Rosary live every weekday from St. Peter's Square.

The Vatican television outlet CTV and the Catholic internet portal Aleteia are broadcasting "A Moment with Mary," which is being held Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. outside St. Peter's Basilica.

"We really want to bring the prayer to the people and enable the people all around the world to bring themselves closer to the heart of the Church," said the initiative's coordinator at Aleteia, Carly Andrews.

"We're trying to bring it to people through the new media technologies, through their social networks and with the new technology Google+," Andrews explained.

The broadcast is meant to be a response to the Pope asking that the Year of Faith be a time of entrusting people to the Blessed Virgin by praying the Rosary every day.

It is part of an initiative supported by the Church, which is celebrating the Year of Faith until Nov. 24, 2013.

"It's a personal moment, as each day is an appointment with Mary," stated Andrews.

"We're just inviting people to take half an hour out of their day to join us in prayer," she added.
A different group leads the prayer each day, including some parishes from around Rome and members of various Catholic movements.   

But groups from abroad also take part when visiting Rome.

Deacons from Minnesota's St. Paul Seminary were in charge of leading it on Jan. 16.

"The Rosary is a devotional prayer that developed in the Church to increase our devotion to the Blessed Mother, but more importantly that she can lead us to Jesus Christ," Deacon Jacob Greiner told CNA after the event.

"It's repetitive, but it's also soothing, and it's supposed to be a comfort to us who come to be under her mantle to really grow in relationship with her son," Deacon Greiner reflected.

He noted that "it is not a hard prayer, but one that goes deeper and deeper the more you pray it."

Many of those who help lead the Rosary are young people visiting from abroad, who pray in their group's mother tongue.

"We've seen a whole array of languages so far, and then everybody responds to us in Latin so that people who are following along on TV or on the web can join in with the responses," Andrews remarked.

Rosary comes from the Latin word "rosarium," signifying that the prayers serve as a "crown of roses" or "garland of roses."

It is a prayer devoted to Mary which offers people an opportunity to reflect on the most important events of the life of Jesus.

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Church in Brazil united with victims of nightclub fire

Brasilia, Brazil, Jan 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops and Catholic faithful across Brazil are voicing solidarity with the families of the 233 young people who died in a fire at the Kiss Nightclub Jan. 27 in the southern city of Santa Maria.

Tragedy struck at around 3:00 a.m. on Sunday at the nightclub when pyrotechnics set off by the band Gurizada Fandangueria apparently caught the ceiling on fire.

Rodrigo Martins a guitar player in the band told Radio Gaucha that the group “had played around five songs when I looked up and noticed the roof was burning.”

Most of the victims were college students who were not able to escape through the local’s sole entrance. Around 110 young people were wounded in the fire, with 79 in intensive care.

Hours after the fire, the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, expressed his condolences through a message sent to Archbishop Helio Adelar Rupert of Santa Maria.

Archbishop Rupert sent his own message expressing sadness over the tragedy and pledging the Church’s solidarity with “the families and all of society.”

“Do not lose hope: Let us pray to Jesus Christ, the source of life, our Savior.  Let us pray for the deceased and their families and for all of society that is suffering from this tragedy,” he said.

The president of the World Youth Day Organizing Committee, Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta, said thousands of young people from Rio de Janeiro would hold a prayer vigil at the Cathedral of Rio to pray for the deceased, their families and those wounded.

Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo asked priests in his archdiocese to celebrate Masses for the victims.  “Our sadness is only greater knowing that the tragedy was the result of a series of errors and omissions that could have been avoided,” he said.

“May our Lady of Mercy cover the parents and family members of these young people with her mantle of love,” said Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo of Belo Horizonte.

Prayers and Mass were also being sad at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, the patroness of Brazil.

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Pope examines society's acceptance of unstable relationships

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As he spoke to the Church’s highest court, which often deals with issues related to marriage, Pope Benedict highlighted the growing acceptance of instability in relationships.

Contemporary culture “poses serious challenges to the person and the family,” he began, underscoring that it calls into question “the very capacity of human beings to bond themselves to another and whether a union that lasts an entire life is truly possible.”

Modern culture, Pope Benedict XVI told the members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, promotes the idea that people can “become themselves while remaining ‘autonomous,’” leading to the “widespread mentality” that relationships “can be interrupted at any time.”

His speech to the Tribunal for the opening of the judicial year took place Jan. 26 in the Clementine Hall and focused on the relationship between faith and marriage.

Pope Benedict observed that the world's current crisis of faith brings with it a crisis in the understanding and experience of marriage.

Rejecting the divine proposal, he explained, leads to a profound imbalance in all human relationships, including in marriage.

It also "facilitates an erroneous understanding of freedom and self-realization" that operates under the belief one can flourish while remaining autonomous in a relationship, he said.

"Contemporary culture, marked by a strong subjectivism and an ethical and religious relativism, poses serious challenges to the person and the family," the Pope told the judges.

On the other hand, he said, accepting faith makes humans capable of giving themselves, allowing them to discover the extent of being a human person.

The Code of Canon Law – the set of laws by which the Church is governed and which the Tribunal is charged with upholding– defines the natural reality of marriage as the "irrevocable covenant between a man and a woman," he noted.

Pope Benedict then reflected on how "a human being's choice to bind themselves with a bond lasting an entire life influences each person's basic perspective according to which they are either anchored to a merely human plane or open themselves to the light of faith in the Lord."

Divorced or abandoned spouses were also not far from the Pope’s mind as he spoke to the Tribunal.

"Being well aware that the valid marriage bond is indissoluble and refraining from becoming involved in a new union, in such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church," he remarked.

The Pope asserted that "faith is important in carrying out the authentic conjugal good, which consists simply in wanting always and in every case the welfare of the other."

"With these considerations I certainly don't wish to suggest any facile relationship between a lack of faith and the invalidity of a marital union," he said.

"I wish to highlight how such a deficiency may, but not necessarily, damage the goods of marriage, since the reference to the natural order desired by God is inherent to the conjugal covenant.”

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Iran's eight-year sentence for Christian pastor draws outcry

Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Christian pastor Saeed Abedini's sentence of eight years in prison by an Iranian judge for allegedly threatening local security with his leadership of house churches has been met with harsh criticism.

“This is a real travesty – a mockery of justice,” said Jordan Sekulow, the director of the American Center for Law and Justice which represents Abedini's family living in the U.S.

“Iran has not only abused its own laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights. We call on the citizens of the world to rise up in protest. We call on governments around the world to stand and defend Pastor Saeed.”

On Jan. 27 judge Pir-Abassi of the Iranian Revolutionary Court convicted and verbally sentenced Abedini.

His trial began Jan. 21, and both Abedini and his attorney were allowed to attend only one day. His sentence was approved by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.

Nasser Sarbazi, Abedini's attorney, defended his Christian activities the single day he was allowed at the trial. He argued they do not threaten Iran's national security, and are motivated not by politics but by religion.

Abedini is a native of Iran, but has United States citizenship. He was granted citizenship in 2010 through marriage to his American wife.

“Here’s the troubling reality,” Sekulow added. “We have a U.S. citizen, who has been beaten and tortured since him imprisonment last fall, now facing eight years in Evin Prison, one of the most brutal prisons in Iran. A harsh sentence in a notorious prison – likely facing life-threatening torture and abuse at the hands of the Iranian regime.”

The U.S. state department stated at a Jan. 25 press briefing that “we remain very concerned” about Abedini, and about “the fairness and transparency of his trial.”

“We condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal rights of freedom of religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini’s human rights and to release him. We are in close contact with his family as well and we’re actively engaged in the case.”

Abedini converted from Islam to Christianity in 2000, and in 2008 became an evangelical pastor.

Iran had demanded that he stop working with house churches. Though they are technically legal, the regime claims that he had tried to turn young Iranians from Islam, the state religion.

Abedini agreed to this in 2009, moving his focus from churches to non-religious orphanages. Despite this, he was arrested in September while on a trip to work with these orphanages and to visit his family.

On Jan. 21 a semi-official Iranian news agency stated Abedini would be released for a $116,000 bail, but this proved to be false.  

“The promise of his release was a lie,” said Naghmeh, Abedini's wife. “We should not trust the empty
words or promises put out by the Iranian government.”

Several members of the U.S. House and Senate, along with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, have called for Abedini’s freedom.

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San Francisco pro-life rally draws 50,000, papal praise

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - An estimated 50,000 pro-life advocates rallied and marched against abortion in San Francisco for the Walk for Life West Coast Jan. 26, drawing greetings and praise from Pope Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., read a special message from the Pope, who called the event an “outstanding public witness to the fundamental right to life.”

Pope Benedict said the walk witnessed to the “moral imperative of upholding the inviolable dignity of each member of our human family, especially the smallest and most defenseless of our brothers and sisters.”

The pontiff also sent his “warm greetings” and assured participants of “his closeness in prayer.”

Eva Muntean, Walk for Life West Coast co-chair, told CNA Jan. 28 that it was “amazing” to see so many rally attendees become silent to hear the message from the Pope.

“You could hear a pin drop,” she said. “It was so quiet. Everybody was paying attention. That was very special for us.”

The crowd filled Civic Center Plaza and rallied in front of San Francisco City Hall before marching two miles through San Francisco's shopping and financial districts to the Ferry Building.

Muntean said the 2013 rally and walk was “by far the largest in the nine years we’ve done it.” The plaza was “jam packed” with people young and old who cheered and held signs that showed where they are from.

She said it was “very, very heartening” to know onlookers in the general population saw the walk as it passed through the city.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco blessed rally participants, telling them “you are a powerful witness that God’s truth cannot be silenced.”

“Yes, we are here to stay because life is good and life is holy,” he said.

Rally speakers included Rev. Clenard Childress, Jr., founder of

“We are united together as one until the job is done,” he told attendees. “Truth is rising up and you are the picture of that truth...We will not draw back until every child is free.”

Other speakers included Lacey Buchanan, a mother of a disabled child; Elaine Riddick, a victim of forced sterilization by the state of North Carolina; and married couple Kelly and Matthew Clinger who said they regret their abortions.

Muntean said the event tried to engage attendees through an information fair with 40 different tables about area organizations and projects. The tables represented groups like pro-life pregnancy centers and 40 Days for Life.

“Those are the reasons we do the Walk: to keep people engaged and keep people talking about what needs to be done,” she said.

She recounted how young people who attended previous walks report that they returned home from the event and started pro-life groups.

“One girl who attended public school decided to write term papers about abortion and the pro-life movement,” Muntean said.

She especially thanked those who have promoted the walk in their cities and parishes.

“We really know that there are a lot of people  out there who devote so much time to making sure every organization and parish hear about it. Those are the people we rely on to make our numbers grow and to get the message out.”

The Walk for Life West Coast was founded in 2005. Its website is

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