Archive of March 20, 2013

Catholic students lobby at UN commission on women

New York City, N.Y., Mar 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Students at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio worked to educate delegates at a recent United Nations commission about the importance of life and family in protecting women’s interests.

“The work at the U.N. makes an impact. It’s important for Catholics in the U.S. to realize how important it is,” said Monica Krason, a junior from Richmond, Ohio majoring in legal studies and British and American literature.

Krason was one of 15 Franciscan University students, faculty and staff who attended the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations headquarters in New York City from March 9-15.

The students hoped to stress the importance of human dignity and the family to members of the commission, which has met yearly to discuss women’s equality and other issues.

Krason told CNA on March 19 that some lobby groups in favor of abortion and a redefinition of marriage “try to promote very dangerous, expansive language, like reproductive rights, that sounds very good but is actually really bad.”

She explained that this language often amounts to “the right to push abortion and contraception,” even in countries where it is not wanted.

“The work they’re doing there is really important. People need to pay attention to the U.N. so that abortion does not become a ‘fundamental human right,’” she stressed. “It would be a disaster if that happened.”

Krason said that if the U.S. recognized an international treaty declaring abortion to be a fundamental right, it would negate any efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The delegation from Franciscan University was led by Prof. Brian Scarnecchia, a professor of human life studies and legal studies.

The students lobbied as non-governmental organization representatives for the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and the International Solidarity and Human Rights Institute, the latter of which Scarnecchia founded.

The professor has taken more than 200 Franciscan University students to the Commission on the Status of Women sessions in the last nine years.

The students’ statement to the Commission on the Status of Women, titled “The World We Want,” was submitted on behalf of the university’s St. Thomas More Society, a student group which focuses on politics and faith.

It called for “an enhanced regard for the natural family,” including more regulations on divorce and support for troubled marriages to help secure the best interests of children.

The statement opposed abortion based on gender or undesirable genetic conditions while advocating basic health care to reduce child mortality and aid maternal health.

Krason said she was surprised by the “strange bedfellows” the pro-life, pro-family movement works with at the U.N.

The students were advised not to bother talking to western countries “because nine times out of ten they are going to be very opposed to your viewpoint.”

“The people you want to talk to and try to encourage in their work are people from the African countries, the Muslim countries, and maybe the most surprising, Russia,” Krason explained. “Russia is having a demographic crisis. So they have become very pro-life.”

Students also attended sessions on violence against women and girls in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.

In a March 12 report about the lobbying effort, Scarnecchia and undergraduate student Sara Hartung said developed nations, including the U.S. under the current Obama administration, use such gatherings to try to push poor countries to accept documents enshrining abortion “as a fundamental right” and classifying restrictions on homosexual sex as “crimes against humanity.”

They said many delegates from the developing world complain that the Commission on the Status of Women “has lost its direction and is simply focused on forcing abortion and unrestricted homosexual sodomy on the third world.”

In the view of these delegates, the real issues affecting women in the developing world include providing “potable water, sanitation, and basic health care such as antibiotics and blood banks,” though they believe these receive “little attention.”

Krason said pro-life, pro-family organizations need to have a stronger presence at the United Nations in order to encourage other like-minded countries.

“The pressure they’re under is immense,” she explained.

She suggested interested student volunteers contact the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, the International Solidarity and Human Rights Institute and the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute to learn more.

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Thomas More College launches 'New World' scholarship in honor of Pope

Merrimack, N.H., Mar 20, 2013 (CNA) - New Hampshire's Thomas More College of Liberal Arts has announced a new scholarship for students from the Americas after the unprecedented election of Pope Francis, the first New World pontiff.

The Our Lady of Guadalupe Scholarship Fund will award up to 20 scholarships per year for applicants from Canada, Mexico and Central and South America. The scholarship can cover either partial tuition or full four-year tuition.

Thomas More College President William Fahey said March 14 that the selection of the Argentine Pope Francis as the first New World Pope is an honor to the New World and “a call for Catholics in the New World to find new forms of solidarity and new means for supporting the Church’s mission in all our lands.”

Aja Cowhig, the college’s admissions director, said that the March 13 election of Pope Francis was a “historic” day for the college. The college campus canceled its classes when the conclave’s white smoke was announced.

Students prayed in the chapel for the next Pope and then rushed to the library to watch the coverage of Pope Francis’ entrance onto the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square. They cheered him with shouts of “Viva il Papa.”

“We prayerfully hope that the witness of Pope Francis be an example and inspiration for the college’s mission to rejoice in the pursuit of truth,” Cowhig told CNA March 18.

The college focuses on having a strong Catholic identity. Its curriculum is based on a special “great books” program. There is one curriculum for all students. Classes are not divided into specialties or departments.

The curriculum aims to refine the experiences and mental powers of both students and faculty through reading great works from classical and Christian civilization. Thomas More College has also established a series of guilds where master craftsmen teach students woodworking, sacred art, sacred music, folk music and horseback riding.

The school anticipates that the Our Lady of Guadalupe Scholarship will help increase its numbers of international students.

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Protestant seminary to keep positive ties with Church

Pasadena, Calif., Mar 20, 2013 (CNA) - Fuller Theological Seminary, a leading center for the formation of evangelical Protestant pastors, will continue to promote positive relations with the Catholic Church, according to its new president.

“Our reach is global...and at Fuller we want to be a catalyst for healthy global ecumenism,” Dr. Mark Labberton told CNA March 15.

Labberton is currently a professor of preaching at the Pasadena, Calif.-based seminary, and will take over as president of the school on July 1. He succeeds Richard Mouw, who has served as Fuller's president since 1993.

He said that though there are tensions in Latin America between Pentecostalism and the Roman Catholic Church, he wants to promote good relations between the groups.

“One of Rich Mouw's emphases has been evangelical-Catholic dialogue and conversation, and I'm certainly hopeful that can continue.”

Labberton expressed a “great respect for the Roman Catholic Church” and said he is moved by its “expression, with all its tensions and challenges,” and by its “overarching unity.”

“The global response and attention given to the Pope's selection this week is itself obviously a palpable expression of that, and the fact is that there's no movement within Protestantism that could galvanize the global church in such a singular way.”

He is particularly encouraged that Pope Francis brings is bringing social justice concerns to the forefront of his papacy, while staying always connected to Christ.

Labberton said that putting aside Protestants' “acute anxieties around issues of power,” he has “great regard” for the Catholic Church, and finds it “very inspiring in many different forms.”

He is eager to “grow in and engage” his experiences of Catholic “leadership and worship,” he said.

He finds the prospect of becoming Fuller's president a daunting one, due both to the changes facing Christianity and education, and the legacy he has to fulfill.

The Protestant church in America, he said, is facing one of its “largest sea changes,” with redefinition of denominational structures and a “deep restructuring of what church means.”

Protestantism is facing “many more experiments” in non-denominational visions, he said, and so Fuller's graduates are facing a field that is “in some cases fractured, or being re-defined.”

“The thing that concerns me the most, is how does a seminary like Fuller contribute in the most meaningful way to the education of the Protestant church in all its various manifestations, and its impact in the wider world,” Labberton said.

Because of this, he said, “one of the things I found very moving about the appointment and call of the new Pope this week has been my sense of deep gratitude for his social conscience; his sense of the Church and the reality of the Gospel and needing to live it in real terms, especially in the lives of the poor and the marginalized.”

Labberton shares this social conscience with Pope Francis, and said “it's one of the primary concerns I'd also want to bring to the seminary.”

“I think evangelical churches have often been guilty of over-talk and under-live, especially when it comes to allowing our faith to lead us and draw us to engagement with the people who are most unseen and forgotten, so I'd hope that's one of the main themes that would emerge from what I hope to do as president.”

He said that Protestants can at times focus on “a caricature of Reformation days” and a theology of being saved “by grace through faith in Christ alone.” He said this leads to “almost a divorce between grace and action,” which he finds troubling.

“That's a false dichotomy. Protestantism at its best will see that as a false dichotomy. But I think in popular terms it is an evident dichotomy, and I think it's a false theological division that I would want to do everything possible to address.”

Under his leadership, he would like to see Fuller “call the Protestant church into the fact that these are two inextricably bound qualities of our experience of God.”

The new president hopes that churches affected by Fuller Seminary “would vividly demonstrate – not just talk about and affirm – but actually come to more deeply and truly incarnate” the intrinsic link between God's grace and human action.

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Pope says world religious leaders united by truth, beauty

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis told world religious leaders that the desire to search for truth, beauty and goodness is what keeps them all united.

“We feel close to all who, despite being from other traditions and religions, feel the desire to look for truth, beauty and goodness,” said the new Pope when he received the leaders at the Vatican today.

He met with Muslim leaders, the head of Rome's Jewish community Rabbi Riccardo di Segni and heads of other Christian denominations including Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in Turkey.

And it was the first time a Constantinople patriarch attended the Pope's inaugural Mass yesterday since the Great Schism between the Western and Eastern churches nearly 1,000 years ago.

“From my side I wish to ensure you my firm will to continue the path of ecunemical dialogue, which the (Second Vatican) Council initiated,” said Pope Francis at the Clementine Hall of his new home, the Apostolic Palace.

“The Catholic Church knows the importance of promoting friendship and mutual respect between men and women of diverse religious traditions,” he told the religious leaders and repeated the sentence twice.

Pope Francis noted that ecumenism can “do a lot for those who are poor, weak or suffer by promoting justice and peace.”

“But man reduces himself to the 'I' who produces and the 'I' who consumes,” he said.

The Pope thanked the Patriarch – who had initiated the gathering with a public speech to greet the pontiff – calling him Andrea, although his first name is Dimitrius. This acknowledgment has been regarded by some as thoughtful and ecumenically significant.

“By calling him 'Andrea,' – Andrew – the Pope was making an important statement,” explained Joan Lewis, EWTN's Rome bureau chief.  

“For Catholics, the mandate was given by Jesus to Peter to found his Church and Popes are the successor of Peter.”

However, for the Orthodox, she told CNA, “that mandate was given to Peter's brother, Andrew, and that is why they believe they would be the one, true church founded by Jesus, that the patriarch is the successor of Andrew.”

“I am not sure Francis' predecessors ever referred to Bartholomew that way and it is significant,” said Lewis, who has reported on the Vatican for 32 years.

Concluding his remarks to the religious leaders on Wednesday, the Pope implored them to prayer for him “so I can be a good pastor according to the heart of Jesus.”

They greeted him personally after his speech and several gave him gifts, including religious Christian icons.

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Pope's favorite soccer team to give him honorary jersey

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 20, 2013 (CNA) - Pope Francis' favorite soccer team in Argentina plans to send him a personalized jersey with his name on it.

The San Lorenzo Soccer Club in Buenos Aires announced on its website on March 18 that it was inspired to make the customized jersey because of “the repercussion that the election of the former Archbishop of the city of Buenos Aires as the supreme leader of the Catholic religion has had around the world.”

The jersey will have the Pope's name in Spanish, “Francisco,” on the back.

In a recent letter to the Pope, who is an avid San Lorenzo fan, the soccer club expressed its joy over his election “as the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church.” 

It also recalled the “special moments” the club has shared over the years with Pope Francis, including a 2008 Mass he said as cardinal to mark the club's 100th anniversary and the time he spent as a young priest encouraging the team.

These memories “underscore his humility, his friendliness and his values,” the team said. “Know that to us you are not just another Pope, nor the first 'Argentinean' or 'Latin American' or 'Jesuit' Pope. You are the 'San Lorenzo Pope.'”

The team said Pope Francis would undoubtedly “carry out the same missionary work that inspired the foundation of our club.” 

“We salute you and we are with you in your immense present and future task in search of the brotherhood of peoples, equity and social justice.”


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Rome's mayor 'touched' by Pope's simplicity

Rome, Italy, Mar 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The mayor of Rome said that the simple humility of Pope Francis “really touched” his heart after the Mass that officially began the Petrine ministry.

“He is a beautiful example, and I really believe this is the right Pope for this time because there is so much crisis and people need hope,” said the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, at Saint Peter’s Square.

The mayor also said the Pope inspired him to “reflect on being more simple and paying more attention to people.”

“I feel very happy because Pope Francis is truly a person that is immediately endearing,” he told CNA on March 19.

He noted that it is “beautiful to listen to him” and that the Mass had been “wonderful and astonishing.”

“We weren’t expecting this kind of Pope because we had no idea who he was when his name was announced,” said the mayor.

“I’m also happy that it’s been a beautiful morning and that there haven’t been any problems,” he added.

Following the Mass, several Argentinians gathered in front of Saint Peter’s Square, waving their flag and cheering for the Holy Father.

“He is a light of hope for all Catholics and I hope he’ll be able to manage the Church which isn’t an easy job,” said Nicolás Lázaro, who converted to Catholicism eight years ago.

“His constant ‘pray for me’ petition has really touched me,” added the 28-year-old.

Another Argentinian, who was drinking the country’s traditional ‘mate’ tea at the square, said he was very excited.

“I’ve only seen two people become Popes and the first time it was on television,” said Juan Cruz Urbano.

“He transmits a different type of humility than our last pontiff because of his personality and there is a lot of hope,” explained Urbano, who is from Escobar, Argentina.

Colombian Monsignor Umberto González said the Pope’s message today on protecting people and creation was “an extraordinary gift.”

“He has really touched my heart because he is a man that speaks with simplicity but with depth,” said Msgr. González.

“His words show his humanity, his goodness and his love for God,” he observed.

According to the Colombian, Pope Francis has not only shown himself to be a fatherly figure, but also a brother.

“We’ve seen that Europe has given Latin America many things, and now it’s Latin America that is giving to Europe and the whole world,” said Msgr. González.

He reflected that Latin Americans can therefore embrace the Pope with pride, “but also with a commitment to the whole world.”

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NY bishops meet with Cuomo, reaffirm stance against abortion

New York City, N.Y., Mar 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops of New York met recently with the state’s Catholic governor, Andrew Cuomo, to discuss their objections to his “unacceptable” abortion proposals, as well as other legislative topics.

“We ended up saying, ‘If you do this, we will oppose it, and we intend to oppose any such bills from the moment they become public,’” said Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Center to CNA.

“This is not something that New York needs, and I’d go as far as to say that it’s not what New York wants” he added.

Among other issues, the New York bishops met with Governor Cuomo and several state lawmakers on March 19 to discuss the reintroduction of New York’s “Reproductive Health Act” in the state legislature.

The bishops find the measure “very troubling for the good of society,” Bishop Murphy said.

Introduced in the state senate in January, the bill has received strong support from Cuomo. It would enshrine in New York law a “fundamental right” to abortion, including late term abortions with almost no restrictions.

The proposed legislation would allow non-doctors to perform abortions and would prohibit regulations such as parental notification for minor children seeking abortions. In addition, it would remove manslaughter charges for abortionists who kill women during the procedure.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan was not able to be at the March 19 meeting, since he was still in Rome following the election of Pope Francis last week. However, he said in a blog post that he would “certainly be with my brother bishops in spirit” and would be praying for the meeting, especially for mutual agreement on the abortion bill and other issues.

Bishop Murphy said that the conversation at the meeting was “very cordial, very frank, very candid,” but while the governor respectfully listened to their concerns, “we did not agree.”

“We explained to him why we are so adamantly opposed to any such thing,” he said, describing the bill as “a codification of Roe v. Wade in the state law.”

“By codifying it into the state law,” he continued, “you would in effect expand the protections around abortion in ways that are not acceptable to us.”

He also explained that the bishops’ opposition to abortion is not because they lack of concern for women who face tough choices.

“We understand the plight of women in difficult situations” he stressed, noting that “more often than not, we’re the ones who have to counsel them and help them.”

The bishops told Cuomo that “abortion is not the answer” and that it “is already all too available in the state.”

Calling the Church’s position on respect for life “unshakable,” Bishop Murphy reiterated an opposition to any abortion expansions in the state.

The bishops also addressed a number of other topics of mutual concern, including gun control, minimum wage, affordable housing and the availability of chaplains for incarcerated prisoners.

In addition, Bishop Murphy said, Cuomo pledged during the meeting that billions of dollars in federal government funding will be directed towards faith-based relief efforts – including those run by the Catholic Church – for continued rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.

The governor “thought it would be good for the state and for the churches and for all of us if we worked together,” Bishop Murphy explained.

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