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Archive of April 5, 2013

Fiftieth Prayer for Vocations day to focus on hope

Washington D.C., Apr 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations draws near, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has prepared resources emphasizing the hope that religious vocations offer to the world.

“We need good holy priests and dedicated men and women committed to the consecrated life to help build the Kingdom of God here and now,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

“Therefore, we want a stronger culture of vocations in our own nation to help each Catholic realize that we all have a responsibility to invite young people to consider if God is calling them to the priesthood or consecrated life,” the archbishop explained in an April 4 press release.

Vocations are part of the Church’s “basic mission,” which is “to preach the Gospel and help build a civilization of love in our world today,” he stressed.

Archbishop Carlson’s statements reflected the theme for this year’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which is “Vocations as a sign of hope founded in faith.”

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, this theme “underscores the hope that vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life bring to the entire Church.”

The 2013 World Day of Prayer for Vocations will take place on April 21, the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

The U.S. bishops’ conference is offering resources on its website to help foster vocations, including video testimonies of priests, religious men and women religious, as well as parents whose children entered the priesthood or religious life. The website also features lesson plans, parish retreat resources and discernment aids. 

An additional web page specifically on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations features prayers, information on vocations and an October 2012 message from former Pope Benedict XVI on this year’s theme and its importance.

Father John Guthrie, associate director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations said that the United States has “seen a slight increase in religious vocations in the U.S. over the past few years.”

“It is our hope to continue this development by helping every member of the Church to encourage and promote vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life,” he explained.

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Anglican archbishop lands massive prize for peace efforts

Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 5, 2013 (CNA) - South African apartheid fighter Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize in recognition of the Anglican churchman's work in advancing global peace.

“Desmond Tutu calls upon all of us to recognize that each and every human being is unique in all of history and, in doing so, to embrace our own vast potential to be agents for spiritual progress and positive change,” said Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr., president of the Pennsylvania-based foundation.

“Not only does he teach this idea, he lives it.”

The Templeton Prize, established in 1972 by the now deceased investor Sir John Templeton, intends to honor a living person who “has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension,” the foundation's website said April 4.

The prize includes a cash award of $1.7 million.

Archbishop Tutu said he was “totally bowled over” by his selection. He said his rise to prominence was dependent on the work of others and he credited the honor to “all the wonderful people who accepted me as their leader at home.”

Tutu, who formerly headed the Anglican Archdiocese of Cape Town, was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, South Africa. He was ordained to the Anglican priesthood in 1961. He served for three years with the World Council of Churches’ Theological Education Fund.

In 1975, he became the first black Anglican Dean of Johannesburg and was named Bishop of Lesotho soon after. He was elected Bishop of Johannesburg in 1985 before becoming the Archbishop of Johannesburg the next year.

He worked to abolish South Africa’s system of racial segregation and racial privilege known as apartheid, while also working for racial reconciliation between white and black South Africans.

The archbishop was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. He led protests in 1989 that led to the freeing of several leading activists, including the future South African President Nelson Mandela. The end of apartheid soon followed.

In the 1990s, Archbishop Tutu played a role as a political mediator. After his retirement as archbishop in 1996, he chaired South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated human rights violations under apartheid.

In 2007, he and Nelson Mandela joined other former global leaders like U.S. President Jimmy Carter started a group called The Elders to work for peace and human rights in troubled regions of the world.

Previous Templeton Prize winners include Mother Teresa, U.S. Protestant minister Rev. Billy Graham, Russian writer and political prisoner Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Father Michal Heller, a Polish priest and physicist who was a friend of Pope John Paul II.

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Despite threat, lawyer thinks Miami nuns can continue outreach

Miami, Fla., Apr 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - After the City of Miami issued a violation to the Missionaries of Charity for “operating a business without a license,” a lawyer providing legal support said he is confident the city will withdraw the notice.

“The city has full knowledge” of the sisters' work and has given them “numerous approvals over the years,” attorney Tom Equels told CNA April 4.  

“Sometimes they forget so I’m going to do my best to remind them.”

On March 20, inspector Cornellius Pierre of the City of Miami issued a notice of violation to the “Missionaries of Charity, Inc.” for “failure to obtain a valid certificate of use for the type of business being conducted.”

The notice stated that if the “violation” was not corrected by April 1, the sisters would face fines of up to $100 a day for each day the “violation” went uncorrected.

“It’s hard to say what the equivalent is, but picking on these humble nuns is a mistake,” he said.

The Missionaries of Charity have been ministering to the area’s poorest of the poor since 1980 when Mother Teresa established a branch of her community in Miami, Fla.

“At the time,” Equels, who had just graduated from law school and began serving as president of the Catholic lawyers’ guild for the Archdiocese of Miami, said, “it was an urban wasteland.”

The only buildings of “substance” in the area were the public hospital, Jackson Memorial, and the county jail.

Since then, the University of Miami Medical Center and Jackson Memorial Hospital have expanded operations and acquired more properties in the area.

“Now the fact that the property has, over these 30 years, become quite valuable doesn’t change the fact that there’s still a substantial homeless population in that area,” he said.

Three times a morning the sisters open their kitchen for those who need food to “come eat without restriction.” In the evening, the sisters operate a shelter for mothers and their children.

When Equels investigated the situation, he found that similar threats were made to the sisters in the past, but that they were all dismissed when the city verified that the shelter was indeed operating as a charitable, non-profit organization dedicated to serving the poor.

“Miami is a very Catholic city where people of all faiths and denominations have the greatest respect for the Sisters of Charity,” he explained, “and at the end of the day the people will not tolerate what is being done here to these holy nuns.”

Equels has supplied the documents verifying that the Missionaries of Charity have the right to use their building to serve food to the poor to the City and is confident the violation notice will be withdrawn.

The attorney sees his role in this situation as one of his duties “to defend convents” because he was named a Papal Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Benedict XVI.

“This probably falls under one of those ancient obligations of a Papal Knight that don’t get called upon anymore,” he said, “I personally am very honored to be able to help them because they give so much and do so much for this community for nothing.”

“When you see what they do and how they live you understand that there is a way for us to walk the path that Jesus set up for us at the very beginning,” he added.

Updated April 5, 2013, 02:01 MST: The City of Miami has withdrawn the notice of violation against the Missionaries of Charity.

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Pope Francis confirms strong stance against clerical abuse

Vatican City, Apr 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis has reaffirmed the Vatican process established by Benedict XVI for handling instances of sexual abuse by priests.

The Pope told Archbishop Gerhard L. Müller, who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and is responsible for abuse cases, to “continue the line desired by Benedict XVI of decisive action regarding cases of sexual abuse,” according to an April 5 statement from the congregation.

He also underscored that “victims of abuse and their suffering are especially present in his thoughts and prayers.”

Pope Francis made his comments during a morning audience with the archbishop.

The main measures that the doctrine congregation is responsible for are “child protection; help for the many who in the past have suffered such violence; due process against those who are guilty; (and) the commitment to help Bishops' Conferences in the formulation and implementation of the necessary directives in this area.”

The April 5 communiqué added that the Church’s response to cases of sexual abuse “is of great importance to the witness of the Church and its credibility.”

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger established a strong response to allegations of sexual abuse during his time as head of the doctrine congregation, which he later continued as Pope.

His efforts began with a 1988 letter in which he shed light on how the procedures laid out in canon law made it difficult for bishops to laicize abusive priests.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II transferred authority for investigating abuse cases from the Congregation for Clergy to Cardinal Ratzinger’s doctrine congregation so that they could be dealt with more speedily.

Finally, in July 2010, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented modifications to canon law that detailed how the department will examine and punish instances of clerical abuse.

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Pope's actions have clear Ignatian roots, Jesuit notes at digital debut

Rome, Italy, Apr 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - At the launch of its first digital publication, the director of a prominent Jesuit Catholic magazine said the Pope’s actions “clearly show” his Jesuit roots.

“We already recognize in all his words, especially in his actions, very clear Ignatian roots,” Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, the director of Civiltà Cattolica, said April 5 at the Vatican press office.

“In this edition there is a section that talks about the Ignatian dimension of his first words and actions,” he added in response to a question from CNA.

“Having a Pope that has grown up with our same spirituality, probably at an affectionate level, at a spiritual level, we feel more united,” Fr. Spadaro remarked.

The priest heads La Civiltà Cattolica (The Catholic Civilization), a culture magazine whose contributors are all Jesuits and which is Italy’s oldest magazine to publish without interruption.

The cultural review put out its first edition in 1850, and today it launched itself into the digital world, making its two most recent issues available online.

The journal will also be available on applications for iPad, iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire, and Windows 8.

And a project with Google is underway to make all the issues published from 1850 to 2008 accessible on the web.

It is currently published in its full form in Italian and excerpts are available in English.

Fr. Spadaro also told CNA that the possibility for the Pope to write for the magazine exists.

“Civiltà Cattolica can welcome articles written by Jesuits, only Jesuits, and the Pope is a Jesuit, so he can write,” he said. “We will see.”

“The fact that a Jesuit has become a Pope has excited us Jesuits, but it has also stunned us because we’re not used to having a Jesuit Pope, so we’re trying with time to understand what this means,” he commented.

But the priest clarified that Pope Francis is more than a Jesuit Pope, he is “everyone’s Pope.”

The bi-monthly magazine has a circulation of 15,000, and Fr. Spadaro noted it “uses a language for readers who are not experts in different areas.”

“Communicating means nowadays less and less transmitting news and more sharing other visions and ideas,” he said.

“This is why the journal's content, in its essential form of abstracts, has been opened to the social networks for using, sharing, commenting, and debating in ways made possible in arenas such as Facebook and Twitter,” Fr. Spadaro said.

The cultural review is considered authoritative because it is reviewed by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, giving it a level of approval not shared by similar publications.

The Vatican’s Under Secretary for Relations with States, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, said the launch was a “celebration of a renewal.”

“It’s not only exterior, as it could appear superficially, but it is an update which situates La Civiltà Cattolica in an adequate way in the contemporary panorama of high profile culture journalism,” said Msgr. Camilleri.

“La Civiltà Cattolica has always had a particular bond with the Pope and with the Holy See, a bond of love and of faithfulness,” he added.

According to the top Vatican official, the magazine “needs to open itself to the world’s greatest modern day social, political, economical, moral, scientific, artistic and religious problems.”

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Venezuelan Cardinal encourages free and courageous vote

Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 5, 2013 (CNA) - Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas, Venezuela and his auxiliary bishops are encouraging Venezuelans to vote freely, courageously and based on their conscience in the upcoming presidential election.

“Let us remember that one’s vote is private,” the bishops said in a recent statement. “Only God will know who we vote for.”

“Let us reject any improper threats,” they continued. “A freely cast vote is a right we must exercise with courage and in accord with our conscience.”

Voting is a serious moral obligation, the bishops explained, because it strengthens democracy and ensures the wellbeing of Venezuelans, without any exclusion or discrimination.

They urged that there be no violence of any form during the final days of the campaign and on Election Day. Everyone, “especially the agencies and officials of the State,” has the duty to safeguard public order, and the results of the election should be accepted in a climate of peace and tranquility, they said.

The bishops called on the National Electoral Commission to ensure impartiality and transparency in the elections.

“Let us pray intensely to the Lord for the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, Our Lady of Coromoto, the patroness of Venezuela, that the Lord will help us resolve our differences peacefully and live as brothers and sisters,” they said.

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Critics slam drastic widening of morning-after pill access

Brooklyn, N.Y., Apr 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A federal judge's order to make the morning-after pill available without a prescription to people of any age has drawn sharp criticism and concern from public figures throughout the country.

“This is just a recipe for disaster,” Dennis Poust, communications director for the New York Catholic Conference, told CNA April 5.

In response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a federal judge in Brooklyn, Edward Korman, ordered the FDA to make the morning-after pill available without a prescription to people of any age.

Spokesperson for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro Life Activities, Deirdre McQuade, said the ruling makes young girls more vulnerable to sexual predators as well as harmful side effects of the drug.

“The court's action undermines parents' ability to protect their daughters from such exploitation and from the adverse effects of the drug itself,” she said in an April 5 statement.

In Dec. 2011, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration’s plan to make the drug available over the counter and with no age limits citing “significant cognitive and behavioral differences” between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age.

President Barack Obama voiced support for Sebelius' “common sense” decision saying that most other parents “would probably feel the same way.”

According to the judge’s comments, Sebelius' original decision to block access to the drug for children under 16 was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.”

His ruling will allow people of any age to purchase the “emergency contraceptive,”which is a high dose of the synthetic progesterone hormone called levonorgestrel, without a prescription.

Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life called the judge's decision an opportunity for “big abortion industry to gamble with young girls’ health.”

“Equally troubling, this allows young girls pressured into sex or even abused by adults to be manipulated into taking pills that cover up what is a criminal act,” she said in a statement.

President of Susan B. Anthony List, Marjorie Dannenfelser, called Judge Korman's ruling “reckless” and said that it “denies girls the protection that comes along with the involvement of parents and doctors.”

Many opponents have raised the question of what this ruling will do to girls who could use the drug as a birth control routine instead of getting a prescription for the pill.

“I think we may see overuse to the point that a young girl may seriously have her health compromised as a result or even, God forbid, die because of misuse of these drugs,” Poust said.

Anna Higgins, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Center, said this ruling presents a “real danger” for the drug to be forced on young women and girls without their consent.

“The involvement of parents and medical professionals act as a safeguard for these young girls. However, today's ruling removes these commonsense protections,” she said in a statement.

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Ecuador archdiocese to host prayer day for life and family

Quito, Ecuador, Apr 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Family Ministry Office of the Archdiocese of Quito has invited Catholics to take part in a day of prayer for life and marriage in the Ecuadoran capital.

Thousands are expected to take part in the “Ecuador for Life and the Family” demonstration on May 4.

The day of prayer will be dedicated to asking God “to save our Ecuador, a country consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, from all immoral and criminal laws that entrap our families, our children and our society.”

“Never has the country been so on the verge of ending the right to life from the moment of conception,” as well as traditional marriage, the Family Ministry Office said on April 6.

It pointed to the threat posed by new laws that would legalize abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy and destroy the concept of marriage between one man and one woman.

The law would allow people to decided that they want to be “today a woman, tomorrow a man or vice versa,” with no grounding in nature or biology, the office warned.

It also cautioned that the legislation would cease to recognize the right of children to a mother and a father.

The archdiocesan ministry office also denounced a plan by the government to mandate the distribution of five forms of contraceptives, including the morning-after pill, free of charge and without parental consent.

It urged Ecuadorans to join in prayer that God will save the country “from all these immoral and criminal laws that entrap our families, our children and our society.”

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Catholics rally behind DC priest amid controversy

Washington D.C., Apr 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Students and parishioners are speaking up for a Catholic priest after two gay students at George Washington University said they want him removed for supporting the Church's stance on homosexual behavior.

“I have never seen Fr. Greg be less than compassionate to any student on an issue of sexuality,” Catholic author and speaker Dawn Eden told CNA April 5. “He’s been instrumental in helping them to find healing in Christ.”

Eden, who is a parishioner at Saint Stephen Martyr Parish where Fr. Greg Schaffer serves as chaplain to the GWU Newman Center, said participation in Catholic life “shot up exponentially” since his arrival in 2009.

These comments come in the wake of an effort by two former Newman Center members seeking to force Fr. Schaffer off campus at the D.C. university, saying that they felt alienated by his defense of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

Seniors Damian Legacy and Blake Bergen, both of whom are gay, want Fr. Schaffer removed because he taught that homosexual behavior is immoral, consistent with the teaching of the Catholic faith.

The students said that the priest had told individuals who came to him for counseling that if they experience same-sex attraction, they should remain celibate.

Asserting that this was unacceptable anti-gay behavior, the two gay students have launched a campaign to force Fr. Schaffer off the campus. According to the campus newspaper, they have filed a formal complaint with the administration and are holding a vigil outside the Newman Center until the priest is removed.

Legacy, who is now a priest in the schismatic Old Catholic Church, submitted a report to the administration outlining a program used by other schools to vet religious leaders before bringing them to the campus and plans on asking the Student Association to defund the Catholic student outreach center which reportedly received $10,000 last year.

Current and past Newman Center students have voiced their support of the priest on a blog called, “The Chaplain I Know.” They argued that it was ridiculous to try to penalize a Catholic priest for upholding Catholic teaching and offered testimonies on Fr. Schaffer’s character, calling him “self-sacrificing,” “encouraging” and instrumental in their conversions back to the Catholic faith.

“The kindness and unconditional affection he expressed was what gave me the strength to realize that I was loved despite my mistakes,” one contributor wrote.

If Catholics are looking for “someone to rally behind” in order to tell the culture where they stand, Eden said, Fr. Schaffer is “a good and holy priest” worthy of such support.

“We need to stand up for a Catholic priest who is true to his vocation and who is promoting and defending the Gospel for the good of souls,” she added.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue has called Legacy and Bergen’s campaign a “serious civil issue” that should be the subject of a “campus wide discussion on the meaning of the First Amendment.”

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Jn 19:25-27

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