Archive of March 26, 2014

Colombian archbishop worried about disappearances of youth

Bogotá, Colombia, Mar 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Dario de Jesus Monsalve Mejia of Cali, Colombia, is lamenting the “scourge of violence” in the region that has led to the recent disappearance of five young people.

“The assumption is that they are recruited by some of these armed outlaw organizations, but whatever the case it is a macabre way of murdering, by the method of disappearance, leaving families terribly battered,” Archbishop Monsalve said March 21.

He praised the work of residents in Cali who are banding together with the police to keep on the lookout for young people who have disappeared and to reach out to their families.

Speaking on Colombian radio, Archbishop Monsalve said the flow of arms into the cities of Buenaventura and Cali must be stopped.

“The system works because of the union of violence and corruption,” he said. “That is the center of evil that is turning Buenaventura into hell.”

The archbishop expressed bewilderment at the lack of clear studies on the matter and urged more effective measures by state institutions.

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Culture of exclusion sacrifices children, elderly, Pope warns

Vatican City, Mar 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Efforts to fight a “throw-away culture of exclusion” should include openness to the lives of the young and elderly, as well as education and even sports, Pope Francis has said.

The Holy Father expressed his concern for “excessive economic liberalism and how it has instilled a culture of exclusion,” according to AICA.  

“In some countries there exists a hidden euthanasia,” he said, with medical coverage being offered only up to a certain age, after which the elderly are left to fend for themselves.

The Pope’s comments came during a March 19 meeting with two dozen Argentineans, including union leaders, teachers and journalists. He clarified that he was speaking only for himself and simply intended to provide some tools his guests could use to develop a plan of action.

In his address, he lamented that children are considered “throw-away material” in a culture of widespread contraception.   

“Children are returned to sender so that they aren't born,” he said. “And young people are excluded from the system. These young people are candidates for bitterness and suicide!”

“We need to learn how to re-read this,” the Pope told those gathered. He cautioned against systems that exclude people considered “useless,” often children and the elderly.

“We are sacrificing the two extremes, which are the strength of a people!” he said.

The Holy Father also spoke about education and sports as ways of including young people and helping them to grow.

“Education and sports. Sports are healthy and they should be played anywhere, in the corner of the home or out on the field,” he commented.

“I remember I spent my first five years of elementary at a public school, where the teachers and the parents dialogued, and the children were cared for at school and at home.  What I am saying isn't nostalgia but values that were expressed in that way. Sports teaches you generosity, honesty, to not lie and to not cheat. I can't imagine education without sports.”

“The educational path is the only one that can keep young people from the disaster of drug addiction,” he added.

Later, addressing union leaders, the Holy Father said he was concerned about the trend of not showing up for work or school.

“Today it is very common from people to not show up or to arrive late. As if work was important for making a living but that's it,” he said.

“There are young people who don't see their parents work. There has been loss of awareness of the culture of work.”

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Women rally outside Supreme Court for religious liberty

Washington D.C., Mar 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Women supporting employers challenging the government's contraception mandate spoke out in support of a vision of women's equality that supports fertility and women's role as employers, as the case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday.

"All issues are women's issues" said Ashley McGuire of The Catholic Association, quoting an earlier statement by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R- N.H.).

"Women are just as entitled to religious liberty as any man, and women have as much of a stake in the outcome of this case as any man."

McGuire was speaking at a March 25 demonstration in front of the Supreme Court building, as the high court heard oral arguments for two appeals challenging a mandate issued by the department of Health and Human Services department under the Affordable Care Act.

The mandate requires that employers provide and pay for drugs and devices including contraception, sterilization, and some products and procedures that cause early embryo death.

Both the Hahn family, the Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, and the Greens, an evangelical Christian family who own and operate the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, object to the mandate's requirements that it provide and pay for certain drugs that can kill human persons in their earliest stages of development.

While some religious nonprofits and houses of worship have been given an exemption or accommodation by the administration, for-profit businesses have been told they must comply or face fines of up to hundreds of dollars per employee per day.

Supporters of the mandate have said that those claiming a religious or conscientious opposition to complying with the mandate are waging a "war on women." McGuire said that this framing of the debate "has been hijacked by an alarming paternalism and sexism."

This approach equating an objection to contraceptives and early abortion-causing products as an opposition to women in general speaks "as if women aren't bosses, as if all women think the same way on issues such as contraception and abortion," she said.

Meg McDonnell, communications director for Women Speak For Themselves, a women's group supporting opposition to the mandate on religious freedom grounds, challenged that those "who are supporting the HHS Mandate and claim to speak for all women are simply trying to divert attention away from the serious religious liberty issues at stake."

“Some of our women agree with the Green and Hahn families’ objections to these drugs, some do not,” McDonnell said. "All of our women agree, however, that businesses with consciences are good for women, good for families, and good for America. No one speaks for all women on these issues. Women speak for themselves."

Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, noted that "fully a third of the plaintiffs against the mandate are women-owned businesses," adding that these women business owners "want the opportunity to live out our faith in every sector of our lives."

Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life, stressed that the challenge to the mandate is not about contraception, but instead "is about religious liberty."

"This is about President Obama changing the landscape of the separation of church and state that we have known until today," she said, adding that "no one should be forced into a corner on things such as this."

Lila Rose, president of Live Action, argued that "fertility first of all is not a sickness or a disease, pregnancy is not something that needs to be medicated, and abortion certainly is not health care," adding that some of the drugs required by the mandate "can cause (the) death…of our weakest and smallest Americans."

 "It's bad enough that our country allows drugs that kill human beings … but we will not be forced to pay for them."

Tina Whittington, executive vice president of Students for Life of America, commented that as a woman, she found "it demeaning that those on the other side equate birth control with equality instead of addressing the tough issues our nation faces."

She continued, saying that as "a secular employer of conscience, I stand here today with Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood," because of the case's importance for conscience rights and their protection, particularly for people in business. The case, she said, is about life and about women, but moreover, "it is about conscience rights of all Americans and American employers."

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Holy Orders fosters a passionate love of the Church, Pope notes

Vatican City, Mar 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his weekly general audience Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Sacraments, devoting today’s discourse to those who receive Holy Orders, referring to it as a vocation of “service.”

“Those who are ordained are placed at the head of the community as servants, as Jesus did and taught,” the Pope observed in his March 26 general audience, adding that “the sacrament also helps them to passionately love the Church.”

Addressing the thousands of pilgrims gathered in a rainy St. Peter’s Square to hear his speech, the pontiff began by explaining that “In our catechesis on the sacraments, we now turn to the sacrament of Holy Orders.”

“Building on the vocation received in the sacraments of Christian initiation,” which are “Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist,” the Pope explained that “the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony correspond to two specific vocations and are two ways of following Christ and building up his Church.”

Comprised of the three “grades” of “the episcopate, the presbyterate and the diaconate,” Pope Francis noted that Holy Orders “is the sacrament of pastoral ministry.”

Recalling how “Jesus entrusted his Apostles with the care of his flock,” the pontiff emphasized that “in every age the ordained make present in the Christian community the one Shepherd who is Christ,” and that they are “placed at the head of the community as servants” who follow Jesus’ example.

Emphasizing again the priest’s role as servant, the Pope expressed that their lives should be full “of passionate love for the Church, for whose purification and holiness the Lord gave himself completely.”

They ought to devote “all of their being and love to the community,” he continued, “which they should not consider as their property,” because “it is the property of the Lord, whom they should serve.”

In a final point, the pontiff voiced the necessity of those ordained to “rekindle the gift received” on the day of their ordination “through prayer, penance, and daily celebration of the Eucharist.”

“When the ordained minister does not nourish himself with prayer, listening to the Word, the continuous celebration of the Eucharist and frequently receiving the Sacrament of Penance, they end up losing the authentic meaning of service itself and the joy that derives from a profound communion with the Lord.”

Concluding his address, the Pope encouraged all present to pray for “the Church’s ministers,” particularly “those most in need of our prayers” who experience “difficulty or need to recover the value and freshness of their vocation.”

“We ask also that we our communities never lack” holy, generous, merciful and “authentic shepherds, according the Heart of Christ,” he prayed.

After concluding his discourse, the Pope greeted groups of pilgrims present from various countries around the world, including those from the United Kingdom, England, Australia, Denmark, Malta, China, Japan, the United States, Spain, México and Argentina.

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German bishop accused of luxurious lifestyle resigns (Updated)

Vatican City, Mar 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Updated March 26, 2014 at 9:52a.m. MST. Adds comments from Cardinal Reinhard Marx at paragraph 3.

In a March 26 statement the Holy See announced its acceptance of the resignation of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebarts-van Elst, noting that the situation in his diocese does not allow the full exercise of his ministry.

“Considering that in the diocese of Limburg a situation has arisen that prevents the fruitful exercise of the ministry of S.E. Mons. Franz-Peter Tebarts-van Elst,” the statement read, “the Holy See has accepted the resignation of the Bishop presented on Oct. 20, 2013.”

In comments made during a March 26 press conference in Berlin, Cardinal Reinhard Marx expressed that "Now it is important that the diocese of Limburg is able to go down a good path with a common future."

"I will contribute to this process as much as I can and am entitled to. This requires willingness to reconcile, new trust and the power of prayer. Healing and a new start will be possible in this way."

Cardinal Marx is chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, and serves as the archbishop of Munich and Freising, in Germany.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebarts-van Elst had until recently overseen the Diocese of Limburg and has been on suspension while a Vatican commission investigated accusations of the German press that the Bishop was leading a luxurious lifestyle, with some dubbing him the “bishop of bling.”

In the absence of a leader, the Holy See has appointed Bishop Manfred Grothe, an auxiliary of Paderborn, as the diocese’s Apostolic Administrator.

The Holy See affirmed in their statement that the decision to accept Bishop Tebarts-van Elst’s resignation came after the Congregation of Bishops “studied attentively the report of the Commission…and of the Cathedral Chapter.”

Initially launched last fall following an Oct. 21 meeting between the bishop and Pope Francis, the Vatican commission has been investigating the accusations against Bishop Tebarts-van Elst while he has been on leave.

Among claims made by media reports in Germany, some have accused the bishop of approving of spending more than $42 million on renovating his residence, which was ten times the original estimate.

In addition, German news magazine Der Spiegel wrote in June 2013 that the design of the structure resembled “a monstrous luxury complex” and was built “according to the wishes of Franz-Peter Tebartz van Elst.”

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has also come under criticism for flying first-class from India after visiting the poor there. A Hamburg prosecutor has charged that the bishop submitted false affidavits on the matter during a legal dispute between the bishop and Der Spiegel.

Amid the controversy, the bishop’s defenders have said that the home on his residence property was in fact ordered to be built by his predecessor, and that the bishop himself has stated that the cost overrun on the ten-building property includes spending on work needed for the sake of historic preservation.

Others have risen to his defense stating that on his way back from India, the diocese reportedly had only paid for a business class seat for the bishop’s flight home, but that he was upgraded to first class because of flight miles accumulated by his vicar general.

It is believed by some that the relatively young bishop, 53, had been cleaning house in his diocese after its former leader, Bishop Franz Kamphaus, caused controversies with Rome by allowing church centers to provide counseling to women seeking an abortion, giving them special tickets protecting them from German law, under which abortion is technically illegal.

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst was ordained a priest for the Muenster diocese in 1985, and at the age of 44 was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop of the same diocese in 2003. He was installed as Bishop of Limburg in Jan., 2008.

According to the Holy See’s statement, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst “will recieve another assignment at the proper time.”

Until then, Pope Francis asked “the priests and faithful of the diocese of Limburg to willingly accept the decisions of the Holy See with docility and a desire to rediscover a spirit of charity and reconciliation.”

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UK fetal incineration scandal prompts calls to respect life

London, England, Mar 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Revelations that National Health Service hospitals in the U.K. have disposed of the bodies of miscarried or aborted children by incineration as clinical waste show the need to reject abortion and to respect life, pro-life leaders said.

“We hope that this tragic and distressing story will cause the mask that exists to disguise the humanity of the unborn to slip, causing society to reflect more deeply on the value of human life and what it means to be human,” Carolyn Farrow, a commentator with Catholic Voices, told CNA March 25.

She said the report is cause for wider conversation about abortion’s implications, given the government’s efforts to expand legal abortion.

“We should not forget the almost 200,000 babies who are lost to abortion every year in the U.K., almost all of whom will have had their remains treated in a similar fashion.”

At least 15,500 fetal remains have been incinerated by 27 National Health Service trusts in the last two years, the Channel 4 program Dispatches reported, with some remains disposed of as “clinical waste.”

One leading hospital, Addenbroke’s in Cambridge, incinerated 797 babies who died under 13 weeks into pregnancy at a “waste to energy” plant that is used to heat the hospital. The babies’ mothers were told the remains had been cremated, The Telegraph reported March 24.

Another facility at Ipswich Hospital incinerated 1,101 fetal remains brought from another hospital in a “waste to energy” program.

Farrow said that fetal remains “should be accorded the same dignity and respect as (those of) any other human being.”

“We are all made equally in the image and likeness of God.”

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said March 25 the hospital practices were “appalling” and connected to legal abortion.

“We must stop killing babies like these by abortion and then we will know how to respect the dead,” he said, noting that the unborn have “all the essential attributes of a person from conception,” though these characteristics are still in development.

“If we feel differently about the unborn, it is simply because he or she is a stranger – someone we have not yet met or developed affection for.”

Farrow said Catholic Voices reacted to the story with “revulsion and horror … this is the stuff of dystopian horror movies.”

“The practice of abortion is frequently compared with the Holocaust, due to the large numbers of children discarded as unwanted and the callous disregard for human life.”

“The ruthless efficiency with which these babies were exploited as a means to an end and used as a form of fuel, stripping them of the dignity and respect they were due as human beings, could indeed have been dreamt up by the Nazi regime.”

U.K. health minister Dan Poulter said the practices were “totally unacceptable,” and the Department of Health immediately banned the practice.

The Channel 4 Dispatches episode about the practices was led by presenter Amanda Holdren, who previously suffered both a stillbirth and miscarriage.

Her report also examined poor treatment of mothers and couples whose pregnancies miscarried; many were not consulted about how to dispose of their child’s remains.

Tully suggested that the reluctance to consult families is “undoubtedly linked to our barbaric abortion policies.”

“There are two issues at stake here. One is the feelings of the parents, and the other is the respect due to the dead – in this case a dead unborn child, killed by abortion or who has died as a result of spontaneous miscarriage.”

Farrow praised the quick action to end the disrespectful disposal of fetal remains, but questioned why the National Health Service did not question the morality of the practice before it became public.

She said the ban “does not go far enough,” as private abortion clinics still dispose of aborted children as “clinical waste alongside soiled dressings, gloves and equipment.”

“We would like to see abortion clinics be subject to similar regulations in terms of not only informing the parents as what will happen to their unborn children but also offering them a choice of dignified options as to what to do with their baby's remains.”

Farrow offered prayers and “deepest sympathies and condolences” to those whose children’s remains were mistreated, also offering prayer and condolences “to anyone who has suffered the tragedy of miscarriage or infant loss of any kind.”

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Immigration advocates give Pope letters from children

Vatican City, Mar 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A group of U.S. immigration reform advocates participated in Wednesday’s General Audience at the Vatican, giving the Pope letters from children who face being separated from their parents by deportation.

The group, which traveled from Los Angeles and was blessed by the city’s Archbishop Jose Gomez, hoped to encourage Pope Francis to advocate for them during his impending meeting with President Barack Obama.

The group chose 10-year-old Jersey Vargas, the daughter of undocumented immigrants, as their representative to the Pope. Vargas was born in the U.S. and her father is currently imprisoned in Indiana and at risk of being deported.

At the end of the March 26 General Audience, Vargas, the third of five siblings, was able to reach the first row to greet Pope Francis, giving him more than 1,000 letters from children whose families may be separated by deportation, as well as the gift of a handkerchief.

Vargas’ mother sewed into the handkerchief two birds and a nest, representing herself, her husband, and their home.

"My father is suffering,” Vargas told Pope Francis, according to The Tidings. "And other children in the United States are suffering just like I am."

The Pope blessed her, kissed her forehead, and told her, "I will talk to President Obama about it."

Alicia Flores, director of “Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional” and a member of the delegation, told CNA, “we have come to send a message to President Obama via the Pope, asking the Pope that he would advocate for all the families who are going to be deported, as is Jersey’s family.”

Flores stressed that Obama has “deported more than 2 million people” – more than were deported during the eight years of George W. Bush’s administrations.

Obama “maintains he is deporting criminals,” she said, “while in truth he is deporting fathers whose only crime is that of giving a contribution to the country, since they are working, and of being without the proper documents.”

Pope Francis’ meeting with Obama will take place March 27.

Caitlin Hayden, representative of the National Security Council, has said Obama is “willing to discuss with Pope Francis urgent global challenges, such as the lack of mobility and opportunities.”

The leaders’ meeting will likely zero in on general topics, such as the crisis in Ukraine, social imbalances, efforts for peace, and the need to foster a culture of encounter.

More specific topics, such as abortion law, religious liberty, and same-sex marriage, are more likely to be discussed at a later meeting between the American delegation and the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Marta Jimenez contributed to this report.

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Bishops say Cesar Chavez film shows Catholic social justice

Los Angeles, Calif., Mar 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Several bishops have praised “Cesar Chavez,” a new movie about the labor rights leader and devout Catholic, for its portrayal of a man whom they say embodied the ideals of Catholic social justice.

“This fine film shows a man of deep faith who struggled against injustice using the spiritual weapons of nonviolence, prayer and fasting,” Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles said March 14.

“Cesar Chavez” is distributed by Pantelion Films and Participant Media, and is set for a March 28 general release. It played at The Berlin Film Festival and won the audience award for narrative film at the South by Southwest film festival earlier this month.

The Arizona-born Chavez grew up in a family who lost their business and land during the Great Depression, moving to California to become migrant farmworkers.

Chavez, a father of eight, organized agricultural workers to advocate for better labor protections and higher wages by means of protests, strikes, and boycotts.

His protests frequently featured Catholic elements, including praying the rosary as well as images of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He also incorporated fasting into his efforts to draw attention to the plight of laborers.

He successfully organized tens of thousands of workers as members of the United Farm Workers union.

Archbishop Gomez said March 16 that Chavez “was a man of prayer and man of peace. Learning about his life tells me that he had a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and that he tried to live the Beatitudes in his daily life.”

The film depicts his early years as a labor organizer, including his launch of a massive boycott of grapes picked by non-union workers. The film dramatizes his conflicts with President Richard Nixon and then-California governor Ronald Reagan, as well as his 300-mile protest march from Delano to Sacramento.

Michael Peña plays Chavez, while America Ferrera plays his wife Helen. Labor organizer Dolores Huerta is played by Rosario Dawson and John Malkovich plays Bogdanovich, a vineyard owner opposed to Chavez’s work who is himself an immigrant from Europe.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said he has always considered Chavez a prophet of non-violence who preached and exemplified “the best in Catholic social justice and American civil rights.”

He called the film a “fine movie” that “only confirmed that high estimate.”

Fr. Greg Boyle, founder and director of the Los Angeles-based gang member rehabilitation program Homeboy Industries, said the movie will “galvanize a new generation” to embrace the fight for “justice and equality.”

“Cesar Chavez lived as though the truth were true and took seriously what Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King took seriously: the way of non-violence. This film shows the way.”

Archbishop Gomez hoped that the film may “inspire us to continue Cesar’s work until all our brothers and sisters are able to live with the dignity that God intends for them.”

At a recent conference in Anaheim, Bishop Edward Clark, an auxiliary of the Los Angeles archdiocese, said the film “is going to be a wonderful opportunity for us to unite around issues very important for our Catholic community,” while his fellow auxiliary, Bishop Gerald Wilkerson, said that seeing the film will be an opportunity “to be inspired by this great man and his love for the people and the Church.”

And Fr. James Martin, editor at large for “America,” noted “how much I respect and honor Cesar Chavez and all the wonderul work he did, and this new film is a terrific testimony to his life.”

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