Print Edition: March 8, 2015
Sign-up for our E-letter!
To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
BY Jim Cosgrove
Britain to Outlaw Religious ‘Hatred’
PRESS ASSOCIATION, Dec. 7 — British Home Secretary David Blunkett faces rebellion over a bill that would make incitement of religious “hatred” a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison.
On Dec. 7, some members of the House of Commons argued that the Serious Organized Crime and Police Bill would criminalize religious disagreement, although Blunkett said this was not his intent. Democratic Union leader Ian Paisley pointed out that the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer “contains many things
“contains many things that would be absolute anathema to a Roman Catholic” and asked, “Are those things incitement?”
Labor leader Gordon Prentice said, “I am still perplexed because there is no definition of religion, and 5,015 people in Sheffield gave their religion in the 2001 census as Jedi Knight. I hate Star Wars — should I be worried?”
Bethlehem Finds Peace — Seeks Tourists
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 5 — The four-year-old Palestinian uprising against Israel has not only killed thousands but has wrecked Holy Land tourism, particularly in Bethlehem.
Bethlehem remains literally scarred by a 2002 Israeli Army incursion which left bullet holes in the Church of the Nativity after a five-week siege of Palestinian insurgents inside. As a result, monthly visits to the town of Christ's birth have declined from 120,000 to 10,000, while only 1,500 visitors are likely to attend Christmas services, a far cry from the tens of thousands that once attended.
Violence has declined significantly since the death of Yasser Arafat last month, and Israeli, Palestinian and Vatican officials have signed an agreement to promote tourism, although mourning for Arafat has meant no Christmas decorations in Bethlehem. Amin Abu Kamel, who works at the Orient Palace Hotel near Manger Square, told the Associated Press, “I would like to see people. And peace.”
Kenyan Government Blamed for Priest's Murder
CATHOLIC INFORMATION SERVICE, Dec. 7 — Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci has indirectly blamed the Kenyan government for the Nov. 25 murder of Father John Hannon. Alluding to the collapse of law and order, the apostolic nuncio said at the Dec. 3 funeral of the 65-year-old Irish missionary priest, “Bandits are free to do what they want; innocent people are not.”
Archbishop Tonucci said he “was shocked that criminals could attack a mission station, cruelly murder a priest, rape a little girl and walk away scot-free” and concluded, “Security seems to be a foreign word in this country.”
Ten people have been arrested in the case.
Food Chain Apologizes for Anti-Christmas Bigotry
MALTAMEDIA ONLINE, Dec. 4 — An Australian fast-food chain has apologized to a Sydney franchise owner for ordering him to remove a Nativity scene from his counter.
Jeff Fisher, chief executive officer of the Oporto chain, said the instruction to the franchisee, a Catholic immigrant from Malta, was “politically correct” and “overzealous.”
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has condemned the secularization of the “holiday season,” saying, “You can't have a generic approach to Christmas. It celebrates an historic event; it celebrates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth …You can't replace that.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Holy Father Wins Italian Science Prize
ANSA, Dec. 5 — Pope John Paul II was awarded the 2004 Erice Science Prize for Peace at the Vatican Dec. 7 by the Ettore Majorana Science and Culture Center.
The citation praised the Holy Father for “being the greatest friend of the scientific community, for having the courage to defend science while differentiating it from its applications, for placing science on the same pedestal as the values of faith and for creating the foundation for a great alliance between science and faith.”
Previous honorees have included Linus Pauling and Edward Teller.
The Pope said the cash prize would be donated to students from the developing world and called for cooperation of “the international scientific community, public institutions and people of good will” in order to “assure humanity a future of hope and peace.”
Poles Embrace Papal Comic Book
AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 3 — A comic book explaining how Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II is selling briskly in the Pope's native land, Poland.
The 80-page book, written by Louis-Bernard Koch and illustrated by Dominique Bar and Guy Lehideux, was first published in France and includes a preface from Cardinal Paul Paupard, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture.
Jolanta Kochniarczyk of the Polish publisher Bialy Kruk of Krakow praised the book as “a biography that reads, well, like a good novel — it's not just dry facts.” Yet she worried it might be regarded as vulgar, even impertinent. However, she said, “We have not met with any criticism. Young readers who were given the book were delighted.”
John Paul Prays for Filipino Victims
MANILA BULLETIN, Dec. 5 — Pope John Paul II has expressed sympathy for the people of the Philippines, ravaged by four typhoons that killed more than 1,000 people and left 250,000 homeless.
The Holy Father's message to Archbishop Antonio Franco, released Dec. 5, reads in part, “With prayers for the victims and their families, (the Pope) asks almighty God to grant peace and consolation to the homeless, the suffering and those involved in the difficult task of relief.”
Donations to alleviate the suffering can be made to Caritas Internationalis at http://www.caritas.org The P.ope himself donated $25,000.
British Celebrate Adrian IV
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH, Dec. 4 — The primate of England, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster, presided over a Dec. 4 evensong service at St. Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire on the 850th anniversary of the election of Nicholas Breakspear as Pope Adrian IV, the sole English pontiff.
Born circa 1100, Adrian was educated at St. Albans and became an Augustinian canon in France, a papal diplomat and cardinal bishop of Albano, near Rome, before his elevation in 1154, upon the death of Eugenius III. Adrian served fewer than five years and is best remembered for his alleged donation of Ireland to Henry II of England.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Most Americans Believe Christmas Story
MSNBC.COM, Dec. 5 — Some Americans seem so afraid of offending those of a different religion that they are willing to celebrate the “holiday spirit” with no acknowledgment of what exactly that holiday is. But a Newsweek poll suggests that far fewer folks than suspected would be miffed by a public official or sales clerk saying “Merry Christmas.”
According to results of a poll concerning beliefs about Jesus, 79% of Americans believe the Gospel accounts of the birth of Christ — including the fact that he was born of a virgin and conceived by the Holy Spirit. “Sixty-seven percent say they believe that the entire story of Christmas — the virgin birth, the angelic proclamation to the shepherds, the Star of Bethlehem and the Wise Men from the East — is historically accurate,” the news website reported. “Twenty-four percent of Americans believe the story of Christmas is a theological invention written to affirm faith in Jesus Christ.”
Further, 93% of Americans believe Christ lived, and 82% believe he is God or the son of God.
Networks Pull Ad Implying Churches Homophobic
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Dec. 2 — The United Church of Christ accused NBC and CBS of caving into fears of “conservative political and religious groups” in rejecting a TV ad, the Times reported.
Whether intended or not, the ad subtly implies that some churches are unwelcoming to homosexuals and minorities. The commercial depicts what appear to be bar bouncers in front of a church, turning away minorities and men who appear to be homosexual.
“Jesus didn't turn away people, and neither do we,” the ad tells viewers. While never using the word “gay,” the spot concludes with a panorama of people, including two women, one of whom has her arm around the other.
The networks said they don't allow “advocacy advertising” and have declined numerous issue-oriented commercials in the past.
In a press release Dec. 3, the Family Institute of Connecticut's Brian Brown disputed statements that the ad was meant as a message of tolerance and inclusion. “There's a difference between faithfully upholding the scriptural prohibitions against homosexual activity and forbidding those with such inclinations from entering your church,” Brown said. “No pro-family church does the latter.”
World Youth Day Website Co-Opted
LIFESITENEWS.COM, Dec. 7 — A website that kept hundreds of thousands of young people informed about the 2002 World Youth Day gathering with Pope John Paul II in Canada is now listing abortion clinic addresses.
LifeSiteNews.com quoted website designer Anton Casta as saying the domain name www.wyd2002.org, which is linked by more than 1,300 other websites, had been “stolen.”
That might have been avoided. Father Thomas Rosica, national director of World Youth Day from 2002-2003, told LifeSiteNews that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops directed him to close the website and ship its server to them in Ottawa. The conference assured him they would reactivate the site, but the conference failed to renew its ownership of the domain name on time. A Massachusetts company called the Tidewinds Group grabbed it.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Europeans Want God in Their Constitution
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH, Nov. 25 — Some 1.2 million people from across Europe have signed a petition requesting that the new European Union Constitution formally recognize the importance of Europe's Christian heritage.
The petition, which is to be delivered to European leaders, asks that each country be given the right to publish its own preamble to the constitution, including Christian references. The petition is supported by the European Parliament and the Pope, who has said, “One does not cut the roots to one's birthright.”
The constitution's author, former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, deliberately excluded Christianity from the preamble, but welcomes the petition as a means to determine the depth of European commitment to the faith, the Telegraph reported. But other officials, giving credence to the claim the union has become actively anti-Christian, say it is too late to change it. According to one official, “These Christians could at least have the good grace to accept that they lost the argument.”
Cuba: Bishop Sí, Rosaries No
THE MIAMI HERALD, Nov. 30 — While Miami Archbishop John Favalora was welcomed into Fidel Castro's Cuba to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Santiago, communist officials refused to allow the American donation of 21 suitcases containing rosaries and medicine.
Archbishop Favalora led a delegation of 12 American Church leaders to Santiago, where a bicentennial Mass was celebrated Nov. 28 by Archbishop Pedro Meurice Estiu.
The next day, the Americans were told their gifts were illegal. “We will try to deliver them later, by different means,” Archbishop Favalora said.
Despite this unpleasantness, the Miami archbishop was impressed by the fervor of the Cuban believers. “The Church was filled by people of every age,” he said. “You might expect that, 40 years after the revolution, it might not have many young people. But they were there … The grace of God is abounding because of it.”
No Christmas for Britain's Red Cross
LONDON MAIL ON SUNDAY, Nov. 28 — Conservative commentator Peter Hitchens has castigated the British Red Cross for banning the Nativity from its Christmas cards. “When I call them for an explanation, I get some piffle about being ‘understood as being religiously neutral,’” he wrote. “Frankly, if they are so convinced they must upset unhinged, Christianity-hating fanatics, I'm surprised they dare sell Christmas cards at all.”
Hitchens contrasted the “cowardice” of the British Red Cross with its Irish counterpart, whose “website advertises packs of Christmas cards which ‘contain a selection of traditional, modern and religious images.’”
St. Francis Xavier's Body on Display
THE WASHINGTON POST, Nov. 27 — Pilgrims are converging on Se Cathedral in Goa, India, to witness the decennial display of the miraculously uncorrupt body of St. Francis Xavier. The display began Nov. 28.
St. Francis Xavier, a Spanish nobleman and one of the founders of the Society of Jesus, lived from 1506 to 1552. He is regarded as the greatest missionary of modern times and is known as the “Apostle to the Indies.” Every 10 years since 1964, his body has been displayed for 40 days in a glass-topped silver casket.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Templars Crusade for Apology
LONDON TIMES, Nov. 29 — The Vatican has apologized for the excesses of the Crusades, but now the Knights Templar, one of the foremost Crusader orders, wants an apology for its suppression 700 years ago.
The Vatican is reported to be giving “serious consideration” to the request, which comes from English Templars claiming descent from the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, as they were properly known.
Founded as a monastic order in 1118, shortly after the Christian capture of Jerusalem, the Templars protected Holy Land pilgrims and fought in the reconquests of Spain and Portugal. Their great wealth, based on property and banking, excited great jealousy. France's Philip IV moved against the order in 1307 (spawning the legend of “Friday the 13th”), executing its members and expropriating its holdings, and Pope Clement V dissolved it in 1312.
Three years ago, a previously secret Vatican document revealed that Clement V had in fact absolved the Templars of heresy. Since the Middle Ages, the Templar myth has inspired Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, Richard Wagner's Parsifal and innumerable fanciful treatises and occult sects.
AIDS Best Fought by Abstinence, Vatican Says
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Nov. 30 — In a statement released for World AIDS Day, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health, has recapitulated Pope John Paul II's view that AIDS is as much a disease of the mind as of the body.
Cardinal Barragán explained, “To fight (AIDS) in a responsible way, you have to increase prevention, through education on the respect of the sacred values of life, as well as the correct practice of sexuality.” He called also for cheaper AIDS treatments and the elimination of discrimination against those with the disease.
Pope Marks Start of Advent
CATHNEWS, Nov. 30 — Speaking from St. Peter's Square Nov. 28, Pope John Paul II welcomed the first Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year.
The Holy Father promoted the theme of next year's Italian Eucharistic Conference, “Without Sunday, We Cannot Live,” and urged his 30,000 listeners and Christians everywhere to “rediscover with new intensity the meaning of Sunday: its mystery, its celebration, its significance for Christian and human life.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Congress Acts to Save Mount Soledad Cross
NORTH COUNTY TIMES, Nov. 21 — Congress has declared that the Mount Soledad cross in San Diego will be part of the national park system, according to the North County Times of Escondido, Calif. Referring to a story in the San Diego Union Tribune, the article said the designation neutralizes the argument of civil libertarians, such as atheist Philip Paulson who sued San Diego in 1989 seeking removal of the cross on grounds that its presence on city property violated separation of church and state provisions.
Paulsen was quoted in the story as saying, “Jihad Jesus Republicans need to understand that the separation of church and state has kept this country from getting into religious wars. If God was powerful, there would not be a need for the government to go in and force a religious agenda on non-believing citizens.”
President Bush must still approve and San Diego must donate the land, the North County Times said. San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy, who has supported efforts to save the cross, said, “I hope this will resolve the issue for good.”
Two Important Truths About ‘Roe’
NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE, Nov. 29 — A Nov. 19-21 poll sponsored by the Associated Press in which 59% of respondents said President Bush should nominate Supreme Court justices who support Roe v. Wade was misleading, according to a National Right to Life Committee press release.
“Today's AP story is another example of the news media using two forms of distortion to paint a greatly exaggerated picture of public support for the Supreme Court's abortion policy — first by minimizing the actual scope of the Roe v. Wade ruling, and second by distorting what it would mean to ‘overturn’ Roe,” the organization's legislative director, Douglas Johnson, said.
According to National Right to Life, poll respondents were told Roe v. Wade legalizes abortion in the first three months of pregnancy; in fact, it permits abortion for any reason until nearly six months. The poll also suggested that overturning Roe v. Wade would make abortions illegal. According to National Right to Life, it would remove federal constitutional protection for a woman's right to abort and give each state the authority to establish abortion policies.
Saving St. Gelasius
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 4 — At a time when many Catholic churches are closing, St. Gelasius in Chicago is opening back up.
The 81-year-old neo-Renaissance building was saved from the wrecking ball by Latin Mass devotees after being closed in 2002 because of a lack of parishioners.
When St. Gelasius is restored, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, headquartered in Italy, will use it to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, which is spoken in Latin,” reported the Associated Press. The services will be a stark contrast to the guitar music, drumming and sacred dance many churches use to reach out to their communities.”
“I believe it gives people a sense of the mystery of God,” Msgr. Michael Schmitz is quoted saying. “They try to pray, and the Latin and chants and the beautiful music and the vestments — all the details of the Latin mass gives them the feeling that God is greater than our human heart can think of.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Scots Back St. Andrew's Holiday
BBC NEWS, Nov. 22 — The proposal to make Nov. 30, St. Andrew's Day, a national holiday is garnering increasing support in Scotland.
A poll by the whiskey distiller Glenlivet shows more than three-quarters of Scots back the idea, up from 68% in 2001. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and primate of Scotland, says his country's patron saint is “taken for granted.” Political supporters include the Scottish National Party, which believes St. Andrew's Day should be as important to Scots as St. Patrick's Day is to the Irish.
St. Andrew, brother of St. Peter, was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which became known as the St. Andrew's cross and became Scotland's national symbol after the apostle's relics were transported from Constantinople to Scotland in the eighth century.
Church Cautions Kenyan Leaders on Abortion
NAIROBI NATION, Nov. 22 — Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana a' Nzeki of Nairobi has announced that the Church in Kenya will campaign against politicians who support legalized abortion in the 2007 elections.
Speaking Nov. 21, Archbishop Nzeki supported “abstinence from sex as the best option for youth, saying it had no costs or side effects.”
Abortion has come to the forefront in Kenya after Dr. John Nyamu was charged with murder after 15 aborted babies were found in garbage bags in Nairobi earlier this year. Dr. Nyamu's defense is supported by the Kenya Medical Association.
African Priests to Re-evangelize Britain
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH, Nov. 22 — Britain's bishops are considering a proposal to import African priests to shore up failing numbers in their country.
One hundred bishops met with the blessing of Pope John Paul II in Rome in November to consider trading African parish priests for European teaching priests. England and Wales have ordained only 18 priests this year, while Nigeria has 5,000 candidates for the priest-hood.
Archbishop John Onaiyekan, president of the African Council of Bishops' Conferences, said, “Just 150 years ago, it was Europeans who were doing the evangelizing. Now we should have two churches doing the work—Africa and Europe.”
Bishop Tom Burns, representing the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, welcomed the proposal, but cautioned, “I don't think there are any real answers to the vocations crisis unless we are able to foster our own vocations and let our people feel that they have their own priests.”
Christmas Is for Charity, not Consumerism
CATHNEWS, Nov. 23 — The Australian director of Catholic Mission has called on his countrymen to celebrate the birth of Jesus by giving to charity as “a great counter-balance to the over-commercialization that all family members, particularly children, are bombarded with in the weeks before Christmas.”
The 160-year-old Catholic Mission assists children in such under-developed countries as Albania, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya and Madagascar.
In a Nov. 19 press release, Father Terence Bell wrote, “It's timely to remember that for many of the world's children, it's not a choice between computer games and (cell) phones at Christmas but a matter of where their next meal is coming from.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Cardinal Ratzinger Warns of Europe's ‘Decadence’
DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR, Nov. 19 — Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has condemned Europe's “decadent” new order that has made it “almost indecent to speak about God.”
In a Nov. 19 interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica, the 77-year-old Bavarian prelate charged that Europe is now dominated by a “secularism [that] is no longer that element of neutrality which opens up space for freedom for all.” Instead, he said, “It is beginning to change into an ideology which, through politics, is being imposed.”
Referring to the rejection of Rocco Buttiglione as a European Union commissioner because of his Catholic morality, the cardinal declared, “A society in which God is totally absent self-destructs. We have seen this happen during the totalitarian regimes of the past century.”
Cardinal Ratzinger said the transformation of Europe by birth control and mass immigration had resulted in a period in which “churches were emptying,” but added he was certain Christianity would recover, even if that recovery would likely occur first on “other continents.”
Pope Assails Communist Restrictions on Religion
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Nov. 22 — Pope John Paul II has spoken out against religious oppression in Asia, demonstrating his concern for “those who suffer especially (because they) are not free to profess their faith.”
The Holy Father's Nov. 19 speech to a council of Asian bishops did not mention any specific countries, but it is believed he had in mind China and Vietnam, where governments control episcopal appointments and have forced underground Catholics loyal to the papacy. Although this has resulted in the Church being reduced to “a little flock,” the Pope stressed that “the effectiveness of evangelization does not depend on numbers,” proven by Christ himself, who began his conversion of the world with only 12 followers.
Although Le Dung, a Vietnamese government spokesman, insisted, “Religious believers, including Christians, are free to practice their beliefs,” the State Department, in a September report, cited Vietnam and China as “countries of particular concern” because of “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
Vatican Brings Stones to Life
THE GUARDIAN, Nov. 22 — A revolutionary approach taken by the Vatican to the restoration of ancient sculpture has captivated critics. “Colors of White,” an exhibition at the Vatican museums that runs through Jan. 31, attempts to replicate how 15 stone carvings first appeared — not white, as commonly known today, but painted, as their creators made them.
For instance, “There is an Athena who looks more like a Central American goddess than a Greek one, and a Trojan archer wearing multicolored matching top and leggings that could easily have been designed by Missoni,” the Guardian wrote about the exhibition.
The reconstructions are based on painstaking historical and scientific investigations. Reviewers have professed themselves amazed. Il Messagero wrote that the pieces were “disorientating, shocking, but often, splendid,” while Corriere della Sera said, “Suddenly, a world we had been used to regarding as austere and reflective has been turned on its head to become as jolly as a circus.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Democrats Need More Faith in Faith, Some Say
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Nov. 17 — Some Democrats are advocating a wider and more visible embrace of religion in the aftermath of the Nov. 2 election, The New York Times reported. “We need to be more explicit and more public about our convictions and our beliefs,” said Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who has led Democratic efforts to reach religious voters.
Democrats are also increasing efforts to gain the support of churches and religious groups that lean toward party positions. Abortion poses a special challenge. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, told the newspaper that in the all-important Midwestern states, the party's apparent unbending proabortion stance hurt its candidates. Ryan supports abortion rights, but believes Democrats should be less rigid on related measures, such as the partial-birth abortion ban and parental notification laws.
He asked, “In middle America, how do you argue that killing a pregnant woman is not a double homicide?”
Mel Gibson Shows Passion for Integrity
REUTERS, Nov. 19 — Mel Gibson will not be part of the growing, multimillion-dollar trend by film companies that use paid advertising, publicity campaigns and parties before Oscar night to increase the chances of their films getting an Academy Award, Reuters reported.
The competition for the coveted Oscar has become negative in past years — so much so that last year Academy officials formed a committee to tighten guidelines governing the promotion of eligible films.
Bruce Davey, Gibson's Icon Productions partner, was quoted as saying that The Passion of the Christ should be “judged on its artistic merit, not on who spends more money for advertising. That's really what the academy was meant to be and to celebrate.”
Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, praised Gibson for working to restore the Oscars as a “celebration and appreciation of excellence” and for resisting the “crass commercialism that was threatening the integrity of the award.”
‘Monday Night Football’ Crosses Line
INDIANAPOLIS STAR, Nov. 18 — NFL coaches Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts and Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears have much in common: a love of football, coaching, friendship, fatherhood and, most recently, anger and repulsion at a sexually suggestive ad presented by ABC before a recent “Monday Night Football” game.
The two were interviewed by The Indianapolis Star about the promo, which included a towel-dropping incident featuring “Desperate Housewives” co-star Nicollette Sheridan. “I thought it was uncalled for,” Dungy told the Star. “I thought it was in really bad taste.”
Smith was “shocked, just like most other people were at the time. It should not have happened, and I can't believe it did happen.”
Many viewers and fans were upset that the spot aired at 9 p.m., when many children are watching television, according to the newspaper. Commenting about ABC, which is owned by the Walt Disney Co., Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell said two days after the incident, “I wonder if Walt Disney would be proud.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Call Him Dr. Brubeck
ASCRIBE NEWSWIRE, Nov. 15 — American pianist and jazz legend Dave Brubeck has been awarded an honorary doctorate in sacred theology from Switzerland's University of Fribourg in recognition of his sacred compositions.
Although secular, the university has a theology department under the auspices of the Holy See; it is administered by the Dominican Order.
A California native, Brubeck led the original Dave Brubeck Quartet from 1950 to 1967. The group defined “college jazz” through its albums and hit songs, which included “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” the latter a re-arrangement of a Mozart sonata.
Brubeck's sacred compositions include the oratorio “The Light in the Wilderness,” based on the words of Christ; “Upon This Rock,” a chorale and fugue written for the entrance of Pope John Paul II; and the Mass “To Hope: A Celebration,” which Brubeck performed in Fribourg Nov. 21.
The citation for Brubeck's doctorate reads in part, “Like the Levites of old who were appointed by God to sing his praises, you have for over 40 years placed your considerable musical gifts in the service of strengthening people's knowledge of God and of helping them to discover their vocation to love God and even their enemies.”
Brubeck, who will turn 84 Dec. 6, responded, “I am both very humbled and deeply grateful to receive this honorary degree. I am very aware how little I know compared to the theologians of the world.”
French Town Fights ‘Da Vinci Code’ Vandals
LONDON SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, Nov. 14 — Fans of Dan Brown's bestselling religious fantasy The Da Vinci Code are so obsessive that they have laid siege to a small French town and forced its mayor to take extraordinary measures to protect against grave robbers, thieves and vandals.
The book, a lurid compilation of time-worn, anti-Catholic conspiracy theories, has resulted in tens of thousands of devotees arriving in Rennes-Le-Chateau and searching for, among other things, the body of 19th-century parish priest Abbe Berenger Sauniere, a supposed possessor of occult secrets.
After grave robbers attempted to tunnel under the 12th-century church, Mayor Jean-Francois L'Huilier reburied the priest in the museum next door, under a 3.5-ton sarcophagus surrounded by five cubic meters of concrete.
“It'll take one hell of a lot of explosives to get through that,” the mayor said, adding, “It's a well-written book, but it's a novel, not a historical document. It astonished me that some readers get to the end and think it's true.”
Tunisian Catholics Organize Augustinian Celebration
CATHOLIC INFORMATION SERVICE FOR AFRICA, Nov. 16 — The Archdiocese of Tunisia will hold celebrations next month to mark the 1,650th anniversary of the birth of St. Augustine of Hippo.
St. Augustine was born at Tagaste, located in present-day Tunisia, on Nov. 13, 354. The archdiocesan celebration, which will focus on the theme of “St. Augustine: His African Roots and Universality,” will be held at the Acropolis of Carthage from Dec. 15-Jan. 10.
St. Augustine, who converted to Christianity after a dissolute youth, was baptized in Milan, Italy, in 387. He returned to his native North Africa and was ordained in 391.
He became bishop of Hippo (now Annaba, Algeria) in 395.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Urges Democracy Over Violence in Iraq
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Nov. 15 — Pope John Paul II, after a Nov. 15 audience with Albert Ismail Yelda, the new Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See, expressed hope that Iraq's upcoming elections would be “fair and transparent.”
The Holy Father spoke of his “ongoing concern for the many victims of terrorism and violence” and declared his wish that the Iraqi government “work untiringly to settle disputes and conflicts through dialogue and negotiation, having recourse to military force only as a last resort.”
Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has said the elections, scheduled for January, will proceed, even as the insurgency against American occupation continues unabated, particularly in the so-called “Sunni triangle,” despite the success of U.S. Marines against rebels in Fallujah.
The Pope stressed the need to maintain the “clear distinction between the civil and religious spheres” in order to protect both the rule of law and freedom of worship.
Trentino to Provide Vatican Christmas Trees
ANSA, Nov. 15 — The great Christmas tree that adorns St. Peter's Square in Rome will be donated by Italy's Trentino region this year. The 110-foot pine from Adamello Brenta Park will be cut at the end of November and then lighted at a ceremony Dec. 15 to the accompaniment of music and festivities from Trentino bands, choirs and folklorists.
Thirty smaller trees from the region will adorn the Vatican itself. The honor of providing the Vatican trees is awarded to a different part of Italy every year.
Pope Commends Christian Unity
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 13 — At a vespers service marking the 40th anniversary of Second Vatican Council's decree on ecumenism, Pope John Paul II lauded the progress made since then toward Christian unity.
The Holy Father read only the beginning and end of the prepared text, the body of which was delivered by a bishop. The remarks noted, “Thanks to God, many differences and misunderstandings have been overcome,” but also warned of “new problems, especially in the field of ethics, where new divisions have opened up that impede us from bearing witness together.”
The “new divisions” cited by the Pope are believed to be the problems created by female and homosexual ordinations in Protestant denominations.
Franciscan Missionaries Observe Centenary
AFRICA NEWS, Nov. 12 — The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary celebrated the 100th anniversary of the death of its founder, Mary of the Passion, Nov. 15. A native of Brittany, France, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
Born Helen de Chappotin, she founded the Missionaries of Mary in 1877. The first missionary congregation to be originated by a woman, it now consists of 7,500 sisters from 80 nationalities serving in 77 countries. It is particularly strong in Africa, with sisters in 18 countries.
A statement from the East African Provincial House in Kenya declared that the centennial celebrations “will especially remember in practical ways the poor and displaced people of our countries, the special focus of the FMM at the present moment.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Critics of Catholic Health Plan Oppose ‘Choice’
CULTURE & COSMOS, Nov. 16 — Thanks to the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, federal employees working or residing in one of 27 Illinois counties can now participate in a Catholic health plan that does not provide coverage for contraceptives, abortion, sterilization or in-vitro fertilization, according to Culture & Cosmos, an e-mailed bulletin of the Culture of Life Foundation.
The Sisters own and operate OSF Health Care Systems, which is offering the plan as part of President Bush's goal of letting faith-based organizations participate in government programs. Culture & Cosmos said Planned Parenthood was among the “typical litany of ‘pro-choice’ groups” opposing the plan and referred to an unsigned article on the organization's website stating that contraception was “basic health care” and that the OSF plan takes away the employees' right to choose. Federal employees are not obligated to participate in the OSF health plan.
Commenting on organizations opposed to faith-based health care, OSF's communications director James Ferrell was quoted as saying, “They aren't really pro-choice.”
Marriage Re-Designers Shift Focus to Culture War
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Nov. 12 — Fearing a public backlash, homosexual-rights groups are redirecting their efforts toward civil unions and pulling back from their primary goal of legalizing same-sex “marriages,” The New York Times reported. The groups fear that attempts to legalize homosexual “marriage” might energize President Bush's efforts to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting it.
Among the factors influencing the change of strategy is that many of the state amendments against same-sex “marriage” passed by overwhelming majorities in the Nov. 2 elections. Homosexual-rights advocates said in the story that the current challenge is to change public attitudes. Andrew Koppelman, a law professor at Northwestern University, said the forum for the debate over marriage has shifted, adding, “The gay marriage issue is being fought primarily in the culture, not in the courts.”
Pastor Asks Pro-Abortion Pol to Leave Choir
THE EAGLE TRIBUNE, Nov. 16 — Massachusetts state representative Barbara L'Italien refused a verbal request by the new pastor of St. Augustine's Catholic Church in Andover, Mass., that she step down as cantor and head of the youth choir, the The Boston Globe reported.
Father William Cleary, who made the request because of L'Italien's pro-abortion position said, “In this particular case, we're dealing with a person who is against the Church's position. I can't allow her to be in a public posture — to be standing up at the pulpit singing or directing singing.”
According to the northern Massachusetts daily, L'Italien said, “I was told that, because I am a legislator and a Democrat, I was being asked to step down.” Father Cleary countered that L'Italien's political affiliation was unrelated to his request. A lifelong member of the parish, L'Italien said she told Father Cleary she has her own personal view on abortion but is sworn to uphold the law.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Netherlands Rocked by Religious Turmoil
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH, Nov. 10 — The shock waves generated by the murder of Theo van Gogh by an Islamic militant continued to reverberate across Holland in early November. While 1 million watched his cremation on television, five mosques, an Islamic school and a church were bombed, burned or vandalized in reprisals.
Van Gogh, director of an anti-Islam film called Submission, was murdered by an Islamic extremist Nov. 2. He was shot and stabbed repeatedly, and his throat was slit. The butcher knife was then used to pin a message to his chest.
The message, containing lengthy quotations from Islamic scriptures, threatened the life of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Muslim apostate who wrote Submission, and prophesized “disaster” for Holland.
The murder was the second of a prominent Dutch opponent of Islam in three years. In response, Jozias van Aartsen, leader of the Liberal Party, said Holland was being subjected to a jihad, and Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm said Holland had “declared war,” The Telegraph reported.
The immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, announced the deportation of 26,000 failed refugee claimants and promised legislation to allow deportation of any of Holland's 900,000 Muslims found guilty of “extremism,” even citizens.
Marines Anointed Before Battle
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Nov. 6 — Days before the Fallujah battle that was certain to take some of their lives, members of the U.S. Marine Corps made peace with God: singing hymns, being anointed with holy oil and, in several cases, accepting baptism in an evangelical ser vice Nov. 5.
“Church attendance is always up before the big push,” said Sgt. Miles Thatford. “Sometimes, all you've got is God.” The three dozen participants in the ser vice sang rock-and-roll flavored hymns and read from the Scriptures from the stage of a makeshift Iraqi chapel.
Agence France Presse reported that a chaplain, identified only as Horne, told the soldiers their mission was to deliver the Iraq people from “oppression, rape, torture and murder” and asked God “to bless us in that effort.”
Population Fund Leader Sees Unborn's Humanity
UN NEWS CENTER, Nov. 4 — The head of the United Nations Population Fund has implicitly recognized the personhood of unborn children in a press release discussing the U.N. agency's campaign to reduce the incidence of fistula.
Fistula, which afflicts 2 million women globally, occurs during an obstructed labor when the mother's bladder or rectum is torn. Almost always fatal to the child, it causes severe physical and mental trauma to the mother.
“Fistula is a double sorrow because women lose their babies, and they lose their lives,” said the fund's executive director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. She added, “The key to ending fistula lies with prevention,” which, without explanation, she linked with “family planning” — birth control and abortion.
Pro-lifers were pleased that Obaid — whose agency works closely with International Planned Parenthood Federation, the world's largest private abortion provider — had implicitly acknowledged the full humanity of the unborn. But, they noted, if resources were diverted to obstetric care from “family planning,” fistula could be sharply reduced in the developing world.
Fistula is easily prevented and can also be treated with surgery, which is successful 90% of the time.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Agca Slated for Early Release
MELBOURNE HERALD SUN, Nov. 9— Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who nearly assassinated Pope John Paul II, is expected to be released from prison shortly, after a liberalizing of Turkish law.
Agca, then 23, shot the Holy Father four times from 15 feet away — in front of 20,000 people — as he crossed St. Peter's Square in an open vehicle May 13, 1981. The Pope spent five hours in surgery and then two weeks in the hospital.
Two years later, John Paul met Agca in prison and forgave him.
Agca, a mercenary for the Gray Wolves, a reactionary Turkish terrorist group, claimed the shooting was planned by Bulgarian intelligence, ostensibly acting at the behest of the Soviet KGB, angered by the Pope's support for the Polish Solidarity movement. Unfortunately for prosecutors, Agca's testimony became increasingly deranged, and the only Bulgarian tried as an accomplice was acquitted.
After serving 19 years in prison in Italy, Agca was pardoned with the Pope's blessing. He was deported to Turkey in 2000, where he was imprisoned for the murder of a journalist and two armed robberies in 1979.
Under amendments to Turkey's criminal code to take effect next year, criminals will serve sentences concurrently, not consecutively, and Agca will likely be released.
Vatican Promotes Palliative Care
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 9 — The Catholic Church has again unequivocally condemned the practice of euthanasia, while adding that it does not mandate “excessive measures” to keep people alive.
Speaking at a Nov. 9 press conference in Rome, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, affirmed, “We must preserve life from its beginning to its natural end. Life doesn't belong to us. Life belongs to God.” He defined excessive measures as “when you prolong in a painful and useless way suffering which is not responding to treatment.”
The press conference was part of a weeklong Vatican symposium to encourage the provision of painkilling drugs to chronically or terminally ill patients. Another participant, medical researcher Maurizio Evangelista of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, stressed that the widespread belief that the Church disdains palliative care because it prefers people to suffer is a falsehood, pointing out that the use of opiate painkillers was endorsed by Pope Pius XII in 1956.
Vatican Diplomat Praises Ugandan Peace Quest
AFRICA NEWS, Nov. 6 — The apostolic nuncio to Uganda, Archbishop Christopher Pierre, has praised efforts of the Church in Uganda to end that country's civil war.
At a Nov. 4 ceremony in honor of the 26th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's election, Archbishop Pierre made special mention of Archbishop John Baptist Odama of the Archdiocese of Gulu, chairman of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, which has facilitated negotiations between the government and Joseph Kony, leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.
“Where there is war, it is not easy,” Archbishop Pierre said. “I have been in northern Uganda, and with all those guns, I have wondered at the courage of Archbishop Odama and the bishops under him.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
President Vows to Fight for Marriage Amendment
FEMINIST WIRE, Nov. 8 — President Bush intends to persevere in his efforts to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, according to the Feminist Wire.
In an interview with Fox News Sunday on Nov. 7, Bush's chief strategist Karl Rove said the president will “absolutely” continue to push for a federal marriage amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
The proposed amendment did not pass in the House of Representatives in October and some senators believe it will not pass in the Senate now, even with the new Republican majority of 55, according to the Feminist Wire.
Suggesting on “Face the Nation” on Nov. 7 that the president would be making a mistake to try again, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was quoted as saying, “I don't think there's any evidence that suggests that a constitutional amendment is needed at this time.”
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said on the same program that if there was another vote, “it probably [will] not pass.”
Hispanics Show Strong Support for Bush
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Nov. 8 — Forty-four percent of Hispanics voted for President Bush in the recent election, according to The New York Times. That's more support any Republican presidential candidate has received from Hispanics in at least 30 years.
Among those interviewed by The Times to explore the reasons behind to explore the reasons behind the vote was Les Dorrance, a Denver security guard who explained that conservative values on abortion and the sanctity of marriage were important issues that affected his vote for Bush.
Janet Murguia, executive director and chief operating officer of the nonpartisan civil rights group National Council of La Raza, said the Catholic Church played an important part. She said voters were influenced in Spanish-speaking parishes where abortion and embryonic stem-cell research were discussed in homilies and other communications.
University of New Mexico professor of political science F. Chris Garcia said in the story: “We are up for grabs. That is a good thing for Hispanics; we're going to be more influential in the future and a bigger target for both campaigns.”
Pharmacists Won't Fill Prescriptions on Moral Grounds
USA TODAY, Nov. 8 — Pharmacists in many states are refusing to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, and there is some government support for them, according to USA Today.
“The explosion in the number of legislative initiatives and the number of individuals who are just saying, ‘We're not going to fill that prescription for you because we don't believe in it’ is astonishing,” said Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in the story.
According to USA Today, the policy of the 50,000-member American Pharmacists Association is that pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions for moral reasons but must make arrangements for a patient to get the pills. Not all pharmacists make those arrangements, however.
The article also noted that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a provision in September that would prohibit federal funding for authorities that made health-care workers perform, pay for or make referrals for abortions.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Dutch Critic of Islam Slain
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 3 — Holland was in turmoil after eight Muslims were arrested for the killing of a radical filmmaker on an Amsterdam street Nov. 2. Theo van Gogh, 47, was shot repeatedly by a man in Arab dress who then slit his throat.
The eight Muslims, of Algerian or Moroccan origin, are suspected of terrorist ties. Holland's justice minister, Piet Hein Donner, said the gunman “acted out of radical Islamic fundamentalist convictions,” the AP reported.
Van Gogh, great-grandnephew of the famous painter, had received numerous death threats after the release of his film Submission, a broadside against Islam's treatment of women.
Tens of thousands thronged the streets of Amsterdam to protest the murder, which came two years after the anti-Muslim-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn was killed by an animal-rights extremist.
Buttiglione's Enemies Called ‘Fascist’
LONDON DAILY MAIL, Oct. 29 — Journalist Stephen Glover has condemned the withdrawal of Rocco Buttiglione's appointment to the European Commission as a “terrific scandal whose outcome bodes ill for the 400 million citizens of the European Union.” Buttiglione, the Italian justice minister who formally bowed out Oct. 31, had incited the rage of left-wing members of the European Parliament with statements against homosexual behavior and in favor of the traditional family.
Glover called Buttiglione “the civilized voice of the Catholic intellectual. …s He is prepared even to apologize for causing hurt. Described as an extremist, he does not, in fact, wish to coerce anyone into changing their behavior. He regards the way we live our lives as a matter for personal conscience, and of faith.”
That this was not good enough for the union, Glover concluded, proves that Europeans are certainly not “living in a new enlightened age in which (the continent) has turned its back on the evils of fascism.”
Irish Prime Minister Defends Church Role
DUBLIN SUNDAY INDEPENDENT, Oct. 31— Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has warned against rising anti-clericalism in Ireland. Speaking Oct. 30 to the 1,500 Irish religious in Rome, he lamented that Church scandals have resulted in a situation whereby “it becomes all too easy to tar everyone with the same brush.”
Ahern praised the Irish church's commitment to education, charity and justice as particularly valuable in a country blinded increasingly by material wealth. He concluded, “Any blanket portrayal of the Church as a negative force in our society, therefore, is not only misleading, but also inherently dangerous.”
Hindu Holy Terrors
LONDON TIMES, Nov. 3 — In Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, a gullible businessman is teased about sacred monkeys in the Vatican. There are no sacred Vatican monkeys, of course, but their existence in Indian Hindu temples is all too real — and dangerous.
Zoologists were called in after 2,000 rhesus monkeys at the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati went on a rampage. Temple priest Bani Kumar Sharma said, “They hide in trees and swoop on unsuspecting children loitering in the temple premises or walking by, clawing them and even sucking a bit of blood.”
Indian monkeys are strictly protected as embodiments of the Hindu god Hanuman. In 2001, 10,000 invaded Delhi and damaged several army bases.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Seeks End to Rift with Orthodox
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 31— The split between the Catholic and Orthodox churches is almost as old as Christianity itself, but there have been recent signs of healing, the Associated Press reported.
The Vatican has even expressed hope that Pope John Paul II might yet become the first pope to visit Russia.
The Holy Father has taken a great interest in the ecumenical project, seeking through a series of gestures to dispel the mistrust of centuries between West and East. In August, he returned the icon of Our Lady of Kazan to Russia, and this month he will return the relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory of Nazianzus (removed during the Crusades) to the Orthodox patriarch in Istanbul.
Patriarch Alexy II wrote the Pope, “I believe that your decision to return the icon shows your sincere desire to overcome the difficulties existing between our churches.” Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Walls told the AP, “The climate seems to be changing.”
The Great Schism of 1054 resulted from differences over the wording of the Nicene Creed and the Orthodox refusal to accept the supremacy of the papacy. Under the tsars and communism, Catholics were severely persecuted in Russia. There are approximately 600,000 Catholics in Russia today, about 0.4% of the population.
Pope Prays for Victims of Terrorism
ASIANEWS, Nov. 1 — Pope John Paul II marked the feasts of All Saints and All Souls with an invocation on behalf of terrorism victims.
Speaking to the multitude assembled in St. Peter's Square Nov. 1, the Pope declared, “Under the bright lights of this wonderful mystery, the annual commemoration of all the faithful departed will take place tomorrow. The liturgy invites us to broaden our hearts and pray for all of them, especially for the souls who need divine mercy the most.”
Added John Paul, “I raise a special prayer to God for all the victims of terrorism. I feel spiritually close to their families. As I ask the Lord to make their pain more bearable, I invoke his name that peace may come into the world.”
Montreal Oratory Awarded Rare Golden Rose
MONTREAL GAZETTE, Oct. 30 — St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal was honored by Pope John Paul II with the award of a Golden Rose — only the second given to a church on this continent, the Montreal newspaper noted.
The ornamental rose of pure gold, one of 180 awarded since 1088, was presented by apostolic nuncio Luigi Ventura to Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal at a televised Mass Oct. 17 celebrating the commencement of St. Joseph's centenary. Archbishop Ventura said the award “communicates the deep sentiments of the Pope” and is “an exceptional sign of honor” for a “celebrated place of prayer,” Catholic News Agency reported.
The Oratory is the largest church in Canada and the world's largest shrine to St. Joseph, Canada's patron saint. It was founded in 1904 by the Blessed Andre Bessette, a brother of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, to whose intercession many miracles have been attributed.
BY Jim Cosgrove
National List of Accused Priests Completed
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 1 — A nationwide list of 2,600 Roman Catholic priests accused of sexual misconduct against children will be posted online early next year, according to the Associated Press. The list was compiled by Dallas lawyer Sylvia Demarest, who started work on it in 1993 while representing clients allegedly molested by a Dallas priest.
Demarest said the database of alleged “priest perpetrators” and other Catholic officials who have been accused of sexually abusing children was assembled from public sources, including court filings and media reports. Entries will include the name of the accused; the time, place and nature of the suspected misconduct; and whether there were lawsuits or criminal charges.
Kathleen McChesney, executive director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was quoted in the story as saying, “There is a difference of opinion among the bishops as to whether (a list) should be maintained at the national level. That has not been resolved.”
Trying to Build a Wall Against Wal-Mart
LOS ANGELES TIMES, Oct. 30 — In protesting Wal-Mart's plan to build Los Angeles County's first “Supercenter” in Rosemead, Calif., the pastor of St. Anthony's Catholic Church in neighboring San Gabriel described the giant company as “the greediest corporation on earth.” Father Mike Greely also called Rosemead City Council's approval of the Wal-Mart project “disgusting.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, the reaction among parishioners and the community was mixed. “Father Mike did what he did because he was just concerned about his parishioners,” said Bert Ross, 82. Sharon Esquivel, 60, felt differently. Referring to strong language Greely used at a city council meeting, she said, “I thought he should have taken his collar (off) if he was going to say things like that.”
In response to complaints, Los Angeles Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said, “With issues that affect life and human dignity, it's inescapable that they will have a moral component to them, so the Church has not only the right but the duty to speak out.”
Pastor Commissions Unusual Icon for Parish
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Oct. 31 — Father George Rutler, pastor of the Church of Our Saviour in Manhattan, has placed a 24-foot Byzantine icon behind the altar of the Park Avenue church. The icon, installed 10 feet off the floor, is a vast enlargement of a sixth-century painting thought to be among the oldest icons of Christ, according to a newspaper report. In it, Christ is depicted with a golden halo over his head and is covered by light shining on him from above. He is extending one hand in benediction while holding a jeweled book in the other.
Father Rutler encountered the icon at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and thought it was “a nice, friendly face.” He then commissioned Ken Jan Woo, a muralist whom he had baptized, to make an enlargement. The pastor admitted the enormous icon might not appeal to all parishioners.
“You know how New Yorkers are,” he said. Christ himself could come down, “and they'd say, ‘What time's the next subway?’”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Beckham Chastised for ‘Rosary Chic’
LONDON DAILY EXPRESS, Oct. 26 — Athlete David Beckham, the most popular man in England, is among the glitterati condemned by the Catholic bishops of England and Wales for exploiting the rosary as a fashion ornament.
In response to a craze inspired by Beckham, who appeared bare-chested on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine sporting a $1,000 Dolce & Gabbana rosary, the bishops have issued a pamphlet explaining the purpose of the devotional aid.
Beckham, captain of the English national soccer team, was not mentioned by name, but Father Allen Morris, secretary for the Department of Christian Life Worship, said, “Apparently, the rosary has joined the crucifix as a desirable secular fashion accessory. People who wear a cross or a rosary and ignore the religious significance of the symbol trivialize something that is very important to Catholics.”
Beckham, who with his wife Victoria — the former Posh Spice — are devotees of kabbalah, the Jewish mystical sect, is often photographed in fashionable discos wearing colorful rosaries. Dolce & Gabbana, the Italian fashion label, has characterized sales of its “Beckham rosary” as “absolutely fantastic.”
Journalist Inspired by Mother Teresa
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, Oct. 26 — Ip Pui, a Hong Kong journalist, was so stirred by reading about Mother Teresa that she traded her sheltered existence for a life of caring for the wretched poor of Calcutta.
Pui, who wrote for the Oriental Weekly, has for five years spent six days a week toiling at the Nirmal Hriday (Pure Heart) hospice directed by the Missionaries of Charity order founded by Mother Teresa. There she attends to the sick and the dying, feeding and bathing them and bringing them comfort.
Sister Georgina, who runs the hospice, enthused, “Other volunteers come and go, but she's here forever.”
Ip, the only Chinese Missionaries of Charity volunteer, was once horrified by Calcutta's squalor, but now reflects, “I saw how nuns went about their work with joy and confidence. I became more spiritual and less preoccupied with the death and disease around me.”
Saint Bernards Bow Out
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 13 — The Saint Bernard, the working dog fabled as the image of Alpine rescue for 200 years, has been superceded by technology and is to be retired by the religious order that raises and trains the dogs.
The massive canines, which can weigh up to 220 pounds, are credited with saving 2,000 travelers lost in the treacherous pass that joins Switzerland and Italy. They have been only a tourist attraction since 1975, replaced in rescues by helicopters, heat sensors, and more agile dogs such as golden retrievers and German shepherds.
The remaining Bernards, 18 adults and 16 pups, are to be sold with the proviso they are allowed to return to the pass in summer.
Brother Frederick, of the Congregation of Canons of the Great Saint Bernard, commented, “Nothing will really change when the dogs are sold. It will take a load off of us and allow us to spend more time with those who need it.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Crucifixes Again Face Italian School Ban
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Oct. 26 — Italy's Attorney General testified in an Italian courtroom Oct. 26 for the continuing presence of Christian symbols in state schools.
Antonio Palatiello argued before the Constitutional Court that display of the crucifix is “a visible sign of our special alliance with the Church for the promotion of man and the good of the Church,” Agence France Presse reported.
The privileged place of the Catholic Church in Italian schools is guaranteed by the Lateran Treaty of 1929, which is still in place, although the Church was disestablished after amendments to the Italian constitution agreed to by the Vatican in 1984.
The constitutional challenge resulted from a complaint by the Finnish-born mother of an Italian schoolchild. A decision is expected in November. Last year a Muslim complainant won a case to have crucifixes removed from schools but lost on appeal.
The growth of European multiculturalism has resulted in religious symbols being seen as divisive, and French public schoolchildren have been forbidden to wear Muslim headscarves, Sikh turbans, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses since September. Pope John Paul II has defended Christian witness, declaring, “Let's not be afraid to speak of God and to carry on high the signs of faith.”
Church Fathers Moving East
ATHENS NEWS AGENCY, Oct. 25 — Pope John Paul II has agreed to transfer the remains of Fathers of the Church Sts. John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nazianzus from the Vatican to the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Istanbul in November.
The decision was announced in a letter from the Holy Father to Patriarch Vatholomeos released Oct. 25.
John Chrysostom (347–407), Patriarch of Constantinople, called “golden-mouthed” for the splendor of his preaching, was tireless in his attacks on the decadence of the Byzantine court. Gregory of Nazianzus (329–389), also Patriarch of Constantinople, was a fearless opponent of the heretical Arians.
Church in France Promotes New Evangelization
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Oct. 26 — The Catholic Church in France has heeded Pope John Paul II's call for “a New Evangelization” with a 10-day festival culminating Oct. 31 with a vast gathering at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris, told the Catholic newspaper La Croix that this “congress of evangelization,” which includes concerts, conferences, debates and exhibitions, was planned as a remedy to urban alienation. “The big city, so brilliant and noisy, is a place of loneliness, and an emotional desert for many,” he said.
Paris is the second European city to host such a congress. Vienna was first, in 2003, while Lisbon, Brussels and Budapest will follow in 2005, 2006 and 2007, respectively.
Italian Religious Tourism Booming
ANSA, Oct. 25 — Boosted by low-price airfares and diminished terrorism fears, religious tourism to Italy is up 15% to 20% from 2003, Vatican pilgrimage organizer Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi has reported. Italy is the fourth most-visited countr y in the world — after France, Spain and the United States — ANSA news ser vice noted, and pilgrims fill 12% of its hotel rooms. Religious tourism is a mainstay of the Italian economy, generating annual revenues of $4.5 billion.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Lawyer Making False Abuse Allegations Gets Caught
BCD NEWS AND COMMENT, Oct. 27 — During his nine months in Oregon as a fugitive, a disbarred Virginia lawyer made a false claim against the Portland Archdiocese for alleged sexual abuse by a priest, BCD News and Comment reported.
Thomas Smolka fled to Oregon while awaiting sentencing in Richmond, Va., for a wire and mail fraud scheme where he admitted taking fees from prisoners and not doing the legal work he'd promised. In Oregon he examined court documents, newspapers and other sources to obtain information about lawsuits against the archdiocese alleging sexual abuse by priests, including the late Father Maurice Gram-mond.
Smolka used a false identify when he told a Portland attorney that he had been abused by Father Grammond as a child. But while investigating his activities in Oregon after he was arrested for the Virginia charges, authorities discovered that Smolka did not live in Oregon as a child and had not been abused by Father Grammond.
Massachusetts Bishop Protests School Condoms Plan
THE BOSTON GLOBE, Oct. 26. — Bishop Timothy McDonnell of Springfield, Mass., protested a decision by the Holyoke school committee to make condoms available to students in grade 6-12, The Boston Globe reported.
“I am profoundly disappointed and disturbed,” the bishop said in a statement, which included a comment that said school officials are reducing sex to “meaningless self-gratification.”
Some school committee members acted because the town had high rates of birth and AIDS among teens. But longtime committee member William Collamore said, “It gives the wrong message to our children and our parents.”
Cardinal O'Connor's Nuns Get ‘New’ Old House
THE STAMFORD ADVCOATE, Oct. 21 — The Knights of Columbus have provided the Sisters of Life with a new home in Connecticut, The Stamford Advocate reported. The Knights bought the home for $2.8 million from the Bernadine Sisters, who had been trying to sell the property for two years but wanted a Catholic buyer.
Renamed Villa Maria Guadalupe, the mansion on 10 acres was once the residence of author Henry Miller. The sisters, founded by the late Cardinal John O'Connor to help unwed mothers and women who have had abortions, plan pro-life retreats there.
Archdioceses Threatened With Tax
THE DENVER POST, Oct. 26 — Days before the presidential election, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver wrote a column in The New York Times saying the Church sees the abortion issue as one of “civil rights and human dignity,” not one of religious faith. But the pro-abortion group Catholics for a Free Choice has asked the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the tax exempt status of the Archdiocese of Denver because the outspoken archbishop “broke laws about partisan politicking,” the Denver Post reported.
The group, which took the same action against the St. Louis Archdiocese, argued that Archbishop Chaput's consistent statements about voting in line with Church teaching on life issues were veiled endorsements of President Bush. But archdiocese spokesman Sergio Gutierrez said: “The Church in northern Colorado respects and observes the law. That will continue. So will our public engagement in moral issues that impact our shared public life.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Buttiglione Protests ‘Anti-Christian Inquisition’
CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY, Oct. 19 — Italian justice minister Rocco Buttiglione, under fire for his social conservatism, accused the European Union of fomenting a “new anti-Christian Inquisition.”
Buttiglione, a Catholic politician and philosopher who is a friend and biographer of Pope John Paul II, has seen his appointment as European Commission justice commissioner threatened by a coalition of socialist, communist, Green and other leftist members of the European Parliament. He initially excited their ire by suggesting homosexuality is sinful and speaking out in support of the traditional family during an appearance in early October before the parliament's civil liberties committee.
Most recently, he was accused of bigotry against single mothers after he was quoted saying, “Children who have no father and only a mother are not children of a very good mother.”
In response, Buttiglione spoke of his “respect for those women who face the responsibility of educating and bringing up their children alone,” but added, “It is obvious that if children have a father and a mother they are better off.”
Buttiglione has threatened to resign rather than retract his comments. Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Justice and Peace, has come to his defense, saying Buttiglione is a victim of “powerful cultural, economic and political lobbies that are inspired mainly by anti-Christian prejudices.”
Kenyan Government Implicated in U.S. Priest's Death
NAIROBI NATION, Oct. 19 — Further evidence suggesting that Mill Hill missionary priest John Kaiser was murdered four years ago was presented at an inquest in Kenya Oct. 18.
Sister Nuala Brangan of Loreto Convent Msongari testified that several Kenyan women had sought Father Kaiser's help in protecting them from a series of rapes they claimed cabinet minister Julius Sunkuli was responsible for, the Nairobi newspaper reported.
The body of Father Kaiser, 72, a native of Minnesota, was found in August 2000 outside his pickup truck on a road north of Nairobi. The long-time champion of the human rights of the Kenyan people had been shot in the back in the head with a shotgun. Despite this, the Kenyan government and the FBI ruled his death a suicide.
Sister Brangan said she traveled to the scene shortly after the priest's death, noted that both sides of his truck and its front window had been smashed, and saw tire tracks of another vehicle “which seemed to have made a turn and sped towards Nairobi.” The inquest continues.
Patriarch Says God is Solution to Birth Dearth
ASIA NEWS, Oct. 19 — In an address at a forum on Russia's collapsing population, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksei II declared that a “spiritual crisis” was largely to blame.
“We must again start to think of life as a gift of God and respect it for this reason,” the patriarch said. He urged the Russian government to work with the Orthodox Church to foster healthy morals and families.
Since 2000, Russia's population has fallen by 6 million to 144 million. Currently, there are 13 abortions for every 10 live births, Asia News reported, and, if trends continue, the population will fall to 50 million to 55 million by 2075.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Red Hats Discuss White Ball
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 18 — Rome's two great passions— religion and sport — have been combined in a new program on a Vatican radio station. “Not Just Sports,” which runs Mondays on 105 Live and is rebroadcast nationally, features soccer commentary from members of the College of Cardinals.
The red-hatted sports jocks have included Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, archbishop of Genoa and sometime play-by-play announcer for the soccer team Juventus. Cardinal Angelini complained that too many Italian team members were foreigners, the Associated Press reported.
Explaining the appeal of “Not Just Sports,” show producer Luca Collodi said, “Sports is very popular with the Church. Go to any church parish, and you'll always find a gym, a basketball court, people practicing sports.” The station's program director, Sean-Patrick Lovett, added, “It's the heavenly realm meets the earthly realm.”
The greatest Italian religion-sports controversy is said to be which Roman soccer team the Pope supports. According to Collodi, “Rumors say he had a preference for Lazio.”
Vatican and Jews Assail Holy Land Bigotry
HAARETZ, Oct. 20 — An attack on the Armenian patriarch of Jerusalem by a Jewish religion student was jointly condemned by the Holy See and the chief rabbinate of Israel Oct. 19, the Tel Aviv newspaper reported.
Archbishop Nourhan Manougian was spat at during a procession for the feast of the Holy Cross Oct. 10. A melee broke out, and the patriarch's 17th-century medallion was damaged. Natan Zvi Rosenthal, who claimed to be protesting “idolatry,” was arrested but has not yet been indicted. Spitting attacks on Christian clergy have become frequent in Jerusalem.
Haaretz reported that the joint statement urged “all relevant authorities” to remember the “sacred character of Jerusalem and to prevent overt and immodest actions which offend the sensibilities of religious communities that reside in Jerusalem and hold her dear.”
Albania Honors Mother Teresa
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 12 — The beatification of Mother Teresa was celebrated in Albania with a national holiday Oct. 19. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning nun, who spent a lifetime ministering to the poor of Calcutta, was declared “blessed” by Pope John Paul II in 2003, the final step before canonization.
Although of Albanian stock, Mother Teresa was born in Macedonia and did not visit Albania until 1989, when this traditionally Muslim country was oppressed by a savagely anti-religious Communist regime. Albania has since taken Mother Teresa to its heart and acclaimed her as the greatest-ever Albanian.
Tirana, the capital, features the Mother Teresa International Airport. Its primary hospital and an annex at the National Museum have also taken her name.
Pope Blesses New Statue at St. Peter's
ANSA, Oct. 20 — Pope John Paul II honored Saint Teresa de Jesus Ibars Oct. 20 by blessing a statue of her recently placed outside St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Planned Parenthood Off the Hook
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct 19 — Planned Parenthood clinics in California will not be required to tell clients of a possible link between abortion and breast cancer, according to the Associated Press.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a decision by the state Supreme Court that dismissed a suit by three California women. The suit alleged that Planned Parenthood clinics were withholding information linking abortion to an increased risk of breast cancer. The AP reported that the women were also ordered by the California court to pay $77,000 in legal fees under a state law requiring compensation for legal fees of “targets of meritless suits that seek to thwart free expression.”
In the past, National Cancer Institute fact sheets said links between abortion and breast cancer were “inconclusive.” A revised fact sheet posted on the institute's website in March 2003 said, “The newer studies consistently showed no association between induced and spontaneous abortions and breast cancer risk.”
Arnold Would Not Terminate Embryonic Research
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, Oct 19 — The California ballot initiative that would provide nearly $3 billion over 10 years for embryonic stem-cell research has been endorsed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Schwarzenegger, a Catholic, announced his support for Proposition 71, the measure that would include funding for research with stem cells derived from babies less than 2 weeks old. Passage would force taxpayers to foot the bill for the research, the story said.
In a related story, the Sacramento Bee reported Oct. 15 that the California Nurses Association, which bills itself as “pro-choice,” is opposed to Proposition 71. Among concerns of leaders of the 58,000-member group is that the measure might allow private drug companies to patent discoveries and benefit from the research at public expense. According to the Bee, the nurses also fear that women who voluntarily donate their eggs for research would not be fully informed about possible medical risks.
Boston Churches Set For Closure Find an Opening
THE BOSTON GLOBE, Oct. 18 — Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley announced that two parishes scheduled to be closed have been granted reprieves, The Boston Globe reported. The two were among 82 parishes scheduled for closure, a decision the archbishop attributed to declining attendance, a growing shortage of priests and estimated building-repair costs of more than $100 million.
The parishes are 130-year-old St. Bernard in Newton and St. Mary of the Angels in Boston's Roxbury section. St. Bernard's, which was scheduled to close Oct. 25, will remain open indefinitely to allow more meetings with parishion ers. St. Mary of the Angels, which is self-financed, will remain open two more years in recognition of its role in reducing neighborhood crime, the newspaper said.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Catholic Priests Fall Afoul of French Law
REUTERS, Oct. 7 — Catholic chaplains in southern France have become unexpected targets of France's new law against religious dress in public schools.
Reuters reported that five priests have been refused entry to schools in the Var region even though they have long been permitted under French law to meet with Catholic students in state schools, diocesan spokesman Father Charles Mallard said.
In early October, a school in Toulon barred Father Antoine Galland for wearing a cassock, “the traditional black robe he wore last year without problem before the new law barring conspicuous religious symbols came into force,” Reuters said.
The French law, which came into effect this fall, was passed primarily to prevent Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in state schools. In order to avoid singling out Islamic symbols, the law banned all “conspicuous religious symbols” from schools, including headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses.
Now, in the Toulon area, it appears that Catholic chaplains will only be allowed access to schools if they refrain from wearing traditional clerical clothing.
Said local Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon, “These decisions were taken unilaterally without consulting the chaplains.”
Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Destroys Meaning of Family
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 12 — Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan gave a scathing denunciation of Spain's plan to legalize same-sex “marriage,” saying it would be similar to regarding household pets or pests as family members.
In an interview published in the newspaper Reforma, Cardinal Lozano Barragan noted that promoters of homosexual “marriage” often define families to mean people who are living together.
“They even give cockroaches the rank of family now because they live under the same roof,” Cardinal Lozano said. “If there's a cat, a dog, two lesbians and everything living there, it's a family.”
Added the cardinal, “One of the great goals of the culture of death is destruction of the family, so on all sides, not merely in Spain … there are these proposals that say that the family consists of all those who live beneath the same roof.”
Ugandan Chastity Program Takes Root in Kenya
CATHOLIC INFORMATION SERVICE FOR AFRICA, Oct. 13 — Catholic youth in the Archdiocese of Nairobi held drama competitions Oct. 9 to promote morality in society.
The event, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, was part of the “Youth Alive” program. The program was begun in 1993 by Irish missionary Sister Miriam Duggan and is a key component of that country's successful abstinence-based program to combat the spread of AIDS.
Sister Venantius Munee, Youth Alive's Kenyan coordinator, said drama was chosen as the best means of preaching behavior change in order to get youths personally involved and to help them develop their talents.
“This is both a way of keeping the youth busy and allowing them to generate income from their talent,” Sister Munee said.
Since its inception in Uganda, the Youth Alive program was exported to Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa before coming to Kenya in 2003, Catholic Information Service for Africa reported.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope's Pen Still Sharp, UPI Notes
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, Oct. 11— “Pope John Paul II has done it again,” UPI correspondent Uwe Siemon-Netto acknowledged in an article that contrasted the Holy Father's physical frailty with his still-acute intellect. “Just as news about a further deterioration of the state of his health leaked out of the Vatican, he issued a significant new apostolic letter taking on one of the most tragic deficits of contemporary Christian piety.”
The writer was commenting on John Paul's Oct. 8 apostolic letter Mane Nobiscum, Domine (Stay With Us, Lord), released just before the Church began its official celebration of the Year of the Eucharist.
Siemon-Netto cited a recent Catholic World News report that said the Pope is finding it increasingly difficult to speak because his chest and diaphragm muscles are being weakened by Parkinson's disease. But while this malady has curtailed his public speaking and private conversations, the Pope nevertheless continues to lead the Church effectively, the UPI correspondent said.
Wrote Siemon-Netto, “John Paul has stressed that he will not shirk from his suffering, just as Christ has not come down from his cross. Thus, suffering ‘in public’ is part of his apostolic mission, which he exercises primarily in writing these days.”
Irish Seek Second Papal Visit
IRISH NEWS, Oct. 12 — At the Oct. 11 Mass celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit to Ireland, that country's primate, Archbishop Sean Brady, prayed that a return visit would be possible.
In his homily at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Derry, Archbishop Brady compared the Holy Father to Derry's patron saint, Columba (also known as Columcille or Colmcille, “dove of the Church”), the sixth-century missionary to the Scots and founder of the monastery on the island of Iona. He said the Pope shares with the saint a “figure of powerful build,” the attributes of “scholar, poet and ruler” and a “fearless commitment to Christ.”
In 1979, the Pope was unable to visit Northern Ireland as planned. Security concerns dictate that a visit this year would have to be approved by the British government.
From Naples to Rome via Carolina
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 7 — A 1637 masterpiece by Jusepe de Ribera, “The Immaculate Conception,” now part of the collection of the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, S.C., is to be displayed at a Vatican museum next year.
“I love the company we're in,” museum director Karen Brosius said. The Vatican has also borrowed paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre and the Prado for its exhibition “A Woman Dressed in Sun: Iconography of the Immaculate Conception.”
Ribera, known as “the little Spaniard,” studied in Rome and later made his home in Naples, where he enjoyed the patronage of King Philip IV. His “Immaculate Conception,” unusually cheerful for the artist, was bequeathed to the Columbia museum by dime-store magnate Samuel Kress, one of the founding benefactors of the National Gallery of Art, who gave 700 Old Masters to American regional museums in the 1950s.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Flynn Calls on Kerry to Renounce Litmus Test
THE BOSTON GLOBE, Oct. 11 — Bishops are not the only ones speaking out against pro-abortion candidates in this year's presidential and congressional elections. Raymond Flynn, the former Boston mayor and ambassador to the Vatican, has gone public with his disappointment with fellow Bay Stater John Kerry.
Flynn, who helped Kerry get elected to the Senate, excoriated the senator in an ad in The New York Times over his insistence that, if elected president, he would appoint only judges who would uphold Roe v. Wade, The Boston Globe reported.
“Removing political correctness from that statement, Senator Kerry, you have announced that you will only support people to the federal judiciary who support killing unborn children,” Flynn wrote. He asked Kerry to announce that he will not impose any abortion litmus test on candidates for the federal judiciary. He said someone like Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon, a Catholic, is the kind of jurist who would be excluded under such a standard.
The ad was funded by an organization Flynn heads — Liberty, Life and Family of Washington.
Knights of Columbus Eye Expansion of Headquarters
NEW HAVEN REGISTER, Oct. 9 — A 22-story office building just won't do it anymore. The Knights of Columbus reportedly want to build another such structure next to its international headquarters in New Haven, Conn., the New Haven Register reported.
The 1.7 million-strong Catholic men's fraternal organization is also an $11 billion insurance organization. It is talking to the city of New Haven about erecting an office building and courtyard or park on a block the city had proposed for residential-commercial use. If the deal goes through, the city's Long Wharf Theatre, which had first eyed the site, would relocate to the old New Haven Coliseum. That would give Long Wharf more flexibility, a theater spokesman said.
The Knights' headquarters was built in the late 1960s. New Haven is also home to St. Mary's Church, where Father Michael McGivney founded the Knights in 1881, and the Knights of Columbus Museum, where the model that Michelangelo used for the dome of St. Peter's Basilica is on loan from the Vatican until January.
Cross in Southern California May be Saved
THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, Oct. 12 — The 1998 sale of a half-acre of land surrounding a cross on Mount Soledad in southern California is void, a federal judge ruled Oct. 12. That means the city of San Diego owns the land and is free to resell it if voters approve, the San Diego newspaper reported.
The decision puts an end to the plan by the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association to remove a 43-foot cross that has stood on the peak for 50 years. The veterans group was ready to give in to the demands of an atheist, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, who sued San Diego in 1989, saying the presence of the cross on city property violates the U.S. and California constitutions. The city, and voters in 1992, approved the sale of the land to the memorial association, but judges said the sale showed preference to a group that wanted to preserve the cross.
The city plans to put the question of sale of the land on the ballot Nov. 2, which means the new owner could decide to keep the cross where it is.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Hindu Politicians Passion-ate About Christian Voters
ASIANEWS.IT, Oct. 7 — After years of criticizing Christians for allegedly coercing Hindu conversions, some Hindu fundamentalist politicians have made a 180-degree turn: They are using images from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ to appeal to Christian voters in the Oct. 13 elections in the western state of Maharashtra.
According to the Catholic news service Asianews, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the allied Shiv Sena party “have been distributing a poster-calendar that has images of Christ from the film The Passion. Their candidate is quoted on the calendar for having said that he would not like to be like Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands of Jesus' crucifixion.”
Asianews suggested the unexpected warmth toward Christian voters is a consequence of the devastating defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party and its Hindu nationalist allies suffered in the spring national elections.
The news service said, “After their recent debacle in the recent General Elections held in April, the right-winged Shiv Sean and BJP are now wooing the minority Christians for the seat in Vasai, a town north of Mumbai, home to around 80,000 Christian voters: The use of images of Christ in their campaign will doubtlessly carry weight with them.”
Another Brick in the Wall of Muslim Intolerance
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 7 — Muslim fundamentalists have built a brick wall to deny access to a Catholic school near the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.
The 7-foot-high wall was erected across the main gate of the Sang Timur Catholic School Oct. 3 by about 100 Muslim activists who claim the school is seeking to convert Muslims, Father Derrikson Turnip, a local priest, told the Associated Press.
Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, is about 80% Muslim. Catholics comprise about 3% of the country's 238 million inhabitants.
Father Turnip said school officials could not prevent the activists, some of whom were armed with sticks, from constructing the wall. “It was anarchy,” he said. “They looked as if they were ready for a fight.”
Local authorities revoked the school's permission to hold services earlier this year after lobbying by local Muslim groups, Father Turnip said, but it has continued holding them.
Ugandan Anglicans Assume Control of L.A. Parishes
THE MONITOR (KAMPALA, UGANDA), Oct. 5 — Anglican Bishop Evans Mukasa Kisekka of Luwero, Uganda, has accepted a request by three Los Angeles-area Episcopalian parishes to come under the jurisdiction of his diocese.
Bishop Kisekka said the three parishes — St. James, All Saints and St. David's — submitted their request about four months ago. The churches broke with the Los Angeles diocese over its support of last year's consecration of homosexual Gene Robinson as Episcopalian bishop of New Hampshire.
The bishop said he consulted with Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, the primate of the Church of Uganda, who approved the move. Last November, the Anglican Province of Uganda formally severed communion with U.S. Episcopalians because of Robinson's consecration.
Said Bishop Kisekka, “They got us through the Internet, and they feel we are the most suitable diocese to take care of them.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Discusses Iraqi Peace Conference Prospects
BRITISH BROADCASTING CORP., Oct. 4 — Vatican Secretary of State Giovanni Lajolo said if a proposed peace conference on Iraq is to be successful, the Iraqi government must agree to it, the countries involved must forge a genuine “coalition of peacemakers” to help Iraq, and the conference's agenda must be short and specific.
Archbishop Lajolo made his comments in an Oct. 1 interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, BBC's international press-monitoring service reported.
The archbishop said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's proposal for an Iraq peace conference was “reasonable,” so long as it had the support of the Iraqi government and of other countries that are sincerely seeking peace in the country.
In the interview, Archbishop Lajolo expressed concern about the exodus of Iraqi Christians fleeing religious persecution by Muslim fanatics.
“We should not forget that there have been Christians in Iraq since the beginning of Christianity — in other words, for centuries even before Islam existed — thus they cannot be considered to be an expression of foreign Western culture in the country,” he said. “But they now need increased international solidarity.”
Greek Orthodox Leader Seeks Approval to Meet Pope
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 6 — Archbishop Christodoulos, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, has asked the church's governing synod to support a proposed visit to the Vatican.
The visit, which would reciprocate Pope John Paul II's historic pilgrimage to Greece in 2001, is fiercely opposed by anti-Catholic factions within the Greek Orthodox Church. No date has been set for a possible trip, the Associated Press reported.
Greek Orthodox leaders who support Archbishop Christodoulos' request credited John Paul's pilgrimage with opening the path to reconciliation. During his visit, the Holy Father apologized for “sins of action and omission” by Catholics against Orthodox Christians, including the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 by crusaders.
“Divisions only lead to disasters,” said Metropolitan Apostolos, the AP reported. “The Pope came to Athens and apologized for the holy wars. What more do you want?”
Replacement Named for Disgraced Austrian Bishop
DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR, Oct. 5 — Bishop Klaus Kung of Feldkirch, Austria, who was tapped this summer by the Vatican to investigate a sex scandal at Austria's St. Polten seminary, will become St. Polten's new bishop, the German news service reported.
In July, Austrian newspapers published photos of seminary staff in compromising positions with seminarians. It was also disclosed that police had discovered a cache of thousands of pornographic pictures, including child pornography, on seminary computers.
After his appointment by the Vatican as apostolic visitor, Bishop Kung moved decisively to clean up the scandal, ordering the seminary closed permanently in early August.
Bishop Kurt Krenn of St. Polten, who initially downplayed the compromising photos as a boyish prank, resigned in late September after a trip to the Vatican.
Responding to German press reports that he had been named as Bishop Krenn's successor, Bishop Kung said Oct. 5, ”If the Holy Father wants it, I cannot say No.”
Added Bishop Kung, “Life is a pilgrimage.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Bush Blocks Funds to Pro-Abortion UNFPA
LIFESITENEWS.COM, Oct. 4 — Once again, President Bush refused to release the United States' contribution to the United Nations Population Fund, commonly known as the UNFPA.
The president diverted the $25 million normally sent to the fund to a State Department initiative against human trafficking and prostitution. He has nixed the contribution to the Population Fund all four years of his presidency.
The Population Fund has supported coerced abortion, particularly in China, the Canadian web-based news service noted. The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute at the United Nations notes that in a new report, the Population Fund praises countries that have overcome parental authority, such as Papua New Guinea, where a new law ensures that “adolescents over age 16 can access reproductive health services without parental consent.”
‘West Wing’ President Sheen Signs Pax Christi Letter
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, Oct. 1 — Martin Sheen, who plays a left-leaning Catholic president on NBC's “The West Wing,” has signed on to a campaign to tell Catholics that abortion should not be the only factor weighed in supporting a political candidate, according to a Religion News Service article appearing in the Salt Lake City newspaper.
The statement, “Life Does Not End at Birth: Catholics Called to Vote for the Common Good,” was circulated by the Catholic peace movement Pax Christi USA.
“Contrary to words used in political speeches, a politician's commitment to the sanctity of life must be judged by the actions taken to defend and promote life in all its forms,” said Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, Pax Christi USA's bishop president.
Other supporters of Pax Christi's statement include Sister Christine Vladimiroff, who said: “We will not let a few well-funded groups narrow the profound breadth of Catholic teaching to a partisan agenda.” The article says a “handful” of Catholic bishops have told Democrat John Kerry, a Catholic, he would be barred from Communion in their dioceses because of his support of abortion rights.
Astute Steubenville Student Stumps Edwards
WTOV9.COM, Sept. 29 — At an “unscreened, unscripted” town meeting held by Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards in Weirton, W.Va., Franciscan University of Steubenville student Gabriel Hahn took his chance with the microphone to speak of the value of life, especially unborn life,” a Steubenville, Ohio TV station reported.
“I'm asking you, Mr. Edwards,” the website WTOV9.com reported Hahn as saying, “Will you please stand up and fight for life? For everyone?”
That was all Hahn said “before the microphone was yanked away from him,” according to the story.
Edwards said he respects Hahn's view. “This is one of those issues on which good people have different views. And personally, I don't think it's the job of government to tell women what to do.”
Hahn, son of theologian Scott Hahn, was not appeased, according to the report. “It's very kind of him to say he's respectful of my point of view, but I cannot respect the view of someone who would allow innocent children to be murdered.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Abortion Advocacy ‘Incompatible’ with Public Office
COX NEWS SERVICE, Sept. 26 — Supporting abortion is a stand that should exclude a person from public office, said Father Frank Pavone, reported Cox News Service. Father Pavone, national director of Priests for Life and president of the National Pro-Life Religious Council, spoke at a Christian Coalition workshop in Washington, D.C., “Road to Victory 2004.”
The conference, held Sept. 23-25, brought together more than 50 representatives from various religious denominations — and even atheists — and pro-life groups. Father Pavone compared politicians who support abortion rights to individuals that support terrorism.
“By gathering a group of people that is very diverse politically, philosophically, ethnically and religiously, we are aiming to destroy the stereotypes under which many labor, namely, that opposition to abortion must come only from one's religious or political affiliation,” Father Pavone said, according to LifeSite News.
“Because abortion is an act of violence that destroys an entire segment of the public,” Father Pavone said,” no one who ignores the victims of abortion is worthy to hold public office.”
Father Pavone also announced a pro-life voter education campaign that Priests for Life was set to launch a month before Election Day. The campaign will target Christians who attend church and favor pro-life candidates, the story said.
Globe Columnist Defends Kerry's Catholicism
THE BOSTON GLOBE, Sept. 28 — In an essay about Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's Catholicism, Globe columnist James Carroll accused the Republican National Committee of “lying about the meaning of Catholic faith, insulting Kerry and moving the political exploitation of religion to a new low.” The former priest was referring to an alleged effort by Republicans to target the pro-abortion Kerry's unworthiness as a Catholic.
Carroll worships at the Boston church where Kerry is a parishioner and believes Kerry to be a devoted Catholic whose “faith is informed by the spirit of the great renewal that occurred with Vatican II.”
In the essay, Carroll charges that Catholics, “including many bishops,” who repudiate the theology of the Second Vatican Council are “the ones most determined to stop Kerry from being elected.”
Carroll wrote that Kerry should be viewed as one of a growing number of devout Catholics who view moral theology as “an ongoing quest for truths that remain elusive.”
Father Appeals Conviction in His Daughter's Death
POTOMAC NEWS ONLINE, Sept. 16 — A man convicted of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the death of his 21-month-old daughter is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, Potomac News Online reported. Kevin Kelly, 46, a Catholic who has been active in the pro-life movement, believes his conviction was unjust.
Frances Kelly, the youngest of 13 children, died after she was left in the family van for seven hours on a warm day in May 2002. Kelly was sentenced to seven years of probation and one day in jail yearly. He was also ordered to accept random Social Services investigations of the family home.
Kelly's attorney argues that prosecutors “failed to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, as required by Virginia law, that Kelly was aware…his conduct could result in injury to Frances, and nevertheless proceeded consciously with reckless indifference to the consequences of his behavior.”
In a press release, Kelly asked for donations for the Kevin Kelly Family Legal Defense Fund (Account #5134131200, BB&T Bank, 9201 Church St., Manassas, Va., 20110).
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Blesses Ireland on Anniversary of His Visit
THE MIRROR (United Kingdom), Sept. 20 — Pope John Paul II sent blessings to the Irish people Sept. 19, exactly 25 years after his visit to their country.
Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh read the blessing at a remembrance ceremony attended by 2,000 people in Clonmacnois in County Offaly, The Mirror newspaper reported.
“The Holy Father prays for renewed vigor and a fresh dedication to the faith,” the blessing said. “He prays especially that, through the intercession of St. Patrick, the people of Ireland will set an example to others of Christian life in this new millennium.”
The ceremony in Clonmacnois isn't the only event marking the anniversary of John Paul's visit. A Mass was scheduled for Oct. 3, when a statue of the Holy Father will also be blessed, according to the Galway Advertiser.
Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, apostolic nuncio, was scheduled to attend the Mass, along with the bishops of Ireland.
Rwandan Priest Boycotts His Own Trial
THE AUSTRALIAN, Sept. 20 — A Rwandan priest who was accused of ordering the massacre of 2,000 of his Tutsi parishioners during the country's 1994 genocide failed to attend the opening of his trial Sept. 20.
Father Athanase Seromba was among 44 detainees at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, located in Tanzania, who planned to boycott their trials to protest plans to move detainees and case files to Rwanda, The Australian reported.
The priest turned himself in two years ago and has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him, the paper said. He is alleged to have prepared and supervised, along with local authorities, the April 1994 massacre of more than 2,000 Tutsis who had sought refuge in his church from Hutu killers.
His lawyers will argue that although he was present at the time of the killings, he was powerless to intervene.
The Vatican stands behind the priest, saying there is no evidence of Father Seromba's guilt.
Spain Set to Approve Homosexual ‘Marriage’
REUTERS, Sept. 19 — Saying “people have to be in charge of their own destiny,” a leader of Spain's Socialist Party said the government planned to approve homosexual “marriage” at an Oct. 1 cabinet meeting.
The reform would then have to be approved by the country's Parliament, Reuters reported. According to a recent survey cited by the wire service, about 70% of the Spanish people approve of homosexual “marriage.” About 95% of the country is Catholic.
Church officials in Spain and Pope John Paul II have criticized the agenda of the new Socialist government, which was installed earlier this year. Church officials have called the new homosexual “marriage” law “dangerous,” according to Reuters, and the Holy Father warned the country's prime minister earlier this year of the decline in morality in Spain.
On Sept. 17, the Spanish government approved a law to make divorce quicker and easier. The government also has said that sometime in the four-year term, it plans to look at making abortion more accessible.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Israel to Resolve Visa Problem, Vatican Reports
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 15 — After months of complaints from Church officials about delays in obtaining visas for Arab clergy, Israel assured the Vatican in early September that the issue will be resolved.
Church officials in Jerusalem said the delays have undermined Church operations in the Holy Land, the Associated Press reported. Israel's interior minister Avraham Poraz met with Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Angelo Sodano before Poraz traveled to Castel Gandolfo, Italy, for talks with Pope John Paul II.
Poraz gave assurances “of having given the necessary instructions for a satisfactory solution” to the visa situation, the cardinal said in a statement issued after the meeting. The statement also said the two discussed negotiations regarding the tax status of the Church in Israel, the wire service reported.
Earlier this year, Israel's interior ministry said Arab visa applications were undergoing special scrutiny, resulting in some of the delays.
French Catholics Help Pay for Pope's Trip
REUTERS, Sept. 17 — A large deficit left after Pope John Paul II's visit to Lourdes, France, in August has already been paid off by contributions from local faithful.
Pilgrims eager to get good seats for the Pope's outdoor Mass on Aug. 15 rushed past the collection boxes, leaving only about $247,000 in contributions, Reuters reported. Officials had hoped to solicit contributions from those in the long lines outside the shrine grounds, but many passed through security without noticing the collection boxes. Shrine officials soon discovered they had $1.6 million left to pay to cover the Holy Father's trip.
Bishop Jacques Perrier of Lourdes appealed to the local faithful for the funds and said he had no doubt they would come through, the wire service reported. “Today, the deficit is covered. What a relief,” shrine officials said in a statement Sept. 17, noting that thousands of people sent in checks with an average contribution of about $100.
Remember Human Dignity, Pope Tells Bankers
CATHNEWS.COM, Sept. 20 — Bankers should be motivated to uphold the “higher values of human living” and not be guided solely by profit, Pope John Paul II told an audience of bankers Sept. 17.
“Your presence in society can become an instrument of true progress,” the Holy Father told 25 representatives of the Italian banking group Capitalia, “offering support for valid initiatives of individuals and groups who come to you for their legitimate financial and economic needs.”
According to CathNews.com, John Paul's remarks were a summary of ideas in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus (On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum), where he noted “the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well.”
“But profitability is not the only indicator of a firm's condition,” the encyclical said. “It is possible for the financial accounts to be in order and yet for the people — who make up the firm's most valuable asset — to be humiliated and their dignity offended.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
It'll be Bush-Carey, Not Bush-Kerry
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 16 — Former President George H.W. Bush and former New York Gov. Hugh Carey will be the headline speakers at the Archdiocese of New York's 59th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner Oct. 21, the Associated Press reported.
The arrangement breaks with the tradition of inviting the major presidential candidates to the dinner, which raises money for health care.
Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said that issues in this year's campaign “could provoke divisiveness and disagreement and could detract” from the spirit of the dinner, which is seen as a light-hear ted tribute to Smith, the first Catholic to run for president from a major party. Zwilling did not identify specific issues.
The wire service said “the relationship between the Catholic Church and the presidential candidates was put into focus” after Vatican Cardinal Francis Arinze announced that Communion should be denied to Catholic politicians who support abortion.
The Bush and Kerry campaigns did not comment on what the Associated Press referred to as “the dinner snubs.”
No Smiling About Procter & Gamble Position
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Sept. 17 — The conservative Christian groups Focus on the Family and the American Family Association want a boycott of Procter & Gamble products Crest and Tide, charging that the company is aligning itself with homosexual-rights groups.
The Times reported that the groups are angry at a statement on the company's internal website opposing a law in Procter & Gamble's hometown of Cincinnati that exempts homosexuals from special civil-rights protection.
A spokesman for Procter & Gamble said the company opposed the Cincinnati statute but not a separate effort to amend a ban of same-sex “marriage” in the Ohio Constitution. “The issue that these organizations are trying to put in our laps is one that we have not taken a position on,” the spokesman said.
Focus on the Family's James Dobson told The Times, “For Procter & Gamble to align itself with radical groups committed to redefining marriage in our country is an affront to its customers.”
Story Gets Worse for Deal Hudson
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Sept. 22 — Deal Hudson will resign as publisher of CRISIS magazine at the end of the year, The Washington Times reported. The newspaper said Hudson made the decision after five of the magazine's most influential columnists (including “some of the nation's best-known Catholic scholars”) told the board they would leave unless Hudson was deposed.
Hudson resigned as an unpaid adviser to the Bush campaign when an Aug. 19 story in the National Catholic Reporter raised allegations of sexual misconduct a decade ago. Anger over that story, according to The Times, drove the columnists to demand Hudson's resignation.
The Reporter called its Hudson piece a “profile,” but The Washington Times referred to it as an “exposé.” Hudson plans to be involved with fundraising for CRISIS.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Former IRA Bomber Heads to Seminary
THE BELFAST TELEGRAPH, Sept. 8 — Shane Paul O'Doherty, who received 30 life sentences in the 1970s for his role in Irish Republican Army letter bombings in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, has begun studies at a seminary in Dublin, the Belfast daily reported.
Officials at St. Patrick's College confirmed that O'Doherty is taking theology at the seminary. If he completes his studies successfully, he could eventually become a candidate for the priesthood.
O'Doherty, who was identified during his trial as the IRA's chief bombmaker in the county of Derry, allegedly once targeted a Catholic bishop with a letter bomb hidden inside a Bible. The bomb failed to explode.
But after his release from prison in 1989, O'Doherty publicly renounced terrorism, The Belfast Telegraph reported. A spokesman for St. Patrick's College, Father Enda Cunningham, told the paper that school officials were aware of his terrorist background, but said they also took into account his subsequent repentance.
“The college's policy is to receive any student who has been recommended by his bishop,” Father Cunningham said. “This has taken place in Shane's case, and he arrived here two weeks ago with 20 other students to begin their training.”
Kenyan Catholics Seek Canonization of Cardinal
THE NATION (NAIROBE), Sept. 7 — Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a'Nzeki, the primate of the Catholic Church in Kenya, said Sept. 6 that the cause for the canonization of Cardinal Maurice Otunga will be opened this month.
Archbishop Mwana a'Nzeki made the announcement during an anniversary Mass for Cardinal Otunga, who died Sept. 6, 2003. The archbishop said the late cardinal had all the attributes of a saint, including simplicity, innocence, humility and detachment from material wealth, the Nairobi daily reported.
Cardinal Otunga died in a Nairobi city hospital at the age of 80 after spending the last six years of his life living at an old-age home with almost no material possessions.
Said Father Emmanuel Ngugi, rector of Nairobi's Holy Family Basilica, “He chose to live with the old, where his belongings at the home included the Bible, a chair, a table and a bed.”
British Nuns Fear Loss of Charitable Status
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (LONDON), Sept. 7 — Catholic nuns in Britain could lose their charitable status under new legislation now being drafted by the United Kingdom Parliament.
Under the new charities bill, which is expected to be introduced into the British parliament in November, the automatic presumption that religious organizations act for the benefit of society has been dropped. Instead, they will have to meet a yet-to-be defined test of “public benefit” to retain their status.
Sister Anne Thompson of the Daughters of Jesus warned in August that government authorities may not be willing to grant “public benefit” status to many of the services that nuns offer to society, The Telegraph reported.
“Who can measure the comfort brought to a frightened old lady by a listening ear when a stone has been thrown through her window?” Sister Anne asked. “How is the alleviation of loneliness, the comfort of panic or distress, the restoration of hope and the injection of humor into lives made dull and even intolerable by bereavement or isolation to be estimated?”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Anglican Convert Who Defended Pius XII Dies at 87
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, Sept. 6 — Anthony Rhodes, the English historian who mounted the first scholarly defense of Pius XII's efforts to save Jews from Nazi persecution, was remembered in a lengthy obituary in the London newspaper. He died Aug. 23
Drawing on archival material released by the Vatican, as well as British and German Foreign Office archives, Rhodes' 1973 book The Vatican in the Age of the Dictators offered a persuasive rebuttal of claims that Pius XII didn't strive hard enough to help persecuted Jews.
Rhodes “revealed how, as Secretary of State in the 1930s, Pius (then the Secretary of State Cardinal Pacelli) had an important part in the writing of Pius XI's encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (The Church and the German Reich) which denounced the Nazis. During the war, he was closely involved in keeping Jews out of Germans' hands,” the Telegraph said.
In a review of the book, British writer Rebecca West praised Rhodes' work as “elegantly written, scrupulously fair and informative on matters much obscured by the mutterings of fools.”
Rhodes, who wrote two other books on 20th-century Vatican history, was an Anglican when he wrote The Vatican in the Age of the Dictators. He was appointed a knight commander of St. Gregory by Pope Paul VI in 1976, but did not convert to Catholicism until the mid-1990s, the Telegraph reported.
Pope Praises Good Friday Agreement
THE IRISH TIMES, Sept. 6 — Speaking Sept. 4 to Ireland's new ambassador to the Holy See, Philip McDonagh, Pope John Paul II hailed the Good Friday agreement for giving “new hope” to the people of Northern Ireland.
The agreement, which was signed on Good Friday in 1998 in Belfast, set out a plan for self-government in Northern Ireland and for the decommissioning of paramilitary militias there.
Said the Pope, “I pray that every effort is being made to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Good Friday agreement, which has given new impulse and new hope to the people of Northern Ireland.”
In his remarks to the Holy Father, McDonagh highlighted the contributions of the many Irish Catholics who have gone to Rome to live and work, The Irish Times reported. As an example, McDonagh noted Archbishop Michael Courtney, the apostolic nuncio to Burundi who was murdered there in a car ambush on Dec. 28.
Bush Helps Broker Vatican-Israel Talks
ANSA ENGLISH MEDIA SERVICE, Sept. 6 — At the urging of the White House, discussions between representatives of the Vatican and the Israeli government resumed Sept. 6 in Jerusalem.
The four-day negotiations covered a number of issues involving the rights of Catholics in Israel, including custody of holy sites.
Israel broke off talks a year ago, ANSA said, but returned to the bargaining table at the request of United States. The wire service cited an article in July in the Jerusalem daily Maariv, which reported that President George W. Bush had been asked by the Holy See “to apply pressure on the Israeli government” to resume discussions.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Energizing Nuns From Developing Countries
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Sept. 3 — More than 35 sisters from nine orders in six developing countries are attending Assumption College for Sisters at Mallinckrodt Convent in New Jersey as part of an experiment, The New York Times reported.
Their presence is energizing the Sisters of Christian Charity at Mallinckrodt, which the newspaper said was beginning to feel like an “old-age home.”
“Everyone who comes into contact with them is enlivened,” said Sister Joanice Carlson, 74.
The American nuns hope the project will inspire more women to consider religious life. At least 15 young women have inquired about vocations in the two years since the new sisters began populating the college.
Everyone stands to benefit. Sister Melania Tarimo of Tanzania was quoted as saying, “The knowledge that I have now … I want to take it home to the people who are struggling.”
Media Confusion Over Pro-Choice Politicians Persists
THE WASHINGTON POST, Sept. 8 - A Washington Post headline proclaiming Catholic voters have “leeway” to vote for politicians who support abortion rights and euthanasia showed that the press is still having a hard time understanding important moral distinctions made by Vatican Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
A similar headline in the Detroit Free Press said recently, “Catholics allowed pro-choice vote.”
Earlier this year, the cardinal wrote to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington: “When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”
The Post quoted Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis saying it is difficult to imagine what those reasons might be. Father Stephen Torraco, chairman of the theology department of Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., explained in an interview with the Register Sept. 5 that “proportionate reasons” means that one may vote for a pro-abortion candidate if one is trying to avoid voting for a candidate who embraces an equally serious or graver evil. Archbishop Burke will publish a pastoral letter on the subject Oct. 1.
Study Links Teen TV Viewing With Sexual Activity
REUTERS, Sept. 7 — A study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development concluded that teen-agers who watch a lot of television with sexual content are twice as likely to engage in intercourse as those who watch few such programs.
The study found that the 10% who watched the most television with sexual content were twice as likely to have initiated sexual intercourse than the 10% exposed to the least amount.
A Reuters story quoted Rebecca Collins, a RAND Corp. psychologist who headed the study, as saying, “The best way for parents who are trying to figure out what is a lot versus little is to realize that the average (U.S.) child watches about three hours of television a day, and that the heaviest rates of sexual content are in prime time, which is probably what those hours are made of.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Non-Catholics Flock to Marian Shrines
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, Aug. 29 — The globalization of the tourist industry has taken a religious twist, as Muslims, Hindus and other non-Christian pilgrims worship with increasing frequency at Fatima, Lourdes and other European shrines.
“There are lots of them,” Bishop Jacques Perrier of Lourdes said of non-Catholic pilgrims during Pope John Paul II's visit to Lourdes in mid-August, the Philadelphia daily reported.
However, the interfaith flocks have given rise to controversy. Many of the non-Catholics regard Mary as one of their own goddesses, a belief that is heretical to the Catholic understanding of Mary as the purely human mother of God.
In May, pictures of a Hindu event at Fatima were posted on the Internet by critics who alleged that the non-Catholic ceremony had desecrated an altar.
Msgr. Luciano Guerro, Fatima's director, issued a statement in June denying that such defilement took place during the ceremony, the Inquirer reported.
“The priest sang a prayer which lasted a few minutes,” he said. “No gesture was made, no rite was performed, on or off the altar.”
Patriarch Attacks Syrian ‘Plot’ Against Lebanon
ASIANEWS — Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir charged Aug. 29 that the Syrian government was “plotting by night” to push through a constitutional change to keep Lebanon's Syrian-backed president Emile Lahoud in office after his term ends in November.
Currently, Lebanon's Constitution prohibits him from another term.
AsiaNews, a Catholic news service, reported that a “hastily convened cabinet requested such a change to extend Lahoud's term by three years” on Aug. 28 despite widespread opposition from prominent political leaders, including Lebanon's prime minister.
“What happened yesterday regarding the Constitution and the presidency is unfamiliar, plotted by night and carried out swiftly by day,” Patriarch Sfeir said during Sunday Mass in Diman. “I call on all to be aware … and for God to help Lebanon and the Lebanese.”
Added Patriarch Sfeir, who has been a vocal critic of Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs, “Lebanon has become a toy in the hands of regional and international interests, disregarding the interests of the Lebanese people who are now outsiders in deciding vital national issues.”
Aussie Priest Bets on Lourdes Miracles
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, Aug. 30 — Marist Father Paul Glynn says that Church-recognized cures at Lourdes are real miracles, and he's prepared to back up his beliefs: The Australian priest has posted a bounty of 5,000 Australian dollars to be awarded to anyone who can prove that any of the Lourdes miracles he has examined are fakes.
The Catholic Church has recognized 66 miracles at Lourdes since a 14-year-old French girl, Bernadette Soubirous, said in 1858 that she had seen an apparition of Mary there.
The most recent was recognized in 1987.
Father Glynn and his cousin Bill Dougherty, a former regional newspaperowner, offered the reward — worth about $3,500 in U.S. dollars — from their own pockets to anyone who can disprove 24 recognized miracles that Father Glynn has personally examined. He announced his offer at Sunday Mass Aug. 29, the Morning Herald reported.
BY Jim Cosgrove
More Miracles Attributed to Mother Teresa
THE PRESS TRUST OF INDIA, Aug. 26 — The 94th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Mother Teresa was marked Aug. 26 by word from her religious order that Vatican authorities are investigating alleged miracles that would lead to her canonization.
“Only one more miracle is necessary,” Missionaries of Charity superior general Sister Nirmala told reporters at the order's mother house in Calcutta. “The postulator's office in Rome has received some testimonies …They are going through the testimonies and will have to select the best.”
Mother Teresa was beatified last October, on the basis of a confirmed miracle involving an Indian woman who was cured of an abdominal tumor after seeking the Albanian-born nun's intercession.
Sister Nirmala said the Missionaries of Charity have received accounts of other miracles that have not yet been sent to the Vatican for investigation. Promised Sister Nirmala, “We will do so soon.”
Jailed Palestinians Appeal to John Paul
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Aug. 24 — A Bethlehem-based Palestinian prisoners' association has appealed to Pope John Paul II to intervene on behalf of thousands of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons, the French news service reported.
In an Aug. 24 letter to the Pope, prisoners' association president Issa Qaraqea said the inmates are being subjected to “a campaign of repression and unjustifiable violence.”
The letter said, “The policies of the Israeli government are designed to leave the prisoners to die by ignoring their demands and repressing them.”
At the time the letter was sent, approximately 4,000 imprisoned Palestinians were entering the second week of a hunger strike. The prisoners' demands include visiting rights and an end to “intrusive” body and cell searches.
Milosevic Blames Vatican for Balkan Wars
DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR, Aug. 31 — In the opening statement of his defense against war crimes charges, former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic said the Vatican was partly responsible for the ethnic conflict that led to the breakup of the Balkan nation in the 1990s.
Milosevic, 63, is being tried in The Hague, Netherlands, by an international tribunal on charges stemming from the civil wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo .
Milosevic, who is Serbian, accused the Vatican of harboring a longstanding anti-Serb prejudice, citing alleged Vatican actions against Serbia in World War I. He also accused Germany and the United Nations of conspiring against Serbian interests, Deutsche PresseAgentur reported.
Presiding judge Patrick Robinson told Milosevic not to spend too much time on history, as little of it would count as admissible evidence in the trial.
Robust Pope Prays for Persecuted Christians
ANSA ENGLISH MEDIA SERVICE, Aug. 29 — Addressing pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, Pope John Paul II offered prayers Aug. 29 for persecuted Christians, whom he said were heroes in their everyday lives.
According to the ANSA news service, “The Pope looked decidedly better than in recent weeks: He smiled frequently and spoke in a clear voice as he addressed the faithful.”
The report said, “The Pope appeared extremely happy when a group of pilgrims from his native Poland chanted a new version of a traditional song, ‘sto Lat,’ wishing him a life of 100 years.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Reuters Executive ‘Appalled’ by Email Remarks
THE WASHINGTON POST, Aug. 30 — A Reuters editor in Washington, D.C., sent a “stinging” email to Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, in response to a press release about a federal court ruling on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.
According to Howard Kurtz's “Media Notes” in The Washington Post, Todd Eastham's email to Johnson asked: “What's your plan for parenting and educating all the unwanted children you people want to bring into the world? Who will pay for policing our streets & maintaining the prisons needed to contain them when you, their parents & the system fail them? Oh, sorry. All that money has been earmarked to pay off the Bush deficit. Give me a … break, will you?”
David Schlesinger, Reuters' global managing editor and head of editorial operations, told the Register that he was “appalled by the incident” and that it has been “handled robustly through our internal disciplinary process.” He quoted the wire service's code of conduct, which forbids employees from taking sides.
Said Schlesinger, “Freedom from bias is integral to all that Reuters represents, and I intend to keep it that way.”
Vatican Won't ‘Bully’ Them
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, Aug. 21 — With a subhead that read, “Meeting in Fort Worth, leaders of Catholic orders say Vatican can't bully them,” the Dallas Morning News reported that 1,000 leaders gathered to talk about violence.
But attendees at the Conference of Women Religious and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, in the words of the Dallas daily, “urged one another not to allow the Church to be hijacked by seemingly dictatorial pronouncements by a conservative hierarchy” and to be “bold, prophetic and, when necessary, even defiant.”
Attendees were told “not to be cowed into silence by the Vatican on issues such as the role of women in the Church and priests who wanted the celibacy rule lifted.” Not all were on board with the defiant agenda. Sister of Charity Constance Phelps, president of the sisters' conference, apparently recalled the original purpose of the gathering when she said, “In the face of escalating violence, let us be the face of escalating love.”
Bill's Bucks Help Usher in California Stem Cells
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Aug. 25 — Computer pioneer Bill Gates is one of several entrepreneurs who have contributed money to promote California's Proposition 71, which would allow state funding of stem-cell research.
The wire service did not say how much Gates contributed but noted that the $27 billion Gates Foundation is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world committed to curing disease. “Bill believes in the promise of science and research and development to create new ways to improve health and well being around the world,” a family spokesman said.
While the campaign to defeat Proposition 71 has received only $15,000 so far, EBay Inc. founder Omar Omidyar and his wife gave $1 million. Savings and loan billionaires, venture capitalists, Hollywood celebrities and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation have also made big contributions to the pro-stem-cell campaign.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Mugabe Denounces Church
NEW ERA (Windhoek, Namibia), Aug. 23 — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe lashed out at the Catholic Church during the Aug. 21 installation of a new bishop in the capital city of Harare.
Archbishop Robert Ndlovu was installed at a ceremony attended by Mugabe, who is Catholic, and his wife, Grace.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mugabe accused Church leaders of colluding with President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair against his regime, the New Era newspaper reported.
In an apparent reference to Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Mugabe said, “You're going to those who yesterday denied us rights here, the Blairs and the Bushes, the liars of the international community. What are we expected to do, and how are we expected to judge you when you act behind our backs and go and report outside?”
Archbishop Ncube has accused the government of massive human-rights abuses in the southern African country and of concealing the extent of acute food shortages.
At the end of his remarks, however, Mugabe extended an olive branch to Harare's new archbishop. “Come to us and discuss these (issues) with us,” the Zimbabwean president said. “We may agree; we may not agree.”
Archbishop Ndlovu promised to accept Mugabe's invitation, New Era reported. “I will use that window of opportunity to talk to the president,” the archbishop said. “If there are very serious abuses, I will go to him.”
Ugandan Anglicans Break Ties With U.S. Episcopalians
NEW VISION (Kampala, Uganda), Aug. 23 — The Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Province of Uganda has endorsed a resolution by the House of Bishops to break ties with the U.S. Episcopal Church over last year's consecration of homosexual bishop Gene Robinson.
The assembly warned that Ugandan Anglicans will respond similarly to any other Anglican churches that endorse homosexual conduct, New Vision reported.
Robinson was consecrated as Episcopalian bishop of New Hampshire in November, sparking a worldwide division among Anglicans.
“The decision has meant that we are no longer receiving funds as a means of making it clear to the Episcopal Church of the U.S. that such a deliberate action on their part affects the whole of the Anglican communion,” Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said. “We call upon those advocating for this ungodly behavior to repent and allow Christ to take charge of his Church.”
Poll: Nicaraguans Trust Church Most
CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY, Aug. 23 — According to a national poll, 70% of Nicaraguans regard the Catholic Church as the most trustworthy institution in the Central American country.
The poll was conducted by the communications department and the Institute of Polls and Surveys of the Central American University in June and July, Catholic News Agency reported.
The findings suggest that the efforts of Nicaragua's former Sand-inista government, which sought during the 1980s to diminish respect for the Church, had little lasting impact. Poll respondents ranked the Church far ahead of the country's political and judicial institutions, with only 24% supporting the federal government and 30% supporting
BY Jim Cosgrove
Voices of the Truly Faithful
CHIESA.COM, Aug. 20 — The new Catholic media outlets that have sprouted in Rome in recent years have something significant in common: their fidelity to the faith.
“They work in the shadow of the dome of St. Peter's, but their target is the entire world,” the Internet news site Chiesa.com reported. “They are extremely faithful to the Pope and the Church. And they're fighting hard against the prevailing culture. ”
According to the news site, the first of the new Catholic media were a radio station, Radio Maria, and a television station, Telepace. Organizations that soon emerged included the Asianews and Zenit news services and a new monthly magazine, Il Timone, which features articles by recently retired Cardinal Giacomo Biffi of Bologna and by Vittorio Messori, author of the 1994 best-selling interview with Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
The latest addition is a television news agency called “Rome Reports,” which sells programming in English, Spanish and Portuguese to broadcasters in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
“Beginning with antennas that covered just a few kilometers, they have made a lot of progress,” reported Chiesa.com. “Now they go out to the ends of the Earth, and everywhere they transmit the image of a faithful Church, disciplined and fervent, with Pope John Paul II perennially at the heart of everything.”
Clothes Fit For a Pope
BBC, Aug. 21 — Where do Pope John Paul II and other senior Vatican officials go to get their distinctive clerical garb? At Rome's Gammarelli tailor shop.
Passers-by who glance at the display window of the Gammarelli store, located just off the Piazza Minerva in central Rome, will immediately realize this is no ordinary tailor, BBC correspondent Kieran Cooke reported. “No suits or shirts here; rather, they are peaked clerical hats and priestly robes,” he said. “And in one corner, resting on a silk cloth, a solitary zucchetto — the small, white skullcap worn by the Pope.”
Cooke came to the store in search of red socks, which are hard to find elsewhere in Rome but are stocked by Gammarelli as footwear for cardinals.
Said Cooke, “I take two pairs and walk, a little ecclesiastically, out into the Rome sunshine.”
Vatican Wins Concessions on Holy Land Fence
HAARETZ, Aug. 16 — Concerns expressed by the Vatican have led to changes in the route of the controversial wall being constructed by the Israeli government to separate Palestinian and Jewish communities in the Holy Land, the Tel Aviv newspaper reported.
Haaretz cited a letter that Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn., sent in mid-August to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Secretary of State Colin Powell about problems the fence is causing for Christians.
Santorum, who is Catholic, stressed he supported Israel's right to build the fence but highlighted the Vatican's concern that the fence will impede Christian religious activities such as processions to Jerusalem from the tomb of Lazarus on the Mount of Olives.
Israeli officials responded that efforts are being made to take Christians' interests into account, Haaretz said. For example, discussions are under way to create a special gate in the fence near Lazarus' tomb to ensure that processions can pass freely.
BY Jim Cosgrove
First Lady Puts Life First
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Aug. 19 – In an inter view, First Lady Laura Bush said she believes life begins at conception and that she is pro-life, supports President Bush's pro-life position and believes abortion “should be rare.”
The comments seem to reflect a change in Laura Bush's position. In Januar y 2001, the New York Post reported that when she was asked on NBC's “The Today Show” about Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in 1973, Bush replied, “I don't think it should be overturned.”
The change seems to be incremental. The Associated Press reported on Nov. 16, 2003, that Bush supported the ban on late-term abortion, quoting her as saying, “I think most people agree partial-birth abortion is abhorrent.”
A Bad Deal for Deal Hudson
THE WASHINGTON POST, Aug. 20 — Deal Hudson resigned as a religion adviser to the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign because of allegations of sexual misconduct a decade ago, the Washington, D.C., newspaper reported.
The charges were published in an article on Hudson in the National Catholic Reporter.
On Aug. 18, Hudson wrote an article for National Review Online, explaining how a stor y he thought would be about his political beliefs became personal.
It was, he said, an attempt “to undermine the causes I have fought for: the defense of Church teachings on life, the priesthood, the authority of the Pope and the need for faithful Catholic participation in politics.”
According to The Post, Joseph Feuerherd, Washington bureau chief for the National Catholic Reporter, denied political motivation, writing in a column, “I went where the stor y led me.”
But it raises what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about reputation and the sin of detraction: In section 2477, the Catechism says: “Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.”
Hudson, who wrote that he has been “happily married” for 17 years, wrote, “No one regrets my past mistakes more than I do.”
Archdiocese Works With Attorney General on Assets
THE BOSTON GLOBE, Aug. 19 – Boston Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, who legally must oversee the proper use of charitable funds, will help with the disposition of money and gifts held by 82 parishes the Boston archdiocese will close this year.
Some parish members are contesting use of the funds by the archdiocese, The Globe repor ted. The attorney general is examining whether parishes may be restricted in ways that would prevent the archdiocese from using the funds. Wilson D. Rogers Jr., the archdiocese's general counsel, said in cour t that the archdiocese will not spend contested parish funds without consulting Reilly.
Rogers said the archdiocese has already set aside all money given to parishes as their share of a $200 million capital campaign called Promise for Tomorrow, a fund-raising ef for t promising parishes a percentage of the money they raised. The archdiocese will not distribute these funds without consulting the attorney general.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Zambian Nun: Western Fashions Fuel AIDS
THE POST (Lusaka, Zambia), Aug. 4 — Sister Petronella Bweupe's message to Zambian women may not be fashionable to Western ears, but she believes it's a lifesaver: Modest dress is key to preventing AIDS.
Sister Bweupe, the HIV/AIDS coordinator for the Diocese of Mansa, told the Lusaka Post that Western styles of dress are contributing to risky sexual activity among young Zambians.
The nun bluntly advised Zambians to discard the immoral habits that are contributing to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
“Under our traditions, Zambian girls are taught how to hide what men are not supposed to see in public,” Sister Bweupe said. “We cannot talk about behavioral change when people see what they are not supposed to see in public.”
Chile's ‘Anonymous Superheroes’ Honored
CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY, Aug. 6 — The Chilean office of Aid to the Church in Need has launched a campaign called “Superheroes Anonymous” to highlight the selfless dedication of Catholics who make their daily lives a “heroic adventure” of service.
Aid to the Church in Need, an international apostolate founded 52 years ago in Holland by Father Werenfried van Straaten, said individuals singled out for recognition are “real people whose names have been changed to respect their anonymity. They are people who give of themselves completely to those threatened by drug use, delinquency, persecution or the loss of values.”
Catholic News Agency reported that the “Superheroes” singled out for recognition include: “Pedro, a young man who has built three chapels and is not an engineer. Tom's, a priest who travels thousands of kilometers on foot in order to minister to the faithful. Carmen, a cloistered nun, and Juan, a lay Catholic, who risk their freedom distributing thousands of Bibles in Cuba.”
Said Aid to the Church in Need, “In a world in which entertainment celebrities have become the primary role models, we need to highlight the examples of thousands of anonymous superheroes who not only give of their financial resources, but also give of themselves completely.”
Philippines Cardinal Rejects Two-Child Policy
PHILIPPINES DAILY INQUIRER, Aug. 8 — Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu has denounced a proposed two-child population policy that some legislators are currently pushing in Asia's only predominantly Catholic country.
“Life is a gift,” Cardinal Vidal said. “I don't think we have to limit God's gift to us, otherwise he will limit his gift for us.”
The Philippines Daily Inquirer reported that the cardinal also rejected the alleged link between poverty and the Philippines’ robust fertility rate, saying that vices like greed were actually to blame.
Cardinal Vidal stressed that while parents have a right to control their family size, it is only moral to do this through the use of natural family-planning techniques.
Estrella Yapha, chairman of the province of Cebu's health committee, agreed that the proposed bill would violate the right of couples to determine the number of their children. She told the Daily Inquirer that instead of population control, the Philippines’ government should focus on programs that would help couples meet their families’ needs.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Christianity Is The Real ‘Da Vinci Code’
THE NEW REPUBLIC, Aug. 16-23 — Renaissance scholar Ingrid Rowland has a clue for Dan Brown, author of the controversial novel The Da Vinci Code — if you really want to know the hidden meaning of Leonardo Da Vinci's famed Last Supper fresco, study the New Testament.
Brown's potboiler claims that Jesus and Mary Magdalene secretly married and had children, and that this shocking fact has been kept hidden by the Catholic Church.
The key “evidence” cited by Brown is his assertion that the androgynous figure to the right of Jesus in Da Vinci's Last Supper is actually Mary Magdalene, and that the painting contains other coded symbolism that discloses their marriage.
Rowland, who is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at the American Academy in Rome, dismisses Brown's bizarre thesis in a lengthy article in The New Republic magazine. The Last Supper is symbolic, she agrees, but like most great Renaissance art its symbolism comes straight from the Bible.
“The Gospels were as demanding in the fifteenth century as they had been in the first, with their threats to overturn society and to transform souls, and they remain the single most reliable key to Italian Renaissance art,” wrote Rowland. “They are the real Da Vinci Code.”
Kazan Icon Is Already a Symbol of Unity
WWW.CHIESA,July 31 — On Aug. 28, in a gesture that Pope John Paul II hopes will promote Catholic-Orthodox unity, a papal delegation will deliver a prized copy of the Icon of Kazan to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II.
And should the patriarch send the sacred artwork back to Kazan — as the city's Muslim mayor has already requested — it will become a visible symbol of the unusual harmony that exists there already.
In an article published in the Italian newspaper Il Foglio and translated by http://www.chiesa Pigi ,Colognesi notes that Orthodox Christians and Muslims each account for about half of Kazan's population.
Relations between them — and with Kazan's tiny Jewish and Catholic minorities — are remarkably peaceful, the journalist reported after a trip there. Summed up Colognesi, “even if Tatarstan is not heaven on earth, at least it shows a way of coexistence that until now has proven attainable and fruitful for all.”
Ratzinger: Church's New Springtime Is Underway
CATHNEWS.COM, Aug. 10 — Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says that Pope John Paul II's “new springtime” of the Church is already a reality.
Cardinal Ratzinger told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI in a recent interview that new Catholic groups are sprouting up, Australian-based Cathnews reported.
But, Cardinal Ratzinger cautioned, “we should not think that in the near future Christianity will become a movement of the masses again, going back to a situation like Medieval times.”
Instead, the cardinal said committed Catholics will exist as “powerful minorities, which have something to say and something to bring to society, [and] will determine the future.”
Pope's Pilgrimage Captivates Chinese Catholics
ASIANEWS.IT, Aug. 10 — Chinese Catholics were preparing to join themselves spiritually with Pope John Paul II on his Aug. 14-15 pilgrimage to Lourdes, an unnamed Chinese priest told Asianews.
“Your Holiness! Please, remember us always in your prayers, especially when you are in Lourdes,” the Chinese priest said. “Most Chinese Catholics will not be there but in spirit shall accompany you on your journey, and shall remember you in their prayers as they recite the Holy Rosary.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Investigation Cost Albany Diocese $2.4 Million
THE TROY RECORD, AUG. 6 — The Troy, N.Y., newspaper reported that the Albany diocese paid more than $2.4 million to look into allegations of sexual misconduct against Bishop Howard Hubbard. The investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, concluded that the allegations had “no merit.”
The Record story quoted attorney John Aretakis, who represents alleged victims of clergy sex abuse, as saying that the bishop “spared no expense” in a “false effort” to clear himself.
Mark Furnish, the local leader of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, was quoted as saying, “It's nice that Hubbard could spend that much money to clear his name and find closure for himself… He's lucky, but there is no amount of money that could reverse all the things that happened to victims of clergy abuse (in the Albany diocese).”
Madonna and Children — Kabbalah Style
THE STAR ONLINE, Aug. 6 — Former “Material Girl” and lapsed Catholic Madonna is starting a Kabbalah school for children in New York. Scheduled to open at the end of the year, the Kabbalist Grammar School for Children will combine standard school curriculum with Kabbalah teaching.
The Kaballah is a Jewish practice of meditative, devotional, mystical and magical activity. Throughout much of its history, it was taught selectively and is often viewed as esoteric. The word “Kabbalah” is derived from the root “to receive, to accept”, and in many cases is used synonymously with “tradition.”
Madonna, 46, converted to Judaism from Catholicism and has taken the Hebrew name of Esther. She was born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone in Bay City, Mich. As a performer, she became known as Madonna.
“The school has been a dream of Madonna's for some time,” the story quoted a source as saying. “Education means a lot to her, and she was keen to make the most of her money by leaving a lasting mark, as well as helping kids.”
Canadian Abortionist Claims Procedure Lowers Crime
LIFENEWS.COM, Aug. 1 — Mother Teresa once said that society can never expect to have peace in the streets if abortion remains legal. Henry Morgentaler would disagree.
The Canadian abortionist, who defied his country's abortion laws in the 1960s, reiterated claims that abortion and contraception play a major role in the decline in his nation's violent crime rate, the pro-life website reported. The Canadian homicide rate is now the lowest it has been since 1967. Children that are wanted, his reasoning goes, are less likely to be abused and neglected, and therefore less likely to commit violent crimes later in life.
Morgentaler suggests that “violent crimes are usually committed by young men with a rage in their heart, a result of maltreatment they received as babies and children.”
But a number of researchers point out that child abuse has actually risen since Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed abortion nationwide. Canada's abortion law began to be loosened in 1969 and was finally struck down by the country's Supreme Court in 1988.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Massive Ads Block View of Roman Churches
CHICAGO TRIBUNE, July 12 — A lovely 16th-century church sits atop Rome's famed Spanish Steps, but tourists visiting the Eternal City this summer aren't likely to notice it -because these days, it's draped in a massive ad for L'Oreal beauty products.
The L'Oreal banner is the latest in a series of controversial advertisements that obscure Roman monuments, the Tribune reported. The Campo di Fiori, the Piazza Navona and the Piazza di Spagna are among the other Roman landmarks currently sporting huge commercial ads.
A 1997 law authorized the sale of advertising on scaffolding to cover the costs of Roman restorations. Critics complain that scaffolding is often erected solely to make money, and such criticism escalated this May after a 2,000-square-foot lipstick ad featuring a huge pair of red lips was placed across the facade of the Trinita dei Monti Church above the Spanish Steps.
The cosmetics ad was subsequently toned down but remains in place.
Another building generating controversy is the 7th-century San Silvestrino Church, an English-language church owned by the Interior Ministry. While scaffolding has been up there for a year, restoration of the church facade remains nowhere near completion.
Said Father Dennis O'Brien, San Silvestrino's Irish rector, “It's been a very negative experience, and I don't know when it's going to end.”
Violence Erupts At North Belfast Parade
BBC NEWS, July 13 — Twenty-five Northern Irish police officers were injured July 12 after coming under attack from stone- and bottle-throwing nationalist youths in north Belfast.
The incident occurred when youths following a contentious Protestant Orange parade passed by a predominantly Catholic neighborhood, BBC News reported. None of the injuries were serious, a police spokesman said.
Nationalist leaders accused the Northern Ireland Parades Commission of helping to provoke the confrontation by allowing members of the Ballysillan Orange lodge to parade past the neighborhood of Ardoyne as they returned from participation in Northern Ireland's largest Protestant march in south Belfast .
To diminish the possibility of violence, the paraders were accompanied by a massive contingent of police and soldiers, BBC News reported. The security forces erected screens to shield the Orangemen from nationalist protesters, and Ardoyne shops were blocked by a line of police vehicles.
Thousands of Orangemen took part in the annual Twelfth of July celebrations across Northern Ireland. The Orangemen demonstrate each year to commemorate Prince William of Orange's Battle of the Boyne victory over Catholic King James II in 1690.
Hong Kong Wants to Host Vatican exhibit
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, July 12 — Hong Kong's Communist-controlled government has offered to host an exhibition of Vatican artifacts. If the exhibition takes place, it will mark the first time Vatican art is displayed on Chinese soil.
A spokesman for Patrick Ho, Hong Kong's Secretary for Home Affairs, said negotiations with the Vatican were initiated during Ho's trip to Rome in September, the South China Morning Post reported July 12. Final approval had not yet been given for the display but it appeared “highly likely,” the paper said.
The exhibition could occur as early as 2006.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vacationing Pope Urges World to Slow Down
REUTERS, July 12 — Midway through his annual mountain holiday in Les Combes, Italy, Pope John Paul II suggested modern society should experience the sound of silence.
“In this oasis of calm, in front of this marvelous show of nature, one can easily appreciate just how fruitful silence, something which is becoming ever more rare these days, can be,” he said July 11, Reuters reported.
The Pope made the comments during his only public appearance during his two-week vacation in the Italian Alps near France.
Addressing 6,000 people who had come to hear his Sunday angelus prayer, the Holy Father said modern society often “steals the time needed to think, sometimes to the point of making people incapable of reflection and prayer.”
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Pope was refreshed by his vacation, even though he could no longer hike in the mountains as he did when he was younger.
“You can see he is enjoying this,” Navarro-Valls said. “It's good for his health.”
N. Ireland Protestants Supportive of Papal Visit
BELFAST TELEGRAPH, July 9 — The Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland would welcome a proposed visit by Pope John Paul II to Northern Ireland as a significant event for Catholics, but would need to decide collectively about whether a Presbyterian delegation would accept an invitation to meet with the Pope, an unnamed spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph.
Press reports in Ireland have speculated that the Pope might visit this fall or next spring, 25 years after he first visited in 1979. Due to security considerations, the Pope did not travel to British-ruled Northern Ireland during that trip.
“Presbyterians might find it difficult to understand the full significance of a papal visit here,” the spokesman said. “However, they would recognize the importance of such an event to their Catholic neighbors and would wish them well in the celebrations and festivities surrounding such a visit.”
Vatican Criticizes Italy Over Immigrant Ship Arrests
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 13 — The Vatican joined with the German government in denouncing the arrest of three officials on an aid ship that brought 37 Africans to Sicily July 12.
The ship, operated by the German aid agency Cap Anamur, was stranded offshore since June 20 because Italian officials refused to allow it to dock. After it finally received permission to dock July 12, the ship's captain and first mate and the head of the aid agency were immediately arrested on charges of aiding illegal immigration.
Police said some of the Africans claimed they were from Sudan's troubled
Darfur region. But the ANSA news agency said authorities determined that 30 of the men were from Ghana, six from Nigeria and one from Niger, the Associated Press reported.
German federal and state officials objected to the arrests, insisting in a joint statement, “Humanitarian actions must not be criminalized.”
The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, agreed with that assessment, commenting July 13 that “carrying out the duty of rescuing people, whatever their nationality, always takes priority.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pulitzer Critique of Bishops Not Accurate, Says Report
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 12 — “The Bishops vs. the Bible,” the title of author Garry Wills' June 27 op-ed piece in The New York Times, underscored his theme that abortion is “nowhere mentioned in either Jewish or Christian Scripture.” Because of that, he said, bishops cannot supplant personal conscience “with some divine imperative.”
His summation, “Scripture is silent,” was surprisingly simplistic for a Pulitzer Prize-winner, said AP religion writer Richard Ostling. Ostling said Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”) said Church opposition is based upon “the written Word of God,” but freely acknowledged that the Bible lacks any direct commandment.
Like many, the Pope also drew upon a New Testament passage, Luke 1:39-45. Here, Elizabeth's unborn son John the Baptist leaps in her womb as the visiting Mary says she is pregnant with Jesus.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Jeremiah 1:5, where God tells the prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”
In the New Testament, Paul writes similarly that God “set me apart before I was born” (Galatians 1:15).
New York Priest Accused of Bilking Elderly Woman
THE NEW YORK TIMES, July 14 — A lawsuit accuses Msgr. John Woolsey, pastor in a wealthy neighborhood in Manhattan, N.Y., and the former director of the Family Life Office in the Archdiocese of New York, of inducing a parishioner to give him stock and $100,000 to buy a condominium on the New Jersey Shore when she was in her 80s.
The case makes it clear that relationships between priests and elderly wealthy parishioners are a potential minefield, said the Times, which quoted other pastors offered donations by elderly parishioners.
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said in a separate statement that he is a longtime friend of Msgr. Woolsey's and considered him “one of the finest priests I have ever met.” Donohue called the charges “ludicrous” and urged people to wait until the court case is settled before making a judgment.
Bishop Makes Changes for Doctrine
THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT, July 10 — Six weeks after taking office, Bishop Francis DiLorenzo is reshaping the Diocese of Richmond, Va. to bring it into close conformity with Catholic teaching. That intention is most obvious with Bishop DiLorenzo's announcement in June that parishes must have guest speakers vetted by the diocesan theologian, a post re-established by the bishop.
Father Russell Smith is Bishop DiLorenzo's choice as diocesan theologian. Father Smith also will be responsible for ensuring that no one who deviates from Catholic doctrine is invited by a church group or parish to lead a retreat, hold a workshop or give a guest lecture “on Catholic property.” The priest said the precise definitions of orthodoxy can be found in the Catechism and Canon Law.
But within the bounds of orthodoxy, he said, Bishop DiLorenzo “is very broad-minded when it comes to the Church. No community or activity will be marginalized as long as it's authentically Catholic.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Muslims Encourage Schoolgirls to Defy Scarf Ban
REUTERS, July 5 — A Muslim group in France has told Muslim school-girls to defy the government's ban on head scarves when schools reopen in the fall, much to the disdain of French officials.
The Union of French Islamic Organizations pledged at the end of June to provide legal aid to any girl expelled for wearing a head scarf to school, Reuters reported. The ban, announced in March, is set to go into effect after summer break. It has already sparked debates between Muslims and the government. Its intent is to outlaw open signs of religious affiliation.
Muslim groups have already approached Catholic schools to see if girls would be allowed to wear head scarves there and were “well received,” one Muslim leader said.
However, Catholic schools would not necessarily be a place of refuge, a Church leader said, noting that Muslims would not be able to skip sports, biology classes or challenge subjects such as the Holocaust.
Bill Would Take Away Church Control in Hong Kong
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 6 — Hong Kong Church leaders fear a new government-sponsored education bill would take away Church control of its schools and violate their religious freedoms.
The bill would put all private schools that receive public funds — which includes Catholic schools — under the control of management committees that would report directly to the government, the Associated Press reported.
A Church representative said the bill would violate Hong Kong's mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, which guarantees religious freedom and says churches can control their seminaries and other schools.
Hong Kong's education director called the Church's fears “totally unfounded” and another representative said it would not force the Church to change the way it runs its schools.
Church leaders are still concerned, however, because the Church's support of democracy and other issues during the years has left it at odds with the government.
Group Tries to Encourage Prayer to Mary for Abortion
C-FAM, July 2 — Participants at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean meeting in Puerto Rico at the end of June were shocked to receive prayer cards of the Virgin Mary with the words, “The love of God and of Mary of Guadalupe is greater … For women's lives, safe and legal abortion.”
The cards, created by the dissident group Catholics for a Free Choice and its Latin American counterpart, suggest prayers should be made to Our Lady of Guadalupe for legal abortion, according to the Friday Fax newsletter from the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Our Lady of Guadalupe's intercession is often sought by Catholics for unborn children, especially those in danger of abortion.
“How insulting it is,” said one participant at the meeting, “that Catholics for a Free Choice, a rich American pro-abortion group, would attempt to use the Latin American people's strong devotion to the Virgin Mary to impose their abortion agenda here.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
October Trip to Mexico Not on Pope's Calendar
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 3 — Pope John Paul II will forgo an invitation to visit Mexico for the World Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara from Oct. 10-17, instead sending a delegation to the congress.
The Holy Father “would make his presence felt by means of a special television hookup, which will allow him to follow the final celebration of the solemn Eucharistic Congress and to deliver a special message to the bishops and the faithful gathered there,” the Vatican announced July 3.
Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Ber tello had said last year that the Holy Father might make the visit despite his health problems.
In April the Mexican government formally invited the Pope to make his sixth pilgrimage to the countr y, the Associated Press repor ted. The Holy Father's most recent visit to the countr y was in 2002.
John Paul named Cardinal Jozef Tomko to head the delegation for the October visit.
John Paul Named One of Most-Admired Leaders
PRNEWSWIRE, June 30 — A new poll by Harris Interactive Europe, a division of the worldwide market-research firm, has found that among Europeans, Pope John Paul II is one of the most admired world leaders.
U.N. Secretar y-General Kofi Annan was named by the poll to the top of the list, with the Holy Father as second. The results were based on 2,330 inter views in Britain; 2,018 in France; 2,078 in Germany; 2,012 in Italy; and 1,382 in Spain, according to PR Newswire.
The Holy Father ranked most popular in Italy (78%), second to Annan in Britain (31%), four th in France (39% behind Annan, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Spanish Prime Minister Luis Zapatero), four th in Germany (33%, behind Annan, French President Jacques Chirac and Zapatero) and third in Spain (45%, behind Annan and Zapatero).
Of those who said they felt “very” or “somewhat” negatively toward John Paul — 25% overall — 29% were from Britain, 27% were from France, 36% from Germany, 25% from Spain and only 6% from Italy.
Pope Wishes Summer Travelers ‘Happy Holidays'
REUTERS, July 4 — As he prepared for his own vacation to the Alps, which he has had to skip the past two years, Pope John Paul II on July 4 wished all travelers happy holidays.
But he wasn't referring to the United States of America's Independence Day.
“I hope that ever yone can take advantage of a necessar y break from work,” the Pope told the thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square.
The Holy Father used to take a 10-day vacation in the nor thern Italian mountains each summer to indulge his passion for hiking, Reuters noted.
In recent years, however, he has had to cut back his activities due to health reasons.
However, John Paul appeared slightly stronger since the star t of this year, Reuters pointed out, and was scheduled to stay at his Valle d'Aosta vacation spot July 5-17.
BY Jim Cosgrove
The Constitution as Seen by Clarence Thomas
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, July 4 — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is known for his conservative viewpoints. So why is the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, calling the justice's views “breathtakingly radical”?
In the Pledge of Allegiance case in June, Thomas wrote in his opinion that the Constitution protects a state's right to recognize an official church.
“Quite simply, the establishment clause … protects state establishments from federal interference. [It] does not protect an individual right,” he wrote, pointing to the words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
Also, in 2002, he denounced separation of church and state doctrine, noting it grew out of “anti-Catholic bigotry” during the 19th century, the Los Angeles Times reported. At that time, Protestants controlled the public schools, and immigrant Catholics set up their own schools to escape the Protestant influence, he said.
“I thought his was the most interesting opinion in the pledge case. Thomas is right as a matter of history,” Richard Garnett, an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, told the newspaper. “But I think most people would see it as water under the bridge.”
Church Asks Court to Void California Sex-Abuse Law
NBC SAN DIEGO.COM, July 1 — Lawyers for the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, have asked a San Diego federal judge to strike down a 2003 law that makes it legal for victims of sexual abuse to sue without regard to any statute of limitations in sex-abuse cases.
The law opened up a “tidal wave” of lawsuits in California, the San Diego NBC news affiliate reported, and the Church faces up to 800 lawsuits. The Church said the law violates its First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and its right to due process.
If the law is declared unconstitutional, the news station noted, it could save the Church hundreds of millions of dollars needed to resolve the cases.
St. Louis Priests Support Stance on Communion
THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, July 3 — In response to comments St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke made recently to area radio stations and newspapers saying Catholics who vote for pro-abortion politicians are committing a grave sin and shouldn't receive Communion, area priests have come out in support of their shepherd.
Many noted that the archbishop's comments are simply in line with Church teaching, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“There is no change in policy,” said Father Mark Ullrich of Our Lady of the Holy Cross parish in St. Louis. “Nothing is different, nothing has changed.”
Another priest compared someone who votes for a pro-abortion politician to those who did nothing to stop Hitler and the Holocaust.
“It's kind of like Nazi Germany,” said Msgr. Francis Blood, pastor at St. Cecilia Church in St. Louis, who said Catholics who do not vote for politicians against abortion rights “are at least complicit. Not decrying the Holocaust then is the same today as not decrying the Holocaust of the unborn.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Morning-After Pill Ignites Controversy in Peru
REUTERS, June 15 — Church leaders and other pro-lifers are outraged at Peruvian health minister Pilar Mazzetti's decision to allow free distribution of the morning-after pill. The pills would be available in three months.
Opponents of the decision called the move one step closer to the legalization of abortion in that country, where it is prohibited and where contraception has been available to unmarried women only for the past 20 years, Reuters reported.
Hector Chavez Chuchon, head of the Health Commission in Congress and a surgeon, called the health minister's move part of an anti-life policy and said he hoped the country would never be in the “shameful position of wanting or having to legalize abortion.”
“As a doctor, as a minister and as a woman, there's no way I'd accept anything that was an attack on life,” Mazzetti said. However, the morning-after pill is known to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a women's uterus, thus causing an abortion.
Philippines Vicariate Begins Jubilee Year
ASIANEWS, June 22 — With the motto “to make the lay aware of the Jubilee's significance,” the apostolic vicariate of Palawan, Philippines, approximately 364 miles southwest of Manila, is beginning its yearlong celebration of its elevation to apostolic vicariate July 3.
The vicariate, established by Pope St. Pius X in 1910 as an apostolic prefecture, was elevated to an apostolic vicariate on July 3, 1955. Because of its size — approximately 93,000 square miles — and increasing population — 800,000, 70% of which is Catholic — two years ago it was divided in two, AsiaNews reported.
All of the vicariate's clergy will attend an upcoming National Congress on the Clergy in Manila, which will coincide with the theme of the Jubilee, “Thanksgiving and the Renewal of the Clergy and Laity.”
Priests often walk for hours just to visit all of the chapels in their vicariate, just as the 17th-century Spanish missionaries did. The first missionaries, from the Spanish Order of Augustinian Recollects, arrived in Palawan in 1623.
Colombian Priests Regularly Risk Their Lives
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 22 — Being a priest in Colombia means more than baptizing babies, hearing confessions and celebrating the Eucharist. Priests also mediate for freedom for hostages, escort civilians through combat zones and work out temporary truces between warring factions.
In isolated regions of the country, the Associated Press noted, priests often fill a void left by the absence of government authority.
“The Church is the only institution that all sides respect,” one priest said. The government and a right-wing militia, United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, have been sparring for 40 years, as have the government and the leftist National Liberation Army.
Pope John Paul II offered encouragement to Colombian priests June 17 at a Vatican meeting on peacemaking.
“In the particular case of your country,” the Holy Father said, “where for years an internal conflict has claimed so many innocent victims … you must give priority to peace and reconciliation, and so contribute to building a society on the Christian principles of truth, justice, love and freedom.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope to Spain: Respect Catholic Traditions
THE TELEGRAPH (London), June 22 — Pope John Paul II on June 21 denounced the agenda of Spain's new government, calling for it to respect the country's Catholic religious and cultural traditions.
The Pope made his wishes known in a visit with Spain's new socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, according to The Telegraph. The new government has promised to legalize same-sex “marriages,” relax the country's abortion laws and institute a fast-track divorce procedure.
The Holy Father told Zapatero to “conserve moral and cultural values as well as its Christian roots” and said he hoped the government would “give due attention to ethical values that are so rooted in the religious and cultural tradition of the population.”
Zapatero traveled to Rome specifically to see the Pope, the newspaper reported. However, his government gave no sign it was going to change its policies.
“We are going there with the will to listen but the Vatican must realize there is a new government and that this new government has positions,” said Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos. “Of course we respect the Catholic Church, but we are also very firm on questions that the majority of Spaniards want to see changed.”
BBC to Air Entertainment Channel in Vatican City
BBC, June 21 — If he wanted to, Pope John Paul II will soon be able to watch such British shows as “The Vicar of Dibley” and “East Enders,” to be made available at the Vatican beginning Aug. 1.
The British Broadcasting Corp. announced plans recently to begin broadcasting BBC Prime, its entertainment channel — which already claims 15 million subscribers across Europe, Africa and the Middle East — throughout Italy. Other shows available will include the homosexual drama “Tipping the Velvet,” the makeover show “What Not to Wear” and “Teletubbies.”
“We will be broadcasting in the Vatican for the first time and we hope all of our shows provide excellent entertainment,” a BBC spokesman said.
According to the BBC, the channel will reach 2.6 million households in Italy.
John Paul Will Be a Pilgrim Among Pilgrims in France
REUTERS, June 18 — When Pope John Paul II travels to Lourdes, France, Aug. 14-15, he'll do so as any ailing pilgrim who visits the grotto in Lourdes known for its healing waters where the Virgin Mary appeared in 1858.
The Holy Father also plans to stay overnight at a special residence for ailing pilgrims, Reuters reported. John Paul is making the visit in part to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
“The Pope will come as an ailing person making a pilgrimage to Lourdes … an ill man among the ill,” said Bishop Jacques Perrier, head of the Diocese of Tarbes and Lourdes in southwestern France.
The trip will be the seventh one to France for the Pope and, according to Reuters, will include an open-air Mass as well as a private visit to the grotto at Lourdes “for as long as he wants to pray there.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Salesian Leaders Deny Dallas Morning News Report
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 22 — Leaders for the Salesians of Don Bosco have denied reports they moved priests accused of sexual abuse from country to country to avoid legal repercussions.
In a statement posted on its website June 22, the order said it “categorically denies such behavior and condemns every kind of abuse of minors,” the Associated Press reported.
The Dallas Morning News reported June 20 it had conducted a yearlong investigation into the movement of priests even after the 2002 sex-abuse scandal broke in the Church. The newspaper said hundreds of priests were moved around and allowed to continue to minister in other countries.
Kerry Advisers Tell Him Not to Discuss Religion
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, June 18 — Advisers to presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., are telling the candidate to “keep cool” on talking about religion.
The advice comes after Kerry received warnings by several bishops not to partake in Communion if he was still going to support policies contrary to Church teaching, the Washington Times reported. His campaign's new director of religious outreach also was criticized in mid-June for espousing left-wing causes.
“The mood now is to shut up about it,” said Jesuit Father Robert Drinan, who teaches at Georgetown University Law Center and serves as an adviser to the campaign on religious matters.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights found that the religious outreach director, Mara Vanderslice, spoke at a rally co-sponsored by the homosexual group AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.
Not All Reagans Are for Embryonic Research
CAGLE.COM, June 21 — Not all of late president Ronald Reagan's family support embryonic stem-cell research.
Writing in a column on Cagle, a cartoonists’ news website, Reagan's son Michael noted that “the truth is that two members of the family have been longtime foes of this process of manufacturing human beings — my dad, Ronald Reagan, during his lifetime, and I.”
“The media should keep in mind that we are also members of the Reagan ‘family,’” Michael Reagan wrote June 21, the same day Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry vowed to lift federal restrictions on funding stem-cell research if he becomes president, “and my father, as I do, opposed the creation of human embryos for the sole purpose of using their stem cells as possible medical cures.”
Reagan went on to note that no embryonic research as of yet has led to a cure for Alzheimer's disease, from which his father suffered, yet progress had been made on adult and other, ethical stem-cell research.
Most Powerful Mel
FORBES, June 18 — Forbes magazine has listed Passion of the Christ director Mel Gibson as No. 1 on its annual compilation of the 100 most powerful celebrities in the world.
“Start with money. Add fame. Mix. We rank the relative star power of actors, athletes, singers and talking heads — how much they earn and how many people are paying attention,” the magazine said of its methodology for the list.
The magazine said Gibson made the top 10 in every category it measured: money ($210 million), press clippings (21,935), Web presence (2.09 million hits) and TV/radio presence (814 appearances).
BY Jim Cosgrove
Turn Off Cell Phones, Irish Archbishop Tells Flock
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, June 8 — Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, told Catholics at a Mass on June 6 that they should turn off their TVs, stereos and cell phones for one day each week.
If people did that to reflect and pray, he said, “they would notice a significant improvement in their mental, emotional and spiritual well-being,” Independent Catholic News reported.
“There are fundamental changes in Irish society that are hardly for the better,” Archbishop Brady said. “They are worrying signs that our reputation for hospitality and neighborliness is in danger of being reduced to a commercial facade, a mask we wear for the tourists, an essential part of the ‘Irish brand.’”
“We also live in a world of constant noise and incessant rush,” he continued. “Our ears are constantly exposed to the ceaseless chatter of talk radio, the rap and pop of digitized and downloaded music, and the endless melodies of mobile phones as they ring in the street, the car and yes, even in the church.”
Australian Bishop: ‘Two Mums’ Is Too Much for Kids
CATHNEWS.COM, June 13 — A segment on the ABC-TV children's program “Play School” is inappropriate and would be confusing to young children, according to Australian Bishop Christopher Toohey.
“Play School” recently featured a segment depicting a lesbian union in which a young girl went to a park with a pointed reference to her “two mums,” CathNews.com reported.
The segment has also been criticized by Prime Minister John Howard, Opposition Leader Mark Latham, Communications Minister Daryl Williams and Church groups, the website noted.
“Kids need some kind of view of the world consistent with human experience,” said Bishop Toohey, head of the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes and secretary of the Bishops’ Committee for the Family and for Life, “and I would think that the concept of ‘two mums’ would be very difficult for little kids to handle.”
Western Prayers ‘Outsourced’ to Indian Churches
THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 13 — Citing a short supply of Catholic clergy in America, Canada and Europe, many are now sending prayer requests to priests and parishes in India.
In churches in the Kerala state on the southwestern coast, which has the highest concentration of India's Catholics, prayers for local residents are said for a donation of about 90 cents, the New York Times reported. Requests from the United States, however, typically come with donations of $5.
Requests range from prayers for the repose of the soul of a deceased relative to thanksgiving for a favor received to a prayer offering for a newborn.
Critics, however, say they are shocked such requests are being sent offshore, or outsourced, a word normally used for office jobs that migrate to countries with lower wages.
But Father Vincent Kundukulam of St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary in Aluva, near Cochin, said the practice is decades old.
“The Church is not a business enterprise,” he said, “and it is sad and pathetic to connect this practice to outsourcing software work to cheaper labor destinations.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Library Employs Computer-Chip Technology
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 11 — Officials in the Vatican Library have started implanting computer chips into the 1.6 million volumes in its collection. The chips communicate via wave radio with handheld monitors so librarians can tell if a book is missing.
“That is no small thing, because a book that's out of place is as if the book is lost,” said Ambrogio Piazzoni, the library's deputy prefect.
While the technology has been around for a while, the Associated Press reported, the Vatican believes its “Pergamon” system — named for the ancient city in modern Turkey that housed one of the Old World's greatest libraries — is the first time it is being used on such a large scale.
Pope Would Mediate if Needed in Azerbaijan
BAKU TODAY (Azerbaijan), June 12 — Pope John Paul II can mediate between the countries of Azerbaijan and Armenia to help settle a 16-year dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnically Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan.
The Vatican ambassador to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, said the Pope is ready to mediate if either side asks him to do so, Baku Today newspaper reported.
The archbishop also on June 10 told Interfax News Agency that Catholics in Azerbaijan and the Baku mayor's office have begun work on a project for restoring a Catholic church in Baku.
He said the new building will be similar to the Baku Catholic church that was destroyed by Soviet authorities in the 1930s. The money to restore the church, he said, was taken from the Holy Father's personal funds.
Presbyterian Leader: Pope Is Not the ‘Anti-Christ’
THE BELFAST TELEGRAPH (Northern Ireland), June 14 — It's official now in the Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland: The Pope is not the anti-Christ.
According to the new Presbyterian moderator, the Rev. Dr. Ken Newell, Presbyterians are not required by church doctrine to regard the Pope as an anti-Christ, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
Newell confirmed that in 1988 the General Assembly had fully accepted that one of the claims of the Westminster Confession of Faith that the Pope is “the anti-Christ” was “not evidently manifest in Scripture,” the newspaper said.
Newell was replying to Free Presbyterian Church critics of his personal invitation to Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh to the Presbyterian General Assembly in early June.
Vatican's U.N. Nuncio Says Mass for Religious Order
THE EXPRESS-TIMES (Pennsylvania), June 15 — Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican nuncio to the United Nations, joined priests in Nazareth, Pa., for a Mass on June 18 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
The order has had a chapter in Nazareth since 1913, the Pennsylvania Express-Times newspaper noted. The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart was founded in 1854 in France. The order has more than 2,000 missionaries worldwide.
As part of the order's anniversary project, the paper noted, it is participating in an AIDS outreach program in Africa.
Archbishop Migliore has been permanent observer to the United Nations for the Vatican for two years.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Sam's Club Sells Bulk Copies of Passion
ZAP2IT.COM, June 13 — Catering to religious groups, Sam's Club in early June began selling bulk copies of The Passion of the Christ, set to be released on DVD and videocassette Aug. 31.
Sam's, the wholesale club division of Wal-Mart Stores, is selling 50 DVDs in a “church pack” for $898 — $17.96 apiece — and 50 videocassettes for $795, or $15.90 apiece, Zap2It.com reported.
Bulk packaging for small businesses fits Sam's strategy, a company spokeswoman said, and that includes churches.
Though religious groups and stores normally purchase from specialized companies, the entertainment website noted, Zondervan, which holds the film's distribution rights for the Christian market, said it supported any efforts to promote the movie.
Churches-Turned-Condos Is Big Market in Boston
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 13 — “Huge, huge, huge, huge, huge” is the way one Boston real estate agent described the market for churches renovated into condos.
As the Archdiocese of Boston moves forward in putting 60 Church properties up for sale, many predict they will be turned into condominiums.
“They'll sell in a heartbeat, overnight, in 10 minutes,” the real estate agent said.
However, Father Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, said the archdiocese will use an open bidding process for the properties and will try to find buyers who plan to convert the churches for uses consistent with the Church's social mission.
St. Peter and Paul's Church in South Boston has already closed and turned into condos. The condos are priced at between $300,000 for the smallest one-bedroom unit to $1.2 million for a 2,400-square-foot penthouse with cathedral ceilings and the bell tower of the 1840s church, the Associated Press reported.
Former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn's parents were parishioners of St. Peter and Paul. He said many residents had hoped the church would be used for low-income housing rather than pricey condos. Eight of the 44 units were set aside as affordable.
“It takes a long time for people to not think of this as a sacred religious site,” Flynn said. “I still find myself blessing myself as I go by.”
Bush Asked Vatican for Help Promoting Family Issues
CNN, June 14 — When he visited the Vatican on June 4, President Bush asked the Holy See to call on U.S. bishops to become more involved in promoting pro-life and pro-family issues, according to a Vatican official who spoke to CNN on June 13.
Bush stated his case to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state. The president “complained that the U.S. bishops were not being vocal enough in supporting [Bush] on social issues like gay marriage and abortion,” a Vatican official privy to the discussion told CNN.
The official said Cardinal Sodano did not respond to Bush's request. “It was the Vatican's interpretation that [Bush] wanted [the bishops] to get involved in time for the campaign,” the official said.
When pressed for more details on the meeting, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, “The positions of the president and the Vatican are well-known on those issues. … I would just leave it at that.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Christians Begin Leaving Iraq
INSIGHT ON THE NEWS, May 28 — Citing a temporary constitution that lists Islam as the official state religion and the absence of any position on the executive council, Christians have started to leave Iraq.
Most of the Christians in Iraq are Assyrian Christians, who claim to be the original inhabitants of Iraq. They were the people of Ninevah, present-day Mosul, where God sent Jonah of the Old Testament, Insight on the News noted.
“We thought the Americans were going to bring us freedom and democracy,” said a 31-year-old Christian named Robert. “Instead, they are promoting Islam. We do not understand it. … We love the Americans! We are so grateful for them removing Saddam and giving us back our freedom. We do not want their effort to be a failure if the dictatorship of Saddam is replaced by the dictatorship of Islam.”
Italian Teens Murdered in Satanic Ritual
REUTERS, June 7 — Police in Italy have arrested four members of a band called Beasts of Satan for the murder of two former band members. The killings are believed to have been a part of a satanic sacrifice.
Police announced in early June they had uncovered in northern Italy the bodies of a 16-year-old and a 19-year-old who were last seen in January 1998 leaving a pizzeria with other members of the heavy-metal rock band, Reuters reported.
As many as 5,000 people are thought to be members of satanic cults in Italy, according to officials, with 17- to 25-year-olds making up three-quarters of them.
Ireland Archbishop Attends Presbyterian Assembly
BELFAST TELEGRAPH (Ireland), June 8 — Despite protests from Presbyterians, Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, made history June 7 when he became the first Roman Catholic leader to attend the opening of the Presbyterian General Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Members of three of the 21 Presbyteries in preceding weeks had questioned the invitation, expressing their theological misgivings about a Catholic archbishop being asked to attend the assembly.
“I find that through dialogue people can retain their strong convictions but can still grow in appreciation and understanding of one another,” Archbishop Brady said. “This evening is another step in a journey to a greater appreciation and understanding of one another's position, so that we all may do and follow what the Lord wants us to do.”
Human Rights Watch Calls for Vietnam Investigation
CATHNEWS.COM (Australia), June 8 — Reports that government soldiers in Vietnam killed dozens of Christians during peaceful protests at Easter have prompted calls for further investigation into the matter.
According to The Tablet, a London Catholic newspaper, thousands of Christians gathered to protest religious discrimination and confiscation of ancestral lands April 10-11, CathNews.com reported. Soldiers beat dozens to death.
Vietnam's communist government, however, insists only two people died and that they were “violent extremists.”
Sam Zarifi, the deputy director of Human Rights Asia, said indigenous Christians were still unable to live freely in their villages and are threatened with violence if they leak information on their situation to the outside world.
BY Jim Cosgrove
John Paul Declares Indian Priest Servant of God
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA, June 5 — Pope John Paul II has named Father Joseph Vithayathil, a Kerala, India-born priest who founded the congregation of the Holy Family, a servant of God.
The Pope made his pronouncement May 18 and a ceremony in India on June 7 marked the designation officially. It is the first step on the road to sainthood.
Father Vithayathil was born in 1865 in Puthanpally, India, into a family that produced several nuns and priests, including Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil, current archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly and head of the Syro-Malabar Church.
Father Vithayathil was ordained a priest in 1894 and served as vicar of the church at the headquarters of the Holy Family Congregation, which was founded by Mariam Thresia, whom the Vatican beatified in 2000. He had spiritual vision and prudence besides a deep love for people, especially the poor and needy, said the congregation's superior general, Sister Annie Palathingal.
Father Vithayathil died in 1964. His cause was opened in April 2003.
Ratzinger Calls for Caution on Denying Communion
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 4 — Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told bishops visiting the Vatican they should be cautious about denying Communion to Catholic politicians whose positions conflict with Church teaching.
Bishop Donald Pelotte of Gallup, N.M., said the cardinal, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the Vatican would like to meet soon with a panel of U.S. bishops reviewing the bishops' response to Catholic leaders in public life, the Associated Press reported.
According to Bishop Pelotte, who was at the Vatican for his once-every-five-year ad limina visit, Cardinal Ratzinger did not say whether Communion should be used as a sanction.
What Cardinal Ratzinger “was suggesting,” Bishop Pelotte told Catholic News Service, “was a meeting as soon as possible between the [bishops‘] task force and people at the doctrinal congregation, to work out some kind of understanding.”
The task force was expected to give a report on its progress at the bishops' conference meeting in Denver from June 14-19.
Aziz Family Turns to Pope for Help
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, June 9 — The family of Tariq Aziz has written to Pope John Paul II for his help in learning the former Iraqi deputy prime minister's whereabouts. Aziz was detained by the United States after he turned himself in to the Americans in April 2003.
After his arrest, “we had no news from him until the last week of June 2003, when we first received a letter from him, but we haven't seen him nor have we talked to him,” Aziz's daughter, Zainab Aziz, told the Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana.
In his last letter to family members in April, Aziz said he was still in Iraq.
Aziz, 68, was the only Christian member of Saddam Hussein's cabinet. He met frequently with Pope John Paul II, most recently in February 2003 before the U.S.-led war on Iraq began, Agence France-Presse reported.
The news service did not mention a response to the family from the Pope or the Vatican.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Gibson's Distribution Company Sues for $40 Million
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 9 — Icon Distribution, Mel Gibson's movie-distribution company, is suing Regal Entertainment for upwards of $40 million. The company started by the director of The Passion of the Christ says Regal short-changed it on revenues for the movie.
Regal, the nation's largest movie chain, had agreed to pay Icon 55% of receipts from the movie but went back on its promise in May, the Associated Press reported. Instead, it offered only 34%, according to George Hedges, an attorney for Icon.
The lawsuit was filed June 7 in Los Angeles and said Regal owed Icon “in excess” of $40 million.
The Passion of the Christ is No. 7 on the all-time domestic box-office charts, taking in $369.9 million since its Feb. 25 release.
Theology of the Body Makes Its Way Into Culture
THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 7 — More and more theology of the body conferences, retreats, study groups, seminars and lectures are popping up around the country, and one of America's top secular newspapers is taking notice.
The New York Times reported on a recent talk in New Jersey by Christopher West, a writer and lecturer on Pope John Paul II's theology of the body teachings. The article goes on to mention priests and other speakers promoting the Holy Father's writings on love and sexuality.
Father Richard Hogan, a priest from the Diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, explained that the body is regarded as the expression of God, so therefore it will never be used as “a thing” whose functions can be altered or manipulated, the Times noted.
While the article noted the Pope's teachings have its critics — such as an ex-priest who teaches at Emory University and Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice — it ended on a positive note, quoting Peter McFadden, who started a theology of the body study group in New York.
“We just wanted more,” McFadden said. “We wanted a love that's really true and meaningful and deep. Reading the Pope's writings helped me understand what true love is and how to recognize it and how to get it.”
Hawaii Public Schools Teach Abstinence Only
THE HONOLULU ADVERTISER, June 9 — “Try wait!” is what Hawaii public schools are telling teens regarding sex.
A federally financed national program run by Catholic Charities is sending a new message to teens — getting middle and high school students to abstain from sex rather than just teaching them how to be “safe,” the Honolulu Advertiser reported.
Try Wait! teaches only abstinence, with eight lessons that teach kids how and why they should save sex for marriage, including discussions on how various forms of protection can fail.
The federal government has funded hundreds of abstinence-only programs across the nation, provided they do not also teach students about safe-sex practices or relate abstinence to religion, the newspaper noted. Try Wait! has a three-year federal grant and was awarded $750,000 to begin the program this year.
While under the umbrella of Catholic Charities, officials say, the program has no religious base.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Belgian Youth Say They Want to Marry
EXPATICA.COM, May 26 — Most young Belgians say they want to get married sometime in their lives, and two-thirds say they want a church wedding, according to a new survey.
Researches from the Catholic University at Leuven found in the study of 1,500 adolescents between ages 15 and 18 that 80% wanted to tie the knot, the European news site Expatica.com reported. Fifty-eight percent of those said they wanted a church wedding.
However, the survey also found some disturbing news — 60% of those questioned said they wanted to live with their future spouse before getting married. Also, only 16% said love would be their main reason for marrying.
Religious Leaders Support Palestinian State
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 1 — A group of Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders announced their support June 1 of President Bush's call for a Palestinian state and called for a special U.S. envoy to the Middle East to aid in peace negotiations.
“We believe in the road map. … We believe the United States has to do more and has to do it now,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., referring to the U.S.-backed plan for peace, after the group met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
“We know there is going to be a two-state solution,” said Reform Rabbi Paul Menitoff of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
A State Department spokesman said Powell isn't opposed to sending an envoy to the Middle East but the level of violence must subside so peacemaking can move forward.
Kenyan Abortion Doctor Arrested
THE AGE (Australia), June 2 — An abortionist and two nurses were arrested in Nairobi, Kenya, in late May after the remains of 15 fetuses were found close to a nearby river. Abortion is illegal in Kenya, as it is in most African countries.
Approximately 20,000 women are admitted to hospitals each year due to complications from abortions, and about 2,600 die from post-abortion complications, The Age newspaper in Australia reported. Those numbers and the recent findings have prompted debate over legalizing abortion.
Father Wesonga Maloba of the Archdiocese of Nairobi described the discovery of the fetuses as “the height of human hatred and irresponsibility.”
“(It is) a situation,” he said, “where people have relegated human life to the level of trash.”
Church Opposes New Spanish Government Policies
THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 31 — Spain's new government wants to allow homosexual marriages, grant divorces quicker and make abortion easier to obtain — and the Catholic Church there plans to do all it can to oppose it.
“Laws that permit the elimination of human lives don't deserve to be called laws,” said the secretary-general of the Spanish bishops’ conference, referring to the proposed abortion laws, the New York Times reported.
He also said Church leaders would support demonstrations against homosexual marriage and other steps taken since the March 14 elections.
Currently, couples must be legally separated for a year before filing for divorce, and in some places, same-sex couples are allowed some — but not all — of the benefits of marriage.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Where Is America's Collective Soul?
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, May 29 — Americans are hypnotized by materialism and on the brink of a “soulless vision of the world,” Pope John Paul II told U.S. bishops meeting in Rome for their once-every-five-year ad limina visits May 28.
America is “forgetting its spiritual roots,” the Pope said, and the road there was paved by “a widespread spirit of agnosticism and relativism,” the Chicago Tribune quoted the Holy Father as saying.
Bishop Edwin Conway, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said he often wonders about America's collective soul. “Where is it?” he asked. “It's kind of dormant.”
Many agree with John Paul's assessment, according to the newspaper, including the Illinois poet laureate, an author of “unorthodox spirituality,” a Bob Jones University spokesman and a Jewish rabbi.
Such remarks on “Americanism” by a Church leader are nothing new, the Tribune noted. In 1899, Pope Leo XIII said some in America think the Church should “shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity.”
Vatican to Beatify Nun Whose Work Inspired The Passion
REUTERS, May 30 — Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, a 19thcentur y German nun, is set to be beatified by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 3.
Bishop Reinhard Lettmann of Muenster, Germany, announced the beatification date in late May in his diocese, where Sister Emmerich lived.
The bishop noted how the nun had strengthened others in their faith despite her own frailty, a theme close to the 84-year-old Pope, Reuters reported.
The nun will be honored for her virtuous life, not for her book that recounted the visions that inspired Mel Gibson in his film The Passion of the Christ, according to the wire ser vice. The book, The Dolorus Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, recounted Jesus’ passion and death in details not found in the Gospels.
The Vatican halted an attempt to beatify Sister Emmerich in 1928 out of concern a German poet who wrote down her visions had exaggerated her account.
However, the case was reopened in 1973 and approved last July.
Torture Is Against Human Dignity, Pope Says
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 27 — Torture is an intolerable affront to human dignity, according to Pope John Paul II, who also expressed his grief on May 27 that reports of abuses “constantly arrive from all continents.”
The Holy Father was speaking to seven new ambassadors to the Holy See and did not mention any specific cases in any specific countries, the Associated Press reported. The ambassadors were from Suriname, Sir Lanka, Mali, Yemen, Zambia, Nigeria and Tunisia.
News comes in all the time “concerning the human-rights situation, showing how men, women and children are tortured and how their dignity is profoundly offended, contrar y to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” John Paul noted. “In this way, all humanity suffers injur y and contempt.”
“As all human beings are our brothers,” the Pope said, “we cannot remain quiet in the face of these intolerable abuses.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Passion Actor Caviezel Turns Down Big Bucks
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 30 — Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, has turned down offers to do a series of television commercials because he believes they would conflict with his Catholic beliefs.
One of the offers, the total of which would earn the 35-year-old approximately $75 million, was for a T-shirt company's line of “Heavenly” apparel, the Associated Press reported.
“I think if I had given way on just one scheme, I would have been tempted to do more,” Caviezel said. “It would have been the easiest thing in the world to make that kind of money quickly. That sum would secure your future, but I would never be able to forgive myself.”
“I could see the humor in it,” he said of the “Heavenly” T-shirt offer, “but I think I would have upset a lot of people who got something special from the film.”
Blacks Prove Unique Allies Against Same-Sex Marriage
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, May 27 — More than two dozen leaders representing more than 28 denominations of black churches at a May 26 meeting in Chicago vowed to gather up to 50,000 signatures in opposition to homosexual marriage.
The group of leaders also warned city and state politicians not to come to them for support unless they oppose same-sex unions, the Chicago Tribune reported. The newspaper noted that historically blacks’ political activity was more involved in economic issues rather than social issues. That, however, appears to be changing.
A survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life last fall showed that 62% of blacks have an unfavorable opinion of homosexuality, the paper noted, which was close to the 69% of white evangelicals who hold that view.
There is much disagreement among blacks on the issue, however. But Rev. Jesse Jackson said recently that comparisons between the civil-rights movement and homosexual “rights” are “a stretch” because “gays were never called three-fifths human in the Constitution.”
Poll: Catholic Voters Want Bishops Out of Politics
ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS (Minnesota), May 29 — A majority of U.S. Catholics surveyed in a recent poll think bishops should not pressure political candidates by withholding Communion to those whose public positions conflict with Church teaching.
Two-thirds of those sur veyed in the May 27 Quinnipiac University poll disapproved of pressure by bishops, specifically that given to Sen. John Kerr y, D-Mass., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. Also, 87% said they wouldn't let the bishops’ stance affect their voting in the November election.
The poll surveyed 1,160 registered voters, including 307 Catholic voters. The margin of error for the Catholic voter sample was plus or minus 5.6 percentage points.
Any politician's religious beliefs, regardless of party or issue, according to two-thirds of Catholics and non-Catholics polled, should “be a private matter, not subject to public discussion.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
French Bishops Oppose Same-Sex ‘Marriage’
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 21 — France's Catholic bishops spoke out against same-sex marriage in a letter published May 21 in two of the country's newspapers responding to an article about a summer “marriage” between two men.
“I must state my disagreement,” wrote Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, president of the Conference of Bishops of France. “Our society could not put the union of a man and women, which can lead to the birth of new human beings, on the same plane as two like beings, which cannot.”
Marriage, Archbishop Ricard added, “assures the renewal of generations … which is not the case of a union between persons of the same sex,” the Associated Press reported.
Noel Mamere, a Green Party lawmaker, has made it public that he plans to perform the country's first homosexual wedding June 5.
Scottish Cardinal: Renew Religious Observances
THE GLASGOW HERALD (Scotland), May 21 — A Scottish cardinal called for a renewal of religious observances in schools of all denominations in a speech May 21 to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien also encouraged members of all Scottish churches to remember their common roots and the fact that they celebrate the same feast days — Christmas, Easter and St. Andrew's Day, the Glasgow Herald reported.
“We must pray at home with our families; we must ensure that relationship to God in prayer is at the root of everything that goes on in our schools, Catholic and nondenominational,” the cardinal said.
The call for more prayer in schools came after the Scottish Executive recommended a move to “broaden” spiritual development, the paper reported, as well as to limit the number of religious assemblies.
South African Bishops Told to Prepare for 2010 World Cup
NEWS24.COM (South Africa), May 24 — South Africa's Catholic newspaper has called on the country's Catholic leaders to be prepared for the 2010 World Cup soccer championship in South Africa.
“The Catholic Church itself has a role to play in 2010,” the Southern Cross stated in an editorial. “As in every World Cup, many of the competing teams and their supporters will come from countries where the Catholic Church is strongly represented.”
“Many players themselves are devoutly Catholic,” it added, “if the pre-match and post-goal blessing ritual is an indicator of devotion.”
The newspaper advised the Church to add extra Masses to handle the influx of Catholics and to hold services in the languages of visiting fans.
Thousands Gather for EU Mass in Austria
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, May 22 — Tens of thousands of Catholics gathered May 21-23 in the Austrian Alps to promote reconciliation among the countries recently united in the European Union.
The events culminated in a Mass led by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Pope John Paul II gave his blessing to the event in German via a video linkup, Agence France-Presse reported.
“We are expressing our faith in the Christian foundations of Europe,” Cardinal Schonborn said at the Mass.
Leaders of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia and Bosnia also attended the event.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Calls for More Instruction Before Marriage
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 22 — More can be done to encourage lasting marriages, according to Pope John Paul II.
“Many today have a clear understanding of the secular nature of marriage,” he said, “which includes the rights and responsibilities modern societies hold as determining factors for a marital contract.” But, he said, according to the Associated Press, some “appear to lack a proper understanding of the intrinsically religious dimension of this covenant.”
The Pope made his remarks May 22 during an audience with bishops from Texas and Oklahoma, in Rome for their once-every-five-year ad limina visit.
“Modern society rarely pays heed to the permanent nature of marriage,” the Holy Father continued. “In fact, the attitude toward marriage found in contemporary culture demands that the Church seek to offer better premarital instruction aimed at forming couples in this vocation.”
Recently, the wire service reported, John Paul has spoken against “attempts to reduce marriage to a mere individual contract” and has called for and end to the approval of homosexual marriages.
John Paul Again Condemns Anti-Semitism
JERUSALEM POST, May 23 — Pope John Paul II repeated the Church's condemnation of anti-Semitism in a May 23 message to Rome's central synagogue, the site of the first papal visit ever to a Jewish synagogue in 1986.
John Paul sent Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Italian bishops' conference and papal vicar of Rome, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to the ceremony. The Pope himself turned down the invitation to attend because he said he didn't want to take away from the “unique and historic” character of his 1986 visit, the Jerusalem Post reported.
“The Church has restated in a clear and definitive way the refusal of anti-Semitism in all its expressions,” the Holy Father said in his statement, read by Cardinal Ruini. “Still, even the dutiful deploration and condemnation of hostilities against the Jewish people, which often characterized histor y, isn't enough. We need to also develop friendship, esteem and brotherly relations” with Jews.
Media Need to Work in Service of Family, Pope Says
ASIANEWS, May 23 — Catholics must call upon Mary and the Holy Spirit and pray for the media to “perform their work according to a genuine apostolic spirit,” Pope John Paul II said May 23, the celebration by the Church of the World Day of Communications.
The theme of the World Day of Communications was “Media in the Family: A Risk and Valuable Resource.”
Speaking to a crowd below his apartment window overlooking St. Peter's Square, John Paul said the media is a valuable educational tool but parents must also take responsibility so “improper and even distorted viewpoints” do not make their way into homes and society, the news service reported.
“The media can bring great harm to families when presenting improper or even distorted views of life, the family, religion and morality,” the Holy Father said. “We must learn how to use them both wisely and prudently.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Starboard Network Goes High Power in Twin Cities
THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE, May 23 — Starboard Network's Catholic radio station in Minnesota has moved to an even bigger station on the local AM dial.
Starting May 25, the network moved to 1330 on the AM dial in the Twin Cities, making it the biggest station yet in the network's growing national presence, with broadcasts in other cities such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, the Star Tribune reported.
The station features programs such as Jeff Cavins' “Morning Air,” Al Kresta's “Kresta in the Afternoon,” “Super Saints,” “Holy Rosary” and “The Best of Mother Angelica Live.”
Before the switch, the station had been broadcasting on two low-power, daytime-only stations, the paper reported.
“The strong signal is the big thing we were looking for” when Starboard bought WMNN (1330 AM) in January for $3.25 million, programming director Sherry Brownrigg said. “[The change] makes this one of the best Catholic radio signals in America covering the most people.”
Poll: Catholic Voters Shun Abortion Supporters
LIFENEWS.COM, May 24 — A recent Zogby International poll has shown that Catholics are less likely to support Catholic candidates — such as presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. — who support abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.
The poll of 1,388 Catholics in the United States showed Kerry getting only 20% of Catholic voters' support on issues where he disagrees with Church teachings, LifeNews.com reported. If a candidate said he would only appoint supporters of Roe v. Wade to judicial positions, 65% of Catholics would not support him, the poll found. Only 16% said they would be more likely to support such a candidate. Both churchgoing Catholics (71%) and Catholics who attend church infrequently (57%) held those opinions.
Also, the pro-life news site reported, 53% of Catholic voters would be less likely to support a candidate who advocates embryonic stem-cell research. Only 23% said they would be more likely to support such a candidate.
No Communion for Protesters, Cardinal George Says
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, May 25 — Cardinal Francis George of Chicago sent a memo to all pastors in the archdiocese telling them not to give Communion to protestors who identified themselves by wearing a rainbow sash to Mass on May 30.
The wearing of the sash protest, sponsored by the Rainbow Sash movement, was to show the “symbol of the gifts that we bring to the Church as gay and lesbian people,” according to one organizer.
However, Cardinal George noted, wearing the sash indicates disagreement with Church teaching that homosexual relations are sinful, the Sun-Times reported.
“The Rainbow Sash movement wants its members to be fully accepted in the Church not on the same conditions as any Catholic but precisely as gay,” the cardinal wrote. “With this comes the requirement that the Church change her moral teaching, which is from the Lord and his Apostles.”
The cardinal noted that the policy of the U.S. bishops is to not give Communion to anyone who comes to church wearing the sash.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Police Detain Two Priests in China
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 17 — Authorities recently detained two priests from the underground Catholic Church in China — which is loyal to the Pope — as they were about to begin teaching classes on natural family planning and theology.
Police did not comment on the report by the Cardinal Kung Foundation, the Stamford, Conn.-based group that monitors the Catholic Church in China and the communist government's attempts to repress it, the wire service reported.
Father Lu Genjun, 42, was detained in Dingzhou, a city in Hebei province. The whereabouts of Father Cheng Xiaoli, 40, were unknown. The Associated Press reported a number of priests have been detained in the Hebei province, some for years.
Catholic Radio Station Comes to Rwanda
BBC, May 17 — A new Catholic radio station will be available soon in Rwanda.
The Rwandan government signed an agreement in early May with the Church in Rwanda to allow the new station, Maria Nyina wa Zombo (Radio Maria), to broadcast in the country, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.
The station is expected to broadcast evangelization programs as well as to support unity and reconciliation policies in the country. It will also include programs on social welfare, combating HIV-AIDS, fighting illiteracy and how to assist street children, orphans and widows.
Church Leader Questions Philippine Vote Results
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, May 13 — Philippine Archbishop Oscar Cruz on May 13 questioned the election results of President Gloria Arroyo, who garnered 100% of the vote in the May 10 elections in one Filipino community.
Archbishop Cruz said he found it “amazing” that all 5,470 voters of the town of Santo Tomas had taken the voting advice of their mayor, Antonio Aguilar, a supporter of Arroyo, the news service reported.
Archbishop Cruz compared the elections to those during the 20-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, which ended in revolt in 1986. Other senior Church officials before the elections had expressed concern of an alleged plot to commit wide-scale voter fraud.
Thousands of priests and lay people participated in poll-watching during the May 10 election, Agence France-Presse reported; however, the Church as a whole had not yet given its verdict on the conduct of the election.
Exit polls had predicted Arroyo would beat out her main rival, film star Fernando Poe.
Still Hope for Christian Reference in EU Constitution
REUTERS, May 18 — God is making a comeback in the European Constitution — at least for now.
Several countries demanded a reference to Europe's Christian roots at a meeting in mid-May regarding a draft of the constitution, the news service reported. Italy and Poland raised the issue again at the meeting of European Union foreign ministers on the constitution. The 25-member bloc hopes to approve the constitution in June.
“We are aware of the difficulties,” said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, “but we believe that a small inclusion in the text would not alter the preamble too much.”
Ireland, Poland, Italy and Spain have long sided with the Vatican position to include a reference to Christianity in the constitution. Secular France has opposed such a reference.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Archbishop: Vatican-Russian Meeting Not a Good Idea
INTERFAX NEWS, May 18 — A meeting between Pope John Paul II and the Russian Orthodox patriarchate would not be a good idea, nor would a papal visit to Russia, according to a Russian Orthodox archbishop.
There is currently too much confrontation between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Great Britain said May 18 at a briefing in Moscow. His position reflected that of the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia, which is the same position as that of the Orthodox Church in Russia, the news agency reported.
Archbishop Mark said confrontations — most notably the dispute regarding Church territory in Ukraine — should be resolved before any meetings take place.
However, other Orthodox leaders pointed to progress already made between the Churches. Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Kirill said dialogue between the two has been “very positive.”
Swiss Bishops Criticize Letter to Pope
SWISSINFO.COM, May 18 — Switzerland's bishops have called a letter written by more than 40 priests and lay people calling for Pope John Paul II to step down “disgusting and disloyal.”
The letter, which was delivered to the Swiss bishops’ conference May 14, came only a few days before the Pope's 84th birthday May 18 and only a few weeks before a scheduled papal visit to the country, the news site noted.
A spokesman for the bishops’ conference said it was “extremely upsetting that people should use the arrival of the Pope to make such a comment” and that it is “not characteristic of the greeting Switzerland is preparing for him.”
One of the letter-signers said the Church is best served by setting a retirement age for popes at 75, saying that these days the media focus more on the Holy Father's health than on his message, the site reported.
John Paul spent his birthday working and receiving visitors, which included the prime minister of Portugal and the president of Poland.
Pope Extends Blessings to Olympic Organizers
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 15 — As he offered blessings for organizers of the Olympic Games to be held in Athens, Greece, this summer, Pope John Paul II called for the games to be a show of fraternity and peace.
The Holy Father made his comments May 15 while meeting with the mayor of Athens, Dora Bakoyianni, who was on a tour of Europe and the United States leading up to the Aug. 13-29 Olympics, the wire service reported.
“I express the wish that the next celebration of the Olympic Games in your city be a show of brotherhood for all the participants and a message of peace and union for all those who will be spectators across the world,” John Paul told the mayor. “In this spirit, I invoke divine blessings for you and all the organizers of this celebration.”
In the week before her meeting with the Pope, Bakoyianni encouraged countries to attend the Olympic Games in her country and not be swayed by security fears and fears of terrorist attacks.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Residents Have Enough Signatures to Stop Mosque
DETROIT FREE PRESS, May 19 — Residents of a Detroit suburb turned in enough petition signatures to stop a mosque from broadcasting the Islamic call to prayer over a loudspeaker.
Petitioners submitted 632 signatures to the city clerk's office May 18. Only 552 signatures were needed to force the Hamtramck City Council to reverse its unanimous April 27 decision to allow the mosque to carry the call to prayer five times a day, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The signatures had to be certified and the council notified of the certification by May 25. Otherwise, the law was to become effective May 26.
If the council chose not to rescind the ordinance, it would have automatically been suspended and placed on the ballot for voters to decide. A vote could have been held in August or earlier.
The blue-collar city of 23,000 once was overwhelmingly Polish and Catholic. Some Muslims say the call is the equivalent of church bells. Opponents say allowing the Islamic call gives that religion preferential treatment.
Bush and Senate Agree on Judicial Nominations
THE WASHINGTON POST, May 19 — President Bush and Senate Democrats have reached an agreement on judicial-appointee nominations — some of whom are Catholic and many of whom are pro-life.
Bush said from now until his current term ends Jan. 20, 2005, he will not use his constitutional power to bypass the Senate and give temporary judicial appointments during congressional recesses, as he has done twice during the past several months. In turn, Democrats agreed to allow votes on 25 “noncontroversial” appointments to district and appeals courts, the Washington Post reported.
However, Democrats have refused to include seven appeals-court nominees they have been blocking or have threatened to block because of their views on abortion, labor rights and other issues.
Bush appointed U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering Sr. of Mississippi to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in January and former Alabama attorney general William Pryor Jr. to the 11th Circuit Court in February.
The newspaper noted the only “seriously controversial” nominee on the list is James Leon Holmes, a pro-life Catholic whose nomination was sent directly to the Senate for approval rather than to committee for recommendation.
Solar-Power Stained-Glass Windows?
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH (Ohio), May 14 — Two Catholic churches in Ohio not only have new beautiful stained-glass windows, but they also have a new source of energy because of them.
At St. Catharine on Columbus’ East Side and St. Andrew in Upper Arlington, ar tist Sarah Hall of Toronto arranged grids of photovoltaic cells and sandwiched them between layers of glass, the newspaper repor ted. The inner aspect of the windows includes figures and other patterns normally found on stained glass.
“Those solar cells are hooked up to a battery, and then we illuminate the narthex at night with this energy or pump the [water in a] font,” Hall said during a recent visit to St. Catharine.
In the United States, energy from photovoltaic cells costs more than energy from other sources. However, it would prove a cheaper alternative in Europe, where Hall hopes to sell many of her designs.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Demand for London's Religious Schools Increases
LONDON EVENING STANDARD, May 10 — A survey by the London Evening Standard newspaper has shown an increase in the demand for places in Catholic and Church of England primary schools.
In some cases, more than three children are vying for one spot in a school. Overall, the paper reported, 1,275 children are competing for 767 spots for enrollment for the next school year.
Parents need to demonstrate a commitment to their church for their children to become eligible. While some parents have been known to lie or try to bribe their children's way in, the paper noted, experience has shown that some parents begin attending church more regularly than they did before their children went to a parochial school.
Irish Bishop Calls for IRA to Disband
IRELAND ONLINE, May 9 — Armagh archbishop Sean Brady called May 9 for the Irish Republican Army to disband, insisting violence could not be justified.
The archbishop's call came after criticism regarding the British government's handling of security issues with loyalist supporters, the website reported, as well as for a speech in which he was appeared skeptical about changes to the Northern Irish police service, which is mostly Protestant.
“We must dispel any ambivalence in our own community about the presence or actions of nondemocratic and totally unaccountable armed groups in our own community,” Archbishop Brady told BBC Radio. “I'm calling on people to forsake once and for all the armed struggle.”
Chilean Government Legalizes Divorce
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 8 — Despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church, the Chilean government on May 7 legalized divorce in that country.
The Church warned the move would be harmful to families, the wire service reported. However, in an indirect reference to Church opposition, President Ricardo Lagos said the government “cannot impose the positions of one sector of our society on all Chileans.”
About 87% of Chileans consider themselves Catholic. Chile was one of the last countries in the Western Hemisphere without a divorce law.
“This is a sad day for the Church and the whole Catholic community,” said Church spokesman Father Pedro Fernandez. “It hurts us, because this law damages the family.”
Image of Virgin Is Not Miraculous, Says Church
REUTERS, May 11 — Though thousands have flocked to see an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appearing on a hospital wall in Ensenada, Mexico, the Church in Mexico has ruled out any divine origin for the shadowy figure.
It appears every night when a light is switched on in the patio of a clinic in the Pacific resort area, the news service reported.
“The Church is quite clear that it is not a miracle but a natural phenomenon that serves to strengthen the faith of the believers,” said a spokeswoman for the Tijuana Diocese in which Ensenada falls.
The image was first reported to hospital authorities April 19. Among those visiting it are those with chronic illnesses, Reuters reported, many of whom say they received miraculous cures.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Tells U.S. Bishops to Clean Up Seminaries
REUTERS, May 7 — Pope John Paul II on May 6 told U.S. bishops in Rome for their once-every-five-years ad limina visit to get seminaries in order so future priests will live by Church teachings.
Twenty bishops from Michigan and Ohio were visiting the Pope. “As a spiritual father and brother to his priests, the bishop should do everything in his power to encourage them in fidelity to their vocation and to the demands of leading a life worthy of the calling they have received,” John Paul told them.
The Holy Father also said the bishops must keep up dialogue with seminarians and priests and correct them if needed, Reuters reported. Candidates to the priesthood have to accept a “life of celibate chastity as the expression of a radical commitment to follow Christ,” the Holy Father said.
“It is in major and minor seminaries,” he said, “that the seeds of a spirituality of communion and mission, and of a healthy priesthood, are sown.”
Swiss Guards to Celebrate 500th Anniversary
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 9 — The Vatican's Swiss Guards are getting ready to celebrate their 500th anniversary as protectors of the Pope with several celebrations in 2005 and 2006.
The guards announced their plans in early May. Anniversary celebrations will begin June 21, 2005, with the publication of a book on the history of the Swiss Guards, the wire service reported.
Part of the celebrations will include a 530-mile march from Switzerland to Rome to recreate the arrival of the first contingent. The march is expected to take about a month, and the guards will make 26 stops to mark Switzerland's 26 cantons.
Other plans for the anniversary include issuance of a special stamp by the Swiss and Vatican post offices as well as a coin worth about $15.
The Swiss Guards were founded in 1506 by Pope Julius II. Currently 110 guards protect the Pope, guard the entrances to the Vatican and the Apostolic Palace, and perform honor-guard duties at Vatican ceremonies.
Police Reopen Vatican Kidnapping Case
THE LONDON TIMES, May 8 — Italian police are reopening the investigation of the kidnapping of the daughter of a Vatican employee 21 years ago after a photographer thought she saw the kidnapped woman among the crowds in recent a photo of St. Peter's Square.
Emanuela Orlandi disappeared June 22, 1983, and was thought to have been taken by Turkish extremists with links to the KGB. It was suspected they wanted to exchange her for Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who shot Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981, the newspaper reported.
The Holy Father appealed for the girl's release eight times, but she was never found and police believed she was either dead or had married one of her Turkish captors.
Police said aged photographs of the teen-ager bear a “startling resemblance” to Orlandi, the newspaper reported. Orlandi's mother, however, said she didn't believe the woman in the new photograph was her daughter.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Priest Asks Homosexuals to Refrain from Communion
THE GRAND FORKS HERALD (North Dakota), May 9 — A Minnesota pastor has told an openly homosexual couple in his parish they are no longer free to take Communion, minister Communion or sing in the church choir.
Father Larry Wieseler of St. Mary's parishes in Baudette, Williams and Falun, Minn., acted after a letter to the editor appeared in the local newspaper by one of the men in which he stated he was a homosexual “in a committed relationship with another man whom I love, as you should love your spouse,” the Herald reported.
Father Wieseler had previously talked to the couple about Church teaching on homosexuality. When the letter appeared and they went public, however, he said he had to do something.
He did not deny Communion to the men but merely suggested they should not come to receive Communion, he told the paper.
The men said they are looking into other denominations that might welcome a homosexual couple as active members.
Ads Target Cardinal's Comments on Communion
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 7 — American Life League took out ads in early May in several newspapers in response to Washington, D.C. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's comments about denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians.
The ads say, “You can't be both Catholic and pro-abortion!” The ads, which addressed a statement by the cardinal specifically, ran in the Washington Times, the Wanderer Catholic newspaper and Human Events magazine.
Cardinal McCarrick told the Associated Press in early May that “I have not gotten to the stage where I'm comfortable in denying the Eucharist.”
The cardinal chairs a panel that is currently deciding how bishops can respond to Catholic pro-abortion politicians.
Movie Makes Jesus a Fashion Statement
FOX NEWS, May 10 — Thanks to The Passion of the Christ, Jesus “is a movie star and a cultural icon,” according to Fox News. Now, it said, he's also a fashion statement.
“Jesus chic” wear is becoming all the rage in Hollywood, the news station reported. Designers and boutiques have been quick to offer everything from T-shirts to belts with pictures and statements by Our Lord.
Celebrities such as Madonna and Pamela Anderson have been spotted wearing “Jesus Is My Homeboy” T-shirts and baseball caps. Some have been seen wearing “Mary Is My Homegirl” apparel.
“It's a fun, little Hollywood trend that was sparked by the success of the movie,” said E! Networks lifestyle director Elycia Rubin. “Obviously, fashion influences movies and movies influence fashion.”
Others, however, don't see it as “fun.”
“I think these T-shirts are disrespectful,” said Los Angeles attorney Michael Allan, who is Catholic. “Mary and Jesus don't belong on Tshirts. There are other ways to show your devotion.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
French Officials Debate Same-Sex Marriage
REUTERS, April 28 — Mayor Noel Mamere of Begles, France, plans to wed two homosexual men in June. But the action would be null and void in the eyes of society, according to French Justice Minister Dominique Perben.
The debate highlights recent questions of same-sex marriage in Europe and the rest of the world.
Mamere says there is nothing in current French law that forbids homosexual marriage. Perben, however, says France's Civil Code explicitly refers to marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the news service reported. He warned Mamere of punishment if he went through with the wedding.
“This marriage will be quite simply null and void because it is against the law,” Perben told the newspaper Le Figaro. “A mayor represents the state. He is therefore duty-bound to apply and respect the law, not to promote his own opinions.”
If the wedding were to be performed, Reuters noted, it would do so two months before a visit to France from Pope John Paul II.
Protesters Take Over San Salvador Cathedral
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 28 — With the demand that El Salvador president-elect Tony Saca pull the country's troops out of Iraq, protesters seized the San Salvador cathedral April 28.
About 50 people wearing ski masks stormed the cathedral and kicked out visitors and faithful, the wire service reported. They sealed the doors and hung up banners protesting everything from the government's health policy to the U.S.-Central America free trade agreement.
Saca, who takes office June 1, said he plans to leave the troops in Iraq until August as planned, the wire service reported. The soldiers were serving under Spain, which pulled its troops out early.
The protesters eventually gave up their position inside the cathedral, but demonstrations continued outside, the Associated Press reported. About 25 people were injured by tear gas and by rocks thrown by protesters.
Bishop Zen Visits China for First Time Since 1997
BBC NEWS, May 4 — Bishop Joseph Zen, the leader of the Church in Hong Kong who was banned from China in 1998, visited his home-town of Shanghai at the end of April at the invitation of mainland authorities.
Bishop Zen reportedly met with Shanghai bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian during his trip, according to the British Broadcasting Corp. news service. Bishop Zen has long criticized the China government's suppression of Catholics loyal to Rome and has called for democratic reform in Hong Kong.
China only allows Catholics to worship in state-sanctioned churches and bans all contact with the Vatican, the BBC noted. However, it has allowed the 300,000 Catholics in Hong Kong to practice their faith freely in accordance with the high degree of autonomy that exists under the territory's mini-constitution.
“They said there were no conditions attached to the visit,” Bishop Zen told the South China Morning Post, “and I made it clear that I am not going to be silenced and will continue to speak out after I come back.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Exorcist ‘Always Wins’
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, April 30 — Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican's top exorcist, is a busy man, according to a feature on him in the Los Angeles Times. The priest says an increasing interest in black magic, fortunetelling and the occult is keeping his schedule busy.
“These customs open the door to evil spirits and to demonic possessions,” Father Amorth, 80, told the paper. “Exorcism is God's true miracle.”
From Europe to the Americas to Africa, exorcism has been experiencing a renaissance as of late, the newspaper reported. The number of exorcisms has increased in Italy more than tenfold in the last decade alone to 300.
Father Amorth, co-founder of the International Association of Exorcists and its president emeritus, says he's never been afraid of the devil. “In fact,” he said, “I can say he is often scared of me.” While it might take some time to heal certain patients, he insisted he — and God — always wins.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, Italy, recently organized a task force of exorcists and doctors to handle an overload of troubled Italians seeking the Church's help, some of them possessed and some of them just “disturbed.”
“The devil is real,” Cardinal Bertone said. “He is at work, and he is agitating.”
John Paul to Visit Switzerland in June
SWISSINFO, May 3 — Pope John Paul II will visit Switzerland in June, the Vatican confirmed May 3. It will be his first trip abroad since September and his first one to Switzerland in 20 years.
The Pope will visit Bern, the Swiss capital, June 5-6 and meet with a government delegation. He will also attend a youth festival, the news service reported.
The decision to visit is a “huge gift,” according to a spokesman for the Swiss bishops’ conference. It shows the Pope is still a “friend of youth” despite his advanced years, the spokesman said.
John Paul is scheduled to stay at a residential home for elderly people run by an order of nuns. On June 6, tens of thousands are expected to attend an open-air Mass celebrated by the Holy Father.
Archbishop: No Muslim Prayer in Spanish Cathedral
THE GUARDIAN (U.K.), May 3 — Muslims will not be allowed to pray in a former mosque in what is now the cathedral of Cordoba, Spain, according to a Vatican official.
“We, too, want to live in peace with persons of other religions,” Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told the Vatican's AsiaNews agency. “However, we don't want to be pushed, manipulated and go against the very rules of our faith.”
The Vatican has been careful not to demand similar rights at mosques that were once Catholic churches, Archbishop Fitzgerald noted. Pope John Paul II had prayed at a mosque at Damascus in Syria, he said, “but he did not ask to celebrate Mass. One has to accept history and go forward.”
While Spanish Muslims had been lobbying to pray in part of the cathedral, the newspaper reported, Archbishop Fitzgerald said they had yet to make a formal request to the Vatican.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Couples Have Babies to ‘Save’ Other Siblings
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, May 5 — Doctors in Chicago reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association announced the births of five babies for the use of their umbilical cord blood or bone marrow to save the lives of severely ill siblings.
Embr yos are created in vitro and then DNA removed from them to test for antigen genes that are compatible to those of the sibling, the newspaper reported. The embr yos with matches are then placed in the mother with the hopes they will implant and grow into a baby.
The study the doctors reported on required creation of 199 eight-celled embr yos, “many of which lost the luck of the draw merely because they weren't compatible,” the Tribune reported.
Pope John Paul II, in his 2000 address to the 18th International Congress of the Transplantation Society, said of such procedures: “Any procedure that tends to commercialize human organs or to consider them as items of exchange or trade must be considered morally unacceptable, because use of the body as an object is to violate the dignity of the human person.”
Pelosi Says She'll Take Communion
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 29 — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a Catholic who supports abortion, says she'll take Communion regardless of what some bishops and Church leaders have said on the topic.
“I fully intend to receive Communion, one way or another. That's ver y important to me,” she told reporters at her April 29 weekly press conference, the wire ser vice reported.
Pelosi said she believed her support of abortion was “one that is consistent with [her] Catholic upbringing, which said that ever y person has a free will and has the responsibility to live their lives in a way that they would have to account for in the end.”
Missouri Republicans Oppose Catholic Conference
THE KANSAS CITY STAR, May 4 — Some Missouri Catholic Republicans are at odds with the Missouri Catholic Conference on its position against Republicans’ proposals to cut Medicaid.
Republicans are particularly incensed at the conference's main lobbyist, Larr y Weber.
They accuse him of distorting figures in a letter from the conference signed by the bishops that said the cuts would hinder access to health care for the state's poorest citizens. Republicans argue that the 20,000 figure in the letter would actually be closer to 2,400, the newspaper reported.
“We felt it was obvious the figures before the House understated the effect of the bill,” Weber told the paper. “To deprive state assistance from families like this we just thought is unconscionable.”
Rep. Jodi Stefanick, R-St. Louis, a Catholic who said she follows Church teachings, said it was frustrating to be on the opposite side of the Church on the issue.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Names New Dublin Archbishop
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 26 — Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, coadjutor archbishop of Dublin, Ireland, has been named archbishop of Dublin. He succeeds Cardinal Desmond Connell.
The Vatican announced the appointment April 26. Cardinal Connell, 78, submitted his resignation in 2001 at age 75 as required by Church law. Pope John Paul II just now accepted it.
“I am greatly looking forward to retirement,” the cardinal told reporters in Dublin, the wire service reported. “There will be a period of adjustment, but it will be good to have time to spend with family and friends, and to catch up on my reading.”
Before his appointment as archbishop in 1988, Cardinal Connell served as a professor of metaphysics at University College Dublin.
Archbishop Martin, 59, has served as the Pope's observer to the United Nations in Geneva. He was appointed to his Dublin post last year.
Church Leaders Weigh In on Philippine Elections
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, April 22 — Leaders of the Church in the Philippines are encouraging Catholics not to vote for inexperienced candidates in the May 10 election.
“Elections are a crucial moment in our continuing task of nation-building,” the country's bishops’ conference said in a letter April 22. “They're a timely opportunity to transform society by electing wise, capable and upright leaders.”
It is the “right and duty,” said conference president Archbishop Fernando Capalla in the letter, to “discern and choose candidates” based on their competence, conscience and program of government, the news service reported. The letter also asked Catholic voters to consider a candidate's commitment to issues including the family, the environment, illegal drugs and gambling, justice, peace and order, and poverty alleviation.
Current president Gloria Arroyo is seeking a full six-year term as president after serving three years as interim president. Her main rival is actor and high-school dropout Fernando Poe. In the campaign, Arroyo has dismissed Poe as an “inexperienced actor” with no government program.
According to the news service, as of April 22 Arroyo was slightly ahead in the polls for the six-way election.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Nun Named Undersecretary of Vatican Congregation
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, April 24 — Sister Enrica Rosanna, a sociology professor who had been serving as the head of Salesian University in Rome, was appointed April 24 as the No. 3 person in the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The 60-year-old nun is the first woman to obtain a senior position in a Vatican congregation, the news service reported. The congregation oversees both men's and women's religious orders and secular institutes regarding their government, discipline, studies, goods, rights and privileges.
“Women will save humanity,” Sister Rosanna told Vatican Radio, echoing Pope John Paul II's 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, (The dignity and Vocation of Women) “because they are capable of compassion, because they are able to appreciate beauty, because they are capable of sacrifice, because they are capable of going where there is need and are capable of seeing beyond ordinary life to go where life is wanting or where the necessary is lacking.”
Pope Beatifies Five Religious and One Lay Woman
THE GUARDIAN (U.K.), April 26 — Pope John Paul II on April 25 celebrated a beatification Mass for one man and five women, reading details of their lives in four different languages.
Five were religious: August Czartoryski, a 19th-century Polish prince who became a Salesian priest; Laura Montoya of Colombia, who founded the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Mary; María Guadalupe García Zavala of Mexico, co-founder of the Congregation of the Servants of St. Margaret Mary and the Poor; Nemesia Valle of Italy, a nun of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Giovanna Antida Thouret; and Eusebia Palomino Yenes of Spain, a nun of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians.
A lay Portuguese woman, Alexandrina María da Costa, was also beatified. She worked with the local Salesian community and is said to have spent 13 years eating only Communion bread and wine until her death in 1955.
The beatifications bring the number of people beatified by John Paul to 1,330. He has canonized 476.
Papal Trips to France and Switzerland
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 22 — A delegation sent by the Vatican visited Lourdes, France, April 19-22 to explore the possibility of a papal visit there this summer.
The visit to study the area was in response to an invitation to visit the shrine at Lourdes, which draws more than 4 million visitors a year, sometime near Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption, the wire service reported.
A statement from the French bishops noted that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the Church's promulgation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
John Paul last visited France in 1997.
The Vatican is also considering a papal trip to Switzerland in June, the Associated Press reported. It said an advance team has already visited the country and bishops there are anticipating the arrival of the Pope.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Judge Denies Former Phoenix Bishop's Travel Request
THE EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE (Arizona), April 28 — An Arizona judge has denied former Phoenix Bishop Thomas O'Brien's request to make a trip to the Vatican in May.
Bishop O'Brien, who was found guilty in March of leaving the scene of a fatal accident last summer, is in the midst of carrying out his sentence of three years’ probation and 1,000 hours of community service, the newspaper reported. The judge based his April 27 decision on the recommendation of the Maricopa County Probation Department.
Pope John Paul II summoned Bishop O'Brien last year to make his once-every-five-year ad limina visit to the Vatican, which all U.S. bishops are currently fulfilling. He wanted to attend because he was bishop for four of the five years since his last visit, Bishop O'Brien's defense attorney wrote in the request.
A diocesan spokeswoman said the bishop was going to travel on his own and not as an official representative of the Phoenix Diocese.
Cleveland Bishop Bans Controversial Group
CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, April 26 — A Cleveland-area group calling itself Future Church is protesting the recent decision of Bishop Anthony Pilla to ban the organization from meeting on Church property.
Future Church supports allowing Catholic priests to marry and is in favor of women's ordination in order to alleviate a shortage of priests. The group had operated in the diocese for more than 10 years, the newspaper reported, but it ended April 1 when Bishop Pilla warned priests about the group.
“Future Church is an independent organization of individuals who promote an agenda that is not consistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church,” and the group's activities are “not appropriate” at Church institutions or facilities, a statement from the bishop said.
The group's executive director, Sister Christine Schenk, said in a statement on Future Church's website that the group's beliefs were consistent with Church teachings and called on the bishop to open discussions on priestly celibacy and women's ordination.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Number of Catholics in Ireland Dips Slightly
THE IRISH ECHO, April 14-20 — Though Ireland is still one of Europe's most religious countries, a recent census reported less than 90% of the population there call themselves Catholic.
For the first time in more than 80 years, the numbers of main Protestant denominations have grown, the newspaper reported. Catholics still account for more than 88% of the population, however.
The findings, based on a 2002 census, also found that after significant declines in the 19th and 20th centuries, the population of Ireland is on the rise. It now stands at more than 4 million.
Due to immigration from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe during the last 10 years, membership in minority religions is also increasing. The number of people declaring no religion has more than doubled.
Australian Court Okays Teen's Sex-Change Operation
THE TIMES (U.K.), April 14 — Catholic leaders and medical experts in Australia on April 13 condemned a court decision allowing a 13-year-old to undergo a sex-change operation.
The Family Court in Melbourne heard testimony that the girl, known as Alex, became suicidal at the onset of puberty and believed she was a boy trapped in a girl's body, the newspaper reported. Despite arguments she was too young to make an informed decision, the court ruled in favor of allowing preliminary sex-change processes.
“There is no evidence of the benefits of the procedure in adults let alone a 13-year-old who is undergoing the changes of adolescence,” said Nick Tonti-Filippini, a bioethicist and member of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne. “The court is endorsing an experimental treatment for a psychiatric problem.”
A man who said he later regretted his sex-change operation also criticized the court's decision.
“How can someone who is suicidal, threatening self-harm,” asked Alan Finch, who became “Helen” at age 19, “be capable of making a stable decision about having irreversible therapy done?”
Muslims in Spain Ask to Pray in Cathedral
THE GUARDIAN (London), April 19 — Muslims in Spain are asking the Catholic Church in the city of Cordoba to allow them to pray in the local cathedral. They have also appealed to the Vatican with their request.
The cathedral actually sits in the center of an ancient mosque complex originally built in the eighth century, the newspaper reported. The most important part of the mosque for Muslims is the mihrab, a recess in the southeastern wall that indicates the direction of Mecca. In the Cordoba mosque, the recess is outside the cathedral itself, so Muslims there think it would be possible for them to pray without disturbing services in the cathedral.
Today Cordoba is a small provincial capital in one of the poorer regions of Spain, the paper noted, but 1,000 years ago it was a great city. As capital of Moorish Spain it was one of the centers of Islamic culture and art.
While noting some opposition among local Catholics to the Muslims' proposal, the newspaper did not mention any Vatican comment on it.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Patriarch Accepts Apology for Constantinople
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 15 — Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, on April 13 formally accepted Pope John Paul II's apology for Roman Catholic involvement in the sacking of Constantinople 800 years ago.
During a visit to Greece in 2001, the Pope apologized for the attack on the city by Catholic Crusaders. The patriarch accepted it now in the spirit of the Easter season, the wire service reported.
“The spirit of reconciliation is stronger than hatred,” Patriarch Bartholomew said during a liturgy attended by Philippe Barbarin, the Archbishop of Lyon, France. “We receive with gratitude and respect your cordial gesture for the tragic events of the Fourth Crusade.”
Pope Makes Rare Visit to Countryside
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, April 15 — A day after skipping the reading of his weekly general audience April 14 on the advice of doctors, Pope John Paul II went to the countryside outside Rome to “breathe the spring air,” the news agency reported.
Police in the Lazio mountain town of Piglio confirmed the Holy Father was there. Surprised locals lined the roads to catch a glimpse of John Paul, whose trips to the countryside have been rare in recent years due to his health.
The mayor of Piglio tried to meet with the Pope, Agence France-Presse reported, but he was unable to pass through security. The Vatican neither confirmed nor denied that report.
John Paul Appeals for Release of Hostages in Iraq
REUTERS, April 18 — Pope John Paul II in his weekly address April 18 in St. Peter's Square called for the release of hostages in Iraq, asking captors to “have a sense of humanity.”
“I beg them to return the people they are holding to their families,” the Pope said. “I am particularly close in my thoughts and prayers to the families of those fearing for the fate of their loved ones, especially those who have been taken hostage.”
More than 40 hostages have been taken since the beginning of April, the wire service reported, but many have been released. A group is still holding three Italian security guards captive. A fourth Italian was killed April 14.
“I am following with great sadness the tragic news that is coming out of the Holy Land and Iraq,” John Paul said. “End this blood-letting amongst brothers. Such inhuman acts are against the will of God.”
Vatican Declares Hawaii Nun Venerable
HONOLULU ADVERTISER, April 20 — Mother Marianne Cope, a German-born nun who worked with leprosy patients in Hawaii, moved one step closer to sainthood April 19 when the Vatican approved designation of her as venerable.
Mother Cope came to Hawaii in 1883 to help care for the children of leprosy patients, the paper reported. She cared for patients in Oahu for five years then volunteered to supervise a home for girls on Molokai at Kalaupapa, where she stayed until her death in 1918 at age 80.
The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Syracuse, N.Y., are leading the canonization cause. The next step for Mother Cope is beatification, for which a miracle is required.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Abstinence-Only Education Works in Texas
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, April 18 — Relying on their moral convictions and gut instinct they were doing the right thing, parents and educators in an urban San Antonio school district decided six years ago to teach only abstinence education.
It apparently worked.
In 1997-98, the Edgewood Independent School District decided to implement an abstinence-only curriculum. Results were dramatic: Pregnancies among sixth- to eighth-graders declined to a single case in 2000-01. At Kennedy High School in the district, the numbers dropped from 50 in 1998-99 to six in 2000-01.
Last year, however, state officials refused without explanation to renew the district's funding for the abstinence-only program, the Tribune reported, forcing it to cancel the program in middle schools and scale it back in high schools.
By the end of the year, middle-school pregnancies increased to 11. At Kennedy, they went up to 53.
“I don't know what more evidence anybody needs,” said Richard Rocha, director of the district's programs, “that this was working.”
Stem Cell Battles Erupt in More States
USA TODAY, April 20 — “Shoot the TV if you want to avoid hearing the buzzwords of stem-cell politics this year,” USA Today advises.
Thirty-three state legislatures are considering 100 bills either condoning, condemning or funding embryonic stem-cell research during this election year.
One of the biggest battles regards providing $3 billion of taxpayer money for such research in California. Supporters gained enough signatures recently to put the issue on the ballot this November.
“There is a tremendous amount of legislation flying around on one area of medical research. It is remarkable and unprecedented,” Dan Perry of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, a collaboration of 83 patient groups, universities and medical organizations that support the research, told the paper.
All the activity, the paper says, is due to President Bush's severely restricting federal funding of such research in 2001. Supporters say the research could help find cures or better treatments for diabetes and other conditions. Opponents — including the Church — point out the research harvests cells from living human embryos that are then destroyed.
The paper quoted Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who pointed out that “moral tradition does urge us to treat each and every living member of the human species, including the early embryo, as a human person with fundamental rights, the first of which is the right to life.”
Christopher Plummer to Play Cardinal Law in TV Movie
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 15 — Actor Christopher Plummer, 74, will play former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law in the upcoming “Our Fathers,” a television movie about the sexual-abuse scandal in the Church.
Plummer will bring “authority, humanity and an appropriately chilling detachment” to the part, said Robert Greenblatt, Showtime Networks’ entertainment president.
The movie will be based on a book of the same name by David France of Newsweek, published in January.
Production of the movie is scheduled to begin in June, the wire service reported. A release date has not yet been announced.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Rwandans Turn to Islam After Genocide
THE NEW YORK TIMES, April 6 — After approximately 800,000 Rwandans were killed in massacres 10 years ago, many lost faith in their government and their religion, The New York Times reported.
Catholicism has been the majority faith in the country for almost a century. However, more and more Rwandans are converting to Islam. About 500 mosques have sprung up around the country, twice as many as a decade ago.
“People died in my old church, and the pastor helped the killers,” Yakobo Djuma Nzeyimana, 21, who became a Muslim in 1996, told the newspaper. “I couldn't go back and pray there. I had to find something else.”
But despite some estimates that Muslims in Rwanda number about 1 million, or 15% of the population, Catholicism still remains deeply embedded in Rwandan culture, the Times reported.
Many embraced their faith after the massacres in 1994. “God saved me,” one woman said. “He was testing my faith. Since the genocide I've been transformed. I can endure more now. I have more of a connection with God.”
Chinese Government Detains Another Bishop
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 7 — Government agents in China on April 5 detained a bishop from the non-government-controlled Catholic Church, according to the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, which monitors religious rights in China.
The agents, who said they were acting on orders, took Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo away from his home in northern China. It was not clear where the bishop was taken, the wire service reported.
Bishop Jia has long refused to associate himself with the Communist Party-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association, which rejects the Vatican and its episcopal appointments in China, instead remaining loyal to Rome.
Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls deplored the actions.
“Once again a member of the Catholic hierarchy has been deprived of his personal freedom without any judicial reason given,” he said in a statement.
The government's action follows a similar one in early March when Bishop Wei Jingyi, recognized by the Vatican as the bishop of Qiqihar, was taken into custody. He was released after a week.
Homosexual Man Sues Catholic Church
THE INDEPENDENT (U.K.), April 9 — When Britain's Catholic Apostle-ship of the Sea found out an applicant for a lay chaplaincy position was in a long-term homosexual relationship, it denied his application.
Now the man is suing, arguing he was discriminated against because of his homosexual orientation.
The 27-year-old social worker, who has been described as a “committed Catholic” and who wishes to remain anonymous, is citing Britain's Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, which took effect in December, as the basis for his case. The regulations state it is illegal to deny someone a job based on his or her sexual orientation.
Religious groups, however, have fought the regulations, arguing they have the freedom to reject applicants who do not conform to their churches' teachings. They have won an exemption to the regulations, which has been challenged in court. A decision is pending in that challenge.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Exhibit Breaks Attendance Record
THE CINCINNATI POST, April 12 — A Vatican exhibit has broken the attendance record for a temporary exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
More than 163,000 people have bought tickets for the “St. Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of Popes” exhibit, according to attendance figures compiled through April 7. The exhibit opened Dec. 20 and was scheduled to run through April 18.
The exhibit features more than 350 objects spanning 2,000 years of papal history, the newspaper reported. Many of the objects have never been outside the Vatican or displayed for the public.
“Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit” held the previous record with an attendance of 161,000. The president of the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau attributed a boost in leisure travelers in recent months to the exhibit.
Canadian Broadcasting Co. Releases Pope DVD
DAILY MINER & NEWS (Ontario), April 8 — A three-hour-long DVD documentary by the Canadian Broadcasting Co. on the life of Pope John Paul II was released April 6.
Distributed by ImaVision, Life and Times of Pope John Paul II is divided into three parts: the Pope's life, his role in the fall of communism in 1989 and coverage of his election to the Chair of Peter after the death of Pope John Paul I in 1978, according to a review in the newspaper.
“Pope John Paul II is a Pope who has been seen by more human beings than any other man in history and this is very evident in the video,” the reviewer writes.
The film features stories of the Holy Father's childhood, such as his relationship with Jerzy Kluger, a Jewish next-door neighbor and young Karol Wojtyla's best friend.
The documentary also openly presents John Paul's views on the Church teaching on sexuality, divorce, contraception and homosexuality.
“The question the viewer is left with,” the reviewer concludes, “is: ‘How will we remember the legacies of this great, spiritual world leader as seen by Catholics and non-Catholics alike?’”
Passion Bootlegs Sell Out in Holy Land
KNIGHT-RIDDER, April 11 — While Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ has been a box-office sensation around the world, no distributor has picked it up for release in the Holy Land, spawning the sale of bootlegs of the film.
Bootleg DVDs and videotapes are selling all over the Holy Land, from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank to Israel — where the Aramaic dialogue in the film comes with Hebrew subtitles, the news service reported.
Yasser Arafat even viewed the film at a private screening, after which he called it “historic and impressive.” A hotel in mostly Arab East Jerusalem even held invitation-only, $5 per person screenings for about 200 people. Proceeds were donated to Christian charities for the elderly and orphans.
Black marketers say demand for the film is high, the news service reported, particularly in the Palestinian territories, where 99% of the population is Muslim and people are more likely to think ill of Jews.
While many Jewish leaders have condemned the film as anti-Semitic, other Jewish people as well as those of other religions have said it is not.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Church Leaders Criticize Democrats
THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, April 8 — Speaking to a City Club of Chicago luncheon audience that included many Democrats, Chicago Cardinal Francis George on April 7 observed that “the Democratic Party has lost its soul.”
He also said the “greatest scandal” of the political party was that it had no pro-life caucus, the paper reported.
“A party that historically has been concerned about the weakest among us — why, most Catholics were Democrats historically — doesn't permit any freedom of speech around the question of abortion,” he said.
Cardinal George wasn't the only bishop to criticize Democratic politicians recently.
Bishop John Smith of the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., said in a March 27 homily that Gov. James McGreevey's politics indicate he “is not a devout Catholic,” the Associated Press reported April 10. McGreevey supports abortion and stem-cell research.
“He cannot compromise what it means to be a Catholic,” Bishop Smith said, according to the diocesan website. “I speak, as your bishop, for the devout Catholics of the Diocese of Trenton. Jim McGreevey does not.”
Priest Tells Politicians Not to Be Like Kennedy
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 13 — A Catholic priest giving the morning prayer April 13 at the Colorado House of Representatives called on law-makers to be the opposite of President John F. Kennedy and let religious faith guide their votes.
“Almighty God, please change and convert the hearts of all the representatives in this House,” said Father Bill Carmody, a pastor at a church near Colorado Springs. “May they be the antithesis of John Kennedy, may they be women and men of God, and may their faith influence and guide every vote they make.”
House Democrats said the prayer was an unfair attack on Kennedy, the wire service reported. Republicans, however, said it was not.
Father Carmody later acknowledged in a telephone interview that Kennedy faced opposition because he was Catholic but still should have stood up for the Church, the Associated Press said.
“This bigotry would have died eventually,” Father Carmody said, “and we wouldn't have politicians who abdicate their faith to be politicians.”
Pastor Leaves Parish Because of Teaching Dispute
LONG ISLAND NEWSDAY, April 8 — A pastor in Manhattan, N.Y., resigned April 7 after the Archdiocese of New York apparently overruled his firing of teachers. The entire parish council and the parish trustees also resigned, said the paper.
Father Charles Murr of the Church of St. Francis de Sales said in a letter that he objected to Protestant and heretical Catholic teachings in the church school.
One teacher took her students to Baptist religious services, according to a parish trustee, and another refused to teach the sign of the cross. Yet another said teaching that remarriage after divorce was a sin violated the students' constitutional rights.
Father Murr said the archdiocese ordered him to renew the contracts of the teachers in question.
“Such a high turnover rate,” said archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling, “was not what was best for the school or the students.”
Father Murr wrote to parishioners that as a “pastor charged with the care of souls,” he could not in good conscience comply.
BY Jim Cosgrove
British TV Channel to Broadcast an Abortion
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, April 6 — Channel 4 in Britain has decided to broadcast on its network April 20 a 30-minute documentary showing an abortion.
“My Fetus” shows an abortion at four weeks of pregnancy, an inspection of fetal remains of a seven-week pregnancy and images of a 10-, 11- and 21-week aborted baby.
The film was written and directed by Julia Black, daughter of the founder of Marie Stopes International, the country's largest abortion provider outside the National Health Service.
Black, who had an abortion at age 21, said she wants viewers to re-examine the abortion debate, the paper reported.
“It is easy to be pro-choice without challenging yourself about what that means,” she said. “I needed to be convinced that abortion is a morally legitimate procedure even after knowing what it involves and I wanted to take viewers on the same journey.”
An editor for the program at Channel 4, speaking in support of the film, said she didn't believe there was “ever an argument for total censorship.”
Venezuelan President Criticizes Catholic Bishops
VHEADLINE.COM (Venezuela), April 5 — Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias criticized Catholic bishops on Palm Sunday, April 4, for “forgetting the preferential option for the poor they had promised to abide by and for their alignment with the capitalist oligarchy,” the news site reported.
During his Sunday radio address that day, the president received blessed palms and asked God to forgive the bishops because “they know not what they have done.”
The Venezuelan Bishops' Conference had issued a statement expressing concern for the human-rights situation in the country and supporting a recall referendum as the only solution for political problems.
Retired Cardinal Castillo Lara also earlier called Chavez Frias a “tyrant,” saying “there isn't a shadow of democracy” in Venezuela.
Christian Reference in EU Constitution Gains Support
EKKLESIA, April 5 — Whether or not there should be a reference to Christianity in the future European Union Constitution has been a hot topic for some time. Now, according to Ekklesia news service, the notion might be gaining support.
About 10 countries out of the future 25 support a reference to Christian values and tradition in the constitution's preamble, according to Polish deputy minister for foreign affairs Jan Truszczynski.
The purpose of the preamble, written by former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and European convention members, is to provide a quotable introduction — much like the “We the people” in the U.S. Constitution — for citizens to study and memorize, the news site reported.
Poland has been strongly pushing for a Christian reference in the preamble but other countries such as France and Belgium have opposed it. In addition to the Catholic Church, the news site noted, the Greek Orthodox Church and Italy, Spain and Portugal also appear to be lobbying for a Christian reference.
The International Conference has been negotiating an EU Constitution since October. If all member countries sign it, it still has to be ratified in national parliaments or through referenda.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Euros Sell Out in Three Hours
NEWS24.COM, April 2 — Just three hours after they went on sale, rare Vatican euro coins sold out April 2, disappointing many collectors who waited in line since the night before.
Crowds rushed to collect the coins at an office near St. Paul's Basilica. They were sold outside the Vatican for security reasons, the news site reported. The coins feature a profile of Pope John Paul II and are part of a limited series of Vatican euro coins.
Only one set of the two different sets of Vatican coins were available April 2, selling for $25-$30.
Euro coins are different in each of the 12 countries that use the single currency. The Vatican won the right in 1929 to mint its own coins and adopted the euro in 2001, the same time Italy adopted it.
Passion Raises Town of Matera From the Dead
THE OBSERVER (U.K.), April 4 — Matera, Italy, was a little-known sleepy hilltop town in the “instep” of the Italian boot until Mel Gibson showed up in late 2002.
He and his crew chose the town as the setting for The Passion of the Christ. They also chose about 600 locals from 20,000 who turned out to be extras — earning about $70-$110 a day — in the film. Now the location is becoming quite the tourist attraction.
Matera Turismo has begun taking reservations from Americans for its Passion Tour, which takes tourists to the sites where the Last Supper and Crucifixion scenes were filmed, the Observer reported. At the three-star Alberga Italia, guests can book the room where Gibson stayed and where the maid, Maria, can tell of how she converted the room's mini-bar into an altar for early-morning prayers.
“There's no work,” said one of the extras in the film. “So it's a good thing people like making films here. At least I can earn a bit of cash that way.”
Cardinal: Israel Treats Religious Like ‘Immigrants’
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, April 2 — A top Vatican cardinal has accused Israel of treating priests and nuns like immigrants by denying them resident visas in the Holy Land.
Cardinal Rober t Tucci, the former papal master of ceremonies for the Holy Father's trips abroad, on April 2 called on Christian members of the European Parliament to protest Israel's actions.
“I think that we need to make representations to those members of the European Parliament and European institutions who more or less officially belong to the Christian faith and who would have the duty to inter vene on a political level,” he said on Vatican Radio.
Cardinal Tucci said Father David Jaeger, the head of the Franciscan order in the Holy Land, complained the Israeli government was treating religious like “clandestine immigrants.”
“At the moment the Israeli government has many concerns,” the cardinal said. “But hindering the release of residence permits to nuns and religious workers is creating great difficulty to the development of the local Christian and Catholic churches in Israel and in the Palestinian territories.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Durbin Latest Pol to Face Church Scrutiny
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, April 2 — Echoing many Catholic Democrats, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a Catholic, says his job is to represent his constituents — even if that means he goes against Church teaching.
Durbin recently voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which Congress passed anyway, because he feared it would open the abortion debate, the paper reported. Durbin is a pro-abortion supporter.
The senator lamented the recent actions of bishops — some calling for Catholic politicians who vote against Church teachings to refrain from Communion — to warn Catholic politicians of their duty as Catholics.
“It is tough to run for public office and face an opponent … then face the criticism from colleagues, voters, the press and defend yourself,” Durbin said. “Now add to that equation for a Catholic politician … one last stop. The local bishop will announce whether your vote is appropriate and whether or not you're in good standing with the Church as a result of that vote.”
Hispanic Voters More Diverse Than Thought, Poll Finds
KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWSPAPERS, April 4 — A surprising number of Hispanics claim to be “pro-choice,” born-again Christians who support the death penalty, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Miami Herald and Zogby International.
Hispanics overwhelmingly support the death penalty, prayer in schools and privatized Social Security, the poll found. About half also said they were “pro-choice.”
Hispanic voters are also well educated, well paid and politically moderate, the poll showed. Of those polled, 67% made more than $35,000 a year, 75% had at least some college credits and 64% described themselves as moderate to conservative. Only 30% described themselves as liberal or progressive.
The poll questioned 1,000 likely Hispanic voters at the end of March. Fifty-eight percent were Mexican-American, 10% were Puerto Rican and 3.4% were Cuban-American.
Most Hispanics also would put their families before their careers, the poll found. When asked if they would move them away from their family and community, 60% said they would turn down the offer, the number climbing to 74% if the promotion would cause them to be away from immediate family for extended periods of time.
Vatican Warns of Scandal Regarding Kerry
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (London), April 4 — Bishops and priests in America have been concerned with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., for some time. Now it appears the Vatican is growing increasingly concerned with him as well.
“People in Rome are becoming more and more aware that there's a problem with John Kerry and a potential scandal with his apparent profession of his Catholic faith and some of his stances, particularly abortion,” a senior Vatican official told Time magazine.
A team has been assembled at presumptive presidential nominee Kerry's headquarters to form a “Catholic response” to Vatican concerns, the London newspaper reported.
While campaigning in Missouri on March 28, the paper noted, Kerry “preferred to miss a Catholic service rather than risk a confrontation with the formidable Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis.” The archbishop had publicly warned Kerry not to receive Communion in Missouri unless he ended his support of abortion.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Muslim Teacher in Italy Asked Not to Wear Head Scarf
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, March 26 — A kindergarten in Italy has asked a Muslim intern teacher to remove her head scarf because it says the scarf might frighten children.
The issue arose in late March after the Miele & Cri-Cri kindergarten said it would agree to accommodate the intern's schedule of prayers but asked if she would be willing to remove her head scarf.
The intern told the daily Rome newspaper La Repubblica on March 25 that she couldn't understand how the veil, which covers her head but not her face, could frighten anyone.
“Everybody must be allowed to freely profess their own faith, according to their own conscience, their own traditions,” Cardinal Julian Herranz, head of the Pontifical Council of Legislative Texts, told La Repubblica.
In February, France's Lower House of Parliament voted to ban students from wearing Islamic head scarves and other religious apparel in public schools. The French government said the law was needed to ward off rising Islamic fundamentalism in that country.
Vietnamese Catholics Honor Martyred Priest
ASIA NEWS, March 30 — More than 30,000 Catholics, Protestants and non-Christians flocked to a Vietnamese parish on the anniversary of the death of Father Francois Xavier Truong Buu Diep, who was martyred March 12, 1946.
“I live among my flock and I will die among them. I will not go anywhere,” the priest said after being advised by a superior to flee the area, which had become unsafe due to political and religious conflicts.
Later, he and 30 other Catholics were captured by enemies and held in a rice paddy storehouse. The priest's body was later found in pond, though authorities do not agree on who killed him or why.
Nowadays, faithful come to visit the priest's grave and offer thanksgiving.
“Father Diep cured me soon after I visited his tomb,” said one 60-year-old pilgrim from Ho Chi Minh City. She had previously been unable to walk due to severe arthritis.
The local diocese officially recognized the church where Father Diep's tomb is located as a pilgrimage site in 1996.
Chile to Legalize Divorce
THE WASHINGTON POST, March 30 — After nine years of legislative debate, the Chilean Congress in March approved a bill to legalize divorce.
President Ricardo Lagos said he would sign the bill, which will go into effect in the fall. Chile had been one of only a handful of countries — others include Malta and the Philippines — where couples could not divorce.
The Post cited several stories of women who had been threatened or beaten by their estranged husbands and were waiting with “bated breath” to be able to divorce them. Separated women can't make a commercial transaction without the signature of their husband, the paper noted, nor do they have a right to alimony or child support.
With 73% of Chileans voicing support for divorce in a recent poll, the Catholic Church ran ad campaigns in support of keeping the ban on divorce. The ads cited U.S. statistics of drug abuse and delinquency among children of divorces.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Israeli Visa Denials Dampen Relations With Vatican
HAARETZ, March 30 — Israel's refusal to grant visas to more than 130 Catholic delegates is straining relations with the Vatican, a Franciscan spokesman in Israel said March 29.
Dr. David Jaeger said for the first time since Israel was established, Catholic clergy had been unable to renew their visas to stay in the country, the newspaper reported.
The problem began two years ago, when Eli Yishai of Shas was interior minister, Jaeger said, and Shas' worldview included fears the Jewish state was weakening. Now, however, with a new interior minis-try, the problem still exists.
“It is insufferable,” Jaeger said. “It's getting worse all the time and has international implications since the Church in the Holy Land represents Catholics all over the world.”
Foreign ministry officials agree there is “needless red tape” in granting visa requests, the paper said, and a committee appointed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is looking into the problem.
Tough Cases to Go to Doctrine of Faith Congregation
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, March 28 — Putting into effect a change in the way it deals with clergy sex-abuse cases and other crimes against Church law, the Vatican has begun delegating cases that normally would have gone to the Pope to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the congregation, in a March 16 letter advised the changes were going into effect. Pope John Paul II had called for a shift in the 2001 document “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela (Protection of the Holiness),” which outlines how serious crimes against Church law should be handled.
Msgr. Charles Scicluna, a prosecutor in the congregation, said the Holy Father decided to refer such cases to the congregation because it has more experience in dealing with them.
The crimes include the sexual abuse of minors, the wire service reported, crimes concerning the Eucharist — such as the sacrilegious use of the host — and crimes concerning the confessional.
Keep Sundays for God, Not Sports, Pope Says
THE AUSTRALIAN, March 29 — Pope John Paul II warned Australian bishops in Rome for their ad limina visit that “the pernicious ideology of secularism has found fertile ground” in their country.
Rather than play sports on Sundays, the Holy Father said, Australians should attend Mass.
“When Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes subordinate to a secular concept of ‘weekend’ dominated by such things as entertainment and sport, people stay locked within a horizon so narrow that they no longer see the heavens,” John Paul said.
Only 15% of Australian Catholics attend Mass each week, the newspaper noted, and during the past five years there has been a 13% drop in attendance.
One mother of three, however, agreed with the Pope.
“As a country we're sports-obsessed,” she said. “Sunday should be a family day — Mass and then a baked dinner afterward. Like it was in the 1950s.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Kerry Tells Church to Stay Out of Campaign
THE NEW YORK POST, March 29 — Despite supporting abortion and vetoing fetal-protection laws — supporting positions that contradict Church teachings — Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., still insists his faith will not be a campaign issue.
“I don't tell Church officials what to do and Church officials shouldn't tell American politicians what to do in the context of our public life,” Kerry told Time magazine. “As John Kennedy said very clearly, I will be a president who happens to be a Catholic, not a Catholic president.”
Also on the campaign trail, President Bush criticized Kerry for using a Bible verse to criticize leaders March 28. While not referring to Bush by name but referring to current national leaders, Kerry asked, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?”
A Bush spokesman called it “a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack.”
Lifelike Fatima Statue Comes to United States
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, March 25 — After having spent months in India and Australia, the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima is visiting the United States.
The 40-pound, 46-inch-tall lifelike sculpture has traveled the world since 1947, when it was carved in Portugal. It was then blessed by a bishop and designated “a pilgrim,” the newspaper reported. The nonprofit New Jersey-based Lay Apostolate Foundation oversees the statue.
Carl Malburg, 63, and his wife are current custodians of the statue and take it “wherever the statue wants to go.” Churches around the world call almost daily requesting visits.
Malburg said he has witnessed many miracles, including alcoholism cured, vision restored and relationships mended. During speeches he gives at visits, Malburg reminds audiences the statue is just a representation of the Virgin Mary and a conduit for prayer.
Note to Hollywood: PG and G Films Do Better at Box Office
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, March 25 — A yearly study of the moral content in films has found movies depicting violence, sex, foul language and criminal behavior simply do not sell.
The Christian Film & Television Commission found films that emphasized “strong moral content” made an average of $92,546,413, six times that of those with “immoral, negative content.” Those films brought in an average of $14,626,234. The figures were based on an analysis of 250 movies released in America last year.
The study also found that from 2000 to 2003, movies with “no nudity” brought in an average $137.8 million compared with movies with “full male and/or female nudity,” which brought in an average $43 million.
So why does Hollywood continue to produce risky fare? the paper asks.
“The concept of affirming the basic and traditional values of flyover country is absolute anathema to these filmmakers,” said Andrew Breitbart, co-author of Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon — the Case Against Celebrity. “They live in an isolated world, which is nihilist to the core — the more cynical you are, the hipper you seem.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Aramaic at the Root of the Koran?
CHIESA.ENGLISH, March 17 — As audiences watch The Passion of the Christ and soak in the ancient Aramaic language in which much of the movie is spoken, little do they know it's also the language that was the root of the Koran, according to a German scholar of ancient languages.
Writing under the pseudonym Christoph Luxenberg, the scholar maintains that Syro-Aramaic-speaking Christians created the Koran to evangelize Arabs.
It's not a popular notion, according to the Italian Website — a few years ago, one of Luxenberg's colleagues dispensing the same ideas at the University of Nablus in Palestine was thrown out the window by his scandalized Muslim students.
In an interview posted on the Website, the author says Christians wrote the book because “at that time, there were no Arab schools — except, perhaps, for the Christian centers of alAnbar and al-Hira, in southern Mesopotamia, or what is now Iraq. The Arabs of that region had been Christianized and instructed by Syrian Christians.
Their liturgical language was Syro-Aramaic. And this was the vehicle of their culture, and more generally the language of written communication.”
United Nations Prepares to Repatriate Sudanese
FIDES, March 18 — The United Nations is set to repatriate approximately 3.6 million Sudanese refugees displaced by 20 years of civil war in their country.
The U.N. High Commission for Refugees has been sur veying refugees and the conditions of their homeland. The refugees' main concerns continue to be safety at home as well as education, medical care, access to water and the possibility of jobs.
The missionary news agency noted that progress in peace talks between the Khartoum government and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement spurred the U.N. commission to establish its presence in southern Sudan after a 14-year absence.
War in Sudan, between the predominantly Muslim-dominated northern portion of the country and the predominantly Christian and animist south, has produced 3 million internally displaced persons and 600,000 refugees in neighboring countries.
As well, 2 million people have been killed in southern Sudan during the conflict.
England Looks to Relax Pornography Laws
SHROPSHIRE STAR (England), March 22 — Teens in England could walk around freely with bags stuffed with “sex toys and dirty videos” if new laws allowing teen-agers as young as 16 to access porn are passed, a local politician has said.
Mid and West Wales assembly member Glyn Davies criticized the laws proposed by Liberal Democrats the weekend of March 20-21.
A spokesman for the Church of England said it opposes all pornography because of issues of exploitation.
“For a political party to say we think 16 is an adequate age to release children on to pornography is irresponsible,” said Angela Perkins of the National Board of Catholic Women. “It's going backward to the 18th century.”
A supporter of the relaxed laws asked why 16- and 17-year-olds could be allowed to have sex, have babies, vote and earn minimum wage but not be allowed to view explicit material, according to the paper.
Currently the legal age for viewing pornography is 18.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Keep Feeding Tubes, Pope Tells Conference
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, March 21 — Removal of feeding tubes from people in vegetative states is “immoral,” according to Pope John Paul II, and no judgment on their quality of life could justify what he calls “euthanasia by omission.”
The Holy Father made his comments March 20 to participants at a Vatican conference regarding the ethical dilemmas involving incapacitated patients, the wire service reported. It was organized by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Even the medical term used to describe people in a “persistent vegetative state” is degrading to them, the Pope said. No matter how sick a person is, he said, “he is and always will be a man, never becoming a ‘vegetable’ or ‘animal.’”
Giving food and water to patients is natural ordinary and proportional care, John Paul said, not artificial medical intervention.
The Real Definition of a Martyr
AGENZIA GIORNALISTICA ITALIA, March 23 — Thirty-five Catholic missionaries were killed in 2003. They are what the Vatican calls martyrs.
But the word martyr is more often being used to describe Islamic suicide bombers, and the Vatican doesn't want the terrorists to be mixed up with Christian martyrs.
“Martyrdom is mentioned in lay terms. Islamic suicide bombers are called martyrs. But the sahid, the ‘suicide martyr,’ is completely different from the Christian martyr,” according to historian Andrea Riccardi in presenting the book Faith and Martyrdom, promoted by the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
The word martyr is being misused, Riccardi said.
“The Christian martyr doesn't kill himself to kill other people,” he said. “The Christian martyr gives his life to avoid that others be killed, to avoid quitting his faith, to support other believers, for love. … The Christian martyr has its own special role, which doesn't lead to revenge.”
Cardinal Pell Takes Over Titular Church
THE BALLARAT COURIER (Australia), March 21 — Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, took over his titular church in Italy at a Mass on March 20 attended by 36 Australian bishops on their ad limina visit to Rome.
Cardinal Pell, who was made a cardinal last year, received the church as is custom for new cardinals. The parish church, Santa Maria Domenica Mazzarello, on the outskirts of Rome, was built in 1997 and named after the founder of the Salesian Order of Sisters.
Among the guests at the Mass were Cardinal Francis Stafford and Dr. John Herron, Australia's ambassador to the Holy See.
Cardinal: End Deadlock on Anti-Terrorism Treaty
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, March 18 — Cardinal Renato Martino on March 18 called on the United Nations to approve a major anti-terrorism treaty, which has been held up for years.
Cardinal Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said the main cause of the deadlock — a definition of the word terrorism — must end.
“We have to arrive at a definition and a rapid conclusion so that the entire international community can commit itself,” he said, calling terrorism a “horrible sickness of humanity.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
‘So Much for Kerry Catholicism’
THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR, March 23 — Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the presumed Democratic nominee for president, is making the rounds on the campaign trail — and the ski trail.
On a recent visit to Idaho, Kerry decided to attend Sunday Mass. Two rows were roped off for him and his entourage at the 10:30 a.m. Mass on March 21 at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church.
Not only did Kerry arrive 11 minutes late, the American Spectator noted, but also “adding further insult, Kerry arrived noisily, fully outfitted for skiing, not dressed for a religious service.” Kerry also received the Holy Eucharist, the magazine noted, even though as a senator and a presidential contender he supports legal abortion and has voiced his support for euthanasia. He has stated he disagrees with the Church in its teachings on both those issues.
“So much,” the magazine stated, “for Kerry Catholicism.”
Use of RU-486 Claims Another Teen's Life
LIFENEWS.COM, March 17 — Tamia Russell, 15, of Detroit, died earlier this year after using RU-486 for a second-trimester abortion. The drug is suspected in causing her death.
On Jan. 7, Russell confessed to her family to being six months pregnant with her 24-year-old boyfriend's child and that his sister had taken her to get an abortion. The next day, after returning from the abortion business, Russell was bleeding heavily. Before medics could get her to the hospital, she died.
It is illegal in Michigan for a minor to receive an abortion without parental consent. WomenCare of Southfield, where Russell obtained her abortion, is not known to have reported the statutory rape case, LifeNews reported. Also, the business' own policy states women must be less than 49 days pregnant when receiving a chemical abortion; Russell was in her sixth month.
The Wayne County medical examiner's office listed the cause of Russell's death as “uterine infarction with sepsis, due to status post-second-trimester abortion.” The cause is identical to that of Holly Patterson, a 19-year-old California girl who died in September after using RU-486.
Catholic Speaker's Son Killed in Auto Accident
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES (Florida), March 23 — Cpl. Simon Benkovic, 25, son of Living His Life Abundantly International Inc. president and Catholic Women of Grace founder Johnnette Benkovic, survived hand-to-hand combat, daily gunfire and mortar fights while serving in Iraq.
But less than three months after he came home, the army corporal was killed March 20 after the truck he was driving jumped a median and struck a tree.
“He always said, ‘If I made it home from Iraq, I could make it home from anything,’” a friend told the newspaper.
During his six-month tour of duty in Iraq last year, Benkovic took part in numerous missions to find Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials. He was promoted to corporal while serving there and received five Army Commendation Medals, an honor nearly as prestigious as the Bronze Star.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Iraqi Christians, One Year Later
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, March 15 — Twelve months after the U.S.-led invasion of their country to unseat dictator Saddam Hussein, the small Christian minority in Iraq offered mixed reviews to the “regime change” effected by the Western coalition.
Unlike Shiites and Kurds, Christians were never specifically targeted for persecution under Saddam's regime, although they suffered individually from his repressive rule and most are glad to see him out of power, the news service reported. However, Christians face new threats to their security with the prospect of a Shiite-dominated Islamic government.
Asked whether life had improved in Iraq since the fall of Saddam, Catholic Patriarch Emmanuelle-Karim Delly told Agence France-Presse: “To be frank, no, not at the moment. Christians are afraid to go out, as are Muslims. They are more frightened than before of car bombs, explosions. We didn't have this before. … So far, thank God, there is no problem between us and the Muslims. We have lived together for two centuries as brothers.”
Agence France-Presse noted that 750,000 Christians live in Iraq, most of them part of the Chaldean (Catholic) Church. Before U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990, there were 2 million Christians, comprising almost 9% of the population.
Beloved Bishop Dies in Zimbabwe
CATHOLIC INFORMATION SERVICE AFRICA, March 15 — Bishop Helmut Reckter, a veteran of the battle against minority white domination in Southern Africa, has died at 70.
Bishop Reckter was appointed in 1986 as first bishop of Chinhoyi Diocese. He is the third bishop in that country to die of natural causes in the past year, the news service noted, leaving three Catholic dioceses vacant. Gweru Bishop Francis Xavier Muga-dzi died in February and Harare Archbishop Patrick Cha-kaipa in April 2003.
Controversial Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe sent a message of condolence to local Catholics.
“Bishop Reckter's commitment to the people was tested during our struggle for liberation when he consistently sought ways of achieving peace and freedom for the oppressed,” said Mugabe, a Catholic who has been roundly criticized by Church figures for seizing land from productive white farmers and provoking the current famine in that country.
Korean Church Protests Impeachment
MISSIONARY NEWS AGENCY, March 15 — The Catholic bishops of Korea have expressed their concern over the political crisis in that majority Christian country, resulting from the impeachment motion approved by Korea's Parliament against its president, Roh Moo-hyun, a Catholic.
“The current political situation is causing serious grief to the South Korean population and the Church is praying for a prompt resolution,” Father Paul Chang Woung Lee, assistant secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, told Missionary News Agency. “The people are very disappointed and concerned and the situation is becoming dangerous; the South Koreans particularly fear the impeachment of Roh could unleash a serious economic crisis and consequentially the loss of numerous jobs.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Another Vatican View of The Passion
BBC, March 12 — Vatican theologian Father Raniero Cantalamessa has entered the controversy aroused by groups criticizing The Passion of the Christ, the British Broadcasting Corp. has reported.
Father Cantalamessa, who is preacher to the papal household, said in a Lenten sermon that any film should be criticized if it suggested — contrary to the teaching of Vatican II — that all Jews of Jesus' day or any Jews of subsequent generations are responsible for the death of Jesus.
However, he continued, “[The Passion of the Christ] cannot be accused of betraying the real story if it restricts itself to showing an influential group of Jews at the time playing a determining role” in the death of Jesus, he said — since that is the account given in the Gospels.
The film opens in Italy on April 7, during Holy Week.
Pope Might Meet Patriarch in Warsaw
NOVOSTI (Russia), March 14 — Cardinal Josef Glemp of Poland offered hope on March 14 that Pope John Paul II might be able to attain his long-desired goal of meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei during the Pope's planned visit to his native land in June 2005.
Cardinal Glemp told a radio interviewer he was considering inviting the Russian Orthodox leader for a concurrent visit.
“We will be having all kinds of guests, various outstanding personalities,” the cardinal explained, “not just Catholics.”
Students Across Europe Join Rosary With Pope
FIDES, March 14 — On March 13, during the second Day for European University Students held in Rome by the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, the theme was “Christ, Hope for Europe,” reported Fides, the Vatican's missionary news service.
The main event was a multinational prayer vigil with Pope John Paul II held in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. The event was linked live via television and radio with the capitals of the 10 countries about to become EU members: Tallinn, Estonia; Vilnius, Lithuania; Riga, Latvia; Warsaw, Poland; Prague, Czech Republic; Bratislava, Slovakia; Lublijana, Slovenia; Budapest, Hungary; Valletta, Malta; and Nicosia, Cyprus.
Before the vigil, speakers from across Europe offered reflections on the centrality of Christian faith to the unity and vitality of Europe.
Church Addresses Atheism and Indifference
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, March 13 — Meeting with staff and members of the Pontifical Council for Culture after their meeting on “The Christian Faith at the Dawn of the New Millennium and the Challenge of Unbelief and Religious Indifference,” Pope John Paul II praised the group for confronting critical problems in the Church.
“Cultural and artistic expressions are not lacking in riches or resources for the transmission of the Christian message,” the Pope said, but these must be made better known, Vatican Information Service reported.
“It is through philosophical and catechetical formation that young people will learn how to discern the truth,” the Holy Father said. “A serious rational approach is a rampart against all that which refers to ideologies, leading to the desire to study ever more deeply, so that philosophy and reason become open to Christ.”
BY Joseph Pronechen
Kerry Staffer Seizes Sign From Post-Abortive Woman
LIFENEWS.COM, March 12 — Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, was speaking in Tampa, Fla., recently when Rebecca Porter showed up with a simple sign reading: “My abortion hurt me.”
“I did not go as a Bush supporter or as a Republican but as a woman hurt by abortion,” Porter, Florida director of Operation Outcry Silent No More, a pro-life group of post-abortive women, told the pro-life news website. “There was no protest. We were not there to say anything. Just to let our signs speak for us — and they did, powerfully.”
Kerry “reached up to shake a hand in the back and his eyes went up to my sign. He read it and then he looked into the crowd to see who was holding it — and he looked me directly in the eyes,” she said. “I hope he saw my pain. I was not angry, just pleading with him to understand. You could see the shock and surprise on his face.”
Within seconds, a Kerry campaign aide seized the sign from Porter's hands and destroyed it in front of her. Porter said most Kerry supporters looked at her in silence, though one said he wished her abortion had killed her.
Gibson to Make Maccabees Movie
IRELAND ONLINE, March 17 — Fresh from making a movie that angered Jewish activists, Mel Gibson is moving on to make a movie about angry Jewish activists — the heroic martyrs and warriors of Israel depicted in the last book of the Old Testament, the Maccabees.
This family of devout Jews offered their lives in a protracted, ultimately victorious guerrilla war against foreign occupiers who had attacked the Jewish faith.
According to Ireland Online, this project is the next film scheduled for Gibson's Icon Productions.
“The story that's always fired my imagination … is the Book of Maccabees,” Gibson told a radio interviewer. “It's about Antiochus, the king who set up his religion in the Temple, and forced them all to deny the true God and worship at his feet and worship false gods. The Maccabees family stood up, and they made war, they stuck by their guns, and they came out winning.”
The Jewish feast of Hannukah commemorates one of the miracles attending the successful Maccabee resistance. Meanwhile, “60 Minutes” curmudgeon Andy Rooney told the Associated Press he had received some 30,000 pieces of mail and e-mail responding to his Feb. 22 comment about Gibson being a “wacko.” A CBS spokesman called it the biggest viewer response in the show's 36-year history.
C.S. Lewis to Hit the Big Screen
THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 14 — Walt Disney Co. has announced its plans to mount a big-budget production of C.S. Lewis' beloved allegory The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, obtaining the movie rights from media baron Philip Anschutz, a devout Christian.
One of the film's producers, Mark Johnson, told The New York Times: “We are intent on not making this into a Christian movie. But it will be seen by many loyal readers as a very Christian movie.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Restoring Sight to 100 Blind Africans
MISSIONARY NEWS AGENCY, March 11 — In an ambitious plan called“Restoring Light,” the Fatebenefratelli Association for the Sick Abroad (AFMAL) performed 100 operations in 10 days to restore sight to 100 African men, women and children suffering from cataracts.
The Missionary News Agency reported on the project, which took place this month the city of Gao, Mali. Specialists arrived from Italy carrying diagnostic and surgical equipment and treated the patients, then trained local medical personnel in post-operative care.
“The AFMAL will return to Mali for a second mission in November,” said Brother Benedetto Possemato, vice-president of AFMAL. “The Malians are an extraordinary population. We were profoundly touched by their great dignity in facing such extreme poverty that marks their every day lives and in withstanding the suffering of their illnesses, such as blindness. They have nothing, but are always ready to smile,” he said. The news site noted that in sub-Saharan Africa millions of people face blindness due to ordinary medical problems such as malnutrition, non-potable water, and other factors of poverty. The Fatebenefratelli Association for the Sick Abroad is a Catholic charity founded in Rome in 1537.
Pakistani Christian and Muslim Students Join in Fast
FIDES, March 8 — St. Lawrence Catholic School in Lahore, Pakistan, was recently the scene of an unusual ecumenical initiative, according to Fides, the Vatican's missionary news service.
For one day in Lent, Christian and Muslim students conducted a joint fast and then shared a meal together afterward.
The Lenten gesture mirrored a 2003 joint fast held for one day during the Muslim holy season of Ramadan.
“The initiative taken by the Muslim pupils with regard to Catholic pupils was deeply appreciated,” said Father Francis Nadeem, secretary of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue of the Pakistan Bishops' Conference. “This sharing will bring God's blessings upon all, and it will help us to live our shared values, which bring us closer to each other and to God.”
Speaking for the Christian students, Tariq Faiza thanked the Muslims who took part, saying that Christians wanted to work alongside them to “build a country that is tolerant, liberal and moderate.”
Churches Use The Passion to Attract Worshippers
REUTERS, March 9 — Four Anglican parishes in the Archdiocese of Canterbury are using Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ to draw worshippers into their churches, Reuters reported. In fact, they're offering free movie tickets.
The four Kent parishes have bought almost $40,000 worth of tickets to give away in the hopes of attracting new parishioners.
“Gay bishops being thrown out of the church is not the sort of publicity we need,” said Russ Hughes, director of worship at one of the parishes. “Hopefully this will put the emphasis back on Christ. … This is the greatest opportunity for the Church in the last 30 years, and if we did not use it, we may not get such an opportunity again.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
German President Thanks Pope
CATHNEWS.COM, March 8 — German President Johannes Rau during a March 6 meeting gave Pope John Paul II credit for making possible the reunification of Germany, long divided during the Cold War into a democratic and a totalitarian region.
“Germany owes her unity to Poland and to the action of the Pope, without which she would still have a long road to go toward reunification,” Rau said, according to CathNews.com.
The German president presented the Pope with a miniature model of the Brandenburg Gate, once the dividing line between the communist and non-communist sectors of Berlin.
John Paul thanked Rau, commenting that German reunification could serve as the model of the integration of the continent. He went on to remind Rau and the audience that the single most powerful force for unity in Europe as a whole is its Christian heritage.
The Pope has lobbied vigorously for official recognition of that heritage in the forthcoming European Union Constitution; President Rau has sought to broker a compromise on the issue, according CathNews.com, taking account of the Church's aspirations.
Pope's Poems Make Best-Seller Lists
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, March 4 — Pope John Paul II's 2003 anthology of autobiographical spiritual poems is selling briskly, according to Independent Catholic News.
More than a million copies of Roman Triptych have been printed in just the last few months, and the poetry volume is now available in 20 languages, including Romanian, Korean and Japanese.
The anthology will soon appear in Dutch, Hungarian, Czech, Basque, Catalan, Russian, Norwegian, Portuguese and Malayalam, the news site reported.
The 2003 book sold more than 600,000 copies in Poland alone. It includes drawings by Michelangelo and two pages printed in the Pope's own handwriting.
Archbishop Foley: Faithful Should Seize the Media
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, March 8 — Pope John Paul II's point man for communications, Archbishop John Foley, has urged faithful Catholics to make full use of the many media available for promoting the faith.
Archbishop Foley, president of the Ponti? cal Council for Social Communications, was speaking to the world congress of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, held March 5-7 in Augsburg, Germany.
The archbishop said he did not “think the media are a curse” but that “they can represent a risk” when they fail to enrich the lives of people through offering accurate news and worthy programming.
“Not one television news program in Germany reported on the Holy Father's World Youth Day in Manila several years ago,” he noted, “when 7 million people joined him for Mass in Rizal Park, perhaps the largest gathering in the history of the world.”
Archbishop Foley told the congress that media indifference or hostility to the Church meant that “even in your own nation and in most nations of the developed world, there is a ‘Church in need’ ready for your aid — in your example, in your personal commitment to the Catholic Church and to its entire teaching, in your readiness to cooperate with our Holy Father and with your bishops.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pat Robertson Hosts Anti-Catholic ‘Abuse Expert’
CATHOLIC LEAGUE, March 3 — Televangelist Pat Robertson on the March 3 episode of “The 700 Club” included a segment criticizing the Catholic Church's teaching on priestly celibacy, according to the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights.
The show focused on the recent bishops-sponsored reports on clerical abuse and included an appearance by A.W. Richard Sipe, a self-styled expert on the subject.
Catholic League president William Donohue complained about the show: “With great delight did the embittered ex-priest, Richard Sipe, inform his new friend Pat Robertson that the Catholic Church was more corrupt today than at any time since the Reformation. … According to Sipe, only 10% of priests are celibate. How did he arrive at this figure?
“Sipe … defines violations of celibacy to include ‘sexual thoughts and desires.’ The wonder is why there are as many as 10% of priests who have never experienced such desires. And what is going to happen to the 90% who are guilty? They're going straight to hell: ‘You see,’ Sipe says, ‘one thing about the Catholic teaching is that every sexual thought, desire or action is mortally sinful. Every action, no matter how small, no matter how nuanced, will send a person directly to hell.’
“This suggests either profound ignorance of Catholicism or calculated malice. By the way, Robertson's gullibility on this matter is truly revealing.”
Catholic Group Plugs Contraception Loophole
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, March 5 — Due to an oversight, Denver Catholic Charities was for a time providing contraceptive coverage in its employee insurance policy — in violation of Church law.
But the mistake has been corrected, the Associated Press reported.
A court in California recently ordered Catholic Charities to provide for insurance coverage of contraception, hindering the local Church's freedom to follow her own solemn ethical teachings on the matter. In effect, it forces Church charities either to cover contraceptives and abortifacients or refuse all prescription coverage to their workers.
While there is no such law in Colorado, the California case brought the question to the attention of Catholic employers, causing the local Catholic Charities to discover its mistake.
“This is very embarrassing,” said James Mauck of Denver Catholic Charities.
Archdiocesan spokesman Sergio Gutierrez admitted he was “rather astonished” to learn of the mistake.
Girl Scout Boycott Works
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE, March 9 — A Texas pro-life group launched a boycott of Girl Scout cookies and other activities in response to a summer sex-education conference for girls that a local scout troop co-sponsored with Planned Parenthood.
The Waco, Texas, scout chapter also named a Planned Parenthood executive a Girl Scout “Woman of Distinction.” That was the last straw for Professor John Pisciotta, co-director of Pro-Life Waco, who decided to launch the boycott, as he explained on NBC's “Today Show.”
The gesture had its intended effect, Pisciotta reported, saying that the local Council of Girl Scouts had agreed to cut all ties with Planned Parenthood. On a national level, there remain organizational ties between the groups, some pro-lifers have complained, since Planned Parenthood targets the scouts as a partner in promoting sex education.
Copyright © 2015 EWTN News, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of material from this website without written permission is strictly prohibited.
Accessed from 184.108.40.206