Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cuban recovery from Hurricane Sandy will take years, agency reports

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Oct 31, 2012 / 12:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The secretary general of Caritas Cuba said it will take years for the eastern section of the country to recover from Hurricane Sandy but that the local Church is bringing relief to thousands of victims.

Maritza Sanchez told CNA on Oct. 29 that the situation in Cuba “remains very difficult, especially in the city of Santiago, because the damage has been so severe.”

“The hurricane practically devastated the city and nearby towns,” she said. “It also damaged towns in the provinces of Guantanamo and Holguin.”

In addition to the large number of homes that were damaged, coffee and plantain fields, as well as phone and power lines and other infrastructure were also destroyed.  

“The military is helping with the cleanup on many roads. It will take time to recover despite the efforts. The recovery will take years,” Sanchez said, adding that 90 percent of the churches in the Archdiocese of Santiago, as well as numerous convents and rectories were also damaged in the storm.

“Caritas is trying to help, but the truth is that the damage is overwhelming. However, the Church must always do whatever possible to try to alleviate suffering and give hope to the people, and that is objective of our work right now,” Sanchez said.

While the Cuban government plays the key role in providing assistance, she continued, the Church is helping wherever possible and is seeking “to officially collaborate with the structures of the State in order to broaden our efforts.”

She said priests in hardest hit areas are identifying the families that have been most affected and are helping to distribute the food and water provided by Caritas. In some areas make-shift soup kitchens have been set up to help those whose needs are critical.

Sanchez noted that Caritas Cuba has already received financial assistance from the United States and Switzerland and Germany.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Sistine Chapel reveals light of God, Pope says on 500th anniversary

Vatican City, Oct 31, 2012 / 01:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Sistine Chapel ceiling is celebrating its 500th anniversary today, and Pope Benedict XVI followed in the footsteps of his predecessor Pope Julius II, who unveiled the masterpiece by saying vespers there.

Pope Benedict said in his Oct. 31 address that he was marking the anniversary of this “liturgical classroom” with vespers because “the works of art which decorate it, especially the frescos, find in the liturgy … their living environment.”

“It is as if during the liturgical action, the entire symphony of figures comes alive, certainly in the spiritual sense, but also…in the aesthetic sense,” the Pope remarked. “The Sistine Chapel, encompassed in prayer, is even more beautiful, more authentic; it reveals all of its treasures.”

He also reflected on what it must have been like to see the ceiling when it was first unveiled on Oct. 31, 1512.

The frescoes exude light, but they are also permeated with the idea of the light of God, the Pope observed.

“That light, with its power, conquers the chaos and darkness to give life; in creation and in redemption. The Sistine Chapel tells the story of light, liberation, salvation; it speaks of God's relationship with humanity,” he declared.

Vatican Museums Director Antonio Paolucci described the Sistine Chapel as having “a fatal attraction.”

“It is an object of desire, that essential point of arrival … for migrants of so-called ‘cultural tourism,’” Paolucci said in an Oct. 30 L’Osservatore Romano article.

Despite concerns about damage caused by the presence of some five million visitors per year, he explained that the chapel will remain open to the public.

Dust and humidity from human perspiration can harm the paintings in the long-run, he wrote, but the chapel will remain open to a limitless number of visitors unless it increases “beyond a reasonable level.”

In the meantime, measures will be taken to preserve the frescoes, which Michelangelo spent four years painting (1508 to 1512).

“However it is necessary to implement the most advanced technological provisions capable of ensuring the removal of dust and pollution, the fast and effective exchange of air, and temperature and humidity controls,” Paolucci said.

No artist has achieved quite the same effect as Michelangelo, who “radically changed” the history of art in Italy in particular, and Europe in general, he wrote.

The likes of his artistic genius will never be seen again, he said, but modern art preservation techniques can keep his illuminating paintings in the Sistine Chapel forever bright.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Miracle could allow canonization of first Colombian-born saint

Medellin, Colombia, Oct 31, 2012 / 04:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A second miracle confirmed on June 14 by doctors appointed by the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints could advance the sainthood of Blessed Laura de Jesus Montoya Upegui.

According to the newspaper El Tiempo, Vatican officials are expected to issue a decision on the miracle on Dec. 10. A decree by Pope Benedict would pave the way for Blessed Laura's canonization as Colombia's first native-born saint.

The miracle that occurred through the 20th century blessed's intercession was the healing of Dr. Carlos Eduardo Restrepo, who was suffering from lupus, kidney damage and muscular degeneration. After praying the Blessed Laura one night, the doctor woke up the following morning completely cured.

“Mother Laura,” he prayed that night, “If you heal me of this, I will tell the world about your miracle so that you will be raised to the altars.”

“My mind has gone blank. I don’t know if I had an out-of-body experience or if I imagined it, or if it was my subconscious, but when I entrusted myself to Blessed Laura I felt a wonderful sense of peace,” he said.

“If this isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is,” Doctor Restrepo told the Colombian newspaper.

Sister Aida Orobio, superior of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate and St. Catherine of Siena – which was founded by Blessed Laura – said, “Not even her in her homeland do people realize how brave and marvelous this woman was.”

“In an era in which women were supposed to stay by men, Laura dared to follow God’s call, even though she was called crazy,” she added.

The sister noted how Blessed Laura's conversion began when she encountered a group of local Indians who were being mistreated and dehumanized.

“How is it possible that they lived so marginalized and estranged from God, if they were just as Colombian as anyone else and were the first inhabitants of these lands,” Sister Orobio reflected.

Eventually, Blessed Laura moved into the Colombian rain forest and began to live and work with the Indians, despite difficulties and attacks from landowners in the region.

She died on Oct. 21, 1949 in a home in Medellin that is today a museum and convent. Her congregation has spread to Africa, America and Europe.

Those who knew her recalled that during her last days, “She had a great sense of humor. She poked fun at everything in a pious way, especially of herself.”

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Catholic Charities works to assess, relieve damage from Hurricane Sandy

Washington D.C., Oct 31, 2012 / 05:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic Charities agencies along the East Coast are working to assess the damage left by Hurricane Sandy and respond to the needs of those left in its wake.

Kevin Hickey, executive director at Catholic Charities of Camden, N.J., told CNA on Oct. 31 that while there is significant flooding and damage throughout the six southern counties that make up the diocese, “the main focus is the coast.”

“The devastation there is enormous,” he said, especially on the barrier islands of Ocean City and Atlantic City, which took a direct hit from the storm. Because access to the two sites is restricted, emergency workers cannot get there and do not know when they will be able to do so.

Hickey added that Catholic Charities has an office in Atlantic City, but said that he is “fairly confident that is underwater.”

New Jersey is one of several states that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, a massive storm that made landfall in the U.S. on Oct. 29 and proceeded to sweep through the northeast, killing dozens and leaving some 6 million people without power.

Hickey predicted that there will be “a tremendous need” for food, as well as water and shelter, in the coming days.  More long-term needs include arrangements for those who were evacuated from the barrier islands, he said, adding, “I think that’s going to become a challenge.”

One estimate predicted that power would be restored to most of the mainland by the weekend, but there is less certainty about when it will be restored to the barrier islands.

Catholic Charities’ staff members are experienced in responding to disasters, Hickey said. The Camden agency assembled an Incident Command Team before the storm to ensure that recovery efforts would run safely and smoothly.

That team is currently working to gather information, conducting driving tours of four New Jersey counties and reaching out to Catholic parishes to see if they can be used as distribution sites, he explained.

Once those distribution sites are set up – which will likely be by early next week – they will be able to handle significant material donations, he said, adding that money is often the most helpful donation because it allows for the local purchase of whatever supplies are needed.

Monsignor Roger McGrath, vicar general of Camden, said he was “very proud of our Catholic Charities and all the work they do,” adding that the primary focus in the coming days is to “make sure the people are taken of.”

Throughout the region, other Catholic Charities agencies are working to offer similar aid, despite obstacles including power outages, flooding and transportation difficulties.

In the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Catholic Charities is keeping its homeless shelters open from Oct. 29 until 7 a.m. on Nov. 1 so that all residents are able to remain inside during the storm.

The agency also posted a shelter hotline number on the internet and encouraged people to call if they saw someone out on the streets of the nation’s capital in need of shelter.

According to the agency’s Twitter account, approximately 1,100 people stayed in its shelters on the night of Oct. 29, and the staff was able to provide extra food to 800 homebound seniors in advance, to ensure that they would be fed during the hurricane.

In West Virginia, where the storm brought blizzard conditions when it collided with an arctic blast, Catholic Charities is dealing not only with power outages due to fallen trees, but also ice damage, treacherous roads and more than a foot of snow in many areas.

The agency said that it is working with parishes throughout the state to access capabilities for providing food and shelter to those who have been forced to leave their homes.

Mary Ellen Ros, director of Hudson Valley Services for Catholic Charities of New York, said that the agency’s downtown offices do not have phone connectivity but staff members are working to perform a damage assessment.

The group is reaching out parishes to offer support and see what is needed, she explained, adding that it is also working closely with both government and other disaster relief partners.

As in Camden, one of the biggest current difficulties is traveling to the places that were hit the hardest, such as Staten Island, Ros said. The agency is trying to determine the needs of the people in different areas and will also help staff a disaster assistance center that is being created.

Once an initial evaluation is completed, Catholic Charities will be able to provide both immediate relief and long-term aid in rebuilding, she said.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Film on boy's redemptive struggle with cancer shown at Vatican

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 30, 2012 / 03:09 pm (CNA).- A new movie based on the real-life story of a 15-year-old boy who became a source of joy to those around him – despite dying from cancer – recently debuted at the Vatican.  

The film “Cambio de Planes,” directed by Mexico native Paco Arango, was released in the country on Oct. 26 and, following its success, premiered Monday at the Vatican.

“It has received acclaim for conveying a very positive, hopeful and conscience-raising message, appropriate for all audiences and for those who believe in God,” reported the Archdiocese of Mexico City's News Service.

The movie, which means “change of plans” in Spanish, recounts the experience of its director with children suffering from cancer at the Niño Jesús Hospital of Madrid, which he first visited years ago.

There he met 15-year-old Antonio, “who shared with his powerful faith in God, inspiring him to direct this fascinating movie that – in his own words – can do much good.”

The movie was originally titled “Maktub” in Spain, which means “it is written,” or “destined,” in Arabic.

The film's producer said if the film is successful in its limited release, it will be shown on a greater number of screens throughout Mexico.

Earlier in May, Paco Arango granted an interview with the Archdiocese of Madrid’s magazine, Alfa y Omega, in which he recounted the origins of the film.

“Sometime in 2000 or 2001, I would have lunch with a priest on the first Tuesday of every month, and I asked him to help me find something I could donate my time to, not just my money.

After thinking about it, I contacted a foundation that works with the Niño Jesús (Baby Jesus) Hospital and began to help out there as a volunteer.”

“When I saw the first child vomit, instead of feeling like leaving, I was drawn to his bedside like a magnet. I began to go from room to room, and I discovered there was a whole new world there,” Arango said.

“All of that began taking over my life little by little. By the second year, I was going there every day, even on weekends.”

After volunteering for several years, the filmmaker decided to begin his own organization, the Aladina Foundation, in 2006. Various experiences led him to believe he should continue his service at the hospital, including one time when he attended a U2 concert in Madrid in which the band’s lead singer, Bono, dedicated a song to the Niño Jesús Hospital.

“At that second, the entire stadium began to shout, ‘Niño Jesús, Niño Jesús!.' It was a sign for me. God was telling me not to leave the hospital,” Arango remembered.

Recalling the inspiration for the the film, Arango said he met Antonio four years ago.

“He was a child who seemed to have overcome cancer,” he said. “The Foundation was in full swing, and so I decided to make a movie inspired by him about my experiences in the hospital, a place where one might want to curse God, but where I discovered what charity and love is, and where I learned what life is all about. So I filmed Maktub.”

“When I wrote the script, it seemed Antonio was going to survive,” Arango said. However, “In the end, Antonio died of a virus. He composed a song that was prophetic, in which he described himself as the voice of children with cancer and in which he shared his faith in God.”

Arango said now numerous universities, schools and parishes call him to arrange a screening of the film, because it reaches the deepest places of the heart.

“It is a film that opens us to love,” he said. “I have discovered a responsibility as a filmmaker that I did not see before. Much good can be done with a film.”

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Archbishop tells children to encounter Christ though reading Gospel

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 30, 2012 / 04:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires told thousands of children gathered in the Argentinean capital to “encounter Jesus” in the poor, Holy Communion and in the frequent reading of the Gospel.

Cardinal Bergoglio celebrated the traditional Archdiocesan Mass for Children on Oct. 27 at the Parque Roca Stadium in Buenos Aires.

During his homily, he encouraged children to “seek after Jesus” and to find Him by “opening your hearts,” participating in the Sacrament of Holy Communion and seeing Him in those in need.

“Who told us that we can find Jesus in those most in need?” the cardinal asked. “Mother Teresa,” the children shouted in response.  

“And what did Mother Teresa have in her arms? A crucifix? No. A child in need. So, we can find Jesus in each person who is in need,” he said.

After noting that very few children raised their hands when asked if they read the Gospel, Cardinal Bergoglio encouraged the children to say to their priests, “Father, teach me the Gospel.”

He also reminded them that the strength for encountering Jesus “is in the family, in mom and dad.”  The cardinal then invited the children to stand up and give “a big round of applause to the Virgin Mary.”

At the conclusion of the Mass, Cardinal Bergoglio thanked the children for attending and those who made the Mass possible, as well as catechists and parents. He also expressed gratitude to Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Garcia of Buenos Aires, who has helped organize the Mass for 25 years.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Evangelization more than strategy, cardinal-elect says

Vatican City, Oct 30, 2012 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new cardinal-elect said he was encouraged by the recent bishops' synod in Rome, which emphasized an encounter with the risen Christ as the basis of all evangelization.

What “caught my attention in the synod was the desire of everyone to make evangelization not so much a strategy but a living encounter with the living Lord,” Archbishop Luis A. Tagle of the Philippines told CNA Oct. 29.

“I guess in the past decades or so we were so focused on how to do things all over the world – churches were trying to strategize. In itself it is not bad. But we might forget that faith is not a product of a strategy.”

“Faith might bring forth new strategies. But if it is not rooted in friendship with Jesus Christ and the following of Jesus Christ, then what kind of evangelization will happen?”

Archbishop Tagle attended the Oct. 7-28 new evangelization synod in Rome, during which it was announced that the Manila prelate was among the six bishops to be appointed cardinal. The group will be elevated at a consistory to be held Nov. 24.

“It is a real calling, a real mission,” he said, “to the universal mission of the Holy Father.”

Archbishop Tagle will be appointed to the Congregation for Catholic Education upon his elevation. At 55, he will become the world's second youngest cardinal.

“It came as a total surprise to me,” said Archbishop Tagle of the appointment. “But what consoles me is this: The announcement came three days after the canonization of the second Filipino saint, Pedro Calungsod, a young catechist who joined the Jesuit missionaries to Guam and…witnessed to Jesus to the offering of his own life.”

On the recently ended synod, Archbishop Tagle said the new evangelization presents questions not given to easy answers.

“There are many opportunities for spreading the Good News and of the Lord and his salvific presence in our midst,” he said.

“But maybe because some of them are relatively new, we’ve not yet been able to grasp fully the impact of all of these.”

“Some are worried, some are concerned. But we realize, too, that being concerned is OK so long as we don’t jump or are moved to pessimism. We have to affirm our faith that our Lord is risen, he is here, he is very much present, we have to listen to him.”

This complexity “led us in the synod to humility,” he said, adding that the lack of concrete measures by the synod as an opportunity “for exploration.”

“The Holy Father, in his post-synodal exhortation, will give us basic orientations. Now the specific, concrete implementation would have to be done on the local level.”

“The complexity of the situation just merits openness,” and he is glad that there is no need for bishops worldwide to “act similarly, uniformly, disregarding our unique contexts.”

Archbishop Tagle added that he was encouraged by the synod's call to personal conversion among Catholics.

The response to to the word of God “would always entail being renewed in the mind and the heart according to Jesus Christ. This theme struck me as a leitmotif in the whole synod,” said the archbishop.

He is especially hopeful that fellow Filipinos continue to spread the faith wherever they go.

“The presence of overseas Filipino workers in many places across the world is for us an evangelizing moment. And we now feel the responsibility…of giving them initial formation so that when they leave the country they could be equipped to contribute to the life of the Church wherever they are.”

Archbishop Tagle also said looks forward to the Year of Faith – which kicked off on Oct. 11 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council – as a chance to return to “a living encounter with Christ” and for “a deepening of the knowledge of the content of the faith.”

“Faith is a content, and this is an opportunity to rediscover anew Vatican II's teachings.”

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bishops call attack on Nigerian parish 'barbarous'

Abuja, Nigeria, Oct 29, 2012 / 12:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A suicide bombing of a Catholic church in northern Nigeria on Oct. 28 has been denounced as cowardly by Archbishop Matthew M. Ndagoso of Kaduna.

“A cowardly, barbarous and horrible act, that any ordinary person can only condemn. It is unthinkable that anyone is able to commit such actions, but unfortunately it happens,” the archbishop told Fides news agency Oct. 29.

On Sunday, a suicide bomber killed himself and seven others when he drove his explosives-filled jeep into St. Rita's parish in the city of Kaduna during a Mass. Hundreds were wounded in the attack.

The driver was stopped at the security gate outside the church. At first he reversed his car, but then drove straight through the church's wall and set off his explosives.

He ripped a large hole in the wall and ceiling of the building, near the sanctuary. The jeep's remains are hardly discernible as a vehicle.

The injured were taken to hospitals in the surrounding area.

Though responsibility for the attack has not been claimed, it is widely believed to have been carried out by Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group in the country whose name means “Western education is sinful.”

Local Christians have been asked by both government and religious leaders not to retaliate with further violence.

"I have no direct knowledge of retaliation actions, but as soon as the news about episodes of revenge on behalf of Christians spread, I immediately launched an appeal via radio to calm and peace. Unfortunately one cannot control everyone,” said Archbishop Ndagoso to Fides Agency.

There have been reports of reprisal attacks in the city committed by Christians.

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has promised to redouble efforts to combat terrorism, and Archbishop Ndagoso reported that “the President of the Assembly, who is a Muslim, condemned the attack, today we will see if other Muslim leaders will join in condemning this brutal act.”

He said, “The situation is now calm, the police and the army control the streets. Even in the area of the attack the population is dedicated to their normal activities.”

Northern Nigeria is primarily Muslim, and the south is predominantly Christian and traditional animist. In 2011, the population of the Archdiocese of Kaduna was 9.2 percent Catholic.

The Islamist group Boko Haram seeks to overthrow the government and impose Shariah law throughout Nigeria. It has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Christians and is reportedly involved with rebels and terrorist groups in the region.

According to the Associated Press, Boko Haram has been responsible for more than 690 killings this year alone, most recently at the cathedral in Bauchi on Sept. 23.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Catholic community helps East Coast prepare for Hurricane Sandy

Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2012 / 05:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As much of the East Coast braces for Hurricane Sandy, the Church is helping local people prepare for the storm, reaching out to offer shelter to the homeless and organizing disaster response efforts.

“Since Hurricane Katrina, we have focused on being prepared for future disasters,” Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, said in an Oct. 27 statement.  

“Not only are we early responders, but our presence in the community also puts us in a position to be able to quickly assess and provide support in the long-term,” he added.

After hitting Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti, Hurricane Sandy moved toward the U.S. coastline as a Category 1 hurricane, predicted to slam much of the Northeast, including Washington, D.C., New York, and New Jersey.

As the massive storm starts to hit New England on Oct. 29, its potential to cause damage and take lives is increased by its collision course with an arctic blast from the north. Experts are predicting up to one billion dollars in damage from the storm.

Catholic Charities USA has worked with its local agencies in the days before the hurricane in order “to ensure they have provisions in place to provide for any possible needs the Hurricane may create in their communities,” the group said. Local agencies along the East Coast will be able to provide disaster relief and recovery services after the storm, including food, shelter, counseling and financial support.  

The national office said that one of the toughest parts of preparing for the storm was the uncertainty about what its impact will be in different areas.

“One of the biggest mistakes people make is taking these types of weather warnings lightly,” said Samuel Chambers, senior vice president of disaster operations for Catholic Charities USA.

He observed that the National Weather Service has indicated that areas of the East Coast from New York down to Florida will feel some impact from the massive storm.

Catholic Charities USA encouraged people in Hurricane Sandy’s path to make sure that they charge their electronic devices and have cash on hand, as well as to assemble an emergency kit in case evacuation becomes necessary, along with bottled water and emergency supplies to last for several days.

The organization also offered updates in the days leading up to the storm, posting links on Twitter with information on how to prepare for the hurricane and a disaster hotline number.

Local agencies also spent the weekend preparing for Hurricane Sandy, organizing disaster response efforts and spreading information on how to remain safe.

Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Camden, N.J., assembled an Incident Command Team on Oct. 28 to help ensure that the hurricane response and recovery would run smoothly.

The agency explained in a Facebook post that it had filled the positions of incident commander, safety officer and liaison officer and was dividing its disaster response and recovery efforts into distinct categories of finance and administration, planning, logistics and operations.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., announced that its homeless shelters would remain open from Oct. 29 until 7 a.m. on Nov. 1 “so all residents can stay inside during the inclement weather.”

The agency tweeted that it had 922 people in three of its emergency shelters on the night of Oct. 28. It also posted a shelter hotline number on Twitter, encouraging readers to “please call if you see someone on the street who needs to get in out of the storm.”

In addition, Church leaders voiced support and encouraged prayers for all of those in the region that is threatened by the hurricane.

“Pray for all those impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” tweeted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Oct. 29.

Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas also used Twitter to call for prayers “for all affected by Hurricane Sandy, including those stranded in its path from the Diocese of Dallas.”

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia urged prayers “for all those persons injured or forced to leave their homes because of this extraordinary weather disaster.”

In an Oct. 29 statement, the archbishop noted that the storm comes amid election year discussions of the “important but carefully limited role” of government according to Catholic thought, which places a special emphasis on “local accountability and ensuring public safety.”

He praised Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Governor Tom Corbett, as well as others in the tri-state area, for responding “quickly and vigorously” so far.

These officials are “serving their people where it matters most - at the local and state levels, where the ‘common good’ has flesh and blood meaning,” he said, offering “the gratitude of the whole Catholic community” to these officials and the region’s emergency responders.

Archbishop Chaput explained that the archdiocese’s Catholic Human Services would work to provide shelter during the storm.

“While we do not have active disaster relief in place during the storm, we will cooperate fully with the Red Cross and government agencies to provide food, alternate shelter and financial relief as needed after the storm,” he added.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A weekend in the life helps youth empathize with homeless

Simpsonville, S.C., Oct 28, 2012 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- Youth at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpson, S.C. recently received a crash course in what it’s like to be homeless.

Twenty-eight middle and high school students and parents from the church spent a weekend outside Sept. 21-23, sleeping in cardboard boxes on the ground and relying only on donated supplies for food and hygiene.

Participants arrived on Friday afternoon to begin the event with only the clothes on their backs. They weren’t allowed to bring sleeping bags, personal hygiene items or anything else. Parents could join the activity or visit with their children, but weren’t allowed to bring them supplies.

The parish youth already participate in an annual 30-hour fast to empathize with the hungry, and this project was meant to give them an idea of what it’s like to be homeless and fending for themselves on the streets, said youth leader Joe Maggio.

They also collected blankets, clothing, shoes, bottled water, non-perishable food and hygiene items for homeless programs, including United Ministries, Safe Harbor and God’s Pantry.

Basic physical needs weren’t the only concern. The youth also had to come up with ways to entertain themselves, a skill that’s not often required in a busy, technology-driven world.

There were a few guest speakers during the weekend, but the rest of the time, they sang, talked with each other, or played games.

“It was a great bonding time, to be quite honest, because one of the things they found out is being homeless can be very boring,” Maggio said. “There was no technology, no diversions. It was a real chance to hang out together and really talk to people and get to know them, because there was none of the rush-rush of normal daily life.”

The daytime hours were sunny and comfortable, but at night temperatures dropped into the 50s. They learned just how cold that can feel without the protection of four walls and a roof.

“At night I felt like I almost froze,” said Abby Frazier, 17. “I had two blankets and a yoga mat to sleep on, and I was freezing. I didn’t think it would get that cold at night. I totally sympathize now with what it must be like for people who have to sleep outside. It really opened my eyes to how they have to live to survive.”

Angel Vigil joined her two sons Isaac, 10, and Weston, 13, for some eye-opening lessons.

“Going without was an interesting experience,” she said. “We only ate if people brought food, drank if they brought water. You didn’t know where you were going to get things or if anyone was going to take care of you.”

Her kids learned what it was like to not brush their teeth or take a shower.

“Homelessness is out there and people don’t really talk about this, and events like this can help start the conversation,” she said.

Posted with permission from The Catholic Miscellany, official newspaper for the Diocese of Charleston, S.C.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Nebraska Catholics dedicated to cause of religious freedom

Omaha, Neb., Oct 28, 2012 / 06:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A group of Nebraska Catholics has created and donated banners for 147 Catholic churches that bear messages about defending religious liberty, the unborn, and marriage between a man and a woman.

“They are outstanding banners,” Fr. Ryan Lewis, pastor of Omaha’s St. Thomas More Parish, told CNA Oct. 26. “I thought the message was incredible. The people in my parish are all fired up about concerns about attacks on religious liberty as it relates to the current administration and the HHS mandate.”

One of the banners reads: “Religious Liberty: Our Most Cherished Freedom.” The 4-by-12 foot banner also bears the website address of the Archdiocese of Omaha, though the archdiocese is not a financial backer of the project.

The Department of Health and Human Services has mandated that most employers with over 50 employees provide no co-pay insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs. Only some religious employers are exempt under certain narrow conditions.

Many Catholic health care systems, colleges, and charities do not qualify for the exemption, despite Catholic objections to providing the coverage. Violators pay heavy fines, prompting opponents to object that the mandate punishes Catholic employers who want to follow their consciences.

Fr. Lewis’ parish was the first to display the banners.

He said the members of his “very diverse, working-class parish” in a historically Democratic part of town are “very, very excited” about the banners.

In his view, a message distilled down to religious liberty makes Catholics rise above any partisan considerations.

“They’re saying ‘hey this is something we can all get behind. The Catholic Church is being attacked, our religious liberties are in danger, and we need to respond,’” he said.

Knights of Columbus volunteers from 100 councils across the Archdiocese of Omaha will be erecting banners this weekend. Another smaller banner reads “Protect the Unborn, Defend Marriage, Safeguard Liberty.”

Jim Carroll, executive director of Omaha’s Spirit Catholic Radio, helped create the banners as part of an ad hoc group called the Faithful Citizens Coalition.

He said the project idea originated out of reflection on the U.S. bishops’ “Faithful Citizenship” document and its discussion of “intrinsic evils” in political life. The project expanded from his station to the members of the Catholic businessmen’s group Legatus, participants in the men’s program That Man Is You and members of the Knights of Columbus.

Project organizers noticed the “very large” religious freedom rallies in Lincoln and Omaha this year and felt some issues were “ignored by the mainstream media,” Carroll told CNA.

“People are concerned, with this election coming up, that religious liberty is being eroded,” he said. “A lot of what we call intrinsic evils are just being accepted. They’re not really a point of discussion.”

Carroll said the project is not intended to be partisan and the banners could be up around the year.

“We just want people to know what the Catholic Church stands for, and that we feel our religious liberties are being assaulted,” he said.

Fr. Lewis said there have not yet been any complaints about the banners.

“We’re talking about issues that have to do with our Catholic faith, not delving into partisan politics,” he said.

“The signs talk about cherishing and safeguarding religious liberty, defending marriage and protecting the unborn. That’s Catholic dogma, not partisan politics.”

The Faithful Citizens Coalition has produced 2,500 religious liberty yard signs for Catholics and others to place in their yard. It has also funded a full-page ad in today’s Sunday edition of the Omaha World-Herald which echoes the themes of the banner and includes a letter Archbishop George Lucas will send to the 230,000 Catholics of the Omaha archdiocese this weekend.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vatican delegation visits locations for 2013 World Youth Day

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct 25, 2012 / 01:25 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A delegation from the Vatican arrived in Rio de Janeiro Oct. 24 to visit the sites where World Youth Day 2013 will take place and decide on whether to approve them.
World Youth Day 2013 will take place in July of 2013 and will be attended by Pope Benedict XVI.  The Holy Father was the first to register for the event through the website
According to the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, the coordinator of the papal trips, Alberto Gasbarri, will be the one to evaluate the proposed sites for the closing World Youth Day Mass, which was originally going to take place at the Santa Cruz Air Base. 

The site could be changed “for the good of the event and of the pilgrims,” the archdiocese said.
The Apostolic Nuncio to Brazil, Archbishop Giovanni d’Aniello, will join the delegation on its tour of the venues.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Paul Ryan defends poverty aid reform, vision of charity in society

Washington D.C., Oct 25, 2012 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said Oct. 24 that he believes reforming poverty aid programs and allowing religious and civil institutions to flourish is the most effective and compassionate way to help the millions of Americans in poverty.

“Americans are a compassionate people, and there’s a consensus in this country about our fundamental obligations to society’s most vulnerable,” he said in a policy address at Cleveland State University on Wednesday.

“Those obligations are not what we are debating in politics,” he explained. “Most times, the real debate is about whether they are best met by private groups or by the government.”

Ryan argued that the poor will receive more relief from “a dynamic, free-enterprise-based economy that fosters economic growth and opportunity and upward mobility” than from expansive federal government programs. 

The Wisconsin congressman – who is Catholic – has faced criticism from numerous poverty relief groups over his recent budget proposal, which would cut funding levels of several prominent social aid programs.

Ryan rejected accusations that he believes the poor should be left to “fend for themselves.” Rather, he argued that he believes in “true compassion and upward mobility” based on “real reforms for lifting people out of poverty.”

A country’s compassion is not simply measured by how much the federal government spends, he said, calling for Americans to “take a hard look” at the federal government’s approach to poverty in the last 50 years, which he described as “centralized, bureaucratic, top-down.”
This system has caused problems, he said, leading to dependency and harming families and communities. These problems became so apparent that by the 1990s a major welfare reform law was “passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic president,” he noted.
Ryan argued that the reforms were successful, leading to lower welfare enrollment without increases in hunger or poverty. Millions of Americans achieved greater levels of independence, while employment levels for single mothers rose and child poverty rates fell more than 20 percent in four years.

Due to their success, the congressman asserted, these reforms should be applied to other anti-poverty programs as well.

“In most of these programs, especially in recent years, we’re still trying to measure compassion by how much government spends, not by how many people we help escape from poverty,” he said.
In the past year, Ryan said, the federal and state governments spent the equivalent of $22,000 per poor American on need-based programs. Yet one in six Americans remains in poverty, and the number of food stamp recipients has increased by 15 million in recent years.

Ryan promoted helping those in poverty by more efficiently using funding and giving states more power to tailor anti-poverty programs to fit “the unique needs of their citizens.”

This approach was beneficial when applied to welfare and can also be used in Medicaid and food stamps, he said.

“The federal government would continue to provide the resources, but we would remove endless federal mandates and restrictions that hamper state efforts to make these programs more effective,” he explained.

Ryan also underscored the need for strong communities.

He explained that “there has to be a balance – allowing government to act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do.”

Civil society – defined as families, neighborhoods, churches, charities and private associations – makes up the “vast middle ground between the government and the individual.” 

These institutions are critical because they are “where we live our lives,” he said. “They shape our character, give our lives direction, and help make us a self-governing people.”
Ryan told stories of communities rallying around those in need during times of trouble.

“What’s really at work here is the spirit of the Lord, and there is no end to the good that it can inspire,” he said. “Government can’t replace that.”
Rather, he said, government must respect the rights and freedom of institutions that perform “essential and honorable work” in society.

But standing in contrast to that vision of government and society is the federal mandate that requires Catholic hospitals, charities and universities to violate their principles by offering contraception, sterilization and related products in their health insurance plans.

“This mandate isn’t just a threat to religious charities. It’s a threat to all those who turn to them in times of need,” the congressman said. “In the name of strengthening our safety net, this mandate and others will weaken it.”

Instead of “more taxes and coercive mandates,” he said, there must be a greater respect for the work of private associations in aiding the poor in ways that government alone cannot.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Uruguay bishops clarify statement on excommunication of lawmakers favoring abortion

Montevideo, Uruguay, Oct 24, 2012 / 03:14 pm (CNA).- The Uruguayan bishops’ conference has explained recent statements regarding Catholic lawmakers who voted to legalize abortion in the country, saying they are not excommunicated if they voted in favor of abortion.

“Excommunication applies to Catholics who have acted directly in carrying out an abortion, which does not include those who vote for a law that allows it,” Bishop Heriberto Bodeant, secretary general of the conference said.

In an Oct. 23 interview with Radio Carve, he clarified that excommunication would apply only to those who have performed an abortion and not those who voted to legalize the procedure in Uruguay.

“Automatic excommunication is for those who collaborate in the execution of an abortion in a direct way, and direct means committing that specific act,” the Bishops Conference explained on their website.

The conference said the need for clarification arose following Bishop Bodeant’s Oct. 19 comments when he was asked about excommunication in general and not about the excommunication of specific lawmakers who voted to legalize abortion.

According to the statement on the Uruguayan bishops’ website, “There was confusion after a television interview that took place the day after the Senate approved a measure that legalizes abortion, in which the bishop was asked about the question of excommunication in general terms and not specifically related to lawmakers.”

 “At no time during the interview did the bishop say that lawmakers were excommunicated, but rather he responded to a generic question about excommunication in cases of abortion based on Canon Law (Canon 1398), which states, ‘A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication,’” the statement said.

As a result, “it was an erroneous inference of the bishop’s words that led to the statement that ‘the Church excommunicated those who voted to legalize abortion,’ which was immediately reproduced by various national and international media outlets,” the conference statement said.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Pope says spiritually dry world needs faith of Christians

Vatican City, Oct 24, 2012 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI said at his Oct. 24 general audience that the world’s “spiritual desert” must be transformed into “fertile soil” by Christians who live their faith to its fullest.

“Faith is an agreement by which our minds and our hearts say their ‘yes’ to God, confessing that Jesus is Lord,” he said to a St. Peter’s Square packed with visitors, including large delegations of pilgrims who came to Rome for the canonization of seven new saints on Sunday, Oct. 21.

“And this ‘yes’ transforms life, opens the way towards fullness of meaning, thus making it new, full of joy and of reliable hope,” the Pope added.

The address was the second consecutive installment of the Pope’s series of teachings on faith, marking the Year of Faith he inaugurated on Oct. 11.

He asked a series of “unrelenting” questions about the nature of faith and the meaning of life before exploring them in depth.

“What is faith? Does faith still make sense in a world where science and technology have opened new horizons that were, until recently, unthinkable? What does it mean to believe today?”

The Pope also asked questioned the meaning of life and posited whether “there is a future for man.”

“Where should we direct the choices of our freedom for a successful and happy life? What awaits us beyond the threshold of death?”

He said these questions must be asked more than ever in a world in which “a sort of spiritual desert” is encroaching—a world where many people “believe only what we can see and touch” with their hands.

On the other hand, he observed, the number of people who feel disoriented is growing and, “in seeking to go beyond a purely horizontal reality, they are willing to believe anything and its direct opposite.”

Pope Benedict proclaimed that for these times, Christians need “a renewed faith education, which includes a certain awareness of its truth and the events of salvation, but that mainly arises from a real encounter with God in Jesus Christ, from loving Him, trusting him, so that our entire life is involved.”

Contrary to the tendency of science to create a non-spiritual outlook on life, he stressed that man does not live on actual bread alone: “We need not only material bread, we need love, meaning and hope, a sure foundation, a solid ground to help us live with an authentic sense even in moments of crisis, darkness, difficulties and daily problems.
“Faith gives us just that. It is a confident trust in a ‘you,’ that is God, who gives me a different but no less solid certainty, than that which comes from exact calculation or science,” Benedict XVI stated.

That spiritual bread is provided by Christ, the sure source of faith, hope and love.

The Pope also emphasized that faith is rooted in something concrete and historical – the example of Jesus, who “revealed His love without measure for man, for each one of us: on the Cross, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God made man, shows us in the most luminous way how far this love can go, even to the point of giving himself up in total sacrifice.”

Another aspect of faith that he reflected on was the child-like trust that it requires.

“Having faith, then, is encountering this ‘you,’ God, who sustains me and grants me the promise of an indestructible love that not only aspires to eternity, but gifts it; it is entrusting myself to God with the attitude of a child, who knows that all his difficulties, all his troubles are safe in the ‘you’ of the mother.”

John Evans of Melbourne, Australia, was impressed by the prayerful atmosphere in St. Peter’s Square, despite the large crowd of pilgrims waving banners and the noise of the loud speaker system.

“Despite all of the noise going on outside, the Church remained really focused,” said Evans, visiting Rome for the first time with his wife Annie. “I was sitting there listening to the Gospel of Mark, and for all this going on, the majority of people seemed to be listening to the word of God.”

In his address, the Pope commented on “the harsh words of the Risen Jesus who says: ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”

“I invite you to reflect on this,” he encouraged the crowd. With “confidence in the action of the Holy Spirit, we must always … preach the Gospel” and give “a courageous witness of faith.”

Pope Benedict suggested Catholics recommit themselves to their baptismal promises as a way of preparing to share the faith.

“The basis of our journey of faith is baptism, the sacrament which gifts us the Holy Spirit, making us children of God in Christ, and marks our entry into the community of faith, the Church,” he said toward the end of his address.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

News outlets seek unsealing of Legion of Christ docs in lawsuit

Providence, R.I., Oct 24, 2012 / 06:22 pm (CNA).- Four news organizations are seeking the release of sealed court documents from a lawsuit contesting the will of a Rhode Island woman who gave $60 million to the Legion of Christ.

Jim Fair, Communications Director with the Legion of Christ, said the donor was “a beloved member of our spiritual family” and the religious congregation was “respectful and diligent in carrying out her wishes.”

He told CNA Oct. 24 that it is “appropriate” for the documents to stay sealed “to ensure that potential jurors are not influenced and that the Legion’s constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury is protected.”

On Oct. 24 the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Providence Journal and the National Catholic Reporter submitted a legal filing that argued the public has a right to access the documents concerning a legal challenge to the will of Gabrielle Mee.

Mee, a member of the Legion of Christ’s lay movement Regnum Christi, left $60 million to the congregation.

Mee’s niece, Mary Lou Dauray, challenged the will in court. She said her aunt, who died in 2008, had been defrauded by the order into leaving her fortune to it.

Since Mee’s death, the Legion of Christ has been through major turmoil following revelations that its founder Fr. Marciel Maciel had sexually abused seminarians and fathered children by at least two women.

Fr. Maciel had given financial advice to Mee, while another priest helped her with estate planning.

Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein threw out Dauray’s challenge in September on the grounds she lacked standing to sue. However, he said the transfer of money from “a steadfastly spiritual elderly woman to her trusted but clandestinely dubious religious leaders” raises “a red flag.”

Dauray’s attorney Bernard Jackvony, a former Rhode Island lieutenant governor, plans to appeal the ruling.

He told the AP that the case documents contain information about the Legion that is not known to the public. He favors their unsealing.

However, Fair defended the Legion. “We believe our actions with regard to Mrs. Mee and her estate were appropriate and honorable and are confident we will prevail in any legal actions in this regard,” he said.

Mee became a consecrated laywoman for Regnum Christi in 1991. Fair said she was a benefactor of the Legion of Christ and apostolates like Mater Ecclesiae, Inc. because “that way she could fulfill the wishes of her late husband and her own to help the Roman Catholic Church.”

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Monday, October 22, 2012

American priest celebrates receiving Ratzinger award in Rome

Rome, Italy, Oct 22, 2012 / 01:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An American priest and scholar who was awarded the annual Ratzinger Prize for Theology by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 20 was both thrilled and surprised to receive the honor.

“It was a total surprise for me, but I'm really touched that they would think of me for this and that it would bear the name of our present Holy Father, whom I have always admired a lot,” said Father Brian Daley, a Jesuit professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.

The 72-year-old shared the honor with French Catholic lay philosopher, Remi Brague.

“Fr. Daley and Professor Brague are exemplary for the transmission of knowledge that unites science and wisdom, scientific rigor and passion for man, so that man might discover the true 'art of living,'” the Pope said at the Vatican ceremony.

Established in 2010 by the Joseph Ratzinger Vatican foundation, the award is described as an effort to “promote the publication, distribution, and study of the writings” of the former university professor, known today as Pope Benedict XVI.

In an interview with CNA after Saturday's event, Fr. Daley reflected that the winners of the prestigious award tend to be those “who do the kind of theology and philosophy that the Holy Father himself is interested in.”

Pope Benedict, he noted, has “worked for so many years on the Church fathers and medieval theology – he has a wonderful book on Augustine, he has one on St. Bonaventure – and then also on the interface between faith and philosophy, faith and reason.”

“I studied the early Church,” he added, and co-recipient Remi Brague “works on the relationship of religion and faith within a democracy and modern culture, with both Islam and Christianity.”

“So, I think these are both things that the person of the Holy Father is very interested in.”

Fr. Daley, a scholar specializing in the early Church fathers, said these formative theologians and pastors should serve to inspire Christians of every age and advance the work of the New Evangelization, the topic being addressed at the bishops' synod currently underway in Rome and ending Oct. 28.

“I think there is that liberating effect” in reading about the early Church, he said.

“Many of the people we read, as Church fathers, are really good theologians – highly sophisticated people of many different skills and outlooks. They were not uniform. But they presented different approaches to making sense of the Christian faith in their own time.”

Touching on the role theology plays in the modern world, Fr. Daley said “we're always thinking about how we can make sense, how we can give account for the faith that we share.”

“Theology does that. What I do is one part of doing that. Seeing theology as something alive, that draws on its past but is constantly thinking about itself, enables us to continue that process with more freedom.”?

The award ceremony was not the first time Fr. Daley has met the Pope – the two became acquainted when he was studying theology in Germany and met the future pontiff at a seminar in 1970.

“He spoke on the subject of Christology; who is Christ for us?” Fr. Daley recalled. “It was a little group, maybe 20 people in all. And we all had dinner together and Cardinal Ratzinger celebrated Mass for us every day.”

“It was a very intimate gathering. I don’t know if he remembers my presence there, but I definitely remember his. I never dreamed he'd be Pope.”

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Phoenix medical center not stripped of Catholic status

Phoenix, Ariz., Oct 22, 2012 / 02:35 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Phoenix clarified over the weekend that a hospital working on certifying its Catholic identity has not been stripped of its Catholic status.

“Contrary to reports in the media, Mercy Gilbert Medical Center has not been stripped of its Catholic status,” the diocese said in an Oct. 20 statement.

“The hospital is in the process of renewing its status and ensuring its compliance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. This renewal process was necessary following the corporate reorganization of its parent company in January.”

The renewal is needed because Mercy Gilbert's parent company, Catholic Healthcare West, was reorganized as a secular company under the name Dignity Health on Jan. 23.

As a result, Mercy Gilbert needs to renew their recognition as a Catholic institution with the Phoenix diocese.

Because this is an ongoing process, “Bishop Olmsted has a duty to the Catholic faithful to inform them that he cannot state with moral certitude that Mercy Gilbert Hospital provides Catholic health care which is in full conformity with the teaching of the Church,” the diocese said in an Oct. 18 press release.

Once the process is completed by the hospital, Bishop Olmsted will be able to recognize their Catholic identity.

On Dec. 21, 2010, Bishop Olmsted revoked his consent for St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center to utilize the name “Catholic” in any way. That decision followed a Nov. 2009 abortion performed on a woman who was 11 weeks pregnant and had heart and lung conditions.

When Bishop Olmsted determined that that decision was immoral, the hospital refused to agree, and so its Catholic status was removed.

In the decree removing St. Joseph's Catholic status, Bishop Olmsted wrote that he “cannot verify that this health care organization will provide health care consistent with authentic Catholic moral teaching as interpreted by me in exercising my legitimate Episcopal authority to interpret the moral law.”

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Uruguay bishops say lawmakers who support abortion are excommunicated

Montevideo, Uruguay, Oct 22, 2012 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Uruguay's bishops say that local lawmakers who recently voted to legalize abortion in the country are automatically excommunicated for separating themselves from the Church's teaching.

“Automatic excommunication is for those who collaborate in the execution of an abortion in a direct way,” said Bishop Heriberto Bodeant, secretary for the Uruguayan bishops' conference.

“If a Catholic votes...with the manifest intention that he thinks the Church is wrong about this, he separates himself from the communion of the Church,” Bishop Bodeant recently told reporters.

“Excommunication means you are not in communion with the ecclesial community to which you openly claim to belong by doing something that puts you outside communion, and therefore you cannot participate in the Eucharist,” he explained.

The Catholic Church teaches – and canon law upholds –  that life must be respected from the moment of conception, he said.

If the new law is signed by President Jose Mujica – who vowed support for the measure – the Church will strengthen its work in support of human life to “reinvigorate the law written in the heart of every person that says that a fundamental value exists, which is life.”

This “is above all other” rights, the bishop said.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Vatican approves addition of Bl. John Paul II's feast for US

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2012 / 05:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Congregation for Divine Worship has approved the celebration of Blessed John Paul II's feast day in the dioceses of the United States, after setting the feast day for Oct. 22.

The congregation was petitioned for the permission by the U.S. bishops' conference following their November 2011 meeting.

Bl. John Paul II's feast day is observed as an optional memorial in the dioceses of the United States. His office includes the opening prayer at Mass and the second reading in the Office of Readings, which is part of the Liturgy of the Hours. Additional texts for the Liturgy of the Hours should be taken from the texts common to all pastors who are celebrated liturgically.

Oct. 22 was chosen because it is the anniversary of his inauguration as Pope in 1978.

The opening prayer at Masses celebrated in his honor asks, “instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind.”

The reading in the Office of Readings is taken from his inaugural homily as Pope, when he urged Christians to “be not afraid” and to “open wide the doors for Christ.”

Bl. John Paul II was born Karol Wotjty?a in1920 in Poland. He was ordained a priest in 1946 for the Archdiocese of Krakow, and was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop for the same archdiocese in 1958. He was elected Pope on Oct. 16, 1978 and served in that capacity for almost 27 years.

 “His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world,” reads the new biography for Bl. John Paul II in the Liturgy of the Hours.

“Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich Magisterium and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches,” it adds.

Bl. John Paul II died April 2, 2005. He was beatified only six years later, after the Vatican recognized his intercession in the healing of a French nun who suffered from Parkinson's disease.

Beatification permits the veneration of a person by particular groups or by locale, and so the Vatican had to allow Bl. John Paul II's feast day to be observed permanently in the United States.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pro-life leader: Morin trial reveals tragedy of abortion

Madrid, Spain, Oct 18, 2012 / 02:55 pm (CNA).- Spanish pro-life leader Josep Miro, who is president of e-Christians and a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, said the trial of Doctor Carlos Morin has put a spotlight on the tragedy of the abortion industry.

Speaking to CNA on Oct. 16, Miro said the trial of the Spanish doctor accused of performing more than 100 illegal abortions has revealed “the tragedy behind this. There are women who see their children as a burden, from the economic point of view, and there are some groups of people who are dedicated to this for the sole purpose of making a lot of money.”

Dr. Carlos Morin, together with 12 collaborators, performed dozens of illegal abortions in his clinics in Barcelona. Morin is accused of engaging in the falsification of records, doing late-term abortions without consulting a psychiatrist, and asking patients to sign false statements that they were not more than 22 weeks pregnant, the legal limit in Spain.

Miro said the impact of the trial will go far beyond the borders of Spain, since “it the largest abortion trial that has ever taken place in Europe,” with the largest number of defendants and the greatest amount of years ever requested by prosecutors (more than 300) as a sentence.

He also said the case has exposed the cruelty of those who participate in abortions, as demonstrated by the “mere fact of the shredders” used to dispose of babies’ remains at Morin’s abortion clinics.

The trial is shedding a light on an otherwise hidden place, “so that society can become aware of the human miseries that occur there,” he said.

Miro called it surprising that in “a case on abortion there would be protected witnesses.” 

“This is not usual, as even in criminal cases there are no protected witnesses, and this is only allowed when there is a fear, deemed reasonable by a judge, that harm could come or that there is an organization capable of causing this harm,” he explained.

He also noted that the evidence against Morin is extensive and includes “hours of recorded phone calls that have been admitted as evidence, confiscated documentation that clearly shows that ultrasounds were manipulated.”

Miro, whose group is part of a coalition that is suing Morin, said donations to help fund the lawsuit against Morin have been ongoing.  “We have been able to cover two extra expenses that we have … which are the attorneys, because the trial has lasted a long time, and we have set up a small news service for the media, so that we can respond to them and provide background information that can help them become familiar with the matter.”

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Moral theologians reaffirm possible ethical stem cell advances

Denver, Colo., Oct 17, 2012 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Although concerns have been raised about the unethical source of some cells used in Shinya Yamanaka’s efforts to reprogram cells into stem cells, moral theologians insist that the work could lead to ethical advances in the field.

“The initial insight unfortunately involved tainted material, but it gives way to an application of that knowledge which can be perfectly morally licit,” Father Thomas Berg, Professor of Moral Theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., told CNA on Oct. 16.

The American Catholic published a post on Oct. 15 questioning praise in Catholic circles of the results of Yamanaka's research, which was initially performed using cells derived from aborted human fetuses and human embryonic stem cells.

“That in itself no one is praising … I wouldn't have described myself as praising the work of Yamanaka in that sense,” Fr. Berg said in reference to an Oct. 8 interview with CNA.

“But I am praising the potential for the good that can come from this technology.”

Yamanaka published a paper in 2006 demonstrating that intact, mature cells can become immature stem cells. He inserted genes into mouse cells which reprogrammed those cells so that they became stem cells, and was later able to perform the technique with human cells.

These reprogrammed cells are pluripotent, meaning they can develop into a wide variety of specialized cell types. Yamanaka's breakthrough opened the door to studying disease and developing diagnosis and treatments.

Since this technique produces a stem cell from any cell, it provides an alternative to human embryonic stem cells, which are derived from destroyed human embryos.

Yamanaka and John B. Gurdon, researchers in cell biology, were awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries about how to generate induced pluripotent stem cells.

Although he does not agree with methods that use unethical means, Fr. Berg said he has “absolutely no doubt that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can be made without recourse to any morally tainted cells.”

“With a little bit of good will and effort, it's possible to do this research free of any tainted materials,” Fr. Berg affirmed.

He also stands by his earlier statement that Yamanaka's research “put human embryonic stem-cell research largely out of business.”

Yamanaka was “motivated by reflection on the fact that his own daughters were once human embryos” and “that is something to be thankful to God for,” Fr. Berg reflected.

Dr. Christian Brugger, who holds the Stafford Chair of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colo., agrees with Fr. Berg's assessments.

Brugger noted in an Oct. 16 article for the National Catholic Register that though “most any science can be used wrongly,” “iPSC research in itself seems to me to be morally unproblematic.”

Brugger affirmed that “Yamanaka's prestigious award is indeed a triumph for ethical research,” and said that less money is being spent on human embryonic stem cell research because induced pluripotent cells represent a previously undiscovered branch of stem cell research.

According to Brugger, some of the most prominent cell biologists in the world have announced a preference for the new method over human embryonic stem cells since they were discovered by Yamanaka.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Renewing Ireland requires giving youth hope and truth, bishops say

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2012 / 12:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ireland’s delegation to the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization presented ways to re-evangelize a country shaken by abuse scandals, undermined by poor catechesis and assaulted by secularism.

“(T)he Church must now speak with a voice which is hopeful yet humble, confident yet compassionate, with a claim to authority that must be more evidently rooted in the Gospel and the love of Christ,” said Bishop Kieran O’Reilly of Killaloe during the Oct. 16 afternoon session of the synod.

 “This is the context in which the new evangelization will take place” in Ireland, he stated.

Referring to the abuse scandals, Bishop O’Reilly said the Church in Ireland is living the “recent crises in a dramatic way.”

But he expressed hope for renewal through a 10-year program of re-evangelization that the bishops’ conference will be implementing. It will emphasize catechesis and deep appreciation for Christ’s message.

Bishop O’Reilly also said the New Evangelization must involve a “fuller and significant biblical apostolate.”

Addressing the same synod session was the other member of the Irish delegation, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

He broached a subject pertinent to Ireland that also has broader relevance to the English-speaking world. The archbishop warned about “the manipulation of language and the management of information where the meaning of words is changed and manipulated for commercial, ideological or political motives.”

He said this has had an especially confusing effect upon youth.

“Young people live in a culture of relativism, and indeed, banalization of the truth often without even being aware of it,” he said. “It is a culture which they did not create. They may not know any other culture, yet they must find Christ in the midst of this culture while they have little familiarity with the language of faith.”

While taking heart in the ardor of groups of young Catholics who have “found strength and support in events such as World Youth Day,” he said the Church must reach out to those young people who “find themselves very much alone among their classmates and fellow students and indeed may experience hostility and incomprehension as they try to find or maintain their faith in Jesus Christ.”

What is the Church doing to reach out to them? he asked.

“Where are we present among the large student population, especially for those whose basic Christian education may well have been all but superficial in either family or school? The challenge of the New Evangelization must be marked by a robust confrontation of ideas, not in terms of ideological aggression, but in helping young people in the discernment of ideas.”

Archbishop Martin pointed out that the “culture of individualism” leaves young truth-seekers especially lonely and recommended that the Church can counteract it by creating a variety of “new ecclesial communities, not just those of the ecclesial movements, but around our parishes, which will be the building blocks of the Eucharistic communities of the future.”

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Spaniard receives four years for crash that killed leading Cuban dissident

Havana, Cuba, Oct 17, 2012 / 12:59 pm (CNA).- Officials in Cuba announced on Monday that a court has sentenced a Spanish man to four years in prison for his role in a car crash that killed Oswaldo Paya and another prominent political dissident.
The criminal court in Granma said the traffic accident which took the lives of Paya and Harold Cepero on July 22 was the result of the “imprudent conduct” of Angel Carromero, who was driving the vehicle in which the men were traveling.
Diplomatic sources told Europa Press that since the sentence was for less than five years, Carromero could be allowed to serve the sentence in Spain under some form of house arrest.  The verdict came 10 days after Carromero was tried in Bayamo, near the site of the accident in southeastern Cuba.
Prosecutors had asked for seven years – three and half for each victim. The car in which the two dissidents, Carromero and Swiss activist Jens Aron Modig were riding veered off the highway that connects Las Tunas with Bayamo in the province of Granma.
Modig was initially detained by Cuban officials but allowed to return to his country a few days later.  He says he was asleep at the time of the accident and does not recall any details.
Carromero has been in prison since July in Havana. 
The foreign ministers of Spain and Cuba, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo and Bruno Rodriguez agreed in New York on Sept. 27 to hold talks to evaluate the sentence once it was handed down.
Disputing versions

Cuban authorities claim the accident was caused by excessive speeding, and in a video released by the government days after his arrest, Carromero admits that he lost control of the car after hitting a pothole, although he did not say how fast he was going.
In the video, he also asked the international community to avoid using the incident for political purposes and he denied that their car was struck from behind by another vehicle.
The Paya family has said that the accident may have been the result of a conspiracy to kill the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, alleging that one of the two survivors of the crash sent a text message stating that they were being followed and that their car had been hit from behind several times.
Paya’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, has absolved Carromero of any responsibility and has asked to learn “the truth” about what occurred.  Neither the relatives of Paya nor those of Cepero have filed any suit against the Spaniard.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Pope will deliver year-long teaching series on restoring faith

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2012 / 01:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At his first general audience during the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI initiated a new, year-long cycle of teachings aimed at healing the division between what Christians say they profess, what they actually believe, and how they live their lives.

“Christians often do not even know the core of their Catholic faith, the Creed, thus leaving room for a certain syncretism and religious relativism, without clarity on the truths to be believed and the salvific uniqueness of Christianity,” the Pope told the pilgrims packed into a sunlit St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 17.

Unless Christians understand their faith and live it fully, he warned, they leave themselves prone to the forces operating in a “profoundly changed society” scarred by “many forms of barbarism.” The Pope pointed to the influences of secularism, relativism, the use other people as objects “for pure selfishness” and a “widespread nihilistic mentality” as some of the forces that can exert a “crucial impact on the general mentality.”

The result is that “life is often lived lightly, without clear ideals or sound hopes, in transient and provisional social and family ties,” he said.

“Above all the younger generations are not educated in the search for truth or the deeper meaning of existence that goes beyond the contingent, to a stability of affection, trust.”

Christians must guard themselves against these errors, the Pope told the crowd, adding that if “individualism and relativism seem to dominate the mind of many of our contemporaries, we cannot say that believers remain totally immune from these dangers … .”

In response, the Pope urged sound instruction in the Creed and the teachings of the Church for all Catholics.

“The risk is not far off today of people building a so-called ‘do-it-yourself’ religion,” he said.

“Instead, we should return to God, the God of Jesus Christ, we must rediscover the message of the Gospel, to bring it into more deeply into our minds and our daily lives.”

The Pope cited cautionary findings from a survey conducted among bishops worldwide in preparation for the Oct. 7-28 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. Bishops reported such trends among the faithful as “a living faith that is passive and private, rejection of faith formation, and a rupture between faith and life.”

The Year of Faith, which was launched on Oct. 11, will promote the transformative power of that deep faith so radically different from the “life lived lightly,” Pope Benedict said.

“With faith everything really changes everything in us and for us, and our future destiny is clearly revealed, the truth of our vocation in history, the meaning of life, the joy of being a pilgrim towards the heavenly Kingdom,” he proclaimed.

Pope Benedict finished his remarks by telling the assembled pilgrims about his plans for the year-long series of reflections.

“In the catechesis of this Year of Faith I would like to offer some help in making this journey, to take up once again and deepen the central truths of the faith of God, man, the Church, of all the social and cosmic realities, meditating and reflecting on the statements of the Creed. And I would like to clarify that such content or truths of the faith are directly connected to our lives; they require conversion of existence, which gives life to a new way of believing in God.”

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

In tight presidential race, social issues could have an impact

Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2012 / 02:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an election year that continues to be dominated by economic concerns, one public policy analyst believes that social issues could still play an important role in November.

“The race became much more tightly competitive” after the first presidential debate, said Dr. Mark J. Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University.

He explained to CNA on Oct. 17 that a close race could mean that social issues such as abortion and the federal contraception mandate might end up being more influential in the presidential election than they otherwise would.

On Oct. 16, President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney met at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. for the second of three presidential debates in the 2012 campaign.

The town hall format yielded heated exchanges between the candidates on topics ranging from gun control to the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in a Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

As in the first debate, the economy and jobs were key issues of discussion. Moral issues such as gay marriage and abortion were largely absent, with the candidates just briefly discussing the contraception mandate that has alarmed religious freedom advocates and drawn lawsuits from more than 100 plaintiffs of various religious backgrounds.

High levels of unemployment and a struggling economy have consistently played a large role in what has become a tight presidential race.

“On the whole, Catholics are concerned about jobs and the economy right now, just like other Americans,” Rozell said.

However, he acknowledged, “for some Catholic voters, the social issues are paramount,” even in an election dominated by economic issues.

These voters tend to be traditional and conservative, and the contraceptive mandate is a very important issue for many of them, he said. And while many of these voters would likely have voted conservative anyway, opposition to the mandate could be intensifying their efforts to raise support.

“In what is expected to be a very close election this year, that means that these social issues do matter,” even if these matters are ranked as being less important than economic issues in national polls, Rozell explained.

In recent decades, the Catholic vote has come to be seen as a predictor in the general election, since the candidate who captures the Catholic electorate nearly always wins the race.

“There is no distinctively Catholic vote anymore,” Rozell said. Rather, Catholics – who make up one-fourth of the electorate in a presidential race – tend to reflect the general voting population.

In this race, he observed, the presence of two Catholic vice presidential candidates “neutralizes religious identity as a factor,” counteracting the tendency to vote on a candidate specifically based on religious affiliation.

It is religious participation rather than religious identity that is more closely associated with differences in voting behavior, Rozell explained. Those who attend church regularly are more likely to vote for conservative candidates, while those who attend church less frequently are more likely to vote for liberal candidates.
“I think it comes down to the traditional divisions” within the Catholic community, he stated.

In the final three weeks before the election, Rozell said that the most important remaining factors are “people’s perceptions of the economy,” as well as the candidates’ performance in the third debate, which will be a last impression for many voters.

Although the final debate will focus on foreign policy, viewers should not be surprised to see both candidates tying domestic issues into their discussions, he said.

The last presidential debate will be held Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Pope sending Cardinal Dolan on peace mission to Syria

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2012 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York will be part of a papal delegation to Syria that will voice “fraternal solidarity” with the Syrian people and encourage peace amid the country’s violent conflict.

The Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said Oct. 16 that the world’s Catholic bishops cannot be “mere spectators of a tragedy such as the one that is now unfolding in Syria.”

He said a political answer is “the only possible solution to the crisis.” The Syrian population and displaced persons have endured “immense suffering.”

He said the delegation will travel to Damascus next week.

“In the meantime we pray that reason and compassion might prevail,” Cardinal Bertone said.

Fighting between rebels and the Syrian government has killed an estimated 30,000 people.

Syria’s Christians tend to support the government, given the fate they expect to suffer if Islamists take control. Rebels have targeted Christians, bombing several churches and driving tens of thousands of them from their homes.

Lakhdar Brahimi, a peace envoy from the United Nations and the Arab League, is presently touring the region to try to find a solution to the conflict. He arrived in Lebanon Oct. 17 after visiting Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq.

He is seeking a three-day ceasefire for the Muslim holiday Eid, which is observed on Oct. 26. The rebel Free Syrian Army has rejected the proposal on the grounds it would allow the government to prepare more offensives. The Syrian National Council, which opposes the government, has tentatively welcomed the proposal.

Another member of the papal delegation will be Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

On Oct. 17 at the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, he said the group will show “human solidarity towards people who are suffering.” It will also express spiritual solidarity.

The delegation aims to find a solution to the conflict.

“We must help those who are in charge of society and the general political landscape,” the cardinal said, according to Vatican Radio.

In addition to Cardinals Dolan and Tauran, the delegation will include Cardinal Laurent Mosengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Bishop Fabio Suescun Mutis, military ordinary of Colombia; and Bishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Phat Diem, Vietnam.

Vatican officials in the delegation include Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, and Msgr. Alberto Ortega of the Secretariat of State.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post