Monday, February 28, 2011

February - Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Almighty and beneficent God! who didst impose upon our mother Eve, in punishment for her sin, that she should give birth to her children in pain:

I offer to Thee all the pains which I have thus suffered in atonement for my sins, and thank Thee, that I have safely brought a child into the world, whom I now offer to Thee, according to the example of the Mother of Thine only-begotten Son, for Thy holy service, whom I shall zealously endeavor to educate for Thy honor.

Give me but this grace through the intercession and merits of this most blessed Mother.

Bless me and my child, and grant, that we may here live in accordance with Thy divine will, and receive eternal salvation.

Through Christ, our Lord.


Prayer To Saint Matthew

O Glorious Saint Matthew, in your Gospel you portray Jesus as the longed-for Messiah who fulfilled the Prophets of the Old Covenant and as the new Lawgiver who founded a Church of the New Covenant. 
Obtain for us the grace to see Jesus living in his Church and to follow his teachings in our lives on earth so that we may live forever with him in heaven.

Nigerian Prelate Stresses Power of Prayer

Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja is underlining the power of prayer, affirming that his country would not have survived without God.

The prelate stated this at the opening Mass for a recent national prayer rally for Nigeria organized in Abuja by the National Council of Catholic Women Organization (NCCWO), reports the Catholic News Service of Nigeria.

"See how the almighty hand of God is holding this nation in a very precarious equilibrium despite all our people are doing to destroy this nation," the archbishop said in his homily.

He noted "all the tricks to subvert the common good, to disrupt the political development of our country, massive corruption and stealing," and "all the anger that has been generated in all our young people who are out there very frustrated and unemployed."

"There is a limit to how much disorder the human community can sustain and we have to do all we can, so that we don't reach that limit," Archbishop Onaiyekan said.

He added, "That is the duty of everyone and this is the greatest reason why we must pray, pray to God to sustain our land and empower us to do the right thing."

"Those who have power in their hands can do wonderful things and put themselves in the hands of God to do good to humanity," the prelate affirmed, "and when they reach the gate of heaven, they will be welcomed."

He added, "Where power is used for the benefit of the people, the people are happy while where power is badly used, there is misery."

The archbishop made a special appeal for prayer faced to the country's upcoming political elections.

He affirmed, "As Christians, God listens to us and has time for each one of us."

Coming events

The Catholic News Service of Nigeria also noted that the Church in the country is preparing to celebrate two congresses next year, one Eucharistic and the other pastoral.

Bishop of Hilary Okeke Nnewi, who inaugurated the planning committee for these congresses, underlined the importance of these congresses for the Church in that country.

The 2012 Eucharistic Congress is the second in Nigeria; the first took place in 2002. 

The Pastoral Congress is the fourth in that country.

Archbishop Martin – the man in the arena who needs help

When you put Archbishop Martin’s speech to abuse victims last Sunday week through it produces a ‘word cloud’, essentially a jumbled mix of words with the most used words larger than the rest.  

The most used words by Archbishop Martin were ‘forgiveness’, ‘silence’, ‘Jesus’, ‘abandonment’ followed by ‘courage’, ‘truth’, ‘survivors’ ‘Dublin’. says it all and the Ballyfermot archbishop played a ‘blinder’ last Sunday week.  

The pictures of Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston who is the Pope’s investigator for Dublin in the simple habit of a Capuchin friar, and Archbishop Martin in a simple black cassock without any trimmings to designate his office, both lying prostrate in front of hundreds of victims and their families is an image that needs to be seen the world over.

For all his time at the UN and travelling internationally to speak at conferences, the handling of abuse in Dublin is Archbishop Martin’s legacy to the modern Church. 

This is his issue and he is literally brilliant at it, and while he might say that he is only doing what any good Christian with an ounce of compassion would do in his place, bishops all over the world have failed where he has succeeded.

Yet the Irish Church is moving on, slowly, from the abuse saga which has dogged it for 15 years.  It may be that Archbishop Martin will move on to. 

The Vatican might be afraid to move the archbishop because it could be interpreted that he was being removed for his courageous efforts to speak out for victims.

Yet those in the know, know there are problems in Dublin. 

There is a mountain of change needed and it is increasingly clear that the archbishop may not be the man to handle this change.  

He has admitted as much:  “I would have to say that despite all my efforts I am failing in my attempts to lead such change...change management has to have the patience and the strategy to bring everyone along with it and that may not be my talent.”

And yet a question poses itself despite the obvious humility of the archbishop to recognise the areas in which he is not strong, namely that there are many laity in Dublin who are gifted strategy people, with careers in management and human resource management, there are people with the patience of Job who would gladly lend their skills, people who are not asked can’t give their time and skill.  

If you put that last statement of the Archbishop through it would highlight ‘I’ and ‘my’. This is the flaw in the archbishops management vision; he thinks it all has to come from him, the Archbishop.  

A good leader knows when to lead and how to delegate; he also knows his weaknesses and gathers people around him who make up for those weaknesses. 

Perhaps Archbishop Martin would be well advised to have a shuffle of his inner-circle and get in some good advisers and talented assistants.

As Theodore Roosevelt said in a speech called The Man in the Arena: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Pope to Visit Monument for Italians Slain by Nazis

Benedict XVI will mark the 67th anniversary of the 1944 Nazi massacre of 335 Italians with a private visit to the commemorative monument.

The Prefecture of the Pontifical Household today announced the Pope's visit to the Fosse Ardeatine on the outskirts of Rome, which will take place March 27. 

The anniversary is March 24.

The Ardeatine massacre was a reprisal for a March 23, 1944, attack on occupying German forces. 

Partisans of the Patriotic Action Group ignited a bomb as a column of German policemen marched through central Rome on Via Rasella. 

Thirty-three Germans died and Adolf Hitler approved a proposal that 10 Italians should be killed for each German casualty.

The final toll of 335 Italians was due to a miscount in the hasty roundup, which included civilians, military prisoners of war and prisoners from Rome's jails, as well as 75 Jews.

Hitler ordered that the reprisal be carried out in 24 hours.

Benedict XVI is the third Pope to visit the Fosse Ardeatine.

Pope Paul VI went on Sept. 12, 1965, and Pope John Paul II on March 21, 1982.

The Effective Formation of Seminarians

A recent course on spiritual formation in seminaries addressed issues such as physical and affective maturity of priestly candidates, and the importance and aims of spiritual direction.

ZENIT spoke with Bishop José María Yanguas of Cuenca, Spain, who presented the topic of affective fragility to participants in the Feb. 7-11 course, organized by the by the Center for Priestly Formation and held at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce. The week of study was titled "Personal Spiritual Formation in the Seminary."

In this interview, Father Yanguas speaks about the current challenge of affective immaturity that can be seen in seminarians -- and also in many of the faithful -- how to address this in spiritual direction, and virtues to emphasize for Christian growth.

ZENIT: What should be the pillars of spiritual formation that should be given priority at present in seminaries?

Bishop Yanguas: The purpose of this course is to prepare candidates to continue the mission in the Church of Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd, being collaborators of the bishops. Priests are, radically, Christians, called to carry out a mission that requires previous "training," priestly ordination, particular configuration with Christ, Priest and Shepherd. Hence, the first task of education in seminaries is to form good Christians, that is, to educate in human and Christian virtues, common to all disciples of Jesus.

ZENIT: And what are these virtues?

Bishop Yanguas: A candidate to the priesthood should try to acquire virtues such as sincerity and simplicity, with an instinctive rejection of a double life, of everything that is false, not genuine, artificial; the spirit of work, the sense of friendship, sincere and open, sacrificial and generous, fundamental to live the priesthood within a presbytery and in the heart of a community; the spirit of service, necessary for one who is to give himself tirelessly to all; strength of spirit and capacity to suffer, "endurance," we could say, not to give in faced to difficulties and obstacles, to be able to work without expecting easy, immediate success, and not to get depressed when faced with possible failures.

Moreover, clearly the candidate to the priesthood must have the necessary theological and moral, canonical, liturgical and pastoral formation.

He must have a lively experience of the God who reveals himself to us in Christ, which is cultivated in the vital dialogue of personal prayer, public or private; a supernatural sense that makes him judge everything in the light of God; affability and a sense of paternity that will make him treat everyone with sincerity and mature cordiality; supernatural optimism that will infuse in the faithful joy and confidence; a sense of responsibility, creativity and the spirit of leadership of one who is committed, in a thousand ways, to serve the Word of God to his brethren, to bring them to the sources of grace, which are the sacraments, to guide them on the paths of an authentically Christian life. These are not the only "virtues" of priestly formation that you ask me about, but they must not be lacking.

ZENIT: What must be the role of the spiritual director during the formation of seminarians?

Bishop Yanguas: It is certainly an essential role. On one hand he is concerned with the life and spiritual formation in the seminary, which takes place through conversations, retreats, meditations, the reading of books, among others.

On the other hand, the spiritual director is the spiritual guide of the candidates. They open their souls to him, making him share in their inner life, so that he is able to direct, illumine, correct, open horizons, clarify doubts, propose goals, at times encourage, at others moderate. 

Hence, it is a work that touches the most intimate and personal aspect of each one.

Therefore, it is a task that requires extreme delicacy, so that the candidates feel accepted, understood and appreciated. It calls for humility and the sense of the Church so as not to form them in one's image and likeness.

It calls for respect for the peculiarities of each one in the certainty that there are no two souls that are the same and that there are no recipes of indiscriminate universal application, strength to be able to correct when it is necessary, moral wisdom and knowledge of the spiritual life, attention to what God might be asking from the different candidates, care to facilitate their sincerity, prudence to lead them on an inclined plane, and patience to support the rhythms of growth, at times so different for each one.

ZENIT: And in regard to affective fragility, of which you spoke in the academic event at the University of Santa Croce?

Bishop Yanguas: This matter is not something specific of priestly formation. Fragility, immaturity, inconsistency of spirit is something present in many of our young people and adolescents. It is manifested as a lack of harmony between the intellectual, volitional and affective spheres of the person, creating instability, frequent changes of the state of mind, behavior guided by "desire," failure to fulfill acquired commitments, disappointments after sudden enthusiasms, depressive states for no other reason than small and inevitable failures, inability to keep going or to resist faced to obstacles, difficulty in making real decisions.
Affectively fragile persons need to be the center of attention, to be recognized and esteemed. They easily confuse feeling and true love.

ZENIT: Is it just a question of feelings?

Bishop Yanguas: Of course not. This is the inadequate integration of the affective realm in the totality of the person, whereas personal maturity, instead, is the fruit of the harmonious development of one's human capacities. Affective immaturity is not just about the sphere of feelings; it certainly implies intellectual and volitional immaturity.

If the varied realm of feelings and affections, frequently confused, prevails over intelligence and will, one falls necessarily into sentimentalism, allowing the feelings to decide on truth or error and making them the only motor of our acts. Reason loses the capacity of discernment, and the will is weakened. Thus the person's life is in the power of variable, changing feelings, often superficial. Being so, they need to be directed rather by the intelligence and governed by the will.

If sentimentalism invades the life of piety, the latter will run a very grave risk as soon as the feelings, experiences and affections that support it are lacking.

ZENIT: The spiritual director must try to lead the candidate toward a mature affective life. What are the characteristics of this?

Bishop Yanguas: A mature affective life calls for a vision of man that responds to his truth without reductionisms, dualisms or partial visions. It requires knowledge of the true "ordo amoris" [order of love], of the scale of goods that merit being loved. But it also calls for strength, willpower, the capacity to be able to follow and live that ordo.

ZENIT: What are the factors that favor affective fragility?

Bishop Yanguas: It is favored by an environment that denies absolute truths, strong values, and models of conduct; a culture in which the distinction between good and evil is uncertain, where the true is confused with the useful or practical, in which "everything is the color of the glass through which one looks." This makes authentic education or formation impossible: There are no models; there is no precise idea of what it means to be a person.

The difficulty becomes worse when the efforts, commitments and sacrifices that all education demands do not enjoy a good reputation because pleasure has become the end-goal of existence. The spasmodic quest for pleasure puts us in the presence of the animal man of which St. Paul speaks, incapable of understanding the things of God, a slave of his passions.

ZENIT: Is this factor a challenge for the formation of seminarians?

Bishop Yanguas: Indeed. That is why it is necessary to propose with renewed vigor to candidates to the priesthood the model of Christ the Priest, Good Shepherd, to motivate them with this image, so that in its light the whole task of formation makes sense, forging their own personality.

The "ordo amoris" will have to be shown with clarity, the order of the goods that must be loved and realized. It will be indispensable to strengthen, to harden the will of the candidates, to exercise them in "patience," in the capacity to suffer for what one loves, which merits our effort, commitment and sacrifice.

It would be appropriate to put candidates in contact with true priestly figures who have embodied and embody the priestly ideal of love and total self-giving to God, of hope and optimism, of joyful passion for soul, and of a positive vision of faith.

Church addresses the rise in piracy

The rising incidence of piracy on the high seas and the hijacking of ships calls for improved spiritual counselling to help crew members prepare for the possibility of and to recover from such tragedies, participants at a Vatican conference said.

More people were taken hostage at sea in 2010 than ever before, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travellers Scalabrinian Father Gabriele Bentoglio said.

According to a 2010 International Maritime Bureau report, 445 ships were attacked worldwide, 1181 seafarers were captured, and eight of them were killed, he said.

"While the owners pay soaring ransoms for the recovery of vessels and cargos," he said on February 14, "seafarers, fishers and their families are paying the highest price in terms of psychological trauma and other consequences."

The Italian priest was one of a number of speakers attending a meeting at the Vatican of regional directors of the Apostleship of the Sea from February 14-16.

He said very little professional help was given to victims of pirates, and the council invited the general commander of the Italian Coast Guard Admiral Marco Brusco to speak about the problem of piracy in order to help the apostleship better understand what could be done to support victims.

Fr Bentoglio said the apostleship, which provides spiritual care to seafarers and anyone whose livelihood depends on the sea, was in a good position to help, because it has an extensive presence in Asia, which is the region where the greatest numbers of kidnapped seafarers are from.

Only the Apostleship of the Sea can provide the kind of comfort and spiritual assistance that victims and their families needed during and after an act of piracy or kidnapping because the apostleship has "always been close to the seafarers and deeply attentive to their problems", Admiral Brusco said in a written speech. 

The speech was read by Admiral Pierluigi Cacioppo.

The apostleship, a worldwide Catholic ministry made up of chaplains, associates and volunteers, can prepare seafarers and their families by advising them of the possibility of facing a kidnapping someday, he said.

But most of all, the apostleship can provide psychological, spiritual and material support to victims and families "instilling confidence and showing understanding, increasing the necessary strength in them to face such a difficult situation, and promoting in Christian communities attitudes and works of fraternal hospitality", the admiral said.

The general commander said he was committed to providing the apostleship with "all the informational support needed to carry out this very important and delicate" task.

New York Governor attacked by Vatican adviser for taking Communion

A Vatican adviser has condemned New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as 'gravely sacrilegious' for receiving Holy Communion - because he is not married to his live-in girlfriend, Food Network star Sandra Lee.

Edward Peters, a consultant for the Vatican's high court, said Mr Cuomo should not take the sacrament of Communion while he is engaged in what he called 'public concubinage' with Ms Lee.

His scathing attack comes after an interview with television cook Ms Lee was released in which she frankly discusses her harrowing childhood and present-day success - and says she is happy not being married for now.

She and Mr Cuomo have been together for five years and share a home with his teenage daughters from his first marriage. 

In the interview with Vogue, Ms Lee, the host of Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee, describes how she reorganised her company to make life easier for her partner.

But Mr Peters, who is also a conservative Catholic blogger, condemned their living arrangements. 

He particularly criticised  the governor for receiving Communion at Albany's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on January 1, the day after his inauguration.

The adviser described it as a 'gravely sacrilegious' act and said Bishop Howard Hubbard committed a 'failure in pastoral care' by praising Mr Cuomo at the Mass, which he attended with Ms Lee and his daughters.

Mr Peters told CNSNews the governor should be denied Communion if he tries to take the sacrament again 'as long as he persists in such conduct'. 

He was referring both to Mr Cuomo's living arrangements and his views on abortion and gay marriage, which he supports.

Mr Cuomo today said: 'My religion is a private matter, and that is not something I discuss in the political arena.'
The remarks will do little to harm the glamorous television cook, who has successfully built a lifestyle empire from traumatic beginnings.

In the interview with Vogue, the star spoke frankly about the harrowing childhood that inspired the success of her hit Semi-Homemade book and television series.

The 44-year-old told the magazine how she was abandoned as a toddler by her teenage mother, mentally and physically abused by her stepfather, and by the age of 12, responsible for the care of four younger siblings.

She described how her mother, who became pregnant with her at 15 and was married by 16, left her in the care of her doting grandmother for four years as a young child.

But the trauma really began when she was reclaimed by her mother, banned from seeing her beloved grandmother, and subjected to years of mental and physical abuse from her stepfather.

She revealed that she managed to feed the family, who lived in Sumner, Washington, with next to no money using food stamps and the ingenuity that would make her so famous.

'I figured out that you can make a casserole with a can of soup, thickened with flour and water and topped with a Bisquick crust,' she said.

It it this kind of imagination behind the Semi-Homemade concept - recipes based on 70 per cent packaged food and 30 per cent fresh - that has proved such a huge success for her, but a stint at the Cordon Bleu cookery school in Canada honed her skills.

'At the Cordon Bleu... I learned how to break down these complicated recipes - it was like a science project - and create quicker, easier versions that ordinary women could relate to. 

'Instead of making truffles from scratch, I realised I could use pre-made chocolate icing, adding extra confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. When I presented my ideas to the chef, I thought he would kick me out!'

But Ms Lee's talents would be spotted by Harvey Weinstein and Tina Brown, and she now has 22 cookery books to her name, a bi-monthly magazine and a television show that attracts 2.5m viewers every week.

Of course the question on everybody's lips at the moment is about her relationship with Mr Cuomo, who was sworn in as New York Governor on January 1 this year.

The couple, who have been together for five years and met at a party in the Hamptons, remain unmarried despite sharing a home together with his three daughters, twins Mariah and Cara, 16, and Michaela, 13.

'Well, I did [get married] once, and as I was walking up the aisle I remember thinking, It’s not too late to run,' she admitted.

'Right now I’m happy being a girlfriend. But someday Andrew and I will get there. When his kids say we need to, we will.'

For someone with such a thriving career of her own, it might sound like a challenge to accommodate a busy partner, let alone his children in one's life - but Ms Lee made them a priority.

'In 2010 I made a very conscious effort to get ahead of my work; I cleared the decks and reorganised the company so that I would have more time to devote to Andrew.

'I’ve always seen my job as making life easier for my audience, and now my job is to make life easier for him.'

Her new role as 'the first girlfriend of New York State' also offers the opportunity for a wardrobe, and she counts Bottega Veneta and Carolina Herrera among her favourite labels, as well as Ann Taylor and Talbots.

To any critics of her expensive clothes, she says she wears 'beautiful clothes as a badge of honour'.

'My audience knows me - they remember where I came from.'

Parish seeks `manager'

A Belfast parish is seeking to appoint a 'parish manager' to free up priests for exclusively pastoral duties.

St Oliver Plunkett Parish in Lenadoon in the west of the city has decided to appoint a person who would take responsibility for the financial and other practical needs of the local parish community.

Parish Priest Fr Martin Magill said the role of a priest had changed considerably during the past ten years and he had found ''that an increasing amount of my time has been taken up at the desk''.

The role of the parish manager will be to administer and provide day-to-say supervision of the financial and temporal affairs of the parish, to allow the parish priest to concentrate on the spiritual affairs of the parish.


The manager's role will involve coordinating and facilitating the administrative affairs of the parish, engaging with the community and representing and promoting the parish externally.

''We are explicit about their purpose. Their purpose is to free up the priest of the parish to allow them to concentrate on the pastoral and spiritual needs of the parish community,'' according to Fr Magill.

''At present Down & Connor facilitators are listening to parishioners' concerns and even at an early stage one of the concerns is that priests are taken up with administration. We hope this will be some way to alleviating the burden on clergy,'' Fr Magill said.

Bishops will not have ad limina this year

Irish bishops have not been invited to come to Rome later this year for their scheduled quinquennial meeting with Pope Benedict and other senior Vatican officials.

Every bishop in the world is required to come to Rome every five years to make a full report on the situation of their dioceses. 

However, The Irish Catholic has learned that the bishops will not make the scheduled trip this year. 

Their last such visit - known as an ad limina visit - was in 2006. 

However, because Irish bishops were called to Rome for an emergency summit last year to deal with the clerical abuse crisis it is understood Vatican officials are keen to await the outcome of the Apostolic Visitation before scheduling another ad limina visit.

A spokesman for the hierarchy at Maynooth said: ''Normally, subject to the schedule of the Holy Father, an ad limina takes place every five years. 

However Irish bishops do not have information on the itinerary for their next ad limina.

''Also, whilst not an ad limina visit, all Irish diocesan bishops met with Pope Benedict XVI last February over two days to help respond to child abuse more effectively and to prepare for the subsequent publication of the Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland,'' he said.

Iraqi ambassador criticized for his views on anti-Christian violence

The violence against Christians in Iraq is real and is driven by Muslim extremists and government indifference. 

According to a local Iraqi Catholic leader, the anti-Christian persecution is not a concoction of Western journalists, despite claims made recently by Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican.

Father Firas Benoka, who ministers to Syro-Catholics in Mosul, north of the capital of Baghdad told CNA that the ambassador’s remarks were a gross simplification of the sufferings of the country’s tiny Christian minority.

Iraq’s Vatican ambassador, Habeeb M. H. Ali Al-Sadr, recently blamed the media and international organizations for distorting the situation in Iraq.

He told a conference in Velletri, Italy, Jan. 29 that these groups were “playing the game of the terrorists, being concerned about the Christians, their future and the society’s lack of development,” the ambassador said.

But this analysis does not ring true on the ground in Iraq, Fr. Benoka said.

Extremists have been making violent attacks on Christians and their churches for years, he said.

They are targets, he said, for a “single motive … because they are ‘Christians’.”

“This was the only, most decisive accusation and the cause of the evil they suffered,” he added.

Media attention has increased as the violence against Christians has escalated, Fr. Benoka said.

The last year has seen bombings directed at Catholic students from the University of Mosul and the massacre at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, he continued.

He said he personally knows people were only allowed to escape from the church with their lives after renouncing their faith to their kidnappers.

Though the government has decried the attacks and announced its “closeness” to the Christian victims, “the attacks have become ever more ferocious,” he said.

“Amid all this should the world have been silent? Should such a miserable and humiliating position be tolerated?

“The mass media have not exaggerated in their judgment of the situation,” Fr. Benoka said. 

“Actually, they have missed many of the injustices that continually take place in the villages of Christian majority populations.”

Fr. Benoka said the Iraqi ambassador’s remarks reflect the government’s desire to cover up its failure to protect Christians.

Christians, he said, “are abandoning the nation because of the evil that have suffered and the indecent life there. It is not because of what is heard indirectly through the mass media.”

Estimates vary on just how many Christians have emigrated. A Feb. 21 Human Rights Watch report estimated there to be 675,000 Christians in Iraq, down from over 1 million in 2003.

A U.S. State Department puts the current number between 400,000 and 600,000.

Fr. Benoka expressed disbelief at the ambassador’s claims that Christians received special government privileges worth $15 million for rebuilding their destroyed churches and other building.

“Since when?” he said. “Why be close to them after the attack and not before?”

Other privileges like tax breaks on electricity and water the ambassador spoke of are still in place from Saddam Hussein’s regime and are shared by all religions. 

In any case, Fr. Benoka said, electricity is scarce these days.

Fr. Benoka also rejected the ambassador’s idea that Iraq’s new constitution “guarantees Christians full equality of rights and duties.”

The constitution, which establishes Islam as Iraq’s state religion, is “ the biggest obstacle to religious freedom of all the non-Muslim religions,” he said. It also bars any “law that contradicts or opposes fundamental Islamic principles.”

Fr. Benoka asked, “With this strong affirmation on Islam, how could one speak of a religious liberty or of equality of law among all citizens of the same Iraq?”

He pointed to specific and practical examples of how this could affect non-Muslim citizens.

In matters of inheritance, he said, women are only entitled to half the share of men. In court, the testimony of two women equals that of one man.

In addition, a woman divorced from her husband can only remarry him if she has married and divorced another man. This clashes openly with Catholic teaching in which neither man nor woman can marry another after divorce.

Another example is that any citizen may convert to Islam, but all Muslims are strictly prohibited from converting to other religions. If one parent converts to Islam, his or her underage children are automatically converted with them.

Fr. Benoka said that there are many other example of laws based on Islam included in the constitution that are applied to all citizens even if these laws “sometimes contradict the fundamental principles of their religions.”

Pope to create three new saints, including founder of Xaverian order

Pope Benedict XVI will create three new saints Oct. 23, including the founder of the Xaverian missionaries, Blessed Guido Maria Conforti.

The pope announced the date for the canonization ceremony at the end of what is known as an ordinary public consistory, a formal ceremony opened and closed with prayer, during which cardinals present in Rome express their support for the pope's decision to create new saints.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, read brief biographies of the three in Latin.

Blessed Conforti, founder of the Xaverian Foreign Missionary Society, was born in 1865 in Italy.

Vice rector of a seminary even before his priestly ordination, he was said to have filled seminarians with an awareness of their obligation to be missionaries.

In 1895, seven years after becoming a priest, he founded a congregation of consecrated men dedicated to the evangelization of non-Christians.

Named bishop of Ravenna in 1902, he was plagued by ill health and decided to resign. But five years later, he was once again named a bishop, this time as head of the Diocese of Parma. He visited the Xaverian missionaries in China a few years before his death in 1931. Pope John Paul II declared him "blessed" in 1996.

The Xaverian missionaries today include 793 priests and brothers, and 183 Xaverian sisters; they have a strong presence in Europe and the Americas.

The others to be canonized Oct. 23, World Mission Sunday, are:

-- Blessed Louis Guanella, an Italian priest who lived 1842-1915. He founded the Servants of Charity, the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, and the Confraternity of St. Joseph, whose members pledge to pray for the sick and dying.

-- Blessed Bonifacia Rodriguez Castro, who lived 1837-1905. The Spanish founded the Servants of St. Joseph, a congregation originally dedicated to providing a religious and technical education to poor women.

Icelandic president to meet with Pope Benedict

The President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, will travel to Rome this week for a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

President Grimsson will present the pope with a statue of Gudridur Thorbjarnardottir, and will then have a private audience with the leader of the Roman Catholic church.

The official reason for the visit is so that the president can present the statue. Gudridur Thorbjarnardottir lived around the year 1000 and was considered one of the best travelled women anywhere in her day. 

She was born in Iceland before sailing to Greenland and on to Vinland (North America) before travelling widely in Europe. 

She eventually settled at Glaumbaer in Skagafjordur, Iceland. 

But when she became a widow, she set off once more — this time to Rome, where she presented the pope with memoirs of her travels.

Leif the Lucky is said to have saved a group of people, including Gudridur and her first husband, from a reef and brought them to shore at Brattahlid, where the husband, Thor, got ill and died.

Gudridur then married Thorsteinn Eiriksson, the brother of Leif the Lucky.

He too became ill and died and Gudridur eventually ended up marrying Thorfinnur Karlsefni Thordarsson from Glaumbaer in Skagafjordur.

The statue President Grimsson will present is by Asmundur Sveinsson and is an addition to the three already in existence.

One of them is at Glaumbaer, another at Laugarbrekka on Snaefellsnes and the third is in Ottawa, Canada.

The Pope will grant the President a private audience, which is considered a great honour reserved solely for bishops, heads of state and others with particularly pressing and relevant reasons to talk to the pontiff, Visir reported.

Charges initiated against Pope for crimes against humanity

TWO GERMAN lawyers have initiated charges against Pope Benedict XVI at the International Criminal Court, alleging crimes against humanity.

Christian Sailer and Gert-Joachim Hetzel, based at Marktheidenfeld in the Pope’s home state of Bavaria, last week submitted a 16,500-word document to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the Hague, Dr Luis Moreno Ocampo.

Their charges concern “three worldwide crimes which until now have not been denounced . . . (as) the traditional reverence toward ‘ecclesiastical authority’ has clouded the sense of right and wrong”.

They claim the Pope “is responsible for the preservation and leadership of a worldwide totalitarian regime of coercion which subjugates its members with terrifying and health-endangering threats”.

They allege he is also responsible for “the adherence to a fatal forbiddance of the use of condoms, even when the danger of HIV-Aids infection exists” and for “the establishment and maintenance of a worldwide system of cover-up of the sexual crimes committed by Catholic priests and their preferential treatment, which aids and abets ever new crimes”.

They claim the Catholic Church “acquires its members through a compulsory act, namely, through the baptism of infants that do not yet have a will of their own”. 

This act was “irrevocable” and is buttressed by threats of excommunication and the fires of hell.

It was “a grave impairment of the personal freedom of development and of a person’s emotional and mental integrity”. 

The Pope was “responsible for its preservation and enforcement and, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of his Church, he was jointly responsible” with Pope John Paul II.

Catholics “threatened by HIV-AIDS . . . are faced with a terrible alternative: If they protect themselves with condoms during sexual intercourse, they become grave sinners; if they do not protect themselves out of fear of the punishment of sin threatened by the church, they become candidates for death.”

There was also “strong suspicion that Dr Joseph Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of his church and as Pope, has up to the present day systematically covered up the sexual abuse of children and youths and protected the perpetrators, thereby aiding and abetting further sexual violence toward young people”.

At 150 years, the pope's newspaper raises eyebrows

The Vatican's newspaper is almost 150 years old but that hasn't stopped it from staying relevant. 

These days L'Osservatore Romano is even a bit hip and controversial.

A recent issue had an eye-catching headline: "Homer and Bart are Catholic."

It explored the treatment of faith issues in the long-running American TV cartoon series The Simpsons.

The paper's new voice is thanks to Giovanni Maria Vian, who took over as editor in 2007. 

The once-sleepy eight-page imprint has become a must-read for anyone curious about the papacy and its unique world view.

Some American conservative Catholics have criticized Vian's leadership of the paper, in part based on controversy last year over the pope's remarks on condoms.

Vian defends his role, and points to wider circulation and advertising as a result.

Kirk stands firmly by Chinook crash victims

The Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly has renewed the church’s pledge to support the families of the Mull of Kintyre RAF Chinook air disaster, following the decision to have another enquiry into the crash - which claimed the lives of all 29 onboard.

The Rt Rev John Christie has also this week written to Lord Philip, who is leading a new investigation into the 1994 tragedy, setting out the Kirk's concerns.

It is hoped the enquiry by Chinook Airworthiness Review Team (CHART) will ultimately clear the names of RAF pilots Flight Lieutenant Jonathan Tapper and Flight Lieutenant Richard Cook, blamed of gross negligence, although initially cleared by an RAF Board of Enquiry.

Mr Christie said: “It is almost inconceivable now that it has been nearly 17 years since the Chinook crash on the Mull of Kintyre. And to think that after all that time, still the families of the victims are unable to properly move on because of what they see as a gross injustice."
He continued: "I sincerely hope that the Ministry of Defence does review the findings of the inquiry and while I cannot predict what that outcome will be, I hope that a great injustice can be set right. We will continue to stand alongside the families until a satisfactory outcome is achieved.”

It was for this reason that a section of the 'Deliverance' from the committee Church and Nation relating to the incident was approved by the General Assembly in 2004.

It went on to “re-iterate the pastoral concern of the Church for the families of the victims", and renew the call to the Ministry of Defence to reconsider the judgement of 'gross negligence' on the pilots of the aircraft.

It is significant, says the Kirk, that the case of the pilots was first brought to the attention of the General Assembly when the Presbytery of Argyll carried forward a petition on their behalf to the Assembly of 2003.

On that day, members of the families of the pilots were in the public galleries of the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh. Later they spoke of the comfort and support they had received from the church.

Moderator John Christie added: “The Church of Scotland initially became involved through pastoral concern for human beings and grieving families. Through moments of prayer on a bleak hillside, through memorial services and anniversaries, those relationships between the families and the people of Argyll have endured for all these years.”

In the years since the crash, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has developed a strong sense that it must stand with the grieving families and continue to speak out against the injustice done to these young pilots, he said.

Easier access to Morning After Pill may increase STI rate: Iona

Claims that easier access to the Morning After Pill will lead to fewer unwanted pregnancies are “completely without foundation,” the Iona Institute has said.

The statement came in response to claims made in the wake of the decision of the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) to approve a new version of the Morning After Pill, making it available without prescription in chemists.  

In reaction to the news, Dr Catriona Henchion, Medical Director of The Irish Family Planning Association, told RTÉ: “I think it’s going to reduce unplanned pregnancies.”

However, speaking on behalf of The Iona Institute, Professor David Paton of Nottingham University, said, “The claim that providing access to emergency birth control without prescription will lead to fewer unwanted pregnancies is completely without foundation. Every single piece of peer-reviewed research on this subject to date has found no evidence that easier access to EBC leads to lower rates of unwanted pregnancies, abortions or teenage pregnancies.” 

“This research is extensive, publicly available and the conclusions are accepted by those in favour and against the principle of EBC. Given this, it is hard to understand why policy makers would make such ill-informed claims.”

Professor Paton, a leading expert on programmes designed to reduce teen pregnancy, continued: “Even more worryingly, the most recent research suggests that easier access to EBC may lead to higher rates of sexually transmitted infections."

This claim is based on a new study by Professor Paton and colleague Sourafel Girma published in the Journal of Health Economics called The impact of emergency birth control on teen pregnancy and STIs.

The Iona Institute urged policy-makers “to carefully consider whether EBC should be made so easily available in the light of the fact that it does not reduce rates of unplanned pregnancy and may increase rates of STIs.”

Meanwhile, it emerged that, contrary to earlier reports, minors will not be able to access the new version of the contraceptive.  

While the license granted by the IMB for the product did not provide for any age limit, new guidelines produced by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) mean that pharmacists must have regard to the age of anyone seeking to buy it.

The guidelines point out: “Pharmacists should be aware that patients aged 16 years and over are entitled by law to give their own consent to medical treatment.”

However, it adds, “Where a patient is under the age of 16 years it is usual that parental consent is sought. Pharmacists should also be aware that the age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17 years. Where appropriate, pharmacists need to assure themselves of the age of the patient. Having regard to the age and circumstances of the individual patient, and any child protection issues arising, pharmacists should consider whether referral to a medical practitioner, other healthcare professional, or other agency or authority, is appropriate."

Reports in the Irish Times had indicated that NorLevo would be available “over the counter by females of any age.”

New Archbishop for Central Africa

A statement from Bishop William Mchombo, Acting Provincial Secretary of the Church of the Province of Central Africa reads:

“The Electoral College of the Church of the Province of Central Africa that was held in Harare on 17 February 2011, Bishop Albert Chama of the Diocese of Northern Zambia was elected as the Archbishop of Central Africa.

Archbishop Chama has been acting as the Dean of the Province since the then Archbishop Bernard Malango resigned four years ago.

The installation of the new Archbishop of the Province shall be held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at an appropriate time.

Please pray for Archbishop Chama for wisdom and strength in his new role.”

World Council of Churches decides upon theme for next Assembly

World Council of Churches decides upon theme for next Assembly ‘God of life, lead us to justice and peace’ is the theme of the WCC’s 10th General Assembly
The ecumenical commitment to justice and peace will inform much of the World Council of Churches’ deliberations at its next General Assembly after the theme was confirmed.

The theme of “God of life, lead us to justice and peace” was agreed by members of the WCC Central Committee following several days of discussions at the WCC’s headquarters in Geneva.

The WCC said the theme was “not merely a slogan or motto” for the Assembly but would provide a focus for theological reflection, worship and meditation.

There had been suggestions from some Central Committee members that the theme be combined with an alternative theme presented early on in the Geneva meeting, “In God’s world, called to be one.”

WCC General Secretary the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit expressed his support for the outcome of the vote.

“Seeking justice and peace is a call to unity – and may be clearly interpreted as such,” he told delegates.

Welcoming the selection, CC member Carmencita Karagdag from the Philippine Independent Church noted that it was the first Assembly theme to include the words “justice” and “peace”.

Translations of the theme in additional languages, including Korean, will be made available in the coming weeks.

Metropolitan Mor Eustathius Matta Roham, a member of the CC and Assembly Planning Committee, said: “We are addressing the whole world. This will be read in many different places, by Christians and non-Christians. We must be sure that the theme will be clearly stated in all languages.”

The 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches will take place in Busan, South Korea, in 2013.