If King Juan Carlos of Spain signs a new law easing restrictions on abortion, as he is constitutionally required, the country’s bishops will not take action against him, the general secretary of the Spanish bishops’ conference said.
As the law was being debated, Spain’s bishops had said Catholic members of parliament who vote to liberalize abortion would place themselves outside the church and should not receive Communion.
“That his majesty the king must sanction this law with his signature is a unique situation. No other citizen would encounter this,” and so “general principles” cannot be applied, said Auxiliary Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino of Madrid, conference general secretary.
Bishop Martinez spoke to the press at the end of a meeting of the permanent commission of the bishops’ conference Feb. 25, which also was the day after Spain’s Parliament narrowly approved a law easing longstanding restrictions on abortion.
In a vote of 132-126, members of Parliament passed the law removing all restrictions on abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy and extending legal abortion to 22 weeks of gestation if the life of the mother is at risk or if the fetus shows signs of serious malformations.
Asked repeatedly about church sanctions against the king and against Catholic members of Parliament who voted for the law, Bishop Martinez said the bishops “have excommunicated no one,” but those who actively supported the law have seriously separated themselves from the church and should not receive Communion.
The situation of a politician who can vote and the king who must sign the law “are different considerations,” he said.
Pro-life Catholics have begun an Internet-based petition drive to convince King Juan Carlos not to sign the law.
By noon Feb. 26, the Internet site reported receiving almost 57,700 signatures.
Ending their spring meeting Feb. 25, members of the permanent commission of the Spanish bishops’ conference said Spain’s new law takes “attacks on the life of those about to be born, converting them into a right.”
The new law marks “a serious step back in the protection of the right to life” and an abandonment of pregnant women who need assistance and support in bringing their pregnancies to term, the bishops said.
The statement also said the bishops wanted to remind “women tempted to abort or who have already experienced this tragedy that they always will find mercy and comfort in the Catholic community. As a mother, the church understands their problems and will not leave them on their own.”
Collect all 44 and pray for more.
When, God willing, the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s current seminarians become ordained priests, Catholics could say they prayed for them by name.
The Vocation Office for the Diocesan Priesthood is distributing business-style cards, each of which features the name of one of the 44 seminarians studying for the priesthood for the archdiocese at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.
Below the name on the front of the card is a request for the cardholder to pray for the seminarian. A “Prayer for a Seminarian” is printed on the back of the card.
The cards were first distributed in the Philadelphia Archdiocese during Nov. 30-Dec. 4 productions of “Vianney,” a one-man stage play depicting St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests declared by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 to be patron of all the world’s priests.
“There are so many people who are in fact praying for vocations, but through these cards, there is a personalization – ‘I’m praying for this young man,’” said Father Christopher B. Rogers, director of Philadelphia’s archdiocesan vocation office. “The prayer on the back of the card is a very personal prayer as well for the seminarian and can be an added incentive to the faithful.”
Through the office’s Web site, http://www.heedthecall.org, and a poster printed in The Catholic Standard & Times, the archdiocesan newspaper, Catholics “can see the face of who it is they are praying for,” the priest said.
Father Rogers said the cards, which are distributed randomly following various vocation-related events, have been well-received by Catholics. One man recently had the luck of the draw when his card bore the name of a seminarian he knew from his parish, while others have asked for cards to give to homebound relatives and friends.
Five years after the murder of U.S.-born Sister Dorothy Stang, a man accused of ordering her killing will face his third trial.
Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, nicknamed Bida, will begin a new trial March 31. He remains in jail following a court order that he return to prison because of the power he wields in the region where the crime occurred.
Initially, de Moura was found guilty of ordering the murder of Sister Dorothy, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. His lawyers are seeking his release from prison. Another man accused of ordering the murder, Regivaldo Pereira Galvao, is also awaiting trial.
With de Moura back in jail, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur decided to halt disclosure of Sister Dorothy’s letters to government authorities denouncing the troubles peasants suffered at the hands of powerful land owners.
American Notre Dame Sister Rebecca Spires said the disclosure of Sister Dorothy’s documents would be “inconvenient” at this time.
“We don’t want to harm the procedural work and we have a positive, collaborative relationship with the authorities,” she said in a telephone interview in mid-February.
The more than 300 letters, written mostly by hand, were in two cardboard boxes in the little room where Sister Dorothy lived in Anapu, a small village in the middle of the Amazon jungle. She documented every infringement on the rights of the poor communities of the area and wrote to all competent authorities about land disputes, deforestation, crimes against the environment and violence against peasants.
It took more than a year to sort through the letters, which were attached to the case’s court proceedings.
Initially, Notre Dame de Namur sisters wanted to disclose the documents to the public at the beginning of Lent to prod authorities to get the long-delayed trial moving again. However, Sister Rebecca said the congregation will wait to see further developments in the trial before making the documents public.
The Feb. 12 anniversary of Sister Dorothy’s death was commemorated with a vigil and dance in Anapu, because she loved dance and was a very joyful person, said Sister Rebecca.
Anti-terrorist measures at airports should always respect the principles of human dignity, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Although the pope did not mention specific devices or technology, his words Feb. 20 were taken by many as a reference to the recent move toward full-body scanners, which reveal graphic body images along with potential weapons.
The pope told a group of Italian airport workers that along with their efforts to guarantee security at airports and on board planes, they were also called upon to protect human rights.
“It is important to remember that in every project and activity, the first thing to safeguard and value is the person in his integrity,” he said, according to Catholic News Service.
He noted that airports have adopted new measures to counteract the threat of terrorism, which is increasingly aimed at civil aviation.
“Even in this situation, one must not forget that respect for the primacy of the person and attention to his needs does not make this service less effective,” the pope said.
Some Muslim organizations in the United States have opposed the use of full-body scanners, saying they violate Islamic rules on modesty.
The pope said aviation routes were the modern “highways,” and airports have become “crossroads of the global village,” where millions of people pass through daily. The increasing numbers of children, elderly, sick and disabled who fly means that airports and airlines need to provide special services, he said.
Pope Benedict also observed that for himself and other modern popes — especially his predecessor, Pope John Paul II — the airplane has become “an irreplaceable instrument of evangelization.”
Pope Benedict has made 13 foreign trips in his pontificate, logging more than 60,000 miles. Pope John Paul visited 129 countries on 104 foreign trips, flying more than 700,000 miles during his 26 years as pope.
“The failure of the Copenhagen Summit has deeply disappointed us, as we have been experiencing the deadly effects of global warming for years now,” Bishop Peter Kihara Kariuki of Marsabit told Fides, the Vatican missionary news service.
The U.N. Copenhagen conference last December ended with an agreement on some objectives but failed to reach a comprehensive, binding accord on reducing global emissions.
The region around Marsabit in Northern Kenya is caught in the grip of a long drought, Bishop Kihara Kariuki said in late February.
“It has practically not rained in three years. The population depends on aid from the church, the government and NGOs to eat and drink. The little water that is collected is not potable. The people have to use drinking water sent by the government with a tank, at several distribution points. There are people who have to travel dozens of kilometers to get water,” he said.
As the situation has worsened, the region’s nomadic herdsmen have seen their animals die, and pasture and water disappear, he said. This has made them more dependent on governmental aid for survival, and has led to increased violence between herdsmen armed with weapons acquired to protect from neighboring countries, he said.
“As a church we want to give a future to the younger generations, especially trying to change the traditional mindset that is the basis of conflicts between herdsmen,” he said.
“Our hope lies mainly in the education of young men and women,” including technical training to teach new trades to new generations such as opening a small business, he said.
Bishop Kihara Kariuki said the church continues to provide educational and health care services to the population of the diocese, which is predominantly Muslim. Catholics are a minority of less than 10 percent, he said.
The latest Vatican statistics show a slight increase in Catholics as a percentage of the world’s population, and a slow but steady rise in the number of priests and seminarians worldwide.
The statistics, from the end of 2008, were presented along with the new Vatican yearbook Feb. 20, Catholic News Service reported.
The Vatican said the number of Catholics reached 1.166 billion, an increase of 19 million, or 1.7 percent, from the end of 2007. During the same period, Catholics as a percentage of the global population grew from 17.33 percent to 17.4 percent, it said.
The number of priests stood at 409,166, an increase of 1,142 from the end of 2007. Since the year 2000, the Vatican said, the number of priests has increased by nearly 4,000, or about 1 percent.
Looking at the way priests are distributed around the world, it said: 47.1 percent were in Europe, 30 percent in the Americas, 13.2 percent in Asia, 8.7 percent in Africa and 1.2 percent in Oceania.
The number of seminarians around the world rose from 115,919 at the end of 2007 to 117,024 at the end of 2008, an increase of more than 1 percent, it said.
The increase in seminarians varied geographically: Africa showed an increase of 3.6 percent, Asia an increase of 4.4 percent, and Oceania an increase of 6.5 percent, while Europe had a decrease of 4.3 percent and the Americas remained about the same.
The statistics showed that professed religious women remain the single largest category of pastoral workers, but that overall their numbers continue to decline. From 2000 to the end of 2008, the Vatican said, the number of women religious went from 801,185 to 739,067, a drop of 7.8 percent.
Regarding geographic distribution, it said the largest numbers of women religious are still found in Europe (40.9 percent of the total) and the Americas (27.5 percent of the total); both areas have shown a significant decline in numbers since 2000, however. During the same period, the number of women religious in Africa has increased by 21.2 percent, and in Asia by 16.4 percent, it said.
Our Lady of the Annunciation at Clear Creek, a Benedictine monastery near Hulbert in the Diocese of Tulsa, has been elevated to the status of abbey. The change was announced Feb. 11 by Abbot Antoine Forgeot of the Abbey of Our Lady of Fontgombault in France, the monastery’s motherhouse. Father Philip Anderson, one of the original 13 monks who came from the French abbey to help found Clear Creek in 1999, has been elected abbot. He has served as prior of the monastic community since its foundation. “It’s a moment of perfection, and the moment you become fully what you were meant to be. To become an abbey is to reach a certain point of maturity,” the abbot-elect said. Clear Creek was established as a monastery at the invitation of Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa. In the 10 years since it was established, monasteries nationwide and worldwide have declined in membership, but the Oklahoma monastery has grown from its original 13 monks to its current population of 18 professed monks. Twelve of them are priests and six are brothers. In addition, the community includes eight novices and postulants and seven men who have made their first vows.
In an effort to stabilize its hemorrhaging finances and keep its doors open, the only Catholic acute-care hospital in New York laid off 300 workers, cut executive salaries by 25 percent and won temporary wage concessions from its two largest unions, said Catholic News Service. St. Vincent’s Hospital, a 160-year-old institution in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, is more than $700 million in debt and is using borrowed money to meet its weekly payroll obligations. The hospital is the central component of St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, which is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity and the Diocese of Brooklyn. St. Vincent’s is racing against the clock. On Feb. 3 New York Gov. David Paterson established a task force of hospital leaders, commercial lenders and local officials and gave it four weeks to develop a plan to keep the hospital open. On Feb. 11 St. Vincent’s chief restructuring officer, Mark Toney, announced temporary salary reductions of up to 25 percent for executives, medical staff leaders, directors, managers, physicians and nonunion personnel. He also said restructuring advisers were taking a 15 percent cut in their fee and that pension benefits and retirement contributions for nonunion employees would be temporarily frozen.
The killings of four Iraqi Christians in as many days could prompt a wave of refugees fleeing northern Iraq, where Christians live in constant state of panic, said a Catholic archbishop.
Chaldean Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona of Mosul, Iraq, said he knew of about 10 Christian families who already had fled the violence.
But he said there was a risk that “all the (Christian) people will leave” the Nineveh region, of which Mosul is the capital, unless the attacks against Christians were brought to an end.
“It is very difficult to live in this kind of situation,” the archbishop said in a Feb. 18 telephone conversation with the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a charity set up to help persecuted Christians, and reported by Catholic News Service.
“It is panic — panic always,” he said. “The Christians don’t know what will happen to them. It is the same everywhere — in the office, at school or even at home. They don’t know if somebody is going to kill them.
“What we are seeing is an effort to force Christians to leave Mosul. We don’t know who is behind the attacks,” Archbishop Nona added. “We think that they are politically motivated — that some group has something to gain if all Christians go.”
He spoke a day after the Feb.17 murder of a 20-year-old student teacher, whose body was discovered by police in the city. One day earlier, gunmen opened fire on two other Christians, killing one of them — an engineering student at the University of Mosul.
On Feb. 15 gunmen burst into a grocery store and killed its Christian owner, and on Feb. 14 a Christian man was shot dead outside his home.
Archbishop Nona was installed Jan. 22 as successor to Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who died in March 2008 after he was taken hostage by kidnappers.
Although the identities of the gunmen in the latest attacks are not known, the surge in violence against Christians comes as Iraqis prepare to vote in March 7 elections.
The Iraqi legislature has a quota for Christian seats, but some Arab politicians are concerned that Christian candidates might enter into an alliance with their Kurdish rivals, according to media reports.
An al-Qaida-affiliated group of Sunni Muslims indicated that it would seek to disrupt the election because it is opposed to Iraq’s Shiite majority gaining political power.
The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) is currently accepting applications for the HACU National Internship Program. To be considered for the summer session (June 4-Aug. 14), undergraduate and graduate students must apply online by Feb. 26.
The paid internship consists of a ten week assignment in Washington, D.C., or at a field location elsewhere in the U.S. with a federal agency or private corporation.
“During these tough economic times, internship opportunities for students are incredibly valuable,” said HACU President and CEO Antonio Flores. “The HACU National Internship Program provides students a chance to earn an income and also make professional connections for future corporate or federal employment.”
More than 8,000 students have participated in internships since the inception of the program. Details are available at http://www.hacu.net.