Child Abuse Awareness Month Time for Parishes, Dioceses to Highlight Efforts in Safe Environment

March 31, 2009

Safe environment programs aid church workers, youth
Catholic Church educates tens of millions through parishes
USCCB offers practical resources on child protection

WASHINGTON DC (MetroCatholic) - Parishes and dioceses can use National Child Abuse Awareness Month to educate Catholics on how abuse harms children and what the church is doing to address it, said National Review Board Chair Judge Michael Merz.

Merz heads the lay board of advisers to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on child sexual abuse. He is a federal judge in Dayton, Ohio, and made his comments March 31, just before the April awareness effort was to begin.

“Childhood sexual abuse is a widespread and serious problem in our society,” he said. “With the ability to reach tens of millions of people through its parishes and programs, and informed by its own sexual abuse crisis, the Catholic Church is uniquely positioned to help society address the issue.”

Judge Merz noted that the Church provides resources on the Web at He said dioceses across the country have Safe Environment programs organized and staffed by professionals who can help empower children by teaching them how to be safe and alert adults to recognize abusive or potentially abusive behavior.

“The Church should tap these resources to help our entire U.S. society,” he said.

“Child abuse can be subtle at its start,” he said. “For example, boundary violations can escalate into far more serious abuse.”

“We need to use parish bulletins, homilies, diocesan newspapers and Church Web sites to get the message out,” Judge Michael Merz said. “April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and an excellent time for Catholics to address child abuse in American society.”

International meeting of World Youth Day organizers

March 31, 2009

VATICAN CITY, 31 MAR 2009 (VIS) - The Pontifical Council for the Laity has organised an international meeting of World Youth Day organisers, in preparation for the next World Youth Day, which is due to be held in Madrid, Spain, in 2011. The meeting will take place in Rome from 3 to 5 April.

“This is the first international meeting of WYD organisers in preparation for Madrid”, reads an English-language note published by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. “The organising committees of Sydney 2008 and Madrid 2011 will be present. There will be delegates at the meeting from around 70 countries and representatives from 35 international Catholic communities, associations and movements, a total of around 150 people”.

The sessions will begin on 3 April with a greeting by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Evaluation of Sydney 2008 will take place with Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of that city, and Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher O.P. speaking of the fruits of the event as experienced in their archdiocese and throughout Australia. Fr. Eric Jacquinet will moderate a discussion which will enable the impact of WYD at a local level to be evaluated, and which will explore how WYD can serve as a model for the regular pastoral care of youth. Mass presided by Cardinal Pell will conclude the day’s sessions.

“Towards Madrid 2011″ is the theme for the sessions of 4 April. Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, and Auxiliary Bishop Cesar Augusto Franco Martinez will talk about the Church in Spain, and present the reasons, challenges and expectations of this new phase in World Youth Days. A number of young Spaniards will also speak, and some initial information about organisational planning will be presented. Bishop Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, will present Benedict XVI’s Message for 24th World Youth Day, after which Cardinal Rylko will make some concluding remarks.

On 5 April, Palm Sunday, participants will attend the Mass celebrated by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square during which, in a traditional hand-over ceremony, the Australians will consign the World Youth Day cross to the Spaniards. A tangible “passing of the baton among the youth of the world”, the note concludes, “which places before us as a point of reference the stark reality of the Cross, the hope that springs from the Resurrection”.

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for April

March 31, 2009

VATICAN CITY, 31 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for April is: “That the Lord may bless farmers’ work with an abundant harvest and sensitise the richer populations to the drama of hunger in the world”.

His mission intention is: “That the Christians who operate in the territories where the conditions of the poor, the weak and the women and children are most tragic, may be signs of hope, thanks to their courageous testimony to the Gospel of solidarity and love”.

Message of Benedict XVI for the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations

March 31, 2009

VATICAN CITY, 31 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Made public today was the Message of Benedict XVI for the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which is due to be celebrated on 3 May, the fourth Sunday of Easter, and which has as its theme this year: “Faith in the divine initiative - the human response”. The Message has been published in Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Polish.

Extracts from the text are given below:

“The exhortation of Jesus to His disciples: ‘Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest’ has a constant resonance in the Church. Pray! The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting”.

“The vocation to the priesthood and to the consecrated life constitutes a special gift of God which becomes part of the great plan of love and salvation that God has for every man and woman and for the whole of humanity”.

“In the universal call to holiness, of particular relevance is God’s initiative of choosing some to follow His Son Jesus Christ more closely, and to be His privileged ministers and witnesses. … Responding to the Lord’s call and docile to the movement of the Holy Spirit, over the centuries, countless ranks of priests and consecrated persons placed themselves totally at the service of the Gospel in the Church. Let us give thanks to God, because even today He continues to call together workers into His vineyard.

“While it is undoubtedly true that a worrisome shortage of priests is evident in some regions of the world, and that the Church encounters difficulties and obstacles along the way, we are sustained by the unshakeable certitude that the One Who firmly guides her in the pathways of time towards the definitive fulfilment of the Kingdom is He, the Lord, Who freely chooses persons of every culture and of every age and invites them to follow Him according to the mysterious plans of His merciful love.

“Our first duty, therefore, is to keep alive in families and in parishes, in movements and in apostolic associations, in religious communities and in all the sectors of diocesan life this appeal to the divine initiative with unceasing prayer”.

“What is asked of those who are called … is careful listening and prudent discernment, a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan, and a serious study of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations, so as to be able to respond responsibly and with conviction”.

“In the Eucharist, that perfect gift which brings to fulfilment the plan of love for the redemption of the world, Jesus offers Himself freely for the salvation of mankind. … It is priests who are called to perpetuate this salvific mystery from century to century. … In the celebration of the Eucharist it is Christ Himself Who acts in those whom He chooses as His ministers; He supports them so that their response develops in a dimension of trust and gratitude that removes all fear, even when they experience more acutely their own weakness, or indeed when the experience of misunderstanding or even of persecution is most bitter”.

“To believe in the Lord and to accept His gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to His plan of salvation. When this does happen, the one who is ‘called’ voluntarily leaves everything and submits himself to the teaching of the divine Master; hence a fruitful dialogue between God and man begins, a mysterious encounter between the love of the Lord Who calls and the freedom of man who responds in love”.

“This intertwining of love between the divine initiative and the human response is present also, in a wonderful way, in the vocation to the consecrated life. … Attracted by Him, from the very first centuries of Christianity, many men and women have left families, possessions, material riches and all that is humanly desirable in order to follow Christ generously and live the Gospel without compromise, which had become for them a school of deeply rooted holiness”.

“The response of men and women to the divine call, whenever they are aware that it is God Who takes the initiative and brings His plan of salvation to fulfilment, … expresses itself in a ready adherence to the Lord’s invitation. … Without in any sense renouncing personal responsibility, the free human response to God thus becomes ‘co-responsibility’, responsibility in and with Christ, through the action of His Holy Spirit; it becomes communion with the One Who makes it possible for us to bear much fruit.

“An emblematic human response, full of trust in God’s initiative, is the generous and unmitigated ‘Amen’ of the Virgin of Nazareth, uttered with humble and decisive adherence to the plan of the Most High. … I want to entrust to her all those who are aware of God’s call to set out on the road of the ministerial priesthood or consecrated life.

“Dear friends, do not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and doubts; trust in God and follow Jesus faithfully and you will be witnesses of the joy that flows from intimate union with Him”.

Pope appeals for release of Red Cross workers

March 31, 2009

VATICAN CITY, 31 MAR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique yesterday afternoon:

“The Holy Father, sharing the concern of the families, and of everyone worried about the safety of the three Red Cross workers kidnapped on the island of Jolo in the Philippines, wishes to raise his voice and make an appeal that humanitarian values and reason may prevail over violence and intimidation.

“The Holy Father, in the name of God, asks for the hostages to be released and calls upon the authorities to favour a peaceful solution to the dramatic situation”.

Cardinal George: Notre Dame Obama Invite an “Extreme Embarassment”

March 31, 2009

By Kathleen Gilbert

South Bend, Indiana, March 31, 2009 ( - The Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, has said that the University of Notre Dame’s decision to host and honor President Obama at their commencement ceremony this year was an “extreme embarrassment” to Catholics.

“Whatever else is clear, it is clear that Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation,” George told the crowd at a conference Saturday on the Vatican document Dignitatis Personae. The conference was hosted by the Chicago archdiocese’s Respect Life office and Office for Evangelization at the Marriott O’Hare hotel. 

In a video obtained by (LSN) today, Cardinal George prefaced his remarks by noting that as USCCB president he does not have jurisdiction or authority over other bishops, but nonetheless has “some moral authority, without any kind of jurisdiction or any sort of real authority.” (Download the brief video to view in Windows Media format - - or QuickTime format - - allow time for the download to complete.

“As president of the U.S. bishops’ conference I have to precisely speak for the bishops and not in my own name, as I could as Archbishop of Chicago,” he added. 

George said he had spoken with the administrative committee of the bishops’ conference and corresponded with University president Fr. John Jenkins several times on the issue.

“That conversation will continue …. whether or not it will have some kind of consequence that will bring, I think, the University of Notre Dame to its [the USCCB's] understanding of what it means to be Catholic,” said the Cardinal.  “That is, when you’re Catholic, everything you do changes the life of everybody else who calls himself a personal Catholic - it’s a network of relationships. 

“So quite apart from the president’s own positions, which are well known, the problem is in that you have a Catholic university - the flagship Catholic university - do something that brought extreme embarrassment to many, many people who are Catholic,” said the cardinal.

“So whatever else is clear, it is clear that Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation, and didn’t anticipate the kind of uproar that would be consequent to the decision, at least not to the extent that it has happened,” said George.

The Cardinal urged concerned Catholics “to do what you are supposed to be doing: to call, to email, to write letters, to express what’s in your heart about this: the embarrassment, the difficulties.”

However, Cardinal George emphasized that the U.S. presidency “is an office that deserves some respect, no matter who is holding it,” and said that Notre Dame would not disinvite the president, since “you just don’t do that (disinvite the president of the United States).” According to the cardinal requests to revoke the invitation would fall on deaf ears, but he also observed that there is legitimate potential to organize some form of protest at the ceremony.

“You have to sit back and get past the immediate moral outrage and say, ‘Now what’s the best thing to do in these circumstances?’” said the Cardinal. 

“I can assure you the bishops are doing that.”

Cardinal George is the ninth U.S. bishop to speak out against the scandal.

To sign the Cardinal Newman Society’s petition protesting the Notre Dame scandal:

For a list of contact information regarding the Notre Dame scandal, go to:

Hundreds of Thousands March For Life In Spain

March 31, 2009

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

MADRID, March 31, 2009 ( - Hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates filled the streets and plazas of cities throughout Spain on March 29 in protest against legislation proposed by the Spanish Socialist government to liberalize the country’s abortion laws.

The country-wide demonstrations were organized by Spain’s pro-life associations Derecho a Vivir (Right to Life), Hazte Oír (Make Yourself Heard), Doctors for Life, and ProLife Madrid.

The organizers estimated that 500,000 people took part in rallies in more than 80 cities across Spain, with AFP reporting an estimated 100,000 in Madrid alone.

The protestors called on Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to withdraw the legislation and warned that this was just the start of planned pro-life demonstrations. The Madrid march went under the slogan, “There is no right to kill, there is the right to live.”

Spain’s current law allows abortion up to 12 weeks in cases of rape and 22 weeks in cases of fetal malformation. The proposed law would allow abortion on demand up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy, and up to 22 weeks if a doctor certified a serious threat to the health of the mother or fetal malformation, and would also allow girls from the age of 16 the right to have an abortion without their parents’ consent.

Right to Life spokeswoman Dr. Gador Joya told the crowd in front of Madrid’s Equality Ministry, “The government wants to approve a free abortion law that leaves the unborn completely unprotected.”

The proposed law “will only lead to more deaths and more suffering by thousands of women,” she said. “We demand that our laws protect the right to live and to be a mother.”

Vicente Martínez Pujalte of the conservative opposition Popular Party of Spain said that though he was present at the rally unofficially, party leader Rajoy had “approved of the protest” and noted that, “The government’s program threatens life and of course is not the best possible direction to take.”

The leader of Hazte Oír (Make Yourself Heard), Ignacio Arsuaga said, “This is only the beginning,” and proclaimed that a movement of over 100 professional and student groups is demanding “a true plan of support for pregnant women so that they can give birth to their children and as a last resort, if necessary, give them up for adoption.”

Arsuaga also referred to the Madrid Declaration on Abortion, a manifesto which was read at the Madrid rally. The Manifesto, signed by over 300 experts from the medical science field in Spain, including researchers, professors, journalists, professionals, and specialists in humanities and social sciences, defends the “absolute value of the right to life by taking sides against the initiative promoted by the Zapatero’s Government of changing the juridical status of abortion with the aim of introducing abortion without restrictions in Spain.”

The signatories defend the right to life that begins at conception, and in particular state clearly that “neither the embryo nor the foetus are parts of an organ of the mother.” They also state that “an abortion is a simple and cruel act of terminating a human life,” that women should be made aware of the psychological damages of post-abortion syndrome and that “the zygote is the initial corporeal reality of the human being.”

The Manifesto argues that the proposed legislation to give a 16 year old girl the “autonomous right” to have an abortion “is a form of violence against women,” and shows “a complete lack of responsibility.”

Bishops Hubbard, Murphy Call on Congress to Remember Poor and Vulnerable in Federal Budget Resolution

March 31, 2009

Bishops call budget priorities moral choices
Call for assistance to poor families at home and abroad
Concerns include health care reform, affordable housing, climate change

WASHINGTON DC (MetroCatholic) - Two U.S. Catholic bishops called on lawmakers to remember “the least of these” as they set priorities the federal budget resolution. In a March 26 letter to both houses of Congress, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., and Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y. called the allocation of opportunities and burdens in the federal budget “moral choices” and asked Congress to place “the needs of poor families and the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world first.”

The bishops, who chair the U.S. bishops’ committees on international and domestic social justice, respectively, asked Congress to consider the effects of the economic crisis at home, “as families lose their homes; retirement savings disappear; workers lose both their jobs and their health care; and so many people are left without hope or security.”

“Abroad, our major priority should be a continued and strengthened commitment to effective programs of relief, development, and health care, particularly in Africa,” they added.

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bishops Hubbard and Murphy offered several directions and concerns with this year’s proposed budget. They included reforming health care, making sure it is available to all and that it protects and enhances life; funding federal child nutrition programs and domestic agriculture support; restoring funds for affordable housing such as the Section 8 and 202 housing programs; addressing climate change and reducing the burden of those disproportionately affected by it; reauthorizing the D.C. Scholarship Program; increasing foreign assistance; and funding for the migration and refugee programs of both the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The bishops also asked that Congress pass a resolution that doesn’t reduce incentives for charitable giving.

“The budget choices of Congress have clear moral and human dimensions; they reflect our values as a people,” the bishops wrote. “Our plea is simple: put the poor and vulnerable first as you consider this historic budget resolution.”

The full text of the letter may be found online at:

Christendom College Students Defend Catholic Values at U.N.

March 31, 2009

Front Royal, Va. (MetroCatholic) - Ten Christendom College students participated in the 53rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York City from March 7 to 14. Working with the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), the students spoke with delegates and participated in the commission’s various meetings.

The students had the opportunity to lobby and provide moral support and research for those delegates who wished to defend traditional values. They also sat in on open conferences and NGO (non-governmental organizations) meetings.

The CSW gathered 192 national delegates and 5000 representatives of non-governmental organizations.

“It’s pretty much a big feminist shindig,” Senior Josepha Bertolini said. “There is a lot of pushing of ideologies without a sense of how the different nations are run. Motherhood is a taboo word. They try to deny that there are any natural differences between men and women. Motherhood was equated with unpaid caregiving as they advocated for more daycare so that women could leave the home.”

“It’s very bleak,” Senior James Tillman said. “The new US delegation appointed by President Obama is a Margaret Sanger biographer. They are really pushing their agenda down the throat of other nations.”

This caused a lot of resentment among the delegates. “The smaller nations feel bullied by the US and the EU,” Tillman said.

According to Bertolini, many liberal NGO representative were afraid of them. “They don’t like it. It makes them uncomfortable. It makes them aware that the pro-life and pro-family movement knows about what they’re doing, so it puts pressure on them on this already intense situation,” she said.

Students worked all hours of the night.

“We were up until five or seven in the morning on some nights,” Junior Tyler Ament said. “We needed to be there because we were making a difference. There are so few pro-life NGO representatives that our team of ten was a formidable force.”

In an email to the students that participated, C-FAM Director of Government Relations Samantha Singson told students, “You gave up your time, energy and resources in order to defend life and family at the UN and we thank you for your dedication. Our presence was felt and more than one delegate made it a point to compliment the [representatives] from Christendom College. As individuals, you were all outstanding, but the Christendom group dynamic was unprecedented. Your help during the week was invaluable and it was a pleasure working with all of you.”

Bertolini said that the experience was both eye-opening and life-changing. “It’s so awesome. You meet so many people from around the world. The practical knowledge you gain is amazing. It’s such a great thing for us Christendom students to do. College students are so young and idealistic, so it helps you to realize that there are so many other ideologies out there that are just as persistent, if not more, than you are.”

Jars of Clay: Revealed Premieres Sat. April 4 at 8:00 PM (ET/PT)

March 31, 2009

ATLANTA, March 30 (MetroCatholic) - Gospel Music Channel ( television network’s newest original series Revealed brings fans up close and personal with their favorite artists, who in turn bring the fans closer by revealing insights and stories about themselves and their music. The newest installment will feature popular group Jars of Clay.
Jars of Clay: Revealed premieres on Sat, April 4 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Among the songs featured in Jars of Clay: Revealed: Work, Closer, Dead Man, Frail, Worlds Apart, God Will Lift Up Your Head, Valley Song and Flood. Jars of Clay: Revealed has immediate encores that night at 9p, 10p, 11p and April 16 and April 18.
Unplugged Meets Storytellers Plus Faith = Revealed. Revealed features a single artist or group performing in front of a live audience in an intimate, acoustic-like setting. The artists play songs from their latest albums, as well as past favorites and hits, and share personal stories, inspirations, writing experiences and memories behind their music. Third Day kicked off the series. The next artist to be featured in Revealed is Israel Houghton (April 25).
Jars of Clay has sold more than six million albums, won three GRAMMYS, headlined thousands of sold-out shows and festivals, and successfully launched the Blood: Water Mission, a non-profit organization promoting clean blood and water in Africa. Since the band’s debut single, Flood, astonishingly topped both the mainstream and CCM charts, Jars of Clay has built an extraordinary career based on the uncompromising integrity of its music, worldview, and humanitarianism. The first studio record from the band in three years, Long Fall Back To Earth, will be released April 21 on Essential/Gray Matters Records.
Gospel Music Channel is the fastest-growing network in television and can be seen in more than 43 million homes on various cable systems around the country, on DIRECTV Channel 338 and on Verizon FiOS Channel 224.

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