Sunday, February 27, 2011




TODAY'S GOSPEL: FEB. 26: MARK 10: 13- 16

Vatican Channel report: Abortion is not a solution. Thus repeated Pope Benedict in his address to the Pontifical Academy for Life, at the end of their General Assembly, which examined post-abortion syndrome.
The Pope said the serious mental health problems frequently experienced by women who have had an abortion reveals the irrepressible voice of moral conscience, which suffers serious injury whenever human action betrays a person's vocation to be truly human. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
The Holy Father also said doctors must emphasize that abortion does not solve anything, but instead kills a child, and damages the mother, the father, and often entire families.
Speaking about the second central theme of the meeting - methods for retrieving stem cells from ambilical cord blood, Pope Benedict said this is an issue with delicate ethical questions that must be addressed bearing in mind the priority that must be given to the common good.


Sister Cecilia Adorni (Left) dances on her 103rd birthday (credit: CBS 2)

Sister Cecilia Adorni (Left) dances on her 103rd birthday (credit: CBS 2)

HAMDEN, Conn. (CBS 2) — So what’s the secret to living over 100 years? As she celebrated her 103rd birthday, Sister Cecilia Adorni attributed her long life not to a healthy diet or clean living, but rather to attitude.

“I think that’s one of the best things in life is to be happy and to be cheerful, and people see you being happy and cheerful, and they become happy and cheerful,” she said.

Her birthday party was held at a nursing home in Hamden, where she still works nearly five hours a day. Of course on that day, she showed what positive attitude is all about, by dancing the polka.

Co-workers said Sister Cecilia also likes to eat an occasional steak.

And when it comes to pepperoni pizza, they said she can eat anyone under the table.


CATHOLIC HERALD REPORT: n her teens Elizabeth Dodd delved into the world of Wicca, casting spells and conjuring ‘spirits’. Then one day she went to Mass in secret

My parents bought me a cauldron for my 16th birthday. Providing no explanation, I had asked for that and a chalice. At a loss, mum suggested it would look nice outside with the geraniums.

My interest in Wicca began as I entered my teens. Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Danger, the booklet I wrote recently as part of the Catholic Truth Society’s Explanations series, condenses – after some factual basics about the philosophy and practice of “white” witchcraft – the conversations I had with a Catholic friend and her family that eventually led to my conversion to the Catholic faith. The booklet has caused controversy on the blogosphere: it sold out on and cropped up on the websites of the Telegraph and Daily Mail. What began as a small document to inform Catholics about the realities of Wicca – eg that it isn’t Satanism – appears to have re-ignited the persecution complex among Wiccans that I was hoping to diffuse.

I am concerned that as a culture, perhaps as a Church, we can too easily dismiss the spiritual needs of young people. In my family, religion was something to explore and debate. Both my parents are Oxford graduates and historians, my father a Doctor of Maths and Philosophy. His atheism prevailed over my mother’s Anglicanism, and neither I nor my sister were baptised.

One day I came across the Teen Witch Kit by Wiccan author Silver Ravenwolf. It comprised a thin introduction to witchcraft, a pop-up cardboard altar, charms (from a small bell to a pentacle necklace, the five-pointed emblem for Wicca). The book laid out the basic tenets of witchcraft and, crucially, the practice of “magick”. Wiccan spell casting is governed by two ethics: karma (that what you send out will return threefold) and “an’ it harm none, do what you will”. I cast my first spell, for protection, when my mother travelled abroad for a work trip: it was the first time she’d been in an aeroplane. As a teenager, with only a limited amount of say in what I’d have for dinner, for example, the idea of unmitigated supernatural power, coupled with such a self-governed morality, was very appealing.

My interest in Wicca increased, even in the face of frequent magickal failure. In the booklet I suggest that Wicca can be an important stage in spiritual growth for a young person. Like many of my generation, I was looking for a religious home. Wicca is far removed from mainstream western religion; it has no hierarchy or clergy, no central texts or commandments. It is a framework upon which young, spiritually hungry people can construct a religious identity independent of their parents. Wicca suited me because it was, quite literally, an unorthodox religious choice. I embraced the Wiccan “holy days” and the duotheism – belief in a goddess and god – that underpinned them. I lobbied my school to include “Wicca” as an option on their registration database; I gave presentations in Religious Studies classes about the heroines of modern witchcraft.

But within a year I had exhausted the canon of literature marketed to teenage Wiccans. An innate respect for history, if not tradition, led to an uncomfortable awareness that the religion as I knew it had existed for little over 20 years, and had manifestly been created by people. I began to study Wicca’s older literature: books written by Gerald Gardner, the witch who ostensibly re-introduced Britain to witchcraft and others of his circle (literally and figuratively), including the notorious Victorian occultist Aleister Crowley. I learned about ceremonial magic, branched out into the Jewish Kabbalah and familiarised myself with H P Blavatsky’s works on Theosophy. I bought a book about self-initiation into the Golden Dawn tradition – a quasi-Masonic occult order – and began to follow the steps toward its first grade. But my interest in politics, environmentalism and feminism had expanded beyond the questions Wicca could address. If the earth was a deity, did earthquakes suggest she was malicious? Worse, despite some feminist trappings, the occult witchcraft I was studying was at core misogynistic. Crowley wrote some unpleasant things about women; in the works of Anton LaVey, the self-appointed Satanist and a friend of Crowley’s, I encountered rants about women’s intellectual inferiority.

Finally, inevitably, about three years into my study of witchcraft – like any teenager who has ever played with a Ouija board – I became convinced I had communicated with a “spirit” whom I had failed to banish. The accompanying sense of dread lasted for weeks. A Catholic schoolfriend wrote out the Hail Mary for me – I’d never heard it before – and suggested I say it when I felt spiritually threatened. I stopped practising witchcraft soon afterwards.

My subsequent conversion to Catholicism was gradual. I had been exposed for years to the best means of evangelisation in the Church: the example of a generous, loving Catholic family (the parents and siblings of my schoolfriend) who were ready to argue philosophy over the dinner table. I had always known my friend was a better Catholic than I was a Wiccan. She took my foray into witchcraft with a seriousness that I didn’t, challenging me intellectually and morally. She lent me books to explain her Christianity; out of loyalty, I fought her side in the RS lessons in which she was the only vocal Christian. I went to Mass with her family on the eve of a school trip we were taking together. Finally, I sent her a faltering, confused email about where I was, spiritually. Her discretion and her patience were inspiring: it took another three years until I was received into the Catholic Church.

By then I was a fiercely Left-wing, politically active Buddhist vegan: rumours of my conversion would have startled most of my schoolmates. Recognising this, we kept the process low-key. I would accompany her family to the Easter Vigil, amazed by the beauty of the liturgy. I began attending Mass after school, in secret. My life was turbulent. I’d sit in the peace of the Church until the last person was leaving. I realised that the spiritual core of the Buddhism I was trying to practise was Catholicism. I believed in God. From the example of the Catholic family I had grown up around, I believed that Catholicism made you a better person, that it increased your capacity to love.

Soon after leaving school, in my gap year before university, my schoolfriend put me in touch with a wonderful priest. We met almost every week; I studied the Catechism and he, somehow, managed to handle the demands of an intellectually stubborn teenager about to leave to study Theology at Cambridge. After a year’s catechesis I realised that nothing intellectual or spiritual separated me from a faith to which I had never imagined I would subscribe. I was baptised and received into the Church at the Easter Vigil – my schoolfriend was my sponsor and “fairy godmother”.

My experience of neo-pagans had in fact been largely positive: many Wiccans are intelligent, kind, sincere people. Wicca attempts to meet the needs of a generation terrified of hypocrisy: if even our coffee is Fairtrade, a faith needs to be outstanding to convince us. I was now surrounded by outstanding Catholics; as a Catholic, I know the example I should be setting.

Wicca was an important step in a spiritual journey that led me to Catholicism, but when I was asked to write about it in a booklet, written by a Catholic for Catholics, I felt it would be irresponsible not to mention its inherent dangers – not least the lack of a real support structure. Wicca may be adaptable and relevant; but ultimately I found it intellectually and spiritually unfulfilling.

I still struggle with and face challenges in my faith; I know there are areas I need to better understand. But you can love a work of art without translating every reference. If it is beautiful enough, you can accept that there are elements you won’t understand until you meet the artist. The values that brought me into Wicca – ecological, feminist, pacifist – are addressed more deeply by the Catholic Church. It is our responsibility as Catholics to let young people know that these are issues we care about, questions which are posed and answered throughout salvation history.

I passed the cauldron on to my sister: she stores magazines in it.


ALL AFRICA REPORT: Catholic bishops from eight African countries have appealed to political leaders in the SADC region to oversee the development of a roadmap for peaceful elections in Zimbabwe, stressing that "elections at this stage would be dangerously premature".

In a statement addressed to SADC, the bishops said they "strongly believe" that conditions in the country are "emphatically not conducive to elections in 2011. They applauded the GPA and unity government it created but expressed great concern that two years later, few aspects of the agreement had been fulfilled.

Regarding elections, the bishops said conditions are not conducive because the GPA was not fulfilled, the constitutional reform process was incomplete, the voters roll is not updated, there is no freedom of association and media is "severely restricted". "The nation is in the grip of extreme fear; polarization is still evident; there are increasing signs of intimidation and/or violence as the election campaign builds up."

Father Oskar Wermter who helps needy people in Mbare, told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that the atmosphere is tense and the so-called "ruling party" has not changed its tactics of violence and intimidation.

He said although Robert Mugabe has shown no respect for the church in the past, the IMBISA statement was important because it shows the church is in touch with people on the ground and bishops are well informed about life in both the rural and urban areas. "Our bishop came here to Mbare to see what is going on and he can then inform the conference," said Father Wermter.

He described an incident when ZANU PF thugs attacked a soup kitchen being run by the Catholic Church, for people displaced by the recent violence in Mbare. "They have no morals. They just walked in and started beating up volunteer workers there. Some were taken to hospitals with injuries."

The appeal was signed by bishops from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Sao Tome e Principe, South Africa & Zimbabwe, who appealed to SADC to be "the agent that brings about this urgently needed recovery of Zimbabwe".

The bishops explained that if those in power choose to hold elections in 2011, then they "assert emphatically" that two things be considered as preconditions - a roadmap leading up to the elections be put in place and that the elections be conducted according to SADC's guidelines for elections.

The facilitation team for South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, who is SADC's chief negotiator on Zimbabwe, is expected in Harare this week to work on a roadmap with the three major political parties.Father Wermter agreed and stressed that violence was a key issue: "People are nervous. The constant threat of violence is hanging over them and they are afraid to go out after dark. As long as that continues there should be no elections in Zimbabwe".

Unfortunately SADC does not have a good record of supervising elections in Zimbabwe and has failed to pressure Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF into implementing what they agreed to in the SADC-brokered GPA.

There has been a general consensus among civic groups that the U.N. and the international community should also be allowed to monitor elections in Zimbabwe.


Agenzia Fides REPORT – A moratorium on applying the blasphemy law in Pakistan: this is the new proposal circulating in Pakistani civil society, finding support among intellectuals, journalists and the well-educated, also globally. In Pakistan, Muslim activists for human rights, speaking to Fides, call the idea “good and interesting”, noting that it could become an official proposal by civil society to the Government.
Mehdi Hasan, President of the Human Rights Commission for Pakistan told Fides: “we are on the whole in favour of a moratorium on applying the blasphemy law in Pakistan, but our official position is to ask for its abolition. It needs to be remembered that prior to 1986 there were no cases in Pakistan and now in the last 20 years there have been about 1,000, while about 70 people, only accused of blasphemy were murdered.
Representative of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance in Punjab, Christian Najmi Saleem, tells Fides: “Our objective is to stop the abuse of this law, which especially affects Christian minorities. If a moratorium will help then it is welcome. But we believe that some changes are needed. We hope that the work of the Minister for Religious Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, will bring results.”
Fr Mario Rodrigues, Director of the PMS in Pakistan, tells Fides that “the blasphemy law is called “the black law”. Anyone who opposes or challenges it today risks their life. The idea of a moratorium on its application is a favourable one. At least it may dissuade people from making false accusations. Nut I think it will be difficult for the Government to pass it.”
Haroon Barket Masih, head of the Masihi Foundation, providing legal support to Asia Bibi, the Christian woman condemned to death for blasphemy, says to Fides, “We fully support this proposal. It would be an important first step in stopping this law from creating further harm. It has hurt many people and still others may suffer. I also think it would be a balanced move from a political perspective: with a temporary moratorium, on the one hand the Government could say to radical Islamic groups that the law remains in force, but in the meantime they stop its misuse and exploitation.”
According to Peter Jacob, Secretary of the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Pakistani Bishops, “The solution does not seem feasible from a strictly legal point of view, because you can not stop the police or judicial authorities from investigating or prosecuting those who commit a crime. Also,” he told Fides, “the innocent victims currently in prison or on trial would not benefit. We continue, therefore, our campaign to abolish it.”
In Europe, the proposed moratorium on blasphemy has been launched by the Italian Catholic daily Avvenire. Prof. Mobeen Shahid, Pakistani Christian scholar, Professor at the Pontifical Lateran University, advocates: “Since there are precedents before judges, in which the authenticity of the charges is in doubt, I believe that the Supreme Court of Pakistan or the Government could issue a moratorium on lawsuits related to art. 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code (which includes the so-called blasphemy laws, ed).”


CATH NEWS REPORT: The Australian pilgrim centre in Rome, Domus Australia, will feature a portrait of the heroic Vietnamese prelate, Cardinal Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, in its chapel, reports theCatholic Weekly.

He regarded Australia as his second home, and he and Cardinal Pell were close friends.Cardinal Van Thuan was jailed in 1976 in Hanoi for 13 years, at least nine of them spent in solitary confinement. When he was released in 1989 he was never allowed to return to Vietnam and he became a frequent visitor to Australia, where his mother and sisters had settled prior to the Communist takeover in Vietnam.

A process for the cause of canonisation for Cardinal Van Thuan began last year in Rome where he spent his final years, before his death in 2002.

His portrait in Domus Australia will join those of celebrated clerics in Australia's Church history like St Mary of the Cross and Fr John Therry, as well as others who have influenced and been welcomed by the Church in Australia, including Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II.

The Vietnamese Australian community has given more than $50,000 towards the cost of the project, the bulk of it raised at the community's New Year celebrations in Sydney this month, said the report. To Vietnamese Catholics he is a much loved, saintly figure.

Fr Liem Duong, assistant parish priest at Sacred Heart Church, Cabramatta, and one of five chaplains serving Sydney's Vietnamese community, said it was a privilege and a great honour for the community to be able to contribute to Domus Australia and for Cardinal Van Thuan's portrait to be hung there.

Cardinal Van Thuan's portrait – on a canvas of approximately 2 metres x 2.5 metres – is one of 32 paintings the Sydney archdiocese has commissioned from portrait artist Paul Newton for the chapel of Domus Australia.


St. Porphyrius


Feast: February 26


Feast Day:February 26

347, Thessalonica, Greece

Died:February 26, 420, Gaza, Palestine

Bishop of Gaza in Palestine, b. at Thessalonica about 347; d. at Gaza, 26 February, 420. After five years in the Egyptian desert of Scete he lived five years in a cave near the Jordan. In spite of his impaired health, he frequently visited the scene of the Resurrection. Here he met the Asiatic Mark, at a later date a deacon of his church and his biographer. To effect the sale of the property still owned by Porphyrius in his native city, Mark set out for Thessalonica and, upon his return, the proceeds were distributed among the monasteries of Egypt and among the necessitous in and around Jerusalem. In 392 Porphyrius was ordained to the priesthood, and the relic of the Holy Cross was intrusted to his care. In 395 he became Bishop of Gaza, a stronghold of paganism, with an insignificant Christian community. The attitude of the pagan population was hostile so that the bishop appealed to the emperor for protection and pleaded repeatedly for the destruction of pagan temples. He finally obtained an imperial rescript ordering the destruction of pagan sanctuaries at Gaza. A Christian church was erected on the site of the temple of Marnas. In 415 Porphyrius attended the Council of Diospolis. The "Vita S. Porphyrii" of Mark the Deacon, formerly known only in a Latin translation, was published in 1874 by M. Haupt in its original Greek text; a new edition was issued in 1895 by the Bonn Philological Society.


TODAY'S GOSPEL: FEB. 26: MARK 10: 13- 16

Mark 10: 13 - 16
13And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them.14But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.15Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."16And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.

No comments: