Friday, November 23, 2012




Vatican City, (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience President Michel Joseph Martelly of the Republic of Haiti, who subsequently went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.
The cordial discussions focused on the good relations that exist between the Holy See and Haiti. Particular attention was given to the special contribution offered by the Church through her educational, social and charitable institutions, especially following the earthquake that affected the population of Haiti and in the subsequent reconstruction. The discussions concluded with emphasis on the importance of continuing collaboration for the harmonious development of Haitian society.
Vatican City, 22 November 2012 (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI received participants in the seventeenth Council of Europe Conference of Directors of Prison Administration.
Speaking English, the Holy Father observed that "matters of criminal justice are continually being brought to the attention of the public and of governments, especially at a time when economic and social inequalities and increasing individualism are feeding the roots of criminality. There is a tendency, though, to limit the debate to the legislative aspect of the question of crime and punishment or to the judicial process. … Less attention is given to the way custodial sentences are carried out. In this regard, alongside the parameter of 'justice', another essential element is respect for human dignity and human rights. Yet this too, while indispensable and unfortunately still far from being observed in many countries, is not enough to safeguard fully the rights of the individual.
"A concrete commitment is needed, not just a statement of principle, in order to bring about the offender’s effective re-education, which is required both for the sake of his own dignity and with a view to his reintegration into society. … If human justice in this area is to look to divine justice and be shaped by that higher vision, the re-educational purpose of the sentence must be regarded not as an ancillary or secondary aspect of the penal system, but rather as its culminating and defining feature.
"In order to 'practise justice', it is not enough that those found guilty of crimes be simply punished: it is necessary that in punishing them, everything possible be done to correct and improve them. When this does not happen, justice is not done in an integral sense. In any event, it is important to avoid giving rise to a situation where imprisonment that fails in its re-educational role becomes counter-educational and paradoxically reinforces rather than overcomes the tendency to commit crime and the threat posed to society by the individual".
The Pope underlined how prison directors and their collaborators in the judicial and social fields can make "a significant contribution, together with all those responsible for the administration of justice in society, towards promoting this 'more genuine' justice that is 'open to the liberating power of love' and is tied to human dignity. … Contact with offenders paying the price for what they have done and the commitment needed to restore dignity and hope to people who in many cases have already suffered marginalisation and scorn call to mind the mission of Christ Himself, Who came to call not the just, but sinners, the privileged recipients of divine mercy".
The Holy Father continued, "Everyone is called to become his brother’s keeper, transcending the homicidal indifference of Cain. You in particular are asked to take custody of people who, in prison conditions, are at greater risk of losing their sense of life’s meaning and the value of personal dignity, yielding instead to discouragement and despair. Profound respect for persons, commitment to the rehabilitation of prisoners, fostering a genuinely educational community: these things are all the more urgent, in view of the growing number of 'foreign prisoners', whose circumstances are often difficult and precarious".
"Particularly important in this regard is the promotion of forms of evangelisation and spiritual care, capable of drawing out the most noble and profound side of the prisoner, awakening his enthusiasm for life and his desire for beauty, so characteristic of people who discover anew that they bear within them the indelible image of God", the Holy Father concluded.
Vatican City, 22 November 2012 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon in the Aula Magna of the Palazzo San Pio X, the Pontifical Academies held their seventeenth public session on the theme "Pulchritudinis fidei testis: the artist, like the Church, is a witness to the beauty of faith". The session was opened by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B read out a message from Benedict XVI to the participants.
In the text the Pope confirms "the desire of the Church to rediscover the joy of common reflection and concerted action, with the aim of restoring the theme of beauty as the focus of attention within ecclesial communities, civil society and the world of culture".
Beauty, continues the Pope, "should be confirmed and expressed in all forms of art, without however detracting from the experience of faith; rather it should freely and openly confront faith in order to draw inspiration and to find subject matter. The beauty of faith, indeed, is never an obstacle to the creation of artistic beauty, as it constitutes in a sense its vital lymph and its ultimate horizon. Indeed, true artists, defined in the Vatican Council II Message to Artists as 'guardians of beauty in the world', by virtue of their special aesthetic sensibility and intuition, are capable of grasping and assimilating the true beauty of faith more deeply than others, and thus expressing and communicating it in their own language.
"In this respect, we can therefore consider the artist as an important witness to the beauty of faith. He is able to participate, through his own specific and original contribution, to the vocation and mission of the Church, especially when, through various forms of artistic expression, he wishes to or is requested to create works of art directly linked to faith and worship, or to the liturgical activity of the Church".
In the Year of Faith, the Pope invites all Christian artists and all those who engage in dialogue with faith to ensure that their artistic development becomes a "complete journey involving all dimensions of human existence, in order to witness more effectively the beauty of faith in Jesus Christ, the image of the glory of God Who illuminates the history of humanity".
The session concluded with the awarding of the pontifical academies annual prize, dedicated this year to the arts and with special emphasis on the fields of painting and sculpture. The prizewinners were the Polish sculptor Anna Gulak and the Spanish painter David Ribes Lopez, while the pontifical medal was presented to the Italian sculptor Jacopo Cardillo.
Vatican City, 22 November 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience four prelates from the Episcopal Conference of France, on their 'ad limina' visit.
- Archbishop Roland Minnerath of Dijon.
- Bishop Benoit Riviere of Autun.
- Bishop Thierry Brac de la Perriere of Nevers.
- Archbishop Yves Patenotre of Sens.


The cease-fire in Gaza holds: Hamas and Israel sing victory
by Joshua Lapide
The truce demands an end to violence and attacks by both sides and the re-opening of the border crossings between Gaza and Egypt and Israel. Joyful celebrations in Gaza. Israel happy about the guarantees of peace for the southern populations. Mohamed Morsi applauded for his diplomatic contribution. The importance of the 500 tunnels between Egypt and Gaza for smuggling weapons and goods.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - A cease-fire agreement signed yesterday evening between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip seems to hold. The agreement, sponsored by Egypt, also has the backing of the UN Security Council, which called on both parties to be faithful to the signing and praised Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi his for diplomatic involvement.
The agreement calls for Israel to end all hostilities by land, sea and air, the end of any attempt to makes raids and to execute individuals: for Hamas and all the Palestinian factions, it stipulates the end of all hostilities from the Gaza Strip including the rocket attacks and the violence along the border.
The agreement also demands that within 24 hours of the signing, all the border crossings of the Gaza Strip towards Egypt should be begin to be opened, and consideration should begin about the reopening of the crossings towards Israel, to allow people and goods to move freely.
In Gaza, the agreement was hailed as a victory, with festive celebrations throughout the night. The Hamas spokesman, Ihab Hussein, claimed victory, achieved with "patience and the blood of our people." With the reopening of the crossings in Israel - which will allow Palestinians to work in Israel, "we will live", he added, "in calm and peace."
Israel also proclaims victory. Mark Regev, spokesman for the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, said that "from our point of view this is a victory... And if we come out of this now with a sustained period of quiet and the people of southern Israel can have normal lives, from our point of view it was worth it and that's a plus."
Observers note that operation "Pillar of Defense" has enjoyed great support from the public in Israel and this will help Netanyahu in the upcoming January 22 elections.
The real winner seems to be Mohamed Morsi, who managed to stop the escalation of the crisis, which would have brought chaos in Egypt, polarizing the Egyptians in their hostility against Israel. Morsi managed to save diplomatic relations with his neighbor, while showing loyal support to Hamas.
Coming out a loser, or weakened, is Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, who being responsible for the occupied territories, was able to influence the situation in Gaza - in the hands of Hamas since 2007 - only with a few interviews with diplomats from the U.S., Egypt and the Arab League.
But Hossam Zomlot, head of Fatah, said that in the week of conflict the unity of the Palestinians has been strengthened and that "our political ability to push for reconciliation is unprecedented."
Zomlot pointed out that the attacks on Gaza have strengthened Abbas's decision tosubmit the request to the UN to demand an elevation in Palestine's status. At the end of the month, the General Assembly of the United Nations is scheduled to vote on the request to make Palestine a non-member observer. If victorious, Palestine could have access to international courts and challenge Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Another "victorious" element is the Iron Dome missile defense system deployed by Israel, which according to the army had a 74% success rate. In operation "Pillar of Defense," the Israeli army claims to have hit 1,500 "terrorist sites", including 19 command centers, hundreds of underground missile ramps, 140 tunnels used for smuggling, 26 weapons factories.
For the first time, Hamas militants have used medium-range missiles of Iranian manufacture, the Fajr 5, reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The truce imposes an embargo on arms trafficking which from Iran, China and Russia, through Syria and Lebanon, or Eritrea and Sudan, arrives in Egypt and then to Gaza through 500 tunnels. According to many scholars, the smuggling of weapons and goods through these tunnels employs at least 70,000 Palestinians in Gaza. Therefore, it is unlikely that even with the truce, the business will stop.
The eight-day war led to the death of 158 Palestinians and five Israelis.



Irish bishops: doctors must try to save mother even if child may die as a result

By SARAH MACDONALD on Thursday, 22 November 20
Tributes to Savita Halappanavar in Dublin (Photo: PA)
Tributes to Savita Halappanavar in Dublin (Photo: PA)
Ireland’s Catholic bishops have said pregnant women must receive all treatment to save their lives, even if it results in the unintended death of an unborn child.
The bishops were responding to an outpouring of public anger over the death of a pregnant woman following a miscarriage in an Irish hospital.
In their statement they expressed anguish and shock at the deaths of Savita Halappanavar, 31, and her unborn child. Mrs Halappanavar died after hospital medical staff determined they could not end the child’s life because they could detect a foetal heart beat, even as the woman’s husband, Praveen, urged them to save his wife’s life.
Mrs Halappanaver’s death at University Hospital Galway has prompted thousands of people to take to the streets calling for the country’s constitutional ban on abortion to be overturned.
In its statement, the Standing Committee of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference described the case as “a devastating personal tragedy” for the Halappanavar family and acknowledged that the circumstances of her death had “stunned our country”.
The bishops sought to clarify Church teaching on the need for medical intervention to save the life of a mother. The bishops said they believed Ireland’s medical guidelines contained adequate ethical provisions to allow medical staff to intervene as long as necessary steps had been taken to save both mother and unborn child.
The bishops insisted that the Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother.
“Whereas abortion is the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby and is gravely immoral in all circumstances, this is different from medical treatments which do not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby,” the bishops said in their statement.
The bishops also said that Ireland was a safe place for expectant mothers.
Pointing to international health care data, the bishops said: “Ireland, without abortion, remains one of the safest countries in the world in which to be pregnant and to give birth. This is a position that should continue to be cherished and strengthened in the interests of mothers and unborn children in Ireland.”
The maternal mortality rate in Ireland stands at 4.1 per 100,000 births and is among the lowest in Europe.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin had earlier told the American Catholic News Service that he believed doctors, nurses and midwives “set out always to save lives”.
“The fact that our maternal mortality is so low is a sign that there is something that is working well in the system,” he said.
Meanwhile, pro-life campaigners have expressed concern at the appointment of Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, head of obstetrics and gynecology at St George’s, University of London, as chairman of a Health Service Executive inquiry into Mrs Halappanavar’s death. They cited a 2009 statement in which he argued that abortion should be a legal right for women.
Contributing to this story was Michael Kelly in Dublin.



Children are voiceless unless we raise ours for them

Wednesday 21 November 2012
THERE is a resounding silence surrounding the issue of child detention in Australia. It is grim reality which seriously calls into question Australia’s dedication to acting in the best interests of children.

There are currently more than 1,300 children detained in Australia, with an alarming 664 housed in detention facilities. This figure has been successfully kept under wraps from the Australian public until now.

In 1990 Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which specifies in Article 3, “In all actions concerning children…the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

More recently in 2008 the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, committed Australia to a policy known as “New Directions in Detention’ which stated that “Children and, where possible, their families, will not be detained in an immigration detention centre.”

In response to government inaction, organisations across Australia have joined forces to create the Australian Coalition to End Immigration Detention of Children.

The Australian Coalition to End Immigration Detention of Children (ACEIDC) petition calling on the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to take action on this issue has received almost 2,000 signatures from the Australian public since the posting of the petition on

In addition to the many signatures the Australian Coalition to End Immigration Detention of Children has received, numerous strong messages have been posted online, indicating t that this is a serious issue that resonates across Australia.

A Brisbane resident said “Depriving a child of their liberty and childhood by detaining them indefinitely is systemic child abuse by our Government. Children should be given the opportunity to be children, no matter what their situation.”

A Sydney woman explained her decision to sign the petition saying, “Policies implemented affecting children should always be in the 'best interests of the child'. Arbitrary detention of children is psychologically damaging and in breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The psychological impacts of detention on children’s health have also been raised by psychiatrist Dr Madelyn Hicks at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“Substantial evidence shows that detention, even for short periods, can seriously damage the mental health and development of children – from infancy through teenage years,” Dr Madelyn Hicks said.

The Australian Coalition is gaining support with 6 organisations including Catholic Mission, Chilout, Uniting Justice, Young Christian Students and Catholic Religious Australia already united and standing in solidarity for the voiceless children detained across our country.


This morning, the New York Post published my op-ed about my special prayer for Thanksgiving. I would like to share it with you.
Here is an excerpt:
I praise God for the radiant virtue so evident in our community since the wreckage of the hurricane. You will pardon me, I hope, and I trust that you’ll understand, if I say that I am especially proud of our Catholic family’s generous outreach, although I rejoice in the ecumenical extent of the area’s compassion.
While Thursday will find many of our neighbors still without homes and provisions, I trust they can at least whisper a prayer of praise for the essentials of life that no wind or wave can wipe out — love, faith, hope, life itself, family, friends, a future and a community that has let them know they are not alone.
Let me glorify God as well for the gift of our country. No matter if your issues, party or candidates won or lost two weeks ago: How singularly blessed we are as citizens of a country that is governed from, by and for the people. Almost weekly do we read or hear of nations where elections — if they even have them — are occasions of mobs, armies, violence, tear gas and near-anarchy. Not here . . . thank God!

But my prayer this Thursday will be not first one of praise, but ofpetition. I will ask the Lord to keep us a culture where personal friendship, genuine conversation and family unity can be a high priority. I’ll beg God to keep those values constant in our society.
Why? Because I’m fearful they’re disappearing.
Experts in behavioral sciences and sociology seem to share my apprehension. These scholars write that personal contact — verbal, face-to-face quality conversation and healthy leisure where we simply “spend time” as family or friends — is going the way of the rotary telephone. Now we prefer to text, e-mail, Facebook or Twitter — with a personal phone call or letter even becoming quaint, and quality time in each other’s company rare.
And now the days that a classic, civil culture sets aside for such lofty projects as visiting, conversing or sharing a meal together — such as the weekly Sabbath and holidays such as Thanksgiving — are in jeopardy.
The stores, we hear, will open on Thanksgiving. Isn’t that a sign of progress and liberation? Sorry, but no — it’s a sign of a further descent into a highly privatized, impersonal, keep-people-at-a-distance culture, one that values having stuff anddoing things over just being with people whom we love, cherish and appreciate.
While a student in Europe, I once spent New Year’s Eve in Holland with two other classmates. We stayed at a simple pensiĆ³n run by a cheerful elderly couple, and our rate included breakfast and supper. That morning, the owners explained that New Year’s Eve was for the Dutch a solemn, quiet evening with family and friends.
Thus, they explained, the meal in the hotel dining room would not be available, and, they warned, nothing — no restaurant, bar or store — nothing in the city would be open. “This evening is for us,” they said, “like we understand Thanksgiving is for you. Everybody is with family or friends.”
Just as the three of us were about to conclude that we’d have a lonely, boring, hungry evening ahead of us, the couple exclaimed, “So, tonight, you are not customers. You are family. You join us, our children, grandchildren and close friends for supper.”
The three of us were near tears. And that evening of conversation, good food, song and even prayer before the meal was ever-memorable.
The lesson was clear: For the Dutch culture, time with family and friends was the highest priority.
That was 37 years ago. I wonder if the stores are now open in Holland on New Year’s Eve? Because, now, sadly, that’s what Thanksgiving is becoming here in America.
Maybe it’s fitting they’re calling it “black Thursday.”


Luke 17: 11 - 19

11On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Sama'ria and Galilee.12And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance13and lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us."14When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed.15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;16and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.17Then said Jesus, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"19And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."


St. Cecilia
Feast: November 22
Feast Day:
November 22
Major Shrine:
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome, Italy
Patron of:
Church music,great musicians, poets

The name of St. Cecilia has always been most illustrious in the church, and ever since the primitive ages is mentioned with distinction in the canon of the mass, and in the sacramentaries and calendars of the church. Her spouse Valerian, Tiburtius, and Maximus, an officer, who were her companions in martyrdom, are also mentioned in the same authentic and venerable writings. St. Cecilia was a native of Rome, of a good family, and educated in the principles and perfect practice of the Christian religion. In her youth she by vow consecrated her virginity to God, yet was compelled by her parents to marry a nobleman named Valerian. Him she converted to the faith, and soon after gained to the same his brother Tiburtius. The men first suffered martyrdom, being beheaded for the faith. St. Cecilia finished her glorious triumph some days after them. Their acts, which are of very small authority, make them contemporary with Pope Urban I, and consequently place their martyrdom about the year 230, under Alexander Severus; others, however, place the triumph of these martyrs under Marcus Aurelius, between the years 176 and 180. Their sacred bodies were deposited in part of the cemetery of Calixtus, which part, from our saint, was called St. Cecilia's cemetery. Mention is made of an ancient Church of St. Cecilia in Rome in the fifth century, in which Pope Symmachus held a council in the year 500. This church being fallen to decay, Pope Paschal I began to rebuild it; but was in some pain how he should find the body of the saint, for it was thought that the Lombards had taken it away, as they had many others from the cemeteries of Rome, when they besieged that city under King Astulphus in 755. One Sunday, as this pope was assisting at matins as was his wont, at St. Peter's, he fell into a slumber, in which he was advertised by St. Cecilia herself that the Lombards had in vain sought for her body, and that he should find it; and he accordingly discovered it in the cemetery called by her name, clothed in a robe of gold tissue, with linen cloths at her feet, dipped in her blood. With her body was found that of Valerian, her husband; and the pope caused them to be translated to her church in the city; as also the bodies of Tiburtius and Maximus, martyrs, and of the popes Urban and Lucius, which lay in the adjoining cemetery of Praetextatus, on the same Appian road. This translation was made in 821. Pope Paschal founded a monastery in honour of these saints, near the Church of St. Cecilia, that the monks might perform the office day and night. He adorned that church with great magnificence, and gave to it silver plate to the amount of about nine hundred pounds—among other things a ciborium, or tabernacle, of five hundred pounds weight; and a great many pieces of rich stuffs for veils and such kinds of ornaments; in one of which was represented the angel crowning St. Cecilia, Valerian, and Tiburtius. This church, which gives title to a cardinal priest, was sumptuously rebuilt in 1599 by Cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati, nephew to Pope Gregory XIV, when Clement VIII caused the bodies of these saints to be removed under the high altar, and deposited in a most sumptuous vault in the same church called the Confession of St. Cecilia; it was enriched in such a manner by Cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati as to dazzle the eye and astonish the spectator. This church of St. Cecilia is called In Trastevere, or Beyond the Tiber, to distinguish it from two other churches in Rome which bear the name of this saint.
St. Cecilia, from her assiduity in singing the divine praises (in which, according to her Acts, she often joined instrumental music with vocal), is regarded as patroness of church music. The psalms, and many sacred canticles in many other parts of the holy scripture, and the universal practice both of the ancient Jewish and of the Christian church, recommend the religious custom of sometimes employing a decent and grave music in sounding forth the divine praises. By this homage of praise we join the heavenly spirits in their uninterrupted songs of adoration, love, and praise. And by such music we express the spiritual joy of our hearts in this heavenly function, and excite ourselves therein to holy jubilation and devotion.
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