Ascension Catholic Church

 
 

News

Philadelphia archdiocese auctions priests' vacation villa

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 19, 2012 / 04:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has sold at auction a South Jersey shore vacation villa for elderly priests at a price of $4.5 million, continuing its efforts to meet a major budget shortfall.

“An auction like this is certainly a new experience of the archdiocese,” Donna Farrell, the director of communications for the archdiocese, told CNA Sept. 19. “We went in this direction because the villa is such a unique property.”

The Villa Saint Joseph by the Sea, located in Ventnor, N.J. minutes from Atlantic City, was built in 1905. The 9,800-square-foot mansion is on a half-acre property with 17 feet of beach. It has 11 bedrooms, each with its own private bath.

Since 1963, it has served as a summer vacation home for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s retired priests.

The villa was assessed at $6.2 million. The property was auctioned off Sept. 15 at an event conducted by the Max Spann Real Estate & Auction Co.

Max Spann, the president and CEO of the real estate firm, said Sept. 15 that the auction was the “quickest and most efficient way” to sell the unique villa.

Steve and Ilene Berger of Newtown Square, Pa. placed the final bid. They told the Philadelphia Inquirer they plan to use the villa as a family vacation for their children and grandchildren. They will retain the property’s caretaker and hold an annual party for the priests who used to vacation at the villa.

Farrell said the archdiocese is “very pleased” with the auction and wishes the Bergers “many years of happiness in the home.”

She said it is “such a lovely and generous offer” to hold an annual party for the priests.

The archdiocese faces an operating deficit of at least $6 million for the fiscal year beginning in July 2012. Legal costs for sex abuse cases could run over $11 million.
 
Other properties up for sale include the Archbishop of Philadelphia’s residence.

St. Joseph’s University has signed a letter of intent to buy the residence and its 8.9-acre property at an expected cost of $10 million. The property adjoins the university’s 48-acre Philadelphia campus.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said Aug. 13 that selling the properties will help the archdiocese ensure “long term financial stability” and position itself for further growth.

“It will also allow us to remain committed to the services and support we provide to the faithful as well as the broader community,” he added.

dailynews?d=yIl2AUoC8zA
SnZnJqFz0IE

Opposition leaders suspend hunger strike after dissident is released

Havana, Cuba, Sep 19, 2012 / 12:05 pm (CNA).- Thirty Cuban opposition leaders suspended their hunger campaign after the government gave in to their demands that it release dissident Jorge Vazquez Chaviano from prison.

The measures taken by 67-year-old Cuban dissident leader Marta Beatriz Roque and the other members of the opposition were followed by the international community and by the Church in Cuba.  

The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Havana, Orlando Marquez, told international reporters, “We are following the news and praying for her, for her health and for other persons who are in a similar situation.”

However, Marquez noted that the Church does not support hunger strikes because they are a form of “self-aggression.”

“The Church rejects violence inflicted upon any person for any reason, in same way that she rejects methods of self-aggression, when one is demanding the right to that same life,” he said.

Jorge Vazquez Chaviano is a member of the Central Opposition Coalition. He was supposed to be released from prison on Sept. 9 after serving a sentence for “illicit economic activity.”

However, his sentence was extended until April 2, 2013, which led Roque and the other dissidents to launch their hunger strike.

dailynews?d=yIl2AUoC8zA
uo6u0pja7-4

Pope appreciated chance to comfort his children, renew call for dialogue

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2012 / 11:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In keeping with tradition, Pope Benedict XVI spent today’s general audience reflecting on his recent apostolic trip to Lebanon, calling it an opportunity for dialogue and an opportunity for solidarity with those in “difficult circumstances.”

“It was,” he said Sept. 19 in Paul VI Hall, “a journey I was very keen to make despite the difficult circumstances, because a father must always remain alongside his children when they face serious problems. I was moved by the desire to announce the peace which the risen Lord left to His disciples in the words: 'My peace I give to you.'”

“During my visit, the people of Lebanon and the Middle East … were able to enjoy an important experience of mutual respect, understanding and fraternity, which constitutes a powerful sign of hope for all humankind,” the Pope added.

The trip was important both for his chance to be present to Catholics as his spiritual children, but also to meet with Christians of other traditions and Muslims living in the region.

“It was a poignant ecclesial event and, at the same time, an opportunity for dialogue in a country which is complex but emblematic for the region, thanks to the tradition of cohabitation and diligent collaboration between its various religious and social components,” he said.

Pope Benedict did not neglect to mention the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria and to appeal for peace in the nation and the region at large. The Syrian uprising has led to some 20,000 deaths and at least 200,000 refugees, and has caused spill-over violence in Lebanon.

The Pope said he appreciated the fact that thousands of Lebanese Catholics came to see him despite the trying circumstances, and he praised those who live a life of “faith and witness” in their country.

“I was able to see directly how the Lebanese Catholic communities … offer an important and highly appreciated contribution to the daily life of all the country’s inhabitants,” he recalled.

His trip was the occasion for delivering the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente” (On the Church in the Middle East), which was signed at the Melkite Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa. The document was meant to support Catholics of the region in “their faith and communion” and in the New Evangelization.

“I invited Middle Eastern Catholics to fix their gaze on the crucified Christ in order to find, even at times of difficulty and suffering, the strength to celebrate the victory of love over hatred, of forgiveness over revenge, of unity over division,” he said of the document.

Middle Eastern Catholics, the Pope noted, have the “good fortune to live in that part of the world where Jesus was crucified and rose for our salvation, and where Christianity developed,” and exhorted them to “love for their land, despite the difficulties caused by lack of stability and security.”

He was pleased to see young Christians and Muslims celebrate together and encouraged them to “harmony and reconciliation.”
He said, “I am sure that the people of Lebanon, in its varied but well blended religious and social make-up, will know how to witness with renewed impetus to the true peace that comes from faith in God.”

“I hope that the messages of peace and respect that I sought to give, will help the governments of the region to take decisive steps towards peace and a better understanding of the relationship between Christians and Muslims.”

He thanked the Muslim community for welcoming him with “great respect and sincere consideration.”

“Their constant affable presence gave me the opportunity to launch a message of dialogue and collaboration between Christianity and Islam. I believe the time has come to bear sincere and definitive witness together against division, violence and war,” he stated.

Pope Benedict also spent time urging government leaders to dialogue and create a sense of fraternity and solidarity based on the dignity of the human person.

The Pope made the 3-day trip Sept. 14-16 at the invitation of the country's prime minister Najib Mikati last November.

Pope Benedict concluded his reflections on the visit by saying that the “days spent in Lebanon were a wonderful manifestation of faith and religious feeling and a prophetic sign of peace.”

dailynews?d=yIl2AUoC8zA
KjgOZGB9Dj8

Campus tour invites college students to vote pro-life first

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2012 / 03:59 am (CNA).- A new nationwide initiative is asking young American voters to remember the importance of life when they cast their ballots this November.

“We wanted to find a way to engage young pro-lifers in this election,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, the country’s largest pro-life youth organization.

Hawkins told CNA on Sept. 14 that the group is launching the “I Vote Pro-Life First Initiative” to educate young voters and encourage them to vote for candidates who respect life.

The project is being carried out by a coalition that Students for Life worked to form with other pro-life groups, including The Frederick Douglass Foundation, Pro-Life Action League, Rock for Life and Live Action.

Hawkins explained that a five-day college campus tour will be “kicking off our election efforts,” which will ultimately seek to mobilize young people across the nation, recruit 1,200 volunteers and educate 300,000 voters before Election Day.

Young adults will be invited to sign a pledge stating that a candidate’s position on life will be the most important issue they consider in an election.

On Sept. 17, the initiative’s campus tour began its trek through Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In five days, the tour will reach nine major universities in four swing states. The diverse colleges include University of Michigan, Purdue University, Ohio State University and Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Hawkins explained that this election has important implications for the pro-life movement.

“We know this election is going to be a close election,” she said, explaining that success in swaying even a portion of one demographic could make a critical difference in the outcome of prominent races.

While young people have historically had low rates of voter turn-out, Hawkins pointed to a recent poll conducted by the organization showing that college students are expected to vote in large numbers this November.

She explained that many of the voters in this age group are undecided because they like and dislike different aspects of each candidate.

The goal of the campus tour is to encourage a shift in the way that pro-life issues are considered, from being “just one issue” to being “the top issue,” she said.

Hawkins stressed that if candidates cannot be trusted with the most basic issue of protecting innocent human lives, they cannot be trusted with other issues such as the economy and foreign policy.

Pro-life students accept this view, she said, because they “believe that life is intrinsically valuable.”

Seeking to “speak the truth in love,” members of Students for Life will work with pro-life student groups on each campus, registering people to vote and inviting them to sign the pledge that they will only support candidates who protect unborn children.

“We’re doing this right in the middle of campus,” Hawkins said. “I think that’s going to make a real impact.”

dailynews?d=yIl2AUoC8zA
Uj6dWgr0DcM

Group aims to influence Chicago archbishop appointment

Chicago, Ill., Sep 19, 2012 / 02:09 am (CNA).- A Massachusetts-based Catholic lay group, Voice of the Faithful, is making efforts to sway the selection of Chicago's new archbishop by getting feedback from local church-goers.

Colleen Dolan, director of communications for the Chicago Archdiocese, says that it may be helpful for the group – which has no official affiliation with the archdiocese – to encourage participation, but that locals should  “send their responses directly to the Apostolic Nuncio.”

Following Church procedure, Cardinal Francis George, who has served as Archbishop of Chicago since 1997 and is currently undergoing four months of chemotherapy, submitted his retirement Jan. 16, 2012 upon reaching his 75th birthday.

However, “Cardinal George understands that his retirement will not be accepted for two years,” Dolan told CNA Sept. 18.

According to Church custom, the new leader of a diocese or archdiocese is chosen by the Pope based on the recommendation from the Apostolic Nuncio after his consultation with current local bishops and diocese, including members of the laity.

In this case, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who has served as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States since 2011, will make his recommendation to the Pope in the near future.

But on their website, Voice of the Faithful assert that this custom “deprives the process of consultation with all the laity,” saying that they should have a greater input on the choice of bishop.

Quoting Canon Law 212, “Christ's faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, and their wishes to the Pastors of the Church,” Voice of the Faithful says they have a “right” to provide greater say in the selection of the new archbishop.

Dolan noted that, “The Apostolic Nuncio has said that, 'any initiative, however, to organize group responses constitutes a parallel procedure that would not be part of canonical selection process.'”

Voice of the Faithful's 15 question online survey asks the respondent to rate statements regrading the “ideal candidate for Archbishop” on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”  

One statement asks the respondent to rate whether or not they think the new archbishop should, “Have an encouraging appreciation of laywomen's contributions and support increasing their pastoral opportunities.”

Formed in 2002 in the basement of a Wellesley, Mass. church in response to clergy sexual abuse scandals, Voice of the Faithful boasts the motto of “Keep the Faith, Change the Church” and has “more than 25,000 members in the United States and other countries.”

Dolan said this is not the first interaction the Archdiocese of Chicago has had with Voice of the Faithful.

In an Oct. 11, 2010 press release, the group made several claims against the archdiocese such as, “In 2009, one in five institutions in the archdiocese still had a credibly accused priest in residence.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago refuted these claims calling them, “completely false” while pointing out that, “There are no priests in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago that have an affirmed claim of sexual abuse of a minor against them.”

dailynews?d=yIl2AUoC8zA
lgnTQU15G2k

House passes bill to promote human rights in Vietnam

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2012 / 12:09 am (CNA).- A bill to encourage freedom and respect for human rights, including religious liberty, in communist-run Vietnam was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 11.

"It is imperative that the United States Government send an unequivocal message to the Vietnamese regime that it must end its human rights abuses against its own citizens," said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who authored the bill.

Smith, who chairs a House subcommittee on human rights, explained that the bill would place limitations on U.S. aid to Vietnam until the government improves its human rights record, while at the same time allowing humanitarian assistance to continue as needed.

In a discussion on the House floor, Smith pointed to a hearing held earlier this year, at which witnesses testified about the nation’s continuing and sometimes increasing persecution of religious and political dissenters, as well as the Vietnamese government's failure to investigate and persecute human trafficking violations.

The Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2012 states that Vietnam's "transition toward greater economic freedom and trade has not been matched by greater political freedom and substantial improvements in basic human rights for Vietnamese citizens."

It also observes that the U.S. had agreed to Vietnam’s acceptance into the World Trade Organization in 2006 “amidst assurances that the Government of Vietnam was steadily improving its human rights record and would continue to do so.”

However, six years later, actions taken by the Communist Party of Vietnam continue to raise serious concerns about respect for human rights within the country, it says.

The legislation lists examples of the arbitrary arrests and imprisonments of numerous individuals - including Father Nguyen Van Ly – who has peacefully advocated religious freedom and human rights in the country.

It also notes "a pattern of violent responses by the Government to peaceful prayer vigils and demonstrations by Catholics" whose property had been confiscated by the state.

"Protesters have been harassed, beaten, and detained and church properties have been destroyed," the bill says.

"Catholics also continue to face some restrictions on selection of clergy, the establishment of seminaries and seminary candidates, and individual cases of travel and church registration," it adds.

In one 2010 case, more than 100 villagers in a Catholic parish in Da Nang were injured and at least three were killed in the violence that erupted as police tried to prevent a religious burial in the village cemetery.

The legislation also draws attention to the persecution of other religious minorities in the country, as well as attempts to intimidate and silence political dissenters and continuing problems with human trafficking.

The bill, which drew bipartisan support, prohibits an increase in non-humanitarian assistance to the Vietnamese government unless it makes "substantial progress" towards securing human rights within the country.

These improvements would require a repeal of laws that prohibit peaceful demonstrations and “unsanctioned religious activity,” as well as the release of religious and political prisoners.

In addition, the legislation would demand significant government improvement in the area of respecting fundamental rights, including the freedom of religious expression.

It would also require the Vietnamese government to respect the human rights of ethnic minorities and improve its work to fight human trafficking.

While blocking an increase in U.S. funds, the bill would allow for increased humanitarian aid for food, water and medicine if deemed necessary.

Smith praised the passage of the bill, which he described as an important step in implementing “effective measures towards improving human rights in Vietnam.”

dailynews?d=yIl2AUoC8zA
N9UdwK4NKas

Polls find Catholic voters evenly split on presidential race

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2012 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Surveys indicate that the Catholic vote is “too close to call,” a Catholic research center at Georgetown University says.

“The vote of Catholics remains quite evenly split: 47 percent for President Obama and 45 percent for Gov. Romney,” the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate said Sept. 17.

The statistically tied candidates have rarely topped 50 percent of the Catholic vote. The small percentage of Catholic registered voters will likely decide the winner of the Catholic vote in a country where one in four voters is Catholic.

The research center aggregated data from polls that surveyed a Catholic sub-group, including Pew, Gallup and TIPP.

Among Protestants, Gov. Romney leads the president by 51 to 40 percent. Those without a religious affiliation largely favor the president, with 63 percent saying they will vote for him and only 27 percent stating they will vote for Romney.

Democrat President Obama has led Gov. Romney by nine percentage points once in March and once in July, while the Republican nominee had his biggest lead of five percentage points in April.

Catholic voters have long been considered an important voting bloc because the presidential candidate who wins over the majority of Catholic voters generally wins the election. However, some commentators question whether the “Catholic vote” exists given the divisions among Catholics.

The Nov. 6, 2012 presidential election is expected to be very close, with the two candidates vying to win every percentage point of the electorate they can to their corner.

dailynews?d=yIl2AUoC8zA
LliuemlcEnU

French cardinal says 'gay marriage' opens door to incest, polygamy

Lyon, France, Sep 18, 2012 / 04:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon said government approval of gay “marriage” in France could pave the way for the legalization of incest and polygamy.

The cardinal made his statements on Sept.14 after a meeting with France’s Interior Minister, Manuel Valls.

In an interview on French radio, Cardinal Barbarin said that same-sex unions constitute “a breakdown in society.”

“This will lead to unspeakable consequences. Next they will want unions between three or four people.  One day, perhaps, the prohibition against incest will fall,” the cardinal warned.

French President Francois Hollande promised during his campaign that if elected he would push for the legalization of homosexual marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.   

A bill that would allow such practices is currently under debate in France and is expected to come before the Council of Ministers on Oct. 24.

“Marriage is a word that represents a wall, in order to ensure that in the most fragile place of society, that is, in a woman who gives life to a child, all of the stable conditions are present to ensure that this takes place under the best of possibilities,” the cardinal said.

dailynews?d=yIl2AUoC8zA
MGOZAGZpM5M

Archbishop Chaput: Catholics responsible for evangelizing US

Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 18, 2012 / 02:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput told the Los Angeles Catholic Prayer Breakfast Sept. 18 that Catholics must take responsibility for the evangelization of the country, and pursue this goal through humility and spiritual discipline.

“The task of preaching, teaching, growing and living the Catholic faith in our time, in this country, belongs to you and me. No one else can do it,” he told the crowd gathered outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

“The future depends on God, but he builds it with the living stones we give him by the example of our lives.”

During his remarks, he said Christians must rediscover God’s joy, “radiate” God’s word, and make their Christian witness “frank and contagious.”

He noted Christianity’s historical rise from a “fringe” religious group to become the official religion of the Roman Empire. However, he warned that Christianity can decline into corruption and has even become extinct in some regions, like some areas conquered by Islamic expansion.

“We need to discipline ourselves to be ready for God’s grace,” he said.

“If our hearts are cold, if our minds are closed, if our spirits are fat and acquisitive, curled up on a pile of our possessions, then the Church in this country will die. It’s happened before in other times and places, and it can happen here.”

Archbishop Chaput cited several negative trends in his own archdiocese: low Sunday Mass attendance and rare use of the confessional; a decline in church marriages, infant baptisms and priestly vocations; a clergy abuse crisis; and years of deficit spending.

Nationwide, he added, about ten percent of Americans say they are ex-Catholics.

“That’s our reality as disciples,” the archbishop said. “That’s the debris of failure we need to deal with if we want to repair God’s house.”

God is faithful, he continued, but God makes no guarantees that church infrastructure will endure.

“Jesus said the gates of hell would never prevail against his Church, and his word is good.  But he didn’t promise anything about our local real estate and institutions,” the archbishop said.

Israel’s revivals began with grief over sins, praise for God’s faithfulness, and hopeful repentance, he added. However, there are no “shortcuts” and this path must include “humility and confession.”

He said Christians’ task of evangelization is not “impossible” but only “uncomfortable and inconvenient.”

Drawing on Pope Benedict XVI’s 2011 apostolic letter “Porta Dei,” Archbishop Chaput said that modern life is often “isolating and even frightening.” A “profound crisis of faith” has resulted in a collapse of cultural unity, which means it is “very easy for people to develop habits that undermine virtue, character and moral judgment.”

“The Pope’s answer to this crisis doesn’t scold the culture,” Archbishop Chaput said. “Instead he turns to us, to the Church.”

“He’s asking us to tear down the cathedral we build to ourselves, the whole interior architecture of our vanities, our resentments and our endless appetites, and to channel all the restless fears and longings of modern life into a hunger for the Holy Spirit.”

Archbishop Chaput recounted the Pope’s suggestions for the upcoming Year of Faith, launching worldwide next month. Parishes and other church groups should study the creed and the Catechism of the Catholic Church because right doctrine unifies Catholics and “reorients our lives away from the idolatries of individualism and greed, and points us toward Jesus Christ.”  

Christians should intensify their “witness of charity” because charitable acts help their neighbor and teach themselves the true meaning of their faith. They should also study Church history to find how holiness and sin are “so often woven together.”

Archbishop Chaput said this last point is relevant to responding to the clergy sex abuse scandal, which included “bitter suffering” for the innocent amid “failures in leadership” among U.S. bishops.

He warned against worldly attitudes that have established themselves in the Church and make the Church “worse than the world” through “greater mediocrity and even greater ugliness.”

God asks all Christians to live a life of “honesty, holiness, heroism and sacrifice,” the archbishop concluded.

dailynews?d=yIl2AUoC8zA
QVSvo7ZMPYQ

Key participants for new evangelization synod announced

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2012 / 01:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and 34 other clergymen were announced Sept. 18 by the Vatican as synod fathers for the upcoming October assembly of bishops on the New Evangelization.

The synod fathers include Cardinal Sodano, dean of the college of cardinals; Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna; Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England; Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon, France; and Father Julian Carron of the Communion and Liberation movement.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles is the only American among the 35 synod fathers, who are tasked with guiding the discussions of the assembly’s meetings.

The synod is due to take place Oct. 7-28, and its presidents delegate are Cardinals John Tong Hon of Hong Kong, Francisco Ortega of Guadalajara, and Laurent Pasinya of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. It will bring bishops to Rome from the whole world to discuss the New Evangelization, which is aimed at reintroducing the Catholic faith in lands where it was previously present.

The gathering will be guided by a working document, issued June 19, which is the result of consultation with the worldwide Church for more than a year.

According to that document, the New Evangelization must provide “an adequate response to the signs of the times, to the needs of individuals and people of today and to the new sectors with their cultures through which we express our identity and the meaning of our lives.”

The synod coincides with the Year of Faith, which will begin Oct. 11, 2012, and is meant to be a moment of grace to strengthen Christians' faith and joy in proclaiming Christ to the world.

The synod of bishops was established in 1965 by Pope Paul VI to “foster the unity and cooperation of bishops around the world with the Holy See.” The last gathering was held in 2010 to focus on the Church in the Middle East. The upcoming meeting on evangelization will be the 13th ordinary assembly of the synod of bishops.

dailynews?d=yIl2AUoC8zA
AVg2EXg0Y9w