Praying for the nation’s veterans, who put their lives on the line to ‘defend, protect our precious liberties’

Veterans participate in 2009 ceremony in Calverton, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“We enjoy great freedoms in the United States. Let us never forget the men and women who have laid down their lives on the line to defend and protect our religious liberties,” Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, head of the U.S. Archdiocese of the Military Services, said in a prayer for Veterans Day released Nov. 10.

The annual Veterans Day observance “invites us to remember those killed in the line of duty, those still suffering the effects of their generous response in times of national need, and of course, everyone who has retired from active duty,” he continued.

“We cannot forget the sacrifices of so many. We sense an obligation to express our gratitude, and we certainly remember them in our prayers,” Archbishop Broglio added.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said that today at “the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month of 2011, we will pause to honor America’s veterans and celebrate their contributions to our way of life. Few have given more to our nation than the men and women who have served in our armed forces in peace and war.” Check out his statement and a gallery of photos of members of the military serving over the years put together by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Pope reminisces about land where his grandmother was born

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI now has the official papers proving his status as an honorary citizen of the municipality where his grandmother and great grandmother were born.

At a mini-audience today, just after his weekly general audience, the pope met with a delegation from Natz-Schabs, in northeastern Italy. The area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918 and even today most residents speak German. His maternal grandmother Maria Tauber-Peintner and great grandmother Elisabeth Maria Tauber were born in Raas, a village in Natz-Schabs.

Receiving the certificate, the pope said he grew up with his mother recounting stories about how beautiful the area was. He said he discovered it was true when, in 1940 at the age of 13, he was on a bicycling trip there with his brother and sister.

As children, “we saw that it really was true” what their mother had told them: “It was the angels” who made that land, he said.

Returning to the area in the 1950s, he said, “I could perceive the particular closeness of God that is expressed in the beauty of those lands.” The beauty was found not only in creation, but in what human hands were able to make — like Gothic belltowers — and in the way people acted with kindness toward one another, the pope said.

According to Vatican Radio, Natz-Schabs was the 13th city to grant Pope Benedict honorary citizenship. The towns include the city in Germany where he was born, Marktl am Inn, which is about 175 miles northeast of Natz-Schabs.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said the pope’s second cousin — Anna Tauber Uberbacher, 86 — was part of the group from Natz-Schabs, as was a distant cousin, Franz Tauber, who now owns the property where the pope’s grandmother and great grandmother were born.

5,000 Haitian cholera victims petition U.N. seeking compensation, adequate response to end epidemic

(CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Thousands of Haitians stricken with cholera during the last 13 months are seeking compensation and an improved response to ending the epidemic from the United Nations, according to a petition filed with the world agency.

The petition filed by lawyers with Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti in conjunction with the Office of International Lawyers on behalf of more than 5,000 Haitians charges that cholera was introduced into the country by Nepalese troops serving with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti — MINUSTAH — and that the world body has done little in response to the spread of the disease.

The petitioners also want the U.N. to boost medical treatment for current and future victims and build a clean water and sanitation infrastructure. They also are demanding an apology from U.N. officials.

The Haitian Ministry of Health and Population reported as of Oct. 26 that the disease has caused 6,712 deaths and infected more than 485,000  people, making it the largest cholera epidemic in the world.

Brian Concannon Jr., an attorney and director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said the suit is aimed at the U.N. in order to reach an agreement that more needs to be done to overcome the spread of the water-borne disease that causes diarrhea and rapid dehydration.

“We want the United Nations to live up to its responsibilities. It’s a great opportunityy for them to act in support of their ideals,” Concannon told Catholic News Service after announcing the lawsuit at a press conference in New York.

The U.N. is being targeted because tests on the cholera strain showed it to be virtually identical to the type that infected 1,400 people in Nepal in summer 2010. No deaths were reported in the southern Asia nation.

Soon thereafter, Nepalese troops were sent to Haiti to serve with MINUSTAH. But under U.N. guidelines they were not tested for the disease because none of them exhibited any symptoms.

The troops set up camp on a tributary of the Artibonite River in central Haiti and soon the outbreak began, the lawsuit claims. A U.N. team investigated and concluded that leaks from a pit containing human waste from the camp may have caused the strain to enter the river  system, reaching nearby communities where the first cholera cases were reported. Until the outbreak, Haiti had no reported cholera cases in 50 years.

Concannon said that without adequate treatment facilities nearby, people fled to other parts of Haiti, rapidly spreading the disease.

“The response the U.N. has is what I would call a charity approach, as if they’re trying to raise a little money in response,” he said. “What this calls for is a justice approach … not what the U.N. has extra to provide but what the Haitian people deserve.”

Praying for sainthood for heroic military chaplain Father Kapaun

(CNS photo/St. Louis Review)

With Veterans Day fast approaching, this is a good time to recall the heroic actions of Father Emil Kapaun, whose canonization cause was formally opened in July 2008.

A priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., he died May 23, 1951, in a North Korean prisoner of war camp. He was serving as a U.S. Army chaplain when he and his men were overrun during battle. The chaplain had the chance to fall back to safety during the fighting, but instead chose to stay and was captured along with his men. As a result of his heroic example in serving his fellow soldiers in the prison camp, his captors eventually forced him into the camp hospital, known to the prisoners as the “death house.”

This past Wednesday the Father Kapaun Guild in Wichita hosted the first of monthly Masses being celebrated from here on out. On Nov. 11 the guild’s annual wreath-laying ceremony will take place at a statue of the priest in his hometown of Pilsen, Kan., after a morning Mass at St. John Nepomucene Church there.

The guild is also asking supporters of the Kapaun cause to send letters to their U.S. senators and representatives asking them to put forth the late priest’s name for a Congressional Medal of Honor. The guild’s website also links to an area devoted to Father Kapuan on the website of The Wichita Eagle daily newspaper.

Bishops urge Senate to uphold Defense of Marriage Act (news release)

UPDATE Link to release.

This was released late this afternoon by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

                                                                                    DATE: November 2, 2011


                                                                                    FROM: Don Clemmer

                                                                                                O: 202-541-3206

                                                                                                M: 260-580-1137


                                                                                    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE



WASHINGTON—The Senate Judiciary Committee should uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage at the federal level as the union of one man and one woman, because of its importance to human rights and the common good, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Promotion and Defense of Marriage efforts. In a November 2 letter, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, California, asked the Committee to oppose any bill that would repeal DOMA, particularly the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598).

“All persons have a rightful claim to our utmost respect,” wrote Bishop Cordileone. “There is no corresponding duty, however, for society to disregard the meaning of sexual difference and its practical consequences for the common good; to override fundamental rights, such as religious liberty; and to re-define our most basic social institution. DOMA advances the common good in a manner consistent with the human dignity of all persons.”

Bishop Cordileone noted that DOMA’s definition of marriage reflects a longstanding consensus based in reason that is “accessible to people of all faiths or none at all.”

He added, “Millions of citizens have gone to the ballot in 30 states to ratify similar DOMA proposals by substantial majorities. Forty-one states in all have enacted their own DOMAs. Popularity alone does not determine what is right. But in the face of such broad support in the present day, not to mention a legacy of lived experience and reasoned reflection measured in millennia in every society and civilization throughout all of human history, repealing a measure that merely recognizes the truth of marriage is all the more improvident.”

Bishop Cordileone also wrote that changing the definition of marriage would violate human rights, namely the rights of children to be cared for by both a mother and a father and the right of religious freedom.

“In places where marriage’s core meaning has been altered through legal action, officials are beginning to target for punishment those believers and churches that refuse to adapt,” Bishop Cordileone wrote. “Any non-conforming conduct and even expressions of disagreement, based simply on support for marriage as understood since time immemorial, are wrongly being treated as if they harmed society, and somehow constituted a form of evil equal to racism. DOMA represents an essential protection against such threats to faith and conscience.”

The full text of Bishop Cordileone’s letter can be found at:

One thing is clear: Chinese Catholics need prayers

After traveling to China in 2007, I came away having learned two important lessons: 1) Nothing is as it seems. 2) The more you learn, the more you realize what you do not know.

A Chinese security officer watches as Catholics pray at an altar during a 2008 pilgrimage in honor of Mary at the Sheshan shrine on the outskirts of Shanghai, China. (CNS/ Reuters)

This does not apply just to China, but to the Chinese Catholic Church, which, on one level, is locked in a battle with the Chinese government: church autonomy vs. government control.

Reports coming from China might indicate that Chinese Catholic leaders are caving in to government officials. For instance, last December the Asian church news agency UCA News reported on the Congress of Catholic Representatives, which some church leaders were forced to attend. The Vatican was critical of the assembly on many levels, including that Vatican-approved bishops were among officials elected to the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the Catholic Patriotic Association, two bodies Pope Benedict XVI has said are not in line with church teaching.

Yet in that same 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics in which Pope Benedict criticized the two government-backed bodies, he said he recognized the difficult situation of bishops and priests under pressure from the government and added that the Holy See “leaves the decision to the individual bishop,” having consulted his priests, “to weigh … and to evaluate the possible consequences” of dealing with government pressures in each given situation.

In mid-July, the Vatican condemned the ordination of Father Joseph Huang Bingzhang as bishop of Shantou and said he automatically incurred excommunication. The Vatican said Father Huang “had been informed some time ago that he could not be approved by the Holy See as an episcopal candidate, inasmuch as the Diocese of Shantou already has a legitimate bishop.”

And today UCA News is reporting that the Shantou Diocese has three new priests. The report cites a source, unnamed, as saying that Father Huang might have struck a deal with a neighboring bishop to allow the seminarians to be ordained: Father Huang is still seen by the government as bishop of Shantou, yet he probably recognized the needs of the seminarians who had spent years studying to be priests, so he allowed them to be ordained by a Vatican-approved bishop.

Bishop Paul Pei Junmin (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Meanwhile, online speculation has considered the circumstances of Bishop Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning, whom China says was suspended from his posts as vice president of the Chinese bishops’ conference and as head of the Liaoning branch of the patriotic association for refusing to participate in Father Huang’s episcopal ordination.

Bishop Pei, who has Vatican approval, is rumored to have resigned from his posts, and some speculate that the Chinese government announced his suspension to save face. Some reports have said he is under house arrest.

What exactly is going on remains unclear, and those who do know are reluctant to speak for fear of repercussions. What IS clear is that, as they navigate the minefields of church leadership in China, the young church leaders continue to need the prayers of Catholics around the world.

Opera tells story of murdered nun who helped poor farmers, fought powerful landowners in Brazil

2004 file photo of Sister Dorothy Stang. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Ohio-born Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and a naturalized Brazilian citizen, was known for her fight against large landowners in the Amazon region. And for that and her ministry to the marginalized there, she was assassinated in 2005 at age 73. Now her story is being told in an American opera titled “Angel of the Amazon.”

The work just had two performances in Boston this past weekend. The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston Archdiocese, carried an advance notice that featured a triptych of Sister Dorothy painted by a member of her order.

Sister Dorothy’s death sparked an international outcry. She was killed Feb.12, 2005, in Anapu, a remote community in the Amazon region. She was shot several times in the chest and head.

For nearly four decades, Sister Dorothy worked in rural Brazil, defending the rights of poor peasants. This fight made her many enemies, including some wealthy landowners. Shortly before her death, the town of Anapu declared her “persona non grata,” stating her work was hindering the region’s development.

In her book titled “Martyr of the Amazon,” published by Orbis Books in 2007, author Rosanne Murphy recounted that Sister Dorothy’s lifelong dream of mission work became a reality in 1966, when she was one of five sisters from her order sent to Brazil following an appeal by Pope John XXIII.

In December 2008 she was one of seven people name to receive the  prestigious U.N. Prize in the Field of Human Rights, awarded by the General Assembly every five years.