Liturgy of the Hours

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Russian Orthodox elect Metropolitan Kirill as new patriarch

.- Meeting in Moscow today, the Russian Orthodox Church has elected Metropolitan Kirill as its new patriarch. Patriarch-elect Kirill’s election is being hailed as a boon for those seeking to buttress Orthodoxy against a spreading secularism.

According to the Associated Press, Metropolitan Kirill received 508 of the 700 votes cast. Prior to today’s election, Metropolitan Kirill was the most well-known candidate, having served as the head of the External Affairs Office for the Moscow patriarchate. Since the death of Patriarch Alexy II on December 5, 2008, he has functioned as the Patriarchal Locum Tenens or interim head of the church.

Father Joaquín Alliende, president of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), remarked on the differences between an ecclesiastical election and a secular election. Although the election of the new patriarch was conducted according to democratic principles, he explained, it was not merely a matter of obtaining a majority but rather of "listening to the blowing of the Holy Spirit and seeking to discern the will of God, the Lord of history."

Fr. Alliende also mentioned that ACN has enjoyed "fruitful contacts" with Patriarch-elect Kirill since 1992 and that he expects the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue to improve under Kirill. This intensified dialogue will enable the two churches to “together tackle the challenges of the present time that all Christians face," Fr. Alliende said.

Patriarch-elect Kirill will be installed on Sunday as the successor to Moscow Patriarch Alexy II, who is credited with a revival of the Orthodox Church in Russia and abroad.

The Russian Orthodox Church has 100 million adherents in Russia and several million more around the world.

Gesture With Lefebvrists Is No Change for Church

Daily: Dedication to Vatican II and Dialogue With Jews Are Untouched

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 26, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is unwavering in his commitment to apply the Second Vatican Council, and lifting the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops in no way changes that, affirmed the Vatican's semi-official newspaper.

An article in L'Osservatore Romano laments an "invention of the press," pointing to some of the commotion that has surrounded Saturday's announcement that four bishops ordained by Marcel Lefebvre and belonging to the Society of St. Pius X had their excommunication lifted.

The leaders of the society contest parts of the Second Vatican Council.

Causing a further uproar, a November interview with one of the four prelates who has been reinstated, Bishop Richard Williamson, re-aired just days ago in which the bishop expressed his view that historical evidence denies the gassing of 6 million Jews in Nazi concentration camps. Hence, certain critics consider the lifting of his excommunication as an affront to Jewish-Catholic dialogue.

Vatican Radio, however, already clarified that his statements are a matter of "personal positions that cannot be shared and that do not affect in any way the pontifical magisterium and the positions of the Church solemnly declared on various occasions."

Regarding Vatican II, L'Osservatore Romano noted how the Pope's own comments from last weekend prove his continued adherence to it.

The Holy Father on Sunday, the 50th anniversary of the convocation of the council, called the convocation a "providential decision," noting that Pope John XXIII was sure it was an inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, the Vatican daily contended, the lifting of the excommunication of the Lefebvrist bishops is an act that comes in the framework of the council's spirit.

Heart of the issue

Carlo Di Cicco, author of the article and subdirector of L'Osservatore Romano, affirmed: "The reform of the council has not been totally applied, but it is already so consolidated in the Catholic Church that it cannot go into crisis with a magnanimous gesture of mercy -- inspired, moreover, in the new style of Church promoted by the council that prefers the medicine of mercy to that of condemnation.

"The revocation that has provoked so much alarm does not conclude a sorrowful situation like that of the Lefebvrist schism.

"With it, the Pope removes pretexts for infinite polemics, directly confronting the authentic problem: the full acceptance of the magisterium, obviously including Vatican II."

The author went on to affirm that the Church "renewed by the council is not a different Church, but the same Church of Christ, founded on the apostles, guaranteed by the successor of Peter and therefore, living part of tradition."

L'Osservatore Romano further denounced any accusations that the Pope "is not convinced of the path of ecumenism and dialogue with the Jews." It recalled that the Church's most authoritative document on this dialogue, "Nostra Aetate," deplores any type of anti-Semitism.

And, Di Cicco observed, "The revocation of the excommunication does not yet mean full communion. The path of reconciliation with the traditionalists is a collegial option already known by the Church of Rome and not a sudden, improvised gesture from Benedict XVI."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama reigns, the Unborn dies

Obama praises Roe decision on anniversary
January 23, 2009

(CWN) President Barack Obama yesterday praised Roe v. Wade, the 1973 US Supreme Court decision that struck down laws protecting unborn human life in all 50 states. The full text of his statement follows.

On the 36th anniversary of I>Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.

On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere

Obama to reverse Mexico City Policy today
January 23, 2009

(CWN) President Barack Obama will sign an executive order today reversing the Mexico City Policy instituted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. Despite widespread media predictions, President Obama did not reverse the Mexico City Policy yesterday, the anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. President Bill Clinton had rescinded the policy on January 22, 1993; President George W. Bush had restored the policy on January 22, 2001.

Cardinal Francis George noted in a recent letter to the president, “The Mexico City Policy, first established in 1984, has wrongly been attacked as a restriction on foreign aid for family planning. In fact, it has not reduced such aid at all, but has ensured that family planning funds are not diverted to organizations dedicated to performing and promoting abortions instead of reducing them. Once the clear line between family planning and abortion is erased, the idea of using family planning to reduce abortions becomes meaningless, and abortion tends to replace contraception as the means for reducing family size. A shift toward promoting abortion in developing nations would also increase distrust of the United States in these nations, whose values and culture often reject abortion, at a time when we need their trust and respect.”

Click to view site for the Saint Michael Prayer Campaign for the Conversion of Abortionists

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Church reply to reproductive health bill: facts, fallacies

Church reply to reproductive health bill: facts, fallacies

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:18:00 08/16/2008

IN THE INTEREST OF FAIR PLAY, WE ARE RUNNING TWO ARTICLES THAT HOLD views opposite of the proposed Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008.

The articles featured today are in response to the two articles written by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of the reproductive health bill, and printed in this section on Aug. 3.

Lagman’s first article highlighted the main features of the measure, while his second noted the campaign to discredit it. He claimed that the bill was not anti-life and that it would not interfere with family life, legalize abortion, promote contraceptive mentality and impose a two-child policy.

Lagman also claimed that Humanae Vitae was not an infallible doctrine.

Besides the articles of the head of the Legal Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and of a former senator, Talk of the Town received responses from Catholic groups and individuals countering Lagman’s views.

The responses came from Fr. Virgilio Delfin of the Diocese of Malaybalay, Pet Palma Dureza of Quezon City, Maria Concepcion S. Noche of the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, Jose Fernandez of the Family Life Apostolate of St. John the Baptist Parish in Taytay, Rizal, and Minyong Ordoñez, a retired chair of the Paris-based Publicis Communications Group.

Talk of the Town also received an e-mail from Felix Libreto, a professor at the UP Open University, and a position paper of 26 economists from the University of the Philippines supporting the bill.

Because of limited space, this section cannot print all the reactions to Lagman’s articles.

* * *

Reckless and irresponsible

By Jo Imbong

REP. EDCEL LAGMAN, THE PRINCIPAL AUTHOR OF THE proposed Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008 asserts, among others, that the bill is neither antilife nor antifamily, that contraceptives are not life-threatening and that the bill does not impose a two-child policy.

Prolife? To value human life is to respect and protect life in all its seasons. “Human life begins at fertilization.” (Records of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. IV, Sept. 18, 1986, pp. 761, 801) hence, “the State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” (Constitution, Article II, Section 12). Lagman said in a House hearing that the bill would protect human life “from implantation.”

By that token, the zygote not yet in the mother’s womb is not protected. Pills and the IUD hinder implantation of the embryo in the uterus, thereby precipitating the embryo’s destruction. That is abortion. And yet, “every child ... needs appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child).

Not life-threatening? Records are rife of perforation of the uterus and serious pelvic infections in women with IUDs that public midwives have refused to extract. The Mayo Foundation found that oral contraceptives are associated with an increase risk of breast cancer. DepoProvera increases a woman’s risk for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Oral contraceptives containing cyproterone increase risk of deep venous blood clots.

Levonorgestrel is banned in this country as the Bureau of Food and Drugs found it to be abortifacient. Life-threatening ectopic pregnancies occur in mothers long after undergoing tubal ligation, particularly those sterilized before age 30.

Contraceptives as essential medicines? Contraceptives do not treat any medical condition. Fertility is not a disease. It attests to health! The bill targets “the poor, needy and marginalized.” This is most unkind to them whose real needs are jobs, skills, education, lucrative opportunities, nutrition, and essential medicines for anemia, tuberculosis, infections and childhood diseases.

Remember, every citizen has the right to health (Art. II, Sec.15), hence, the State has a duty to protect the citizens against dangerous substances (Constitution, Art. XVI, Sec.9), and protect women in their maternal function (Art. XIII,Sec. 14).

Family friendly? The “encouragement” to have two children is manipulation both brazen and subtle. It can set the stage for a stronger application of the recommendation through legislative amendments. Spouses have a basic, original, intrinsic and inviolable right “to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood” (Art. XV, Sec. 3 [1]). This includes their right to progeny.

The bill mocks parents with fine and imprisonment in refusing to expose their children to mandatory “age-appropriate” reproductive health education starting Grade 5 outside the loving confines of home and family.

Vulnerable and malleable, our children will be taught “adolescent reproductive health” and “the full range of information on family planning methods, services and facilities” for six years. This is child abuse of the highest order. And yet, “every child has the right to be brought up in an atmosphere of morality and rectitude for the enrichment and strengthening of his character.” (Child and Youth Welfare Code)

The ... care and nurtur[ance] of the child reside first in the parents (Article II, Sec. 12, Constitution), whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder. (Brantley v. Surles, 718 F. 2d. 1354,1358-59) The State did not create the family, and “the child is not a creature of the State.” (Pierce vs. Society of Sisters, 268, U.S. 510, 535.) That is the law of nature, and no human institution has authority to amend it.

Quality of life? The bill wants to “uplift the quality of life of the people.” Population control started in 1976 “to increase the share of each Filipino in the fruits of economic progress.” In other words -- to eliminate poverty. Has it?

The General Appropriations Act of 2008 earmarks an enormous amount for “family planning and reproductive health services,” including contraceptives. For the Department of Health it is P3.19 billion; for Popcom -- P386.5 million, quite apart from funds for other agencies of government and local government units for the same programs. Add $2.4 million from the United Nations Population Fund for population and development and reproductive health for 2008, plus $2.2 million for 2009.

Today’s average family has three children compared with seven in the ’70s. But the billions of pesos spent have not reduced poverty or benefited the poor.

If Congress passes this bill, it wagers the future of the country. Citizens have a right to resist misplaced and irresponsible exercise of authority because the good of the people is the supreme law. Salus populi est suprema lex.

The path of irresponsible legislation is a dreadful path: If an act is made legal, it will be perceived as moral. If an act is perceived as moral, it will become a norm. If it is observed by all as a norm, then it is too late. By then, you will have changed the culture. That is not simply reckless. It is the ultimate breach of public trust.

(Jo Imbong, a lawyer, is the executive secretary of the Legal office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and consultant to the CBCP Episcoal Commission on Family and Life.)

* * *

No place for the RH bill in our law

By Francisco S. Tatad

THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH bill in the House of Representatives is being presented as a health bill and an antipoverty bill at the same time. It is neither. It is not what its authors say it is; it is everything they say it is not. It is an ideological attack on human life, the family, and our social and cultural values.

The bill rests on a flawed premise; it is unnecessary, unconstitutional, oppressive of religious belief and destructive of public morals and family values. Its enactment into law will only deepen the already frightening ignorance about the real issues. It should be rejected.

1. Flawed premise
Our population growth rate (National Statistics Office) is 2.04 percent, total fertility rate (TFR) is 3.02. The CIA World Factbook has lower figures -- growth rate, 1.728 percent; TFR, 3.00.

Our population density is 277 per square km. GDP per capita (PPP) is $3,400. Fifty other countries have a much lower density, yet their per capita is also much lower. Thirty-six countries are more densely populated, yet their GDP per capita is also much higher. Are the few then always richer, the many always poorer? Not at all.

Our median age is 23 years. In 139 other countries it is as high as 45.5 years (Monaco). This means a Filipino has more productive years ahead of him than his counterpart in the rich countries where the graying and dying population is no longer being replaced because of negative birth rates.

Our long-term future is bright, because of a vibrant and dynamic population.

2. Unnecessary
Women who say they should be free to contracept (regardless of what the moral law or science says) are not being prevented from doing so, as witness the 50-percent contraceptive prevalence rate. It is a free market. But as we are not a welfare state, taxpayers have no duty to provide the contraceptives to try and cure pregnancy, which is not a disease.

The State’s duty is to protect women from real diseases. At least 80 women die every day from heart diseases, 63 from vascular diseases, 51 from cancer, 45 from pneumonia, 23 from tuberculosis, 22 from diabetes; 16 from lower chronic respiratory diseases. Why are our lawmakers not demanding free medicines and services for all those afflicted?

Indeed, maternal death could be brought down to zero just by providing adequate basic and emergency obstetrics-care facilities and skilled medical services to women. The local officials of Gattaran, Cagayan and Sorsogon City have shown this. Why do our lawmakers insist on stuffing our women with contraceptives and abortifacients instead?

In 2005, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization concluded that oral contraceptives cause breast, liver and cervical cancer. Shouldn’t our lawmakers demand that contraceptives be banned or at least labeled as “cancer-causing,” or “dangerous to women’s health”? Why do they want them classified as “essential medicines” instead?

3. Unconstitutional
a.) The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Yet the bill seems to assume we are a centrally planned economy or a totalitarian State, which controls the private lives of its citizens. Truth is, there are certain activities of man as man where the individual is completely autonomous from the State.

Just as the State may not tell a politician or a journalist how or when to think, write or speak, it may not enter the bedroom and tell married couples how or when to practice marital love.

b.) Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution says: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.”

The use of “sanctity” makes State obedience to God’s laws not only a solemn teaching of the Church, but also an express constitutional mandate. Now, when the State binds itself to “equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception,” it necessarily binds itself not to do anything to prevent even one married woman from conceiving. A state-funded contraceptive program is an abomination.

4. Oppressive of religious belief

The bill seeks to tell the Catholic majority not to listen to the Church and to listen to anti-Catholic politicians instead. It seeks to establish a program which Catholic taxpayers will fund in order to attack a doctrine of their faith. Is there a worse despotism? Would the same people do the same thing to the followers of Islam or some politically active religious pressure group?

The pro-RH lobby claims surveys have shown that most Catholic women want to use contraception, regardless of what the Church says about it. It is a desperate attempt to show that right or wrong can now be reduced to what you like or dislike. The truth is never the result of surveys. Contraception is wrong not because the Church has banned it; the Church has banned it because it is wrong. No amount of surveys can change that.

5. Destructive of public morals

The bill seeks to impose a hedonistic sex-oriented lifestyle that aims to reduce the conjugal act to a mere exchange of physical sensations between two individuals and marriage to a purely contraceptive partnership.

Not only is it hedonistic, it is above all eugenicist. It seeks to eliminate the poor and the “socially unfit.” While it neither mandates a two-child family nor legalizes abortion, it prepares the ground for both.

In 1974, the US National Security Study Memorandum 200, titled “Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests,” launched the two-child family as a global population policy to be achieved by 2000. But “no country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion,” said that document.

Now you know what’s next, and where it’s all coming from.

(Former Sen. Francisco S. Tatad represents the Asia-Pacific on the Governing Boards of the International Right to Life Federation, Cincinnati, Ohio and the World Youth Alliance, New York, NY. Comments to

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gaza pastor: 'We cry and nobody hears us'

Gaza pastor: 'We cry and nobody hears us'

January 5, 2009


The pastor of the Catholic parish in Gaza City described Gaza as "drowning in blood" as hospitals overflowed with patients.

In a message to participants in a special Mass for peace at St. Stephen Church in Jerusalem Jan. 4, Msgr. Manuel Musallam, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Gaza City, wrote: "What you see on television cannot be compared to what is happening. The word love is choking in my throat. ... We are living like animals in Gaza. We cry and nobody hears us. I am asking God for mercy and pray that the light of Christianity continues to shine in Gaza."

Church leaders from the Holy Land attended the Mass at St. Stephen's while local and international Christians gathered elsewhere in Israel and the West Bank to pray for a halt to the violence in Gaza. When Israel began its military operation in Gaza in late December, the heads of Christian churches in the Holy Land called for Jan. 4 to be a day of prayer for peace.

At St. Stephen's, retired Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem said the Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip means death for both sides.

"What is happening now is death for Palestinians as well as Israelis," Patriarch Sabbah said at the Mass. "What is happening in Gaza has made us all come to pray and join in a prayer that says stop the massacre. We are calling to God to look at Gaza and see what is happening there and to all of us."

Peace only can come through justice, not war, he said.

"We are looking at ourselves and we are not doing our best. Israel should stop this and will stop, but then after this destruction there will be more destruction," he said.

He called on Palestinians to realize that the only way to regain their freedom and independence is through nonviolent means.

Earlier in the day at St. Catherine Church, adjacent to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, Christians attended a special Mass.

"This is genocide," said Bethlehem resident Adel Sahouri, 70, who attended the Mass. "Israel is so strong and has all the weapons the world can afford. What does Hamas have? Just rockets, nothing."

Israel launched a ground attack in Gaza Jan. 3 after several days of airstrikes to stop the Palestinian militant group Hamas from launching rockets into Israel. Since the start of the airstrikes Dec. 27, at least four Israelis and more than 500 Palestinians, including 100 civilians, have been killed.

Israel says that during the past year Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Gaza have fired more than 3,000 rockets, missiles and mortars at civilian targets in the southern Negev region of Israel.

In a center pew of St. Catherine's, Victor Zoughbi knelt in prayer.

He told Catholic News Service after Mass he was praying "not just for the people in Gaza but also for those in Tel Aviv. Every (Israeli) soldier going into Gaza now has a mother who is sitting glued to the television with her heart in her throat. He who truly has God in his heart loves everybody."

Zoughbi said he did not understand the purpose of Hamas' rockets, given their inaccuracy, and he emphasized the fact that there is only one Palestinian government headed by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. In June 2007, Hamas split with Abbas' Fatah movement and took control of the Gaza Strip. Abbas' government still controls the West Bank.

"What are we fighting over -- for a piece of land? Take the land. In the end the land will swallow us all," he said, noting that, given the situation, he was not able to speak so freely with many of his friends and acquaintances lest his loyalty be called into question.

After the Mass in Bethlehem more than 50 worshippers -- carrying a flower wreath, placards calling for peace, a black mourning flag and a Palestinian flag -- processed around Manger Square reciting Psalm 50, traditionally said at funerals.

"What is going on is war and I am praying to stop it. I am not waiting for people to hear (my prayer); I am waiting for God and, whatever God's plan is, we will follow," said Rosemarie Nasser, 55. "No one understands that God has his own time. So many times in our lives God uses the bad for good."

Most Holy Name of Jesus

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2: 9-11, NAB

Happy Epiphany!

Holy Theotokos

Alma Redemptoris Mater

MOTHER of Christ, hear thou thy people's cry
Star of the deep and Portal of the sky!
Mother of Him who thee made from nothing made.
Sinking we strive and call to thee for aid:
Oh, by what joy which Gabriel brought to thee,
Thou Virgin first and last, let us thy mercy see.

From Christmas Eve until the Purification

V. After childbirth thou didst remain a virgin.
R. Intercede for us, O Mother of God.

Let us pray
O God, who, by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary, hast bestowed upon mankind the reward of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may experience her intercession, through whom we have been made worthy to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. Amen.