The National Catholic Review
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Pope Pius XI and Benedict XVI at Vatican Radio

The idea of capturing and carrying someone’s voice across oceans and continents was a radical idea at the turn of the 20th century, and one pope saw the groundbreaking possibilities in such a project. Pope Pius XI was fascinated by this awesome invention, and in the late 1920’s he invited the inventor of radio, Guglielmo Marconi, to build a radio broadcasting station on the grounds of the newly established Vatican City State. Before radio, the pope’s public addresses could only reach the audience present where he was speaking, or maybe going a little farther if there was a good echo bouncing off Bernini’s colonnade in St. Peter’s Square. But on Feb. 12, 1931, with the flick of a switch, the pope’s words spoken from a tiny, bare-bones studio in Vatican City were heard simultaneously in New York, Quebec, London, Paris, Melbourne and Sydney.

On March 3, Pope Benedict visited the programming and broadcasting hub of the pope’s radio to mark the station’s 75th anniversary. A group of Vatican Radio employees gave Pope Benedict XVI a brand new iPod nano loaded with special Vatican Radio programming and classical music. To honor the pope’s first visit to the radio’s broadcasting headquarters, the radio’s technical staff decided the pencil-thin, state-of-the-art audio player would make the perfect gift. Now that Vatican Radio offers podcasts in eight languages, the pope has the technological capability to plug in and import the radio’s audio files.

Use Lent to Oppose Anti-Immigrant Bills

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, Calif., in a Lenten message and in pre-Lenten newspaper interviews, has lashed out at anti-immigrant feelings in the United States and asked Catholics to dedicate their Lenten prayers and practices to helping immigrants. He also said that archdiocesan priests and pastoral workers are going to continue offering services to people in the country illegally, even if such efforts are outlawed. In interviews with The Los Angeles Times and The Tidings, the archdiocesan newspaper, the cardinal harshly criticized a recent bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that emphasizes enforcement measures against people who are in the country illegally. Cardinal Mahony called the House legislation, which would penalize people who aid illegal immigrants, a blameful, vicious bill. Anyone who does anything for someone here who doesn’t have documents would be a felon under this bill, the cardinal told The Tidings.

Democrat Statement Due to Politicians’ Frustration

A new Statement of Principles signed by a majority of the Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives arose from the politicians’ frustration at the way the church used the holy Eucharist as a political weapon against some elected officials during the 2004 elections, according to one of the signers. The statement said the Catholic House members see their faith as a primary motivator for their political actions but are sometimes required by conscience or because of the religious diversity of the United States to disagree with church authorities in some areas. Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview on March 1 that the statement was the product of many, many meetings among the House Democrats themselves and with others, including Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, D.C., who heads the U.S. bishops’ Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Politicians. We felt that we allowed a small minority to drive this issue, Stupak said. We weren’t speaking out. The statement of Feb. 28 was signed by 55 of the 73 Catholic Democrats in the House.

Europe Must Insist on Respect for All

While promoting respect for Islam, European governments must also insist that Christians are to be respected and protected in predominantly Muslim countries, said the influential Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica. Just as in the West Muslims are guaranteed full freedom of conscience and religion, this also must be guaranteedon the basis of the principle of reciprocityto Christians living in countries with a Muslim majority, said an editorial in the magazine. Civiltà is regularly reviewed by the Vatican prior to publication. The editorial, which appeared in early March, discussed the protests over satirical cartoons of the prophet Muhammad published by several European newspapers. The Jesuit-run magazine echoed the Vatican’s official position that it is wrong to use freedom of expression as an excuse to offend religious sensitivities, but also that violence was not a worthy response to the offense.

Bishops Back Amendment to Bill on Abuse Laws

The bishops of Colorado have endorsed a bill in the state Legislature that would put no time limit on criminal prosecution for the sexual abuse of children but would retain current time limits on civil lawsuits in such cases. The bishops had opposed the bill as originally written because it would have eliminated time limits for civil lawsuits as well as for criminal prosecution. It was subsequently revised to retain current law on the statute of limitations for civil suits. In an interview in the national Catholic weekly Our Sunday Visitor on March 5, Denver’s Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said that many who are seeking a relaxation of the statute of limitations on civil suits are tort lawyers profiting from the litigation industry or are motivated by anti-Catholicism. Unless Catholics wake up right now and push back on behalf of their church, he said, their parishes and the religious future of their children, the pillaging will continue because of costly litigation and settlements.

South Dakota Bishops Hail Ban, Urge Stress on Life

Two Catholic bishops hailed South Dakota’s new law banning nearly all abortions, but they also urged efforts to transform people’s hearts and minds to reject abortion and build a culture that respects all life from the moment of conception to natural death. On March 6 in Pierre, the state capital, Gov. Mike Rounds signed into law a bill prohibiting all intentional abortions except those to save a mother’s life. Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City said South Dakota citizens and their elected officials can be justifiably proud of their efforts to restore the rights of the unborn child, but a change in law and structures, he said, is not sufficient. Society must build a culture of life that begins with the unborn and also ensures livable wages, education, adequate health care, help for single mothers and an end to the death penalty, he said.

Church Leaders Protest, Seek Calm, Forgiveness

While Israeli leaders attempted to emphasize that an attack on March 3 at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel, was carried out by a troubled family with no political agenda, Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah was quoted on Israeli television as saying the incident could not be separated from the atmosphere that incites such attacks against Arab targets. The patriarch and other Christian leaders joined a march in Nazareth on March 4 protesting the attack.

Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto-Boulous Marcuzzo of Jerusalem and Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour of Akko, Israel, calmed the tempers of the massive number of youths who had gathered outside the basilica immediately after the attack; the bishops were seen walking through the crowd with loudspeakers, pleading for restraint. Dozens of local residents could be seen trying to separate angry Nazareth residents from police sent to remove Haim Habibi, his wife, Violet, and their 20-year-old daughter from the church safely. The Habibis had entered the church with a baby carriage under the guise of pilgrims and set off a dozen firecrackers during the crowded worship service.

The custos of the Holy Land said Christians must forgive the family that set off firecrackers inside the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Nothing can justify what they did... they are unfortunate individuals...but what we need [is] to look forward, and we as Christians have to forgive, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, a Franciscan priest, said in a brief news conference. This hurts us, but we are not holding a grudge. As religious Christians we must deliver a message of peace. Father Pizzaballa, who is in charge of Christian sites in the Holy Land, spoke on March 6 after a brief meeting with Haim and Violet Habibi and their 20-year-old daughter, Odelia, who were remanded into police custody on March 3 while charges were brought against them. The Habibis hugged and kissed Father Pizzaballa and asked for his helpand the pope’sin getting their three minor children back; their youngest was removed from their home the week of the basilica incident. The Habibis’ lawyer said they had not expected things to end as they had.