Gunmen opens fire at Missionary training center, Archbishop of Denver Charles offers prayer

Denver,U.S.A, Dec 11, 2007 (CINS/CNA).- Two churches in Colorado are mourning the deaths of five of their members since gunmen opened fire yesterday at a missionary training center in Arvada and New Life Church, 80 miles south, in Colorado Springs.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver responded to the tragedy by asking God to "penetrate and redeem even this tragedy with the peace of Christmas and Christ's promise of eternal life.”

The shootings left a total of five dead, including the Arvada gunman, and six injured.  Police are looking into the case to see if the incidents are related.

According to CNN, the first shooting took place at 12:30 a.m. MST at the “Youth with a Mission” training center in Arvada, a northern suburb of Denver.  A man with a beard, dark jacket, glasses and skullcap entered the center and opened fire after a staff member appeared to talk to him about housing for the night.

The gunman killed two staff members and injured two more.  Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24 died shortly after the incident.  Dan Griebenow was in critical condition with a bullet in his neck and Charlie Blanch suffered a shot to his legs.

After hearing of the attack that occurred just an hour’s drive north, New Life Church in Colorado Springs, added additional security members to ensure the protection of its members.  However, shortly after 1 p.m., a gunman dressed in black, shot worshippers in the parking lot of the church killing one and injuring four before a security guard shot and killed the gunman.  Lt. Skip Arms told CNN that she “saved this tragedy from becoming a lot worse than it is.”

The security guards work at the church on a volunteer basis and some of them are armed.  The church’s staff ensured that only those licensed to carry weapons are armed.

Those killed were identified as Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachael Works, 16. Their father, David Works, 51, was listed in fair condition on Monday.

"Our concern is for our family that lost two teenage daughters. Our hearts are grieving this morning for them," said Senior Pastor Brady Boyd in a news conference this morning. "Our prayers are with them."

The family had been involved in the parish for a year and a half.

Pastor Boyd also told reporters that the gunman did not have ties to the church and that it was simply a random attack with the “intention of hurting people.”

“Our hearts go out to the family of this young man,” Pastor Boyd said.  “We are praying for him and his family.”

In a statement released Monday, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver also offered his prayers for the community:

“The violence over the weekend against young missionaries in Arvada and against worshippers at New Life Church in Colorado Springs would be heart-rending in any season, but it is especially bitter during this time of preparation for Christmas, the birthday of the Prince of Peace.”

“Along with the whole Catholic community in Colorado, I pray that God will heal the suffering inflicted by these terrible events, and sustain the hope and faith of the people at New Life Church, Youth with a Mission and Faith Bible Chapel.  For those struggling personally with this sorrow, may God penetrate and redeem even this tragedy with the peace of Christmas and Christ's promise of eternal life.”

Chaldean Bishop Monsignor Al-Qas: Without Mary it is not possible to know Jesus

Ahmadiya, Iraq,Dec.10, 2007 (CINS/AsiaNews) – “Without Mary it is not possible to know Jesus and thus find redemption,” was the theme upon which Mgr Rabban Al-Qas, Chaldean bishop of Ahmadiya (Iraqi Kurdistan) wanted to reflect at a meeting held last Friday with 300 young people from his diocese. The prelate, who spoke to AsiaNews, said the day was one of “of celebration and great joy” to remember “our mother Mary” on the eve of the feast day of the Immaculate Conception. The young people, all students aged 15 to 24, came from nearby villages, and the bishop was assisted by three priests.

In his intervention Monsignor Al-Qas focused on Our Lady’s example “in welcoming the news from the Archangel Gabriel who announced that she would be the mother of the Lord.”

“As Christmas approaches we should not forget the central figure that is Mary; without her it is impossible for Man to find salvation.”

The bishop sent a clear message to the meeting’s young participants. He said: “through Mary we can break the vicious cycle in which we are confined by a materialistic society focused on earthly pleasures. As Christians we must remember that we have an ‘after’ to think about. That ‘after’ is the resurrection, the hope Jesus has given us. And Mary plays an essential role in Man’s redemption.”

At the end of the meeting the bishop celebrated mass in Aramaic, followed by singing and a group of young people who put on a play.

Monsignor Al-Qas told AsiaNews that the universal Church, especially that of Iraq, must pay attention to young people.

“We cannot abandon them to their own devices,” he pleaded. “We must do something for the new generations.”

In the Iraqi context, this means that in addition to the tragedy of war great attention must be paid to the growing proselytising by evangelical groups, including among Catholics. Among them young people are the most vulnerable and the most susceptible to fall for promises of jobs and money

Bishop Edward J.Slattery criticizes new Oklahoma statute on illegal immigration as 'noble but misguided'

TULSA, Okla, Dec.09, 2007 (CINS /CNS) - The state lawmaker who wrote a new Oklahoma statute on illegal immigration that is considered one of the harshest such laws in the nation has said he plans to follow it up with "son of H.B. 1804" when the Legislature convenes in January.

The Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007, also known as H.B. 1804, took effect Nov. 1.

Republican State Rep. Randy Terrill also said Tulsa Bishop Edward J. Slattery's Nov. 26 pastoral letter concerning the law was "noble but misguided."

Terrill said Catholic leaders oppose the law because "the fastest-growing parishes in Catholicism are non-English-speaking" and that "a good portion" of their congregations "are illegal aliens."

His remarks were quoted in the Nov. 29 Tulsa World daily newspaper. The following day, Bishop Slattery told a news conference he has been advised by attorneys that the new law is unconstitutionally vague and will not withstand scrutiny in the federal courts.

"It'll be too late by then," he said, noting that many immigrants, legal as well as illegal, have already fled the state and are continuing to flee.

"The law is designed to put fear in the people so they will leave, and they are. The law is working," Bishop Slattery said.

It makes it a felony to knowingly harbor or transport an illegal alien and creates specific barriers to hiring illegal immigrants. It requires proof of citizenship to obtain certain government benefits and requires all state agencies and contractors to check the immigration status of all workers after July 1, 2008.

The bishop's pastoral is titled "The Suffering Faces of the Poor Are the Suffering Face of Christ" ("Los rostros sufrientes de los pobres son el rostro sufriente de Cristo").

It calls for equal accessibility to all Catholic programs regardless of legal status, and pledges to provide legal assistance through Catholic Charities to those who need help in establishing or maintaining their legal residence in this country.

It says the diocese will work with legal agencies to prepare a standardized "power of attorney" form that parents can use to indicate who should assume guardianship over their dependent children should those parents be arrested and face deportation. It also will provide Catholic foster care for parents who have formally indicated who should care for their children.

In his press conference remarks Nov. 30, he said Terrill "didn't do his homework" when the representative told the Tulsa World that the diocesan Catholic Charities agency receives some taxpayer money. "Let's call a spade a spade," the lawmaker said.

But the same story quoted Kevin Sartorius, an official with Catholic Charities of the Tulsa Diocese, who pointed out that federal funding accounts for less than 2 percent of the agency's budget, and none of it is used to benefit illegal immigrants.

Bishop Slattery said Catholic Charities receives $48,000 to resettle refugees who are brought to the diocese by federal officials and another $15,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for emergency food distribution.

"I wonder on how many other things he didn't do his homework," Bishop Slattery said.

The bishop reiterated his long-standing view that immigration reform is desperately needed, and it must come at the federal level. He predicted reform will come but not until after the '08 elections. He also said he believes the immigration system's multiple problems will be addressed no matter who wins the election.

Politicians do not have "strong enough character" to address the inequities if it is going to cost them votes, he said. "It's a lack of courage. No one wants to lead anymore."

He said H.B. 1804 or any subsequent legislation that denies such fundamental rights as citizenship being granted to all people born in the Unites States or makes English the official state language -- both possibilities floated by Terrill -- simply will not stand constitutional muster.

"There is no good argument for the law," the bishop said. "Yes, they are in this country illegally, but we cannot send them back; there are too many. That can't happen. The borders need to be closed off. But this law is not the answer. It (causes) a lot of unnecessary suffering."

And, he added, "states shouldn't be allowed to set their own immigration policy."

Myanmar's bishops: Cut down on parties, focus on promoting peace

Yangon, Myanmar, Dec.07, 2007 (CINS /CNS) -- Bishops in Myanmar have called on Catholics to cut down on external celebrations of Advent and Christmas this year and focus on promoting peace and development. Archbishops Paul Zinghtung Grawng of Mandalay and Charles Bo of Yangon, president and general secretary, respectively, of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Myanmar, issued the message on behalf of Myanmar's bishops. The message was dated Dec. 3, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. In September, the government cracked down on protests -- led by Buddhist monks -- against rising prices and corruption. Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country. In the message sent to all parishes, the bishops proposed that the church "observe the season of Advent and celebrate the feast of Christmas more in accordance with the spirit of prayer and penance." The bishops' conference issued the message after a meeting in Yangon Nov. 30.

New Archbishop of Guangzhou: “Also in China the Church is One and Catholic”

Guangzhou, China, Dec.05,2007(CINS/AsiaNews) – The Catholic Church, even in China is “one holy Catholic and apostolic”.  It was underlined by the new archbishop of Guangzhou, Msgr. Joseph Gan Junqiu, and minutes before he gave his parting blessing to the faithful who had gathered in Sacred Heart Cathedral to participate in his ordination.  Local sources who took part in the celebrations described the event to AsiaNews.

The solemn mass took place this morning in the “House of Stone”, the great cathedral that lies in the centre of the city.  Press and faithful from other diocese were not allowed attend due to “lack of space”.  About 900 people participated, each given an admission pass with the number of the pew assigned to them as well as their position within the same pew.  

A” massive” police presence as well as members of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics [PA, a government organism not recognised by the Holy See, which interferes in the life of the church and tries to impose its own bishops on diocese without Vatican consensus ed], were there, “to keep an eye on all of the people gathered in the square for the duration of the mass”.

Despite this climate, Msgr. Gan took advantage of the moment in which the congregation exchanged the sign of peace to come down from the altar, leave the cathedral and make his way to a room close by the Church, where other Catholics were following the mass via a giant screen. There he embraced the only foreigners who were present in a sign of communion with the Universal Church.

Catholics from the Archdiocese of Guangzhou place a lot of hope in their new pastor.  They tell AsiaNews, that he “has an open heart and mind and is held in high esteem by many people.  He does not love compromise, but he knows how to find balance there where it is often difficult to put tolerance into practise. All of this costs him dearly and shows his deep love for his people and for the Church, which is universal. We have been without a pastor for far too long and this grace from God has made us very, very happy”.

Msgr. Gan was elected archbishop in November 2006.  Immediately after his election, he received Holy See approval and communicated this to the local faithful. Thanks to the obstructionism of the PA who did not view this public declaration of loyalty to the Pope kindly, his ordination was blocked until today.

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