Archive of October 10, 2003

Right to religious freedom “litmus test” for respect of other rights: Pope

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2003 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II commended the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe today for its commitment to ensure the basic human right to religious freedom but he also warned against legislation that promotes religious indifference and relativism, justified by a “mistaken understanding of tolerance.”

“From the start of the Helsinki process, the participating states have recognized the international dimension of the right to religious freedom and its importance for the security and stability of the community of nations,” he said.

The defence of this right, founded on the dignity of the human person, is “in a certain sense … the litmus test for the respect of all the other human rights,” the pope told OSCE members in a private audience at the Vatican today. The OSCE had recently held a conference on freedom of religion.

The pope expressed his appreciation for these efforts and encouraged the OSCE to continue in this undertaking.

“It is true that many young people today grow up without being aware of the spiritual heritage that is theirs. Despite this, the religious dimension does not cease to influence vast groups of citizens,” he said.

“Therefore, it is important that, while respecting a healthy sense of the state’s secular nature, the positive role of believers in public life should be recognized. This corresponds, among other things, to the demands of a healthy pluralism and contributes to the building up of authentic democracy, to which the OSCE is truly committed,” the pontiff continued.

The pope also added that when governments are “disciplined and balanced in the expression of their secular nature, dialogue between the different social sectors is fostered.” This leads to the promotion of “transparent and frequent co-operation between civil and religious society,” which benefits the common good, he said.

“Just as damage is done to society when religion is relegated to the private sphere, so too are society and civil institutions impoverished when legislation — in violation of religious freedom — promotes religious indifference, relativism and religious syncretism, perhaps even justifying them by means of a mistaken understanding of tolerance,” he said.

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Christian Brothers falsely accused of sexual abuse

Dublin, Ireland, Oct 10, 2003 (CNA) - Official documents, obtained by The Irish Catholic Oct. 8, reveal that at least two former Christian Brothers have had multiple false sexual-abuse claims made against them to the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

The two men had taught in various institutions run by the Christian Brothers in Ireland. The newspaper reported many discrepancies in the abuse claims. One claim is alleged to have taken place in 1946. However, the accused man would have only been two years old at the time. He is also alleged to have sexually abused a boy on his confirmation day in May 1996, yet the accused only arrived at that institution three months later.

"So many religious have been accused only because they happened to be serving in a place," one of the accused men told the newspaper. Both men asked that their identities be withheld.

The other former Christian Brother had 22 allegations of abuse against him, all of which he claims are false. One allegation accuses him of abusing a boy in a swimming pool in a residential institution in 1967, but the swimming pool was not built until 1968.

All of the allegations were fully investigated and the charges subsequently dropped. But one former Christian Brother is concerned that the board is not investigating simple facts before issuing a summons.

"There's something hideously wrong with what's happening to us," one of the former brothers told the newspaper. "It's malicious and defamatory. This is a massive scam. And I don't know how deep it goes."

Florence Horsman told The Irish Catholic that she is concerned at what she sees as "serious loopholes" in the Redress Board. She founded Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE), a new group which aims to bring balance back to the coverage of the religious' role in institutions. The group is concerned that coverage in the media is biased and is distorting the extent of the abuse.

Horsman added that her group does not deny that abuse had taken place in some instances and  is fully supportive of the victims’ right to compensation.

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Trujillo warns of condoms failures

London, England, Oct 10, 2003 (CNA) - Condoms are flawed and there is no guarantee that they will prevent the transmission of the AIDS virus. That is what Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo told the BBC Panorama program called “Sex and the Holy City”, which will air Sunday, Oct. 12.

On the program, the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, argues that if condoms cannot be guaranteed to block sperm, they cannot be guaranteed to block the AIDS virus, which is much smaller.

"The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon," he told the BBC. "The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom."

He added that just as health authorities warn about the dangers of tobacco, they also have a responsibility to warn about condoms.

The BBC program and the World Health Organisation reject the Trujillo’s view. Although the WHO agrees that condoms could break or be damaged, it says condoms still reduce the risk of infection by 90 percent and, if not torn or damaged, are secure enough to prevent the transmission of AIDS.

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University regrets that sculpture is offensive to Catholics

Kansas City, Mo., Oct 10, 2003 (CNA) - Washburn University said it regrets that Roman Catholics may have been offended by a sculpture that depicts a Catholic clergyman in a hat that resembles a penis.

"No one involved in the selection process or in any aspect of the Campus Beautification Committee intended for any viewers to experience pain or hurt," read a university statement, issued Sept. 30.

Archbishop James Keleher of the Archdiocese of Kansas City and Kansas wrote the university president Dr. Jerry Farley, asking for the removal of the sculpture. Dr. William A. Donahue, president of the New York-based Catholic League, submitted his own letter opposing the sculpture.

"I am particularly concerned for your many Catholic students who see their faith ridiculed and they themselves embarrassed," wrote the archbishop.

The sculpture is on loan to the university until July 2004 as part of the university's eighth annual Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition. The university made no mention of removing the sculpture from campus at an earlier time.

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“Only The Holy Spirit Knows If I Will Be Pope,” Says Honduran Cardinal

Tegucigalpa, Oct 10, 2003 (CNA) - Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, responded this week for the first time to reports in the media that point to him as a “candidate for Pope,” saying only the Holy Spirit knows who will succeed John Paul II.

“This is just the good will and affection of the people.  Only the Holy Spirit knows if I will be the successor of John Paul II, and that will be on the day of the conclave and no sooner,” the Cardinal said, speaking to the newspaper La Prensa. 

Cardinal Rodríguez, who has begun a prayer appeal in Honduras for the health of John Paul, told reporters, “We continue to pray for the Holy Father.  Not because he is dying, but because he is weak and is suffering from a progressive illness.” 

“My goal is to have 600,000 rosaries offered for the Holy Father’s health,” the Cardinal said. 

He also pointed out that “the bad thing about Parkinson’s is that it is a progressive disease which damages the nervous system, and for that reason some days the Pope is weak, but afterwards he recovers.” 

“Eight days ago the Pope could not attend his weekly audience in Rome, but now he continues with his activities, he has received many bishops and he is ready for everything that is coming,” the Cardinal added.

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People Are Not Commodities To Be Exchanged, Says Cardinal To Columbian Guerrillas

Bogotá, Colombia, Oct 10, 2003 (CNA) - Responding to calls by the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia for a prisoner exchange with the government as a condition for the release of seven foreign nationals who were kidnapped by the ELN on September 12, the Archbishop of Bogotá, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano, said, “We cannot trade people like commodities.”

The Catholic Church in Columbia, which has offered to mediate negotiations for the release of the seven people—including four Israelis, one German, one Spaniard and one British—who were kidnapped in September, said prisoner exchanges are not part of its work.

Several days ago Pablo Beltrán of the ELN’s Central Command offered to release the hostages in exchange for the release of prisoners currently incarcerated by the governament. 

Cardinal Rubiano announced he would send a commission of three priests to the Santa Marta Mountains in northern Colombia to negotiate with the ELN for the release of the hostages.

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Spanish Bishops congratulate John Paul For 25th Anniversary of Pontificate

Madrid, Spain, Oct 10, 2003 (CNA) - “On The 25th Anniversary of the Election of Pope John Paul II” is the title of a new document published by the Bishops Conference of Spain (CEE) in honor of the Holy Father for his 25th year as Pope. 

“Your concern for the entire Church during the last 25 years has been without a doubt a special gift from God, for which we should be and are thankful, “ the Bishops said in their message. 

The Bishops point out that through his encyclicals, exhortations, letters, audiences, travels to all the continents, World Youth Days, and at the same time through his own personal testimony, John Paul II “has encouraged us to continue ahead and to promote the mission that the Church received from Jesus Christ.” 

In this sense, “The proclamation in every corner of the world of the dignity and the rights of the human person, of men and women, of the born and the unborn, of the family, of the bonds that should unite all the children of God; the defense of human life, of freedom, of peace and harmony; the loving care for those most in need, regardless of race or religion, for the development of all peoples, and the constant invitation to care for creation” are commitments which are rooted in the vision of God and of man that come from Divine Revelation, and is an exemplary model of what it means to evangelize.  

The Bishops state in their document, “The message of John Paul II has always been presented, not with imposition or interference, but with the prophetic and unmistakable values of the Gospels and of the moral and social teachings of the Church which flow from them, contributing in a decisive way to a more just social order in many countries.”

Regarding the Church in Spain, the document underscores the profound impact of the Pope’s messages to the Spanish Bishops, and the seeds sown during his apostolic visits to the country, all of which have provided great impetus for the conversion and renewal called for by the new evangelization.

The document concludes by inviting the faithful to join in the celebrations through prayer and participation in the Eucharist, and it proposes that the teachings and writings of the Holy Father be presented for study and discussion in the different public and academic events, both in civil and ecclesial forums, as an expression of gratitude to the Pope for his sacrifice and service to the Church and the world.

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