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Archive of November 18, 2003

Parish life is “central and irreplaceable” for the Church, Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2003 (CNA) - In a message sent to the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) currently gathered in Assisi, Pope John Paul II stressed the importance of parishes in the life of the Church

 “Your concern as pastors,” writes the Pope, “will be focused on this occasion on the topic of the parish, very opportunely presented in the program of your assembly as the ‘Church living in the midst of the homes of Her sons and daughters.’

“I must emphasize,” the Pontiff says, “that I share with you the conviction of the central and irreplaceable role of the parish to make participation in the Church possible, and in a certain sense easy and spontaneous for every person and family.” 

The Holy Father highlighted the importance of studying “the best ways to preserve an increase this richness in the face of the great social and cultural changes of our age.”

 “In order to accomplish these goals it will be particularly important for Italian parishes to maintain a ‘familial’ characteristic which distinguishes them and makes them, in a certain way, big ‘families of families’,” he added.

The Pope also said parishes must be “a warm and welcoming environment,” and be able to offer “a great contribution to the defense and promotion of that precious and invaluable reality, which unfortunately is continually threatened today, which is the family.”

 “I am beside you,” the Pope concludes, “in the work that each one of you carries out in order to promote serenity and harmony in relationships between the diverse forces and political, social and institutional components.”

“I share your continual commitment to the defense of human life, the family founded on marriage, scholastic freedom and  the development of employment and in helping the poorest sectors of the population.”

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Vatican calls on Muslims to be builders of peace in end-of-Ramadan message

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2003 (CNA) - In the annual message from the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue to Muslims on the occasion of the end of “Id Al-Fitr”, the feast that concludes the month of Ramadan, the Vatican called on Muslims around the world to cooperate in building peace. 

The message, entitled, “Constructing peace today,” was published in French, English and Italian and is signed by the president of the council, Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald.

This year Archbishop Fitzgerald considers the encyclical by Pope John XXIII “Pacem in terris,” in which the pope refers to peace as “an edifice resting on four pillars: truth, justice, love and freedom.”

 “Truth is the first pillar,” affirms the council’s president, “for it includes the recognition that human beings are not their own masters, but are called the fulfill the will of God.” “Truth moreover brings each individual to acknowledge his or her own rights, but also to recognize his or her own duties towards others.”

 “Yet peace cannot exist without justice,” he continues, “respect for the dignity and rights of each human person.  It is the lack of justice, in individual, social and international relations that causes so much unrest in our world today, and brings about violence.”

Referring to love, he emphasizes that it “implies the ability to recognize that we all belong to one human family.” 

Speaking about forgiveness, he says, “is essential to the restoration of peace when conflict has broken out, for it opens up the possibility of beginning again, on a new basis, in a restored relationship.  All this supposes freedom  (which allows) people to act according to reason and to assume responsibility for their own actions.”

The president of the council goes on to say that to the four pillars he would add prayer.  He recalls what the Pope says: “Prayer is not a form of escapism.  On the contrary, it allows us to face up to reality with a strength which comes from God.”

At the end of the message, Archbishop Fitzgerald invokes God’s blessing on all Muslims and their families and asks that “this blessing be a source of comfort in particular for those who have suffered, or who are still suffering, on account of armed conflict.  May the Good God give all of us the strength to be true constructors of peace.”

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Chaldean priest pleads for political order to keep Iraq from becoming another Palestine

Rome, Italy, Nov 18, 2003 (CNA) - Speaking to the Fides news agency, Father Denka H. Toma, Superior General of the Antonian Order of St. Ormizda of the Chaldeans—the only chaldean religious order present in Iraq—called on the international community to avoid letting the country become another Palestine.

“We do not want Iraq to be another Palestine! No state, a nation left at the mercy of terrorist groups and its people dying of hunger!” he said. 42 year-old Father Denka, who is the superior for 45 monks dedicated to active and contemplative life, said, “We are uncertain, we stand at the centre of a ford: the dictatorship is ended we have yet to enter a new political season. We must find the way out of this tragic situation in which terrorism and insecurity move freely.” Referring to the attack on the Italian military post, Father Denka said, “We are deeply grieved. In Nassirya the Italians are playing an important role, they are working to restore order and peace in the territory.

Their relation with the local people is good. We have no idea who carried out the attack, but I think they are people loyal to Saddam or terrorists infiltrated in Iraq after the war, because the frontiers were open for a long time”.“Most people are not satisfied with the situation,” he said.  “They are grateful to the Americans for liberating Iraq from the dictatorship, but today, six months after the war ended, the people lament lack of social, civil and economic reconstruction.” Father Denka emphasized that ““In all these years of war, violence, hunger we have remained at the side of the people and we remain today. The Chaldean Catholic Church is support and comfort for all, also for many non Christians.”

“Today the Chaldean monks are a real consolation for the people: without them many more would have emigrated. The monks visit families, they pray with the young people, the teach children, giving great testimony of faith. Every Chaldean Christian family prays every day that God will grant our country a future of peace,” he concluded.

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Bishop defends Catholic statement opposing same-sex unions

, Nov 18, 2003 (CNA) - Marriage is in a crisis in the U.S., and the legalization of same-sex marriages would be another diminishing of society, just like abortion, said Bishop J. Kevin Boland yesterday at a press conference, reported the Associated Press.

The bishop of the Diocese of Savannah and chairman of the bishops Committee on Marriage and the Family co-authored the U.S. bishops’ statement on same-sex marriage that was issued last week at their semi-annual meeting in Washington.

The document was not intended to condemn homosexuals, he said. The Church respects their dignity as persons, he added. At the same time, homosexuals, like heterosexuals, are called to be chaste. He said the document should be distributed to Catholic churches in pamphlet form.

The bishops’ statement, approved by a 234-3 vote last Wednesday, comes as the U.S. government considers a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The bishops’ statement says a same-sex union contradicts the purpose of marriage because it is not based on the natural complementarity of male and female and it cannot co-operate with God to create new life.

The document argues against granting same-sex couples the same economic and social benefits as married couples. It also urges Catholics to participate in the political and to oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage.

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Brooklyn diocese celebrates 150 years

, Nov 18, 2003 (CNA) - The Diocese of Brooklyn celebrated its 150th anniversary by toasting its immigrants community who organized the diocese and continue to allow it to thrive today. 

The diocese started in the 19th century with a handful of Catholics – Irish immigrants, officials believe – who tired of crossing the East River to attend mass.

Brooklyn native and retired archbishop of Philadelphia Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua presided at the anniversary mass, attended by more than 1,000 worshipers at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

"The Diocese of Brooklyn has always been the Church of immigrants," he said in his homily. "The diversity and races and peoples from other lands, within the geographic confines of the diocese of Brooklyn is undoubtedly the largest."

The diocese includes 217 parishes and 1.8 million Catholics from 175 countries. Masses are offered in the people’s national languages, including Italian, Chinese and Polish.

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Workers boycott stops construction of abortion clinic

, Nov 18, 2003 (CNA) - A contractor hired to build an abortion clinic quit his job this month after all of his workers and subcontractors boycotted the project and refused to work for him, reported the Associated Press Nov. 14.

Planned Parenthood was surprised when Browning Construction Co., one of the state's largest contractors, pulled out of the project only six weeks after the ground-breaking. Clearing, excavation and some of the underground plumbing had already been done, but the foundation had not been put in, reported the AP. Planned Parenthood said this was the first such boycott they have ever seen.

Pro-life construction-industry executive Chris Danze organized the boycott.

Danze, 48, an owner of Maldonado & Danze Inc., a concrete-foundation contractor, spearheaded a campaign, urging more than 750 Austin- and San Antonio-area businesses not to provide supplies or services for the project. He recruited contractors to join the Texas Contractors and Suppliers for Life Association. Danze said hundreds of subcontractors agreed to boycott the project, though not all of them said whether they were anti-abortion. Danze told the AP that some simply did not want to get involved in a controversial project.

Texas Right to Life, which claims 75,000 members, and churches got involved as well.

Planned Parenthood said the campaign was conducted with "intimidation and harassment." But the AP reported that James Browning, of Browning Construction, said he got a polite call from Danze warning him about the boycott.

Planned Parenthood said it would act as its own general contractor and complete the project with contractors who have voiced their interest to help.

The privately funded $6.2 million clinic was set to open next fall. According to the AP, if completed the clinic is completed, it will be Planned Parenthood's first Austin clinic to provide abortions and the fourth licensed abortion provider in the state’s capital.

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Bishops warn of proposals aiming to legalize abortion in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 18, 2003 (CNA) - As the Bishops Conference of Argentina concluded their 86th General Assembly, the Argentinean prelates published a message in which they warn of the existence of “proposed laws that aim to legalize the horrendous crime of abortion” and underline the necessity for “laws that promote life.”

After the six day-long meeting, the bishops published a document entitled, “Family: Communion of Love, Responsibility of All,” in which they said, “The family is founded on matrimony, which Christ also elevated to the dignity of sacrament, constituted by a stable, lasting union between a man and a woman who share a common mission open to new life.  For this reason no other type of union can be an equivalent.”

The bishops also write that “lawmakers should carry out their work with serene analysis open to life and respectful of the common good of society, conscientious likewise of the educational value that laws have.”

“A just law ennobles and promotes society.  We emphasize this because of our concern for the existence of proposed laws that aim to legalize the horrendous crime of abortion,” they added.

The bishops also say that “in the growth process of human life, we consider unacceptable those laws that tend to impose sex-ed curriculums in schools without any reference to moral and religious values and without taking into account the natural and primary rights of parents in the education of their children”

The bishops praise “the beauty of the family,” which they say deserves the title of “sanctuary of life.”  “Human life, a precious and sacred reality, should be respected from conception to natural death.  This is clearly stated in our national Constitution and in many provincial constitutions as well,” they write.

The bishops also lamented the “negative influence that much of the media has on families,” and they called on those responsible to use the media to promote “authentic values that sustain the family” and to reject those that “harm the family in any way.”   

They also recognized that poor preaching, catechesis and education have translated into neglect for the needs of the family.  Similar affects have resulted from dissent from the Church’s moral teaching, the lack of consideration of issues fundamental to family life, such as conjugal chastity, and mutual respect among family members, especially for women.  “It pains us to see that some difficult situations are not treated with a sufficient spirit of mercy.”

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Church leaders and families unite to oppose legalization of drugs in Mexican prisons

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 18, 2003 (CNA) - A noted pro-family group has joined efforts with the Mexican bishops in urging the rejection of a proposal to legalize the use of drugs in the country’s prisons in order to “diminish” drug-trafficking.

During the 86th National Congress of the National Parents Union on life, family and education, Guillermo Bustamante, president of the pro-family group, warned that the proposal is senseless.  “How many times have we learned that drug use has preceded the commission of a crime,” he said. 

Bustamante said that “if drugs are legalized, crime Hill increase, security will be diminished, child prostitution will rise—and which parent is going to accept that next to the candy stand marijuana is being sold.”  

For his part Bishop Jesús Martínez Zepeda, Auxiliary Bishop of Mexico City, explained that despite the fact that authorities see the legalization as a way to solve drug-trafficking in prisons, it cannot be approved without considering the long-term risks it would bring to the public.

“We don’t want to see inmates as people who need to be put to sleep or to be kept still, I don’t think this is a solution.  It may be practical for traffickers but it isn’t practical for the rehabilitation of prisoners,” he said.

In his homily this past Sunday, Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City said the country should learn from the negative experience of other countries that have implemented such measures.  “It has not helped to suppress drug trafficking nor diminish drug addiction.  I don’t think this is the path for Mexico” to address the dangers of drug use, said the Cardinal.

The Cardinal pointed to “other ways of reducing drug use in prisons.  First of all prisoners need—and I say this as someone who has visited them frequently—they need to have a job, a worthy job, a job that is adequately compensated.  This would discourage many from using drugs.  And of course, they need an education, one that leads to human growth and not to the learning of new crimes…”

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