Vatican City, Dec 1, 2003 (CNA) - During the prayer of the Angelus last Sunday, which marked the beginning of Advent, Pope John Paul II called religions to unite against violence in the world.
The Pontiff recalled that Advent is “a journey of spiritual renovation in preparation for Christmas. The voices of the prophets in the liturgy, who announce the Messiah and invite all to conversion of heart and to prayer, resound.”
“Christ, the Prince of peace, is coming!” exclaimed the Holy Father. “Preparing ourselves for His birth means reawakening the hope for peace in ourselves and in the entire world. Especially peace in our hearts which is built by putting down the weapons of rancor, vengeance and every form of selfishness.”
John Paul II emphasized that the “world greatly needs peace.” “I am thinking especially, with profound sadness, of the latest episodes of violence in the Middle East and Africa, as well as in so many other parts of the world reported in the daily news. I renew my appeal to the leaders of the great religions: let us join forces in preaching non-violence, forgiveness and reconciliation!”
“On this journey of anticipation and hope that is Advent,” he added, “the Church community identifies herself more than ever with Our Lady. May Our Lady of Hope help us so that we may open our hearts to Him who bestows the priceless gift of peace on all of humanity by coming among us.”
Vatican City, Dec 1, 2003 (CNA) - The Holy See announced today the prayer intentions of Pope John Paul II for December, which concern human suffering and the churches under totalitarian regimes.
The Holy Father’s general intention for the month of December is: “That the members of all religions may cooperate to alleviate the human sufferings of our time.”
His mission intention is: “That the Church in the countries where totalitarian regimes still reign, may be given full freedom to carry out her own spiritual mission.”
Alberta, Canada, Dec 1, 2003 (CNA) - On the occasion of World AIDS Day, celebrated worldwide on December 1st, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, issued a statement calling for a more integral approach to fighting AIDS, not limited to so-called “safe sex.”
In the message, Cardinal Lozano says that he wishes to join the efforts and initiatives that will take place around the world in the area of prevention and assistance to the sick.
On behalf of the Catholic Church, the Cardinal sent “a message of love and hope for the families and people who are afflicted by this terrible evil,” as well as to the international organizations, institutions and Catholic agencies that are committed to fighting against the “dreadful scourge.”
On behalf of the Holy Father, Cardinal Lozano also urges everyone “to study and search together for new ways and ideal means of helping the people and especially the youth to adopt morals and a style of life that respects the authentic values of life and love.”
After recalling that at the end of 2002, according to official statistics, 42 million people were living with HIV/AIDS, of which 19.2 million were women and 3.2 million were children under 15 years of age, the President of the Council for Health Care Ministry writes that “the commitment and action of the Church on different continents involves prevention, education, and multiform assistance to patients and families.”
Cardinal Lozano recalls that the pastoral action of the Church involves the formation of health care workers, prevention through health education; health care and assistance, charity towards the patients in hospitals and health centers, contributing to the improvement of the physical, psychological and spiritual conditions of the patients; as well as the pastoral accompanying of sick people.
“If the main risk behaviors are pan-sexualism and drug addition, then poverty, urbanization, unemployment, mobility, immigration and mass media are major contributing factors in the spread of the disease,” the Cardinal writes, recalling that the teaching of John Paul II treats the nature of the phenomenon –described as “a pathology of the spirit”- and proposes a prevention “based on the sacredness of life and responsible sexuality.”
This message “is particularly addressed to health professionals,” to “civil authorities who have to provide correct information to the population and aid to the poor,” as well as to scientists and researchers “so that they may discover new effective medications that are capable of stemming the phenomenon.”
“On the personal level, the Church invites each and every one to step up prevention according to the doctrine of the Church,” which includes revisiting “the sacrament of reconciliation, to reawaken in the patients the Christian meaning of life.”
“On the community level, the following actions are suggested: to support parish activities or initiatives in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” “to pay attention to the government policies on AIDS,” and finally, “to give financial support to the initiatives and projects on AIDS.”
The document concludes by inviting the international community, governments and the Church in particular to “promote the campaign for sensitizing and educating the population,” taking care “of the humanitarian, social and health needs of orphans; to be committed to the globalization of the universal common good of health;” and to avoid every form of exclusion or discrimination” of people who are HIV positive or AIDS patients.
On Sunday, at the end of the Angelus prayer, Pope John Paul said that AIDS “is unfortunately still spreading, especially in the poorest countries.”
“While I pray for those who are afflicted by this scourge, I encourage all those in the Church who offer the inestimable service of acceptance, healing and spiritual support to these brothers and sisters of ours.”
Vatican City, Dec 1, 2003 (CNA) - In a message sent to the Orthodox leaders of Constantinople on the Feast of St. Andrew, Pope John Paul II expressed his hope that Jesus will restore the unity between Catholics and Orthodox.
As is customary, a delegation from the Holy See, led by Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, traveled to Istanbul (Turkey) for the liturgical celebrations of the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Orthodox patriarchate, which is commemorated both in the East and West.
Every year the patriarchate sends a delegation to Rome on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
On Sunday morning, the Vatican delegation attended a solemn liturgy presided by His Holiness Bartholomew I in the Church of St. George in Fanar. At the end of the ceremony, Cardinal Kasper delivered a special message to the ecumenical patriarch from John Paul II.
In his message, written in French, John Paul II says that during the celebration of the 25th anniversary of his pontificate on October 16, he was thinking about “the many events that have contributed to my commitment so that the one Church of Christ may breath more deeply with its two lungs.”
The Holy Father recalls that his predecessor Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Atenagoras “began the dialogue of charity which led to the dialogue of truth.” Over the years, he continues, “our relations have demonstrated the spirit of family that unites us and that, despite difficulties, allows us to progress toward the goal that Christ gave us and that our predecessors committed themselves vigorously to reach.”
“We can say,” he continues, “that we live under the sign of the Cross and in hope for peace. We are full of hope that the Lord will carry out the work of re-establishing the unity that He inspired.”
“For its part,” the Pope adds, “the Church of Rome will maintain the irreversible decision of Vatican Council II, which embraced this cause and duty. We are certain that the Lord will give us one day, when He wants, the joy of being in full communion and in the visible unity that He wants for His holy Church.”
Vatican City, Dec 1, 2003 (CNA) - On Monday morning, Pope John Paul II received members of the European section of the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Paris, an institution founded in 1977 in order to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.
The members of the Wiesenthal Center visited the Pope in order to congratulate him for the 25th anniversary of his pontificate.
After expressing gratitude for the visit, the Pope spoke to the members of the center: “In these difficult times, let us pray that all peoples everywhere will be strengthened in their commitment to mutual understanding, reconciliation and peace.”
Vatican City, Dec 1, 2003 (CNA) - The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, sent a telegram of condolence on behalf of the Holy Father to José María Aznar, President of the Spanish government, for the terrorist attack in Iraq that killed seven Spanish intelligence agents on November 29.
“Upon learning of the sad news of the abominable terrorist attack in the Iraqi locality of Swaira, where seven Spaniards died while fulfilling generously their mission of peace, His Holiness John Paul II reiterates his firmest reproach for this new act of unjustifiable violence, in addition to so many cruel gestures perpetrated in that tormented nations,” the telegram says.
“In his prayer, the Pope asks the Lord for the eternal repose of the souls of the victims and assures his closeness to the families, afflicted by great sorrow as they mourn the loss of their loved ones, and conveys his deepest condolences to you.”
The Pope’s message also invites “everyone to pray and to work so that in that region of the world which is so distressed, conditions of normalcy and peace may be achieved as soon as possible.”
Boston, Mass., Dec 1, 2003 (CNA) - Catholic bishops in Massachusetts are urging the faithful to mobilize against the recent Supreme Judicial Court's ruling that will allow for same-sex marriage, and are advocating a constitutional amendment that reaffirms marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
The bishops issued this call in a letter that was read in churches across the state this past weekend, reported the Boston Globe.
"We hope that all citizens will come to recognize what is at stake and work to ensure that marriage as the fundamental institution of society will be safeguarded," said the letter, which was published in the Nov. 29 issue of The Pilot, the Boston archdiocese’s newspaper. Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and the bishops of Worcester, Fall River and Springfield signed the letter.
The statement calls the court's Nov. 21 decision "a national tragedy," and declares the 180-day stay "a sure formula for chaos" that denies citizens a fair chance to respond.
"Every effort must be made to extend the stay beyond the 180 days mandated by the court," the bishops wrote.
The court delayed implementation of its decision for six months to give legislators time to take "appropriate" action. However, the stay is only long enough to pass a law allowing same-sex unions, but it is not long enough to adopt a constitutional amendment that would preserve marriage for heterosexual couples. A constitutional amendment would require the approval by the Legislature in two consecutive sessions and could only be finalized by 2006, reported the Boston Globe.
In their letter, the bishops argue that marriage "is not just one life-style choice among many," and that changing "the definition of marriage in the long run will seriously harm family life." The bishops say their aim is not discrimination.
"It is not the intention of the Catholic community to infringe upon the civil rights of homosexuals or anyone else," says the statement. "Our opposition . . . is to safeguard the institution of marriage for future generations."
Sacramento, Calif., Dec 1, 2003 (CNA) - The California Supreme Court is set to hear a case Tuesday and decide if Catholic Charities, a Church-based outreach program, can be exempt from state laws requiring them to include contraceptives in employee prescription drug plans, reported the Associated Press.
Catholic Charities of Sacramento attorney James Sweeney explained that contraception is morally unacceptable in the Catholic Church.
The "religious employer exemption" in the law states that churches are exempt from having to provide contraception coverage for employees who work inside parishes. But the exemption does not apply for outreach programs and services, where usually workers are not required to be Catholic or share in the Church's teachings.
After the law was passed in 2000, versions of it were adopted in 20 states. Lawmakers concluded employee prescription plans, without contraceptive benefits, discriminated against women, reported the AP.
This is Catholic Charities’ third try at an exemption. A similar case will be heard in New York courts.
, Dec 1, 2003 (CNA) - Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Wichita has mixed emotions as he prepares to take over the much larger and troubled Diocese of Phoenix, reported the Associated Press Nov. 28.
"My mind and soul have no doubt it's God's will, but my heart is zigzagging all over the place," he told the AP.
His new appointment to Pheonix, announced by the Vatican Nov. 25, came as quite a surprise to the bishop, who has served in Wichita for almost five years. For the last two years, he served as the sole bishop.
Olmsted said he never dreamed of being appointed to a diocese, based in the nation's sixth-largest city. His new diocese, with an estimated 450,000 members, is nearly four times the size of Wichita.
"I went to a one-room country grade school," he told the AP. "It's not what I ever thought about. I thought about being a parish priest."
Olmsted will be installed Dec. 20. He will be taking over in a diocese that has been marred by past accusations of sexual abuse by priests and where the former bishop, Thomas O'Brien, will appear in court in January on a charge of leaving the scene after a fatal hit-and-run accident.
Before he leaves Wichita, Olmsted plans to meet with all his priests, whom he called his "closest collaborators." The bishop is disappointed to be leaving now that the plans for the Third Synod – a process in which he was very personally involved – were just starting to be implemented. "I will miss not being a part of it," he said.
One of the offshoots of the synod was the creation of pastoral plans for Mexican and Vietnamese Catholics, experience that will serve him well in the multicultural Diocese of Pheonix.
Olmsted said his first priorities in Pheonix will be learn the history of the region and to meet the people, including the significant Hispanic, Vietnamese, Filipino and American Indian populations there.
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Dec 1, 2003 (CNA) - Amidst joyous festivities in the presence of the pilgrim images of Christ of Esquipulas y Our Lady of Guadalupe, the II American Missionary Congress, which brought together more than three thousand people from across the continent, came to a conclusion yesterday in the National Stadium of Guatemala.
The papal envoy for the event, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, presided at the celebration of the Eucharist and led a commissioning ceremony for the missionaries who have been in Guatemala since November 25 reflecting on the challenges of evangelization in America.
“The importance of CAM 2 for us is above all the fact that it is a calling for our diocesan churches, and especially for young clergy, to fully assume the missionary vocation, which is given to everyone and not just to religious,” explained Bishop Rafael Felipe Núñez of Barahora, Dominican Republic, who is also director of the Committee on Missionary Work for the Bishops Conference of that country. He added that CAM 2 “is very important for the renewal of our missionary spirit, for evangelization and for the spread of the faith.
Likewise Bishop Núñez said “the enthusiasm of missionaries at the congress is contagious, and it encourages us to form diocesan teams that will organize missionary outreaches to children, young people and families, so that our parishes can truly see themselves as missionary.”
CAM 2 brought together in Guatemala people from 37 countries, including cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and representatives from other continents, all of whom participated in conferences, testimonies, work groups, prayer and masses.
Madrid, Spain, Dec 1, 2003 (CNA) - In the face of growing numbers of women who suffer from post-abortion syndrome and the lack of specialized studies on this problem that affects almost 1 million Spanish women, a new association has been founded to provide research and assistance from various metal health professionals.
The association is assisted by a group of psychologists and psychiatrists that has launched a website where international research on the affects of abortion will be posted.
Through the website, www.nomassilencio.com, women suffering from the syndrome can obtain psychological help, and professional health workers who are interested can fill out a form online to collaborate in scientific studies on the affliction.
Consequences of abortion
A study carried out by the Royal Academy of Obstetrics claims that 59%, or 7 of every 10 women, who abort have high risk for developing serious and permanent psychiatric problems.
The psychiatric disorders that result from abortion are known as post-abortion syndrome, a type of post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the symptoms associated with the affliction include anxiety, aggressive behavior, nightmares, suicidal thoughts or actions, bulimia, anorexia, alcohol and drug abuse, and divorce.
Symptoms may not appear for years after an abortion due the repression that many women suffer as a defense mechanism. Juan Cardona Pescador, a psychiatrist who specializes in post-abortion syndrome, says that “after the trauma of abortion, affection, love and willpower all begin to deteriorate, and everything else begins to follow: successive failures in relationships, depression and other negative consequences.”
Concerning spousal relationships, Doctor Emily Milling found that 70% of the 400 couples in her study separated within one year after the abortion.
Suicide also becomes much more common among women who have aborted. The Finnish researchers Spekhard and Vaughan have confirmed that the rate of suicide the year after an abortion was three times higher than the average women in general and seven times higher than the average for women who have carried their babies to term.
International abortion organizations have recognized the existence of psychiatric disorders associated with abortion. Planned Parenthood International did such in their Triennial Plan for the period of 1990-1993, in which it said: “A series of studies and polls by those opposed to abortion has shown that the incidence of post-abortion trauma can affect up to 91% of cases. Recent reports by the Alan Guttmacher Institute which have not been published indicate the extent of the problem may have been correctly calculated in those studies.