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Archive of December 3, 2003

God sustains us “in the desert of history,” Pope says

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2003 (CNA) - Commenting on Psalm 113 A, “Miracles of the Exodus from Egypt,” Pope John Paul II said this Wednesday during the general audience that God sustains human beings while they journey through the “desert of history.”

The Pope has been commenting the psalms and canticles that the Church prays in Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. In September, the Pope concluded commenting on the psalms and canticles of Laudes.

The Pontiff said Psalm113 celebrates the “liberation of Israel from the oppression of the Egyptian Pharaoh” which is a “symbol of another more radical and universal liberation.”

In the psalm, the Holy Father said, the exodus of Israel is described up to “the entrance into the promised land which is God’s ‘sanctuary’, or the place where He is present in the midst of the people.”

 “At the beginning of the psalm, during the exodus, the Red Sea parts so that the people of Israel may pass, and, at the end of the journey in the desert, the Jordan takes its course again, leaving its bed dry in order to allow the sons and daughters of Israel to cross.” 

“In the middle,” he continued, “ the experience of Mt. Sinai is evoked: now even the mountains participate in the great divine revelation which is fulfilled on their peaks, similar to living creatures.”

“The upheaval of the mountains and of hills was therefore an expression of adoration for the Lord, God of Israel, an act of glorious exaltation of God, transcendent savior,” he added.

John Paul II explained that “God transforms the rock into a pool of water which then becomes a lake: at the root of this miracle is His paternal concern for the people.” 

“The gesture takes on a symbolic meaning: it is the sign of the Lord’s saving love that sustains and regenerates the people while they go forward in the desert of history,” he concluded.

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U.S. girl kisses, caresses the Pope during general audience

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2003 (CNA) - A 3-year old U.S. girl kissed and caressed Pope John Paul during the general audience.

With outstanding familiarity, the unknown U.S. girl of Polish descent approached the Holy Father and surprised him by kissing him on the mouth. The Pope smiled, somehow surprised, and blessed the girl in the forehead.

The girl then went back to her place, holding his father’s hand, who could was moved to tears by the incident.

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The Immaculate Conception, source of hope for the suffering, Pope says

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2003 (CNA) - In a message for the World Day of the Sick, which will be celebrated on February 11 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes (France), where the Virgin appeared on the same day in 1858, Pope John Paul II said that the miracle of the Immaculate Conception is a source of hope for the suffering.

 “This shrine was chosen,” writes the Pope in the message, “because in 2004 the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception will be celebrated.”

The Pope emphasizes that with the Immaculate Conception of Mary “began the great work of redemption, carried out with the precious blood of Christ.”

“If Jesus is the font of life that conquers death,” he explains, “Mary is the careful mother who strives to meet the needs of her children, obtaining for them health in body and soul.” 

“This is the message that the Shrine of Lourdes constantly proposes to pilgrims and those who are devoted.  This is also the meaning of the spiritual and bodily miracles that are registered in the grotto of Massabielle,” he adds.

 “The miracle of the Immaculate Conception,” the Pontiff continues, “reminds believers of a fundamental truth: it is possible to be saved only by participating docilely in the plan of the Father who wanted to redeem the world through the death and resurrection of His only son.”

“Although present in earthly life,” the message continues, “illness and death, nevertheless, lose their negative sense. In the light of faith, the death of the body, overcome by Christ’s death, becomes the necessary passage to the fullness of immortal life.”

After emphasizing that life “must be accepted, respected and defended from its beginning to its natural end,” John Paul II says: “Nowadays we talk about ‘genetic engineering’ when referring to the extraordinary possibilities that science today offers to intervene in the sources of life.  All authentic progress in this field must be encouraged as long as the rights and dignity of the person from conception are respected.  No one has the right to destroy or indiscriminately manipulate human life.”

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Catholic challenge to contraception law is rejected in New York

Albany, N.Y., Dec 3, 2003 (CNA) - A New York court ruled that a law, requiring employers to include contraceptives in drug prescription plans, does not intrude on the rights of religious organizations, reported the Associated Press.

A group of organizations, affiliated to the Roman Catholic Church, filed the suit, claiming that they should not be required to include contraception coverage for employees since the Catholic Church opposes contraceptives.

The law exempts churches from having to provide such coverage for employees who work in parishes, but the law requires coverage for employees who work in Church-based outreach programs and services.

The groups that filed the suit employ thousands of workers in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and social service agencies, who may not be Catholic.

In a decision made last week but only publicized yesterday, State Justice Dan Lamont rejected claims that the law violates the groups’ constitutional rights.

The law has clear "secular purposes" of promoting women's health and ending gender discrimination, Lamont wrote. There was no evidence of "animosity" toward the Catholic Church in the law, he added.

Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference, which supported the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, promised to appeal.

The California Supreme Court is expected to rule on a similar case this week. Catholic Charities of Sacramento has tried unsuccessfully in lower courts to bar a similar law from being applied to its outreach programs.

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Utah polygamist pleas case based on sodomy ruling

Albany, N.Y., Dec 3, 2003 (CNA) - The Supreme Court decision decriminalizing sodomy led a Utah man with five wives to argue in court Dec. 1 that his bigamy convictions should be dismissed, reported the Associated Press.

In June, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas sodomy law, ruling that what homosexual men and women do in the privacy of their homes is no business of government.

It's no different for polygamists, argued Tom Green's attorney, John Bucher, to the Utah Supreme Court. Bucher argued that the state has no interest in what consenting adults do in their own home and they should be allowed to do as they please, reported the AP. “It doesn't bother anyone," Bucher said.

The state said the court should reject the appeal because Green failed to raise the issue during his trial more than two years ago or anywhere else along the judicial path since then, said the AP.

Green was convicted of four counts of bigamy and one count of criminal nonsupport of his 30 children in August 2001. In addition to his five-year sentence, he faces up to life in prison after being convicted of child rape for having sex with one of his five wives when she was 13.

The case raises a red flag for some legal experts who say that the Supreme Court ruling, which is now being used in the case of polygamy, could be used as a line of defence for other sexual offenders.

Assistant Utah Attorney General Laura Dupaix said that the Green case is really about a man “who marries young girls and calls it religion.” Green is not affiliated with any church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced polygamy in 1890 as part of a deal to grant Utah statehood, and the church now excommunicates those members who practice or advocate it. Polygamy has an estimated 30,000 practitioners in the West.

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U.S. bishops urge Congress to approve bill banning human patents

Washington D.C., Dec 3, 2003 (CNA) - A bill banning the patenting of human organisms must be approved by the Senate to prevent the commodifying and marketing human beings, said Cardinal William Keeler in a letter to Senator Bill Frist.

In a letter to the majority leader, dated Dec. 2, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities urged that the Weldon Amendment, which prevents the patenting of human organisms, be included in an omnibus appropriations bill that is currently being deliberated in Congress.

Florida congressman Dave Weldon sponsored legislation that would impose a total ban on all human cloning and the patenting of human organisms.

Weldon’s amendment reaffirms “an internal policy that has guided the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) since 1987, reflecting a common-sense understanding that no member of the human race at any stage of development is merely an invention or property to be licensed, bought and sold,” said the cardinal, who is also the archbishop of Baltimore.

The House of Representatives approved the Weldon Amendment in July by voice vote, without objection, the cardinal pointed out, but it has stalled in the Senate.

The Weldon Amendment would prohibit patents from being granted on human embryos or fetuses, including cloned human embryos or fetuses.

However, the amendment would not affect patents on genes, cells, tissue and other biological products. It would also not stop scientists from seeking patents for the procedures of creating a biological product. The amendment does not interfere with stem-cell research and does not ban patents in cases where an animal has been modified to include a few human genes so it can produce a human protein or antibody, reported The Washington Post Nov. 25.

Even with these shortcomings, without the Weldon Amendment, researchers are left a major loophole to patent human embryos for any number of research projects.

Cardinal Keeler added that “tragically” there are strong objections to this amendment among members of the scientific community, who “want to patent and market human embryos with certain genetic profiles as models for studying diseases with genetic roots.

“Their project may well succeed unless Congress provides clear and explicit support for the current administrative policy against patenting human embryos,” he said in his letter.

In particular, Cardinal Keeler cited the opposition voiced by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which has criticized the amendment for being “overbroad.”

BIO, said the cardinal, “has argued that a human being should be patentable as an ‘invention’ if he or she has been changed by ‘human intervention’ or was conceived by anything other than ‘conventional reproduction’.”

“I urge your strong support for these efforts … to prevent the commodifying and marketing of fellow human beings,” the cardinal told Frist.

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