Archive of December 8, 2003

St. John the Baptist still speaks today, Pope says

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2003 (CNA) - During the recitation of the Angelus on the Second Sunday of Advent, Pope John Paul II said the call of St. John the Baptists resonates still today, calling mankind to follow Jesus.

Speaking with somewhat difficulty, the Pope said John the Baptists “shows the way that must be traveled, to the people of the third millennium in search of serenity and peace.”

The Holy Father recalled that this liturgical season prepares us to “recall the birth” that took place 2000 years ago, “and we renew our faith in his glorious coming at the end of time.” “We prepare ourselves at the same time to recognize him present in our midst,” he added.

The Pope also said that “our model and guide in this Advent spiritual journey is Mary” in whom God “has found ‘good soil,’ where he has sowed the seeds of a new humanity.”

May She help us prepare “the way of the Lord in us and in the world,” he concluded.

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Pope Pius XII did everything possible to protect Jews: Jesuit journal

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2003 (CNA) - Pope Pius XII did everything humanly possible to protect Rome’s Jews from the Nazis and only learned of the Nazi roundup of Jews in Rome after it had occurred, says an article in a recent issue of the influential Italian Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica.

The Associated Press reported on the article, published in Civilta Cattolica’s Dec. 4 issue, which challenges claims that Pius did little or nothing to protect Jews during the Holocaust. Citing newly unearthed World War II documents, it also reports that Pius tried to gain the Jews' release and prevent further arrests.

Pius "did everything humanly possible," to save Rome's Jews from the Nazis, the article's author, Fr. Giovanni Sale said in an AP interview.

Pius learned of the roundup only in the morning of Oct. 16, 1943, after the operation had ended, says the article. That day, the pope dispatched his nephew, Carlo Pacelli, to ask the rector of a German church in Rome to secure the release of 1,000 detained Jews. But the response came that nothing could be done “because the order had come from the general quarter of the Fuhrer and thus couldn't be canceled," the article said.

Sale also says that the known efforts by churches, convents and other religious institutions to take in many of the remaining 8,000 Jews, who had fled Rome's after the roundup, were the result of the pope's wishes.

"All this was possible because the pope himself authorized the religious men and women and Roman priests to open their doors to their 'needy brothers,'" the article says, citing a Nov. 1, 1943 Civilta Cattolica diary found in the archives.

The article comes as the Church continues efforts to beatify the wartime pope.

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New movements renew faith in today’s world, says Holy Father

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2003 (CNA) - In a letter sent to Chiara Lubich, foundress of the Focolare Movement, to mark the 60th anniversary its foundation, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed his confidence in the lay apostolic movements and associations.

In the letter, the Pope says humanity is in danger of losing its soul as it is increasingly set upon pursuing “passing interests.” 

The Holy Father also writes that at the dawn of the third millennium “there is an urgent duty for a renewed commitment on the part of believers to respond to the challenges of the new evangelization.”

From this point of view, an important role is entrusted to ecclesial movements, outstanding among which are the Focolarini."

John Paul II praised the witness of the Focolarini, who he described as “apostles of dialogue, as a privileged way for promoting unity: dialogue within the Church, ecumenical dialogue, interreligious dialogue, dialogue with non-believers.”

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Bishop supports outreach to AIDS victims, not AIDS walk

Milwaukee, Wis., Dec 8, 2003 (CNA) - Bishop Raymond L. Burke of La Crosse said he supports the diocesan outreach ministry to AIDS victims but, because of Catholic moral teaching, cannot support its participation in an AIDS walk, which will direct funds to two organizations that promote homosexual activity.

In a letter written in May 2002 and obtained recently by the Journal Sentinel, Bishop Burke told the Central Wisconsin HIV/AIDS Ministry Project in Stevens Point not to march in the annual AIDS fund-raising event.

"We've been very supportive; they do excellent work," Burke said after a news conference in La Crosse. The bishop told reporters at the Journal Sentinel that the diocese continues to provide about $17,000 annually to the group and also asks every parish to contribute $250 each to the ministry.

But he said he could not allow the ministry to participate in an activity that he viewed as promoting a homosexual lifestyle because the Church teaches that homosexual acts are contrary to moral law, reported the newspaper.

In the letter, the bishop calls upon the outreach project to be coherent with Church teaching in all aspects of its work.

In it, he told the outreach project co-odinator, Marge Schumann, that her organization should no longer participate in the walk because two other groups that benefit from it – the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center and the YWCA Rainbow Alliance for Youth in La Crosse – promote homosexual activity, reported the newspaper.

"What is of graver scandal, they both promote homosexuality among young people," says the letter. "By participating in AIDS Walk Wisconsin, they would be co-operating materially with groups that act against the moral law."

The diocese also said it would no longer be able to support the outreach project financially if the project continued to participate in the AIDS walk, due to the obvious incoherence and moral dilemma.

The group did not participate in the walk last year or this year.

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U.S. bishops speak out against over-the-counter "emergency contraception"

Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2003 (CNA) - Emergency contraceptives should not be switched from prescription to over-the-counter drugs, say the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The bishops urged the Food and Drug Administration to reject a proposal to switch the status of emergency contraceptives in comments they filed Dec. 5.

The bishops submitted their report after the FDA invited comments on the proposal, in preparation for a meeting of the Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs, Dec. 16. The committees are to consider making Plan B, or levonorgestrel-only, "emergency contraception" available without a prescription.

“The FDA has no mandate to promote and facilitate ways of preventing pregnancy that may cause the death of developing human life already conceived,” said the bishops’ statement.

“Making emergency contraceptives available over-the-counter will reverse the legal and medical trend toward greater recognition and protection of human embryonic life, by making chemical agents that can destroy life so easily obtainable," it added.

The comments noted that making "emergency contraception" available without a prescription would eliminate critical clinical monitoring and follow-up to address the risk of ectopic pregnancy, a potentially fatal complication. It would also make the drugs available to minor girls without the involvement of their parents or a family physician.

According to Cathy Cleaver Ruse, director of Planning and Information for the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, "women are being misled about this drug, and putting it on the shelves of a drugstore would only exacerbate the problem. This proposal would put their health at risk and remove important protection for minor girls. And it would further coarsen the culture to the dignity of early human life."

For the USCCB’s full comment, go to

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No regrets for urging Catholic politicians to vote pro-life: Bishop Burke

Milwaukee, Wis., Dec 8, 2003 (CNA) - A bishop who wrote letters to two Catholic state legislators and one member of Congress, urging them to support pro-life public policy, said he did so not to influence their votes but as the man in charge of their pastoral care, reported the Journal Sentinel.

"I have no regret whatsoever. It was my duty as bishop to write those letters," Bishop Raymond Burke told a news conference Dec. 5.

"The letters address the good of the soul of the legislators and the souls of those who may be scandalized by their votes against the teachings of the Church," said the bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse. He was appointed archbishop of St. Louis last week.

Bishop Burke said he was calling on those politicians to be honest to their faith and was not suggesting that they leave the Catholic Church, reported the local newspaper. He said he regretted that the letters had been made public.

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Optimism and hope growing in Columbia, Bishop says

Bogotá, Colombia, Dec 8, 2003 (CNA) - During his visit to the organization Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Luis Romero Franco of Facatitiva, Columbia, praised the efforts of the national government to put an end to the armed conflict in the country and said “there is more optimism and more hope in our people.”

The Bishop explained that recent integration of a paramilitary group into the national military forces “is a success” and that “new jobs are being created with an economic growth of 3.9% in the first six months of 2003.”

Likewise, the Bishop emphasized the importance of the clergy and the laity as “factors for development and peace in the country” and he recalled that “the Catholic Church is acting as mediator” in the current conflict.

According to Bishop Romero, the Committee on Peace of the Columbian Bishops Conference which was established in 1995, “has contributed greatly to discussions between the government and revolutionaries” and “has been crucial” in the negotiations for the recent release of hostages held by the National Liberation Army (ELN). However, Bishop Romero called discussions with the Revolutionary Forces of Columbia (FARC), “difficult.”

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Divorces will outnumber marriages by 2009 in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Dec 8, 2003 (CNA) - According to data from the Institute for Family Politics that will be officially presented next week, the annual divorce rate in Spain will surpass the number of marriages in the country within seven years.

The report shows that a marriage is broken every four minutes in Spain and that the increase in civil unions, cohabitation and children born out of wedlock also contributes to this outlook.

Divorce was legalized in Spain in 1981 and since then 3 million marriages have ended in divorce.

The Institute said this rate continues to increase, since the annual growth of separations is around 26% and almost quadruple the growth of marriages, which is around 7%.

In 2002, some 115,000 couples decided to separate or divorce, compared to 16,000 in 1981. In the meantime, during the last 22 years, the absolute number of marriages has remained around 200,000 per year.

The study also shows marriages are increasingly shorter in duration. Half of all marriages end in separation in the first 10 years of living together, and 7 of 10 do not make it past 15 years. 

Spain is also moving closer to the European model of non-religious marriages. 1 in 4 couples were married only civilly in 2000.

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