Archive of December 10, 2003

God is not indifferent to human suffering, Pope says

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2003 (CNA) - Commenting on a hymn from Revelation 19, Pope John Paul said during the general audience on Wednesday that God is not indifferent to human needs.

Continuing his catechesis on the psalms and canticles which are part of the prayer of vespers, the Pontiff spoke  about the hymn from the book of Revelation mainly composed of alleluias and acclamations.

The Holy Father noted that in the text various personalities from the heavenly liturgy speak: “An ‘immense crowd,’ made up of the assembly of the angels and the saints. The voice of the ‘twenty four elders’ stands out as well as that of the ‘four living beings,’ symbolic figures that seem to be the priests of this heavenly liturgy of praise and thanksgiving. At the end, a single voice rises up which involves the ‘immense crowd’ in the hymn.”

 “At the heart of this joyful invocation is the representation of the decisive intervention of God in history: the Lord is not indifferent to human events, like an isolated and authoritarian ruler…On the contrary, His gaze is the source of action because He intervenes and destroys arrogant and oppressive rulers, He rebukes the proud who challenge Him, and judges all those who commit evil.”

John Paul II emphasized that “our prayer must invoke and praise divine action, the Lord’s effective justice, and His glory obtained through the triumph of evil. God becomes present in history, siding with the just and with victims, as the short and concise acclamation of the Apocalypse declares and as is often repeated in the Psalms.”

Pope greets Italian military Following the audience and upon returning to his private apartments, the Pope appeared at the window of his study overlooking St. Peter’s Square to greet the members of the Italian Air Force on the feast today of their patroness, Our Lady of Loreto.

 “The feast of your heavenly patroness,” said the Holy Father, “gives me the opportunity to invite you to always direct your gaze on Our Lady of Loreto.”  “May she be a model to refer to constantly and a safe guide of your life. Invoke her with confidence in every situation: she will be your aid, consolation and hope. I take this occasion to wish you and your families a Happy and Holy Christmas,” he concluded.

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Vatican: conflicts must not stop humanitarian aid to hot zones

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2003 (CNA) - Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Office in Geneva said that the doors to humanitarian aid in hot zones around the world must remain open in spite of conflict.

Speaking during the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent held recently in Geneva (Switzerland,) the nuncio noted that this conference “takes place at a moment marked by rumbles of war and by an explosion of terrorism of such a magnitude unknown before today.”

“Civilian victims of well-reported and of forgotten wars and of their destructive consequences run in the millions. In fact, some States and non–State actors try to exploit the desperation of endemic poverty and of extreme social inequality by promoting their private objectives through violent actions,” he added.

On the question of humanitarian law, Archbishop Tomasi said that “some governments are reticent in accepting effective control mechanisms while public opinion seems to have become accustomed to violations of humanitarian law as if the painful spectacle of so many victims were leading to resignation instead of prompting a reaction capable of influencing wrong political and military choices.”

He stressed that “the Holy See looks at international humanitarian law as an important, invaluable, non-negotiable and still relevant instrument” and “will continue to promote appropriate initiatives of inter-religious character to defend human dignity during armed conflicts and to increase respect for international humanitarian law, especially through the vast network of Catholic education institutions.”

The archbishop pointed out that “a sadly eloquent sign among others of disregard towards humanitarian law is given by the attacks purposely directed against humanitarian personnel who generously serve in the midst of conflicts, in particular by the recent deadly attacks against the International Committee of the Red Cross.”

He concluded by affirming that “the Movement of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent can count on the partnership and support of the Catholic Church. Collaboration with religious institutions and faith communities will make for a more effective humanitarian action.”

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Marian Year Inaugurated at National Shrine in DC

Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2003 (CNA) - Next year will mark the 150th anniversary of the solemn proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the U.S. Church decided to mark the beginning of the celebrations at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, presided at the inaugural liturgy for the Marian Year. The basilica’s rector, Msgr. Michael J. Bransfield, read a letter from Pope John Paul II in which he gave his apostolic blessing and granted a Marian Year indulgence.

The Pope said he hopes “all the faithful would be inspired anew by [Mary’s] example and assisted by her prayers as they strive … to work for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom of truth, justice and peace.” In closing, the Pope commended to Mary Immaculate, patroness of the United States, the life and mission of the Church in America.

The plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who visit the basilica between Dec. 8, 2003 and Dec. 8, 2004 on pilgrimage or for a liturgy or other pious devotion, and who recite the Lord’s Prayer and Apostle’s Creed.

An indulgence may be obtained once each day, under the customary conditions, which are: to the extent of one’s awareness, all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent; confession within several days of seeking the indulgence; reception of the Eucharist; and prayer for the intentions of the Pope.

The basilica is the patronal church of the U.S. The U.S. bishops collectively placed the nation under the care of Mary Immaculate in 1846. Pope Pius IX ratified their action shortly after and, on Dec. 8, 1854, solemnly defined and proclaimed the dogma, which holds that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, St. Ann.

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Abortions in Pennsylvania down for 2002, bishops reveal

Harrisburg, Pa., Dec 10, 2003 (CNA) - As a result of intense pro-life activity, the number of abortions in the state of Pennsylvania declined in 2002 by nearly five percent, but that’s no reason for pro-life Pennsylvanians to rest on their heels, says the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC).

Even though the state’s annual health statistics show that 35,167 abortions were done in Pennsylvania in 2002, that number is a 4.5 percent drop from the number of abortions in 2001.

Other 2002 statistics compiled by the state’s Department of Health indicate that 45 percent of abortions were done on women who have had one or more previous abortions; 55.6 percent of all abortions performed in Pennsylvania were to white women and 14,330 or 40.7 percent were to black women. (Black Pennsylvanians represent roughly 12 percent of the Commonwealth's population.).

However, the percentage of abortions among teenagers age 17 and younger has remained the same, accounting for 6.3 percent or 2,206 abortions in 2002.

"I was relieved to see that the upward trend we saw starting with the 2000 statistics has come to an end," said PCC executive director Dr. Robert J. O'Hara, Jr. in a press release, issued Dec. 9.

"We are confident that if women are presented with more information on the growing life within them and the many resources available to help them continue their pregnancy and raise their child, these numbers can be greatly reduced," he said.

PCC Social Concerns Department director Francis Viglietta said that while the reduction in abortions is encouraging, pro-life Pennsylvanians should not be complacent about the numbers of abortions performed. "Thirty-five thousand babies annually are being denied their right to life. Thirty-five thousand women are not getting the support that they need. Thousands more are grieving the loss of these babies," said Viglietta.

One program that has been successfully reaching out to women in crisis pregnancies is Project Women in Need (WIN), which is administered by the Department of Public Welfare. Project WIN promotes women's health and well being during and after pregnancy and offers care to the child, before and after birth.

"Behind each of these statistics is a story of how we've failed to meet the needs of a woman and her child so that a baby could be welcomed with joy," said O'Hara. "There are a variety of legitimate ways to try to reduce abortions. Assisting pregnant women is a loving, compassionate, and effective way to do so."

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Chicken ad plucked after offending Catholics in Canada

Montreal, Canada, Dec 10, 2003 (CNA) - A Quebec TV ad, featuring a priest and his congregation singing the praises of a barbecue chicken chain as a hymn at mass, has ruffled more than a few Catholic feathers in Canada’s French province, reported the Globe and Mail.

Les Rotisseries St-Hubert Ltd., has agreed to drop the ad, after being inundated with complaints from offended customers.

The massive reaction from Quebecers took the company by surprise since most people in the province, though nominally Catholic, have the lowest church-attendance rates in Canada.

Jean-Claude Hardy, the company’s director of marketing, said he received about 50 to 70 complaints a day since the ad first aired Oct. 26, including one from an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Montreal, who asked to go unnamed.

“I’ve been called an imbecile several times. It’s never pleasant being called an imbecile,” Hardy told the Globe and Mail.

Quebec Catholics responded to the ad quite ferociously with calls to radio stations, letters to newspapers and threats to boycott the family-restaurant chain, which has deep roots in the province and which most Quebecers consider a cultural institution in itself.

“A church is a place where people gather to give meaning to their life, not to give publicity to chicken,” the national newspaper quoted restaurant patron Frank McCauley as saying. Even if Quebecers have stopped practicing their religion, “you can’t touch sacred things with impunity,” he said.

Ironically, the ad agency that produced the spot for St-Hubert also produces ads for the Archdiocese of Montreal, reported the Globe.

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Offensive `nun’ ad draws national Catholic protest in Canada

Toronto, Canada, Dec 10, 2003 (CNA) - The image of a young black woman, dressed as a nun in a low-cut habit and showing her bare midriff to promote an online music service has gotten many Canadian Catholics up in arms.

“It is taking something holy and sacred to Catholics, the habit worn by our religious sisters, and twisting it to sell a product which promotes the accessibility of music, some of which is probably degrading to women,” said Michelle Smillie, who works for the Office of Life and Family for the Archdiocese of Vancouer, reported the B.C. Catholic.

The campaign first appeared in Toronto in mid-October and has since been launched across most of English Canada, including Vancouver.

The $500,000 advertising campaign for, an online music service, portrays a scantily clad “nun” with a large cross hung from her neck in what seems to be an old church or monastery. The text at the top of the ad reads “pure hip hop”, while the text at the bottom of the ad reads “, from 99¢ a song”.

The company’s reply to complaints so far is that the visual imagery was used “to express the purity of our music audio, as well as the very essence of music itself, the individual creative spirit,” reported the B.C. Catholic.

Another company spokesperson told the Vancouver paper that the company regretted that “our communication efforts did not meet with your approval,” but that the “general response to our advertising campaign has been extremely positive.”

However, at the beginning of December, the Toronto Transit Corporation agreed to pull the ads from their buses, subways and bus shelters after a discussions with the Catholic Civil Rights League and several letters from the public.

Michael Connell, director of communications for the Catholic Civil Rights League, said the debasement of religious images in the media will only stop once “we build up a strong Catholic voice that no company would knowingly offend or alienate.

“Until that group identity begins to operate as a market force (or social force) again, we are left to pursue protections for Catholics as a minority population attacked by such advertising,” he said.

“Although most Catholics would likely find these images offensive, many tacitly accept popular culture’s distortion and exploitation of these images, believing it is better to quietly ignore them in the hope that they will eventually go away,” wrote Connell in an opinion piece printed in the Catholic Register, Toronto’s archdiocesan paper.

“We can be sure that if we do nothing, religious symbols will continue to be debased and abused until they are devoid of all meaning in our cultural context. At which point they, and the belief system they symbolize, will cease to be attacked and will merely be cast aside,” he said.

“As Catholic citizens, we ignore popular culture’s portrayal of Catholicisim and its symbols at our own peril,” he warned.

The campaign to ban these ads continues. Concerned Catholics should write to Derek van der Plaat, Moontaxi Media Inc, 260 King St. E., Suite B100, Toronto, ON, M5A 4L5 or e-mail [email protected]

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Costa Rica and Unites States achieve pro-life victory on cloning issue at the UN

, Dec 10, 2003 (CNA) - A new effort by Costa Rica on Tuesday to obtain a total ban on human cloning—with the support of the United States—was successful as an agreement by consensus was established that obliges the UN to debate the issue in 10 months, instead of postponing the debate for 2 years according to proposals by some European Union countries.

On December 9, the UN General Assembly decided by consensus to address in its next session, which will begin in September, 2004, the question of whether to pass a resolution that would ban human cloning.

The decision was made after Costa Rica—with the support of the United States—began a new offensive to get the UN to urgently work towards the establishment of an international agreement to ban all types of human cloning, including cloning for research purposes.

The United Kingdom, France, Germany and Belgium support so-called “therapeutic cloning,” which would allow for the creation and use of live human beings in embryonic form.

The subject of cloning had been discussed November 6 by a UN committee, which recommended to the entire Assembly the postponing of debate for two years.

The committee was close to ruling in favor of a total ban on human cloning, but a late maneuver by the Belgian delegation resulted in a vote taking place first on the postponement of the debate.  That vote passed 80-79.

In a last-minute agreement, the General Assembly accepted the Costa Rican initiative to continue with the debate early next year, thereby rejecting the committee’s recommendation.  Spain, Italy, Portugal, Norway, The Philippines, the United Sates, Ethiopia, Fiji, Kenya and other countries joined in supporting the Costa Rican proposal.

“Today’s decision is an important step forward from last November’s decision, since continuing to postpone debate on this issue would mean that from a practical point of view human cloning for reproductive as well as research purposes would continue to be allowed.  Humanity is in need of ethical norms that regulate the research of matter and that provide maximum protection to human dignity.  This was the reason for our proposal,” said Roberto Tovar Faja, Foreign Relations Minister for Costa Rica.

“To have obtained the support of so many countries in such a short period of time, and that the voice of Costa Rica in favor of human rights and the dignity of the person has been heard is an extraordinary achievement,” he added. 

“This agreement constitutes a step in favor of mankind, since the nations that were opposed to the Costa Rican initiative finally agreed to analyze the issue next year.  In the coming months, we will seek out more support in order to ensure that as soon as possible a resolution can be passed,” said Tovar Faja.

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