Vatican City, Jan 12, 2004 (CNA) - As is the custom every New Year, Pope John Paul II welcomed members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See and evaluated the world situation. This year his main concern again was peace and the menaces that threaten it.
The Holy Father looked at the lights and shadows of the world scene, saying that "the celebration of Christmas has just reminded us of God's tenderness for mankind, shown in Jesus, and has echoed once again the ever new message from Bethlehem: 'Peace on earth to the People whom God loves'”.
“This message reaches us this year while yet many peoples experience the consequences of armed struggles, suffer poverty, are victims of glaring injustices and pandemics difficult to overcome," he said.
The Pope reflected on the Middle East crisis, Iraq, Africa and terrorism. He said that “what matters today is that the international community help the Iraqis, freed from a regime which oppressed them, so that they might be in shape to take up the reins of their country, to consolidate its sovereignty, to democratically determine a political and economic system in conformity with their aspirations and that Iraq will become a credible partner in the international community.”
He also said that “the Israeli-Palestinian problem continues to be a factor of permanent destabilization for the entire region. The choice of arms, recourse on the one hand to terrorism and on the other to reprisals, humiliating one's adversary, and hateful propaganda, all of these lead nowhere. Only respect for the legitimate aspirations of both sides, a return to the negotiating table and the concrete commitment of the international community are capable of leading to the start of a solution."
Speaking of Africa, the Pope paid a very special homage to Archbishop Michael Courtney, Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, who was recently assassinated. “As all nuncios and all diplomats he wished above all to serve the cause of peace and dialogue, I salute his courage and his concern for supporting the Burundian people in their march towards peace. I also wish to honor the memory of Sergio Veira de Mello, the U.N.'s special representative in Iraq, killed during the course of his mission," he said.
At the same time, he condemned international terrorism “which, in sowing fear, hatred and fanaticism, dishonors all the causes it pretends to serve.” “Here I simply wish to say that every civilization worthy of this name presupposes the categorical refusal of relations of violence," he added.
"When one believes that every human person has received from the Creator a unique dignity, that each of us is the subject of inalienable rights and freedoms, that to serve the other person is to make humanity greater, one can easily understand that capital that the communities of believers represent in the building of a more peaceful and peace-loving world," he said.
"Everywhere where peace is in doubt, there are Christians to attest in words and deeds that peace is possible. And this is, as you well know, the meaning of the Holy See's interventions in international debates," the Pope concluded.
Rome, Italy, Jan 12, 2004 (CNA) - Last Friday, in his usual "Word from Rome" column of Vatican news and gossip, the National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican correspondent, John Allen, confirmed the Pope’s positive reaction to Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of Christ.”
In his Jan. 9 column, Allen responded to recent controversy and contradictory reports in the press about the Pope’s reaction to the film.
In a breaking news piece on the NCR Web site Dec. 17, Allen reported that Pope John Paul II watched the movie in his private chambers. Citing an unnamed senior Vatican official, Allen reported that the Pope reacted to the film with the statement, "It is as it was,” meaning that the Pope believes the film is an accurate depiction of the last 12 hours of Christ's life.
Moments later, The Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan posted her own story in which she too quoted the Pope with the same words. She, however, cited the Pope's private aide, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, as the source, as relayed to her through the movie's producer Steve McEveety.
While the story and the Pope's quote was picked up by major news agencies, other reports were published, also quoting Vatican officials, saying that the Pope never said, “It is as it was.”
“In the wake of all this,” wrote Allen Jan. 9, “I went back to the original source of my report, a well-placed Vatican official who is normally a reliable guide to the Pope's mind.
“The official,” wrote Allen, “is adamant that the original story was right – the Pope did indeed say, ‘It is as it was.’”
Allen also included a few of the extra details his source provided about the Pope’s private viewing: The Pope watched the film in two segments, over the evenings of Dec. 5 and Dec. 6, with his secretary, Dziwisz. The two men watched the film, by themselves, in the Pope's private dining room that has a large-screen television and a VCR.
“The next day, Dziwisz had a conversation with McEveety and the film's assistant director, Jan Michelini, in which he relayed John Paul's reaction, which this source said was accurately quoted in NCR and The Wall Street Journal,” wrote Allen.
Boston, Mass., Jan 12, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley urged lawyers to protect marriage and the family in the United States and oppose same-sex marriage at the annual Red Mass, Jan. 11, which is dedicated to judges, lawyers and other legal professionals.
''This point in history requires the diligent commitment of lawyers on behalf of marriage,” he told the several hundred people who attended the mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. “The law is a powerful teacher. What do we want to teach our young people about marriage? It's not a question of live and let live, it's a question of right and wrong,'' he said.
During an interview with the Associated Press after the mass, the Archbishop of Boston said he hopes lawyers will use their profession and their understanding of the law to defend marriage. “They're in a better position than any of us to understand what needs to be done to correct a very complicated situation that the court has put us in," he said, referring to the Nov. 18 state Supreme Court decision, which gave the state legislature six months to legalize same-sex marriage.
At the Catholic Lawyers Guild luncheon that followed the mass, several lawyers said they were in favor of the archbishop’s message.
"We should have the courage to speak against it [same-sex marriage]," former Supreme Judicial Court Justice Joseph R. Nolan, president of the Catholic Lawyers Guild, told the AP.
Former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork said the recent state decision granting same-sex marriage does not respect the state and federal constitutions. "If anything justifies the term judicial tyranny, this one does," Bork, who converted to Catholicism last year, told the AP.
Lisbon, Portugal, Jan 12, 2004 (CNA) - Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has created a new award that will seek to honor and recognize the people and organizations that work to protect religious freedom in every country of the world.
The award – the first of its kind internationally – will consider pastoral, humanitarian and social work and will certainly raise awareness about the persecution of Christians around the world.
The charity’s Dutch section already publishes annual reports on “Violence against Christians” and its Italian branch publishes “Rapporto sulla Libertá Religiosa” (Report on Religious Freedom) annually.
The announcement about the new award was made Jan. 10 by the Portuguese branch of the international Catholic charity at St. Rochus church in Lisbon.
Rome, Italy, Jan 12, 2004 (CNA) - In a show of solidarity and support for Christians in the Holy Land, Catholic bishops from Europe and the Americas have organized a pilgrimage to Bethlehem and Jerusalem this week.
The bishops will meet in the two Biblical cities Jan. 12-15 for a conference entitled "The Universal Church in solidarity with the Church of the Holy Land".
Tourism and the morale of Christians there have both dropped due to the political instability in the area. The number of Christians in the Holy Land also continues to decrease as Christian families decide to leave. The bishops hope their visit will encourage the Christians there and revitalize the frozen market of Catholic pilgrimages to the region.
Bishops from Canada, England & Wales, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United States will attend the meeting. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, and the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land are hosting the meeting.
The Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) and Caritas Latin America will also be represented.
The meeting was co-ordinated by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales.