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Archive of January 14, 2004

Pope calls Catholics to imitate Christ as a model, and program to carry out

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II called on Catholics today to follow Christ “without hesitation” as the model “which we must contemplate and imitate, the 'program' which we must carry out”.

In today's general audience, celebrated in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope resumed his catechesis on the liturgy of Vespers. Today's theme was the canticle of the First Letter of St. Peter, which "focuses on Christ's glorious passion, as foreseen at His baptism in the Jordan."

Jesus, said the Pope, is revealed as "the 'chosen Son' in Whom God is well-pleased and the true 'Servant of Yahweh' Who frees men from sin through His passion and death on the cross."

John Paul II added that people must imitate Christ “while conforming ourselves to His Will”. In this sense, he explained that “the petrine hymn is a wonderful synthesis of Christ's passion, following the words and images of Isaiah on the figure of the suffering servant, the key to understanding the ancient Christian concept of the Messiah."

"The Lord's patient silence," he continued, "is not only an act of courage and generosity. It is also a gesture of faith in Peter. . He has complete and perfect confidence in divine justice which guides history toward the triumph of the innocent."

The Pope affirmed that "at the height of the narration of the Passion the saving value of the supreme act of Christ's donation is emphasized: 'He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness'."

"Through this path," he concluded, "freed from the former man, with his evil and misery, we too can live for justice which is in essence holiness."

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Fr. Groeschel in critical condition after Orlando car accident

Orlando, Fla., Jan 14, 2004 (CNA) - Fr. Benedict Groeschel, author, television personality and founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, is in critical condition in an Orlando hospital after being hit by a car over the weekend.

The 70-year-old priest was hit near the Orlando International Airport while he was walking to a restaurant Sunday night. He had stepped out from in front of a bus and wasn't seen by the driver of the approaching car, reported the Associated Press.

No charges were being filed against the driver.

The director of spiritual development for the Diocese of New York was in Orlando to speak at a retreat. He has counseled priests accused of child sexual abuse for 30 years and has written several books, including "The Cross at Ground Zero" and "The Rosary: Chain of Hope."

Many U.S. Catholics know Groeschel from the Eternal Word Television Network, where he has appeared for the past 20 years. On Monday, EWTN officials said Groeschel had suffered broken arms and legs and had head trauma, reported the AP.

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Parishioners devastated by church vandalism, arson

, Jan 14, 2004 (CNA) - A small parish of 300 families is still picking up the pieces after vandals tore up prayer books, knocked over icons and set fire to their church last week, devastating the community.

"What happened is clearly diabolical," Peter Howard, executive assistant to Bishop Michael Sheridan of the Colorado Springs Diocese told the Associated Press.

The fire at St. Catherine Roman Catholic Church was reported at 4 a.m. Jan. 9 when a seminary student in the adjacent rectory smelled smoke.

Fire destroyed a few pews but the building had no structural damage. Investigators are still trying to determine whether the fires were set to cover up a robbery and to establish a motive.

Investigators are expected to complete their interviews this week. There are still no suspects in the case, however, they expect more than one person is involved.

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Vancouver’s new archbishop ‘slightly’ more liberal

Vancouver, Canada, Jan 14, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II announced Jan. 10 that Bishop Raymond Roussin of the Diocese of Victoria will succeed Archbishop Adam Exner as the new archbishop of Vancouver.

Archbishop Exner, who served Vancouver for the last 13 years, is retiring at the age of 75, as required by canon law.

"He's very well loved in the archdiocese," Paul Schratz, spokesman for the archdiocese, told the Vancouver Sun. "He's very well respected, not just in the archdiocese, but I would say across Canada."

Archbishop Exner became known across Canada for his orthodoxy, for promoting the teachings of the Catholic Church on social issues, for protecting Catholic health care in British Columbia, for reaching out to the Aboriginal community and for encouraging ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. He was active in promoting reconciliation between the Church and native Indians in the residential-school crisis.

He also set off some controversies regarding homosexuality and the right of Catholic hospitals to discipline staff, who don't adhere to Church teaching, and their right to ban abortions, birth control counselling and sterilizations.

Despite these controversies, many people admire the archbishop for his courage to take a stand, based on faith and principle.

"He's tried to speak up and he's often been pilloried for it. He's shown grace and great strength of character. He's a man of principle," Jackie Gresko, an active Catholic and teacher at Douglas College, told the Vancouver Sun.

New bishop is more liberal

Bishop Roussin, who has only served the Diocese of Victoria for five years, is considered slightly more liberal and less “threatening” than Archbishop Exner.

Though Bishop Roussin would never contravene the direct wishes of Pope John Paul, Patrick Jamieson, editor of Victoria’s The Island Catholic News, said Bishop Roussin has allowed some of the progressive programs, initiated by retired Victoria Bishop Remi De Roo, to continue. Bishop De Roo, though loved by the people as a social-justice advocate, retired from his post after embroiling the diocese in sour financial land-development deals in Washington state.

Bishop Roussin will be officially installed as archbishop of Vancouver in a ceremony in the coming weeks. The Archdiocese of Vancouver has 400,000 Catholics.

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Population Fund reports half of active population in Spain will be gone in 50 years

Ginebra, Switzerland, Jan 14, 2004 (CNA) - In reference to the growing elderly population of several European countries, the UN Population Fund is reporting that Spain will experience a “substantial decline” in its working-age population in the near future.

The Executive Director of the UN Population Fund, Thoraya Ahmed Obid, said there are “no well-tested policy recipes to follow” to solve two of the most pressing issues facing the countries of the European Union, especially in Spain, Italy, Germany and Poland: low birth rates and the growing elderly population.

According the latest data, Germany will experience an 11% decline in its working-age population by 2025, and a 28% decline by 2050.  In the same period of time, the decline will be much more severe in Italy and Spain, where the working-age population will decline by 15% in 2025 and 42% in 2050.

Brigitta Schmoednerova, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, warned that in addition to the four countries mentioned, all 55 nations represented at the forum in Geneva run the same risk.

She recommended increasing immigration in order to “compensate” for the alarming decline in population.

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Chile needs laws which favor the family and not divorce, says Bishop

Santiago, Chile, Jan 14, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Héctor Vargas Bastidas of Arica, Chile, says the country needs laws favoring the family and not divorce.

The bishop said that Chile needs a law that will strengthen the fundamental institution of the family in the life of individuals and society.

“In this regard I share completely the teachings on this subject expressed by the Bishops Conference of Chile,” he said.

Bishop Vargas was ordained to the episcopate on January 4, the feast of the Epiphany.  The ceremony took place in St. Mark’s Cathedral and was celebrated by Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, Archbishop of Santiago, and concelebrated by 20 Chilean bishops and 2 Peruvian bishops.

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