Archive of January 20, 2004

Pope’s reaction to Gibson film still stirs debate

, Jan 20, 2004 (CNA) - Articles about who said what to whom continue to make headlines as the debate about what the Pope actually said after he viewed The Passion of the Christ rages on in the press.

The debate began after a breaking story by National Catholic Reporter columnist John Allen in December. In it, Allen reported that Pope John Paul II viewed Mel Gibson’s film in his private quarters and reacted to it saying, “It is as it was.” This statement was to mean that the film accurately portrayed the final hours of Christ’s death.

A supporting article by another columnist soon followed in The Wall Street Journal, attributing the Pope’s personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, with having communicated the Pope’s five-word reaction.

However, subsequent articles have appeared in which Vatican officials have denied that the Pope ever reacted to the film.

Allen countered these articles and defended the credibility of his initial report in one of his recent columns, in which he provided more facts about the series of events surrounding the Pope’s viewing of the film.

Despite this, Catholic and secular journalists have continued going back and forth on the issue, trying to root out what really happened.

However, Icon Productions’ executive vice-president, Alan Nierob, also jumped into the foray yesterday, after the Catholic News Service reported Jan. 19 that the Pope never said: “It is as it was.”

"Based on all previous correspondence and conversations held directly between representatives of the film and the official spokesperson for the Pope, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, there is no reason to believe that the Pope's support of the film 'isn't as it was'," said Nierob.

According to CNS, Dziwisz also said he clearly told the film’s co-producer Steve McEveety and assistant director Jan Michelini that “the Holy Father made no declaration."

Wooden quoted Dziwisz as saying: “I said the Holy Father saw the film privately in his apartment, but gave no declaration to anyone. He does not make judgments on art of this kind; he leaves that to others, to experts.”

However, the nature of the press will not allow CNS the final word. The New York Times also reported Jan. 19 that “one prominent Roman Catholic official close to the Vatican said yesterday: ‘I have reason to believe — and I think — that the pope probably said it.’

The official was quoted also as saying in the paper:  “It's all a little soap-operatic.”

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Teaching peace is safest “security policy,” Pope says

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking to members of the General Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican, Pope John Paul stressed the need of teaching peace as the true alternative to violence.

In the yearly encounter with the corps that provides security to all Pope’s events, the Pontiff thanked them for their service, “which for more than twenty-five years I follow attentively.”

“Your job has become more complicated in the last few years because episodes of terrorist violence have greatly upset the security of our cities.  While our vigilance has been intensified with every method, every day the commitment to teach peace appears more urgent,” the Pope said.

The Holy Father concluded by saying that “in the face of the many dramatic situations of our time, there is the risk of giving in to fatalism as if peace were an objective that is impossible to achieve. We must not succumb to this temptation! Teaching peace, with its specific demands, must continue to be the object of everyone's incessant commitment.”

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Pope to Muslims: “Peace be with you!”

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2004 (CNA) - “Peace be with you!” were Pope John Paul’s opening words this morning in the Consistory Hall as he welcomed participants, including Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, in the just-concluded Ninth Congress of the Islamic-Catholic Liaison Committee.

“Your committee,” said the Pope speaking in English, “which facilitates communication between Christians and Muslims, was established during a time of great expectation for world peace. Unfortunately, this hope has not yet been fulfilled. In the face of the tragedies which continue to afflict humanity, it is all the more necessary to convince people that peace is possible. Indeed, it is a duty,” he said, citing his Message for World Day of Peace 2004.

“I encourage you, and all leaders of religions, to promote a culture of dialogue, mutual understanding and respect. Upon you all, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God!”

The committee, created in 1998, is comprised of representatives of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and of the Al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheist Religions.

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Scientists object to therapeutic cloning

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2004 (CNA) - There’s more than moral reason to object to therapeutic cloning, says the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the latest communication from its pro-life office.

The idea of cloning human embryos for biomedical research has traditionally raised moral objections but also it now continues to raise objections in the scientific community on purely scientific grounds. 

Despite initial optimistic statements about how embryonic cloning – also referred to as therapeutic cloning – could potentially cure life-threatening diseases, many scientists no longer expect therapeutic cloning to have a large clinical impact.

In order to highlight these scientific conclusions, the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-life Activities issued a collection of excerpts from recent articles in leading science magazines. Each excerpt argues against therapeutic cloning, based on scientific findings and laboratory research.

Among the many excerpts, the USCCB sites a 2002 report in the 14th volume of Current Opinion in Cell Biology, which says: “Importantly, irrespective of the donor cell, clones display common abnormalities such as foetal and placental overgrowth. Indeed, gene expression analyses and extensive phenotypic characterization of cloned animals suggest that most, if not all, clones suffer from at least subtle abnormalities.”

In addition, scientists have found that the majority of cloned animals die after implantation.

Another report printed this month in Nature Biotechnology says that that there are no advantages to cloned cells since “cells obtained by ‘therapeutic cloning’ will probably have the same life span as normal cells but may have abnormal gene expression caused by epigenetic errors.”

A recent article in The Age magazine reports that “leading stem-cell researcher Alan Trounson has abandoned his call for therapeutic cloning, saying scientific breakthroughs mean there is now no need for the controversial technique.” He added that he knows of “at least three or four other alternatives that are more attractive.”

For more excerpts, go to the USCCB Web site:

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Family groups oppose bill that will force five-year-olds to attend school

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 20, 2004 (CNA) - A new bill that will force five-year-olds to attend school will receive a hearing tomorrow in the state Legislature.

AB 56, a bill sponsored by Democrat Darrell Steinberg, would lower the age of compulsory education from six to five.

The bill states that there is a “compelling need … to ensure that early childhood development programs and services are universally and continuously available for children so that children enter school in optimum health and are emotionally well developed and ready and able to learn.”

The bill would provide “universal preschool programs that offer group experiences, developmentally appropriate curricula, and allow for a seamless integration to K-12 education for all children three and four years of age.”

However, the bill has received opposition from family groups.

AgapePress reported that Family Protection Ministries and the Home School Legal Defense Association have argued that the bill would force kids to school too soon and that it would eventually take "incremental steps" toward a universal preschool program that would lower the age for compulsory instruction to three or four. Formal education at such a young age is detrimental to children, they say.

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Thousands of crosses commemorate victims of repression in Cuba 

Havana, Cuba, Jan 20, 2004 (CNA) - Next February 20-23, volunteers from various countries will be placing more than 10,000 white crosses, each inscribed with a name of a victim of the Castro government in Cuba, in a memorial to be set up at Miami’s Tamiami Park.

In the center of the memorial will be a large white cross dedicated to “the unknown victim,” those victims of repression on the island about whom little information is known.

Organizers of the memorial said the project is of a “strictly spiritual nature,” and they invited anyone interested to have Masses said for the eternal repose of the victims of repression in Cuba.

They also called for prayers for the thousands of Cubans who “have drowned in the Florida straits attempting to gain freedom,” and for “those suffering in prison for their political beliefs.”

Cuban Memorial Committee: Phone (786) 621-7505 Miami; email: [email protected].

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Undocumented are not commerce, says Archdiocese of Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 20, 2004 (CNA) - In the latest edition of its weekly newspaper, the Archdiocese of Mexico City denounced what it calls the commerce mentality that exists in reference to Mexican migrants in the United States.

The article explains that one of the reasons for which Mexico has become the greatest exporter of illegal workers to the United States is because of “the corruption in the system that has been governing us for 70 years, warped economic policy, continual political crisis, the lack of opportunities, and ever-decreasing salaries.”

Referring to the proposal by President George Bush that would grant temporary legal status to millions of Mexican workers, the editorial highlighted its positive aspects, including the possibility for workers to enter and leave the US and possibly bring their families with them.

It also praised plans for allowing a renewable three-year working permit, a minimum wage, social security and health benefits, as well as access to education, retirement plans and loans.

The editorial said negative aspects of the proposal included the automatic denial of legal residence, the requirement that an illegal immigrant be currently employed in order to receive a permit, and that workers whose visa is expired or are unemployed will not be allowed to remain in the US.

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Hindu fundamentalists attack on Salesian part of increasing violence against Catholic religious

Rome, Italy, Jan 20, 2004 (CNA) - The Salesian News Agency is reporting this week that a Salesian priest was attacked by Hindu fundamentalists in the Indian region of Jabhua, where violence against Catholic religious is on the rise.

Fr. Stanny Ferreira, a Salesian missionary who for years has been dedicated to helping those most in need in the Indian regions of Gujarat and Alirajpur, was beaten by a group of Hindu fundamentalists last week as we was making his way to the Salesian house in Jabhua.  His car was forced off the road into a ravine and he was pulled from the car and attacked.

Local police arrived in time to save Fr. Ferreira’s life, and he was taken to a safe place and treated for cuts and bruises to the head.

A few days earlier, Salesian missionaries in Jabhua found the body of a 9 year-old girl that was left on mission property.  The Salesians notified the police, but Hindu fundamentalists used the incident to attack the missionaries.

In Jabhua, the man responsible for killing the girl turned himself in to police.

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