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Archive of January 27, 2004

Pope meets Cheney, urges Americans to work in favor of international cooperation

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2004 (CNA) - During his meeting with United States Vice President Dick Cheney, Pope John Paul II praised American fundamental values, and asked the US to foster international cooperation. Cheney, his wife and his staff were welcomed to the Vatican at 11 this morning by Pope John Paul II.

Cheney presented the Pope with a crystal dove and delivered greetings from President George W. Bush. 

In response, the Pontiff said he was pleased “to welcome you and your family to the Vatican and to receive the cordial greetings which you bring from President Bush.”

“The American people have always cherished the fundamental values of freedom, justice and equality. In a world marked by conflict, injustice and division, the human family needs to foster these values in its search for unity, peace and respect for the dignity of all,” the Pope added.

“I encourage you and your fellow citizens,” he continued,“ to work, at home and abroad, for the growth of international cooperation and solidarity in the service of that peace which is the deepest aspiration of all men and women.”

“Upon you and all the American people I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.”

Following the meeting, the Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls revealed that during the course of the private conversations hold by Cheney with both the holy Father and Cardinal Sodano, “there was an exchange of opinions on the international situation, with special attention to the peace process in the Middle East and to developments in the situation in Iraq.”

“There was also an examination of the moral and religious problems that touch upon the life of States, especially relative to the defense and promotion of life, the family, solidarity and religious freedom,” Navarro-Valls concluded.

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‘The Passion’ will touch hearts, says Denver archbishop

Denver, Colo., Jan 27, 2004 (CNA) - One will "never read the Scriptural accounts of Christ’s Passion in quite the same way" after seeing "The Passion of the Christ", said Archbishop Charles Chaput, who expressed his support for the film in a column he submitted to be published in "Our Sunday Visitor" this week.

The archbishop of Denver said the film will touch many hearts very deeply after it is released Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25. He said he was moved at the both screenings that he attended. The film also had a powerful effect on the young adults who watched it with him the second time, he said.

The film "will touch anyone with an open heart and an open mind," wrote the archbishop, because it portrays the life of Jesus, which "invites us to be heroes as Jesus was a hero.

"It brings alive the Gospel accounts of Jesus, His Crucifixion, His mother and disciples in a way no other film has ever accomplished."

The archbishop encouraged Catholics to see the film despite the fact, he wrote, that the film’s critics will probably get louder as the release date of the film approaches. "Ignore them," he wrote. "Decide for yourselves."

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Scientific research needs to be open to the human soul, Pope says

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking to a group of Polish scientists and academics, Pope John Paul II stressed again that scientific investigation must promote, not degrade, human dignity.

The Holy Father received on Tuesday Archbishop Zygmunt Kaminski with a delegation from the University of Szczecin.

“You have come,” said the Pope, “on the occasion of a special event. The senate of the university decided that the university will embrace within its walls the Faculty of Theology that until now has carried out its scientific and educational activity independently.”

John Paul II emphasized that a theological faculty "comes about due to the need for dialogue between reason and faith. This type of dialogue is necessary so that the fruits of scientific research in different disciplines serve the full development of human beings.”

“Just as reason cannot be separated from the soul, science cannot be fully transmitted without keeping in mind the needs of the human soul which is open to the infinite,” the Pope said.

“In addition, development in the sciences entails many ethical questions that should be resolved while respecting the autonomy of the sciences and the spirit of truth,” he added.

“The collegial tendency toward the knowledge of truth about man, the dignity of the human person, the value of life and, at the same time, the greatness of scientific results in all disciplines, will surely serve in the deeper study of transmitted knowledge,” the Pontiff concluded.

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Pope praises World Food program

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received on Tuesday James T. Morris, executive director of the World Food Program, and praised the project aimed at assisting those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition throughout the world.

“The complexities of our modern era,” the Pope added, speaking in English, “are such that the joint commitment and efforts of many different organizations are necessary if the nutritional needs of millions of men, women and children are to be adequately met.”  “This is no easy task,”said the Pope, “but I am confident that, with the help and support of countless people of good will, the World Food Program will continue to be an important instrument of solidarity and assistance in the ongoing battle against undernourishment and starvation.”

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Pope to preside Mass on the Presentation of the Lord

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II will preside at a Mass on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Monday, February 2, coinciding with the 8th Day of Consecrated Life.

The Pope will preside at the liturgy of the Word, will bless the candles and participate in the initial procession and, after delivering the homily, will lead prayers of thanksgiving to God for the gift of consecrated life. At the end of the Mass, he will impart the apostolic blessing.

Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, Prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic life, will celebrate the Eucharist.

In a Vatican tradition, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord marks the end of the Christmas season, thus, the removal of the Nativity of St. Peter’s Square.

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Catholics must campaign to defend marriage, Massachusetts priest says

, Jan 27, 2004 (CNA) - Catholics are called to defend the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, together, said Fr. Roger Landry in a homily he delivered titled "Doing What Christ Tells Us About Marriage."

"The whole mystical body of Christ is called to act in concert, all of us using our own gifts given to us by God for the effort," he said.

Fr. Landry’s homily comes at a time when the bishops of Massachusetts are trying to rally Catholics of the Commonwealth to voice their support publicly for the protection of the legal definition of marriage as the union of one many and one woman.

The call for action follows a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision last November. The court ruled that the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is discriminatory. The court ordered the Legislature to draft a bill, legalizing same-sex marriage, within six months.

In his homily, Fr. Landry outlined what specifically people can do, according to the gifts of their profession, to participate in the debate.

Bishops and priests much preach the truth about marriage, he said.

Lawyers must "use their skills and education in showing, from a legal point of view, how ridiculous the Supreme Judicial Court decision was and in crafting the language and fighting the legal battles necessary to defend marriage," he said.

"For psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, scholars and social workers, the Lord wants them to use the gifts he has given them to show why homosexual activity – and any institutionalization based upon it – will harm individuals with same-sex attractions and society as a whole," he said.

Public servants and legislators are called to "defend the institution of marriage and to defend our democracy against the oligarchic, unconstitutional interpretation of the state's constitution by four justices, and to vote in support of the amendment to defend marriage."

Others are called to persuade friends to join the effort or write letters to legislators and newspaper editors.

Polls already showing results

Pointing to the impact that the Catholic Church in Michigan had on the state referendum on euthanasia in 1998, Fr. Landry said success was possible.

A few months before the referendum vote, polls showed that 70 percent of Michigan residents supported euthanasia. But Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit, other bishops and thousands of Catholic lay people organized and made a concerted effort to teach the public about the dignity of life. At referendum time, the polls were reversed – 70 percent voted against euthanasia.

"History can repeat itself here in our state," he told the congregation and efforts may already be showing good results.

In December, a University of Massachusetts poll showed that 46 percent of people supported the Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment, he said. However, a January poll showed that support increased to 54 percent.

He spoke hopefully of the efforts of the bishops of Massachusetts, led by Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston. He referred to the letter the bishops sent out to one million Catholic households, explaining the Church's teaching on marriage and asking every Catholic to take action immediately.

"We need each of the practicing Catholics to get involved in some way. Our concerted effort – along with our Protestant brothers and sisters and non-Christian friends – has already been making a difference," he said.

"But we still have a lot of work to do," he said.

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Catholic schools thrive with volunteers

Allentown, Pa., Jan 27, 2004 (CNA) - Behind every successful Catholic school is a team of hard-working volunteers, and they’re being recognized this week during the 30th annual Catholic Schools Week, which began Sunday.

There are about 8,000 Catholic schools in the United States and none of them could survive without the help of dedicated volunteers, who perform jobs that the school would have to pay for otherwise, Ann Sciannella of the National Catholic Education Association told The Morning Call.

Volunteers are ''the lifeblood'' of Catholic education, Philip J. Fromuth told the publication. Fromuth is the secretary for education for the Allentown Diocese, which has nine high schools and 52 elementary schools.

Joe Kramer, Notre Dame principal, told The Morning Call that his school depends on volunteers to work as coaches, substitutes, library aides and cafeteria helpers. They even helped redo the girls' softball field last summer.

Cindy Adams has volunteered at Bethlehem Catholic High School for 20 years. She is one of 30 volunteers, who help organize the annual auction, which raises $50,000 for the school each April.

''I believe in Catholic education,'' said Adams, who continues to volunteer even though her children graduated in 1989. ''It's a wonderful cause. You feel so appreciated, and they have such a need.''

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Oswaldo Payá asks Patriarch Bartholomew to support peaceful dissidence in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Jan 27, 2004 (CNA) - In a letter sent to the Orthodox Archbishop of New York, Demetrios, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba has asked the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I, who is visiting that country, to express his support for peaceful Cuban dissidents.

Payá was not able to personally deliver the letter to Bartholomew, who arrived on the island to consecrate the recently completely orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas, which was completely financed by the government of Fidel Castro.

According to a spokesman of the Orthodox community in Cuba, Bartholomew I did not meet with any Cuban dissidents because “it was not on the schedule.”

In the letter, Payá welcomed Bartholomew to Cuba, “a Christian land that in recent decades has suffered from an attempt  to de-Christianize its memory, its life and its culture by a regimen that knew that in order to subject all its people, it had to first uproot the name of God from their hearts.”

“It is this people that welcomes you with love and respect and awaits your words inspired by the Holy Spirit, which will always be words of reconciliation, forgiveness, freedom and liberation,” writes the leader of the Varela Project.  Payá asks Bartholomew I to carry “our message:”  “we want peace, we want reconciliation, we want and we can carry our own Cuban project of justice and democracy.”  “But with the freedom that the Lord our god has given us…” “They say ‘socialism or death’, but we say ‘freedom and life’,” adds the message. 

The leader of the Christian Life Movement reminded the Patriarch of the Orthodox of the “hundreds of men and women imprisoned in our country” who are being held “for proclaiming the truth, for encouraging reconciliation and for defending the rights that, more than rights, are gifts of God to the human person.”

For this reason, Payá emphasized in his letter that “those who wish to treat the Cuban people with respect” and those who wish “to contribute to peace among all Cubans and with Cuba,” should support the peaceful changes toward democracy in our country for which we are being persecuted.  They should support consultation with the people, the Referendum, the dialogue that we Cubans desire.”

“May they raise their voices and pray for our people that have been silenced, but have not lost hope,” the letter concludes.

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Energetic statement by Mexican bishops against "morning after pill"

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 27, 2004 (CNA) - The Mexican Bishops Conference’s Family Ministry Committee has released a statement strongly rejecting the government’s decision to include so-called “emergency contraception” in the country’s official “family planning” services.

The bishops denounced the dangerous combination of hormones that can act to “impede the implantation of a fertilized ovum or embryo in the uterus wall, thereby causing an abortion and stopping the embryo from continuing its development.”

Moreover, the statement warns of the risk to the health of adolescents, since “studies indicate side effects which are not taken into account by this norm.”  The bishops insist that the morning after pill “is clearly abortifacient, in that it directly and voluntary ends the life of a newly conceived human being,” and they emphasize that “abortion is a gravely illicit act no matter which method is used to achieve it.”

The statement express the bishops’ concern for “the serious problem of adolescent pregnancies;” but they propose promoting education “for a responsible use of sexuality based on objective and universal ethical values, and not on simple information and the distribution and promotion of these types of products that only put women’s health in danger, especially that of adolescents.”

The bishops also warn that the spread of the morning after pill clearly shows “how the lines between contraception and abortion are increasingly more subtle and how both are a result of an anti-life mentality which is the fruit of the culture of death, which is against the Gospels.”

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Pro-family institute calls for publication of 2002 abortion statistics in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Jan 27, 2004 (CNA) - The Political Institute for the Family (IPF) has sent a letter to Spanish Health Minister, Ana Pastor, demanding the publication of data concerning the number of abortions which took place in Spain in 2002.

Eduardo Hertfelder, President of the IPF, lamented that well into 2004—when the rest of the demographic indicators for 2003 have been published—the Department of Health has still not made public the data from 2002.

According to the IPF, some areas in the country published the data a long time ago, such as Valencia, where abortions were up in 2002 13.7% from 2001.  If this data was applied to the rest of Spain, the result would be around 80,000 abortions, meaning one abortion every 6½ minutes.

For Hertfelder it is unheard-of that for a such serious problem as the explosion in the number of abortions in Spain—in 2001 there 70,000, which means that 15% of pregnancies end in abortion and that therefore an abortion would take place every 7 minutes—the Administration is working with data that is 2 or 3 years old, showing the lack of interest in dealing with the problem.

The IPF, said Hertfelder, believes the Health Department should drastically reorient its policy on health and sexuality once it is shown to be ineffective, in order to better prevent and diminish this large increase of abortions.

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