Archive of February 9, 2004

Reform of the UN is a “moral obligation,” Pope says

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2004 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope John Paul II welcomed at the Vatican Julian Robert Hunte, President of the 58th General Assembly of the United Nations, to whom he stressed the need for reform of the UN.

“As you know,” the Pope told him in English, “the Holy See considers the United Nations Organization a significant means for promoting the universal common good.” “You have undertaken a restructuring aimed at making the Organization function more efficiently. This will not only ensure an effective superior instance for the just resolution of international problems, but also enable the United Nations to become an ever more highly respected moral authority for the international community,” the Pontiff said.

Quoting from his Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, the Holy Father said it “is my hope that the Member States will consider such a reform ‘a clear moral and political obligation which calls for prudence and determination’ and a necessary prerequisite for the growth of an international order at the service of the whole human family.” 

“I offer prayerful good wishes for your own efforts on behalf of this goal and I willingly invoke upon you and your associates the divine blessings of wisdom, strength and peace,” he concluded.

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Archbishop O’Malley headed rally for traditional marriage

Boston, Mass., Feb 9, 2004 (CNA) - About 2,000 people came out to a rally yesterday to support a state constitutional amendment that will maintain the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

The demonstration, held a short distance from the Massachusetts Statehouse on the Boston Common, was led by Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, who said the demonstration was not about “hate-mongering.”

''We are here because we are concerned about marriage and about family,'' the archbishop said, reported the Associated Press. ''Good strong marriage and family are good for our country, for society.''

The people responded with cheers and applause. The also chanted, sang and held banners that read “Marriage, ancient, sacred,” reported AP.

The demonstration is the result of a number of two court decisions that require state legislators to legalize same-sex marriage in the next few months.

In November, the Massachusetts Judicial Court ruled 4-3 that same-sex couples had a right to marriage. The court gave the Legislature until May to enact the appropriate legislation. Just last week, the court reaffirmed its decision in another 4-3 ruling, stating that only marriage and not civil unions could satisfy the state’s constitution regarding same-sex unions.

However, the full House and Senate will have a joint meeting Wednesday to consider a constitutional amendment that will ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The amendment will be put to the vote twice. If a majority of lawmakers vote in favor of the amendment both times, a referendum must be held on the amendment, allowing the citizens to decide.

Given the most current polls, citizen support for same-sex marriage seems to be slipping. Of 501 adults polled in the last two weeks, 33 percent said the state should recognize same-sex marriages, compared to 37 percent in November. The poll was conducted by Merrimack College's Center for Public Opinion Research.

The movement to support and promote traditional marriage includes more than the Catholic Church. A number of religious leaders, including Protestant, Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Orthodox Christians, have come together to oppose same-sex marriage and put pressure on the Legislature to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage, reported the Boston Globe.

A statement to that effect was also created. The Globe reported that signatories included: Rev. William P. Leahy, president of Boston College; Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III of the Azusa Christian Community; Rev. David M. Midwood, president of Vision New England, an umbrella organization of 2,000 evangelical Protestant churches; and Metropolitan Methodios, the Greek Orthodox hierarch of New England.

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Pope recalls Lourdes, 150th Anniversary of Dogma of Immaculate Conception

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2004 (CNA) - Addressing the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus on Sunday, Pope John Paul meditated upon the coming feast of our Lady of Lourdes (February 11) and the 150th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

“This Wednesday, February 11, liturgical memory of Our Lady of Lourdes, we will celebrate the World Day of the Sick,” said the Pope, who instituted this celebration, the first one of which took place in Lourdes on February 11, 1993.

He added that “the principal events this year will take place in Lourdes where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous, calling herself ‘the Immaculate Conception’.” “This year marks the 150th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception proclaimed by my venerated predecessor, Blessed Pius IX,” he added,

“The link between Our Lady of Lourdes and the world of suffering and illness,” the Pope continued, “is very well known. At the shrine which grew from the grotto of Massabielle, sick people are always the protagonists and Lourdes has become, over the years, an authentic city of life and hope.”

“How could it be otherwise?,” he said.  “The Immaculate Conception of Mary is, in fact, the first fruit of the redemption fulfilled by Christ and the pledge of His victory over evil. That spring of water rising from the earth, from which the Virgin Mary asked Bernadette to drink, reminds us of the power of the Spirit of Christ Who completely heals man and gives him eternal life,” he concluded.

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Pontifical Academy for Life to remember memorable French pro-lifer

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2004 (CNA) - The Pontifical Academy for Life will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of its foundation by Pope John Paul II by honoring the late French geneticist and pro-life leader Jerome Lejeune.

The Academy, founded by Pope John Paul II in 1994, will hold its 10th General Assembly from February 19 to 22 in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall.

February 19 will be entirely dedicated to the celebration of the anniversary.

Three themes will be developed on that day: the activities of the Pontifical Academy for Life during its first ten years; a commemoration of the late Professor Lejeune, first President of the Academy; and the teachings of Pope John Paul II on human life.

The day will conclude with a concert in the Paul VI Hall for choir and orchestra, directed by Maestro Marco Frisina.

February 20 through 22 will be dedicated to the work of the General Assembly, whose theme this year is “The Dignity of human procreation and reproductive technologies: anthropological and ethical aspects”.

The Assembly will conclude with the release of a final communiqué, which will serve as a summary of the debate and of the conclusions of the meeting. The Proceedings of the meeting will be published in Italian and in English, over the following months.

Prof. Lejeune, a personal friend of Pope John Paul, discovered the trisomy of chromosome 21, which causes Down’s Syndrome.  As a staunch pro-lifer, he was horrified to see how his discovery was used for selective abortions.

Professor Lejeune passed away on Easter Saturday, 1994.  Pope John Paul, during his visit to Paris in 1997, made a personal visit to the cemetery to pray at the Professor’s tomb.

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States must protect rights of monogamous, heterosexual marriage, Vatican says at UN 

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations Archbishop Celestino Migliore, spoke last Saturday on the role of the family during the 42nd session of the UN’s Social Development Committee, which included a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

During his speech, the Archbishop underscored the “primordial role” of the family in society, saying it is “the first place for social integration as it constitutes the primary cell of society and its foundation.”

“For the Holy See,” he stated, “the family is a natural institution based on marriage –the intimate and complementary union of a man and woman- that, as such, possesses its own inalienable rights.”

More than just a simple juridical, sociological or economic unity, the family is a community of love and solidarity. It is for this reason that it is especially suited to realizing the integration of all its members, be they young, old or handicapped.” “One can therefore easily affirm that a family seen in this way could serve as a model of social integration on a broader scale”, he continued.

However, the Archbishop noted that today’s world poses many threats to the family, in particular those situations of “the young who live in dysfunctional families, marked by conflict, inadequate parental control,” drug abuse, to name but a few.

“My delegation insists on the urgency of adopting family policies to meet with the current needs. In fact, my delegation is convinced that these policies constitute the ethical and concrete manner of solving crises in societies and guaranteeing a better future for democracy,” he also stated.

Society should help families, Archbishop Migliore said. However, he added, quoting Pope John Paul’s letter “Familiaris consortio”, “society should not take from families the functions that they can just as well perform on their own or in free associations; instead it must positively favor and encourage as far as possible responsible initiative by families.” 

“States have a responsibility to defend the ‘sovereignty’ of the family. Defending the sovereignty of the family contributes to the sovereignty of nations,” he concluded.

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Gibson explains the ‘Passion’ to churchgoers via satellite

Phoenix, Ariz., Feb 9, 2004 (CNA) - Mel Gibson spoke with thousands of churchgoers, after screenings of his film “The Passion of the Christ” Feb. 7, and told them that he is not anti-Semitic. 

He spoke with the 100 churchgoers of North Phoenix Baptist Church in Arizona via satellite and with a live audience at Azusa Pacific University in California.

"It's not about the blame game. The whole message is that he (Christ) forgave," Gibson told the people, responding to earlier claims that the film was anti-Semitic.

Gibson’s message to viewers, which included behind-the-scenes footage of the film and interviews with actors and producers, was to encourage the faith community to see the film and bring others with them.

Already, church groups have booked 2,500 theaters across the country, said Paul Lauer, marketing director for Gibson’s Icon Productions. Promotional materials have also been made available to churches and faith groups.

The message seemed to have come across. Robert Rice, 48, said his goal is to get 11 non-believers to watch the film. "It's my job to take people who are lost and show them the true meaning of Jesus Christ," the Baptist church member told the Republic.

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Catholic Church still rebuts BBC on anti-Catholic coverage

, Feb 9, 2004 (CNA) - The controller of BBC Scotland defended the broadcaster’s coverage of the Catholic Church yesterday after Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow took the BBC to task for encouraging "a tabloid culture" and for demonstrating a "gross insensitivity" to the Church. The archbishop made these comments in a letter published in The Herald Feb. 4.

John McCormick dismissed the archbishop’s attack on the corporation as "unfounded and unjustifiable", and cited support from the Scottish Religious Advisory Committee.

McCormick, whose letter appeared in The Herald Feb. 8, says the archbishop “selects three examples from our UK output to support his case, one of which has not been broadcast, ignoring the totality of our program provision."

But a spokesman for the archbishop told The Herald that the Catholic Church, “like other institutions, besides government, have had cause for complaint in recent years at some of the BBC's editorial stances.

"At this time, when the governors are reflecting on the corporation's future, it is wholly appropriate to make those concerns known,” a spokesman for the archbishop told The Herald. “It is reassuring to note the archbishop's comments are being taken seriously at the highest levels of the corporation," he said.

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“The Passion of the Christ” to be debuted in Latin America in Peru, Mexico and Argentina

CNA STAFF, Feb 9, 2004 (CNA) - Officials at Warner Bros/20TH Century Fox have revealed to CNA that Peru, where the conglomerate has distribution rights, will be the first country in Latin America to debut the movie “The Passion of the Christ,” on March 25.  One day later the movie will debut in Mexico, and on April 8 it will debut in Argentina.

Warner Bros/20TH Century Fox officials told CNA the movie “The Passion of the Christ,” directed by Mel Gibson, will debut in Peru a month after its debut in the United States, on Thursday, March 25, the day on which the Church traditionally celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation.

In Mexico 20th Century Fox announced the film will debut on Friday, March 26, with an advanced screening for religious leaders.

Warner Bros/20TH Century Fox also confirmed that the official debut of Gibson’s film in Argentina will be on April 8, Holy Thursday.

Although the number of screens on which the movie will be shown has not yet been determined, various organizations have begun promoting the film which promises to become the most widely viewed Christian film of all time.
This week it is expected that the dates for the film’s debut in the rest of Latin America will be announced.

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Dallas man rents 20-screen complex to show “Passion” to 6,000 people

Dallas, Texas, Feb 9, 2004 (CNA) - Arch Bonnema, a member of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church near Dallas, has decided to involve his family in renting a 20-screen Cinemark complex to show Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” to show it to 6,000 people, according to Baptist Press.

Bonnema was to be invited to a preview of “The Passion of the Christ” when a friend had to back out at the last minute. The film had such an impact on him that he wanted to share it with as many people as possible.

“I have been a Christian all of my life, and I have heard people talk about Jesus dying for our sins and sacrificing His life,” Bonnema told Baptist Press. “But when you hear it repetitively, it loses impact. When you see this film, it really hits home the sacrifice that Jesus made for us,” he added.

Bonnema and his wife decided to do something significant and inquired about renting out the Cinemark complex in Plano for the day “The Passion” is released, Feb. 25.

The Cinemark Theater has 20 screens, and Bonnema and his family have rented them all for the showing of “The Passion.”

“We’re going to do the largest two screens twice, so we’ll actually be showing it 22 times between 6:30 in the morning and 9:30 [at night],” he said.

They decided to stagger the show times in 30-minute intervals so that all 6,000 people would not enter the complex at the same time.

“42,000 dollars is a lot of money for us, so it was a big commitment,” said Bonnema, who owns an insurance agency with his son.

He gave all but 1,000 tickets to different religious organizations in the area, and sent an e-mail to a few friends to let them know had some tickets available. “In three days I had 2,300 requests,” he said.

 Spanish Bishops say “Sexual revolution” has not reduced domestic violence

MADRID – Fr. Juan Antonio Martínez, Secretary and Spokesman of the Spanish Bishops Conference, said this week that at one time “it was thought that the so-called sexual revolution was going to fix the problem of domestic violence, but this has not been the case.”

Fr. Martínez lamented that certain statements of the Spanish Bishops’ Directory for the Pastoral Care of the Family have been taken out of context, and he emphasized that “domestic violence existed before the sexual revolution.”

Nevertheless, he insisted that “the sexual revolution has not improved things” because “domestic violence continues,” and this is clearly outlined in the “Spanish Bishops’ Directory for the Pastoral Care of the Family.”

“For 60 years the promoters of the sexual revolution have been promising that when the supposed repression of Christian and Western tradition has disappeared, society would be made up of people who are uninhibited, free, loving and respectful of others,” he said.  “We are the fruits of this promise? This is what we are saying.”

In an interview with the COPE radio network, Fr. Martínez insisted the Catholic Church does not consider to be “positive” a sexual revolution consisting in “commitment-free love, free from fidelity, from marital commitment…in love conceived as an object to be used and thrown away and of having one partner today and another tomorrow.”

After indicating the “comprehensive” position of the Bishops Conference, Fr. Martínez said that “there is not an obsession with these things in the Church.”  He added, however, that the Church will continue offering “with patience and firmness” her arguments on the consequences of so-called ‘free love’, since there is such a “serious” problem of formation in this area.

Meanwhile in statements to Europa Press, Madrid city council member Pedro Zerolo challenged the Church and demanded “a popular reaction against the statements of the bishops, especially by women, Catholic or not, by gay priests and lesbian sisters, because the material in the Directory is an attack on the religious and sexual freedom of people.”  He also called the bishops’ statements “homophobic,” “partisan” and “misogynist.”  “What they are saying goes against nature,” he added.

Fr. Martínez pointed out that “we know there are people who do not share the message of the Church, but to say that it should stay in the pulpits and parishes brings to mind the polices of repressive regimes.  The Church has a right to express herself like everyone in society, without hindrances or limitations.”

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Colombian Guerrilla calls for mediation by the Church, bishops ask for concrete gestures

Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 9, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Pedro Rubiano, Archbishop of Bogotá and President of the Colombian Bishops Conference, responded to the surprising request of the National Liberation Amy (ELN) for the mediation of the Church in an eventual dialogue with the government by calling on the guerrilla group to demonstrate its desire for peace with concrete actions.

The ELN is the second largest guerrilla group in the country, after the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), and it also is currently holding dozens of people hostage.

The ELN’s central command sent a letter to the bishops who were gathered for their plenary assembly calling for dialogue on the humanitarian crisis facing the country.

Furthermore, the letter calls for a return to “a national dialogue with wide participation,” and in an unexpected reversal of their usual position, the ELN called for “a political solution to the conflict as the way in which to bring peace to the country.”

Responding to the letter, Cardinal Rubiano said the bishops were open to facilitating the national dialogue called for the ELN but he warned that the statements of the letter should be accompanied by “concrete proposals and actions for peace to keep the discussion going.”

According to the Cardinal, the letter is a sign of hope because “there is true resolve on both sides to negotiate, and the Church is willing to continue providing an opportunity for dialogue.”

“There is always room for peace, it needs to be sought out, and we can be and are willing to help, to accompany both sides so that peace can be established,” he said.

In its letter, the ELN recognizes the work of the Catholic Church, its “willingness to find solutions to the humanitarian crisis which the people of Santa Marta are facing,” and its participation in efforts to bring about a national reconciliation.

Last December, representatives of the Catholic Church were key in obtaining the freedom of foreign nationals who were kidnapped September 12 by ELN in northern Colombia.

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