Archive of February 16, 2004

Pope insists on Europe’s Christian roots during weekend

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2004 (CNA) - On two different occasions on Saturday and Sunday, Pope John Paul insisted in the need for preserving Europe’s Christian roots in the midst of current tendencies to ignore them.

On Saturday, the Pontiff welcomed 2,000 Slovaks, accompanied by Cardinals Jan Korec and Jozef Tomko and by the President of Slovakia Rudolf Schuster, on the feast of Cyril and Methodius, the Slav brothers and saints who are patrons of Slovakia and co-patrons of Europe.

“The witness of these two great apostles of the Slavs is a strong reminder to rediscover the roots of the European identity of your people, roots that you share with other nations on the continent,” said the Pope.

“Slovakia and Europe of the Third Millennium,” he underscored, “have become enriched by many cultural contributions but it would be deleterious to forget that Christianity contributed in a decisive manner to the formation of the continent.”

On Sunday, during the recitation of the Angelus, Pope John Paul again highlighted the influence of Christianity throughout Europe’s history.

“It would be impossible to think of European civilization without the work and legacy of St. Benedict, just as one cannot fail to mention the evangelizing and social work of the two brothers from Salonika,” said the Pontiff, again speaking about Cyril and Methodius.

Speaking about the countries from Eastern Europe that will be included in the European Union in May, the Pope said that “these are nations that bear a specific cultural and spiritual richness: in them Christianity exercised an extraordinary cohesive force, with respect for their particular characteristics.”

“The encounter between the Gospel and culture allowed Europe to become a ‘laboratory’ where, over the centuries, significant and lasting values have been consolidated. Let us pray that, in our days, the universal message of Christ, entrusted to the Church, will be the light of truth and a source of justice and peace for the peoples of the Continent and of the entire world,” he concluded.

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Critics have a problem with the Gospels, not with me: Gibson

, Feb 16, 2004 (CNA) - In an exclusive interview  to be aired today at 10:00 p.m. ET. On ABCNEWS’ Primetime, Mel Gibson told Diane Sawyer that critics of his film, “The Passion of the Christ,” really have a problem with the Gospels.

“Critics who have a problem with me don't really have a problem with me in this film,” Gibson says on the interview, according to ABCNEWS; “They have a problem with the four Gospels. That's where their problem is.”

The accusation that the film will spark anti-Semitism avoids the central point of the film, says Gibson.

“It's about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. That's what this film is about. It's about Christ's sacrifice.”

Gibson tells Sawyer that he was moved to depict Jesus' sacrifice on film after reaching "the height of spiritual bankruptcy" 13 years ago. Things got so bad that he contemplated jumping out a window.

“I was looking down thinking, 'Man, this is just easier this way,' " he said. "You have to be mad, you have to be insane, to despair in that way. But that is the height of spiritual bankruptcy. There's nothing left.”

“Pain is the precursor to change, which is great,” Gibson said. “That's the good news.”

The “spiritual bankruptcy” led him to reexamine Christianity. He turned to the Bible and decided to create “The Passion of the Christ”, which he describes as his vision “with God's help” of the final hours in the life of Jesus. Gibson also tells Sawyer he tried his best to interpret the Gospels for the film.

Anti-Semitism is un-Christian

Gibson insists that he is not anti-Semitic, and that anti-Semitism is “un-Christian” and a sin that “goes against the tenets of my faith.”

When asked who killed Jesus, Gibson says: “The big answer is, we all did. I'll be the first in the culpability stakes here.”

Jesus Christ “was beaten for our iniquities,” Gibson also says. “He was wounded for our transgressions and by his wounds we are healed. That's the point of the film. It's not about pointing the fingers.”

“It's about faith, hope, love and forgiveness,” he says. “It is reality for me. … I believe that. I have to … for my own sake … so I can hope, so I can live.”

Gibson also says he doesn't deny that the Holocaust happened.

Gibson admitts his version is “very violent.” But he adds: “If you don't like it, don't go. … If you want to leave halfway through, go ahead.”

“I wanted it to be shocking,” Gibson says. “And I also wanted it to be extreme. I wanted it to push the viewer over the edge … so that they see the enormity — the enormity of that sacrifice — to see that someone could endure that and still come back with love and forgiveness, even through extreme pain and suffering and ridicule.”

“I hope it inspires introspection, and I think it does,” Gibson says. “I want to inspire and make people feel.”

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Human cloning is a ‘sign of moral regress': Cardinal Keeler

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2004 (CNA) - The scientific experiment in South Korea that has used cloning to create and destroy dozens of human embryos "is a sign of moral regress," said Cardinal William Keeler.

"Using this or any means to create innocent human lives solely to destroy them is an ultimate violation of research ethics," said the chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The cardinal affirmed that science and technology are great human goods when placed at the service of the human person. However, he said if scientists “will not voluntarily turn away from this abuse of science,” an international effort to ban human cloning is necessary. 

Dozens of human embryos were created and destroyed in the South Korean project to produce a single stem-cell line, said the cardinal. As well, 16 women were given potentially harmful fertility drugs to produce 242 eggs for this experiment.

“These women were used as egg factories while their embryonic offspring were treated as nothing more than objects of research, their human dignity ignored in the name of progress,” said Cardinal Keeler.

“Human cloning turns procreation into a manufacturing process, treating human life as a commodity made to preset specifications,” he said.

The cardinal said no scientific study has ever shown that human cloning is a necessary path to medical benefits. However, adult stem-cell research and other morally sound experiments are producing positive results in research, he said.

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Next Conclave to consider issues with global consequence: Weigel

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2004 (CNA) - Collapsing Catholicism in Europe, radical Islam and biotechnology will be the three major issues the cardinals will consider at the next Conclave, predicted papal biographer and columnist George Weigel in an article published in the Washington Post Feb. 15.

Weigel says controversial issues, such as abortion, homosexuality and ordination of women to the priesthood, will not be issues at the next Conclave. Instead, they will all be “matters of global consequence.”

Weigel said one of the cardinals’ major preoccupations is Europe’s “demographic suicide.” He pointed out that “no Western European state has a replacement level birth rate.” Catholic practice there is at its lowest and the society’s radical secularization “dissolves a people's sense of responsibility for the future.”

Weigel also said cardinal-electors are concerned about radical Islam as “an implacable enemy of religious freedom.”

The cardinals know that “there are two culturally assertive religious communities with global reach in the world – Catholicism and Islam,” Weigel wrote.

They are considering how the Church's dialogue “with the worlds-within-worlds of Islam strengthen the position of Muslim religious leaders and intellectuals” to develop a case for religious tolerance.

As much as the Catholic Church is supportive of new technologies, it is also wary of the attempts to manufacture humans through the latest advances in biotechnology.

The cardinals are concerned about how the Church can “shape the global debate about the new biotechnologies so that humanity gets to the 22nd century without finding itself ensnared in Aldous Huxley's brave new world.”

In selecting the next pope, the cardinals must consider that, thanks to the pontificate of John Paul II, “the world and the Church now expect the Pope to exercise a global ministry of religious presence and moral witness,” said Weigel.

The cardinals will also be seek a man who can “bring the Church to the world in a compelling way, and reform the Church's discipline,” wrote Weigel.

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Cardinal Rivera denounces misleading information about “morning after pill”

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 16, 2004 (CNA) - Mexico’s highest ranking prelate, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City, spoke out against misinformation concerning the controversial “morning after pill” and stated that the Catholic Church will make no concessions regarding the right to life, saying “we cannot negotiate about the truth.”

In an exclusive interview with the Mexican news service Notimex, the Cardinal explained that the moral and ethical challenges the country faces demand that Christians take a stand.  But he warned nevertheless that, “unfortunately here in Mexico that decision is made more difficult by the lack of complete information available to the public and because the media and activist groups that are seeking to take advantage of the proposal are only presenting part of the truth and not the entire picture.”

Regarding the attacks against the Church for defending the right to life, the Cardinal recalled that “although the crowd shouts ‘Crucify him!’ the Lord has to carry his cross to the end,” and he reiterated that even though others are silent, “We shall never make concessions.”

Likewise the Cardinal criticized independent doctors, who are not employed by any organizations and are free to express the truth, for not having spoken out about the reality of the abortion pill.

Cardinal Rivera also denounced the attitude of some Catholics or “semi-Catholics” who claim that as laity they have an excuse to live “as if they don’t have the right to proclaim the truth, that it is best that they be silent,” and he explained that this is the current situation in 21st century France, which claims to be liberal but won’t allow women to wear a veil.

“Here in Mexico we already have experienced this.  For 11 years we have not been allowed to wear clerical garb.  We could be fined for wearing religious symbols.  This seems ridiculous in Mexico.  We hope that this seems ridiculous as well in France in a few years,” said the Cardinal.

On the other hand, the Cardinal expressed his concern for the “dictates of the powerful” in Mexico and other parts of the world, not only in questions of reproductive health but “in many other areas” as well, especially in the areas of education and economics.

He reiterated that without the right to life, to education or to sustenance, the mission of the Church loses meaning.  “We have to be clear about this and we cannot make concessions, because we would be betraying mankind and Mexico,” he said.

“We don’t want to impose our way of thinking on anybody, but we do demand the right to proclaim what we see as the truth, and many times we are denied this right,” he concluded.

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Spanish Bishops reject all forms of human cloning 

Madrid, Spain, Feb 16, 2004 (CNA) - The General Secretary of the Spanish Bishops Conference, Fr. Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, expressed the Spanish Bishops’ rejection of all forms of including, even for therapeutic reasons, and called cloning “the criminal use of human life.”

The spokesman for the Spanish Bishops made his comments in response to the recently revealed cloning of human embryos by South Korean scientists.

“Rational moral ethics must demand that one human being never be used by another no matter how much therapeutic cloning,” he said, referring as well to official Church documents of 2001 and 2003 on the subject.

Fr. Martínez emphasized that “one human life cannot be made at the cost of another,” adding that “there needs to be international law to grant complete protection to human life.”

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