Archive of February 23, 2004

Gibson’s film is a “gift from God”: Archbishop Donoghue

Atlanta, Ga., Feb 23, 2004 (CNA) - Mel Gibson’s film about the Passion of Christ is a “gift from God” that will help make Lent and Easter more meaningful this year, said Archbishop John F. Donoghue in a letter he addressed to the faithful of Atlanta Feb. 10.

“I believe that all people should see this film. And as your bishop, I would urge all Catholics of the Archdiocese of Atlanta to see this film,” he wrote, adding that those who view it will inevitably be changed.

“It will not leave you the same person you were before — you will never again not be able to picture the scope of our Lord's suffering, and the terrible price He paid in order to save us,” he continued.

He called the Ash Wednesday release of The Passion of The Christ “a special event, which can help to make this Lent unlike any before, and perhaps, change us permanently, in the way we visualize and attempt to share in the great love our Lord has shown us.”

He also complemented Gibson on an “amazing cast” and “cinematography that elevates this film to a place among the greatest ever made.”

The archbishop told the faithful that, after a lengthy conversation with Gibson last summer, he is “completely convinced” that Gibson’s motive in making this film was religious, and that it represents the filmmaker’s “sincere faith and devotion.”

“In his depiction of the capture, the trial and the condemnation of Jesus Christ, no one bears the blame exclusively, neither the Jews, nor the Romans, nor the Herodians,” wrote the archbishop, referring to claims that the film is anti-Semitic.

The film clearly demonstrates that Jesus’ sufferings and death are the result of evil, sin, and “the weakness of men and women when overcome by the temptations of Satan,” said the archbishop.

The archbishop warned that due to the violent content of the movie, he does not recommend it for children under high school age, unless their parents see the film first and give their consent.

“May this magnificent film, a gift from God, help us to learn what we need to know,” he concluded. “And may our Lenten and Easter celebrations this year, bring us an abundance of contrition, repentance, and new-found hope in the power of Jesus Christ to save us, and give us eternal life.”

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Pope calls to renew commitment on conversion to Christ

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II called the faithful to intensify their “commitment of conversion to Christ” as the Church prepares to begin Lent this Ash Wednesday and spoke of yesterday’s feast of the Chair of Peter.

“The Lenten itinerary will thus become a propitious time to examine ourselves with sincerity and truth and to return order to our own lives and to our relations with others and with God,” the Pope said.

He also remarked that “the liturgical feast of the Chair of Peter underscores the singular mystery, entrusted by the Lord to the leader of the Apostles, of confirming and guiding the Church in the unity of faith.”

“This is what the ‘ministerium petrinum’ is, that particular service that the Bishop of Rome is called to render to all Christians. An indispensable mission that is not based on human prerogatives but on Christ Himself as the cornerstone of the ecclesial community,” he explained.

“Let us pray that the Church, in the variety of cultures, languages and traditions, will be unanimous in believing and professing the truth of faith and morals transmitted by the Apostles,” he called.

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Pope defends the family, protects the dignity of human reproduction

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2004 (CNA) - The issues surrounding human reproduction involve essential values that apply to all human beings, said the Pope in a message to the delegates of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Feb. 21.

The delegates were in Rome for their annual plenary assembly, which discussed issues related to the theme, Dignity of Human Reproduction. At the end of their plenary, they met with Pope John Paul II, who relayed two messages to them.

“The subject you are discussing is loaded with grave problems and implications, which deserve careful examination,” he told the academy, headed by Chilean Scholar Juan de Dios Vial Correa. “Essential values are at play, not only for Christians, but for all human beings.”

In his message, the Pope cited the basic tenets of his Theology of the Body and defended the family as the union of man and woman, aimed at bringing children into the world.

“Increasingly, there emerges the inescapable link between procreation and the spousal union, through which the husband becomes a father, through the conjugal union with bride, and the bride becomes a mother, through the conjugal union with the husband,” he said. “This design of the Creator is inscribed in the very physical and spiritual nature of man and woman and, as such, has universal significance,” he added.

“The act during which a married couple becomes father and mother through a mutual act of giving and bringing a new human being into the world, brings them close to the Creator,” said the pontiff.

“Such an act cannot be replaced by a technological intervention, which is absent of human value and is submitted to the determinism of technical … manipulation,” he said, referring to such scientific advances as in-vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technologies.

The Pope said he would like to encourage scientific research that works naturally to overcome sterility in couples.

“Science should study the causes of male and female infertility in order to stop the suffering of married couples who wish, with a child, to confirm their mutual gift to one another,” he said.

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John Paul II calls seminarians “future and hope” of the Church

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2004 (CNA) - In his remarks to the community of the Pontifical Major Seminary of Rome, Pope John Paul II said last Saturday that seminarians “are in a special way the future and hope of the Church.”

“Their presence in the seminary attests to the strength of attraction that Christ exercises on the heart of young people.  A strength that does not take away from liberty, on the contrary, it allows it to fully flourish by choosing the greatest good: God to whose service we dedicate ourselves forever,” the Pope added.

The Holy Father offered his remarks in the Paul VI Hall, on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Trust, patroness of the Seminary. Also present were students from the Capranica, Redemptoris Mater and Divine Love Seminaries. The choir and orchestra of the diocese of Rome played an oratorio inspired by “Roman Triptych,” John Paul II’s book of poetry which was published last year.

 “In this age, there is the impression of a certain reluctance on the part of young people in the face of definitive and total commitments.  It is as if they were afraid of making decisions that last an entire life,” he said.

The Pope added that “thank God, in the diocese of Rome that there are many young people who are willing to consecrate their lives to God and to their brothers in the priestly ministry.  Nevertheless, we must pray incessantly to the Master of the harvest so that He may send new workers for His harvest, and so that He may sustain them in their commitment to a coherent adhesion to the demands of the Gospel.”

The Pope ended by citing the example of Our Lady: “Without humble abandonment to God’s will, which made the most beautiful ‘yes’ flourish in the heart of Mary, who could assume the responsibility of the priesthood? This is also important for young people who are preparing for Christian marriage.”

Following the musical presentation, the Holy Father, in off-the-cuff remarks, thanked the young seminarians for the music: “Debitor factus sum,” he said. “I am indebted to the Seminary of Rome for the beautiful interpretation that you have offered us of the oratorio inspired by “Roman Triptych,” a work of poetry which many have written about.  But this is perhaps the first time that I have heard this musical interpretation.”

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Compendium of social doctrine of the Church ready by April

Rome, Italy, Feb 23, 2004 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, announced the long-awaited “Catechism of Social Doctrine” will be published at the end of April.

The Cardinal said the document will bring together material from historial papal encyclicals on social issues, including Rerum Novarum, by Pope Leo XIII, Sollicitudo rei socialis and Centesimus Annus, both by Pope John Paul II.

The new compendium will replace the previous “Social Agenda: A Collection of Magisterial Texts” and has been long-awaited since the end of 2000.  The project was postponed by the untimely death of the former President of the Justice and Peace diacastery, Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.

The “Social Catechism” is a response to the request made by Pope John Paul II in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, which was presented in 1999 in the Basilica of Guadalupe.  In that document the Holy Father underscored the usefulness of “an authorized compendium or synthesis, including a ‘catechism,’ which would show the relation between Catholic social teaching and the new evangelization.”

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Papal telegram for victims of attack in Jerusalem

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of Vatican State, sent a telegram of condolences in Pope John Paul’s name, to Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, for the victims of yesterday’s suicide bomber in Jerusalem.

“The Supreme Pontiff expresses his firm condemnation of the latest brutal attack carried out in Jerusalem and, while assuring the family members of the victims of his spiritual closeness, he urges the authorities and citizens not to allow themselves to be carried away by the absurd dynamics of violence but to intensify their commitment to hasten the much desired hour of peace,” the telegram states.

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Social problems have theological roots, says Argentinean Archbishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 23, 2004 (CNA) - The crisis in which society finds itself, “also has a theological aspect, because it sees man as a subject,” says Archbishop José María Arancedo of Santa Fe, Argentina, in his recently issued Lenten message.

“There is a social weakness has its roots in the hearts of the unconverted,” said the Archbishop, underscoring that “a new world is not possible without new men and women.”  He also recalled that “Lent is the time to prepare this uniqueness of God’s plan fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who seeks out and needs, nonetheless, the freedom and the decision of each one of us.”

Archbishop said, “We suffer the effects of a cynical society, which although it does not deny, and even preaches, the values of fraternity and equality, is content to live with high levels of poverty which indicate inequality in the distribution of wealth and is cause for the scandal of the growing breach between rich and poor.”  He added that “the greatest poverty of a society is when man has silenced the voice and moral demands of his conscience,” which should be nourished by truth, beauty and goodness.

“Conscience,” he went on, “as a work of God which seeks the good of His children, becomes for man the force that sustains him and orients him in his work.  But it needs to be nourished by the light of the values of truth, life, beauty and goodness, justice, solidarity, as well as by one’s witness and example, which are silent teachers of a unique and irreplaceable value for the moral life of a society.”

For the Archbishop, if one can speak of “an ever necessary ideological pluralism of opinions, one cannot conclude there is a “moral pluralism concerning the central issues related to truth and life, such as the rights and obligations which foster man’s dignity and social life.”

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Teenage pregnancy rate drops, teenage virginity rate rises

, Feb 23, 2004 (CNA) - Over 10 years, the U.S. teen pregnancy and abortion rates have dropped and teen virginity has increased, reports the Abstinence Clearinghouse, citing three separate studies.

The first study, released by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), indicates that there was an overall decline of 28 percent in the teenage pregnancy rate for women between the ages of 15 and 19, from 1990 to 2000.  In 2000, 83.6 in 1,000 women in this age group became pregnant compared with 116.9 per 1,000 women in 1990.

According to AGI, declines occurred in all racial and ethnic groups. The rate among black adolescents declined 32 percent to 153 per 1,000 women. Among white teenagers, it declined 28 percent to 71 per 1,000. Among Hispanic teens, it fell 15 percent to 139 per 1,000.

Teen pregnancy rates in 2000 varied widely by state, ranging from 42 per 1,000 women in North Dakota to 128 per 1,000 in the District of Columbia, AGI reported.

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002, indicated that the percentage of teens, who abstain from sexual activity, rose from 45.9 percent in 1991 to 54.4 in 2001.

The third study Abstinence Clearinghouse cites is one published in Adolescent and Family Health in 2003, called "An Analysis of the Causes in the Decline in Non-marital Birth and Pregnancy Rates for Teens from 1991 to 1995." It attributes most of the decline in the teen pregnancy rate to abstinence.

"This rate drop is great news," said Leslee Unruh, president of Abstinence Clearinghouse. "As abstinence education has spread from a few classrooms in the 1980s to thousands of schools across the country today, the message is getting through. Teens are making decisions for virginity, and the results are clear."

The Abstinence Clearinghouse is the largest nonprofit organization for abstinence education and advocacy. It helps professionals educate adolescents and unmarried adults on the communication skills, relationship information and factual knowledge necessary to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.

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