Archive of February 26, 2004

John Paul II recalls centrality of families in the Church

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II stressed today that “recognizing the centrality of the family in God’s plan for man and therefore, for the life of the Church and of society, is a task, that can never be relinquished.”

The Holy Father addressed a message to the pastors of the Diocese of Rome, following a tradition at the beginning of Lent. The text says that “marriage and family cannot, be considered a simple product of historical circumstances, or a superstructure imposed on human love from the outside. On the contrary, they are an interior demand of this love so that it may be carried out in the truth and fullness of self-giving.”

“When creating man and woman in His image,” he continued, God inscribed in them a vocation, “and therefore, the capacity and responsibility for love and communion. This vocation can be carried out in two specific ways: marriage and virginity,” he explained.

Unity, indissolubility, and openness to life, characteristics of the conjugal union, “which today,” he said, “are frequently misunderstood and rejected, are necessary so that it may be an authentic pact of love.”

“Precisely in this way, the bond that unites man and woman becomes an image and symbol of the alliance between God and His people. Therefore, marriage between baptized persons is a sacrament, effective sign of grace and salvation,” the Pope told.

The Holy Father asked the priests to never tire of “proposing, announcing and bearing witness to the great truth of love and Christian marriage.” After emphasizing the “fundamental and irreplaceable role of the family in the life of the Church and of civil society,” he indicated that “the pastoral care of priests is necessary” in order to sustain Christian families.

“Do not be afraid,” he added, “to make efforts for families, to dedicate to them your time and energy, the spiritual talents that the Lord gave you. Be for them caring and trustworthy friends in addition to pastors and teachers.  Accompany and sustain them in prayer, propose the Gospel of marriage and the family to them with truth and love, without reservations or arbitrary interpretations.”

“Be close to them spiritually in the trials that life often holds, helping them to understand that the Church is always their mother as well as their teacher.  And teach young people to understand and appreciate the real meaning of love and to prepare themselves to form authentic Christian families,” he said.

 John Paul II also stressed that “the misguided and often aberrant behaviour that is publicly proposed, and also endorsed and exalted, and daily contact with the difficulties and crises of many families can cause us to be tempted to distrust and resignation.”

“We must overcome this temptation with God’s help. Today the Holy Spirit’s action is not weaker. Therefore, the greater the difficulties, the stronger our hope must be in the present and future of the family, and the more generous and passionate our priestly service to families must be,” he concluded.

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Moviegoers react to Gibson film

Sydney, Australia, Feb 26, 2004 (CNA) - The film is out and reactions are pouring in. Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ” was finally released in theaters yesterday after months of controversy being reported in the press, and it has elicited a range of very emotional responses from audiences.

Theaters have reported moviegoers leaving the film crying or red-eyed, but for different reasons. Some viewers have commented that the film was moving, while others found it too violent and anti-Semitic. Some theaters have even reported walkouts mid-film due to the violence.

Sydney’s archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, admits that the film is violent but he stressed that its most important element is that it “shows us how Jesus redeems us from our sins.”

The cardinal thinks the film is neither anti-Semitic nor laying blame for Jesus' death on the Jews. He predicts that generations of believers will see Gibson’s film as a classic, but adds that it is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

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Georgetown University defends use of cell lines from aborted fetuses

Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2004 (CNA) - Georgetown University is defending its research practices after a review revealed that its Medical Center is using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses, reported the College Reporter.

A review was conducted on the origins of cell lines used at the center after Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, requested it last summer.

The review revealed that 18 of the center’s researchers were using four different cell lines, derived from aborted fetuses.

The university did not create the cell lines; they were obtained from the National Institute of Health between 25 and 40 years ago, explained Lindsey Spindle, director of university public relations. When the research began, the origin of the cell lines was unknown.

Four of the researchers have since switched to cell lines derived from non-fetal tissue. However, 18 researchers did not in order not to compromise current research and invalidate their findings, Spindle said.

The university said the use of these cell lines is not its “preference”, but added that the researchers are morally justified in their work. 

But the American Bioethics Advisory Committee disagrees. It says the research is contradictory to Catholic teaching.

Medical Center researcher Fr. Kevin Fitzgerald maintains that university research is in conformity with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Service and with “widely accepted Catholic moral theology.”

The ethical directives state: “Catholic health-care institutions should not make use of human tissue obtained by direct abortions even for research and therapeutic purposes."

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Diocese seeks dismissal of lawsuit that alleges discrimination

, Feb 26, 2004 (CNA) - The Diocese of Fargo has requested that a discrimination lawsuit, filed by a former employee, be dismissed on the basis that it has the right to preach the Gospel.

Melissa Enebo said the diocese violated North Dakota's human rights laws by firing her in June 1999 for continuing to live with her boyfriend after the couple had a child.

The diocese’s lawyer, Benjamin Thomas, said diocesan officials had told Enebo that her lifestyle was violating church policy. He argued that state law does not apply in this case because of the constitutional separation of church and state. The court must respect the Church's fundamental right to preach the Gospel, he added.

According to AP, Enebo's attorney, Robert Schultz, said the diocese is not above the law when dealing with lay employees.

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Bishop of Chiapas calls on Mexicans to open hearts to change

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 26, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Felipe Arizmendi of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, issued a fervent message to mark the beginning of Lent, saying that everyone is responsible for bringing about the changes that are needed in society and that all should join in efforts in favor of peace and justice.

Bishop Arizmendi also referred to native Indians, especially the young and children, who are losing their cultural identity and are ashamed of being virtuous, saying they assume the vices of the larger society, such as alcoholism and drug addiction.

He also denounced the loss of faith. "Many no longer participate in the Sunday Mass, and they use religion for political purposes." "May our vices and egoisms die with Christ and be buried, so that with Him, through Him and in Him, we may rise to the new life of the children of God," he said.

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The Church does not have an ideology, but rather lives the Gospel, says Archbishop of Seville

Madrid, Spain, Feb 26, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, Archbishop of Seville, said this week the Church "does not have an ideology" but rather "the Gospel of Jesus Christ," and that the Church "does not belong to any political party."

Cardinal Amigo made his statements during a conference held at the Universidad Cardenal Herrera, where he said that "a pluralistic state is not an enemy of religion," because it should guarantee the right of parents toprovide religious education to their children."

In this sense, continued the Cardinal, "in its roots Europe is either Christian or it is simply not Europe," and what a person needs to be taught for his or her formation, such as religion, should not be optional, "just as philosophy, mathematics or physics" are not. 

In conclusion, the Cardinal referred to scientific research using embryonic stem cells, saying "research should continue, but it should be subject to some limits," such as "not going against man," and he added that "if we need to kill three people in order to cure one, nobody should accept this principle."

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Website launches campaign to stop legalization of abortion in Portugual

Madrid, Spain, Feb 26, 2004 (CNA) - The Spanish website ("Make your voice heard") has launched a massive email campaign to prevent the legalization of abortion in Portugal, which will be debated in the country's legislature March 3.

The campaign began with an email to eight thousand activists asking them to send a letter to Portuguese legislators encouraging them to reconsider their position and to reject the legalization of abortion.  The petition has been sent as well to the email addresses of the leader of Congress, Joao Bosco Mota Amaral.

Portuguese law allows for abortion to take place under certain conditions, but because of a number of court rulings against women who have undergone clandestine abortions without meeting the established conditions, some Portuguese members of the European Parliament have begun pressuring the country to legalize abortion. Left-wing parties are proposing abortion be permitted up to the tenth week of pregnancy.  One such proposal was defeated by referendum in Portugal in 1998.

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