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Archive of March 2, 2004

Pro-life group: Bishops should oppose decision forcing Catholic Charities to provide contraception

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2004 (CNA) - The American Life League (ALL) issued on Monday an urgent statement calling on bishops to oppose yesterday’s California Supreme Court decision that would force Catholic Charities to provide contraception to its employees.

In a 6-1 decision, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that a Roman Catholic charity must offer birth-control coverage to its employees even though the Church considers contraception a sin.

“Today's ruling is an outrageous affront to all people of faith and a clear violation of the free exercise of religion,” the ALL statement says.

“It seems that the state of California is intent on convincing the world that up is down, that wrong is right. It seeks to recognize rights where they don't exist, while usurping the constitutional right of Catholic Californians to the free exercise of religion,” it adds.

The majority of justices argued that Catholic Charities is no different from other businesses in California, where “religious employers” such as churches are exempt from the requirement.

But Justice Janice Roger Brown –the lone dissenter- wrote that “the government is not accidentally or incidentally interfering with religious practice; it is doing so willfully by making a judgment about what is or is not a religion.”

The California Catholic Conference, which represents the Church's policy position in the state, said it was disappointed with the ruling and feared that it could open the door to mandated insurance coverage of abortion.

“It shows no respect to our religious organizations,” said spokeswoman Carol Hogan.

According to ALL, “the state's Catholic bishops have a moral responsibility to courageously speak out against this ruling. A tepid or lackluster response will only serve to further erode the rights of the Catholic Church and all religious institutions in the state. We call on all the Catholic bishops in California to stand firm against this unjust and immoral ruling.”

ALL says also that there are many ways the bishops can oppose the law which this ruling upholds. “They could simply ignore it as an act of civil disobedience; they could counter this act by withholding the countless services they offer to state residents or they could simply stop offering any prescription medical benefit to their employees.”

The pro-life organization also says that the net effect of the Supreme Court's decision “is to exact a punishment on all Californians,” since  “through its hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, AIDS ministries and countless other outreaches, the Catholic Church has provided important services to millions of Californians. It has also strengthened the state's economy by providing a stable work environment for countless residents.”

“Until the state Supreme Court realizes that it has no right to force its morality of secular humanism onto the Catholic Church, we hope the bishops will speak and act in a united voice that proclaims the Gospel of Life and defends the Body of Christ,” the ALL statement concludes.

Catholic Charities has 183 full-time employees and had a $76 million budget in California in 2002.

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Cardinal of New York: “Go to see The Passion”

, Mar 2, 2004 (CNA) - The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan, has urged parishioners to see Mel Gibson's blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ.”

“It's good that we see that movie because that movie tells us about the greatest prayer, the greatest sacrifice that was ever made,” said the Cardinal, during a ceremony of introduction of a group that will be accepted into the Catholic Church on Easter.

“The victim was Jesus Christ, the priest was Jesus Christ, he offered himself,” the Cardinal said.

“The film represented the sacrifice of Christ. It is here today in this beloved cathedral, the reality of this sacrifice,” he added.

The Archbishop of New York said he hoped the congregation would walk out of St. Patrick's Cathedral with the same indelible impression of Christ's sacrifice as audiences experienced viewing “The Passion.”

“It is my hope that you leave here this morning and feel like you will never be the same,” he said.

Further commenting on the film, the Cardinal said that “over the last few months, one would think that the only film that had ever been made was ‘The Passion’ by Mel Gibson.”

“Culture can tell us that there is no sin and there is no temptation, but life shouts back that there is. But we know there is sin, we know there is temptation,” he concluded.

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Decision on Papal trip to Austria expected by end of March

Rome, Italy, Mar 2, 2004 (CNA) - The Kathpress News Angency is reporting that by the end of March the Vatican will make a decision concerning a proposed trip by Pope John Paul II to the Marian shrine of Mariazzel in Austria.

Kathpress based its report on statements by Bishop Egon Kappellari of Graz to the Austrian state-run television.

The visit by Pope John Paul II would take place in the context of efforts by Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna to revitalize the Balcan region’s Christian culture.

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Musical composer for ‘The Passion’ faced personal ‘battle with Satan’

Beverly Hills, Calif., Mar 2, 2004 (CNA) - Writing the musical score for “The Passion of the Christ” was the most difficult assignment of his life, said Hollywood composer John Debney. The experience strengthened his faith but it also led him to realize that Satan exists.

"It is a complete miracle that I became involved with the project and every day the thing that got me through was my faith prayer which was, ‘Lord, if you want me to make it to the finish line, then help me make it to the finish line’,” he told Assist Ministries Feb. 28.

Icon producer Stephen McEveety, a childhood friend, brought Debney into the movie. The composer was hired on the spot after Gibson had listened to some special music Debney had written for the film.

Debney composed the music with the use of his computer at his workstation at home. He said the computers, synthesizers and hard drives would go down and “the digital picture that lives on the computer with the music would just freeze on his [Satan's] face. Then the volume would go to ten and it would happen all the time.”

The composer said he was scared the first time it happened but, once he got over the initial shock, he learned to work around it.

His experience made him realize that "maybe Satan is a real person … I can attest that he was in my room a lot and I know that he hit everyone on this production."

Debney said his battle with Satan became really personal. He recounted his experience, four months into the project, when things “became bad” and he felt it was time to address the issue head on.

“The computers froze for about the tenth time that day and it was about nine o'clock at night and so I got really mad, and I told Satan to manifest himself and I said, ‘Let's go out into the parking lot and let's go’,” he told Assist Ministries.

“He didn't manifest himself, but I wished he would have,” said Debney. “It changed for me after that."

The composer said he was often physically drained during the project but oddly he said he never felt tired, often working in his studio late into the night. 

"What I was trying to do with the music was to write first of all the best that I could write and try to be true to the period,” he said. “In the bigger picture, I gave it all up to the Lord and whatever came out.”

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Catholic charity publishes children’s Bible in Nepali

Konigstein, Germany, Mar 2, 2004 (CNA) - The children of Nepal now have a Bible printed in their own language, thanks to the German-based international charity Aid to the Church in Need. 

The children’s Bible, entitled “God speaks to His Children”, is in Nepali – the official language of the Kingdom of Nepal.

Several million people in Northern India also speak Nepali, in particular in the Sikkim-Darjeeling diocese and the Kingdom of Bhutan.

About 15,000 copies of the children’s Bible are to be distributed among the Christian minorities in this part of the world, where most people are Hindu. Hinduism and in Bhutan Buddhism are recognized as the two official state religions in Nepal.

The children’s Bible is the charity’s largest project. It has been translated into 141 languages; 40 million copies have been distributed in 115 countries to date. Its first edition was printed in 1979.

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Cardinal Errazuriz underscores contribution of Pope John Paul II to reconciliation in Latin America

Rome, Italy, Mar 2, 2004 (CNA) - In an article published by the Fides News Agency, the president of the Latin America Bishops Conference (CELAM), Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, underscored the valuable contribution of Pope John Paul II to the unity of the Church in Latin America and to reconciliation in society.

The Chilean cardinal explained that, “if the Church in Latin America had not been enriched by the pastoral ministry of John Paul II, she would not be so united in her mission and in the effort to build a society based on reconciliation and in conformity with the will of God.”

Cardinal Errázuriz shared his reflections to mark the 25th anniversary of the III General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America, which took place in Puebla, Mexico, in January of 1979.

In his article, entitled, “John Paul II and Latin America after Puebla,” Cardinal Errázuriz reflects on the statements of the Pope, which have decisively marked the journey of the Church in Latin America since John Paul’s first visit shortly after his election as pope.

John Paul II has placed special importance on Latin America because “the Pope desired and needed this portion of the People of God to be organically strong and not weak, and he has been determined to strengthen and invigorate Catholic life, so that the truth about Christ, as well as the truth about man, might penetrate ever more deeply and transform all levels of society.”

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Mexican Cardinal says cross and its glorious meaning essential to Christianity

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 2, 2004 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, said this weekend that Christianity should not be stripped of the cross, of pain and temptation, but rather the faithful should discover their authentic meaning in order to arrive at “the glory of the Resurrection.”

After saying that “we cannot oppose death and resurrection,” the Cardinal underscored that “the cross, death, and temptation cannot be erased from Christianity.  We should discover the meaning of temptation and of the cross, and we will arrive at the glory of the Resurrection.”

“Christ Jesus wished to experience our temptations and their evil and deceptive power to seduce:  not having eaten for forty days, a piece of bread within his reach must have been appealing; the possessing of this world, which he was to pass on to the Father, desirable; and the miracle which he was asked to perform to confirm himself as Messiah to the people, useful.  Why should we choose the path of self-denial and the cross?  Because only the grain of wheat which falls to the ground and dies will bear fruit.  Only through death will we obtain life,” said the Cardinal.

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