Archive of March 3, 2004

Catholic Charities says court fails to support religious freedom

Sacramento, Calif., Mar 3, 2004 (CNA) -  The California Catholic Conference is not backing down after the state’s highest court ruled March 1 that Catholic Charities, Inc. is not a religious organization and is not entitled to the exemption on contraceptive care given to religious employers.

The conference announced yesterday that it is reviewing its legal options and would consider appealing the decision to the United States Supreme Court.

The California Supreme Court’s 6-1 decision requires the Catholic charity to offer birth-control coverage to its employees, even though contraception is against Church teaching.

The court said Catholic Charities is no different from other businesses in California, which are required to include contraception coverage if their health plans include prescription drug benefits.

It said the charity is not a religious employer because it offers secular services, such as counseling, low-income housing and immigration services to people of all faiths, without directly preaching Catholic values.

The California Catholic Conference, which represents the Church's policy position in the state, called the ruling a “bitter disappointment to everyone who believes that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are the cornerstones of our society.”

The executive director of the California Catholic Conference, Ned Dolejsi, said the case was never about contraceptives or insurance. “It was about our ability to practice our religion – providing food, clothing and shelter to the neediest among us – as a religious organization which is part of the Catholic Church.”

Dolejsi said the court’s action, which forces the Catholic Church to violate its core beliefs on contraception “undermines the rights of each and every Californian.”

>Read here the Press Release from the California Catholic Conference
>About catholic organizations religious freedom

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New translations, more sales for Pope’s book of poems

Vatican City, Mar 3, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II’s most recent book of poetry has sold more than 600,000 copies and will soon be released in Japanese, the Vatican announced March 2.

“The Roman Triptych” is a three-part meditation on nature, life and death. Since the book first hit the shelves a year ago, it has been translated into 21 languages, most recently Japanese and Bulgarian. About 600,000 copies have been sold in the original Polish, 30,000 in Italian and 12,000 in German.

All proceeds from the sale of the book go to papal charities.

This is the first book of poetry the prolific pontiff has written since he became Pope in 1978. He had numerous poems, essays and plays published prior to his pontificate.

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Beatification of “father of Europe” possible during coming Papal visit to France

Paris, France, Mar 3, 2004 (CNA) - The French daily “Le Figaro” is reporting that Pope John Paul II could beatify the late French Prime Minister, Robert Schuman, considered one of the “fathers of Europe,” during a proposed Papal visit to Strasbourg scheduled for next September.

The paper claims “the diocesan investigation for the cause of canonization of the former French leader (1947-1948) has concluded at the diocesan level and should be quickly turned over to Rome, the last step towards possible beatification.”

At the Vatican, “the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has been expressly requested to expedite his case so that it will be ready in the coming months,” says the report.

According to “Le Figaro,” the Holy Father “could—if his health permits—travel to Strasburg next September, address the European Council and beatify a ‘father of Europe,’ Robert Schuman.”

The French daily reports the Pope had outlined his plans recently to a group of visiting French bishops, whom the Pope addressed insisting that the European Constitution recognize the Christian roots of Europe.

During that meeting the Holy Father exhorted Christians to let Gospel values “shine forth” in “political life, economics, places of work and the family.”

Roberto Schuman was born in Metz in 1886 and was Minister of Foreign Relations when he announced the forming of the European Steel and Coal Community on May 9, 1950, which was a first step towards the creation of the European Union.

The European Union celebrates May 9 as “Europe Day.”

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German bishops call for reference to God in EU Constitution

Rome, Italy, Mar 3, 2004 (CNA) - On Monday the president of the German Bishops Conference, Cardinal Karl Lehman, called for the inclusion of a reference to God in the European Union’s Constitution, as well as references to the religious and cultural traditions of Europe.

“We ask that a reference to God and to the religious and cultural traditions of Europe, especially the Bible, be included in the European Constitution,” said the Cardinal, addressing the general assembly of the German Bishops Conference.

During the general assembly, which will conclude on Thursday, the Conference will address such issues as the celebration of funeral rites in contemporary society, the integration of immigrants and the future of military service in Germany.

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Rebels killed archbishop, says government report

Bujumbura, Burundi, Mar 3, 2004 (CNA) - Burundian rebels assassinated Archbishop Michael Courtney Dec. 29 since his car was flying the Vatican flag, states a recent draft report by a commission that was appointed by the government to investigate the Vatican envoy’s death.

The Associated Press saw the draft report, which has not yet been released officially, and filed the story March 2. 

The archbishop was killed in the central African country when his car, flying the papal flag, was ambushed at a checkpoint south of Bujumbura, the capital.

The draft report states: “Courtney was deliberately assassinated by (rebel) combatants since his car was flying the Vatican flag.”

In preparing the report, the government commission conducted an investigation and interviewed 21 witnesses, including Dieudonne Hakizimana, a rebel who was arrested Feb. 3.

Hakizimana, who claims he participated in the attack on the archbishop, told reporters: "We laid an ambush on the archbishop's car ... we had been given orders to stop all passing cars and to shoot any car which did not stop."

The National Liberation Forces denied the accusations and instead accused the government of killing the archbishop.

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Bishops of Nicaragua call on faithful to receive littlest ones with love this Lent

Managua, Nicaragua, Mar 3, 2004 (CNA) - Following upon the Lenten message of Pope John Paul II, the Bishops Conference of Nicaragua is inviting the faithful to reflect on the difficult situation the country faces, reminding them that conversion also includes “welcoming the littlest ones with love.”

The bishops expressed their concern for “the painful situation of children who faint from hunger and malnutrition at school; children who wander the streets, victims of drugs and abuse.”

Likewise the bishops announced they will donate the collection from the Third Sunday of Lent to efforts to assist these children, who form “one of the weakest sectors of society.”

They also emphasize that if there is no sincere conversion to God, the human heart becomes numb to pain and suffering.  “Social numbness is the origin of grave social injustices such as war, disproportionate attachment to riches and to power, the misuse of justice as an instrument of political vengeance, hatred, segregation, etc.,” the bishops added.

In addition the bishops underscore that the country has adopted inadequate economic measures for a people already suffering in poverty and which concentrate money in the hands of a small group, adding that “there are examples of misery which ought to stir the conscience of individuals and society so that the available resources reach everyone.”

In conclusion, the bishops exhort the faithful to commit themselves to conversion to holiness and to empathize with the suffering of others through solidarity, the generous giving of alms, and material aid.”

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