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Archive of March 5, 2004

Pontifical University announces conference on “The Passion of the Christ” at the Vatican

Rome, Italy, Mar 5, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Piero Coda, consulter of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and professor at the Lateran University, announced that the Pontifical University, with the support of the Holy See, will organize a “round table discussion with other religions” on the movie “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson.

Bishop Coda, who spoke during a celebration in honor 100th anniversary of the birth of German theologian Karl Rahner, said the roundtable discussion will be “a cultural moment.”  The date and place for the event have not been finalized built it will take place after the premier of the film in Italy this April.

“There is a desire to understand the opportunities the movie offers, and clarify, if necessary, possible misunderstandings,” said Bishop Coda, referring to the controversy sparked by some Jewish organizations.

“The movie needs to be examined and we need to understand the objective and subjective reasons for the production, that is, the needs it is attempting to address in society,” he added.

 The rector of the Lateran University, Fr. Rino Fisichella, who lead the press conference, said there is “positive anticipation” for the film which has become a historic box-office success in the United States.

“There is a profound need for spirituality and the portrayal of a subject like the Passion of Jesus can respond to it,” said Fr. Fisichella.

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Forgiveness, strength in 'The Passion' essential to deal with crisis, says bishop

, Mar 5, 2004 (CNA) - Forgiveness and strength, as demonstrated by Jesus and Mary in Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ”, are necessary in order to face the sexual-abuse crisis that hit the U.S. Church, said Bishop Samuel J. Aquila in a letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Fargo.

The letter was issued Feb. 27, which the bishop designated a day of prayer for the healing of the victims of sexual abuse. That same day, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice issued its national survey on sexual abuse by clergy in the U.S. Church. The results indicated that about four percent of clergy over a 52-year period were accused of sexually abusing about 10,600 minors.

The bishop said forgiveness is essential in order to face and move beyond the sexual-abuse crisis. The forgiveness demonstrated by Jesus in “The Passion” when he utters, “Father, forgive them,” must also be spoken by the faithful and by those who are victims of abuse if healing in the Church is to take place, said the bishop.

“To the victims of sexual misconduct, by clergy or by others, forgiveness is at the heart of the healing process and it is by far the hardest task of all,” he said. “The act must always be condemned, but the person, if there is to be healing, must be forgiven. That is true in every type of hurt experienced by a human being, even one as serious as sexual abuse.” 

The bishop said, in watching the film, he viewed the Passion through the eyes of Mary, adding that he was struck by her strength, her suffering, and her forgiveness. 

“As I prayed this morning for the victims of sexual abuse by clergy I placed them under the mantel of Mary, our Mother, seeking her intercession for them, seeking her forgiveness, seeking her strength for them and her faith, for she, too, can bring healing for them,” he said. He encouraged the faithful, too, to pray for the intercession of Mary in the healing of all victims of sexual abuse.

“I am convinced, as a bishop, that the only one who can bring healing to any victim of sexual abuse … is Jesus Christ and the love of God,” he said. 

The bishop said the Church is called to insure the proper protection, diligence, and reporting of any type of sexual misconduct. But it is also called to respond to the call to holiness and to teach clearly about sin. The Church can no longer tolerate moral laxity, he said.

“Each and every one of us must respond to the call to holiness, to live as Christ lived,” said Bishop Aquila. “That means for us, too, that we must embrace the truth, the meaning and the dignity of human sexuality, which is grounded in the inherent dignity of the human person.” 

The bishop expressed his willingness to meet with victims of sexual abuse and said a victim’s advocate office has been established in the diocese.

“We must continue to reflect upon this subject [of sexual abuse], as unpleasant as it is, for it calls us to conversion, forgiveness and faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “It calls us to holiness.”

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Annan supports of abortion advocates, raises questions of objectivity: C-FAM

, Mar 5, 2004 (CNA) - The UN Secretary General called an international coalition that advocates abortion on demand for women and girls a “shining example”, adding that the world would be a better place if more organizations, similar to it, existed, reported C-FAM, the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.

Kofi Annan made these comments as part of his acceptance speech for an award he received from the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) at a gala evening in January.

“I want to pay tribute to the International Women’s Health Coalition for the work it is doing around the globe,” said Annan in his speech. “The IWHC and its partners provide indispensable leadership for the health and rights of girls and women worldwide. If there were more pioneers like you, the world would be a better place…. You are a shining example.”

He concluded by calling the staff of IWHC “wonderful partners of the United Nations family.”

The IWHC has been known to teach abortion advocates how to skirt laws that restrict abortions to cases where it is considered necessary to save the life of the mother, reported C-FAM. In these cases, IWHC recommends that abortion providers simply “adopt a broader definition of what constitutes a threat to a woman’s life by considering the risk of death if she seeks a clandestine procedure.”

IWHC also encourages the radical reinterpretation of UN human rights documents. For instance, according to IWHC, the right to life, guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should include the right to abortion, since women who seek illegal abortions risk their lives.

IWHC has also praises the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for providing chemical abortifacients and early abortion devices in refugee settings, such as manual vacuum aspiration equipment.

In its report, C-FAM vice-president Douglas Sylva said: “Annan’s enthusiastic acceptance of the award raises renewed questions about the objectivity of Annan, and the UN secretariat in general, which is responsible for organizing major conferences on international social policy.”

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Judge rules against removal of anti-Catholic statue on university campus

Ann Arbor, Mich., Mar 5, 2004 (CNA) - A federal judge in Kansas has ruled that Washburn University did not violate the constitution by prominently displaying a sculpture that depicts a Catholic bishop with a grotesque facial expression, wearing a miter that resembles a phallus.

The Thomas More Law Center brought the lawsuit on behalf of Thomas O’Connor, a Washburn professor of 39 years, and Andrew Strobl, a senior at Washburn, after the university refused to act on complaints by numerous Catholics, including the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, and remove the sculpture, entitled “Holier than Thou.”  The lawsuit alleged that the sculpture conveyed hostility toward the Catholic faith in violation of the Establishment Clause

But university president Jerry Farley defended the display as fulfilling a purpose of art: “to engage us intellectually and emotionally.”

In his decision, the judge maintained that Washburn had a secular purpose for displaying this sculpture because “it functions to aesthetically enhance Washburn’s campus, broaden the educational experiences [and] increase the intellectual capacities of Washburn’s students.”

The judge concluded that the sculpture “would [not] cause a reasonable observer to believe that [Washburn] endorsed hostility towards the Catholic religion.”

Robert Muise, the Law Center attorney handling this case, called the decision “very disappointing” and said the centre intends to appeal the decision. “Catholics will not remain silent while their faith is being publicly ridiculed by a government institution,” he said.

This decision and other recent decisions by federal judges demonstrate that “there is a double standard when it comes to applying the Establishment Clause,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Law Center.

“The Ten Commandments and the Christian Nativity scene are out, but an anti-Catholic display of a bishop wearing a miter that resembles a phallus is permissible because it allegedly enhances aesthetics,” he said.

“Apparently, the religion clauses protect atheists but afford no comparable protection for Christians,” he noted. “This disturbing trend in our federal courts must be reversed.”

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Bishops condemn violence and call Venezuelans to “reflection and peace” during crisis

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 5, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Venezuela is calling for an immediate end to the outbreak of violence in the last several days, exhorting the population to “sensibly look” at what is happening to the “fractured” national society and to look for pathways to harmony and peace.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the Conference condemned the “use of violence, by any of the groups in question, as a way of resolving conflicts.  Anarchy and repression must be rejected, and they serve no just cause, resulting only in suffering and death.”

The bishops made a dramatic call to “the government, political leaders and all citizens to reflect upon the events of these days.”

“What kind of a future are we building like this?  As bishops we appeal to the majority of our leaders and people, who are believers, so that good judgment will lead us away from the choice of violence and will make us seek pathways of harmony and peace,” the bishops said.

The bishops also commented on the latest decisions of the National Electoral Council concerning a recall referendum on President Chavez, recalling that the Council “is obligated to guarantee and facilitate the exercise of the will of the people, regarding the call for recall referendums in conformity with the Constitution and the law.”

They also expressed their “conviction of the need to facilitate a peaceful, constitutional and electoral outcome, knowing that the Venezuelan people firmly desire peace.”

Lastly, the bishops invited “Christians, Catholics and all men and women of good will to offer up prayers and organize special celebrations for peace and understanding among all Venezuelans.”

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Pro-life group seeks to stop spread of abortion pill in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 5, 2004 (CNA) - A leading Mexican pro-life group, supported by bishops and lawmakers, has asked for a court injunction against the government’s new policy of including abortifacients in “family planning” programs.

Jorge Serrano Limon, president of “Culture for Life,” said, “Civil organizations, the leadership of the Catholic Church, the Orthodox, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, the Mexican Red Cross, businessmen and lawmakers, are presenting juridical arguments and scientific proof for the reversal of this policy.”

The lawsuit argues that the policy is illegal because it violates the right to life, contradicts penal codes, health laws, and because it legalizes abortion and violates the rights of parents to educate their children.

Those who signed the lawsuit include 12 bishops, among them Cardinal Juan Sandoval, Archbishop of Guadalajara.

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