Archive of March 16, 2004

New guidelines for the Eucharist expected Holy Thursday

Vatican City, Mar 16, 2004 (CNA) - The new and long-awaited guidelines for the celebration of the Eucharist are set to be released by the Vatican on Holy Thursday, April 8, one year after the release of the Pope’s encyclical on the Eucharist, reported London’s Catholic Herald yesterday.

The document is intended to inspire more reverence for the Eucharist, “solemnize” the mass and emphasize the significance of its universality, a Vatican source told the Catholic Herald. It is also expected to “challenge the view that the Second Vatican Council gave local bishops the authority to adapt the liturgy,” reported the newspaper.

The final draft is now being translated from Latin. The Vatican is said to have revised the initial draft and modified some of the more contentious points after it was leaked last September, upsetting some bishops in the English-speaking world.

The initial draft discouraged the reception of Communion under both species and limited the role of altar girls.

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Church in Romania requests help from the EU in recovering properties confiscated during Communism

Madrid, Spain, Mar 16, 2004 (CNA) - As Romania prepares to join the European Union (EU), Bishop Virgil Bercea of Oradea, Romania, is asking local authorities to demand that the federal government return properties belonging to the Catholic Church that were confiscated during decades of Communism.

“Although Communism collapsed 14 years ago,” said the bishop, “and although we have followed all of the requirements to recover our property, the Romanian state is not the least concerned with resolving the problem.

“Our Church continues to face pressure and discrimination in administrative matters both at the state and local levels.  We suffer intimidation, violence and injustice,” said Bishop Bercea said in a March 5th letter to EU officials.

Although the Catholic Church in Romania was granted legal status in 1990, it continues to endure constant coercion.

According to “El Semanal Digital,” the Catholic Church is also under pressure from the Orthodox.  In Romania, as well as in other Eastern European countries that were behind the Iron Curtain, religious resurgence has been met with distrust by those who fear it might endanger the country’s Orthodox identity.

Much of the confiscated Church properties mentioned by Bishop Bercea are under State control.  Nevertheless, they are currently being occupied by Orthodox communities.

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Spanish soldiers in Iraq offer prayers for terrorist victims in Madrid

Madrid, Spain, Mar 16, 2004 (CNA) - Hundreds of Spanish soldiers stationed in Iraq attended Mass Sunday and offered prayers for the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks in Madrid.

Fr. Ramón García Guardado, military chaplain for the Spanish contingent, presided at an outdoor Mass and called for “the defeat of terrorism” in his homily.

With the Spanish flag at half-mast, the soldiers stood in formation with their heads uncovered, in an atmosphere of reflection and prayer.

Fr. Garcia called for severe punishment against the perpetrators of the attacks, whom he called “terrorists and enemies of life.”

The Spanish contingent in Iraq boasts of more than 1,300 soldiers and is stationed the southern Shiite region.

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Catholic churches in Cuba converted into theaters for “The Passion of the Christ”

Havana, Cuba, Mar 16, 2004 (CNA) - Several parishes in Havana, Cuba, have been temporarily converted into theaters in order to show the movie “The Passion of the Christ,” with the blessing of the Cuban Bishops Conference.

Although many Cubans worried the film would never be shown on the island, St. Rita’s Parish is one of the churches where Catholics are able to view the movie, according to statements made by Fr. José Félix Pérez Riera, secretary of the conference, to the news agency EFE.

Fr. Pérez said the first to see the film will be catechists, married couples and young people, but the idea is to allow everybody to see it before Holy Week, except for those under 14 years of age.

According to Fr. Pérez, the movie “can contribute to serious spiritual reflection, and even to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, who sustains our faith and hope.”  The film “reflects the suffering of Christ when he carries the cross and the experience of humiliation and condemnation,” and for this reason, he added, in the controversy surrounding the film “there is a certain hypocrisy in the commentaries and criticisms that claim it is too violent.”

Fr. Pérez says the movie shows “a violence that is in response to a reality” and that “it is not a violence that leads to more violence but rather totally the opposite.  What it leads to is love and forgiveness by anyone who is a victim of cruelty.  [Jesus] asks for forgiveness for His executioners and He forgives them from His heart.”

”I find the criticism of the violence to be quite a contradiction and some cases hypocritical since these same people who claim it to be excessively violent do not speak out about other films that include gratuitous violence that is used as a marketing device,” he said.

 “I think the violence shown in the film is not a question of blood but of the realism of suffering, something deeper and more intense that physical pain,” he added.

Fr. Pérez said the movie will soon be shown in other parts of Cuba as well.

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Archbishop urges Puerto Ricans to vote with the future in mind

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mar 16, 2004 (CNA) - The archbishop of San Juan urged the citizens of Puerto Rico to vote in the November elections and to leave behind the corruption of the past in order to build a more decent future, reported the Associated Press yesterday.

Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves said it would be a great tragedy if apathy were to take over and the election results did not reveal the will of the people. He also urged candidates to participate in a clean campaign, promoting dialogue, tolerance, respect, diversity, culture, education, and peace.

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Abstinence education needed in addition to condom-package labeling

Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2004 (CNA) - Some lawmakers are applauding the serious consideration the Bush administration is giving a policy that would require all condom packages to have labels, indicating that they fail to protect users from all sexually transmitted diseases. But other lawmakers continue to insist that the only real solution to STDs is abstinence education.

"This is not about social ideology, or religious ideology,” said Jo Ann Davis (R-Virginia) in debate. “It's about informing women [about potential illnesses]. ... And truly, the only way to be protected is abstinence. That's not ideology – it's fact."

What’s also fact is that the Bush administration is seeking to double federal spending on abstinence-education programs to $270 million.

Condom packages currently have labels, which indicate that condoms reduce the risk of AIDS and other STDs if properly used. But recent studies indicate condoms do not protect against human papillomavirus (HPV), a little-known but widespread disease that can cause genital warts or cervical cancer if it is untreated.

The incidence of HPV in the U.S. is significant. More than two million women in the U.S. are infected with the virus annually. Ten thousand women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, claiming 4,000 lives. This issue is the driving force behind the need for new labeling.

The FDA has responded by preparing new guidelines on condom labeling. New warning labels have been a concern for the FDA since 2000, when President Bill Clinton asked the agency to examine whether condom-package information accurately reflected the effectiveness of condoms in preventing all STDs.

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