Archive of March 22, 2004

Pope defends rights of persons in "vegetative" state, questions term "vegetative"

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2004 (CNA) - Any "patient in a vegetative state had the right to basic sanitary assistance – food, water and hygiene – and to efforts to prevent health complications caused by immobility," the Pope said March 20.

Speaking to 375 medical health professionals and ethicists from 49 countries who came to a conference to Rome to discuss "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas," Pope John Paul stressed Saturday that it was wrong to "doubt the human nature" of patients in a vegetative state. The conference was organized by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Pontifical Academy for Life.

"I have the duty to reaffirm forcefully that the intrinsic value and dignity of each human being does not change whatever their circumstances," said the 83-year-old pontiff.

"Even gravely ill and prevented from exercising his highest faculties, a man will always remain a man and will never become a 'vegetable' or animal," he added.

Stressing that some coma patients have awakened after very long periods, the pontiff said there was "no ethical justification to reduce or abandon minimum standards of care."

Since no one knows when a patient in a vegetative state might awaken, "the evaluation of the probability, founded on scarce hope of recovery after the vegetative state has lasted for more than a year, cannot ethically justify the abandonment or the interruption of minimal care for the patient, including food and water," the pontiff said.

“Our brothers and sisters, who are in a ‘vegetative state’ maintain their entire human dignity. The loving gaze of the Father continues to to rest on them, recognizing them as His children, who are in particular need of assistance,” he said.

“Doctors, health professionals, society and the Church have moral duties toward these people, from which they cannot refrain, without abandoning the requirements of both the professional deontology and human and Christian solidarity.

“A sick person in a vegetative state, who is awaiting recovery or a natural death, therefore has the right to basic medical assistance (nutrition, hydration, hygiene, heating, etc.) and to the prevention of the complications linked with being bedridden. They also have the right to intervention aimed at rehabilitaion and to the monitoring of their vital signs,” he said.

“In particular, I would like to underline how administering water and food, even when given by artificial means, always represents a natural means of conserving life, not a medical act. In addition, its use should be considered in principle, ordinary and proportioned, and as such morally obligatory,” until the patient demonstrates that he is reaching his actual end, said the Pope. Until that time, medical assistance must consist of giving the patient food and alleviating his or her suffering.

“It is not enough to simply reaffirm the general principal according to which the value of one man’s life cannot be subject to the judgment of the quality of life of other men,” the Pope emphasized. “It is necessary to promote positive actions to oppose the pressures to suspend hydration and nutrition, as a means of putting an end to the life of these patients.

It is necessary, above all, to support the families, who have had one of their loved ones struck with this terrible clinical condition. They cannot be left alone with their heavy human psychological and economic burdens,” he continued.

"In these situations, then, spiritual counseling and pastoral aid are particularly important to understand the profound significance of a condition that seems desperate," he concluded.

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Holy See deplores killing of Palestinean radical leader

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said this morning that "the Holy See joins the international community in deploring" the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, co-founder and spiritual leader of the Palestinean radical group "Hamas," and said that the Israeli attack is "unjustifiable in any State of law."

“The position and the sentiments of the Holy See -the spokesman also said- are clearly expressed in the Holy Father’s words to the diplomatic corps last January 12 when he repeated ‘to the leaders of these two peoples (Israelis and Palestinians): the choice of arms, the recourse on the one hand to terrorism and on the other to vendettas, humiliating one’s adversary, and rancorous propaganda, lead nowhere. Only respect for the legitimate aspirations of each other, a return to the negotiating table and a concrete commitment by the international community can lead to the start of a solution’.

“Authentic and lasting peace can never be the fruit of a mere show of strength: ‘above all it is the fruit of moral and juridical action’"
Yassin was killed in a missile attack by an Israeli helicopter early on Sunday as he left a mosque following morning prayers.

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After proclaiming four new blessed, Pope encourages Spaniards after attack

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2004 (CNA) - On Sunday, after proclaiming four new blessed -two of them Spanish, - Pope John Paul encouraged again Spaniards after the 3/11 terrorist attacks.

After the ceremony of beatification and before praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the some 20,000 Spaniards gathered at St. Peter's Square saying: “I encourage you to keep up your hope, courage and generosity in the face of the pain of so many families, the people of Madrid and all of Spain upon the recent terrorist attack. Love is stronger than hated and death!”

The Holy Father beatified on Sunday four Servants of God: Italian priest Luigi Talamoni (1848-1926;) the Spanish religious Matilde del Sagrado Corazon Tellez Robles (1841-1902) and Piedad de la Cruz Ortiz Real (1842-1916;) and the Italian Carmelite nun Maria Candida dell’Eucaristia (1884-1949.)

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4,000 Catholic men gather for fellowship, spiritual strength

Cincinnati, Ohio, Mar 22, 2004 (CNA) - Nearly 4,000 men, ranging from pre-teens to the elderly, attended the 10th annual Catholic Men's Conference, March 20, organized to help men grow in spiritual strength.

The conference was organized by the Catholic Men's Fellowship of Greater Cincinnati at Xavier University's Cintas Center under the theme “Answer the Call”.

Although the number of participants dropped by 1,500 from last year, it wasn’t obvious given the spirit of the event.

Declan O'Sullivan, trustee of the Catholic Men's Fellowship, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the conference is designed to help men understand "they can't conquer evil on their own.” Some speakers emphasized that the issue at stake is freedom from evils prevalent in society, such as pornography, alcohol and drugs.

Some participants admitted that the conference helps them focus on their responsibility toward and relationships with their wives and children.

Marianist Father Ken Sommer, one of the co-founders of Cincinnati's Catholic Men's Fellowship and its spiritual director, challenges the men to adopt a four-part approach to enriching their spiritual lives. Pray one hour a day; fast regularly; seek spiritual direction and prayerfully share personal concerns with other brothers in the Lord.

The Greater Cincinnati Catholic Men's Fellowship offers more than an annual conference. It has about 185 groups throughout the region that meet in local parishes.

The group also has 70,000 members throughout the U.S. and has spread to 22 other states. Its national office will soon launch a Web site providing support materials for starting an affiliate (

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Vatican policy will oppose pulling out of Iraq, expert predicts

Rome, Italy, Mar 22, 2004 (CNA) - Sandro Magister, religious reporter of the Italian weekly L’Espresso and a noted Vatican analyst, claims in his weekly report that the Vatican is not sympathetic to the idea of pulling out of Iraq.

In his column, available over the Internet at:, Magister argues that “neither the pope nor other Vatican authorities have associated themselves in anyway whatsoever with the ‘get out of Iraq’ policy expressed by many political leaders and sectors of public opinion, including Catholics in Spain, Italy and other European countries.”

Magister analyzes two “semi-official” Catholic sources such as the daily “Avvenire,” owned and operated by the Italian Bishops’ Conference, and “AsiaNews,” the on-line press agency run by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

According to Magister, the “Avvenire” editorial, “begs all European governments, including France and Germany, not to abandon Iraq but, on the contrary, ‘to send their troops there under the UN flag to help establish security in the country’.”  Fr. Cervellera, for his part, writes that both the war and the presence of allied Coalition forces have done “good things for Iraq.”  “Hence,” Magister says, “he believes it is right that all countries of the world make a greater commitment and support the present and future of the Iraqi people.”

In his column, Magister provides a summary of the articles that could give a clue of how the Vatican would act after the attacks in Madrid.

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Suffering of Jesus in “The Passion” touching hearts, says Brazilian bishop

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 22, 2004 (CNA) - The head of the Brazilian Bishops Conference’s Committee for Culture, Education and Social Communications, Bishop Orani João Tempesta of Sao José do Rio Preto said “The Passion of the Christ” “touches people” because it shows “a Jesus who suffers for us.”

Bishop Tempesta said, “In the scourging scenes I saw how Jesus bore our sufferings and the sins of the world.  By dying he gave his life for us.  Mel Gibson emphasizes this suffering in way we have never seen before.”

“The movie touches people, it brings before our eyes a suffering Jesus who in a certain sense reminds us how much contemporary society is suffering,” he said, adding that although “the film is violent, there is more violence in other places, in society itself, as is proved by the recent attacks we have seen as well as in the media.”

“Some news programs that come on in the afternoon present a type of violence every day that is much more aggressive.  In the movie, violence is associated, in some way, with forgiveness and mercy,” he added.

Bishop Tempesta underscored that “the way in which the director handles the suffering of Jesus and the Gospels leads people to reflect on the suffering in our world and that we are called to have a new life.”

“In the end, if Jesus died for our sins so that the world would be better and different, it is our obligation as Christians to make this world a better and more just place,” he added.

On the other hand, Bishop Tempesta acknowledged, “I don’t know what the talk of anti-Semitism was about.  Since I was a child I have seen movies on Good Friday about the Passion of Jesus.  In Gibson’s film, which follows the Gospel texts, there is nothing historically offensive concerning the Jews.  As far as the images go, there is no doubt, for example, that the scourging of Jesus begins with the Romans.”

“At any rate, these interpretations are subjective and depend greatly on who is speaking.  For us Christians, we know that Jesus died for the sins of humanity and not because of the Jews,” he concluded.

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Bishops of Argentina express strong support for “The Passion”

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 22, 2004 (CNA) - On the occasion of the release of “The Passion of the Christ” in Argentina on Thursday, March 25, the official Argentinean Catholic news agency AICA requested the opinion of several of the country’s bishops who have had a chance to see the film.  The bishops defend the evangelistic value of the movie, thus weakening the comments of various critics.

Archbishop Mario Maulión of Paraná and head of the bishops’ Committee on Social Communications told AICA “The Passion of the Christ” moved him “very deeply” and left him “profoundly impressed.”

“The moments in the life of Jesus are very intensely portrayed in this movie.”  “It’s a movie with a clear religious meaning.  Any other interpretation one might have, and that some indeed are having, has no basis.  Regarding the responsibility for the death of Jesus, the interpretation of the movie is that Jesus did not die to go against anybody, but rather he died for all, for Jews and non-Jews.  And this attitude of reconciliation and searching for God is the strongest message of the film.”

Bishop Ruben Frassia of Avellaneda says Mel Gibson’s movie is “astonishing, a cinematographic work of art.”  “The sets are amazing, and I loved the original language, Aramaic, and the Latin of the Roman characters.”

He added that the denial of Peter and the portrayal of Judas, in his perplexity and envy, and at the same time in his pain and suffering, were very well done.

“I also loved the portrayal of the Blessed Mother.  Mary expresses the dignity and extraordinary willpower of a woman who is aware of the mystery, accompanies it and stands before her Son in spite of her suffering.  It is very well done.”

Bishop Frassia emphasized that “the movie does not have an ideological message.  Therefore the attacks on the film are unjustified.  They miss the meaning of the film:  the historical truth and the religious truth.”

Bishop Fernando Maletti of San Carlos de Bariloche told AICA that he experienced the movie as “a catechesis on Good Friday, and because of how it ends, on redemption as well:  if the grain of wheat does not die, it bears no fruit.”

He underscored that “there isn’t one iota of anti-Semitism in the movie, and it is faithful to the four Gospels.”

“I believe that we should not be afraid, in our age of easiness, to see how cruel the death of Jesus was, when it is clear that it was for our redemption from sin.”  “Personally,” he concluded, “seeing ‘The Passion’ was like a spiritual retreat.”

Archbishop Jose Maria Arancibia of Mendoza was “very stunned” by the movie, which he said can “make people think and re-evaluate the Gospels and the person and message of Jesus.  It is profoundly realistic but at the same time beautifully connected to the message of Jesus, to the main themes of his preaching.  Love of enemies, the Beatitudes, the Last Supper, the Eucharist, his closeness to the apostles, his relationship with his Mother, are all well done.  It’s not only about his cruel Passion.”

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Peruvian bishops call for defense of human life against “reproductive health policy”

Lima, Peru, Mar 22, 2004 (CNA) - In order to mark the celebration of the “Day of the Unborn Child,” which falls on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, the Peruvian Bishops Conference is calling on Catholics to stand up for life in the face of anti-life policies.

In a message issued by the Bishops’ Committee on the Family, the Conference recalls that the modern world does not respect the life of the unborn and they denounced attempts to implement “abominable policies such as legalized abortion and artificial contraception, widely promoted as ‘reproductive health policy’.”

The bishops exhort all Christians “to be aware of their responsibility to defend life at all its stages, and to commit to denouncing and fighting against whatever endangers the existence of those most fragile: human embryos, who are our unborn children.”

The message emphasizes that “to manipulate, prevent or avoid the implantation of the human embryo or to interrupt the life of a child before she is born is to erase it from eternity.”

The “Day of the Unborn Child” was instituted by the bishops of Peru in 2001 as an effort to strengthen respect for human life from the moment of conception and to reaffirm the conviction that all children are a gift and an concrete expression of the God’s trust in humanity.

According to the message, the date of March 25 was chosen because in the Annunciation, “Mary is a symbol of the new life of each human being, each of which, according to John Paul II, is ‘unique and unrepeatable, chosen and conceived of from all eternity, called and loved by his or her own name’.”

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