Archive of March 30, 2004

Pope to preside at key Holy Week celebrations

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican Press Office released today the schedule of Holy Week activities to be presided over by John Paul II.

On April 4, Palm Sunday, which is also the19th World Youth Day, the Holy Father will bless palms and olive branches and, at the end of the procession, will celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Passion at St. Peter’s Square at 10:00 a.m.

On April 8, Holy Thursday, the Pope will preside at the concelebration of the Chrism Mass with cardinals, bishops, diocesan and religious priests of Rome, at St. Peter's Basilica at 9:30 a.m.

The Easter Triduum of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection will begin in the Basilica at 5:30 p.m. with the Mass of Our Lord's Last Supper. The Holy Father will preside at the concelebration of the Mass.

During this rite, those present will be invited to give alms for sick children in Rwanda and Burundi. The sum collected will be given to the Holy Father at the presentation of the gifts.

On April 9, Good Friday, the Holy Father will preside at the celebration of the Passion of Our Lord in the Vatican Basilica at 5 p.m.

He will lead the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum at 9:15 p.m. and, in conclusion, will address the faithful and impart his apostolic blessing. 

This year, the meditations have been entrusted to Fr. Andre Louf of Belgium, a Cistercian monk of strict observance who was responsible for the publication of the writings of the Flemish mystics.

On April 10, the Easter Vigil will begin at 7:00 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica –much earlier than usual,- when the Pope will bless the new fire in the atrium of the church. After the entrance procession with the Easter candle and the singing of the “Exultet,” he will preside at the Liturgy of the Word and the baptismal and Eucharistic liturgies.

On April 11, at 10:30 a.m., John Paul II will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Square, after which he will impart the “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”) blessing.

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Vatican to present book on Liturgical Reform

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2004 (CNA) - On Friday, April 2, the Vatican will present to the press the book “Spiritus et Sponsa,” which includes the conferences delivered at the Commemorative Day of the 40th Anniversary of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, “Sacrosanctum concilium.”

The event, held in Rome on December 4, 2003, featured speakers such as Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, who discussed about the challenges of applying a liturgical renewal in the true spirit of the II Vatican Council.

The presentation will include Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congreation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Fr. Juan Javier Flores Arcas, director of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of St. Anselm (Rome), and Msgr. Giuseppe Liberto, choir master of the Pontifical Musical Chorus.

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Man confesses burglary after viewing “The Passion of the Christ” with his mother

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 30, 2004 (CNA) - The Arizona Tribune reported on Monday that a repentant burglar turned himself in Sunday in Mesa after watching Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

Turner Lee Bingham, 20, walked up on Monday into a group of policemen investigating the burglar alarm of a wireless store and confessed he had taken $80 from the register.

He also said he was responsible for five or six burglaries at other places.

Mesa police detective Ruben Quesada said that Bingham mentioned that watching the “Passion of the Christ” was his motive for turning himself in.

Tobias Bright, the store’s owner, told KNXV-TV (Channel 15) that Bingham came back to the business and apologized about eight minutes after the alarm sounded.

“I’m a Christian man, but I just kind of wish he thought about that 20 minutes earlier, before he took a baseball bat to one of my windows,” Bright said.

Bingham had seen the movie with his mother, and he felt guilty, Bright said police told him.

“I’ve seen the movie myself,” Bright said. “I think it’s the kind of movie that makes you stop and think about things for a minute.”

Bingham was booked into Maricopa County’s Madison Street Jail in Phoenix on suspicion of felony burglary.

“If you’re going to be burglarized, I don’t think it could turn out any better,” Bright said.

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Christian alternative to Girl Scouts growing in U.S.

, Mar 30, 2004 (CNA) - The Christian-based American Heritage Girls seems to be growing across the U.S. as an alternative to the Girl Scouts, which some parents feel does not function with a proper moral compass.

The movement has had a 40 percent increase in enrollment since the fall, reported the Associated Press. What started with 100 girls in Ohio has turned into a nonprofit group with 2,800 members in 22 states.

American Heritage Girls was founded in 1995 by Patti Garibay in Cincinnati and her friends, who were unhappy when the Girl Scouts accepted lesbians as troop leaders, banned prayer at meetings and allowed girls to substitute the word “God” in the oath.

Like the Girl Scouts, the girls do activities or service projects to earn badges. However, leaders must sign a statement of faith, even though girls don't have to be religious to join. Each meeting begins with prayer, a pledge allegiance to the American and organization's flags, and an oath. Their sign, rather than three fingers, has four fingers, symbolizing God, family, community and country.

A church or private school must charter troops. The organization receives no government money and operates by donations, fundraising, membership dues and merchandise sales.

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Abortion similar to terrorist acts, says Spanish bishop

Madrid, Spain, Mar 30, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Gea Escolano of Mondoñedo-Ferrol, Spain, compared abortion to terrorism and questioned why people don’t react to it in the same way they did to the terrorist attacks in Madrid, when one considers the “thousands of innocent human beings killed before being born.”

“Can someone give me reason why a terrorist crime is more serious than an abortion?” asked Bishop Escolano in a recent pastoral letter, in which he said “that complicit silence” and the failure to act “in defense of life” are inexplicable.

The bishop likewise asked how “it is possible that we protect certain animal species” and yet “human life is not protected during the first three months of pregnancy.”

The bishop called the policies of the newly elected government on abortion, religious education, homosexual unions and adoption by homosexual couples, “worrisome” to “Catholics and all people of good will.”

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Brazilians hoping for legal recognition of Day of the Unborn Child

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 30, 2004 (CNA) - As thousands of people around the world celebrated the Day of the Unborn Child on March 25, Brazilians commemorated the date with renewed efforts to gain government recognition for the day.  The bill that would institute the Day of the Unborn Child is awaiting approval in the country’s legislature and is sponsored by Congressman Severino Cavalcanti.  The bill must first make its way through the Committee for Social and Family Security.

Progress on the initiative can be followed in Portuguese at:

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Archbishop asks government to promote abstinence among Puerto Rican young people

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mar 30, 2004 (CNA) - During the Mass for the Day of the Unborn Child, celebrated on March 25, the Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, reaffirmed Church teaching on abortion and exhorted the government to promote abstinence and the natural law as the only legitimate methods of family planning.

Surrounded by hundreds of young people from more than 70 Catholic schools participating in the Mass and later in a procession, the Archbishop underscored that any woman pregnant because of rape and who carries the child to term commits a “heroic act.”

“In the case of rape we must remember that the unborn child is not guilty of the violence of the man who raped the woman, and it takes an act of heroism by the mother to nurture and treasure this child and to carry her to term,” he said.

Archbishop Gonzalez also mentioned new public policy which would permit informing minors about abortion and possibly the distribution of contraceptives, emphasizing that the message of abstinence, which is gaining popularity in the US and Europe, is what’s most important.

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Virginity pledges lower out-of-wedlock births

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2004 (CNA) - A new study from The Heritage Foundation has found that young women, who take an abstinence or virginity pledge, are about 40 percent less likely to have a child outside of marriage, reported Focus on the Family.

The Heritage Foundation study used numbers from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which started in 1994, and then followed the kids into early adulthood. Heritage Foundation analyst Kirk Johnson co-authored the report with Robert Rector.

Johnson said the study indicates that abstinence education is critical in delaying the start of sexual activity.

"If we can teach adolescents the benefits of waiting," Johnson said, "we can help build stronger families and better communities here in the United States."

The study seems to conflict with other recent reports, which suggest that abstinence pledges are often broken. Linda Klepacki, manager of abstinence policy at Focus on the Family, said pledges need to be backed up with education.

"Abstinence education," she said, "helps to teach the characteristics that need to be in place in order to fulfill an abstinence-virginity pledge." She added that abstinence education should continue in Christian colleges and universities.

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Holy Land needs new leaders, says patriarch

Jerusalem, Israel, Mar 30, 2004 (CNA) - Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah said new Israeli and Palestinian leaders, bolder religious leaders and an end to suicide bombings are needed for peace in the Middle East.

"The land needs something new, a new vision, a new spiritual blood, a vision in which the leaders believe that both sides are capable of peace," said the patriarch in an interview with the Associated Press yesterday

The patriarch commented on a number of other issues facing the Holy Land as well, including the barrier being built by Israel and the dwindling number of Christians.

The barrier Israel is building along the length of the West Bank to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen will not bring security, said the patriarch. Rather, the region's first Palestinian patriarch said it would only increase hatreds and hostilities.

Palestinians consider the wall as a land grab, which has disrupted the lives of thousands who have difficulty reaching farms, schools and jobs.

The 71-year-old patriarch said there are no signs the Israeli government is heading toward peace. In addition, Palestinian militant groups, like Hamas and Jihad, which continue to launch suicide bombings, must end their attacks in order for Israelis to feel secure and elect a government more willing to negotiate peace, he said in the AP interview.

Sabbah was also critical of the region's religious leaders, who he said have failed to speak out for peace, mainly because Muslim and Jewish religious figures are too entwined with politics.

He also shared his shock about Israel's assassination last week of the spiritual leader and founder of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

As Easter approaches, the patriarch is also struggling to compose an appropriate Easter message for his fellow 400,000 Christians in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jordan. The community’s numbers and hope continue to dwindle as violence persists in the area. The patriarch admitted that he is not optimistic the situation will improve soon.

His Easter message, he said, is aimed at helping Palestinian Christians realize a spiritual dimension to the hardships they face.

"We have to go through all the suffering and accept it as a cross, as a difficult life in order to come to freedom, to an end to violence, to peace, to reconciliation," he told the AP. "We have to suffer in order to reach resurrection in our spiritual life."

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Gay “Marriage” ban passed but “civil unions” approved in Massachusetts

Boston, Mass., Mar 30, 2004 (CNA) - Massachusetts legislators took a significant step on Monday toward banning gay “marriage,” but at the cost of legalizing “civil unions,” in a decision that has not pleased any side of the debate.

The 105-92 vote in favor of banning gay “marriage” as stated by the state’s Supreme Court, is the first step in a process that will require two and a half years to become an amendment to the State’s constitution, the oldest in the country.

Governor Mitt Romney announced immediately after the vote that he will ask the state's highest court to delay the implementation of its November ruling which ordered that same-sex marriages should begin on May 17.

“I believe the Supreme Judicial Court has an obligation to the constitution and the people of Massachusetts to withhold this decision, to stay this decision until the people of Massachusetts can make a final determination for themselves,” Romney said.

Without such action, Monday’s decision would not affect the court’s deadline, thus creating a conflict between the two powers in the state.

Many pro-family activists opposed the solution, arguing that it requires citizens to vote on two different issues in one single vote: a gay marriage ban and legalization of civil unions.

“We are giving the people a false choice,” said state Rep. Vinny deMacedo, a Republican. “We're saying, ‘problem, you can vote to define marriage as between a man and a woman, but the only way you can do it is if you create civil unions that are entirely the same as marriage.’”

“Ultimately, if this ever makes it to the ballot, it will fail,” he added.

The new bill specifies that civil unions will receive some new rights that Mass. current laws do not consider, but would not grant federal benefits to gay couples.

The vote must be affirmed again during the next two-year session following this fall's elections, when all 200 seats of the Legislature are open. Voters must then approve the proposed amendment in the fall of 2006.

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Pope receives more US Bishops of first group in “Ad Limina” visit

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received on Tuesday in separate audiences six prelates of the first group of US Bishops on their “ad limina” visit.

The Holy Father met with Archbishop John Clement Favalora of Miami, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Felipe de Jesus Estevez; Bishop John Kevin Boland of Savannah; Bishop Norbert M. Dorsey, of Orlando, accompanied by Coadjutor Bishop Thomas Gerard Wenski and Bishop Gerald Michael Barbarito of Palm Beach.

The Pope is expected to deliver his first speech on pastoral challenges later this week.

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