Vatican City, Apr 5, 2004 (CNA) - In an intense ceremony marked by the presence of thousands of young people waving palms, Pope John Paul II called on young people this Palm Sunday, on the occasion of World Youth Day, to not be afraid of preaching the cross of Christ to the world.
“On the cross, Jesus dies for each one us. The Cross is, therefore, the greatest and most eloquent sign of his merciful love, the only sign of salvation for each generation and for all humanity,” said the Pope.
The Holy Father recalled that twenty years ago, “at the conclusion of the Holy Year of Redemption, I entrusted young people with the great Cross of that Jubilee.” “Since then, the cross continues to travel across the world, in preparation for the World Youth Days. Its journeys have taken it to the five continents. Like a torch passed from one hand to another, it has been transported from one country to the next. It has become the luminous sign of the trust that animates the young generations of the third millennium."
John Paul later told the young people that “as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the extraordinary spiritual adventure, let me repeat the same appeal I gave you then: ‘I entrust to you the Cross of Christ! Carry it to the world as a sign of the love of the Lord Jesus for humanity, and announce to all that only in Christ died and risen is there salvation and redemption.”
The Pope underscored that “the message that the Cross communicates is not easy to comprehend in our age, in which material well-being and comfort are proposed and sought after as the primary values.” “But you, dear young people, do not be afraid to proclaim, in every circumstance, the Gospel of the Cross.”
“Do not be afraid to go against the current!,” the Pope concluded.
Vatican City, Apr 5, 2004 (CNA) - During the 60th session of the UN Human Rights Commission, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations offices in Geneva, warned that the increasing tendency to silence believers on public issues is a subtle form of religious intolerance.
The UN Human Rights Commission is in session from March 15 to April 23. The Vatican representative addressed the assembly on April 1 on the topics of civil and political rights and religious intolerance.
Regarding the place of religions in society, the Nuncio pointed out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights both articulates and promotes religious freedom.
“Unfortunately,” said Archbishop Tomasi, “religious freedom continues to be violated in several places and there is an added dimension today of non-State groups taking upon themselves the initiative to discriminate and even use violence against religious minorities, in many cases with impunity.”
“Places of worship and cemeteries,” he continued, “are even burned down or vandalized or desecrated; believers are threatened, attacked and even killed, and their leaders are made a special target of discrimination.”
He added that “an emerging subtle form of religious intolerance is opposing the right of religion to speak publicly on issues concerning forms of behavior that are measured against principles of a moral and religious nature.”
Archbishop Tomasi said that “while respecting a healthy sense of the State’s secular nature, the positive role of believers in public life should be recognized. This corresponds, among other things, to the demands of a healthy pluralism and contributes to the building up of authentic democracy.”
Vatican City, Apr 5, 2004 (CNA) - During his encounter with 3,000 young people participating in the UNIV International Congress 2004, Pope John Paul called on students to use a language capable of transmitting values.
UNIV, a initiative sponsored by Opus Dei members, is meeting in Rome on the theme “Protecting Culture: The Language of Advertising.”
Referring to this year’s World Youth Day theme, “We want to see Jesus,” the Pope urged those present “not to stifle this desire in the depths of your heart. Know how to overcome every superficial emotion, while resisting the seductions of pleasure and the ambitions of selfishness and comfort.”
While commenting on the theme of UNIV’s annual congress, John Paul II said that “it is necessary to know how to use language that is capable of transmitting positive messages and of promoting ideals and noble initiatives in an attractive way. It is also necessary to know how to discern what are the limits and the snares of the languages that the media propose to us. Sometimes, advertisements offer a superficial and inadequate vision of life, the person, family and of morality.”
“In order to carry out this difficult mission, it is necessary to follow Jesus closely in prayer and in contemplation. In addition, being His friends in today’s world means going against the current.”
“I invite you in a special way to spread the Christian vision of the virtue of purity, knowing how to show your peers that ‘purity comes from love and the strength and gaiety of youth are no obstacle for noble love’,” the Pontiff added.
The Pope asked the young people of UNIV to be “the leaven of hope in this world that looks for Jesus sometimes without even knowing it,” and he repeated what he said in a similar gathering twenty years ago: “If man walks with God, he is capable of changing the world.’”
“In order to make this world better, make an effort to change yourselves through the sacrament of reconciliation and through intimate identification with Christ in the Eucharist,” he concluded.
Vatican City, Apr 5, 2004 (CNA) - On Monday morning, Pope John Paul II received in audience the president of the Republic of Costa Rica, Abel Pacheco de la Espriella, to whom he expressed his joy at “the existing collaboration between the Church and the authorities of your country.”
Costa Rica is the oldest Latin America democracy, and under President Pacheco, it has been one of the strongest allies of the Vatican and the US Administration in life and family issues.
After urging Costa Ricans “to continue walking on the solid foundation of a just, unified, responsible and peaceful society,” John Paul II renewed his wishes “for the spiritual and material progress of your people, for their coexistence in harmony and freedom.”
Springfield, Ill., Apr 5, 2004 (CNA) - The faithful of the Diocese of Springfield looked with great hope to the installation of Bishop Timothy McDonnell yesterday, who is expected to bring healing and restore faith in the diocese.
About 44 bishops attended the installation at St. Michael's Cathedral last week, including Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston, and Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the papal nuncio of the United States.
The installation of the diocese's eighth bishop marked the beginning of a period of healing for the faithful after scandal broke. In addition to lawsuits by alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse, McDonnell's predecessor, Bishop Thomas Dupre, was accused of molesting two boys.
In his address, Archbishop Montalvo referred to the scandal and said the Pope was aware the people ''had endured a period of suffering," reported the Associated Press.
''He wanted to send you a pastor and a father to heal your suffering," said Archbishop Montalco, "to restore faith .... and renew the hearts of all."
Bishop McDonnell had already begun to address the scandal prior to his installation. Earlier this week, he met with a mediator to try to settle 15 of the 21 lawsuits. He also invited the alleged victims to the installation, including the two who say they were abused by his predecessor, reported the AP.
The 66-year-old bishop was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New York in 1963, and served his entire life in parish ministry.
Bishop McDonnell had a six-month stint at Covenant House in 1990, when he helped the organization regain its reputation, after the founder and director was accused of child molestation and financial wrongdoing.
He was named auxiliary bishop of New York in 2001.
San Francisco, Calif., Apr 5, 2004 (CNA) - The federal government should ban same-sex unions, said almost 1,000 Catholics, who gathered at a rally Saturday in support of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The day began with a morning mass, celebrated by Archbishop William J. Levada of San Franciso at Saints Peter and Paul Church. The crowd then took part in a march of several blocks. The participants walked in prayer, with rosaries and signs with pictures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, reported the Associated Press.
Participants expressed their opposition to same-sex marriage. They criticized San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and city officials, who illegally issued about 4,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples between Feb. 12 and March 11. Rally participants called for a federal amendment to ban the unions, reported the AP.
The rally and march was organized by Your Catholic Voice, a nationwide organization with about 250,000 members.
London, England, Apr 5, 2004 (CNA) - Gay rights advocates blocked the entrance to Westminster Cathedral yesterday, preventing people from entering to celebrate Palm Sunday mass, reported PA News.
Six protesters from OutRage! were protesting the Palm Sunday procession in view of the Vatican’s stance on homosexuality. They picketed the main doors of the cathedral and reportedly used abusive language toward churchgoers and clergy. Some of churchgoers were said to have been brought to tears.
At one point, campaigner Peter Tatchell was held back by a member of the clergy, reported PA News.
Tatchell reportedly reproached Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the archbishop of Westminster, as he passed, telling him the Church supported pedophile priests but persecuted homosexuals in loving relationships.
Police only arrived after the incident.
Ottawa, Canada, Apr 5, 2004 (CNA) - A controversial bill, which bans some assisted human reproduction measures and regulates human embryos, was passed by the Canadian Senate without amendment last month, reported the Canadian Catholic News.
It was also passed without a government agency in place to monitor and regulate embryonic research. A government senior policy analyst said such an agency would not be created for another few years.
Over the past decade, Bill C-6, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, had been introduced and resurrected several times in Parliament. It was finally passed March 11 and became official with the royal assent of Governor General Adrienne Clarkson March 29.
Bill C-6 bans human cloning, sex selection, commercial surrogate motherhood contracts and the sale of sperm and eggs; it also sets out rules on human embryonic stem-cell research.
But Francine Manseau, a senior policy analyst with Health Canada, said the agency that will monitor the activities within embryonic stem-cell research would not be created for another few years, the CBC reported March 12.
She said if there are complaints about violations, they will have to be made to police, “who will then be taking the responsibility to enforce the legislation.”
Maureen McTeer, a member of the royal commission on reproductive technologies, said she doesn’t understand why the government is taking so long to consult more people before setting up the monitoring agency.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, of Halifax had presented a brief to the Senate committee Feb. 26, on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), in opposition to embryonic stem-cell research.
The CCCB said the proposed legislation contains much that is positive, but it is also “deeply flawed”.
The CCCB statement said the bishops did not want to tell Catholic senators how to vote “because it is their responsibility to discern the best was to protect human life and dignity after reflection on all the resources available to them.”
However, several senators took note of the bishops’ presentation before the bill was passed.
‘The best we can do.’
Sen. Yves Morin pointed out that Archbishop Prendergast had reiterated the Church’s opposition to embryonic research “and, for that matter, to all assisted human reproduction.
“That being said, however, he recommended that senators consider the positive elements of the bill, which he saw as being its provisions to ensure the protection of the human embryo and to correct the current alarming absence of regulations concerning embryo research,” said Morin, according to CCN.
Orlando, Fla., Apr 5, 2004 (CNA) - Ivan Jose Baez was 24 years old. He lived the last two decades full of anguish and resentment at the abandonment of his father. A few weeks ago he decided to go with his mother to see “The Passion of the Christ,” not expecting that the movie would bring him back to the faith and help him to forgive his father, just in time before going home to God.
In a moving letter sent to CNA from his home in Orlando, Florida, Maria Zamora Echevarria of Puerto Rico told the story of her son, the shock of his unexpected death and the surprise of learning that he died in peace.
“For more than 20 years I saw my son Ivan Jose suffer and cry with anger. He was a man who had to be a son, a brother and a father to take of mi and his two little brothers. His heart was tormented by hatred for his father, who abused us and left us when he was just a small child,” writes Maria.
Ivan Jose was baptized Catholic and his mother raised him in the faith, but “he completely wandered away from t he Church and didn’t want to talk about it.”
“Seven weeks ago, Ivan Jose told me about the efforts of Mel Gibson to produce a move about the Passion of Christ. We decided to support Mel Gibson and Christianity and we went to the movie. It was the first time we went to the movies together in eight years,” Maria said.
“We were moved by ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and brought closer to Jesus and Mary, but above all it made us think about live and forgiving our enemies.”
“That night and on the following days all we talked about was The Passion and that Jesus asks us to love and to forgive, and about the love of Mary who saw her son suffer and die.”
“Ivan Jose told me ‘the greatest pain a mother can have is to bury her own son.’ Ivan Jose had changed, and we spoke about Jesus and that we needed to return to him if we wanted to find happiness,” Maria added.
Thirteen days later, without any sign and complete unexpected, Ivan Jose died of a heart attack while bicycle riding. Since he was 16 he had been saving money to open a business, but he always spent it on his family. This year he had decided to enlist in the Marines and his untimely death came while he was training to be able to meet the admission requirements.
Maria says that “as I sat and sobbed in his room, I found two poetic letters he had written after seeing the movie.”
“One letter was called ‘For Mom,’ and in it he tenderly thanked me for his live and for his life. The other letter was called ‘To the father I never had’,” Maria revealed.
This second letter was what gave Maria the peace of knowing that her son died without bitterness. In the letter Ivan wrote to his father about all he suffered because of his father’s abandonment and about the memories he had of his difficult childhood.
The letter ends, “Today I say to you, it doesn’t matter what you did—I forgive you. I forgive you for hitting my mother. I forgive you for lying to me. I forgive you for forgetting about me, but even more so for forgetting about my brothers who were so little when you left us. I forgive you for having been the father I needed, even though I received so much love out on the street. And I ask God to forgive you your sins. It still love you and I know you love me.”
Maria reveals that at that time, “a great peace enveloped my soul. My son died in peace, without hatred, with a clean heart. Mel Gibson and his movie helped him find Jesus and to be able to forgive even those who hurt him most.”
In the midst of her pain, Maria says she understands now “that we were the ones who were supported by the movie. Supported in our Christian faith which was grown faint over the years. God called my son home, it is difficult to understand for any mother and although I suffer for his loss my heart is in peace.”
“Perhaps for many ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is just a great movie, but for me it was the instrument that God used to reach my son, so that my Ivan Jose could forgive and love without hatred in his heart. It was the instrument God used so my son could go in peace,” concludes Maria.
Lima, Peru, Apr 5, 2004 (CNA) - The leadership of the Peruvian Bishops Conference issued a statement protesting “the distortion of the truth about the morning after pill,” recalling that the drug does indeed work as an abortifacient.
The bishops denounced the proposal by the Health Ministry to “introduce a distribution campaign of the so called ‘morning after pill’.”
In this sense, they clarified that under the name “emergency contraception,” a drug may be distributed with scientifically proven effects which “inhibit ovulation, slow the advance of sperm cells, prevent the buildup of lining in the uterus to prevent implantation of a human embryo, thus causing its death. Because of this, the pill is abortifacient.”
The bishops underscore that “this campaign erodes continues to erode the moral foundation of our society, because by attacking the life of the unborn, which is the first and most basic of all rights, we are opening the way to a further breakdown of our society.”
The bishops also point out that Peru’s constitution recognizes the right to life of the unborn.
“The good of the child is never opposed to the good of the mother, and to present them in opposition to each other is false,” they warned.
The bishops called on “men and women of good will to defend the dignity of the human person by defending those who have no voice and are in danger of being deprived of their first right: life,” and they asked “those institutions and individuals who are responsible for matters of law in our country to act effectively in defense of the Constitution.”