Archive of April 30, 2004

Pope appeals for release of hostages in Iraq, assures his solidarity

Vatican City, Apr 30, 2004 (CNA) - Thursday afternoon Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass for the release of hostages held in Iraq and for all who suffer in that country.  During a march organized by families of the three Italian hostages in Iraq, which ended in a gathering at St. Peter’s Square, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States, delivered the pope’s  “appeal in the name of the one God Who will judge all of us."

The pope, who was in his chapel praying for the hostages for the duration of the march, has assured his “special closeness” to the families in this trying time and hopes that his words will encourage those held as hostages. 

The popes message also expressed gratitude to all those who work to establish peace and reconciliation in Iraq, and exhorted Iraqi Catholics “to work to reestablish an atmosphere of harmony and collaboration among all religious and social groups of the country for the common good.”

The Holy Father asked all to pray for an end to the ordeal and entrusted the hostages “to the protection of Mary, Christ's Mother and our Mother.”

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Family “irreplaceable” in building inter-generational solidarity, says Holy Father

Vatican City, Apr 30, 2004 (CNA) - In an address this morning to members of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, who are celebrating their annual plenary session, the Pope reaffirmed the primary role of the family in fostering ‘inter-generational solidarity’, the Academy’s current theme of study.

“The family, as the origin and foundation of human society also has an irreplaceable role in the building of inter-generational solidarity. There is no age when one ceases to be a father or mother, a son or daughter," said the Pope.

The Pope noted that the theme was closely related to the theme of globalization, and “the pressures of a consumer society which cause families to divert attention from the home to the workplace or a variety of social activities.” 

“In earlier times”, said the Pope, “the care of grown children for their parents was taken for granted.”  The solidarity of marriage encompassed the couple and the children and this "in turn led to solidarity between grown children and their aging parents." 

Citing the significant weakening of this familial bond of solidarity, the Pope drew attention to the plight of elderly people today “many of whom have insufficient resources or pensions, suffer from physical maladies, no longer feel useful or are ashamed that they require special care, and all too many simply feel abandoned." 

The “weakening of the marriage bond” also hurts children, he warned, who “at times are perceived, even before birth as an obstacle to the personal fulfillment of their parents, or are seen as one object to be chosen among others."  

 The Holy Father said he hoped that the academy’s work on this issue "will lead to a clearer appreciation of the need for a solidarity which crosses generations and unites individuals and groups in mutual assistance and enrichment." 

The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, founded by John Paul II in 1994, celebrates it’s 10th anniversary this year, and is headed by Harvard law professor, Mary Ann Glendon.

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Future belongs to the religious, says demographer

, Apr 30, 2004 (CNA) - An article in the current issue of the prestigious quarterly “Foreign Affairs” states that the future “belongs” to religious people since they are having so many more children than non-religious people, reported the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.

Phillip Longman, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, describes the steep demographic decline now taking place in both the developed and developing worlds, and asks the question where the children of the future will come from.

Longman suggest that they may come from people who are at odds with urbanization and economic and materialistic advancement, notably those people with strong religious convictions who “reject the game altogether.”

“Does this mean that the future belongs to those who believe they are (or who are in fact) commanded by a higher power to procreate?” wonders Longman. He states that, based on current trends, “the future belongs to those who believe they are commanded by a higher power to procreate”.

Longman claims that “there is a strong correlation between religious conviction and high fertility. In the United States, for example, fully 47 percent of people who attend church weekly say that the ideal family size is three or more children, as compared to only 27 percent of those who seldom attend church.”

Longman even asserts that people with strong religious convictions are now beginning to enjoy a profound “evolutionary advantage” over non-religious people, since the “clean living” of the religious boosts fertility and overall health.

He writes: “Not only is the spread of urbanization and industrialization itself a major cause of falling fertility, it is also a major cause of so-called diseases of affluence, such as overeating, lack of exercise, and substance abuse, which leave a higher and higher percentage of the population stricken by chronic medical conditions. Those who reject modernity would thus seem to have an evolutionary advantage, whether they are clean-living Mormons or Muslims.”

Despite this, Longman sees little reason for hope that a worldwide demographic catastrophe can be avoided. He points out that current demographic trends indicate that human beings, living in free, developed societies, will not create enough children to reproduce themselves. Japanese fertility rates have been below replacement levels since the mid-1950s, and the last time Europeans produced enough children to reproduce themselves was the mid-1970s.

Immigration cannot resolve fertility decline either. According to Longman, “if the United States hopes to maintain the current ratio of workers to retirees over time, it will have to absorb an average of 10.8 million immigrants annually through 2050.”

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Vatican says no to churches used as mosques

Vatican City, Apr 30, 2004 (CNA) - A formal request to share the Roman Catholic cathedral in Cordoba with the city’s Muslims was not advanced to the Catholic Church, said Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialog.

The archbishop confirmed this in an interview with AsiaNews after news broke that Spanish authorities suggested the cathedral be used also by Muslims in order to respect “the building’s universal value” and to show a Catholic Church that is “open and dialogical.” The Muslim community reportedly issued a formal request, but the archbishop confirmed that the Church never received such a request.

Archbishop Fitzgerald provided the context for the discussion by relating what took place at a Catholic-Muslim convention last March.

“Last March our council, together with the World Islamic Call Society … organized talks on the formation of priests and imams,” recounted the archbishop. “During the convention, Mr. Escudero of Cordoba presented a request in Spanish, with a letter written by the mayor of Cordoba, addressed to the head of the Muslim delegation, Dr. Sherif, and mentioned it was their wish to share the use of the cathedral,” he said. However, the topic was never discussed and a formal request was not made.

“The shared use of a building by various churches is problematic,” explained the archbishop. “There are spaces dedicated to this purpose, for example, in airports. But they are not churches or mosques,” he said. “They are interfaith spaces, capable of being used by Jews, Christians, Muslims and persons of other faiths alike. But this is based on a type of agreement to allow for their shared use. Yet this not the reality in Cordoba, where the building belongs to a specific community.”

The archbishop pointed out that the Pope visited the Ummayade Mosque in Damascus and prayed in front of the tomb of St. John the Baptist, but he did not ask to celebrate mass in the mosque.

“Spain’s government authorities are trying to please all sectors of society. But perhaps they have not the necessary theological sensitivity to understand the Church’s position,” he told AsiaNews. “We, too, want to live in peace with persons of other religions. However, we don’t want to be pushed, manipulated and go against the very rules of our faith.

“Wherever, there is a Christian chapel, it makes sense to keep using it as it is intended originally and not as a common worship space,” he said. “Wherever there is no space for worship, state authorities can also think of creating a shared space there.”

The archbishop added that if a Catholic chapel has the Blessed Sacrament inside, “it should not be used to for prayer services of another religious tradition.”

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Chirac confirms illegality of homosexual unions and calls for sanctions

Rome, Italy, Apr 30, 2004 (CNA) - After the mayor of a small town in France announced he would officiate at the country’s first homosexual wedding, French president Jacques Chirac said “marriages” between people of the same sex are illegal in France, and he called for sanctions against those who would perform them.

Referring to the comments made by Green Party member and mayor of Bègles, Noël Mamère, Chirac declared that, “The law does not permit marriage between two men or two women.  If hypothetically some believe they have the right to perform them, naturally they should be sanctioned.”

Chirac indicated that France’s civil unions law, which allows for homosexual unions, resolves “the problems regarding human rights,” although, he added, “experience shows that this law has not provided all of the guarantees and solutions to potential problems in this area.”

Therefore, Chirac said he was “in favor, on the basis of respect for human rights, of making the necessary changes to existing law, not because it is bad but because it is insufficient.”

But beyond reform of the civil unions law, Chirac said, “There is a law and a tradition clearly affirmed in the Civil Code and which does not permit marriages between two men or two women.”  He said he was doubtful of the existence of “a large majority of the public that questions a law of this nature.”

Likewise, Primer Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said, “There is a large consensus in favor of maintaining the current concept of marriage.” 

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Priest proposes chapel for street children in Rio

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Apr 30, 2004 (CNA) - Because of the resentment people bear toward street children, it is almost impossible for them to enter and use chapels and churches. As a result, Fr. Renato Chiera, president and founder of an organization that ministers to street children in the state of Rio de Janeiro, has proposed chapel project especially for them.

The chapel would be housed in the organization’s centre, the Casa do Menor Sao Miguel Arcanjo, and will cost about 40,000 Euros. The priest made his proposal to Aid to the Church in Need during his recent visit to the international charity’s head office in Germany.

Fr. Chiera’s organization is the largest NGO for street children and adolescents in the state of Rio de Janeiro. More than 1,300 children, as well as drug abusers, are living in foster homes. A staff of 100 social workers and several volunteers educate and guide the youth.

The organization belongs to the “Familia da Esperansa” and it is close to the Focolare spirituality.

The first “village” for street children was founded in Miguel Couto, located in the state of Rio de Janeiro, 14 years ago.

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Catholic television expands in Canada

Montreal, Canada, Apr 30, 2004 (CNA) - Salt + Light Television, Canada’s Catholic television network, announced yesterday that it has expanded its services to Quebec – the province with the largest number of Catholics in the country.

Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal, joined the Salt + Light team for the launch, held at the diocesan centre.

Salt + Light is being carried on the province’s largest cable provider, Videotron. To promote the launch, Videotron has decided to offer Salt + Light free to its digital TV (Illico) subscribers on Channel 242 until June 1. After June 1, subscriptions will cost $2.99 and will include EWTN, the United States Catholic network.

“I’m aware that we are not revolutionizing television in Quebec,” said Cardinal Turcotte at the press conference. “But this network is important in our milieu. It is the voice of the Church and mostly it is the voice of a young Church, which is not usually heard,” said the cardinal, referring to the fact that the fledgling network is staffed mostly by youth.

The network, which grew out of World Youth Day 2002, is based in Toronto. It began broadcasting in the Toronto-area in July 2003 on ROGERS digital TV.

With more than 12,000 subscribers to date, Salt + Light expects to continue its expansion across Canada. The network’s CEO, Fr. Thomas Rosica, hopes to finalize a deal with another digital TV provider, Bell ExpressVu, shortly.

Currently, most of the programming is in English, but the network plans to have entirely French programming in Quebec in less than 18 months.

Fr. Rosica assured that English programming would still be available to English-speaking Catholics in the majority French province. He stated that Videotron is working on adding another signal to carry the network’s regular English-language programming.

The Basilian priest, who had served as CEO of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, is hopeful that Catholic television in Quebec will be an effective evangelization tool. For the last 30 years, the Quebec Church has suffered a significant number of parish closures and a drastic decline in vocations and church attendance. About 84 per cent of the population identifies itself as Catholic, but very few – less than 15 per cent – are regular churchgoers.

The network broadcasts seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and is commercial-free. Some of its programs include: Living Proof, which features lay people who live their faith in an exceptional way; Vox Clara, which features interviews with Church leaders, and Cooking with Saints, a cooking program, featuring recipes for dishes linked to particular saints or saints’ feast days.

The network was conceived and is fully funded by the Gagliano family. The Gaglianos own Toronto-based St. Joseph Corporation, which is the largest privately owned communications and publications firm in Canada.

St. Joseph Corporation began as a small letterpress shop in Gaetano Gagliano’s basement in 1956. Gagliano, now 87, had emigrated from Italy a few years before. The father of 10 was a friend of Giacomo Alberione, founder of several congregations, including the Society of St. Paul and the Daughters of St. Paul, whose charism is evangelization through media. Giacomo Alberione was beatified in April 2003.

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Beatification for doctor and father of five

Madrid, Spain, Apr 30, 2004 (CNA) - The cause for beatification of Dr. Maria Mullerat of Spain has advanced this week, as Archbishop Lluis Martinez of Tarragona announced the conclusion of the Archdiocesan investigation.

Four of Dr. Mullerat’s five children took part in the ceremony, as well as many other friends and acquaintances of the Spanish doctor who was killed during the first weeks of the Spanish Civil War.

Mullerat’s daughter, Maria, said the family was following the cause “with great excitement,” adding that although she was only 7 years old when her father was gunned down, she remembers “very much the life we had.  He was a great example for us.”

“In our town of Arberca, he was the only man who went to church to pray during May, the month of Mary,” she added.  Maria also said her father “loved to be at home and to play with us.”

Fr. Juan Siruana, one of Mullerat’s friends, called the doctor “wholly and completely Christian.”

“We spent many hours together, and he even cared for me when I was ill with the mumps.  He was a very friendly and appealing person.  That’s normal because a complete Christian is always attractive to others.  When he came to Arberca, people began to like him right way,” recalled the 93 year-old Fr. Siurana.

In his remarks, Archbishop Martinez said Dr. Mullerat “lived the Christian life daily,” and he exhorted the faithful “to be present in the world, in their professions and in politics,” warning against dedicating themselves “exclusively to religious activity within the Church and forgetting about the sphere which pertains to the laity.”

Carles Farre, postulator of Mullerat’s cause for beatification, will turn the case over to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.  He said the Association of the Friends of Maria Mullerat includes over 1000 members and that devotion to the doctor is widespread in eastern Spain.

Many witnesses to the holiness of Mullerat are still alive, said Farre, adding that they are “the most qualified people to speak about who Maria Mullerat was.”

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Patriarch of Venice inaugurates learning center

Rome, Italy, Apr 30, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Patriarch of Venice, inaugurated this week the Studium Generale Marcianum, a new learning center that seeks to bring together all of the different fields of knowledge and provide education for students of all grade levels, from primary school to post-graduate studies.

Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and Archbishop Javier Echevarria of Opus Dei and Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical University of Santa Cruz, were also present at the ceremony.

The new center will provide integral formation for students of all grade levels, restoring the unity in the fields of knowledge that was the hallmark of medieval scholars.

In his remarks during the inauguration, Cardinal Scola said the Studium was “created with the aim of accompanying all people of good will in their personal and free search” to satisfy one of man’s “essential desires,” which is the desire for “the truth.”

Addressing the religious, political and military officials gathered for the event, the Cardinal said the Studium seeks “to sustain the missionary action of the Church by helping the faithful to give a reason for their hope, to themselves, but also to all men and women with whom they come in contact.”

The uniqueness of the Studium lies in the fact that it will bring together all of the educational entities that belong to the Patriarchate, with the purpose of “confronting the serious fragmentation which has affected the fields of research and of communication, and the different fields of study.”

Last December, Pope Juan Paul II sent a hand-written message of encouragement to the creators of the Studium.

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