Archive of May 7, 2004

Israeli ambassador says relations between Vatican and Israel on a new path

Vatican City, May 7, 2004 (CNA) - The Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, Obed Ben Hur, has confirmed to CNA that a true “change of direction” has occurred in the relations between his country and the Holy See and that Israel intends to work together with Catholics.

In response to an inquiry about the news yesterday that the Catholic Church would be granted custody of the Upper Room, Ben Hur told CNA that this change of direction is taking place “not only in regards to the Upper Room” but also in order to “collaborate more extensively with the Catholic world.”

According to Ben Hur, his country is awaiting the return of the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel in order to continue discussions and perhaps reach an agreement before the end of the year.

Ben Hur said several informal meetings with Vatican officials have already taken place and that last week negotiations were restarted about “objective problems, such as security issues caused by the conflict with the Arab world.”

He blamed the security issues on the problem of visas for church officials in Israel.  Nevertheless, he expressed confidence that steps forward have been taken with the latest negotiations and that the atmosphere is good and the perspectives positive.

 Ben Hur said his country has begun to understand the importance of collaborating with the Catholic world, which, he said, can no longer be ignored.  “What I am going to say now is very significant and of great importance:  The Hebrew world and the Christian world, in particular the Catholic world, are natural allies that must work together,” he indicated.

The Holy See has not confirmed nor denied the reports on the transfer of custody of the Upper Room and although the Vatican Press Office says that for the moment no official statement on the issue is forthcoming, it did confirm the resumption of the discussions mentioned by Ben Hur.

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Catholics have right to announce the Gospel in the public square, says archbishop

Denver, Colo., May 7, 2004 (CNA) - Every election year, critics try to silence Catholics by insisting on the necessity to separate Church and state, but this argument is “empty and often dishonest,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput in his last weekly column in the Denver Catholic Register.

The Church, as part of her mission, has always spoken on the moral issues that shape public and political debates, said Archbishop Chaput. In addition, “religious witness has always played an active role in American political life,” he underlined.

The archbishop said while it is not the Church’s place to endorse specific candidates or political parties, the Church has “the duty and the constitutional right to speak forcefully about social, economic and political issues in the light of Jesus Christ, and to guide Catholics by her teaching.”

The archbishop pointed out that “the most ardent supporters of separating Church and state are very happy to accept the Church's help – and often her leadership – in serving the poor, the sick, the hungry, the mentally and physically handicapped, the homeless, the migrant worker and inner-city children.

“So what ‘separation of Church and state’ really means in an election year is, ‘Thanks for all the help, Catholics (and other religious believers), now be quiet’,” the archbishop wrote.

“We can't afford to be fooled, this year or any year, about what it means and what it costs to be a follower of Jesus Christ,” he wrote. “What we really believe about God always shapes how we interact with the world. If it doesn't, then our faith is empty words.”

The bishop said those who claim to be Catholic, must conform their hearts and actions to the faith in all aspects of their lives, including at the voting booth.

“With or without the approval of the powerful, the Church serves the poor – from the unborn child to the undocumented immigrant – every day of every year,” assured the bishop. “We should take pride in that. We should thank God for that. And as her sons and daughters, we need to support her with our prayers, our financial support and our courage in the public square.”

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Ukraine “is driven by the desire to reach full unity with all Christians," says Pope

Vatican City, May 7, 2004 (CNA) - The Pope spoke of the unique identity and mission of Ukraine this morning, on receiving the the credentials of the Ukraine’s new ambassador, Grygorii Fokovych Khoruzhyi.

Speaking of the country’s desire to establish a more intense relationship with the rest of Europe, John Paul II said, "Ukraine will be able to better develop its mission as a bridge between different peoples and cultures, while maintaining intact its own unique identity.  Working actively in spiritual, social, political and economic matters, it will be able to become a significant laboratory of dialogue, development and cooperation for all."

The Holy Father noted that Ukraine’s institutions and values have been shaped by the Gospel and that it has the “great responsibility of understanding, defending and promoting” it’s Christian heritage and identity, which persisted even throughout the communist regime.

On the subject of the governments interest in religious freedom, the Pope spoke of his desire to see a "a legal definition of churches be decided upon soon, based on effective equality for all, and that, at the same time, agreements can be reached on the teaching of religion and recognition by the State of theology as a university discipline. In addition, I hope that the stipulated agreements are satisfying on the delicate topic of the restitution of confiscated Church goods during the communist dictatorship."

Progress has been made on the restitution of confiscated goods: on May 5, Ukraine’s government returned the former residence of the Cathoilic bishop of Lviv of the Latins which had been confiscated by the communist regime.

The Holy Father mentioned the sadness experienced by the Ukrainian community for the unfortunate division that still persists between the Churches and expressed hope in that  ecumenical dialogue contributes to the search for unity.

The Church in Ukraine "from its independence till today, has known a promising springtime of hope, and in each one of its components, is driven by the desire to reach full unity with all Christians," concluded John Paul II.

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U.S. based Papal Fund an example of love and commitment to Church and Pope

Vatican City, May 7, 2004 (CNA) - Addressing the members of the U.S. based Papal Foundation this morning at the Vatican, the Holy Father said that “the generous gift of your time, talent and treasure is a concrete example of your love and commitment to the Church and the Successor of Peter.”

He thanked them for their “continued support of my pastoral ministry to the universal Church," and imparted to them his Apostolic blessing and entrusted them and their families to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Papal Foundation is an investment fund, whose members include several cardinals and bishops, established to provide a steady source of income for the Holy See. Every year a check of several million dollars is presented to the Pope.

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Miscarriage spared Sen. Kerry’s wife from having abortion

Washington D.C., May 7, 2004 (CNA) - Sen. John Kerry’s second wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, nearly had an abortion 30 years ago on a doctor's recommendation, but says she was spared from making the decision and following through on it because she had a miscarriage.

The 65-year-old Heinz Kerry recounts this story in an interview with Barbara Walters, which will be broadcast this evening on "20/20" on ABC.

During her fourth pregnancy in her first marriage, Heinz Kerry said she had been taking heavy cortisone medication and did not realize she was pregnant.

According to Heinz Kerry, the doctor, upon hearing she was pregnant and taking cortisone, said: “Well then if you're pregnant, you have to abort that baby.”

“I was very upset,” she says during the interview. “I didn't want to have an abortion, but they gave me 15 days because it was early and the night before I was due to go in, I miscarried it. So God was very kind," she adds.

Despite this, the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate describes herself as "pro-choice" and says she supports abortion rights "because I'd like to have that choice myself.

"I presume that most women will look at a choice like that as a terrible choice,” she adds. “But they should be given the chance to make it as I was."

Heinz Kerry has three sons by her late husband, Sen. John Heinz of Pennsylvania. Sen. Kerry has two daughters from a previous marriage.

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FDA decides to keep morning-after pill from going over-the-counter

Washington D.C., May 7, 2004 (CNA) - Citing a concern that young teenagers may not safely use the morning-after pill without a doctor's guidance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) late yesterday officially rejected a plan to make the pill available over-the-counter.

In a written statement yesterday, the Family Research Council praised the FDA decision and urged the federal body to stand firm in its decision. Had the FDA decided to make the morning-after pill been available over-the-counter, young girls would have had easy access to the abortifacient drug, without first consulting a doctor.

"Women taking the birth-control pill consult with their doctors once a year for medical check-ups,” said council president Tony Perkins in the statement. “The morning-after pill is 50 times stronger, and yet over-the-counter access would have allowed women and girls to take this dangerous drug without any medical oversight.”

If the morning-after pill had been approved as over-the-counter medication, the decision to use it would have been “between young girls and a pharmacy counter, with no accountability or safeguards in place,” said the council. “We are glad the FDA saw it differently."

The Family Research Council “applauds the FDA for putting the safety of American women and girls above the wishes of the pro-abortion lobby and we encourage them to hold their ground,” reads the statement.

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Chilean bishop: In matters of the defense of life, government must respect “essential morality”

Santiago, Chile, May 7, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Juan Ignacio González of San Bernardo, Chile, said this week the defense of life from the moment of conception is not exclusive to Catholics and that the government should “respect essential morality in the application of state health policies.”

The bishop’s comments were in response to Chile’s Secretary General of the Government, Francisco Vidal, who criticized Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz’s questioning of the decision to distribute 30,000 morning after pills—known for their abortifacient effects—by saying he governs for 15 million Chileans and not for a creed.

According to Bishop González, with the measure, the Executive power “has gotten itself into a mess.  It’s the government that is playing with fire, not the Church,” he said, adding that “even when one is governing 15 million Chileans, one can never act immorally.”

The bishop asked authorities to go to the heart of the problem, which is the debate over whether nor not human life begins at conception.

 “Is human life from the moment of conception off limits? Yes or no,” asked the bishop.

Bishop González said that the measure reflects an “attempt to change some basic and fundamental parameters of our society.”  “At heart here is an anthropological issue, a concept about man and society,” he said.

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New law would force doctors to perform abortions

Madrid, Spain, May 7, 2004 (CNA) - Numerous health care professionals in Spain are expressing their concern about two bills sponsored by Green party and leftist legislators that would impose fines and strip the medical licenses of doctors who refuse to practice abortions.

The two bills proposed by environmentalist and leftwing lawmakers would allow abortion if two doctors certify a woman’s request for the procedure.

As a result, both bills would stipulate that doctors, nurses and health care workers who refuse to participate in the performing of an abortion would be accused of denial of treatment, an offense which in Spanish penal code results in the loss of one’s medical license and the imposition of fines.

In addition, the bills propose the creation of an official list of healthcare professionals who have refused to participate in abortions.

Healthcare professionals fear the beginning of a “witch hunt” with an unconstitutional law that respects neither the right to life nor freedom of conscience.

A similar bill was proposed by the Socialist Party (PSOE) when it was last in majority, between the years of 1993-1995.  At that time it failed to pass.

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