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Archive of May 14, 2004

Pope to U.S. bishops: Be at the forefront of the spiritual journey of sanctification

Vatican City, May 14, 2004 (CNA) - Continuing his series of reflections on the ‘munus sanctificandi’ (mandate to sanctify) of bishops, the Pope met with U.S. prelates from California, Nevada, and Hawaii who were near the end of their ‘ad limina’ visit.

"As Bishops you must be at the forefront of this spiritual journey of sanctification," said the Pope. "Your episcopal ministry of ecclesial service ... demands a pattern of life that unequivocally rejects any temptation to ostentation, careerism, or the recourse to secular models of leadership and instead requires you to bear witness to the 'kenosis' of Christ, in pastoral charity, humility and simplicity of life."

 "The crisis of the loss of the sense of sin," was a weighty component of the Pope’s reflections and he exhorted the bishops to have the courage to "address this today with particular urgency. While the effects of sin abound - greed, dishonesty and corruption, broken relationships and exploitation of persons, pornography and violence - the recognition of individual sinfulness has waned. In its place a disturbing culture of blame and litigiousness has arisen which speaks more of revenge than justice and fails to acknowledge that in every man and woman there is a wound which, in the light of faith, we call original sin."

"Sin is an integral part of the truth about the human person," said the Holy Father. "Given this reality, the bishop's duty to indicate the sad and destructive presence of sin, both in individuals and in communities, is in fact a service of hope. ... Let us boldly announce that indeed we are not the sum total of our weaknesses and failures! We are the sum of the Father's love for us, and capable of becoming the image of His Son!"

This hope is vividly illustrated in the parable of the Prodigal Son, which speaks of conversion and repentance: "The prodigal son is in a certain sense all men and women. We all can be lured by the temptation to separate ourselves from the Father and thus suffer loss of dignity, humiliation and shame, but equally so we all can have the courage to turn back to the Father who embraces us with a love which, transcending even justice, manifests itself as mercy," said the Pope.

His reflections on the Prodigal son led onto reflection on the "divinely instituted" Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is "the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church.”  John Paul II then pointed to the hope he has in the young who, despite the fact that “the profound power of this Sacrament is often considered today with indifference… readily give testimony to the graces and transforming benefits it bestows.”

The Holy Father then directly appealed to bishops and priests to encourage participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation - “arm yourselves with more confidence, creativity and perseverance in presenting it and leading people to appreciate it" – and to have frequent recourse to it themselves “in order to obtain the gift of that mercy of which you yourselves have been made ministers."

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Bishop of Colorado Springs: voters of pro-abortion candidates should also refrain from communion

Denver, Colo., May 14, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs issued a pastoral letter yesterday admonishing Catholics to refrain from receiving communion if they vote for politicians who support abortion rights, same-sex marriage, euthanasia or stem-cell research.

"Anyone who professes the Catholic faith with his lips while at the same time publicly supporting legislation or candidates that defy God's law makes a mockery of that faith and belies his identity as a Catholic," Bishop Sheridan wrote in the Archdiocesan Catholic newspaper.

Bishop Sheridan also wrote that the November elections were "critical" because for the first time since the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court legalizing abortion in 1973, the number of abortions was declining.  "We cannot allow the progress that has been made to be reversed by a pro-abortion president, Senate or House of Representatives," he added.

In the letter, the Bishop explains that Catholics who vote contrary to church teaching "jeopardize their salvation;” and they should refrain from receiving communion "until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the church in the sacrament of penance."

In a telephone interview with Laurie Goodstein from the New York Times, Bishop Sheridan clarified that, "I'm not making a political statement. I'm making a statement about church teaching."

In the interview with the New York Times, the bishop also said that his aim was to clarify the standards for Catholic voters and that he hoped they applied them in their choice of candidates. He said that on the "basic moral teachings of the church,'' there is no "wiggle room."

He also said he hoped to reform "cafeteria Catholics" who believe it is acceptable to pick and choose the doctrines with which they agree.

"I pray for them, but it could very well mean they're going to go their own way,'' he said.” “You never like to see it, but it happens."

Read the complete document at:
http://www.diocesecs.org/bishopsOffice/PastoralLetterMay2004.pdf

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Vatican watcher gives a personal look at new biography of Pope John Paul

Rome, Italy, May 14, 2004 (CNA) - In order to mark the official publication of the new autobiographical book by Pope John Paul II, “Get Up, Let’s Go,” scheduled for May 18, the renowned Vatican observer Sandro Magister of L’Espresso Online traveled to Krakow in order to get a personal look at his life.

The new book by the Pope covers the 20 years from his elevation to the episcopate in 1958 up to his election as the Successor of Peter in 1978.  The work is a continuation of his previous autobiographical book, “Gift and Mystery,” which we wrote about his life as a priest.

Magister traveled to Krakow to contrast the biography of the Pontiff with the urban and cultural environment in which he spent the years written about in “Get Up, Let’s Go,” and to go “in search of the similarities and differences between the two Wojtylas, before and after October 16, 1978.”

Magister said that “there is a feverish anticipation to read it in Krakow” and he cites the example of Fr. Adam Boniecki, chief editor of “Tygodnik Powszechny,” who shared with Magister what the pope thinks of his own skills as a writer.

Magister reveals that just as “Gift and Mystery” grew out of an interview with the former vice-director of “L’Osservatore Romano,” Gianfranco Svidercoschi, the new work “had as its primary drafter a Polish bishop who is also his friend, Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.”

Magister also gives a brief overview of the literary works of the Pope, saying, “There are things he was able to do successfully both in Krakow and in Rome, others that he was not able to duplicate, and still others that he invented only as pope.”

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Federal judge upholds court decision allowing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts

Boston, Mass., May 14, 2004 (CNA) - An attempt to block legal same-sex marriages from taking place in Massachusetts next week failed when a federal judge rejected arguments presented in court by groups in favor of maintaining traditional marriage.

The Catholic Action League joined the Liberty Counsel, 11 state legislators and a number of conservative groups in presenting a petition to U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro Wednesday.

The groups argued that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overstepped its authority when it ruled in November that same-sex marriage should be legal in the state.

However, the federal judge said yesterday that the Massachusetts high court acted within its authority in interpreting the state’s Constitution.

The plaintiffs said they would take their arguments to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to the ruling, municipal clerks could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as of Monday.

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Vietnam rejects U.S. resolution calling for release of Catholic priest

Hanoi, Vietnam, May 14, 2004 (CNA) - The United States passed a resolution yesterday calling for the release of a Catholic priest, accused of attempting to undermine the communist government.

Fr. Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly was sentenced to 15 years in 2001 for "damaging the government's unity policy" as well as other charges, reported the Associated Press.

Fr. Ly’s sentence was reduced to 10 years in 2003, but the U.S. continues to pressure the Vietnamese government for his immediate release.

The priest was arrested in 2001 after giving written testimony of the state of religious freedom and human rights in Vietnam to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, says the AP report. His testimony reportedly urged the U.S. not to sign a bilateral trade agreement until Vietnam improved its human rights record.

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Troops must leave Iraq soon but not before June 30, says Cardinal Martino

Lisbon, Portugal, May 14, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican’s former envoy to the United Nations said yesterday that the U.S.-led coalition forces should pull out of Iraq as soon as possible but not before the planned June 30 hand-over of sovereignty to the Iraqis, reported AFP.

"The Holy See, the Pope and all those who work with the Pope have said it would be crazy to leave Iraq at this moment, before June 30,” and before the United Nations forces arrive, said Renato Cardinal Martino in an interview with the Portuguese newspaper Publico.

Such a move “would be leaving Iraq in chaos," said the head of the Vatican's Congregation for Justice and Peace.

Cardinal Martino said the Iraqi people must decide their future for themselves. “That is why the earlier this happens, the better," he said.

The cardinal was in Fatima, Portugal, yesterday for the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, where he presided over the annual pilgrimage to the shrine.

When asked to comment on the photos of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners, Cardinal Martino told Publico: "Torture speaks for itself."

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Archbishop rejects incursion of paramilitary groups into Venezuela

Caracas, Venezuela, May 14, 2004 (CNA) - In the wake of the discovery of paramilitary groups in Venezuela, Archbishop Jorge Urosa Savino of Valencia is calling on Venezuelans to “reject all forms of armed, guerilla, paramilitary or political violence,” adding that “the problems of Venezuela should be solved by all Venezuelans.”

The Archbishop expressed his concern regarding the latest events in the country and he said that as a Venezuelan and as a Bishop he rejects “the presence in our country of any foreign armed group, legitimate or otherwise, when there is no reason for there to be any guerrillas or paramilitary groups, or soldiers from any other country actively participating in our political or military spheres.”

“The discovery of paramilitary groups near El Hatillo reaffirms the need for Venezuelans to solve the problems of Venezuela, through the avenues specifically laid out in the Constitution and in our laws,” he explained, and he called for a “peaceful, electoral and democratic solution” to the country’s crisis.

“The Venezuelan Episcopate, as promoters of peace, aspires for the promotion of peace in Venezuela.  We do not identify ourselves with any political party.  Not with the government, nor with the opposition, but rather with the great values and the profound needs of the Venezuelan people, who we serve as shepherds of the Church of God,” the Archbishop underscored.

“The most important thing,” he added, “is that we all promote and engage in dialogue, understanding and the solution of our conflicts through the constitutionally outlined avenues.”

At the same time, Archbishop Urosa said it is necessary that the country’s institutions act in accord with Constitutional dictates.  “Specifically, the National Electoral Council should take up the recall referendum, which has been called for by a great number of Venezuelans.”

“We need to reflect for a moment and not fall prey to an escalation of violent armed conflicts or to the application of sanctions which, quite possibly, may not be well-founded upon the facts,” he concluded.

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Chilean Cardinal says distribution of abortion pill an “abominable crime”

Santiago, Chile, May 14, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking with reporters at the Vatican, Chilean Cardinal Jorge Medina said the distribution of the morning after pill, with its known abortifacient nature, is an “abominable crime.”

The Cardinal told Terra.cl that “if the government authorizes the sale of a product which is abortifacient, it is favoring something that is contrary to the teaching of the Church. And not only that, I believe it is against simple moral teaching.”

According to Cardinal Medina, the results of a poll that indicate 86% of Chileans favor the use of the morning after pill in cases of rape, reveal that there is a lack of proper formation in areas of sexuality and reproduction among Chileans.

The sale of the morning after pill, he said, is an “abominable crime” and is a contradiction for a country such as Chile which has outlawed the death penalty through a measure that was debated in Congress, “and yet because of an administrative decision which has not been debated anywhere, a decision has been made regarding children in their mother’s wombs, whether they are responsible for their pregnancies or not.  We should not be foolish and believe that the pills will be used only by young women who have been raped.”

The Cardinal explained that “learned people in the scientific fields have said that the pill is abortifacient, because the life a human being begins at fertilization and not at implantation.”

“When the fertilized ovum reaches the uterus it is already a human person.  If it cannot implant itself in the uterus, a human life is being lost.  And if that is the case, we are talking about an abortion,” he said.

In cases of rape, Cardinal Medina said if they result in a pregnancy, “the woman is not the owner of that life.  The life of that little child belongs to God, not to her.  She should receive it with the love of a mother.  In my priestly life I have seen on many occasions women who have become pregnant against their will and have shown great maternal affection for the child, whom at one point they were tempted to reject, but thanks be to God, accepted in the end.”

In addition, the Cardinal said that the defense of the unborn is valid for “anyone who understands human nature” and not only for Catholics.  “If there are some who are not convinced, we should make every effort possible to explain to them the reason for the Church’s position.  Not because this benefits the Church but because this is something that simply belongs to the patrimony of all humanity,” he added.

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