Archive of May 19, 2004

The Sacrament of Confession brings joy of being forgiven, Pope says

Vatican City, May 19, 2004 (CNA) - Because God “responds right away with generous forgiveness… for the faithful who repent and are forgiven, despite life’s trials, a new horizon of safety, faith and peace” is opened up, said the Holy Father at this morning’s weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

His expounded on Psalm 31, entitled “Thanksgiving for the forgiveness of sins,”in which we find the “personal testimony of a convert” who has committed “serious sins and does not have the courage to confess his sins to God. It is a terrible interior torment, described with strong images. … The convert feels the weight of the hand of God on him, conscious that God is not indifferent to the evil perpetrated by man, because He is the guardian of justice and truth.”

“Unable to go on in this way, the sinner decides to confess his sins with a courageous declaration which seems to foreshadow that of the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable,” said the Pope.

The Lord “promises to help the converted sinner,” said the Holy Father.  “It is not enough to be purified; we must walk on the just path. … True justice entails conversion, leaving vice and its dark power of attraction behind.  But above all it leads to the enjoyment of that peace which comes from being freed and forgiven.”

“We can apply this psalm,” he concluded, “to the sacrament of confession. In reconciliation, one experiences the recognition of sin, often suppressed in our times, and at the same time, the joy of being forgiven.  The strict logic of ‘sin-punishment’ has been replaced by the joyful reality of ‘sin-forgiveness’ because the Lord is a God who forgives faults, offences and sin.”

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Majority in the U.S. use Internet for religious reasons, report says

Washington D.C., May 19, 2004 (CNA) - Of the almost 130 million Americans who are Internet users, 64 per cent of them, or almost 82 million, use the Internet for religious, faith or spiritual reasons.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released the results of their research, noting that those who use the Internet for religious or spiritual purposes tend to be devout women, white, middle-aged, college-educated, and middle-to-upper class.

The online faithful are also more active as Internet users than the rest of the Internet population. On a typical day, 63 per cent of them are online. About 56 per cent of them have been online for six years or longer. And 60 per cent have broadband connections either at home or at work.

The research also discovered that the online faithful use the Internet for personal spiritual matters more than for traditional religious functions, but their faith activity online seems to increase their commitments to their congregations.

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Catholic League call Catholic candidate to coherence in political discourse

Washington D.C., May 19, 2004 (CNA) - The Catholic League president says that Catholic politicians, who claim to personally agree with Church teaching, yet feel obligated not to vote that way, are guided more by “pure politics” than by “any alleged constitutional question” of church and state.

In a statement issued yesterday, William Donohue points out that Democratic Sen. John Kerry has expressed that his belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman will determine his public position on the same-sex marriage question. 

In this case, Donohue underlines, “Kerry does not believe that his opposition to same-sex marriage, which mirrors the teachings of the Catholic Church, creates a church-and-state dilemma for him.”

However, Donohue says, the same is not true when the subject switches to reproductive rights. In this case, Kerry says that he cannot allow his personal opposition to abortion to determine his voting on the subject, “because then he would be imposing his Catholic beliefs on others.”

Donohue points out this contradiction by asking: “Why is it acceptable for a Catholic politician to ratify the Church’s teaching on marriage but not abortion? Alternatively, why is it possible to avoid a church-state dilemma when voting to affirm the Church’s teaching on one public policy issue, but not another?

“As long as the issue is a public policy concern … lawmakers of faith can easily reconcile their personal beliefs—grounded in an informed religious conscience—with the votes they cast,” Donohue says.

“The mere invocation of a church-and-state dilemma does not reflexively settle the issue,” he continues. “What may be at play is pure politics, having nothing to do with any alleged constitutional question.”

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Pope calls Poland to remind Europe of its Christian roots

Vatican City, May 19, 2004 (CNA) - “Through the centuries, Europe’s spiritual and cultural patrimony was formed and defended even at the cost of the lives of those who believe in Christ and those who in their religious belief go back to Abraham,” said the Holy Father yesterday evening on receiving Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, his wife and an entourage of fellow Poles, on the occasion of his 84th birthday.

His remarks were in reference to Polish heroism and sacrifice at the Battle of Monte Cassino of which yesterday was the 60th anniversary. “Every Pole recalls with pride that battle which, thanks to the heroism of the army commanded by General Anders, opened the path to liberation for the allies and for the defeat of the nazi invaders,” said the Pope. “At Monte Cassino’s military cemetery there are tombs with Christian and Greek crosses as well as stones marked with the Star of David. Fallen heroes rest there, joined together by the ideal of fighting for ‘our and your freedom’, that includes not only love for one’s homeland, but also concern for the political and spiritual independence of other  nations. Everyone feels the duty to oppose at all costs the physical overpowering of individuals and nations, but also attempts to annihilate their traditions, their culture and their spiritual identity.”

He underscored that “Poland cannot forget this and must remind those who…in the name of the secular nature of democratic societies, seem to forget the contribution of Christianity in building their own identity.”

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Pope recalls Polish heroism at key battle during World War II

Vatican City, May 19, 2004 (CNA) - John Paul II had special words for his fellow Poles this morning at the end of his weekly general audience when he reminded them that today is the 60th anniversary of the battle of Monte Cassino, “an event that subsequent generations of Poles referred to with pride.” The heroism of the Polish troops at Monte Cassino paved the way for the allies to enter Rome.

“It became the symbol of the most noble values of the Polish spirit, and above all of the courage and willingness to give one’s life for ‘your freedom and ours,’ said the Pope.  “How great must have been the love for country in the hearts of the young people who, in a foreign land shed their blood in hope of its liberation.”

John Paul II, referring to the communist occupation that began at the end of the war, remembered that “after the war we had to wait a long time for this hope to be achieved. Today however we can thank God for this great grace which is the freedom of the Polish people. This is both a gift and a duty for today’s generations.”

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Vietnam sentences four Christians to prison for holding worship services

Washington D.C., May 19, 2004 (CNA) - Four Hmong Christians, who organized and led weekly worship services in a house church in Vietnam’s remote province of Ha Giang, have been sentenced to terms of 26 to 36 months for the vague offense of “disturbing public order.”

The sentences were given in late March 2004, however the Center for Religious Freedom was only able to retrieve this information recently. The four men are now being held under harsh conditions of imprisonment.

Ly Chin Sang, 60, a Christian since 1991, was sentenced to three years. His son, Ly Sin Quang, 28, has also been a Christian since 1991. The length of his sentence is not  indicated.

Vang Chin Sang, 56, a Christian since 1999, was sentenced to three years, and Vang My Ly, 24, has been a Christian since 1991 and was sentenced to 26 months.

The men were arrested in November and December of 2003. The accusations include holding meetings of 50 or 60 people over six consecutive Sundays.

All of the men are married with children still at home in Ha Giang province, which has been hit by an intensified anti-Christian campaign by the Vietnamese government.

The Center for Religious Freedom obtained three letters, written in March, by Hmong Christians, which give an account of the officials’ confiscation of Vietnamese Bibles, an electronic keyboard, numerous personal effects, and money. The authors describe being threatened with fines unless they agree to abandon Christianity.

The center reported last month that the Vietnamese military had used drug injections in Lai Chau province to pressure Hmong Christians to sign statements recanting their faith.

Due to international pressure, Vietnamese authorities have recently begun to avoid referring to Christianity when making charges against believers, using the term "illegal religion" instead. The government recognizes as legitimate only Christians who were believers before the 1954 communist revolution.

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“The Church is not a club, it exists for evangelization,” warns Argentinean Bishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 19, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Joaquin Piña of Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, said this week each Christian is called to be a missionary and that “the Church is not a country club where we go to hide in fear of the world.  Every Christian has a mission, a calling he or she is sent to fulfill.”

The Argentinean bishop explained that this mission can be carried out in many ways.  “Not everyone has to go overseas.  But we cannot remain indifferent to a world that does not know Jesus Christ.  Today there are 4 billion non-Christians in world.  But the truth is, of the 2 billion baptized how many of us are truly Christian? “

“Some are even embarrassed to be seen as Christians or they deny that they are by the way they live,” added the bishop.

He went on to say that this task does not consist in “doing big, out-of-the ordinary things.  Some people are always thinking about something new and extraordinary.  Nevertheless, that is not where in holiness is to be found, in the spectacular.  The saints became so not because they worked miracles but because they tried to be faithful day after day.”

The saints, he added, are those “showed great love for God and neighbor, and they expressed it in little ways--sometimes, in the smallest of ways, like in a good relationship, especially in marriage.”

“The truth is it is difficult.  Waking up each morning with a smile, always being ready to listen to others, serving others as best as possible.  The opportunities for us to become saints are vast and abundant!   And if that word scares you, then say: to become a good Christian,” the bishop concluded.

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Christian art exhibit opens in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, May 19, 2004 (CNA) - In an attempt to recover the spiritual and artistic roots of Cuba, this week in Havana a Christian art exhibit has opened, displaying over 46 works of art inspired by the person of Jesus.

The exhibit, which has been set up in the St. Charles and St. Ambrose Seminary, is being called, “Deus Verus, Verus Homo” (“True God, True Man”) and features watercolors, tapestries and sculptures which express their creators’ vision of Jesus.

“Our national cultural identity has been and is a very complicated process of transculturalization,” said art critic Moises Natanael Rodriguez, who added that the art exhibit is especially relevant because of a distorted emphasis on African religiosity to the detriment of the other face of Cuban culture: “Christian spirituality, morality and iconography.”

The exhibit features the work of Nelson Dominguez, Manuel Mendive, Zaida de Rio and Arturo Montoto, as well as works by Roberto Diago, Rigoberto Mena, Agustin Bejarano and Rene Portocarrero.

Organizers said some of the works will be made available for purchase by art collectors.

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Election results in India “positive sign for peace”, says Pakistani Archbishop

Rome, Italy, May 19, 2004 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Lahore and President of the Pakistani Bishops Conference, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, said recent elections in India are a “good omen for dialogue and peace”.

According to the Fides News Agency, the Archbishop said, “The Baratiya Janata Party was a nationalist party which promoted one religion only, where as Congress Party is open to all religious groups, be they Hindu, Muslim, Christian or other and it has a secular vision of India.”

“It brings with it a baggage of dialogue and respect for different cultural and religious identities of the minority groups. This is why we welcome and appreciate its contribution and hope it will intensify political and economic collaboration between India and Pakistan,” the Archbishop added.

Archbishop Saldanha said, “We have great hopes that this will enable our Church here in Pakistan to deepen relations with the Church in India from which we have much to learn in the field of social services, pastoral care for youth, pastoral work in the field of communications, and in general Christian formation and evangelization”.

“The people of India have shown that they will not give in to fundamentalism and that they believe in the values of democracy and freedom,” said the Archbishop.

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