Archive of June 2, 2004

Suffering can be a path of inner freedom, Pope says

Vatican City, Jun 2, 2004 (CNA) - In this morning’s weekly general audience in the presence of 13,000 faithful at St. Peter’s Square, the Pope reflected on Psalm 40, which teaches us to overcome superficiality, vanity and sin, and trust in God’s saving mercy.

John Paul II opened his reflection on Psalm 40, "The prayer of a sick man," by pointing out that Jesus quotes this Psalm on Holy Thursday in the Cenacle to show his deep sadness at the moment of betrayal by Judas: "He who breaks bread with me has raised his heel against me."

These words, he said, express "the supplication of a man who is sick and abandoned by his friends."

"A sick man starts his talk asking pardon of God, according to the traditional Old Testament concept that for every pain there was a corresponding fault. ... Even if this is a vision overcome by Christ, the final Revealer, suffering in itself can conceal a secret value and become a path to purification, to inner freedom, to enrichment of the soul,” said the Pope.

“It invites us,” he continued, “to overcome superficiality, vanity, egoism and sin, and to trust God and His saving will more intensely."

The Holy Father remarked that "when evil-doers enter the scene, coming to a sick person not to comfort them but rather to attack them," the sick man who prays feels indifference and hardness, even on the part of his friends who are transformed into hostile and hateful figures."

"The sense of bitterness is deep when the one who strikes us is 'a friend' whom we trusted, called literally in Hebrew 'a man of peace',” he said.

“In our prayer echoes the voice of a crowd of persons who are forgotten and humiliated in their infirmity and weakness, also by those who should have supported them."

In conclusion, the Pope said that "the prayer of Psalm 40 does not end, however, on this dark background. The one who prays is certain that God will appear on his horizon, revealing, once again, His love. He will give His support and take the sick person in His arms. ... The Psalm, marked by pain, ends on a note of light and hope."

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Pope greets fellow Poles, recalls first visit to Poland

Vatican City, Jun 2, 2004 (CNA) - Today, on the 25th anniversary of his first visit to his native Poland as pope, John Paul II greeted the Polish pilgrims present at the weekly general audience with words of gratitude.

He greeted a group of Poles from Shupsk "for their benevolence and for having given me the title of 'honorary citizen'. I want to repay this good will with my prayers.”

“I also want to greet a group, including their president, from the Podhale Association of Chicago on the occasion of its 75th anniversary. I thank you for your commitment for safeguarding the Christian roots of the culture and Polish traditions among immigrants in America,” said the Pope.

"Today" he concluded, "is the 25th anniversary of the day on which for the first time as Pope I kissed my native soil. I always return in my thoughts to those days and I thank God for the breath of the Holy Spirit that crossed that land and caused such a profound change. May God bless our fatherland and all Poles. May God bless you!"

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International organizations are needed to oversee fair distribution, Vatican offical says

Vatican City, Jun 2, 2004 (CNA) - A speech given by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, an official of the Vatican Secretariat of State, indicating the need for greater control of world markets, was made public today.

Msge. Balestrero’s speech was delivered on May 31, the opening day of the Economic Forum of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is being held in Prague, the Czech Republic. 55 states are participating in the forum which closes on June 4.

Msgr. Balestrero noted that "the OSCE strategy document for the economic and environmental dimension acknowledges that liberalization and technological change have not benefited all the participating States equally, thus contributing, in some cases, to deepening economic disparities between and also within our countries.”

“Notwithstanding the progress achieved,” he continued, “some participating states still need assistance for transition, reforms and integration into the world economy in a fair and effective manner."

He said that "the different conditions that must be respected in order to carry on a process of sustainable development make one fear that many countries will not be able to do so on their own.”

“Thus a fundamental requirement for building up an institutional capacity for economic development consists in creating adequate instruments for the redistribution of global resources. ...  It requires a concerted effort and economic and financial investments."

"We know;" said Msgr. Balestrero, "that international institutions and mechanisms which might possibly favour such a transfer are still lacking.”

He noted that “developed countries at the national level adopt policies aimed at correcting market failures and reduced opportunities for depressed regions. In some countries it may well be that public decision-taking and the public sector itself are excessive.”

Msgr. Balestrero underscored, however, that “the central point to be made is that on the global level the opposite is the case: institutional development has stopped at market-related structures.”

“It is therefore important,” he concluded, “for OSCE's economic commitment to be aware of this limitation and therefore to promote adequate programmes of aid and redistribution."

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Legal watchdog “disappointed” but “not surprised” with Court ruling against Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2004 (CNA) - The American Center for Law and Justice, which filed an amicus (“friendly”) brief in the New York case involving the defense of the ban on partial-birth abortion, said Tuesday's decision by a federal court in California declaring the ban unconstitutional is “disappointing,” but not surprising.

According to the ACLJ, this decision represents only the first step in a lengthy legal road that ends at the Supreme Court of the United States.

“The decision is disappointing, but not surprising,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, who is supporting efforts by the Department of Justice in defending the ban on partial-birth abortion.

“The fact is the federal court in California refused to permit the United States to put forth a full evidentiary record concerning this barbaric procedure and the fact that there is no medical reason for it,” he added.

“This is the first stop on a lengthy legal road that ends at the Supreme Court of the United States,” Sekulow also said. “We're confident that the national ban on this horrific procedure ultimately will be declared constitutional.”

Last week, the ACLJ filed an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York representing 25 members of Congress who co-sponsored the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Casey, who is hearing the New York case, has scheduled closing arguments in the trial for June 22nd.

Judge Casey admitted extensive testimony during the trial including statements from medical experts who testified that the partial-birth abortion procedure, which often includes the dismemberment and decapitation of the partially born child, results in "prolonged and intense pain" to the fetus.

One physician testified that the procedure is "certainly excruciatingly painful." And he told the court that a fetus exhibits acute stress to outside stimulus at the age of 18 weeks.

The ACLJ brief contends that the government has a "vital and compelling interest" in preventing the spread of the practice of abortion into infanticide.

"Partial-birth procedures represent the beachhead of abortion's assault on postnatal life, the bridge between abortion and infanticide," the brief states.

"Absent strong legal barriers and vigorous societal condemnation, partial-birth procedures open the way to legal infanticide."

The American Center for Law and Justice, which specializes in constitutional law and pro-life litigation, is based in Washington, D.C. and its website is:

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Californian diocese to appeal Catholic Charities lawsuit before U.S. Supreme Court

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 2, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop William K. Weigand of Sacramento, announced on Tuesday that Catholic Charities of Sacramento will appeal a decision by the California Supreme Court that Catholic Charities is not a “religious organization” under state law and therefore must provide coverage for contraceptives.

Lawyers for Catholic Charities and the diocese filed their petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, May 28.

The case, Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v. CA Department of Managed Health Care, was filed in July 2000 in response to a change in state law that required employers who provide a prescription drug benefit to also cover birth control.

Religious organizations were exempted from providing contraception coverage for their employees, but the law doesn't consider Catholic hospitals, universities or charities to be religious organizations.

“This lawsuit has very little to do with health insurance and everything to do with our fundamental rights as Americans,” Bishop Weigand said, according to the news agency Business Wire.

“It boils down to a very simple question. Under the Constitution, does the State of California have the right to tell its citizens how to practice their religion?”

“Healing the sick, offering charity to the poor and providing education to the young are fundamental to how Catholics practice their faith,” said Weigand. “We don't ask anyone if they're Catholic first.”

“In other words,” continued Weigand, “if we turned our back on the basic teachings of our religion and employed only Catholics, provided charity and social services only to Catholics, educated only Catholics in our universities and treated only Catholics in our hospitals, we would be in compliance with the law.”

The State of California has 30 days to respond. Four justices must decide to hear the case before it can come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

A decision on whether the Court will accept the case is not expected before October 2004.

Catholic Charities of Sacramento is part of the Diocese of Sacramento and carries out the social justice ministry of the Church to care for the sick, the poor and the needy.

It serves people of all faiths, and in 2003, it helped more than 70,000 people.

The California Catholic Conference has provided a timeline of the confrontation between Catholic Charities and the Supreme Court of California:

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Judge rules in favor of keeping Ten Commandments monument in Utah Park

Ann Arbor, Mich., Jun 2, 2004 (CNA) - The Thomas More Law Center announced on Tuesday that the Society of Separationists failed in its efforts to remove a Ten Commandments monument that has stood since 1971 in a public park in Pleasant Grove City, Utah.

Utah federal district court Judge Bruce S. Jenkins dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Separationists against the City and several of its officials.

According to a press release from the TMLC, Judge Jenkins ruled that the display of a Ten Commandments monument on public property does not violate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.

He noted that the Ten Commandments are an "acknowledgment of one historic source of guidance and direction, one time-honored source of standards of human conduct."

The judge went on to explain that the public display of the Ten Commandments is "as much for the benefit and interest of the unchurched or non-religious as for the benefit of more than one evolving religious tradition," especially since the "'history of man is inseparable from the history of religion.'"

The Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the American Center for Law and Justice office in New Hope, Kentucky, represented the City and its officials.

According to Edward L. White III, Associate Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center who handled the case, "We are pleased that the Ten Commandments monument will continue to stand in the public park in Pleasant Grove City, as it has for the past 33 years.”

“Clearly, the Ten Commandments can be displayed on public property without running afoul of the United States Constitution,” he added.

Richard Thompson, Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, "Too many communities are intimidated by fear of legal fees into removing Ten Commandment displays without even a fight. Pleasant Grove is proof that communities can fight the atheists and win.”

“The Thomas More Law Center stands ready to defend cities in these situations without charge,” he concluded.

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Media picks up story of mother who saved her baby by performing caesarian section on self

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 2, 2004 (CNA) - The Associated Press arrived at the remote village of Rio Talea in the southern mountains of Mexico to confirm a story many couldn’t believe:  a mother performed a caesarian section on herself with nothing more than a knife and a few gulps of rubbing alcohol.

The heroin of this story is Ines Ramirez Perez, mother of seven children, including the one she courageously saved herself.  An AP reporter found her four years later, spoke with her, met her “miracle son” and got confirmation of the story from witnesses.

The extraordinary birth was reported this past March in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics in an article was co-authored by Rafael Valle, an obstetrician at Northwestern University in Chicago.

The woman’s story was known in the village and its surroundings but not in the rest of the country and the world.

On the night of March 5, 2000, Ines was alone in her cabin when the birth pains became too intense.  Her seventh child was ready to be born but there was no one to help her. Her husband was drunk at the local cantina.  She had no phone and neither did the cantina.

The nearest clinic was more than 50 miles away and with the winding mountain roads she would not be able to get there in time.  Three years earlier, she had given birth to a dead baby girl. As her labor intensified, so did her concern for this unborn child.

“So at midnight, after 12 hours of constant pain, the petite, 40-year-old mother of six sat down on a low wooden bench. She took several gulps from a bottle of rubbing alcohol, grabbed the 6-inch knife she used for butchering animals and pointed it at her belly. And then she began to cut,” the AP reports.

According to Ines, she “sawed through skin, fat and muscle before reaching inside her uterus and pulling out her baby boy. She says she cut his umbilical cord with a pair of scissors, then passed out.”

Ines Ramirez is recognized internationally now as a modern miracle. She is believed to be the only woman known to have performed a successful Caesarean section on herself.

"I couldn't stand the pain anymore," she said, four years after the event. "And if my baby was going to die, then I decided I would have to die, too. But if he was going to grow up, I was going to see him grow up, and I was going to be with my child. I thought that God would save both our lives." 

The village health assistant, Leon Cruz, was the first one to arrive at the cabin.  He described in detail what Dr. Honorio Galvan would later see when he received Ines and her baby at the San Pablo Huixtepec, south of Oaxaca City.

  "From what we saw, it was evident this surgery was not done by anyone with medical knowledge," Galvan said. "There is no doctor or healer in the village, and it is highly doubtful that anyone would have been able to do this to her. If they had, it is such a small village, the word would have spread quickly, and we would have known. A whole village can't lie. What would they have to gain?"

Doctors rushed the mother and child into the operating room. “Galvan took photographs while his colleague, Jesus Guzman, opened Ramirez up to find that her uterus had returned to its normal size and stopped bleeding, and that she showed no signs of infection. Galvan doesn't know if Ramirez tried to sterilize the knife before she operated,” writes the AP.

Today, Orlando Ruiz Ramirez is a rambunctious, playful 4-year-old and Ines has become a modern miracle.

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Argentinean bishop says “cafeteria Catholics” not in line with the Church

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 2, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Juan Ruben Martinez of Posadas, Argentina, said this week that in an age marked by individualism it is common that many people call themselves “Catholic” but they make choices and live in ways that are not compatible with the Church.

“It is important to say this because in our age individualism is very strong.  There is no shortage of those who call themselves ‘Catholic’ and whose opinions, choices and way of life are not compatible, nor are they in communion with the Church,” the bishop said.

Bishop Martinez recalled that “through Baptism Christians become part of the Church.  Our faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord, has a personal commitment dimension on the hand, and a community or ‘ecclesial’ dimension on the other.” 

“Without the communal-ecclesial reference point, we end up altering the Word of God to fit our own wishes, desires and ideologies,” he warned.

The bishop recalled a paragraph from the Argentinean Bishops’ document, “Set out into the Deep,” in which they emphasize that “all Christians are called to live our faith in community, in the Church.  Because God does not call us to individualistic holiness, isolated from one another.  The Trinity invites us to communal holiness and to a common mission.”

“It is in the community of the Church,” said Bishop Martinez, “where our faith is formed, where we receive encouragement in the midst of difficulties, and where we receive forgiveness for our sins, and above all, where we receive the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the Lord. The simple and profound faith of our people calls us to ‘communion’ at this time.”

Bishop Martinez reiterated that “without this communal dimension of the faith, it will be difficult for us to adopt a spirituality and a Christian commitment in our ways of thinking, our judgments and our behavior.”

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Restoration of Nicaraguan cathedral damaged by earthquake set to begin

Managua, Nicaragua, Jun 2, 2004 (CNA) - The President of Nicaragua, Enrique Bolanos, announced during a trip to Mexico that he has received the blueprints for the restoration of the historic Cathedral of Managua, which was seriously damaged in an earthquake in 1972.

President Bolanos indicated that the funds for the restoration will come from the governments of France, Spain and Mexico, which have split the costs of the work, totaling more than six million dollars.  Nicaragua will contribute one million dollars to the project.

The idea for restoring the historic Cathedral arose when President Vicente Fox of Mexico visited Nicaragua in March and said he would ask the United Nations to declare the ruins of the Cathedral part of the humanity’s patrimony.

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