Vatican City, Jun 8, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican Press Office announced today that Pope John Paul II sent a heartfelt telegram to Nancy Reagan, expressing his “sadness” on the death of Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States.
"Having learned with sadness of the death of President Reagan, I offer you and your family my heartfelt condolences and the assurance of my prayers for his eternal rest,” wrote the Pope.
“I recall with deep gratitude the late president's unwavering commitment to the service of the nation and to the cause of freedom as well as his abiding faith in the human and spiritual values which ensure a future of solidarity, justice and peace in our world,” he continued.
“Together with your family and the American people I commend his noble soul to the merciful love of God our Heavenly Father and cordially invoke upon all who mourn his passing the divine blessings of consolation, strength and peace."
Vatican City, Jun 8, 2004 (CNA) - This morning Pope John Paul II appointed Msgr. Joseph Robert Cistone, Vicar of the diocese, and Msgr. Joseph Patrick McFadden, pastor of St. Joseph’s in Downingtown, as Auxiliary bishops of Philadelphia.
Msgr. Cistone was born on May 18, 1949 in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania). He went to elementary school at Our Lady of Consolation Parish and High school at Father Judge High School, then studied philosophy and theology at the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.
He was ordained a priest on May 17, 1975 and served as Vicar and pastor in several parishes and Director of Formation at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. From 1993 to 1998 he was assistant to the Vicar of Administration and since 1998 Vicar of Administration.
He has also been Chaplain at the Community College (1982-1987), member of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, of the Presbyteral Council and of the Priest Personnel Board. Since March 14 1998 he has been a Prelate of Honor of His Holiness.
Msgr. McFadden was born on May 22, 1947 in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania). He studied at Saint Joseph University and was a teacher at several Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1969 to 1976, when he entered the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.
He was ordained a priest on May 16, 1981 and served as vicar in several parishes, as well as personal secretary to Cardinal John J. Krol. From 1993 to 2001 was director of the Cardinal O’Hara High School and pastor of Saint Joseph Parish at Downingtown since 2001.
He has also been director of the Archdiocesan pilgrimages to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC and Chaplain of the Serra Club (1992-1993). Since 1993 he has been Spiritual Director at the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. Since May 29, 1991 he has been Prelate of Honor of His Holiness.
Vatican City, Jun 8, 2004 (CNA) - This month the secret Vatican Archives will publish "Inter Arma Caritas: the Information Office in the Vatican for prisoners of war instituted by Pius XII (1939-1947).”
The book consists of two volumes, Inventory and Documents, and is 1,472 pages long. In addition, there are eight DVDs which contain the images of the original files in the archive and the names of 2,100,000 prisoners about whom information has been requested.
The first volume opens with a letter from Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano and a study by Fr. Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Secret Vatican Archives. There will also be an analytic inventory, proceeded by a historic introduction.
The second volume gathers writings - more than 10 million letters - and documents in chronological order which are divided into chapters. The two-volume set of books will be sold together, not seperately and will cost about $80.
Vatican City, Jun 8, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican Observatory at the Papal palace at Castelgandolfo is the site of a large congregation of astronomers this week who are in town to observe the transit of Venus.
An astronomical transit takes place when an object such as a planet passes directly in between to others. In this case Venus passes between Earth and the sun. Venus transits two times, eight years apart, every 130 years.
This is the sixth transit ever to occur since the invention of the telescope, the last one being in 1882. The next will take place in 2012.
Half of the 90 astronomers present observed today’s transit which occurred between 7.20am and 1.30pm. They are organized by the American astronomy magazine, Sky and Telescope.
As proper equipment is necessary to observe the transit and the Sun safely, in preparation for today's event, the Specola received a gift of a telescope especially equipped for solar observation from the Coronado Technology Group, presented by the group's president, David Lund, on May 31 to Fr. George Coyne, S.J. director of the observatory.
The transit of Venus can be seen as a black dot against the sun by anybody who has a telescope with the necessary safety equipment.
Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2004 (CNA) - Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops commended President George W. Bush for his remarks in support of refugees made at the first White House conference on faith-based and community initiatives, held last week.
In a letter expressing appreciation to the president, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory said Bush's "commitment to re-energizing and sustaining the U.S. tradition of admitting refugees from around the world was very much welcomed."
The USCCB president said the increased refugee admissions to the United States this year have "required concerted effort on the part of many in our government, but the leadership from the White House has been critically important."
"It is heartening that the president has expressed his personal support for refugees and the need for Americans to be welcoming of them," said Mark Franken, executive director for USCCB's Migration and Refugee Services, noting the dramatic reductions in refugee admissions since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
"Presidential leadership will be required to ensure that the refugee admissions program is fully restored," said Franken.
During the conference, Bush highlighted the stories of two refugees, who were resettled through local Catholic Charities programs.
The president also recognized the USCCB's Migration and Refugee Services as a model of a faith-based organization, partnering with the government to help persons in need.
Franken and nine other faith-based leaders, including Archbishop Harry Flynn of Minneapolis/St. Paul and Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, met with the president earlier in the day to discuss assistance to refugees and the need for reforms in U.S. immigration laws.
Franken said much work still needs to be done to ensure that refugees receive protection. Funding should become a priority for the program, he said, as well as the development of an overseas infrastructure to identify and process refugees in need of resettlement.
Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2004 (CNA) - The president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has threatened to sue Catholic University of America if the group is unable to come to an agreement with the university to start a student chapter.
CUA rejected an attempt by a student, William Jawando, to start a chapter in April, saying there are already two main groups that represent black students.
NAACP president Kweisi Mfume said the university’s decision was "narrow-minded," calling it “outright discrimination and intolerance all rolled into one,” reported The Associated Press.
According to Mfume, who had gathered with about 20 activists on Catholic University campus, this is the first time in decades that a university has attempted to stop a student chapter from starting, reported AP.
The university also expressed concern about the NAACP’s support of abortion rights but university spokesperson Victor Nakas stressed that is not the main reason for rejecting the NAACP chapter.
Nakas said the university's president, the Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, hopes to meet with Mfume next week. University officials plan to meet with students interested starting a chapter in the fall.
Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2004 (CNA) - Senator Dick Durbin’s “Catholic Scorecard”, which ranks Catholic U.S. senators based on their votes on domestic, international and pro-life issues, is “ludicrous”, says the Catholic League in a recent press release.
The report issued by the senator of Illinois ranks Democratic senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy among the “most Catholic” of 24 U.S. senators despite being openly pro-abortion.
Durbin’s report is called “Evaluating the Votes and Actions of Public Officials from a Catholic Perspective.” It ranks senators concerning the issues listed in a document by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, called “Faithful Citizenship.”
“To say that a senator votes better on Catholic issues because he has voted to increase the minimum wage while voting against a ban on killing a baby who is 80 percent born is ludicrous,” said Catholic League president William Donohue, referring to the recent act that was passed, banning partial-birth abortions.
“Senator Durbin has done the same as some House Democrats last month, lumping together policy issues that do not have the same moral weight,” said Donohue.
“Durbin has even gone so far as to say that the ‘right to religious belief and the separation between church and state’ may be ‘compromised’ by bishops who impose sanctions on pro-abortion lawmakers,” said Donohue. “This is ironic, coming from the senator who on the Judiciary Committee enforced a de facto religious test barring pro-life Catholics from the federal bench.”
Durbin also said that bishops, who have stated that they might deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians, “cross the line in terms of what most Catholic Americans find acceptable regarding the relationship between their Church and their government.”
“The fact of the matter,” said Donohue, “is that the bishops have not only the right but the duty to speak on moral issues that play out in the public sphere; and Durbin’s inflammatory rhetoric is a blatant attempt to muzzle them.”
Montreal, Canada, Jun 8, 2004 (CNA) - A man was sentenced to one year in prison and two years probation after giving his pregnant girlfriend potent drugs, without her consent, so as to cause a miscarriage.
Judge Jean-Pierre Bonin said May 18 he wanted Gary Bourgeois’ sentence to send a message to all men facing an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy, reported The Gazette.
“Society cannot tolerate a male partner in a relationship unilaterally putting an end to a pregnancy,” he said, adding that Bourgeois violated the woman’s most basic rights.
Bourgeois had two women pregnant at the same time in 2001. He tried to persuade the victim to have an abortion, but the woman, a mother of three, said she was opposed to it.
After speaking with friends, doing research on the Internet and consulting with a doctor, Bourgeois decided to take matters into his own hands. After having intercourse with the pregnant woman, he inserted two pills, used to treat stomach ulcers, into her vagina. The woman began to cramp and hemorrhage. She miscarried her baby in hospital at 14 weeks gestation. Charges were made after the woman discovered one of the pills.
Bourgeois’ lawyer, Lloyd Fischler, said his client was surprised by the sentence but had considered the possibility that he would be given jail time.
Havana, Cuba, Jun 8, 2004 (CNA) - The Lay Diocesan Council of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, published a statement this week denouncing the serious crisis that is currently engulfing Cuban society and warning that it will only be overcome with a development model that promotes the human person.
Under the title, “Discouragement is a call for hope and for change,” the Council states, “Our desperation is the fruit of having placed our hopes in projects which do not promote the human person” and which fail to take into account that “as a project, man is constantly remaking himself, and that model of humanity is nothing more than Christ Jesus.”
“Our hope is not in expecting God to do everything, but rather, relying upon God, doing with others what it belongs to us to do,” says the text published by the Vitral newsletter.
The Council adds, “Our despair is the fruit of peacefully waiting for others to find the solutions instead of offering our own share of sacrifices and personal responsibilities. Authentic sacrifice is to work here and now so that what is lacking is made ever more present.”
Signs of the Crisis
The Council also calls on Cubans to consider the signs of the crisis: emigration, tensions, the lack of plans for the future, incoherency, and the lack of personal fulfillment.
“We can see an increase in despair because today more than ever integrity, dignity and the rights of the human person are threatened, and we see an increase in personal and social violence, in the increasingly frequent signs of alienation and hedonism, family divisions, the loss of values, the lack of freedom, structural oppression and injustice…Many people have no sense of hope whatsoever.”
The statement underscores that “hope is a very fragile experience and can be vulnerable in the face of continuous failure, because it is lived out in the changing reality of every day life” but “it is love and trust, and it greatly expands precisely in times of crisis. Jesus told us in word and deed: ‘I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full’ (Jn 6:40). We have been saved in order to live in faith and hope.”
The Lay Council calls on Cubans to “learn to hope, not with their arms folded, without becoming overwhelmed by ever-changing reality. With the diversity of beliefs and ideologies as our starting point, we should reflect, dialogue, look to the future and create new social projects for our country, in which man is the subject, the protagonist and the end.”
The Council added, “The problem of Cuba is a problem among Cubans, it is a problem which springs from our way of living and organizing the country and it should be resolved by all Cubans, without exceptions.”
“Our people have shown throughout its history a great capacity to recuperate, create new initiatives, and come up with creative solutions to overcome crises and bring about necessary change. We are characterized as well by having the tools, the gifts and the charisms to choose life and to go forward. Let’s choose life and the path of peace, which are the beginning of a new day and strength for the future,” the statement concludes.
Santiago, Chile, Jun 8, 2004 (CNA) - The Health Ministry of Chile has officially put sanctions on hold against mayors who refuse to distribute the controversial morning after pill, thus putting an end to threats by the Minister of Health, Pedro Garcia, against pro-life local leaders.
The newspaper El Mercurio quotes Undersecretary Antonio Infante, who said, “After several days of uncertainty and analysis in the Ministry,” the possibility of applying sanctions against mayors such as Marta Ehlers ok Lo Barnechea, Manuel José Ossandón of Puente Alto, Roberto Sepúlveda of Maipú, Cristián Labbé of Providencia, Jacqueline Van Rysselberghe of Concepción and Carolina Plaza of Huechuraba, was lifted. All had refused to distribute the pill in their municipalities.
At the beginning of the controversy Garcia had said that no mayor would be allowed to prevent distribution of the drug and he threatened sanctions and the withdrawal of funding from mayors who refused to follow the directives.
According to the Notivida News Agency, “What the socialist government of Chile portrayed as a rebellion was nothing more than the legitimate exercise of the right to conscientious objection.”
Madrid, Spain, Jun 8, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II is the world leader most admired by the Spanish according to the Elcano Royal Institute.
As reported in the Spanish newspaper La Razon, the latest survey by the Elcano Institute reveals that Pope John Paul II is the international leader most admired by the Spanish, ahead of Brazilian President “Lula” da Silva and EU Official Javier Solana.