Archive of June 25, 2004

Europe’s future depends on the institution of the family, says Pope

Vatican City, Jun 25, 2004 (CNA) - In an address today to participants in the European Symposium of University Professors, the Holy Father strongly affirmed that “Europe’s future depends on the family.”

The Symposium is being held in Rome to discuss the theme "The Family in Europe, foundations, experiences and prospects" by looking at the philosophical, juridical and theological bases of the institution of the family.

As the Pope noted, the symposium is taking place within the context of the International Year of the Family.

“One can say thefamily is the mirror of society and even of the Europe which is being built. The evolution of the family is the most important indicator of cultural and institutional developments of the continent,” said John Paul II.

He added that “in the first millennium the encounter between Roman law and the Christian message gave rise to what can be called the European model of the family, spread on a broad scale to the Americas and Oceania.”

In the last 50 years, he said, phenomena have occurred in developed societies "in a very visible fashion and symptomatic of a deep crisis, with consequences we all can see today.”

“In the face of such crises,” he continued, “the family has always been an element of cohesion and strength and, even when bitterly contested, has been the object of hopes, desires, projects and nostalgia.”

“The central question,” said John Paul II, “is: Can we today still speak of a model of the family. The Church is convinced, within today's context, that it is more than ever necessary to reaffirm the institutions of marriage and the family as realities which derive from the wise will of God, and fully reveal their meaning and value within His plan of creation and salvation.”

The Pope expressed his hope that the syposium "will contribute to allowing families in the Europe of today and tomorrow to adequately fulfill the role that is theirs because of their very high dignity.”

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Pope praises Malta’s faith, says it has vital role of upholding Christian identity of Europe

Vatican City, Jun 25, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father received recently elected President Edward Fenech Adami of Malta this morning and through him sent his “heartfelt greetings to the people of Malta,” who he thanked for their “firm adherence to the faith.”

“Your visit today," said the Pope, "occurs at an important moment in the history of your country.  As Malta takes its rightful place in the European Union, it has a vital role to play in upholding the profoundly Christian identity of this Continent.”

“In this regard,” he said, “I would like to express the Holy See's sincere appreciation for the support given by Your Excellency and the government of Malta for the inclusion of a reference to Europe's Christian heritage in the Preamble of the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union.”

“Since the time of Saint Paul, Malta has been renowned for its firm adherence to the faith. I pray that it will persevere in this and I am confident that the Maltese people, well known for their dedication to the Church and, in particular, their great respect for family life, will draw others to a deeper appreciation of the liberating message of the Gospel,” said John Paul.

Pope John Paul has been to Malta three times: in May 1990, a brief visit to Luqa on the way to Africa in September 1990 and again in May 2001.

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Formerly paralyzed women prove effectiveness of adult stem-sell research

Washington D.C., Jun 25, 2004 (CNA) - Two women, who were formerly paralyzed but treated with the use of adult stem cells, attended a press conference yesterday to demonstrate the effectiveness of adult stem-cell treatment as opposed to embryonic stem-cell treatment.

In the current debate on the issue, some members of the scientific community insist that adult stem-cell research is not as effective as embryonic stem-cell research. However, the Catholic Church and pro-life organizations are against embryonic stem-cell research since it would involve the destruction of an embryo, that is, human life. They believe that embryonic stem-cell research is not an ethical solution to treat ailments and illnesses.

Republican Senator Sam Brownback conducted yesterday’s press conference and made the case in favor of adult stem-cell research. The Kansas senator introduced Laura Dominguez and Susan Fajt, two women with severe spinal cord injuries, who were treated with adult stem cells.

Dominguez was a quadriplegic at 16 after a car accident severely damaged her spinal cord. However, due to treatment using her own olfactory sinus stem cells, Dominguez can now walk with the aid of braces. A car accident also left Susan Fajt paralyzed, but she, too, can walk with braces today because of experimental new adult stem-cell treatment.

The two young women “are a powerful witness against the embryonic research PR machine," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

“Adult stem cells and other ethically acceptable alternatives have already helped hundreds of thousands of patients, and new clinical uses expand almost weekly,” said the statement issued by the USCCB. “In fact, non-embryonic cell therapies have quickly moved forward to perform many of the tasks once thought to be possible only with embryonic stem cells.”

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Catholic League slams Jewish newspaper criticizing U.S. bishops

Washington D.C., Jun 25, 2004 (CNA) - The president of the Catholic League said Catholics are owed an apology after the lead editorial in the June 25 edition of a prominent Jewish weekly newspaper accuses Catholic bishops of being a threat to democracy.

The editorial in the Forward rebukes the bishops for deciding to withhold Communion from pro-abortion Catholic politicians. It states: “The threat by Catholic bishops to withhold Communion from politicians who uphold abortion rights is an affront not just to democracy, but also to the best moral teachings of Catholicism.”

The editorial continues: “Where democracy is affronted is at the point where a church—the nation’s largest single church, as it happens—attempts to impose its views from above by threatening to withhold what its believers consider an essential religious rite.”

“That’s nothing more than bullying, trying to bludgeon believers into substituting obedience for conscience.  It’s unfair to believers and unfair to the system,” reads the editorial. 

“It is the height of arrogance and intolerance for a Jewish newspaper to lecture Catholic bishops on the propriety of denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians,” said Catholic League president William Donohue in a statement.

“At issue is not a matter of public policy; on the contrary, it is purely an internal matter,” said Donohue. “As such, it is none of the Forward’s business what disciplinary measures the bishops decide.”

Donohue said accusing Catholics of being a threat to democracy “is the oldest canard in the arsenal of anti-Catholics.”

“Not only that,” Donohue continues, “the editorial presumes to know better than the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops what the best moral teachings of the Catholic Church are.”

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Christian Brothers invited to open new public school in Chicago

Chicago, Ill., Jun 25, 2004 (CNA) - Chicago Public Schools officials have invited the De La Salle Christian Brothers to open a new public middle school in the city, the Chicago Sun-Times reported yesterday. It would be the first public school in Chicago, which is founded and run by a religious order but funded with tax dollars.

The Christian Brothers currently operate two campuses of San Miguel School – a Catholic middle school – in the city. The third school, however, would be within the public school system. It would be part of the city’s plan to create 100 new schools in the next six years.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan invited the Christian Brothers to open the new public school during a recent visit to San Miguel, Br. Edward Siderewicz, San Miguel’s president, told the Sun-Times.

The new public school would not be Catholic in nature. There would be no classroom crucifixes, no prayers and no mass, said Br. Siderewicz. It would simply adopt the same educational model as San Miguel – which is quite unique.

The model includes year-round classes, longer school days, mandatory after-school activities and 9-to-1 student-teacher ratios.

Students must read a book of their choice for 80 minutes each day, and former students receive after-school tutoring while in high school.

The model also requires a lot of parental involvement. Parents must attend parent-teacher conferences every three weeks. They are also asked to return to San Miguel for monthly meetings when their child moves on to high school.

In addition, many teachers live in community, with free room and board, and receive a monthly stipend.

The model seems effective and successful. Of those who attend the middle school, 87 percent complete high school, despite coming from neighborhoods with high dropout rates, Br. Siderewicz said.

The proposal is awaiting the approval of the Christian Brothers’ provincial leaders and Francis Cardinal George.

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Bishops to invite Pope to visit Northern Ireland

Rome, Italy, Jun 25, 2004 (CNA) - The bishops of Ireland have announced the possibility of a historic visit by Pope John Paul II to Northern Ireland.  The bishops hope to invite the Pope to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his visit to Ireland with a Mass in the province of Ulster.

Speaking on state broadcaster RTE, Bishop Michael Smith of Meath said, “I think it is fair to say there will be discussions with Rome and if the Pope is open to an invitation, no one is going to deny him an invitation.”

If the trip went ahead it would be the first time the head of the Catholic Church has ever set foot in Northern Ireland.

In 1979, John Paul II could not visit Ulster because of violence among Protestants, who support British rule, and Catholics, who favor the unification of Ireland.

“Could he come now (to Northern Ireland)? I think he could,” said Bishop Smith.

According to the Reuters report, any decision on the Pope visiting Northern Ireland would depend on the permission of the British government, which would have to mount an unprecedented security operation to protect him.

“A lot will depend on his counselors, on his advisers, on his health and on circumstances here,” said Donal McKeown, auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor.

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Sports and tourism aid mutual understanding and development, says Pope

Vatican City, Jun 25, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father has written a letter on the virtues of sports and tourism and the contribution they make to life and culture. The message, written for the  the occasion of the 25th World Day of Tourism which will take place on September 27 on the theme "Sports and Culture: Two vital forces for mutual understanding, culture and development among countries," was made public today.

Tourism "contributes to improving relationships between persons and groups of people which, when it is cordial, respectful and unified, is like a door open to peace and coexistence,” writes the Pope in the letter dated May 30, the Solemnity of Pentecost.

“In effect, much of the violence in our age is due to misunderstanding and even the rejection of the values and identity of other cultures. For this reason, misunderstanding can often be overcome through greater reciprocal knowledge,” he said.

“In this context, I also think about the millions of immigrants who must become part of the society that accepts them, based above all on the appreciation and recognition of the identity of each person or group.”

The Pope also stated that the many abuses of the tourism industry such as “the phenomena of exaggerated commercialism, aggressive competition, violence against persons and things, even the degradation of the environment and the offense of the cultural identity of those who welcome tourists, cannot be ignored.”

“Therefore,” he said, “the World Day of Tourism offers the opportunity not only to affirm the positive contribution of tourism to a more just and peaceful world, but also to examine the specific conditions in which it is carried out.”

“In this respect,” he continues, “the Church cannot allow the focus of its vision of man and history to be lost. In effect, the supreme principle which must govern human coexistence is respect for the dignity of each person, created in the image of God, and therefore, our brother or sister.”

“This principle,” he said, “must guide all economic and political activity, according to the social doctrine of the Church, and it must also inspire religious and cultural coexistence.”

The Pope noted that sports and tourism asre closely linked in international sporting events such as the Olympic Games.

He also pointed to the virtues that sport helps to cultivate, and that in turn must be adhered to in order to insure “the correct practice of sport: the virtues of temperance and sacrifice; frequently it also requires a good team spirit, respectful attitudes, the appreciation of the qualities of others, honesty in the game and humility to recognize one's own limitations.”

“In short,” he said, “sports, especially in less competitive forms, foster festive celebration and friendly coexistence. While playing sports, Christians also find help in developing the cardinal virtues - fortitude, temperance, prudence and justice."

“Without ignoring the deviations that regrettably continue to occur,” he said in conclusion, “I want to earnestly and hopefully urge people to promote 'sports which encourage the weakest and do not exclude anyone, which free young people from apathy and indifference, and provoke in them a healthy spirit of competition; sports which are a factor in the emancipation of the poorest countries and help to eliminate intolerance and to build up a more fraternal and united world; sports which help people to love life and help us to understand sacrifice, respect and responsibility, leading to recognizing fully the value of every person'.”

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Christianity cannot be relegated to the private sector, says Archbishop

Madrid, Spain, Jun 25, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia, Spain, stated this week that Christianity “has a vocation to public witness and active presence in all aspects of life.”

“After two thousand years, Europe is a significant example of the spiritual fertility of Christianity, which cannot be relegated to the private sector,” said the Archbishop in his latest pastoral letter.

If Europe “prevents the religious and Christian sector from exercising its role of inspiring ethics and its social dimension, it will not only be denying the heritage of the past, it will also place in doubt the future of all Europeans, whether they are believers or not,” he said.

Likewise, the Archbishop said the divorce between one’s faith and one’s public life is not coherent and is “incompatible with the Christian spirit which has molded Europe.”

John Paul II “has shown a new way to Pope,” but he has also “contributed very effectively to the transformation of the world in the last part of the 20th century,” said Archbishop Garcia-Gasco.

In his letter, he said John Paul II “is an extraordinary example of charity and faith,” pointing out the Pope’s “untiring willingness to bring the Gospel to all parts of the world, as a true apostle, despite his physical sufferings of recent years.”

He concluded his letter by inviting believers to pray for the Pope, “and after, to imitate his example of faith and generous service.”

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Iraqi priest says dialogue between Turks and Iraqi Kurds are “a step towards peace”

Rome, Italy, Jun 25, 2004 (CNA) - Fr. Nizar Semaan, an Iraqi priest in Mosul, told the Vatican news agency Fides this week that meetings between Turkish Prime Minister Tayyp Erdogan and Iraqi Kurd leader Jalal Talabani (Kurd Patriotic Union) are “most important for the stabilization of the situation in Iraq.”

“Iraq’s Kurds have undertaken an important change in their policies, renouncing independence but making a request for an Iraqi federal state,” Father Nizar told Fides.

“This change has obviously been noted by Turkey. I am convinced in fact that if the rights of Kurds in Iraq are guaranteed this will lead to the same measure in the other countries where there are communities of Kurds. I think it in the interests of Turkey to reach an agreement which established peace within its own territory and along its southern borders,” the priest said.

Fr. Semaan also praised a meeting which took place between a Turkish delegation and the traditional Iraqi Kurd Massoud Barzani (leader of the Kurd democratic Party).

All together Kurds are between 20-25 million in five countries, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Azerbaijan.

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