Vatican City, Jun 30, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II today expressed his wishes and prayers for the new Iraq on the occasion of the transfer of power to the interim government in a telegram sent to His Excellency Sheikh Ghazi Ajeel Al-Yawar, president of Iraq.
The Holy Father’s message reads as follows:
“On the happy occasion of the transfer of power to the Interim Government of the State of Iraq, the Holy Father sends his cordial greetings to Your Excellency and to the citizens of your country.
He prays that, as a new chapter begins in the life of the nation, the hopes of the Iraqi people for peace, freedom and prosperity will soon be fulfilled. His Holiness has always been deeply concerned for the suffering people of Iraq. He has expressed his solidarity with them on many occasions, not least through the constant presence among them of his personal representative, the Apostolic Nuncio.
Now, as you take up the office of President, the Catholic Church throughout the world offers you every support and encouragement in the task of building a new Iraq. Your noble country, once home to Abraham, is now home to a rich variety of faith traditions.
The Holy Father is confident that all religious groups within the country will be able to make their voices heard and to play their rightful part in forging a new society, committed to true freedom of conscience, to justice for all and to peaceful dialogue.
Assuring Your Excellency and all the Iraqi people of his prayers, the Holy Father invokes upon you the abundant blessings of Almighty God.”
Analogous messages were sent from Cardinal Sodano to His Excellency Mr Iyad Allawi, Prime Minister of Iraq, and from Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States, to His Excellency Mr Hoshyar Zebari, Iraqi Minister for Foreign Affairs.
, Jun 30, 2004 (CNA) - A resolution co-sponsored by most Latin American countries, with the exception of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, who joined the U.S. pro-life delegation, emerged yesterday endorsing a declaration that calls for the provision of “user-friendly sexual and reproductive health services” for adolescents. The term “reproductive health services” has been understood by United Nations agencies like WHO, UNICEF, and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) to include abortion.
The declaration goes beyond any prior United Nations document by telling countries to promote abortion, accommodate adolescent sexual promiscuity, and deny parents the right to be involved in these sensitive areas, thus leaving children vulnerable to adults and abortionists who would exploit them.
The resolution, introduced at a meeting in Puerto Rico of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), endorses the Santiago Declaration, released at an ECLAC meeting in Chile held in March 2004. ECLAC is reviewing how countries are implementing the provisions of a controversial document on population and development produced in Cairo in 1994. The meetings are dominated by UNFPA, which assists China with its forced abortion program,
The Santiago Declaration calls upon ECLAC members to “recognize, promote and protect the right of adolescents and young people to access information, education and user-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, safeguarding the right of adolescents and youth to privacy, confidentiality, and informed consent.”
According to pro-life leaders, "this goes far beyond the International Conference on Population and Development. Strikingly absent is any mention of parental involvement. Without such involvement, a child could engage in, or be coerced into, harmful sexual behavior and even have an abortion without her parents’ knowledge."
The Santiago Declaration also calls for countries to report to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on how it is implementing the provisions. This committee has pressured countries to decriminalize abortion and make access to abortion “swift and easy.”
A spokesman for the Latin American Alliance for Family (ALAFA) revealed that "abortion advocates have described (in memos and lawsuits) their strategy to force countries to overturn laws protecting unborn babies by convincing delegates to agree to international documents with vague language. Then abortion groups will file lawsuits in international and national courts seeking judges to overturn countries’ laws, or tell legislators that they are bound to undo their laws to be in compliance with the international agreements."
Most Latin American countries, who have explicit prohibitions against abortion in their constitutions, seem not to be aware that their delegates are supporting the controversial resolution.
Problems with the "Santiago Declaration"
According to ALAFA, some of the problems with the Santiago Declaration are as follows:
There is refererence to the rights of adolescents and youth to sexual and reproductive health services, including the right to privacy and informed consent, without any accompanying language that links these rights to the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents, who have primary responsibility for their children's education and well-being.
In regard to sexual and reproductive health for adolescents, there is no reference to abstinence which is the healthiest choice for unmarried adolescents.
It reaffirms the Cairo and Cairo + 5 documents without reference to, or taking into account, the numerous reservations and interpretative statements made at the time of the adoption of these documents.
In regard to Reproductive Rights (which can be interpreted to include abortion) it calls for the review and implementation of “legislation guaranteeing the responsible exercise of reproductive rights and reproductive health, and to non-discriminatory access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health, and for incorporation of information on the promotion of reproductive rights and respect for such rights in national reports, including the report submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.”
The language in the quote above could be interpreted as a call for changes in laws on abortion and is also urging ECLAC members to give reports to the CEDAW Committee which is already pressuring Latin American countries (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay) and others to change their laws to make abortion legal.
The Santiago Declaration calls for the incorporation of public policies in health sector reforms that promote the exercise of "reproductive rights."
It also calls for the training and equipping of health care providers to increase access to abortion.
Vatican City, Jun 30, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I delivered a shared homily expressing their respective commitments to Christian unity during Mass yesterday in St. Peter’s Square on the occasion of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, in which the Pope also bestowed the Pallium on 44 archbishops from around the world.
The Pope and the Patriarch pronounced their homilies following the reading of the Gospel in both Latin and Greek. The Nicene-Constantinople Creed was then recited in Greek according to the liturgical use of the Byzantine Churches.
Pope John Paul intorduced the homily of Bartholomew, who spoke of the progress that had been made since the embrace 40 years ago between Paul VI and Patriarch Athengoras.
However, the Patriarch added that “it has not been possible to eliminate in these 40 years the opposition that has accumulated during over 900 years. ... We hope that what has not been possible up to now will be obtained in the future, a near future.”
“Our presence here today shows our sincere desire to remove all ecclesial obstacles which are not dogmatic or essential, so that our interest is concentrated on the study of the essential differences and the dogmatic truths that up to today have divided our Churches, as well as on the manner of living the Christian truth of the united Church,” said Bartholomew.
The ecumenical patriarch said that the unity of the Churches in not like that of a business or of States, “but is a spiritual search that aims at living together our spiritual communion with the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“In this delicate spiritual effort,” he continued, “difficulties emerge due to the fact that the greater part of us men most often present our own positions, opinions and evaluations as if they were expressions of the mind, of the love and, in general, of the spirit of Christ.”
“Since such personal opinions and evaluations ... do not coincide, either among themselves or with how Christ lived, discord emerges,” said Bartholomew, “What we must seek, he said, is not only external union, but union of spirit, in the spirit of Christ.”
In his homily, the Holy Father noted that the presence of Patriarch Bartholomew at this evening's liturgy marked the 40th anniversary of "the fraternal embrace" in 1964 between Pope Paul VI and then Patriarch Athenagoras which he called "not just a memory, but a challenge for us, indicating the path of reciprocal discovery and reconciliation."
Quoting his 1995 Encyclical “Ut Unum Sint,” the Holy Father said: “To believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Father's plan from all eternity. Such is the meaning of Christ's prayer: ‘Ut unum sint’ (‘that they may be one’).”
He added that the commitment to communion “is not a question of a vague relationship of good neighbors but rather the indissoluble bond of theological faith for which we are destined to communion, not to separation.”
“Whatever, over time, has broken our bond of unity in Christ we find painful today,” said the Pope, “Thus, today's encounter is not just a gesture of courtesy but is an answer to the Lord's command.”
He stated that “The Church of Rome has moved with firm will and with great sincerity on the path of full reconciliation, through initiatives that have shown themselves to be, everytime, possible and useful.. ... We know that unity is above all a gift from God, ...but bringing about its realization depends also on us.”
The Holy Father told Patriarch Bartholomew that he has “always been guided on the path to unity by the sure compass of the teaching of Vatican Council II. ... I repeat today that the commitment undertaken by the Catholic Church with Vatican Council II is irrevocable. We cannot renounce this!”
In conclusion, the Holy Father addressed the archbishops about to receive the pallium, telling them that this “is a sign of the communion that unites you in a special way to the apostolic witness of Peter and Paul. It links you to the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter, called to undertake a special ecclesial service with regard to the entire episcopal college.”
Vatican City, Jun 30, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father explained, in today's general audience in St. Peter's Square, the significance of the Pallium which he imparted to 44 archbishops yesterday, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.
John Paul II made only a very brief mention of the Pallium during yesterday’s Mass, owing to the occasion of the historic attendance of Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, with whom the Pope shared the homily, in order to commemorate “the forty years of the historical embrace” between Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I in Jerusalem.
During today’s audience the Pope recalled the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, yesterday, who are so venerated in Rome, “where they sealed their admirable witness of love for the Lord with blood.”
During the celebration, he continued, “forty-four metropolitan archbishops received the pallium. This “special liturgical insignia,” which is a white stole made of lambs' wool worn around the neck, expresses “communion with the Bishop of Rome.”
John Paul II said that the pallium “expresses the fundamental principle of communion that gives shape to ecclesial life in all aspects; it reminds us that this communion is organic and hierarchal; it expresses the fact that the Church, since it is one, needs the special service of the Church of Rome and its bishop, head of the Episcopal college.”
The rite of the pallium, he added, also highlights “the universality of the Church,” sent "by Christ to announce the Gospel to all nations and to serve humanity.”
The Pope concluded by inviting the faithful to help the metropolitans, “to remain united to them and to pray for the pastoral mission that they have been entrusted with. I also am thinking of the eight metropolitans who are not present today and who received the pallium in their own sees.”
Today’s general audience was the last audience that the Holy Father will celebrate before his short vacation in Valle D'Aosta in the Italian Alps from July 5 to 17.
Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2004 (CNA) - A recent poll claims that the most important factor, which will determine how Catholics will vote in the November presidential election, is their confidence in President George W. Bush to resolve the conflict in Iraq.
The poll, conducted by Belden Russonello and Stewart from June 2 to 10, was commissioned by the pro-abortion group “Catholics for a Free Choice.” It surveyed 2,239 Catholics voters, among them 366 Hispanics.
The pro-abortion group, declared as non-Catholic and in contradiction with Catholic teachings by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB,) states that the poll is “the largest and most statistically significant poll available of Catholic opinions on 2004 election issues.”
According to the poll, 54 percent of Catholic voters support keeping U.S. troops "in Iraq as long as necessary to establish democracy and stability." Only 45 percent support "bringing the troops home within six months, even if democracy and stability are not established."
The results are similar on whether Catholic voters think Bush has the ability to resolve the situation in Iraq: 54 percent have a "great deal" or "some" confidence, while 46 percent have "not much" or "very little confidence" in his ability to resolve the situation there.
Hispanic Catholics are among the most likely to want the troops home (54 percent) and to lack confidence in the president on this issue (59 percent).
Of those who have confidence in Bush’s ability to bring a resolution to the war, 96 intend to vote for Bush; 88 percent who do not have confidence intend to vote for the Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry.
The poll is part of “Catholics in Political Life: Challenges to Faith in Democracy,” a project of Catholics for a Free Choice, headed by the former nun Frances Kissling. The project was designed to “analyze how Catholics respond to the role of the Catholic hierarchy in the elections.”
The complete poll will be released July 13. It is accurate plus/minus 2.1 percentage points.
Denver, Colo., Jun 30, 2004 (CNA) - The death penalty does not contribute in creating justice, but only feeds a culture of violence and revenge, said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver in his most recent column, published in the Denver Catholic Register.
The column comes on the heels of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last week, which rejected the appeals of more than 100 Americans who were sentenced to death and are awaiting execution.
The archbishop acknowledged that most Americans and American Catholics support the death penalty. He also pointed out that President George Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry support capital punishment.
“America’s on-going addiction to the death penalty is one of the great signs of our nation’s divided heart about the sanctity of the human person,” wrote the archbishop.
The archbishop underlined the Church’s repeated message to nations worldwide to stop the death penalty as a response to crime.
“While Scripture and Catholic tradition both support the legitimacy of capital punishment under certain circumstances, Pope John Paul II has stressed again and again that those circumstances almost never exist in today’s developed countries,” he wrote. “We’re called to serve justice through a higher moral road of mercy and restraint.
The archbishop argued that the death penalty does not deter crime or bring back the victims. He also pointed out that innocent people “have almost certainly” been executed for crimes they did not commit.
“Americans are a free people with public institutions founded in human dignity. We don’t need to kill people to vindicate our laws and punish crime,” wrote the archbishop. “All we accomplish with the death penalty is adding to a growing culture of violence, modeling revenge to our children and demeaning our own humanity.
“God made us better than this,” he said.
In the United States, 38 states have the death penalty. About 3,400 men and women are awaiting execution.
London, England, Jun 30, 2004 (CNA) - A new 3D ultrasound scan has produced vivid pictures of a 12 week-old unborn baby "walking", yawning and rubbing its eyes in the womb, reported the BBC.
The new scan can provide much greater detail than the conventional ultrasound, which only produces 2D images.
The 3D scan, which records fetal movement in real time, was developed by Professor Stuart Campbell at London's Create Health Clinic.
Campbell has previously released images of unborn babies, including those babies appearing to smile, in a book called “Watch Me Grow”.
Campbell says his work shows for the first time that the unborn baby engages in complex behavior from an early stage of its development, including typical baby behavior and moods at 26 weeks, such as scratching, smiling, crying, hiccuping, and sucking.
Until recently it was thought that smiling did not start until six weeks after birth.
A selection of the photos can be seen at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/3847319.stm
Managua, Nicaragua, Jun 30, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Bernardo Hombach of Granada, Nicaragua, said in an interview this week with the newspaper “La Prensa” that there is “much hypocrisy” in the way in which the media and society treat cases of sexual abuse by priests.
Although there are few cases of clerical abuse in Nicaragua, Bishop Hombach mentioned well-known cases in other countries, saying the policy of the Church should be “zero tolerance.”
“As a pastor, the bishop always remains responsible (for the accused priest). I think that when he is sure there is something very serious going on, he must remove him,” he said.
Bishop Hombach underscored that both spiritual renewal in one’s vocation as well as friendships with other priests are key to avoiding infidelities in one’s call. “Celibacy and a certain poverty in a priest’s way of life only have meaning if he sees them in the context of his vocation.”
Nevertheless, he said that accusations against priest represent in his opinion “a great hypocrisy in society.”
“As a priest I can tell you that here (in his diocese), 1 in 5 women have been raped before the age of twelve. Perhaps 1 in 9 men were raped before the age of nine. And I can say that 1 in 5,000 or 10,000 was abused by a priest, but nobody seems to notice the other 9,999 cases.”
“Only when it’s a priest involved to be people say anything,” he continued. “And that in a society that his completely hypocritical and living sexual license to the extreme.”
"I am sure that whenever any of my brother bishops are aware of a particular case, that priest is removed from ministry immediately,” he concluded.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 30, 2004 (CNA) - Residents in Madrid are protesting a decision by Madrid mayor, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon—to grant a subsidy of more than $36,000 for the celebration of “Gay Pride” week in the Spanish capital.
According to reports broadcast on the COPE radio network, the city government of Madrid will sponsor the “festivities” which will take place on July 3.
A popular Spanish website (http://www.hazteoir.com/) has launched a protest encouraging people to send a message to the mayor expressing their rejection that their tax dollars be spent on “lewd conduct,” including a parade featuring obscenity and perverse acts.
The website points out that during previous editions of this “parade,” participants have engaged in exhibitionism and mockery of the religious beliefs of most Spaniards. Likewise it mentioned that thousands of minors would be exposed to the event and that the decision by the mayor to finance it could be in violation of Spanish law.
“Although the number of homosexuals who themselves reject this disgraceful spectacle of obscenity and lewdness is increasing, because of the bad image it gives them, the city government has decided to give money to it for the first time,” the alert concludes.