Vatican City, Jul 19, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father, on returning to his apostolic palace at Castelgandolfo from his 12 day vacation, prayed the Angelus with several thousand faithful and, referring to the day’s Gospel, spoke of the importance of keeping Sunday a day to “meet and listen to the Lord.”
Sundays’s Gospel was the account of when Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha, noting that “while Martha was busy with household chores, Mary was seated at the Lord's feet and listened to His word. Christ affirms that 'Mary has chosen the good portion which shall not be taken away from her'. Listening to the word of God is the most important thing in our life,” said the Pope.
The Holy Father pointed to the many occasions for listening to God: by reading Sacred Scripture, in private or community prayer, in silence before the tabernacle and “especially on Sundays when Christians are called to meet and listen to the Lord, ... through participation in the Mass.”
“When, through the action of the Holy Spirit, God resides in the heart of the believer, it becomes easier to serve our brothers. That happened in a singular and perfect way in Mary Most Holy. We entrust this vacation time to her, so that it will be best used as a propitious occasion for rediscovering the primacy of interior life,” he said.
Following the Angelus prayer, John Paul II greeted the faithful present, especially the residents of Castelgandolfo, whom he thanked “for your always warm welcome.” He also greeted Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of State, and other religious and civil authorities present.
Boston, Mass., Jul 19, 2004 (CNA) - Democratic Senator John Kerry's recent remark that ''life begins at conception" poses a contradiction with his political decisions, say ethicists and advocates on both sides of the abortion and stem-cell debates.
Kerry has clearly stated on several occasions that, while he personally opposes abortion, he would not impose his personal views as a senator or as president.
However, he took the issue one step further July 4, while in Dubuque, Iowa, when he said he personally believes life begins at conception.
''I oppose abortion, personally," Kerry said. ''I don't like abortion. I believe life begins at conception.
“But I don't take my Catholic beliefs, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant, on a Jew, or an atheist, who doesn't share it,” he continued. “We have separation of church and state in the United States of America."
The Boston Globe explored the implications of Kerry’s recent statement in a report, July 18.
The Globe reported that Kerry’s remark upset stem-cell scientists, many of whom support Kerry because of the Democrats' seemingly more supportive stance toward embryonic stem-cell research.
Some analysts said Kerry’s comments make him seem like a “flip-flopper.”
Jack Marshall, president of ProEthics, told the Globe that Kerry’s comment isn’t just about “fence-walking or waffling.”
“What Kerry is doing is stating a core belief on what life is and then vocally advocating a contrary point of view," he said.
Pro-lifers have pointed out the contradiction in Kerry’s remark as well.
“John Kerry's belief that life begins at conception and his support of pro-abortion legislation shows that killing babies is okay with Kerry," Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America told the Globe.
While some abortion advocates are concerned about Kerry's comment, they have noted Kerry’s longtime support of abortion rights in the U.S. Senate.
Vatican City, Jul 19, 2004 (CNA) - A telegram was sent in the Holy Father’s name expressing his condolences for the victims of the fire that took the lives of 90 children and severely injured 20 more in Kumbakonam, southern India last friday.
“The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the devastating school fire in Kumbakonam which has taken the lives of so many young children and has left so many others injured,” read the telegram. “He assures all involved in this terrible tragedy of his closeness in prayer. His Holiness commends the dead to the loving mercy of Almighty God, and upon their grieving families and those who have suffered harm he invokes the divine blessings of consolation, strength and healing.”
Last Friday, Vatican Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls stated that the Pope was “deeply saddened and moved after being informed of the fire.” “He immediately collected himself in prayer,” the spokesman said.
Officials said about 700 children in the school at the time had managed to escape. Angry residents and relatives turned on the teachers at the school, accusing them of having left the building and leaving some of their charges behind.
The blaze began in a kitchen where lunch was being cooked, and then spread to the school's palm-thatched roof. Many children were trapped in a large classroom with just one exit, and died after the blazing roof collapsed on top of them to block their way out. Others were suffocated and died as they tried to run down narrow staircases.
San Francisco, Calif., Jul 19, 2004 (CNA) - California's Roman Catholic bishops announced their support July 16 for a case in a San Diego federal court, which asserts that a California law is unconstitutional.
The law in question gave a one-year window for alleged victims of sexual abuse to file claims against Catholic parishes, schools and other institutions.
“The California Legislature singled out the Catholic Church, declared it guilty and imposed penalties on it," the bishops said in a statement.
The bishops also argued that the law is unconstitutional because it revives litigation that has been settled. More than 700 suits were filed during 2003, some dating back 70 years, reported The Associated Press.
The bishops pointed out another injustice in the law, stating that allegations, which date back decades, cannot be easily investigated by the Church, thereby making a solid defense almost impossible.
Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2004 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops are calling on Americans to urge their government to press the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution that will respond to the present emergency in the Darfur region of Sudan.
“Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the region of Darfur, western Sudan, may die in the coming months unless something is done to end the conflict, provide security for civilians caught in the conflict, and gain unfettered humanitarian access to the region,” they said in a statement.
Violence broke out in the region, inhabited mostly by the country’s Christian minority, in February 2003.
Since then, more than 30,000 people have been killed and more than 1 million people have been displaced to camps, where there is a lack of food, medicine and shelter. More than 200,000 others have fled to neighboring Chad, where they continue to be subjected to further violence by Janjaweed militia forces from Sudan.
Women and young girls have been systematically raped, villages have been bombed and burned, and water and land resources have been poisoned and destroyed.
The bishops say that Arab militia groups, known as Janjaweed and supported by the government in Khartoum, are responsible for the attacks against the Fur, Zaghawa and Masaalit black African ethnic groups.
However, Khartoum claims they are engaged in an armed conflict against two rebel groups – the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLMA/A) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
The bishops propose that U.S. citizens take action by writing or calling their senators, their representatives, the White House and newly-appointed UN ambassador John Danforth. The bishops have outlined the suggested content for such a letter on its Web site: www.usccb.org.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 19, 2004 (CNA) - In a statement made public this weekend, the Independent Anti-AIDS Committee of Spain lamented the “stubbornness” against abstinence and faithfulness shown by leaders at the recent World AIDS Conference in Jakarta.
According to the statement, “The novelty of this conference was that the US and Uganda brought up two subjects that are taboo—abstinence and fidelity, and the positive results of their application. They should be congratulated.”
“Some have hypocritically torn their garments” in protest against these ideas, the statement indicates, and it proposes three questions to evaluate the true struggle against the disease which threatens to reduce the life expectancy in Sub-Saharan Africa to 32 years:
- What helps in the fight against AIDS, abstinence or promiscuity?
- What helps and what hiders the fight against AIDS, fidelity or polygamy?
- Why the problem in recognizing the evidence?
“There seems to be a stubbornness similar to that of the smoker who wants campaigns against lung cancer which won’t keep him for continuing to smoke,” the Committee writes, recalling that in Spain, “the current ‘prevention campaign’ against AIDS compares the HIV virus to a computer ‘virus,’ leading us to draw the natural conclusion regarding protection: use Anti-virus software and use condoms.”
According to the statement, “It is true that a computer virus can infect anyone, but not so with HIV. If you are not a drug addict, if you are not unfaithful or a polygamist, there are no risks. If nobody in your family is infected, there is nothing to worry about.”
“The biggest failure of the campaign,” the Committee adds, “is the attempt to subliminally make us believe that the use of computers is just as common and trivial today as the changing of partners. Perhaps for some that is the case, and it seems those are values that are going to be forced upon us, but it is not so for many people.”
The Independent Anti-AIDS Committee of Spain underscored that there are “clear differences between the two ‘viruses.’ A computer virus is not a biological agent like the AIDS virus. The use of computer technologies is something wonderful, a sign of progress, while deceiving one’s spouse is a sign of decline.”
“The only valid comparison is that a computer virus is created and spread by malicious individuals, and the AIDS virus is spread by malicious and stupid individuals who facilitate and provide a host of ways to pass it,” concludes the statement.
Havana, Cuba, Jul 19, 2004 (CNA) - Cuban dissident leaders are expressing grave concern for the health of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a leading pro-life Cuban dissident who is currently a political prisoner for his defense of human rights and his opposition to abortion and the death penalty.
Because of his work for Human Rights, especially for the unborn, Dr. Biscet has been given prison sentences on several occasions, the most recent for 25 years.
His wife, Elsa Morejon, has launched a worldwide call for help to improve the conditions in which her husband is being held. Dr. Biscet has been placed in solitary confinement, in a small room completely dark, and has been prohibited from receiving visitors, and food and medicine from his family, despite suffering from hypertension and other infections which, according to his wife, “are continuing to erode his health.”
Cuban exiles have issued a call, especially to the Church, to “do everything possible for Dr. Biscet, that his wife, Elsa, and his entire family might feel the solidarity and support of his family in the Faith.”
Guadalajara, Mexico, Jul 19, 2004 (CNA) - This Sunday the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, Mexico, took up a special collection for the new “Cardinal Garibi Rivera Foundation,” which will provide financial assistance to the poor.
The purpose of the new foundation, created in March of 2003, is to provide grants to low-income earners in order to help them start and develop small family businesses.
Fr. Eduardo Mendoza of the Social Ministry Office of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara explained that in each International Eucharistic Congress that takes place, a work of solidarity should be established as an expression of Christian charity, in addition to the Masses, processions and Adoration liturgies.
The social work of the 48th International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in Guadalajara, is the creation of the Cardinal Garibi Rivera Foundation, and its offices are currently under construction and will be blessed during the Congress in October.
The foundation’s pilot project has provided assistance to eight families who have received funds to develop small companies, from the sale of arts and crafts to the establishment of a small rabbit-breeding farm.
Fr. Mendoza said that currently “all requests cannot be granted due to the lack of resources,” but he expressed hope that those who do receive assistance will in turn “help others, and as a result create a network of solidarity.”
In order to make the foundation’s initiatives known, priests will attend workshops on the project during the month of August, so they can in turn inform the faithful.
Jakarta, Indonesia, Jul 19, 2004 (CNA) - Muslim gunmen attacked a Christian church in Indonesia on Sunday, killing the minister, a woman, and wounding four worshippers.
The unidentified attackers burst into the "Effeta" Evangelical church at Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province, during an evening service. Police say as many as five Muslim fundamentalists stormed into the small church and opened fire.
Since 1999, more than 1,000 people -mostly Christians- have been killed in violent clashes between Muslims and Christians on Sulawesi island.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, but Christians make up about half of Sulawesi's more than 12 million people.
Similar attacks have occurred this year in the same area despite a cease-fire that the government negotiated in 2001 in an attempt to curb Muslim attacks against Christians.