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Archive of July 22, 2004

Pope sends special envoy to Sudan, expresses concern for crisis in Darfur

Vatican City, Jul 22, 2004 (CNA) - The Pope has expressed his concern and solidarity for the people of Darfur, Sudan who have been subject to what United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called “ethnic cleansing,” and has sent Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" as his special envoy to the country.

Archbishop Cordes, who left today for Khartoum, Sudan to express the Holy Father's concern for and solidarity with the populations of Darfur, received a letter written by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state.

In the letter, dated July 16 and made public today, the cardinal notes “the recent agreement between the government of Khartoum and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army-Sudanese People Liberation Movement (SPLA-SPLM) has opened some good possibilities for peace and development for the country.”

“However,” continues the letter, “the serious humanitarian situation in Darfur, which has recently stirred up a public outcry, is a cause of great concern for Pope John Paul II.”

He added that the Pope sends greetings to the Catholic community “and to all peoples in the Sudan who are in distress and in need, especially in the region of Darfur.”

“It is the hope of the Holy Father,” continues the Letter, “that the people in Darfur will be given all necessary humanitarian aid, especially in the upcoming rainy season, during which time their survival will become even more difficult. He trusts that the Sudanese authorities, in partnership with the international community, will intensify their efforts to reach a just solution for Darfur.”

He added that “this will happen when the voice of the peoples of Darfur is heard and recognized, and when their fundamental human rights are respected, especially the right to life, to political and religious freedom, and to a peaceful existence in their own territories.”

Cardinal Sodano writes that “the recognition of these rights of the various peoples of the Sudanese population will allow all citizens of the country, without distinction, to offer their own contribution to the building of a just society, based on solidarity and the good of each and every member.”

“In particular,” he points out, “respect for the legitimate local authorities will ensure that the contrasts and problems of Darfur will not extend further or deepen, thus threatening to render vain the results of the peace accords between the North and the South, reached after prolonged and difficult negotiations.”

A statement from the Pontifical Council Cor Unum was also published today. It noted that Archbishop Cordes and Msgr. Dal Toso, while in Khartoum, will meet with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, apostolic nuncio and with Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, archbishop of Khartoum, and members of the country's Episcopal conference “to be informed about the conflict underway that Kofi Annan has defined as a true and proper 'ethic cleansing'.”

“With the assistance of the United Nations,” the statement continues, “Archbishop Cordes will go to Darfur, which has been increasingly difficult to reach because of conflicts, and he will visit the refugee camps in Nyala. In addition to the war, the conditions of desperate poverty in these camps cause over 100 deaths each day, according to the U.N.”

“The situation in Sudan,” concludes the statement, “is so compromised - in over 20 years of conflict, there have been two million deaths and five million refugees - as to have been defined 'Rwanda in slow motion'. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum has already sent financial assistance to Darfur though the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.”

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Archbishop Brunett defends pastoral letter, involvement of Church in public life

Seattle, Wash., Jul 22, 2004 (CNA) - Separation of church and state does not mean that Catholics should not bring universal principles and values to the public arena, said Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett in an editorial in the Seattle Times yesterday.

The archbishop wrote the editorial after some pro-abortion Catholic politicians responded negatively to his recent pastoral letter. In the editorial, he reiterated some of the major points of his pastoral letter, stating that it is not up to ministers of the Eucharist to withhold Communion without dialogue or due process, but that pro-abortion politicians should refrain from receiving Communion.

In the editorial, the archbishop defended his pastoral letter as an attempt “to dispel the notion, proposed by some, that the constitutional separation of church and state implies that religious leaders should not involve themselves in politics when moral principles are at stake” and to remind Catholics that “if they profess to be in communion with the Church, their faith values must inform their political actions and not the other way around.

“Some have suggested that the constitutional separation between church and state amounts to a prohibition against church leaders involving themselves in politics. This misunderstanding turns the constitutional protection on its head,” read the archbishop’s editorial.

“The separation of church and state protects churches and their people from the imposition of a state religion. It is a guarantee of religious freedom, not a gag order on the ordained,” he continued.

“Catholic leaders understand that many in our secular culture do not share our beliefs,” he added. “We also recognize that every citizen is entitled to the full and free expression of their values. So we bring our principles into the public square and expect that others will do the same.”

Archbishop Brunette said one of the most troubling aspects of the current debate is the assumption that Catholic politicians can separate their faith from their political actions.

While Catholic politicians are entitled to arrive at different political alternatives, said the archbishop, they are obliged to apply Catholic moral principles when making their decisions.

Archbishop Brunett also announced that the bishops of Washington State will issue a statement this summer, encouraging all Catholics to participate in the political process.

“It will remind Catholic people that Church teaching is ordered to promote the common good, not the electoral prospects of any party or candidate,” he said.

It will also encourage Catholics to prioritize the dignity of all human life and the needs of the poor and to measure all public policies and political candidates against Gospel values.

The bishop’s pastoral letter is at www.seattlearch.org.

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Bishop begins probe of Austria's seminary sex scandal

Vienna, Austria, Jul 22, 2004 (CNA) - Austrian Bishop Klaus Kueng, appointed apostolic visitator by Pope John Paul II began investigating a sex scandal at a seminary outside Vienna, saying he was saddened by the scandal that has shocked the traditionally Catholic country.

"I will speak with everybody who feels that he has something to tell me," Bishop Kueng told reporters after arriving Wednesday at the St Poelten seminary.

Kueng said he had viewed the photographs that sparked the scandal, some of which were published last week by the Austrian weekly news magazine Profil.

"This has made me very sad. The authenticity has to be proved, as well as who did what and when," added the Bishop.

Kueng, a member of Opus Dei and Bishop of Feldkirch in eastern Austria, was appointed by Pope John Paul on Tuesday to lead the probe, a day after a 27-year-old Polish student priest was charged with possessing some 10,000 pornographic photographs.

However, the suspect, named only as Krzysztof S., denied any wrongdoing: "This affair does not concern me at all. I think they have mixed up two different people," he told the Polish news agency PAP from his hometown of Lubaczow in southeastern Poland.

The bishop of St Poelten, Kurt Krenn, has welcomed the Pope's decision, according to a local news agency.

Kueng said Wednesday that he had met with Krenn on Tuesday evening, as the latter is going on holiday.  "I have already met with him," Kueng said. "I think one should understand that Bishop Krenn finds himself in a very difficult position." He added that the bishop would "soon" return to St Poelten.

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Pro-life speakers not excluded at Democratic national convention

Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2004 (CNA) - For the first time in years, the Democratic National Committee is not excluding pro-life democrats from the national convention.

Democrats For Life of America applauded Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe in a letter yesterday for his pledge to not prevent pro-life speakers from addressing the DNC convention.

“Chairman McAuliffe’s statement proves that the Democratic Party is truly the party of inclusion.  Despite our differences on the issue of protecting the rights of the unborn, the fact that McAuliffe is not going to exclude pro-life speakers from addressing the Convention in Boston is encouraging,” said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America.

Democrats For Life of America was founded in 1999 to mobilize Democrats at the local, state, and national levels, and has 32 state chapters.  Their primary mission has been to elect pro-life Democrats, support pro-life elected officials, promote a pro-life plank in the Democratic Party platform and achieve legislation that fosters respect for human life.

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Baltimore archdiocese forbids pro-lifer walkers to speak at parishes

Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2004 (CNA) - Twelve Catholic college students, taking part in a 1,300-mile walk to spread a pro-life message, received word that the Archdiocese of Baltimore in Maryland has forbidden them from speaking at local parishes. Days earlier, the walkers in the American Life League's Summer Crusade for Life were forbidden from speaking at parishes in Philadelphia.

"There is nothing in our message that is not in line with the magisterial teachings of the Church and the Holy Father's statements about the sanctity of human life and the Holy Eucharist," said Patrick Yungwirth, a University of Maryland student who is taking part in the walk.

"We are walking through Maryland because there are many prominent Catholics there who either do not understand the fundamental truths of Catholic teaching, or refuse to adhere to it,” said Yungwirth.

Instead of speaking at parishes, the students will pray at local abortion clinics, meet with local political leaders and speak to private gatherings in the Baltimore area.

The walkers, who support withholding Communion from public supporters of abortion, hope their presence will encourage William Cardinal Keeler to withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians.

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Colombian Cardinal calls for release of all kidnapped

, Jul 22, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Pedro Rubiano, Archbishop of Bogotá, Colombia, called on rebel and paramilitary forces this week to begin seriously working for reconciliation in the country by freeing all kidnapped.

Celebrating Mass on Colombia’s Independence Day, the Cardinal made this new call to the armed revolutionaries demanding an end to the civil war, the massacres and the kidnappings.

“Let us root out all seeds of hatred and violence, and let us cry out without ceasing for the liberation of all those who have been kidnapped as the best sign the insurgency can give the country and the world that when they talk about peace it is because they truly wish to help bring it about,” the Cardinal said during his homily.

Moreover, he called for an end to the bloodshed.  “We demand as a sign of good will towards peace that they embark on the path of reconciliation” and that they realize that peace is for “the good of Colombia.”

Cardinal Rubiano expressed his concern for the lack of progress in negotiations for a peace accord and emphasized that the Church will continue to insist that the lines of direct communication with the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) be reestablished, so that the more than three thousand kidnapped will be set free.

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Bishop explains how the Church functions to Argentinean president

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 22, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Casaretto of San Isidro, Argentina, revealed this week that one of the reasons for his meeting with Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner “was to explain to him how the Church functions” and that he understand that the Church is not “just another power player.” 

Bishop Casaretto told reporters that the Church “is not just another power player, or just another corporation” in Argentina, and he said that the statements by the Argentinean bishops are an effort “to contribute to the common good, and not to promote the interests of any one group.”

The bishop went on to provide some details about the 40 minute conversation with Kirchner.  “My experience shows that politicians sometimes see the Church as just another power player, and that’s not what we are. We are not just another corporation in Argentina,” he said.

“The statements of the bishops must be understood as an effort to contribute to the common good.  We are not seeking power nor to push for anybody’s interests, but rather our work is to facilitate the coming together, the communion of all Argentineans.”

”The bishops are not trying to stir up controversy, we are trying to bring calm and help in the search for the common good of Argentina instead of wasting time on arguments that are somewhat unproductive,” Bishop Casaretto added, in an apparent reference to Kirchner’s criticism of Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata.

Bishop Casaretto also said he visited the president “as a representative of Catholic Charities and not as a member of the Argentinean episcopate” and he clarified that he was not speaking “in the name of the authorities of the Church, but rather as president of Catholic Charities.”

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