Vatican City, Aug 13, 2004 (CNA) - In less than 24 hours the Holy Father will visit the Marian shrine at Lourdes for the second time of his pontificate in order to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. He is expected to be received by 400,000 faithful who have flocked to the town to join him in his two-day pilgrimage.
This will be the Pope’s 8th trip to France, the country he has visited more than any other besides his native Poland which he has visited 9 times.
The Pope will arrive in Lourdes at 11am Saturday morning, will be welcomed by French president Jacques Chirac in the airport, and will go directly to the grotto at Massiabelle in which the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette, where he will drink from the spring water.
The Pope will head from there to the Notre Dame home for pilgims who suffer from illness. He will spend the night there in the facility which will be hosting hundreds of other pilgrims as well.
At 5.30pm the Pope will return to the Grotto to lead a prayer service followed by a procession to the Lourdes basilica praying the Luminous mysteries of the Rosary.
There will be a torchlight procession from the balcony of the Pope’s apartment at 9.30pm, which will be his last public appearance of the day.
On Sunday morning the Pope will preside at the Mass celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, will have lunch with a group of French bishops, and finally will return to the grotto for a time of private personal prayer.
The Holy Father will leave Lourdes for Rome at 6.45pm.
, Aug 13, 2004 (CNA) - California’s Supreme court has invalidated nearly 4,000 marriage licenses issued to gay couples this year in San Francisco, unanimously ruling that city officials who granted the licenses to gay couples from around the country in February and March, had misinterpreted state laws.
Though the ruling only pertains to California, it has been seen as a setback for same-sex marriage advocates, who had hoped the marriages would stand as they fought the larger question of the constitutionality of opposite-sex exclusivity in the institution of marriage.
For those involved in protecting the traditional institution of marriage, it has been seen as a step forward. "It bodes well for any of us trying to protect the institution of marriage," said Sadie Fields, who chairs the Christian Coalition of Georgia.
The court, however, did not resolve whether the California Constitution permits same-sex marriages, and gay-rights advocates have filed a separate suit seeking a ruling on that question.
"Should the current California statutes limiting marriage to a man and a woman ultimately be repealed or be held unconstitutional, the affected couples then would be free to obtain lawfully authorized marriage licenses," the court noted.
The right of same-sex couples to have their relationships legally recognized is expected to become a central social issue of the presidential campaign, even though neither the President, nor the Democratic candidate John Kerry or his running mate John Edwards, support same-sex marriage.
London, England, Aug 13, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic doctors are appalled at the British government’s recent decision to allow human cloning – with the use of human embryos – for medical reasons.
The International Federation of Catholic Doctors came out strongly against the decision, taken by the British authorities. "The human aim is only a pretence, aimed at manipulating public opinion to cover up the enormous economic and financial interests behind stem-cell research," reads the Catholic doctors’ statement.
We believe that "killing human beings, even in an embryonic state, is unacceptable, even when it is aimed at treating other human beings,” says the statement.
The International Federation of Catholic Doctors is encouraging research on adult stem cells instead, “the clinical potential of which has already been proven,” it said.
British doctor Dr. Helen Watt agrees. The director of the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics said yesterday she was "appalled but not surprised" by the news that a licence had been granted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for destructive human cloning.
“It is extraordinary that, at a time when adult stem cells are already used to treat a whole range of diseases, the HFEA should consider it 'necessary' to create and destroy human clones,” said Watt, whose organization is supported by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.
“Cells from early embryos are difficult to control and have not so far produced a single treatment,” she added. “Investment should not be diverted from ethical projects with a proven track record.”
The International Federation of Catholic Doctors is also concerned that large sums of money are being diverted to this research area unjustifiably. Their statement points out that "with a lot less money it is possible to solve problems such as malaria, aids and malnutrition."
The federation is also launching an appeal and urging scientists and government officials to "think about the risks for humanity caused by human cloning."
Earlier this week, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls reiterated the Church’s opposition to such scientific practice.
Berlin, Germany, Aug 13, 2004 (CNA) - Two medical organizations in Germany are calling for a total international ban on all types of human cloning, after the British government decided to allow such experiments to be done on human embryos.
The Federal School of Doctors of Germany demanded the approval of an international treaty for the protection of embryos that would ban reproductive and therapeutic cloning.
According to the School’s president, Joerg-Dietrich Hoppe, any attempt to clone human beings should be severely punished by the law.
Likewise, the Marburger Bund German medical association, headquartered in Cologne, demanded a European law that would protect human embryos.
The association’s president, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, criticized the British government’s policy, saying that under the mantle of “freedom of research,” the intangibility of human dignity is being done away with.
Both reproductive and therapeutic human cloning is prohibited in Germany.
, Aug 13, 2004 (CNA) - The Catholic League says Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry should “condemn” the Catholics for Kerry 04 Web site for having a statement that refers to President George W. Bush as “the anti-Christ.”
On the Web site, Wayne Madsden writes: “George W. Bush’s blood lust, his repeated commitment to Christian beliefs and his constant references to ‘evil doers,’ in the eyes of many devout Catholic leaders, bear all the hallmarks of the one warned about in the Book of Revelations—the anti-Christ.” He adds that Bush “couples his political fanaticism with a neo-Christian blood cult.”
Catholic League president William Donohue says such comments have “no legitimate role to play in presidential politics.
“It is important to note that it is not the position of the Catholic League that the Kerry camp should be held responsible for this group of wacko Catholics,” said Donohue.
However, he added, “it would seem only proper that John Kerry should condemn Catholics for Kerry 04.”
Donohue said this would seem only reasonable since Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton recently demanded that Bush “condemn” a book about Kerry’s alleged fraudulent behavior in Vietnam because one of authors made anti-Catholic remarks in a chat room last year.
, Aug 13, 2004 (CNA) - At a meeting held late last month at UN headquarters, women's rights advocates discussed plans to strengthen the "legal backbone" of the UN women's rights treaty, including establishing abortion on demand for women and girls as an internationally recognized human right, reported the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.
According to a UN press release, the committee charged with monitoring nations' compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) invited nongovernmental organizations, including the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), to advise the committee in the drafting of a new "general recommendation" on states' international legal obligations to end discrimination.
A representative of CRR, Pardiss Kebriaei, told the committee that "states must recognize the physical demands and need for high-quality reproductive care. Imposing or failing to remove barriers to women's access to family planning and safe abortion services discriminated against
women. Among other measures, States should enact laws allowing abortion without restriction, take other legal and policy measures to ensure the accessibility of high-quality abortion services and the full range contraceptive methods."
Kebriaei went on to say that "abortion without restriction" should be available to girls, declaring that, "government failure to ensure reproductive health information and services for adolescents had a disproportionate, discriminatory effect on girls."
CRR was one of only four NGOs invited to participate in the meeting, signaling the group's powerful influence with the committee.
If the new CEDAW general recommendation includes this CRR proposal, it would represent an important victory for the group in its effort to create new international abortion law through the reinterpretation of the original CEDAW convention document.
According to the UN press release, the committee chairperson, Ayse Feride Acar, endorsed the "all embracing approach" proposed by the NGOs. She concluded by stating that "the discussion had helped to define the parameters of the general recommendation."
The next step in the process of drafting the recommendation has not yet been scheduled.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 13, 2004 (CNA) - During his visit to Spain this week, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem, Kamal Hanna Bathish, encouraged the Spanish to feel as if the Holy Land also belongs to them and to go on pilgrimage to the holy places.
During a speech in Palencia, Bishop Bathish assured his listeners that “at this time it is safe to go to the Holy Land, it’s not a risk because while there is indeed a conflict, it does not affect that area.”
Later, during an interview after his speech, Bishop Bathish emphasized the necessity for “people to know that the Holy Land also belongs to them and they can always go. Because people are afraid, but when they go and then come back afterwards, they realize that nothing happened. The idea here is for them to know the meaning of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to encourage them to see it.”
Likewise, Bishop Bathish, who is originally from Nazareth and defines himself as “a Christian who has lived in Jerusalem for 40 years,” said that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem “will be easily found with truth and justice,” although he lamented that “today these things are not discussed in politics.”
Asked about the strength of the Catholic Church in Palestine and Israel, Bishop Bathish took care to mention that despite being a minority, the Christian community is not only strong but is also well respected by the populace.
“Of course she is strong, although Christians may be a minority, the Church enjoys great respect among the populace for what she does, although there are some people, from one side, who are not in agreement with Catholic thoughts and actions,” he said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 13, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Gonzalez Martinez of Durango denounced this week the cultural, moral and spiritual crisis which is “bringing us down,” and which is marginalizing God from all human activities, whether they be political, social, economic, educational or communitarian.
The archbishop made his statements to hundreds of faithful gathered for the opening of the Archdiocesan Eucharistic Congress.
During his remarks, he also mentioned that today’s world is less humane plagued by violence, war, crime and other negative indicators.
God cannot remain marginalized from man’s labors. On the contrary, He should be included in order to strengthen the building of a more just, more united, more charitable and humane society in the face of current setbacks, he emphasized.
The archbishop assured that despite the fact that the meaning of love and peace has been broken, nevertheless it is possible to rebuild them “by seeking in the Eucharist the encouragement and the light to work in this modern world,” and therefore he called on the faithful to work to build up the Kingdom.
The also explained that the Eucharist is synonymous with peace and love, which are fundamental in building the Kingdom of Jesus. He expressed his confidence, as well, that the Congress might foster a greater sense of charity.