Vatican City, Aug 30, 2004 (CNA) - During the Angelus yesterday, Pope John Paul II called on all Christians to be ready to bear witness to the truth of Christ, even "at the cost of suffering and great sacrifice."
According to Church tradition, the Pope recalled the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist yesterday, whom Jesus had called "the greatest among those born of women."
John the Baptist gave "the supreme witness of blood, sacrificing his existence for truth and justice; he was in fact decapitated based on the orders of Herod," said the Pope.
Referring to the encyclical "Veritatis splendor," the Pope said martyrdom, like that of St. John the Baptist, is "an eminent sign of the holiness of the Church," which "represents the summit of the testimony to moral truth."
Although relatively few are called to this supreme sacrifice, said the pontiff, it is "testimony that all Christians must be ready to give every day, even at the cost of suffering and grave sacrifice."
Acknowleding the daily challenges of living the faith in today's world, the Pope said, "it sometimes requires a herioc commitment to not give up, even in daily life, to the difficulties that push us to compromise and to live the Gospel 'sine glossa' (without footnotes.)"
Vatican City, Aug 30, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II paid tribute to the martyrs of the faith and to the thousands of Christians around the world throughout the centuries who lost their lives as they witnessed to the truth of the Gospel.
During the Angelus yesterday, the Pope also recalled in a special way, the "numerous Christians, who in the last century were victims of religious hatred in different European nations.
"Even today, in certain parts of the world," he said, "believers continue to be subjected to difficult trials because of their faith in Christ and to the Church."
The Pope prayed that these persecuted Christians may sense the solidarity of their fellow Christian brothers and sisters, and he entrusted them to the protection of the Virgin Mary, Queen of martyrs.
Athens, Greece, Aug 30, 2004 (CNA) - Taekwondo champion Moon Dae Sung dedicated his Olympic gold medal to Jesus after knocking out his opponent in the first round.
"I prayed to God before the beginning of the match, and asked for his blessing for me to win," said Moon after taking top spot on the podium. "So this gold medal is dedicated to Jesus Christ."
The Christian Olympian won the men's taekwondo gold medal in the over-80kg weight class with a knockout of local favorite Alexandros Nikolaidis of Greece.
In the first round, Moon, a 1999 world champion, unintentionally kicked Nikolaidis in the head. The Greek athlete fell and lost consciousness for a couple of minutes.
In a show of true sportsmanship and concern, the South Korean champion was by his opponent's side when he regained consciousness. The two athletes embraced and Moon led the silver medallist on a semi-victory lap.
Moon said he told Nikolaidis that "he is a real champion and the people love him. I also told him that the kick I released came out by accident and that he just happened to be there."
Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 30, 2004 (CNA) - A Catholic apologetics organization is taking out a full-page ad in the country's largest national newspaper tomorrow to tell Catholics how to vote according to the teachings of the Catholic Church when they go to the polls this November. Catholic Answers will take out the ad in tomorrow's edition of USA Today.
The ad will feature the text of the organization's "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics," which stirred some controversy recently. The text can be seen on the organization's Web site: www.catholic.com.
The "voter's guide" focuses on five major issues - abortion, homosexual marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning, and euthanasia - for which Catholics should never support in accordance with the Church' Magisterium, said Karl Keating, founder and president of the California-based organization.
The guide doesn't tell Catholics which politicians to vote for, he said, "but which to vote against, simply on principle."
Keating said Catholics are free to support or to oppose any politician on issues such as jobs, trade, taxes, or the war in Iraq, but regarding these five key issues "all Catholics are forbidden to endorse them or vote for them."
Chicago, Ill., Aug 30, 2004 (CNA) - The faculty at Black Hawk College in Illinois have come to the defense of a sociology professor's right to free speech after he was reprimanded by college administration for offending a Christian student when he wrote "F--- God" on the blackboard.
A college advisory committee decided that the professor, Bruce LeBlanc, violated the school's harassment policy and recommended he apologize to the student. However, LeBlanc, a former Catholic priest, challenged the decision through the school's collective bargaining agreement.
LeBlanc has already established a reputation on campus for speaking about his homosexuality, for describing homosexual acts in the classroom, and for mocking Christian beliefs.
Catholic League president William Donohue said such behavior on the part of college staff directly contradicts the school's core values, as stated on the college Web site, such as appreciation of diversity; caring and compassion; fairness; honesty; integrity; respect; and responsibility.
"There is a huge difference between academic freedom and academic license, the latter being a form of academic malpractice," said Donohue. "Furthermore, academic freedom is not an end in itself, it is a means towards the discovery of truth.
"But in the mind of Professor LeBlanc, truth does not exist," he commented. "Neither, obviously, does civility."
Washington D.C., Aug 30, 2004 (CNA) - The USCCB encourages the appeal of a court decision made last week, which found the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional.
In a ruling Aug. 26, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York agreed that partial-birth abortion "is a gruesome, brutal, barbaric, and uncivilized medical procedure," but ruled that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act must be struck down under the dictates of Roe v. Wade.
New York Judge Richard Conway Casey ruled against the Act because it did not include a health exception as required by Roe.
The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the National Abortion Federation and several individual abortion doctors. Earlier this month the Department of Justice appealed an adverse ruling in a similar case in California; a third case is still pending in Nebraska.
An official with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the health exception requirement, which includes "all factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age," a "farce."
"The crucial question of medical necessity was never answered in this trial," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., spokesperson for the USCCB's Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
"We applaud the Justice Department for its vigorous defense of the Act, and encourage an appeal of this ruling," she said.
The USCCB has made full transcripts of testimonies by ACLU abortion doctors available at www.usccb.org/prolife
Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 30, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking with local reporters, Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristobal, Venezuela, said "the ministry of reconciliation falls to the Church" in Venezuela in the wake of the failed recall referendum.
"The Church, today as yesterday," he said, "should foster reconciliation between all Venezuelan men and women." "Therefore, conscientious of the situation facing the country and of everything that has happened in the last few weeks, the pastors of the Church should above all be ministers of reconciliation: encouraging everyone to come together, to dialogue, and to build peace in society with the values of the Kingdom of God."
Bishop Moronta offered "the service of this diocesan Church to favor, allow and bring about the coming together of all. In different opportunities we have done so and it has born much fruit and important results. Today we offer our commitment again to being mediators in order to achieve unity, to help bring about reconciliation and the overcoming of all that divides us."
"Today," he continued, "we again invite all national and regional leaders to come together, without impositions and fear, to find common ways to bring about the common good of all men and women in our society." Bishop Moronta only expressed one condition: charity.
"Every effort at reconciliation," explained the bishop "requires the coming together of everyone, and the exclusion of nobody. And it should not be one-way on the part of the government or the opposition. This unity should take place at all levels and among all: in order to dialogue, share, seek and unite, to strengthen social peace, which is what allows us to forge ahead with justice, truth and liberty."
The bishop's message concluded pointing out that "priests, religious and catechists must continue affirming the values of the Kingdom of God, of which life is the most central and most desired by God. So much so that He sent Jesus to give human life greater relevance, to give it the novelty of salvation, which allows all men and women to become children of God."
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 30, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Brazil has sent a message to the Brazilian Supreme Court reminding the justices that babies suffering from anacephaly do not lose their dignity as human beings and should not be aborted.
In an effort to prevent the Supreme Court from "usurping a function which belongs exclusively to Congress" by legalizing abortion in cases of anacephaly, the bishops recalled that authorities should seek to protect human life from the moment of conception, a duty not based on one's religious convictions.
The bishops called on the justices to discuss the beginnings of life, its destiny and legitimate human power over the life of another, keeping in mind "respect for the human race, not according to a specific creed or religious conviction. This is a decision regarding the humanity of the anacephaly fetus and the meaning of that humanity."
Therefore the bishops sent more than 20 questions for the justices to consider as they ponder their decision, including:
· Is an anacephaly baby a human being or a thing?
· Such babies are being called "non-living beings". What is a "non-living being?"
· Does it have essential dignity and is it therefore worthy of special protection, or is it a sub-human, something with a human form?
· Is the anacephaly fetus a pathology or is anacephaly a pathology?
· Is one's humanity determined by one's rationality? Are only rational beings humans?
· Will we get rid of suffering by eliminating those who suffer?
According to the bishops, "a human being, apart from his or her form or state, is a human person, a subject and never a thing or just another being. The human person can never be treated as a thing or disqualified by any hypothesis."
Likewise, the bishops emphasized that anacephaly babies are in need of special protection and that the suffering of the baby and of the family in no way justifies or rationalizes the sacrificing of a sick baby. "It is not a simple choice, a simple act of the will. It's not just a question of the body, but rather of another life, an autonomous life, a life with value in and of itself, for the simple reason that it exists," they said.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 30, 2004 (CNA) - In a recent letter to catechists in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of the Argentinean capital, said the upcoming National Eucharistic Congress will be an opportunity to pray to God for "the grace of an apostolic zeal that is strong and fervent in the Spirit" and which will keep us from "ever becoming used to" poverty.
The Cardinal explained that during the Congress, which will take place September 2-5, the Church in Argentina will come together "to pray to the Lord that our daily celebration [of the Mass] will help us to make the so often postponed dream of a nation truly reconciled and unified a reality. We do so with the sad acknowledgment that there are people who do not have enough to eat in this blessed and abundant land."
"Our Church in Buenos Aires is in need of boldness and fervor, which are works of the Holy Spirit and which carry us forth to cry out and announce Jesus Christ with all our lives. We need much boldness and courage to continue walking forward today in the midst of so much confusion," said the Cardinal.
"As catechists in difficult times, you should pray to God for boldness and fervor which will help you to remember. In our capacity to remember "we find the strength necessary as a people to not fall into a paralyzing and anxious fear," he added.
Lastly, the Archbishop announced that catechists of the Archdiocese and the entire country will set out on "a pastoral itinerary" which will culminate in the celebration of the National Meeting of Catechists at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lujan. "It will be an appropriate time to reflect upon the identity and person of the catechist, as we also recall with gratitude those that came before us who, as faithful witnesses, knew how to make their ministry bear fruit," the Cardinal concluded.