Archive of September 1, 2004

Passion sells 2.4m copies on DVD

Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2004 (CNA) - Mel Gibson's Biblical movie The Passion of the Christ has sold 2.4 million copies in the US by midday on its first day of release on DVD.

Starring Jim Caviezel, the film made $610m at the global box office after its cinema release in February.

Some Jewish groups claimed the film was anti-Semitic in blaming ancient Jewish people for killing Christ.

Animated film Finding Nemo holds the US record for one-day DVD sales, selling around eight million copies on release.

A spokesman for distributor Fox Home Entertainment said initial demand for copies of The Passion on DVD and video cassette was 20% greater than predicted.

Scott Hettrick, editor in chief of US trade magazine DVD Exclusive, said The Passion was expected to sell as well as Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which sold up to 18 million copies on DVD in the US.

Fox sent promotional material to more than 260,000 churches in the US.

Mr Hettrick said some retailers were sending 50 Passion DVDs at a time to church groups.

"It almost appears there's a strong segment of the market that wants to own this in the same way that they want to own the Bible," he said.

Having sold 2.4m copies by noon on the first day of its American release, The Passion of The Christ now appears on track to break records for DVD sales - the first record likely to go is Finding Nemo's mark of 8m DVDs sold on the first day of release.

Industry analysts are expecting to receive figures for the first full day of sales late on Wednesday.

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Pope urges release of French journalists, end of violence in Midle East, Russia

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2004 (CNA) - Filled with “sadness and concern” for the victims of violence around the world, the Holy Father made an “urgent call for an end to violence everywhere,” at the end of today’s general audience in the Paul VI Hall.

"It is with great sadness and concern," he said, "that I receive the grave news about the terrorist attacks in Israel and Russia where many people have died, defenseless and innocent victims."

"Also in the tormented country of Iraq the blind chain of violence has not yet been broken, which prevents a prompt return to civil coexistence. Added to the horror of the barbaric execution of twelve Nepalese citizens there is fear for the future of two French journalists who continue to be held hostage by kidnappers.”

"I make an urgent call for an end to violence everywhere, as it is always unworthy of every good cause, and for the two French journalists to be treated with humanity and returned unharmed as soon as possible to their families,” said the Pope.

"Today, September 1, is the anniversary of the invasion of Poland and the beginning of World War II, which plunged Europe and other continents into mourning.  Thinking about those days, in this moment of grave and widespread tensions, let us ask God, Father of all men, for the precious gift of peace."

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Catholic groups for and against Kerry clash

Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2004 (CNA) - The president of grassroots organization “Catholics For Kerry 04,” said the Republicans are using Catholic organizations as “vehicles” to discredit John Kerry as a presidential candidate and to divide the Catholic laity.

Robert McFadden accuses two Catholic organizations – Catholic Answers and The Catholic League – of being “the vehicles that the RNC’s Catholic Outreach is using to extend its tentacles of division ever further into the Catholic laity.”

The Republicans’ Catholic Outreach, he says, “has targeted Catholic voters and has infiltrated parishes across the nation.”

Catholic Answers, a San Diego-based lay apostolate whose primary mission is defending Catholic teaching, has recently released a "Voter's Guide." The guide instructs Catholics not to vote for any candidate who supports abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem-cell research, human cloning, and same-sex marriage.

The Catholic League’s mission is to defend the right of Catholics to participate in public life, without suffering defamation or discrimination.

“We find this to be extremely suspect,” said the 4th Degree Member of the Knights of Columbus. “Since Jan.1, 2004, the Neo-Conservative voice of the Catholic League, William Donohue, has attacked his fellow Catholic, Senator John Kerry, over 20 times with his notorious and often venomous press releases,” he said.

“Donohue’s mission to disgrace and defame Senator Kerry is quite evident,” says McFadden, who adds that Donohue’s actions are “a direct contradiction of what his organizations’ own mission statement expresses.”

“Rather, his message is blatantly inline with that of the Bush Campaign and the RNC,” says McFadden. 

In the meantime, a rival group, “Catholics Against Kerry,” is launching a major ad campaign, highlighting Senator John Kerry's positions against Catholic teaching. The ad is aimed at Pennsylvania, an important swing state, whose Catholic population is one-third.

The ad highlights Kerry’s support for abortion and same-sex marriage, his opposition to the ban on partial-birth abortions, and how he has staged a series of photo-ops on Church grounds “intended to give the false impression that he supports Catholic values,” says a press release

“The Communist party USA,, the abortion industry - all endorse Kerry. Not George Bush. Who do you endorse?” says the ad.

Catholics Against Kerry claims it is not affiliated with any party. 

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Idolatry is a temptation for all humanity, Pope says during general audience

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2004 (CNA) - Focusing on the second part of Psalm 113 in today's general audience, in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican, the Pope spoke about the temptation to idolatry and it’s contrast with worship of the true God.

John Paul II said that "after an initial word addressed to the Lord to bear witness to His glory, the chosen people describe their God as the omnipotent creator. ... 'The idols of the people' are in immediate contrast to the true God, adored by Israel.” 

“Idolatry is a temptation for all of humanity in all ages.  An idol is something inanimate, the work of men's hands, a lifeless cold statue," he said.

"After this blunt criticism of idols," continued the Pope, "the psalmist expresses a sarcastic wish: 'May those who make idols and put faith in them be like them.' ... Those who adore the idols of wealth, power and success lose their dignity as a human person."

The Holy Father said that "those who are faithful to the Lord know that the living God is their 'help' and their 'shield.'”

“They are presented in three categories,” he continued, “First, there is the 'house of Israel,' the entire people, the community which gathers in the temple to pray. Then there is the 'house of Aaron' represented by priests, guardians and announcers of the divine word, called to preside at worship.”

“Finally, there are those who fear the Lord, those who are genuine and constant. ... The divine blessing descends upon those three classes of true believers. According to biblical understanding, it is a source of fertility," said the Pope.

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Pope’s prayer intentions for September focus on elderly and African church

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father's general prayer intention is: "That old people may be considered an asset for the spiritual and human growth of society."

His mission intention is: "That in Africa a true brotherly cooperation may develop among all those who work for the growth and development of ecclesial communities."

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Catholic organization to denounce nonprofit status of Miami Church

, Sep 1, 2004 (CNA) - The Catholic League says it will contact the IRS and ask it to revoke the tax-exempt status of an Evangelical Church in Miami for its political involvement.

Bishop Victor T. Curry of Miami’s New Birth Baptist Church hosted two politicians in his church and allowed them to use the pulpit to speak about politics during the Sunday service.

The speakers included Rev. Al Sharpton, who ran against Senator John Kerry for the Democratic nomination, and Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. 

Speaking from the pulpit, Sharpton said: “We’re not people who are going to be beat twice.” McAuliffe stated: “Bush has misled us for four years and will not mislead us for the next four years. Get out to vote and we’ll send Bush back to Texas.”

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Mexican seminary celebrates five years of priestly formation for Hispanic priests in US

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 1, 2004 (CNA) - On Tuesday the Hispanic Seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, which provides priestly formation for Hispanic vocations from the United States, celebrated its fifth anniversary.

The anniversary ceremony, which was attended by Bishop Jose Gomez, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver and member of the seminary’s board of directors, also marked the beginning of the new academic year for the more than 30 seminarians from the US and Canada.

During his remarks, Bishop Gomez emphasized the growing challenges for Hispanic ministry in the US, recalling that although the US is a country of immigrants, “the volume of the Hispanic population, which is without precedent or comparison with any other wave of immigrants in the past, reveals the complexity involved in assimilating and appropriately integrating this population, without sacrificing its values, and explains why xenophobic expressions are becoming common.”

Bishop Gomez also pointed out that although “a formal response of support for immigrants” exists among US bishops, society is “overwhelmed:  in Colorado, for example, where Catholics were originally 17% of the population, the growth of the Hispanic population, which in the last 10 years has been 76%, is overwhelming to any institution, far beyond anyone’s good will and good intentions.”

The bishop emphasized, however, that “true Hispanic ministry is above all pastoral.  The Church, expert in humanity, as the Council says, cares for man as an integral being, but she recognizes that hers is not the task of being a non-governmental organization or a replacement for the failures of the state or a mere social or cultural agent.”

“She is, above all, preacher of the Gospel, with the responsibility of bringing people, as Ecclesia in America says, to a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus, so that from there she can respond to the integral challenges facing Hispanics in the United States.”

“As Catholics,” said Bishop Gomez, “we believe that the Lord Jesus is the Lord of history, and that for some reason He has desired that this massive wave of immigrants take place in the most powerful country on earth.  Part of Hispanic ministry to ask what we Hispanics can contribute if we do not adequately integrate”

Regarding the hopeful future of the Hispanic seminary, its rector, Fr. Rodrigo Benitez Flores, said, “We continue to pray for more priestly vocations in order to respond to the pastoral needs of the United States.”

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Brazilian bishops call for protection of human embryos

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sep 1, 2004 (CNA) - The Pastoral Committee of the Bishops Conference of Brazil published a statement this week calling on legislators to protect the life of human embryos and reject a proposed law that would allow them to be used for research.

Referring to the bill that deals with both genetically modified foods and research on human embryos, the bishops recalled that advances in science “demand responsible reflection upon the ethical conflicts which can arise in the field of science.”

They point out that in a country which suffers from “social development problems” such as hunger and common diseases, “it is unacceptable that two important issues of national interest” be considered together.

“Both the issue of genetic modification and that of human embryos demand scientific knowledge in order to evaluate their ethical implications.  Voting simultaneously on genetically modified foods and human embryos” is an “unacceptable” way of handing such important issues.

“Regarding the use of human embryos, society has already learned that research with embryonic stem cells is full of ethical interpretations and scientific uncertainties,” they said.

The bishops called on lawmakers “to evaluate extensively the different scientific and technological perspectives as well as the ethical implications, so that we can have the assurance that decisions that are taken are sufficiently mature for society and for the scientific community, and oriented towards the ethical values which are proper to our society.”

Likewise they said it would be more appropriate “to separate the current bill into two, making it possible for each issue to be considered on its own and in greater depth.”

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Cardinal warns of lack of respect for democracy in Latin America

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 1, 2004 (CNA) - The President of the Latin American Bishops Conference, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, said this week during a symposium on “Authority” in Buenos Aires that there is little adherence to democracy in the region.

The Archbishop of Santiago said the Church in Latin America is concerned about the growth of “populist” movements and about potential dictatorships in the region.

“People have not gone back to autocratic governments because of the traumatic memories that still exist, but adherence to democracy on the continent is very low,” said the Cardinal, adding that 52% of the continent’s inhabitants would accept an autocratic government if it was able to provide greater well-being.”

“The problem here,” he said, “is the definition of ‘well-being.’  Here most people think of it only in economic terms.  A consumerist society thinks of well-being in that way.”

Likewise, the Cardinal lamented that “leaders of society do not reflect upon the reasons for their lack of credibility” and they fail to understand that “there is a crisis in the political institutions and that the credibility of politicians and political parties is extremely low” in Latin America.

“When we want to bring somebody out of poverty, we have to be concerned about the whole family,” said Cardinal Errazuriz, saying the response to the lack of political stability and the economic crisis should begin with programs that benefit the family.

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24-hour parish marks 8 months of continuous service to community

Madrid, Spain, Sep 1, 2004 (CNA) - The parish of the Nativity of Our Lady in Valencia, Spain, as part of its 25th anniversary, is celebrating this week eight months of continuous, 24-hour service, made possible by more than 200 volunteers.

According to the administrator of the parish, Fr. Miguel Angel Vives, during the summer months, “we thought we were going to have problems keeping volunteers but it has been just the opposite.”  He pointed out how gratifying it has been to witness “how so many people are willing to give a few hours of their vacation time to this endeavor.”

During the last eight months, the parish, which will remain open 24-7 for the rest of the year, has seen more than 35,000 people participate in its religious celebrations.
A large, electronic sign sits outside the church providing information to visitors.  The sign displays everything from the current temperature, Mass times and parish activities, “to even inspirational phrases to get people to think.”

The parish has been open day or night since January 1, allowing access to the church “for those who wish to pray, reflect or mediate in an atmosphere of peace and silence,” said Fr. Vives.  Likewise the church has provided a place for the homeless and people in need to find prayer and assistance.

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