Archive of September 2, 2004

Pope encourages US Catholics to be witnesses to hope despite sex scandal

Vatican City, Sep 2, 2004 (CNA) - During an audience this morning with bishops from Boston and Hartford, the Holy Father encouraged Catholics in the U.S. to  persevere in their witness to the Gospel, citing the “critical role” of the American church in “bringing about a fruitful encounter” between the Gospel and global culture.

“Throughout these reflections on the exercise of the 'munus episcopale propheticum', I have more than once drawn attention to the importance of the evangelization of culture,” he said to the bishops now concluding their quinquennial "ad limina" visit.

“A fundamental challenge in this area is surely that of bringing about a fruitful encounter between the Gospel and the new global culture which is rapidly taking shape as a result of unprecedented growth in communications and the expansion of a world economy,” he said.

“I am convinced that the Church in the United States can play a critical role in meeting this challenge, since this emerging reality is in many ways the fruit of contemporary Western, and particularly American, experiences, attitudes and ideals."

"The Church in the United States," he went on, "has long been committed to making her voice heard in public debate in the defense of fundamental human rights, the dignity of the person and the ethical requirements of a just and well-ordered society. “

“In a pluralistic nation like your own, this has necessarily involved practical cooperation with men and women of various religious beliefs ... As the tragic events of 11 September 2001 have made clear, the building of a global culture of solidarity and respect for human dignity is one of the great moral tasks confronting humanity today."

John Paul II expressed his "personal gratitude for the traditional generosity of the faithful of the United States to the Church's mission 'ad gentes' through the training and sending forth of generations of missionaries and through the contributions of countless Catholics to the foreign missions. ... May the Church in your country discover the sources for a profound interior renewal through a revitalization of missionary zeal."

"More than once in the course of these meetings," he remarked, "I have told you of my admiration for the outstanding contribution which the Catholic community in the United States has made to the spread of the Gospel, the care of the poor, the sick and those in need, and the defense of fundamental human and Christian values."

The Pope then noted that "the Church in your country has been chastened by the events of the past two years, and much effort has rightly been expended on understanding and addressing the issues of sexual abuse which have cast a shadow on her life and ministry.

As you continue to confront the significant spiritual and material challenges which your local Churches are experiencing in this regard, I ask you to encourage all the faithful - clergy, religious and lay -  to persevere in their public witness of faith and hope."

"In a particular way I would ask you to be strongly supportive of your brother priests, many of whom have suffered deeply because of the much-publicized failings of some of the Church's ministers,” he said.

“Convey my personal gratitude for the generous and selfless service which mark the lives of so many American priests, as well as my deep appreciation of their daily efforts to be models of holiness and pastoral charity in the Christian communities entrusted to their care. ... In a word, tell your priests that I hold them in my heart!" said the Holy Father in conclusion.

Read the Pope's full speech at:

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Legal watchdog slams Kentucky Supreme Court for anti-life ruling

Ann Arbor, Mich., Sep 2, 2004 (CNA) - The pro-life legal watchdog, the Thomas More Law Center, slammed the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision on August 26 to grant authority to the state of Kentucky to end the life of an innocent ward of the state.

The center explained in a press release that Matthew Woods, a mildly retarded black man, suffered a cardiac arrest at the age of 54 and was placed on a ventilator. He was in an unconscious state.  Three weeks later the state requested permission to remove his life support, contrary to the wishes of Woods’ guardian ad litem (beside the bed), who challenged the request.

Woods died of natural causes during the litigation process, however, the Court agreed to rule on the legality of the state’s request because of the legal questions involved.

Based on the Kentucky Living Will Directive Act, the Kentucky District Court, Circuit Court, and Court of Appeals approved the request.

During his life, Woods had never stated in any way whether he wanted life-supporting measures removed,.

The Thomas More Law Center and cooperating attorney Robert Cetrulo submitted an amicus brief to the Kentucky Supreme Court, urging the Court to apply Kentucky’s guardianship for disabled persons statute, which would prohibit the state from authorizing the removal of a ward’s life support without his consent.

A majority of the Kentucky Supreme Court disagreed with the Law Center’s position, however, and determined that the “Kentucky Living Will Directive Act” constitutionally permits the Commonwealth to authorize the withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment from an incompetent ward of the state without any evidence of the ward’s desires regarding such treatment.

“This decision is another step down the slippery slope toward a culture of death where the government decides which lives are worthy to be lived,” commented Richard Thompson, Chief Counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, “Kentucky should protect the welfare and rights of all of its citizens, especially those who are most vulnerable. The state Supreme Court has now declared that the lives of some of its citizens are not worthy of protection.”

Justice Wintersheimer and Justice Stumbo agreed with the Thomas More Law Center’s position and strongly dissented from that of the other justices: “It is deeply disappointing that this Court would decide to allow an agency of this State to end the life of a totally innocent ward of that very same State,” read their statement. “It is even more shameful to realize that the State would seek to terminate the innocent human life of a person entrusted to its care and protection.”

“Today, this case involves a mentally deficient ward of the State. Who knows whom it will involve in the future? Only by making the mistaken assumption that it could never happen, the power of the State has been unleashed to kill its own citizens,” warned  Justice Wintersheimer.

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New program on EWTN focuses on November election

, Sep 2, 2004 (CNA) - EWTN Global Catholic Network will launch a new 30-minute program on politics this month in an effort to prepare U.S. Catholics to take part in the November presidential elections.

Fr. Frank Pavone will host “Election 2004: The Catholic Vote.” The national director of Priests for Life and invited guests will discuss issues of citizenship and voter responsibility, the correct understanding of Church and State, and the critical impact of this year's national election on public policy and judicial nominees.

The series will also feature recent interviews with Vatican officials on voter responsibility, and include discussion on recent related documents, issued by the Vatican and U.S. bishops.

The first episode of “Election 2004: The Catholic Vote” will premier Sept. 22 at 5 a.m. and encore Sept. 24 at 10 p.m., on television, radio and the Internet (

Five additional episodes will air in the same time slots each week through to Oct. 29. In the week before the election, all six episodes will re-air from Oct. 25 to Oct. 30, one daily at 6 p.m.

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Baldwin brother backs Republicans based on faith

, Sep 2, 2004 (CNA) - Hollywood actor and born-again Christian Stephen Baldwin is making a special appearance at the Republican National Convention this week in support of a man, who he thinks will use his faith to make the country a better place.

Baldwin is speaking at a breakfast organized by the Bowery Mission, to mark the Republican convention.

"What I'm doing in relation to this election is faith-based,” said Stephen Baldwin. “I believe in my heart that one of these candidates is somebody who has professed their faith in such a way.”

“I believe this individual will be the one who is truly going to utilize his relationship with God to hopefully make this country a better place," said the actor, who became a born-again Christian after the Sept. 11 attacks.

His brother, Alec, a convinced liberal, was at the Democratic convention earlier this summer.

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“Passion” DVD sales takes top spot for R-rated film

, Sep 2, 2004 (CNA) - DVD sales for “The Passion of the Christ” have been so successful in its first two days that some entertainment reporters are already talking about a sequel.

E!online writer Lia Haberman wrote yesterday: "We smell sequel." 

On its first day of release, Aug. 31, Mel Gibson's film on the last hours of the life of Jesus Christ sold 4.1 million copies, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment reported yesterday. Sales by midday Tuesday had topped the studio's initial goal by 20 percent.

While “Passion” trails the one-day sales record of "Finding Nemo" at 8 million copies, it holds the record for an R-rated film.

The number of sales is also significant for a film with sub-titles, Scott Hettrick, editor of DVD Exclusive, told CNN. He predicts sales will eventually hit 18 million copies, generating about $400 million in sales.

Many retail merchants are also taking advantage of the film’s DVD release to promote sales of digital videodisc players, and are positioning "Passion" DVDs alongside DVD players, Hettrick said.

At this point, sales seem to be driven by the Christian market, which was the target audience for most of the promotional campaign. More than 260,000 churches nationwide and six million households received promotional materials.

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Church altar set ablaze in Indiana

Greenwood, S.C., Sep 2, 2004 (CNA) - Police are baffled by an arson that took place in a local Catholic church. An intruder broke into Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish church in the early morning of Aug. 31, poured a flammable liquid at the altar's base and set it ablaze.

The fire had burned itself out but the pastor, Fr. Jonathan Meyer found the remnants of the blaze at 7:30 a.m., and called local police. The fire left 12-by-18-inch burn pattern on the floor.

Greenwood Police Lt. Kenneth Swint told the Indiannapolis Star that such an incident had never happened in Greenwood before.

Police and investigators collected evidence and information at the scene and notified federal authorities. No container for gasoline was found in the church.

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Bishops of Paraguay denounce morning after pill

Asunción, Paraguay, Sep 2, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Paraguay denounced this week the abortifacient nature of the morning after pill and the decision by the county’s Minister of Health to authorize the sale and use of the drug, in defiance of Paraguay’s laws protecting the unborn.

In an official statement, the bishops recall that the pill in question has three mechanisms: the inhibiting of ovulation, the thickening of cervical mucous to prevent the movement of sperm, and the preventing of implantation of a fertilized ovum by altering the lining of the uterus.

According to the bishops, this third mechanism is the most serious “because with conception having taken place, implantation will not occur, and the embryo will die.”

Likewise, they warned that starting with the country’s Constitution, the principal national laws and international agreements protect human life from the moment of conception.  In this sense, he said, “a resolution by the Health Ministry can never subjugate an entire legal system at the national and international level.”

The bishops also recalled that “doctors, nurses, obstetricians, pharmacists and also teachers should firmly morally object to these hidden forms of aggression against the weakest and most indefensible of individuals, as is the case with human embryos, giving valiant witness by their actions to the inalienable value of human life.”

The bishops exhorted “everyone to respect the scientific principle of the beginning of human life, from conception until natural death.  Fertilization should be considered as the beginning and not implantation in the uterus.  The fertilized ovum already has the complete genetic structure of a new being.  It is a human life.”

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Praise and concern for role of media from Chilean Cardinal

Santiago, Chile, Sep 2, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking at a breakfast for the Press Club of the Pontifical University of Chile, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa of Santiago, Chile, commented on both the positive and negative aspects of the media in today’s culture.

In his address the Cardinal emphasized that communication is a field “near and dear to the Church,” and he commented on the different dimensions of social communications, saying the media has passed from being a simple means of connecting people and events to forming a culture unto itself.

“People are no longer living in a three-dimensional universe.  The media now constitutes a new universe,” the Cardinal explained.

Thus, said Cardinal Errazuriz, “the communications media not only informs and communicates, nor just entertains and teaches.  The media presents, comments on, selects and even silences reality.  In many circumstances they create it, implanting opinions on morality and values, even altering it.”  “Not only are they social communications media, they are also social transformation media,” he said.

One of the principal problems, added the Cardinal, is “the tremendous amount of information taken out of context,” “which makes understanding the background that explains it, as well as the very meaning of decisions and events, difficult to grasp.”

In this sense, the Cardinal said the task of the social communicator is a “passionate mission” which demands the application of ethical principals.  “The work of communications must be stamped by the fundamental law that God has inscribed in our conscience: We must do good and avoid evil.”

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Mexicans confront Satanism with National Meeting of Exorcists

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 2, 2004 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, inaugurated this week the first National Meeting of Exorcists as a means of combating the spread of Satanism.  Among those participating in the event is Fr. Gabriel Amorth, founder of the International Association of Exorcists.

Addressing the more than 500 participants, including exorcist priests from various dioceses in the country, the Cardinal emphasized that “this is a crucial moment for the Church” and that the Church “must denounce with the Word everything that is against God,” particularly witchcraft, occultism, magic, fortune telling, tarot cards and masonry, among other things.

The meeting includes conferences, panels and roundtable discussions by experts such as Fr. Giancarlo Gramolazzo, President of the International Association of Exorcists, and Fr. Mario Angel Flores Ramos, Director of the Theology Department of the Pontifical University of Mexico.

In his homily during the inaugural Mass, the Cardinal warned that “something even more relevant is that, in certain cities of the world, Satanic cult worship is taking place” and “the reality of our times also includes Satanic works such as the New Age, which attempts to attract people with false ways of thinking and living.”

According to the Cardinal, the New Age proposes “believing not in a personal God who has revealed Himself to us, but in an impersonal god who identifies himself with this material world of which we are part, in an attempt to make us believe that we ourselves are God.”

“Some seek to solve their problems, sicknesses, pain and suffering by following an unreal and superficial path without establishing a personal relationship with God,” he added.

Lastly, he called on participants to “make Christ your center, who through his passion, death and resurrection, through the cross, triumphed over Satan, and offers Himself to us through bread and wine in the Eucharist, so that united to Him we might participate in His victory, together with Mary, star of the Evangelization, principal cooperator with Christ in the work of redemption and in crushing the head of the serpent and his seed.”

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Bishops of India condemn wave of violence against Christians and call for religious tolerance

Rome, Italy, Sep 2, 2004 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops of India are voicing concern for a new wave of violence against Christians and calling on civil authorities to intervene and urging people to work to build religious tolerance and harmony.

The Fides News Agency reports that August 26 in the central eastern state of Orissa, a group of Hindu militants attacked and desecrated the parish church of Our Lady of Charity in the village of Rakia also destroying the homes of several Christian families near the parish.

According to Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, the attack on the parish was organized and premeditated. 

The bishops issued a statement which included the report of the pastor, Fr. Alphonse Baliarsingh, who said 300 fundamentalists broke down the parish door with clubs and destroyed a statue of our Lady, a Crucifix and other religious statues.  The assailants made a bonfire with the Bible, liturgical books and other sacred objects, and they destroyed the tabernacle.

Catholics in Kerala, south west India, have been deeply shaken after a priest, Father Job Chittilappilly, 71, was murdered his home next to the parish church of Our Lady of Grace in the town of Thuruthiparambu.

 An investigation by local police revealed that the body was discovered early in the morning and that the priest had been stabbed several times. The motive for the crime is still unclear but it would appear to be an execution in cold blood.

The local Bishop, Bishop James Pazhayattil of Irinjalakuda diocese, contacted by Fides said “Father Job was attacked and killed while he was praying the rosary before going to celebrate the 6.30 Mass. Our diocesan community is still deeply shaken and we have no idea who would want to kill him”.

Local church sources say that Father Job visited their homes, including Hindus, but he never tried to convert them by force and he was always made welcome, the Bishop said.

This incident is the latest in a series of attacks on Christian places and persons. 

Pallottine Father John Sunderam, parish priest in the archdiocese of Ranchi, in Jharkhand state is still in coma after being seriously wounded by band of criminals who broke into his church on August 22 in an apparent robbery.

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