Archive of September 23, 2004

“Stay faithful to your history” of witnessing to God, says Pope to Benedictines

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received Benedictine Abbots and Priors at Castelgandolfo this morning and encouraged them to “stay faithful” to their history, noting the valuable witness of their monastic communities that remind the secularized world of God and create “vital spaces” in which to encounter Him.

The Pope urged the abbots, who are gathered together for the Congress of the Abbots and Priors of the Benedictine Confederation and the meeting of "Communio Internationalis Benedictarum," not to be discouraged "by the problems of our time."

"Stay faithful to your history,” he urged, “Our secularized world is in debt to you for the witness of your communities which put God at the center. Many bishops ask to have these vital spaces for encountering Our Lord in their dioceses. Through the liturgy, study and work, may you always be an example of Christian life, fully oriented toward God, respectful of man and creation."

"I know," he continued, "that you maintain contact with monks and nuns of every religion: these relations are very important and could be fruitful. I urge you to deepen ecumenical relations with our brothers and sisters in Eastern Europe. Monasticism is a natural platform for mutual understanding. This is extremely important at this moment in history for Europe to preserve its Christian roots."

The Holy Father expressed his joy that "as a large Benedictine family, you are always discovering your common heritage. Follow in the footsteps of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. 'Do not put anything before Christ.' Faithful to this rule of life, you will have a future full of God's blessings."

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President of Costa Rica puts forth initiative for international ban on human cloning

, Sep 23, 2004 (CNA) - The Costa Rican President, Dr. Abel Pacheco called on U.N. member nations at the General Assembly on Monday September 21 to join Costa Rica in working towards an international ban against human cloning.

“As we have an obligation to protect the oppressed and victimized,” said the president, “we also have the obligation to protect those who don’t have a voice. I am referring to the imperative necessity to agree on an internationally binding set of norms for the safeguarding of the dignity of human life from the moment of conception.”

“The defense of life is, necessarily, the defense of the of the essence of man: of all the promises, joys and hopes of the human being,” he continued.

Dr. Pacheco said that, “I believe in science with ethical limits. As a doctor I reject human cloning while at the same time firmly supporting research into adult stem cells, which do not present ethical or juridical difficulties.”

He appealed to the member nations “to join us in working towards the adoption of an international convention that prohibits all forms of human cloning.”
U.S. President George W. Bush has stated the U.S. government’s support for the Costa Rican initiative at the U.N. General Assembly.

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Catholic university invites pro-abortion candidate to address student body

Lisle, Ill., Sep 23, 2004 (CNA) - Benedictine University has invited pro-abortion Illinois Democratic senator Barack Obama to speak to its student body Oct. 5.

Catholic journalist and commentator Matt Abbott has reported on the upcoming scheduled event and also pointed out Obama’s support for same-sex marriage.

Obama reportedly opposes a Constitutional Amendment, which bans same-sex marriage. The senator, however, argues that he is not in favor of same-sex marriage, only in favor of civil unions, Abbott points out.

Abbott also cites a column on, in which former nurse and pro-life activist Jill Stanek testifies that that Obama, in his functions as a senator, has repeatedly voted against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act.

The university also has invited Obama’s opponent, pro-life Republican Alan Keyes.

Concerns can be expressed to Benedictine University at [email protected].

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New group promises to defend churches

Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2004 (CNA) - The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has sent out letters to about 300,000 houses of worship, informing them of the freedom to preach under the First Amendment and promising to defend any of them who are threatened for delivering a good faith religious message.

The Becket Fund issued these letters after reports that ACLU has been warning churches and religious groups of their limitation on speech during this election season. This type of action leads to a "chilling effect."

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is an international, interfaith, public interest law firm, based in Washington, dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions.

Named for St. Thomas a Becket, who was martyred by the English king’s knights in the 12th century for defending religious expression, the firm has represented numerous religious denominations over the last 10 years, including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Native Americans, and Sikhs.

For more information on their recent letter campaign, go to

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Busiest highway in U.S. features ex-gay billboard

Richmond, Va., Sep 23, 2004 (CNA) - In an effort to seek tolerance and protect their rights, the ex-gay community has put up a billboard on one of the country’s busiest highways.

The billboard on I-64, near the turnoff for I-95 in the Richmond area, features a photo of a young man who overcame homosexuality, and says: “Ex-Gays Prove that Change Is Possible. Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays Seeking Tolerance for All.”

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) says homosexual activists, through their campaigns in favor of same-sex marriage, adoption rights and hate-crime laws, are attacking the freedoms of the ex-gay community. PFOX is a support group for families with loved ones dealing with homosexuality.

“Homosexual activists seek total acceptance and tolerance for their decisions but they openly discriminate against ex-gays’ decisions to leave homosexuality,” said Regina Griggs, executive director of PFOX, in a press release yesterday. “We’re hoping this ad will bring about public awareness, respect and tolerance.”

“All major mental health organizations have proclaimed the right to self-determination. This includes seeking counseling to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions,” Griggs said.

Citing the American Psychiatric Association, Griggs says there have not been any conclusive studies that support the notion that people are “‘born gay’ and left without a choice.”

“Ex-gays prove that change is possible and offer hope and answers for those who do not want to live homosexually. It is time that ex-gays got respect, honesty and equality,” she said.

“We put up this billboard so that people will know the truth – that you don’t have to be homosexual if you don’t want to be,” she said.

View the billboard at

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Archbishop of Malta urges Christian politicians to live Gospel values and principles

Valletta, Malta, Sep 23, 2004 (CNA) - Maltese Christian politicians had an important role to play in Malta and abroad in proposing, in an effective manner, the Gospel message and the social teachings of the Church, said Archbishop Joseph Mercieca at St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta yesterday.

A number of special guests attended the mass in honor of the Mediterranean country’s 40th Independence Day, including the Princess Royal, Princess Anne.

In his Independence Day message, which he delivered during homily, Archbishop Mercieca said now, more than in the past, the Christian politician is being called to serve based on solid moral principles and with transparency.

Maltese Christian politicians should promote the common good and respect for life in all of its stages, from conception to natural death. They should reject abortion and euthanasia, work for sustainable economic and social development and be in solidarity with the weakest and most vulnerable.

The archbishop said that politicians should protect the family. Regardless of efforts abroad to change the definition of marriage and legalize same-sex unions, the Maltese view of marriage and family should remain clear. A cohabiting or homosexual couple could never be accepted as being married, the archbishop said.

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German bishops hopeful John Paul II will preside at World Youth Day in Cologne

Cologne, Germany, Sep 23, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Germany expressed hope this week that Pope John Paul II will visit Cologne in August of 2005 to preside at World Youth Day.

During their fall assembly, the German bishops said they were hopeful the Pope’s health would allow him to visit the country.

Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, said the Pope’s health is currently “stable” and that nothing would be better for his health than a gathering with young people from around the world.

The Cardinal said World Youth Day is the most important event for Cologne “since the arrival of the three wise men,” whose remains are entombed at the Archdiocesan Cathedral.

The President of the Conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, recalled that the gathering would be open to “all young people of good will.”

He emphasized that “the meeting is a Catholic festivity,” but “the Pope wants it to be open to young people of other confessions.”

800,000 young people are expected to attend the event next August 11-21 in Cologne.

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Rwandan bishops reject accusations of Church involvement in 1994 genocide

Rome, Italy, Sep 23, 2004 (CNA) - The bishops of Rwanda have issued an official statement demanding the media cease from implying the Catholic Church bears some responsibility for the killings in 1994 that took the lives almost 500,000 people.

“To accuse the Catholic Church of not recognizing its share of blame in the spreading of a genocidal ideology in Rwanda is without basis. The Church is right to not acknowledge a crime it did not commit,” said the bishops.

The nine bishops of the country did acknowledge the individual responsibility—but not institutional—of some clergy members regarding the massacres.

The bishops’ statement came in response to a government report on the “persistence of genocidal ideology,” in which the Church is accused of practicing ethnic segregation in the choosing of members of the clergy.

The bishops’ response was energetic, and one of the signers of the statement is Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro, who was detained in 1999 after he was accused of participating in the genocide. The bishop was released two years later and declared innocent by a court.

In 1994, extremist militias and the government army massacred more than 500,000 Tutsi and Hutu Rwandans.

Currently, Rwandan priest Father Athanase Seromba is being tried for war crimes in connection with the killing of more than two thousand Tutsis who had taken refuge in a church in Nyange, in the country’s western region.

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Parishes in Mexico install cell phone blocking devices to stop interruptions during Mass

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 23, 2004 (CNA) - The constant interruptions from cell phones during Masses and the lack of cooperation by some of the faithful to shut their phones off in church has led several parishes in Mexico to install blocking devices that make it impossible for cell phones to acquire a signal from inside the church building.

Four parishes in Monterrey are using technology developed by Netline Communications of Israel in order to block cell phone signals during Mass.

“Before we had this equipment it was very uncomfortable to hear calls coming in during the celebration of the Mass. Now it is about 95% better,” Bulmaro Carranza, sacristan of Sacred Heart Parish, told Reuters.

The equipment consists of two small boxes placed near the altar and at the entrance of the church.

The system is turned on before Mass begins and causes the message “No Service” to appear on cell phone display screens.

“I think we were the first church in Mexico to use this technology. And we are receiving calls from all over the place about how to use it,” Carranza added.

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Cardinal Rouco denounces experimentation with family and marriage

Madrid, Spain, Sep 23, 2004 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Bishops Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, said this week political or juridical experimentation on authentic marriage and the family should not be allowed to take place and he emphasized “the grave and urgent duty” of Catholics and of all of society to promote and care for marriage and the family.

In a pastoral letter, the Cardinal stated that “if endless political and juridical experimentation with that ever-important pedagogical instrument for the education of man in his early stage that is the school is not advisable, even more so should one not experiment with marriage and the family, which constitute the primary and most intimate sign” of the human person.

The Cardinal underscored that “the truth about the human person, about his fundamental rights and duties, and the truth about the basic institutions into which he is born, grows and develops, is buried deep within man’s very being, which is designed and created by God!”

The human person “is not at the disposal or whim of any human power that individually or institutionally seeks to make use of him. Rather, he is to be scrupulously respected, cared for, supported and facilitated in his fulfillment with all of the resources that are at the disposal of a justly ordered society and political community, which should be sincerely concerned about progress that is worthy to be called such,” the Cardinal said.

Cardinal Rouco also explained that “the perspectives of our society will not improve with a spectacular increase in the number of divorces and of children and teenagers immersed in dramatic marital and family crises, and much less so if the sustained wave of abortions is not stopped.”

He also stated that most young people want to live out authentic matrimony and that, therefore, “they need effective and prompt assistance from society and its institutions in order to reconcile professional life with marriage and family life, the commitment to work with responsible parenthood, and in order to gain access to the essential resources--employment and housing, primarily--needed to create and sustain a family with dignity.”

According to the Cardinal, God’s plan for marriage and the family “is not an impossible ideal, nor is it some romantic dream conjured up by those who are oblivious to the social realities of the day. Rather, through Jesus Christ and his Gospel, lived and experienced in communion with the Church, it is a gift within everyone’s reach, including of course, the young people of our times.”

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