Archive of September 24, 2004

Renew fidelity to original charism, says Pope to religious

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2004 (CNA) - The Pope stressed the important need to “constantly renew fidelity” to  the “original charism” by “permanent care of the spiritual life” in an address to participants of the General Chapter of the Institute of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate this morning. He also assured them that “through the action of the Holy Spirit, God allows religious families to respond adequately to new challenges, using the specific gift which has been given to them."

Pointing out that the theme of their meeting was "Witness to hope," the Pope said that the presence of the Oblates, "driven by authentic religious and missionary fervor, must be a sign and seed of hope for those who meet you, in secular environments as well as places where the first announcement of the Gospel has not yet arrived."

"I encourage you," he continued, "to persevere in the objectives that you have proposed, especially the objective of renewed fraternal union, according to the will of your holy founder, Eugene de Mazenod, who thought of the Institute as a family whose members form one heart and one soul."

"Today you are present with more than 1000 communities in 67 countries, and this unity is a demanding challenge but an important one for humanity, called to proceed on the path of solidarity and diversity," said the Pope.

The Pope expressed his appreciation for their reflection on "the profound changes that are characterizing the congregation, whose center of gravity is moving toward the poorest regions of the world. This significant fact leads you to update your formation, the distribution of persons, the forms of government and the communion of goods."

"Make clear choices based on the priorities of your mission. Among the more important needs," he concluded, "is the permanent care of the spiritual life in order to constantly renew your fidelity to your original charism.”

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Florida Supreme Court decides ‘Terri's Law’ is unconstitutional

Tallahassee, Fla., Sep 24, 2004 (CNA) - Based on the unanimous ruling of the Florida Supreme Court yesterday, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed, but it is not clear when. The court ruled that “Terri's Law” is unconstitutional and that Gov. Jeb Bush should not have been given the power to reinsert her feeding tube last year. This decision supports an earlier court ruling in May.

This six-year battle began when Terri Schiavo’s husband, Michael Schiavo, first asked for permission to have the tube removed. His wife's parents opposed his request, but he won court approval to remove it after doctors testified that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state, with no hope of recovery.

When the tube was taken out nearly a year ago, the Florida Legislature quickly passed Terri's Law, giving Bush the power to intervene, and he ordered the feeding tube reinserted.

But the Supreme Court has ruled that Terri’s Law violated the separation of powers between the branches of government and that the Florida Legislature improperly delegated power to the governor, reported the Miami Herald.

Chief Justice Barbara Pariente, who wrote the ruling, suggested that Bush’s decision was based on emotion. The United States is “a nation of laws and we must govern our decisions by the rule of law and not by our own emotions,” she wrote.

“Our hearts can fully comprehend the grief so fully demonstrated by Theresa's family members on this record,” the ruling says. “But our hearts are not the law. What is in the Constitution always must prevail over emotion.”

The court gave each side in the case 10 days to ask for a rehearing.

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Planned Parenthood to launch major abortion campaign in Latin America

, Sep 24, 2004 (CNA) - Financial documents, obtained by Friday Fax, reveal that the International Planned Parenthood Federation plans to launch an aggressive campaign to increase access to abortion in Latin America and it will do so in partnership with Catholics for a Free Choice.

The report appears in the Sept. 24 issue of the Friday Fax, a publication of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.

The financial and strategic documents obtained by the Friday Fax indicate that Planned Parenthood has more than quadrupled how much it spent on abortion promotion in Latin America, from $199,761 in 2002 to $849,769 in 2003. It intends to maintain this spending level through 2009.

By 2009, it expects to increase the number of safe-abortions or abortion-related services provided in Latin America, from 507 in 2002 to 2028 by 2009, and increase emergency contraceptive visits, from 2,000 in 2003 to 10,000 by 2009. Emergency contraceptives are abortifacients; they prevent a conceived embryo from implanting in the uterus.

Planned Parenthood says it will take these actions in order to counter the "growing opposition from conservative forces that have gained greater power in recent years. Often acting in the name of religion, they effectively utilize media and advocacy strategies to dominate public debate and thwart progress."

Planned Parenthood plans to do all of this with the participation of Catholics for a Free Choice in order to undermine the influence of the Church in Latin America, reports Friday Fax.

According to the president of Catholics for a Free Choice, Frances Kissling, Planned Parenthood has always been “a close colleague, but in the last year we've seen increased passion, along with a new vision for the future of reproductive health and rights in the region. Hope, it is said, is the best contraceptive, and IPPF/WHR is leading the field in giving women hope."

The financial data obtained by Friday Fax also flies in the face of claims made by the organization’s director-general, Steven Sinding, that Planned Parenthood’s loss of federal funding has damaged the organization and even cost women in the developing world their lives.

Despite this apparent loss of funding, the organization is still able to pay some of its employees in the hundreds of thousands. The president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Gloria Feldt, earned $460,277 in 2003. COO George Stokes earned $204,846. The medical director of Planned Parenthood of New York City, Michael Momtaz, reportedly earned $310,064, plus $72,617 in benefits in 2002. A regional director, Carmen Barroso, earned $197,000, plus more than $20,000 in benefits in 2003.

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BBC scraps Pope cartoon under pressure

London, England, Sep 24, 2004 (CNA) - The British Broadcasting Corp. has scrapped the animation series “Popetown”, following the petition signed by more than 6,000 Catholics.

The cartoon featured a fame-hungry nun, corrupt cardinals and an infantile pope, who bounced around the Vatican on a pogo stick.

Though the program was commissioned for the digital channel BBC3, executives decided yesterday that it was too offensive to broadcast.

"Despite all the creative energy that has gone into this project and the best efforts of everyone involved, the comic impact of the delivered series does not outweigh the potential offense it will cause," said BBC3 Controller Stuart Murphy.

Portsmouth Bishop Crispian Hollis, who led the protests, welcomed the decision.

"It was obviously going to be a controversial program," he said. "Any attempt to belittle or diminish [the Pope’s] status as the leader of the Catholic Church is totally unacceptable, and not only to Catholics."

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Pledge cases stripped from courts is good but not enough, says Catholic League

, Sep 24, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic League president William Donohue supported the House of Representatives’ decision yesterday to prevent the federal courts from ruling on whether the words “under God” should be deleted from the Pledge of Allegiance, but he said it is not enough.

“Given the reckless disregard that so many judges have shown for the plain language of the Constitution, it is entirely understandable that the House would move to prohibit the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from hearing cases involving the Pledge,” he said.  “But this is the wrong remedy: much more drastic action is needed.

“Court stripping is too tame a remedy given the undemocratic nature of today’s courts,” he continued. “What is needed is a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the Supreme Court from nullifying congressional legislation unless the opinion were unanimous. The Congress should then be allowed to override a unanimous high court veto by a two-thirds vote in both houses.”

Donohue said a similar position was first presented by Chief Justice John Marshall and then by former-Marxist political philosopher Sidney Hook in the 1960s. 

“That the courts have become even more undemocratic since is indisputable,” Donohue said. He pointed to the Florida Supreme Court decision yesterday on the case of Terri Schiavo as an example. 

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Holy See: Sports and Tourism aid development of societies

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2004 (CNA) - The 25th World Tourism Day, to be held on  September 27, will focus on the theme "Sports and Tourism: Two Living Forces for Mutual Understanding, Culture and the Development of Societies."

A statement released from the office of the Holy See Permanent Observer to the WTO, Msgr. Piero Monni, mentioned that although the phenomenon of World Tourism Day has annually been receiving growing interest from governments and institutions around the world, this year it has registered a decrease in the trend due to the terrorist threat and “international tension” that has involved several countries in “war” or “war-like activities.”

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Gibson to receive producer award

Hollywood, Calif., Sep 24, 2004 (CNA) - Mel Gibson will receive the Hollywood Film Festival’s Producer of the Year Award later next month for his religious epic, The Passion of the Christ.

The producer/director/actor will be given the award during a ceremony Oct. 18, reported The Associated Press.

Gibson’s productions also include Forever Young, Man Without a Face and the renowned Braveheart.

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Costa Rica President demands UN defend life

, Sep 24, 2004 (CNA) - In an eloquent message delivered to the UN General Assembly, the President of Cosa Rica, Abel Pacheco, called on the nations of the world body to defend those “who have no voice” and to oppose human cloning under whatever pretext.

Addressing the general assembly, Pacheco recalled that “just has we have an obligation to protect the oppressed and injured, so also do we have the obligation to protect those who have no voice.”

“I am referring to the imperative necessity to agree to a set of norms, adhered to internationally, in order to safeguard the dignity of human life from the moment of conception,” he said.

Pacheco stated that “the defense of life is, necessarily, the defense of the very essence of man, of all of the promise, joys and hopes of the human bieing.”

The Costa Rica president, who is also a registered doctor, rejected human cloning and expressed his firm support for “the study of adult stem cells, which do not present any ethical or legal difficulties.”

“I invite you join us in working for the adoption of an international agreement to prohibit all forms of human cloning,” he concluded.

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Vatican newspaper calls for hope in wake of kidnappings in Iraq

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2004 (CNA) - The offical Vatican newspaper “L ‘Osservatore Romano,” is calling on Italians not to lose hope in response to terrorist statements that two 29-year old Italian volunteers have been killed in Iraq.

The front-page headline yesterday read, “Anguish and hope and yet we will not give up,” alluding to Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, who were kidnapped September 7 in Bagdad.

The newspaper called on readers to continue hoping for the release of the young people, who traveled to Iraq as part of a humanitarian outreach to children.
“We must hope that these messages are not authentic, that they are only a dream, the worst you can have, and that the dark shadows that are suffocating us might dissappar soon,” the article stated.

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Spanish bishops vow to continue speaking out in order to “awaken” Catholic consciences

Madrid, Spain, Sep 24, 2004 (CNA) - The bishops of Spain expressed this week their intention to continue speaking out “in opportune and timely moments” in an effort to “awaken” the consciences of Catholics regarding the issues of the day.

Spokesman and general secretary of the Bishops Conference of Spain, Father Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, at the conclusion of a meeting of the conference’s Executive Committee, stated, “We intend to influence, not impose, in the debate on the issues of the day. We will speak out at opportune and timely moments.”

Father Martinez clarified that the Spanish bishops have not and never will press for citizens to engage in public protests on the streets in favor or against any certain issue.   “People are free to act as they see fit and Catholics likewise can exercise that right.”

Regarding the debate surrounding euthansia, Father Martinez reaffirmed the bishops’ 1998 statement.  “Euthansia is immoral and anti-social,” the bishops said then.  “This continues to apply today,” insisted Father Martinez.

Regarding State funding of the Church, Father Martinez said the Bishops Conference does not expect drastic changes in this area.  “State funding is important and does not constitute a privilege; however, although the Church has its rights in a democratic state, this is a not a matter of life or death and it does not constitute a limit on her freedom,” he said.

Likewise, the secretary of the Bishops Conference addressed the possible approval of a proposal to make homosexual unions equivalent to marriage, recalling that in such a case “the State would be discriminating against marriage between a man and a woman.”

“It would be an unjust legislation that would endanger the  common good,” said Father Martinez, although he clarifeid that this does not equate to “ignoring the human dignity and rights of homosexuals.”

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Italian young people to hit streets of Rome with message of evangelization

Rome, Italy, Sep 24, 2004 (CNA) - From October 1-10, some 400 Italian young people will take to the streets of Rome to proclaim the Word of God to those whom they encounter, especially to fellow young people.

According to the Spanish daily La Razon, “Mission Young People” is being organized by the youth ministry office of the Diocese of Rome and will take place in the historic center of the Eternal City.

The young evangelists have scheduled gatherings for prayer and dialogue at different student centers and they will invite young people to a moment of Eucharistic adoration at different churches in the Italian capital.

The day before the lauch of the mission, Cardinal Camilo Ruini, Vicar of Rome, will preside at a special Mass at the People’s Square.

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