Vatican City, Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - The theme of the “the fate of children who die without receiving the sacrament of baptism in the context of the universal salvation plan of God will continue to be reflected on by the International Theological Comission, currently holding their annual plenary session in the Vatican from October 4-8.
“The uniqueness of the mediation of Christ and the sacramental character of the Church in terms of salvation," as well as “the natural moral law,” are topics to be studied by the commission, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, over the next five years.
“In light of the Holy Father's teaching in the encyclicals 'Veritatis Splendor' and 'Fides et Ratio,' participants will promote a reflection that will contribute to a constructive renewal of doctrine on natural moral law," reads the statement released by the commission this morning.
Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic University authorities have decided to enforce the U.S. bishops' request to deny pro-abortion public figures a platform at Catholic campuses, but some faculty members as well as a group of students are considering this stand "too Catholic."
Three weeks ago, authorities at CU decided to block an invitation to actor Stanley Tucci to speak at a forum on Italian film because of his involvement with abortion rights organizations.
In a memo to faculty members, the university's president, Fr. David M. O'Connell, explained that Tucci, who has lent his support to Planned Parenthood events, carried "moral baggage . . . [that] stands in direct contradiction to the values and principles upon which this institution was founded."
Economics professor Ernest M. Zampelli told the Washington Post that the university's policy is a "watershed event" for a college community that is generally comfortable with the strong influence of the Church.
"This is something that people think goes beyond," he said, "and this is where it should stop."
Some students agreed. Sarah McGrath, a senior and president of the Undergraduate Student Government, told the Washington Post that the university “is digging itself into a hole right now," she said. "My concern is that once things like this start happening and become publicized to this magnitude that our degrees won't be worth as much."
But university officials have said the policy is nothing new. The university always has maintained the right to prohibit speakers whose views run counter to those of the Church, said school spokesman Victor Nakas. He noted that a set of directives issued in July by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops strengthened that existing policy.
In their statement, the bishops prohibited Catholic institutions from giving "awards, honors and platforms" to those who oppose the Church's fundamental positions, particularly that against abortion.
Last week, a group of professors circulated a protest letter, saying that a person should be able to speak based on their artistic competence and accomplishments, regardless of their political positions. They also argued that since "few persons in public life agree wholly with Catholic positions," the bishops' directives could not be applied consistently.
Last year, CU cancelled a bookstore appearance by Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting delegate in Congress, after some students complained about her pro-abortion stance.
In April, CU rejected a request to sponsor and fund a campus chapter of the NAACP because of the civil rights group's support of abortion.
Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - California’s Catholic bishops should not allow any Catholic organization to pay for the cost of contraceptives in their employees’ health insurance benefits, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling that obliges them to do so, says the American Life League.
“All California bishops have a moral responsibility to protect the Church's teachings and to ensure that contraceptive coverage is not offered through Catholic institutions,” says ALL president Judie Brown.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to overturn the California Women's Contraceptive Equity Act, which requires Catholic Charities to provide access to contraception as part of its employee healthcare prescription benefits.
“This decision is truly an affront to all people of faith and a clear violation of the First Amendment right of freedom of religion,” said Brown. “By forcing Catholic Charities to include coverage for contraceptives in their prescription drug benefits plan, the court is forcing the Church to act contrary to its stated beliefs.
“Church leaders must not allow the Supreme Court to force its morality of secular humanism onto the Catholic Church,” she continued in a press release. “Unfortunately, it appears that the only option left is for the Catholic employers to drop the employee healthcare benefits altogether.”
Vatican City, Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations, highlighted the importance of the United Nations principles as “a system founded on cooperation rather than on competition among States” which recognizes that all nations are “equal in dignity”, but he insisted that its structures need to be more inclusive and its procedures more efficient.
The Archbishop’s comments came during debates on October 4, at the U.N. Plenary Session on Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly and on Strengthening of the United Nations System, and October 5, when he addressed the General Assembly on the question of Social Development andSustainable Development.
He noted that "the United Nations is a community of States that shares fundamental values, well outlined in the Millennium Declaration: freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility.”
“Strengthening the United Nations system implies the acknowledgement that this is a system founded on cooperation rather than on competition among States and actively nourished by constructive will, trust, keeping of commitments and collaboration among equal and reciprocally responsible partners. Making these founding principles irreversible is a primary task,” he underscored.
"The bottom line is the recognition of the principle that all States are by nature equal in dignity," he said. "It is true, however, that the nations that have attained a superior degree of scientific, cultural and economic development have the responsibility to make a greater contribution to the common cause."
"On a more practical note," affirmed Archbishop Migliore, "the essential criteria that should be taken into account for reshaping the structures and revisiting the procedures of this Organization are as follows: for the structures: representation and inclusiveness; for the procedures: impartiality, efficiency and efficacy; for the outcomes: accountability and responsiveness."
Vatican City, Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - On October 4, during the 55th Session of the Executive Committee of the Program of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations said that “refugees rights that are recognized "in international instruments too often remain mere words.”
“In many countries,” he said, “refugees are not allowed to work, a basic right, and thus earn a livelihood," many are "dependent on food rations," and for many others "their movements are usually limited to the immediate surroundings of camps, often located in remote regions.”
He noted that “the institutional capacity of the international community to realize the rights of refugees seems insufficient. ... Guaranteeing refugees their rights will assist them in becoming 'agents of development', even in their host country."
The Archbishop spoke on the question of voluntary repatriation, saying that "what makes all the difference between successful and unsuccessful voluntary repatriation is how people are returned home: (are they returning) in and to conditions of safety and dignity; what kind of guaranteed benefits they receive and which follow-up activities are developed. ... Provisions also need to be in place for settling property questions and land rights," he pointed out.
He declared that "international human rights and humanitarian law oblige governments to provide for the security and well-being of all those under their jurisdiction. In particular, each citizen has a right to protection by his or her country.”
“If however,” he said, “a State fails to or cannot take this responsibility and the human rights of a population continue to be trampled upon, then the international community can and should assert its concern, step in and take on this obligation."
Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - The Family Research Council said a decision by Louisiana Judge William Morvant to strike down Louisiana's Marriage Protection Amendment will be appealed to the appellate court and, “if necessary, the State Supreme Court.”
The amendment was struck down even though voters overwhelmingly approved it Sept. 18. The judge claimed that the amendment, which was drawn up by the Legislature, was flawed because it had more than one purpose: banning not only same-sex marriage but also civil unions.
"We have judges acting in arrogance to usurp the actions of the legislature and deny the voters of Louisiana,” said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. “Judge Morvant's ruling underscores the disturbing trend of judges undermining the authority of the legislature and muting the voice of the people.”
Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - Paul Marshall, senior fellow of Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom, will testify today on the worldwide proliferation of Saudi-based extremist Wahhabi ideology before the House International Relations Committee, on the State Department's “Country Report on Religious Freedom.”
The Muslim ideology advocates violence against Christians, Jews and other religious believers, including moderate Muslims, but it was not addressed in the State Department’s recent report on global religious freedom.
The Center for Religious Freedom is currently preparing a report on Saudi-propagated Wahhabi materials that have been collected from mosques in the United States.
The State Department did, however, add Saudi Arabia to the U.S. list of “countries of particular concern,” a decision which Marshall welcomed.
In his testimony, Marshall will focus on six countries—Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Egypt, China and Iraq—with particular emphasis on new developments in Vietnam, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
In welcoming Vietnam’s designation as a “country of particular concern,” Marshall will point to evidence that Vietnamese authorities continue to carry out anti-Christian persecution against Hmong and Montagnard ethnic minorities.
Marshall will also speak to growing evidence of ethnic cleansing against native ChaldoAssyrian Christians in Iraq. Tens of thousands of ChaldoAssyrians are believed to have fled Iraq since coordinated church bombings in Mosul and Baghdad during Sunday worship services Aug. 1. Approximately 800,000 Christians remain in Iraq, constituting the largest non-Muslim minority.
Marshall will also bring attention to proposals of the ChaldeoAssyrian community, including the creation of a safe haven in Iraq, as described in Article 53D of the Transitional Administrative Law.
Montreal, Canada, Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - Juan Melendez, a native of Puerto Rico, spent 17 years, eight months and one day on death row in Florida before his release in January 2002. Convicted of murder in 1983, justice officials now say they have found the taped confession of the true killer.
Melendez is just one of thousands of innocents who have sat on death row, awaiting execution in several countries around the world. But he is one of those lucky enough to share his testimony and opposition to the capital punishment with more than 1,000 delegates at the second World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Montreal, which starts today and runs until Oct. 9.
Organizers say the purpose of the conference is not to debate the pros and cons of the death penalty but to target public opinion in the United States and urge neighboring countries, such as Cuba, Jamaica and several Latin American countries, to abolish capital punishment.
In the United States, 3,487 inmates are on death row as of April; 65 people were executed last year. Other countries targeted are China, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
More than 100 speakers will take part in about 25 round tables and presentations. There will be a Christian presence at the conference, including representation from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Counsel of Churches. As well, Msgr. Allan McCormack, legal vicar in Canada, will read a message from Pope John Paul II at the opening ceremonies.
An interreligious ceremony is planned for Oct. 7 at 3:30 p.m. A round table is scheduled on “Ethical arguments, philosophies, and religions in favor of abolition.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - On the occasion of a massive pilgrimage of young people to the national shrine of Luján in Argentina, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, harshly criticized the efforts to revive the ideological conflicts of the 1970’s, saying there are some “who wish to deceive and divide us.”
The Cardinal made his comments during the homily of the closing Mass of the 30th Youth Pilgrimage to Lujan, in the context of increasing pressure to reopen trials for human rights violations and of one-sided reporting about the violence during the dictatorship of the 1970’s.
“Today we come to say to our Mother that we wish to be one people; that we don’t want to fight amongst ourselves; that she defend us against those who wish to divide us; that we want to be family and that we have no need of an ideology of revenge that claims to bring us redemption,” said the Cardinal.
Recalling that “Mary held the body of Jesus after the cross,” Cardinal Bergoglio underscored that “in the moments in which everything appears to be lost, God manifests his love in all of its grandeur, which makes us strong.”
At the conclusion of his homily, the Cardinal called on young people to “return home renewed” after their pilgrimage to the Basilica of Luján, where “we leave behind everything that we find difficult to bear in our daily lives,” and he reiterated his prayer to Mary that all Argentineans desire to be “one people.”
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Sinesio Bohn of Santa Cruz do Sul, Brazil, has issued a pastoral letter entitled, “The Church and Democracy,” in which he recalls that democracy “is not exempt from faults” and that work should be done to improve it.
“If democracy appears to be the best system for achieving good for all, it is not exempt from faults. The reason is the fragileness itself of human nature. Because of this, vice and corruption are possible even in elections,” recalled the bishop, adding that “our democracy should always be getting more perfect, for the dignity and good of all Brazilians.”
He also pointed out that “since it is not easy to promote the common good in a pluralist society, different political parties with their plans and proposals exist. When voting, one decides which is the best plan for the community and which people are most apt for carrying out those plans. For this reason, voting is so important for the future of the country and of communities.”
While Bishop Bohn stated that “the Church is not affiliated with any political party and leaves Catholics free to vote according to their convictions and conscience,” he clarified that the political community and the Church, “both institutions at the service of citizens,” seek to work to together and to cooperate.
“Ideally democratic participation should translate into social participation, so that the great inequality among citizens, violence, injustice, impunity and so many other vices can be overcome,” he added.
Lastly, the bishop stated that “just as people are all called to the same vocation by God, all citizens are called to cooperate in the building of a better world, where peace, justice, respect, dignity and freedom reign.”
Brussels, Belgium, Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has reported an attempt by Buddhists extremists in Sri Lanka to make Buddhism the state religion and curtail religious freedom by prohibiting the conversion of Buddhists to any other religion.
The extremists “have drafted an amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution which would make Buddhism – currently offically the ‘foremost religion’ – into the state religion. Article 9.5 of the proposed ammendment states: "To convert Buddhists into other forms of worship or to spread other forms of worship among the Buddhists is prohibited."
Even though freedom to practice other religions is provided for by the ammendment, they can only be practised "in peace and harmony with Buddha Sasana [Buddhist teachings]," a qualification which leaves itself open to wide interpretation.
CSW points out in their report that “anti-conversion laws and the proposed constitutional amendment…directly contravene Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Anti-Christian violence and the complicity of Sri Lanka’s newspapers in the spreading of anti-Christian sentiment in the country were also reported by CSW.
Vatican City, Oct 6, 2004 (CNA) - In this morning’s general audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II, speaking on the second part of Psalm 44, "The Kingdom and the bride," said that marriage is a sign of the mystery of God’s love for humanity.
"We can dedicate this nuptial song to all couples who live their marriage with intensity and interior zeal, ... which is a sign of a great mystery, ... the love of the Father for humanity and of Christ for His Church," said the Pope to the 13,000 people in attendance.
The beauty of the bride is exalted "as a reflection of God's splendor," he said. "Genuine joy, deeper than simple happiness, is an expression of love which participates in the good of the person loved with serenity of heart."
John Paul II also pointed out that the psalm speaks “about 'children' and 'generations.' ... It is a relevant theme in our days, in the West so often incapable of entrusting its own existence to the future by generating and caring for new creatures that they might continue the civilization of peoples and fulfill the history of salvation."
Many fathers of the Church, he concluded, have applied the figure of the royal bride to Our Lady, Mother of God, who received "the joyous announcement of the redemption of the world."
Recalling that tommorow is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Holy Father said, "I entrust the Holy Church and my ministry to her protection. I also entrust her with my hopes for peace in the world, as well as in families and in the human conscience."
Before the audience, the Pope blessed a statue of the Chilean saint, Teresa of Jesus of the Andes, canonized in 1993, that was placed in an external niche of the Vatican basilica.