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Archive of October 11, 2004

Don’t use Reeve’s death to promote embryo-destructive research, says Culture of Life Foundation

Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - On the death of Christopher Reeve this morning from cardiac failure at the age of 52, Culture of Life Foundation President Austin Ruse has released a statement saying that those who wish to use his death to further the cause of embryo-destructive research do a disservice to all who suffer from quadraplegia.

“Today we mourne the passing of the great entertainer Christopher Reeve. Our sincere condolences go to his brave family and friends who supported him through his long years of struggle.”

“We regret that his passing, like that of Ronald Reagan, will provide the opportunity for some to make the false case for embryo-destructive research.”

“The fact is that after twenty years and many millions of dollars, embryo-destructive research has not successfully treated a single patient or a single disease. Embryo -destructive research was no where close to helping Mr. Reeve walk again. To suggest otherwise does a disservice to those who suffer by raising profoundly false expectations that will not be realized.”

“While embryo-destructive research has cured no person and no disease, adult stem cell research has already treated thousands of patients and more than 100 diseases. In fact, adult stem cell therapy has already helped those with severe spinal cord injuries to walk again, two of whom testified before the US Senate last month. One of those who testfied even suffered from quadraplegia just like Christopher Reeve.”

“Embryo-destructive research is morally problematic because it kills a human embryo in the process. On the other hand, adult stem cell research poses no such moral dilemma. Polls also show that a majority of Americans prefer research that does not kill the human embryo.”

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Eucharist must move Christians to effective charity, Pope says

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - On Sunday, the day of the opening of the International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, on the theme "'The Eucharist, Light and Life of the New Millennium,' Pope John Paul II told pilgrims assembled for the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square that he “spiritually join[s] this important ecclesial event, with which the Year of the Eucharist will open," and prayed that Christians be moved by the Eucharist to a witness of effective charity.

His Apostolic Letter, the Pope pointed out, begins with the words “'Mane nobiscum, Domine' - stay with us, Lord. May this invocation be echoed in every Christian community: in recognizing the Risen Christ 'in breaking bread', may the faithful be ready to witness to Him with effective charity."

The Pope said that "a privileged expression of charity in the local Church is the diocesan Caritas. In Rome, Caritas is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding. I thank God for the many good fruits that have matured over the years and I encourage the ecclesial community to pursue formative work and service to the poor and needy."

Greeting participants in the Social Week of Italian Catholics meeting in Bologna on the theme 'Democracy: New Scenarios, New Powers,'"  the Pope expressed his hope that it would offer new stimulus "for an ever more incisive witness in every milieu of the life of the country."

In conclusion he said that "next Sunday afternoon, in spiritual communion with everyone in Guadalajara, the International Eucharistic Congress will close and I will preside in St. Peter's Square at a solemn celebration for the opening of the Year of the Eucharist throughout the Church. I invite the faithful to participate in great numbers in this important ecclesial event, to render choral homage to Christ, light and life of the new millennium."

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Pope challenges youth to make Eucharist "the center of your life"

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - This morning Pope John Paul II received youth from the diocese of Rome who are participating in a mission to their peers entitled “Jesus Downtown,” in preparation for the Year of the Eucharist, and told them that “Eucharist and mission are two inseperable realities,” and that true Eucharistic adoration must lead to mission, or it is not authentic.

"Eucharist and mission are two inseparable realities. ... Authentic celebration and adoration of the Eucharist that does not lead to mission does not exist. At the same time, mission assumes another essential Eucharistic characteristic: union of hearts."

The Holy Father said that such pastoral initiatives "introduce us in this special time of grace for the entire Church" to the Year of the Eucharist.

John Paul II expressed his hope to the youths that "this pastoral experience, which is an authentic school of communion and new evangelization, will continue and expand. I encourage you to continue so that the creativity and generosity that you demonstrate in these days may become a stimulus for the entire Church of Rome to keep its missionary spirit alive."

Advising the young people present the Pope said, "In the first place love the Eucharist. Never get tired of celebrating and adoring the Eucharist, together with the entire Christian community, especially on Sunday. Know how to put it at the center of your personal and community life, so that communion with Christ may help you to carry out your courageous choices.”

“In the second place,” he said, “have missionary passion. Do not be afraid to bear witness to hope ... which has a specific name: Jesus Christ!"

"In order to facilitate young people's encounter with true Eucharistic spirituality, do not cease forming yourselves in the school of listening to the Word of God, prayer, and celebrating the sacraments, said the Pope.

“Always remember that the first place of evangelization is the human person. ... In this sense, I encourage the diocesan service for the youth ministry to study new proposals to create true schools of evangelization for young people."

The Holy Father thanked the young people "for what you are and for all that you do for Christ and the Church. I assure you that I remember you during Mass and Eucharistic adoration, something which I have done since I was young.  I want you to know that I have always obtained great fruits, not only for me but also for all those whom Divine Mercy has entrusted to me."

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Protect unborn children from moment of conception, says Pope to Brazil

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received the Brazilian ambassador this morning and asked that Brazilians “safeguard unborn children from the moment of conception,” “recognize the sanctity of family life,” and be fundamentally committed to the needs of the poor.

The Holy Father said that Brazil is a country "whose majority is Christian," and he asked Brazilians "to continue to foster and spread the values of faith, especially when it means explicitly recognizing the sanctity of family life and safeguarding unborn children, from the moment of conception."

“I am very satisfied that your government considers this an objective which allows for the best efforts and resources to come together," the Pope said to the new ambassador of Brazil to the Holy See, Vera Barrouin Machado, on receiving her Letters of Credence.

The Holy Father said that the Brazilian government's plans to cancel the external debt of some countries "show a specific sign of solidarity and stimulus for populations that live on the sidelines of world development. Such an initiative illustrates that all nations involved in this proposal must be conscious that only action which is courageous and open to sacrifice for the common good of all will contribute to helping the poorest countries."  

"Therefore, sharing the hopes of all Brazilians, I wish to assure you of the firm will of the Church to collaborate through her mission with all initiatives serving 'man in his entirety and all men.'”

“In this way,” he continued, “she will continue in her commitment to promote the awareness that the values of peace, liberty, solidarity and the defense of the needy must inspire public and private life. Faith and following Christ calls the Catholic faithful, also in Brazil, to be instruments of reconciliation and fraternity, in truth, justice and love."

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Pope asks Sisters of Notre Dame to renew fidelity to original charisma

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received seventy participants in the 11th General Chapter of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame and urged them to examine and renew the particular charism received by their foundress, Sister Maria Aloysia, and to joyfully seek holiness.

“Continue to embrace joyfully your call to holiness in the perfection of charity and to cherish, according to your own traditions, that asceticism proper to consecrated persons," the Pope counseled

"Your foundress, Sister Maria Aloysia," he said, "gave life to a new Religious Institute wholly inspired and sustained by God's providential love. After some time of generous service to her neighbor, she came to understand that the compassionate love of God for His children could shine ever more brightly in a life totally consecrated to the Lord. She saw from the beginning that both personal holiness and mission are inseparable aspects of the radical commitment to follow Christ."

The Pope said that the General Chapter is "an opportunity to examine and to renew your allegiance to that same vision and to the particular charism of your foundress expressed in your spirituality and living traditions.”

“This examination,” he continued, “undertaken in prayerful openness to the Holy Spirit, will assist you in determining those aspects of your Institute which should be strengthened so as to give an even clearer witness to God's unfailing love."

"Preach the Good News effectively by being fully what you are, and by bringing that realty to all peoples," exhorted the Holy Father in conclusion.

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Lifelong support for marriage emphasized in Catholic Church

Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - Lifelong support for marriage is a key ministry for the Church in the United States, says a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Marriage and Family Life Committee.

The survey looked at the efforts of 130 of the nation's 195 dioceses and eparchies in 2003 with regards to marriage preparation, post-marriage enrichment and assistance for troubled marriages. It also included the data from three national groups: Catholic Engaged Encounter, Worldwide Marriage Encounter and Retrouvaille.

The survey found that most dioceses require marriage-preparation courses. Only two of the dioceses surveyed did not require formal marriage preparation. These programs vary in each diocese and may range from one to 12 sessions. The average number of hours a couple spends in a program is 12.

While 177,825 couples were married in those 130 dioceses in 2003, 144,054 couples took part in a marriage-preparation program that same year. However, the U.S. bishops speculate that the number of couples attending marriage-preparation programs is much higher, since the survey did not include parish-based programs.

The bishops noted that ministry to couples does not end once they are married. Some 14,289 couples participated in 72 diocesan programs, aimed at helping couples renew or reconcile their relationships.

"We are trying to build a continuum of ministry for couples in order to give them both encouragement and the tools they need to grow and thrive in all stages of their marriage," noted committee chairman Bishop Kevin Boland of Savannah, Georgia.

In 2003, Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a weekend renewal experience for couples, served 10,989 couples. And Retrouvaille, which helps couples in troubled marriages in 40 states, reported working with 5,000 couples.

An increasingly popular event is an annual mass with the local bishop for couples married 25 and 50 years or more. In 2003, 100 dioceses reported such celebrations, with a total of 23,165 couples attending.

For FAQs on Church marriage support efforts, go to: www.usccb.org/laity/marriage

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Nobel Peace Prize winner outspoken for anti-religious, anti-life views

, Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - Fr. Juan Claudio Sanahuja, director of Noticias Globales (“Global News”), a news agency that monitors the United Nations and other international organizations, warned this week the Nobel Peace Prize winner for this year, environmental activist Kenia Wangari Maathai, is renowned for her anti-life and anti-religious agenda.

According to Noticias Globales, Maathai, who was announced winner of the prize on October 8, is one of the leaders of the International Green Cross, an organization led by Mikhail Gorbachev that promotes a project called, “Letter from the Earth,” which seeks to replace the Ten Commandments with the “Environmentalist Decalogue.”

“Maathai actively participated in the launching of the United Religions Initiative, a new universal and relativistic form of worship,” which, according to Noticias Globales, is an effort to create “a new religion” that considers all opposition to abortion, “sexual and reproductive rights,” and to the social and legal recognition of homosexuality as “intolerable.”

Maathai, leader of the Green Movement in Kenya, said in 1998 during a conference on “Religion and Ecology,” organized by the UN Environmental Program, “We need to rewrite the Bible again.  A Bible in which man, the environment and God are all one, without differences, in order to break with the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which are dominated by an anthropocentrism in which nature is given secondary importance.”

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Church in Spain calls for prayer for Spanish Cardinal

Madrid, Spain, Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - The Church in Spain is asking for prayers for the health of the Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Bishops Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, who is currently hospitalized after undergoing surgery to have a kidney removed.

Doctors say the Cardinal’s progress has been completely satisfactory, although he continues to rest at the hospital, accompanied by his secretary, Salvador Domato.  His work schedule has been suspended until further notice.

Spanish media speculated the Cardinal was suffering from cancer, but Maria Dolores Gamazo, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Madrid, denied the rumor.

This was the first major operation which 68-year old Cardinal Rouco has undergone, said the Archdiocese.  The Cardinal is one of the most outspoken critics of the Socialist government’s new laws and proposals in favor of abortion, homosexual unions and embryonic stem cell research.

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Cardinals double as sports commentators on Vatican Radio

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - Vatican Radio has launched a program featuring Italian Cardinals and bishops offering their commentary on the popular Italian Soccer League, mixing in as well reflections on life and faith.

The program, called “Not Only Soccer,” began airing on Vatican Radio as a sports magazine show last Monday.  The 60-minute program airs six days a week.

The first commentary came from Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, an elderly Roman Cardinal and founder of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, who gave analysis of the last Italian League soccer game.  His commentary was interspersed with other reflections on young peoples’ fanaticism about the game and the power of the media.

Vatican Radio said future programs would alternate between Cardinals and bishops, who will combine their soccer commentary with commentary on current issues ranging from employment to morality.

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Cuban Christian dissidents call on EU to be tougher on Castro regime

Havana, Cuba, Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - Several opposition leaders in Cuba are calling on the European Union to demand “significant gestures” from the Castro government, such as the release of political prisoners, before reestablishing bilateral talks.

Oswaldo Paya, one of the most prominent Cuban dissidents, called on the EU to maintain its “common position” of demanding democratic reforms on the island.

“To abandon or weaken the common position would be to abandon the Cuban people and to encourage inconsistency and the violation of their rights,” said Paya, who was given the 2003 Sarajevo Award by the European Parliament for defending civil rights in Cuba.

Likewise, Miriam Leiva, leader of a dissident group known as “Women in White,” an organization of female relatives of imprisoned dissidents in Cuba, said, “The Cuban government must make significant gestures before the EU should decide to restart a political dialogue.”  

She made her comments as various European representatives meeting in Brussels are calling for a move towards normalizing relations with the Castro government.

Talks between Europe and Cuba were suspended 15 months ago, when the EU sanctioned Cuba for the massive arrest of dissidents in March of 2002.  The EU decided to invite opposition leaders to its embassies in Havana on its national holidays.

“The first step towards normalizing relations should be the release of all political prisoners” in Cuba, Leiva said.  “If opposition leaders and the wives of prisoners are not invited to diplomatic receptions in Havana, they will be breaking the European consensus,” she added.  “If this were to happen, the Cuban government would be delighted and Cuban dissidents would be left absolutely defenseless,” Leiva concluded.

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Pope wants Catholics to give “strong witness” in political life

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - At the conclusion of the recitation of the Angelus this Sunday, Pope John Paul II greeted the participants of the Social Week for Italian Catholics, calling on Catholics to have a strong presence in public life.

Referring to the event, which ended this week in Bologna and whose theme was, “Democracy, New Theaters, New Powers,” the Pope expressed his desire that “the reflections of this important congress provide new motivation to the ecclesial community of Italy to give increasingly stronger witness in all areas of life in the country.”

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After years of crisis, Catholics must reclaim identity, says Catholic publisher

Denver, Colo., Oct 11, 2004 (CNA) - The first crisis of contemporary Catholicism is not sex-abuse scandals or voting blocs, “but a fundamental loss of Catholic identity,” said Greg Erlandson, publisher of the national Catholic newspaper Our Sunday Visitor. His talk Oct. 5 on the challenge of being American and Catholic was part of the Archdiocese of Denver’s fall lecture series.

“The intellectual muddle that has led us to this state of affairs is why I view the current crisis as an opportunity,” said Erlandson, referring to the controversy surrounding the personal beliefs and public advocacy position for abortion of presidential candidate Senator John Kerry.

Erlandson demonstrated the extent of the “muddle” when he cited a recent Pew poll, which reported that 72 percent of Catholics disagree that bishops should deny Communion to Catholic pro-abortion politicians, 75 percent do not consider same-sex marriage to be very important, and 55 percent support embryonic stem-cell research.

“It should come as little surprise then, that pollster John Zogby reported earlier this year that there was no longer a significant Catholic vote,” the Catholic publisher said.

“The issue of who will win the White House or be elected to any legislative office is less important for the Church than whether it will address the confusion that now exists about being Catholic and American,” he said.

“And if this moment is seized – not to make a political point or to press a legislative agenda, but to recall our Church from its crisis of identity and belief – then it will have been a watershed moment,” he stated.

Erlandson explained that the Catholic identity crisis began in the 1960s with Catholics’ large-scale assimilation into American culture. “The Catholic ghetto blew up,” he said, with “the clash of secular and religious cultures over such issues as human sexuality, feminism, theological speculation and the significance for traditional religious beliefs of a century's worth of scientific discoveries and theories.”

In addition, many Catholics misunderstood the documents and conclusions of the Second Vatican Council, which were published at the same time, interpreting them to mean that Catholics “could pretty much do what they want to do, so long as they think it's OK to do it,” said Erlandson.

And Catholic assimilation continues today, Erlandson added. Inundated by the culture’s values in American music and media, “Catholics draw most of their information even about the Church not from self-consciously Catholic sources, but from secular ones,” he noted.

Erlandson observed the shrinking role that Catholic media plays in the continuing education of America's Catholics, and pointed out that currently Our Sunday Visitor and the National Catholic Register have a circulation of barely 100,000 households combined.

“Is it, then, any wonder, that when it comes to the most dramatic issues of the day – abortion, same-sex unions, embryonic stem-cell research, the death penalty, the clergy sex crisis, war, aid to the poor – Catholics are more likely to judge the Church by the world's values than vice versa? And can it be a surprise that many Catholics are more at ease following Evangelium Oprah than Evangelium Vitae?” he asked.

He called on Catholics to change the way they relate to and interact with the world and “to see the world through the eyes of faith.” He also called on them to re-establish the centrality of the Eucharist in their every day lives.

If “Americans are to live their faith fully in the public square, then they must understand and embrace the centrality of their faith [the Eucharist] and live it every day, not just paying lip service to it on Sundays, or treating its liturgy and tenets like so much ethnic nostalgia,” he said.

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