Vatican City, Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - This morning Pope John Paul II, receiving participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace called the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, "an instrument that can help Christians in their daily commitment to make the world more just, in the Gospel perspective of a humanism that is truly solidary."
He noted that participants in the First World Congress of Ecclesial Offices Working for Justice and Peace had "reflected on the most adequate forms for proclaiming the Gospel in the complex realities of our times."
The Holy Father asked that the Church’s social doctrine "be made known, spread in its entirety and witnessed to with a constant and coherent pastoral action."
"In times like ours," John Paul II added, "marked by globalization of the social question, the Church invites everyone to recognize and affirm the centrality of the human person in every milieu and in every manifestation of sociality."
He emphasized how the Church’s social doctrine "opens people up to the horizons of charity. In fact, this is the hour of charity, including social and political charity, that is capable of animating, with the grace of the Gospel, the human realities of work, the economy and politics, pointing out the paths of peace, justice and friendship among peoples."
Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - In a brief interview with the Hispanic television network Univision, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry justified his support for abortion by saying the act is a decision between “the woman, God and her doctor.”
Kerry’s response to the question was eliminated from the transcript of the interview which Univision posted on its website.
Nevertheless, the response was included in the televised version as millions of Hispanics tuned in.
After speaking on Iraq, eventual immigration reform and the economy, reporter Maria Elena Salinas said, “Some sectors of the Catholic Church are concerned because you support abortion and therefore you would be going against its teachings,” to which Kerry responded: “I am against abortion.”
Salinas then asked if he would name justices to the Supreme Court who would be willing to limit abortion. Kerry replied, “I am in favor of the right to choose. Personally I am opposed to abortion, but I believe this is a decision that should be made by the woman, God and her doctor.”
A partial transcript of the interview with Kerry, excluding the question on abortion, can be read in Spanish at:
Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - Mel Gibson has come out strongly against a California ballot measure that would permit state funding for embryonic stem-cell research and has urged California's citizens to vote no on the ballot measure next Tuesday.
The Catholic actor says he has an "ethical problem" with Proposition 71, the $3-billion bond measure to fund human embryonic stem-cell research.
The director of one of this year’s box office successes, “The Passion of the Christ,” appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" yesterday and said he shouldn't have to pay taxes to help fund the cloning of human embryos.
Gibson told “Good Morning America” that he called Arnold Schwarzenegger the previous evening to talk about the issue and that the governor told him he had to make a speech and would call him back.
Speaking on camera, he said: "Well, Arnold, I'm still waiting for your call."
This past summer, the Republican Party of California voted to oppose Proposition 71 because they said California cannot afford the $3 billion in interest payments on state bonds that would bring the true cost of Proposition 71 to $6 billion.
Schwarzenegger recently broke ranks with the Republican Party to announce his support for the measure.
The Christian Coalition of America commended Gibson for publicly expressing his strong stand against the ballot.
A National Review article this week also stated that near the end of his life, actor Christopher Reeve, who became a paraplegic after an accidental fall, “apparently began to realize that embryonic stem cells were not the magic bullet he had assumed them to be.”
The report stated that the actor, famous for his film roles as Superman, felt that “far from claiming that this avenue offered ‘biological miracles,’ or was the best or only hope for patients like him, he felt they were ‘not able to do much’ for him.”
Vatican City, Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received the ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Javad Faridzade, as he presented his Letters of Credence to the Holy See, and spoke on the means of achieving international peace and order, the duty of bleievers to express and defend human dignity imprinted by God, and the need for religious freedom to be promote in Iran.
Referring to Iran's concern about "the deterioration of the international situation and the threats that weigh on humanity on different levels," the Holy Father said it was necessary that states that a balanced international order can be ahcieved "take advantage of recognized, stable and effective instruments, like the United Nations and other international organizations.”
“This action to promote peace also implies brave action against terrorism,” he continued, “in order to build a world in which everyone can be recognized as children of the same Merciful and Omnipotent God."
The Pope affirmed that “the Holy See will spare no effort to convince the leaders of States to always renounce violence and force and to make sure that negotiation always prevails as a means of overcoming disagreements and conflicts that emerge among nations, groups and individuals."
Referring to the words of the ambassador, he reaffirmed the duty of believers to announce "the fundamental values expressed in religion which guarantee, through natural law, a sign of the imprint of God in man, the dignity of all persons, and which regulate the relations among men.”
“As I have recalled many times," he added, "Catholic faithful ... bear witness in favor of a culture of life that respects man from his conception to his natural death, and that guarantees the defense of his rights and basic duties.”
“Among these fundamental rights, the right to religious freedom is in the forefront," said the Pope.
He emphasized that "the Holy See counts on the help of the Iranian authorities in order to allow the faithful of the Catholic Church present in Iran, as well as other Christians, the freedom to profess their religion and to promote the recognition of the juridical personality of ecclesiastic institutions.”
“Freedom to worship is an aspect of religious freedom which must be the same for all citizens of a country," said the Pope.
The people of Iran, the Pope said, need "to freely express their religious convictions, to gather with their brothers and sisters to worship God, as well as ensuring, through catechesis, the transmission of religious teaching to children and further study for young people and adults, while respecting the laws of the country."
Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - The international community should step up its pressure on Sudan to bring an end to the crisis in Darfur, a delegation of religious and human rights leaders told United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan Oct. 27.
Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Center joined Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel and other leaders in calling for a clear United Nations mandate for the African Union to protect innocent civilians, and for other financial and logistical support from the international community.
Bishop Murphy, who served as under-secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace in Rome from 1980 to 1987, is a member of the International Policy Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He was delegated by Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, chairman of the committee, to represent the USCCB at the meeting.
In a statement, the bishops called upon the international community to increase its pressure on the Sudanese government to insure that innocent lives will be saved, that people will return to their home eventually in peace and security, and that the internally displaced Sudanese in the camps and those providing humanitarian aid will be protected.
It also wants the international community to pressure the Sudanese government into respecting cease-fire agreements, seeking a negotiated settlement between the government and the rebel groups, and holding responsible those who perpetrated the crimes against humanity.
The bishops’ statement also notes that about 100,000 people have died in Western Sudan and more than 2 million are in camps, having been forced to flee their homes.
“Local militias, armed and supported by the government in Khartoum, continue to attack villages, kill and rape innocent civilians, and pursue a scorched-earth policy leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake,” the statement said. These government-sponsored militias have been integrated into the camps’ police and army units “where they perpetrate further heinous acts against the most vulnerable.”
The bishops said the crisis also threatens to undermine the Naivasha peace negotiations between the Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and has is threatening the stability and capacity in neighboring states, many of which have welcomed Sudanese refugees.
New Dehli, India, Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - The Fides News Agency is reporting on a new call by Christians in India for the release of Brian Savio O’Connor, a Catholic from India who is imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for the crime of “spreading Christianity,” which has earned him a 10-month sentence and 300 lashings.
The All India Catholic Union, operated by lay Catholics, and the All India Christian Council, which brings together Christians from different denominations, have sent a letter to the Saudi king and to the President of India calling for the release of O’Connor.
The leader of the two organizations, John Dayal, denounced Saudi police for torturing O’Connor during his retention and said he has been the victim of other false accusations such as the illegal sale of alcohol.
The letter states that “Indians go to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to get out of hopeless poverty and to improve their financial situation. Brian has no criminal history either in his country or abroad and we believe he has been detained only because of his religious convictions.”
The letter asks the Indian government to intercede with the Saudi authorities for the release of O’Connor, and it asks the Saudi king for an act of clemency.
Peoria, Ill., Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic clergy of Peoria gathered for a seminar Tuesday to learn how to minister to women experiencing post-abortion trauma and help them heal.
The seminar was offered by Theresa Burke, founder of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries and co-author of the support group model "Rachel's Vineyard - A Psychological and Spiritual Journal of Post Abortion Healing."
Rachel’s Vineyard offers retreats to post-abortive women that include exercises aimed at helping participants deal with grief and anger. About 350 of the retreats are being held this year in 15 countries and that men and women are invited.
Two Rachel's Vineyard retreats will be offered by the Diocese of Peoria Feb. 25-27, 2005, and Oct. 28-30, 2005.
Her most recent book is "Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion," co-authored by David Reardon.
Burke told the Journal Star that unexpressed grief and feelings of guilt resulting from abortion can surface in such ways as suicide, suicide attempts, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, promiscuity, anger and rage, and sexual dysfunction.
But it's a "taboo issue," thanks to the politics of the situation, Burke said. Women who have abortions are told that they have suffered the loss only of "a blob of tissue," but “the reality of a mother's heart is she lost that child," Burke said.
She disagrees that the problem of post-abortion trauma is not widespread and says the need for such treatment and healing continues to surface right across the country.
Burke is also co-administrator and founder of Covenant Family Resources, which supports couples as they build families through adoption.
Montreal, Canada, Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - While street protests in South Africa recall images of the fight against apartheid, the current struggle in the southern-most African country is a struggle for rights of another kind – the right to water.
“We are facing another devil,” said South African activist Richard Mokolo during a Montreal press conference Oct. 13. “The modern struggle in South Africa is against privatization.”
Demonstrations for the right to free water are held regularly and it is not uncommon for protesters to be arrested and tortured, said Mokolo. One protester was shot and killed last month by a police officer, he reported.
Mokolo’s talk launched the second year of the national campaign on water, organized by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Canadian bishops’ development and aid agency.
As part of its three-year campaign, called Water: Life Before Profit, Development and Peace is challenging the right of corporations to privatize and control water, stating that water is an essential right.
In the second years of its campaign, Development and Peace is urging Canadians to pressure the World Bank to stop placing conditions on loans to developing countries, which require them to privatize their water management. The World Bank also prevents these governments from using their loans to subsidize the cost of water for its citizens.
Development and Peace and other nonprofit organizations have documented the tragic effects of privatization. Over the last 20 years, the number of people worldwide who are paying for their daily water supply has more than tripled. In 1980, 80 million people were paying for water. By 2000, that number rose to 250 million.
They note that once a multinational corporation takes control of the water supply, prices often soar, water quality plummets, and access to water is restricted.
In all countries, studies show the middle class slipping into poverty and the poor plunging into destitution. In Ghana, for example, the government raised its water prices by 95 percent in 2001 to comply with the conditions for a much-needed World Bank loan. Unable to afford the hike, many people took their water from whatever source they could. That resulted in more than 70 percent of Ghana’s health-clinic visits being related to water-borne diseases.
In South Africa, the situation is equally desperate. As an example, Mokolo read from a newspaper article that a South African woman prostituted herself in order to earn money to pay for her family’s water supply.Government calls those against privatization ‘terrorists’
“Privatization of water is a sin and a crime against humanity,” said Mokolo, who is leading the fight against privatization as a community-development organizer in Orange Farm, a township located 60 km south of Johannesburg.
The founder of the Orange Farm Water Crisis Committee is not new to activism. The anti-apartheid activist was imprisoned without trial and tortured in 1985 for advocating for free education in the townships.
A practising Catholic, Mokolo is also a member of Justice and Peace, an organization of the South African bishops’ conference. He is working with the bishops to create a mass-education campaign on water.
Mokolo says the pre-paid meters came to Orange Farm in 2001 in the name of development, progress, job-creation and “black economic empowerment.”
“The municipality has criminalized the struggle against privatization and says the people who protest the privatization of water are terrorists and anti-development,” said Mokolo. Government officials refuse to meet with the people and engage in public debate, he said.
Johannesburg Water, a subsidiary of the French transnational corporation Suez Lyonnaise, installed pre-paid meters in Orange Farm in several thousand homes. The township’s 500,000 citizens had been receiving water for free from communal stand pipes, which were made non-functional in the areas where the pre-paid meters were installed, said Mokolo.
Mokolo’s nonprofit organization mobilized the people before the corporation could install any more meters. The company has since moved on to Soweto and installed pre-paid meters there. But the fight against privatization and the right to free, clean water is hardly over, says Mokolo.
He has joined his voice to Development and Peace and is calling on all Canadians and people of goodwill to sign the Development and Peace action card, which is available on the Development and Peace Web site.
Minneapolis, Minn., Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - The pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish said he would comply with an order from the Vatican to remove Gay Pride material from the church Web site.
Fr. George Wertin said he would also stop allowing non-ordained guests to give the homily, which was the subject of a meeting two weeks ago with Auxiliary Bishops Frederick Campbell and Richard Pates. Bishop Campbell was appointed bishop of Columbus, Ohio, last week.
The parish has a long history of supporting the homosexual community, including parish participation in Gay Pride events, reported the Star Tribune.
In an Oct. 27 follow-up statement, Archbishop Harry Flynn of Minneapolis said the order originated with the Holy See.
The statement said the archdiocese "welcomes gay and lesbian worshippers who are in full communion with the moral teachings of the Church as they apply to all Catholics. It does not, however, endorse the promotion of sexual relations among unmarried persons."
Madrid, Spain, Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - The Spanish Federation of Large Families sent a letter this week to the country’s Minister of Work and Social Issues, Jesus Caldera, asking for a increase in government assistance to mothers with children under 3 years of age, in order to “end discrimination against stay-at-home moms.”
The Federation sent 10 proposals to improve assistance for large families, some of which were based on campaign promises by Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. They include financial assistance and tax benefits for large families as well as making it easier for large families to receive loans.
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon and President of the Mexican Bishops Conference encouraged priests this past weekend to bear witness to hope in times marked by a growing number of believers who stray from the faith.
Bishop Rabago emphasized the need to prolong the reflections of the 48th International Eucharistic Congress, which took place in Guadalajara and which focused on the loss of devotion.
The bishop called it unfortunate that there are those who have lost hope that happiness can be theirs or who have lost faith that kidnappings and bad news can cease. They must be cared for so that they do not lose their faith, the bishop added, saying as well that priests and bishops have the task of working together with Catholics who are willing to offer themselves in love and service.
Speaking before some 17 priests, Bishop Rabago said that the today’s older priests used to lead visits to the Blessed Sacrament and holy hours, they participated in nighttime adoration and in the Corpus Christ processions.
“These values and practices of the Church are no longer followed, and bishops and priests should ask themselves how much they are to blame for it,” he said.
Bishop Rabago recalled, “Jesus Christ said, ‘Do this in memory of me,’ and therefore we must continuously remind ourselves that feelings and emotions are not enough; God wants a sense of commitment in life, that we are willing to serve and not ignore those in need.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 29, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Domingo Castagna of Corrientes, Argentina, reminded Argentineans this week that the Gospels “do not teach one how to be an expert in politics and the economy” but, “to those who are open to receiving it, they do provide necessary truth.”
According to the Archbishop, “all authentic endeavors” are based on this truth, and “from it they obtain saving and transforming grace.” Therefore, “it is necessary that our people, including our leaders, train themselves in humility in order to obtain wisdom.”
“Some of the more popular expressions of today are almost like modern pharisaism. We need to remember, as Jesus taught, the greatness of being humble,” the Archbishop said.
In a message to the faithful he added, “Without the grace of Christ one cannot achieve this,” since “His presence pushes aside the great obstacles that keep us from moving forward and that keep us from improving human ways of thinking.”
“Men and women, who know they can’t go on and yet are loved by God the Father, cry out for help. They feel almost completely alone, and their wounded nature suffers and nobody shows them compassion. God, the Father who awaits them, hears their silent cries and offers them healing,” he said.