Vatican City, Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - This morning Pope John Paul II received participants of the plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, whose theme is “science and creativity,” and spoke to them of the the spiritual questions raised by scientific discovery, and the need for a scientific creativity which responds to “authentic human development,” rather than “financial or ideological conditioniong.”
"This year's plenary session, devoted to science and creativity, raises important questions deeply connected with the spiritual dimension of man,” said the Pope. “Revelation teaches that men and women are created in the 'image and likeness of God' and thus possessed of a special dignity which enables them, by the work of their hands, to reflect God's own creative activity."
He noted that "the creativity which inspires scientific progress is seen especially in the capacity to confront and solve ever new issues and problems, many of which have planetary repercussions.”
“Men and women of science are challenged to put this creativity more and more at the service of the human family, by working to improve the quality of life on our planet and by promoting an integral development of the human person, both materially and spiritually,” he affirmed.
The Pope then explained that “if scientific creativity is to benefit authentic human progress, it must remain detached from every form of financial or ideological conditioning, so that it can be devoted solely to the dispassionate search for truth and the disinterested service of humanity."
“The 'wonder' which sparked the earliest philosophical reflection on nature and which gave rise to science itself, has in no way been diminished by new discoveries,” said the Pope. “Indeed, it constantly increases and often inspires awe at the distance which separates our knowledge of creation from the fullness of its mystery and grandeur."
"Despite the uncertainties and the labor which every attempt to interpret reality entails - not only in the sciences, but also in philosophy and theology - the paths of discovery are always paths towards truth,” affirmed the Holy Father.
“And every seeker after truth, whether aware of it or not, is following a path which ultimately leads to God, Who is Truth itself," he said in conclusion.
Peoria, Ill., Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - A Catholic-run health insurance plan which does not cover abortion, contraceptives or fertility treatment has been made available to federal employees this morning in part of Illinois, reports Associated Press. According to officials, it is the first plan of its kind to be offered to federal employees.
"I see it as allowing the individual government employee to exercise their moral judgment and to follow their moral conscience in terms of how they want their benefit dollars spent," said Philip Karst, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Health Association.
A company owned by the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis, OSF HealthPlans, runs the plan which is offered to 4,000 eligible residents of 27 counties of central and northern Illinois, not including Chicago.
Planned Parenthood has attacked the plan calling it an attack by the Bush administration on access to family planning and birth control.
However, Abbey Block, an OSF official, pointed out that the plan is only one out of 249 offered to federal employees. "Nobody has to enroll in this plan," said Block.
Vatican City, Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II, prior to praying the Angelus yesterday with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, reminded them that "popular devotion dedicates the month of November to the memory of the deceased faithful," and that the summit of prayer for the dead is the sacrament of the Eucharist.
God "remains faithful to the covenant sealed with man, a covenant that not even death can break," said the Holy Father. "This pact," he said, "sealed in the Easter of Christ, is constantly made current in the sacrament of the Eucharist. There, too, prayers for the deceased also have their pinnacle.”
“In offering Mass for them,” he said, “believers support their final purification. Receiving communion in faith, they strengthen with them the bonds of spiritual love."
The Pope also expressed his “concern for the serious news that is coming from the Ivory Coast where violence has caused new victims. May arms become silent, may peace accords be respected, may the path of dialogue be resumed! I entrust the people of the Ivory Coast to Mary, Queen of Peace."
The Pope also addressed healthcare workers and volunteers who work with the incurably ill and the dying, saying that they performed “a great work of mercy. I ask God to recompense their love and dedication with His grace,” he said. “I entrust to Mary Most Holy those who accompany the sick people in their families. May God bless everyone."
Zurich, Switzerland, Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - An Iraqi archbishop said Islamists will not drive Christians out of Iraq because of their strong Christian faith.
But Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Irkuk in North Iraq warned the congregation at St. Mary’s Coronation Parish in Zurich that the same may not be true in Europe.
“Be cautious,” he said. “That’s what may happen to you in Europe, since indifferentism is prevalent here.”
The prelate’s recent trip to the Zurich was organized by the Swiss section of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Commenting on the current situation in his native country, Archbishop Sako stated: “War is never good. …[But] without the U.S.-led intervention, the whole Middle East would have been destabilized. Islamists would control the country,” he said.
He called on Catholics everywhere to protest whenever Christians in Iraq suffer from Muslim fundamentalists’ attacks.
“Recently, when five churches in Baghdad were bombed, there was practically no reaction in the West,” he noted. “Support us, for this is the best missionary work you can do.
“We know the country as well as its people. We are open-minded and strong in the faith, which we are passing on,” he said. “We can help make Iraq a democratic, pluralistic nation.”
Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - A coalition of pro-life groups is planning a "pray-in" Nov. 10 at the Dirksen Senate Office building to ask that pro-abortion Senator Arlen Spector not be reappointed as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Spector has vowed to block any pro-life judicial appointments that President George W. Bush may make in his second term. The chairman of the judiciary has broad powers to block any presidential nominations to the bench.
The coalition opposing Spector includes national pro-life leaders Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, Rev. Rob Schenck of Faith and Action, and Chris Slattery, an activist from New York City.
"We urge people to contact Senator Bill Frist and let him know that the President needs a loyal man at the helm of the Judiciary Committee, and that man is not Senator Spector," said Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition.
The “Stop Spector Pro-life Pray-In” will be held at 12:30 p.m. at 109 Second St. NE, Washington, D.C., near the Supreme Court.
The group will then proceed to pray outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building with plans to pray inside the Office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who is responsible for committee appointments.
Saskatoon, Canada, Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - The seventh of 13 Canadian jurisdictions legalized same-sex marriage Nov. 5. A Saskatchewan court ruled that the traditional definition of marriage, as the union of one man and one woman, is unconstitutional.
In a five-page ruling, Justice Donna Wilson sided with courts in five other provinces and one territory, saying existing marriage laws discriminate against homosexual couples. The provincial and federal governments did not contest the court challenge.
Archbishop Albert LeGatt of Saskatoon told the Canadian Press that he was disappointed by the court decision. "I regret the decision of the court here, as I regret the decisions of the courts of other provinces," he was quoted as saying.
"Though the courts may have established a certain ruling, we hold on to our faith and our belief of what marriage is," he added.
Courts in Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario, Yukon, Manitoba and Nova Scotia already opened the door to same-sex marriage. There are currently two couples challenging the law in Newfoundland.Second private member’s bill tabled
In Ottawa Friday, Nova Scotia Conservative MP Rob Moore introduced a private member's bill, aimed at upholding the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.
The bill will allow parliamentarians to determine the definition of marriage through a free vote. "In addition, it provides protections for the right of religious institutions to conduct ceremonies according to their own beliefs," Moore was quoted as saying.
A vote on this bill would mark the third time MPs have voted on the issue in five years. In 1999, Parliament overwhelmingly approved a motion that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In 2003, a similar motion was defeated by five votes.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - During a press conference organized by the Bishops Conference of Spain in which the bishops announced the launching of a national campaign to “mobilize the consciences” of Catholics against euthanasia, the president of the National Federation of Associations of Spinal Cord Injury Victims and the Severely Handicapped, Alberto de Pinto, said if there is anything that unites the country’s 12 million spinal cord injury sufferers it is their love for life and their rejection of euthanasia as a solution to their anguish.
According to De Pinto, “many” quadriplegics contacted him after the release of the pro-euthanasia film, “Mar Adentro” (“The Sea Inside”), the story of quadriplegic Ramon Sampedro, in order to express their “indignation” that the spotlight has been shined again on the case of somebody “who wanted to commit suicide,” giving the impression that such individuals have nothing left to do “but to die.”
“This is false,” said De Pinto, underscoring at the same time that the government should provide funding to improve the quality of life for quadriplegics.
He also called it “shameful” to “use a spinal cord victim” in order to open the debate on euthanasia. If the money used in Sampedro’s case to promote euthanasia had instead been directed at improving his situation, “most assuredly he would not have wanted to die.”
Vatican City, Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - In the annual message of the Holy See to Hindus on the festival of Diwali which represents the victory of light over darkness, which was made public today, Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, stressed the need for Christians and Hindus to work together to fight the evils which afflict underpriveleged children.
The Archbishop pointed out, in the letter entitled "Collaboration between Hindus and Christians with Special Reference to Children," that children participate in the festival of Diwali with great enthusiasm and that Jesus expressed a special love for them, and their "simplicity, their joy of life, their spontaneity, and their faith filled with wonder.”
He discussed evils such as forced labor, forced conscription, breakdown of the family, trafficking in organs and persons, sexual abuse, forced prostitution, AIDS, the sale and use of drugs, that afflict children, especially the underprivileged, and asked "What have children done to merit such suffering?"
Archbishop Fitzgerald urged Hindus and Christians in India to collaborate "in support of underprivileged children, who are often the innocent victims of war and violence, inadequate food and water, forced immigration and the many forms of injustice present in today's world."
In conclusion he writes that he is " fully aware that such cooperation between the followers of our two religious traditions already exists, but we could and should do more, as the problem is serious, indeed it is tragic. Your suggestions as to what could be done to give children their rightful place in society would be most welcome. Our children are our future; they are the future of humanity."
Madrid, Spain, Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - During a visit to the University of Navarre in Spain, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, said there could be no justification for homosexual unions.
“I cannot understand why people don’t see the public interest in recognizing and protecting the institution of marriage. If people could see it, it would be impossible to find any basis for making homosexual unions equivalent to marriage; there is no analogy whatsoever here,” the Cardinal explained.
“God has endowed nature with wise laws, for the good of humanity,” the Cardinal continued. “These laws cannot be violated without serious risks. Human nature is eloquent regarding the complementarity of the sexes, the tendency of marriage towards procreation, etc.”
At the same time he clarified, “By this I don’t mean that all those who experience a homosexual inclination are personally culpable, but rather that homosexual conduct is ‘objectively disordered,’ as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us. Just as it would be unacceptable to approve of these types of relations, so, too, all unjust discrimination against homosexual persons would be unacceptable.”
With regards to religious education, the Cardinal said, “If the State or the Church appropriates unto itself the principal role or does not give due support, they would seriously violate the rights of parents and children. Respect for the right of parents implies effectively supporting their decision when they consider important an adequate religious education for their children, which by themselves they aren’t able to provide,” he warned.
Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" and the CBS television show "Joan of Arcadia" were honored at a mass and awards ceremony at the annual luncheon of Catholics in Media.
More than 500 people attended the luncheon, which was held yesterday. The awards luncheon began 12 years ago to recognize "work being done within the industry to celebrate the human spirit," said Catholics in Media president Barbara Gangie.
Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in Gibson’s film, presented this year's film award to Gibson and producer Steve McEveety.
Actor Joe Mantegna, who plays Will Girardi on "Joan of Arcadia," presented the television award to the show's creator and producer, Barbara Hall.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - The Mexican Bishops Conference established a new Bioethics Committee last week that will help the bishops in their task of “enlightening consciences about the ethical implications of intervening in ecosystems and in the life of human beings.”
Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martinez of Matehuala and President of the Bishops Committee on the Family, which will oversee the new committee, told reporters specialists from various fields, both scientific and humanistic, will be part of the committee.
“This committee will be made up of 24 intellectuals of different disciplines as permanent members, and by 10 prestigious bioethicists of different nationalities as honorary members,” the bishop reported.
Likewise, he underscored that its objectives will be “to carry out an interdisciplinary study on bioethical issues; to be in permanent contact with other civil or religious, national or international centers of bioethical reflection, and to promote, in accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church, a culture of life.”
According to Bishop Aguilar, “the rapid development of biomedical sciences and technologies applied to human life and health poses diverse ethical questions. Together with freedom of research—which should be encouraged—it is necessary to insist on the ethical and social responsibility implied in scientific activity.”
The Church is “committed to the promotion of a ‘culture of life.’ The appearance of bioethics constitutes an environment of interdisciplinary study that can make dialogue possible between believers and non-believers, as well as between believers of diverse religions, about ethical problems that affect the life of man,” Bishop Aguilar added.
Lisbon, Portugal, Nov 8, 2004 (CNA) - More than 100,000 Portuguese, among them the country’s President, Jorge Sampaio, and Cardinal Jose Policarpo, Patriarch of Lisbon, will collaborate in the copying of the Bible by hand.
The project is being directed by the Portuguese Biblical Society for the 200th anniversary of the international organization.
Another 50 famous personalities of the country will also participate in the so-called “Bible Manuscript.”
This year is also the 250th anniversary of the first edition of the Bible in Portuguese (1753), known as the Joao Ferreria de Almeida version. There are three other copies of the Bible in Portuguese that have been copied by hand.