Vatican City, Nov 11, 2004 (CNA) - Upon learning of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat this morning, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, sent a telegram of condolences in the name of Pope John Paul II to Rawhi Fattuh, president of the Palestinian Legislative Council, expressing the Holy Father’s closeness to the Palestinian people.
"At this hour of sadness at the passing of President Yasser Arafat,” reads the telegram, “His Holiness Pope John Paul is particularly close to the deceased's family, the Authorities and the Palestinian People.
“While entrusting his soul into the hands of the Almighty and Merciful God, the Holy Father prays to the Prince of Peace that the star of harmony will soon shine on the Holy Land and that the two Peoples dwelling therein may live reconciled among themselves as two independent and sovereign."
Washington D.C., Nov 11, 2004 (CNA) - Pro-life activists are upset over President George W. Bush's appointment of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general. He succeeds John Ashcroft.
Pro-lifers are worried that the new White House counsel will not aggressively uphold the administration's pro-life stance, reported WorldNetDaily.com.
Gonzales was Bush's general counsel when he was governor of Texas and also served as secretary of state.
Gonzales is a former member of the Texas Supreme Court, where he voted to allow a teenager to get an abortion without notifying her parents, circumventing the notification law in that state. At the time, he criticized the position taken by his colleague Justice Priscilla Owen, who voted against the abortion.
Chuck Baldwin, a pastor and columnist, slammed Gonzales, stating, "Gonzales is anything but pro-life."
LifeNews.com pointed out there may be a silver lining to the new appointment: It takes him out of the running for a Supreme Court appointment should Chief Justice William Rehnquist leave the court due to health problems.
"It will now be Mr. Gonzalez's duty to defend the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act against the federal court challenges that have blocked its implementation – a duty handled admirably by Attorney General Ashcroft,” Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family Action said in a statement.
“American families will also look to Mr. Gonzalez to aggressively prosecute obscenity cases against pornographers who continue to flout federal law."
Vatican City, Nov 11, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican issued a statement following the death of Palestinian National Authority president Yasser Arafat, who passed away this morning in a military hospital in Paris at the age of 75, asking for peace in the Holy Land and for “two independent and sovereign States, fully reconciled with each other."
Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who read the statement, said “the Holy See joins in the pain of the Palestinian people.”
Arafat, he continued, “was a leader of great charisma who loved his people and sought to lead them towards national independence.”
“May God welcome in His mercy the soul of the illustrious deceased and give peace to the Holy Land, with two independent and sovereign States, fully reconciled with each other," he said.
Yasser Arafat has met Pope John Paul II 12 times between September 15, 1982 and October 30, 2001, including a meeting in Bethlehem during the Holy Father’s pilgrimmage to the Holy Land in March of 2000.
In 1994 the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in order to remain "open channels for continuing the development of mutual relations, understanding and cooperation, gave the “already long-existing and fruitful working contacts a permanent and official character,” and an office of representation for the PLO was opened at the Holy See.
On February 15, 2000, John Paul II and Arafat signed a Basic Agreement between the Holy See and the Palestinian Liberation Organization dealing with certain juridical questions regarding the Church’s activity in Palestinian Authority territory.
Vatican City, Nov 11, 2004 (CNA) - Presiding at Mass this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica for the repose for the sould of the cardinals and bishops who have died this year, Pope John Paul II said in his homily that the deceased “tasted with faith” the eternal banquet in heaven during their earthly pilgrimmage in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
"The mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ will be fulfilled in Easter,” said the Pope at the beginning of his homily. “It is a mystery which is constantly renewed in the Eucharist, mystical banquet, in which the Messiah delivers Himself as nourishment to the guests, to unite them to Him in a bond of love and life that is stronger than death.”
“Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we participate in the Lord's supper which gives us a foretaste of the heavenly glory," said the Holy Father.
The Pope recalled "with affection, in a special way, Cardinals Paulos Tzadua, Opilio Rossi, Franz Koenig, Hyacinthe Thiandoum, Marcelo Gonzalez Martin, Juan Francisco Fresno Larrain, James Aloysius Hickey and Gustaaf Joos. Let us pray for them and for the archbishops and bishops who died this year, whom we entrust with filial trust to divine mercy."
"Thinking about them and their generous service to the Church," he said, "it is as if we can hear them repeat with the Apostle Paul: 'Hope never disappoints'!"
"God is faithful and our hope in Him is not in vain,” affirmed the Pope. “Let us give thanks to Our Lord for all the benefits He has granted to the Church through the priestly ministry of these deceased pastors. Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Our Lady so that they may participate in the eternal banquet, the same banquet that they tasted with faith during their earthly pilgrimage."
Denver, Colo., Nov 11, 2004 (CNA) - Four women leaders in the Archdiocese of Denver took part in a panel discussion Nov. 9 titled "Women in the Church: The new feminism."
The discussion revolved around the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of men and women in the Church and in the world,” recently released by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
“Not necessarily unwarranted, many women have noted the abuse of power taken by men, but unfortunately find their answer in seeking power for themselves,” said panelist Mercy Wagner, commenting on the nature of political feminism in the last century.
The tragedy in this pursuit of power, says Wagner, is when women deny all that is feminine about themselves in order to compete and succeed.
“They see an injustice, and in their diagnosis of the problem they solely attribute any discrimination to the fact that they are biologically women,” said Wagner, youth and young adult advisor for the archdiocese. “In an attempt to remedy the situation, they abandon their femininity.”
Wagner argued that pro-choice groups reject femininity through the promotion of contraception and abortion on demand and “deepen the confusion women have regarding their identity.”
These groups “condition women and society at large to think that their fertility is a disease and that they need to be liberated from their bodies in order to make a difference in the world,” she said.
“This train of thought is a fallacy and in complete opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” she stated.
Panelist Jeannette Clark spoke on God’s original intention for men and women as demonstrated in Genesis. His intention was, and still is, for men and women to relate and collaborate, said the former director of the archdiocesan Office of Christian Initiation. The creation accounts in Genesis are “the basis of all Christian anthropology,” she said.
“The collaboration between men and women is based on the self gift of the person, men giving from their unique gift as initiator and women, actively receiving through her unique gift as one who exists ‘for the other’,” she said.
“The power of the resurrection frees the hearts of men and women and makes them capable of knowing the joy of mutual giving,” she concluded.
Terry Polacovic spoke on what Pope John Paul II has called woman’s “capacity for the other.”
“Intuitively women know that life is a gift, and they want to contribute to the growth and protection of this gift,” she explained. “This intuition is linked to their capacity as women to give life.
“From the moment most women learn that they are pregnant, they are aware that the new life inside of them is a miracle from God. This is one of the reasons so many women experience terrible psychological suffering after having an abortion,” said the founder of the organization Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women.
Polacovic cited the Pope’s 1995 Letter to Women, in which he states that historically women have not received the recognition that they deserved. He adds, however, that “their beneficent influence can be felt as a force which has shaped the lives of successive generations, right up unto our own. To this great, immense feminine ‘tradition’ humanity owes a debt which can never be repaid.”
She also cited Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s statements that while motherhood is a key element of women’s identity, this does not mean that women should be considered from the sole perspective of physical procreation. Like men, women are not meant to be used.
Polacovic also spoke of “spiritual motherhood” that can find forms other than physical procreation, “in all aspects of family and social life involving human relationships and caring for others.”
“The proper condition of the male-female relationship cannot be a kind of mistrustful and defensive opposition. For humanity’s sake, their relationship needs to be lived in peace with cooperation and in the happiness of shared love,” she said.
Rossana Goni wrapped up the panel discussion on the subject of Mary “who has realized in her being a woman, the plenitude of the calling that every faithful Christian, that every woman, is called to be in the Church.”
Goni, an editor of El Pueblo Católico, said there is a misunderstanding about the role of Mary in human history and in the Church. She also noted that Evangelicals put her in a secondary place and radical feminists consider her submissive.
Mary displays the “feminine genius” in the Gospel account of the wedding at Cana, said Goni, a consecrated of the Marian Community of Reconciliation
“There are countless examples of women who have lived the fullness of being woman, women of God. Mothers, religious, missionaries, laywomen, doctors of the Church,” said Goni. “Whatever the vocation, [women] are called to display that ‘feminine genius’ … so that the Church may reflect, as Mary does, the face of Christ that men and women today need.”
Denver, Colo., Nov 11, 2004 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Denver is starting a new sexual abuse awareness program for children in its parishes. Diocesan officials expect the program to be fully implemented by March.
Nancy Walla, the Denver liaison to the U.S. Bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection, said the safe-environment program is designed to raise children's awareness and encourage them that reporting inappropriate actions is the right thing to do.
The program is geared for students in kindergarten through 10th grade. The director of religious education and the youth director will teach it in each parish. Parents will have access to all lesson plans.
The program is among the reforms undertaken across the country following the sex-abuse scandal that erupted in the U.S. Church two years ago.
Quito, Ecuador, Nov 11, 2004 (CNA) - The Secretary General of the Bishops Conference of Ecuador, Bishop Jose Vicente Eguiguren, called for the protection of life from the moment of conception and said the morning after pill should be prohibited in the country.
The distributors of the drug in Peru are attempting to introduce it in Ecuador using the same strategy. Under the auspices of the Corporation for the Prevention of Unwanted Pregnancies, a non-governmental organization present in various countries of Latin America, distributors have begun an aggressive publicity campaign denying the abortifacient nature of the drug.
Last Monday vendors began selling the abortion pill in Ecuador, and the main spokesman for distributors is Alfredo Guzman, a Peruvian doctor who works for the NGO that is promoting the drug in that country.
Guzman has repeated the same arguments in Ecuador, claiming the pill is not abortifacient and that it will help to reduce “unwanted pregnancies.” Guzman didn’t mention, however, that in countries like Great Britain where the pill is sold by prescription, the numbers of pregnancies and surgical abortions have not diminished.
Rome, Italy, Nov 11, 2004 (CNA) - The number of weddings in Italy has sunk to an all-time low. According to the state statistics office Istat, there were 258,000 marriages celebrated in 2003 compared with 280,000 in 2000.
Statistics showed that this isn’t only the case for civil marriages. Religious marriages are also on the decline.
In 2000, 75 percent of marriages were celebrated with a church service, but that figure dipped to 71 percent in 2003.
The figures varied regionally, with most church weddings taking place in the south.
Santiago, Chile, Nov 11, 2004 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz, encouraged Chileans this week to calmly accept and face the painful conclusions of the report by the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture.
Reacting to news of the imminent publication of the report, Cardinal Errazuriz said the country is capable of examining its own history and that past events must be seen “as pieces of the truth, a painful truth.”
“We wish these events had not occurred in Chile, we suffer for those who were victims, and we suffer for the perpetrators,” he added, saying the country should learn from these events for the good of its future.
The National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture was established to uncover those who were deprived of their freedom and tortured for political reasons by agents of the State or by people in service of the State, between September 11, 1973, and March 10, 1990.
The report proposes extensive and symbolic reparations for individuals recognized as political prisoners or who underwent torture.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 11, 2004 (CNA) - Celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Almudena in Spain, the Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Bishops Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, renewed calls for respect for human life saying, “Nobody can manipulate the human condition as it has been planned and created by God.”
The Cardinal made his comments during a Mass celebrated in Madrid’s central square on the Spanish feast of Our Lady of Almudena. The mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, as well as various political leaders, were among the 10,000 people who attended the Mass.
During his remarks, Cardinal Rouco Varela said, “The Church defends the truth about man against the attacks on life and natural death, on the institution of marriage and the family, on the true meaning of human sexuality,” because the Church “recognizes that nobody can manipulate the human condition as it has been planned and created by God.”
He went on to say that “certain ideologies that disguise themselves as progress lead to the annihilation of the person,” and that “a society which turns its back on the law of God ends up dehumanizing itself and turning against man.”
“We live in difficult times of cultural, human and spiritual crises of a very grave nature and with consequences for the lives of the smallest and most defenseless,” lamented the Cardinal. “It is a spiritual crisis, which leaves man with no sense of the transcendent” and which threatens “to pull God out of our society and out of ordinary life.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 11, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Mario Moronta of Los Teques, Venezuela, said this week the Church in that country is able to continue operating its schools but that to do so requires the support of the government.
As president of the V Session of the Venezuelan Plenary Council, Bishop Moronta reminded participants that the Church is able to greatly collaborate in improving the level of education for Venezuelans.
Nevertheless, he reiterated that the State should provide ways for the Church to serve. “The Church wants to make education available to those who have very little or nothing, and therefore She calls on the State to provide support for her schools,” the bishop explained.
Bishop Moronta expressed his hopes that criticism of federal funding for Catholic schools would cease. “Education is not merely the providing of information; it is the formation of the person and his or her socialization in order to live with others in peace, tolerance and democracy.”