Washington D.C., Nov 16, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Wilton Gregory gave his final address as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops yesterday. The bishop has completed his three-year term.
In his address, he apologized for the mistakes he made as he led the U.S. Church through the clergy sex abuse crisis.
Bishop Gregory of Belleville, Ill., said there were times during the nearly three-year-long crisis when bishops supported each other. However, there were also moments when they were divided.
"A strengthened sense of collegiality among ourselves can only redound to the common good of the church in the United States which we tend and love," he said as he opened the fall meeting of the USCCB. "It will also serve as a very important witness to our beloved nation of how religious and civil discourse can and must take place."
Under Bishop Gregory’s leadership, the bishops adopted a policy in June 2002 on how to respond to abuse claims that includes barring offenders from church work. It is now undergoing review.
Later in the week, the bishops will also discuss a multiyear initiative to strengthen marriage and hear an update from their task force on how bishops should respond to Catholics in public life who do not follow Church teachings.
Washington D.C., Nov 16, 2004 (CNA) - An abortion pill that pro-life groups have raised the red flag about for years, especially since the death of a teenager in 2003 who took the drug, received additional warnings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration yesterday.
Mifeprex, also known as RU-486 or the "abortion pill," can cause serious bacterial infections and bleeding, said the FDA.
Some complications, which can be fatal, can occur without any obvious symptoms, the FDA said in updating the drug's "black box" warning label.
The FDA approved Mifeprex in 2000 for ending early pregnancies of 49 days or less.
"FDA and (maker) Danco Laboratories have received reports of serious bacterial infection, bleeding, ectopic pregnancies that have ruptured, and death, including another death from sepsis (blood infection) that was recently reported to FDA," the agency said in a statement. These reports have led to the revision of the black box labeling.
The FDA said the risks are rare but important to note. The FDA said it will continue to monitor the usage of Mifeprex and may take further action as needed.
Vatican City, Nov 16, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II said this morning, in a meeting with the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, that the October 2005 Synod on the Eucharist – only the 11th synod of bishops since 1965, when the first was inaugurated by Pope Paul VI - is especially timely as it falls during the end of the Year of the Eucharist.
The Pope highlighted the fact that "through the Eucharist we find the exemplary prefiguration of the communion among the faithful and their pastors, and the communion between the pastors of the particular churches and the pastor of the universal Church."
"This is a special case of reciprocity between the universal Church and this synod," he said. "During this year the Church and the synod are converging on a single goal: Christ in the Eucharist."
Madrid, Spain, Nov 16, 2004 (CNA) - Presiding at the closing of the Congress of Lay Apostolates, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varlea, Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Bishops Conference of Spain, issued an energietic call to the country’s Catholics to be witnesses without fear of being misunderstood and persecuted.
“No, we should not fear to be witnesses, despite all of the misunderstandings and persecutions which might befall us!” “The future belongs to us! The future belongs to the Gospel! The Church flourishes and will flourish in Spain with fruits of justice, love and peace,” the Cardinal said during the homily of the closing Mass attended by the more than two thousand participants of the congress.
Cardinal Rouco underscored the “urgencies” which the laity must take on “in the Spain of today,” including that of “recognizing and living the call to be Christians in the world with all of the historical consequences, determined by the present-day situation in the Church and in Spanish society,” and “fulfilling this call in its fullness, with taking any shortcuts.”
The Cardinal also called attention to “the temptation of man to define himself as the first and last author of his own happiness, apart from God.” He recalled some of the fruits of “modernity” such as world wars, “the most terrible totalitarianisms in history,” and he warned of the growth in Europe and in Spain of a tendency “to explicitly deny God or to live as if God did not exist.”
Regarding this historical challenge which the Church and Christians must face, Cardinal Rouco encouraged those present “to be witnesses here and now in Spain,” through “your specific responsibility to be irreplaceable instruments of sanctification in all areas of temporal life: from marriage and family to school, culture, public opinion, the economy, the workplace and political life.”
In the final statement of the congress, which brought together the principal ecclesial movements, associations, and organizations, participants said they were “conscious that despite the social and cultural marginalization which the faith suffers in our society, our contemporaries still await the announcing of the Christian message.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 16, 2004 (CNA) - A citizens’ group is gathering signatures to restore a tiny cross to the county seal after the board of supervisors recently voted 3-2 to remove it.
The Committee to Support the Los Angeles County Seal is aiming to collect 341,212 signatures by March 1, which would force the board to enact an ordinance protecting the original seal. The committee has gathered 40,000 signatures to date.
David Hernandez, who leads the committee, told the Washington Times that he was encouraged by the great support for this initiative.
A June survey conducted by the Los Angeles Daily News found that 94 percent of respondents wanted the seal unchanged.
The vote to eliminate the cross came after a May 19 letter from the American Civil Liberties Union, which threatened to file a lawsuit unless the cross was removed from the 50-year-old seal.
At a June hearing, hundreds of demonstrators from a variety of religious backgrounds rallied outside the county building in support of keeping the cross. In testimony before the board, dozens of supporters argued that the cross was a symbol of California history and religious freedom. Their argument was backed by law professors and legal foundations.
"Christianity plays a major role in the history of this county. To take that cross off is a symbol of something terrible happening," Jewish talk-show host Dennis Prager told the Times.
In a seven-page opinion, the county counsel's office said the ACLU likely would win a legal challenge because the cross violated the separation between church and state.
Already, some Web sites feature a new seal.
The old seal depicts the Greek goddess Pomona, oil derricks and a tiny cross next to two stars. The new seal replaces the goddess with an American Indian girl holding a bowl of grain, and the cross and the oil derricks with the Catholic San Gabriel Mission, without a cross.
Vatican City, Nov 16, 2004 (CNA) - Expressing his surprise upon learning of the making of a movie about his life, Pope John Paul II left the Polish actor who plays his part in the film speechless on meeting with him. The movie, entitled “Karol Wojtyla: the story of a man who became Pope,” is set to be screened on Italian television early next year.
“When I learned that the Pope was going to receive me I became very emotional,” said Piotr Adamczyk in an interview with the Italian magazine Sorrisi e Canzoni. “But at the same time I was very nervous because I didn’t know what to say to him.”
Adamczyk said that while playing the role of the Pope he had “so many things to ask him, but when his secretary had presented me to the Holy Father, for the first time ever, I forgot my lines.”
He said that he was worrie about what the Pope would think about the film and about his interpretation of the role, because in his youth the Holy Father had been an actor. “I hope he will be indulgent if he finds some mistake in the film or in my acting in particular. It’s not easy to play the man in front of whom everybody loses their voice, as I did in the Vatican,” he said.
The actor, who recalled that as a child he went to greet the Pope during his first trip as Pope to Poland in 1979, said that “in the end, he will be the most important judge” of the film. He highlighted that it was a fiction film and not a documentary
The story begins 1930 in Wadowice, the small town where the Pope was born and raised and ends with his election to the papacy on October 16, 1978 at the age of 58.
The film, whose sound track is composed by Ennio Morricone, cost more than 10 million euros to make, and is directed by Giacomo Battiato.
Konigstein, Germany, Nov 16, 2004 (CNA) - There are practically no conversions to Christianity in the South West Indian state of Kerala, according to Bishop Peter Thuruthikonam of Vijayapuram.
Although Kerala does not have a formal anti-conversion law, “the state government discourages conversions simply by not granting benefits to converts,” said the prelate. “As a consequence, nobody dares to become Christian.”
In a recent visit to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the bishop was asked about the current challenges and priorities in his diocese.
“Our faithful are low caste people and very poor,” he said. “What they most urgently need is education, because ‘no education, no job.’ So, the Church’s social commitment is crucial.”
The bishop noted that, “While every year 13 or 14 students enter the seminary, girls’ vocations are harder to find.”
In order to foster female vocations, the bishop founded a diocesan congregation in 1993, the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart. Today, this congregation has about 40 sisters.
The Diocese of Vijayapuram, which has about 3.6 million inhabitants, has about 85,000 Catholics and 75 parishes.
Abuja, Nigeria, Nov 16, 2004 (CNA) - Amidst the confusion and disorder of certain scientific and technological “advances,” man must understand that reason alone cannot address his fundamental questions, says Cardinal Norberto Rivera, Archbishop of Mexico.
During the 57th National Congress of the National Union of Parents, the Cardinal referred to the example of St. Augustine who as a young man mistakenly sought “to separate reason from the supernatural, from faith.” Only after trying set faith against reason did the saint realize that uniting them together was the only way to find the Eternal Beauty and “the truth that sets us free.”
Cardinal Rivera explained that when man only wants to be governed by reason, he ends up falling into positivism and a “scientific philosophy that has no answers” for his fundamental questions.
When St. Augustine “was able to bring together faith and reason, he knew he had found God,” the Cardinal said. The challenge for the 21st century is also to find God in the union of faith and reason.
“This is the tragedy of education when the main dogma is secularism, and secularism as the denial of God,” he added.
Nevertheless, he went on, it would also be “a tragedy to just rely on faith” to the detriment of reason. “It would be to deny that God himself gave us the capacity to investigate,” he argued.
“The Church opposes neither scientific advancement” nor that which, through “strict scientific method,” cultivates reason.
During a Mass he celebrated the following day, Cardinal Rivera called on the faithful to face the problems of today with a positive attitude and as citizens of Heaven.
Christians should act knowing that their works have transcendence for eternal life, he said. Therefore they should act according to “the law of selfless love,” collaborating in the building of a better society and Church.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 16, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Argentina published a letter this week in which they said only “a long process of conversion” will allow the country to overcome its crisis, the deepest roots of which are “moral and cultural.”
The letter calls on politicians to fulfill their duty in bringing about a recovery in the country and to leave behind “old practices” through “a sincere and selfless conversion towards the common good.”
The bishops pointed out that it’s more common to see people “take advantage of the riches of the country” than to find “citizens desirous” of the common good. Therefore they exhort citizens to live “with a spirit of justice, truthfulness, solidarity, industriousness, trying to be like yeast in the dough of society.”
The bishops cite the “Barometer of Argentinean Social Debt” which, according to the bishops, demonstrates the “damage suffered by large sectors” of society for decades.”
This text was prepared by the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina and explains that “the social debt is composed of deprivations that pose serious risk to the sustaining of life, the dignity of persons and opportunities for human growth.”
The bishops’ letter states that what is serious about this situation is that it is taking place in “a country that has the objective conditions to avoid or correct such harm.”
Referring to the “just distribution” of land, the bishops express their concern about land being concentrated in the hands of a few, about the situation of Native Americans, the deterioration of the environment. This leads thousands of Argentineans to leave their land and crowd into the suburbs of large cities.
Archbishop Carmelo Giaquinta of Resistencia and President of the Bishops’ Committee on Social Ministry told reporters that while it may appear the country is improving, getting out of the crisis “will take years.”
Lima, Peru, Nov 16, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, Archbishop of Lima, said this week “the lack of work is not an economic or political problem, it is a moral one” because the absence of work is an attack on human dignity.
The Cardinal reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to help those who are unemployed, and he underscored that “work is a place of encounter with God,” where man develops his virtues and can earn his daily living.
Cardinal Cipriani emphasized that the Church does not support violence or unrest, but rather the “awakening of consciences” regarding the necessity of initiatives that allow more people to enjoy this right.
He went on to say that the world does not address the problem of unemployment not because it can’t but because “it doesn’t want to.” The lack of solidarity is manifested in the fact that “some earn a lot while others have little.” The Cardinal called on those with more economic resources to invest in the creation of new jobs.
Although acknowledged that “not everyone will have the same amount” because “that Marxist dream is false,” he also said, “We cannot say, this is mine and nobody can touch it.” People who are blessed with intelligence, a large inheritance or who run a company “have the obligation to invest, create jobs and help those who have nothing,” he added.