Vatican City, Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II has called married couples and families to their “singular” and “urgent” mission…”in building the Church and the Kingdom of God in history.” His words came during the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family on Saturday November 20, who are meeting on the theme "The Mission of Mature, Experienced Couples with Engaged and Young Married Couples."
“Spreading the 'Gospel of the Family'" is "a noble and decisive mission, said the Pope of the council’s work. “The family, founded on marriage, is a natural, irreplaceable institution and a basic element of the common good of every society,” he continued.
“Whoever destroys this basic fabric of human coexistence, not respecting its identity and distorting its duties, causes a deep wound to society and provokes often irreparable damages," warned the Holy Father.
The Holy Father indicated that this mission of “building the Church and the Kingdom of God in history… has lost nothing of its actuality and has, in fact, taken on an urgent nature.”
He called for "a renewed commitment in favor of young families" and newlyweds, noting that the early years of marriage are often full of difficulties for couples.
The “discreet, delicate and generous assistance” of older married couples, as well as the Church’s pastoral ministry, can assist young families in the difficulties of their first years and of having and raising children.
“I note with pleasure the growing presence throughout the world of movements in favor of families and of life”, said the Pope.
“Ten years ago,” he said, “in my Letter to Families, I underlined how important the rich experience of other families can be, especially when the 'we' of the parents, the husband and wife, is developed ... into the 'we' of the family, with the precious gift of children."
The Pope noted that the Fifth Meeting of Families will take place in Valencia, Spain in 2006.
Vatican City, Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - During the Angelus in Saint Peter’s Square yesterday, the solemnity of Christ the King, Pope John Paul II recalled that it was the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
"November 21, forty years ago,” recalled the Pope, “the Fathers of Vatican Council II promulgated the Dogmatic Constitution that starts with the words' Lumen gentium com sit Christus,' 'Christ is the light of humanity'.
He said that “Lumen Gentium marked a milestone in the Church's journey on the streets of the contemporary world and stimulated the People of God to assume with ever greater decision their responsibilities in building the Kingdom of Christ which will have its complete fulfilment only outside of history."
"Making the Gospel alive in the temporal order is, in fact, the duty of every baptized person, in particular the lay faithful,” he continued.
He noted that “a useful aid for this mission is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, published this year by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to whom I once again express my gratitude."
"All human activity, to reach its goal, must be supported by prayer," said the Holy Father, and asked the faithful "to give spiritual and material support to our sisters and brothers" in the contemplative life.
, Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - Contrary to earlier press reports released by most major media Friday, pro-life organizations have cried victory after the United Nations shelved competing proposals for a treaty to ban human cloning. The UN agreed to meet to discuss the issue again in February during the current session of the Sixth Committee in order to finalize a compromise proposal put forward by the Italian delegation.
The compromise means that the UN General Assembly will not vote on rival resolutions as erroneously stated in earlier press reports, claiming that the February discussions would lead to a less powerful declaration.
The Italian compromise proposal calls for countries to prohibit any attempts at the creation of human life through cloning and any research intended to achieve that aim and to ensure that in the application of life sciences human dignity shall be respected in all circumstances.
In particular, the compromise states that women shall not be exploited (millions of eggs would be needed in order to carry out the research).
The compromise, however, does not preclude any subsequent consideration of a Convention.
The Costa Rican Resolution calling for a convention to Ban all human cloning would have no legal effect for several years due to the long process of negotiations and ratification and would only legally bind those countries ratifying it. Thus, the immediate effect of passage of both the Costa Rican proposal for a total ban and the Italian Declaration would be to send a strong message that the world community wants countries to pass legislation banning all forms of human cloning.
A key pro-life insider at the United Nations explained to Catholic News Agency that "the reason our side did not pursue voting on the Costa Rican proposal (although we had over 60 co-sponsors and many more who promised to vote for it; and the other side had about 20 co-sponsors and we thought we could win a vote on the substance) was because the other side threatened a procedural 'No Action' motion that would delay action until next year's meeting of … the General Assembly in September."
The source revealed that many small countries - although almost all are for a total ban- are under enormous pressure from the opposition. According to the UN insider, there are only a small handful of countries that do not support a total ban on human cloning.
"The most important result of our over three years of work is that we have prevented the passage of a Convention that would approve of 'therapeutic cloning,' which appeared to be on a fast track at the beginning because of the total lack of knowledge and misinformation," the source said.
The side supporting a total ban on human cloning has a strong, legally consistent message. It claims that if the UN condones therapeutic cloning it would be the first time the international organization condones the creation of human life for the express purpose of using it for experimentation, a process that necessitates killing human beings in their embryonic stage for their stem cells.
In addition, for the first time, the UN would not only approve this, but would also require states to pass and enforce laws requiring that it be carried out.
Pro-lifers argue that the UN has never condoned or required the violation of the basic human rights of another human being, even though some countries were engaged in such violations.
The UN, therefore, has a responsibility to set ethical standards for the protection of the lives, dignity and worth of all human beings, even if some countries choose to violate these rights, pro-lifers say.
Costa Rica's ambassador to the UN, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, suggested that the United States and others would not be willing to bend on the words, "human life." He underscored that there was nothing in the Italian resolution on the issue that would prevent his country from reviving calls for an international treaty.
According to an AP story, the Belgians (sponsors of the resolution allowing research cloning) object to using "human life" because they fear it could be interpreted to ban all forms of human cloning. They would rather have a document that uses the language "human being." "This is the best compromise you are going to find," Stagno Ugarte told The Associated Press. "It's an important word, I can see that. But it's either that or it's 'embryo.'"
U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told the AP that the United States was still pleased with Friday's vote.
"It's our longstanding position that all human cloning is wrong, and we are proud of our efforts to prevent human cloning," he said. "So the fact that there isn't any action by the UN to endorse cloning is a moderate success."
"This, in effect, sends a very strong message: this is the direction in which the UN wants to go," said Jeanne E. Head, vice-president for international affairs for National Right to Life, commenting on the Italian resolution.
Washington D.C., Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - The U.S Congress can play a key role in ensuring the survival of several of the minority communities in Iraq. Seeking Congress’ assistance, representatives of some of these communities in Iraq will brief congressional staff on the perilous situation that they are facing in the new Iraq, at 2pm at the US Capitol today, states a press release from the Center of Religious Freedom.
The communities, represented by the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights, want Congress’ rapid assistance in the implementation of the new Iraqi constitution’s Article 53D, which provides the basis for establishing an administrative district to provide sanctuary for the largest non-Muslim minority, ChaldoAssyrians.
According to the Center for Religious Freedom, nearly 40,000 Chaldo Assyrians have recently fled Iraq, following attacks on churches, murders, and kidnappings by Muslim extremists.
“An exodus of these Christians would substantially reduce Iraq's prospects of developing as a pluralistic and democratic society,” says Nina Shea, the Center’s director.
“Moreover,” she adds, “they are the canaries in the coal mine for moderate Muslims, as well as Christian minorities, throughout the Middle East."
The smaller Mandaean, Roma and Yazidis communities have also suffered persecution and violations of fundamental human rights
The Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR) was founded in 1993 and is the largest coalition of religious and ethnic minorities in the Near East.
, Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - According to a recent study carried out by the Crown Office in Scotland into prosecutions for religious bigotry since the passing of new anti-sectarianism legislation ni 2003, Catholics are by far the most likely victims of sectarian hostility, reports BBC News.
The Crown’s study of prosecutions in June to December 2003, showed that in 63% of cases of sectarian abuse, the victims were Catholic, compared with 29% of victims who were Protestants, 1% who were Jews and 1% who were Muslim.
108 of the 450 prosecutions for religious bigotry that took place during that time were included in the study, and 68 of those consisted of crimes against Catholics. 31 crimes against Protestants, and one each against Muslims and Jews.
Even though a spokesman for the Crown Office said that “in order to identify trends further research would be required," Catholic leaders such as Msgr. Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell, said the research indicates that "entrenched hostility towards a religious minority, which many felt had long since disappeared, clearly remains and flourishes."
"These figures are frankly appalling,” he said. “That at least one religiously-motivated offence should take place in Scotland every day is bad enough, that almost two thirds of such crimes are directed against the Catholic community who comprise just 17% of the population is both alarming and saddening.”
Scottish politicians have called for education aimed at combatting the prejudices and breaking down barriers.
According to Michael McMahon, a member of the Scottish parliament, "there are certain sections of the community for whatever reason, probably based on ignorance or fear, who believe that the Catholic community has historically been a threat. That's the type of ignorance that we have to break down."
However, the Muslim Assocation of Britain Scottish Spokesperson, Osama Saeed, argued that "these figures aren't even barely credible,” claiming that “there will be hardly a Muslim in the land who hasn't experience of being taunted with shouts of 'Bin Laden' or 'terrorist' in the street.”
A spokesman for the Crown Office said that "we were interested in which groups were being targeted by sectarian abuse and where it was happening." He noted that the prosecutions and the research indicate that the government will no longer tolerate bigotry: "the executive is committed to addressing sectarianism and religious intolerance, wherever it occurs and whomever its victim."
, Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - Catholics in Montana have taken up the cause for canonization of a beloved Polish priest, who came to them after years in Nazi prison camps.
Msgr. Joseph Gluszek came to the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings in 1950 – a survivor of the beatings, starvation and inhuman conditions in Nazi prison camps – and served there for more than a half century.
Msgr. Gluszek died two years ago, one month before his 92nd birthday, after 52 years of ministry in Montana. His friends spanned generations. They included the little children, the elderly, as well as Pope John Paul II.
Remarkably, the cause for canonization is a grassroots movement, led by Lester and Teresa Maleszewski. The Maleszewskis were not the monsignor’s good friends, but they respect his life as a servant of God, they told the Great Falls Tribune.
The Maleszewskis are now documenting his life and gathering signatures for a petition to encourage the local bishop to begin examination of Msgr. Gluszek’s holy virtues.
That shouldn’t be too difficult, since many parishioners admired Msgr. Gluszek’s strong faith, kindness and compassion, despite the harsh experiences through which he lived.
Already a priest, the German Gestapo took him prisoner the fourth day of World War II, Sept. 4, 1939, reported the Great Falls Tribune. He was transported in chains into Germany, where he spent time at Dachau, then at a work camp at Mauthausen-Gusen, Austria, and again at Dachau. He had spent 68 months in the camps before U.S. Gen. George Patton and his army arrived to liberate the people, April 29, 1945.
According to Msgr. Gluszek's memoirs, the prisoners were forced to sleep on wet ground, covered by some straw and dead insects. When they finally were offered soap, they refused to wash with it because it was made of the fat of murdered Jewish prisoners.
The prisoners' daily ration of bread was 12 ounces, but in the last two years of the war the ration was cut to 4 or 5 ounces a day.
He recounted that the only time he lost hope during his imprisonment was when he collapsed from weakness, weighing only 82 pounds. A guard told him that he wasn’t worth killing since he would surely die in the next few days anyway.
Another touching story about his wartime experience comes from parish lore. One day at the camp, the priest looked up from his prayers and saw a little girl watching him. When she saw him look at her, she ran away.
Saddened, he turned to the Lord and said: "If I even scare the children, please let me die." His prayer was answered and his faith was restored when the little girl returned with a piece of bread that she pushed through the fence to him.
His kind and loving relationship with children continued when he arrived in Montana, where he would often visit schools and celebrate mass with the children. He kept active even after retirement, visiting the sick and celebrating mass at two Great Falls nursing homes.
The stories of the monsignor’s kindness and service are many. In a message sent to Msgr. Gluszek’s funeral, Pope John Paul II said: "His generosity to all should inspire this community."
It seems that it already has, as parishioners continue to tell of his witness and lay people lead in his cause for canonization.
, Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - In an effort to save a 43-foot concrete cross atop Mount Soledad in San Diego, the Thomas More Law Center and other citizens’ groups have launched a national petition, urging federal officials to declare the Mount Soledad Veterans War Memorial a national memorial.
In addition to the cross, the 50-year-old historic site in San Diego includes plaques honoring the service of thousands of United States veterans from all wars. The cross has been the subject of a 15-year federal lawsuit brought by an atheist that resulted in a federal court order requiring the Mt. Soledad Cross to be removed.
Law Center attorneys believe a successful petition effort to have Mt. Soledad designated a National Memorial would allow the cross to remain.
The petition quotes from a May 22, 2001 letter by President George W. Bush, describing the Soledad site as a “place to reflect on our past, be inspired by true American patriots, and offer war veterans our heartfelt gratitude for the freedom we all enjoy today.”
To sign the petition, go to: http://www.thomasmore.org/soledad.html
, Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - The director of a pro-abortion organization, called Catholics for a Free Choice, said she and her members are “a bit sad, frightened and even demoralized” by the re-election of President George W. Bush.
In a letter to members, dated Nov. 3, Frances Kissling, president of the organization, said Bush’s re-election means “Bush’s War on Women proceeds unchecked” and efforts will begin by “the president's socially conservative Christian and Catholic base” to restrict women's, sexual and reproductive rights.
Kissling said she is concerned about the impact the election results will have on the Catholic Church in the United States. “The most troubling aspect of all this is the extent to which Bush's victory will further empower an incredibly arrogant, intolerant, anti-woman and anti-religious freedom faction in my church,” she said.
“It solidifies the alliance between the administration, the Vatican and that ultra-conservative segment of the American church that both Rome and Bush have used to keep women – and dissenters – in their place,” she stated.
She said Pope John Paul II “has succeeded in building a right wing movement among laity and destroyed resistance among progressives.”
She also called for a “careful analysis” of the way in which “these conservative religious forces have used gender, sexuality and reproduction as a way of weakening and dividing the resistance movement in the church.”
Kissling said Bush’s re-election will inspire her organization in the next four years to “roll up our sleeves, work harder, and reach out more wisely and broadly to build and lead a conscious movement of resistance to injustice.”
Catholics for a Free Choice has been formally declared an anti-Catholic organization by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Ottawa, Canada, Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said Nov. 17 that debate on assisted suicide should be reopened in Parliament and that Canadian laws forbidding it should be reviewed in light of two recent events in British Columbia and Quebec.
A week earlier, a jury in a British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that Evelyn Martens, 73, was not guilty of assisting in the suicides of Monique Charest, a 64-year-old former Catholic nun, and of Leyanne Burchell, 52.
Charest and Burchell committed suicide in 2002.
Martens admitted to knowing the women, giving them information on how to commit suicide, counselling them and being present at their deaths.
Police found a quantity of sedative-type drugs, including Rohypnol, the date-rape drug, helium tanks and exit bags when they searched Martens' van and home. Yet the jury decided that there was not enough evidence to indicate that she actually assisted in the suicide acts.
Martens said that since her trial, she will retire from her involvement in the Right to Die Society of Canada
In Quebec, Marielle Houle was arrested and charged Sept. 26, after having helped her 36-year-old son, Charles Fariala, to commit suicide. Fariala was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year.
If Houle is convicted, she faces a maximum of 14 years in prison.
Rome, Italy, Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - The office of the Mayor of Rome announced this weekend that a collection of portraits and sculptures of the Popes by artists such as Rafael and Bernini will go on display in the Eternal City starting November 30.
The showing will take place at the Braschi Palace in Rome, according to Gianni Borgia, cultural advisor of the office of Rome’s mayor.
Some fifty works of art will be included in the showing, including a bronze bust of Pope Gregory XV, made by Baroque master Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and a portrait of Pope Julius II, painted by Rafael.
Borgia explained that the works “will be displayed in chronological order and they will tell the history of the Popes from the Renaissance to the present day.”
Cardinal Francesco Marchisano told reporters that these works of art will enable people “to discover the history of Rome.”
Organizers said a catalogue with information on the history of each Pope will be available, in order to allow people to learn about the history of the pontificates starting from the sixteenth century.
Havana, Cuba, Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - As part of the ninth Catholic Social Week, sponsored by the Justice and Peace Committee of the Bishops Conference of Cuba, participants of the event taking place in Camagüey honored a hero of Cuban independence as an exemplary model of political commitment and fidelity to Catholic principles.
During the “public gestures” that are part of the Social Weeks in Cuba, participants gathered for a celebration at the monument honoring Ignacio Agramonte, located in the historic center of Camagüey
Addressing those participating, including Archbishop Juan Garcia of Camagüey and president of the Justice and Peace Committee, noted Cuban intellectual Dr. Roberto Mendez said it was appropriate that “on this occasion the Social Week celebrate its public gesture here, next to his bronze statue, and even more so as a gathering dedicated to peace.”
“Yes, it is very appropriate,” Dr. Mendez added, “as was that memorable January 23rd in 1998 when the Eucharist was celebrated by Pope John Paul II next one of his other monuments in this city.”
According to Mendez, “When many others leaned toward deism, agnosticism or atheism, not only did Agramonte make his consistent Christianity the crown jewel of his thought, he was also an example of a lay Catholic who embodied the culture of his times, without timidity or hesitation.”
After the speech, two young people read excerpts from letters Agramonte and his wife Amalia Simoni sent to each other.
Managua, Nicaragua, Nov 22, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Nicaragua called on the faithful last week to draw closer to God, because when the Lord “is not in the hearts of men, things begin to become more important that persons.”
In a statement released after the annual meeting, the bishops invited the country to seek in the Blessed Mother the necessary support “to victoriously face the struggle against selfishness” and thus overcome the problems plaguing the nation.
The statement was signed by Bishop Juan Abelardo Mata, General Secretary of the Bishops Conference, and was timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
In the statement, the bishops state that sometimes “some communications media” lose their objectivity and take “the side of people who are defending their own interests.”
Bishop Leopoldo Jose Brenes of Matagalpa expressed his dismay that documents of the Church are sometimes manipulated and distorted. He called for objective reporting of Church statements.
Bishop Brenes added, “We are all witnesses to the extreme poverty” in the country, and he insisted on the necessity of a dialogue that would help resolve the situation. “The bishops are always calling for dialogue and you were witnesses of this during the municipal elections, when all of the bishops called for dialogue and unity,” he said.