Archive of November 23, 2004

New Cornwell’s biography of Pope unfounded, biased, says British reviewer

London, England, Nov 23, 2004 (CNA) - A new biography of Pope John Paul II, which attempts to document the Pope’s “intellectual decline” has serious flaws in fact and reflects the author’s uncompromising bias, says Damian Thompson in a review for Britain’s Daily Telegraph.

“The Pope in Winter” was written by John Cornwell, well-known journalist and author of “Hitler’s Pope” about Pope Pius XII. A baptized Catholic, some critics say his recent writings indicate that he is anti-Catholic.

This is the first biography of John Paul II “to argue that he has done more harm than good,” says Thompson.

While the reviewer praises Cornwell’s 15-year-old work, “A Thief in the Night,” which dismantled the conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Pope John Paul, this current work seems to be the result of sloppy journalism. It includes series of accusations and draws conclusions, which are not founded on historic fact.

For example, Cornwell tries to sully Pope John Paul's influence on the victory over Communism with a “dig at his ally Ronald Reagan,” says Thompson. Cornwell tells the reader that there were files on dead children whose murderers were "trained by Reagan's compatriots" in the office of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Thompson rightfully points out that Romero was killed before Reagan was elected to office.

In some cases, there is suspicion that facts are being manipulated, says Thompson. The reviewer cites George Weigel, the Pope’s most authoritative biographer, who confirms that one story Cornwell recounts is “rubbish.”

Cornwell attacks the Pope’s current health and recent battle with Parkinson’s, and charges that Pope’s refusal to resign demonstrates his self-importance. Cornwell even alleges that the Pope is an egomaniac and suffers from depression, blank episodes and paranoia.

He also attacks the Pope’s writings and blames him for a series of problems in the Church, such as the decline in mass attendance. Thompson states that, given recent societal factors, these problems would have arisen anyway.

Thompson says many Catholics will dismiss these reports since the book is such “a hatchet job.”

“Cornwell's record of John Paul II's pontificate is often grotesquely biased,” said Thompson. “Far from exposing ‘the dark face of John Paul II's papacy, ‘The Pope in Winter’ reveals the degree to which Cornwell's prejudices interfere with his judgment.

“This new book is indeed a record of intellectual decline,” he concludes, “but not quite in the way that its author intended.”

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"We are fools for Christ’s sake," says Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Washington D.C., Nov 23, 2004 (CNA) - At a Mass attended by hundreds of lawyers and judges in St. Daniel the Prophet Church in Wheaton on Sunday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave a speech on faith and the legal profession, saying that "we are fools for Christ's sake. We must pray for the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world."

The event, reports Monday’s Chicago Tribune,  was organized by the  St. Thomas More Society of DuPage County, a society dedicated to promoting the ideals of Saint Thomas More, a lawyer beheaded by King Henry VIII for refusing to transfer his allegiance from the Pope to the king. On Sunday Scalia became the first recipient of the Award of St. Thomas More.

"He's tough. He's principled, and he's thoroughly honored," said U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) in introducing Scalia, who spoke of the derision that Christians, and Catholics in particular have to suffer at the hands of the “sophisticated” and “wise of the world.”.

St. Thomas More, noted Scalia, was an example who practiced his religious belief despite the opprobium of the public. "More was not seeing with the eyes of man, but with the eyes of faith," he said.

All should have "the courage to have their wisdom regarded as stupidity," said Scalia to the mixed faith audience, who gave him a standing ovation.

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Pope to mark act of reconciliation with Greek Orthodox by returning saints’ relics to Ecumenical Patriarch

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2004 (CNA) - The relics of Saints Gregory Nazianzus and John Chrysostom, two of the eight Great Doctors of the Church, will be handed over to Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I by Pope John Paul II during an ecumenical celebration at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 27, in St. Peter's Basilica.

In a statement, the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff explained that "the celebration will take place according to the structure of the Liturgy of the Word. and will include the following rituals:

the introduction and veneration of the relics; Bible and patristic readings with several excerpts from the two Doctors of the Church and troparion songs of the Byzantine liturgy; a moment of prayer consisting of the universal Prayer and the Lord's Prayer, the rite of turning over the relics with a text read by the Holy Father and thanksgiving by the Patriarch; concluding rites."

"The celebration is a sign of the desire of the Church of the West and of the East to walk together towards the gift of full unity so that the world will believe in Christ, the One Savior," reads the statement

The Orthodox community of Rome will take part in this celebration. The clergy, religious and faithful of the diocese of Rome are also invited.

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Pope receives honors from university for contribution to dialogue between faith and science.

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II, on receiving this morning the rector and members of the faculty and staff of the Nicolaus Copernicus University of Torun in Poland who presented him with the title of doctor "honoris causa," reiterated that the university is “called to overcome the contrast, made during the Enlightenment, of truth reached through reason and truth known through faith.”

The Pope accepted the honor “with gratitude…as a sign of dialogue between science and faith in continual development."

“Today we understand ever more” that the truth reached through reason and the truth reached through faith “is the same truth and that it is necessary for men and women not to walk alone but to try to confirm their own intuition through dialogue with others when reaching the truth on their own," said the Pope.

"Only in this way," he continued, "will experts and men of culture be capable of assuming…'the responsibility of truth; to strive towards it, to defend it and to live according to it'."

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Vatican announces "catalogue" of new international movements and lay associations in the Church

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced the recent publication of a "Catalogue of International Associations of the Faithful" in response to Pope John Paul II's request in the Apostolic Exhortation "Christifideles laici" for an index of associations which have been officially approved by the Holy See.

The 300 page volume, which is available in Italian, will be available in English, Spanish and French which was published in Italian and which will soon be translated into English, Spanish and French.

The catalogue lists 123 associations of the faithful ranging from the more traditional groups to newer ecclesial movements and communities, all approved by the Holy See.

Each association is listed according to its official name in the original language, and contains the following data: the year of its foundation, history, identity, structure, presence in the world, activity, publications, web sites and the contact information of the headquarters.

Associations that depend juridically on the Congregations for the Clergy, the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life and the Evangelization of Peoples, as well as groups that work exclusively on the national or diocesan level, are not included in the list.

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Council for the Laity to reflect on challenges facing parishes in the third millenium

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2004 (CNA) - The 21st Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which will be held in Rome between November 24-28, will be devoted to reflection on the parish in the modern world.

After brief remarks by council president, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, on the assembly’s theme, "Discover once again the true face of the Parish," the under-secretary, Professor Guzman Carriquiry will speak about "The present day situation of the laity: crucial questions."

Scheduled topics include: "The parish in a changing world: the great social, cultural and religious challenges"; "The institutional parish: a pastoral, juridical and historic perspective"; "Building up the community parish together: councils, ministers, services and other forms of collaboration and involvement for lay people."

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National Catholic Reporter’s publisher resigns unexpectedly

Washington D.C., Nov 23, 2004 (CNA) - The longtime editor and publisher of the National Catholic Reporter resigned Sept. 29, citing “professional and personal reasons.”

Thomas C. Fox was at the newspaper for 25 years, holding the post of editor for 17 years and publisher for eight. His resignation will take effect Jan.1. The board of directors accepted Fox's resignation Nov. 13, and they named associate publisher Rita Larivee, a Sister of St. Anne, his successor.

The 60-year-old’s resignation comes unexpectedly at a time when the liberal newspaper is responding to the defeat of Senator John Kerry, the candidate NCR supported during the presidential campaign.

Fox brought many accomplishments to the paper, such as the establishment of an endowment and the re-opening of NCR’s Rome and Washington bureaus.

However, lately, he was accused of using the newspaper as a tool to attack political opponents. His most recent episode was an attack of Deal Hudson, a key adviser to the White House. Alerted of the personal attack against him, Hudson resigned from this post.

Fox plans to take a six-month sabbatical. He said he would consider future involvement with the publishing company but was not prepared to discuss it presently.

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New bill permits health professionals to refuse providing abortion-related services

Washington D.C., Nov 23, 2004 (CNA) - Pro-life advocates are claiming another victory after Congress passed a $388-billion spending bill Nov. 20 that includes a provision, which allows health care providers to refuse to offer abortion-related services.

The Hyde-Weldon anti-discrimination amendment, passed by Congress as part of a larger bill in a rare Saturday session, makes it easier for health care professionals, hospitals, HMOs, and health insurance plans to refuse to perform abortions, pay for abortions, provide coverage for abortions or make abortion referrals.

Also known as the federal refusal clause, the amendment states that state and local governments that receive federal funds may not discriminate against such health care providers.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, praised the Bush administration for passing the law "which will prevent state and local government officials from compelling health care providers to participate in killing unborn children," he told

This is the third pro-life legislation the Bush administration has passed in the last year, including the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

The House approved the spending bill 344-51, and the Senate voted 65-30 in favor. The pro-life amendment to that bill was approved last summer by the House Appropriations Committee and the full House, with support from the White House.

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Journalist exposes Islamic fundamentalist group that inspired al-Qaida

, Nov 23, 2004 (CNA) - Associated Press religion writer Brian Murphy warns of an “ultra-radical Islamic ideology,” which is drawing more scrutiny from authorities but which has not been exposed largely in the press.

There are increasing indications that al-Takfir wa al-Hijra, which mixes “zealot-like devotion and holy war creed,” is growing on the fringes of Islamic extremism, says Murphy in his Nov. 20 report.

While authorities estimate that the group has several thousand followers, they “now worry about followers becoming more aggressive with recruitment and retaliation against perceived foes of Islam,” with the use of the Internet and other global communications, he said.

Murphy claims that the group, founded in Egypt in the 1960s, has wide influence in Islamic fundamentalist circles and even inspired al-Qaida and other militant groups. The ideology “strives for a purified form of Islam and condemns anything or anyone deemed an enemy of the faith,” says Murphy. Takfir denounces even moderate Muslims as "infidels."

Azzaz Tamimi, head of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London, told Murphy that terrorist groups, like Takfir, recruit by tapping into the “pressure and anger” many Muslims experience in their every day lives.

"Now we have a new generation of fundamentalists," said Mohamed Salah, an expert on Islamic radicals and the Cairo bureau chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat. "The atmosphere in the world now makes it easy for someone to get two or three people together and form a group."

They use tactics, which include blending into non-Muslim societies, which make it more difficult to monitor and infiltrate the group, Murphy notes.

"It's there as part of the overall pathology of radical thinking,” Omid Safi, a religion professor at Colgate University, told Murphy. “Takfir is just part of the destructive tendencies occurring now in Islam," Safi said.

The Dutch-Moroccan suspect, accused of killing Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh on a busy Amsterdam street Nov. 2, has been linked to Takfir. Alleged Takfir connections have also been noted in France, Jordan, Morocco and Lebanon.

The New York-based Freedom House is preparing a report that examines documents distributed in some U.S. mosques, containing denunciations against non-Muslims and fellow Muslims who show religious tolerance.

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Church will not be silent in face of pressure to silence her, Spanish Cardinal says

Madrid, Spain, Nov 23, 2004 (CNA) - During his opening remarks for the Fall Assembly of the Bishops Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Bishops Conference, said the Church would not cease to make known the social consequences of the Gospel, despite pressure from the dominant secularism in country.

During his extensive speech on the principal moral challenges facing Spanish society, Cardinal Rouco emphasized that, “unceasingly announcing the eternal love of God for each person, the Church offers to humanity the greatest of service.”

“Some will say,” he went on, “that this is an absolutely useless and stale task.  There will even be some Catholics who consider references to God and to eternal life as secondary for existence in this world.”

Nevertheless, explained the Cardinal, “not only the experience of believers, but also mere historical experience, proves to us today that the old agnostic and atheistic ideologies are absolutely incapable of fulfilling what they promise; moreover, the history of the 20th century has given us evidence their true consequences.  They promised freedom, and they brought oppression; they promised life and they brought death; they promised peace and they brought the bloodiest wars in history.”

Cardinal Rouco pointed out that unfortunately, “We continue to hear of proposals and programs which seek to exclude the voice of faith and ethics and which categorize religion and the Church as inadequate and unfriendly to man and his future.  People need to open their eyes to the lessons of history.”

“The Church will continue to firmly and respectfully propose the message entrusted to her.  It is the message of the God who is love, Creator and Savior of mankind,” he continued.  

“Our pastoral plan is a program of hope.  The plan of holiness, of union with God, is the plan of the future.”

Cardinal Rouco mentioned the principal challenged faced by Spanish society, including issues related to the defense of human life, marriage and the family, homosexual unions, and religious education.

The Church, he concluded, “desires to contribute to fostering and nourishing sentiments of mutual comprehension, and wherever necessary, reconciliation among Spaniards.”

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