Vatican City, Nov 25, 2004 (CNA) - Receiving participants this morning in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Laity who are reflecting on the theme "Discover once again the true face of the Parish," Pope John Paul II stated that the parish is the “place par excellence to announce Christ and educate people in the faith.”
"The first step” towards the rediscovery of the parish, indicated the Pope, “consists in helping the lay faithful to discover once again the true face of the parish .... the place par excellence to announce Christ and to educate people in the faith. Precisely for this reason it must be constantly renewed in order to become the true 'community of all communities,' capable of truly incisive missionary activity."
"In this year dedicated to the Eucharist," he added, "we must remember that the Eucharist is the beating heart of the parish, font of its mission and presence which continually renews it."
The Holy Father expressed his hope that the assembly's reflection on the parish "may help everyone to understand better that the parish community is a place to encounter Christ and our brothers and sisters."
He also noted some of the initiatives promoted by the Council, such as the meeting of Catholics in Eastern Europe last year in Kiev, Ukraine "which emphasized the role of lay people in the spiritual and material rebuilding of those nations after years of atheistic totalitarianism," and the publication of the "Catalogue of the International Associations of the Faithful" as a fruit of "greater collaboration among the different associations, communities and movements."
The Pope also mentioned "the intense preparation for World Youth Day which will be celebrated in Cologne, Germany in 2005. This gathering, whose theme is 'We have come to adore Him,' encourages the entire Church and especially young people to take up the path of the Three Magi in order to encounter God, made man for our salvation."
Vatican City, Nov 25, 2004 (CNA) - In a message for World AIDS Day, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health workers and the Sick, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, revealed that the Church operates 26.7% of the centers dedicated to caring for victims of AIDS in the world.According to the Cardinal, “Ever since the appearance of this terrible scourge, has always made her contribution both to preventing the transmission of the HIV virus and to looking after AIDS victims and their families at the medical/assistance, social, spiritual and pastoral levels.”
At the present time, 26.7% of the centers dedicated to treating HIV/AIDS in the world are Catholic centers. The projects and programs involving education and prevention in relation to AIDS, and the care, treatment and pastoral accompanying of HIV/AIDS victims, that local Churches, religious institutes and lay associations promote with love, a sense of responsibility and a spirit of charity, are great in number,” he pointed out.
In the message, Cardinal Lozano echoed the call of Pope John Paul II to the bishops of America, Europe and Australia to work together with the bishops of Africa to effectively address the AIDS emergency.
Vatican City, Nov 25, 2004 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health workers and the Sick said the stigma associated with AIDS victims should be banished from society, and he renewed the commitment of the Church in the struggle against the disease.
In a message for the World AIDS Day, Cardinal Lozano said, “We must banish the stigma that so often makes society harsh in relation to the AIDS victim” and “dissipate the prejudices of those who fear the proximity of AIDS victims because they want to avoid contagion.”
The Cardinal recalled that “AIDS is only transmitted through the three routes of blood, the link between a mother and her unborn child, and contact,” and he emphasized that “these routes of transmission must be combated effectively and thereby eliminated. “ “As regards contact,” he said, “we should remember that contagion must be eliminated through responsible behavior and observance of the virtue of chastity.”
Cardinal Lozano said his dicastery sends this “message communicating the nearness and encouragement of the Church to all those who are fighting against this devastating pandemic, to those who care for and treat people afflicted by HIV/AIDS, and to these last, who are personally experiencing the mystery of human suffering.”
Likewise, he made a special reference to women and young people, to whom World AIDS Day is dedicated this year, “because of their greater vulnerability, compared to men, to contracting the HIV/AIDS virus, recalling that a “study has demonstrated that they are infected 2.5 more times than men.”
Cardinal Lozano went on to point out that “the impact of HIV/AIDS on women aggravates inequality and hinders progress towards the universality of rights. In addition, the more this infection advances amongst women, who are the columns of families and communities, the more the danger of social breakdown increases.”
“The Church has always defended women and their very great dignity with especial vigor and is struggling to fight those examples of discrimination which still today in a great deal of our society require greater efforts to secure the elimination of disparities in relation to women in such sectors as education, the defense of health, and work,” he added.
Sacramento, Calif., Nov 25, 2004 (CNA) - A California school threw “aside all common sense” in its decision to ban a teacher from providing students with handouts of historical documents because they include references to God, says lawyer Gary McCaleb.
McCaleb serves with the Alliance Defense Fund, which filed suit Tuesday against California's Cupertino Union School District after school principal Patricia Vidmar told a teacher that he could not distribute historical documents that mentioned God.
The principal of Stevens Creek Elementary School ordered the Christian teacher – but no others – to submit his lesson plans and handouts for review.
Some of the documents rejected by the principal included excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, the diaries of George Washington and John Adams, writings from William Penn and various state constitutions.
"Throwing aside all common sense, the district has chosen to censor men such as George Washington and documents like the Declaration of Independence," said McCaleb, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund. "The district's actions conflict with American beliefs and are completely unconstitutional."
The California Education Code allows "references to religion or the use of religious literature ‘when such references or uses do not constitute instruction in religious principles’ and when such references or uses are incidental to or illustrative of matter properly included in the course of study."
, Nov 25, 2004 (CNA) - The adoption movement doesn’t get much play in the public policy arena and in the press, but Daniel K. Proft, president of the Conservative news service “Illinois Leader,” is proposing means to change that.
The 32-year-old, who was adopted only nine months before the passage of Roe vs. Wade in 1973, wonders what decision his birth mother would have made had the ruling been made earlier.
“I am fascinated about how tenuous life is, even my own, in a society that over the last thirty years has more and more come to view life as an ‘option’ rather than a sacrosanct gift from God,” he says, grateful of the life of love and sacrifice his adoptive family gave him.
He argues that adoption doesn’t “get the airing it deserves in the public policy arena or the media.” Pro-life groups also fail to use the adoption movement arguments in their advocacy work.
Despite adoption’s low profile, Proft points to a survey that indicates many Americans have a positive view of adoption. The Donaldson Institute and the Dave Thomas Foundation released a survey recently that 40 percent of Americans have considered adoption, and 60 percent have been personally touched by it.
Pro-abortionists, too, avoid the issue of adoption altogether, he points out. “When you strip the “unwanted” label away from those who tolerate the killing of the unborn, what are they left with to justify their position, except their unvarnished selfishness?” he asks.
Proft proposes one strategy that can help raise awareness of adoption – the “Choose Life” license plate initiative, which is seeking to have Secretary of State Jesse White’s Office create specialty “Choose Life” license plates that Illinois residents can buy. A portion of the proceeds is directed to crisis-pregnancy centers and other organizations around Illinois that offer adoption services.
The “Choose Life” license plates originated in Florida about five years ago. Since that time, seven other states have accepted the project.
State Senator Patrick O’Malley (R-Palos Park) has introduced legislation (SB 2425) to create such a plate in Illinois. Barrington businessman Jim Finnegan and his “Choose Life” volunteers are garnering public support for the bill through a petition. More than 15,000 signatures from Illinois citizens in more than 400 different communities have been gathered to date.
Konigstein, Germany, Nov 25, 2004 (CNA) - In an interview this morning with the international Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Fr. Borys Gudziak, the rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, warned that “in Ukraine, religious freedom is under threat.“
Even though there is no Soviet-era style violent persecution, “the disregard for civil liberties and human rights on the part the current regime as well as the extreme poverty of the population, resulting from corruption and mismanagement of the old power clans” make it impossible for families “to lead a normal Christian life,” said the university’s rector.
The dramatic poverty and unemployment rates have forced around 5 million Ukrainians to go abroad in search of work. Mothers and fathers often have to leave their families behind in order to support them with earnings from abroad.
Fr. Gudziak has pointed out that despair experienced by so many Ukrainians has led to rampant alcoholism which has brought down life expectancy to 55, one of the lowest rates in Europe.
He also notes that under such poverty a Christian education is unaffordable.
Speaking of the upcoming elections in Ukraine, Fr. Gudziak said that “the Church stands by the people who are linking their dignity on these elections, because dignity is rooted in truth. If the true results of these elections are denied, it means that not only civil rights, but also the voters’ dignity are being trampled underfoot.”
He noted that “the peaceful protest of millions of Ukrainians in almost all of the country’s cities shows that people see their freedom and dignity jeopardised. People are now pinning their hopes on the power of truth.”
Fr. Gudziak expressed his concern over “Moscow’s open efforts to meddle in our internal affairs,” referring to rumours that Russian special forces have been in the country working to influence election results.
Baghdad, Iraq, Nov 25, 2004 (CNA) - Father Nizar Semaan, a Catholic priest from the city of Mosul, told the Fides News Agency this week that Christians in Iraq have not lost their faith despite the ongoing violence, and they are rebuilding “churches and chapels” destroyed during recent attacks.
Father Semaan said Christians who are still in Iraq “entrust our safety first of all to Divine Providence and we continue to pray for peace and national reconciliation in Iraq.” He also pointed out that Iraqis who left the country are sending monetary assistance to those who have remained in Iraq.
Referring to the situation in Mosul in northern Iraq, Father Semaan said, “The week was dramatic and very difficult for everyone here,” as “insurgents took control of most of Mosul in only 24 hours.”
He said that while some police officers have fought off assaults on police and army barracks, many others have fled leaving arms and equipment to the rebels. “The mayor of Mosul voiced harsh criticism of policemen who fled and praised those who stayed at their posts.”
Father Semaan told Fides that members of the National Guard, mostly made up of Kurds, “intervened to take control of the situation in Mosul. But now Arabs in the city are concerned about the presence of Kurds,” he said.
Regarding the situation in Karakosh, the town in which he resides, Father Semaan said the people have organized “a sort of civilian militia to control entries and prevent the infiltration of terrorists.” Karakosh has a population of 25,000, all of whom are Christian.
London, England, Nov 25, 2004 (CNA) - The Daily Mirror Newspaper reported that a 24-year old mother of two was denied the morning-after pill by a Catholic pharmacist on grounds of his religious beliefs.
The woman, who was forced to go to a clinic in order to acquire the pill 6 hours later, plans to sue the pharmacy if she gets pregnant. "What gives him the right to play God?” she asked. “Everyone is entitled to an opinion but I don't want someone making a decision like this for me. It is available to buy so I had the right to buy it. It's irresponsible of the pharmacy not to have someone there who is able to serve it."
However, in not dispensing the pill to the woman, the pharmacist, an employee of Lloyd’s pharmacy, "objected on religious grounds, which he is fully within his rights to do,” said Andy Murdock, Lloyds' pharmacy director.
The pharmaceutical industry’s code of conduct states that he can refuse to do so on religious grounds, as long as he suggests an alternative pharmacist.