Archive of November 29, 2004

By returning relics to Orthodox, Pope marks desire to speed up Christian unity

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II manifested his desire for Christian unity when he handed over the relics of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Gregory Nazianzen to the Orthodox Ecumentical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Saint Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.

In his message to the Patriarch, the “first among equals” of the Orthodox Churches, the Pope said that the return of the relics to the See of Constantinople is "a blessed opportunity to purify our wounded memories, to reinforce our path of reconciliation."

Now, continued the Pope’s messge, is the "propitious moment" to pray so that God "will hasten the hour in which we will be able to live together, in the celebration of the holy Eucharist, full communion, and thus contribute in a more effective manner to make the world believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord."

"I will never cease to seek firmly and determinedly this communion among the disciples of Christ,” stated the Pope in his message, “as my desire, in response to the will of the Lord, consists in being servant of communion 'in truth and in love.'"

Following the Holy Father’s message, the relics of the two great Doctors of the Church were brought to the Pope and the Patriarch who were sitting together during the liturgy, and they both blessed them.

Thanking the Pope for this gesture of reconciliation and expressing the great “happiness and joy" which it brings to the Christian community in Turkey and to the See of Constantinople (now Istanbul), Patriarch Bartholomew said that “a sacred act is celebrated today, which repairs an ecclesiastical anomaly and injustice."

"This fraternal gesture of the Church of ancient Rome,” he continued, “confirms that insurmountable problems do not exist in the Church of Christ, when love, justice and peace meet in the sacred 'diaconia' of reconciliation and unity."

The Patriarch concluded by praising the Pope’s handing over of the relics as "a luminous example that must be imitated." 

The relics were transferred to Istanbul after the liturgy on Saturday. The Vatican is retaining a small part of the relics.

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Rediscover the mystery and significance of Sunday, says Pope

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking yesterday from his balcony overlooking St. Peter’s square befor praying the Angelus, Pope John Paul II urged Christians to rediscover 'with new strength the meaning of Sunday: its 'mystery,' the value of its celebration, its significance for the Christian and human life."

His words referred to the theme of the 24th Italian National Eucharistic Congress which will be held in May 2005, which is “Without Sunday, We Cannot Live,” which he asked all Italian’s to prepare for by rediscovering Sunday.

He also mentinoned that yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent, was the first day of the new liturgical year "during which we will contemplate with particular fervor the face of Christ present in the Eucharist.”

“ Jesus, Incarnate Word, who died and rose from the dead, is the center of history,” said the Holy Father. “The Church adores Him and discovers in Him the ultimate and unifying meaning of all the mysteries of faith: the love of God that gives life.”

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Pope’s handing over of saints relics to Orthodox not a “reparation,” says Vatican

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican has issued a statement saying that some media reports that have presented Pope John Paul II’s handing over of the relics of Saints John Chrysostom and Gregory Nazianzen to the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople on Saturday as an act of “reparation,” or that they had been stolen by Crusaders in the 12th  century and brought to Rome, are mistaken.

On Satuday November 27, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office, stated that “some media have reported that Pope John Paul II's gesture, of great ecclesiastic importance and expression of the 'comunicato in sacris' existing between Eastern and Western Christians, is a 'reparation' and a way for the Pope to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the Catholic Church for taking the relics from the ecumenical Patriarch during the crusades of the 8th century.”

“Such an interpretation,” he added, “is historically inaccurate since the mortal remains of St. Gregory Nazianzen reached Rome in the 8th century during the iconoclastic persecution in order to be saved.”

“Without denying that the tragic events of the 8th century,” he continued, “the return - not restitution - to Constantinople of the relics of the two saints, venerated equally in the West and the East, important examples of the search for unity and peace of the Church of Christ, intends in the third millennium, going beyond the controversies and difficulties of the past, to propose once again such an edifying example and to give rise to a choral prayer of Catholics and Orthodox for their full communion." 

The relics of St. Gregory Nazianzen, who died in 390, were brought to Rome from Constantinople by Byzantine nuns in the 8th century in order to save them from destruction by the iconclast emperors Leo III the Isaurian, and Constantine who denied the cult sacred images.  Whoever venerated these images and relics were persecuted.

The relics of St. John Chrysostom, who died in exile in 407 were brought to Rome in 1258 and place in the altar of the Chapel of the Choir in St. Peter's after its restoration in 1990.

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Experts now say abstinence and fidelity key to stopping AIDS

London, England, Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - Just a few days away from the celebration of World AIDS Day, the prestigious medical magazine “The Lancet” has published a document signed by experts from 36 countries who for the first time recognize that abstinence and fidelity are key to stopping the spread of AIDS.

The text is endorsed by 150 specialists and states that “the time has come to unite efforts to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.”

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, representatives of the World Bank and of the Global Fund for Malaria, Tuberculosis and AIDS, and officials from five UN agencies are among the signers of the statement.

The experts argue that HIV-AIDS has become a health and humanitarian crisis that requires urgent intervention, especially in areas where the disease is prevalent, such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

The signers acknowledged that the use of condoms alone are not enough to stop the spread of AIDS and they stated that abstinence should be promoted among young people who have not yet engaged in sexual activity, emphasizing that avoiding risks is the best way to prevent AIDS and other STD infections, as well as unwanted pregnancies.

If sexual activity has already occurred, they said, such individuals should be encouraged to return to abstinence or mutual fidelity with a health person as the best way to avoid infection.

Although the experts continue to promote the use of condoms among “sexually active young people,” they insist they are not 100% safe.  “Young people and adults should know that condoms reduce the risk of infection from 80-90% when they are used consistently,” they said.

Likewise they promote preventative programs both at school and at home, stating that parents must assume their responsibility in the passing on of values and expectations related to the sexual behavior of their children.

Regarding sexually active adults, the first priority should be the promotion of mutual fidelity with a health partner, they said.  The experience in countries in which the incidence of infections has diminished shows that reduction in the number of partners is critical for achieving this objective on a wide scale.

The case of Uganda

According to the Spanish medical publication “Diario Médico”, at the last International Conference on AIDS in Bangkok, “Several individuals criticized the abstinence and fidelity program promoted by the Ugandan government and defended by its president for other nations. It was not politically correct to speak in these terms.”  Nevertheless, according to the document in “The Lancet,” the inefficiency of other means and the interesting results of Uganda constitute a radical shift in the policies of prevention, up to now centered exclusively on condom use, especially among international entities.

In 1991, Uganda had 15% of its population infected with AIDS, and in the year 2002 that number fell by 5%.  UNAIDS has acknowledged that this decline is “unique in the world” and that Uganda is achieving results comparable with “the existence of a vaccination with an effectiveness of 80%.”

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Catholic bishops advise sick parishioners not to shake hands or drink from chalice

Springfield, Ill., Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - Concerned about the health of their parishioners, several United States bishops have issued advisories, telling churchgoers that they should not shake hands or drink from the chalice during mass if they have a flu or a cold.

The advisories were issued recently in the dioceses of Boston and Springfield in Massachusetts, after an unforeseen shortage of influenza vaccine this year in the Northeastern U.S.

The Archdiocese of Boston issued an advisory to its 2.1 million parishioners in early November, saying common sense “should reign supreme.”

“If one is sick, one should not receive from the cup,” it said. Likewise, it would be better – “for the good of others” – not to shake hands. 

Diocesan spokesperson Kelly Lynch said Boston’s advisories were in part a response to inquiries from parishioners.

Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield went so far as to say that parishioners who are sick “can excuse themselves from Sunday worship out of respect for their fellow worshipers.”

Reportedly, it was an issue raised by a physician, who was concerned that unless elderly faithful Catholics heard from the bishop that they could excuse themselves from mass if they were sick, they would continue to attend to their detriment and to the detriment of fellow parishioners.

Bishop Kenneth Angell of Burlington, Vermont, issued similar guidelines in October, after the state said it was short 50,000 doses of flu vaccine. The ban began Oct. 31 and will end Easter Sunday, March 27.

Health advisories are not unusual. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has occasionally issued recommendations on how to prevent disease transmission during mass.

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New Catholic high school likely for Northern Colorado

Denver, Colo., Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - Plans for a new Catholic high school and eventual church are brewing in the Archdiocese of Denver, north of the city. The archdiocese has given its official backing for the project, which was initiated by two lay people, reported the Northern Colorado Business Report.

Dr. Richard Kemme, a retired orthopedic surgeon, is one of the two who initiated the project, and he is working on having a 46-acre plot rezoned. The 500-student high school would be located among the towns of Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley, an area that has seen growth in recent years.

The archdiocese has 39 elementary schools in Northern Colorado; but all of its six high schools are in the city of Denver.

"We have the blessing of the archdiocese on the site," said Kemme, a member of St. Mary Parish in nearby Greeley.

The archdiocese’s school superintendent, Richard Thompson, and the church district's chief financial officer were taken for a tour of the site. They also met with parish and town officials.

Fundraising for the new school will begin if the $650,000 land deal closes as planned in December.

Denver architect Ron Falaede, who won two national awards for his design of St. Mary's Parish school in Greeley, was hired to do a preliminary land plan for the site and building designs.

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Scottish cardinal challenges government to make St. Andrew’s national holiday

Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - Scotland is debating whether it should legislate another public holiday, and a Scottish cardinal is suggesting that it be on St. Andrew’s Day.

Keith Cardinal O’Brien says St. Andrew’s Day would unite people of all faiths, and he has challenged the First Minister, Jack McConnell, to test the issue with a consultation process. “I am sure those of other faiths would welcome the patronage of St. Andrew,” whom he describes as “a unifying force” all over the world, he says.

In fact, his suggestion has found agreement among representatives from the Church of Scotland, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Scottish Episcopal Church.

But the Scottish Executive has rejected the principle of a holiday on St. Andrew’s Day, with McConnell proposing that celebrations from next year are “themed”, starting with the concept of “One Scotland, Many Cultures.”

Dennis Canavan MSP will table his own three-month consultation on turning Nov. 30 into a public holiday. He says he has support from a host of organizations and a cross-party section of 50 MSPs.

The idea of another public holiday has found opposition from the Federation of Small Businesses and the CBI, who are afraid that it might have adverse economic effects.

“I know that big business may not be happy at the thought, but whatever they lost they would more than make up in enthusiasm and spirit when people returned to work,” says the cardinal.

“And from big business to the ordinary, working people, everyone would benefit from having a day in the darkness of winter to recharge their batteries and think of Scottishness and nationhood,” he argues.

Scotland has the fewest public holidays in Europe with only seven. Many European countries have as many as 14.

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Catholic television becomes national in Canada

Toronto, Canada, Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - Canada’s first Catholic television network is now available coast to coast through Bell ExpressVu satellite television on channel 654. Salt + Light Television is currently on free preview for Bell ExpressVu subscribers until mid-January.

The media and global communications giant came on board as a carrier in October. By Dec. 15, Cogeco will also carry the Catholic network. ROGERS and Videotron (Illico) digital cable services already carry it.

Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation began in 2002 with a staff of four and a $5-million funding grant from the Toronto-based Gagliano family. It now has 25 employees, and the Gaglianos have pumped another $5 million into the project, reported Canadian Catholic News. The network is also in the process of seeking corporate funding.

In a recent visit to Canada, Sr. Nirmala Joshi, Mother Teresa’s successor as mother general of the Missionaries of Charity, granted the network an exclusive interview for a new series that is currently in production, called Witness.

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New president of Chilean Bishops Conference says: “We will be passionate defenders of life”

Santiago, Chile, Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Alejandro Goic, the new president of the Bishops Conference of Chile, announced this Friday that the bishops of the country “shall not back away from defending life in all of its stages.”

Reporting on the bishops’ Plenary Assembly which concluded last Friday, Bishop Goic said that in response to the present social and cultural condition of the country, “We will defend the value of life in all of its stages.”  The bishop recalled that in the past, “during a very painful period, we were criticized for defending human dignity under attack from torture.  Now we are criticized for other reasons, but we will not back away from our evangelical and human zeal for defending life in all of its stages, for the good of our country.”

“Life is sacred from the moment of conception until the final encounter with God.  We shall be passionate defenders of life in all of its stages, but obviously in an environment of dialogue in a pluralist context,” Bishop Goic stated.  Later he warned that the country should prepare itself to accept with maturity the conclusions forthcoming from a national commission on political imprisonment and torture. He called the report a step forward towards national reconciliation and explained that the bishops have expressed their well-wishes and gratitude to Bishop Sergio Valech and the other members of the commission that is preparing the report.

Responding to a question about Chile’s new law allowing divorce, Bishop Goic reiterated the position of the Bishops that, while they accept the positive aspects of the new law, indissoluble marriage is good for Chile.

“We will do everything possible to make Catholics and all people of good understand the value of unity and indissolubility in marriage, while showing respect at the same time for those who have not been successful,” he added.

Holy priests

Bishop Goic later said that the main theme discussed by the bishops at their meeting was the need for ministry to priests, and that one of the conclusions was the drafting of a letter of encouragement to priests in all of the dioceses of Chile.

“Chile needs holy priests today. Inasmuch as we priests live out the Gospels beyond our smallness, we do a good to our country.  Our hope is that priests will be very faithful to the Lord and very close to the people,” he concluded.

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Argentinean bishops announces march for life and the family

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Ruben Frassia of Avellaneda, Argentina, announced last Saturday that the Church will promote a huge march for life that will take place in Buenos Aires on December 11.

“We want to have the pleasure of saying: we are more and we want to support things that are vital to us, such as the family, marriage between a man and a woman and the defense of life from the moment of conception in the mother’s womb,” the bishop said.

“From this Diocese of Avellaneda-Lanus, we wish to invite everyone to get involved…This will be an ecumenical event.  Therefore it is not necessary to be Catholic or to be believer” to participate.

“The purpose of this march,” he went on, “is not to pick a fight with anybody, but we do want to say that we wish to live these truths and, therefore, let us live them out and help us to live them, and for this reason we wish to be witnesses.  They are the values of non-violence with security, respect for returning to things that are traditional and that belong to us.”

“I invite everyone to participate…Let’s allow ourselves to be bothered a little bit and to participate, to make our voices heard,” Bishop Frassia said.

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Nuncio in Bolivia says only dialogue will help to overcome crisis

La Paz, Bolivia, Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Bolivia, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, said this week the current social crisis facing the country can only be overcome by a frank dialogue between all parties of the conflict.

Bolivia is currently in a political crisis, made worse by conflicts between various labor sectors and by regional demands.

Archbishop Scapolo recalled the messages sent by Pope John Paul II, who said, “The solution to problems is not in violence, nor in confrontation, but above all in dialogue, harmony, and unity among the Bolivian people.”

The archbishop stated that dialogue should always be accompanied by respect for human rights and justice.

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Russian Orthodox Church barrier to dialogue in East Europe, says expert

Konigstein, Germany, Nov 29, 2004 (CNA) - Marko Tomashek, Aid to the Church in Need’s chief Easter Europe expert, has explained that there is "a line of division" between the Russian Orthodox Church and all the other ecclesial communities and churches in the Ukraine, which was made very evident in the recent elections.

In a Vatican Radio interview on November 27, he stated that in terms of dialogue, "Catholics priests and bishops are open…to everyone - with Muslims on the Krim peninsula, with Jewish faithful, with Atheists or Orthodox. But the openness must be reciprocated,” he said.

However he said, “the Moscow Patriarchate stands increasingly isolated while all other Churches - Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, Orthodox Patriarchate of Kyiv and many Protestant communities - have a different position."

Tomashek said that during the elections last week in Ukraine, this split was made more clear: "I believe that of all Churches only the Moscow Patriarchate has taken a clear position in favour of the government's candidate, even on election day.”

“One Orthodox bishop,” he said, “even went so far as to say that whoever does not vote for the government's candidate would be denied the sacraments for two months. Such action has set them apart from the other Churches.”

Concluding, he said: "I think, people have noticed this quite clearly and it will lead to interesting ecumenical and inter- Church developments, because people will now see which Church is upholding general moral principles and which Church is promoting the interests of particular parties."

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