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Archive of November 30, 2004

Miami Archbishop denounces Cuban government for blocking entry of donations

Miami, Fla., Nov 30, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop John Favalora of Miami traveled to Cuba on Monday to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Santiago but was told by the Cuban government he could not enter the country with the food and religious donations which he had brought with him.

Upon returning to the Miami airport on Monday, Archbishop Favalora said his delegation arrived in Cuba with 21 large duffel bags filled with medicine and religious items but Cuban officials said without explanation that he could not enter the country with the bags

"It wasn't until this morning that we were told that they would not accept them," Favalora said after arriving at Miami International Airport. "We either had to leave them there or bring them home and of course if we left them there it might be used by the government, and we just refused to do that. And so, unfortunately, we had to bring those 21 bags of humanitarian and spiritual aid back home with us," he said, adding that the Archdiocese will seek other means of delivering the donations.

Msgr. Tomas Marin, chaplain of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department and member of the delegation that accompanied the Archbishop, told reporters, “They did not give us any reasons. They only said we could not deliver them.” Archbishop Favalora travelled to Cuba with 16 priests and lay people.

Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who has travelled to Cuba several times and joined Favalora on the latest trip, said he has been moved by the strength of faith shown by Cubans.

"The churches were relatively empty in '89," he said. "Today, the people don't fit in the churches of Cuba."

Dissidents released

Meanwhile, on Monday the Cuban government released 3 of the 75 dissidents that received prison sentences ranging from 8 to 28 years in April of 2003, for health reasons. Although six were expected to be released, the government only waived the sentences of Marcelo Lopez, Magarito Broche and journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe.

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Motherhood and fatherhood are complementary Cardinal explains at Family summit

Doha, Qatar, Nov 30, 2004 (CNA) - At the International Conference on the Family this morning in Doha, Qatar, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, addressed the growth of an ideology hostile to the family which obscures the natural complementarity of men and women in conjugal love and upbringing of children, and underscored the fundamental importance of this complementarity for family life, children and society.

"One truth that is present in a profound way in all cultures and religions is that of the family based on marriage, the only worthy and appropriate place for conjugal love," with the couple's "complete, reciprocal self-giving.”

He said that “a child, God's most precious gift, is the fruit of this mutual self-giving, and the spouses are associated with God, the source of human life, with their complete masculinity and femininity."

"Today an ideology hostile to the family is spreading in some parliaments not only in Europe, but in America too,” he noted. “In fact, in the past decade, the complementarity between a man and a woman and the overcoming of any opposition between the sexes have strangely been negated.”

He argued that “the abuses deriving from a certain kind of 'male chauvinist' domination ...are not valid arguments for an exacerbated feminism that considers marriage and the family a place of slavery, and fatherhood and motherhood an unbearable burden that turns into fear."

Cardinal Trujillo said it is "necessary to oppose ''polyform sexuality", underlining that "recognition of 'de facto' unions, which are a legal fiction, proposing same-sex unions as an alternative to marriage, and inventing new, unacceptable notions of marriage to the point of accepting the adoption of children, are grave signs of dehumanization," and noted that it is not discrimination to oppose these things, it is protecting spouses and children.

Motherhood and fatherhood as complementary

Spouses are "cooperators with the love of God the Creator," he said, noting that "responsible motherhood and fatherhood express a concrete commitment to carry out this duty, which has taken on new characteristics in the contemporary world.”

The cardinal affirmed that “the roles of father and mother are complementary and inseparable; they presuppose that specific, interpersonal relations are established between the children and the parents.”

"Motherhood," said Cardinal Trujillo, "is closely tied to the personal structure of the human being and the personal dimension of the gift. A mother's contribution is decisive in laying the foundations of a new human personality.”

“The father's role, which all too often is obscured,” he said, “is of great importance in the formation of the children's personality and in the decisive choices that concern their future.”

“This reciprocal influence of the father and the mother is manifested in the complementarity of the paternal and maternal roles in a child's upbringing," he said.

Disturbed by the devaluaton of motherhood in our societies,  Cardinal Trujillo declared that "motherhood is ... a life in the service of a vocation of the greatest importance for individual persons, for the family, and for the whole of society.”

He also pointed out that families have a responsibility to educate greater awareness of the father’s task.

Responsibility of politicians

Turning to the need for political authorities to do their part to protect the family, the cardinal pointed out that “the family, a natural society, exists prior to the State, any other political organization or juridical institution. Therefore, the originality and identity of the family based on marriage must be recognized by the political authorities."

"In the State's protection of the family,” he added, “the real interests of the State coincide with those of the family and children. It is in the family first of all where human capital is formed on all levels: that is, the wonderful resource that consists of a human person brought up with a sense of responsibility and a job well done.”

“This is what Pope John Paul II states in the Encyclical 'Centesimus Annus': 'The first and fundamental structure for 'human ecology' is the family, in which man receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness'."

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Cultivate intimacy with Christ, says Pope to Legionaries, on anniversary of founder

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2004 (CNA) - The 60th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder and superior general of the Legionaries of Christ, was celebrated this morning by 4000 priests and seminarians of the order, and members of the “Regnum Christi” movement, who were received by Pope John Paul II in the Vatican.

This "happy circumstance," said the Pope, "invites us to recall the gifts that he has received from the Lord in these 60 years of priestly ministry and at the same time it is an occasion to highlight the commitments that you have taken on as Legionaries of Christ at the service of the Gospel."

"In particular today, coming to see the Successor of Peter, you want to renew the commitment of your total fidelity to the Church and to him who providence wanted as its pastor," he said.

The "difficult mission" of proclaiming the Gospel requires that we  “cultivate constant intimacy with Christ, striving to follow and imitate Him docilely,” he continued.  “This,” he said, “will make you always ready to respond to the most genuine and profound expectations of the men and women of our time."

He concluded by asking that " the Year of the Eucharist, which began in October, be a promising occasion to grow in love for the Eucharist, source and summit of all of Christian life.”

“Stay close to the Eucharist!…the charism that characterizes you,” exhorted the Holy Father. “Continue in your evangelizing mission, while nourishing yourselves with Christ and being fearless witnesses."

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Baptism controversy points to larger question of communion, says Australian archbishop

Brisbane, Australia, Nov 30, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane has publicly questioned whether a parish could be in communion with the Church if its ordained ministers do not use words from Scripture and do not follow the appropriate rites during the sacraments.

The archbishop's comments follow a controversy that recently broke in the press last week, where priests at St. Mary Parish’s in South Brisbane for the last 10 years were using the words "creator, liberator and sustainer" to baptize, instead of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

Archbishop Bathersby said such baptisms were invalid and would need to be redone.

"Larger questions lie not far beneath the surface of the controversy, and it is the question of communion, namely whether a parish of the Roman Catholic Church can be in communion with the Archdiocesan Church and the Universal Church if it changes the structure of the sacraments and locates its authority within the community," Archbishop Bathersby wrote in a comment in the Nov. 30 issue of the Courier Mail. "The baptism formula is merely one aspect, but an important one, of all these other questions."

The archbishop said yesterday that it was up to the pastor and his parishioners to decide if they wanted to be in communion with the archdiocese and the universal Church.

"They either want to be in communion or not," the archbishop reportedly said. "If they decide they don't want to follow the authority of the Church, then they have made the choice not to be a part of the universal Church."

However, he confirmed that the pastor, Fr. Peter Kennedy, had given him a commitment two months ago that St. Mary's would return to using traditional words in the sacraments.

Archbishop Bathersby also questioned whether a priest, who does not follow the appropriate sacramental rites, would be able to continue in his ministry.

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Sudanese government expells charity worker, warns aid organizations in Darfur

Khartoum, Sudan, Nov 30, 2004 (CNA) - The Sudan director of the UK based aid agency Save the Children was expelled from the east African country yesterday, accused by the Sudanese government of breaking the country’s law and of interfering in its domestic affairs.

Save the Children were providing relief to the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the war-torn western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Save the Children confirmed yesterday that it had received two letters from the Sudanese Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs expelling Kate Halff, the director of the agency, and issuing an offical warning to the agency.

Oxfam, another UK based charity has also received a letter of warning from the government ministry.

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Australian Council approves first Catholic medical school, worries about Catholic “bias”

Sydney, Australia, Nov 30, 2004 (CNA) - The Australian Medical Council (AMC) yesterday gave official accreditation to the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle, Australia’s first Catholic medical school. However, some members of the council, and the Australian media have expressed concern that because the school is Catholic it may provide inadequate and biased teaching.

According to Australian journalist Charlie Wilson-Clark, the AMC’s report listed certain reservations with regard to the university’s stance on “homosexuality, abortion, contraception, IVF and euthanasia” saying that they present philosophical and physical constraints "which may affect the provision of teaching and clinical experience which is both adequate and unbiased".

The University will teach compulsory units in theology, philosophy and ethics to all students.

The AMC listed the $15 million financial backing and the partnership with Curtin University which wil provide facilities for biomedical training, and a commitment to provide a solid grounding in medical ethics as strengths.

“I am totally convinced that the Catholic nature of the university will only enhance the educational experience, not restrict it," said Professor Adrian Bower, head of the new medical school.   He also said that "religion had not formed part of the selection criteria for students.”

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Pro-family group urges legislators to defend marriage despite Supreme Court decision

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2004 (CNA) - The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene yesterday in the May 17 Massachusetts court ruling that has allowed same-sex couples to marry in the state.

Conservative groups had appealed to Supreme Court Justices to overturn the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Citizens may have a chance in November 2006 to amend the Massachusetts State constitution if state legislators decide to put the issue before voters as a ballot initiative.

"Massachusetts has already begun the lengthy process of amending its state constitution to overturn the Supreme Judicial Court's usurpation of power in the Goodridge decision," said Peter Sprigg, senior director of policy studies at Family Research Council, in a written comment. “We urge the newly elected legislature and the people to continue and complete this process in defense of both marriage and democracy,” he said.

The council intends to continue working for a Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which, Sprigg says, would preserve the definition of marriage against judicial activism at the federal level.

"Marriage is about more than tax credits and other financial benefits. It is about preserving the best environment for raising children and the safest, healthiest living situation for adults," says Sprigg.

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U.S. businesses receive ‘Religion-Friendly Zone’ decals in time for Christmas

, Nov 30, 2004 (CNA) - Every December the Catholic League expends considerable resources fighting against those who seek to censor Christmas. This year, the league is placing its efforts in actively promoting Christmas in the private sector.

It has tens of thousands of ‘Religion-Friendly Zone’ decals to directors of human resources, across the country, at major malls; fraternal organizations; chain department stores, bookstores, drug stores and supermarkets; Fortune 500 businesses; banks; chain restaurants and hotels.

The round, plastic, red and green decal can be stuck in a store window. It says ‘Religion-Friendly Zone’ along the top, and in the center are hands clasped in prayer.

“There is no law which bars privately owned businesses from displaying religious symbols,” said Catholic League president William Donohue.

The decal will indicate to others that the business allows for all religious displays, said Donohue. “Though it is certainly our hope that Christmas [displays] will be prominently featured,” he added.

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‘God Squad’ constructs Nativity scene in downtown Chicago

Chicago, Ill., Nov 30, 2004 (CNA) - The God Squad, a group of carpenters and tradesmen, donated their time and energies Nov. 27 to construct a one-of-a-kind Christmas display at Daley Center Plaza in downtown Chicago, reported The Illinois Leader.

Every year, the volunteers build one of the world's largest Nativity scenes around Thanksgiving and take it down on the last day of December.

The God Squad is headed and financed by retired businessman and Catholic activist Jim Finnegan, and business owner and founder of the Walsh Forum radio program Dick Walsh.

"We have received cell phone calls from people who are standing in front of the nativity scene, telling us how much they appreciate what we are doing," Finnegan told IllinoisLeader.com.

But city officials did not always welcome the display. A report in The Illinois Leader traces the history of the display.

In 1987, Chicago city attorney Judson Miner declared that the Nativity scene, located on the City Hall's property, violated the principle of separation of church and state and that "it was time to get rid of the thing."

The late pastor, Fr. Hiram Crawford, and activist William Grutzmacher decided they would fight to "keep Christ in Christmas", and they led a group of citizens into Miner’s office. After the meeting, the crèche was moved to the Daley Center Plaza, a traditional venue for free speech, including political demonstrations.

That year, TV news crews also taped city workers demolishing the Nativity scene. People from as far away as Germany called City Hall to protest, saying they could "not believe this could happen in America."

Two years later, Federal Judge James B. Parsons decided on behalf of Grutzmacher to allow the Nativity scene display during the Christmas season. The Dec. 4, 1989 ruling was made despite opposition from the American Jewish Congress, the ACLU, American Atheists, and the circulators of a petition, which was even signed by the late Joseph Cardinal Bernadin, archbishop of Chicago.

"Our founding fathers didn't intend to take religion out of the state, they took state out of religion," Finnegan told IllinoisLeader.com. "It would be our hope that other persons would take on the challenge of putting Christ back into Christmas in their area, by being responsible for a similar display in their towns."

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Switzerland to allow embryonic stem cell research

Zurich, Switzerland, Nov 30, 2004 (CNA) - The Swiss voted on Sunday to support a government proposal to allow embryonic stem cell research, which will mean the of thousands of lives.

According to the results of a national referendum on Sunday, two thirds of voters said “yes” to the controversial proposal that would allow studies with embryonic stem cells that are less than seven days old and are discarded at a fertility treatment centers.

The vote made Switzerland the first country in the world to submit the issue to a vote.

Until Sunday, experiments with human embryos had been prohibited in the country.

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