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Archive of December 1, 2004

Prevent AIDS by education for chastity and respect for sacredness of human life

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican Press Office released a message today on the occasion of World AIDS Day, dedicated to women this year, written by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, which calls for education on the sacredness of human life and in chastity as ways to prevent "one of the most devastating epidemics of our times.”

The letter notes that AIDS has killed 22 million people so far and 42 million people currently suffer from it.

"I share the concern of the international community,” said the Cardinal Lozano, “for the dramatic consequences of this disease on health, life conditions, perspectives, the statute and dignity of women and girls in many regions of the world.”

He said that “the impact of HIV/AIDS on women aggravates inequality and impedes progress toward the universality of rights.  The more the disease spreads among women, who are the nucleus of the family and of communities, the greater the risk of social devastation."

Cardinal Lozano pointed to Pope John Paul II’s Message for the World Day of the Sick 2005 which states that “education with respect to the sacred value of life and the formation and correct practice of sexuality," were necessary in order to responsibly fight AIDS, and he said that observing the virtue of chastity can prevent an increase in AIDS cases.

The president of the council indicated that campaign against AIDS can be carried out by "asking industrialized countries to help countries who need it …while avoiding every form of colonialism, and lowering the price of the necessary antiretroviral drugs as much as possible in order to cure those afflicted with AIDS."

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Settlement reported imminent between California diocese and alleged sexual abuse victims

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - A settlement is reported to be imminent between the Catholic Diocese of Orange and 60 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse, after two years of negotiations, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The plaintiffs were requested in court for the first time by the Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Owen Lee Kwong, an indication that the settlement was in it’s last steps towards completion.

In June the negotiations collapsed after attorneys for the alleged victims rejected a $40 million offer by the Bishop of Orange, Msgr. Tod D. Brown.

Were the case settled for $40 million it would have been the second-highest settlement by a US diocese, after the Diocese of Boston paid out $85 million to 552 victims in 2003.

The average payout of any settlement in this case could well serve as a model for the 500 or so cases pending against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The cases in Orange and Los Angeles are part of a coordinated negotiation process that involves two other southern Californian dioceses.

If the parties fail to reach a settlement, the lawsuits will move toward a trial. The only trial that has gone forward in California ended in two victims being awarded $30 million by the jury, but the diocese’s payout was reduced to $13 million, and then $7 million after negotiations.

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Violating rights of the poor is an act against God, says Pope

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking on Psalm 71 in today's general audience in the Paul VI Hall, Pope John Paul II explained that because “the Lord is the guardian and defender of the poor and oppressed,” according to the Bible, violating the rights of the poor is “an act against God.”

The Pope said that the psalm opens with an "intense choral appeal to God to grant the sovereign the basic gift to govern and administer justice, especially with the poor who are often the victims of power."

"If the rights of the poor are violated, not only does a politically incorrect and morally evil act occur,” he said. “According to the Bible, an act against God is perpetrated, a religious offense, because the Lord is the guardian and defender of the poor and oppressed, widows and orphans, those who have no one to protect them on earth."

The Holy Father said that "it is easy to understand how tradition has substituted the often disappointing king ... with the luminous and glorious physiognomy of the Messiah...who will judge the poor justly and who will make fair decisions in favor of the poor of the land."

"After this lively and passionate plea for the gift of justice," he continued, "the psalm looks beyond and contemplates how the Messianic kingdom is spread on two coordinates, those of time and space. ... A rich and serene kingdom based on the basic values of justice and peace.”

“These are the signs of the entrance of the Messiah in our history," he concluded.

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Pope’s prayer intentions for December: children, inculturation of the Gospel

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father's general prayer intention for the month of December is: "That children may be considered as precious gifts of God and may be given due respect, understanding and love."

His missionary intention is: "That Jesus Christ's Incarnation may be the model of genuine inculturation of the Gospel."

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Civil Unions bill in New Zealand to be voted on tomorrow, an abuse of democracy says watchdog group

Aukland, New Zealand, Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - Family Life International, New Zealand has released a statement warning that The Civil Union Bill proposing the legalisation of same sex unions, to be brought before New Zealand’s parliament this thursday, is severly lacking in due democratic process, is loaded with conflicts of interest, contains false claims, and has been unduly rushed in order to take advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge of the precise nature of the bill.

The Bill, on which a final vote is expected by December 7th , “is far too important to be handled the way it has been and the negative ramifications which will follow if it is passed into law will be felt for many generations to come,” says Family Life, who have called it “one of the most disgraceful abuses of political position and totalitarian ignorance that this country has witnessed in a long time.”

Conflict of interest

Right from its inception this Bill has been driven and sustained by minority politics, say Family Life, who point out that the Select Committee proposed for Civil Union Legislation was chaired by MP Tim Barnett, an openly homosexual public supporter of the bill who has stated that the equal-rights agenda needs to take advantage of the queer-friendly government now in power.

Barnett and another member of the Select Committee, MP Chris Carter, who plans to enter a civil union the moment it is legal, both stand to gain personally from the bill’s passing.

Circumvention of due democratic process

Despite the fact that 95% of the 6000 public submissions to the Select Committee concerning the bill opposed legislation of the bill, they were ignored and the bill was passed forward to be voted upon – “an unjustifiable mockery of the Select Committee process,” says Family Life.

The bill was brought before parliament a Private Member’s Bill, “which means that no New Zealand citizen who voted for the current government at the last election had any idea that this Bill would be part of their current political agenda.”

A “yes” vote from only  61 Members of Parliament, of whom several stand to gain personally, is all that is required for the Bill to become law for a nation of 4 million people.

Family Life claim that the legislation of the bill, which affects the lives of every New Zealander, is far too important to be decided by 61 people and should be the subject of a public referendum.

The fact that the bill, if passed into law, will have been done so under parliamentary urgency, a condition which unnaturally speeds the Bill into law, shows that it is only beneficial to the minority who support this Bill because it nullifies public involvement in the decision making process

Deliberately rushed

Only six months of parliamentary time has been given to debating the bill despite the fact that it will have very serious social implications for the whole country for generations to come.

“If it becomes law next week,” says Family Life, “it will become the quickest implemented legislation of this type in the world.”

Family Life state that since there is no conceivable reason for rushing the bill, “more time should be given for a complete and transparent investigation and debate of the issues surrounding this proposed legislation.”

False claims

The claim that much needed rights for heterosexual de-facto couples as well as for same sex couples by supporters of the bill, is entirely untrue, says Family Life, and is meant to divert attention from the real purpose of the bill.

No more rights are afforded to heterosexual de-facto couples than are already afforded under current New Zealand laws.

It is highly likely, claim Family Life, that “the proposed legislation will contain a clause that will allow recognition of same sex marriages solemnized in other countries, meaning that a homosexual couple residing in New Zealand would simply have to marry abroad to have their union legally recognized in this country on their return.”

“This Bill is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to legalize homosexual marriage and in turn homosexual parenting,” say Family Life.

“At best this proposed legislation is undemocratic social experimentation at worst it is totalitarian law-making that benefits a very small minority of New Zealanders at the expense of future generations.”

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Public schools should respect faith practice of Muslim and Christian students equally, says Catholic League

, Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - In recent years, public schools across the United States have removed Christmas traditions in an attempt to be “inclusive” and not offend students of other faiths. They’ve replaced references to the Christmas season with “Winter Holiday,” removed Nativity scenes and changed Christmas pageants to “Winter Festivals.”

Catholic League president William Donohue says this is “nonsense.” He points out in a press release what some public schools recently did to accommodate Muslim students during Ramadan, and says the faith of Christian students should be equally recognized and respected.

For example, Donohue says, Muslim students at Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord, California, and Tahali Community School in St. Cloud, Florida, were allowed a quiet space to pray.

As well, after protests, Muslim students at Brooklyn International High School were allowed to miss class for four Fridays during Ramadan to attend mosque services.

At Salem High School in New Hampshire, the Muslim Students Association held a Ramadan “Fast-A-Thon” wherein they received contributions from classmates and teachers (proceeds went to a local soup kitchen).  In a show of support, the teachers skipped lunch as well.  In addition, the group held a fast-breaking feast at the public school at 4:30 p.m.

At Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, which is a publicly funded charter school in Minnesota, all of the students – including non-Muslims – followed the traditional Muslim fast.

And Gwinnett school officials in Georgia excused Muslim students from the final class period every school day. One of the make-up options is for students to take a religious studies class off-campus.

“The degree of tolerance that these public schools have shown for Muslim students during Ramadan is encouraging,” says Donohue. “Maybe now we can get the schools to stop with this ‘Winter Holiday’ nonsense and get down to celebrating Christmas with a concert that features a Nativity scene and the singing of ‘Silent Night.’”

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Pro-life group seeks ‘prayer missionaries’ to be part of new e-mail prayer network

Front Royal, Va., Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - The largest pro-life organization in the world is seeking people who are willing to assist in its pro-life mission through a new e-mail prayer network.

Human Life International (HLI) will launch the new prayer program Dec. 3, on the feast day of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of missionaries, in an effort to draw people into prayer for the pro-life missions around the world.

Prayer missionaries would receive monthly bulletins by e-mail, starting Dec. 3, asking for prayers for HLI projects and offices around the world. They would also receive “HLI prayer alerts” for special projects or urgent needs.

To be a prayer missionary would involve praying daily for HLI, as well as for the intentions one would receive by e-mail. One would also prayerfully “adopt” an HLI branch or affiliate in one of the 50 countries in which HLI operates. HLI also asks prayer missionaries to make a personal consecration to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of HLI, on her feast day, Dec. 12.

In return, HLI has committed to pray for prayer missionaries and their families at daily mass at St. Michael the Archangel Chapel at the organization’s head office in Front Royal, Va., as well as at its offices in Miami and wherever HLI priests are celebrating mass around the world.

To become a prayer missionary, go to: http://lists.hli.org/mailman/listinfo/prayers_lists.hli.org

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US bishops’ Christmas special to air on NBC stations

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - An hour-long Christmas special, produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC), will be distributed to NBC-TV stations Dec. 19.

Washington’s newly renovated Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle is the setting for the program. “Christmas from the Cathedral of St. Matthew” features two programs, which explore the meaning of the Christmas season and celebrate the rich diversity of the Church in the United States

Told through the use of charming clay animation, "The First Christmas" tells the traditional story of the birth of Jesus, beginning with Mary and Joseph's trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Produced by Billy Budd Films, with support from the CCC and the Christophers, "The First Christmas" is a past winner of the American Library Association's Andrew Carnegie Medal as the Best Children's Video of the Year.

The second program, "La Gran Posada," brings this biblical story into the present day by exploring the Mexican tradition of Las Posadas (the lodgings), which recreates Mary and Joseph's search for shelter on the eve of the birth of Jesus.

Produced by the Hispanic Telecommunications Network of San Antonio, "La Gran Posada" focuses on the oldest of San Antonio's nine posadas and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the community keeps this tradition alive. It is also a compelling story of personal transformation and compassion – the moving story of Mexican immigrants who, like Mary and Joseph, have left their homes seeking a better life.

Hosted by Carole Lehan, co-host of the CCC's Catholic Radio Weekly, "Christmas from the Cathedral of St. Matthew" also features traditional Latin American music performed by the Cathedral's Capilla Musical Iberoamericana.

"Christmas from the Cathedral of St. Matthew" will be scheduled at the discretion of NBC-TV affiliates. Viewers can contact their local NBC-TV station for broadcast times.

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Supreme Court of Canada to rule on same-sex marriage

Ottawa, Canada, Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - The Supreme Court of Canada has announced that it will render its decision on the constitutionality of the federal government’s same-sex marriage bill Dec. 9.

The federal government had referred the bill to the Supreme Court in July 2003. The court only held its hearings at the beginning of October 2004.

Conservative and pro-family groups are surprised by the news. In prior reports, advocacy groups and government officials had said the decision was not expected before the spring.

While a positive decision by the court does not make the proposed bill a law, conservative groups fear that members of Parliament will use the court decision to push the bill through rather than engage in House debate.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has said that the issue would be put to a free vote in the House.

A recent private member’s bill, asking the House to vote on whether marriage as the union of one man and one woman is constitutional, was quashed by a committee last week and not allowed to proceed to a vote.

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Parish priest in Spain explains denial of Eucharist to homosexual couple

Jaen, Spain, Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - Father Francisco Perez, a parish priest in the city of Acala la Real, Spain, said this week his decision to deny communion to a homosexual couple was based on canon law and for the good of the faithful.

The incident, which gave way to a new round of attacks on the Church as “homophobic,” took place during a funeral Mass for the mother of one of homosexual men, who came forward together to receive communion.

The two men, renowned for their activism, were the first to obtain a civil union from the Acala la Real city hall.  Both are well known in the community and operate a hair salon.

Father Perez said his actions were “in conformity with Canon Law,” since he “did not deny them communion because of the fact they are homosexuals, but rather because they live publicly and openly in a state which the Church teaches is not moral.”

Father Perez stated that the Church “has laws” and “whoever adopts a belief contrary to Church teaching cannot receive communion.”

He also pointed out that his decision to deny them communion was carried out “with the greatest of discretion so that it would not be too noticed,” but that it was the homosexual couple that decided to make it a public issue.

”I only followed the law of the Church,” and therefore, he added, “my conscience is clear.”

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Legislator attempts to block “abortion boat” from docking in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - A Buenos Aires Congressman has launched a legal effort to keep the Dutch abortion ship “Aurora” from docking in Argentina and offering abortion services to Argentinean women.

Abortion promoters in the country have announced the intended arrival of the Aurora, the boat operated by Women on the Waves which picks up women and takes them out to international waters so they can obtain abortions.

Congressman Jorge Enriquez said the Argentinean Penal Code considers abortion a crime and that if the boat is allowed to come to Argentina, “tomorrow a boat offering euthanasia could come and pick up terminally ill patients to have them killed out in open waters.”

The President of Women on the Waves, Rebecca Goomperts of Holland, has been invited by pro-abortion lawmakers to visit Argentina on December 9.

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Church calls for justice and forgiveness after release of torture report in Chile

Santiago, Chile, Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - The Executive Committee of the Bishops Conference of Chile is calling on Chileans to respond with justice and a spirit of reconciliation to the painful “Report on Political Imprisonment and Torture.”

The report, which was drafted by a government-commissioned committee led by Archbishop Sergio Valech, gathered together information about individuals who suffered political imprisonment or torture during the military regime of 1973-1990.

The report has led Chilean President Ricardo Lagos to announce reparations for numerous victims of torture.

The bishops state that “to relive painful situations has not been easy for anybody, especially for those who were the victims of traumatic events which wounded their souls and left painful repercussions in their family and social lives.”

“Political imprisonment and torture,” they emphasized, “produced an existential brokenness in the victims that is very difficult to overcome,” and they added that “we cannot forget as well the repentance and shame of the perpetrators who sometimes were pressured to act the way they did and who over time have borne this heavy weight in their consciences.”

The bishops continued, “Looking at our past confirms a painful truth of our faith.  The mystery of iniquity exists.  The human being, as the painful moments of history have shown, is capable of turning his worst feelings and actions against his neighbor.”

“Facing our past with justice and truth,” the bishops said, “is the path that leads us to mercy and forgiveness in order to strengthen our coming together as children of the same Father God and the same earth.”

The bishops also expressed their admiration for “those persons who have taken the steps to open their memories and hearts to share their painful stories in this report,” and at the same time they expressed their repudiation “once again for the injustice which they suffered, and as pastors of souls, we are willing now just as then to welcome them and support them in their journey.”

“This is a moment for national dignity.  We feel thus,” the bishops concluded. “We invite all Chileans, especially those who have greater responsibilities in public life,” to accept the report and to work for the good of Chile.

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Church in Central America announces plan for rehabilitation of gang members

Tegucigalpa, Dec 1, 2004 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Romulo Emiliani of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, announced this week that the Episcopal conferences of Central America will initiate a plan to help rehabilitate more than 100,000 young people involved in gangs.

According to Bishop Emiliani, the plan was adopted last week at the meeting of the bishops’ conferences in Costa Rica.

He said that Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are the countries most affected by gangs.  In recent years, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama have begun to face similar problems.

The plan includes coordination of resources, print material, specialists in the field and the construction of rehabilitation centers among the different countries.

An estimated 100,000 young people in the region are involved with gangs.

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