Archive of December 7, 2004

Vatican stresses role of family in world's security and development

, Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking yesterday at the U.N. on the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio and Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations, said that the family, the fundamental unit of society, must be protected because of its indispensable contribution to society’s security and development.

The archbishop noted that the U.N. debates and programs "focus on a broad concept of security, comprising what in our U.N. parlance we call the 'hard threats', like terrorism and weapons of mass destruction; and the 'soft threats', namely unemployment, poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, exploitation of children and women, scarce access to housing and sanitation, education and medicines, the things that affect the whole of human society in its daily life."

"In this context," said the nuncio, "my delegation would like to lend its support to the family, the fundamental unit of society by its nature and by the indispensable contribution that it is called to make in the achievement of security and development."

"The family that is the stable and lasting union of a man and a woman," he said, "appears first of all as the most natural and the best suited way to assure the procreation and thus the renewal of the generations."

Family, he continued "is not only about bringing children into the world, but also about educating them; the economic notion of 'human capital' is particularly well suited here: as the first place of formation of human capital, the family appears truly indispensable to development."

"There can only be action in favor of the family if there first exists a real political will to promote a model," underscored the nuncio. Family policy must be "clearly distinguished from social policy" and "should permit a durable economic development: the objective would certainly not be to 'suppress' the family!"

Ultimately," he concluded, "family policy ... must promote a model that at the very least does not penalize those who wish to have children," should include "a just compensation of the costs linked to education and a true recognition of domestic work" and requires "a long-term action, based on criteria of justice and of efficiency because the family is an investment for tomorrow."

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Spokane diocese files for bankruptcy, opens door to daunting legal issues

Spokane, Wash., Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - Hoping to receive a clearer picture of its financial liability in sex abuses lawsuits and that its insurers will pay some of the claims, the diocese of Spokane, which yesterday became only the third in the U.S. to file for bankruptcy, is heading into relatively uncharted and unpredictable legal issues, the costs of which may be very much higher than expected.

The Spokane diocese has filed for bankruptcy citing total liabilities of $81 million, $76 million of which are in sex-abuse claims. The diocese has only $11 million dollars in assets, the Seattle Times reports.

Acknowledging the risk entailed, the diocese’ attorney, Shaun Cross said that "the diocese chose the option that it believes has the greatest chance of paying the most to claimants" while still allowing the Church to continue its work.

He explained that once the diocese has filed for bankruptcy the court will set a deadline on claims coming forward and the extent of the diocsese’ financial liablity can then be determined by the diocese and its insurers.

However, Janet Tu of the Seattle Times points out that the cases of the other two dioceses to file for bankruptcy – Portland  and Tucson, Arizona – tell us that the hoped for outcome is not guaranteed by any means, and may only increase the uncertainty that the diocese is hoping to resolve.

Rulings made in the two prior cases by bankruptcy judges have left the dioceses with a decided lack of finality on the issue of financial liability: first, in the Portland case, bankruptcy judge Elizabeth Perris ruled a month ago that victims with repressed memories of sexual abuse, or those who have not yet linked the abuse in their childhood to problems they suffer in their lives today, can come forward even after the deadline once they are conscious of what happened to them, thus precluding a quick evaluation of the amount the diocese needs to pay out.

Marti Kopacz, a bankruptcy expert, said that bankruptcy lawyers "were kind of surprised at [Perris'] decision," because it doesn’t allow the diocese to "know who is a victim and over what population it has to spread its remuneration."

The second ruling regards the diocese’ assets: whether or not parish churches and schools of the diocese can be considered as among the diocese’ financial assets and whether or not they can be sold to pay off the claims.

In Church law, parish assets belong to the parish and not the diocese, but victims’ attorneys have argued that the sex abuse cases are subject to civil law which may conflict with Church law. Attorney David Slader who represents victims in the case against the Portland diocese, includes parish assets in his estimate of Portlands assets at $500 million – ten times more than the diocese’ estimate of $50 million.

In the face of huge settlement payouts, five insurers of the Spokane diocese have filed a lawsuit saying they should not have to pay because of the fact that Church officials did not stop the abuse from happening even when they were aware it.

"I think one of the challenges, if more and more dioceses have to file, is that it's going to be awhile before you get a consistent body of law," said bankruptcy expert Kopacz, commenting on the unpredictablity of diocese bankruptcy cases. "Bankruptcy Court knows how to deal with corporate law," he said. "This is kind of a new world."

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Embattled European Politician to Receive Acton Institute Award

Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - Rocco Buttiglione, Italy's Minister for European Affairs and the nominee to the European Commission who was vociferously rejected by the EU for his Catholic views on marriage and sexuality, has been awarded the "Faith and Freedom" Award by the Michigan-based Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

Rev. Robert A.  Sirico, President of the Acton Institute lauds Buttiglione, who was accused of intolerance and bigotry in EU parliament confirmaton hearings, as a person who has stood up for his beliefs and in favor of religious freedom, and stated that “he was the target of a malicious and profoundly unfair campaign that  increasingly resembles the assault on religious liberty in America."

"Buttiglione was borked because he articulated  genuine answers to questions about his personal beliefs even though those beliefs would  have no role in his work. There is a critical difference between a healthy separation of  church and state and a radical secularism that denies all public manifestation of religion," he said.

Ten days ago, the tension between radical secularism and the separation of church and  state became ever more apparent as a coalition of more than one million people from all  over Europe signed a petition to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and fellow EU leaders  calling for changes to the preamble of the European Constitution.

The people requested  that the EU recognize Europe's Christian heritage. Many state representatives had  requested some reference to Christianity in the document but were blocked by Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president, because such a reference would  "exclude" and "offend."

Poland's President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, denounced the "Godless" tone of the Constitution as shameful. He told the press: "I am an atheist and everybody knows it, but there are no excuses for making references to ancient Greece and Rome, and the Enlightenment, without making references to the Christian values which are so important to the development of Europe."

"We are seeing something similar in America" said Sirico "especially in the last few  weeks when numerous public intellectuals and journalists insist on describing the  integration of faith, character, and morality as “theocracy.” Secularism is a value that  religious leaders recognize but so much of the secularism that we see manifested in  European and American public life is intolerant and anti-Christian."

Mr. Buttiglione is the third recipient of the Faith and Freedom Award, which has been awarded to Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen van Thuan, a Catholic priest who spent 13 years in a Vietnamese prison because of his faith. Sir John Templeton, a staunch defender of religious belief.

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New York rabbis join Catholic League to denounce Chrismukkah

, Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - The New York Board of Rabbis and the Catholic League issued a joint statement yesterday denouncing the newly created holiday, which combines Chanukah and Christmas, called Chrismukkah.

In their statement, Catholic League president William Donohue and the New York Board of Rabbis vice president Rabbi Joseph Potasnik said they are “deeply concerned about the spiritual misrepresentation of a newly created holiday.”

Chanukah begins today, Dec. 7, at sundown and ends at nightfall Dec. 15. Chrismukkah begins at the same time, but it ends Dec. 25, on Christmas Day. 

Chrismukkah is a new hybrid holiday that seeks to conflate Chanukah and Christmas, made popular by a teen television program called “The O.C.” It is a reflection of the high degree of intermarriage, especially in recent times, between Christians and Jews.

Ron Gompertz is behind the marketing of Chrismukkah, which includes Merry Chrismukkah cards and Yamaclaus hats. Donohue pointed out in a separate statement that Gompertz admits Chrismukkah is taking the secularization of ‘The Holidays’ one step further.

“While we as Jews and Christians practice our particular traditions, we also want to see the spiritual integrity of all faiths fully protected. Chanukah and Christmas celebrated during the same period should not be fused into some cultural combination that does not recognize the spiritual identity of our respective faiths,” reads the joint statement.

“Copying the tradition of another faith and calling it by another name is a form of shameful plagiarism we cannot condone,” it continues. “Frankly, those who seek to synthesize our spiritual traditions may be well intended, but they are insulting both of us simultaneously.”

The statement says Jews and Christians respect one another, but they also realize that “there is a time to be separate and a time to be together.”

“We see each other as separate spiritual brothers and sisters who will work together to better the human family,” the statement concluded.

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Vatican urges UN to recognize 'Christianophobia' on same footing as hatred of Jews and Muslims

, Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican is urging the United Nations to give acts of hatred and discrimination against Christians the same recognition as a social evil that is given to such acts committed against Jews and Muslims.

The Catholic Church made first public mention of this campaign to have the UN and other international organizations recognize “Christianophobia” Dec. 3, reported Reuters.

In discussing religious bias, the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva now speaks of "anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Christianophobia." The current General Assembly in New York is expected to approve these terms this month.

"It should be recognized that the war against terrorism, even though necessary, had as one of its side-effects the spread of 'Christianophobia' in vast areas of the globe," said the Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, at a U.S.-organized conference on religious freedom in Rome Dec. 3.

According to Reuters, Vatican officials say privately they could not stand aside while Christian minorities are persecuted in countries worldwide and only Judaism and Islam get special attention at the U.N.

The Vatican has suggested the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna include Christianophobia as well.

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Pope earmarks award for needy students of the Third World

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II will use an award he received today from the World Federation of Scientists, "for scholarships for needy students in the Third World."

The "Erice Prize. Ettore Majorana - Science for Peace," was "linked to the memory of the famous Italian physicist who contributed notably to the development of theoretical nuclear physics," noted the Pope.

He said that the 40 year old International Center of Scientific Culture, founded in Erice, Sicily, by Prof. Antonio Zichichi and dedicated to Majorana, has been a "significant 'cenacle' of cultural activity in several areas of modern knowledge."

John Paul II expressed his hope that "joint efforts by the international scientific community, public institutions and all persons of good will might assure all of mankind a future of hope and peace."

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Pope's message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees to be presented Dec. 9

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father's message for the 2005 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, focuses on the theme of "Intercultural Integration" and will be presented on Thursday, December 9 at 11:30 a.m. in the Holy See Press Office.

This world day will be observed January 16, 2005. Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, Archbishop Marchetto and Fr. Michael Blume, S.V.D., respectively president, secretary and under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, will speak at the presentation.

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Melbourne bishop regrets politically-correct Christmas celebrations

Melbourne, Australia, Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Australia, Christopher Prowse has expressed his regret at the downscaling of Christmas celebrations in the country because of fears of offending people of other faiths or of no faith.

The Lord Mayor of Syndey, Clover Moore, decided to restrict her council’s budget on Christmas celebrations to $600,000, as have company executives and other local government authorities. Nativity scenes for example are seen as too offensive for being too explicitly Christian

However, the Melbourne City Council has resisted the trend and are spending $1.74 million on Christmas celebrations. "When you live in a multicultural society, you should be inclusive and add things to a society, not take things away," said Melbourne Lord Mayer John So.

The president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Yasser Soliman, told The Age newspaper that Muslims do not take any offence at Christians celebrating their faith.

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Ukranian Catholic Bishop sees “grass roots revolution” underway

Konigstein, Germany, Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) yesterday about the current situation in Ukraine, Mgr Stanislaw Szyrokoradiuk, Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Kyiv-Zhytomyr, said that “people are awake now, they do not want a prolongation of the old state of affairs.”

He explained that the change in government and the political system in 1991 after the break p of the Soviet Union “was a ‘revolution from above, a changing of the colours of the flag’ but the social and political order in Ukraine remained as before, with ‘old clans’ exercising total power and with rampant corruption.”

“Now,” he continued, “after the grass roots revolution, the people demand that the elections scheduled for Dec. 26 be fair and free, paving the way to a new civil society based on genuine democratic values.”

Mgr Szyrokoradiuk said that Church – state relations “are not as bad as in communist times. Yet, nonetheless, there has been no restitution of Church property during the last 10 years… the administration has often made promises (before elections), but never kept them thereafter.”

“Under a new democratic government,” he says, “the chances of this issue being properly resolved can only increase.”

There are about 250,000 Roman Catholics and 128 parishes in diocese of Kyiv-Zhytomyr. They are served by 108 priests and there are 36 seminarians.

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Poll speaks louder than ‘scholarly debate’ on what Christians believe about Christmas

, Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - An article in this week’s Newsweek on the birth of Jesus goes tete-a-tete with what the magazine’s most recent poll says Americans believe about Christmas.

The events surrounding the birth of Jesus, their historical accuracy and theological interpretations are the focus of the top story in the Dec. 13 issue of Newsweek, simply called “The Birth of Jesus,” which hit newsstands yesterday.

In his article, Newsweek’s managing editor, Jon Meacham, examines the ongoing scholarly debate over the historical accuracy of the Nativity narratives and their theological meaning. He also examines whether some of the central images and words of the Christian religion owe as much to the pagan culture of the Roman Empire as they do to apostolic revelation.

But what the magazine’s poll proves is that this scholarly debate is just that – scholarly. In fact, the survey results demonstrate that Meacham’s report does not reflect the beliefs and day-to-day reality in the United States.

The Newsweek poll indicates that 79 percent of Americans, and 87 percent of Christians, say they believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, without a human father.

In addition, 67 percent of Americans, and 75 percent of Christians, believe that the biblical story of Christmas is historically accurate. Less than a quarter of Americans (24 percent), and 17 percent of Christians, believe the story of Christmas is a theological story, written to affirm faith in Jesus Christ.

In the Newsweek poll, 93 percent of Americans say they think Jesus Christ actually lived, and 82 percent think Jesus Christ was God or the Son of God.

Fifty-two percent of all those polled believe, as the Bible says, that Jesus will return to earth someday; 21 percent do not.

For this poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates conducted telephone interviews with 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, Dec. 2-3. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

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Shortage of vocations means one priest per 14,000 Catholics in Mexican diocese

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon, Mexico, revealed this week that the shortage of vocations to the priesthood means each priest on average must minister to between 13,000 and 14,000 people.

The bishop also revealed that some priests minister to as many as 40,000 Catholics and that “it is urgent that we create an awareness of the priestly vocation.”  “The fact that the number of aspirants to the priesthood is not sufficient means that large sectors of the population are deprived of the pastoral care they need,” he explained.

“We are overwhelmed with work and with the difficulty of being able to personally follow up with different sectors of society, especially with the young people, who need it so much,” the bishop said.

He also explained that the priest “not only transforms spiritual life, but also the community, and he even has a humanist function.”

“In many communities, especially on the periphery, the only bond that brings people together is the parish; the pastor is the leader of the community.”  “Parishes are the centers of unity, humanization and spiritual transformation,” he added.

“We want there to be a great sensitivity in the community environment in order to discover the importance of vocations to the priestly life,” said Bishop Martin Rabago, emphasizing that young people be encouraged to say yes to a call to the priesthood from the Lord.

The bishops argued that, “vocations blossom in the family, but with the breakdown of families, vocations do not attract attention.”

Moreover, he said, “the climate of relativism and hedonism leads people to refrain from definitive commitments.”

The Diocese of Leon has some 100 seminarians in major Seminary and another 150 in minor Seminary.

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Abortion boat leader to present anti-catholic book in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - The director of a Dutch abortion boat will travel to Argentina on December 9 in order to promote through a book release the legalization of abortion in the country.

Rebecca Gomperts, director of the Dutch abortion boat, will join Argentinean abortion supporter and congressman Noemi Oliveto of the movement, “Self determination and Freedom,” for an event to mark the release of a new anti-catholic book entitled, “The 11th Commandment: Woman, thou shalt not choose.”

Since early 2004 and just after beginning her term at the state legislature, Oliveto, wife of pro-abortionist Luis Zamora, has sponsored several debates aimed at legalizing abortion in the country.

Oliveto began a series of Friday debates in the Buenos Aires state legislature that took place over several months but drew little attention.  She then tried “theater-debates” at the state house based on the book, “If the Pope Were a Woman,” but drew an equally poor response.

Oliveto finally gained media attention by inviting Gomperts, of the Dutch group “Women on the Waves,” to visit Argentina.  The group operates an abortion ship that travels to countries where abortion is legal in order to offer the procedure to women from international waters.  Despite having visited the shores of several countries where abortion is illegal, the group has never been able to perform a single abortion.

Oliveto has stayed in spotlight by saying the abortion boat might travel to Argentina mid-next year.

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Church in Mexico expresses firm support for “rational” fight against AIDS

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 7, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Mexico took the occasion of World AIDS Day to express its firm support for a prevention campaign against the disease, and at the same time expressing solidarity with those infected with the HIV virus.

Conference president Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago explained that the Catholic Church has also a coordinated a response with the global plans to deal with this disease.

Governments must provide sufficient funding to combat this evil, he said, increase education in the values of life, love and sexuality, both at school and at home, and eliminate all forms of discrimination against those who suffer from AIDS and to spiritually support them.

The bishop recalled that the Vatican has called for society to play a greater role in the fight against AIDS and for the industrialized countries to help nations that are need, as well as to eradicate sexual exploitation.

He also said AIDS medicines should be made accessible to people who suffer from the disease, and that special care should be given to those who are carriers of the virus, as well as to those orphaned by AIDS and those who are most vulnerable.

Bishop Martin Rabago also said that, as an act of solidarity, the Church in Mexico has responded to the call of the Holy See to take up a special collection for the church in the Central African Republic, where some 260,000 people are infected with HIV, that is, almost half of the population.

“We want this collection to inspire in all of us the desire to learn about this evil, the desire to be united with our brothers and sisters who are carriers of this virus, eradicating discriminatory attitudes,” the bishop underscored.

“We are convinced that the Church has always been called to evangelize the poor and to help those most in need, and undoubtedly we will support those who have this illness, as they are one of the groups most in need of help,” said Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Texcoco and General Secretary of the Bishops Conference.

He said several religious communities have opened their doors to persons who suffer from AIDS and who have been rejected by their very own families.

Around 170,000 people are carriers of the HIV virus in Mexico.

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