Vatican City, Jan 12, 2005 (CNA) - In response to questions by journalists today, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls stated that the Vatican will officially “confirm the Holy Father's trip to Cologne, Germany for World Youth Day."
He also stated, however that “no trip is scheduled for the Holy Father this year to Poland.”
Poland, the Holy Father’s native home country, will hold elections in 2005.
Coimbra, Portugal, Jan 12, 2005 (CNA) - Mel Gibson met with Sr. Lucia of Fatima at the Convent in Coimbra, Portugal, and screened “The Passion of the Christ” for the Carmelite community there during Lent 2004, reveals the latest issue of the Fatima Bulletin.
The request came from the community. A young Portuguese girl offered to communicate with a volunteer worker for Icon Productions, whom she knew, to try to organize of the film at the convent. This contact got the ball rolling. After 92 e-mails and several phone calls, a screening was organized.
The logistics for the secret screening were challenging since the nuns have only a very small TV and the film was not yet out on video or DVD.
Therefore, Gibson had a large pull-down screen, a full crew of cameramen, a speaker and extras set up at the convent for the Lent screening. The Fatima Bulletin estimates that it must have cost Gibson up to $20,000.
When Gibson later came to Portugal to promote the Portuguese version of the film in July 2004, he was snuck over to the convent for a private meeting with Sr. Lucia, one of the three Fatima visionaries.
Since Gibson thought he might be attacked for using Sr. Lucia to promote his film, he insisted that this visit would be strictly secret.
The actor was accompanied by his wife, Robin Moore and Fr. Luis Condor. According to Mother Celina, the superior of the convent, the director and his wife are wonderful and very humble people.
Gibson had come to Fatima in September of 2003 to ask Our Lady for help in the film. Later, Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Christ, came to show the film to religious institutions to get their opinions of the movie. He even went to the Convent in Coimbra to show the film but was refused because he insisted on going behind the cloister, which is not permitted, reported the Bulletin.
"He (Gibson) is very outspoken and a person easily to be liked, and he answered all of our questions about the movie,” Mother Celina said, according to the Bulletin. “Some questions were asked by Sr. Lucia, who attended the meeting which lasted for about an hour, was always very alert following the conversation."
The Bulletin said its staff was told not to print this story unless the convent or Gibson gave permission, which only came after the film ran its course in the theaters and the DVD ran its campaign in the stores.
What the nuns or Sr. Lucia said about the movie is not known and may never be known because statements by Lucia or for that matter any Carmelite nun are always sent through the bishop or the Pope first, the Bulletin explained.
Vatican City, Jan 12, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. ambassador to the Vatican responded to comments made by Pio Cardinal Laghi Monday that President George Bush has not held his promise for a quick end to the war in Iraq – a promise the cardinal says Bush made in March 2003.
Ambassador Jim Nicholson said yesterday that Vatican officials want the United States to remain in Iraq and democratize the country, despite the Pope’s opposition to the war, reported The Associated Press.
"I will say that virtually everyone I talk to at the Vatican does not want the United States to pull out of Iraq. They want us to stay in there, solidify and pacify Iraq and help it become a free, stable and democratic country," Nicholson told the AP.
Nicholson told the AP that he was present at that meeting between Cardinal Laghi and the President and did not recall Bush saying that, although he said he would not dispute the cardinal’s statement.
Hartford, Conn., Jan 12, 2005 (CNA) - The Legion of Christ recently released a statement regarding the decision of St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Harry Flynn to ban the work of the movement throughout the Archdiocese.
On November 23rd, Archbishop Flynn stated in a letter sent to all parishes of the Archdiocese that the Legion of Christ, and its lay affiliate, Regnum Christi, cease activity within the Archdiocese.
Allegedly, the letter was never planned to be made public but has received press in many national and local Catholic news outlets, prompting a response by the Legionaries.
The letter to the parishes included a letter written to Fr. Anthony Barron, North American director for the Legion of Christ, from the Archbishop stating that “pastors continue to sense that a ‘parallel church’ is being encouraged, one that separates persons from the local parish and archdiocese, and creates competing structures.”
The Legionaries pointed out that “there has never been deliberate neglect in complying with Archbishop Flynn's wishes and requests, but perhaps we have not understood properly his concerns as Pastor and thus have not acted as he wished and expected of us.”
According to the Archbishop’s letter, laypeople are perfectly allowed, according to Canon law to “join associations of the faithful, such as Regnum Christi”. The group’s activities however, “are not to be held on diocesan property, nor promoted through any diocesan channels.”
The group says it has “encouraged Regnum Christi members in the Twin Cities to continue to support diocesan and parochial programs and activities as they have always done, as well as being faithful to their spiritual commitments and formation.”
According to their website, the Legionaries “seek to cooperate with bishops in the realization of diocesan pastoral programs, especially education, the family, social services, and the mass media. They thus promote diocesan programs by contributing their own charism, which is a gift from God to the whole Church.”
The Legionaries explained in a statement that while they hope to resolve and clarify this matter with the Archdiocese, they will “faithfully observe [the Archbishop’s] dispositions in a spirit of filial obedience.”
Washington D.C., Jan 12, 2005 (CNA) - The national director of Priests for Life has called on all people to reject violence “whether directed against abortion providers or against unborn children, and furthermore to reject the idea that we can be against one type of violence but for the other.”
Fr. Frank Pavone made the comment after Boston Magazine Online published "Confessions of an Abortion Doctor" in its January 2005 issue. The author admits that she withheld her name for safety reasons, recalling that John Salvi killed some clinic workers 10 years ago.
“We reject all violence, against unborn children, against abortionists, and against everyone else. But doesn't this abortionist realize that the words of those who kill people like her are simply an echo of her own?” said Fr. Pavone in a statement.
In the article, the doctor says that all medical professionals who provide abortions believe in what they’re doing and “think it’s a good thing and a right that needs to be available.”
“I have the utmost respect for life; I appreciate that life starts early in the womb, but also believe that I'm ending it for good reasons,” says the doctor.
The doctor explains why she feels she is doing the right thing: “Often I'm saving the woman, or I'm improving the lives of the other children in the family. I also believe that women have a life they have to consider. If a woman is working full-time, has one child already, and is barely getting by, having another child that would financially push her to go on public assistance is going to lessen the quality of her life.”
The doctor admits that performing abortions can be “really taxing”, but she adds: “I don't think it'll ever make me stop doing terminations.”
The doctor says that it’s not unusual to have only a few nurses who are willing to help out in the operating room. She adds that some medical professionals don’t feel they can tell their family members what they do. “Their families think they work on labor and delivery,” she writes.
The doctor says she is frustrated by the shortage of providers and by her medical colleagues who don’t “fight harder to provide it (abortion).”
She insists that providers offer women options, including adoption and carrying the child to term, and at times, women have changed their minds, “which is totally okay.
“We want that,” she writes. “Or sometimes we'll advise them that they have more time to decide what to do. I would feel worse terminating a wanted child than not being able to terminate at all.”
For the full article, go to: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/ArticleDisplay.php?id=495
Vatican City, Jan 12, 2005 (CNA) - In today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope praised the Christian martyrs who, "chose the way of the cross, not giving in to evil and its virulence, but committing themselves to the Father and uniting themselves to the death of Christ with a testimony of devotion and courage that brought them to 'love not their lives even unto death'."
Today’s audience was a continuation of the Pope’s reflections on the Liturgy of Evening Prayer speaking about the Canticle from the Book of Revelation (11, 17-18; 12, 10-12) on "the judgment of God".
John Paul II affirmed how this hymn expresses the "judgment of God over human events. ... God and the Lamb, in other words Christ, surrounded by the divine court, judge the history of the world according to good and evil, showing it the ultimate goal of salvation and glory."
"The Lord God, omnipotent and eternal, has taken His 'great power, and begun to reign'. His entrance into history has the aim not only of blocking the violent reactions of rebels, but above all of exalting and rewarding the virtuous."
The second part of the Canticle expresses the joy induced by the fact that "Satan, the old adversary, ... has been 'cast down' from heaven and no longer has so much power".
“Moreover”, the Pope went on, "the Risen Christ, whose blood is the basis of salvation, .... has received from the Father a royal power over the entire universe. In Him, 'the salvation, the strength and the reign of our God' are accomplished."
Washington D.C., Jan 12, 2005 (CNA) - An U.S.-based nonprofit organization, committed to protecting religious liberties, has taken its mission overseas.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty submitted an amicus brief yesterday with the Swedish Supreme Court, calling for the Court to reverse the conviction of a pastor prosecuted for teachings made from the pulpit.
In submitting the brief, The Becket Fund reaffirmed its commitment to protecting religious liberty around the world.
Pastor Ake Green was sentenced to one month in jail for a sermon he preached in 2003 on Biblical texts addressing homosexuality. The sermon was later printed in a local newspaper, and Green was prosecuted on the basis that his sermon offended Sweden's homosexual community.
The Becket Fund submitted the brief to inform the Gotta Supreme Court of Sweden's obligations to guarantee each of its citizens the religious liberty, freedom of expression, and equal protection of the laws secured by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sweden is a signatory.
"Article 18 (of the international law) provides that it is not the role of a government composed of men to declare what is orthodoxy by punishing those who publicly teach one religious view of what is right, even if that view may offend others," says the brief.
"Pastor Green's case is a wake-up call that we must be vigilant not to let that happen here," declared Becket Fund Director of Litigation Derek Gaubatz.
The Becket Fund, a nonpartisan, interfaith, public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions, is a Non- Governmental Organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.
Havana, Cuba, Jan 12, 2005 (CNA) - In the midst of the controversy surrounding the Cuban government’s decision to deny a well-known doctor the chance to visit her family in Argentina, the newspaper “Nuevo Siglo On Line” published an article maintaining that the real reason for the decision has to do with the abortion industry promoted by the Castro regime.
The article reveals that the doctor in question, Dr. Hilda Molina, belongs to the International Center for Neurological Restoration (ICNR), an institution funded by the Cuban government and which discovered how to use the spinal cells and neurological tissue of human embryos for regenerative purposes in adult nerve tissue. In order for the process to work, the tissue must be extracted from a live human embryo.
Citing passages from a book by the Center’s director, Dr. Julian Alvarez, the article explains that, “Currently 100,000 abortions take place each year. The ICNR can therefore easily obtain the embryonic tissue for use in these treatments.”
“The Cuban government, by the way, uses these 100,000 abortions for its statistics of a ‘low infant mortality rate’ in Cuba,” the article adds.
Dr. Alvarez writes in his book, “The day in which a neurotransplant has been scheduled, a team of specialists from our center heads to a maternity ward in Havana, where every day dozens of terminations take place. There they obtain the embryonic tissue, always with the approval of the donor (the mother), who is transported there immediately and under the conditions required by our institution.”
The article points out that, “Everyone who knows what life in Cuba is like on the inside knows that these ‘patients’ are not involved in this decision at all. Many of the abortions or ‘terminations’ are done according to the needs of the ICNR.” In fact, the abortions which daily provide the ICNR the embryonic tissue are legal and sponsored by the state, and any successful family program, such as one in which Cuban women had easy access to diaphragms, for example, would not be of any benefit, the article maintains.
“What would a renowned center which pumps so much money into the Cuban coffers like the ICNR do if the rate of ‘terminations’ were to decrease? Would it have to associate itself with the Raelian sect in order to produce the fetal tissue another way? These are only conjectures,” the article states.
Doctor Molina is the ICNR
And to talk about the ICNR in Cuba is talk about a strategic good, and a State secret. Thus the article asks, “What would happen if Dr. Molina, once away from Cuba, decided to stay and live with her son and her grandchildren in another country. What would happen if she decided to write her memoirs, or reveal some of her ‘State secrets’?”
Lastly, the article adds that, “What Cuban diplomacy is not willing to say, since it would be very difficult to say it in diplomatic language, is that Dr. Molina, with her knowledge, her memory and her secrets, belongs to the State, she belongs to the ‘Revolution.’ The same goes for hundreds of thousands of Cubans. The same for hundreds of thousands of unborn Cubans.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 12, 2005 (CNA) - The Secretary General of the Venezuelan Bishops Conference, Archbishop Luis Azuaje, said this week the educational plans the government is developing should “defend the dignity of the human person and personal growth.”
During a break at the bishops’ Assembly, the archbishop said the Conference has “many expectations about the decisions” the government is making on educational issues and he clarified that for the Church education is a pastoral issue, not a political one. He added, “Every opportunity the Venezuelan people can have to obtain knowledge is good, but they should be linked to the creation of a free and responsible conscience in response to the country’s situation.”
In this sense he emphasized that the Church, together with the Venezuelan Association of Catholic Education, would study the changes made by the government, to see if “they favor comprehension or if they are a band-aid for maintaining populism or some other form of political loyalty.”
Archbishop Azuaje said the Conference would draft a report on the work of the Church in education. He pointed out that the Church assists half a million children and young people in the country.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 12, 2005 (CNA) - A mentally handicapped young woman in Avila, Spain, was taken by her parents to obtain an abortion, despite the hundreds of people who volunteered to care for the young woman and her child.
Pro-life groups in Spain said sources close to the family confirmed the abortion had taken place. A local Circuit Court Judge in Aviles, Jose Luis Niño, provided the legal shield for the parents to obtain the abortion.
Judge Niño ruled in favor of the parents last December 14, when they filed suit to allow their daughter to terminate her pregnancy because of her incapacity to carry out maternal duties.
The ruling provoked the mobilization of hundreds of pro-lifers. The Archdiocese of Oviedo, in which Aviles is located, published a statement on December 15 calling any attempt to submit the young woman to abortion “a grave attack.”
The archdiocese recalled that “one cannot purse a good by doing evil,” adding that “a six month-old unborn child” enjoys the right to life and has no fault for “whatever has happened to the mother.” He also pointed out that, “If there were some difficulty in helping this baby, society should have the means to help her.”
Carmina Garcia-Valdes, President of the Association of Abortion Victims, expressed her sadness that “this imperfect mother has been placed at risk and her child has been deliberately and unnecessarily killed.” She called the decision to abort lamentable, “when hundreds had offered to care for the mother and the child, to welcome them and adopt the baby.”
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jan 12, 2005 (CNA) - A study by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (BIGS) has revealed that in recent decades, the number of Catholics in the country has decreased by 20%. The report based on 2000 census data showed that between 1960 and 2001, the number of Catholics dropped, due to the aggressive advance of Evangelical sects, religious indifference and the lack of an effective and firm pastoral outreach.
The Center for Religious Studies and Social Research, which is affiliated with the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, says Catholics make up 75% of the country’s inhabitants, a percentage slightly higher than that of the BIGS.
However, of these only 1% actively participate in the Church’s activities, 25% attend regularly attend Mass, and 50% attend only on special occasions.