Vatican City, Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican press office announced with relief and satisfaction today that, “we learned of the release of Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of Mosul who had been kidnapped yesterday afternoon.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office, made the declaration today upon learning of the release in Iraq of the kidnapped Syrian Catholic archbishop.
"The Holy Father”, he said, “was immediately informed and he thanked God for the happy outcome of this affair.
"The kidnapping caused great surprise because the archbishop was well loved by both Christians and Muslims."
He added that, "No ransom was paid.
Last evening Navarro-Valls, made the following statement to journalists: "The news has reached us of the kidnapping of Syrian Catholic Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of Mosul, Iraq, The Holy See deplores in the firmest possible manner this despicable terrorist act and asks that this worthy pastor be released immediately to his ministry."
Archbishop Casmoussa was born in Karakoche in northern Iraq in 1938. He was ordained a priest in 1962 and consecrated a bishop in December 1999.
The Iraqi population is estimated at 25 million. Approximately 750,000 are Christians, 70% of whom belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church. There are 60,000 Syrian Catholics in Iraq.
The kidnapping comes 2 weeks before Iraqi elections are scheduled and officials expect violence in the area to continue.
Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - While some American Iraqis began to register yesterday to vote in the Iraq out-of-country elections this month, most American Iraqi Christians have been denied that right.
Last week, the Washington Times reported that a contractor for the United Nations set up five polling stations throughout the United States. However, only one was set up west of the Mississippi, 900 miles away from two of the largest American Iraqi Christian communities.
While one polling site was established in Nashville for 3,000 Kurds, none were established for the 40,000 Iraqi Christians in northern California or the 25,000 Iraqi Christians in San Diego.
The UN contractor said it determined the polling sites based on State Department information. Reportedly, Iran has more polling stations than the U.S.
The Iraqi Christian community has now mobilized and is working on petitions and letters of protest. The California congressional delegation and the ChaldoAssyrian bishop have also taken action, but the UN contractor has not budged yet. Voting must take place before Jan. 30.
Atlanta, Ga., Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory was installed as Atlanta's sixth archbishop yesterday, Jan. 17, which also marked the memorial of Martin Luther King Jr. He succeeds Archbishop John F. Donoghue, who resigned according to canon law after having reached 75 years old.
The first black president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said he chose the holiday for his installation as a tribute to King, whose widow, Coretta Scott King, was in attendance among the 8,000 gathered for the ceremony at the Georgia International Convention Center.
The 57-year-old Chicago native began his address in Spanish, saying he was eager to work in the increasingly diverse population of Atlanta, reported the Associated Press.
Serving as the bishop of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill., Archbishop Gregory led the USCCB through the sex abuse scandal that erupted in 2001, shortly after he was named USCCB president.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta has 370,000 faithful and 98 parishes. Its population has doubled in size since 1990.
Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - A key U.S. diplomat, who served during Pope Pius XII’s pontificate, states in his revealing memoirs that he expects the pontiff to be eventually made a saint. The book offers a first-hand account and convincing evidence that the accusations railed against Pope Pius XII as a “pro-Nazi Pope” are unfounded.
“Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an American Diplomat During World War II” is the memoir of Harold Tittmann, Jr., who was chief assistant to Myron Taylor, Franklin Roosevelt’s personal representative to the Vatican, between 1940 and 1946.
Tittmann, now deceased, has often been quoted in the case against Pius XII, but his memoir depicts a totally different picture of the wartime Pope, say literary analysts William Doino, Jr. and Joseph Bottum in a book review. Their full book review was published in First Things.
Doino and Bottum state: “These memoirs may be the most important document to be published on Pius XII in over 20 years. And they prove to be, far from an indictment, an overwhelming defense of the Pope and the Catholic Church.”
In his memoirs, the Episcopalian and World War I veteran insisted that Pius XII “detested the Nazi ideology and everything it stood for.” He also credited the Pope for his diplomatic skills, decisive nature and ability “to see both sides of a question.”
The 224-page book reveals that Pope Pius XII’s actions during the war were influenced by the anti-Nazi resistance, which advised him not to make any public statements specifically condemning the Nazis for fear of greater violence against the people.
For example, soon after World War II began, Pope Pius XII had authorized Vatican Radio to condemn Nazi war crimes against Catholics and Jews in Poland, wrote Tittmann. However, “the Polish bishops hastened to notify the Vatican that after each broadcast …, the various local populations suffered ‘terrible’ reprisals,” he said. As a result, such broadcasts were discontinued.
“Personally, I cannot help but feel that the Holy Father chose the better path by not speaking out and thereby saved many lives,” wrote Tittmann. “Who can say what the Nazis would have done in their ruthless furor had they been further inflamed by public denunciations coming from the Holy See?”
Tittmann witnessed to the Vatican network that provided assistance to persecuted Jews and Pius XII’s “personal and secret account,” in a U.S. bank, which he “used exclusively for charitable purposes” during the war.
Tittmann also stated that Allied diplomats followed Cardinal Maglione’s advice and destroyed “all documents that might possibly be of use to the enemy.”
As a result, say the book reviewers, “the many official diplomatic documents, which survive the war years, represent merely a fraction of Pius XII’s activities.”
“I do not for one moment overlook his great spiritual qualities,” wrote Tittmann of Pius XII. “Whether near him or away from him, one was always conscious of them. … Very possibly the future will rate him a saint.”
“Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an American Diplomat During World War II” is priced at $13.95.
Vatican City, Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, in the largest private audience ever given by a Pope to Jewish leaders, John Paul II received 160 Jewish rabbis and cantors from Israel, the United States and Europe.
The Holy Father pointed out that "this year we will be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Declaration 'Nostra aetate', which has significantly contributed to the strengthening of Jewish-Catholic dialogue.
"May this be an occasion for renewed commitment to increased understanding and cooperation in the service of building a world ever more firmly based on respect for the divine image in every human being."
The rabbis, who all belong to the Pave the Way Foundation, thanked the Holy Father for "all the efforts he has sustained over 26 years of pontificate to reconcile the two faiths and demolish the wall of hatred," according to a communiqué from the Foundation published last evening.
During the audience, they recited a prayer in honor of John Paul II.
Gary Krupp, founder and president of the Pave the Way Foundation, affirmed that the aim of his group is "to unite men and women of good faith, beyond any religious belief and without prejudice, and to remove with determination all obstacles in the way of this objective.
“The Pope has done this for decades. The least we can do is to thank him humbly for all he has done for the Jewish people in the world; and in our turn we undertake to make serious efforts for peace on Earth," he said.
Rabbi Jack Bemporad, director of the Center for Inter-religious Understanding, said "since Vatican Council II, and under the guidance of Pope John Paul II, the Church has made many extremely significant steps to create new bonds with Jews on a foundation of sincere affection and reciprocity."
"No Pope before John Paul II”, he continued, “has ever done as much, or been so concerned to create fraternal relations between Catholics and Jews. ... I am convinced that Pope John Paul II will be considered a great healer of relations between Catholics and Jews. ... Coming to the Vatican from all over the world, we rabbis say thank you!"
Denver, Colo., Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking at the seventh annual FOCUS national student leadership conference in Denver this past weekend, Sergio Gutierrez, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Denver challenged students to change the culture by engaging the secular media.
He called on them to be active in “writing letters, sending e-mails, and making calls” to their local and national media outlets, clarifying the true positions of the Church when they are misrepresented.
He said that Catholics must move beyond the Catholic and Christian media alone and engage the larger world to bring about a positive change.
“These airwaves are ours”, he said.
Gutierrez cited the influential power of the film The Passion of the Christ, which was spread through mainstream means and a recent column by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput which appeared in the New York Times.
He said that if Catholics are serious about evangelization, they need to utilize the modern tools the Church has at Her disposal.
London, England, Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - A senior adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury told The Observer that people should not be prosecuted if they assist terminally ill relatives who are in great pain to end their lives.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, sent canon Robin Gill, a professor of modern theology at the University of Kent and editor of the book, Euthanasia and the Churches, to a parliamentary committee hearing on a private member's bill on assisted suicide for the terminally ill last week.
Rev. Rod Thomas, a spokesman for the Church of England, distanced the church from Gill's views, saying Gill’s opinion did not reflect those of anyone else in the Church.
"The Church of England made a joint submission with the Roman Catholic bishops on the Assisted Dying Bill, opposing the legalization of euthanasia," he said.
Anglican bishops agreed that withholding excessive medical treatment when there is no "reasonable prospect of recovery was consistent with Christian principals" at the 1998 Lambeth conference.
Calgary, Canada, Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - In a pastoral letter that will be read in parishes this weekend, Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary has stated that Catholics must resist the same-sex marriage movement, which seeks to bring the homosexual lifestyle and activity into gradual acceptance in society.
"Marriage and the family are the foundations of society, through which children are brought into this world and nurtured as they grow to adulthood," wrote Bishop Henry. According to the Canadian Press, the bishop also urged the government to “use its coercive power” to curtail activities that undermine the foundation of the family, such as homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography.
The bishop said the community cannot “endorse homosexual activity or the lifestyle as normative,” he wrote. “Society is within its rights to say, ‘No, this is unacceptable behavior.’”
Marriage is not a matter of rights, he said according to CP, but of biological and psychological fact.
"The reality is that some people have same-sex attractions,” the bishop conceded. “And homosexual people, of course, have rights that must be respected, like employment rights, housing rights, pension rights.”
Santiago, Chile, Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - The ex-prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Jorge Medina, issued a call from the Vatican this week to Chilean society to protect the life of a 9 year-old girl who became pregnant through rape while not forgetting at the same time the rights of the seven-month old baby she is carrying.
Speaking to the daily, “Ultimas Noticias,” Cardinal Medina rejected the efforts by some local personalities who have attempted to use the girl’s case as a reason to legalize abortion.
The cardinal sent his blessing to the girl and said, “Life must absolutely be respected. The fact that such a young girl has become pregnant and in such terrible circumstances does not take away the right to life of the baby in her womb.”
“To take the life of that baby is a crime,” he went on. “What has happened is truly sad and she must be helped in everyway. Of course this abuse is horrible. It is unqualifiedly an offense against the girl’s dignity, but that does not mean that we should take the life of the only person who has no fault,” he added.
Cardinal Medina said it will have to be determined whether or not the girl will be able to raise the child. “Today is quite proven that girls sexually mature much faster than in other times. The position of the Church is absolutely clear regarding the life of this baby.”
Regarding the perpetrator of the crime, the cardinal said he committed an “aberrant sin” and he hoped the man would ask God for forgiveness.
”I can’t prejudge what the courts will do, but he should be made an example. The most serious thing here is his tremendous responsibility before God. That is where he will have to face up and pay for his sins,” the cardinal said.
The girl’s case came to light a week ago in the city of Calama, where she lives with her mother and her stepfather, who has been arrested as a possible suspect in the crime. Her mother is also under arrest for complicity as she was found to have beaten the girl for hiding her pregnancy. The girl is currently hospitalized and under the care of physicians and psychologists.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, expressed his concern this week for a new law in Arizona that limits illegal immigrants’ access to social services and he called for respect at all times for their fundamental human rights.
Cardinal Rivera recalled that both the Mexican and the US bishops have always defended the rights of Mexican immigrants, emphasizing that “they are not criminals, they have simply left their homes, their country, to find work, and their human rights must be respected.”
The official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Mexico pointed out that one of the most serious aspects of the Proposition 200 in Arizona is not only its denial of basic social services to immigrants, but also the threat of fines and jail time for those who provide them emergency medical assistance.
The newspaper calls on Mexican officials to work through politics, diplomacy and law to change the situation.
It also said immigrants to Mexico should be treated fairly as well. “We cannot demand what we ourselves will not give; it is not consistent to ask for justice when we ourselves mistreat those who cross our paths.”
Pekin, Ill., Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - According to a report in the publication “China Daily,” the Chinese government is set to pass a law that would prohibit parents from aborting their unborn children based on the child’s sex. The government believes this would correct the disproportion between the number of boys and girls in the country.
China’s family planning policy has only allowed each couple to have one child in an attempt to control the population growth, but this has created a lack of balance between the sexes, since parents tend to abort the child if it is female and try again to conceive a male. As a result there is 20 per cent more boys than girls.
Chinese parents tend to favor having male children as they are considered more capable of contributing to the livelihood of the family, taking care of parents advanced in age, and passing on the family name, since women become part of the nuclear family of their husbands.
The one-child policy has reduced the annual growth of China’s population, which is currently 1.3 billion, one-fifth of the world’s total population.
The president of the State Committee on Population and Family Planning, Zhang Weiqing, said the State wishes to eliminate this unbalance and therefore his committee will “begin a review of the Penal Law to effectively prohibit the determination of the sex of the fetus.”
Likewise, selective abortions will be prohibited, by which the mother obtains an ultrasound and decides to get an abortion if the baby is determined to be female. Despite attempts to address the disproportion between the sexes, the government says it will maintain its policy limiting couples to one child.
Chicago, Ill., Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America should officially maintain its traditional position against same-sex blessing ceremonies and ministers involved in homosexual relationships, said a recommendation submitted by a 14-member panel, reported the Associated Press.
The panel, consisting of clergy, seminary professors and lay people, also recommended that the five-million member ELCA tolerate homosexuals within their congregations.
The Jan. 12 report acknowledged that the church faces a "pervasive" disagreement over homosexuality. However, it asked members to find "ways to live together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements."
Rev. James Childs Jr., who directed the panel, told the AP that the panel's approach favors "pastoral discretion" over legislation.
The panel's chair, Bishop Margaret Payne, told the AP that if the panel's recommendations are adopted, bishops of the 65 synods might follow differing policies toward homosexual ministers that have partners.
She added that "there's no way of knowing" how many congregations provide same-sex blessing ceremonies, but the report emphasizes that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
In recent months, the Lutheran bishops took action against a congregation in San Bernardino, Calif., and another Minneapolis that had homosexual associate pastors.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 18, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Sebastián of Pamplona, Spain, said last week morality should be a factor in all political activity, in seeking out the common good for all citizens.
The archbishop pointed out that any political action should take into account moral issues, “which are expressed through service to the common good of the majority of citizens.”
In a pastoral letter, the archbishop called on Spanish society to defend marriage and avoid making homosexual marriage legal. Responding to critics, he said, “I have shown no scorn, aggression or discrimination” against those who suffer from this disorder.
Archbishop Sebastián said his letter expresses “the feelings of the great majority of the population, based on anthropological foundations, with no intention of offending anybody.” He said he was surprised by “the intolerance of those who crush anyone who doesn’t think like them.”
He also explained that, “When we issue these warnings from the Church it is not because of a lack of care or respect for homosexuals, but rather to prevent the spread of this problem which causes so much suffering, to defend out young people from bad experiences which can lead to many difficulties, and to let homosexuals know that, if they wish, under proper guidance, they can change their situations.”
Archbishop Sebastian made his statements while presenting his book, “Archbishop Fernando Sebastián: Witness of the Gospel,” which is a collection of various letters, homilies, and speeches which he has given during his 25 years as a bishop.