Madrid, Spain, Jan 19, 2005 (CNA) - Despite media reports around the world that the bishops of Spain have thrown their support behind condoms as a means of preventing AIDS, the statements by the General Secretary of the Bishops Conference of Spain, which are the source of the reports, reiterate the Catholic position that abstinence and fidelity must be promoted in order to stop AIDS.
Father Juan Martinez Camino, spokesman for the bishops, held a meeting with the Health Minister, Elena Salgado, to discuss the issue of AIDS prevention. Speaking to the press, Father Martinez stated that the Church is “very concerned about and interested in” this “grave problem,” and he maintained that the position of the bishops, made know on repeated occasions, in favor of abstinence and fidelity, “is also backed up by scientific evidence.”
In this way Father Martinez referred to the so-called “ABC Strategy,” which was the subject of the medical magazine “The Lancet” last November, which revealed that 150 experts from 36 countries for the first time acknowledged that the promotion of abstinence and fidelity should be taken into account in AIDS prevention campaigns.
The ABC Strategy proposes “a common foundation” for the prevention of AIDS, with the letters standing for abstinence, be faithful, and condoms. Father Martinez was reported to have told the Health Minister that the Church is against the systematic and unilateral generalization of the condom as the only method of prevention. According to Father Martinez, the meeting was characterized by a “very extensive and cordial” dialogue that only concerned the current medical and social status of the disease.
Likewise, the said the meeting convinced him that there are certain prejudices against the position of the Church on AIDS prevention and that collaboration by “everybody from their respective areas and responsibilities is what is needed to try to solve a very serious problem such as this in Spain and in the world.”
Father Martinez explained that he requested the meeting “in order to understand well the positions (of the government) on the matter” and to find ways to collaborate. “This is our desire and I hope that the future will take us down this path,” he said.
Salgado, on the other hand, insisted that the Church should not question the validity of using condoms as AIDS prevention, because she says there are international organizations that endorse them.
Vatican City, Jan 19, 2005 (CNA) - "These are days of reflection and prayer”, the Holy Father said today in his general audience at the Vatican, recalling the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which began yesterday.
He continued that the week is a fitting reminder to Christians “that the re-establishment of full unity among them, according to Jesus' will, involves all the baptized, both pastors and faithful."
John Paul II affirmed that the Week of Prayer "is taking place a few months after the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Decree 'Unitatis redintegratio' of Vatican Council II, a key text that firmly and irrevocably placed the Catholic Church within the ecumenical movement."
"This year," he went on, "the theme faces us with a truth basic to all ecumenical commitment: that Christ is the foundation of the Church.
“The Council strongly recommended prayer for unity as the soul of the entire ecumenical movement. ... But prayer must be accompanied by purification of mind, feelings and memory. Thus it becomes an expression of that 'interior conversion' without which there is no ecumenism.”
In the end, unity is a gift of God, a gift to be tirelessly implored with humility and truth."
After highlighting how the longing for unity is spreading, the Holy Father pointed out that "the Lord has recently allowed his disciples to form important contacts of dialogue and collaboration.”
The pain of separation makes itself felt ever more intensely, in the face of the challenges of a world that awaits clear and unanimous evangelical witness from all believers in Christ."
The Pope concluded by recalling that on January 25 he will be spiritually present at the celebration of Vespers to close the Week of Prayer, which will be presided in his name by Cardinal Walter Kasper.
The ceremony is due to take place in the basilica of St Paul's Outside-the-Walls and will be attended by representatives from other Churches and Christian confessions.
"I also ask you to pray so that, as soon as possible, the entire family of the faithful may achieve the full communion desired by Christ."
Prior to the audience, John Paul II blessed a statue of St Gregory the Illuminator, the apostle of the Armenians, which has been placed behind the Vatican Basilica. The brief ceremony was attended by the patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, together with the bishops of his entourage.
Mosul, Iraq, Jan 19, 2005 (CNA) - The Iraqi archbishop, who was kidnapped Monday but released yesterday after 19 hours in captivity, credits the Pope for his quick release. The Vatican had called the abduction a ''despicable terrorist act'' and demanded that the kidnappers free him immediately.
Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa was released without payment of ransom, the Vatican said. The kidnappers initially demanded $200,000.
''The kidnappers themselves told me this morning about (the Pope’s) appeal, which I maintain was a decisive factor in my liberation,” the archbishop was quoted as saying.
The 66-year-old archbishop told Vatican Radio that he was not mistreated and he did not think the kidnappers “wanted to strike at the Church per se.'' He said his kidnappers did not realize who he was when they kidnapped him.
Papal spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Vatican did not view the kidnapping as an anti-Christian act but part of the general climate of violence in Iraq, reported the Associated Press.
Pope John Paul II was reportedly told of the archbishop’s release and immediately offered prayers of thanks.
An estimated 15,000 Christians have left Iraq since August, when four churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul were bombed, killing 12 people and injuring 61. A fifth church was bombed in Baghdad in September.
Christians make up three percent of Iraq's 26 million people. The largest Christian groups include Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians.
Vatican City, Jan 19, 2005 (CNA) - At the end of his general audience today, the Holy Father gave a special greeting to the Armenian delegation present at the Vatican.
"I have special thoughts," he began, "for the patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, and the other bishops who accompany him."
The patriarch is in Rome for today's blessing by the Pope of a statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the apostle of Armenia who is also called "the Enlightener," who brought Christianity to the Armenians and who died in 332. The statue will be in a courtyard of St. Peter's Basilica.
"I also wish to greet," he added, "the priests, seminarians and lay people of the Neocatechumenal Way.”
“Dear ones”, the Pope addressed them, “I thank you for your generous commitment to the new evangelization. I hope that your reflections in recent days will help you to deepen, with a docile spirit, the communion both with the pastors of the local Churches and the appropriate offices of the Holy See.”
"You can thus offer an ever more effective contribution to the cause of the Gospel”, the Pope concluded.
, Jan 19, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic League president William Donohue issued a statement yesterday, questioning the journalistic integrity of the New York Times. He noted that the daily was quick to run articles slamming Pope Pius XII as an alleged pro-Nazi supporter.
However, it failed to publish a subsequent article that hit the press, stating that Adolf Hitler viewed the wartime Pope as “an obstacle to his plan for global domination” and ordered his kidnapping, said Donohue.
“Though the wire services and many major newspapers at home and abroad carried the story, readers of the New York Times have yet to read about Hitler’s plot,” said Donohue.
Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2005 (CNA) - President Bush must follow through on a campaign promise and take a stronger lead in protecting marriage, said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council in a statement released yesterday.
Perkins was responding to a front-page article in Sunday’s Washington Post, which reported that Bush "will not press senators to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage" during his second term.
"The American voter, particularly the 'values voter,' went to the polls last November in extraordinary numbers to support the presidential candidate who spoke to the issue of protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said Perkins.
“Pundits and policy makers agree that this was the domestic policy issue that turned the election,” he pointed out.
"After traveling the nation for a year campaigning for reelection, the president heard a resounding message from the American people – they want marriage protected,” said Perkins.
"The president has a mandate to protect marriage, therefore he, not members of the Senate, must lead the effort to protect the institution of marriage," he said.
"Both here and abroad, the judicial assault on man-woman marriage is well under way,” he continued. “Leadership is needed now to protect the institution of marriage, our children and their future."
Steubenville, Ohio, Jan 19, 2005 (CNA) - Students, Faculty, and community leaders will gather tomorrow night at Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Christ the King Chapel in Ohio in recognition of the Holy Father’s call for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The University will hold its 15th annual “Preach Out”, started in 1990 by then president Fr. Michael Scanlon T.O.R. where, according to the University, “religious leaders from three branches of Christianity will share the same microphone.”
According to Tom Sofio, director of public relations for Franciscan University, “Each year the pastors are asked to speak on a theme related to Christian unity. This year they will preach on "ways to build up unity among Christians" based on Psalm 36, 5-9.”
The event echoes today’s papal audience in which John Paul II reminded Christians that, “the re-establishment of full unity among them, according to Jesus' will, involves all the baptized, both pastors and faithful."
Sofio commented that Fr. Scanlon, who is chancellor of the University as well as a renowned speaker and author would again be preaching and representing the Catholic Church.
Fr. Scanlon will preach along side the Reverend D’Wain O. Wales of Quinn AME Church in Steubenville, and Bruce Hitchcock, director of the Urban Mission.
Music, according to the University will be by the Voices of Praise Gospel Choir and the Franciscan University Festival of Praise Music Ministry.
Sofio added that students at the University “respond enthusiastically to the evening.”
Moscow, Russia, Jan 19, 2005 (CNA) - Russia's population will likely decline by about one-third, from 145 million to 100 million, by 2050, said the Russian Security Council in a statement last week. The current population is 145 million.
The decline is due to high mortality and a low birth rate, said the statement, according to a Jan. 13 report by Xinhuanet.
The report pointed out that the average life expectancy of a Russian man is 15 years lower than that of an American man, and Russia’s birth rate saw the most dramatic decline between 1930 and 1950.
Officials are concerned about the future of the country. The Security Council’s statement suggested that migration may help stabilize the situation.
Lima, Peru, Jan 19, 2005 (CNA) - The Peruvian medical journal “Gestión Diaria” is reporting that a group of doctors lead by the president of the Peruvian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Valentin Jaimes, is demanding abortion be legal in cases of rape.
Currently the Society, representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry for Women and different international groups that work in the area of so-called “sexual and reproductive rights” are drafting a Guide or Protocol for legal abortion, including abortion in cases of rape.
“We are asking that the Guide include (pregnancies due to rape) as one of the reasons for the legal termination of a pregnancy, and these reasons will have to be approved by the Medical College and the Health Minister, and after by Congress,” said Jaimes.
According to Jaimes, abortions for pregnancies resulting from rape are justified because “the pregnancy is a constant reminder of the rape for the woman. Moreover, nobody wants to have an unwanted child who is the fruit of violence.”
Although Jaimes acknowledged he did not have any figures on how many pregnancies result from rape, he insisted that “the unwanted child is a problem throughout the world and one-fourth of all children that are born are unwanted. In our country during the last decade more than one million of these children have been born.”
For Jaimes, “to be an unwanted child leads the mother to see the child as a problem in her life, to not give the child the necessary affection and circumstances are created in which the child may not emotional develop properly.” This would be enough to justify abortion, he argued.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 19, 2005 (CNA) - In a recent article for the Archdiocesan newspaper, “Seminario,” the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiquez, exhorted Mexicans to look at themselves and assume the responsibility for overcoming the country’s problems and to get rid of fatalism.
The cardinal recalled that for decades Mexico has suffered poverty, violence, poor education, corruption, drug trafficking and other problems. Nevertheless, the said it was easy to blame “the United States or whoever else comes to mind, but rarely do we think of ourselves, who all together, are responsible for what has happened in the country in the last decades or even centuries.”
In his article the cardinal noted the existence of three characteristics of the Mexican psyche that explains the current situation of the country.
The first is conformism which, combined with a bit of fatalism, leads many people to accept negative events. He added that his leads to blaming God for everything, “when in reality it is we, hidden in the comfort of this fatalism, who are the creators of misery and laziness.”
The second is the lack of a historical memory. The cardinal pointed out that by not knowing and reflection upon the country’s past, the same errors risk being repeated.
And lastly, he mentioned individualism and the struggle for one’s interests, where what is important is personal gain and not the progress of the country.
Berlin, Germany, Jan 19, 2005 (CNA) - The association Sign of Light of the Schoenstatt Movement has begun collecting signatures against late-term abortions, which German law permits even when the baby could survive outside the mother’s womb.
The practice of late-term abortions in Germany is based on an article in the Penal Code that established abortion as “not punishable” when it is believed that the birth of a child will gravely affect the life or health of the mother.
Organizers of the signature drive hope to influence the next legislative session in the German congress which will begin on February 16.
“We encourage our Schoenstatt Family and all people to raise their voices against this terrible form of abortion. We believe it is possible to achieve a real change in the law, so that the life of the unborn is protected,” said Ulrike Eichenberg, spokesman for Sign of Light.
Sign of Light helps pregnant women by giving them economic assistance as well as psychological and spiritual care.