Vatican City, Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday evening in the Vatican Basilica Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano celebrated a Mass in the Pope's name for victims of the tsunami which devastated parts of South Asian on December 26.
Referring in his homily to the catastrophe of the event and its consequences, Cardinal Sodano affirmed that, "once again, man felt his insignificance with respect to the complexity of the planet on which we live. And so a natural interior impulse arose within us to look to the heavens, seeking a response to the many questions that arise in moments of confusion."
He went on, "Some people have even asked themselves how is it possible for man - who has managed to reach the moon, who has sent a probe to Titan more than a billion kilometers from earth - to be so impotent in the face of such disasters.”
And many others have asked whether Christian faith has a clear response to the enigma of pain. The response of the believer was immediate: Yes. God always loves men and women, and He is always close to them with a Father's love!"
The Secretary of State recalled that God "became man to share our existence, in the joyful and the sad moments of life."
Closing his homily, the Cardinal gave assurances that "in this moment of prayer, the Pope is near us, and with us he confides the souls of all those who died in the terrible tidal wave of Southeast Asia to the hands of God. ...”
The Vicar of Christ continues to call us to solidarity with our brothers and sisters" of the populations stricken by the tragedy.
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore participated in the UN General Assembly commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps by allied troops.
"My delegation," said Archbishop Migliore, "welcomes this chance to remember the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, so that humanity not forget the terror of which man is capable; the evils of arrogant political extremism and social engineering."
"Today we contemplate the consequences of intolerance, as we recall all those ... considered unfit for society - the Jews, the Slavonic peoples, the Roma people, the disabled, homosexuals, among others - (who) were marked for extermination."
The death camps, he went on, "are also witnesses to an unprecedented plan for the deliberate, systematic extermination of a whole people, the Jewish people. ... During his visit to Auschwitz in 1979, Pope John Paul the Second stated that we must let the cry of the people martyred there change the world for the better."
"In a century marked by man-made catastrophes, the Nazi death camps are a particularly sobering reminder of 'man's inhumanity to man' and of his capacity for evil.”
“Nevertheless,” he went on, “we should remember that humankind is also capable of great good, of self-sacrifice and altruism”.
In the context of today's commemoration, we need only think of those courageous people from all walks of society, ... recognized as 'Righteous among the Nations'" he added, in a reference to those who helped the Jewish people during the Second World War.
"May all men and women of good will seize this solemn occasion to say "Never again" to such crimes, no matter their political inspiration, so that all nations, as well as this Organization, truly respect the life, liberty and dignity of every human being."
Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - Tens of thousands of pro-lifers marched on Washington yesterday to mark the 32nd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and to let government know they want an end to abortion. The demonstrators, gathered on the Ellipse yesterday, were buoyed by the support of President George W. Bush.
The president addressed the crowd by telephone from Camp David, Md., telling them: “This movement will not fail.” He said their approach to the debate this year would "change hearts and minds" of those still favoring abortion rights.
"This is the path of the culture of life that we seek for our country," he said.
Pro-lifers believe that Bush’s re-election is evidence that the Supreme Court and its pro-abortion stance is out of step with the American public and that Roe vs. Wade should be overturned.
The pro-life demonstration takes place every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. Demonstrations were also held throughout the country over the weekend, Jan. 22, on the actual anniversary of the court decision.
Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - The Supreme Court declined yesterday to consider a case about whether some states may offer license plates with pro-life messages, reported the Associated Press.
As a result, justices have let stand a lower court ruling that South Carolina's license plates, with the slogan "Choose Life," are unconstitutional.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va., ruled that they violate the First Amendment because abortion rights supporters were not given a similar forum to express their beliefs. The 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction also includes Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
Since 2001, South Carolina drivers could purchase the pro-life plates for $70, and all revenue was directed toward local crisis pregnancy programs. But the Supreme Court’s deferral means that South Carolina will either have to eliminate the “Choose Life” plates or begin offering plates with pro-abortion messages.
Planned Parenthood of South Carolina had filed the lawsuit against the state. The state argued the plates are "government speech" that entitles them to allow a particular viewpoint without an obligation to include dissenting views, reported the Associated Press. Otherwise, the state would have to allow countering views to license plates touching on any public policy matter, such as "God Bless America," it said.
The state government also argued that the plates express the state’s preference for childbirth over abortion.
The Supreme Court deferral places the 4th Circuit Court decision in conflict with another lower court decision on the same issue that approved the plates.
A 5th Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans decided in December 2002 to allow the plates in the states within its jurisdiction: Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - The Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a national ad campaign to clear up the misinformation many people have about abortion.
The campaign, called the “Second Look Project,” presents basic facts about legal abortion and encourages people to take a reconsider their views on abortion. The campaign coincides with the 32nd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the court case that legalized abortion in the United States.
For example, most people don’t know that abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy, said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., director of planning and information for the secretariat. “Most people think an unlimited right to abortion is wrong,” she said.
More than 500 ads will appear on Metro trains and buses in the Washington area in January and February. Ads were also placed in the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the National Catholic Register, America, Commonweal, the New Republic, and the National Review.
The ads direct readers to the Web site: www.secondlookproject.org.
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - On Wednesday, February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the Holy Father will celebrate the 9th annual Day of Consecrated Life and preside at a 5.30 p.m. Mass in St Peter's Basilica.
He will bless the candles, participate in the opening procession and, following the homily, lead thanksgiving to God for the gift of consecrated life. At the end of the Mass he will impart his apostolic blessing.
The Eucharist will be celebrated by Archbishop Franc Rode, C.M., prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Valencia, Fla., Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - The next World Meeting of Families, which will take place in July of 2006, “is the most important gathering in the history of the city of Valencia,” said city official Francisco Camps.
The Foundation of the Community of Valencia will be charged with coordinating the event.
In setting up the Foundation, the Archbishop of Valencia defended “the family built on marriage as the reference point in society of a plan that guarantees a life of liberty, justice, truth and love.”
The place chosen for the event as well the time of year will enable the largest number of people possible to participate in the event. Participants will also be able to enjoy the festivities in the community associated with the beginning of summer.
The World Meeting of Families is an event started by Pope John Paul II in 1994 and has taken place twice in Rome (1994 and 2000) and once in Rio de Janeiro (1997) and Manila (2003).
Rome, Italy, Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - The Italian daily “Corriere della Sera” reported this Sunday that it has gained access to a dossier containing various unpublished documents that classify the case of the “Madonnina de Civitavecchia,” a statue of Mary that has wept blood on fourteen occasions over ten years, as a “true miracle.”
The editorial, written by renowned Catholic journalist Vittorio Messori, explains that the dossier that will be published in the coming days ratifies that “in this corner of the earth, an event that has no human explanation and that points to the mystery of the supernatural has been verified.”
Messori emphasizes the testimony of the bishop of Civitavecchia, Girolamo Grilli, “who went from the most radical skepticism to acceptance of the mystery” when, on the morning of March 15, 1995, while he held the statue in his hands, blood began to flow out of its eyes and ran down the neck of the statue.
The dossier also includes documentation from all of the studies carried out, as well as the testimony by Marian expert Stefano De Fiores, who maintains that “the hand of God is here.”
The case of the Madonnina de Civitavecchia, a city located 70 kilometers north of Rome, came to light on February 2, 1995, when a five year-old girl, Jessica Gregori, noticed tears of blood streaming from the eyes of the 43 centimeter tall statue which had been brought from Medjugore by the pastor of the local parish of St. Augustine.
On February 10, 1995, an analysis carried out by experts from the Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome revealed the blood to be human with masculine characteristics. The statue was kept in a closet at the diocesan chancery, and on March 15, when Bishop Grilli removed it from the closet in the presence of three people, the statue began to weep blood while he held it in his hands. The Madonnina has wept a total of fourteen times.
The statue was confiscated by local officials for several months during 1995, but later in that year it was returned to the parish of St. Augustine where it was placed on display.
Raipur, India, Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - In an effort to control the population of a Maoist-dominated tribal area, where couples have an average of six children, the Chhattisgarh government has increased cash incentives for men and women opting for sterilization, reported India News Jan. 14.
State Health Minister Krishnamurthy Bandhi said cash incentives would be increased for men who receive a vasectomy to Rs.250 from Rs.140. Women who receive a tubectomy would get Rs.200 from Rs.40.
The minister said the government is trying to convince the tribal population to “adopt the two-child norm” and tap into the government programs that are reserved for families with two children or less.
India News reported that the state's population control program among the Maoist group is aimed at “winning the faith of the people in order to wean them away from the Maoists.”
Chhattisgarh's Director General of Police O.P. Rathor has welcomed the program saying that health facilities have always been poor in Maoist areas and that it would allow police to bring Maoist youth "back to the mainstream."
Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday, the Supreme Court denied an appeal to reinstate a Florida law, which was passed to keep brain damaged Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.
The rejection may now clear the way for the tube’s removal.
Last fall, the Florida Supreme Court had struck down the law, and the U.S. Supreme Court was being considered by some the last hope for the law to be reinstated.
Shiavo’s husband, Michael Shiavo contends that his wife, who has been in the brain damaged state for the last ten years resulting from an eating disorder, would not have wanted to be kept alive.
The woman’s parents however, say that there daughter said no such thing and deserves the right to live.
Although he doesn’t know what the next step will be, Robert Schindler, Terri’s father commented Monday that, "We're going to fight for her as much as we can fight for her.”
London, England, Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - Britain’s recently appointed Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, has come under fire in the British press for her association to Opus Dei, a Catholic group founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.
She admitted on BBC’s Breakfast with Frost that she receives spiritual support from Opus Dei. The group has come under a lot of media scrutiny due to its strict observance of Church teachings and its unfavorable portrayal in the recent book, The DaVinci Code.
"People know that I’m a Catholic and that I take it seriously. And I come to this job as a Catholic, as well as a parent and with all sorts of other influences," said Kelly.
The 36-year-old pledged, however, that her Catholic faith would not affect her position in public office and judgment as a minister.
Her political adversaries disagree, alleging that her faith may stop her advancing the government’s agenda on such matters as stem-cell research and abortion.
"I am absolutely clear that, as a member of this Government, I have collective responsibility for government policy," said Kelly, the youngest woman ever to be appointed to Cabinet.
She also denied telling Prime Minister Tony Blair she cannot work in the International Development Department because it distributes condoms to fight AIDS in Africa.
Kelly did not disclose in the interview whether she was a supernumerary, one of the terms used to describe committed members of Opus Dei.
Opus Dei has about 500 members in Britain and 80,000 worldwide.
Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - The Federal Drug Administration has delayed its decision about whether to make the morning-after pill available over the counter. The morning-after pill is also known as Plan B.
The FDA had aimed to have a decision by Jan. 21, but Barr Pharmaceuticals said in a statement Friday that the FDA told the company it was unable to complete its review by then.
According the statement, the FDA said, "it is committed to completing its review of the application in the near future."
The FDA had rejected the over-the-counter proposal last year, stating that there was a lack of information about the drug’s effect on teenagers.
Barr submitted another application for the drug about six months ago, proposing that Plan B be made available without prescription to women, aged 16 and over. A prescription would be required for anyone under 16.
Hours after the company announced the delay, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against the FDA in a New York federal court for failing to approve Plan B for over-the-counter access.
, Jan 25, 2005 (CNA) - A court in Cundinamarca, Colombia, has sentenced two guerrilla rebels of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) to 31 years in prison for the two-day long kidnapping of Archbishop Jorge Enrique Jimenez Carvajal, who at the time was president of the Latin American Bishops Conference.
According to police investigations, the two rebels—John Leider Quintero and Carlos Yovanni Rodriquez, members of the FARC—demanded a “huge sum of money” as ransom payment for the release of the archbishop and other victims.
After the kidnapping took place on November 11, 2002, Colombian officials launched a massive operation and successfully rescued the archbishop and his companion and captured one of the kidnappers. The operation was based on a tip by another guerilla fighter who had previously turned himself in to Colombian police.