Archive of February 11, 2005

Forensic Scientists reveal what Jesus may have looked like as a 12-year old

Rome, Italy, Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - Forensic scientists in Italy are working on a different kind of investigation—one that dates back 2000 years.

In an astounding announcement, the scientists think they may have re-created an image of Jesus Christ when He was a 12-year old boy.

Using the Shroud of Turin, a centuries-old linen cloth, which many believe bears the face of the crucified Christ, the investigators first created a computer-modeled, composite picture of the Christ’s face.

Dr. Carlo Bui, one of the scientists said that, “the face of the man on the shroud is the face of a suffering man. He has a deeply ruined nose. It was certainly struck."  

 Then, using techniques usually reserved for investigating missing persons, they back dated the image to create the closest thing many will ever see to a photograph of the young Christ.

“Without a doubt, the eyes... That is, the deepness of the eyes, the central part of the face in its complexity”, said forensic scientist Andrea Amore, one of the chief investigators who made the discovery.

The shroud itself, a 14-foot long by 3.5-foot wide woven cloth believed by many to be the burial shroud of Jesus, is receiving renewed attention lately.

A Los Alamos, New Mexico scientist has recently cast grave doubt that the carbon dating originally used to date the shroud was valid. This would suggest that the shroud may in fact be 2000 years old after all, placing it precisely in the period of Christ’s crucifixion.

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Pope anxious to get back to work

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - The Pope is back home at the Vatican today after his release Thursday evening from the Gemelli hospital in Rome.

John Paul II rode in his famous Popemobile to much fanfare from supporters through Roman streets as he made his return journey.

Although it is unclear when the Holy Father would again be seen in public, the Vatican stressed that the 84-year old pontiff was “impatient” to get back to work.

Faithful will likely get a chance to see the Pope at the Angelus on Sunday, at which, it is reported that he would like to give his weekly reflection. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls commented on Thursday that, "the pope will look at his diary when he gets home and make the decision himself. He will also listen to the opinion of [Renato Buzzonetti], his personal doctor."

Many think that the next few days, as the Pope is away from the technology of the Gemelli Polyclinic, will be crucial in determining how John Paul II’s recovery is progressing.

Although, many have used the occasion of the Pope’s sickness to speculate on his possible retirement, it seems clear that the Vatican is showing no signs of the Holy Father leaving his post. One German daily, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung said the pope "will never resign. His faith, and his love for the public, will not allow him to."

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Pope appoints Vingt-Trois new Archbishop of Paris

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - Just back from the hospital after his recent bout with the flu, Pope John Paul II yesterday appointed Andre Vingt-Trois, former Archbishop of Tours, as the new Archbishop of Paris.

According to the Holy See, the Pope accepted the resignation of Jean Marie Lustiger, previous Parisian Archbishop for reasons of age according to the norms of Canon Law. The Archbishop was 79.

Despite his resignation, the Polish Lustiger, who is known for his strong promotion of Christian-Jewish dialogue, will remain a “great elector” for a possible papal conclave for one more year.

Lustiger stepped down as France’s senior Archbishop on Friday after 24 years.

Appointed Cardinal by Pope John Paul in 1983, Lustiger recently represented the Pope at the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps.

62-year old Vingt Trois served under Lusinger for 18 years as a priest and then auxiliary bishop before being appointed as Archbishop of Tours. He will be installed as Archbishop of Paris at Notre Dame Cathedral on March 5th.

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Church cannot support ‘emergency contraception’ for rape victims, says Archbishop Chaput

Denver, Colo., Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - In a guest comment in the Denver Post Feb. 8, Archbishop Charles Chaput explained why the Catholic Church cannot support legislation that would require hospitals in the state to provide emergency contraception for women who are raped.

The archbishop of Denver was responding to State Rep. Fran Coleman, a Catholic legislator, who recently took issue with Catholic resistance to portions of HB 1042.

Archbishop Chaput stated that while Catholic teaching supports the right of rape victims to defend themselves against potential conception by preventing ovulation, it could not support methods that would work as abortifacients and eliminate the fertilized egg.

“If the hormonal agents used in emergency contraception are intended to suppress ovulation, and if they're applied at a point in a victim's cycle where they truly can prevent ovulation, Catholics can support their use,” he explained.

“The Church and her health-care institutions already allow for this as an act of defense against violent sexual assault,” he added.

But HB 1042 describes emergency contraception as "any drug or device approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration that prevents pregnancy after sexual intercourse, including but not limited to contraceptive pills."

Given this definition of emergency contraception, if the bill were passed, Catholic hospitals would unfortunately be obliged to refer such patients to other hospitals on moral grounds, the archbishop said.

“Catholic hospitals - which provide their services based on moral and religious convictions about the dignity of the human person - should not be obligated to perform or refer for procedures which violate Catholic teaching,” he said.

The archbishop also insisted that the bill include informed consent.

“A victim of sexual assault surely has the right to know what is being administered to her and what its potential effects are,” he said.

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Messori says John Paul II has no intention of resigning

Rome, Italy, Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic journalist Vittorio Messori, who wrote “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” together with Pope John Paul II, told the Italian daily “Corriere della Sera” this week that the Holy Father has “no intention of resigning, no matter how sick he gets.”

“John Paul II’s decision has not changed,” Messori explained, underscoring that during the last Angelus at the Gemelli Hospital, the Pope assured that he would continue serving the Church.

“That statement should be understood as a reaffirmation that, even in his condition, the Church is being governed and will continue to be governed.  And governed by him, not by shadow governments,” he added.

According to Messori, “The Church can never be considered a corporation, and her leader is not a president who must display good health, youthfulness and act like a manager.”

John Paul II’s Christian witness is unequaled, Messori continued, and although his body is ravaged by the effects of Parkinson’s disease, “his spirit continues to be indomitable.”

“He has already made his decision in conscience—we can confirm—and at least for the foreseeable future he will not turn back:  the good of the Church today passes through the Calvary of a vicar who each day bears the cross that Jesus carried all the way to the peak of Golgotha,” Messori concluded.

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New cardinals possible this year, says Vatican observer

Rome, Italy, Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - In his latest column for L’Espresso online, Vatican observer Sandro Magister speculates about the most important “candidates” in a possible conclave and signals that Pope John Paul II could convene a consistory this year to create new cardinals.

The latest interventions by the Pope, argues Magister, “refute the notion that John Paul II is not making decisions. On the contrary; Pope Wojtyla has certain matters in his heart, and he wishes to continue working for them with a resolution that is not affected in the least by his physical fragility.”

According to Magister, one of these matters is “the defense of the unborn,” a theme that “is destined to be continued with his successor.”

For this reason, Magister points out that “of the conclave that will elect the next Pope, in fact, if Ratzinger is not the one elected, it will be someone whom he designates.”

Magister maintains the Pope could create new cardinals sometime between June and October.  In his column he speculates about who those new cardinals might be.

The complete column can be read at:

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Mass. Supreme Court grants oral argument in seeking stay of same-sex marriage

Ann Arbor, Mich., Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - In an unexpected move, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced that it would hear oral argument in a case seeking to stay the court’s decision, which legalized same-sex marriage a year ago.

As a result of that decision, same-sex couples have been permitted to marry in Massachusetts since May 17, 2004.

The Thomas More Law Center filed the appeal on behalf of C. Joseph Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts.

The appeal asks the Court to stay its decision so that the process currently under way to amend the state’s constitution and define marriage as the union of one man and one woman can proceed unhindered.

The Law Center had initially petitioned a single justice of the court April 20, pending the constitutional process currently under way.

The petition and an ensuing request for an expedited appeal were denied. But the full Court ultimately decided that Doyle’s appeal could “proceed in the ordinary course,” keeping the case alive.

As a result, Doyle filed an appeal and the Massachusetts Supreme Court just announced that it has agreed to hear it. This is the last legal action capable of stopping this decision.

“The fact that the Massachusetts Supreme Court has decided to take up this issue again is remarkable,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Law Center. “Clearly, the tide is changing in America — moral values do matter.”

Citizens for the Preservation of Constitutional Rights has joined the Law Center in arguing the case.

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PA Catholic Conference says no to bill permitting embryonic stem-cell research

Harrisburg, Pa., Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has launched a major campaign to stop legislation that would allow embryonic stem-cell research.

The conference has responded to the news that several members of the General Assembly will introduce legislation to overturn Pennsylvania law banning research on human embryonic stem cells.

If passed, the bill would overturn part of Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act. It would permit the creation of human embryos through cloning. These embryos would then be destroyed for research. It would also propose that embryonic stem-cell research be supported by a half a billion dollars of public funding.

The conference acknowledged the need for ethical research to combat disease and injury, but restated its commitment to protect human beings at every stage of life.

"While the goals of curing disease and bringing jobs to Pennsylvania are certainly laudable, they can and should be accomplished with ethical research, which does not require the creation and destruction of human beings," said PCC executive director Dr. Robert J. O'Hara, Jr.

The legislation is being proposed by Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia), Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Pittsburgh), and Democratic Whip Rep. Mike Veon (D-Beaver).

The Catholic Conference notes that Pennsylvania has already been pursuing adult stem-cell research, which does not require the death of an embryo and is being considered by researchers to be more effective than embryonic stem-cell research.

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Draft legislation undermines commitment to refugees, say U.S. bishops

Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says draft legislation, which would have barriers and walls constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border, would undermine U.S. commitments to protecting victims of foreign persecution and make the country less secure.

The immigration law, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), is currently being debated in the House of Representatives.

According to a USCCB statement, the REAL ID Act would make changes in the area of asylum protection, the issuance of driver’s licenses and state identification cards. It would bring about the construction of barriers and walls along the U.S.-Mexico border and change the grounds for removal and admissibility of immigrants. The legislation would also restrict judicial review of certain types of immigration relief.

“In opposing the legislation, we strongly believe that its provisions would effectively weaken the protection of asylum, thus preventing victims of persecution from receiving its protections; undermine our national security; and promote unsound public policy,” said Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino in statement Feb. 9. 

In a letter to the members of the House, the chairman of the USCCB Migration Committee argued that restricting access to asylum would “deny legitimate asylum seekers protection in our nation, a traditional haven of refuge for the world’s oppressed.”

The REAL ID Act “would not make our nation safer, as proponents of the measure argue,” said the bishop.

Limiting access to driver’s licenses would “make our roads less safe” because law enforcement officials have stated that “denying eligibility for licenses to persons not lawfully present in the United States would increase the number of untrained, unlicensed, and uninsured drivers,” said the statement.

For the full text by Bishop Gerald Barnes, go to:

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Inner city youth minister uses Hip-hop to preach the Gospel

Houston, Texas, Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - St. Francis of Assisi once said, “preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words.” 27-year old Bob Lesnefsky’s motto isn’t too far off. “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use rap.”

Until a few years ago, Lesnefsky, or “Righteous B” as he is better known today, was working as a youth minister in an inner city New York parish and having little success. “They weren’t responding to traditional ways of preaching the gospel”, he says.

That’s when Lesnefsky decided to try something different. He’d always enjoyed listening to hip-hop but said that the kids he worked with were “absolutely saturated in it.”

“I wanted to enter into and fully understand their culture and so I just started listening to rap all the time.”

That when Righteous B was born. Late nights spent in his basement trying to lay down his first beats on admittedly “primitive gear” led to so much success with the kids that Lesnefsky decided to put out his first CD, Are you ready for Righteous B?

That has since led to a second CD, Get the Kids to Revolt, as well as concerts in venues around the country including the Steubenville High School Youth Conferences.

Lesnefsky’s influences include such varied individuals as Rich Mullins, LL Cool J and St. Maximilian Kolbe, who “used modern technology to preach the Gospel.”

His ministry is clearly working too. “There are tons of cool lil stories about kids responding in awesome ways to the music.” He especially loves the stories of kids opening up “who never responded to any kind of ministry experience before.”

In the same vein as St. Maximilian, who utilized the tools of modern culture to spread Christ’s message, Lesnefsky is quick to point out that the influence of hip-hop music is everywhere, “from McDonalds commercials to mainstream rock.”

Prior to turning to hip-hop, he spent years in and out of bands as a Christian singer/songwriter but now, thinks that, “the whole game is changing. Hip hop is at a different place and there are amazingly talented mc's all over the place [rapping] for the church.”

Although many associate rap and hip-hop with things like drugs and gangs, Lesnefsky is convinced that “people have had enough of that.” He is convinced that there are many incredibly talented Christian artists today who doing a big part to change that association.

Talkin’ bout a revolution

Pope John Paul II has been speaking for years about a “new springtime” for the Church – which Lesnefsky sees as a revolution. This “revolution” against what the Pope calls the “culture of death”, he notes, “needs to start with me. My heart needs to change.”

And at its heart, this is the message Righteous B is spreading to young people—to be a part of the spiritual revolution, the new springtime, that, he says the Church is “aching for.”

Although he now lives with his wife and three children in what he calls the “mean streets of suburban Houston,” Lesnefsky’s heart remains in the inner city.

One of his major ministry goals is the creation of a non-profit, aimed at trying to come up with effective ways to do ministry to urban teens. 10% of the proceeds of each of his records, in fact, goes to help inner city parishes.

“To us,” Lesnefsky says, “life is Christ; and ultimately, that’s the fullness of everything we want to be about.”

More information can be found on-line at

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Gibson to re-release Passion of the Christ

Hollywood, Calif., Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - On March 11th, Mel Gibson and New Market Films plan to release The Passion Recut to 500-750 movie screens around the country.

The new cut of the film removes five to six minutes of the most violent scenes, specifically the scourging scene. Bruce Davey, Gibson’s partner in Icon Productions commented that, "there are no new scenes, and the cuts are limited to the more violent aspects of the film, if that's the right term.”

Reportedly, the goal is to reach an audience who may have been turned away by the violence but would still like to see the film.

The Passion Recut is scheduled to run in theaters through Easter. Davey also noted that this may be the beginning of a yearly release for The Passion.

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Brazilian Cardinal: the Pope’s mission will end when God calls him

, Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - The president of the National Bishops Conference of Brazil and Archbishop of San Salvador de Bahia, Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, weighed in on media reports this week speculating about papal retirement, saying Pope John Paul II views “the governing of the Church as a mission” that will only reach its conclusion when he is called home to the Father.

Speaking to local reporters, the cardinal explained that although the Pope is physically limited, he cannot be dismissed, according to Canon Law.  He explained that “the Pope could resign, but as long as he can communicate what he thinks and the issues that concern him, even if only in writing, “he can continue to govern the Church.”  On the other hand, the Secretary General of the Conference, Auxiliary Bishop Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paolo said the Pope is “in full recovery.”

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Cardinal Rivera exhorts faithful to reach out to elderly during Lent

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - Presiding at Ash Wednesday services at the Archdiocesan Cathedral, the Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, called on the faithful to live intensely “the Lenten conversion” and to reach out in charity to the “abandoned elderly.”

Referring to the Pope’s 2005 Lenten message, Cardinal Rivera explained that “the number of elderly in this city is on the increase and their living conditions should inspire true conversion in us.”  He added that during this Lent, “our neighbor has a collective face: the multitude of elderly who are alone, abandoned and many times poor and marginalized.”

The cardinal underscored that “Lenten conversion is presented to us this year as a call of John Paul II to reach out to the elderly in our daily lives, to show them signs of openness so that they are not marginalized but are part of family and community life.”

Joined by more than ten priests, the cardinal recalled that the Ash Wednesday celebration is a call to reflection and conversion, in which we remember that “we are dust and unto dust we shall return.”

“What we are going to receive signifies our encounter first with God, but it should also be for us an encounter with those most in need, especially with our elderly who are abandoned,” he added.

On the other hand, the cardinal reaffirmed the importance of forsaking false security, which “ties us down and keeps us from looking forward in our lives.”  The Holy Father, he concluded, “has desired that during this year we take this path as members of the ecclesial community, in our families, schools and parishes, together with our elderly.”

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Legal abortions per year in Spain top 80,000

Madrid, Spain, Feb 11, 2005 (CNA) - A report from the Superior Council of Scientific Research has revealed the chilling statistics regarding the failure of legal abortion in Spain.  Although the only supposedly legal abortions are for reasons of rape, fetal deformity or “physical or psychiatric risk” to the mother, every day more than 200 women end the life of their unborn children in government-run clinics.

According to Council statistics cited by the Spanish daily La Razon, in 2003 10% of teenagers who obtained abortion had already had one, and one in four adult women obtained an abortion for the second or third time.

The paper explained that “although abortion is one of the most traumatic experiences that a woman can endure,” “repeat abortions have doubled since the beginning of the 1990s.”  

The study outlines the profile of the woman who obtains an abortion in Spain and how it has changed in the last decade.  More than 97% of legal abortions were obtained supposedly for the physical or psychological health of the mother, 2.5% were because of fetal deformity and only .1% were because of rape.

Last year almost 80,000 abortions were performed, up more than twice from official statistics from 1990.  Women are having their first child at a later age—now between 27 and 29—with exactly the opposite occurring with regards to abortion.  The average age for a first abortion is now 27, when before it was 28 and a half.

One of the study’s conclusions is that “the principal determining factor for abortions in Spain is one’s employment, which in the vast majority of cases is dependent upon someone else.” 

La Razon reports that the number of abortions among cohabitating couples has exploded.  In 1991, 4,470 abortions—10.7% of the total number—were obtained by women who were co-habitating.  According to the latest figures, abortions in this group have risen to more than 12,500, almost three times as much. 

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