Vatican City, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican publicized a letter from John Paul II to Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and to participants in a study congress themed, "The Quality of Life and the Ethics of Health," being held in the Vatican from February 21 to 23.
In his letter, The Holy Father wrote that, "in the first place, it is necessary to recognize the essential quality that distinguishes each human being by the fact of being created in the image and likeness of the Creator Himself.”
“This level of dignity and quality”, he continued, “belongs to the ontological order and is constitutive of the human person, it endures in every moment of life, from the first instant of conception up to natural death, and it is fully realized in the dimension of eternal life. Consequently, man must be recognized and respected in any condition of health, illness or disability."
"Under pressure from affluent societies," the Pope said, "a notion of the quality of life is being favored which is at the same time both reductive and selective, and which consists in the capacity to enjoy and to experience pleasure, or even in the capacity for self-awareness and participation in social life.”
As a consequence, any kind of quality of life is denied to human beings not yet or no longer capable of expressing their intelligence and will, and to those no longer capable of enjoying life as a series of sensations and relationships."
Later in the Message, John Paul II referred to the moral dimension of the concept of health, "that cannot be overlooked." After recalling the spread of alcoholism, drugs and AIDS, he adds, "How much of life's energy, and how many young people's lives, could be saved and kept healthy if each individual had the moral responsibility to know how to promote better prevention and the conservation of that precious good we call health!”
The Pope also clarified that, "Of course, health is not an absolute good, especially when it is seen as simple physical well-being, mythicized to the point that it restricts or overlooks higher ends, even proposing reasons of health in the refusal of nascent life.”
This is what happens in so-called 'reproductive health.' How can we not recognize in this a reductive and deviant concept of health?" Health, the Pope highlighted, "can only be sacrificed to attain higher ends, as is sometimes asked in service towards God, towards the family, towards our brothers and sisters or towards society as a whole.”
He added that, “Health must be guarded and cured as the mental-physical and spiritual equilibrium of the human being. Squandering health because of various disorders, especially those associated with the moral degradation of the individual, represents a serious ethical and social responsibility."
, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - After three years of apparent deadlock, the United Nations adopted a declaration Feb. 18 condemning human cloning, reported the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM).
The UN called on Member States to adopt urgent legislation, outlawing all cloning practices "as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life."
Costa Rica, which led the effort for a cloning ban, called the declaration a success for those who seek to promote ethical scientific research.
"This is a powerful message to the world that this morally questionable procedure is outside the bounds of acceptable experimentation," said C-FAM president Austin Ruse. C-FAM was one of the main NGOs involved in the declaration process.
"By adopting this declaration, the international community is united in condemning all human cloning as exploitative and unethical. This should encourage similar bans in legislatures around the world including in the US Senate," said Ruse.
The declaration, introduced by Honduras, came on the last day of a weeklong special session devoted entirely to the issue. It proved at the last minute to be an acceptable compromise to countries that have appeared staunchly divided all week.
Countries were divided mainly over whether to protect "human life" or the "human being." Some Member States, including Costa Rica, Uganda and the United States, supported the ban and the notion of "human life."
However, some Member States, such as Belgium, Singapore and the United Kingdom, wanted to ban only cloning that would result in born human beings.
The declaration also calls on countries to "prevent the exploitation of women." Cloning requires harvesting eggs from women, and delegates from developing countries feared their women being turned into inexpensive "egg farms."
The declaration condemns all applications for permits to perform genetic engineering techniques that threaten human dignity. In the United Kingdom, two licenses for research cloning have been issued already.
Vatican City, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - Sunday morning, thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square to see Pope John Paul who celebrated his second Sunday Angelus since leaving the Gemelli hospital.
The crowd erupted in cheers when the Pope, who had spent 10-days in the hospital for flu-related problems, read a brief message before the Angelus prayers and greeted several groups, including candid remarks, following the Marian prayer.
"The spiritual exercises in which I took part,” he said, “together with many of my collaborators in the Roman Curia, concluded yesterday with a solemn Eucharistic celebration, following by Adoration.”
The Eucharist is the source from which communion between the members of the mystical body of Christ draws ever new vigor."
"In this perspective," he continued, "the special duty entrusted to Peter and his successors acquires full confirmation; the Petrine ministry is essentially serving the unity of the Church.”
'You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church'. Other comforting words of the Lord's echo this promise of His: 'And I have prayed for you (Simon Peter) that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren'."
"'Feed my lambs... Tend my sheep', the Pope quoted from scripture. “This invitation of Jesus' is especially alive in my soul when I contemplate the Eucharistic mystery. I entrust all the People of God to Him, the Good Shepherd, in this Lenten walk towards Easter. Let us invoke the support of Mary, Mother of the Church, with the customary Angelus prayer."
Following the time of prayer, the Pope greeted all the faithful in St. Peter's Square, including a group from Slovenia, whom he addressed in their language, adding improvised words to the prepared text. Excited cheers rose from the crowd when the Pope greeted them.
Vatican City, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications celebrated Mass for their annual plenary session in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council, delivered today’s homily.
Referring to today’s publication of "Rapid Development," the Pope's Apostolic Letter on communications, he said that, "Pope John Paul II has urged us to use the communications media well in the service of truth and in the service of the Gospel.”
“While there is much in the media to criticize,” the Archbishop offered, “there is also much to praise - and the media themselves are as good or as bad as what people transmit through them. They are media; they are means - not ends in themselves."
He continued, saying, "We should express our preoccupation with the bad uses to which the media can be put - pornography, character assassination, sensationalism; but we should be especially eager to praise those who do good things in the media, to encourage them, to support them; and we should not fail to use the media ourselves, not only to tell the good news - the Gospel - of Jesus Christ, but also to tell the good news of what the Church is doing in the name of Jesus."
At Mass yesterday for members of the Media Committee of European Bishops at the Paul VI International residence in Rome, Archbishop Foley spoke of the Pope's Apostolic Letter on communications, saying it is "to commemorate the publication at the Second Vatican Council of the Decree 'Inter Mirifica' and to offer an insight and a challenge to all of us in the Church for a profound understanding and wise use of the media."
"I would ask," he said, "that it be one of your major preoccupations to help to promote Catholic communications activity in what we might call the Church of the Modern Catholic Renaissance in central and eastern Europe.”
He said that, “It is not only in eastern and central Europe where there is a hunger for the Gospel. There, perhaps, the opportunities to use the media are now greater - but the need to hear the Gospel and to see sound Christian values incorporated in the media is perhaps even greater in an increasingly secularized western Europe.”
How do we get people's attention to listen to the most important message in life - our origin, our destiny and the means to achieve it? How do we get people really to listen to what Christ has told us - without their tuning out because they think they have heard it before or because it has struck them as dull? It will be hard work for us - but God has promised us strength."
Read the Holy Father's Apostolic Letter at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=51
Vatican City, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, presented a new Apostolic Letter from Pope John Paul II entitled, 'Rapid Development’, addressed to “Those Responsible for Communications.”
Archbishop Foley was joined by, Bishop Renato Boccardo and Angelo Scelzo, respectively secretary and under-secretary. The Pontifical Council begins its annual plenary session today.
Archbishop Foley said that both he, as a priest journalist, and Pope John Paul, as bishop and conciliar father, were in St. Peter's Basilica on December 4, 1963 for the promulgation of the Vatican Council II decree on communications, "Inter mirifica."
The Archbishop noted that it was "the first time a council of the Church specifically treated the theme of social communications, the decree called for a pastoral instruction on social communications and the document also called for establishing a specific Vatican department which would be concerned with all the means of social communication."
Foley noted that the Letter presented today, is the result of a wish expressed a year ago by the Holy Father to commemorate the anniversary of "Inter Mirifca" with a new document.
"I was sincerely moved," he said, reading the Pope's words. "The document for me is a personal mediation, a challenge and a plan of action."
"'Rapid Development'," the Archbishop underscored, "is a masterpiece of intuition on the meaning of the means of social communications in our times.”
He called to mind paragraph three, where the Pope writes that, “The communications media have acquired such importance as to be the principal means of guidance and inspiration for many people in their personal, familial and social behavior. ... Ours is an age of global communications in which countless moments of human existence are either spent with, or at least confronted by, the different processes of the mass media."
Bishop Boccardo, also present, said that, "many times in his interventions, John Paul II has affirmed that questions posed by the media are, at their heart, of an eminently anthropological nature. ... He thinks of the media as active agents in the building of horizons of cultures and values in which every man and women understands themselves, others and the world."
Boccardo pointed to some of the problems in the world of communications, saying that, "the media are building models of perception of reality that often obey anthropological visions that are no longer inspired by Christianity.”
“Without appearing to be apocalyptic, but also not giving in to overly optimistic visions,” he continued, “we cannot be silent on the representations of the meaning of life that (the media) today toss into the arena of public debate and that are almost entirely beyond any Christian understanding of life.”
All we need to do is recall how so often television becomes a powerful instrument for personal aggression, for occasions of denigration and for battle arenas that are often vulgar and tasteless. Publicity is also part of this degenerative process."
Bishop Boccardo pointed out that there must be a serious ethical reflection on personal and social responsibility within the world of the media, especially with new instruments such as the Internet.
"The Internet”, he said, “redefines in a radical way the psychological relation of a person with time and space. What is tangible, useful, and immediately available draws attention," but what often is missing is a process of "deeper reflection. ... The person who is online is a person of the present, of immediate satisfaction" who seeks answers in "the great warehouse of readily available experiences."
"How can the Church," he asked, "help men and women who work in the media and who use it to undertake a path of new humanism, of a renewed centrality of the human person?" He said that the Holy Father, in "Rapid Development," suggests three paths; formation, participation and dialogue.
"Believers, men and women who have man's destiny at heart, have the responsibility for cultural discernment. We are not asked to have shining armor to overcome Goliath, but simply to know how to choose a few stones, the right ones, with the wisdom and courage of David."
Read the full document at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=51
Vatican City, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that on Wednesday, the Holy Father will make his third public appearance since his release from Rome’s Gemelli hospital.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Holy See Press director, said in a declaration to journalists today that, "On Wednesday February 23, the Holy Father will appear at the window of his private study to greet and bless the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the customary Wednesday general audience."
Cincinnati, Ohio, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - A major new exhibit on Pope John Paul II and his relationship with the Jewish people is set to open on the Pope’s 85th birthday.
"A Blessing to One another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People" will run from May 18 to July 15 at the Jesuit-run Xavier University in Cincinnati.
The exhibit is the result of successful collaboration between the Catholic and Jewish communities. The university, the Hillel Jewish Student Center of Cincinnati and Holocaust survivor Yaffa Eliach, founder of the Shtetl Foundation in New York, created the concept for the exhibit.
They met with the Pope in October and received his support. Both the university and the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati have financially sponsored the exhibit
The exhibit will be in Cincinnati for two months. Then it will go to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. It will then tour a number of Catholic and Jewish universities in the United States before traveling to Europe. The exhibit will be permanently displayed in Israel.
Pope John Paul II has written extensively about the relationship between Catholics and Jews and, in 2000, he was the first Pope in 36 years to visit Jerusalem.
Jerzy Kluger, a Jew and lifelong friend of the Pope, has loaned his childhood prayer book to the exhibit. There will be artifacts from Jewish businesses of the 1920s and 1930s in the Pope's hometown of Wadowice, Poland.
The Pope’s transcripts from elementary school to college, a robe he wore for an interreligious prayer service in Assisi, Italy, and a biretta he received when he was elevated to cardinal in 1967 will also be in the exhibit.
Omaha, Neb., Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - Being and staying married in today’s culture is difficult. However, a marriage conference that has helped countless couples live successful, Christian marriages is available and will be returning to the Omaha area soon.
The Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference will be held on the next two weekends – Feb. 25 and March 4 – at the Doubletree Hotel.
This is the conference’s 20th year in Nebraska. It has grown so popular that two weekends are now being offered instead of one.
The conference promises to help couples who have grown apart and covers a range of subjects, including communication, conflict resolution and to sexual intimacy from a Christian perspective.
The event is put on by Family Life, a division of Campus Crusade for Christ. It costs $99 per person. Couples can register by calling 1 (800) 358-6329.
For more information, go to: www.FamilyLife.com.
, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - A suspect in the murder of a U.S. nun in rural Brazil last week surrendered to police Feb.19.
Sr. Dorothy Stang of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur was born in the United States but became a naturalized Brazilian. She had lived near the town of Anapu for more than 20 years and worked in advocacy to protect the rain forest and peasant workers before she was shot to death Feb. 12. Officials have linked her brutal murder to her advocacy work.
Amair Freijoli da Cunha turned himself in Saturday. Police allege he was the middleman who hired two gunmen to kill the 73-year-old nun.
Police allege that rancher Vitamiro Goncalves Moura was the one who ordered the murder. But da Cunha denied that Moura was involved.
The search is still on for suspected gunman, Rayfran das Neves Sales, who was identified by witnesses. Federal police believe he and the second gunman are hiding in the dense forest.
Vatican City, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - Saturday morning, the Vatican household concluded the annual Lenten spiritual excercises preached by Bishop Renato Corti of Novara, Italy.
Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano presided at Mass and adoration of the Eucharist, concluding the exercises, which took place this past week.
Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, read a message from the Pope following Mass, which was addressed to Bishop Corti. The Holy Father thanked him for the reflections he had proposed over these days, focused on the theme: "The Church at the service of the new and eternal covenant."
Pope John Paul II wrote that the theme, "in making reference to the Blood that flowed from the wounds of the Crucified Christ, especially from the wound in his side, evoke the significance of the Eucharistic Sacrament.’
“The Church,” he wrote, “'de Eucharistia vivit' (lives on the Eucharist), because from that Blood she comes into being and draws vigor for her daily commitment to the task of announcing the Gospel."
The Pope concluded the letter saying, "In the heart of the Church, we have come together around the mystery of the altar, in the knowledge that this is the pulsating center of the communion and the mission of the entire Christian people.”
Thanks also to the contribution that you have offered over these days - strengthened by a pastoral sensibility ripened through ministry by so many priests, seminarians and faithful - we feel a renewed and fervent zeal to start again from the Eucharistic Christ, and bear witness to the world of God's new and eternal covenant with humanity."
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - After more than two years since a conviction in the case was handed down, the highest court in Guatemala, the Constitutional Court, has ordered a court of appeals to settle outstanding issues related to a 2002 ruling on the assassination of Auxiliary Bishop of Guatemala City Juan Jose Gerardi, which took place in April of 1998.
The case will be reopened by the Second Court of Appeals, which was handed the case by the country’s highest court and tasked with reviewing the sentence of the three soldiers and the priest convicted for the crime.
Nery Rodenas, director of the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala City, expressed his hope that the judges would be impartial, although he felt that “the request by the soldiers should be denied and the conviction reconfirmed.”
According to Roberto Echeverria, lawyer of one of the men convicted for the killing, “The circumstances have changed and the judges now have three options: confirm, annul or give a new sentence.”
Bishop Gerardi was bludgeoned to death in the driveway of the rector of St. Sebastian’s Parish, just days after releasing a report on human rights violations committed by the military.
Two years after the crime, three soldiers and one priest were tried and convicted of carrying out the assassination. However, in October of 2002, the Fourth Court of Appeals reversed the sentence and ordered new oral arguments.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Antonio Baseotto of the Argentinean Military Diocese has sent an energetic letter to the country’s Health Minister, Gines Gonzalez Garcia, in response to his recent statements in favor of abortion. “The spread of abortions which you are fostering through drugs that are known to be abortifacient is a defense of the crime of homicide,” the bishop wrote.
Bishop Baseotto underscored that the Argentinean bishops and Pope John Paul II have been consistent in their rejection of any method that takes the life of an unborn child, and he recalled the words of the Holy Father from last January 10: “the human embryo is identical to the child that will be born and that has been born starting from this embryo. Therefore, nothing that violates his integrity or dignity is ethically permissible.”
The bishop questioned the Garcia’s decision to distribute condoms free of charge among young people, arguing that it would lead them to “premature sexual life,” and he added that AIDS prevention is not guaranteed by the use of condoms.
“Why do they never say that being chaste, taking ownership of one’s self, is the most effective way to prevent AIDS”, Bishop Baseotto asked.
Lastly, the bishop wrote that abortion is “the killing of innocent persons, and the distribution of prophylactics fosters sexual license and the spread of AIDS with impunity.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - The President of Committee on Family Ministry of the Bishops Conference of Mexico, Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martinez, is questioning ads sponsored by the government’s Health Secretariat promoting homosexual unions as a “right,” saying, “We cannot go along with or accede to such things, because sooner or later the damage will be felt.”
Bishop Aguilar says the content of the ads, which will be broadcast by the media starting in March, should be reviewed because instead of fighting against “homophobia” they are promoting promiscuity and human and social degradation.
He also encouraged people to make their opinions about these ads known, and he said the Church is not seeking popularity or the imposition of a passing fashion, but rather fidelity to Christ in the Gospel.
“The position of the Church is that homosexuality is a disorder and cannot be approved. The intention is not to discriminate or reject somebody, but to reject homosexual acts,” the bishop stated.
To make same-sex unions equivalent to marriage—he added—and later to allow them to adopt children is a tendency “disordered in and of itself” which “harms the child, who has a right to be with a father and a mother.”
Konigstein, Germany, Feb 21, 2005 (CNA) - The laity is “the pillar of the Church in Africa” and they must work as “agents of reconciliation” between the numerous ethnic groups, said a priest and educator in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Fr. Jean Makaya catechists in Congo must be “agents of reconciliation” between the numerous ethnic groups in the country. He is the director of the Kinshasa-based Institut Supérieur des Sciences Réligieuses (Institute for the Religious Sciences).
“We are all children of God. So, we must work for peace and forgiveness,” he told Aid to the Church in Need during a recent visit to Germany. He visited the international Catholic charity’s head office and sought support for his school in the form of books and scholarships.
With a view to sects that are active in the country, Fr. Makaya said: “Many people speak about Jesus Christ, but do not understand who He is. We, therefore, must present the true Christ to them.”
In order to do this, the priest stressed the need for a “solid formation” of catechists.
The institute is a state-recognized institution, founded in 1969. Currently, it has about 40 students.