Archive of February 23, 2005

Pope’s new book presented last night

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2005 (CNA) - Memory and Identity, Pope John Paul II’s most recent book, was presented yesterday evening at a press conference in Rome's Palazzo Colonna.

Some of those present included Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office, and Paolo Mieli, editor of the Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera," which is published by the Rizzoli group which also produced the Italian edition of the Pope's book.

Navarro-Valls told those gathered that the book is a result of conversations the Pope had with two Polish philosophers, Josef Tishner and Krystof Michalski, in his summer residence at Castelgandolfo in 1993.

He noted that the conversations were recorded and later transcribed. The manuscript was saved for some years until the Pope read it and decided to make it into a book after having made some corrections.

Navarro-Valls continued, "In his book, John Paul II does not reflect on cosmic evil, that is, on catastrophes and tragedies, but on the evil that derives from human behavior."

"It could be said that this is a book about the theology of history. The Pope does not wish to guess at or define the place that events occupy in the divine plan, or to decipher the ways of Providence. When he writes about the ideologies of evil, national socialism, and communism, he explores their roots and the regimes that resulted.”

He also undertakes a theological and philosophical reflection about how the presence of evil often ends up being an invitation to good."

In the closing pages of the book, the Pope describes the attempt on his life of May 13, 1981. Navarro-Valls commented that this is "not a mere addendum, although the style is different from the rest of the book; they have the tone of one speaking about a directly lived experience.”

“The Pope”, he said, “opens his heart and explains how he experienced - and experiences - that evil." In a dialogue with his private secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope recalls each moment from when he was shot, to his arrival at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic, his recovery, his pardon of would-be assassin Ali Agca and his visit to him in prison.

Cardinal Ratzinger discussed how the Pope speaks of Agca as the "victim of a logic that is, from every point of view, flawed. He is a Muslim, and perhaps also for this reason he fell into a spiral of fear from which he has never recovered because he continues to believe he is a part of some premonition contained in the third secret of Fatima.”

“But over and above these considerations,” the cardinal said, “Agca has never asked himself about what he did, the plain fact of the attempt on the Pope's life has never distressed him. His only real concern is that he missed his target."

Ratzinger said the would-be assassin had written to him frequently to ask if the mystery of Fatima contains an answer. "But as is well-known, Agca's only link with Fatima is the date of May 13, and his reflections are limited to this level."

In Memory and Identity, the Holy Father recalls the attack of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center in New York, the attacks of May 11, 2004 in Madrid, and the massacre of Beslan, Russia, in September 2004.

"Rereading the transcripts of the conversations (of 1993)," he writes, "I note that expressions of violence have reduced considerably" since the 1970s, "yet so-called 'networks of terror' have spread throughout the world, and constitute a constant threat to the lives of millions of innocents."

The Pope poses the question, "Where will these new eruptions of violence lead us?"

Memory and Identity is 200 pages long and has been published in 11 languages. It is John Paul II's fifth book. In 1994, he published Crossing the Threshold of Hope, in 1996 Gift and Mystery, in 2003 a book of poetry entitled Roman Triptych and finally in 2004 Arise, Let us be Going.

The new book is expected to be released in English soon.

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Pope addresses crowd through TV, asks to live a Lent of solidarity

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2005 (CNA) - Pope John Paul greeted pilgrims gathered at the Vatican this morning over a television link from the library of his apartment. As previously announced by the Holy See, the Pope addressed a few words to participants in today's general audience.

Because of abnormally bad weather in Rome, the Pope, who was scheduled to greet the crowd from his study window, spoke to them instead via the television link from his private apartments, which was transmitted directly to Paul VI Hall.

"I greet you with affection and I thank you for your attendance", the Holy Father told the group.

"We are following a Lenten journey," he went on, "assisted and stimulated by the liturgy which calls us to a special commitment to prayer, fasting and penitence, and to greater solidarity towards our fellow man, especially towards the poor and needy.”

He called upon the faithful to, “open our hearts to the inner suggestions of grace”, and said, “May selfishness give way to love, that we may have the chance to experience the joy of forgiveness and of intimate reconciliation with God and with our brothers and sisters."

In closing, the Holy Father greeted audience participants in several languages, expressing the hope that their stay in Rome may help them deepen their "love of the Universal Church."

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Court rejects challenge to Roe v. Wade

Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2005 (CNA) - The Supreme Court rejected yesterday a challenge to its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide.

The appeal was filed by Norma McCorvey, the woman once known as "Jane Roe," who was at the center of the historic case.

Without comment, justices declined to hear the appeal.

McCorvey, who has since become a practicing Catholic, says she now regrets her role in the decision. She has argued that that the case should be heard again given the ample evidence that abortion harms women.

At least three justices, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, have said Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned.

Despite this, the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday was no surprise. A decision to reopen a case based on so-called "changed circumstances" is rare, and two lower courts had already refused to hear the case.

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Christian doctors urge Supreme Court to rule against assisted suicide

Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2005 (CNA) - The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the nation’s only assisted suicide law gives it the opportunity to protect patients, preserve physicians' role as healers, and send a life-honoring message to the culture, says the Christian Medical Association.

The court is expected review whether the federal Controlled Substances Act should only be used for legitimate medical purposes or, as in Oregon, as a lethal prescription for suicidal patients.

"The Court has an opportunity to insure that patients receive truly compassionate care and pain relief by limiting physicians' use of narcotics for healing, not death," said Dr. David Stevens. 

The medical doctor pointed out that the Hippocratic oath asserts a physician’s role is to use treatment to help the sick, never to injure or wrong them.

The oath also asserts: “I will not give poison to anyone though asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a plan.”

"You only have to look at some of the abuses patients have suffered in financially driven healthcare systems to understand what can happen when cheap assisted suicide is offered as an alternative to true comfort care,” said the executive director of the 17,000-member medical association.

“Do you think the state of Oregon might have a financial interest in choosing cheap suicides for citizens whose care would otherwise be paid for through Medicaid?” suggested Stevens.

Stevens said there is a need for proper palliative care and pain management, adding that physicians must be empowered to “administer truly pain-relieving doses of narcotics. Stevens also warned of the negative messages assisted suicide sends about the value of life.

"What message do we want to send about suicide to our young people, the disabled community, our aging parents and grandparents? Do we really want the government condoning and promoting suicide? Do we want to reinforce the fear that the infirm are no more than a burden on the healthy? Do we want to reduce the value of life to what's going on in our bodies?” he asked.

"We need to send a message that even in our darkest hours, life is still worth living, that loved ones will come alongside to help, and that doctors will treat pain effectively and compassionately, not with a lethal prescription."

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Taxpayer groups challenge state funding for stem-cell research

Sacramento, Calif., Feb 23, 2005 (CNA) - Two taxpayer groups filed a petition yesterday in the California Supreme Court, requesting that organizations set up to organize and fund stem-cell research be halted.

The petition was filed by the Sacramento-based People’s Advocate and the National Tax Limitation Foundation. The Life Legal Defense Foundation represents the petitioners.

The petition requests a peremptory writ of mandate issue, halting efforts by the Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee (ICOC), which was established by the California Stem Cell Research and Cures/Bond Act after the November 2004 election.

The petition asks that various state agencies, authorized under the Act to disburse funds from the State Treasury to the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Fund, be prohibited from doing so since the fund is not under the exclusive management and control of the state, as required by Article XVI, section 3 of the California Constitution.

The petition asserts that the ICOC has no members who are elected, or who are public officials. Rather, all are appointees have allegiances to advocacy groups or to public officers who appointed them, the petition claims. In addition, there is no provision in the Act that provides for the dismissal of any ICOC member.

Members of “Working Groups,” appointed by the ICOC, control the funding. Once appointed, working group members are independent of the ICOC.

Furthermore, the petition points out that there are no guidelines regarding how the funds raised by the bonds are to be spent and there are no external controls for any state agency to monitor spending.

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Documentary proves vitality of human life in the womb

Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2005 (CNA) - A new documentary takes viewers into the mysterious world of pregnancy and demonstrates the fragility of the human life within the womb.

With the use of 3D and 4D ultrasound technology, “In the Womb” explores the life of a fetus in each trimester in amazing new detail. Viewers will also witness a rare fetoscope operation, performed in the hope of correcting life-threatening complications before birth.

The documentary will air on the National Geographic Channel March 6 at 8 p.m. ET/ 9 p.m. PT

The documentary follows the embryo as it travels down the fallopian tube and implants itself into the uterine wall. Viewers then see the creation of the first nerve cells and return again a few weeks later to see how the spinal cord and brain have developed.

At end of the first trimester, the film documents the fetus’ reflex movements. The last trimester explores the fetus's ability to hear loud noises and respond to music playing or to nursery rhymes read aloud by its mother or father.

At week 26, watch as a doctor operate on a second fetus, diagnosed with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. 

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Cuban opposition celebrates Mass for missing dissidents

Havana, Cuba, Feb 23, 2005 (CNA) - Members of the opposition to the Castro regime celebrated Mass in Havana this week in memory of all the victims of Communist repression who have never been found.

Cuban dissident Martha Beatriz Roque told AFP that the Mass was for “Cubans who have fallen in the Florida straits,” those who were executed and those who died in prison.

The Mass was celebrated in the Church of the Rosary in Havana and coincided with the opening of the Cuban Memorial in Miami, a cemetery where 11,000 crosses have been planting representing those who have been killed by the Castro regime.

Roque added that the objective was also to express solidarity with Cubans living in Miami and “to tell them that here in Cuba we remember those who have died.”

Roque was one of 74 dissidents sentenced to 20 years in prison on April of 2003, but she was granted a “license” to leave after 15 months for reasons of health.  Nevertheless, she said that if the harassment of her niece by government officials continues, she will demand that the “license” be revoked and her release be permanent as the government has not fulfilled its promise that she would be released “without conditions.” She said Cuban authorities have “no interest in modifying their policies of harassment and oppression.”

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Chinese young people enthusiastically await encounter with Pope at WYD 2005

Pekin, Ill., Feb 23, 2005 (CNA) - With World Youth Day 2005 just months away, thousands of Chinese young people are expressing their enthusiasm for participating in an event convened by Pope John Paul II.

According to Fides, many young Chinese have visited the official WYD website in order to get information about attending.  The experience of many Chinese at World Youth Day in the Philippines in 1996 has motivated others to want to participate in the event.

On young Chinese man told Fides that many young people will take a few days of vacation from school and work to attend WYD.  “We do not want to miss this opportunity.  We are so excited about participating in WYD, an event that will make us feel in complete communion with the universal Church,” he said.

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Archdiocese of Paris gives outgoing Archbishop two years’ worth of free flights

Paris, France, Feb 23, 2005 (CNA) - The outgoing Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, has received a peculiar gift from his close friends: he will be able to fly for free for two years on Air France.

Cardinal Lustiger, 78, thanked his friends and collaborators for the gift during one the last Masses he celebrated as Archbishop of Paris at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

The Cardinal, who was archbishop since 1981, will be succeeded by Archbishop André Vingt-Trois of Tours, who was named to the post by Pope John Paul II on February 11.  The French newspaper “Le Monde” said Cardinal Lustiger would leave the post in the same way in which he received it: “amidst much acclaim.”

The Mass was attended by some three thousand people, including the First Lady Bernadette Chirac and Primer Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

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Cardinal Sandoval calls for respect for homosexuals without harming the family

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 23, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiquez, is calling for respect for homosexual persons because of their dignity as humans, but he reiterated the need to defend the family in today’s society.

In reference to the campaign lead by the Secretariat of Health to combat “homophobia”, the cardinal lamented that the federal government is promoting homosexual unions.  The cardinal’s statements were echoed by organizations such as the National Union of Parents and Pro-Life Mexico, which both said the campaign was promoting tendencies that would affect the foundation of marriage and the family.

Representatives of various NGO’s that are supporting the campaign threatened to step up pressure if TV and radio ads promoting the campaign were pulled.

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