Rome, Italy, Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - Cardinal Joaquin Meissner, Archbishop of Cologne, Germany commented to reporters this morning after a brief visit with the Holy Father that he is now speaking again and has a “strong” voice.
The Cardinal, whose Archdiocese will host this summer’s World Youth Day said that his visit with the Pope was "very important to me because all Germans are waiting for the pope in Cologne."
"It's not important”, he said, “that the pope speak with the many, many young people, but it's his presence that's important"
"The person of the Holy Father speaks a lot."
Cardinal Meissner’s comments come less than a week after the Pope had tracheotomy surgery to insert a breathing tube into his throat. Many skeptics had been predicting that it would be weeks before John Paul would be able to speak again.
Cardinal Meissner told journalists that, “His voice is much stronger than I expected”, and that upon seeing the Cardinal, the Pope said, “I am very happy that you are here.”
The 84-year old Holy Father, who was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on February 24th, is currently undergoing speech therapy and is reported to be recovering well.
The Pope had decided to skip this morning’s popular Wednesday audience in favor of furthering his speech exercises. The Holy See announced that there would be no substitute today.
Vatican Press Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced that the Holy See would issue an official update on the Pope’s condition tomorrow morning.
Princeton, N.J., Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - Terri Schindler Schiavo’s brother, Bobby Schindler, is scheduled to speak today on the Princeton University campus about his 41-year-old disabled sister, whose life depends on a court decision.
Terri Schiavo is at the center of national controversy. She suffered severe brain damage 15 years ago and depends on a feeding tube to stay alive.
The courts, however, have ruled that her husband – who lives with another woman, with whom he has two children – has power of attorney, and thus has the legal authority to remove hydration and nutrition from Terri and, in essence, starve her to death.
Schindler will discuss his sister’s situation and give listeners an inside look at his family’s legal and personal battles. Moral philosophy professor Chris Tollefsen will discuss the moral issues surrounding euthanasia, nutrition and hydration.
"There are many conflicting reports in the media, and we hope that Mr. Schindler will dispel the myths surrounding his sister, especially about her being in a ‘vegetative state,’” said Ashley Pavlic, president of Princeton Pro-Life. “We hope to help Princeton students realize the truth about the intrinsic value of human life."
The talk, titled “Euthanasia, Judicial Homicide and Terri Schiavo”, is to begin at 8 p.m. in room 10 of McCosh Hall.
The event is sponsored by Princeton Pro-Life and cosponsored by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the Undergraduate Student Government Projects Board.
Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - Concerned Women for America (CWA) is cautiously optimistic that the U.S. Supreme Court will affirm the constitutionality of public displays of the Ten Commandments along with other symbols of law on government property.
"The Supreme Court should be able to see straight through the bogus arguments of special interest groups whose only motivation appears to be erasing any recognition of God from our public life," said Jan LaRue, CWA's chief counsel.
"Setting the Ten Commandments on public display is an acknowledgement of the cultural and legal history of the United States," she added
The CWA hopes the court will affirm the 5th Circuit's ruling in Van Orden v. Perry, and reverse the ruling by the Sixth Circuit in the McCreary case.
“If it fails to do so, the next sound we hear may be that of a hammer and chisel on the Ten Commandments in the Court's own building," LaRue concluded.
Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) applauds the Supreme Court’s decision to revoke the death penalty for juvenile offenders and is pleased that the United States has now “joined the rest of the world in outlawing (these) executions.”
The Supreme Court decided March 1 that the Constitution forbids the execution of offenders who were under age 18 when they committed their crimes. The court said the executions violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The USSCB, which for 25 years has been calling for an end to the use of the death penalty, “is very encouraged that the United States Supreme Court has recognized that executing juvenile offenders is indeed cruel and unusual,” said Bishop Nicholas Diaries, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Policy.
“This ruling affirms the position held by a broad cross section of religious denominations, child advocacy groups, and legal and medical organizations,” Bishop Diaries said.
The decision is a significant change from the Supreme Court ruling 16 years ago, which upheld the execution of juvenile offenders.
The 5-4 Supreme Court decision ends a practice that was still used in 19 states and throws out the death sentences of 72 juvenile offenders.
The ruling also had an instant effect on notorious teen killer, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17 when he joined John Allen Muhammad in a 10-person killing spree in October 2002. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for two of the killings.
Yesterday’s ruling is being hailed by abolitionists as a huge step toward global abolition for the death penalty for minors.
While juveniles are still executed in some countries, a Reuters report stated that the United States was the only one that still gave official, legal sanction to the death penalty for juvenile offenders.
“While we continue to work to oppose any use of the death penalty for what it does to human life and how it diminishes our society, we are pleased that the Supreme Court has confirmed that standards of decency have evolved and that the U.S. has joined the rest of the world in outlawing the executions of those who commit capital crimes as juveniles,” Bishop Diaries said.
Using the death penalty against offenders who were under 18 when they committed a crime is banned by the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 192 countries, that is, every nation except the United States and Somalia.
Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - President George Bush and the Secretary of Education have encouraged Catholic schools and their leaders to consider being providers of supplemental educational services under the No Child Left Behind Act.
The U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, made this remark at the Congressional Advocacy Days conference of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Feb. 28. This statement is the first of its kind in terms of state-religious co-operation in the United States.
"Thousands of students in your communities could benefit from the knowledge and skills of your teachers,” Spellings told conference attendees. “And you can do it in a program that protects your religious freedom because the Department has issued a faith-based regulation with strong language to protect religious organizations providing supplemental services."
Spellings praised the contribution Catholic schools have made to educating students across the nation. She is the first U.S. Secretary of Education to have a child currently attending a Catholic school.
The law's Supplemental Educational Services (SES) provision gives parents of eligible low-income children the opportunity and federal funding to choose a private tutor or other academic support outside of the regular school day to help their child succeed in school.
Providers of supplemental educational services include non-profit and for-profit entities, local education agencies, public schools, public charter schools, private schools, public or private institutions of higher education, and faith-based organizations. In the program's first year alone, more 100,000 low-income students across the country benefited from these tutoring services.
Secretary Spellings also noted the president's desire to provide educational choices to more parents, especially when their public schools "fall short of their responsibilities."
"That's why the president's new budget includes $50 million for a new Choice Incentive Fund, which would help states and districts develop school choice programs,” she said.
The Washington, D.C., Opportunity Scholarship Program, now in its first year, has made school choice a reality for more than 1,000 D.C. students. About 600 of those students chose to enroll in Catholic schools, and more than half of the 53 private schools participating this year are Catholic.
The Department of Education intends to continue working with Catholic school leaders. Spelling announced her intention to host a larger meeting with private school leaders from across the country.
Vatican City, Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today the Vatican announced that Jean Ping, foreign minister of Gabon met with Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano and other Vatican officials to discuss the need for reform in the United Nations.
Holy See Press Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in an announcement that, Ping, president of the 59th General Assembly of the U.N. Organization, this morning, “paid a visit to Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano. Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with Sates, and Desire Koumba, ambassador of Gabon to the Holy See, also attended the meeting.”
"Mr. Ping”, Navarro-Valls said, “first of all extended, both on the part of the U.N. and on his own, respectful and cordial greetings and best wishes to the Holy Father.”
"During the course of the discussions,” the announcement continued, “the prospects for reform of the U.N., currently at an advanced stage of preparation, were examined, as was the still-worrying situation of various African countries, with particular reference to the work of the African Union.”
Some attention was also given to certain aspects concerning the collaboration between Church and State in Gabon, where a 1997 framework agreement between the Holy See and the Gabonese Republic is in force."
Saginaw, Mich., Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - The currents are set to change in the Diocese of Saginaw with the recent arrival of a new bishop.
Bishop Robert Carlson was installed as the new spiritual leader of Saginaw’s 139,000 Catholics last week. He succeeds Bishop Kenneth Untener, who died in March 2004.
The new bishop of the Michigan diocese believes he was named to the post to encourage vocations to the priesthood — a task at which he was very successful in his previous diocese.
This is a welcome message for the Diocese of Saginaw, which has only seen six ordinations in the last 10 years.
Bishop Carlson told the Detroit Free Press in an interview last week that part of a priest’s potential is the forceful proclamation of Church teachings.
In an effort to nurture vocations in his former diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., he encouraged praying the rosary.
He recorded an audiocassette and CD of himself reciting the rosary. The prayer intention was for more candidates to the priesthood. He had 25,000 copies distributed and also had the prayer posted on the Internet for downloading.
His approach seemed to work. He ordained 33 priests since 1994.
Bishop Carlson also differs from his predecessor on social issues. Bishop Untener was renowned for his best-selling devotional booklets and his liberal stands on a number of issues, including homosexuality.
But Bishop Carlson became well known for taking on pro-abortion politicians, in particular former U.S. Sen. Thomas Daschle. Last summer, he reportedly wrote in a church publication that Catholic politicians "cannot, on the one hand, support abortion rights and on the other, be a Catholic in good standing."
The 60-year-old, who has undergone several operations to treat bowel, prostate and colon cancer, also lobbied to abolish the death penalty for juveniles in South Dakota and reached out to the growing Hispanic population.
In Sioux Falls, the bishop also developed a reputation for being a good listener. The Detroit Free Press reported that in one year he had hosted 2,000 people for coffee, cake or dinner.
Denver, Colo., Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - Christian and Christine Meert are helping Catholics from as far away as India, Poland and even Iraq, prepare for Catholic marriage.
The couple, members of the religious community of the Beatitudes, are now offering their popular marriage preparation class, recommended by the Archdiocese of Denver’s Office of Marriage and Family Life, to a worldwide community on the internet.
According to Christian, the pair have been preparing couples for marriage in the Archdiocese for five years now and just last year decided to go full time working on-line.
“The results”, he said, “have been incredible.”
Because of the nature of the internet Christian said, questions often come up that may not in a large group setting. “Sometimes there are very personal questions”, he said, “people always want to know more…And they can ask all the questions they want.”
The Meerts tend to see a lot of couples involved in the military, in which case, one of the two are often living in different states or countries. This has been infinitely helpful for those seeking to fulfill the marriage preparation required by most Catholic dioceses.Bearing fruit
The Meerts reflected on their recent work with a couple in which the bride-to-be was Southern Baptist and was going through the Catholic classes “to please her husband.”
Because of the time the Meerts spent with her, answering all of her questions, she told the couple that “after the class, [she] was very happy to have come to the Catholic Church.”
Another couple who recently completed the program noted that the class “brought up the most important subjects in a marriage; fidelity, children, money issues, good times, bad times and allowed us a chance to honestly discuss them.”
They added that, “it also gave us the feeling that we are not alone in this but God and many other people are there for support and help when we need it.”
Christian told CNA that, “about fifty parishes in the Archdiocese are sending their engaged couples to our live evening classes in Denver”, and many dioceses across the country are interested in the on-line version.
Some of the dioceses that they have been working with include Buffalo, NY, New Orleans, Cheyenne, WY, and as far away as Westminster in the U.K.
Since the Meerts’ ministry primarily survives on donations and the relatively small cost of the classes, they rely heavily on word of mouth to reach new people.
To learn more about the Meerts marriage preparation, visit their website at, www.CatholicMarriagePrepOnLine.com.
Vatican City, Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking at a Vatican sponsored seminar on the human dignity of prisoners, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told 80 invited guests that being imprisoned never separates one from God's love and, therefore, from the human dignity that derives from and is rooted in this love.
The two-day study seminar was organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in conjunction with the International Commission of Catholic Prison Ministries (ICCPPC).
In his speech, Cardinal Martino noted that, "prisoners have the right to be considered as a person," and said that this consideration must not be an abstract idea but rather "should animate policies and law, social institutions of prevention and prison regulations, and the work done in prisons by offices of civil society."
He added however, that, "there are in the world many situations of imprisonment and methods of detention that are even pre-juridical, in the sense that they do not include the most elementary care for the rights of the person."
ICCPPC president, Christian Kuhn, commented that prison chaplains know the enormous danger that crime, especially organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism represent for society, and underlined that rarely is it the heads of organized crime who are in prison but rather the poor and marginalized.
He also announced that the conclusions of this Vatican meeting will be presented at the 11th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Penal Justice to be held April 18-25 in Bangkok, Thailand.
Cardinal Martino read a telegram sent to seminar participants from Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in the Pope's name, that said, "His Holiness greatly hopes that these days of reflection contribute to affirming the requisite respect of the permanent human dignity of the individual who has violated the law, so that he continues to feel part of society and committed to be reintegrated into it."
Konigstein, Germany, Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - Months after abandoning churches and places of worship fearing more bombings, Andraos Abouna, Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad of the Chaldeans happily reported recently that Catholics are finally returning to Mass.
"The faithful are attending the masses as before - they are not afraid at all", he said.
In a recent message to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Bishop, a long-time optimist about the country’s future, reported on a renewal of confidence among Iraq's Christian community.
Abouna described what he sees as a dramatic improvement since the January 30th elections in Iraq. He said that, "The situation in Baghdad is much better, because the Iraqi Army control the whole area and every day they capture more and more terrorists."
He also noted the excitement of Iraqis over becoming the “first country in the Middle East with democracy”, and expressed hope for a reduction in fuel prices and increased security around the country.
The Bishop likewise sees a drastic reduction of Christians seeking asylum in other countries. He said that, "Many families are coming back to Baghdad from Syria, and I think many more people will be back to Iraq in the future."
Manila, Philippines, Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - In a statement given yesterday, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, of Lingayen-Dagupan in the Philippines made media waves when he told Catholics to stop speculating on who would replace Pope John Paul II and instead, pray for his recovery.
He called the speculation, which has recently taken center stage in the world media, “one of the most futile things they can do.”
“The successor of Peter is the concern of Christ”, he said, “It is none of our business."
Faithful across the globe have been offering their prayers for the 84-year old Holy Father who underwent a tracheotomy surgery last Thursday.
The Vatican announced yesterday that the Pope has started speaking again and is recovering well, but Cruz said that, “while the whole Catholic world prays for him, there are now some people here and there, who would rather speculate, rationalize and even pick his successor.”
He added that, “While God has the Holy Father and the Church in his provident palm, there are certain sectors of society who presume to make predictions as to who should take his place and what would happen to the Church."
The Archbishop also pointed out that those who enter a papal conclave expecting to come out Pope, usually come out cardinals. He added that before John Paul II’s pontificate, many had never heard of the Polish cardinal.
"He went to Rome for the conclave of cardinals with a return plane ticket to Poland”, Cruz said. “This ticket was not used. The rest is history."
The Archbishop noted that this kind of conjecture has been happening in the Church for nearly 2000 years, and that Catholics’ time would be well spent in prayer for the ailing Pope.
Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - The Washington-based Judicial Confirmation network, recently began mobilizing a fight to halt what they call “blatantly partisan and personal attacks on many of the President’s nominees to the Federal Courts.”
Gary Marx, the group’s executive director said that the group’s message “is simple, the people want the Senate to do its work and our petition will remind Senators that they have an obligation to bring these nominations to the floor for a fair vote.”
Last week, the group began distributing petitions and e-mail alerts to citizens and activist organizations including Focus on the Family, Americans for Tax Reform, the Committee for Justice, Americans for Limited Government and the American Center for Law and Justice.
The group said that they expect thousands of respondents in coming weeks.
Marx noted that, “The public is well aware that some Senators are denying qualified candidates a fair vote simply because these candidates do not support their liberal ideology.”
People are tired of this kind of behavior in the U.S. Senate. They want their elected officials to do their jobs”, he said.
The Judicial Confirmation Network call themselves, “an organization of citizens joined together to support the confirmation of highly qualified individuals to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
Many pro-life advocates are closely watching the judicial appointments knowing that given the right judges, the Supreme Court could overturn the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision which legalized abortion in the U.S.
On line petitions are available at Judicial Confirmation Network’s website at, www.judicialnetwork.com.
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - In a message entitled, “Voting, a Democratic Responsibility,” the bishops of Mexico are encouraging Catholics to actively participate in political life. “We trust they will be capable of constructive and creative criticism appropriate of Christians,” they stated.
In view of the coming elections in Mexico, the bishops explained that “out of fidelity to our mission as pastors, we are avoiding any kind of public endorsement of particular parties, but we cannot elude our duty and responsibility to exhort our people so that everyone participates in the best way possible in the political life of our society.”
“We want to encourage all of the faithful to study the current political field; we trust they will be capable of constructive and creative criticism appropriate of Christians, so that, from the perspective of the faith, they might discern the different situations that ensue in the political process,” the bishops stated.
The bishops underscored that “our mission of announcing the Gospel to all men and exhorting them to freely practice the values of Christ, in the political sphere as well, leads us to denounce the anti-human and anti-gospel aspects that manifest themselves in political structures and procedures which cause unjust harm on the people. In politics, the good of the people is fundament and essential, and therefore all have the duty to avoid unjust and destructive policies.”
In the same sense, the message points out that “it is the mission of the Christian laity to commit themselves to the building and sanctification of the world and, therefore, to turn politics into a path to holiness. They have the right and duty to intervene directly in politics and make the values of the Gospel present.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 2, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Rafael Romo Muñoz of Tijuana, Mexico, is denouncing the inclusion of songs that exalt drug trafficking in textbooks promoted by Secretariat of Public Education.
Bishop Muñoz said the songs demonstrate that “today everything is possible, and that regardless of the consequences, we should be ‘pluralistic’ and be open to everyone that violates the law.”
“And then we cry about the consequences, and we can’t bear the deaths that result from drug trafficking, and yet we want to allow drug traffickers to be praised, to be made into idols and heroes, and this shouldn’t be,” the bishop added.