Vatican City, Mar 3, 2005 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II’s health “continues to improve and show progress” following a tracheotomy surgery last week, said Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls in a statement to journalists this morning.
He reiterated what he said in his previous statement earlier this week that, “the Pope is eating regularly and spends several hours each day in an armchair.”
Navarro-Valls also assured reporters that, "The surgical wound is healing”, and said that, "the daily sessions for rehabilitation of breathing and speaking continue, with the active collaboration of the Holy Father.”
He went on, stating that, "In recent days the Pope has been receiving several of his collaborators with whom he daily follows the activity of the Holy See and the life of the Church. He usually receives one collaborator a day."
Later in the day, the Vatican spokesman met briefly with the media, and said that no date had been set for the Pope's release from Gemelli hospital, but pointed told them that the next medical bulletin will be on March 7.
When asked about the Vatican's liturgical schedule for Easter, Navarro-Valls said, "The Easter calendar is the same, but the Pope will have to decide on his participation.”
Regarding this Sunday’s Angelus prayer, he said that it seems "there will be the same scenario as last Sunday.”
I will confirm, this on Saturday but when we spoke of it today at the hospital, this seemed the orientation."
Last Sunday, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri read the Pope's reflections and led the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square, following which, in a surprise move, the Pope appeared at the closed window of his hospital suite", Navarro-Valls said.
It was the first time in his 26-year pontificate that the Holy Father failed to provide the Angelus blessing.
Vatican City, Mar 3, 2005 (CNA) - In a letter released by the Vatican today, John Paul II thanked Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and discipline of the Sacraments for his work to encourage growth of the Christian community strengthened by the Eucharist.
The letter, signed this morning in Rome's Gemelli hospital, where the Pope has been since last week, was also addressed to participants in the congregation’s plenary session, which concludes tomorrow in the Vatican.
The Holy Father expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Arinze for his "words of affection and the assurance of a special prayer, which you conveyed to me in everyone's name, and for the generous dedication with which you guide the dicastery."
The Pope particularly thanked the congregation “for having quickly complied with the indications of the Encyclical 'Ecclesia de Eucharistia' and of the Apostolic Letter 'Mane nobiscum Domine', preparing first the Instruction 'Redemptionis Scaramentum' and then the 'Suggestions and Proposals' for the year of the Eucharist.”
“It is my hope”, John Paul said, that, “by virtue of these documents, the Christian community may grow in love for the Most Holy Sacrament, and that it may be helped to celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice in an ever more worthy fashion, in conformity with liturgical norms and, above all, with true inner participation."
The Pope made specific reference to one of the themes of the plenary gathering, "ars celebrandi," and highlights how, "above all in the celebration of the Eucharist, a living re-presentation of the paschal Mystery, Christ is present and His action is shared in ways appropriate to our humanity, which is so in need of words, signs and rituals.”
The effectiveness of such action is fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit, but it also calls for a human response."
The Holy Father further indicated that the homily, another subject discussed during the plenary session, "has a physiognomy different from that of ordinary catechesis, and commits the person who pronounces it to a dual responsibility: towards the Word and towards the assembly.”
“It is important”, he said, “that the homily not be absent, especially in the Sunday Eucharist. In the context of new evangelization, the homily represents a precious - and for many people, unique - formative opportunity."
The Pope likewise referred to another key theme of the session, liturgical formation, saying, "It is urgent for parish communities, associations and ecclesial movements to guarantee appropriate formative itineraries, in order for the liturgy to become better known in the richness of its language, and for it to be fully experienced.”
“In the measure to which this is done,” the Holy Father said, “beneficial effects on individual and community life will be felt."
, Mar 3, 2005 (CNA) - American Life League is calling on Florida’s bishops and priests to defend Terri Schindler Schiavo’s right to life and to speak out against the court decision that will have the disabled woman’s feeding tube removed March 18.
Terri Schiavo, 41, has been lying in a hospice for more than 10 years, unable to speak or to move. While she is able to breathe on her own and respond to some stimuli, she requires a feeding tube for routine nutrition and hydration.
Her husband, Michael Schiavo, has been fighting her parents to have the feeding tube removed. A judge recently ruled in his favor and the tube is to be removed in two weeks. If the tube is removed, it could take as long as several weeks for Terri to die from starvation and dehydration.
"Now more than ever, the Catholic Church must pray and take action on Terri's behalf,” stated Judie Brown, president of American Life League.
Terri’s bishop, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, and other U.S. bishops “must not let Terri die a painful death while they quietly sit by and do nothing," said Brown in a press release.
The Florida Catholic Conference released a statement Feb. 28 stating its "continued concerns for Terri Schiavo," but Brown says this is not enough.
“Now is the time for them to offer Masses for Terri's safety and encourage every priest in Florida to do likewise,” she said. Bishops and priests should preach from the pulpits about the sacredness of human life, participate in public vigils and prayer services, and contact public officials insisting that everything possible be done to protect Terri, she urged.
The American Life League also denounced Judge George Greer’s decision, calling it “a death sentence.”
"Judge Greer's ruling is unconscionable," said Brown. "Terri is not being treated as the living, breathing human person that she is. Rather, her basic civil rights are being tragically trampled upon.
Brown called on all Catholics to pray for Terri and for the conversion of her husband.
"All Christians, clergy and lay people alike, must display true courage and stand against this injustice,” she said. “Terri is not dead yet and we must do all we can to prevent that tragedy from occurring."
Los Angeles, Calif., Mar 3, 2005 (CNA) - A disability-rights activist, who was once dependent on a feeding tube and considered “a vegetable” by medical professionals, has joined the fight to save Terri Schindler Schiavo and hopes to visit the 41-year-old disabled Florida woman by mid-month.
Kate Adamson suffered an acatastrophic brainstem stroke in Los Angeles in June 1995 at the age of 33, which left her in what is now being called “a locked-in state” for five months. She was totally paralyzed and unable to communicate, but she could see, hear and feel and she was fully conscious, like Terri.
While doctors said Adamson could not be saved, her husband insisted that she receive rehabilitation therapy and treatment, unlike Terri’s husband, Michael Schiavo, who has denied his wife treatment for more than a decade.
Now, at 43, the mother of two is fully functional, except for some paralysis on the left side of her body. She tours the country to tell her story and speak about the sanctity of life. Adamson believes the campaign to defend Terri’s life has a large impact on all of society.
“This is not just going to affect Terri, but a lot of Terris,” she told CNA. “This (the outcome in Terri’s case) will affect a lot people’s lives.”
The New Zealand native believes Terri’s condition is being widely misrepresented. In an effort to clarify Terri’s condition and urge others to join the fight to save Terri, Adamson has made several television and radio appearances, often with Terri’s father, Bob Schindler.
"I have a unique understanding of what Terri is feeling. I could feel everything that the doctors did to me, and I could do nothing. I was at the complete mercy of others, and they couldn't hear me," said Adamson.
Kate also has a unique insight into what it is like to be starved. While in her locked-in state, she experienced digestive problems, which led doctors to stop her feeding tube for eight days. She remembers the pain of being withheld nourishment.
Adamson is in the midst of making travel plans to visit Terri in Florida, March 12-13, a few days before Terri’s feeding tube is to be removed by court order. Her publicist, Wanda Sanchez, told CNA that a request has been made to Terri’s husband’s lawyers to visit Terri, but Adamson has not yet received a response.
While Adamson is unsure whether she will be permitted to visit Terri, she hopes to meet Florida legislators and to share her story.
“God has brought me back for a purpose,” said the Christian woman. “For me not to speak would be a betrayal of that gift.”
“I pray that God will soften hearts to see the woman (Terri) lying there and see someone who deserves a chance at life, even if she doesn’t respond the way we want her to respond,” Adamson told CNA. “I’m praying the judge’s heart will be softened.”
“God is in the business of miracles. Everything hinges on him right now,” she said.
Adamson’s efforts to date have resulted in thousands of responses from people who agree that Terri deserves a chance to live, reported Sanchez. These people have been encouraged to contact legislators through phone calls or letter writing and make their voices heard, said Sanchez.
Adamson has documented her story in the book she authored, called Kate’s Journey. For more information, go to: www.KatesJourney.com.
Denver, Colo., Mar 3, 2005 (CNA) - The Colorado Catholic Conference is encouraging the state’s faithful to fight against a new bill before the state’s House of Representatives. The bill would force state health providers, including many Catholics, to provide contraception to victims of sexual assault or refer them to someone who will.
Catholics could face a major problem as the use of artificial contraception has always been seen as a grave moral evil in the eyes of the Church. The Colorado Catholic Conference has also pointed out that many contraceptives often act as abortifacients.
The group noted that House Bill 1042, "The Emergency Contraception for Survivors" bill “would impose strict restrictions on all hospitals, including non-profit religiously affiliated hospitals, potentially forcing Catholic hospitals to violate their Catholic faith and identity.”
Tim Dore, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference said that, "If enacted, HB1042 would be the first law in Colorado to force Catholic entities and Catholic employees to actively violate their religious convictions.”
Abortion activists, he added, already know this. “Given these concerns, reasonable people should wonder what the real intention of this legislation is, and whether religious freedom is an American value we can still take seriously."
“Forcing [Catholic hospitals] to perform or refer for procedures that violate their convictions about the sanctity of human life not only attacks their service. It also damages the whole community", he added.
Colorado is one of a number of states considering mandatory contraception legislation.
The Colorado Catholic Conference can be reached at www.cocatholicconference.org.
Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday, Pat Trueman, Senior Legal Council for the Family Research Council called the day’s arguments in the cases of McCreary County Kentucky v. ACLU of Kentucky and Van Orden v. Perry, Governor of Texas “encouraging for those who wish to preserve our religious heritage in America.”
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in the two cases, which are being called the two most important to date regarding displays of the Ten Commandments.
The central debate rages around whether or not displays of the Ten Commandments on government property violate the separation of church and state.
Trueman observed yesterday that, “the clear Supreme Court majority appeared very reluctant to suggest that the Ten Commandments violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
“Most Justices”, he added, “indicated a great reluctance to suggest that the Ten Commandments are inappropriate given our nation's religious heritage. To require removal of Ten Commandments displays would show hostility to religion and nothing in the U.S. Constitution requires such an extremist viewpoint.”
A decision in the cases is expected sometime in June, but in the meantime, all eyes are on the Supreme Court who could, as the Family Research Council says, “redefine religion in America” with their decision.
Trueman however, expressed optimism, noting that he would be “surprised if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Ten Commandments displays in question violate the U.S. Constitution."
Montreal, Canada, Mar 3, 2005 (CNA) - After spending 13 months in sanctuary in the basement of Notre-Dame-de-Grace Catholic Church in Montreal, three Catholic Palestinian refugees were finally granted permanent residence status by Canadian immigration officials.
Khalil Ayoub, 70, his wife, Therese Boulos Haddad, 62, and his brother, Nabih, 69, received the news Friday and celebrated after Sunday mass with the parish community that had taken them under their wing.
After the final blessing, the pastor, Fr. Claude Julien, gave the Ayoubs bouquets of flowers. The three seniors then walked down the center aisle to the church’s front doors, taking their first steps out of the church in freedom.
The three Melkite Catholics had spent 52 years in refugee camps in Lebanon before arriving in Canada. They were ordered deported back to a refugee camp in January 2004, after losing their four-year battle to stay in Canada.
Instead, the three practicing Catholics arrived at the French parish seeking sanctuary. Parishioners quickly decided that they would care for the three seniors and take on their case.
What followed were months of persistent lobbying and working with a coalition of other churches and organizations involved in the plight of refugees in church sanctuary.
Parishioners organized a committee that helped the Ayoubs gather documents in their case. The file was then submitted to the Canadian refugee board for evaluation.
Formerly stateless, the three seniors now have a country to call home. They told The Montreal Gazette that they are now looking forward to doing the ordinary things most Canadians take for granted: having a home, going for a walk and buying groceries.
In an interview with the Catholic Times last year, Khalil Ayoub commented: “The people of this parish live the words of Christ: ‘When I was naked you clothed me; when I was hungry you gave me to eat.’ These people are saints. This parish is truly Catholic.”
The Ayoubs are the third refugee family to seek sanctuary in a Montreal-area Christian church in the last two years. They are the last to be granted residency by Citizenship and Immigration Canada on humanitarian grounds.
Rome, Italy, Mar 3, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Sebastian of Pamplona,Vice President of the Bishops Conference of Spain, said during his Ad limina visit this week that Pope John Paul II is facing illness and eventual death with greatness, in contrast with the attitude promoted by the Spanish film, “The Sea Inside,” with its message of euthanasia.
The Spanish prelate said the attitude with which John Paul II bears his sufferings is “worthy of respect” and “fruitful.” He is demonstrating that even in the midst of great pain and physical deterioration, human beings have value, he noted.
“There are many ways to face illness and eventual death,” the archbishop said. The way in which the Pope is facing it “is to me more respectable, grandiose, humanly speaking, than what is presented in the film with its message of euthanasia,” he added, referring to the film by Alejandro Amenabar, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Archbishop Sebastián underscored the courageous attitude of John Paul II in recent days in contrast to the “the propaganda in favor of euthanasia in Spain” and he pointed out that the strength of the Pope “is another way, I believe a more humanly grandiose way, of dealing with death.”
“The Pope is showing how a person can find meaning in illness, pain and suffering,” the archbishop noted. Moreover, he said he believed the Pope is “spiritually” overpowering this moment of suffering.
Archbishop Sebastian revealed he was able to visit the Pope this Monday at the Gemelli Hospital “to bring a message of love, communion, prayer and hope to the Holy Father. We pray for him every day, and the faithful anxiously await news about the health of the Pope,” he stated.
Rome, Italy, Mar 3, 2005 (CNA) - An association of Parkinson’s sufferers has sent a letter of encouragement and appreciation to Pope John Paul II for the exemplary witness of perseverance that he is showing the world.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told Vatican Radio that the Holy Father received the letter at the Gemelli Hospital, where he continues to recover from a tracheotomy. The group of Parkinson’s sufferers expressed their thanks to the Pope for the exemplary way in which he bears his sufferings.
The letter thanks the Holy Father for helping to improve “the image of those who are affected by this illness” and for showing “courage in continuing to work despite your sufferings.”
Rome, Italy, Mar 3, 2005 (CNA) - A leading committee chairman of the Italian Congress is calling for the reopening of the investigation into the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II of May 13, 1981. Paolo Guzzanti, who heads a congressional committee that investigates issues related to the former Iron Curtain, said new information revealed in the Pope’s book “Memory and Identity” warrants the case be reexamined.
Pope John Paul II dedicates a section of the new book to the events of 1981, noting that a plot was behind the assassination attempt carried out by Ali Agca. “Ali Agca, as everyone says, is a professional assassin,” the Pope writes. “This means that the attempt was not his own idea, that someone else planned it and hired him.”
Investigations into the attempt, which ended in March of 1998, established that the most credible hypothesis was that the Bulgarian Secret Service, guided by Moscow, was behind the plot.
Recently Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger noted that Agca has written several letters about why the assassination was not successful. According to the cardinal, Agca considers his failure to kill the Pope “inexplicable,” and he said the Turkish gunmen “wants to know about the third secret of Fatima.”
In “Memory and Identity,” John Paul II writes that upon arriving at the hospital, he was already “on the other side,” and he reiterated his conviction that Our Lady of Fatima saved him by guiding the path of the bullet.
Agca was sentenced to life in prison, but four years ago he was moved to Turkey, where he is serving a sentence for the murder of a journalist.
La Crosse, Wisc., Mar 3, 2005 (CNA) - Chicago native Bishop Jerome Listecki was installed as the new bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse this week. The former auxiliary bishop of Chicago succeeds the well-known Bishop Raymond Burke, who is currently serving the Diocese of St. Louis.
Francis Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago, attended the two-hour ceremony at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman March 1, along with nearly 900 faithful, reported the Associated Press.
In his homily, Bishop Listecki recalled how he stood in the vestibule of the cathedral to catch a glimpse of his friend Bishop Raymond Burke’s installation a decade ago.
He recounted how he and another priest were traveling to Winona, Minn., for a meeting when they decided to stop and see Bishop Burke installed. He said a Knight of Columbus stopped him at the door and demanded a ticket. Having no ticket, he was told he could stand in the vestibule.
"Today ... I do have a seat in this cathedral. However, I might suggest someone take the names of any priests standing in the vestibule for future reference," he joked.
Cardinal George gave the closing speech, reportedly telling the faithful that Bishop Listecki will be a good leader and faithful friend.
"Bishop Listecki will do his best to love you as Christ wants you to be loved," he was quoted as saying.
Pope John Paul II named Bishop Listecki, a canon lawyer and a civil attorney, as the bishop of La Crosse in December. He had been appointed an auxiliary bishop of Chicago in 2000.