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Archive of March 7, 2005

Vatican expects Pope to return for Holy Week

Vatican City, Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls told journalists today that the Vatican expects the Pope to be back from the hospital in time for Holy Week.

In his statement regarding the Holy Father’s health, Navarro-Valls said that, "The general conditions of the Holy Father continue to improve, which allows the Pope to spend long periods of the day in an armchair.”
 
He added that no complications have arisen following the Pope’s February 24th tracheotomy surgery.
 
The Press Secretary also said that, "Continual improvement has been seen in speaking, thanks to the daily rehabilitation sessions”, and that “doctors have prescribed a prudent limitation in the Pope's use of his voice so as to promote a better recuperation of the function of the larynx.”
 
In answer to questions from the gathered press, Navarro-Valls stated that, "in all probability, the Pope will spend Holy Week in the Vatican." He added, "when the Pope is here he will decide on his participation in the liturgical ceremonies that are scheduled."

The Vatican’s next official update on the Pope is expected on Thursday, March 10.

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Gonzaga University President denies anti-life accusations

Spokane, Wash., Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - Gonzaga University President, Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J. has categorically denied charges brought by Dr. Mike Adams, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and a columnist for Townhall.com, which said that the school discriminates against pro-life and Christian organizations.

Fr. Spitzer said that accusations brought in the February 22nd column in Townhall.com were false and that, “Gonzaga University is a strong pro-life proponent, consistent with Catholic doctrine.”

The column’s central accusation was that the University denied official recognition, and thus, school funding, to a group of law students seeking to form a pro-life group which required its leadership to sign a profession of Christian faith.

While Fr. Spitzer did not deny the charge, he explained, “The Law Student Handbook clearly states: ‘the [Student Bar Association] sponsors a variety of activities in which all law students are entitled and encouraged to participate.’ The [SBA] interpreted the foregoing statement to mean full participation by all students. The pro-life club did not meet that standard, and chose not to change its charter to make non-Christian students eligible to be officers. As a consequence, the club's funding request was denied by the Student Bar Association.”

Fr. Spitzer added that he was “not willing to force the Student Bar Association to fund a club whose charter prohibits non-Christian students from pursuing leadership positions.”

“The pro-life movement”, he points out, “is and always has been open to full participation by all faiths. Indeed, only through the cooperation of all faiths will the sanctity of life be preserved.”

Fr. Spitzer likewise noted that there is an officially recognized University pro-life group and that, although not school-funded, the Law School group is still encouraged to meet on campus.

The president cited his credentials as an international leader in the pro-life movement and said, “I welcome a Law School pro-life club in addition to the University pro-life club, and I have encouraged both to be active in sponsoring events.”

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John Paul II receiving flood of e-mails from around world

Vatican City, Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced that e-mail’s for Pope John Paul II have been pouring in from around the world ever since the Vatican's web site posted an address in each of its six language versions ([email protected]).

Well-wishing letters in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German have been arriving daily for the Holy Father, hoping for a speedy recovery and prompt return to his ministry as Pope and Bishop of Rome.
 
The Vatican reported that from March 1st, to noon of March 3rd, over 20,000 e-mail messages have arrived for the Pope.

About 10,000 of those messages have been in English, 6,077 in Spanish, 2,012 in Portuguese, 1,134 in Italian, 850 in German and 800 in French. Numerous e-mails in the Pope's native Polish also arrive daily.

While the Vatican pointed out that these numbers are only for a two-day period, they represent just a portion of mail arriving for the Holy Father, including additional e-mails since March 3rd, as well as letters and faxes that arrive at the Secretariat of State and other offices of the Roman Curia.
 
The Vatican also posted the e-mail address for the Holy Father on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as Pontiff in October 2003.
 
The Vatican noted that letters arrive from doctors, heads of volunteer organizations, housewives and mothers, students, religious congregations, hospital employees, pastors and parishioners.

Most e-mails, however, seem to be from ordinary faithful throughout the world and a few, as seen from sample letters the Vatican released, are from people who had been away from their faith and now have returned.
 
The majority of the messages are relatively short, wishing the Pope well, telling him how much he is loved and admired as the leader of the Catholic Church, how his suffering is an example to all, or simply thanking him for all he has done and continues to do for the Church, especially in promoting the value of human life and human dignity.

A number however, are longer and recount personal experiences of ill health, physical and mental suffering or personal conversions.
 
Most assure the Pope of their "prayers and personal sacrifices," rosaries and daily Masses and hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

One person wrote, "How much you encourage us as we struggle in out day-to-day life to be ever faithful to God." Another said that, "I pray that, as you suffer greatly, you will also feel the very powerful presence of God with you."
 
Another sample letter from Italy told John Paul II that, "You are our father on this earth. We need you! We need your witness as it gives strength to each one of us."

A Brazilian writer said he hopes that "in this Year of the Eucharist, ... the Eucharist will fortify your much troubled life", while a youth in Brazil told the Pope he hopes he gets better soon so that "you can be with us young people in Cologne (for World Youth Day) and can continue to lead the Holy Church for many more years." 

Yet another e-mail, this time in French, said, "Beloved Holy Father, you lead the Church by your suffering: The Lord, through you, is giving a lesson to both the wise and the prudent of this world."

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Pope spiritually joins university students gathered in Rome

Vatican City, Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - Thousands of university students gathered in Rome Friday evening to participate a Marian prayer vigil, marking the conclusion of this year’s Third European Day for Universities.

The theme for the festivities, a preparation for this summer’s World Youth Day was, "Intellectual and Scientific Research, a Way to Meet Christ." The prayer was presided by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome.
 
During the celebration, satellite linkups connected university students in Bari, Madrid, Zagreb, Berlin, Lisbon, Kiev, Bucharest, Tirana and London to Rome.
 
From his hospital room in Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic, John Paul II spiritually joined the participants and sent them a message that was read by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State.

In his message, the Pope wrote that, "Europe is ideally involved in this important moment of prayer and reflection, in preparation for the forthcoming World Youth Day, which will take place right in the heart of the continent, in Cologne." 

The Holy Father referred to the theme of the European Day and wrote, "There is no contradiction between faith and reason, as is also shown by the experience of the Magi who arrived in Bethlehem using both these dimensions of the human spirit: intelligence that scrutinizes the signs, faith that leads to adoration of the mystery."
 
"Dear young people," John Paul continued, "always be animated by a longing to discover the truth of your existence. May faith and reason be the two wings that bear you to Christ, the truth of God and the truth of the human being.”

In Him you will find peace and happiness. May Christ be the center of all your lives. This is my sincere desire, which I express to you all from the heart, accompanying it with an assurance of my prayers."

The Holy Father closed his message wishing all the young people a "Happy Easter and a safe journey to Cologne." 

Following the gathering, a procession of university students accompanied the Cross to the church of St Agnes in Piazza Navona.

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Canadian Liberals endorse same-sex marriage, hostile to opposing views

Ottawa, Canada, Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - The Liberal Party of Canada endorsed same-sex marriage at its policy convention this weekend.

The non-binding endorsement, which is in line with the minority Liberal government's intention to legalize same-sex marriage by June, came as no surprise.

However, the few Liberals who stood up to defend traditional marriage faced boos and open hostility, reported Canadian Press.

While politicians debated the issue at an Ottawa convention center, supporters of traditional marriage held a small rally outside, led by Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College.

McVety told CP that Cabinet ministers, like Immigration Minister Joe Volpe, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan and Natural Resources Minister John Efford, garnered votes with promises to protect traditional marriage. But once they got into office, they took the easy way out and betrayed voters’ trust, he said.

McVety was also angered by convention buttons, issued by the party’s youth wing, that read, “It’s the Charter, Stupid.” The slogan was reportedly intended to focus the same-sex marriage debate on equality rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it offended people on both sides of the debate.

The Defend Marriage Coalition launched a video and ad campaign Saturday, attacking these ministers for having lied about their intention to protect traditional marriage. However, the politicians used the media attention to advance the government's position.

Liberal MP Paul Szabo of Toronto seemed not very concerned about the non-binding endorsement, suggesting that it was based on a simplistic notion of protecting equality rights, reported CP.

More than 3,000 same-sex couples have been married in eight of Canada’s provinces and territories since 2003.

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Member of dissenter group denied Communion, takes own host

Lincoln, Neb., Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - A member of the group Call to Action turned the Body of Christ into a political statement last month by taking the host from the altar on his own after being denied Communion by the local bishop.

Call to Action is a group that dissents from Catholic teachings on a number of issues and demands that the Church approve abortion, married priests, women priests, divorce and contraception.

John Krejci, a former priest and co-founder of the Nebraska chapter of Call to Action, told the Associated Press that Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln denied him Communion at Sacred Heart Parish Feb. 7, with "an unfriendly wave of his hand."

Krejci then followed the bishop to the altar and, once the bishop put down the Communion vessel, took a host for himself.

After this incident, two other priests denied Communion to Krejci.

The alleged incident happened nine years after Bishop Bruskewitz excommunicated Krejci and members of several other groups, such as Planned Parenthood, Catholics for a Free Choice and Masonic organizations, which contradict the Catholic faith.

Krejci told the AP that he has appealed this decision to the Vatican.

However, a statement released by the diocese March 3 stated that "no evidence that an appeal from Mr. Krejci or his colleagues who have also abandoned the Catholic Church in order to belong to a sect entitled Call to Action is pending in Rome." The statement said the diocese believed the appeal was dismissed.

It added: "Mr., Krejci's behavior toward the Holy Eucharist has raised many concerns among the faithful who have heard of it. Any faithful Catholic realizes that he may not approach the sanctuary and take Holy Communion on his own. Mr. Krejci can be assured of our prayers, but must understand that we are obligated to follow the teachings of Christ and the laws of the Church."

Krejci, 67, left the priesthood in 1971 and is now married. He had attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome with Bishop Bruskewitz in the 1960s.

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Denver Universities host pro-life photo exhibit

Denver, Colo., Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - In a collaboration of the Christian Life Movement, an international religious community, and the Auraria Catholic Campus Club, a student-based religious group which ministers to three local university campuses, Denver area students are being invited to reflect on the beauty of life through photography.

The exhibit, called, “Celebration of Life”, is being hailed as a positive way to promote the Culture of Life on the Metro State, Colorado University at Denver, and Community College of Denver, who share the Auraria campus.

According to Susana Nieto, one of the event’s organizers, “The Art is a gift and an expression that touches very deep in our hearts…for this reason we choose photographs as an expression of the human heart which helps us to go deep in the mystery of Life, of our own lives.”

Approximately 70 photographers from around the country are exhibiting their work at the show, which continues until tomorrow.

Nieto noted that the pictures include those of “families, mothers, babies, elderly, youth, etc. I think we covered each stage of life because each stage has a special place in our celebration”, she said.

She observed that visitors have been affected in many different ways by the unique show. “I saw people leaving the exhibit with a smile in the face, others with a question mark, others coming for the second time bringing new friends.”

“As Catholics”, Nieto added, “we are called to proclaim the truth to everybody and I think little by little we are making a difference.”

The Celebration of Life, sponsored by the Christian Life Movement of Denver, continues through tomorrow at the Tivoli Student Center on the Auraria University campus in Denver.

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EWTN Web site teaches the faith to kids

, Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - EWTNKids has taken off in a new way. Launched two years ago, Catholic schools across the U.S. have begun using EWTNKids. The first school to register its religion class students for access to EWTNKids is St. Monica's Catholic School in Miami, FL.

Principal Manuel F. Varela says the Web site fits in perfectly with the school’s plan to become a model Catholic urban school that offers quality education. 

Varela added: "The site has helped our children to relate, to connect, to be active and interested. They have begun to get more into their faith.  While half of St. Monica's students aren't Catholic, EWTNKids has helped all of our students to understand the Catholic faith in a fun and loving way."

Varela is also grateful for the EWTNKids Web site for helping the school to save money on its religious curriculum.

"In the past we have spent a lot of money on traditional religion books that some of our slower learners found too challenging,” he said. “This site has helped to take care of that problem."

The EWTNKids site is set up as an interactive neighborhood, consisting of a church, a school, a clubhouse, a post office, a library, three houses, and the EWTN studio building. The school consists of interactive classrooms where visitors can take easy, moderate or advanced quizzes. Kids can write to the Holy Father, EWTN, and others during their visit to the post office.

In the three houses, they meet the Morgans, the Washingtons and the Diegos. The interactive children in these homes take a child through many different fun and entertaining learning activities, from how to make a prayer corner to making a spiritual bouquet. 

In the Morgan home, the user finds Baby Grace's room, which contains a book titled "Before I Was Born." In this book, the progression of life in the womb is shown in a delicate and educational manner appropriate for young children.

The library is the place to go for age-appropriate Catholic-related books and education.

A visit to the EWTN studio building includes the TV studios and the radio station, where kids can listen to popular songs and see short video clips of a variety of shows.

The primary designer of the site is Kymberly Fach, who holds a degree in Theology and Religious Education as well as training in Commercial Art.

"I want kids to have fun while they're learning,” said Fach. “We will be updating and adding to the site, so every time they visit, they will see something new."

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Christian Iranians granted asylum in U.S.

Chicago, Ill., Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - An Iranian family's five-year fight to stay in the United States ended March 2 when they were finally granted political asylum.

Saeed Salman and his family came to the United States from Iran on visitors' visas in 1999. Their application for political asylum was denied in July 2000 by a Chicago immigration judge and again in 2003 by the Board of Immigration Appeals. However, political persecution in Iran was not the family's only fear.

Salman and his family converted from Islam to Christianity in July 2000 and were baptized in 2003. However, conversion from Islam to another faith is punishable by death in Iran.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty was part of the team of lawyers who filed documents with the Immigration Board to highlight the ongoing religious persecution in Iran. They requested that the case be reopened in light of this legitimate threat that had yet to be considered. The board agreed to reopen the case and the United States Department of Justice Executive Office of Immigration Review in Chicago rendered its judgment, granting asylum.

"The Executive Office made the right decision, the only tolerable decision," noted Jared Leland, media and legal counsel for The Becket Fund. "To disregard the heinous truth about religious persecution in Iran would have been a crime in and of itself. Today, four lives and a fundamental right were saved."

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is an international, interfaith, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions.

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Rome HLI director expresses solidarity with pro-life efforts in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - The director of Human Life International’s Rome office, Father Ignacio Barreiro, has sent a letter to Bishop Antonio Baseotto of the Military Diocese of Argentina, expressing his solidarity and support for efforts to oppose the Argentinean government’s desire to legalize abortion.

In the letter, Father Barreiro applauds Bishop Baseotto for his “brave and prophetic defense of the right to life” of the unborn and for challenging those “who defend the crime of homicide as a potential policy of the State.”

Father Barreiro said he was aware of the “persecutions” that the bishop is suffering for his “defense of the truth.”  “The Lord will give you a crown of glory,” he told Bishop Baseotto, “and he will punish your detractors.” 

By confronting the efforts of the country’s Minister of Public Health, Gines Gonzalez Garcia, to legalize abortion, writes Father Barreiro, Bishop Baseotto is defending “the common good” of his nation and of many others that “suffer or are threatened” by this type of killing.

Lastly, Father Barreiro reiterated the importance of proclaiming the truth about condoms, which he called “a weapon of death,” and he encouraged Bishop Baseotto to pray for protection to St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, who suffered martyrdom for defending the truth.

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China Aid Association reports Christian leaders deported; tortured

Midland, Texas, Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - On Wednesday, the China Aid Association (CAA) announced numerous reports of Christians being deported from China and one church pastor being severely tortured.

The group reported that, “at least 10 foreign evangelical church leaders including 8 Americans, one Taiwanese and an unknown number of South Koreans were detained and later deported by the Chinese authorities on February 25, 2005.”

In addition, CAA cited an eyewitness account of the torture of imprisoned Beijing House Church leader pastor Zhuohua Cai. 

According to a CAA statement, “around 11am on February 24, over 100 Chinese security officers from five different government agencies raided an office building used as a temporary house church leadership training site in the suburb of Harbin city, the capital of Heilongjiang province, one of the major cities in northeastern China.”

About 140 Chinese house church leaders from 7-8 provinces were attending church fellowship training”, the statement said.

On the morning of the 25th, after 13 hours of detention and interrogation, all of the foreigners were ordered to leave the country within the next 3-5 days.

CAA added that among those detained were, well-known American church leaders Rev. Dr. Brad Long and Rev. and Mrs. John & Susan Chang. Rev. Dr Brad Long, from North Carolina and New York, respectively.

It is believed that all of the detained Americans had returned home by March 1st.

In addition, some 140 Chinese house church leaders were detained, interrogated and then released at about 2am on the 25th after giving their home addresses and House Church affiliations to authorities, along with their finger prints.

CAA understood the raid to have been “orchestrated by the director of the Public Security Bureau of Heilongjiang province and carried out jointly by the officers from the provincial public security, national security, foreign affairs office, religious affairs bureau and military police office.”

Tortured pastor

On Wednesday, CAA also announced news from what they call a “reliable source” that prominent Beijing House church leader pastor Zhuohua Cai had been severely tortured by his captors.

Cai, who was arrested by Beijing’s National Security on September 11th of 2004 for his publication of “illegal religious literatures,” was reportedly “tortured for a confession with electric cattle prods by his interrogators.”

Cai’s wife, along with her brother and sister-in-law were also arrested on September 27th.

CAA’s president Bob Fu, commented that, "To disrupt a normal Christian fellowship meeting and to detain and deport the participants of the same faith from other countries is certainly contrary to the government's claim to guarantee religious freedom in China."

"To torture an innocent pastor like Cai for false confessions”, he added, “is a direct violation of the international human rights law. We urge people of all faiths to take action to protest the deportations of these pastors and demand pastor Cai and his wife's immediate release."

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Peruvian bishops call on faithful to defend the unborn

Lima, Peru, Mar 7, 2005 (CNA) - The Committee on the Family of the Bishops Conference of Peru has published a message commemorating the Day of the Unborn Child, exhorting Catholics to leave behind indifference and to assume a greater commitment to the defence of the unborn. In Peru the Day of the Unborn Child is celebrated on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. 

The message underscores that this year the solemnity falls on Good Friday, the day on which “the Lord, defenceless, is humiliated and mistreated in his human dignity,” and that just like the young victims of abortion, “he is silent” as he has taken to his death.

The message recalls that on that day, the people “closed their eyes to the truth,” and today many people as well refuse to see “the truth about the unborn,” denying them the status of human being by calling them “a mass of tissue,” and mistreating them through “laboratory manipulation,” whether for experimentation or for reproductive purposes.

The child, “who did not ask to be conceived,” the message continues, is in some cases “the victim of an unjust judgment” and is put to death with an increasingly sophisticated arsenal, as if he were responsible for “the faults of others.”

Therefore the Bishops’ Committee on the Family is calling on Catholics to step up their efforts to defend the right to life of the unborn, which should be inviolate regardless of the circumstances of conception.

The Christian is called to be a promoter of life, the committee writes, to show solidarity towards “those pregnant women who for different reasons are experiencing difficulties in their maternity.”

Lastly, the bishops thank “God for the gift of life, which tenderly shines in the unborn child,” and pray for the intercession of Mary for women who carry life within them.

Publicity campaign

The Bishops’ Committee on the Family has also produced pamphlets that will be distributed across the country and that underscore that “thanks to science, we know that life begins at conception,” when sperm and egg unite and give “life to a new human being that is unique and unrepeatable.”

The pamphlets also point out that the right to life “is the most basic of all human rights,” and that to violate it “constitutes a crime against God and humanity.”

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