Vatican City, Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - In a statement this morning, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls confirmed hopes that Pope John Paul II will return to the Vatican in time for Holy Week.
Navarro-Valls told assembled journalists that, "The Holy Father, accepting the advice of his doctors, will extend his stay in Gemelli Polyclinic by a few more days, in order to complete his convalescence which is progressing regularly.”
In addition to confirming the Pope’s return to the Vatican, Navarro-Valls indicated that this Sunday’s Angelus would "follow the same model as the two previous Sundays" in which the Holy Father made a brief appearance at his hospital window and gave a blessing.
The press office director added that the Pope continues to receive his collaborators, "with whom he follows the activity of the Holy See and the life of the Church.”
He said that, “Yesterday, [the Pope] received Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State. Thus, he has resumed the meetings he customarily holds when working in the Vatican."
The Holy See is expected to release its next formal statement regarding the Pope’s health on March 14th.
Washington D.C., Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - The United Nations declaration against all forms of human cloning, including therapeutic cloning, “is a powerful statement in favor of the dignity and inviolability of human life,” said the planning and information director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat.
Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., also commended the declaration’s call to “prevent the exploitation of women.”
“Allowing human cloning for experimentation would require countless numbers of women to surrender their eggs by an extraction process that is both painful and dangerous,” said Ruse.
The UN passed the declaration after years of debate, urging member states to adopt laws banning all forms of human cloning “inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.” It was ratified by the General Assembly by a vote of 84 to 34, with 37 members abstaining.
Ruse also hailed the declaration’s ban of therapeutic cloning, whose process requires killing an embryo and “treats human life as a commodity to be created for experimentation.”
The UN declaration is expected to have a profound impact on human cloning debates around the world, including in the United States.
Denver, Colo., Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - On Wednesday, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput praised a recent Supreme Court decision which bans the use of the death penalty for minors who were 18 or younger when they committed their crime.
In his column in the Denver Catholic Register, Chaput said that, “From the Church’s perspective, this is important news; a victory for careful reflection and common decency.”
He lamented however, that the larger problem of the death penalty “remains with us”, pointing out that “Catholic teaching on the death penalty flows from the sanctity of the human person. All life is sacred. Every person, even the convicted murderer, is created by God with God-given dignity.”
“If the defendant in a murder trial is financially well off and white,” he said, “he has a much lower chance of receiving the death penalty than if he’s poor or a person of color.”
While noting that Scripture and Catholic tradition, do give legitimacy to capital punishment in certain circumstances, the Archbishop said that, “In developed countries like our own, it should have no place in our public life.”
“In the United States in 2005,” he pointed out, “the guilty can be punished and public safety can be ensured without sending a single human being to an execution chamber.”
Added Archbishop Chaput, “When we take a murderer’s life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture, and we demean our own dignity in the process.”
Albany, N.Y., Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - The New York Catholic Conference is supporting a bill in the state Senate that would provide income-tax credits of up to $3,000 for families that send children to private schools, reported the Ottaway News Service.
At a meeting in Albany, Edward Cardinal Egan, archbishop of New York, said the tax credits would give parents greater choice, strengthen public schools and keep parochial schools from closing.
The pressure on Catholic schools to close in recent years has been great. New York State’s nearly 1,400 Catholic schools have been reduced to 750. On average, 10 schools close per year in New York. This year, about 40 schools are slated for closure. There are currently 295,000 students.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Martin Golden, R-Manhattan, would make parents eligible for tax credits of between $500 and $1,500 each for up to two children, depending on income. Families with incomes of $100,000 or more would not be eligible.
Tuition is about $4,700 a year for Catholic high schools in the state and just under $4,000 a year for elementary schools.
The archbishop also argued that the tax credit would enable the state to spend more on public school students, but the bill is strongly opposed by teachers and the National Education Association of New York.
Cleveland, Ohio, Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - According to pro-abortion supporters, today is the “National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers”, a day they say, to recognize the “terrorist-like” conditions that abortion doctors reportedly work under.
Cleveland’s Pro-Choice Escorts said that March 10th was chosen because “This was the day that anti-abortion activists decided to elevate their terrorist tactics to a new level---it is the first day that an abortion doctor was assassinated in the USA.”
The group stated that, “Unfortunately, many people don't realize what it's like on a day-to-day basis for those working in abortion clinics”, and asked that people “pause, just a moment, and consider what some people who work in clinics deal with daily.”
Pro-life supporters expressed outrage and disbelief that the day exists and note that the abortion providers themselves are responsible for the “murder of innocent children.”
San Francisco, Calif., Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - Two California dioceses are scheduled to go to trial March 14 for cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests.
These trials are the first of about 150 civil suits filed throughout the state by more than 850 alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests since the statute of limitations was temporarily lifted in 2002, reported the Associated Press.
In December 90 lawsuits against the Diocese of Orange County were settled out of court with a record $100-million settlement. Lawyers continue to sit in settlement talks for dozens of other lawsuits.
The trials Monday will be heard in Alameda County Superior Court before two separate judges.
A man in his mid-40s, who alleges abuse by the late Fr. Joseph Pritchard, reportedly filed the case against the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Pritchard died of cancer in 1998 before allegations became known.
With millions of dollars potentially at stake, archdiocesan spokesperson Maurice Healy told the San Francisco Chronicle that a percentage of settlement costs would be covered by insurance.
In a letter Feb. 25, Archbishop William Levada promised Catholics in San Francisco "fair and reasonable settlements with victims of abuse by clergy and church employees."
However, he also assured that "the parishes, schools, day care centers, clinics, and other social services people depend on are there and available for all who need them."
The case against the Diocese of Oakland may be delayed after a judge ordered a settlement conference for Monday, reported the AP.
Bishop Allen Vigneron of Oakland would prefer that cases be settled out of court, attorney Stephen McFeely told the Contra Costa Times. McFeely is a lawyer for the diocese.
"The bishop is hoping mediation works," diocesan spokesperson Fr. Mark Wiesner told the AP.
Church insurance carriers would likely pay the majority of any settlement or negative judgment against the diocese, reported the Contra Costa Times.
The suit against the Diocese of Oakland was filed by a 34-year-old former altar boy, who now lives in Arizona. The man claims he was abused by former priest Robert Ponciroli, 68, who now lives in Florida. According to the AP, the former priest is not a defendant in the case. A second claimant in that same case is the man's brother.
Hollywood, Calif., Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - After the huge success of The Passion of the Christ Braveheart star, Mel Gibson will soon release a film about the apparitions of Mary at Fatima, Portugal in 1917.
According to xt3.com, an online Christian magazine, Gibson recently purchased the rights to the novel “Stealing from Angels” and will base the movie on that book.
Gibson, who traveled to Fatima in 2003 to show The Passion to Sr. Lucia, one of the Marian visionaries and other sisters at her convent, expects the film to hit screens by 2006.
The new film, like, The Passion, is expected to be surrounded by controversy, but primarily this time, because of its specifically Catholic subject matter.
Sydney, Australia, Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - An Australian Catholic college cancelled a lecture by “pre-Christian” feminist theologian Carol Christ Saturday, reported the Sidney Morning Herald.
The lecturer, who challenges the patriarchal image of God, is associated with the so-called ‘Goddess’ spirituality.
The event organizers, the Australian Feminist Theology Foundation, have accused Sidney’s archbishop, George Cardinal Pell, of blocking the lecture. However, diocesan officials insist the decision to cancel the lecture was made by the Dominican Sisters who run Santa Sabina College in Strathfield.
"Following an inquiry from myself on behalf of the archdiocese, the Dominican Sisters decided it would be inappropriate for a talk promoting goddess worship and pagan spiritualities as an alternative to the basic tenets of the Christian faith to be held in a Catholic venue," said Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous in a statement.
Carol Christ has taught at Harvard Divinity School, Columbia University and San Jose State University and directs the Ariadne Institute for the Study of Myth and Ritual in Oregon, which offers pilgrimages to Greece and Crete celebrating goddess worship.
Washington D.C., Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - With a recent shift in public opinion that seems to have placed pro-lifers in a more positive light, pro-life leader Jill Stanek says pro-abortion activists have scrambled to adopt new strategies in an effort to divide and defeat pro-lifers.
In an article Stanek wrote for WorldNetDaily.com, she said the pro-abortion organizations’ “marketing strategies of the past 30 years have finally started to fail … forcing them in recent months to dramatically shift their strategies.”
One strategy they have developed is to “appear sensitive about abortion and to focus less on that and more on contraception,” said Stanek, who fought to stop live-birth abortions after witnessing one as a registered nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill.
The abortion movement’s first talking point is: "Can we all work together to prevent unintended pregnancies by promoting better access to contraceptives?"
This expressed desire to work together makes pro-abortion activists “appear rational on the topic of abortion while at the same time promoting sex ed. and contraceptives – both moneymakers for them,” said Stanek. “And when contraceptives fail, they know they will still make money from abortion without having to push it so rabidly.”
She suggested that pro-lifers counter this point by “demonstrating the great success of abstinence training and the upsides of chaste living.”
“We cannot budge on the counterfeit ‘abstinence plus’ training the other side is hawking, which says it's great to teach abstinence, but kids should also be given ‘tools’ if they cannot control themselves,” she said. “This is ridiculous.”
The second strategy of pro-abortion organizations is to settle on the topic of contraception to make pro-lifers seem fanatical. Stanek suggested that this is a powerful point since “the contraceptive mentality is so engrained in American minds.”
Pro-abortion activists know that contraception “is a wedge issue for pro-lifers. The natural family planning mentality is foreign to most Protestants and prehistoric to many Catholics,” said Stanek. However, she urged pro-lifers to be aware of this strategy and not to allow pro-abortion activists divide them on this point.
“Pro-life groups and churches must take greater responsibility for abstinence training and not leave that up to the pregnancy help centers,” she urged. “We must also continue to dialogue about the issue of contraception and make up our minds not let the other side divide us on that.”
Vatican City, Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, Pope John Paul welcomed Felix Oudiane, Senegal’s new ambassador, to the Vatican, noting that country’s commitment to “seeking and consolidating peace in Africa.”
Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano received the ambassador in the name of the Pope who remains in Rome’s Gemelli hospital following a February 24th tracheotomy surgery.
Cardinal Sodano gave the diplomat a copy of the Pope's welcome speech, in which the Holy Father notes Senegal’s "long tradition of coexistence among all the communities of which the nation is composed.”
“I am pleased”, the Pope wrote, “with the promising results of efforts made in your country to fortify civil peace, and to eliminate all those elements which can give rise to dissention and violent confrontation. It is essential that all inhabitants are able to live in security and harmony."
The Holy Father highlighted the fact that peace is "fundamental in order to realize people's just aspiration to live a dignified and solidary life.”
“Furthermore,” he said, “it is more necessary than ever to educate the new generations in the ideals of fraternity, justice and solidarity."
"Senegal's commitment to seeking and consolidating peace in Africa is well-known and appreciated by the international community," the Pope wrote, adding that the continent "has an urgent need for peace and stability.”
Violence will never be a satisfactory solution for resolving disagreements between human groups. Courage and perseverance are the most effective ways to achieve true reconciliation."
While recognizing that Senegal "is particularly sensitive to the importance of different religions being able to experience diversity within the unity of a nation," John Paul noted that, "This is one of the conditions for the full development of society.”
Despite the inevitable difficulties inherent in coexistence between different human communities, dialogue enables the richness of their diversity to be recognized."
The Pope also expressed the fact that dialogue needs to "find concrete expression in true coexistence among communities, in order to serve the common good of the one human family. There is still a long road to travel together, that of mutual knowledge, forgiveness and reconciliation, through regular collaboration that contributes to building a pacified and fraternal society."
In closing, the Holy Father addressed the Catholic community in Senegal, calling it to "always remain united to its bishops, so that the love of Christ may shine ever more brightly, and to share with everyone the joy and happiness that it never ceases to receive from God.”
“The Gospel calls all Christ's disciples to work tirelessly with all men and women of good will to build the unity of the human family, the source of which is in God."
, Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Colombia is reporting that during the last 20 years, 65 priests and religious have been murdered in the country.
According to a report by the secretary of the Conference, Bishop Fabian Marulanda, “The situation is so grave that up to 69 churches and rectories have been destroyed, 24 religious have been kidnapped and 13 have been assaulted.”
The bishops explained that, “Perhaps these people have paid with their lives for boldly denouncing the atrocities committed by illegally armed groups in Colombia.”
Rome, Italy, Mar 10, 2005 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops Conference of Italy, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, is promoting the creation of a civic committee that would encourage Italians to abstain from voting in the coming referendum on a law that would liberalize the country’s policy on assisted fertilization.
The referendum requires the participation of at least 50% of Italian voters in order to be valid. If passed, it would change a law on artificial fertilization, approved by the Italian government in February of 2004 and considered the strictest in Europe, which according to the cardinal has the “merit of protecting the essential principles and beliefs regarding the dignity of the person.”
On January 13 of this year, the Constitutional Court approved the creation of four referendums on certain aspects of the law, which currently prohibits fertilization by someone who is a third party, allows only for the creation of a maximum of three embryos per woman, all of which must be implanted, and does not allow analysis of the embryos before implantation.
According to Cardinal Ruini, the mission of the proposed civic committee, “Science and Life,” is to “prevent the law on assisted procreation from becoming worse in case the referendum were to pass.”
Likewise, he revealed that the bishops are preparing to deal with the referendum by concentrating on the formation of consciences “regarding the dignity of human life from conception, the protection of the family and the right of children to know who their own parents are.”
Catholic Action, Communion and Liberation, Opus Dei, and other communities, as well as Catholic communication media such as Avvenire, L’Osservatore Romano, Sat 2000 Television and Vatican Radio, are participating in the formation of this committee.