Vatican City, Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - Shortly before returning to the Vatican Sunday, Pope John Paul II spoke publicly for the first time since his tracheotomy surgery nearly two and a half weeks ago.
The Holy Father appeared at the window of his room at Rome’s Gemelli hospital for the midday Angelus prayer where he greeted and blessed faithful gathered below.
He left the Gemelli just before 6:30 p.m., traveling to the Vatican in a silver van, where he was greeted by small crowds lining St. Peter's Square and surrounding streets.
Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls noted in a statement that the Pope plans to continue his therapy and convalescence in the Vatican.
Vatican City, Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - The removal of Terri Schindler Schiavo’s feeding tube would be “direct euthanasia,” a Vatican official said last week.
Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Vatican Radio that the severely disabled 41-year-old Florida woman "should be considered a living human, deprived of full conscience, whose juridical rights should be recognized, respected and defended."
The bishop referred to the court decision, which granted Schiavo’s husband the legal right to remove her feeding tube, as “illicit.” The court ruled that the tube could be removed this week, March 18.
"The removal of the gastric probe from her, in these conditions, could be considered direct euthanasia, because it is an integral part of the way in which Terri Schiavo can be fed and hydrated,” Bishop Sgreccia said on Vatican Radio’s One O Five Live program.
“As far as we can see, prohibiting someone access to food and water represents a ruthless way to kill that person,” he continued. “We feel it our duty to affirm that such a decision goes against the rights of Terri Schiavo and therefore constitutes an abuse of the juridical authority.”
The bishop admitted that it is unusual for the Pontifical Academy for Life to interject in specific cases, but “Terri Schiavo's case goes beyond individual situations due to her exemplary character and the importance that the media have rightly attributed to it."
He said silence, in this case, “could have been interpreted as approval.”
The bishop also warned that if the tube were removed, a juridical precedence would be created in the United States, causing “grave consequences” for others in similar situations in the U.S. and abroad.
Hollywood, Calif., Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - Last week moviemaker and creator of the film, The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson spoke out on behalf of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo, scheduled to be taken off her feeding tube this week.
In a phone conversation with Bob Schindler, Terri’s father, Gibson encouraged the family to “never give up and continue to pray.”
Gibson also sent a statement to the family, which was read at a rally on Saturday.
In it, he said "I fully support the efforts of Mr. & Mrs. Schindler to save their daughter, Terri Schiavo, from a cruel starvation. Terri's husband should sign the care of his wife over to her parents so she can be properly cared for.”
Schindler commented that the family is “very grateful that Mr. Gibson has come forward and issued such an encouraging statement on such a delicate matter. He was extremely supportive in our telephone conversation.”
He also noted that Mr. Gibson “believes there is hope for Terri and that he knows of people in similar circumstances that have improved.”
A Florida judge set a date of March 18th for Terri’s feeding tube, which provides her with food and hydration, to be removed. The family has been battling Terri’s husband Michael Schiavo for years to keep their daughter alive and has vowed to do everything possible to overturn the judge’s decision.
Vatican City, Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - In his reflections for Sunday’s weekly Angelus prayer, Pope John Paul II thanked the media for their efforts to connect him with faithful around the globe during his recent health trials.
Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Secretariat of State, who led the prayer in St. Peter's Square, read the Pope's reflections while images of the Holy Father were projected on large screens.
In his reflections, the Pope said that, "In these days I have been in Gemelli hospital, I felt in a special way the presence and attention of many who work in the mass media.”
“Today”, he continued, “I wish to extend to them a word of gratitude because I know that it is not without sacrifice that they undertake their appreciated service, thanks to which the faithful, in every part of the world, can feel I am closer and can accompany me with their affection and prayers."
“In our era of global communications the role of the mass media is very important”, the Pope added. “Also important is the responsibility of all who work in this field, called to always give prompt information, respectful of the dignity of the human person and attentive to the common good."
During Lent, which invites us to be nourished more abundantly by the Word of God, I like to think that it is possible to nourish one's own spirit even through radio, television and Internet. I am grateful to all who work in these new forms of evangelization by using the mass media."
The Pope concluded his reflections saying that he hoped to see many of the young people gathered in St. Peter's Square next Sunday, Palm Sunday and at the prelude celebrations for this summer’s World Youth Day.
Vatican City, Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - In a message made public Saturday by the Vatican, the Pope expressed the urgency of the call to conversion and need to confess one’s sins.
The message, dated March 8th and written from the Gemelli hospital, was addressed to Cardinal James F. Stafford, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, to his collaborators, to father confessors of Roman basilicas, and to numerous other priests.
It comes on the occasion of an annual course on the internal forum, organized by the Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary.
John Paul wrote that, "We live in a society that often seems to have lost a sense of God and of sin. In this context, Christ's call to conversion becomes ever more urgent, a call that presupposes confession of one's own sins and the consequent request for forgiveness and salvation."
The Pope noted that, "in the tradition of the Church, sacramental reconciliation has always been considered in close connection with the sacrificial banquet of the Eucharist, a remembrance of our redemption.”
In this year specially dedicated to the Eucharistic mystery, I consider it more than ever worthwhile to again call your attention to the vital relationship that exists between these two Sacraments."
"In the rite of Mass,” he continued, “many elements underline this need for purification and conversion: from the opening act of penance, to the prayers for forgiveness; from the sign of peace, to the prayers that priests and faithful recite prior to communion.”
Only people with a sincere awareness of not having committed mortal sin may receive the body of Christ."
The Pope called for the Eucharistic mystery to be celebrated "with pureness of heart and sincere love." He concluded, "Clearly and simply preach the true doctrine concerning the need of the Sacrament of reconciliation for receiving communion, when one is aware of not being in God's grace.”
At the same time, encourage the faithful to receive the body and blood of Christ in order to be purified of venial sins and imperfections, so that Eucharistic celebrations are pleasing to God and associate us with the offer of the holy and immaculate Victim with a heart that is contrite and humbled, confident and reconciled.”
Be assiduous ministers for all the faithful, willing and competent in the Sacrament of reconciliation, true images of the holy and merciful Christ."
Vatican City, Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - In a March 10th speech to the United Nations, Vatican representative, Msgr. Fortunatus Nwachukwu, called the refugee situation in Africa a “deep scar on the human family” and called on the International body to act quickly to “alleviate their suffering and to protect their rights."
Msgr. Nwachukwu, nunciature counsellor at the Holy See Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations at Geneva, spoke at the 32nd meeting of the Standing Committee of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The four-day meeting began March 8.
His talk focused on the displaced population crisis in Darfur, Sudan, and said that, “The precarious and tragic condition of these millions of persons forcibly uprooted from their villages and their lands calls for concrete and prompt decisions to alleviate their suffering and to protect their rights."
Msgr. Nwachukwu noted the "positive signs given in the past year when voluntary and organized repatriation of refugees had started to normalize life for tens of thousands."
He pointed out however, that there has been "insufficient funding" and a "worsening of violence and ill-treatment of the displaced population of Darfur where the humanitarian situation is critical.”
Systematic attacks on the civil populations, the destruction of infrastructures and entire villages and the elimination of livestock and crops lead to a widespread displacement of the civilian population."
"If a person is lucky," the Msgr. added, "he or she becomes a refugee by crossing the border and ends up in a refugee camp in Chad, where protection and some relative safety may be provided. ... The African Union military monitors are insufficient in number and lack the necessary logistical support."
He said that, notwithstanding "the courageous presence and assistance of the UNHCR, of other U.N. agencies and many NGOs, ... a strong U.N. leadership and an overall coordination by one agency of external assistance and protection to IDP (internally displaced persons) camps and other places of their concentration appear urgent.”
“As an international community”, he concluded, “we should develop a reliable system, which effectively protects those staying in their own country, but displaced from their homes.”
Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - Recent poll results indicate the strongest opposition to Roe v. Wade in years.
According to the Harris Interactive Poll on abortion released March 3, 47 percent of U.S. adults do not support Roe v. Wade and 52 percent do.
This is a significant change from a 1998 poll, which showed that 41 percent opposed legalized abortion and 57 percent supported it.
However, a spokesperson for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said she thinks the weakening support for Roe is even greater than the poll indicates.
The USCCB’s director of planning and information Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., said the Harris survey question understated Roe v. Wade, describing it as “the U.S. Supreme Court decision making abortions up to three months of pregnancy legal.”
“Many Americans don’t understand that Roe v. Wade made abortion legal through all nine months of pregnancy,” said Ruse. “And most people think an unlimited right to abortion is wrong.”
The 2005 survey polled 1,012 U.S. adults, from Feb. 8 to 13.
Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - Ten thousand people are expected to attend the First Catholic Summit in Washington, D.C., Palm Sunday weekend.
The two-day conference will feature preaching, a Holy Hour, testimonies and Christian music. Musicians hail from Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador and New York.
Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington will be the main celebrant of the Palm Sunday Mass, along with Bishop Joseph Madera from the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services in Washington.
The summit will be March 19-20 at the D.C. Armory, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Organizers Nueva Esperanza Group (New Hope Group) told the Arlington Herald that 5,500 tickets have been sold to date. The event coincides with the Nueva Esperanza’s 15th anniversary.
Geneva, Ill., Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - A new multimedia exhibit seeks to explore and encourage discussion on the issue of state-sanctioned bans of religious clothing and symbols.
“Body of Belief” features a collection of banned religious clothing and other distinctive symbols, and it includes museum-like holdings of artifacts and photographs of individuals wearing those artifacts.
The exhibit, organized by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, will be unveiled March 23 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, from 6:30 p.m. to 8. It is part of the Becket Fund's work at the 61st Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.
Special guests at the exhibit will include individuals who have been fired, discriminated against, punished and ostracized for wearing religious symbols.
The most well known case is that of former Member of the Turkish Parliament Merve Kavakci, who was stripped of her citizenship for wearing the Islamic hijab to her first parliamentary meeting. Both she and secular Turkish women, who supported her expression of religious belief, have been accused of crimes in Turkey.
States around the world ban different types of religious clothing and distinctive religious symbols. France made headlines this past year for its well-known laïcité laws, which ban "ostensible" religious symbols in public schools and buildings. Other totalitarian states have punitive bans.
The Becket Fund points out that these bans violate Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international laws.
The traveling exhibit’s next stop is May 12 at the Metropolitan Club in New York.
Ottawa, Canada, Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - Women undergoing a second or subsequent abortion are more likely to have experienced physical or sexual abuse, says a recent study published in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.
Researchers say the findings show that these women should be screened for a history of abuse when they present themselves at health centers for an abortion. They say proper counseling for such abuse could help avert future abortions.
The Canadian study examined the responses of 1,127 women who went to a regional center in southwestern Ontario, between August 1998 and May 1999, for an abortion.
Of these, 769 (68.2 percent) were undergoing a first abortion, 260 (23.1 percent) a second abortion, and 98 (8.7 percent) a third or subsequent abortion. The women were young; the mean age was 23.7. Most were white (86 percent) and born in Canada (85 percent).
Of the women requesting their first abortion, 181 (24 percent) reported a major conflict with the man involved in the pregnancy. Seventy-three (30 percent) of those seeking a second abortion reported a major conflict, and 34 (36 percent) women seeking a subsequent abortion reported the same thing.
Most of the women (90 percent) had used contraception in the past, and at the time of the current conception 60 percent were using condoms and 40 percent were using an oral contraceptive. Nearly 20 percent said they sometimes could not afford to buy birth control products.
Women undergoing a second or subsequent abortion were older. They were more likely to have given birth and to have had a sexually transmitted disease. They were poorer and more likely to have been abused their lives. They also were more likely to have been born outside Canada and to be black or of Middle Eastern ethnicity.
"These results emphasize the need for screening for a current or past history of physical or sexual abuse at the time of presentation for abortion,” researchers wrote. “Such screening could result in offers of referral and counseling … and could potentially help avert a future abortion."
In an accompanying commentary, Dr. Susan Phillips from the Department of Family Medicine at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont., said the study reinforces the consistent findings of two decades of international research.
A recent British survey found that 35.1 percent of women seeking an abortion had experienced abuse from a partner at some time and 6.6 percent lived in fear. In the United States, 40 percent of women who seek abortions report abuse and are likely to cite relationship problems as the reason for the abortion.
Vatican City, Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - In a letter made public Saturday, Pope John Paul praised and challenged members of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception to redouble their efforts in spreading the love of the Eucharist and Mary to the world.
The message to the Congregation, commonly known as the Marian Fathers, comes on the occasion of their General Chapter and was written from Rome’s Gemelli hospital.
The Marians were founded in Poland in 1673 by Servant of God Stanislaus of Jesus Mary Papczynski who, the Pope noted, "knew how to spread and courageously defend the truth of the Immaculate Conception even before it was proclaimed as a dogma of faith.”
He challenged the community to “Faithfully follow his example and propagate Marian devotion all around you."
"In this year especially dedicated to the mystery of the Eucharist," the Holy Father stressed, "make this wonderful Sacrament even more the center of your personal and community life, placing yourselves docilely at the school of the Blessed Virgin, 'Eucharistic woman'.”
If your heart burns with fervent love for the Eucharist and for Our Lady, the shrines you run in various parts of the world will be even more genuine 'cenacles' of prayer and welcome."
The Pope noted the many "exemplary religious" who have been Marians, "often in difficult and risky situations," even to the point of giving their lives.
He asked the congregation "to intensify [their] apostolic drive, committing [themselves] with renewed enthusiasm to the promotion of priestly and religious vocations and satisfactorily preparing those aspiring to your institute to be generous workers in the Lord's vineyard.”
“May your pastoral collaboration with lay faithful grow,” he concluded, “dedicating special attention to the young and to the needy, to the marginalized and the elderly. Be apostles and witnesses of Divine Mercy for everyone."
"'For Christ and the Church': May this continue to be the program of your religious family to whom I wish an abundant harvest of apostolic fruits."
Madrid, Spain, Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - Before a large assembly of the faithful, civil and military authorities, and family members of victims gathered at the Archdiocesan cathedral to commemorate the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid, said, “Terrorism will never have the last word,” and he exhorted all to “overcome evil with good.”
During the Mass which was concelebrated by the Apostolic Nuncio in Spain, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, President of the Bishops Conference of Spain, and twenty other Spanish bishops, Cardinal Rouco urged that “spiritual and material” comfort continue to be shown towards the victims and their families.
In his homily, the cardinal noted that, “The Cross of Christ was made present in an inexplicable, absurd and tragic way in the terrible terrorist attacks that shook the conscience of our city and of the whole world,” leaving us with the spiritual impression of “having been tried in the crucible.”
Cardinal Rouco recalled the “sacrifice” of the 192 victims and the suffering of their family members, and he expressed his hope for “peace in the hearts of all those who will live forever with this tragedy.” After alluding to the death of Christ, he reminded those gathered that “death is not that last reality of human life.”
The cardinal condemned the “criminal actions” of the terrorists, who took the lives of “innocent ones” who “are now in the hands of God” and are now enjoying “eternal life.” He also offered encouragement to the family members saying, “Darkness and anxiety shall not last,” and that man “is not made for death, but rather for life.” He praised Spanish society for its spontaneity and solidarity, regardless of religious creed, in response to the attacks.
The last word
In his condemnation of terrorism, Cardinal Rouco alluded to the latest book by Pope John Paul II, “Memory and Identity,” in which the Pope speaks of the “ideologies of evil,” which include “contemporary theories which claim to justify and/or explain away modern terrorism, overlooking the hatred which nourishes them.”
The cardinal called for the “definitive eradication” of terrorism, and he assured that it “will never have the last word” in the lives of people, both in Spain and in the world. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” he said, adding that justice, merciful love, hope and peace will have the last word.
“Victory over terrorism will certainly flourish at the end of this long road. May God bless us in the noble and necessary endeavors of society and in the definitive eradication of terrorism. May God bless Spain and the world,” he concluded.
Barcelona, Spain, Mar 14, 2005 (CNA) - A Spanish advertising designer has launched an ad campaign promoting the use of condoms in AIDS prevention, employing an image of the Jesus holding a condom in his left hand instead of the Sacred Heart.
“Love your neighbor as yourself. Using condoms for prevention is divine” is the catchphrase that appears underneath the image on posters and billboards in Seville.
Rafael Iglesias, the designer who is financing the ads, has “decorated” the streets in protest of the Church’s teaching on condoms, “for its stubbornness in denying people such an important means of protection.”
According to the Spanish daily “El Periódico,” Iglesias argued that “as a person privileged by my access to the media, I would be a coward if I did not use it to call attention to this cause.”
“The Sacred Heart is not an image in any way exclusive either to the intransigent Spanish clergy or to any religious association, but rather transcends all cultures,” Iglesias stated, claiming that Jesus, “as far as we know, would have done everything humanly and divinely possible to eradicate this biblical curse of our time, AIDS, which is afflicts us.”
The ad campaign by Iglesias has been widely criticized for ridiculing the religious convictions of the majority of Spaniards.
Iglesias claimed the rejection was due to a lack of “a sense of humor.” “But it doesn’t matter, because in other places we are running out of posters, and people are asking for them before we even put them up.”
The ad campaign has spread to Madrid, Murcia, Valencia and Barcelona.