Vatican City, May 6, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, Pope Benedict received 31 new Swiss Guard recruits who took their official oaths this afternoon at the Vatican.
The swearing-in ceremony of the Pontifical Swiss Guard was held in the San Damaso courtyard of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace while family and friends accompanied the new recruits in their meeting with the Pope.
The Holy Father spoke in German, French and Italian, and expressed his joy "that the traditional oath of recruits is taking place a few days after the start of my pontificate, so I can express to you my recognition, my thanks and my encouragement."
Addressing a special greeting to the new recruits, the Holy Father expressed the desire that over these days "you may deepen your faith and your union with Peter's Successor, the visible head of the Universal Church. May your service further improve the liturgical acts and the numerous meetings."
Noting the fact that each of the recruits had different reasons for joining the Swiss Guard, Pope Benedict pointed out the importance to live the experience fully so as to "give rise to a true spiritual bond between you.”
“This spirit”, he said, “of the Swiss Guard is nourished by the glorious tradition of almost five centuries of a small army with great ideals."
These ideals, said the Pope are "firmness of Catholic faith, a convinced and convincing Christian way of life, unshakeable trust and a profound love for the Church and for the Vicar of Christ, conscientiousness and perseverance in the small and great tasks of daily service, courage and humility, attention to others and humanity."
"In the person of the Pope," Benedict concluded, "you serve the entire Church; put your youthful energy, and your interior vitality and freshness at her service.”
“Looking at you, dear friends, I remember what I said during the inaugural liturgical celebration of my pontificate: 'the Church is young. She holds within herself the future of the world and therefore shows each of us the way towards the future.' You, dear guards, can and must provide an example and a living witness of this."
Washington D.C., May 6, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are urging Congress to evaluate the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) based on moral criteria.
CAFTA is a trade and investment agreement negotiated between the United States and six Central American and Caribbean countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.
President George W. Bush is expected to ask Congress approve CAFTA in May.
The U.S. bishops and CRS stated that they do not officially support or oppose CAFTA, but they recognize that certain moral questions about the impact of trade agreements on people’s lives are generally not part of debate in developing agreements like this one.
They said members of Congress must engage in such evaluation and consider the following questions.
- How will CAFTA address the needs of small and medium-sized farms in the U.S. and Central America?
- How will CAFTA protect the rights of workers and the environment?
- How will people have a say in how CAFTA impacts their lives?
- How will CAFTA’s intellectual property provisions impact the poor?
- How will CAFTA promote integral human development, especially of the poor?
The bishops and CRS pointed out that, since the agreement was signed, there has been an absence of broad consultation with the people in the key sectors that will be affected. In addition, little information has been available in publicly accessible forms.
“CAFTA’s ability to increase opportunities for the poor and to enhance prospects that they will genuinely benefit from increased trade remains unclear,” the bishops said. “Trade policies must be framed within an integrated development agenda that incorporates measures to improve education, health care, and democratic participation.”
The bishops and CRS also called on Catholics to contact their members of Congress and urge them to engage in a moral evaluation of CAFTA.
Vatican City, May 6, 2005 (CNA) - This morning at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received South African President Thabo M. Mbeki, with whom, he stressed the Church’s responsibility to promote moral values in that country and the world.
Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced this morning that the Holy Father held audience with Mbeki, “accompanied by his wife and an entourage.”
"During the meeting,” Navarro-Valls continued, “the president explained the situation in South Africa to His Holiness, also with reference to the rest of the African continent.”
To this, the press release noted, "The Holy Father emphasized the role the Republic of South Africa can play as a factor for peace throughout the continent” and “underlined the Church's responsibility in promoting moral values in the Republic of South Africa and in the world."
Springfield, Ill., May 6, 2005 (CNA) - Illinois legislators should reject a measure that would support embryonic stem-cell research with public funds, said Chicago’s archbishop.
In his annual visit to the Capitol Wednesday, Francis Cardinal George told legislators that embryonic stem-cell research is not a good use of taxpayers' money, reported the Chicago Tribune.
Cardinal George said legislators should take the “moral” choice instead.
"I don't think that what is as morally questionable as creating embryos to destroy them for scientific purposes should be funded by public money," Cardinal George told reporters. "It's funded by a lot of private money right now, and you shouldn't use that kind of means even to come to a very good end."
The cardinal said there is no need for embryonic stem-cell research since “all of the medical breakthroughs, with one possible exception, have been with adult stem cells and with umbilical cords."
The Church supports adult stem-cell research but not embryonic stem-cell research, which necessitates killing the embryo.
State legislators supporting the measure said they plan to go ahead with the project, which would impose a 6 percent tax on elective cosmetic surgery.
The proceeds would be distributed among research projects and facilities at Illinois universities. If the tax had been in effect in 2004, it is estimated that it would have generated almost $20 million.
Vatican City, May 6, 2005 (CNA) - This week, the Vatican’s Archbishop Celestino Migliore called on members of the United Nations to uphold the integrity of a treaty on nuclear non-proliferation.
Archbishop Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent U.N. observer, addressed the Seventh Review Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in New York Wednesday.
The Vatican is one of 188 States Parties who adhered to the 1971 Treaty.
The cardinal said that the Holy See was "convinced that it was an important step forward in the creation of a system of general and complete disarmament under effective international control, something that would be possible only if it were completely observed both in detail and in its entirety."
Over the years, he added, "the Treaty has become a cornerstone in the global security framework since it has, to some extent, helped slow the arms race."
When the Treaty was implemented in the early 1970’s, the Cardinal noted that there were "at the same time profound social and geopolitical changes.”
“An awareness began to grow of the close correlation and interdependence between national and international security, while new challenges sprang up, like transnational terrorism and the illegal spread of materials for making weapons of mass destruction."
"Since the Treaty is the only multilateral legal instrument currently available,” Archbishop Migliore continued, “intended to bring about a nuclear weapons free world, it must not be allowed to be weakened.”
“Humanity deserves no less than the full cooperation of all States on this grave matter," he said, and stressed that, "the non-proliferation side of the NTP must be strengthened" and "compliance with its nuclear disarmament provisions is also required."
"The time has gone," the Archbishop said, "for finding ways to a 'balance in terror': the time has come to re-examine the whole strategy of nuclear deterrence. ... The Holy See has never countenanced nuclear deterrence as a permanent measure, nor does it today when it is evident that nuclear deterrence drives the development of ever newer nuclear arms, thus preventing genuine nuclear disarmament."
He concluded saying that "we must always remember that the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated."
Chicago, Ill., May 6, 2005 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George of Chicago is asking state governor Rod Blagojevich to back off on a law, which requires pharmacists to fill all prescriptions—including abortion-causing ones, which they pharmacists may find morally reprehensible.
The Cardinal told the Chicago Sun-Times that, "People have a choice what pharmacy they want to go to, and pharmacists should have a moral choice also.”
"I don't think the state has any business encroaching on the conscience of people," Cardinal George added. "We haven't done this in this country, we've respected individual conscience as something that is of great moral importance, so I would hope the governor would rethink his regulation."
On Wednesday, the governor defended the new order and told the Sun-Times, "I believe that if you're a pharmacist and you've made a decision to sell birth control and contraceptives, once you made that decision, then you're in no position to decide who might or might not be someone you sell it to…That's not your place as a pharmacist."
So far, two lawsuits have been filed against Governor Blagojevich by pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for drugs like the morning after pill.
, May 6, 2005 (CNA) - The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the First Amendment does not prohibit lawsuits against the Diocese of Jackson over allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
Three brothers filed a $48-million lawsuit in Hinds County Circuit Court in 2002, claiming a priest sexually abused them more than 30 years ago. The trial had been on hold while the Supreme Court considered the diocese's motion for dismissal.
, May 6, 2005 (CNA) - Six students at Arlington Catholic High School achieved perfect scores on the National Latin Exam.
The exam is given annually to high school students in the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, England, Poland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, China and Zimbabwe.
This year, 135,000 students took the exam; 1,591 of them achieved a perfect score.
Of the 32 Arlington Catholic High School students who took the exam, six achieved perfect scores. Gold medals were awarded to 17 students and eight students were awarded silver medals.
Ottawa, Canada, May 6, 2005 (CNA) - Canada’s draft legislation on same-sex marriage passed second reading in Parliament Wednesday because Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party do not recognize the significance of freedom of conscience and religion, said the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
The NDP members of Parliament, as well as Liberal MPs who are parliamentary secretaries and Cabinet ministers, were obliged to vote on Bill C-38 according to party lines, noted Archbishop Brendan O’Brien.
“The failure of political parties to respect freedom of conscience and religion is an ominous sign for the future,” the archbishop remarked.
In a written statement, the CCCB expressed its concern and disappointment that Bill C-38 passed second reading. The bill will now go to a special legislative committee before returning to the House of Commons for third and final reading. The bishops have urged the committee to hold public hearings across the country.
The CCCB has repeatedly called for the federal government to respect the definition of marriage as the committed and exclusive relationship of a man and a woman.
Failing that, the bishops have said the law must ensure that civil and religious officials can opt out of performing marriages that are not in line with their conscience and religious beliefs.
The law must protect the charitable status of religious organizations not in agreement with Bill C-38 and protect their right to refuse renting their buildings for wedding celebrations contrary to their faith, the bishops said.
The law must also protect the rights of all Canadians, including religious leaders, parents and teachers, to speak about sexual morality in light of their own conscience and faith.
Montreal, Canada, May 6, 2005 (CNA) - Quebec bishops are disappointed that the provincial government has gone ahead and drafted legislation that will put an end to Catholic and Protestant religious instruction in public schools by 2008. But there is hope that the new ethics and religious culture program will “bear some fruit,” said Bishop Pierre Morissette.
The president of the education commission for the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops (AECQ) told CNA he has a “double reaction” to the new program announced Wednesday by Education Minister Jean-Marc Fournier.
“It’s clearly a disappointment,” the bishop said in a telephone interview. “The bill is not in line with the position of the bishops, and the suggestions that we made to the minister in the fall were not followed.”
The AECQ had submitted a document to the Ministry of Education in October, insisting that the current program—offering the choice between Catholic or Protestant religious instruction or moral instruction—be maintained and implemented “more seriously.” They also insisted on improvements to the training program offered for religion teachers and to the schools’ spiritual animation services.
But Bishop Morissette said he also sees “relative good news” in the new program.
“Young people will not be totally cut off from the religious fact,” he commented. “Religion will still be taught, though from a cultural perspective, but if it is well done, it could bear some fruit.”
On the positive side, Bishop Morissette said he also sees this legislative change as “a chance for our Christian communities to renew themselves by transmitting the faith to younger generations.
“This is a new and big challenge for the Church in Quebec,” the bishop of Baie-Comeau remarked. “We have relied on schools to do this [pass on the faith] for us for a long time. But now this has ended.”
Bishop Morissette said Quebec bishops saw this change coming and some have been preparing their dioceses for this eventuality for a few years, setting up yearlong faith education programs in parishes.
The new ethics and religious culture program will only be implemented in 2008. In order to allow sufficient time to develop it, the Education Minister said the provincial government intends to renew the notwithstanding clause for a period of three years.
The renewal of the clause means status quo: parents and students will maintain the right to choose between Catholic or Protestant religious instruction, or moral instruction for the next three years.
The Education Minister said groups would be invited to present their opinion on the bill before a parliamentary committee in the coming weeks.
The Quebec bishops have not yet received an invitation, said Bishop Morissette, who doubts the government will scrap the bill based on the hearings. The hearings would likely be an opportunity to make suggestions on how the bill and the new program could be improved, he speculated.