Vatican City, May 17, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking at the third Summit of Heads of State and Governments of the Council of Europe yesterday, Vatican representative Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo told Council members that Europe would only be an “agent of peace and civilization in the world” to the extent that it promotes human dignity and fundamental rights.
The summit is being held today and yesterday in Warsaw, Poland with prominent attendees from around Europe.
In his address, Archbishop Lajolo, Holy See’s secretary for Relations with States, reminded summit members of the deep Christian roots, which formed Europe’s history.
"Europe”, he said, “will be loved by its citizens and will serve as an agent of peace and civilization in the world only if it is animated by certain fundamental values: the promotion of human dignity and fundamental human rights, ... in the first place freedom of conscience and religion; the pursuit of the common good in a spirit of solidarity; and respect for national and cultural identity."
He highlighted that, "The pre-eminent role that Christianity has played in forming and developing this cultural, religious and humanistic patrimony is well known to all and cannot be ignored."
The archbishop also hit on new problems that European culture faces, saying that they "derive from the great world-wide problems handed down from the twentieth century: the nuclear threat, ... the emergence of forms of political and religious fundamentalism, large-scale migration of peoples and certain situations of dangerous instability," such as those "in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the Kosovo region, both of which are in need of a reliable solution, which cannot be reached without providing effective guarantees for minorities."
The Archbishop likewise called for "a better coordination of European organizations," indicating that "the experience of the Council of Europe is particularly important because it sketches the outlines of what could become a blueprint for European society."
He also addressed the European Union, saying that, “it is in the juridical sector in relation to human rights that one finds further concrete possibilities for closer institutional cooperation.”
“The common commitment”, he said, “to corroborate the human rights and the legal protection of European citizens - reaffirmed by the will of the European Union to adhere to the European Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental liberties - must be given adequate expression in the propositions to be presented by the Coordination Group created in December 2004."
Washington D.C., May 17, 2005 (CNA) - A majority of Americans, 52 percent, oppose federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research while 36 percent of Americans support it, says a new poll.
The Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) commissioned the poll, conducted by International Communications Research.
Government funding for embryonic stem-cell research is being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives, which may soon vote on a bill (H.R. 810).
When respondents were told that scientists could not agree on whether embryonic stem cells or adult stem cells would be most successful in treating diseases, they responded 60 percent in favor of funding only research that raises no moral problem. Only 22 percent favored funding all stem-cell research, including the kind that involves destroying embryos.
“It is always wrong for government to promote the destruction of innocent human life,” said Richard M. Doerflinger, deputy director of the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. Embryonic stem-cell research requires the destruction of the embryo.
“To do so when a clear majority of the taxpayers themselves reject this approach would be especially irresponsible,” Doerflinger said.
International Communications Research polled a weighted sample of 1,010 adults, May 6-11. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
Public opinion against embryonic stem-cell research has increased in the last eight months. In August 2004, an identical poll showed that Americans opposed funding the research 47 percent to 43 percent.
The new findings are also consistent with a recent Winston Group poll of Republicans commissioned by GOP Congressmen supporting H.R. 810. That poll showed just 36 percent of Republicans in favor of expanded federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, and 58 percent in favor of limited or no government funding.
Boston, Mass., May 17, 2005 (CNA) - All of the kafuffle surrounding the resignation of Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ, as editor of America Magazine is unfounded, according to First Things editor Fr. John Neuhaus.
Fr. Neuhaus expressed his views on the issue in a column published in the Boston Globe yesterday. He explained that the leadership of the Jesuits decided that Fr. Reese should be moved into a different ministry, which sparked a controversy that the “oppressive Pope Benedict XVI” allegedly ousted him from the editorial chair.
Fr. Neuhaus pointed out that America had come under much criticism in recent years for undercutting its mission “to present as effectively as possible the teaching of the Church.”
He said Fr. Reese seemed to have “seriously misunderstood” the notions of fairness and balance and confused them with neutrality.
“The problem was a basic mistake in editorial policy,” explained Fr. Neuhaus. “It was thought that being ‘fair and balanced’ required publishing on an equal footing articles that supported and articles that opposed the Church's teaching, as though the Church's teaching was but one opinion among others.”
Some of the articles to which Fr. Neuhaus was referring addressed the issues of same-sex marriage, embryonic stem-cell research and homosexuality.
“The practice of America suggested to some the magazine's neutrality or hostility to the Church's teaching,” he said.
“I dare say that an editor working for Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, or the National Rifle Association who regularly turned a publication into a platform for those opposed to the mission of the organization would soon be looking for another job,” wrote Fr. Neuhaus.
“A Catholic magazine … may decide to publish an exchange or debate between conflicting positions, but there should be no doubt that the magazine is on the Church's side.”
He called Fr. Reese his friend and defended him as a man who works for the Church and has taken a vow of service and loyalty to the Church and the Pope.
Vatican City, May 17, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced a seminar to be held tomorrow which will address the Social Doctrine of the Church and how it should be lived out in the modern world—particularly in light of the so-called culture wars and the defense of human dignity in a hostile world.
The seminar will be presented by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Federation of Catholic Men - Unum Omnes HIFC, and will be held at the council offices.
Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the council following opening prayer and greetings from organizers, will present the theme “The Social Doctrine of the Church, the Indispensable Foundation for the Formation and Commitment of the Lay Christian”.
According to a press release, seminar topics will explore specific difficulties and resources available to Christians when making choices regarding priority ethical values such as the sacredness of life, the indissolubility of marriage, correct use of the media, scientific research, and decisive economic options for the lives of citizens, especially the poorest.
A number of international Catholic organizations, including, the International Federation of Catholic Action, the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations, the International Coordination of Young Christian Workers, the International Rural Catholic Association, and the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors, will present round table discussions on “The Social Doctrine of the Church and Formative Paths.”
Washington D.C., May 17, 2005 (CNA) - Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, commended Democrats for Life of America’s “95-10” Initiative, which aims to reduce the number of abortions.
“A pro-life stance is far more consistent with principles Democrats claim to hold than is a pro-abortion stance,” said Fr. Pavone at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. The “95-10” Initiative enjoys the support of a number of pro-life Democrats in Congress.
The pro-life priest said his support does not mean that the initiative is not in need of further modification and debate. But he conceded that the initiative was a good starting point.
He also challenged Democrats and Republicans “to resist the temptation to dodge the abortion issue.
“Abortion is an act of violence that contradicts not only what a political party should stand for, but what America already stands for — the equal dignity of every human life,” he said. “Abortion must not only be limited; it must be ended."
Fr. Pavone added: “It important that the pro-life movement and the Church not be identified exclusively with one or another political party, for the simple reason that the right to life is rooted in human nature and the nature of God, not political platforms.”
Wilmington, Del., May 17, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli of Wilmington says Delaware legislators should reject Senate Bill 80, which would allow embryonic stem-cell research.
The Delaware Regenerative Medicine Act would permit destructive research on human embryos from fertility clinics and would not ban the cloning of human embryos for research purposes.
This type of research would allow scientists “to end one human life for the benefit of another thereby violating a well established moral principle that human beings should not be treated as objects to be used for someone else’s purpose or goal,” said Bishop Saltarelli. “This type of embryonic stem-cell research is morally objectionable and scientifically questionable.”
The bishop said stem cells could come from many ethical sources — umbilical cords, placentas, amniotic fluid, adult tissues and bone marrow.
“The Catholic Church supports research using stem cells from these sources but opposes research when the cells are obtained by destroying embryos, whether created by fertilization or by cloning,” he explained.
Fr. John S. Grimm, diocesan spokesman on bioethical issues, said supporters of embryonic stem-cell research are overlooking the scientific breakthroughs being made with adult stem cells.
“Patients with diabetes, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, cancer, heart disease and other conditions are already being successfully treated with non-embryonic stem cells,” he pointed out.
The Diocese of Wilmington has created a special task force to educate public officials and voters about the ethical questions and scientific options surrounding embryonic stem-cell research. It will also help mobilize a grassroots effort to oppose the bill.
Phoenix, Ariz., May 17, 2005 (CNA) - Five Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration will establish a new monastery this month on a mountain peak in Black Canyon City, located in the Diocese of Phoenix.
Bishop Thomas Olmsted invited the monastic nuns of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Ala., to come to Phoenix. The Alabama monastery reportedly has been blessed with an abundance of vocations in recent years. This will be the only contemplative community in the Diocese of Phoenix.
The Poor Clares were founded by St. Clare of Assisi in the 13th century. The bishop explained the three main principles by which the Poor Clares live: an intense spousal love for Christ the Bridegroom; a spontaneous joy in being Christ's Bride; a radical commitment to the Poor Christ expressed in poverty of spirit and body.
“We give thanks for their witness to Christ in the hidden life of the cloister,” said Bishop Olmsted in a statement. “We also welcome their solidarity with us in begging God for a new springtime of religious and priestly vocations, for more vigorous family life and for a stronger commitment to the Gospel of Life.
“Religious do not take the place of the lay faithful in the Church's mission, nor do they diminish their importance,” the bishop stated. “On the contrary, religious enrich the whole Church and inspire all the baptized to live our faith with conviction and to hand it on with joy.
“All authentic forms of religious life contribute to the holiness of the Church,” he continued. “They make Christ more visible and the Gospel more credible to our contemporaries. All religious remind the rest of us in the Church of the universal call to holiness.”
Washington D.C., May 17, 2005 (CNA) - A new book promises to address the important question posed by the pro-life movement’s support for restrictive or “incremental” abortion legislation.
Colin Harte’s book, entitled “Changing Unjust Laws Justly: Pro-Life Solidarity with ‘the Last and Least’”, could have “profound implications” for the pro-life movement and the way in which it functions, stated a press release.
The main question the book attempts to answer is: What types of legal changes the pro-life movement support if it is not possible to overturn the abortion law altogether?
In the 1980s, the author was a committed campaigner within the pro-life movement for legislation to restrict abortion. Harte now argues that there is a fundamental moral problem in supporting laws that grant protection to some unborn children while denying it to others.
The Catholic University of America Press will release the book June 29. For information, go to: http://cuapress.cua.edu/BOOKS/viewbook.cfm?Book=HACU
San Francisco, Calif., May 17, 2005 (CNA) - Catholics in San Francisco are thrilled that their archbishop has been named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Archbishop William Levada was named to the current Pope’s former post on Friday. He is scheduled to leave for Rome Aug. 17. With this nomination, Archbishop Levada becomes the highest-ranking U.S. bishop in Church history.
According to a report published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Catholics in the city believe their archbishop is well suited for the job. They also feel that this gives them a special connection with Rome.
Deacon Nate Bacon at St. Peter’s Church told the Chronicle that the archbishop’s appointment would help the U.S. bishops “be better understood in Rome.”
Chris Lyford told the newspaper that the archbishop’s new appointment is “a very good match.” The 45-year-old father had stopped in at St. Mary's Cathedral to say a prayer for Archbishop Levada. Lyford had also been a parishioner in the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., when Archbishop Levada headed that see.
“He is well respected as a theologian,” Lyford was quoted as saying. “He's someone to count on to keep the conservative line."
Fr. John Balleza of St. Patrick's Church told the daily that Archbishop Levada is “perfect for the job.”
“He's always been a teacher, and not only of our faith,” said the priest, who first met the archbishop in 1981 in Rome during his seminary studies. “As a bishop he's always been called upon to clarify policy over difficult situations."
He spoke of the archbishop’s success at dealing with sexual abuse cases “on a human level.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also expressed their joy in the appointment and their confidence in the San Francisco archbishop. The president of the USCCB assured Archbishop Levada of the prayers and best wishes of all of his brother-bishops.
“It is a great honor for Archbishop Levada to receive this appointment. He is also taking on a tremendous responsibility, but he is well prepared for it intellectually and spiritually,” said Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane in a statement.
Vatican City, May 17, 2005 (CNA) - When Pope Benedict XVI announced Friday that he would waive the traditional five-year waiting period before starting the beatification process for the late John Paul II, clergy in Rome’s St. John Lateran Basilica greeted the news with an uproarious standing ovation.
Although faithful around the globe are rejoicing at the news, a Vatican official cautioned Saturday that the process would likely still take some time.
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told the Italian La Stampa, that while "It's a wonderful gesture”, steps to sainthood still include a review of John Paul’s writings, interviews with those who knew him, and confirmation of a miracle attributed to the late Pope’s intercession.
A second miracle would be required after beatification to declare John Paul a saint.
The Church teaches that the canonization process simply confirms the fact that a person is in heaven; that the faithful can call someone a saint because they already are.
Cardinal Martins said that despite the possible time constraints, he has “no doubt” that this fact will be confirmed for John Paul II.
He also noted that while the canonization process is typically more complex for popes, given their large amount of activity and body of writings, that "virtually all of his (John Paul's) works are known."
This fact, he concluded should help to speed the process as well.
John Paul himself waived the five-year waiting period for Mother Theresa, who died in 1997 and became a saint in 2003.
Norfolk, Va., May 17, 2005 (CNA) - In the days following the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, the animal-rights activist group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) voiced its own unexpected support for the new Holy Father.
The group, which often finds itself at odds with Christian groups, praised Pope Benedict for his teaching on the sacredness of all life, including animals.
PETA cited then Cardinal Ratzinger, who said three years ago that, “[W]e can see that [animals] are given into our care, that we cannot just do whatever we want with them.”
“Animals too,” he continued, “are God’s creatures and even if they do not have the same direct relationship to God that man has, they are still creatures of His will, creatures we must respect as companions in creation, and as important elements in the creation.”
“Degrading of human creatures to a commodity”, the Pope added, “seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.”
The letter, signed by PETA director Bruce Friedrich, a self-proclaimed “devout Catholic” despite the anti-Catholic nature of PETA’s propaganda, asked the Pope to continue to speak out for “these exploited beings.”
Offering something of an olive branch, Friedrich closed the letter to the Holy Father saying, “We turn to you now, as you take on your momentous duties, and humbly ask that you lead the way into a new era of respect and compassion for all beings…”
Catholic teaching about the relationship between human beings and animals is at odds with PETA’s claims that animals and human persons are equal.
Rome, Italy, May 17, 2005 (CNA) - Italian journalist Renzo Allegri revealed this week that Pope John Paul II “escaped” incognito from the Vatican on occasion to ski in the Apennines of Abruzzo northeast of Rome.
On May 18, the day on which John Paul II would have celebrated his 85th birthday, the region of Abruzzo will rename Gendarme Mountain “Mount John Paul II.”
Allegri said the event has led many local residence to recall the beauty of this solitary mountain “which can be seen very well from a small church dedicated to St. Peter in the town of San Pietro della Ienca di Camarda, where John Paul II, according to local residents, would frequently stop to pray.”
Allegri noted that John Paul II had been informed of the decision to rename the mountain in his honor and that for this reason correspondence between the Vatican and regional authorities took place.
“It is precisely from the contents of the one of these letters from the Vatican that a significant detail unknown until now has been revealed,” Allegri said.
A letter from the Secretariat of State dated March 17, 2005, signed by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, implicitly confirms the Pope’s secret excursions when it says, “Always recalling his numerous excursions to that mountainous area, where he frequently stopped to pray at the Church of St. Peter della Ienca, His Holiness assures he remembers you in his prayers.”
“John Paul II’s visits to the Gran Sasso, therefore, were not ‘few’ but rather ‘numerous’,” said Allegri, who had access to the official document. He obtained confirmation from a local monsignor who asked to remain anonymous: “The Pope would spend entire days in these mountains, sometimes completely alone.”
Mexico City, Mexico, May 17, 2005 (CNA) - In a reference to the decision of the US government to build a wall on the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration, the Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, said this week countries need to build “more bridges” in order to establish better relations and not walls that divide.
“When the world is opening up, when markets and communications are becoming global, it’s absurd to begin building walls,” the cardinal said, speaking with reporters.
Likewise, the archdiocesan newspaper, Desde la Fe, criticized the US government for only coming up with “simplistic solutions” to the problem of illegal immigration which in the end violate the human rights of thousands of migrants who cross the border seeking better living conditions for themselves and their families.
“The desperate reaction of some leaders and citizens of our neighboring country is leading them into a personal confrontation that could give way to criminal violence,” warned an editorial.
The article noted that the roots of the problem lie in economic hardship and that Mexican authorities and lawmakers have the responsibility of creating opportunity so that people will not feel forced to abandon the country in search of ways to overcome poverty.
Lima, Peru, May 17, 2005 (CNA) - The Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Guzman Carriquiri, announced this week that registration for World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, have increased significantly since the election of Pope Benedict XVI.
Carriquiri, who is attending a conference in Lima marking the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Latin America Bishops Conference (CELAM), told CNA that “since Benedict was elected Pope, the number of subscriptions for the next WYD has jumped spectacularly.”
He said the greatest increase was among German youth, “whose subscriptions have tripled during these first few days of the pontificate.”
Carriquiri said WYD Cologne would be “an amazing and unforgettable historical event” as the number of subscriptions has “far surpassed expectations.”
“It will definitely be an infusion of a new spirit into Europe and especially into Germany, with repercussions throughout the world,” he added.
Carriquiri underscored that WYD would be “an event of faith that no young Catholic should miss participating in, whether physically or spiritually.”
Madrid, Spain, May 17, 2005 (CNA) - During the Vigil Mass of Pentecost at the Cathedral of La Almudena, the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, expressed lament that Madrid is “falling into the temptation of a new Babel by wanting to build personal existence and society without God, beginning with marriage and the family.”
The former president of the Spanish Bishops Conference addressed his comments to the faithful gathered for the closing of the third diocesan synod of Spain. He noted during the preparatory phase of the synod, participants were already “fully aware of the crisis of faith that is affecting wide sectors of society.”
“Those who have completely lost [the faith] are not a few, and many live in contradiction with what it implies, some even completely estranged from religious practice, and there is no lack of those to whom the news of God and Jesus Christ has never reached,” the cardinal stated.
“We are in the midst of a spectacle of death of enormous proportions,” as to the victims of wars and “wicked terrorism” one must also add “the massive elimination of those most innocent, the unborn,” the cardinal said.
Paris, France, May 17, 2005 (CNA) - According to a new study released by a group of French scientists, having an abortion may nearly double the risk of birth complications in future pregnancies.
Dr Caroline Moreau, leader of the research team and an epidemiologist at the Hôpital de Bicêtre in Paris, said that the study showed conclusively--for the first time—that there is a link between abortion and pre-term births later on.
The study, which appeared in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, observed 2,837 births and found that women who had had an abortion were 1.7 times more likely to have a premature birth later on—usually at less than 28 weeks gestation.
Many babies born this early either die soon after birth or suffer severe disabilities.
The group demonstrated in fact, that high blood pressure was the only cause of premature birth for the women in the study not linked to abortion.
London’s daily, The Telegraph cited Jack Scarisbrick, chairman of the campaign group Life, who said that, ''We have been saying for years that surgical abortion inevitably increases the risk of later problems. It seems that the abortion procedure carries with it risks that women will know nothing about until they become pregnant with a 'wanted' child later on."
Added Dr Moreau in The Telegraph: "Clearly there is a link. The results suggest that induced abortion can damage the cervix in some way that makes a premature birth more likely in subsequent pregnancies."