Vatican City, Jun 2, 2005 (CNA) - Today the Vatican released a letter from Pope Benedict XVI, commemorating John Paul’s visit, 25 years ago to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and reiterating the Church’s belief that true peace can only be reached by promoting human dignity, from conception until natural death.
The Holy Father’s message was sent to Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, who is currently in Paris representing the Holy See at a colloquium entitled "Culture, Reason and Freedom", commemorating the anniversary of the late John Paul’s UNESCO.
Pope Benedict’s letter noted the "immense recognition due to Pope John Paul who, with his personal and cultural experience, always underlined in his teachings the central and irreplaceable position of man, as well as his fundamental dignity, the source all of his inalienable rights.”
“Twenty-five years ago”, he said, “the Pope declared at UNESCO headquarters that 'in the cultural domain, man is always first: man is the primordial and basic fact of culture'."
The Holy Father also echoed John Paul's words to UNESCO, reminding members of their responsibility to, "Build peace by starting with the foundation: respect for all of man's rights, those linked to his material and economic dimension as well as those linked to the spiritual and interior dimension of his existence in this world."
Pope Benedict stressed the Vatican’s concern for and involvement in the work of UNESCO, through her permanent observer to the organization, saying that, "in a world which is both multiple and divided, and often submissive to the strong demands of globalization of economic relations and, even more, of information, it is important at the highest levels to mobilize the energies of intelligence so that man's rights to education and culture are recognized, especially in the poorest countries.”
“In a world where man must learn more and more to recognize and to respect his brother,” the Pope continued, “the Church wishes to make her own contribution to the service of the human community, while pointing out ... the relation that binds each person to the Creator of all life and the source of the inalienable dignity of each person, from conception to life's natural end."
Providence, R.I., Jun 2, 2005 (CNA) - The new bishop of Providence had a message of hope for the faithful who packed the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul for his installation Tuesday.
"If our faith is strong, then hope must prevail," said Bishop Thomas Tobin in his homily, in which he also spoke of the sanctity of human life, marriage and the media.
The Providence Journal reported that the bishop cited St. Augustine, who 1,600 years ago spoke of the resilience of the Church in the face of scandal and difficulties, and said: “People look upon the Church and say, 'She is about to die. Soon her very name will disappear. There will be no more Christians; they have had their day.' "
Bishop Tobin referred indirectly to the sexual abuse scandal in his homily, saying: "If we focus on the failures of members of the church and the problems we face -- failures and problems that are real nonetheless -- it's easy to become tired and discouraged."
He spoke of Christian values and the importance of professing and living "an unconditional commitment to the sanctity of human life, from the moment of conception till the time of natural death."
The bishop also affirmed the "nonnegotiable belief in Holy Matrimony as designed by God and blessed by Jesus -- a union of one man and one woman joined together in a lifetime commitment of life and love."
He spoke of the need and desire to promote common decency in entertainment, art and culture; and a commitment and concern for the poor and the marginalized.
Bishop Tobin had been the bishop of Youngstown, Ohio, for nine years and had served as auxiliary bishop in Pittsburgh before that. In March, Pope John Paul II named him the eighth bishop of Providence, succeeding the retiring Bishop Robert E. Mulvee.
More than 300 deacons and priests, and 36 bishops were present, as well as leaders from other faiths, and most of the state's top political leaders. An orchestra played as an 80-voice choir sang God’s praises, and even a new song specifically composed for the bishop's installation, by cathedral rector Fr. Anthony Mancini.
Vatican City, Jun 2, 2005 (CNA) - Tomorrow and Saturday, a number of Europe’s leading historians will gather at the Vatican to discuss the history of Christianity, and the 2,000 year old faith’s relation to the modern world.
The Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences has organized the study seminar, which will consider new research and questions concerning of Christianity, specifically in the second half of the twentieth century.
Some of Europe’s leading historians are slated to speak at the seminar including, Manlio Simonetti of Italy’s Accademia dei Lincei, who will speak on the period of Antiquity; Michael Matheus, director of Rome’s German Historical Institute, who will speak on the Middle Ages; Paolo Prodi of the University of Bologna, Italy, who will discuss the Modern Age; and Ernesto Galli Della Loggia of the University of Perugia, Italy, who will look into intricacies of the contemporary period.
Pope Pius XII created the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, which boasts thirty members from various countries in 1954.
This weekend’s seminar will mark the close of the committee's fiftieth anniversary celebrations, which began in spring last year. Since 1998, the group has been headed by Msgr. Walter Brandmuller.
, Jun 2, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic League is urging New York legislators to adopt a law that would require abortion providers to report incidents of child sexual abuse to authorities.
Catholic League president William Donohue said he is taking action in response to a recent situation in Indiana.
On March 1, the Medicaid fraud control unit of the Indiana attorney general’s office seized some medical records of Planned Parenthood clinics.
The seizure was authorized to determine “whether or not children were neglected by virtue of a failure to report instances of child molestation to the proper authorities.” In Indiana, anyone who is under 14 and is sexually active is considered a sexual abuse victim, and health care providers are required to report such cases to the authorities
“Immediately, Planned Parenthood instructed its clinics not to cooperate,” Donohue reported. However, an Indiana judge ruled yesterday that Planned Parenthood must turn over its records. The local ACLU affiliate is representing Planned Parenthood:
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are “impeding justice for the victims of child sexual abuse,” Donohue commented.
The league president said he is writing to every member of the New York State legislature and urging him or her to adopt a bill by State Senator Stephen Saland that would make no exemptions for abortion providers in mandating that child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities.
According to Donohue, Planned Parenthood, ACLU, National Association of Social Workers and the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence have been trying to stop this legislation for the last three years.
“It’s time to end the cover-up, protect the kids and have one law for everyone,” he said.
Vatican City, Jun 2, 2005 (CNA) - Thanks to the Peter’s Pence Collection, the Holy Father can respond with financial assistance to international emergency situations, such as natural disasters and refugees.
A collection for the fund will be held in U.S. churches this month. The theme is “Goodness Works Quietly.”
“The power of love is expressed in the unassuming quietness of daily service,” Archbishop John G. Vlazny said. “Through works of charity, Catholics provide a quiet but powerful witness of love and deeds to empower the weak, the defenseless, and the voiceless, and to sustain those who suffer.”
The collection is scheduled for June 25-26, the Sunday nearest the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Denver, Colo., Jun 2, 2005 (CNA) - Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput is among nine delegates, including New York Governor George Pataki, who have been asked to travel to Spain next week for an international conference on anti-Semitism.
The Archbishop will be part of a U.S. State Department delegation who will travel to the conference, sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a coalition of 55 nations, including the United States, which focuses on problems of discrimination, oppression and religious intolerance.
The theme of the conference, which will be opened by Spain’s King Juan Carlos, is “Anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.”
Archbishop Chaput was invited onto the panel because of his membership in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Other U.S. panelists in the delegation will include, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Ambassador Edward O'Donnell, the U.S. special envoy on Holocaust issues, and Kamal Nawash, president of the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism.
Denver, Colo., Jun 2, 2005 (CNA) - The Fraternas, a religious community of women living in Denver, spend their days like many other religious sisters—they pray, share community life, and strive to evangelize to the local community. But they also try to promote the Gospel in a different way—through the creation of uniquely inspirational liturgical ornaments and vestments.
Started in Peru in 1989, the aim of the Workshops San Jose is to further the late John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization through the creation of unique liturgical tools, which, they hope, will inspire faithful with their craftsmanship.
According to the group, “The beauty and quality of our products stem from our desire to promote devotion amongst the faithful, the history of Evangelization in Latin America, and Peru’s natural resources.”
Taking St. Joseph, the craftsman as their model, Workshops San Jose gives Peruvian artisans the opportunity to hone and develop their talents.
They ask that their workers “unfold themselves in daily work, so as to give glory to God, through their service to the Church.”
The Fraternas, consecrated lay women of the Marian Community of Reconciliation, say that their goal is to “announce the Lord Jesus to the men and women of today, and to help them enter more deeply into the mysteries of the faith through the ornaments and products made in Workshops San Jose.”
The sisters are part of the worldwide community of the Christian Life Movement International, a 40,000 member religious community founded in Lima, Peru in 1985.
More information about Workshops San Jose can be found at: www.workshopssanjose.com
Quebec City, Canada, Jun 2, 2005 (CNA) - The Quebec bishops met Wednesday with Education Minister Jean-Marc Fournier and a parliamentary committee to discuss a bill, which would replace Catholic and Protestant religious instruction in public schools with a religious culture and ethics program by 2008.
The bishops were one of about 20 groups that presented before the committee. The bishops' statement was under embargo and should be released shortly.
The hearings were held in Quebec City May 31 to June 2.
The education minister had introduced the new bill May 4. The Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops had expressed its disappointment with the bill.
The bishops had submitted a document to the minister in October, urging him to maintain confessional instruction in public schools and to renew the notwithstanding clause for another five years.
The clause is necessary since a Constitutional Amendment in 1997 revoked Quebecers' right to confessional public education.
But the new bill only extends the clause for three years, enough time to create the new religious culture and ethics program.
Private faith-based schools would also be required to adopt the new program. They could, however, offer confessional instruction as an extra course.
The minister's press attache said the government expects to pass Bill 95 by June 20.
Quito, Ecuador, Jun 2, 2005 (CNA) - In a letter published Wednesday, Archbishop Raul Vela of Quito, Ecuador, explained to the faithful that the decision to send two priests back to Spain conforms to Canon Law and that “a parish is not a political party, a union or an NGO. Its essence and its methods are different.”
Just a few days after the two Spanish priests—who were engaged in political and social activity at the expense of the parish’s sacramental life—organized parishioners to unite in defying the archbishop’s request for their return to Spain, Archbishop Vela and the Presbyteral council of Quito said the actions by the priests had “deeply wounded the communion of our Church.”
The two priests, Father Miguel Olmedo and Father Jose Luis Molina, both originally from the Diocese of Jerez in Spain, were working at the parish of Santa Maria del Inti.
“We had preferred to remain respectfully silent, limiting ourselves to clarifications requested by some of the media. Today we feel it is necessary to inform the Catholic faithful of what has occurred and to ask them that in truth, fraternity and prayer, we might strengthen unity as Jesus commanded us: ‘That they may all be one’,” the archbishop’s letter noted.
The statement clarifies that the archbishop has named a new pastor for the parish, “in accord with the dispositions of the Code of Canon Law,” and the Bishop of Jerez asked Molina and Olmedo to return to their diocese.
The Spanish priests were renowned for their adherence to liberation theology and had stopped offering Sunday Mass at the parish. In his letter the archbishop noted, “The parish is first of all at the service of the Word of God, which is its fundamental dimension, and from of the Eucharist, source and summit of the life of the faithful, it carries out its missionary and social activity in the world. This spiritual dimension is central and fundamental and without it, the Church and her structures cease to be the community of disciples desired by Jesus.”
He also underscored that “a theology based on liberation from all spiritual and material slavery, liberation that comes from Christ the Redeemer, is not only allowable, it is necessary and it demands that all Catholics work for a world that is more humane, more just and united.”
Lastly the archbishop prayed that “the painful events we have suffered will motivate all disciples of Jesus so that with renewed enthusiasm, in full communion with the Pope and the bishops, we might work together in proclaiming the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of holiness, of justice, of love and of peace, with special preference, as the Lord Jesus had, for the poor.”
Amsterdam, Netherlands, Jun 2, 2005 (CNA) - The Dutch education minister says it’s time to reopen the debate on the Theory of Evolution. Currently in the Netherlands, there is debate on Islam and evolution and on the curriculum in Christian schools.
Recently, Mininster Marie Van der Hoeven commented favorably in her blog on the theory of Intelligent Design, which posits that the origins of the universe can be attributed to an intelligent design. This resulted in her having to answer questions on the subject in Parliament.
The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant published an interview with the minister May 21, in which she advocated dialogue and openness in high schools and universities to explore different people’s beliefs about the origins of the universe.
"We prefer for young people to become acquainted with different views. That is laid down in our education standards. It is part of your development to adulthood that you get to hear ideas from different vantage points,” she said.
Universities, in particular, should engage in the debate on evolution that is emerging, especially due to the convictions of Muslim students who reject the Theory of Evolution, said the minister.
“Religious feelings are very deep-seated. You need to make allowance for that, everyone's entitled to that," she said.
"Life is billions of years old, and it is clear to see that evolution has occurred. But we also have to acknowledge the fact that the Theory of Evolution is not yet complete, and that new discoveries are still being made,” she said.
Van der Hoeven conceded that as a member of government she should not take “an official position” in the debate, but she argued that she should be tuned into different points of view.
The theory of evolution “is rearing its head again now,” she said. “As a member of the government you shouldn't close your eyes to that. You shouldn't take a specific position, but you should know what the issues are, bring people together.” She intends to host a hearing on this topic in her department soon.
Van der Hoeven told the newspaper that it is unknown whether science will come around to accept Intelligent Design.
She said she regrets that “science is compartmentalized. But the forte of science is acknowledging other people's science as such, even if it's not your field of expertise. If there are different views on evolution, we should place them side by side.”
While attempts are being made in the United States to establish Intelligent Design as an integral part of the curriculum, the Dutch minister said she is not proposing the same thing.
"You won't hear me say that I want my views to be established as part of the educational system, and that I should want the theory of evolution removed - absolutely not,” she stated. “But I do feel that you can, and should, trigger young people's curiosity".
Madrid, Spain, Jun 2, 2005 (CNA) - Reacting to the upcoming protests in Madrid scheduled for June 18 against a government plan to make homosexual unions equal to marriage, death threats and slander against pro-life groups have spread across homosexual websites in Spain.
According to the Spanish civil rights watchdog site, Hazteoir.org, because of their “clear criminal content,” the statements by homosexual groups could be grounds for legal action against the moderators of such forums, who “have done nothing to erase these messages or expel those responsible.”
“On some internet forums frequented by these (homosexual) groups, messages are being posted that openly incite violence against family organizations, the Catholic Church, and in general, against all those who disagree with their claims,” the website reported.