Vatican City, Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI renewed the Church’s call for a worldwide solidarity as a challenge to alleviate the suffering of its people and asked for a mor equitable sharing of the riches of hte planet.
After receiving the credentials of seven new ambassadors to the Holy See, including the first ever representative from the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Pope addressed them and said that in order to help our brothers and sisters, "We have to face the first of these challenges: that of solidarity between generations, solidarity between countries and between continents, for a more equitable sharing among all men of the riches of the planet”.
“It is one of the basic services that men of good will must give to mankind. The earth has, in fact, the capacity to feed all its inhabitants, on the condition that rich countries do not keep for themselves what belongs to everyone”, he pointed out.
According to the Holy Father, “Our world is faced with many challenges that it must surmount so that man will always be more important than technology, and the just destiny of peoples is the main concern of those who have accepted to administer public affairs, not for themselves, but for the common good. Our heart cannot be in peace when we see our brothers suffer for lack of food, work, housing or other fundamental goods."
“The Church,” said the Holy Father, “will never cease to remind people that all men must be attentive to a human fraternity made of concrete gestures, at the level of individuals as well as at the level of governments and international institutions.”
The Holy Father renewed the Church’s commitment “to come to the aid of populations, with the support of local communities and all men and women of good will, especially in the fields of education, health care and basic goods."
After welcoming the diplomats in French, Pope Benedict handed each one of them a written message regarding the civil and religious situation of their respective countries. The new ambassadors are: Elchin Oktyabar oglu Amirbayov of Azerbaijan; El Hadj Aboubacar Dione of Guinea; Antonio Ganado of Malta, Geoffrey Kenyon Ward of New Zealand; Joseph Bonesha of Rwanda, Jean-Francois Kammer of Switzerland and David Douglas Hamadziripi of Zimbabwe.
The Pope said that, through the diplomats, he wished to address the peoples of their countries, saying, "I am close to them and pray for them. I invite them to commit themselves to fashion an ever more fraternal civilization, with renewed attention to everyone, especially the poorest people and those excluded from society."
Vatican City, Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI received in audience today the secretary general of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Samuel Kobia, and underscored his will “to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ’s followers” and reassuring that “the commitment of the Catholic Church to the search for Christian unity is irreversible.”
The Holy Father characterized this effort as one of his primary tasks, requiring “concrete gestures which enter hearts and stir consciences, inspiring in everyone that inner conversion that is the prerequisite for all ecumenical progress.”
The Pope recalled how relations between the Catholic Church and the WCC developed during the Second Vatican Council and that in 1965 this led "to the establishment of the Joint Working Group as an instrument of ongoing contact and cooperation.” He also announced that next November “an important consultation on the future of the Joint Working Group will be held to mark the fortieth anniversary of its founding. My hope and prayer is that its purpose and working methodology will be further clarified for the sake of ever more effective ecumenical understanding, cooperation and progress."
The Holy Father expressed his hope that Rev. Tobia's visit to the Holy See "has been fruitful, strengthening the bonds of understanding and friendship between us”, and he said that the Catholic Church is eager to continue cooperating with the World Council of Churches.
Tampa, Fla., Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - A much-anticipated autopsy report confirmed yesterday that Terri Schiavo died of dehydration. Medical examiners said they were surprised by the extent of her dehydration.
The 41-year-old disabled Florida woman was the focus of a heated national right-to-life debate earlier this year. She died March 31, after a court granted her husband the right to have her feeding tube removed.
Schiavo had been in what her doctors described as a “vegetative state” for 15 years. Yet, her parents had argued that her condition could have improved with consistent therapy.
Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin of Florida's Pinellas-Pasco County countered her parents’ longheld view in his autopsy report. He said Schiavo's brain was severely atrophied, weighing 615 grams — about half the size of a normal brain — at the time of her death.
“No amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons,” Thogmartin said during a televised conference yesterday. He also said she was completely blind.
Examiners weren't able to determine what caused Schiavo’s heart to stop beating for several minutes in 1990, causing her to collapse into her disabled state. The autopsy, which included more than 274 external and internal images of her body, did not find any signs of abuse.
Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have requested that other physicians review the report.
Pro-life groups respond to autopsy report
Pro-life groups, which were active in the fight to keep Schiavo alive, said the autopsy does not change the fact that all people deserve proper care, regardless of their disabilities.
Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said the autopsy does not change “the moral evaluation of what happened to Terri.
“Her physical injuries and disabilities never made her less of a person,” said Fr. Pavone. “No amount of brain injury ever justifies denying a person proper humane care. That includes food and water.
“Terri did not die from an atrophied brain,” he continued. “She died from an atrophy of compassion on the part of her estranged husband and those who helped him to have her deliberately killed.”
"Terri Schiavo died because the court ordered the removal of the instrument that provided her water,” said Wendy Wright, Concerned Women for America's senior policy director. “She was disabled, and her death was due to the deliberate denial of hydration.
"There is no medical condition or disability that should ever be championed as a justifiable reason to deny water to a human being” she continued. “Every human life has worth and a purpose apart from its merit to society that must be vigorously defended and upheld, not crushed."
Seoul, South Korea, Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - South Korea’s most celebrated scientist, Hwang Woo-suk, met with the nation’s top Catholic cleric Wednesday to discuss the ethics of his embryonic stem-cell and cloning research.
However, the one-hour, closed-door meeting at the archbishop’s downtown office failed to advance the ethical debate, reported journalist Kim Tae-gyu.
The Seoul National University professor met with Archbishop Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk of Seoul, after the archbishop condemned Hwang’s research as unethical because it necessitates killing embryos, that is, killing human life in its initial stages.
Hwang responded by expressing his willingness to meet the archbishop and discuss the issues.
According to diocesan spokesman Hur Yeong-yup, the two men discussed whether cloned embryos are living beings and whether human eggs should be used for research.
Some observers commented they were not surprised that the two men, whose views on the issue are polar opposites, did not come to a compromise or a mutual understanding.
Hwang had gained an international reputation last year when he announced that his team created a human embryo and had harvested a stem cell from it. Last month, he announced that he cloned 11 batches of stem cells genetically tailored to patients with critical diseases or disabilities.
London, Ont., Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - As many as 200,000 Catholic high school students in Ontario observed a minute of silence this morning to protest the honorary degree that was given to Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Canada’s abortion pioneer.
The University of Western Ontario conferred the honor to Morgentaler at its 10 a.m. convocation. Morgentaler led the movement to legalize abortion in Canada and currently operates clinics across the country.
Joseph Rapai, education director of the London District Catholic school board, told the Free Press Reporter that students took part in the protest “in recognition of the thousands of lives taken from this world by Dr. Henry Morgentaler.”
In London, all eight Catholic high schools and their 9,000 students participated in the moment of silence and prayer. Other Catholic high schools across Ontario and their roughly 200,000 students were also invited to participate.
High school chaplains across the province were asked to read the same prayer with students.
A 10 a.m. service, focused on the sanctity of life, was also organized at at Christ the King Chapel in London in protest of the honor.
Last month, Bishop Ronald Fabbro of London wrote a letter to university president Paul Davenport, condemning the decision to honor Morgentaler.
"By granting its highest honor to Dr. Morgentaler, the University of Western chooses to recognize a man who has spent his life advocating that women in Canada have easy access to abortion," wrote Bishop Fabbro.
"Now, he seems to be promoting abortion as a legitimate way for society to reduce crime and poverty, in other words, as a form of eugenics,” the bishop continued. “As a result of his efforts, hundreds of thousands of unborn children have been killed."
Some faculty showed up at the convocation in full academic regalia and stood outside Alumni Hall in silent protest.
The decision to honor Morgentaler has also dealt a financial blow to the university. According to christianity.ca, major financial commitments, including one bequest of about 2 million dollars, have been cancelled as a result.
Alexandria, Va., Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - As budget negotiations continue in Congress, Catholic Charities USA is urging House and Senate appropriators to adopt 12 priorities that will allow adequate funding for low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.
In a letter, Sharon Daly of Catholic Charities USA urged members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to support the Bush Administration's proposal to increase funding by $1 billion for the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The program provides rental assistance to more than two million low-income families, seniors, and disabled people each year.
The vice president for social policy for the Catholic organization also wants committee members to support Bush’s proposed $200-million increase for homeless assistance grant programs.
Among 12 priorities outlined in the letter, Catholic Charities wants appropriators to restore full funding to employment and training programs and to the Safe and Stable Families program, which provides a range of support services to families in need.
Catholic Charities wants the new budget to show an increase in funding for young people, who are aging out of the foster care system, to pursue vocational training or higher education.
It also wants to see increases in child care assistance, refugee resettlement programs and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps cover critical heating and cooling costs.
Catholic Charities says tough economic times, low wages, and the high-cost of living are forcing millions to seek help in its soup kitchens, pantries and shelters throughout the country. Each year local Catholic Charities agencies provide food services to more than 4.6 million people.
Hollidaysburg, Pa., Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - A retired bishop of Altoona-Johnstown died Monday at a nursing home in Hollidaysburg. Bishop-emeritus James Hogan was 93.
The late bishop was appointed to the diocese in 1966. He retired in 1986, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.
He was born in Philadelphia in 1911 but grew up in Camden, New Jersey. He was ordained in 1937 and served in New Jersey before being named bishop of Altoona-Johnstown.
In a statement, Bishop Joseph Adamec remembered the late bishop as a man of faith, gentleness, humility and hope. Bishop Adamec will preside at the noontime funeral mass June 22 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
Havana, Cuba, Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - During his installation Mass as the new ordinary for the Diocese of Matanza in Cuba, Bishop Manuel Hilario de Cespedes said, “The entire Church is called to proclaim the Kingdom of God,” and he exhorted the faithful to be a sign of the presence of the Kingdom in a secularized world.
In his homily, Bishop Hilario called on the laity bear witness to the faith “in the different spheres of society,” especially in the family. He said that in a secularized world, there is a need for Catholics who “do not tire of teaching the faith of the Church, which is the fount from which many good men and women of our country have drunk.”
“Together we are called to proclaim that Christ gives meaning to our history,” Bishop Hilario continued, “although at times we may feel we are sinking in the turbulent waters” and yet knowing that the Lord brings history “to its complete fulfillment.”
The new bishop made a special appeal for help to the young. “I need your closeness, your concerns, your noble ideas,” he said, adding that he hopes the Church in Matanza will “continue speaking words of hope to her young friends.”
He also praised the work of religious sisters with the poor and offered words of encouragement to seminarians, “the future of the priesthood.”
Cologne, Germany, Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - World Youth Day organizers have rejected an “offer” by the producers of a German television program called “Big Brother” to house pilgrims on the set of the popular reality show.
A spokesman for WYD 2005, Matthias Kopp, said organizers refused the proposal made by Edemol, the producer of the program, which offered to let young people sleep on the set of the show in exchange for allowing some of them to appear on the program.
“A format such as that of Big Brother, which shows disrespect for people, is not appropriate for conveying the ideas and objectives of World Youth Day,” said Kopp.
World Youth Day will be held August 16-21 in Cologne.
Málaga, Spain, Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - In a letter celebrating the feast of St. Cyriacus and St. Paula, martyrs and patron saints of his diocese, Bishop Antonio Dorado Soto of Malaga, Spain, said that while in today’s Spain “Catholics are not subjected to physical torture,” they are subjected to psychological torture, “which is no less painful and serious.” Believers, he said, should not hide their faith in Jesus Christ out of fear.
In his letter, the bishop noted that “in recent months we have seen repeated and painful examples” of the psychological torture inflicted upon Catholics.
Bishop Dorado denounced the insults and half-truths spread by the media, adding that “on television programs and in daily life, signs so sacred and serious as the Last Supper, the Crowing with thorns and the sacrament of Penance are ridiculed.”
“These intransigent attitudes are creating a tense climate that could result in serious harm to peaceful coexistence and to freedom of thought” and religion. “Catholics deserve respect for our beliefs and our symbols, from people who are not believers as well. We only demand respect and tolerance!” the bishop exclaimed.
Bishop Dorado encouraged Catholics not to let themselves “be provoked and carried away by attitudes that are not evangelical” in their response to such treatment. At the same time, he noted, “we cannot renounce our faith and not give a reason for it to those who wish to hear us. We need not hide our faith in Jesus Christ out of fear, nor should we keep quiet when there is an opportunity to bear witness to it,” the bishop said.
“But we should do so with reasons, without letting ourselves be dominated by anger or discouragement, and with our trust in the Lord,” he concluded.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Mariano Parra Sandoval of Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, said social decay in the country is the fruit of marginalizing God from daily life and from the loss of faith.
“When people have faith and understand that God is King of existence and of what is most important in life, they are not capable of mistakes or acts that go against the commandments,” the archbishop said.
He added that, unfortunately, the state of Venezuelan society is a result of people forgetting about God and excluding Him from their lives. “When the people do not have God present in their lives, their existence loses life, value and meaning. That’s where people lose the moral and ethical values that lead us to a greater commitment to our brothers and sisters,” he noted.
Archbishop Parra also called for a greater understanding that charity, love and solidarity with the poor and needy, is the principal virtue of all those who believe in Christ.
Chicago, Ill., Jun 16, 2005 (CNA) - During the Spring meeting of the USCCB being held at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, vice president of the USCCB, announced that the revised text of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People expresses the ongoing commitment of the bishops to prevent the abuse of minors in the future.
Cardinal George, who headed the delegation of US bishops that recently met with Vatican officials to discuss a revised version of the Charter, said during Thursday's session that both the Vatican and the US Bishops delegations agreed that the revised Charter must be marked by three commitments: "a commitment to reach out to those who has been victimized, to start with them a process of psychological, spiritual and social healing," "a commitment to respect the human rights of the perpetrators" even when severe measures are needed, and a commitment to "be effective protectors of children and young people."
Cardinal George said that in the last few years, "we have kept those promises, with difficulties, but we have kept them."
The Cardinal said that, during his discussions at the Vatican, the Congregation for the Clergy expressed support for the Charter but also concern for the presumption of innocence of the accused.
"The Holy See wants us to remain fully involved in both the legal and the healing dimension of this problem," the Cardinal informed, and he said that the revised text "remains basically the same."
The new draft renews the commitment of the USCCB to protect children and young people, but also adapt some norms that many perceived as at odds with local and universal Church rules regulations.
According to the Cardinal, the most significant change is the concept of what sexual abuse is. The broad concept used in the original charter has been replaced "by one more precise, one provided by Canon law," he explained.
The new draft, which US bishops will approve or reject at the end of their spring meeting on Saturday, includes the proposal to change the status of the "Ad Hoc Committee" into a permanent office within the USCBB, which would become the “Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People."