Vatican City, Jun 23, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI addressed the question of peace in the Holy Land today and said “certain positive signs” in the last few months give hope that “the day of reconciliation between the various communities that work in the Holy Land will not be long in coming.”
Emphasizing that “all Christians have an unforgettable debt with Jerusalem and the Holy Land,” the Holy Father stated that “certain positive signs we have received over the last few months strengthen our hope that the day of reconciliation between the various communities that work in the Holy Land will not be long in coming, and to this end we do not cease to pray with faith."
Therefore, said the Pope while speaking 70 participants in the annual meeting of ROACO (Reunion of Organizations for Aid to the Oriental Churches), “to this end we do not cease to pray with faith."
The ROACO has spent the last few days examining the situation of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine and the formation of students from the Oriental Catholic Churches. In his remarks, Pope Benedict said that in the face of the prevailing culture of individualism "it is more than ever necessary that Christians offer a testimony of a solidarity that crosses all frontiers, in order to build a world in which everyone feels welcomed and respected.”
The Holy Father thanked ROACO for its help "to our needy brethren, and especially for your efforts aimed at giving tangible form to the charity that binds Christians of the Latin tradition and those of the Oriental tradition. To intensify such ties is to render a precious service to the universal Church,” he said.
Referring to the Ukrainian Catholic Church, "whose continuous evolution following the sad winter of the Communist regime is a cause for joy and hope," the Holy Father said: "Support her ecclesial journey and favor everything that promotes reconciliation and fraternity among Christians of the beloved Ukraine."
The Pope also pointed out how the presence of 500 students from the Oriental Catholic Churches "represents a valuable opportunity." At the same time care must be taken to protect "the formative institutions in the Oriental Churches themselves. Alongside material assistance, encouragement must be given to formative activities which, on the one hand, intensify genuine local tradition while giving due consideration to the organic progress of the Oriental Churches and, on the other, lead to the authentic 'aggiornamento' proposed by Vatican Council II."
Rome, Italy, Jun 23, 2005 (CNA) - During a press conference in which he introduced the new book by Pope Benedict XVI, “The Europe of Benedict: In the Crisis of Cultures,” Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar of Rome, explained that the new work analyizes the two alternatives facing today’s Europeans: “to live as if God did not exist, or to live as if God does exists and therefore influences our lives.”
The cardinal said the book contains major speeches delivered by the Pope prior to his election and that therefore “it is the last book of the cardinal” but at the same time the first book of the Pope as it deals with “the Europe of Benedict, the name he chose for himself.”
Published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana in collaboration with the Italian Cantagelli firm, the book features an introduction by Marcello Pera, president of the Italian Senate, and is broken down into three parts. The first is an address on "What it Means to Believe," delivered in 1992 at Bassano del Grappa, Italy, when the German prelate received a prize for contributions to Catholic culture. The second part is a talk on "The Right to Life in Europe," delivered at a pro-life conference in 1997. The third part of the book features a speech on "The Crisis of Cultures," delivered on April 1 of this year-- the eve of the death of Pope John Paul II-- at Subiacco, where St. Benedict founded his first monastery in the 6th century, as Cardinal Ratzinger received the "St. Benedict for Europe" prize.
In presenting the book, Cardinal Ruini noted, “Christianity has received its most effective cultural and intellectual mark in Europe from the historical point of view.”
However, he pointed out that the ties between Europe and the faith "today are at risk of being broken” because of a dominant and agressive secularism in which "God does not exist, or at least cannot be proven to exist, and thus all reference to Him must be excluded from public life."
Madrid, Spain, Jun 23, 2005 (CNA) - After heated debate, the Spanish Senate vetoed a bill that would make homosexual unions equivalent to marriage. Now voters are demanding the bill be completely killed in the Senate rather than being sent to the House of Representatives and that a referendum on the issue be held.
The move to veto passed by a vote of 131 to 119. The measure could go back to the House of Representatives, where the Socialist government has enough support for it pass in a vote scheduled for June 30.
The civil rights watchdog website HazteOir.org launched a campaign to have the measure killed in the Senate before it gets sent to the House and that a referendum on the issue be held, so that “the Spanish people can address this issue that has divided our society and our representatives so much.”
“To approve this law without a consensus would be a new display of unwillingness on the part of the Government to listen to different sectors and of the imposition of its policies without any dialogue with society. We demand that Zapatero withdraw this bill,” said Ignacio Arsuaga, president of HazteOir.og.
“If the Senate does not veto it, the bill will return to Congress and we will continue demanding, in the name of a million and a half protestors who filled the streets of Madrid last Saturday, that the president of the government withdraw this bill,” he added.
Rome, Italy, Jun 23, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Rome, in charge of promoting the beatification of late Pope John Paul II, released an official prayer in different languages, to implore favors through the intercession of the Pontiff.
The text of the prayer reads:
"O Blessed Trinity, we thank you for having graced the church with Pope John Paul II and for allowing the tenderness of your fatherly care, the glory of the cross of Christ, and the splendor of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him.
"Trusting fully in your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, he has given us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life and is the way of achieving eternal communion with you.
"Grant us, by his intercession, and according to your will, the graces we implore, hoping that he will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen."
Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2005 (CNA) - More than 23,000 young people and 70 bishops from the United States will attend the first World Youth Day (WYD) with a new Pope in Cologne, Germany, this summer.
Pope Benedict XVI has stated that he will attend WYD, scheduled for Aug. 16-21. It is expected to be his first foreign trip as Pope. He will celebrate the closing mass, Aug. 21, at Marienfeld, about 10 miles southwest of Cologne.
There are currently more than 325,000 young people from around the world registered for the event and 31,000 WYD volunteers, mostly from Germany. The German bishops are hoping for 400,000 registrants. The number of volunteers has already surpassed the original goal of 20,000.
There are currently 833 American groups registered, representing 96 percent of states and 81 percent of dioceses and eparchies.
Of the U.S. pilgrims, 5,000 will participate in the diocesan Days of Encounter, held in different dioceses throughout Germany, from Aug. 11-15. The Days of Encounter provide an opportunity for youth to learn about the Church in Germany, to meet and to pray with German Catholics.
Pilgrims will also be invited to volunteer in a social project on the Day of Social Engagement, Aug. 12.
World Youth Day was started by Pope John Paul II in 1985.
Moscow, Russia, Jun 23, 2005 (CNA) - The Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican have agreed to work collaboratively to promote Christian spiritual values in Europe, reported RIA Novosti.
Representatives of the two churches met in Moscow Wednesday and discussed the moral crisis in Europe, said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin of the External Church Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Metropolitan Kirill of the patriarchate’s External Church Relations Department were at the discussion table Wednesday. The two men are official partners in Orthodox-Catholic relations.
"The sides agreed that cooperation between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches in promoting Christian spiritual values in the lives of individuals, families and society was highly important today, when Europe and the world are experiencing a moral crisis and an aggressive obtrusion of secular ideology," the archpriest was quoted as saying.
Tokyo, Japan, Jun 23, 2005 (CNA) - Japanese scientists say a process involving adult stem cells that cured renal failure in rats should be able to work in humans, reported LifeNews.com.
A research team at the University of Tokyo transplanted 10,000 somatic stem cells from the kidneys of healthy rats into sick rats. They ran tests seven days later and found that kidney functions in the sick rats had returned to normal. In addition, the number of new stem cells decreased to about 30 percent after the repair work was done.
The researchers found that human kidneys have similar somatic stem cells. If successful in humans, the adult stem-cell therapy could help millions of patients worldwide who currently undergo dialysis.
"It's been confirmed that somatic stem cells in kidneys are capable of not only creating new cells but also restoring damaged organs,” said University of Tokyo associate professor Keiichi Hishikawa. “We may be able to develop drugs aimed at (activating) somatic stem cells.”
The team announced their findings in the June 20 issue of "Journal of Cell Biology."
Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2005 (CNA) - A Republican congressman asked Monday for unanimous consent of the House to withdraw his statement, accusing Democrats of “denigrating and demonizing Christians.”
The House was debating the Democratic amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill. The amendment would have required the Air Force Academy to develop a plan for preventing "coercive and abusive religious proselytizing."
The Washington Post reported that Rep. John N. Hostettler (R—Ind.) spoke against the amendment, stating that "the long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the House of Representatives." He said it "continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being supplied by the usual suspects, the Democrats.
"Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians," he said.
Hostettler’s statement led Rep. David R. Obey (D—Wis.) to request that Hostettler’s “words be taken down.” If a member's words are taken down, it is considered a serious offense and the lawmaker would not be able to speak for the rest of the day.
The Post reported that Hostettler eventually rose after 45 minutes of back-and-forth in the House and read a sentence that had been written out for him by a young Republican floor aide: "Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the last sentence I spoke."
The Democratic amendment was later defeated, 210 to 198. On a voice vote the Air Force was required to say how it is promoting religious tolerance before the appropriations bill passed, 398 to 19.
Copenhagen, Denmark, Jun 23, 2005 (CNA) - A new scientific development could theoretically eliminate the physical need for both men and women for human reproduction and see a single man have his own child — a clone — using his sperm and a synthetic egg created in the lab from his own genetic material.
British scientists announced the news Monday at a European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. They said this new research, which combines advances in cloning and embryonic stem-cell research, could be possible in the not-too-distant future.
Harry Moore, leader of the research team at Britain's University of Sheffield, said the goal was probably 10 years away, reported CNSNews.com. The research team claimed they had proven that human embryonic stem cells have the ability to form the "primordial germ cells" that eventually become eggs and sperm.
These germ cells can then be isolated and manipulated in the lab to form synthetic eggs and sperm. This would enable scientists to form new embryos and harvest their stem cells for research, without having to rely on egg donors, reported CNS.
This research also means that in the future, two homosexuals could have their own child. In other words, the child could be created using the genes of both partners — the sperm of one, and a synthetic egg engineered from the stem cells of the other. A surrogate mother would still be necessary to carry the child.
"This is moving the argument beyond what you do with the embryo," Dr. David van Gend of the World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Human Life told CNS Tuesday. "It's about what you can do with those cells once you've abused the embryo."
"You first violate the little embryos, who are mere material for the consumption of science, then on top of that the human family is further violated by making possible this unnatural situation where a little child ... will never have the possibility of having a mom and a dad.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 23, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Juan Ruben Martinez of Posadas, Argentina, said this week human beings should not be considered “objects of consumption”.
“The inconsistency and lack of appreciation of the truth is manifested both in the marketing of products and in political campaigns, and even in religious proselytism,” the bishop said.
“We must recognized that we ourselves can fall into the consumption of TV and radio programs without any sense of critique, even when what we are being offered is pure sensationalism,” he added. In this sense, human dignity is forgotten and people do not practice what they profess to believe.
Bishop Martinez exhorted the faithful to defend “the marvelous gift of human dignity” and to make the “coherency between what we say and what we do” a priority.
“Today more than ever,” he continued, “the witness of one’s life has become an essential condition for the effectiveness of one’s preaching.” “We become responsible ourselves for the Gospel which we proclaim,” the bishop warned.
Santiago, Chile, Jun 23, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop emeritus of La Serena, Chile, Bernardino Piñera, said this week that “modernist and secular tendencies” are harassing the Church and that scandals are being blown out of proportion in order to destroy her.
Speaking to the Chilean daily El Dia, the archbishop said the phenomenon is occurring primarily in Europe but that it has repercussions in Latin America. The press, he added, “is harassing the Catholic Church” by publishing distortions in order to discredit her.
Archbishop Piñera noted that the Church is a divine institution made up of men, and therefore it should not be shocking that “out of a thousand men, there are always ten that fail.” Nevertheless, today “there are no more failings than there have always been,” there is just a greater obsession to point them out.
Regarding the issue of priestly pedophilia, the archbishop acknowledged that some cases have indeed taken place, but “we know that in the United States there are lawyers who have become millionaires by getting money out of the Church.”
He said the matter was just as absurd as the Minister of Education paying a fine “every time a teacher misbehaves,” or the Minister of Health every time “a doctor mistreats a nurse.”
Not too long ago, the Church was treated with respect and sympathy, even by non-Catholics, he said. “Today that has been lost.”
Nevertheless, he pointed out, “The Church continues working” and is “not discouraged by these things.” Despite the different crisis the Church has endured throughout the centuries, she continues to move forward, and “that is the mystery of God,” the archbishop stated.