Archive of June 24, 2005

“A healthy laicism of the State does not exclude ethical references”, the Pope says.

Vatican City, Jun 24, 2005 (CNA) - During his first official visit with the Italian President, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed the legitimacy of a “a healthy laicism of the State, yet without excluding those ethical references whose ultimate foundations are to be found in religion.”

After receiving President Ciampi’s greeting at the Quirinal Palace, the Holy Father affirmed that "a healthy laicism of the State" is legitimate, "by virtue of which temporal situations are governed according to their own norms, yet without excluding those ethical references whose ultimate foundations are to be found in religion. The autonomy of the temporal sphere does not exclude an intimate harmony with higher and more complex necessities deriving from an integral vision of man and of his eternal destiny."

Regarding the diplomatic relation between the Vatican and the Italian State, the Pope recalled that the ties "are founded on the principle expressed during Vatican Council II, according to which 'the Church and the political community in their own fields are autonomous and independent from each other. Yet both, under different titles, are devoted to the personal and social vocation of the same people'."

The Pope’s address took place after a private meeting with Ciampi at the presidential residence. Former Italian presidents Francesco Cossiga and Oscar Luigi Scalfaro also attended the meeting, as well as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the presidents of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, was also present.

This was the eighth time a Pope has visited Quirinal Palace since 1929, when the Lateran Pact was signed there. The first visit was that of Pope Pius XII in 1939. Pope John Paul II visited the palace on three occasions back in 1984, 1986 and 1998.

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Canadian Parliament clears way for vote on same-sex bill, passes budget

Ottawa, Canada, Jun 24, 2005 (CNA) - In a surprise midnight vote yesterday that caught the Conservatives off-guard, Canada’s minority Liberal government quickly cleared the way for a vote on the hotly debated same-sex marriage legislation.

The Liberals struck a major victory last night after it forced a vote on the controversial budget bill, with a number of Conservative MPs missing.

The budget was passed by a vote of 152-147. Losing the vote would have automatically toppled the Liberal government and triggered a federal election.

By the time it became evident that the Liberals were going to force a midnight vote, many Conservative MPs had reportedly already left the House, including Conservative leader Stephen Harper, who rushed back.

The budget vote was the Conservatives’ last opportunity to topple the Liberal minority government before the fall session. Political reporters had said the Conservatives had plans to try to bring down the government Monday.

The Liberals forced the budget vote by pulling out a rarely used and obscure procedural motion that cuts off all debate. This win secures their political leadership at least until the fall.

Earlier yesterday, the Liberals won a vote to extend the parliamentary session into the summer — the first such extension in 17 years — in order to pass the two controversial bills.

In order to extend the session, the Liberals needed the support of Canada’s separatist party, the Bloc Québécois. It got this support after the Liberals struck a deal with the Bloc and gave them a written guarantee that the same-sex marriage legislation — bill C-38 — will come to a vote before the session ends.

"The Liberal party is now cutting deals with the separatists, to appease the socialists, to prop up their corrupt government," Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay had remarked.

With the budget bill passed, that leaves bill C-38 as the big issue on the table. It is expected to pass easily as it has the support of the Bloc, the NDP and most Liberals.

Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay expressed outrage over the Liberals’ political scheming.

"It's a very sour end to an acrimonious and bitter session and does not bode well for the future workings of Parliament,” he reportedly said.

He described the Liberals’ tactics as well as the deals that they struck with the socialist NDP and the separatist Bloc parties as “diabolical, sneaky, treacherous, [and] behind-the-scenes.”

MacKay even compared the Liberals to one of Hollywood's most notorious killers: “We have to start thinking that Hannibal Lecter is running the government and they'll do anything they have to do to win.”

Prime Minister Paul Martin commented on yesterday’s events, saying: “Well, I'm very glad we got the budget passed. I think it's very important budget for child care and for cities.”

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Belleville welcomes new bishop

Belleville, Ill., Jun 24, 2005 (CNA) - Belleville’s 104,000 Catholics have a new bishop. Bishop Edward Braxton was installed at St. Peter Cathedral Wednesday, with more than 1,200 people in attendance, including 100 priests and 25 bishops.

"I come before you as your bishop to be the best human being I can be, to be the best Christian I can be, to be the best priest I can be, to be the best bishop I can be," he was quoted as saying in the News-Democrat. "I ask your help. I ask your support. I ask your trust ... As we believe, so let us live.

"He succeeds Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who now serves the Archdiocese of Atlanta."I do not come to you with some detailed plan of what you need to be doing in the days ahead,” Bishop Braxton continued. “My first goal is to understand and build upon the good you have already accomplished ... My first goal, if I am to be the chief leader of this church, is to be the chief listener.

"The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, and Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago conducted the two-and-a-half-hour ceremony.

The new Belleville bishop was born in Chicago and ordained a priest in 1970. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of St. Louis in 1995, and bishop of Lake Charles, La., in 2000. He is one of 14 U.S. bishops of African American descent.

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Catholic woman’s ordination in Central Europe is ‘invalid’: Archbishop Foley

London, England, Jun 24, 2005 (CNA) - The secret ordination of a woman in an undisclosed location in Central Europe this week was "not just illicit but invalid," said Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in Rome.

In an interview with the BBC, the archbishop explained that just as it is biologically impossible for a man to conceive, it is theologically impossible for a woman to be a priest.

"As a man I cannot conceive... is that unfair? By divine decision... there is this difference," he was quoted as saying.

The reporter had interviewed people at a local church about women priests. According to the reporter, everybody she polled supported the idea.

The archbishop reacted to the reporter’s random interviews, saying that the question of women priests cannot be judged or resolved with surveys. "The question is, what did Jesus want? What did he reveal? And what does the Church authoritatively teach? That's the norm by which we must judge, not by opinion polls."

The ordination was held as an act of defiance against the Catholic Church. Three years ago, seven women claimed to be priests after an ordination ceremony that was held on a boat on the Danube River. The Vatican moved quickly and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger excommunicated the Danube Seven.

Now, some of these women claim they are bishops and performed the ordination of the single woman this week in an improvised chapel on the second floor of a private home. About a dozen people attended.

The young woman, a teacher of religious education, she admitted that the ordination worried her.

"I hope that in five years, in 10 years, things will change because there are many women who would like to go the same way, and the way will be a little better prepared for them,” the woman told the BBC on condition of her anonymity.

According to the BBC, the young woman was not able to explain why it was worth going through with the ordination, when she would be unable to perform any of the duties of a priest legitimately.

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New bishop may begin to close schism between Rome and China, says Chinese bishop

Shangai, China, Jun 24, 2005 (CNA) - A Shanghai bishop said the Vatican and the Chinese authorities have tacitly agreed to close the schism in the Shanghai diocese by agreeing to his successor, who will be formally appointed auxiliary bishop next week, reported the Associated Press.

Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, who is officially recognized by the Chinese government, told the AP that the Vatican has also indicated that it would not recognize a successor to Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang.

Bishop Fan is recognized as Shanghai bishop by the underground church. He reportedly suffers from Alzheimer's disease and has been under house arrest for the past five years.

The AP reported that the Vatican had no immediate comment on the appointment.

China ordered Catholics to sever ties with the Vatican in 1951 and worship only in the government-sanctioned church, which numbers about four million. However, foreign experts say up to 12 million worship in the unofficial, or underground, church that still has ties to Rome.

Bishop Jin, who was imprisoned or in labor camps for 27 years on charges of being an “international spy” for the Vatican, is quoted as saying that both China and the Vatican must compromise to normalize relations.

The Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, told Vatican Radio Wednesday that establishing ties was possible, but would take “good will and a spirit of friendship.”

“In my view there aren't insurmountable difficulties. However, you have to move with care,” he said.

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Jerusalem officials cancel annual gay pride parade

Jerusalem, Israel, Jun 24, 2005 (CNA) - Jerusalem officials have decided to ban the fourth annual gay pride parade, organized for June 30, claiming the march would offend the majority of the city's practicing Jewish, Muslim and Christian residents, reported The decision was announced yesterday.

Parade organizers, the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, appealed to Israel's Supreme Court, saying the decision was a violation of freedom of expression.

The city council’s decision was communicated to organizers in a letter. It read: "It is not right to allow the march or other planned activities to take place in the streets of Jerusalem, fearing that it will create an uproar, offend a wide sector of city residents and out of fear of public disturbances.” 

The three previous parades were reportedle attended by several thousand people, with only minor incidents of vandalism and protest.

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Venezuelan leader seeks modification of Penal Code in order to legalize abortion

Caracas, Venezuela, Jun 24, 2005 (CNA) - Representatives of Venezuela’s ruling party lead by President Hugo Chavez have presented two bills that would reform the country’s Penal Code and legalize abortion in cases of rape and incest.  Representative Flor Rios argued that the measures were meant to “defend the life” of women who obtain clandestine abortions.

Several lawmakers, including some in the ruling party, were quick to reject the idea, but Rios said she was confident the measures would pass. 

Representative Iris Varela, also a member of the ruling party, threw her support behind the measures and called on her colleagues not to “fall into the prejudices and false morals of the Catholic Church.”

The committee leader charged with reviewing the proposals, Nicolas Sosa, questioned the ruling party’s haste in getting the measures passed.  “We haven’t even read the proposal” on abortion, he said, adding that it “is a delicate matter that merits consultation.”

In Venezuelan law abortion is currently punishable by six to twenty-four months in prison and is only allowed to save the life of the mother.  Pro-life groups are calling on all Venezuelans to express their support for the unborn by sending emails and letters to their representatives.

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Bolivian bishop calls on lawmakers to resign

La Paz, Bolivia, Jun 24, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Jesus Perez of Potosi, Bolivia, is calling on the country’s congressional representatives to shorten their terms in office in order to help bring peace and stability to the country and to facilitate early elections called for by President Eduardo Rodriguez.

The bishop made his comments while witnessing the symbolic resignations of several congressmen from the region who sent their letters of resignation to the bishop and asked that the diocese keep them on file.

“I hope other lawmakers will take the same steps,” said Bishop Perez.  He added that others should “step aside” as well for the good of the country.

Despite the positive response from some representatives, the resignations are only symbolic because Bolivian law requires that vacant congressional seats be filled by a substitute or by a government-appointed replacement.

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Bishops of Mexico and US begin conference on immigration

El Paso, Texas, Jun 24, 2005 (CNA) - Under the theme, “Strangers no more: together on the journey of hope,” bishops from Mexico and US have gathered to meet in El Paso, Texas, to discuss illegal immigration and to propose solutions that respect the dignity and the rights of those who cross the border into the United States.

The closed-door meeting will take place until June 26 and is being attended by representatives of different pro-immigrant organizations.

Bishop Armando Ochoa of El Paso said in a statement that “the present reality of immigration” invites the Church “to elaborate new answers to the signs of the times, so that the human dignity of rights of our migrants are honored and respected.”

According to Kevin Appleby, director of Migration and Refugee Policy for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “The main purpose of the conference is to build relationships between dioceses on both sides of the border to work collaboratively on migratory issues,” and to “come up with a uniform strategy” on immigration issues.

“The church’s perspective is we have a broken immigration system in the U.S. and Mexico, and immigrants who want to support their family are sort of pawns in both governments if you will,” Appleby said.

Among those attending the meeting include Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington DC, and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.  On Saturday, June 25, Senator John Cornyn will address possible reforms of immigration and human trafficking laws.

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Diocese denounces disappearance of priest in rebel controlled area of Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 24, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Garzon in Colombia is denouncing the disappearance of a priest who was on a humanitarian mission in the Colombian province of Huila.

Father Tomas Chala disappeared last Saturday in an area controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

According to diocesan officials, Father Chala was heading towards the town of San Guillermo.  He boarded a public bus in order to arrive at his destination but it was not known where he disembarked.

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