Vatican City, Jul 19, 2005 (CNA) - In 1997, Pope John Paul II told Cologne’s Cardinal Joachim Meisner that he thought it appropriate “that one of the first World Youth Days of the new millennium should be held in Cologne…because last century Germany witnessed some terrible disasters for humanity, and it is right that it should now witness a great sign of hope."
With his words in Toronto in 2002, announcing that the next World Youth Day would be held in Cologne, John Paul set in motion the events which would bring over 1 million young people, accompanied by some 7,000 priests and 700 bishops to Germany.
Established in 1984, the Holy Year of Redemption, in an effort to reaffirm the Church's interest in youth, World Youth Day has been celebrated 19 times, gathering throngs of young people from around the world to hear the Gospel message.
This year‘s theme will be: "We have come to worship Him," the words with which the Wise Men of the Gospel of St. Matthew reveal the reason for their own pilgrimage. Pope John Paul noted in 2002 that, “In the great cathedral of Cologne the relics of the Magi, the Wise Men from the East who followed the star which led them to Christ, are honored."
The World Youth Day trip will be Pope Benedict’s first trip outside of Italy since the beginning of his pontificate in April. Many are looking to his talks in Cologne to get a feel for what will likely be the themes for his new papacy.
While festivities kick off on August 16th, the Holy Father will first greet the young people on August 18th. According to the Vatican, on the evening of August 19, he will participate in the Way of the Cross; on August 20 he will join the participants in a prayer vigil, and on August 21 he will celebrate the event's closing Mass.
The altar at which he will celebrate the Mass sits on a hill overlooking a large field where the pilgrims will gather. It is manmade and composed of earth from all the countries of the world brought by young people who have participated in the preparatory WYD meetings.
Organizers have also noted that during the week, the famous reliquary of the Wise Men will be placed behind the altar in the cathedral, as it was in the Middle Ages, so the pilgrims can see it as they pass and so, in some way, take away with them the blessing of the Three Kings of the East.
Likewise, artists are putting last minute touches on a massive mosaic which will depict the face of the late John Paul II, composed of photographs sent in by young people from all over the world.
While in Cologne, Pope Benedict is scheduled to visit the local synagogue, meet with German civil and religious authorities and travel to the city of Bonn--where he taught theology--to visit with German president Horst Koehler.
Vatican City, Jul 19, 2005 (CNA) - In a recent document, the Vatican has condemned the production and use of vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell lines.
The Pontifical Academy for Life’s eight-page document was published in Medicina e Morale by the Center for Bioethics of Catholic University in Rome. It is titled “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Fetuses.”
Vatican officials have put the full burden of guilt on the pharmaceutical industry, comparing their moral complicity to that of the abortionists themselves. They are also calling for "rigorous legal control of the pharmaceutical industry producers."
The Vatican also supports parents who refuse to use the vaccines. “As regards the diseases against which there are no alternative vaccines which are available and ethically acceptable, it is right to abstain from using these vaccines if it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health,” the statement reads.
The document states that doctors and families "should use conscientious objection and oppose by all means – in writing, through various associations, mass media, etc, - the vaccines which do not yet have morally acceptable alternatives, creating pressure so that alternative vaccines are prepared, which are not connected with the abortion of a human fetus.”
Children of God for Life executive director Debi Vinnedge said she is pleased with the document. Her organization had sent an appeal on the matter to the Vatican a few years ago.
"There is a serious problem when parents are denied the right to abstain from these vaccines in accord with State law, simply because there was nothing from the Vatican directly addressing it,” she said.
Vinnedge says the Vatican document should spur action on their Fair Labeling and Informed Consent Act, introduced to members of Congress earlier this year. The legislation requires that pharmaceutical companies give full disclosure whenever aborted fetal or embryonic cell lines are used in their products.
Dr. Steven White, president of the Catholic Medical Association, agreed that the pharmaceutical industry should provide accurate information on the origin of all vaccines so that consumers “are able to make informed decisions in accord with our moral conscience.”
To reed the full Vatican Document visit: http://www.cogforlife.org/vaticanresponse.htm
, Jul 19, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic League intends to submit a recommendation to Mississippi lawmakers that will sidestep increased government oversight of faith-based organizations and allow donors to direct their funds to Mississippi-based pro-life centers of their choosing.
A report last week revealed that the Mississippi branch of Bethany Christian Services, an adoption agency affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of America, has been denying Catholic couples the right to adopt children.
The agency receives funding collected from the sales of “Choose Life” license plates, some of which was collected from Catholics. More than 40 Catholics reportedly complained to the Catholic League about this practice.
“In this case, the right remedy is not to grant government more police powers overseeing faith-based institutions,” said the league’s president, William Donohue.
“Currently, the extra fees collected from ‘Choose Life’ license plates are given to a non-governmental body, Choose Life Mississippi. This non-profit organization then distributes the private donations to appropriate pro-life centers,” including Bethany, explained Donohue.
“In the interest of fairness, it would make more sense to allow those who pay the additional fee the right to decide which of the approved pro-life centers should receive their donation,” Donohue suggested.
“This kind of menu is common practice in the workplace and would insulate Bethany Christian Services from government oversight without asking Catholics to subsidize its work,” he argued.
“In short,” he stated, “this remedy would not only allow for freedom of choice, it would also allow for diversity without sanctioning discrimination.”
Vatican City, Jul 19, 2005 (CNA) - In a letter to Romania’s Archbishop Jean-Claude Perisset, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his grief and fervent prayers for the floods that have recently ravaged the nation.
Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano wrote the letter, in the Pope's name, saying, "The Holy Father continues to follow with apprehension the drama of the Romanian people, stricken by torrential rains that have caused mourning, devastation and serious damage in that country.”
"He charges Your Excellency”, the letter continued, “to inform the civil and religious authorities of his grief and his spiritual closeness in this sad and difficult situation that has struck a nation very dear to him. His Holiness, as he raises fervent appeals for those who have lost their lives in the disaster, gives assurances of his prayers to the Lord recollecting those who have suffered the death of their loved ones, who have been left homeless or forced to abandon their property, and are now undergoing grave difficulties.”Cardinal Sodano continued, saying, "As a comfort for these feelings, the Holy Father invokes consolation and support from the Lord for these brothers and sisters, and sends them a special apostolic blessing as a sign of his affection."
San Francisco, Calif., Jul 19, 2005 (CNA) - Fifteen college students participating in the American Life League’s Crusade for Life held a peaceful demonstration in front of the office of two pro-abortion Catholic politicians — Rep. Nancy Pelosi and State Sen. Jackie Speier. The demonstration lasted all day Tuesday.
"The Crusade for Life walk participants want to send a clear message to Rep. Nancy Pelosi that her outspoken support for abortion is diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Catholic faith," said David Dufresne, assistant director of American Life League's Crusade for the Defense of Our Catholic Church.
"Rep. Pelosi has a tremendous opportunity to make a difference for life as one of the most powerful Catholics in Congress,” said Dufresne. “Unfortunately, she has chosen to support the very act that destroys life rather than protect it."
The students from across the United States and Mexico have committed to walk more than 800 miles through the state of California. They arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area July 15 and will spend the rest of the week peacefully protesting in front of the offices of known pro-abortion Catholic politicians, praying in front of 15 abortion clinics, and speaking at Catholic churches.
Arlington, Va., Jul 19, 2005 (CNA) - Family and friends of a 26-year old Virginia woman whose body is slowly succumbing to cancer are holding their breath as they wait for the child in her womb to be delivered.
Susan Torres collapsed on May 7th of this year--the day before Mother’s Day--and was rushed to an Arlington hospital where she was diagnosed with stage four melanoma. Doctors say that she is now brain-dead with no hope of recovery.
Doctors and family members still have hope however, for the baby, which continues to grow and kick in her womb.
Torres, a parishioner at St. Rita’s Church in Arlington, recently passed the first 24-week hurdle on July 11th, after which, doctors could give her baby a viable chance of survival, but because the child is apparently smaller than expected, that date was pushed back to July 18th.
“All the days from here on out are a gift,” her brother in law Justin Torres told reporters.
Justin Torres said that the family has raised over $400,000 so far to cover the nearly $1,500-a day medical treatment that insurance will not cover.
He said that donations have been coming in from as far away as India, Japan, Australia and even Iraq, many vaguely addressed to the Torres family or their parish. Justin noted that an airmail package recently came from Japan with $100 cash along with a simple check from a soldier in Iraq.
“It’s just been amazing,” he said.
Nevertheless, the family is reportedly still struggling to stave off bankruptcy and haven’t even begun to figure the cost of neonatal care.
Anyone interested in making a donation or learning more about Susan Torres is encouraged to visit, www.susantorresfund.org
Dover, Pa., Jul 19, 2005 (CNA) - The small Dover area School District is taking on the ACLU in a lawsuit brought upon the district over a clarification in their 9th grade biology curriculum which briefly informs students of gaps in the theory of evolution and makes them aware of the alternative intelligent design theory as explanation for origins of life on earth.
The school district is being represented by the St. Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who filed papers yesterday asking the court to rule in Dover’s favor.
The school district has tried to clarify that they do not teach intelligent design, creationism or any religious content in their science classes in accord with its policies and state regulations. Rather, the Darwinian theory of evolution is the only curriculum officially taught.
Supporters say that the district opted to include the brief clarification noting that evolution is a theory, not proven fact, to help students in their full range of learning.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, stated, “This minor change to Dover’s science curriculum was simply a modest step by a small-town school board to improve the science education of its students.”
“This controversy”, he said, “is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot. The Founders of this country would be astonished at the thought that this simple curriculum change ‘established religion’ in violation of the Constitution that they drafted. ”
In December, the ACLU and the group, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State brought the lawsuit against the school district at the behest of a number of Dover parents.
Robert Muise however, a trial counsel with the Michigan Law Center, said that, “the ACLU has used the Establishment Clause to remove from public life anything that they perceive to be favorable to religion, including prayer, the Ten Commandments, Nativity scenes, and other symbols associated with religion.”
“Now,” he said, “they seek to employ this constitutional provision to silence criticism of the theory of evolution and to prevent students from learning about alternatives to Darwin’s theory, including preventing students from simply being told that such alternatives exist. Even the recent Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution, which tend to be hostile to religion, do not go this far.”
, Jul 19, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Samuel J. Aquila, announced today that the Diocese of Fargo will now begin requiring couples preparing for marriage in that diocese to complete courses in Natural Family Planning, the Church’s only accepted form of birth regulation.
Fargo follows the Archdiocese of Denver, which was the first in the country to implement the requirement years ago. The Church, along with almost all other Christian denominations up until a few decades ago, when most dropped off, has continually taught that artificial forms of contraception are immoral, and cause an undue barrier between husband and wife.
According to diocesan spokeswoman Tanya Watterud, couples will receive training in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body “and complete a full course of instruction on an approved method of natural family planning as part of their marriage preparation program.”
“Natural family planning”, she explained, “is the name given to scientifically based methods that allow couples to recognize the times when they are naturally most fertile and, thus, most likely to conceive. The indications of fertility help those who wish to become pregnant know when they are more likely to conceive. Those who wish to delay pregnancy abstain from sexual intimacy on their fertile days.”
Bishop Aquila said that, “through my personal experience in preparing couples for marriage and through discussions with priests, I have seen a great need for this instruction to help couples fully live the sacrament of marriage.”
“Young adults”, he added, “are bombarded with negative images of sexuality, with attitudes that demean the marital commitment, and with lies about the so-called ‘freedom’ contraception provides. They need to know and they deserve to know the plan that God has for them regarding their sexuality and the conjugal love they will share as husband and wife.”
Rachalle Sauvageau, director of the diocese’ Respect Life office added that the course is not just for engaged couples.
Noting that many couples who use contraception decide to abandon the practice within the first months or years of marriage, she said that, “as they grow and gain a deeper understanding of each other and their faith, couples often turn toward natural family planning, realizing it is best for them physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
Father Ross Laframboise, in an article to be printed in the diocese’s next edition of The New Earth newspaper, adds that “It is hard not to consider a five percent or less divorce rate for NFP users compared to 50 percent for society in general.” He also points out that the method is inexpensive, completely natural and has no adverse side affects.
Statistics have shown that when done correctly, NFP is nearly 99% effective, making it the most effective form of birth regulation in existence.
Valencia, Fla., Jul 19, 2005 (CNA) - A team of architects and workers have begun remodeling the Archbishop of Valencia’s residence in order to build a “papal apartment” where Pope Benedict XVI and his collaborators will stay during the World Meeting of Families to take place in Valencia, Spain, in July of 2006.
The diocesan newspaper Paraula, reports the 2,000 square-foot area on the first floor of the residence is next to the chapel and leads into an interior patio and garden,
According to the Avan news agency, the remodeling will result in the construction of three 129 square-foot dormitories each with private bath. Two of the rooms will have adjacent 215 square-foot offices.
The project is expected to take several months to be completed.
In addition, parts of the sacristy and other areas up to now used as closet space will also be remodeled.
In the vestibule of the residence a large poster of the World Meeting of Families with a picture of Pope and the words, “Benedict XVI: We await you!” is on display.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 19, 2005 (CNA) - Recent comments by Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara, president emeritus of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, regarding the lack of democracy in Venezuela have provoked a rash of insults from President Hugo Chavez.
In an interview with the daily El Universal, Cardinal Castillo Lara noted, “There is no democracy or rule of law here. What we have is just the appearance of democracy” with “laws against the Constitution approved by a weak majority.”
He said the country was living under a dictatorship and that “since he came to power, Chavez began to try to divide the Church’s hierarchy, between the bishops and the priests, by giving favors to some, but only some, under the table, while denying them to others. Only he has failed in his attempt, because all of the bishops, I repeat, all of them, are united in the same thinking. In the way we express ourselves there may be diversity, but together we are all in agreement.”
Chavez responded to the interview, calling the cardinal an “outlaw” and “immoral.” The 82 year-old cardinal said the president’s comments “are not a response to anything concrete, he’s just venting. They don’t bother me at all, because you have to look at the person who is saying such things. And of course I would be offended if a respectable person were to say those things to me. But in this case, I don’t pay any attention to him.”
Cardinal Castillo Lara warned the country is in a very delicate stage and that “it is progressively sliding towards an intolerable situation. That Venezuela would become another Cuba would be a horrible disaster.”
The cardinal also responded to Chavez’s accusations that the late Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Ignacio Velasco, had called for his resignation during the coup attempt of April of 2002.
Cardinal Castillo Lara noted that “the resignation was requested by Military leaders.” Chavez “came to hate Cardinal Ignacio Velasco after the cardinal saw him humiliated on the island of La Orchila. The fact that the cardinal saw him humiliated, ask for forgiveness and apologize for what he tried to do made Chavez hate him and led him to insult the cardinal after he died, saying he was in hell.”
He recalled that it was Chavez who requested the help of Cardinal Velasco and that Chavez was in tears asking the cardinal to help him save his life. “At no time did he ask for his resignation,” Cardinal Castillo Lara said.
San Salvador, El Salvador, Jul 19, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador said this week he hopes the war in Iraq will end soon so that the Salvadoran troops stationed there will be able to return home.
“I hope it ends soon, not only the Salvadoran troops’ stay there, but the whole conflict, and that Iraq takes charge of its own situation and operates as a responsible nation,” the archbishop told reporters.
At the conclusion of Sunday Mass, Archbishop Saenz Lacalle thanked God that no Salvadoran troops had been hurt in the recent attacks. The country’s contingent “is carrying out a humanitarian mission in a well-guarded area (Al Hillah). It seems there is not a lot of danger, but we should pray much that nothing happens to them.”
El Salvador is the only Latin American country with troops in Iraq. The first contingent was deployed in August of 2003 and currently there are 379 troops in that country. This coming August President Elias Antonio Saca will decide whether to send a fifth contingent.
Since being deployed to Iraq, two Salvadoran troops have died.