Archive of August 1, 2005

Pope urges all youth to make spiritual pilgrimage leading up to WYD

, Aug 1, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI invited the young Catholics of the world, even those who are unable to participate at World Youth Day (WYD) in Cologne, Germany, in mid-August “to be united in a common spiritual pilgrimage toward the sources” of the Catholic faith during this time.

Nearly 400,000 young people have registered for WYD 2005, from Aug. 16 to 20. The Pope will be present with the young people from Aug. 18 to 20.

WYD, based on the intuition of Pope John Paul II, “constitutes a privileged encounter with Christ, knowing that only He offers fullness of life, joy and love,” said the Pope prior to the Sunday Angelus at his summer resort in Castel Gandolfo.

“Every Christian is called to enter into profound Communion with the Lord, crucified and risen, and to adore Him in prayer, meditation and above all in the Eucharist, at least on Sundays, which is a small ‘weekly Easter,’” Benedict continued.

“In this way, believers become ready to announce and witness to the beauty and the renewing force of the Gospel,” he added.

He also appealed to the Virgin Mary to watch over the pilgrims and to “guide them in a special way on their search for true good and authentic joy.”

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Creating embryos to destroy them ‘absurd’: Archbishop Gomez

San Antonio, Texas, Aug 1, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic Church will not and cannot base its teaching on opinion polls, said Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio in reference to the embryonic stem-cell research debate.

The archbishop was responding to an opinion piece, written by Kevin Eckstrom, titled “Galileo's ghost haunts Catholic Church” (Religion, July 23).

“To constantly bring back Galileo's "ghost" and judge the Catholic Church by a 17th-century event is like judging the veracity of the medical community because in the past it used bleeding and leeches,” he wrote, commenting on Eckstrom’s pieces. “Not even Galileo's telescope would look that far back.”

The archbishop pointed out that the Church is not opposed to all stem-cell research; it supports adult stem-cell research, which does not require taking human life.

“We prefer and pray that those who are suffering be healed, but we must never let the end justify the means,” the archbishop explained. “The Church cannot change its commitment to protect all life, from conception to natural death, just to win the public opinion polls.

“The Church is not asking people to make a choice between embryonic life and the lives of those struggling with disease. It is asking us to consider the absurdity of creating human life only to destroy it,” he continued.

“With faith, love and compassion, the Catholic Church encourages society to do all that is morally possible to relieve suffering and protect God's precious gift of life,” he said.

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Pope encourages road toward lasting peace in Northern Ireland

, Aug 1, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI lauded the Irish Republican Army’s decision last week to formally end armed conflict in Northern Ireland and to favor peaceful negotiations.

“This is good news, which contrasts with the painful events that we witness daily in many parts in the world,” the Pope said yesterday after his Sunday Angelus.

He noted that the news “has rightly stirred satisfaction and hope on that island and in the whole international community.

“In addition, I encourage everyone without exception, to continue forward on this journey and to undertake other steps that will help to strengthen mutual trust,  promote reconciliation and consolidate negotiations toward a just and lasting peace,” the Pope said.

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Stem cell debate nearly impossible, say Catholic ethicists; frozen embryos should not exist in the first place

Washington D.C., Aug 1, 2005 (CNA) - While many Christians and pro-life groups are still decrying Senate Majority leader Bill Frist’s Friday announcement that he favors more federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, many Christian scientists and ethicists are wrestling with what may be an nearly-impossible moral debate.

Frist, who could be a republican front runner for the 2008 presidential election, said that he thinks president Bush’s policy on the controversial research should be extended to include more already existing embryos.

Pulling stem cell lines needed for the research however, necessarily kills the embryo--something the Catholic Church expressly forbids.

President Bush created a plan allowing for research on some already pulled stem cell lines but rejects the idea of spending federal funds to kill more embryos.

Catholic ethicists point out however, that the issue only becomes more complicated, as millions of frozen embryos continue to exist, dormant in laboratory freezers. The Church believes that the embryos should not exist in the first place and now that they do, scientists face a moral impossibility over what to do with them.

While some groups believe they should be unfrozen and allowed to die a relatively natural death, other, somewhat rogue groups, believe that the Church should allow them to be used in invetro-fertilization--a practice normally forbidden for Catholics, but which may be acceptable to save the life of the embryo.

The major problem, many say, is that there is no simple right or wrong answer over what to do with the frozen embryos. At best, scientists must struggle with ascertaining the best option out of a number of evils.

Few however, believe, as Frist has suggested, that they should be used to harvest new stem cell lines. The Vatican’s ‘Instruction on Respect for Human Life’, as cited by the Pennsylvania Catholic Bishops Friday says that, “no objective, even though noble in itself, such as a foreseeable advantage to science, to other human beings, or to society, can in any way justify experimentation on living human embryos or fetuses, whether viable or not, either inside or outside the mother's body."

While pro-lifers will undoubtedly continue to struggle with the stem cell debate, it seems starkly clear--at least to most--that the destruction of the embryos for medical research is the worst of all of the poor options.

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‘Catholics need not apply’ must not become motto for government candidates, says Hyde

Washington D.C., Aug 1, 2005 (CNA) - In a letter sent to Senator Richard Durbin regarding what many see as a “religious litmus test” for Supreme Court nominee Judge John G. Roberts, Congressman Henry Hyde warned that ‘practicing Catholics need not apply’ must not become the motto of ‘religious bigots’ operating in the public square.

As Judge Roberts faces what many see as an unjust line of scrutiny centered around his being Catholic, largely led by Senator Durbin, (himself a Catholic), Hyde said that “No one of our faith - or that of any other denomination or religion - should be excluded from public office for his or her religious values.”

He cited Article VI of the U.S. Constitution which, he said, “unequivocally prohibits such a litmus test: ‘No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States.’”

Hyde recalled the anti-Catholic bigotry which permeated U.S. politics “well into the 20th century”, saying that “’Irish Need Not Apply’ signs were common in the storefront windows of Chicago's neighborhood until a few years ago, a bias driven largely by the Catholic faith shared by most Irish-Americans.”

“I want to believe”, he added, “that you do not wish to turn back the clock to that ugly period of our history.”

Many fear that Robert’s Catholic faith could color his decisions on judicial matters--particularly that of the legality of abortion. Senator Durbin reportedly asked Roberts recently what he would do if “the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral”?

Critics have lambasted Durbin for asking what they see as a blatantly pointed question.

“’Practicing Catholics need not apply’”, Hyde said, “cannot become a rallying cry of modern day religious bigots who would seek to drive from the public square all federal office candidates of faith. I hope that your question to Judge Roberts, if accurately reported, does not constitute an opening salvo in a process in which the candidate's faith will constitute sufficient justification for denying him a speedy confirmation.”

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Pro-life groups call Frist’s stem cell proposal a ‘betrayal’

Washington D.C., Aug 1, 2005 (CNA) - Numerous pro-life and Christian organizations are still shocked by Friday’s announcement by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, that he thinks more federal funding should be spent on embryonic stem cell research.

The Tennessee Senator announced on the Senate floor, Friday that he believes President Bush’s stem cell policy should be “modified” to allow for expanded federal funding for stem cell research. He noted that while “I believe human life begins at conception”, he said, “I also believe that embryonic stem cell research should be encouraged and supported.''

Lanier Swann, director of government relations for Concerned Women for America said that, "It is mystery to us how the senator could claim that he believes life begins at conception and then immediately contradict that statement by adding, 'I also believe embryonic stem-cell research should be encouraged and supported.' It certainly gives one pause in trusting his commitment to the sanctity of life."

"While we respect the senator's desire to support a science that offers hope to ailing patients,” she said, “we want to respectfully remind him that that hope already exists through the numerous advancements in adult stem-cell research (ASCR). While ESCR has yet to yield one result, more than 65 diseases have already been successfully treated through the safe and morally unquestionable research of adult stem cells.”

“Adult stem-cell research”, she added, “offers the promise of cures, not the mere 'dream' Frist spoke of today. A 'dream' of cures through ESCR is a nightmare for the unborn.”

Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania also cited the ‘Vatican Instruction on Respect for Human Life’ document in a statement Friday which says that “no objective, even though noble in itself, such as a foreseeable advantage to science, to other human beings, or to society, can in any way justify experimentation on living human embryos or fetuses, whether viable or not, either inside or outside the mother's body."

Executive Director of the Christian Medical Association, David Stevens, M.D. said , "We deeply regret Sen. Frist's endorsement of an embryonic stem cell research policy that would turn living human beings into commodities for exploitation. We have appreciated the senator's thoughtful and principled stances on life issues in the past and are extremely disappointed to see what we consider a crucial moral lapse on this critical issue."

"As physicians,” he continued, “we understand the pressure to seek treatments from all possible sources, but we must remain committed to insuring that life-honoring ethics guide our decisions. Treating living human embryos as mere fodder for experimentation crosses a vital ethical line and contravenes the sanctity of human life.”

"The ends never justifies the means. Seeking cures for patients is an admirable goal, but it must never be done at the expense of other human lives.

Rev. Rob Schenck, head of the National Clergy Council said that, "In saying that he believes life begins at conception but that he supports embryonic stem cell research, Senator Frist's position not only contradicts itself, it flies in the face of biblical and historical Christian moral teaching. It's the same as saying that we should use condemned criminals for medical experimentation because they're going to die anyway.”

He called the statement “morally incoherent,” and said that “Senator Frist can no longer count on our support nor the support of the wider Evangelical or Catholic communities."

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Pennsylvania bishops issue document on stem-cell research

Harrisburg, Pa., Aug 1, 2005 (CNA) - Pennsylvania bishops released a document last week, clarifying the Church’s teachings on stem-cell research. “Questions and Answers on Stem Cell Research” explains why embryonic stem-cell research is morally unacceptable.

"At a time when public policy makers are considering spending taxpayer money to finance various bio-medical research initiatives, it is appropriate to consider the moral impact of such research," said Dr. Robert J. O'Hara, Jr., executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, said the ethical teachings of the Catholic Church could provide a framework for decision-making and the understanding of stem-cell research.

“The Church encourages the development of human understanding in this area in a manner that respects the sanctity of human life at every stage," he said when the document was released.

The bishops also pointed out that the Vatican Instruction on Respect for Human Life states: "no objective, even though noble in itself… can in any way justify experimentation on living human embryos or fetuses, whether viable or not, either inside or outside the mother's body."

The document is available at

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Cuban priests of the diaspora express support for Pope Benedict, Church in Cuba

Miami, Fla., Aug 1, 2005 (CNA) - Dozens of priests and religious of the “Cuban diaspora” in the world concluded their XXXI Encounter in Key West with a document expressing their joy for the election of Pope Benedict XVI and their support for the Church in Cuba.

“In response to the challenge represented by the culture of death, which brings with it the loss of Christian values in ethics and the sacredness of life, in the respect for the body, and the relativization of sex, and the moral disintegration of marriage and the family, we as pastors emphasize the authentic meaning of our relationships of love, in their different expressions which, as a reflection of the love of God, must be free, total, faithful and fruitful,” the statement reads.

Participants in the gathering also noted that as a nine-year novena begins in preparation for the 400th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Charity, “We remember the petition made in 1915 by our co-patriots, veterans of the battle for Independence, to Pope Benedict XV to declare her patroness of Cuba.”

“We rejoice with the entire Church,” continues the statement, “at the election to the Chair of Peter of His Holiness Benedict XVI, to whom we promise our filial adherence.  At the same time, we rejoice at the ordination to the episcopate of three of our Cuban brother priests.”

“May the example of priestly commitment of these brothers, as well as that of all Cuban priests, inspire many young people to respond generously to the call of the Lord to work in His vineyard,” the text states.

Lastly, the priests and religious express solidarity with “the missionary and evangelistic effort which the Church in Cuba is carrying out, and we implore the blessings of our Holy Patroness, Mary of Charity, upon their sacrificial and generous labor.”

“We pray for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life and for the entire Cuban people who, although divided by time and geography, continue to be one in the love of God, of the Virgin and of country,” the document concludes.

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Mixed signals from China over normalization of ties with Vatican

Rome, Italy, Aug 1, 2005 (CNA) - Speculation has begun to grow over the significance of the Chinese government’s decision for the second time to give the green light to the ordination of a Catholic bishop faithful to Rome.

This week the Church in China announced the appointment of Antoine Dang Mingyan, 38, as the new Auxiliary Bishop of Xian.

Bishop Dang Mingyan was ordained on July 26 by Archbishop Anthony Li Duan of Xian, a diocese of about 20,000 Catholics.

The ordination occurred just one month after China gave official approval for the first time to an episcopal appointment by the Holy See.  That appointment was for Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Xing Wenzhi of Shanghai.

Although the Vatican and communist China have not maintained formal diplomatic ties since 1957, the recent coinciding in the appointment of bishops could have the practical effect of ending the division between the Catholic community faithful to Rome and so-called Patriotic Catholic Church, created by Mao Tse Tung in 1956 and whose first two bishops were excommunicated by the Holy See.

According to experts, China’s rhetoric towards the Vatican maintains the same tone, and although the government’s decisions reveal a growing interest in normalizing relations with the Holy See, the repression against Catholics continues.

In fact, at the same time that China coincided with the Vatican in the appointment of the two auxiliary bishops, the Cardinal Kung Foundation, headquartered in Connecticut, revealed this weekend that Chinese authorities brutally beat a group of Catholic faithful in the southeastern province of Fujian as they were attempting to prevent the arrest of Catholic priest who lives in hiding.

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Cardinal says Venezuelan President ‘needs exorcism’

, Aug 1, 2005 (CNA) - On Sunday, Venezuela’s Cardinal Rosalio Castillo, who has been a vocal critic of that country’s president, Hugo Chavez, called the leader a “paranoid dictator” and said there is no democracy in Venezuela.

In an interview Sunday, the Cardinal told the colombian newspaper El Tiempo, that Chavez’s government is despotic and accused him of rounding up some 100 political prisoners and torturing some.

Last month, Cardinal Castillo said that Chavez was gaining too much power and becoming a dictator. In turn, Chavez blasted the Cardinal calling him a “bandit” who has “the devil in him.”

Chavez insists he is a democratic leader and is widely favored for re-election next year.

The 82-year old Cardinal said that his statements were not personal but reflected the position of church leaders across Venezuela. "The difference is in the way it's said,” he pointed out. “There are those who speak diplomatically, and others like me who speak clearly so that everyone understands."

The Church has continually been the strongest critic of Chavez, who calls himself a self-styled “revolutionary.”

When asked by El Tiempo whether he would send a blessing to the president, Cardinal Castillo said, “more than a blessing, I’d give him an exorcism.”

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