Archive of August 8, 2005

Holy See calls for moratorium on production and use of land mines

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2005 (CNA) - During his address at the 11th session of the Convention for the prohibition or limitation of the use of some conventional weapons that can produce excessive or indiscriminate traumatic effects, the Holy See’s representative, Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, called for a moratorium on the production and use of hidden weapons, especially antipersonnel mines.

The archbishop noted that the use of certain armaments in numerous conflicts following World War II allow us today “to make objective judgments from the standpoint of humanitarian international law, as well as from a strictly pragmatic point of view, about the consequences of the use of an entire category of arms,” especially antipersonnel mines.

Archbishop Tomasi underscored that numerous humanitarian organizations have shown that today there is need “to seriously reflect on the legitimacy of the use of mines.”

“The dead and wounded victims of mines number in the millions,” he said, noting as well the difficulty they pose for refugees who wish to return to their homelands and for the development of those countries contaminated by unexploded mines.

The high rate of failure of these arms and the high civilian cost, explained Archbishop Tomasi, has led some countries to conclude that these arms “pose a serious and disproportionate problem with respect to their military advantage.”

“We cannot help but salute this choice for precaution and responsibility,” he said, adding that the Holy See fully supports the resolution of the European Parliament calling for “an immediate moratorium on the use, accumulation, production and transfer or exportation of mines.”

Archbishop Tomasi also noted that simply “limiting the reflection to the question of improving the quality of mines” would be insufficient and inadequate, “considering that because of their very concept, these are not weapons of precision” and that they “make distinction between military and civilian targets very difficult, if not impossible.” Thus, “the very legitimacy of these weapons is in question.”

Lastly, Archbishop Tomasi said the Holy See supports an international dialogue to create a regulatory body that would over see the use or elimination of these arms.  “The moratorium on the use of mines should be prolonged during this entire period of consultation.”

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Archbishop Levada prepares to leave for Rome amid prayers and few protesters

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 8, 2005 (CNA) - San Francisco's St. Mary's Cathedral was full to overflowing Sunday as  nearly 3,000 faithful gathered to say farewell to Archbishop William Levada, who will take over as Head of the Vatican's Congregation for the doctrine of the faith--a post previously held  by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and the highest ever held by an American.

In his new position, the Archbishop will be charged with safegaurding the teachings and doctrine  of the Catholic Church as handed down from the apostles some 2000 years ago. He is also expected to play a key role in dealing with the sexual abuse scandal which has been erupting in  the Church in the U.S. since 2002.

During his homily, Archbishop Levada echoed a favorite scripture reference of the late John  Paul II saying, "How grateful I am to be able to pray and celebrate this Eucharist with you  and to hear the words (of Jesus) that I need to hear: 'Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.' "

While the Archbishop's departure was predominantly marked by praise and support, a small group outside of the Cathedral was also on hand to protest renewed tension regarding the priestly sexual abuse scandal, particularly in the Archdiocese of Portland, where he served as ordinary  from 1986 to 1995.

According to the Associated Press, the Archbishop was handed a subpoena moments before

the start of the Mass asking him to testify about a number of priests accused of sexual abuse in  the Oregon archdiocese.

"From these windows, the archbishop said, "you see successes and failure...You see good and  evil. You see beauty and ugliness."

As he prepares to fill the large shoes of Cardinal Ratzinger, Archbishop Levada mused during  the Mass, "How should I measure my time here? By counting up accomplishments? By the  number of people I helped in the diocese to know the Lord better? Only God knows the  answer to that."

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Cleveland Bishop honors fallen soldiers in Iraq during special Mass

Cleveland, Ohio, Aug 8, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, shepherd of the Catholic Church in northeast Ohio,  honored slain members of an Ohio-based batallion serving in Iraq during a special Mass Sunday  during which he urged faithful to "Pray that the world can learn to resolve its conflicts in peaceful  ways."

Some 100 people turned out for the noontime Mass at Cleveland's St. John's Cathedral, where  the bishop offered prayers for family of the soldiers and for the community: "You talk about war  as an abstract thing until all of a sudden it touches you. It's your husband, your brother, your  son, your neighbor. It seems like the war over there. All of a sudden, it's the war over here."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted the Cathedral's Rev. Edward T. Estok Jr., who said that

the Ohio Marines's bravery should be an inspiratin to the community.

He praised "the valor and heroism of these young people," adding that, "Theirs is a high calling:  to lay down their lives for those they love."

Bishop Pilla  praised the soldiers for fighting "in the cause of freedom, justice and peace." He reiterated  however, the Church's call to seek justice without violence.

In a letter to members of the diocese, Bishop Pilla wrote this weekend  "Let us implore  Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to bring an end to violence, war and hatred around the  world."

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Catholic-Jewish interfaith group rebukes Israel’s attack on Pope Benedict

, Aug 8, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier this week, Gary Krupp, head of the Pave the Way Foundation, an organization seeking to improve relations between Catholics and Jews, rebuked Israeli leaders for their harsh words against Pope Benedict regarding what they saw as a failure of the Holy Father to recognize terrorist attacks aimed at Israel.

During a past Sunday‘s Angelus, the Pope deplored recent terrorist attacks on the countries of Brittan, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq--all of which had been hit within the previous 72 hours.

Israel’s foreign ministry quickly criticized Benedict for failing to mention the frequent attacks on Israel, the most recent of which had been 12 days prior.

Israel summoned a Vatican envoy and said that the Pope deliberately failed to include the country, charges which the Vatican has vehemently denied.

According to the Associated Press, Krupp asked the Pope to grant him and other Jewish leaders an audience to tell him “that we do believe that the pope is enormously supportive of the Jewish people and the state of Israel.”

He said that while Israel’s sensitivity was understandable, their protest of the Pope’s remarks should have been carried out privately, not on the world stage.

The Vatican had responded to Israel in a July 30th statement which read, “It is sad and surprising that it has gone unobserved how, for the past 26 years, Pope John Paul II's voice has been so often raised with force and passion in the dramatic situation in the Holy Land, condemning all terrorist acts and calling for sentiments of humanity and peace.”

The statement added that, "Not every attack against Israel could be followed by an immediate public condemnation… partly because they were “sometimes followed by immediate Israeli reactions not always compatible with the norms of international law. It would, consequently, have been impossible to condemn the former and remain silent on the latter.”

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Masonic Lodge in Italy appoints Catholic priest as chaplain, claims "openness" to Catholic Church

Rome, Italy, Aug 8, 2005 (CNA) - In an unusual show of “openness” to the Catholic Church, a Masonic lodge in Italy has announced the appointment of a Catholic priest as chaplain.  The news was announced during an address to members of the lodge by Grand Master Fabio Venzi of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Italy.

During his address announcing the appointment of the priest, whom he did not identify by name, Venzi explained what he considers to be the relationship between freemasonry and the Catholic Church.  “If we examine the documents at our disposal and if we look at the contrasts of the presumed incompatibility of the Catholic Church with freemasonry, we might get the impression that we find ourselves in the presence of a comedy of errors,” he said.

“The documents of the Holy See,” he continued, “are often based on Masonic realities which we consider ‘irregular,’ and therefore not representative of true Masonic tradition.”  “The rituals that have been studied and are considered typical of Masonic thought are not known exactly, but this does not appear to be a question of little importance, since we know that rituals can vary from lodge to lodge.”

Likewise, Venzi stated that “the first chapter of the book Freemasonry, by Zbigniew Suchecki of the Pontifical Lateran University and published by the Liberia Editrice Vaticana, notes: ‘During the last century, the Grand Eastern Lodge of France and the Grand Eastern Lodge of Italy were among the most anti-clerical Masonic lodges in the world.’  We hope that in the future, these lodges, which historically have represented the Anglo-Saxon Masonic tradition, not be considered typical.”

On the other hand, Venzi continued, “When a small opening was conceded, this was not done with much intelligence or common sense.  I am referring to Canon 2335 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law.  Under this norm, there was a sanction for Catholics who were members of organizations that in fact machinantur contra Ecclesiam, that is, that ‘plotted against the Church’.”

Venzi noted that “we have always treated the Holy See with great respect, and we have even named a lodge after Pius II, Enea Silvio Piccolomini.  This is unique in the history of freemasonry.”

At the end of address, Venzi announced the appointment of a grand official “who will probably be a part not only of the history of Italian freemasonry, but also of the history of freemasonry in the world, and I don’t think I am wrong.  The grand official I am appointing is a priest of the Catholic Church.  Let me say it again, of the Catholic Church.”

With this appointment, Venzi claimed to be “making a gesture of openness.  Never before has a Masonic lodge made such a gesture towards the Catholic Church, distancing itself from other irregular Masonic lodges that, with their anti-clericalism, have caused much harm to the image of freemasonry in the world.”

“We have played our part and we hope the Church will lay the groundwork and have the patience to deal with the peculiarities and differences within the world of freemasonry,” Venzi said in conclusion.

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Socialist party leader in Bolivia proposes legalization of abortion

La Paz, Bolivia, Aug 8, 2005 (CNA) - Bolivia’s Socialist Party leader Evo Morales said this week the government should approve a new law on sexual and reproductive rights, which would make abortion legal in the country.

The Bolivian Congress voted to review the new bill, which was already vetoed once by former president Carlos Mesa, but it will not be debated or put to a vote until the next legislative session in order to keep the bill from becoming a campaign issue in the upcoming elections.

The chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, Juan Gabriel Bautista, denounced the tactics by some members of Congress to move the bill through other committees in order to ensure passage.

According to local reports, Bautista said his committee was to provide information on the bill, but a strange agreement between some members of Congress led to the bill being moved through the Committee on Social Policies instead, which recommended it be approved.  Bautista said the committee was apparently under pressure from the UN Population Fund to vote in favor of the bill.

The Catholic Church, evangelical groups and pro-life and pro-family associations have all expressed their rejection of the proposed law.

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Bishops of Venezuela pledge to make Church more active and prominent

Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 8, 2005 (CNA) - At the conclusion of their Plenary Council, the bishops of Venezuela announced their intention to make the Church in that country more “missionary, active and committed in the building of a new society.”

During a press conference, Bishop Ovidio Perez Morales, President of the Plenary Council, said that during the meeting the bishops agreed to work together to make the Church more prominent in society, “more biblical” and “more effective in teaching the faith to Venezuelans,” because although the majority of the country is Catholic, “there are serious gaps and inconsistencies in the practice of the faith.”

The archbishop said a greater emphasis will be placed on family ministry and on the issue of human rights, as well as on encouraging the laity to participate more in the life of the Church, and on dialogue with other Christians.

Bishop Perez said the Holy See has approved the fifteen Council documents and that the changes will be introduced incrementally.  He also said the bishops would not be stepping away from their positions on the country’s problems, but that the mission they have in society would be more sharply focused.

The decision to completely review the Church’s entire ministry in Venezuela was made in 1996. At that time, Bishop Perez explained, it was decided “an analysis of the situation would be made along with the development of strategies and norms that would guide the Church in the coming years.”

“Just as the universal Church of today is not the same as before Vatican II, so also will it be with the Church in Venezuela,” he stated.

Lastly, he announced the Bishops’ Conference has launched a new website with news and information about the Church in that country.  The site is at

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Large group of Spaniards make pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Madrid, Spain, Aug 8, 2005 (CNA) - In what has been determined the largest pilgrimage ever from the Spanish region of Valencia, more than 180 Spaniards arrived in the Holy Land on August 8 to begin a “pilgrimage for peace,” led by Auxiliary Bishop Esteban Escudero of Valencia. 

Bishop Escudero, who has led pilgrimages to the Holy Land on 80 different occasions, is also director and professor at the Diocesan Institute of Religious Science, and professor of Theology at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute. 

The itinerary for the Holy Land pilgrimage includes visits to the Basilica and Grotto of the Annunciation, Mount Carmel, and the Sea of Galilee, as well as to the Mount of Beatitudes in Nazareth and the holy sites in Jerusalem.

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