Vatican City, Aug 25, 2005 (CNA) - As he received the new Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Pope Benedict expressed this Thursday his wishes that the new Iraqi constitution respects the right to religious freedom.
The vice-director of the press room of the Holy See, Fr. Ciro Benedettini, C.P, announced that the Pontiff received Zebari in a private audience, followed by another meeting with the Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
During both meetings “the current situation of Iraq was reviewed, with special reference to the text of the constitution, about to be presented for approval to the National Assembly and the special subject of religious freedom” informed Fr. Benedetttini
“Emphasis was put as well on the fact that reconstruction of the institutions in the country should take place in a climate of dialogue that involves all the religious groups and the diverse elements of society,” he concluded.
, Aug 25, 2005 (CNA) - The national director of Priests for Life praised two bishops who have issued policies that prohibit pro-abortion speakers and politicians from speaking at Church-sponsored events or on church property.
Bishops Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix and Jerome Listecki of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, issued similar decisions recently.
"This is about more than defending the integrity of Catholic teaching," said Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life national director. "It's about opposing an act of violence that cuts across and transcends all religious beliefs."
Vatican City, Aug 25, 2005 (CNA) - As he received the new Venezuelan Ambassador to the Vatican, , Iván Guillermo Rincón Urdaneta, Pope Benedict asked Hugo Chavez’s Government to respect a space of freedom for the Church, because the State doesn’t have “anything to fear” from her.
The Pope initiated his speech wishing the best for President Hugo Chavez, as well as “ my sincere sentiments of affection to the Venezuelan people, for which I pray the Almighty, that in the actual situation of his social and economical life, he seeks recklessly the most adapted solutions to reach ever higher objectives of justice, solidarity, in compliance with the Christian spirit, that has done so much to forge the national identity.
The Holy See, the Pope explained, follows very closely the events of this beloved ”Land of Grace” which he manifested in various occasions.
The Holy Father then reminded the “constant work of the Church in Venezuela often carried out precariously in terms of human and material resources.”
The Pope then singled out the right of the Bishops to express their own point of view, noting that the Church in fulfillment of its mission, proclaims the Gospel, and a message of forgiveness and reconciliation, that is the only way to reach a stable concord, forbidding that legitimate discrepancies lead to aggressive confrontations.
“It is well known that the social situation doesn’t better, applying exclusively technical means, but that attention has to be paid to fostering values, respecting the ethical dimension of the person, the family and the social life”, the Pope added.
The pope called for “various forms of fruitful collaboration between Church and State, in order to provide a better service to the development of the persons and to promote a spirit of coexistence in freedom and solidarity, which will profit all
“The Church needs this freedom to exercise its mission, choose its Pastors, and guide its faithful.”
Finally, Pope Benedict concluded saying “I hope that the actual difficulties in the Church-State relations vanish and return to be this fruitful collaboration following the noble Venezuelan tradition.”
Steubenville, Ohio, Aug 25, 2005 (CNA) - Mike Kent grew up Catholic in Florida. He attended the University of Central Florida for a year and played football. Then he went to World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto.
"I had an empty feeling in my heart, and I thought it would be filled by partying and things like that," he told NBC's Today show Monday. "It was when I went to World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada, in 2002, and I met the Lord."
The young man's encounter with Jesus was so strong that he withdrew from UCF, left for Rome to learn more about his faith and then enrolled at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Since then, he says, the environment at the Franciscan University has nurtured every aspect of his life.
"Academically, my grades have never been better," says Kent. "When I work, my work ethic is better. I have something to live for."
"We're combining faith and reason, academics and spiritual life," says university president Fr. Terence Henry, "and it seems students hunger for both, and we've got a beautiful way of combining it. It seems to work and the proof is in the pudding,"
The university will be prominently featured in the latest edition of Newsweek. The national magazine has conducted a special study on the surge in spirituality in the United States.
Cologne, Germany, Aug 25, 2005 (CNA) - Terry Polakovic is serious about helping young women discover their dignity. Last week, she and other representatives of the Denver-based ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) program, traveled to Cologne to share their message at their largest venue ever--at the 20th World Youth Day.
In her talk, presented to almost 1,000 people in Bonn, Germany, 15 minutes from Cologne, Polakovic said that, “The mission of ENDOW is “to educate women towards a deeper, more profound understanding of their God-given dignity and vocation as women.” We do this by offering study materials that reflect the beautiful teachings on women which is found in the Catholic faith.”
Speaking to CNA in their Denver office just before the group left for Germany, Polakovic said that she was nervous to share the ENDOW vision before a world audience. “I’m really just praying that we reach the heart of just one girl,” She said.
“One girl”, she pointed out, “can have such an impact on her family, friends and whole community.”
Polakovic, who has likely reached many more than that, told her audience in Germany that, “John Paul II called all of us to change the current ‘culture of death’ to a ‘culture of life.’ When we started ENDOW just over two years ago, we desired to actively participate in the great call to help change the culture.”
“Our goal”, she pointed out, “is to educate women (and also men) and to help them start looking at things through the eyes of the Church, the expert in humanity, particularly in the area regarding the dignity and vocation of women.”
Polakovic told CNA that they were dedicating the entire project to the late Pope John Paul, whose Theology of the Body and catechesis on human sexuality have largely inspired ENDOW’s work.
Noting the vast societal confusion over the nature and place of women, Polakovic cited Pope Paul VI, who in 1965, “offered these words in his closing speech to the Second Vatican Council: “The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved.”
“That is why,” he said, “at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.”
Polakovic pointed out that while in the 40 years since the second Vatican Council, the “rights” of women have expanded by leaps and bounds, their “dignity” is misunderstood and often ignored.
Citing so-called “reproductive rights” like abortion, and the scourge of pornography, magazines and media which portray women as mere objects, Polakovic says that women can only find their true dignity in the heart of God, who created them as “unrepeatable mysteries.”
Kristin Shearer, a former executive assistant with ENDOW recalled a recent talk that she had with a group of high school students. She told CNA that “after the girls had silently walked around and looked at the "Wall of Lies" (a compilation of magazine cut outs showing how women tend to be objectified in the media today) - I asked them what they thought. One girl said, “those women don't truly know who they are, and those
pictures do not show who they really are either.”
The response, she said, was a perfect lead-in for sharing the message about who the girls “really are as daughters of God. Before I even said a thing it seemed that she already knew that your dignity does not come from the world, it comes from God.”
It is that message, say the ENDOW leaders, that they want to bring out of the hearts of the young people they work with.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 25, 2005 (CNA) - Spanish police are investigating the authenticity and credibility of a message sent by fax to the Madrid daily ABC, allegedly in the name of Al Qaeda, which threatens terrorist to lead attacks against the Vatican and justifies the attacks in Spain, the United Kingdom, and Italy.
Written in Arabic, the message criticizes the Vatican for its alleged role in the Jewish holocaust of the Nazis and calls the attacks carried out recently in Europe acts “of personal defense against the terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The message also claims the Vatican has supported the war in Iraq at the behest of capitalist countries that are interested in the country’s oil supply. Those responsible for the military campaign “will pay for what they have done,” the message says.
According to ABC, the message mixes together information about the Nazi party and its support from the Vatican. Investigators said that this portion of the message seems to “have been copied from some article or book, and in fact one paragraph includes quotes from an article published in The New York Times in December of 1941.”
The message was sent first to ABC’s offices in Barcelona and minutes later to its offices in Madrid. The Spanish television network TVE received the same message two days earlier. ABC reported that the message appears to have come from "an Al Qaeda sympathizer rather than a cell member,"
Bogotá, Colombia, Aug 25, 2005 (CNA) - President Álvaro Uríbe Velez of Colombia has promised Church leaders in his country he has sent a letter to the country’s congressional body urging lawmakers not to pass a proposed law that would legalize abortion.
The vice president of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Ivan Antonio Marin, said, “The President is going to make known a letter he sent to Congress regarding the opposition to abortion. The President ordered the letter be publicly disclosed.”
Congressman Jose Luis Arcila proposed a bill that would have changed Colombian law to allow for abortion in cases of rape, artificial insemination or in the case of “non-consenting implantation of a fertilized egg.”
Other lawmakers said abortion should be completely legalized in Colombia in order to comply with international agreements signed by the government, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
The secretary general of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Fabian Marulanda, noted that upon ratifying the CEDAW, President Uríbe made himself clear that “approval of the protocol would not imply approval of abortion.”
, Aug 25, 2005 (CNA) - A panel of judges in Brasilia has ordered a Catholic priest to pay a fine for using the word “pro-abortion” to describe anthropologist Debora Diniz Rodrigues, a renowned defender of abortion and director of the Institute on Bioethics, Human Rights and Gender.
Last week judges in Brasilia ordered Father Luiz Carlos Lodi da Cruz, president of the Pro-life Association of Anapolis, to pay a fine of $3,000 for damages against Diniz.
The judges also ordered Father Lodi to refrain from using the word “pro-abortion” to describe those who defend abortion. Upon hearing the sentence, the Brazilian priest wondered aloud “what adjective should be used then to describe someone who defends abortion, since certainly one who defends divorce is not offended by being called pro-divorce nor is a supporter of Communism by being called a communist.”
“The judges failed to indicate which word in our language is acceptable, and has the same meaning but is non-offensive, for describing someone who openly defends abortion.” Father Lodi said.
An appeals court rejected a motion by Father Lodi to have the sentence struck down, and his only recourse now is to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court.
Father Lodi noted it was the first time such a sentence has ever been issued against a non-profit organization that could lead to its bankruptcy, as well as the first time silence has been imposed on pro-life citizens.
According to Brazilian journalist Olavo de Carvalho of the Diario do Comercio of Sao Paulo, the ruling is a “monumental absurdity” which is in no way binding on the accused.
De Carvalho said the sentence implies one of two things: “Either the prohibition they imposed applies to all Brazilian citizens or exclusively to Father Lodi. If it’s the first, then the judges went way beyond their capacities as judges and have turned themselves into lawmakers” and “for the first time in history jurisprudence have prohibited speech. If it is the second, they have denied a specific citizen the right to free speech enjoyed by everyone else, thus resulting in the most naked act of personal discrimination to ever take place in the history of Brazilian justice.”
Taipei, Taiwan, Aug 25, 2005 (CNA) - Outraged Catholics in Taipei have succeeded in having an offensive ad pulled, reported AFP.
The ad, which was part of an anti-AIDS campaign, featured a woman dressed as a nun, holding a condom and saying: "Although I don't use it, I know [what a condom is]."
The posters were put up at several Taipei transit stations.
Taipei City's Sexually-Transmitted Disease Control Center, which commissioned the poster, issued an apology. In addition, all posters and digital files were reportedly destroyed.
The Taiwanese are mainly Buddhist and Taoist. There are about 300,000 Catholics.
Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 25, 2005 (CNA) - The President of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Baltazar Porras, expressed the bishops’ repudiation of evangelist Pat Robertson’s call to assassinate President Hugo Chavez, saying the comments were incompatible with the Christian faith.
During a televised episode of the 700 Club on Monday, Robertson said, "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we are trying to assassinate him, we should go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot easier than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will stop." "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
On Wednesday Robertson backtracked and said his comments were taken out of context . "I said our special forces should go 'take him out,' and 'take him out' could be a number of things, including kidnapping."
Archbishop Porras said the statements could not be supported by any Christian or person of faith, or by anybody who has any respect for human rights.
“We repudiate and absolutely reject these comments and we consider them to be simply misplaced,” he said.
The archbishop said that difference should be resolved “in a civilized way and not by having recourse to violence, weapons or the elimination of any person.”
He also noted that Robertson’s spoke for himself and not for the United States.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 25, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Emeritus Miguel Esteban Hesayne of Viedma, Argentina, said this week the Church is not a corporation and should not be seen as “just another competing power” in the country.
Bishop Hesayne pointed out the erroneous view that some have about the Church in Argentina, where many politicians claim to be Christians but live in way that “has little to do with the attitudes and beliefs of Jesus Christ.”
The bishop went on to note that those who criticize the Church are not always attacking Jesus, but rather a false idea of the faith that the Church can fall into when she is influenced by ideologies or the powerful. This deformation of the faith in Jesus and in the Church He founded is unfortunately not uncommon, he said.
This concept of the Church, he added, is a “deformation of the authentic concept of Jesus for His Church. And in a deformed concept of the Church one cannot in turn discover the authentic face of Jesus and His very personal salvific mission.” Bishop Hesayne called on the faithful to live the Magnificat and recognize themselves as “limited in their humanity” and to open themselves “to the kingdom of God in history.”