Archive of October 20, 2005

Leaders denounce new wave of repression in Cuba against dissidents

Havana, Cuba, Oct 20, 2005 (CNA) -

The Nuevo Herald of Miami is denouncing a new crackdown on dissidents by the Cuban government, pointing to the recent case of a Catholic deacon who was beaten and mistreated in front of his own wife and children on their way to Mass.


According to a statement by Bishop Hector Peña Gomez of Holguin, Deacon Andres Rodriguez Tejada and his family had just left their home to attend Mass at the Cathedral of Holguin when they were approached by two men who repeatedly struck Tejada in the face and chest.


“This incident and others, which do not appear to be so uncommon, are creating a growing unrest in residents of the area and in priests and religious.  There have been innumerable calls to the chancery inquiring about the veracity of these events,” Bishop Peña said.


The Nuevo Herald also reported that Ernesto Martinez Fonseca, member of the Christian Liberation Movement, his wife Judith Arbesu, and their two daughters, 8 and 10, were forcibly removed from there home where they had been living since 2000.


“The couple said that dozens of police offers and state officials participated in the removal and claimed that they were illegally living there,” the newspaper reported.


Opposition leader Vladimiro Roca denounced the detaining of Niurka Brito Rivas, “who was planning on the blowing the whistle to the media about an alleged case of management corruption at the regional dairy products factory in Havana.”


Despite the repression, the article reported that in Camagüey the Ladies in White—spouses and family members of political prisoners—held a silent march calling for the release of all political prisoners.


“We wish to say to all the organizations that defend the rights of man that we are not afraid.  We are doing nothing more than in silence saying what others are afraid to and we will continue to go to God’s house each Sunday dressed in white in order to pray for the health of our family members,” said Maidelin Guerra, the group’s spokesman.


In Havana, on the other hand, “30 pro-Castro demonstrators, in an ‘act of repudiation,’ gathered outside the home of Soledad Rivas Verdecia, member of the Ladies in White and wife of political prisoner Roberto de Miranda, who has been temporarily allowed to leave prison for health reasons.”

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Bishop prays to Lord of the Miracles for Peru to rediscover its Christian roots

Lima, Peru, Oct 20, 2005 (CNA) - During the annual veneration of a statue of the Crucified Christ, known as the Lord of the Miracles, the most popular devotion in Peru, Auxiliary Bishop of Lima, Jose Antonio Eguren, called on the faithful to pray that the country rediscover its Christian roots.

During the celebrations, which took place at the Archbishop of Lima’s residence, Bishop Eguren reminded those in attendance that Christ’s love must lead to repentance from sin, the reception of the Sacrament of Penance, a purpose of amendment and the rejection of evil, injustice and feelings of revenge.  “When one is touched by the love of the Lord, life is transformed and the heart is filled with peace and joy,” he said.

The bishop emphasized that only through the power of God’s love would Peruvians be able to build the country for which they have always wished.

He said Peru needed to discover anew its Christian roots, recognizing that the country “was forged by the fire of Evangelization, its identity is profoundly Catholic, the deepest values of our cultural identity are those of the faith.  Only through our Christian and Catholic faith will it be possible to rebuild that Peru which will all long for, where truth and love reign in our lives,” he added.

The entire month of October is dedicated to the devotion of the Lord of the Miracles.  The famous image has been venerated in the country for 354 years, and each October thousands of Peruvians travel to the country’s capital to participate in the processions and veneration.

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Pre-natal testing: weeding out society's undesirables?

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2005 (CNA) - Former Washington Post writer Patricia E. Bauer summed up the rarely-discussed pre-natal testing issue well with the headline of her recent column: ‘The Abortion Debate no one wants to have.’

Bauer is the mother of teenage Margaret--a child born with Down syndrome, and a constant reminder of what she sees as the slanted cultural view of children born with disabilities.

“Whenever I am out with Margaret,” she wrote, “I’m conscious that she represents a group whose ranks are shrinking because of the wide availability of prenatal testing and abortion. I don’t know how many pregnancies are terminated because of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome, but some studies estimate 80 to 90 percent.”

She cited an overwhelming medical view, which suggests that parents have an obligation to undergo prenatal testing to determine whether their child might have a physical or mental disability, and therefore need to be terminated. She quoted an unnamed Ivy League ethics director who said that it was immoral to bring a disabled child into the world knowing “the kind of suffering he or she would have to endure.”

Bauer, who lives with her family in California, lamented that “As Margaret bounces through life, especially out here in the land of the perfect body, I see the way people look at her: curious, surprised, sometimes wary, occasionally disapproving or alarmed.”

“I know that most women of childbearing age that we may encounter”, she said, “have judged her and her cohort, and have found their lives to be not worth living.”

“To them, Margaret falls into the category of avoidable human suffering. At best, a tragic mistake. At worst, a living embodiment of the pro-life movement. Less than human. A drain on society. That someone I love is regarded this way is unspeakably painful to me.”

Wake up call

Bauer states that the pre-natal testing question is “a small but nonetheless significant part of what's driving the abortion discussion in this country.”

“I have to think”, she said, “that there are many pro-choicers who, while paying obeisance to the rights of people with disabilities, want at the same time to preserve their right to ensure that no one with disabilities will be born into their own families.”

The abortion debate is not just about a woman's right to choose whether to have a baby; it's also about a woman's right to choose which baby she wants to have.” Commentator Daniel Pulliam agrees. He suggested in a recent blog on, that the frequent abortion of Down syndrome, and otherwise disabled children is a story which the mainstream media needs to wake up to.

He expressed some hope however, that Bauer’s Washington Post piece would encourage members of the media  “to explore the damage legal abortions have done to our society.”

Bauer recalled that “In ancient Greece, babies with disabilities were left out in the elements to die. We in America rely on prenatal genetic testing to make our selections in private, but the effect on society is the same.”

The fact is, she says, there are numerous educational and medical reforms which are allowing people with disabilities to live much longer and healthier lives than they could 20 years ago.

However, “Margaret's old pediatrician”, she wrote with a bit of irony, “tells me that years ago he used to have a steady stream of patients with Down syndrome. Not anymore. Where did they go, I wonder. On the west side of L.A., they aren't being born anymore, he says.”

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Denver couple launches ‘Prayer for Priests’ program

Denver, Colo., Oct 20, 2005 (CNA) -  As the Catholic priesthood--wracked with sexual scandal and debate over the nature of the vocation--faces criticism from many in both the secular and Catholic world, one Denver couple is trying to build up and encourage area priests--calling on the laity for support.

Bob and Mary Dalton, who live in a suburb south of the city, began the “Prayer for Priests” program when they realized the daunting task of guiding their flocks through the current culture.

“I don’t know exactly where the idea came from,” Bob Dalton told the Denver Catholic Register. “Mary and I just wanted to figure out a way to get more prayers said for them.”

As the program is structured, lay participants are each given the name of a priest to pray for daily and write occasional letters of encouragement.

“All we asked for was a daily commitment,” Bob Dalton said. “We weren’t asking for a daily rosary or an hour of adoration: just a short prayer.”

The two-fold goal of the program is first, to assure prayers for every priest in the archdiocese, and second, to let the priests know that they are supported and being prayed for.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput commended the couple on their endeavor. He said in a letter to the Daltons that, “Prayers for our priests are extraordinarily important. Thank you for your support and commitment in encouraging our people to do that.”

The response, Bob told the Register, has been “more than we hoped for…and more people continue to ask how they can be a part of it.”

When the couple began their project, 250 priests were listed in the archdiocese directory. Today, they estimate that between 600-700 faithful are praying for priests daily.

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Pope Benedict picks a layman as new coordinator of his official trips

, Oct 20, 2005 (CNA) - The layman Alberto Gasbarri, administrative and technical director of Vatican Radio, is the new person in charge of organizing the apostolic trips of Pope Benedict XVI, revealed the Italian press.

Gasbarri, a father of 52 years old, was designated by the Secretary of State to replace Msgr. Renato Boccardo, informed the Vatican Correspondant for the Italian daily “Il Giornale,” Andrea Tornielli.

According to Tornielli, the naming was made this past October 14, through a letter of Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, sent to the different dicasteries of the Vatican. In the letter according to “Il Giornale,” Cardinal Sodano communicated that the Pope, “after reflecting on the structure of the work required for the preparation of his apostolic visits, and the numerous responsibilities of Msgr. (Renato) Boccardo, as Secretary General of the Gubernator, chose Alberto Gasbarri.”

Gasbarri is not new in the position. For years he worked under the direction of now Cardinal Roberto Tucci, who during almost 20 years coordinated the numerous trips of Pope John Paul II.

The first test for Gasbarri will be Benedict XVI’s trip to Poland, which he announced during his interview to the polish television, and that will take place in June 2006.

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Pope will attend the premiere of miniseries from CBS on Pope John Paul II

, Oct 20, 2005 (CNA) - The TV channel CBS confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI will attend the preview of the new television miniseries on the life of John Paul II that will be released shortly in the United States.

The miniseries of four hours titled  “Pope John Paul II,” will be presented on November 17 at the Vatican, and broadcast in the United States on December 4 and 7.

The Series narrates the life of Karol Wojtila, from his youth in Poland until the  final days of his pontificate. The actor Cary Elsewal will play the part of the young pope Wojtyla, while Jon Voight will play the part of the older John Paul II.

The shooting of the miniseries counted with the support of the Vatican, which permitted the use of Saint Peter’s square.

Some scenes were shot in Poland, and aroused such a commotion among the polish figurants that Voight, moved by the esteem and reverence for the figure of the Pope, had to ask for a break to recover from such an emotion.

The series is produced by an Italian production company LUX VIDE, which also produced the successful movie on Padre Pio and Mother Theresa. The President of LUX VIDE, Ettore Berbabei- former president of the RAI- noted to CNA, that he wished to wait for the death of the Pontiff, before releasing the movie. The scenario was at work for five years already.

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Alternative embryonic stem-cell procedures miss the mark, say Christian doctors

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2005 (CNA) - The United States’ largest association of faith-based physicians says two recently reported developments in embryonic stem-cell research, purportedly designed to allay ethical concerns, “do not circumvent the moral dilemmas of destroying living human beings or exposing them to harm.” Both methods were reported in the October 17 online edition of Nature.

While applauding the search for ethical alternatives, the Christian Medical Association’s leaders note that one procedure involves programming an embryo genetically so that it cannot successfully implant and develop in the uterus.

"Just because scientists have created a genetic time bomb in the embryo does not change its essential human nature,” said CMA executive director Dr. David Stevens.

Another procedure involves removing a cell from an eight-cell embryo, then developing that removed cell in order to harvest embryonic stem cells.

"The cell taken from the embryo to start an embryonic stem cell line, a separated blastomere, is actually a totipotent cell that can develop into a complete organism--a human baby. This process is essentially artificial identical twinning,” Stevens explained in a press release.

"Embryologists have long recognized that these early developing human cells, called blastomeres, have a regulative nature--a strong tendency for the system to be restored to wholeness,” he said. This has been proven in the case of separated blastomeres of animals.

"So to emphasize that the original embryo is not killed is actually to employ a scientific sleight of hand,” said Stevens. “Researchers using this process may not destroy the first embryo, but they do destroy the second one.”

Stevens said this technique also exposes the surviving human being to potential risk. “Even if the surviving embryo is implanted in a womb, no one knows the long-term effect … on children born after being subjected to the procedure.”

In the meantime, he added, “adult stem cells are already providing real cures for real patients.”

His colleague CMA associate executive director Dr. Gene Rudd added: “Clinical trials and treatments using adult stem cells currently provide verifiable progress in treating the very diseases that embryonic stem cell researchers boast that they may cure in 10 years.

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Conference to discuss developments for Latin mass under Pope Benedict XVI

Providence, R.I., Oct 20, 2005 (CNA) - A three-day conference next month will discuss issues related to the traditional Latin Mass under the papacy of Benedict XVI.

The conference is organized by Una Voce America, an international organization dedicated to promoting the return of the traditional Latin mass in parishes worldwide. There are 70 chapters of Una Voce in the United States.

The conference, entitled Tradition in the 21st Century: The Mission of Una Voce in the Papacy of Benedict XVI, will be held in Providence, R.I., Nov. 18-20, and will feature Bishop Fernando Rifan of Campos, Brazil, as the guest of honor.

Other speakers include Fr. Joseph Wilson, contributor to, Fr. Thomas Kocik, writer, and Fra Fredrik Crichton-Stuart, newly-elected FIUV president.

The weekend will include lectures and presentations, liturgies, Holy Hours, an array of devotions, a high mass and a Communion breakfast. Mass on Saturday morning will be celebrated according to the Rite of Braga, one of the liturgical forms protected under the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Confessions will also be available throughout the weekend.

According to the organizers, an increasing number of Catholics worldwide have become devoted to the traditional Latin mass, which was celebrated universally by the western Church prior to the Second Vatican Council, after which the vernacular came in use.

In 1988, Pope John Paul II confirmed that the traditional Latin mass is permitted throughout the Church, with the approval of the local bishop. Since then, Una Voce says, over half the dioceses of the United States have established weekly Latin masses.

The organization noted that, prior to his election as Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger promoted a “wide and generous application” of the traditional Latin mass. At a 1998 lecture in Rome before 3,000 Catholics, then-Cardinal Ratzinger noted that the many Latin mass communities which have emerged since 1988 “have given the Church a great number of priestly and religious vocations … through them, many of the faithful have been confirmed in the joy of being able to live the liturgy, and confirmed in their love for the Church, or perhaps they have rediscovered both.”

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Cardinal Cassidy's book to mark 40 years of ecumenism

Sydney, Australia, Oct 20, 2005 (CNA) - Jewish, Catholic and political leaders gathered at the Great Synagogue in Sydney today to mark the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, a document that emerged from the Second Vatican Council and calls for a renewed relationship between Christians and Jews and an end to anti-Semitism.

The occasion will be marked with the launch of a book by Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the president-emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews. His book, entitled “Rediscovering Vatican II - Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue”, will be presented by his successor, Cardinal Walter Kasper, in a video message from Rome.

"Forty years have passed since the Second Vatican Council, and the generation that personally experienced it is now passing away,” says Cardinal Kasper in the video. “The younger generation perceives it as a distant and historical event, perhaps even concluded. Yet the contrary is true: the insights and teachings of the Council have never been more relevant and fundamental.”

There will feature also be speeches by the Emeritus Chief Minister of the Great Synagogue, Rabbi Raymond Apple, Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee, recorded in Jerusalem. Cardinal Cassidy will also address those gathered.

The commemoration function will be presided by the governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir AC and is jointly promoted by the St Thomas More Society and the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies.

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Mexican bishop calls on faithful to tithe

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 20, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Rafael Romo Muñoz of Tijuana, Mexico, called on the faithful this week to actively participate in the diocesan tithing campaign so that the Church could have the necessary funds to carry out the work of evangelization.

The Tithing 2005 campaign will begin on the first Sunday of November and will last the entire month. The purpose of the project is to make Catholics aware of their responsibility to economically sustain the Church.

Bishop Muñoz explained that just as the government needs tax money, the Church needs to count on the collaboration of her members.

“The government uses measures to force people to fulfill their obligations, but in our case we don’t force anybody, but we do ask for the support we need so much for our city’s Diocese,” he stated.

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