Archive of November 14, 2005

Birth-control patch may damage health, cause death, FDA warns

, Nov 14, 2005 (CNA) - Users of the Ortho Evra birth-control patch are at a higher risk of blood clots and other serious side effects, which may include death, warned the Food and Drug Administration Thursday.

The new warning label for the drug says that women using the patch are exposed to about 60 percent more estrogen than those using typical birth-control pills. These elevated levels may be high enough to increase some women's risk of blood clots, reported the Associated Press.

Although most pills and the patch have the same amount of estrogen at the outset, hormones from patches go directly into the bloodstream. As well, the patch causes higher estrogen levels in the body since delivery of medication is continuous. Pills, on the other hand, are absorbed into the bloodstream through the digestive system. In the process, about half of the estrogen dose in the pill is lost.

Until now, regulators and patch-maker Ortho McNeil, a Johnson and Johnson subsidiary, had maintained the patch was expected to be associated with similar risks as the pill, reported the AP.

Four months ago, the AP had reported that patch users die and suffer blood clots at a rate three times higher than women taking the pill.

The AP also found that federal death and injury reports stated that about a dozen women, most in their late teens and early 20s, died in 2004 from blood clots believed to be related to the patch, and dozens more survived strokes and other clot-related problems.

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Wal-Mart bends to demands by Catholic League

, Nov 14, 2005 (CNA) - Wal-Mart officials have restored the theme of Christmas to their Web site and rescinded outlandish statements made by an employee about the origin of Christmas after the Catholic League filed a series of complaints of discrimination.

"This is a sweet victory for the Catholic League, Christians in general, and people of all faiths," said Catholic League president Bill Donohue, according to a report by

The controversy was sparked when a woman recently complained that Wal-Mart was replacing its "Merry Christmas" greeting with "Happy Holidays."

The woman reportedly received an e-mail response from a customer-service representative, which read: "Walmart is a worldwide organization and must remain conscious of this. The majority of the world still has different practices other than "christmas" which is an ancient tradition that has its roots in Siberian shamanism. The colors associated with "christmas" red and white are actually a representation of of the aminita mascera mushroom. Santa is also borrowed from the Caucuses, mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal. It is a wide wide world."

Wal-Mart spokesperson Dan Fogleman confirmed the original note was written by a Wal-Mart representative named Kirby. He responded: "We at Wal-Mart believe this e-mail between a temporary associate and one of our valued customers was entirely inappropriate. Its contents in no way represent the policies, practices or views of our company. This associate, who was hired less than three weeks ago, is no longer employed by our company."

Fogleman apologized for the employee’s comments, calling them "inappropriate and inflammatory."

Donohue pointed to the company Web site for an example of discrimination against Christmas. If the word "Hanukkah" was typed in the search engine, 200 retail items were returned. The term "Kwanzaa" returned 77. But when "Christmas" was entered, the message said: "We've brought you to our 'Holiday' page based on your search."

Donohue said Wal-Mart has also adjusted its Web site so that when a customer types "Christmas" in its search engine, the customer is taken directly to a site named "Christmas."

However, Wal-Mart says it will not change its policy of encouraging employees to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," Donohue reported.

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Iraqi president visits Pope Benedict, tomb of John Paul II

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2005 (CNA) - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met in a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI last week and, the next day, capped his weeklong stay in Italy with a 90-minute visit to the tomb of Pope John Paul II.

According to a report by AFP, Talabani also made a brief visit to the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel.

During their meeting Thursday, Talabani and the Pope discussed the Church’s concerns about religious freedom and reconstruction in Iraq.

Two days earlier, Talabani asked the Italian government to keep its troops in Iraq until the end of 2006. He warned of a "catastrophe" if international forces were to suddenly withdraw, reported the AFP.

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Miami sees strong witness to Jesus in young Jesuit

Miami, Fla., Nov 14, 2005 (CNA) -

One of the most well-known and admired people in Miami has not gained popularity due to wealth or celebrity but from his commitment to witness to Jesus as the city’s youngest Jesuit.

Fr. Willie Garcia-Tuñon, 35, teaches philosophy and spiritually guides the students at his alma mater, Miami’s boys-only Belén Jesuit Preparatory School.

Fr. Garcia-Tuñon is often seen as the future of Belén, whose history spans more than 150 years, reported the Miami Herald. His love and enthusiasm for the school and the students are evident at Belén sports games, where he is spotted cheering loudly from the sidelines. The appreciation students have for him is evident in their familiar greeting when they see him the school corridors: "Hey, Father Willy."

Many young people and his peers seek him out for counseling and confession and comment on his joy. The crimson birthmark, which stretches across his face, makes the young priest easily recognizable.

"The reason I'm so happy in my life is because my purpose is extraordinarily clear," Fr. Garcia-Tuñon recently told the Miami Herald. His popularity has even led people to fly him in to celebrate their weddings and children's baptisms.

His credibility comes from the fact that he practices what he preaches, people say. It also helps that he grew up in the same school and social environment as the people he now serves.

Fr. Garcia-Tuñon was born and raised in Miami in a large family. He has nine siblings, and his father owns a large engineering and construction company, Lemartec. He attended Belén and was active in the school’s pastoral groups, graduating in 1987. He told the Herald that he was curious about being a priest since his days at Belén, when he idolized the Jesuits who ran the school.

He has also gone on missions to help the poor in the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile and Mexico.

State Rep. Marcelo Llorente, a 1994 Belén graduate, said he goes to the young priest for confession. "In our chaotic daily lives, his example brings perspective to the priorities that we should all hold true, the priorities of God and family and humility," Llorente told the Miami Herald.

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Three proclaimed Blessed: all servants of the poor and adorers of Christ, says Pope

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2005 (CNA) - On Sunday, the Church presented three more men and women as major models of Christian holiness as Charles de Foucauld, Maria Pia Mastena and Maria Crocifissa Curcio were all pronounced Blessed in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided at the Eucharistic celebration, during which he pronounced the words of Beatification--in the name of Pope Benedict--over the group.

Following the Mass, Pope Benedict himself arrived at the basilica to venerate the relics of the newly Blesseds.

There, he greeted the throngs of pilgrims present and also imparted his apostolic blessing.

Speaking in French, the Holy Father first gave thanks to God for the testimony of Fr. Foucauld, who lived from 1858-1916.

"Through his contemplative and hidden life at Nazareth," the Pope said, "he found the truth of Jesus' humanity, inviting us to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation.”

“He discovered that Jesus - Who came to unite Himself to us in our humanity - invites us to that universal brotherhood which he later experienced in the Sahara, and to that love of which Christ set us the example.”

“As a priest,” Benedict noted, “he put the Eucharist and the Gospel at the center of his life."

The Pope then went on to note the modern relevance of Maria Pia Mastena (1881-1951) , foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Holy Countenance who, "assimilated the Son of God's loving kindness towards humanity disfigured by sin, gave concrete form to His gestures of compassion, and devised an institute with the aim of 'propagating, repairing and restoring sweet Jesus' image in people's souls'."

Speaking finally of Maria Crocifissa Curcio (1877-1957), who founded of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, the Holy Father highlighted the fact that at the center of her life "was the presence of merciful Jesus, Whom she encountered and adored in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.”

“True passion for souls”, he said, “was what characterized the existence of Mother Maria Crocifissa who enthusiastically cultivated 'spiritual repair' in order to repay Jesus' love for us. Her life was a continuous prayer even when she went out to help others, especially poor and needy girls."

65 cardinals and bishops, were on hand to concelebrate the Beatification Mass.

Among them were Cardinals Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, and Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; Archbishops Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, France, and Vincent Landel S.C.I. of Rabat, Morocco; and Bishop Elias Lahham of Tunis, Tunisia.

During his homily, Cardinal Saraiva Martins pointed out that Fr. Foucauld, a French missionary who passed much of his life among the Tuareg, a nomadic people of the Sahara, "exercised an important influence on the spirituality of the 20th century.”

“At the beginning of this third millennium”, the Cardinal continued, “he continues to be a fruitful point of reference and an invitation to a radically evangelical form of life."

He said that the newly-Blessed stood out for his "acceptance of the Gospel in its simplicity, evangelizing without imposing, bearing witness to Jesus Christ while respecting other religions, and reaffirming the primacy of charity in fraternity."

Turning to the Italian nun Maria Pia Mastena, Cardinal Martins noted that her congregation has spread throughout Italy, Brazil and Indonesia, and that she herself made it her mission to take Christ to the poorest and most abandoned.

Her motto, he noted, was "when a brother is sad and suffering, it is our duty to bring a smile back to his face."

Finally, the cardinal remembered Maria Crocifissa Curcio who, he said, "was a simple and strong woman, seized by the love of God, stretching towards heaven while stooping attentively over the earth, especially over suffering and needy humanity."

Sunday’s beatifications were the latest in a string--particularly over the last few weeks--of men and women continuing paths to sainthood begun by the late Pope John Paul II.


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Pope says lay mission of Church depends on personal holiness, communal influence on society

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2005 (CNA) - Following Sunday Mass at St. Peter‘s Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI joined thousands of pilgrims gathered below his study window in praying the Angelus. He also issued a particular challenge to lay members of the Church to unite themselves with Christ.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, had celebrated the Mass and pronounced Charles de Foucauld, Maria Pia Mastena, and Maria Crocifissa Curcio, as Blessed.

Before the Marian prayer, the Pope pointed out that these new Blesseds "join the numerous ranks of Blesseds who were presented for veneration during the pontificate of John Paul II,... in keeping with the principle strongly emphasized during Vatican Council II: that all the baptized are called to the perfection of Christian life, priests, religious and laity, each according to their own charism and their specific vocation."

The Pope specifically recalled the importance given by Vatican Council II to the role of the laity, to whom, he noted, that it dedicated "an entire chapter, the fourth, of the Constitution 'Lumen gentium'“

He said that this document defined “their vocation and their mission, which are rooted in Baptism and Confirmation and oriented towards 'engaging in temporal affairs and ... ordering them according to the plan of God'."

The Fathers of the second Vatican Council, said the Pope, also approved a specific decree on the apostolate of the laity, called 'Apostolicam actuositatem.'

This document, he said, highlights how "the 'success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity's living union with Christ,' in other words, it depends on a robust spirituality, nourished by active participation in the liturgy and expressed in the manner of the evangelical Beatitudes."

"For the laity,” the Pope stressed, “professional competence, a sense of family, public spirit and social virtues are also of great importance.”

He said however that “if it is true that they are called individually to offer their personal witness - particularly valuable wherever the Church's freedom is impeded - the Council still insists on the importance of an organized apostolate, which is necessary in order to influence common attitudes, social conditions and public institutions.”

He recalled that his predecessor, John Paul II, saw this idea as so important, that he dedicated the Synod of 1987 to exploring the vocation and mission of the laity.

Out of this, Benedict said, came the Apostolic Exhortation 'Christifideles laici'.

The Holy Father concluded by recalling last Sunday's beatification of Eurosia Fabrisin, in Vicenza, Italy. She, Benedict said, “was a wife and mother who welcomed into her home children orphaned by the First World War“--one of the major reasons that the Church has now defined her as “a model of Christian life in the lay state."

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Pope calls for reconciliation, peace in Iraq, encourages mission of Chaldean church

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday, as a group of Chaldean bishops were meeting in Rome for a special synod, Pope Benedict XVI met with His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans in Iraq, and encouraged peace in the war-torn nation.


The Pope began his brief speech by thanking the bishops for their visit you for their visit, which, he said, “enables me to send, through you, words of great encouragement to your communities and to all the citizens of Iraq.”


“My expression of solidarity”, he said, “is accompanied by assurances of mention in my prayers, that your beloved country, even in its current difficult situation, may not lose heart and may continue on the road towards reconciliation and peace."


The Pope then referred to a newly-completed project--done at the synod--of revising the texts of the divine liturgy, as opening the way to "a reform which should give rise to a new surge of devotion in your communities.”


“This work”, said the Pope, “has involved years of study and of not-always-easy decisions, but it was a period during which the Chaldean Church was able to reflect more deeply on the great gift of the Eucharist."


He also noted another important theme of the synod, which he said, was the drafting of a Particular Law regulating the internal life of the Chaldean community.


"An appropriate canonical discipline of your own is necessary," said the Holy Father, "for the ordered progress of the mission entrusted to you by Christ."


Pope Benedict told them that, "Now, as you return to your respective sees, you are refreshed by this experience of communion near the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. This communion finds a special expression here, today, in raising to the Lord, together with Peter's Successor, a collective prayer of gratitude."

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Pope meets with new U.S. ambassador, says world violence, injustice can only be countered by respect for laws of Creator

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2005 (CNA) - Saturday, businessman, Francis Rooney presented his official Letters of Credence to Pope Benedict as the U.S.‘s new ambassador to the Holy See. The Pope met the presentation with strong words on the role which politics and international laws should play in the world--particularly toward the poor and disenfranchised.

During a meeting between the two, the Holy Father asked Mr. Rooney to assure President George Bush "in a particular way of my prayerful solidarity with all those affected by the recent storms in the southern part of your country, as well as the support of my prayers for those engaged in the massive work of relief and rebuilding."

The Pope began his speech by mentioning the message of his predecessor John Paul II for the 2005 World Day of Peace, in which he "called attention to the intrinsic ethical dimension of every political decision…”

John Paul, he said, likewise “observed that the disturbing spread of social disorder, war, injustice and violence in our world can ultimately be countered only by renewed appreciation and respect for the universal moral law whose principles derive from the Creator Himself.”

Pope Benedict stressed that "a recognition of the rich patrimony of values and principles embodied in that law is essential to the building of a world which acknowledges and promotes the dignity, life and freedom of each human person, while creating the conditions of justice and peace in which individuals and communities can truly flourish.”

“It is precisely the promotion and defense of these values,” he said, “which must govern relations between nations and peoples, ... that inspires the presence and activity of the Holy See within the international community."

The Pope went on to quote the second Vatican Council, which stated that "the Church's universal religious mission does not allow her to be identified with any particular political, economic or social system, yet at the same time, this mission serves as a source of commitment, direction and strength which can contribute to establishing and consolidating the human community in accordance with God's law."

The Pope particularly expressed his appreciation for the ambassador's reference, during his speech, to "the Holy See's efforts to contribute to finding effective solutions to some of the more significant problems facing the international community in recent years, such as the scandal of continued widespread hunger, grave illness and poverty in large areas of our world.”

“An adequate approach to these issues”, he said, “cannot be limited to purely economic or technical considerations, but demands broad vision, practical solidarity and courageous long-term decisions with regard to complex ethical questions.”

“Among the latter”, the Pope said, “I think especially of the effects of the crushing debt that feeds the spiral of poverty in many less-developed nations."

"The American people," the Pope concluded, "have long been distinguished for their generous charitable outreach to the disadvantaged and the needy on every continent. ... I am confident that your nation will continue to demonstrate a leadership based on unwavering commitment to the values of freedom, integrity and self-determination."

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Pope to Bulgarian Bishops: Though a minority, Church is a vibrant example to former communist country

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday morning, Pope Benedict met with bishops from the formerly communist country of Bulgaria, who he encouraged to be staunch witnesses to Christ in all areas of public life--particularly those where that influence is most needed.

The prelates, members of the Bulgarian Episcopal Conference, had just completed their "ad limina" visit.

In his address, the Pope said that following individual meetings with each of the bishops, he was convinced that "the Catholic Church in Bulgaria is vibrant and wishes to offer its witness to Christ in the society in which she lives."

Despite being a small minority, the Pope said that "the Lord always knows how to compensate for any of our shortcomings and for the lack of means at our disposal.”

“What is important”, he said, “is not so much organizational efficiency as unshakeable faith in Christ, because it is Christ Who guides, upholds and sanctifies His Church, also through your indispensable ministry."

Benedict also encouraged the bishops’ ecclesiastical service alongside of their influential brethren in the Orthodox Church, and expressed hope that "the present good relations may develop further, to the advantage of the announcement of the Gospel of the Son of God."

He likewise asked the Bulgarian bishops to pass on "a cordial greeting" to Patriarch Maxim, head of the Orthodox Church in Bulgaria.

"It is necessary”, the Pope went on, “to continue the journey we have begun, intensifying prayer so as to bring forward the moment when we can all sit around the one Table and eat the one Bread of salvation."

He also suggested an "intense dialogue with the civil authorities on themes of common interest," and indicated that "the Catholic community, although a minority in the country, can offer generous witness to Christ's universal charity."

The Pope also pointed out that "Following the sad period of communist oppression, Catholics who persevered in their adherence to Christ with eager trust now feel the urgent need to consolidate their faith and to spread the Gospel in all areas of social life, especially where there is the clearest need for Christian announcement.”

“I am thinking,” he said for example, “of the severe drop in the birthrate, of the high percentage of abortions, of the fragility of many families and the problem of emigration.”

On this note, Pope Benedict expressed his joy “to learn that the Catholic Church in Bulgaria is strongly committed in the social field, so as to meet the needs of so many poor people. I encourage you to continue this journey at the service of the Bulgarian people, who are so dear to me."

The Holy Father particularly called on the prelates to be unafraid "to present young generations with the ideal of a total consecration to Christ," and asked them to continue "to give your communities appropriate structures for pastoral activity and Christian worship, also with the help of other Catholic Churches and organizations.”

“On this matter,” the Pope added, “I am particularly pleased to learn of the rebuilding of the Latin Cathedral Church of Sofia, dedicated to St. Joseph."

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