Archive of November 17, 2005

Catholic shrine pulls plug on national pro-life conference

Montreal, Canada, Nov 17, 2005 (CNA) - St. Joseph’s Oratory has pulled the plug on a national pro-life conference due to threats of protest from pro-choice and homosexual activists.

The announcement was made yesterday by the rector of the national shrine, Fr. Jean-Pierre Aumont, CSC, only one day before the start of the conference.

The rector’s irreversible decision comes as a shock to organizers, participants and members of the local Catholic community.

Organizers are scrambling to find another suitable location in Montreal as most conference participants and speakers have already arrived in the city or are en route, reported

Montreal police Detective Sergeant Judy Poulin told LifeSite that police did not suggest that the conference be cancelled and that police could offer “adequate protection.”

The decision, she said, was taken by the oratory and the Holy Cross Fathers, who care for the world’s largest shrine to St. Joseph.The three-day national conference was organized by Campaign Life Coalition, Quebec Campagne-Vie and Life Canada. “This decision to cancel the contract at this last minute is a great capitulation on the part of the Catholic Church I the face of opposition to its pro-life, pro-family teaching,” Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes told LifeSite.

The cancellation of the venue is a huge financial blow to the already cash-strapped pro-life movement in Canada, said Quebec Campagne-Vie president Luc Gagnon.

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Catholic women take life issues to Parliament Hill

Ottawa, Canada, Nov 17, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic Women’s League is calling on the federal government this month to take action on a number of sociopolitical, economic, life and health issues at their annual meeting with government officials in Ottawa.

The national league was founded in 1925 in Montreal and, with 100,000 members, it is the largest Catholic women’s group in Canada.

The actions, proposed to government departments by the Catholic Women’s League executive, are based on 12 resolutions passed by the CWL at their annual national convention in August, reported the Catholic Times.In June, Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde tabled a private member’s bill that would legalize assisted suicide.

The CWL wants Parliament to oppose this bill and retain Section 241 of the Criminal Code, which states that counseling or aiding in suicide is a criminal act.

The CWL also wants Parliament to protect the rights of farmers to save and produce their own seed and to vote down any legislation that would give private companies the right to patent common seed in Canada.

The women are urging the federal government to defend the universal right to access clean water and to demand that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund cease pressuring governments in the developing world to privatize their water systems in exchange for funds to develop water services.

The CWL has also requested that Canada sign the international agreement abolishing the death penalty and pursue efforts to stop the illegal manufacture and trafficking of crystal methamphetamine.

In addition, the CWL wants Canada Post to issue Christmas stamps that are related to the birth of Christ.

Canada Post has been issuing Christmas stamps since 1964, but in recent years, they have not included religious aspects of the celebration.For more on the Catholic Women’s League, go to:

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Catholic doctors urge continued ban on abortion drug

Sydney, Australia, Nov 17, 2005 (CNA) - Australian Catholic doctors are backing a number of MPs in their efforts to maintain a ban of the abortion drug Mifepristone (RU486), which is being dubbed "human pesticide."  

The doctors are warning of the health risks, such as haemorrhaging—and the added dangers this poses for women living in rural areas without easy hospital access, reported the Catholic Weekly.

They also oppose the drug on the grounds that it is an abortifacient. Dr. Brigid Vout, executive officer for the archdiocesan Life Office, is concerned about the drug’s health risks, despite Australian Medical Association endorsement of it as "safe and effective.” She also opposes it on moral grounds, saying that no child should be aborted.  

Dr. David van Gend disagrees that the drug provides equal access for safe abortions. "There's nothing equitable about putting country women in a situation far more dangerous than their city counterparts (if something goes wrong)," said the spokesperson for the Queensland chapter of the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life.  

Health Minister Tony Abbott said he refuses to give the drug the green light due to advice that the drug poses too many health risks, reported the Sydney Morning Herald. However, there is mounting pressure on the Prime Minister to allow a conscience vote on the issue.

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Critics surprised by success of monastic documentary

, Nov 17, 2005 (CNA) - The first 20 minutes are spent in complete silence, and even thereafter, words are few and far between. Nevertheless, Into the Silence, a new documentary about the life of a Carthusian monastery, nestled high in the French alps has gained considerable attention.

German filmmaker Philip Gröening had reportedly spent 15 years trying to convince members of the Grand Chartreuse monastery to let him document their quiet existence. In 2001, they finally told him they were ready.

The filmmaker’s visit marked the first time the flagship Carthusian monastery had opened its doors to the public since its founding by St. Bruno in 1084.

The film, released last month, contains no real dialogue, no interviews, no commentary and no outside sound or music. It seeks simply to chronicle daily life in the monastery--4 months in fact--of the methodical rhythms of prayer, chant and daily tasks."It was a journey into another world," Gröening told the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper.

He called it "a chance to explore what time means for someone who knows that he will never leave this house and this cell. I thought it would be great to make a film where language disappears and time becomes the main channel."

On their website, the Carthusians say that their primary vocation--that of solitude--"is not lived for it's own sake, but as a privileged means of attaining intimacy with God." While many critics assumed the film would be a three-hour bore, it has since become something of a hit--mesmerizing audiences with the peaceful austerity of lives quietly spent in service to God.

Sean Farnel of the Toronto Film Festival called it "a film of tranquility, stillness and contemplation…marked by moments of visual splendor and almost tactile sound: the rumpled roar of the wood stove; scissors crisply crunching through heavy cloth; the soothing, murmured rhythms of the liturgy." "At a time in which spiritual practice is a radically variegated pursuit," he wrote in a film synopsis, "these privileged observations of one of its purest forms are a balm for our bustling days."

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In ‘profoundly changing times’, Pope calls for greater pastoral care, education for seminarians

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2005 (CNA) - As vocational problems and priestly scandals continue to arise in some regions of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict today, called for more priests who are fully aware of the gift of grace received in ordination, and of the important mission entrusted to them.

The Pope made his remarks in a message sent to the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), which is currently meeting in Assisi, Italy, from November 14th until tomorrow.

During the meeting, which marks the conference’s 55th general assembly, special attention will be given, among other issues, to the formation of future priests and to the presence of the Church in the world of health care.

"The Church today," the Pope wrote to the bishops, "needs priests who are fully aware of the gift of grace they receive with priestly ordination and with the mission entrusted to them in times of swift and profound changes."

He noted the many priests currently serving in Italy, "who contribute to making our parishes and communities lively and rich in grace," but highlighted his concern, shared with the bishops, "for the drop in numbers of clergy and for the progressive increase in the average age of priests.”
“There is,” Benedict stressed therefore, “an urgent need to boost vocational pastoral care and to define the formative option ever more clearly, so as to guarantee a human, intellectual and spiritual preparation capable of meeting the new challenges that priestly ministry is called to face.”

“It is equally important”, he added, “that such formative activity should be carried out in a community context, in order to reflect that communion of life which Jesus had with His disciples, and to ensure that the various elements of the educational program are unified around the needs of pastoral charity."

According to reports, there are currently around 397,000 priests serving around the world. Church leaders would like to increase that number in order to better serve the Church’s nearly 1.1 billion members.

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Caring for sick is ‘emblem of Christian charity’, says Pope

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2005 (CNA) - In a message, sent today to the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), currently meeting in Assisi, Italy, Pope Benedict stressed the importance of Catholic health care ministry,  saying that it stems from the heart of the Church’s mission.

The CEI meeting, which concludes tomorrow, marks the conference’s 55th general assembly. The bishops have decided to devote special attention, among other issues, to the formation of future priests and to the presence of the Church in the world of health care.

Highlighting the importance of pastoral health care ministry, the Holy Father said that while "illness certainly poses serious and complex problems of social organization,…first and foremost, it constitutes a fundamental dimension of the human experience, one that cries out to the mission of the Church and to the conscience of believers.
“Indeed,” he said, “it was not by chance that the Lord accompanied His announcement of salvation with much healing of suffering people; and the Christian community in all times has made the care of the sick an emblem of Christian charity.”

The Pope recalled "the witness given us by my beloved predecessor John Paul II”, which “remains engraved in our hearts. He made the cathedra of suffering the pinnacle of his Magisterium.”
“Illuminated and encouraged by such a great testimony,” he said, “the Church is called to express solidarity and care towards those facing the trial of sickness."

The Holy Father went on in his message to stress that Catholic institutions which operate in the field of health care ought to be exemplary, “uniting scientific innovation and competence with primary care for the person and for his or her dignity.”
“Faced with the call ... to eliminate suffering,” he added, “even through recourse to euthanasia, the inviolable dignity of human life must again be reaffirmed."

The Pope concluded his message by spiritually uniting himself with the Bishop’s conference and recalling the upcoming 40th anniversary of the end of Vatican Council II.

He praised the celebration, at which will preside on December 8, calling it a chance to “commemorate the extraordinary gift that the Church and humanity received through the Council."

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Religious freedom central to human rights, says bishop

Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2005 (CNA) - The cause of religious liberty must be a fundamental priority of United States foreign policy, said Bishop Ricardo Ramirez Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

“From the perspective of Catholic teaching, religious freedom is the first of our freedoms,” said the bishop of Las Cruces in a testimony before the House International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations. He testified as a member of the USCCB’s International Policy Committee.

“Religious freedom covers a broad range of vital activities, from freedom of worship to freedom of conscience, from the right to establish schools and charities to the right to participate in and seek to influence public affairs,” said Bishop Ramirez, who also serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

He described two “major challenges” to religious freedom. The first is “the proper place of religion in public life.” The second is the relationship between Christianity and Islam.

“This [second] challenge requires careful and deep reflection, respectful dialogue and candid discussion,” he said. “Authentic dialogue cannot be just vague expressions of goodwill, empty of a search for truth and unity.”

He said the USCCB supports the view of political leaders who have declared that the struggle against terrorism is not a war against Islam.
The bishop also responded to the State Department’s release last week of a status report on religious freedom around the world. He commented on the situation in Iraq, Israel, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Burma and Cuba.

While commending Iraq’s efforts to establish a stable democracy, Bishop Ramirez expressed concerns about the new Iraqi constitution. “Even though the constitution promotes the concept of religious freedom, some provisions circumscribe religious liberty by not allowing any law to contradict the principles of Islam,” he said.

The 1993 Fundamental Agreement between Israel and the Holy See was a welcome development, said the bishop, but the failure to conclude negotiations on economic and other issues of importance to the Catholic Church and the wider Christian community in the Holy Land is a concern.
He also spoke of the “shameful” attacks on Christians in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This violence indicates “that much more can be done to insist that each of these states act with greater conformity with international law and greater respect for religious rights,” said the bishop.

For the full text of Bishop Ramirez’s testimony, go to:

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As historic Church document comes to new light, Pope Benedict invites Greek patriarch to Vatican, encourages further unity

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2005 (CNA) - In an historic event yesterday in Athens, Greece, Vatican archivist and librarian, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, officially announced the new publication of the ancient manuscript, "Menologue of Basil II," currently being held at the Vatican’s Apostolic Library.

The Vatican reported today that the Menologue is a liturgical or hagiographic text of the Church of Greek rite, dating from 985.

Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to Cardinal Tauran, noting that he "learned with interest of the collaboration between the Vatican Apostolic Library and the Greek Orthodox Church for the publication" of this work of art.

Pope Benedict also asked Cardinal Tauran to express his personal gratitude to His Beatitude Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and of all Greece for his assistance in bringing this historic work to new light.

The Holy Father offered his “fraternal and cordial greetings,” to Archbishop Christodoulos, and expressed “great satisfaction for this important event.”
Specifically, he called it “fruit of the new relations established following the unforgettable visit to Athens by my venerable predecessor, His Holiness John Paul II, on the occasion of his Jubilee pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Paul the Apostle.”

“With joy”, the Pope noted the growth of “ever more active cooperation between the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church."

"On this occasion," he continued in his Message to the cardinal, "I charge you to inform His Beatitude Christodoulos that it would be a joy for me to welcome him in Rome, so that together we may show that another stage has been covered on the journey of reconciliation and cooperation.”

He also expressed his “heartfelt desire to develop ever more intense relations of trust and fraternity, in order to carry out many works of evangelization together.”

“Among other things,” the pope highlighted, “we could give European nations greater help in reaffirming their Christian roots, to find that nourishing and fruitful sap for their own future and for the good of people and of all society.”

“It will be a way to announce together the Good News of Christ to the modern world, which needs it so badly."

This hoped-for unity, Pope Benedict said, "will also give an ever stronger response to the ardent desire expressed by the Lord: 'May all be one," until the day comes ... when we can celebrate fully restored communion."

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Pope Benedict meets with Israeli president, renews call for peaceful coexistence with Palestinians

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2005 (CNA) - In a meeting with Israeli President Moshe Katsay earlier today, Pope Benedict stressed his continued desire for the peaceful co-existence and collaboration of Israel and Palestine, two independent states within the violence-wracked Holy Land.

Fr. Ciro Benedettini, C.P., who is vice director of the Holy See Press Office, told reporters this morning that, the president, accompanied by his wife and several collaborators, visited with the Holy Father before going on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano.

He said that during the papal meeting, special “attention was given to the relations that have developed between Israel and the Holy See, since the start of diplomatic ties between the two parties in 1994.”

"Particular consideration”, he noted, “was reserved for the implementation of the agreements thus-far signed between Israel and the Holy See: the Fundamental Agreement of 1993, and the Legal Personality Agreement of 1997.”

Moving on to the tense situation in the Holy Land, the Pope reiterated the Holy See's position favoring of the existence of and collaboration between the Israeli and Palestinian States.

At the end of the press conference, Fr. Benedettini noted that "a large part of the discussions were also given over to the possibility of more intense collaboration in the humanitarian field, especially in Africa, and in cultural matters."

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