Archive of February 9, 2006

Vatican confirms: Pope will travel to Turkey in November

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier today, the Vatican confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI will, in fact, make a much anticipated trip to Turkey in November at the invitation of that country’s president.

During a noontime press conference, Vatican Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls confirmed that “Ahmet Necdet Sezer, president of Turkey, has invited His Holiness Benedict XVI to make an official visit to that country from November 28 to 30, 2006.”
Although he said that the Holy Father has accepted the invitation, the details of the visit have yet to be defined.

Over the weekend, a Roman missionary priest, Fr. Andrea Santoro, was assassinated in Trabzon, Turkey while praying in a church where he had just celebrated Mass. The Pope has expressed his hope that Fr. Santoro’s sacrifice would be an instrument for peace and inter-religious dialogue in the country.

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Pope holds audience with Laura Bush

Rome, Italy, Feb 9, 2006 (CNA) - First Lady Laura Bush had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI this morning, during her stop in the Italian capital on her way to the opening of the Olympic Winter Games in Turin tomorrow, reported ANSA.

Pope Benedict XVI met with     Laura Bush in his private library on Thursday and wished the first lady "a peaceful time" at the upcoming Olympics in Turin, where she is heading the U.S. delegation.

During the 20-minute meeting, Mrs. Bush gave Benedict a small silver bowl; the pope in turn gave the first lady and Barbara rosaries and Rooney a  Vatican medal.

On the eve of the visit, the first lady told Vatican Radio in an interview broadcast Thursday: "The American people are a religious people, of course all different religions. But we share a lot of the same values with the Catholic Church."

The First Lady is traveling with one of her twin daughters, Barbara, who spent a year at a private high school in Rome before her father was elected president. The First Lady is leading the American delegation to Friday's inauguration of Torino 2006, which includes several former Olympic champions and the U.S. ambassador to Italy, Ronald Spogli.

Before leaving Rome, Bush also met at Gemelli Hospital with members of the Italian branch of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The Dallas-based organization is the leading private institution active in the fight against breast cancer in the United States. She also attended a luncheon with Premier Silvio Berlusconi at his Rome residence.

The American delegation is expected to attend an event this evening in Turin with Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. The president will welcome dignitaries attending the inauguration at the former royal palace in Turin for a gala dinner. Prince Albert II of Monaco is expected to carry in the Olympic Flame.

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Body of murdered Italian priest arrives in Rome

Istanbul, Turkey, Feb 9, 2006 (CNA) - The body of a murdered Italian priest arrived in Rome by military plane Monday.

Fr. Andrea Santaro, 60, was shot Sunday at his parish, Santa Maria Church, in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon, Turkey. Witnesses said the killer had screamed "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is great," before firing two bullets into the priest’s back as he kneeled to pray, reported the Cihan News Agency.

The priest’s nephew, who was also killed, and a bishop from the Anatolian Churches Union also traveled to Rome.

Turkish police arrested a 16-year-old student Feb. 7 in connection with the murder. Prosecutor Burhan Cobanoglu said the suspect was captured while hiding at a relative’s home in Trabzon at around 3.30 a.m. local time. He was taken to police headquarters for interrogation. A nine-mm handgun during the raid and taken for laboratory tests, reported Cihan News Agency.

Cobanoglu said provisions in the law for minors would be applied as the suspect is below 18 years old; he would not identify the suspect. He also refrained from making any statements about the reason for the killing. 

Some have suggested, however, that the murder was related to the “cartoon crisis” that emerged after a Danish newspaper published 12 insulting cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. The incident has angered Muslims worldwide.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters Monday the he does not believe the two incidents are linked, reported Cihan News Agency. "We believe it is entirely an individual act, but we don't know the reason behind it or who encouraged it," he was quoted as saying.

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Bishop Niederauer celebrates farewell mass in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb 9, 2006 (CNA) - It was a touching farewell mass and reception Sunday for Bishop George Niederauer, who will take up his duties as archbishop of San Francisco Feb. 15, after serving as the bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City for 11 years.

More than 1,000 people filled the downtown Cathedral of the Madeleine, including representatives of different churches.

"It's been my task, my privilege and my job to serve the local Catholic diocese. I was welcomed by Catholics, by LDS and by everyone. You have been the good news in my life . . . I promise to pray for you always," he told the assembly, reported The Salt Lake Tribune.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. sat in the first pew. He told the Tribune that the bishop’s "words of encouragement and admonition resonate across religious boundaries."
Rev. Rick Lawson, rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Salt Lake City, told the Tribune that the bishop was able to grasp Utah’s religious uniqueness “and move us forward. He has had dialogue with the whole community. We can all say, 'he's our bishop.'”

At the reception that followed the mass at the Grand American Hotel, hundreds lined up to greet the bishop, who sat in front of a large tapestry with his motto: "To give and to serve."

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Chicago organizes ‘Catholic festival’ to inspire, deepen faith

Chicago, Ill., Feb 9, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Chicago has organized its second Catholic Festival of Faith. It will be held Feb. 12-18 at the Donald Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

The three-day celebration is expected to draw thousands of participants and “is open to Catholics of all ages and to all those interested in the Catholic faith,” said Fr. Thomas Franzman, event chair and director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Department of Evangelization, Catechesis and Worship.

“The Catholic Festival of Faith will offer Catholic liturgies, opportunities for prayer, concerts, keynote speakers and hundreds of workshops – including one offered by Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago – and is designed to assist Catholics to become part of the ‘new evangelization’ so often referenced by the late Pope John Paul II,” said Fr. Franzman.

Many of the presentations will be offered in Spanish and Polish as well as English, and special sessions have been created for teens in Catholic and public high schools.

Full registration is $70; one-day registration is $35. For more information, go to

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An Arabe-Israeli appointed new Bishop of Galilee

Beirut, Lebanon, Feb 9, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican and the Synod of the Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, who met Wednesday in Beirut, appointed Father Elias Shakur archbishop of the Galilee.

The appointment makes Shakur, the dynamic head of an educational empire with 4,000 students in the Galilee town of Ibillin, the most senior cleric of the Greek Catholic Church in the Holy Land, with a flock of about 55,000, the single largest Christian community in Israel.

"I plan to work for reconciliation and dialogue among the three religions of the Holy Land," Chacour told The Jerusalem Post. "I hope to be a moderating voice in the conflict that has spilled too much blood."

Elias Shakur was born November 29, 1939 in the village of Biram in Upper Galilee in Arab Palestine.

Shakur's jurisdiction will include all Greek Catholic communities from Hadera northward, including Zibda, a town near Jenin.

Archmandrite Matanios Hadad currently is filling the position of archbishop of Jerusalem, which is responsible for Greek Catholic communities to the south of Hadera.

The archbishop of the Galilee position has been vacant since 2002, when Father Boutrous Mualem stepped down at 75, the retirement age for Church clerics. Until now, local Greek Catholic church officials have been unable to decide on a replacement for Mualem.

In the interim, the Vatican appointed George Hadad as apostalic administer.

The Greek Catholic, or Melkite Church, which was created in the 17th century, is unionized with the worldwide Catholic Church. But unlike the Roman Catholic Church, headed in Israel by Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Melkites retained Greek liturgy and their own synod of bishops, which lends them a certain degree of autonomy from the Vatican.

Daniel Rossing, director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations, said that Shakur has worked for peace and coexistence among the various religious groups of the Galilee.

"Shakur is a dynamic individual who has built a tremendous educational complex and is in the process of establishing an Israeli Arab university.

"He has traveled and lectured extensively in the Christian world and is the author of several books on Christians in the Galilee."

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French government allows embryonic stem cell research on frozen embryos.

Paris, France, Feb 9, 2006 (CNA) - The French Government officially published in its official paper on February 6, the decree relative to research on the embryo, and therefore altering the current code of public health, The law itself was voted in August 2004.

This decree defines the conditions under which research on embryonic stem cells and human embryos can be carried out, and the way in which scientists can acquire them.

Scientists are going to be able to work on embryos obtained through in vitro fecundation (IVF) and given away by the parents of these embryos. The authorization should be written. These embryos can stem either from the pre-implantatory diagnosis or from the selection of embryos “which are not susceptible of being transferred or conserved,” before the transfer to the uterus of the mother, or either from the “outnumbering” embryos who are not part of a parenting project anymore. In the last case, a reflection deadline of three months is given to couples to give their final decisions.

The importation of embryonic stem cells and fetal tissue remains allowed under the condition that they come from abortions and In Vitro fecundations carried out “in the respect of the principles fixed by the articles 16 to 16-8 of the civil code, with prior consent of the women,” or “the genitor couple,” “without any sort of payment can be made.”

The Agency of bio-medicine is to give the authorizations necessary for the laboratories concerned.
There are approximately  120 000 frozen human embryos frozen in the French centers for assisted procreation,” explains Carine Camby, general director of the Agency of Bio-medicine.

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Federal court orders justice of the peace in Valencia to preside at homosexual “weddings”

Valencia, Fla., Feb 9, 2006 (CNA) - A federal panel of judges in Spain has rejected the petition by a justice of the peace in Valencia to abstain from presiding at “civil marriages” between same-sex partners.

By a vote of 3-2, the panel refused to acknowledge the justice’s right to conscientious objection and ruled that “Judges and Magistrates can never exercise the right to conscientious objection, as they are obliged to follow the rule of law.”

The justice in Valencia has no other recourse to abstain from presiding at homosexual unions.  Last December a justice of the peace in the city of Pinto opted to resign rather than preside at such ceremonies.

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Mexican official under pressure to resign for public expression of faith

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 9, 2006 (CNA) - The Front for Secular Culture, a conglomerate of anti-religious groups such as Catholics for a Free Choice, is demanding Mexican Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal “evaluate” whether or not he will remain in his post after expressing his Catholic faith in public.

Abascal caused an uproar at the recent World Forum on Ethics in Mexico when he said divine law was above human laws.  He immediately became the target of harsh criticism, and a host of secular and anti-religious groups began calling for his resignation.

The director of Catholics for a Free Choice in Mexico, Maria del Consuelo Mejia, Guadalupe Cruz, executive director of the Ecclesial Observatory, and Eduardo del Castillo, coordinator of the Front for Secular Culture, all demanded Abascal either “renounce his beliefs, or resign.”

Mejia also objected to President Vicente Fox’s presence at the Archdiocese of Mexico’s Cathedral on the day commemorating the Mexican constitution.  She criticized Fox and Abascal for “radically and aggressively provoking Mexican society” and “casting doubt upon the secular nature” of the state.

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Pope exhorts Brazilian bishops to proclaim Gospel of Peace

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb 9, 2006 (CNA) - In a telegram to Cardinal Eusebio Scheid, Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Pope Benedict XVI sent his blessing to the 106 bishops gathered in the Brazilian city, exhorting them to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel of Peace.

In his message the participants of a theological and spiritual renewal conference, the Holy Father noted the theme of the event, “Social Communication for Evangelization,” coincides with his recent message for the World Day of Peace, in which he emphasized “the duty of all Catholics to intensify their proclamation of and witness to the Gospel of Peace, proclaiming the recognition of God’s full truth.”

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Sony Pictures provides sounding board for Da Vinci Code critics

Hollywood, Calif., Feb 9, 2006 (CNA) - Far ahead of the May 19th film release of the “DaVinci Code“--adapted from the popular but controversial Dan Brown novel, Sony Motion Pictures corporation has decided to address the film’s numerous critics--by providing them a platform.

The plot of the book, and now film, makes claims that Jesus married and never rose from the dead, and that the Catholic Church, along with the apostolate Opus Dei, orchestrated a massive cover up of this information.

It has angered and frustrated Catholics and Protestants alike who point out that even fiction, oftentimes has great influence over people’s thinking.

Rather than sit back and let the controversy merely fuel ticket sales, Sony Pictures, who is releasing the film, starring Tom Hanks, has opted to launch a website housing essays and opinions of Christians who oppose the volatile storyline.

The site, which goes up today, will feature the likes of Richard J. Mouw, president of California’s Fuller Theological Seminary and Darrell L. Bock, a professor of New Testament studies and the author of “Breaking the Da Vinci Code.”

Some 45 critical essays by prominent Christian writers and scholars will be available to view at starting today.

The New York Times quoted Jim Kennedy, a spokesman for Sony Pictures, who said, "We believe this is unique and perhaps can set a tone for others…We've all seen how some movies can evoke great consternation in society in the past, and I think many people want to move towards a more educational and uplifting dialogue."

Lacking Catholics?

Some critics are concerned over the lack of Catholic authors on the site--something Sony Pictures says it wants to change, namely because of the primary role of the Church to the plot.

Undoubtedly, there are many candidates as well, including Carl Olson, who authored the book, “The Da Vinci Hoax”, and Kevin Knight, webmaster of the New Advent website, not to mention members of the ill-maligned Opus Dei group, described in the book.

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