Archive of February 17, 2006

Engage in modern cultural debate, defend truths of Church, Pope tells Italian Catholic journalists

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI met with journalists from the Italian “Civilta Cattolica”, a Jesuit magazine established by Blessed Pius IX in 1850. He told them that Catholics—particularly Catholic journalists--are called to develop a true dialogue with a world plagued by disorientation and “individualistic relativism.”

The Holy Father began his brief address recalling Pius IX’s "perpetual institution" of the publication, which gave it “a particular statue that established a special link with the Holy See."

He told the group that in order for the magazine to remain "faithful to its character and its duty," it must "continually renew itself, correctly interpreting 'the signs of the times'."

Faced with the spread of what he called "individualistic relativism and positivistic science, ... closed to God and His moral law though not always prejudiced against Christianity,“ Benedict said that “Catholics are called to develop dialogue with modern culture, opening it up to the perennial values of transcendence."

While lamenting these difficulties, the Holy Father also pointed to the "many signs of hope" in today's world, such as "a new sensitivity to religious values, ... renewed interest in Sacred Scripture, greater respect for human rights, and the desire to establish dialogue with other religions.”

“In particular,” he said, “faith in Jesus can help many to grasp the meaning of life and of the human adventure, giving them the points of reference that are often lacking in so frenetic and disoriented a world."

In this light, the Pope said that the mission of a magazine like "Civilta Cattolica" is "to participate in the modern cultural debate, both to propose - seriously but also in a way accessible to all - the truths of Christian faith with clarity and faithfulness to the Church's Magisterium, and to defend, with no desire for controversy, the truth which is sometimes distorted by baseless accusations leveled against the ecclesial community."

Benedict told the group that Vatican Council II should be a "beacon" to guide their magazine.

"The doctrinal and pastoral wealth it contains," he said, "have not yet been fully assimilated by the Christian community, even though 40 years have passed since its conclusion."

He closed by stressing that "Civilta Cattolica" must "divulge and support the action of the Church in all areas of her mission.”

“The magazine”, he added, “must give particular emphasis to spreading the Church's social doctrine, one of the themes it has covered most fully in its 155 years of life."

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Can Islam and Christianity coexist? Vatican expert hopeful, but wary

Denver, Colo., Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - Sandro Magister, one of the world’s foremost experts on the Vatican and religious relations, told a crowd gathered in Denver last night that while there is some hope for the future, he thinks that deep self-reform is necessary for Islam to assimilate to the modern world and be able to truly coexist with Christianity.

Following his talk, entitled ‘Christians, Islam and the Future of Europe’, Magister, who writes for Italy’s L’Espresso magazine, discussed the difficulties and perhaps fatal differences between Islam and a traditionally Christian Europe.

Moving from intellectual dialogue within the Muslim world to the heated debate over whether or not to include Turkey in the European Union, the mostly Catholic crowd struggled to find hope for peace between what Magister laid out largely as diametrically opposed worldviews.  

Speaking in Italian through an interpreter, Magister said that while historically, Christianity and Islam have some common roots and a record of genuine intellectual exchanges, that these have by and large been deserted for centuries.

Answering a question from the audience, he said that one of the major reasons for the breakdown was that the major interpretation for Islam in recent decades has become the Sunni one--which insists that the Koran is final and closed for interpretation and debate.

Magister likewise cited a failure in the thought structure of Islam which, he thinks, prevents adaptation, growth and true creativity, adding that he has reached this conclusion through the influence of many Muslim authors themselves.

“The extreme difficulty of establishing dialogue is the intellectual deserting in Islam,” he said, “there are really no intellectuals in the Islamic world up to the challenge.”

On this, he pointed to the startlingly small number of books that are published Muslim countries.

This, he said, not only stems from the widespread opinion that everything has already been said in the Koran, but the stress, put by many political and social leaders on “the imaginary moment that the book was given to the world as well as the paradise promised” therein.

During his talk, Magister said that for many Muslims, the Koran is not the equivalent of the Christian Scriptures; it is the equivalent of Christ.

He added that this mindset, naturally and fundamentally closes them off from new or diverse ideas.

Magister balanced this fact however, saying that within the Islamic world, the Shiite branch actually makes up a noteworthy ten percent of the population.

Unlike the Sunnis, they believe that the Koran’s exact interpretation is still up for debate, and therefore, he said, it is possible in Shiite mentality to create political structures that are not merely recreations of what happened in the past.

Magister went on to cite a small, but influential number of truly moderate Muslim thinkers who are encouraging self reform and even have positive views toward Christianity.

Among them, he named, Khaled Fouad Allam, editor of the Italian ’La Republica’ newspaper who recently wrote a major editorial calling on Muslims to adapt and recognize their own Christian roots. He also named Iraq’s influential Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who believes that Islam can live within a democracy.

The Vatican expert compared these moderate, but largely hidden voices to the “Church of silence” which existed underground in communist Europe. He said that the world must encourage them, just as the Church needed encouragement.

In the western world however, he said that violent Islamic extremists tend to look like the mainstream, citing the recent violent protests over Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, and last summer’s violent outbursts across France. 

Capacity to Govern

Toward the end of the evening, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, who was on hand together with visiting Salina, Kansas Bishop Paul Coakley, asked Magister about the widespread worry of many that within a number of years, much of central Europe could become predominately Muslim.

The analyst acknowledged the definite predictions thereof, as well as a growing influx of Muslims, especially to countries like Spain and France, but said that those sorts of movements and population shifts are impossible to predict.

He said however, that the bottom line is not about population, but rather about the potentially lost capacity for Christians and the west to continue to govern Europe.

Christians, Europeans, he said, should be worried about “losing our Christian identity which would allow us to continue ruling Europe.”

Here, he cited Pope Benedict XVI who, from the outset of his pontificate, has stressed the need for Europeans to remember and reclaim their fleeting Christian heritage which may be far more in jeopardy than many think.

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Church must be more open with media, say Australian bishops

Perth, Australia, Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Australia needs to be more engaged in dialogue with the wider society and be more open to the media, said Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth in a pastoral letter, issued on behalf of the country’s Catholic bishops.

"It's a new realization of the need to engage with the world," he said. "We've communicated through priests, our schools, hospitals and social welfare. But now we need to communicate through the world's media, believing we have something important to say."

The letter said Australians spent an average of 51 hours a week consuming media, such as television and the Internet.

"The Catholic Church must be part of this marketplace of ideas and regally accept opportunities to be quoted, seen or heard upon matters of consequence," the letter said.

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New archbishop of San Francisco sets out pastoral plan

San Francisco, Calif., Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - The new archbishop of San Francisco revealed important aspects of his pastoral plan Wednesday during his installation ceremony at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Archbishop George Hugh Niederauer told the 3,000-member crowd that packed into the cathedral that he intends to visit all parishes, Catholic schools and institutions in the archdiocese and to focus on the recruitment, training and support of new priests, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

The archbishop’s plan addresses the decline in church attendance and vocations to the priesthood, which the archdiocese has experienced in recent times.

He committed to doing all he can to "continue the healing" of people who were abused by priests and said the faithful should work to set aside the individualism prevalent in America for selfless compassion, reported the newspaper.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia attended, as did Mayor Gavin Newsom and parish priests from across the diocese.

Archbishop Niederauer was born June 14, 1936, in Los Angeles. He attended Catholic elementary and high schools and was ordained as a priest of the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1962. He has worked as an English professor at St. John's Seminary College in Ventura County and holds a doctorate in English literature from the University of Southern California.

The 69-year-old cleric, who served for 11 years as bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, succeeds Archbishop William Levada as the eighth bishop of San Francisco. Archbishop Levada became the highest-ranking American in Vatican history when he was named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in August.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco includes 422,000 Catholics in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties.

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Catholic League demands that anti-Catholic ads be pulled

, Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Fairness Foundation should immediately pull its ads that single out the billing practices of Catholic hospitals in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and cast them in a very negative light, said Catholic League president Bill Donohue.

Donohue calls it “sad” that “an organization which stands to benefit by punishing not-for-profit hospitals is running anti-Catholic ads in the name of helping the uninsured.”

The ad says how regrettable it is that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan had to get involved in the issue by supporting legislation that would mandate non-profit hospitals to tighten their billing and collection procedures and give more to charity or risk their tax-exempt status. “But as with other immoral actions,” the ad states, “apparently the church needs to be forced by lawyers to do the right thing, to be moral.  How sad.”

The Indiana-based Fairness Foundation, led by philanthropist J. Patrick Rooney, seeks to represent the interests of the medically uninsured. Rooney operates a private health company.

“And it’s not just this one ad that gives away the anti-Catholic bigotry of this group,” Donohue said in a Feb. 16 statement. He pointed out that is another Fairness Foundation project that is “strewn with bigotry.”

“For example, the Web site lambastes Wheaton Franciscan Services for making allegedly exorbitant profits. It even questions whether there are too many Catholics on the Supreme Court,” said Donohue.

“Rooney has a stellar reputation for helping the Catholic poor,” Donohue concluded. “That is why he should pull these bigoted ads immediately. Either that or rename his foundation.”

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Spokesman for Spanish bishops slams new law on assisted reproduction

Madrid, Spain, Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - Reacting to passage of a new law on assisted reproduction by Spain’s House of Representatives, which would allow genetic selection, cloning and the selling of human embryos, the spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Father Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, said the measure was “very troubling” in its consequences for respect for human life.

Speaking to Europa Press, Father Martinez said the new law “opens the door to human cloning, as it only prohibits reproductive cloning and therefore allows therapeutic cloning.”  According to the Spanish priest, the law would also authorize eugenics, that is, “the selecting of human beings, some allowed to live and others allowed to die.”  He rejected the freezing or destruction of some human embryos for the purpose of saving only “the best,” or their creation for use in transplant therapies.  The human embryo, he continued, should not be treated “as an object of commerce” or denied protection under the law.

Pro-life doctors and researchers, such as the association called “Alternatives Exist,” have also denounced the new law.   In a statement the association criticized the law as “one of the most aggressive laws against bioethics in the world” and called it “aberrant attack” on the dignity of man and on science.  The new law “turns the unborn human into research material, into merchandise at the mercy of the economic interests of large companies and the ambition of certain scientists,” the group stated, noting as well that the allowing of human cloning for research purposes flies in the face of Spanish law and resolutions by the United Nations and the European Parliament.

The group’s spokesman, Dr. Gador Joya, called the law “an instrument of death and scientific regression.”  It turns man into “a means for so-called technological progress, forgetting that science is a means for improving the living conditions of all human beings.” 

The law will now go to Spain’s Senate for approval.

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More than 50 percent of marriages in which the couples lived together before they married end in divorce, James Healy, director of the Office of Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet, told a group

Naperville, Ill., Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - More than 50 percent of marriages in which the couples lived together before they married end in divorce, James Healy, director of the Office of Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet, told a group of 11 college students Feb. 13.

The Catholic Explorer reported that young adults from the Catholic Student Union organization of North Central College met with Healy to discuss cohabitation and statistics related to it. As part of a new program he created, Healy hopes to take this talk to college campuses throughout the diocese and provide young adults with the tools to make educated decisions about cohabitation.

Studies show that convenience and money issues typically prompt unmarried couples to live together, and that cohabitating couples view their relationship as a “trial marriage,” Healy reportedly told the students. But these couples also know that the arrangement is not a marriage, which often causes one to exclude the other from financial matters and decisions, he said. These issues could impede their dependence on each other in the future as husband and wife, he concluded.

Many cohabitating couples proceed with marriage to appease one of the partners or to stifle family pressures, even though both might be unsure about marriage, Healy suggested. And rather than basing a decision on love and commitment, some partners feel that they have invested so much time in the relationship that there is “too much to lose” not to get married, he said.

The Catholic Church disapproves of cohabitation but leaders of the Church direct the clergy and others to welcome the couples back to the Church without hesitation and teach them about the blessings of marriage, he instructed.

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Women's Cancer Deaths Up, Men's Down -- Women's Group Berates American Cancer Society

Hoffman Estates, Ill., Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer,  a women's group, is aiming critics against the American Cancer Society (ACS) today because women's cancer deaths rose by 409 cases in 2003, while men's cancer deaths declined by 778 cases. Last week, the ACS celebrated a small net decrease of 369 cases - allegedly the first decline in deaths from all cancers since the government began keeping national statistics 75 years ago.

The high number of Cancer deaths was kept high, due to sustained number of breast cancer, (40,400 expected in 2005 ), being therefore  the second greatest cancer killer of women.

Attention is centered on the abortion-breast cancer link, the main cause of the steady number of deaths due to all cancers and  which authorities failed to signal twenty years ago. The remark is made by Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer.

"In a 1986 letter to the British journal Lancet, government scientists acknowledged that 'Induced abortion before first term pregnancy increases the risk of breast cancer.' Instead of informing women, the cancer establishment chose to cover it up by using seriously flawed research to discredit the link. Now women are paying with their lives," she argues.

Although the ACS refuses to implicate abortion in any way, it makes the following revealing admission on its website:

"Much of the long-term underlying increase in (breast cancer) incidence among women is due to historical changes in reproductive patterns, such as delayed childbearing and having fewer children."

Everyone knows what caused women to change their childbearing patterns - abortion and contraceptives.

For more information, see this article: "Women's Cancer Deaths Up, Men's Deaths Down / American Cancer Society Celebrates Net Decrease / Abortion-Breast Cancer Cover Up Responsible for Women's Deaths"

The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer is an international women's organization founded to protect the health and save the lives of women by educating and providing information on abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer.

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Vatican confirms the appointment of Elias Shakur as Archbishop of the Greek-Catholic Melkite Church

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican and the Catholic Bishops' Synod  appointed on February 7, for the first time an Israeli citizen to preside over Israel's Catholic community as Archbishop of Akkra for the Greek-Catholic Melkite Church. The nomination was confirmed today by Pope Benedict XVI.

Minister Elias Shakur, a Palestinian, is the first Israeli citizen to be appointed to the position. This is also the first time in 200 years a Palestinian has been appointed. Until now, ministers from foreign countries, particularly from Lebanon, were appointed bishop.

Shakur will serve as bishop for the entire Catholic population of Israel. The Catholic Patriarch in Lebanon will appoint a separate bishop to preside over the Catholic population in East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Shakur told Haaretz, an Israeli news daily,  that he was accepting his appointment at a "fairly difficult time for relations between Jews, Arabs and Muslims."

He said part of his job would be to strengthen tolerance, coexistence and cooperation between all citizens of Israel.

Shakur said that as the first Hebrew speaking bishop he would be able to accurately pass messages between the members of the Catholic community in Israel. Shakur added that he wanted to help reorganize the Catholic church and community in Israel that has suffered revolts and struggles in the pasr years.

Shakur, 66, is a displaced Palestinian originally from the village of Biram. He holds a Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy and Religious Studies from the Sorbonne University in Paris. In 1965 he was appointed minister in the village of Kafr A'avlin, where he continued to live even after his term ended one month following his appointment. Shakur also completed a second degree in Biblical Verse and Talmud from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Sunce the 1970s Shakur has been active in a number of projects to create settlement communities for Catholics, forming kindergartens, teen youth centers and schools. He calls his 'crowning achievement' his establishment of a school for practical engineering in A'avlin, the first Arabic institution in Israel offering a first degree.

Shakur was nominated for the Nobel prize in 1986, 1989 and 1994. He received numerous awards for tolerance and peace and has written books and articles on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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Apostolic Nuncio exhorts Mexicans to vote responsibly

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - While participating in the installation of Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Villegas Aguilar of the Archdiocese of Michoacan and asked about the Church’s participation in the upcoming elections, the Apostolic Nuncio in Mexico, Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, said the “Church desires to help and accompany the people in this electoral moment in order to strengthen the democratic system.”

For his part, Archbishop Alberto Suarez Inda of Morelia said the Church in Mexico is calling on the faithful to vote responsibly and to be conscious of their role in society.  “Christians must participate in society,” he stated. 

Archbishop Bello also said one of the challenges that has always faced the Church is that of evangelization.  “I don’t think it is necessary to speak of a new evangelization,” he added, “but rather of the evangelization entrusted to us by Pope John Paul II.”

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Investigation into murder of Mexican cardinal re-opened

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Supreme Court of the Mexican state of Jalisco has nullified the sentences of 13 individuals involved in the killing of Cardinal Jesus Posadas Ocampo in 1993, resulting in the reopening of the investigation into the incident that continues to stir controversy among the Mexican public.

Cardinal Posadas, who was Archbishop of Guadalajara, was gunned down during a confusing series of events at the city’s airport in May of 1993.  Although some have held the cardinal was caught in the middle of a gunfight between two drug trafficking gangs, there are many clues that indicate it was a planned assassination.

The high court in Jalisco decided to nullify the sentences over technicalities.  The case will be remanded back to a criminal court where arguments, witnesses and evidences will be re-examined.

According to the Mexican daily El Tiempo, “Three years after the murder that gave way to the worst cycle of political destabilization, the re-opening of the Posadas case will bring to the forefront of the investigations the official version that it was confusion and the hypothesis of the Church hierarchy that it was a crime of conspiracy.”

The newspaper said the reopening of the case casts doubt upon the conclusions of former government attorney Jorge Carpizo McGregor, who garnered international support for his theory that the cardinal was killed out of confusion, without seriously analyzing the hypothesis that the murder was planned and deliberate.

El Tiempo notes that an investigation by journalist Jose Alberto Villasana, who wrote a book about the killing, revealed two inconsistencies in the Carpizo McGregor investigation.  “The cardinal was not caught in the crossfire because there were no bullet impacts in the car in which he was riding, and the cardinal suffered direct gunshots, going from top to bottom and from short distance.”

The re-opening of the case will allow for an examination of the contradictions in the conclusions filed by the special commission charged with investigating the murder, the report stated.

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Peruvian bishop argues science has not disproved abortifacient effect of morning after pill

Lima, Peru, Feb 17, 2006 (CNA) - In response to statements by some congressional and presidential candidates in Peru regarding the distribution of the morning after pill, Bishop Miguel Irizar of Callao said this week that up to now there has been no scientific study disproving the abortifacient nature of the drug.

“The Church in the world has sufficient reasons for affirming that this pill can attack the life of a newly-conceived human being because the risk exists that the drug will not allow the embryo to become implanted in the uterine wall,” the bishop said.

Gynecologist Paul Ramos, who is an advisor to the Peruvian bishops on health issues, noted that it has always been clear to the Church and to science that life begins at conception, and he noted that “scientists have not disproved the potential abortifacient effect of the so-called emergency oral contraceptive.”

“From the scientific point of view, the morning after pill has one clear purpose and therefore its distribution is not feasible,” he maintained.

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