Archive of March 17, 2006

Power of media must be harnessed for good of humanity, says Pope, not self-serving profit

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - In an address to Catholic thinkers entrenched in the world of social communications, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the need to harness the power of media for the good of society, urging them to denounce that which is morally destructive and merely profit-driven.

The address was part of a meeting today in the Vatican with participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

The president of that Council is Archbishop John P. Foley.

The Holy Father began his address by praising assembly members for their commitment "to the important apostolate of social communications, both as a direct form of evangelization and as a contribution to the promotion of all that is good and true for every human society."

He referred back to his first Message for World Communications Day--released in January--in which, he discussed "the media as a network which facilitates communication, communion and cooperation."

That message,the Pontiff said, recalled how "the Vatican Council II decree 'Inter Mirifica,' had already recognized the enormous power of the media to inform the minds of individuals and to shape their thinking.”

“Forty years later”, he said, “we realize, more than ever, the pressing need to harness that power for the benefit of all humanity."

Quoting St .Paul, Benedict said that "we are no longer strangers and aliens but citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." He added that "This sublime portrayal of a life of communion engages all aspects of our lives as Christians and for you, in a particular way, points to the challenge to encourage the social communications and entertainment industries to be protagonists of truth and promoters of peace."

"Such acommitment”, he told the group, “demands principled courage and resolve, on the part of those who own and work within the hugely influential media industry, to ensure that promotion of the common good is never sacrificed to a self-serving quest for profit or an ideological agenda with little public accountability."

Promote what is good, denounce what is false

Pope Benedictalso referred to another theme of his message, which he said, was "the urgent need to uphold and support marriage and family life, the foundation of every culture and society."

In this light he urged assembly members to recognize the importance of presenting children with "edifying models of human life and love," that do not" ridicule the God-given dignity of the human person and undermine family interests."

As he concluded his address, Benedict calling on media leaders "to promote what is good and true, especially in regard to the meaning of human and social existence, and to denounce what is false, especially pernicious trends which erode the fabric of a civil society."

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New monthly will provide ongoing information about beatification of John Paul II

Rome, Italy, Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Vicariate of Rome has announced that they will launch a new monthly magazine that will provide ongoing information about the process for the beatification and canonization of Pope John Paul II.

The publication, which will be called “Totus Tuus” in honor of Karol Wojtyla’s papal motto, aims “to become a valid instrument of unity between all those who await the conclusion of the process and support spiritually and materially.”

Some 25,000 requests have already been received for the first edition, which will be distributed free of charge.  Requests can be made through the Vicariate’s website

The magazine will initially be published in Italian, Spanish, English and Polish, and later in French, Russian and Chinese.  

One of the major features which the Vicarate of Rome announced is the inclusion of outstanding testimonials about the holiness of life of John Paul II within the magazine.

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Mutual messages between Pope and Russian Patriarch stress reconciliation, becoming signs of peace, respect to the world

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has told His Holiness Alexis II, patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, that the world today needs to hear voices indicating the way of peace, condemning violence and upholding the dignity of individuals and their human rights.

The Vatican released today the text of a message sent by the Pope to the Russian patriarch, and in turn, one from Alexis II back to the Holy Father. They were exchanged in February.

On February 20th, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, the Holy See’s vice dean of the College of Cardinals, was in Moscow to present the Russian patriarch with the Pope's Message along with a gold medal commemorating the current pontificate.

In exchange, after presiding at a solemn liturgy celebrated on February 24th in Moscow’s Cathedral of the Holy Savior, Alexis II presented his own message for the Pope along with a pectoral cross as a sign of his gratitude and respect for the Holy Father.

The Liturgy was held in honor of the patriarch’s birthday and name day.

In his Message, Pope Benedict said that he "spiritually associates" himself with the patriarch's double celebration, and invokes "abundant blessings from the Lord upon your person and your ministry, so generously dedicated to the great cause of the Gospel.”

He went on to write that "The gestures and words of renewed fraternity between pastors of the Lord's flock show how ever more intense collaboration in truth and charity contribute to increasing the spirit of communion, which must guide the steps of all the baptized."

The Holy Father stressed that the modern world "needs to hear voices indicating the way of peace, of respect for everyone, of condemnation for all forms of violence, of the higher dignity of all individuals and of their intrinsic rights."

In his Message, Partiarch Alexis II thanked Benedict for his greetings and wrote that "In our own times, with the rapid growth of secularism, Christianity finds itself facing important challenges that require a shared testimony.”

"I am convinced," he continued, "that one of today's priorities for our Churches, which have a shared vision of the many problems currently facing the modern world, must be the defense and affirmation in society of the Christian values by which humanity has lived for more than a millennium.”

“I hope”, he wrote, “that the rapid resolution of outstanding problems between our two Churches will also contribute to this end."

The Russian patriarch concluded his message extending his "best wishes for good health" to the Pope and invoked God’s assistance "in carrying out the exalted office of primate of the Roman Catholic Church."

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Analyst says Catholic democrats ‘can’t have it both ways’

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - In light of the recently released, and much debated “Statement of Principles”, signed by a number of U.S. Catholic democratic party leaders, Catholic analyst and papal biographer George Weigel is charging that although many of the politician’s words oppose abortion, their actions don‘t back it up.

In his most recent column, Weigel opines that many of the Catholic democrats who signed the February 28th statement resemble a group of politicians who, in 1964 voiced their agreement with Catholic bishops concerning civil rights, but then turned around and voted against the Civil Rights Act, as soon as it reached the floor of the House of Representatives.

Some 80% of Catholics who signed that statement supporting the position of the U.S. Bishops--who were for the 1964 Act--then voted it down and supported segregation.

Weigel said that “these were politicians trying to have it both ways,” and that, they “took neither the teaching of the Church nor the logic of justice seriously.”

“I think”, he then went on to say, “that's what ought to be said about the latest attempt to finesse the abortion issue, which came in the form of a statement signed by 55 House Democrats,” all of whom, were Catholics.

He cited the February statement, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), in which signatories pledge to "promoting alternatives to abortion, such as adoption, and improving access to children's health care and child care, as well as policies that encourage paternal and maternal responsibility."

The rub, he quickly pointed out, is that thirty-three of statement’s 55, including Rep. DeLauro, “voted to support the legality of partial-birth abortion. Forty-one of the signatories (again including Rep. DeLauro) voted to make abortion legal in Defense Department clinics and hospitals abroad. Thirty-seven of the signatories (including --- you guessed it --- Rep. DeLauro) voted against efforts to constrain the courts from compelling hospitals and doctors to perform abortions.”

Weigel asked: “How do any of these votes square with the signatories' statement that they ‘agree with the Catholic Church about the value of human life and the undesirability of abortion --- we do not celebrate its practice‘?”

“This”, he chided, “is the same old same old --- ‘I'm personally opposed, but…’ --- tarted up in new vesture.”

“One cannot speak credibly about the ‘undesirability of abortion’”, he further pointed out, “and then vote to protect and expand the abortion license. One cannot credibly claim to believe what the Catholic Church believes ‘about the value of human life’ and then ignore the central question posed by Roe v. Wade: is the willful taking of innocent human life compatible with a free and virtuous society?”

He said that “One cannot appeal to the ‘primacy of conscience’ to defend the unconscionable --- any more than one could make that appeal in denying full legal and political rights to Americans of African descent.”

Addressing one of the most volatile questions in the U.S. Church today, he said that “It's the bishops' prerogative responsibility to decide what is to be done, within the Church's discipline, about Catholic legislators whose votes support the willful taking of innocent human lives.”

“That's a matter internal to the Church's life,” he wrote, “to be addressed by the Church's pastoral authorities.”

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Catholics can have their corned beef and eat it too; many bishops allow meat on St. Patrick's Day

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - While the Catholic Church prohibits eating meat on Fridays during Lent, bishops in about one-third of the U.S.'s 197 dioceses have issued a one-day waiver of the rule for St. Patrick’s Day, citing the tradition of having meals of corned beef and cabbage, reported the Washington Post.

Among the bishops granting the dispensation are those in Washington, Baltimore, Arlington and Richmond. They said Catholics eating meat this St. Patrick’s Day should offset their action by making another sacrifice tomorrow or on another day during Lent.

Some local Catholics told the Post they still plan to avoid meat today, despite their bishop's permission to indulge.

In dioceses where bishops did not opt for the waiver, such as in Columbus, Ohio, Sioux City and Iowa, the Irish festivities there seemed to talk more of fish and chips—a Lenten staple for American Catholics.

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Church stands firm in opposition to immigration reform bill

El Paso, Texas, Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics, both episcopal leaders and laypeople, continue to voice their opposition to a pending U.S. immigration reform bill, H.R. 4437, which they view as unfair and which could penalize churches for helping undocumented immigrants.

Earlier this month, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles called on church leaders and members to defy the bill if it becomes law. Catholics have also participated in marches in several U.S. cities, demonstrating against the bill, reported the El Paso Times.

Likewise, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has expressed its own opposition to the bill.

St. Pius X Catholic Community in El Paso decided to voice their opposition by hanging two large banners from the copper dome of their church. The signs, which were put up Saturday, say: "Immigrants Welcome -- Oppose H.R. 4437."

The bill, which was passed by the House in December and must be still approved by the Senate, would make it a crime to help undocumented immigrants stay in the U.S. It would require churches and other social organizations to ask immigrants for legal documentation before providing assistance.

Msgr. Arturo Bañuelas, the pastor at St. Pius X, told the El Paso Times that the bill could send him and other church workers to prison for taking groceries to the elderly, driving people to doctor appointments, teaching English classes and other activities the church undertakes without questioning people on their immigration status.

Bishop Armando Ochoa is expected to hold a press conference on the proposed immigration bill March 25.

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US bishops affirm support for marriage amendment

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Alliance for Marriage is bolstered by the U.S. bishops’ strong endorsement of the group’s Marriage Protection Amendment, said the group in a press release yesterday.

The Alliance for Marriage introduced their marriage amendment with bi-partisan sponsorship in two successive sessions of Congress. The Senate vote on the amendment is pending in June.

"Most Americans believe that gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose. But they don't believe they have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society," said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage.

"AFM drafted the Marriage Protection Amendment because Americans want our laws to send a positive message to children about marriage, family and their future," he explained in a press release.

"The constitutional problem created by almost a decade of activist lawsuits to destroy our marriage laws demands a constitutional fix," he continued.

The Alliance for Marriage is a wide-reaching multicultural coalition. Its Board of Advisors includes civil rights and religious leaders, and national legal experts.

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Issue of gay adoptions not as divisive as gay marriage

Chicago, Ill., Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican’s recent reiteration of its position against Catholic organizations facilitating gay adoptions has raised more debate on the issue in the United States. But many observers say this debate will prove much less divisive than gay marriage, reported The Christian Science Monitor.

Recently, the bishops in Massachusetts announced that Catholic Charities of Boston would stop placing children with same-sex couples. Catholic Charities in San Francisco is currently under similar pressure.

Timothy Muldoon, director of the nonpartisan ‘Church in the 21st Century Center’ at Boston College, explained the Vatican position. He told The Christian Science Monitor that the bishops and the Vatican "are concerned with human rights, but they're also fundamentally concerned with particularly creating a culture that supports the family.”

Currently, Florida, Mississippi, and Utah have laws that ban gay adoption. Nebraska, Arkansas, and Missouri have de facto policies or laws restricting gays from adopting or becoming foster parents. Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, among others, have indicated a willingness to introduce constitutional amendments. And Arizona is considering a bill that would force the state to give priority to married couples, reported the Christian Science Monitor.

Child-welfare advocates, however, say these laws keep children desperately in need of stability from getting any family at all.

"While it's still a divisive issue, it's not nearly as inflammatory as gay marriage," Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, told the Christian Science Monitor.

"With gay marriage there's the whole question of what marriage represents, in what's a religious ceremony for many people,” he was quoted as saying. “With adoption we have the issue of children who are uncared for being taken care of. There are all kinds of crosscurrents that will be there that aren't there for gay marriage."

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is expected to release its research on gay adoptive parents this month. Previous research demonstrates there are no substantive reasons not to place children with same-sex couples, the organization says.

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Pope to hold meeting with Roman Curia to discuss reforms and SSPX schism

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - According to Vatican sources, Pope Benedict XVI has scheduled an unplanned meeting with the presidents of the different Vatican dicasteries, at which he will discuss reforms of the Curia and relations with the Saint Pius X, Lefebvrist schism.

The extraordinary April 7th meeting announcement comes after an ordinary meeting which took place last month, at which the Holy Father asked the dicastery heads about universal approval of the Missal of St. Pius V, the rite which was in force prior to Vatican II.

During this unusual second meeting, the Pontiff is expected to solicit opinions about what to do with the Missal of St. Pius V and about a possible canonical formula for re-incorporating the followers of the schismatic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre into the Church.

The reorganization of the Roman Curia, which has already begun with the folding of four dicasteries into two, announced last weekend, is also expected to be discussed.

According to Vatican sources, the issue of reorganization of the Curia might also be discussed during the consistory that Pope has convened for March 23 and 24.


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Argentine bishops say memory of dictatorship necessary to build a better democracy

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - The executive committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina issued a document this week entitled, “Remembering the past in order to wisely build the present,” which points out that for the good of democracy, the Argentine dictatorship which began on March 24, 1976, should not be forgotten.

“The memory of a people,” the statement says, “is nourished by innumerable events that mark its history.  Some should be celebrated, such as fruitful events that strengthen society.  Others, although they cause pain and sadness, should not be silenced.”

“We Argentineans look back and recall the break with our democratic system of March 24, 1976,” the message continues.  “This event, which took place in the context of great institutional fragility and was consented to by the leadership of that time, had grave consequences which left a negative mark on the daily life of our nation.”

The bishops ask: “What sense does it make to remember such a painful anniversary? With what kind of a spirit shall we recall it?”

“These events of the past,” they note, “which speak to us of enormous attacks against life and human dignity, and of the scorn for law and for institutions, are an appropriate occasion for Argentineans to repent yet again of our errors and learn from the past as we move forward in the present.”

“As Christians, when we enter into to our past, we do so to purify it and to turn it into a source of wisdom, reconciliation and hope,” the bishops added.

“It should be this spirit of reconciliation that animates us in the present, leading us away from both impunity, which weakens the value of justice, and anger and resentment, which can divide us and lead to confrontation.”  

“A fruitful look at the past,” the statement notes, “should help us all to grow in our dignity as children of God and to responsibly commit ourselves to the building up of our country as brothers and sisters.”

“May our faith in God, who is Father of all, strengthen and enlighten us on this path that we are called to take together,” the statement concludes.

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Paris Mass for life remembers Christian scientist, Jerome Lejeune.

Paris, France, Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic Officials have announced that a Mass for life will to be celebrated in Paris next month in honor of renown Christian scientist and professor, Jerome Lejeune.

Bishop Jean Laffitte, who is vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life will preside at the annual liturgy, held each year on the anniversary of his April 3rd death. It is being organized by the Jerome-Lejeune Foundation.

Professor Lejeune has been hailed as the father of modern genetics and, according to Jean-Marie Le Méné, Président of the Lejeune Fondation, is known as a world-renown scientific who profoundly shaped humanity by his personal engagement at the service of mankind.

Since his death in 1994, he has inspired many vocations of Christian doctors and scientific researchers.  Pope John Paul II spoke of the “truly shining testimony of his life as a man and as a Christian.”

“His example”, added Le Mene, “should still be compelling and in his following, many young people join him as servants of Life.”

In the same year as his death, LeJeune was appointed head of the Pontifical Science Academy, of which he had been a member since 1974.

Since 1994, the Jerome LeJeune Foundation has been dedicated to perpetuating his work in all its dimensions.

Its three main aspects are research, healing and the defense of human life. “Trying to heal without defending life and without research would be betraying; researching without defending and healing would be failing,” stressed Le Mene.
The Foundation is a primary source of funds in the research of Downs Syndrome and currently funds more than 100 programs on genetic diseases throughout the world.

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Cuban diocese honors Father Varela

Havana, Cuba, Mar 17, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier this month, Bishop Jose Manuel Perez of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, unveiled a new statute in honor of the Father Felix Varela, one of Cuba’s most important historical figures, at the diocesan cathedral.

The statue of the Cuban priest, which was fashioned by Manuel Perez Velez, shows a smiling Father Varela, “with the hope of someone who trusts in God and in the virtues of the men and women of his nation.”  The star on the shield “expresses Varela’s thinking about independence and freedom for Cuba.”

At the foot of the statue is the phrase, “Seek the glory of God in everything, sanctifying all of our actions, disposed towards love of neighbor.”

The statue was unveiled on March 12th.

New book released

Vitral Publications has also released a new philosophical work by Father Varela, which was first published in 1812 in Latin but was later lost.  It was recently found by Dr. Amaury B. Carbon Sierra, a professor at the University of Havana.

The book is part of a three-volume collection, the first two of which were written in Latin, as was the custom of the time. The third was written in Spanish.

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