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Archive of March 23, 2006

San Francisco city supervisors slam Vatican position on gay adoptions

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 23, 2006 (CNA) - The City of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors issued a statement Tuesday, calling on the Vatican to change its directive against gay adoptions and urging the new archbishop of San Francisco, Archbishop George Niederauer, to defy the Vatican.

"It is an insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great city's existing and established customs and traditions, such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need,” stated the nonbonding resolution, which was passed unanimously.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has indicated that it will comply with the Vatican, but Catholic Charities of San Francisco’s executive director said Tuesday that the agency’s policies and procedures have not changed, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. Since 2000, the agency has placed only five children with same-sex couples.

In their resolution, the city’s elected officials called a 2003 Vatican document that addressed same-sex unions and gay adoptions "hateful and discriminatory rhetoric (that) is both insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors,” reported the Chronicle.

The supervisors called Archbishop William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who reminded Catholics last week of the Vatican’s position against gay adoptions, a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city and of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear.”

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, a gay Catholic, parent and grandparent who wrote the resolution, told the Chronicle that he believes Catholic Charities appears to be trying to find a creative solution to the situation.

At the same time, some fear a conflict of interests as Catholic Charities newly-hired director of programs is an openly gay man who has an adopted child together with his partner.

City Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, a married Catholic, said he believes the Church “made a mistake” in its position and voting for the resolution was the right thing to do.

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Pope Benedict, Cardinals discuss lifting excommunications on Lefebvrists, free use of Latin missal

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2006 (CNA) - As the Pope met today with members of the College of Cardinals, who are in Rome for tomorrow’s Consistory where 15 new cardinals will be added to their ranks, the subjects of the schismatic Saint Pius X Society as well as the use of the Latin missal and retirement age for bishops largely held the floor.

According to CNA’s sources in the Vatican one of today’s main topics of conversation surrounded the possibility of lifting the excommunication on Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the four bishops ordained by him before his death. Their group, the Saint Puis X Society broke away from the Church following the Second Vatican Council.

In addition, the Pope and the Cardinals discussed whether or not they may declare a full amnesty for the free use of  Pope V's Latin missal; and how to do so without betraying the spirit of the Vatican II Council.

The second major topic of conversation surrounded the retirement age for bishops.

Given that life expectancy and quality of life have improved since the original age of 75 was put in place, some cardinals have suggested the possibility of postponing the legal age of retirement to 80.

150 of the 193-member College of Cardinals were in attendance today for a day of prayer and reflection called for by Pope Benedict ahead of the Ordinary Public Consistory--including the 15 which will be incorporated tomorrow. The Vatican said that today’s meetings followed the general format of discussions used prior to last year’s papal conclave.

The official languages of today’s meetings have been English, Italian, French and Spanish.


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Pressure mounts on Afghanistan to release Christian convert

Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2006 (CNA) - An increasing number of groups and governments are calling on Afghanistan to honor the universal human right to religious practice and to release Abdul Rahman, who is being tried in an Afghan court for having converted to Christianity from Islam.

Rahman, 41, faces a possible death penalty for converting to Christianity 16 years ago. He has been charged with rejecting Islam, which is considered a crime under the country's Islamic laws. Rahman is expected to undergo a psychological examination. The trial will be dropped if he is found mentally unfit.

President George Bush said Wednesday he is “deeply troubled … that a person who converted away from Islam may be held to account.”

"We expect them [Afghanistan government] to honor the universal principle of freedom," Bush reportedly said, having requested the man’s release one day earlier. "I look forward to working with the government of that country to make sure that people are protected in their capacity to worship."

The Embassy of Afghanistan in the U.S. said it has received a significant number of inquiries about Rahman’s case and greatly appreciates the public concern.

“The Government of Afghanistan is fully aware of and pursuing the best ways to resolve Mr. Rahman’s case judicially,” said an embassy statement, released yesterday. “It is too early to draw any conclusion about the punishment, and we appreciate public understanding of the sensitivity of religious issues.

“The Constitution of Afghanistan provides protection for freedom of religion,” the embassy statement underlined. “The Government of Afghanistan will ensure that the constitutional rights of its citizens, international principles, and the due judicial process are respected and implemented.”

These assurances, however, have not abated the calls for Rahman’s release from religious and human rights groups. “Abdul Rahman, along with every other Afghan citizen, deserves freedom of religion,” said Concerned Women of America president Wendy Wright.

Wright argued that the ruling in this case would set a precedent for what will follow in the budding democracy of Afghanistan. “We call on Afghanistan to spare this man’s life and ensure all Afghans can enjoy religious liberty,” she said. She also commended Rahman for his religious conviction in the face of adversity, calling him “an example to us all.”

In a letter to President Bush, Christian Freedom International also called for Rahman’s immediate release and indicated that his “is not an isolated incident.”

“The persecution of Christians is an increasing, unintended consequence of the War on Terror,” said Christian Freedom International president Jim Jacobson.

Rahman’s case is just “the tip of the iceberg,” said Jacobson. “There are thousands of other persecuted Christians in Islamic nations just like him. Becoming a Christian should not be considered a crime in Afghanistan or elsewhere.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties advocacy group based in Washington, also urged Afghanistan to release Rahman.

An editorial today in the New York Times called Afghanistan’s move to try and declare Rahman “mentally unfit” a “cheap trick” which would merely avoid the international mess and keep the Islamic law on the books indefinately.

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College of Cardinals gather in Rome for Consistory, vow to assist Pope Benedict in mission of Church

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2006 (CNA) - Members of the College of Cardinals have gathered in the Vatican in advance of Friday’s Ordinary Public Consistory in which Pope Benedict XVI will create the first new cardinals of his pontificate.

Today, the Holy See hosted a day of prayer and reflection--called for by the Pope himself--during which the Cardinals asked the Holy Father how they could assist him in his mission as shepherd of the Church.

As the meeting commenced in the Vatican‘s Synod Hall, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who is dean of the College of Cardinals, thanked the Holy Father on behalf of all those present for having called them to this day of prayer. He called it an encouragement "to joint action more in keeping with the pastoral challenges of the present time".

He stressed that today’s meeting "shows the importance Your Holiness attributes to the College of Cardinals.”

“For our part,” he said in response, “we undertake to abide by the mission the Church expects from us".

Addressing the entire gathered body, Cardinal Sodano reflected that the cardinals help in the mission of the Pope "both when gathered collegially, and when acting individually within the Roman Curia".

In this light, he highlighted what he called the “complementarity” between the two consultative bodies which the Church places at the disposal of the Pontiff. Namely, these are the Synod, created after Vatican Council II, and the College of Cardinals itself.

The cardinal concluded by asking Pope Benedict to inform the College “of the themes upon which you wish to hear our opinion and to take counsel.”

“As dean,” he said, “it is also my honor to extend to you the devoted greetings of all members of the College of Cardinals who are absent because of urgent appointments or through reasons of health - such as Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, dean emeritus - and who are present in spirit".

The Vatican said that during today’s meeting, there will be free discussions among the participants, following a format similar to the Cardinal’s gathering last year prior to the papal conclave. Those were led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.

15 men from around the world will become Cardinals tomorrow including 2 from the U.S.

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Doctor says disabled newborns are killed in North Korea

Seoul, South Korea, Mar 23, 2006 (CNA) - North Korea has no people with physical disabilities because they are killed soon after they are born, according to Dr. Ri Kwang-chol, who fled the communist country to South Korea last year. He shared his shocking tales yesterday with a forum of human rights activists in Soeul.

Dr. Kwang-chol said the practice of killing newborns with disabilities is encouraged by the state as a way of purifying the masses and eliminating people who might be considered "different,” reported Reuters.

He told members of the New Right Union, who were gathered at the forum, that babies born with physical disabilities were killed in infancy in hospitals or in homes and were quickly buried, reported Reuters. He said he never took part in the practice.

The group issued a statement, urging the South Korean government to stop its “silent diplomacy” with its northern neighbor and to take immediate action. But the South Korean government has refused to join international condemnation of North Korea’s human rights abuses for fear that it could put off relations with Pyongyang.

Pro-life activists in the West fear that the prevalence of abortion in the Western world will eventually lead Western countries down the slippery slope toward this practice as well.

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Strong sales for advanced copies of new Catechism Compendium

Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2006 (CNA) - It may not make the New York Times Bestsellers’ List, but the U.S. bishops’ publishing office is expecting the soon-to-be-released Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to become a major publishing success.

With pre-publications sales at over 40,000, the USCCB is expecting to sell up to 200,000 copies in the first year. A publishing rule of thumb is that pre-publication sales amount to one-third of first year sales.

The 200-page synthesis of the 1992 Catechism, available in English and in Spanish, will be officially available March 31. It has been available by special order for the last few weeks.

Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the Compendium last year, attesting to its faithfulness to the Catechism. It “contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church’s faith,” he assured.

He expressed hope that it “may awaken in the Church of the third millennium renewed zeal for evangelization and education in the faith.”

The Compendium, which is organized in 598 easy questions and answers, was initiated by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in response to an urgent need expressed by catechetical experts worldwide.

Paperback copies cost $14.95; hardcover books cost $24.95.

To order, go to www.usccbpublishing.org.

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Expert warns of new strategy to promote abortion in Latin America

Lima, Peru, Mar 23, 2006 (CNA) - The recent case of Paulina Ramirez, a rape victim who was used by the US-based “Center for Reproductive Rights (CFR)” and its partners to force the Mexican state of Baja California to approve abortion in cases of rape, is part of a new strategy to force Latin America to accept abortion, according to Carlos Polo, director for Latin America of the Population Research Institute.

Speaking with CNA, Polo said the new strategy, which consists of using non-binding international agreements to surprise countries, “is explained in an essay entitled, ‘What role does international law play in the promotion and advancing of reproductive rights in Latin America?” written by Monica Roa—the Colombian lawyer seeking the legalization of abortion in that country—Lilian Sepulveda-Oliva and Luisa Cabal.  All three are members of the CFR.

In their essay, the writers propose using international litigation to “develop new standards for the protection of reproductive rights” and to force local authorities to ignore the country’s laws and introduce changes that would allow abortion and “reproductive health” services for teenagers.

The three women acknowledge that these situations are “still without a solid legal framework that reflects an obligation to exercise reproductive rights.”

Polo said this strategy has already been used in three cases—two in Peru and the most recent in Mexico—by the CFR.

The case in Mexico was that of Paulina Ramirez, who was a victim of rape.  In Peru, the case being used is that of Karen Llantoy, who is mother of an anencephalic child and whose lawyers argue that it is a case of “therapeutic” abortion because abortion is not penalized in cases of life or health of the mother.  The other case in Peru is that of Mamerita Mestanza, who died after a forced sterilization and lack of medical attention.

Polo notes that there are common elements in all three cases: “An ideologically based reinterpretation of international pacts and treaties and an over-exaggeration of the role of the follow-up committees for these treaties.”  “It must be remembered that the recommendations of these committees are non-binding, that is, they do not compel a country; and yet the strategy of the CFR is, with the support of other human rights organizations, to intimidate countries and to make them think that they are not fulfilling binding international agreements,” Polo added.

“In this way, when a state acquiesces to the pressure, it establishes a series of ‘agreements’ that mean acceptance of the practice of abortion, and it establishes precedent for future cases,” Polo continued.

In the case of Paulina Ramirez in Mexico, the CFR and its allies sued the Mexican state of Baja California “for preventing her access to abortion since, according to the plaintiffs, the birth of the child—who ironically is being lovingly today raised by Paulina—violated her sexual integrity.”

The state of Baja California finally agreed to pay reparations to Paulina and said it would not allow “cases like Paulina to happen again in the state.”

Pro-life groups are working to determine what the state of Baja California has committed to and whether it would be in violation of Mexican law, which does not recognize the “right” to abortion in cases of rape.  “The strategy consists in insisting that this is about ‘the violation of the mother’s human rights’ without mentioning the rights of the child,” Polo explained.

According to Polo, “CFR has no interest in understanding or respecting the legal framework that protects life as a tradition and as a conviction.  What we have here is a subversion of the legal order cooked up and planned in an office in New York,” he added.

Polo said if anti-life groups were truly concerned about maternal mortality, “they would focus their efforts on the main cause, which is poorly-attended births, which account for more than three-fourths of maternal deaths in Latin America.  It’s their ideological objectives that make them focus on abortion, which is the cause of only six percent of such deaths.”

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German Church announces theme for papal visit to Bavaria: “He who believes is never alone”

Munich, Germany, Mar 23, 2006 (CNA) - As part of the preparations for the Pope’s upcoming visit to Bavaria in September, the bishops of the three dioceses that will host the Holy Father have announced the official theme of the visit through a poster campaign: “He who believes is never alone.”

The Kath.net news agency reported that during the traditional conference marking the beginning of the new season in Freising, the Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, Bishop Wilhelm Schraml of Passau and Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of Ratisbona presented the official picture and theme for the Pope’s visit to their respective dioceses.

The poster features a picture of the Pontiff over a blue background with the theme of the visit printed at the bottom.

The picture will be displayed in the different dioceses of Germany, as well as in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, inviting the faithful to travel to Bavaria for the historic visit.

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Archbishop says Chavez employing Messianism to distract Venezuelans

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 23, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Baltazar Porras of Merida, Venezuela, said this week that President Hugo Chavez is employing Messianism and creating conflicts with other countries in order to get Venezuelans to forget about “their painful reality, which consists of growing poverty, insecurity and unemployment.”

The archbishop says Chavez uses religious language in his speeches in attempt to link Christianity to Socialism.  Thus people end up believing Socialism is Christianity “incarnate.”  He said this was a propaganda tool Chavez is using “to get the people on his side.” 

Archbishop Porras said the Venezuelan president “gives people so-called answers in order to distract them from real problems.”  He also said the Church in Venezuela is being persecuted for rejecting the government’s policies.

 

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Opus Dei launches new website in 22 languages

Madrid, Spain, Mar 23, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic apostolate, Opus Dei has recently launched a new website in 22 languages offering a variety of information about the Prelature together with news about the Pope’s activities and current events in the Church.

The new website at http://www.opusdei.org provides press releases, audio and video files and photos from the press offices of Opus Dei located in different parts of the world.

It also offers an email subscription, which sends a daily excerpt from the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer to an estimated 40,000 members.  

During 2005, Opus Dei’s old website was visited by more than three million people.

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