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Archive of March 27, 2006

Pope Benedict urges world solidarity with persecuted Christians

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2006 (CNA) - Before praying his weekly Angelus prayer before a crowd of thousands in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Pope Benedict expressed his solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world, sending his “warm encouragement to carry on in the patience and charity of Christ,” awaiting the full realization of the “Kingdom of God to come.”

His words come as Afghanistan’s Abdul Rahman faces a possible death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago. Rahman’s case has been turned back to the Attorney General because of gaps in the evidence, but due to that country’s Islamic laws, his fate remains uncertain.

The Holy Father began by likening his words with last week’s consistory, in which 15 men were elevated to the position of cardinal.

He called Friday’s event “an intense ecclesial experience that enabled us to taste the spiritual wealth of collegiality, finding ourselves together among brothers from different backgrounds, all united in a single love for Christ and His Church."

"In some way,” he went on, “we relived the situation of the first Christian community, united around Peter and Mary Mother of Jesus to welcome the gift of the Spirit and undertake to spread the Gospel throughout world.”

He gave a sobering explanation of the role of cardinal saying that, “Faithfulness to this mission even unto the sacrifice of their lives is a distinctive characteristic of cardinals, as their oath testifies and as symbolized by the red they wear, the color of blood."

Calling it a "providential coincidence" that the consistory’s March 24th date coincided with "the commemoration of missionaries who, over the past year, have died on the frontiers of evangelization and service to man in various parts of the earth,” the Pope said that the day “provided an opportunity for us to feel closer than ever to those Christians who suffer persecution because of their faith.”

“Their witness, of which news reaches us every day,” he said, “and especially the sacrifice of those killed, edifies and encourages us to an ever more sincere and generous evangelical commitment.”

The Pontiff particularly pointed to “those communities living in countries where religious freedom is lacking or where, despite its affirmation in theory, in practice it suffers many restrictions.”

To those communities, he sent his “warm encouragement to carry on in the patience and charity of Christ, seed of the Kingdom of God to come."

The Holy Father concluded his address by expressing "solidarity in the name of the entire Church" and "daily recollection in my prayers" to those who work in the service of the Gospel under such difficult conditions.

"The Church marches forwards in history”, he said, “and spreads over the earth accompanied by Mary, Queen of the Apostles…We ask her to guide us on our daily journey and to protect with special concern those Christian communities undergoing the greatest difficulty and suffering."

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Pope Benedict: New cardinals are called to serve Church as spouses

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2006 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope Benedict celebrated Mass with the 15 new cardinals created in Friday’s consistory. In presenting them with their new ecclesial rings of office, he compared their new roles to that of spouses, stressing their duty to serve with love.

He called the rings "a sign of dignity, pastoral solicitude and ever stronger communion with the See of Peter."

During his homily, Benedict recalled that the previous day’s celebration coincided with the liturgical Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, during which, he said, "we recognize the origins of the Church."

"Everything began from there," he said. "Every historical achievement of the Church and every one of her institutions must be shaped by that primordial wellspring. They must be shaped by Christ, the incarnate Word of God."

The Pope gave particular attention to the word “beloved”, with which the Angel Gabriel addresses the Virgin Mary.

"Origen”, he pointed out, “observes that no such title had ever been given to a human being, and that it is unparalleled in all of Sacred Scripture. It is a title expressed in passive form, but this 'passivity' of Mary ... implies her free consent. ... In being loved, Mary is fully active, because she accepts with personal generosity the wave of God's love poured out upon her."

Turning then, to the day’s reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, the pontiff said that the mystery of the double 'yes' to God from Christ and from the Virgin must illuminate the lives of the ministers of the Church, and support the cardinals in their mission as the "Senate of Peter's Successor."

He said that “Today's event emphasizes the Petrine principle of the Church, in the light of the other, Marian, principle which is even more fundamental.”

“The importance of the Marian principle in the Church”, Benedict recalled, “was particularly highlighted, after the [Second Vatican Council], by my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II, in keeping with his motto 'Totus tuus'."

"Everything in the Church, every institution and ministry, including that of Peter and his successors,” he stressed, “is 'included' under the Virgin's mantle, within the grace-filled horizon of her 'yes' to God's will. ... The theme of the relationship between the Petrine principle and the Marian principle is also to be found in the symbol of the ring which I am about to consign to you.

He called the ring a “nuptial sign” saying that it must remind the cardinals that “first and foremost you are intimately united with Christ so as to accomplish your mission as bridegrooms of the Church, ... which you are called to serve with the love of a spouse.”

In this light, the Pope said that “the two dimensions of the Church, Marian and Petrine, come together in the supreme value of charity, which constitutes the fulfillment of each."

"Everything in this world will pass away. In eternity only Love will remain," said the Holy Father who went on to recall how the Virgin, after receiving the Angel's message, went to he cousin Elizabeth "'in order to be of service to her.' ... Those who love forget about themselves and place themselves at the service of their neighbor.”

This, he said is the “image and model of the Church…Every ecclesial community, like the Mother of Christ, is called to accept with total generosity the mystery of God Who comes to dwell within her and guides her steps in the ways of love.

Pope Benedict concluded by saying that “this is the path along which I chose to launch my pontificate, inviting everyone, with my first Encyclical, to build up the Church in charity as a 'community of love'."

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Afghan court to release Christian convert, but national tension remains high

Kabul, Afghanistan, Mar 27, 2006 (CNA) - An Afghan man facing a possible death sentence for converting to Christianity from Islam 16 years ago is set to be released, but massive protests in the mostly-Muslim country suggest that Abdul Rahman’s fate is still largely in question.

Following heavy speculation over the weekend, a BBC report has confirmed the release, citing a government official who wished to remain anonymous. He said that the case is being handed back to the Attorney General due to numerous gaps in the evidence.

Because tensions in the country continue to run high, details of the release have not been made public.

Jeff King, president of the Washington DC-based group, International Christian Concern, said that “Technically, [Rahman] will still be in danger as the case is being turned back to the prosecutor for review”, but speculated that “this is a technicality.”

King requested the people keep Rahman in their prayers. “He will be in grave danger as long as he remains in the country. The fundamentalists will seek to kill him regardless of what the courts say,” he warned.

Earlier this morning, thousands of Afghan’s took to the streets of the northern Afghan city of Mazar – e—Sharif to protest Rahman’s release.

The country’s legal system, which is based on Islamic Sharia law, suggests that Rahman must receive death if he fails to renounce Christianity and turn back to Islam. According to the BBC, a prosecutor in the case said that “He would have been forgiven if he changed back. But he said he was a Christian and would always remain one. We are Muslims and becoming a Christian is against our laws. He must get the death penalty.”

Leaders in the international community have staunchly spoken out against the case citing massive violations of human and religious rights.

Writing last week to Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai, the Vatican appealed to “profound human compassion,” and “firm belief in the dignity of human life and by respect for every person's freedom of conscience and religion,” asking for the case to be dropped.

The court said earlier that they were also looking into whether or not Rahman was mentally stable enough to undergo the trial—a discrepancy which could have contributed to his release. Critics however, charge that the tactic is simply a way for Afghanistan to skirt international criticism without changing an unjust law.

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Pope promises further collaboration with College of Cardinals

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI met with the 15 new cardinals created in last Friday’s Ordinary Public Consistory. During the meeting, he particularly greeted the English-speaking prelates and promised more meetings with the College of Cardinals, similar to last Thursday’s day of prayer and reflection.

Speaking on the need for collaboration, the Holy Father said that “the meetings of the entire College of Cardinals with Peter's Successor, such as that of last Thursday, will continue as privileged moments to seek together how best to serve the Church, entrusted by Christ to our care."

In addition, he extended his “warm greetings” to “the newly created English-speaking Cardinals. They include, Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop of Manila, the Philippines; Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, Archbishop of Seoul, Korea; Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston, United States of America; Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, SDB Bishop of Hong Kong, China; and Cardinal Peter Dery, Archbishop Emeritus of Tamale, Ghana.

“Venerable and dear Brothers,” he said, “in renewing to you my fraternal greetings and offering my fervent prayers for the mission that has been entrusted to you for the service of the universal Church, I once again commend you to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church.”

He likewise extended greetings to “the family members and friends of our newly created Cardinals, together with the lay faithful, who have accompanied them to Rome for the solemn celebrations of last Friday and Saturday.

He said he hoped that their time in the Eternal City would deepen their “love of the Church and strengthen [their] faith in Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.”

He also encouraged them “to continue to pray for our Cardinals and to support them with your love and affection,” closing with the wish that “God Bless you all!”

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Priest sends open letter to Michael Schiavo on anniversary of Terri’s death

, Mar 27, 2006 (CNA) - The priest who witnessed Terri Schiavo’s final hours at her bedside last March reiterated his previous statement that her husband, Michael Schiavo, is a murderer and called on him to “embrace a life of repentance” and to seek forgiveness.

Terri was a 41-year-old severely disabled Florida woman, who died during Holy Week last year; after her husband instructed that her feeding tube be removed, knowing that it would lead to her death.

In a strongly worded open letter to Terri’s husband, Fr. Frank Pavone recalled that last year he called Michael a murderer.

“Some have demanded that I apologize to you for calling you a murderer,” wrote the priest. “Not only will I not apologize, I will repeat it again. Your decision to have Terri dehydrated to death was a decision to kill her.”

The national director of Priests for Life read his letter to a worldwide audience on an internationally broadcast religious service Sunday morning. It was written to mark the one-year anniversary of Terri’s death.

“It doesn’t matter if Judge Greer said it was legal. No judge, no court, no power on earth can legitimize what you did,” he continued. “It makes no difference if what you did was legal in the eyes of men; it was murder in the eyes of God and of millions of your fellow Americans.”

The priest recounted Terri’s agonizing death. “As one of only a few people who were eyewitnesses to Terri’s dehydration, I have to speak,” he wrote.

Fr. Pavone, claiming to write on behalf of “tens of millions” of outraged Americans, said Michael’s decision to remove Terri’s feeding tube is offensive.

“Your actions offend us,” he wrote. “You have offended those who struggle on a daily basis to care for loved ones who are dying, and who sometimes have to make the very legitimate decision to discontinue futile treatment.”

Millions of Americans continue to wonder why Michael did not let Terri’s family take care of her, as they were willing to do, he said. “She had no terminal illness. She was simply a disabled woman who needed extra care that you weren’t willing to give,” he wrote.
 
“Not only have you killed Terri and deeply wounded her family, but you have disgraced our nation, betrayed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and undermined the principles that hold us together as a civilized society,” he stated.
 

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Vatican announces conditions for establishing official relations with China

Rome, Italy, Mar 27, 2006 (CNA) - In an interview with Hong Kong’s I-Cable TV, the Vatican’s Secretary for Foreign Relations, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, said that, with certain conditions, the time is ripe for addressing the issue of relations between the Vatican and Communist China.

“Our opinion is that the time is ripe: we trust in the spirit of openness of the supreme authorities of the People’s Republic of China, who cannot ignore the expectations of their people as well as the signs of the times,” the archbishop said.

Nevertheless, Archbishop Lajolo noted that diplomatic relations are “bilateral, and therefore the Holy See cannot move without the consensus of the government of Beijing.”  He said that contact up to now has been “informal, with officials at high and low levels.  We have told everyone clearly what we are asking for, what we can concede and what we cannot give up.”

Archbishop Lajolo said the issue of religious freedom, specifically the Holy See’s ability to independently name bishops, is at the heart of the differences with Beijing.

China has set the Vatican’s severing of ties with Taiwan and the acceptance of the Chinese government’s authority to name bishops as conditions for establishing diplomatic relations.  For the first time Archbishop Lajolo made it known the Vatican explicitly rejects that condition.  “Faithfulness to the Successor of Peter, who Christ himself established as the Church’s guide, is at risk,” he warned.

“You cannot be Catholic if you are not in communion with the Pope,” the archbishop stated.

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Catholics called to celebrate dignity of women on Mother’s Day

Lincoln, Neb., Mar 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Family Life Office of the Diocese of Lincoln and The Leaven, a Catholic lay apostolate, will co-sponsor a celebration of the spiritual maternity inherent to women.

Project Mother’s Day 2006 will feature keynote speaker Colleen Hammond, author of the rapidly selling book Dressing With Dignity (www.DressingWithDignity.blogspot.com).

The fashion show event will include petitions to merchants, asking them to provide tasteful, feminine and modest clothing for women and girls.

“Immodest fashions, contraception, and abortion make a mockery of women,” says Juliana Davis, co-founder of The Leaven. “It wasn’t until I read Colleen’s book that I realized immodest fashions are tied to a multi-faceted affront to our sacred dignity.”

On her blog, former model and Weather Channel anchor Hammond highlights top designers, whose fashions demonstrate that modesty does not mean looking manly or boring. Her concept of feminine design meshes with the philosophy of recently canonized feminist Edith Stein, whose book, Woman, describes the uniquely distinct character of women.

The Leaven was founded in 1987 to promote Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.

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Mobile faith: Church in Scotland launches text message service

, Mar 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Scotland has launched a new text message service, which will include Church news and requests to pray, reported the Sunday Scotsman Newspaper.

The service will also seek to mobilize Catholics by advising them of radio and television talk shows on moral issues, urging them to call in. It also intends to prepare weekly audio and video services for download. It is the first church in the United Kingdom to offer such a service. It already offers a text message Bible verse service.

The Church will distribute 100,000 flyers over the next month to promote the new service, which will be free to subscribers and operated by volunteers in Glasgow. Costs of the service will be shouldered by the Church's communications budget.

For the first time, the text message service will offer both audio and video podcasts of the Scottish Church’s General Assembly in May. The podcasts will consist of edited highlights from the daily worship and debates. The debates will also be streamed to the latest mobile phones.

Scotland has about 700,000 Roman Catholics; about 230,000 attend church regularly. Church officials estimate that about 20,000 people will subscribe to the new service.

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Pseudo-Catholic group says right to abortion ‘essential’ for women

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Mexican branch of the pro-abortion group “Catholics for a Free Choice” (CFFC) presented the Spanish version of the book, “Our Right to Choose: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion,” in Mexico City last week, in a ceremony attended by various leaders of the movement to legalize abortion in Latin America.

The author, Beverly Wildung Harrison, who wrote the book in English in 1983, attended the event, along with Frances Kissling, the founder of “Catholics for a Free Choice.” Chery White, professor at the Methodist seminary of Mexico, Maria Van Doren, a missionary nun of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Maria Consuelo Mejia, director of CFFC in Mexico, were likewise all in attendance.

During the event, Mejia said the book was a fundamental component of the feminist strategy to legalize abortion, which she called “a social good.”  “Power today is in the hands of women, and therefore the outlook for Latin America is hopeful” for the legalization of abortion, she said.

Mejia also called Christian tradition "insufficient, because throughout the centuries it has denied women the right to choose regarding procreation.”

“The right to choose regarding procreation is indispensable for there to be a truly moral society.  This right of women to choose, including access to abortion, is an indispensable good for the building of a more equitable, free and just society, to be able to exercise reproductive power as a social good utilized in their benefit and not as a biological accident,” Mejia added.

 “No society can be considered moral if it does not foster and spread the right to decide about reproduction,” she said.

During her remarks, Frances Kissling said it was essential “to speak of a Christian ethic of abortion, it’s time for women to write the four gospels; because Christian conservative tradition is become stronger and is silencing the debate.”

Maria Van Doren, who is a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, called herself a collaborator to CFFC.  “It’s possible to give another theological explication to these issues in order to remove the sense of guilt from abortion, because it is not murder and it is not true that women who accept it have no conscience,” she said.  

“The book,” she continued, “emphasizes that sexuality should not necessarily lead to procreation, and that having a family is not a divine mandate.  The Bible with all its myths cannot give a theological argument.”  “Women should have the right to decide about the fetus, without any absolute parameters,” Van Doren said.

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Ecuadorian bishops call on government, natives to dialogue about free trade agreement

Quito, Ecuador, Mar 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador has called on that country’s government to act deliberately on the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, and not to provoke confrontations that only endanger the country.

In a statement signed by the president of the Conference, Bishop Nestor Herrera, the bishops warned that confrontations between the two sides do nothing to help maintain harmony among Ecuadorians.

“We accept (the government’s) principle that recourse to violence must be abandoned before there can be dialogue, but we also believe that this principle is valid in normal circumstances--not in an explosive situation such as the one we are experiencing,” the bishops stated.

The bishops emphasize that their mediation in the conflict is not in response to an invitation by either one of the parties, although last Wednesday they did pass on a proposal by the Confederation to the government, which promptly rejected it.

The indigenous communities that make up the Confederation launched a series of protests and roadblocks after the Ecuadorian government announced it would enter into free trade negotiations with the United States.

After several days of protests, Confederation leaders announced a momentary halt to the demonstrations.  The Ecuadorian government said it would maintain a state of emergency in the provinces where protests are being held.

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Chilean bishop slams government’s announcement to distribute morning-after pill

Santiago, Chile, Mar 27, 2006 (CNA) - Responding to an announcement by Chile’s Heath Minister, Maria Soledad Barria, that the government would make the morning-after pill “universally available,” Auxiliary Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel of Santiago slammed the announcement saying, “Equality should be sought out for those situations that are good for the human being.”

Last week, Barria said the morning-after pill would be made available for all who request it. He added that this was not new, but part “of the government’s plan.”  “The issue”, he said, “is about improving equal access to an emergency contraceptive, together with counseling, sexual education, etc.” 

“At heart is the scientific discussion about its abortifacient nature,” Bishop Villarroel said in response.  “And since this is about the life of a human person, from the moment of conception, I would like to suppose that we are all sensitive to the right to life and that nobody would use euphemisms like ‘termination of pregnancy’ to refer to abortion, as I suppose nobody would confuse ‘euthanasia’ with ‘avoidance of therapeutic cruelty’.”

He also countered that “the argument about ‘equality’ in this context is questionable because the explanation being given is socio-economic and does not take into account the dignity or the potentiality of the human person.”

“If the issue is equality,” he continued, “and if we mean to show that by pointing out the access a young girl from a rich neighborhood has to the pill versus girls from poorer areas, then I think there are other needs, in matters related to peoples’ health care, that our leaders ought to be addressing.” 

He used for example, “the scandalous discrimination between rich and poor in patients with serious illnesses.  To me this is real issue that needs to be dealt with, along with other situations of true injustice. Equality should be sought out for those situations that are good for the human being,” the bishop said.
 

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