Archive of April 3, 2006

US bishops applaud debt cancellation of 17 countries

Washington D.C., Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) welcomed the decision by the World Bank Executive Board to approve debt cancellation for an initial 17 countries, effective July 1, as well as the agreement to cancel poor countries’ debt in the least time possible.

Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Policy, termed the action by the World Bank Executive Board “a concrete application of Pope John Paul II’s call for the ‘globalization of solidarity.’”

This latest decision by the World Bank flows from the commitment made by the G8 leaders last year in Edinburgh, Scotland. It will cancel 100 percent of 17 impoverished countries’ debts to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and African Development Bank in 2006.

It has been described as a small but significant victory that flows from the sustained interest and advocacy of the Catholic Church and other interested groups.

In a press release issued March 31, the USCCB pointed out that they joined with others to offer an alternative that would grant debt cancellation within two to three months of reaching the completion point, instead of having to wait for over a year.

The USCCB will continue to call for the cancellation of debts for dozens of other impoverished nations and from significant creditors such as the Inter-American Development Bank.

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Pope Benedict: John Paul II died one year ago as he always lived; animated by faith, giving self up to God

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - On Sunday, the Catholic Church paused to remember the one-year-ago-to-the-day death of Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI said that the completion of the late Holy Father’s earthly life was the fulfillment of a “coherent witness of faith” which constituted the Polish Pope’s entire existence.

Prior to praying his weekly Sunday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father recalled that one year ago, "the beloved Pope John Paul II was living through the last phase of his earthly pilgrimage, a pilgrimage of faith, love and hope that left a profound mark in the history of the Church and of humanity.”

Tens of thousands of pilgrims and visitors were on hand to hear the Pope’s words.

Benedict said that "His agony and death constituted almost a prolongation of the Easter Triduum. We all recall the images of his last Way of the Cross on Good Friday. Unable to go to the Coliseum, he followed events from his private chapel, holding the cross in his hands.”

“Then,” he continued, “on Easter Sunday, he imparted the 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing, without managing to pronounce a word, just gesturing with his hand.”

The pontiff called it the “most painful and moving of blessings, which he left us testimony of his will to carry out his ministry right to the end.”

"Thus”, Pope Benedict told the crowd, “John Paul II died as he had always lived, animated by the indomitable courage of faith, giving himself up to God and entrusting himself to Mary Most Holy.”

He said that the heritage of the late pope “is immense, but the message of his long pontificate can be summarized in the words with which he chose to open it, here in St. Peter's Square on October 22, 1978: 'Open wide the doors to Christ!'"

The Holy Father then recalled how John Paul incarnated this appeal "with his entire person and his entire mission as Peter's Successor," especially in his apostolic trips.

Benedict said that his meetings with the crowds, with religious communities, and with political and religious leaders were "like a single grand gesture, confirming those opening words. He announced Christ always, presenting Him to everyone - just as Vatican Council II had -as a response to man's hopes for freedom, justice and peace."

He reminded the crowd that during John Paul’s last years, "the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, in order to assimilate him fully to Himself. And when he could no longer travel, no longer even walk, and finally not even speak, his gestures and announcement were reduced to essentials: to the giving of himself right to the end.”

“His death”, he pointed out, “was the fulfillment of a coherent witness of faith that touched the hearts of so many men and women of good will."

The Pope concluded his address saying that "John Paul II left us on a Saturday, dedicated especially to Mary, towards whom he always felt a filial devotion. We now ask the heavenly Mother of God to help us treasure all this great Pontiff gave and taught us."

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Pope to Ivory Coast bishops, peace can only come through generous forgiveness, true reconciliation

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI met with a number of Bishop’s from Africa’s often violence-ridded Ivory Coast, to whom he explained that although the road to peace is long and difficult, the Church must strive to build a “world of reconciliation.”

The prelates, all members of the Episcopal Conference of the Ivory Coast, have just completed their regular "ad limina" visits.

The Holy Father told the group that after reading the reports they had presented him on the tense and often violent political situation in their region, he is praying that their nation "may find unity and peace in true fraternity among all her citizens."

In 2002, the country, which was once called a model of stability, slipped into a violent civil war which has divided the nation in two ever since.

The Pope said that "The crisis your country has been through highlighted the divisions that constitute such a deep wound in relations between the various components of society."

The resulting violence, he continued, "dealt a harsh blow to trust between people and the stability of the country, leaving much suffering in its wake.”

He told the prelates that “In order to recreate true peace, there must be generous forgiveness and true reconciliation among the individuals and groups affected. ... They must begin a courageous dialogue, examining ... the causes that gave rise to the conflict."

"The road to peace," Benedict stressed, "is long and difficult, but it is never impossible, and Catholics must take their place in this shared endeavor, because building a world of reconciliation is never something foreign to them."

He said that in order to achieve this lofty goal, "it is necessary…to restore confidence among Christ's followers, despite their differences of opinion…Faced with political or ethnic tensions in diocesan churches, bishops, priests and consecrated people must be models of fraternity and charity for everyone, contributing through word and deed to the construction of a unified and reconciled society."

The Pope told the bishops that in this light, their primary concern must be initial and permanent formation of priests. They must, he said ensure that priests had "an intense spiritual life," and also must "favor unity and fraternal life among them."

Evangelizing the laity

In their reports, the bishops mentioned "the urgent need for the formation of the laity" in their country. To this, the Holy Father said that “a deepening of the faith is truly necessary in order to resist the return of ancient practices or the lure of sects, and above all as a testimony to Christian hope in a complicated world of new and grave problems."

He said that "For the Church to be an ever clearer sign of what she truly is, and more adapted to her mission, attention must be given to the enculturation of the faith…This process, which is so important for announcing the Gospel to all cultures, must not compromise the specificity and integrity of the faith, rather it must help Christians to understand and experience the gospel message in their own cultures, abandoning practices that run counter to their baptismal promises."

Benedict went on, explaining that "The weight of traditional mentality is often an obstacle to the acceptance of the Gospel," and among the many questions facing the faithful, that of "commitment to the Sacrament of marriage is one of the most important.”

“Polygamy or de facto cohabitation with no kind of religious celebration,” he chided, “often constitute great obstacles." Therefore, "it is necessary to continue tirelessly in efforts to ensure that people, especially the young, accept that for Christians marriage is a way to sanctity."

In conclusion, the Pope noted the important growth of various ecclesial movements in the Ivory Coast’s dioceses, saying that these groups "contribute to providing a renewed missionary drive in Christian communities."

Likewise, he encouraged the movements to entrust themselves to the generosity of Christ, "remaining always rooted in His Church."

"Nonetheless," Benedict stressed, "these movements must be subject to enlightened and constant discernment by bishops, in order to guarantee the ecclesiality of their activities and to maintain authentic communion with the universal and diocesan Church."

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Tens of thousands gather for candlelit memorial remembering John Paul II

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - “Faithfulness and dedication” were the two recurring words used by Pope Benedict XVI to recall his predecessor John Paul II who died one year ago Sunday. Tens of thousands--many of them from the late Pope’s native Poland--gathered in Rome over the weekend to recall the life of a man already being hailed as “John Paul the Great.”

Starting at 8.30 p.m., pilgrims were invited to participate in a moment of prayer and reflection held in St. Peter‘s Square. The event began with readings from various texts written by the late Pope and interspersed with songs sang by the choir of the diocese of Rome.

At 9 p.m., Pope Benedict appeared at his study window to pray the Rosary with the group. Afterwards, at 9:37 p.m., the exact moment of John Paul II's death, he addressed the group below.

He said that although a year has passed since his death, John Paul II "remains present in our minds and hearts…He continues to communicate his love for God and his love for man. He continues to infuse everyone, especially the young, with enthusiasm for goodness and courage to follow Jesus and His teachings."

As Benedict addressed throngs of faithful gathered in the square--all bearing lighted candles, he attempted to sum up the late Pope’s "life and evangelical witness" in two words: "'faithfulness' and 'dedication.' Complete faithfulness to God and unreserved dedication to his own mission as pastor of the Universal Church.”

He said that this "Faithfulness and dedication that appeared even more convincing and moving in his final months, during which he incarnated the words he wrote in his 1984 Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris: 'Suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a civilization of love'."

The Pope highlighted how John Paul’s long illness "made everyone more attentive to human pain, to all physical and spiritual pain; he gave suffering dignity and value by bearing witness to the fact that man is not worthy for his efficiency or his appearance, but for himself, because he is created and loved by God."

Benedict said that through his words and gestures, "John Paul II never tired of showing the world that if man allows himself to be embraced by Christ he does not devalue the richness of his humanity; if he adheres to Christ with all his heart, he does not lose anything.”

“On the contrary,” he said, “the encounter with Christ renders our lives more passionate.”

Benedict said that “Precisely because he drew ever closer to God in prayer, contemplation, and love for Truth and Beauty, our beloved Pope was able to accompany each one of us and to speak authoritatively even to people who are distant from Christian faith."

On this anniversary of John Paul’s death, the Pope invited faithful "to accept once more the spiritual heritage he left us,“ saying that “We are encouraged, among other things, to live our lives in a tireless search for the Truth, which alone can satisfy our hearts.”

He said that “We are encouraged not to be afraid to follow Christ, to bring everyone the announcement of the Gospel, ferment for a more fraternal and united humanity. From heaven, may John Paul II help us to continue our journey."

The Pope specifically addressed faithful in Poland, who were following the events by satellite linkup. "The memory of John Paul II remains alive within us," he said, "and the sense of his spiritual presence does not diminish. For you, may the memory of the particular love he always nourished for his countrymen be a light on the path towards Christ: 'Remain strong in the faith'."

Over the television link, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, thanked Benedict XVI for his words, adding that John Paul II "is smiling upon us from heaven."

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Pope Benedict echoes Patriarch’s call for 2-day fast for peace in Iraq

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - Following his Sunday Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict echoed a request made recently by His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, as well as other Iraqi bishops, calling for two days of prayer and fasting for peace in Iraq and throughout the world.

His Beatitude asked for “faithful, believers, and men and women of good will to come together in prayer and fasting on April 3 and 4 to implore from God the gift of peace and harmony in Iraq and throughout the world."

For his part, the Holy Father invited “everyone to follow the initiative of our brothers in that martyred land, entrusting this intention to the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Peace."

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Stance on Immigration threatens GOP Hispanic outreach, says Catholic analyst

Washington D.C., Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - With their current House immigration bill, the Republicans risk becoming an anti-immigrant party and “losing ground both with Hispanic voters and non-Hispanic Catholic voters who sympathize with their plight,” says Deal Hudson, editor of the e-magazine “The Window.”

In his March 31 column, Hudson, who is president of the Morley Institute, reported that the Hispanic vote was credited as the decisive factor in George W. Bush’s election. In 2004, Bush received 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, up significantly from 2000. (63 percent of Hispanic Protestants voted for Bush and 31 percent of Hispanic Catholics voted for Bush.)

Currently, Hispanics make up 9 percent of the electorate but are growing faster than any other group, with 29 million Hispanic Catholics outnumbering the 22 million white mainline Protestants, reports Hudson.

Aware of these demographic shifts, the Bush White House put Hispanic political outreach high on its priority list and fostered positive relations. But these positive relations may be at risk with their proposed immigration reform, which would impact Hispanic migration directly.

Among other bishops, Roger Cardinal Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, condemned the bill, which seems to criminalize the Church's social services for undocumented immigrants.

Hispanics responded by protesting in the streets of major American cities “in numbers unparalleled in our history,” says Hudson.

At the same time, however, their protests seemed to forget Bush's "guest worker" program, introduced in early 2004 as well as the bi-partisan Senate immigration bill, co-sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Hudson observes.

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Abdul Rahman publicly thanks Holy Father

Rome, Italy, Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - Abdul Rahman, the Afghan Christian convert who was condemned to death for abandoning the Muslim faith but later released under international pressure, publicly thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his intervention and his support.

According to the ANSA news agency, Abdul Rahman, who was granted asylum in Italy, said he never wants to return to his native Afghanistan.  “I thank the Pope, the Italian government and all those who came to my aid,” he said during an interview on Italian television.

Pope Benedict XVI appealed to the president of Afghanistan for his release in a telegram sent by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.  Rahman’s release, he said, would be “decisive for our mutual efforts in the task of seeking a better mutual understanding and respect among the different religions and cultures of the world.”

Rahman was released last Monday and sought asylum in several countries.  Italy and Germany were the first to offer refuge to the Afghan Christian convert.  Last Wednesday Rahman traveled to Italy where he is currently staying.

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Married convert, Mexican native are first of both kinds ordained in Delaware

Wilmington, Del., Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - The Diocese of Wilmington experienced two firsts this weekend with the priestly ordinations of a Mexican native and a married man, who was formerly a Lutheran pastor.

Bishop Michael Saltarelli ordained Salvador Magana, 34, of Guadalajara, Mexico, and Leonard Klein, 60, a father of three adult children. Hundreds came out for the ordination Saturday at the Cathedral of St. Peter.

Prior to the ordination, Klein had been serving as deacon at a parish and living with his wife of 36 years, Christa Klein, and his daughter, Renate, in Brandywine Hundred.

Klein was ordained a pastor for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1972. But he eventually “grew weary of being a voice against liberalization [including same-sex marriage] while standing for traditional Lutheran doctrine and liturgy,” he told the Delaware News Journal.

So in 2002 he approached the Catholic diocese about becoming a priest and was approved. Klein studied at St. Mary's Seminary to fill in the gaps of his earlier training at Yale Divinity School. Klein becomes one of 100 married men around the nation who've left other denominations to become priests in the Catholic Church.

Salvador Magana has been living in Milford. He, too, served as a temporary deacon at a parish prior to his priestly ordination.

Magana is one of three children in a family of 10 to enter religious life. He had felt the call to the priesthood since age 16, but he did not know where God was calling him to serve until he arrived in the Diocese of Wilmington while visiting with nine other Guadalajara seminarians.

He prayed for a year to confirm God’s call and eventually gave up his studies in Mexico to immigrate to the United States and complete his formation at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore.

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John Paul II, Pope Benedict’s childhood homes, now in Church hands, secured as museums

Wadowice, Poland, Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II’s home southern Poland, where he was born in 1920, was bought by one of Poland’s richest businessman, Ryszard Krauze, and donated to the Catholic Church March 31.

The donation came two days before the first anniversary of the Polish pontiff’s death.

The owner of a software company bought the house in Wadowice from American Ron Balamuth, who had inherited it from his Polish-Jewish ancestors. The house will continue as a John Paul II museum, which attracts some 5,000 visitors a day.
The sale price was not disclosed, but when the house was put on the market last December, Polish media reports put the asking price at $1 million.

A Church foundation also took possession of the house where Pope Benedict XVI was born, with the intention of opening it to the public as a museum on his life. No date has been set for the opening
A church foundation agreed in December to buy the house in the Bavarian village of Marktl am Inn for an undisclosed sum, beating out a Saudi sheik. It was purchased from a German woman who complained that hordes of tourists were making her life unbearable.

The 1745 customs house became a police station before Joseph Ratzinger was born there on April 16, 1927. His father was the local police commander and lived in the building. The Ratzinger family lived there another two years before moving.

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Mother of the Year finalist refused abortion, delayed leukemia treatment until daughter’s birth

London, England, Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - According to a report on, Sarah Peck, a 31 year-old British mother, postponed treatment for leukemia when her diagnosis and eagerly-awaited third pregnancy were confirmed on the same day in 2004.

Peck said it was their hematologist’s agreement to manage the pregnancy that turned their decision away from abortion, or “termination” as it is called in England. "It's because he agreed to manage the pregnancy that we decided to go ahead,” she said.

The Pecks were informed, however, that delay could cause difficulties in treating Sarah’s illness. Dr. Simon Rule, a consultant hematologist at Plymouth's Derriford Hospital, said, “If you delay (treatments) then the risk you run is that it can become acute at any time.”

After the birth of baby Charlotte on March 19, 2005, Peck was treated with bone marrow stem cells from her sister, Vicky. Last week, while the Peck’s celebrated Charlotte’s first birthday, Sarah was informed that she was in the final five picks for the Daily Mail’s Mother of the Year award.

“What I am really looking forward to now is spending quality time with my children. My family has always come first but now even more so. Every day is a gift now,” she told the BBC.

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Archbishop pleads for end to Christian exodus from Middle East

Konigstein, Germany, Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Alepo, Syria, has said that “the Church needs Christians in the Middle East” and has therefore called it essential that the exodus of faithful away from the region be slowed.

In statements to the group, Aid to the Church in Need, the archbishop pleaded for renewed efforts to keep Christians in Syria. He said that currently only 10% of the 17 million inhabitants of the country “are authentic witnesses of Christ and the Gospels.”

Likewise, he said Syrian Christians suffer because of Islamic fundamentalism and violence and that therefore “inter-religious and ecumenical” dialogue is important.

In order to facilitate such a dialogue, he announced that his archdiocese would establish a center to help bring about reconciliation and understanding among Syrians.

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Spanish bishops issue statement condemning law on assisted human reproduction

Madrid, Spain, Apr 3, 2006 (CNA) - Upon concluding its 86th Plenary Assembly, Spain’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a powerful document condemning a new law on assisted human reproduction that promotes cloning and genetic engineering.

In the statement, which was presented to the media by Conference spokesman Father Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, the bishops called the creation of human beings in laboratories a “practice that clashes with the dignity of the person and brings with it numerous abuses and attacks against unborn human life, that is, against children.”

While he praised the advances of science and technology, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, president of the Conference, said “that which is scientifically and technologically possible” should also conform to an “ethic that respects human dignity.” 

Each human being, the bishops said, has absolute value and should never be treated as objects or means to an end.  “The dignity of the human being demands that children be procreated, not produced,” they emphasized.

Addressing the use of the term “pre-embryo,” which in the new Spanish law refers to an embryo that is less than 14 days old, the bishops noted that fertilization results in the creation of a unique organism that is distinct from both father and mother, and that “where there is a living human body, there is a human person, and therefore, inviolable human dignity.” 

“There is no scientific or philosophical basis” for the concept of “pre-embryo,” they stated.

The bishops also noted that the new law puts no limits on the creation of embryos in laboratories and that it would allow “the use of frozen embryos for research or even industrial purposes.”  In fact, they warned, “the embryo is considered mere biological material, a mere collection of cells without human dignity.”

“Only the (embryos) that are eventually found to be healthy are transferred or frozen,” the bishops continued. “That is, the sick embryos are chosen for death and the healthy ones for life or for freezing: eugenics.”   

The bishops also warned that by approving therapeutic human cloning, the new law, “like it or not,” would be opening the door to reproductive cloning.

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