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Archive of April 6, 2006

Bishops urge governor to veto stem-cell bill

Washington D.C., Apr 6, 2006 (CNA) - Three Catholic leaders are urging Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. to veto legislation allowing for state funding of embryonic stem cell research, reported the Washington Post. Ehrlich said he would sign the bill.

"Enactment of this legislation means that tax dollars will be used to pay for the destruction of innocent human life," says a letter signed by Cardinal William Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington; and Bishop Michael Salltarelli of Wilmington, Del.

"Human life is not to be treated as a commodity, as a raw material in science experiments,” they said. “Taking innocent human life is always a great evil, regardless of whether society as a whole stands to benefit."

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Pope Benedict, Nobel Prize winner Peres jointly condemn all forms of terrorism

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2006 (CNA) - Shimon Peres, former prime minister of Israel and 1994 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, met today at the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI. The two discussed the difficult road to peace in the Middle East and jointly condemned all forms of terrorism, regardless of pretexts.

Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls released the following declaration to journalists late this morning:

In a statement released today, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that after meeting with the Holy Father, Mr. Peres “went on to meet Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, in the presence of Oded Ben-Hur, Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, and Msgr. Pietro Parolin, under-secretary of the Section for Relations with States.”

"In the course of the discussions”, Navarro-Valls said, “opinions were exchanged concerning the problem of peace in the Holy Land while respecting United Nations Resolutions and the agreements concluded to date.”

“In this context,” he added, “there was a unanimous condemnation of all forms of terrorism, whatever pretexts used to try and justify it.”

The Vatican press director said that "Relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See were also examined, in the light of the agreements signed in 1993 and 1997, as were relations between the Israeli authorities and the Christian communities resident in the country.”

"At the end of the meeting,” he highlighted, “Shimon Peres, invited the Supreme Pontiff to visit Israel."

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Holy Father mourns death of former Pope Paul VI secretary

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2006 (CNA) - Many prominent Catholics--particularly in Italy--are mourning the death today of Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, prelate emeritus of Loretto, Italy and former personal secretary to Pope Paul VI.

Pope Benedict XVI sent his own personal letter of condolence to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, who is Archbishop of Milan, recalling the 82-year old prelate who died yesterday.

In his letter, the Holy Father praised "the profound spirituality and generous episcopal commitment that characterized the ministry of the lamented prelate," and asked the Lord "to welcome him in eternal joy as a good and faithful servant, rewarding his constant dedication to spreading the Gospel and his devotion to the Most Holy Virgin Mary."

The Vatican announced today that Cardinal Tettamanzi will preside at Archbishop Macchi's funeral, which is scheduled to be held in the Duomo of Milan on Saturday April 8.

Cardinal Attilio Nicora, president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See will attend the funeral in place of the Holy Father.

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Vatican’s U.N. rep: immigration debate must not be manipulated for short-term political gain at expense of human beings

, Apr 6, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to the United Nation’s Commission on Population and Development yesterday, the Holy See’s Archbishop Celestino Migliore urged leaders to understand the complexity of the current immigration debate and recognize that certain benefits often exist for receiving countries.

Speaking to the world body, Archbishop Migliore, who is the Vatican’s permanent observer to the U.N., said that "The work of the commission includes the examination of trends and impacts upon population and development like HIV, unknown 60 years ago, and the migration of peoples, with their respective consequences."

He added that sometimes, the phenomenon of migration "is painted as a threat and is manipulated for short term political gain, at the expense of the most natural rights of all human beings - the right to life, to citizenship, to work and to development."

"For receiving countries,” he went on, “the net economic impact of international migration is said to be generally positive. Although the presence of international migrants may have a small adverse effect on the wages of non-migrants or may raise unemployment when wages are rigid, such effects are usually small at the national level.

He said that “Over the medium and long term, migration can even generate employment and produce net fiscal gains."

Archbishop Migliore pointed out that "the emigration of skilled personnel can be detrimental to the development prospects of countries of origin, especially small developing countries losing high proportions of skilled citizens.”

He balanced this however, by saying that “skilled migrants who maintain ties with their countries of origin may stimulate the transfer of technology and capital."

The archbishop also highlighted the fact that "Due to low fertility, net migration counts for three quarters of the population growth in developed countries and, by 2030, migration may account for all population growth in those countries.”

For this reason, he stressed, “The social impact of migration on receiving countries with shrinking birth rates, now needs to be better understood."

Concluding his address, the prelate highlighted the need to understand that "immigration cannot be the single solution to demographic and labor problems of receiving countries."

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Scientist claims Jesus could have walked on ice, not water, others critical of assessment

Washington D.C., Apr 6, 2006 (CNA) - Rare weather conditions, creating a cold period some 2,500 to 1,500 years ago, could have created a hard-to-see floating ice surface on the Sea of Galilee, a scientist said yesterday in an attempt to scientifically explain the Gospel miracle which recounts Jesus’ walk on water.

The study, reported in LiveScience and detailed in the April issue of the Journal of Paleolimnology, suggests that Jesus could have walked on this isolated patch of floating ice as opposed to walking on water. Some religion experts however, are writing off the theory as an attempt to force a scientific explanation on the miraculous.

In the study, scientists considered a small section of the cold freshwater surface of Lake Kinneret in northern Israel, where salty springs empty into it nearby. They also studied temperature records of the Mediterranean Sea surface and used analytical ice and statistical models.

The results suggest temperatures dropped to -4 degrees Celsius (25 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to two days during one of two cold spells, between 2,500 and 1,500 years ago.

With such conditions, says the study, a floating patch of ice could develop above the plumes resulting from the salty springs along the lake's western shore in Tabgha, where many archeological findings related to Jesus have been found.

"We simply explain that unique freezing processes probably happened in that region only a handful of times during the last 12,000 years," said Doron Nof, a Florida State University professor of oceanography. "We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains the biblical account."

Nof figures during the time period when Jesus lived, such “spring ice” may have formed once every 30 to 60 years. Such floating ice in the unfrozen waters of the lake would be hard to spot, especially if rain had smoothed its surface, he said.

Blog writer Mollie Ziegler criticizes the study on GerReligion.org. Referring to the biblical story where Jesus walks on water, she notes that the walking on water incident occurs immediately after Jesus feeds thousands with the few loaves and fishes and tells them to recline on the “green grass,” a detail which suggests warm weather.

In addition, she writes, it is “amazing that a boat could be battling rough seas at the same time Jesus was walking on ice nearby.”

“It’s interesting to see so much media coverage of scientific attempts to explain either supernatural occurrences or issues of spirituality. It’s also interesting to contrast with the media treatment of religious explanations of scientific phenomena,” Ziegler notes.

“When any group questions or raises concerns with the current scientific explanation for a given issue, it rarely if ever gets to just tell its side of the story without rebuttal. And that’s only fair and right,” she said.

“But when some scientist comes up with an outlandish explanation debunking Christ’s power, it would be nice if reporters would seek a response from other scientists or followers of Jesus who could explain the significance of the story,” she concluded.

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Churchgoing can add years to your life, study review reveals

Pittsburgh, Pa., Apr 6, 2006 (CNA) - A recent review of existing research on factors related to longevity reveals that people who attend religious services weekly actually live longer. The study also reviewed work done on the impact of regular exercise and proven therapeutic regimens on life expectancy.

The research, however, does not reveal the link between faith and health, suggesting the need for further research, said study leader Daniel Hall.

"Religious attendance is not a mode of medical therapy," Hall cautioned in an interview with LiveScience. He added that his study was not intended for use in clinical decision-making. Hall is an Episcopal priest and a resident in general surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Hall also told LiveScience that he speculated the community and social aspect of religion could play a role in the results. Perhaps, he said, being involved in a religion can increase one’s ability to cope with stress and make meaning out of life.

The findings are detailed in the March-April issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

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Young men considering priesthood choose between 'God or the Girl' on A&E

Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 6, 2006 (CNA) - A new five-part documentary, billed as a reality show, about priestly vocations will premiere Easter Sunday. “God or the Girl” on A&E is about four young men trying to decide whether to enter the priesthood.

The network is calling "God or the Girl" a serious documentary about the difficult journey involved in choosing a life devoted entirely to God. However, it has a reality-show feel to it to keep it interesting and appealing for primetime television.

"God or the Girl" follows 28-year-old Joe Adair of Cleveland, Ohio; 21-year-old Dan DeMatte of Columbus, Ohio; 25-year-old Steve Horvath of Lincoln, Neb.; and 24-year-old Mike Lechniak of Scranton, Pa., through the process of trying to figure out whether God is calling them to become priests.

All grapple with the sacrifices they'd have to make should they enter the priesthood, including the vow of celibacy.

Each of them also has a woman in his life, which factors into his decision. Adair met someone special in Germany and goes there to see if there's anything to build on. DeMatte stopped all contact with his girlfriend for six months while he pondered his calling, but then is reunited with her to determine whether she is part of his future. Horvath was dating a girl he wanted to marry before he felt pulled in the direction of the priesthood. And Lechniak is in a serious relationship with the woman he considers his soul mate while he tries to figure out his destiny.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has given the documentary its approval but some Catholic groups are reserving judgment until it actually airs. The Church, however, did not lend any support during the making of the documentary.

"There are some red flags. One is the title itself," said William Donohue, president of the Catholic League. "And to air this on Easter Sunday raises questions about an agenda."

The involvement of Mark Wolper as one of the executive producers also troubles Donohue. "Wolper has a track record of standing behind assaults on the Catholic Church," Donohue said.

Silver said concerns that "God or the Girl" is taking a swipe at the church are totally unfounded.

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Peruvian lawmakers decry Health Minister’s efforts to legalize abortion

Lima, Peru, Apr 6, 2006 (CNA) - A group of Peruvian legislators has sent a letter to the country’s Health Minister, Pilar Mazzeti, requesting that she disclose if her department is considering issuing norms that would allow “therapeutic abortion.”

The letter, dated March 30 and signed by six lawmakers, came in response to a report by the Population Research Institute’s director for Latin America, Carlos Polo, about a “supposed ‘National Protocol’ that would allow for ‘therapeutic abortion’ under certain medical circumstances.”

Polo said anti-life and feminist groups in Peru are on the verge of achieving the legalization of abortion through the implementation of a National Protocol that in practice would allow abortion for an unlimited number of cases and is being supported by Peru’s Heath Minister.

Currently abortion is only allowed in Peru in cases of life of the mother or “grave danger” for her well-being.  However, Mazzeti’s interpretation of  “grave danger” would include almost any medical condition, including “psychological harm.”  The Health Minister also seeks to make abortion available in any clinic, and she would deny doctors the right to object to the procedure for reasons of conscience.

In their letter the lawmakers said the “protocol” would be unconstitutional and that its implementation would be an abuse of executive power.  The approval of such policies, they said, falls to the Congress and would require constitutional and legal reforms.

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Spanish cardinal calls on all people of good will to save family from ruin

Madrid, Spain, Apr 6, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, has denounced the attacks on the family in Spain and is calling on “all people of good will” to defend the family and its anthropological underpinnings.

During the presentation of a new collection of John Paul II’s writings on marriage and the family, the cardinal said the well being of man and of society “is profoundly linked to” and inseparable from the family, and as a consequence “it is crucial and urgent, in the face of the pressures and harassment the family is enduring, that all people of good will strive to defend it and protect its values.”

Cardinal Cañizares noted that one of the particular difficulties facing the family is the imposition of laws “in favor of new unions, including those between persons of the same sex, that constitute an attack on marriage and the family, destroy its truth, harm the most elemental dignity and truth of the human being, lead to the breakdown of humanity and, as a consequence, endanger the stability of society itself.”  Likewise, the cardinal said that people are aware of the problems that are besieging marriage and the family institution in our times, due to a certain “hedonistic and permissive” mentality.

The cardinal recalled the vast contributions of John Paul II to the family, “in order to defend it, to proclaim the Gospel of the family in season and out of season, the tabernacle of life, the hope of humanity.”

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Thousands of Chinese catechumens in Hong Kong to receive sacraments during Easter Vigil

Rome, Italy, Apr 6, 2006 (CNA) - Hong Kong’s Catholic communities are preparing to welcome 2,400 new members who will receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion during the Easter Vigil Mass on April 15, Easter Saturday.

The Fides news agency has reported that the Archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, Auxiliary Bishop John Tong and a commission of priests carried out the ritual scrutinies of the catechumens to ascertain their spiritual disposition, free will and familiarity with the faith and the local church community life. “The Ten Commandments are a gift of God’s grace and love for us, the Cardinal told them, we strive to follow them because they help us to live in the love of God”, Cardinal Zen told the catechumens.

The Cardinal encouraged the catechumens and said, “Being a catechumen is like a period of engagement with the Church. The sacrament of Baptism which you will receive at Easter makes you fully members of Christ, Confirmation strengthens you in your faith and in the Eucharist you receive the Body and Blood of Christ as members of the Body of Christ, the universal Church.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, some catechumens shared their testimonies saying, “Faith in Christ gives new strength to face daily life and it gives peace of heart”.

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Civil rights groups denounce ideologically based elementary school course

Madrid, Spain, Apr 6, 2006 (CNA) - The civil rights watchdog website in Spain, Hazteoir.org, has denounced a new course for elementary schools which the Ministry of Education has included in an education reform bill, saying the subject material for the course, called “Education for Citizenship,” is nothing more than the promotion of secularism, gender ideology, radical feminism and the culture of death.

Analysts of the website carried out a study of the subject material which the Ministry of Education sent to organizations that are supporting its efforts to pass an education reform bill that is now before the Spanish Senate.
 
Alejandro Campoy, a member of the group, warned that the bill contains proposals that lack the neutrality that “corresponds to a non-sectarian State” and that consist of “very clear elements from specific socio-political ideologies” linked to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual movements.

Ignacio Arsuaga, president of Hazteoir.og, called the course “a direct attack on the consciences of citizens who profess the Catholic faith and, in general, of all citizens who do not share the secular vision of the government.”

Arsuaga said he was hopeful the Spanish Congress could modify the bill and eliminate the course from elementary school curricula.  Such a move, he said, would demonstrate that Socialist legislatures are “willing to dialogue” instead of ignoring yet again “a large segment of society.”  He said the website would organize a campaign to call on parents to object to the material and to refuse to allow their children to attend such classes, and that the organization would offer legal assistance to parents to help “defend in court their right to object.”

Professionals for Ethics, another group working with Hazteoir.org to oppose the new law, issued its own critique of the proposal, saying the course would be a potential instrument for ideological indoctrination in the schools and constitutes an attack on the Constitution, which recognizes the right of parents to educate their children according to their own convictions.
 

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