Archive of April 26, 2006

Pope Benedict recalls 20th anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear disaster

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - Today, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the 20th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in human history,  saying that the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine should prompt world leaders to strive toward peace, while respecting the needs of both mankind and nature.

The Vatican pointed out that the Chernobyl explosion produced radioactive rain detectable in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Great Britain, and even the eastern United States.

Subsequently, this radioactive fallout provoked irreparable damage to the environment, cancers, mutations, genetic deformation and a large number of deaths.

Following his weekly general audience in St. Peter‘s Square today, the Pope said, "I feel the need to express my great appreciation for the families, associations, civil authorities and Christian communities who, over these years, have striven to house and care for the people, especially the children, struck by the consequences of that painful event.”

"As once again we pray for the victims of so immense a tragedy and for those who carry the signs on their bodies,” he continued, “we call on the Lord to enlighten the people responsible for the fate of humanity that they, through joint efforts, put all their energies at the service of peace, while respecting the needs of mankind and of nature."

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Pope Benedict: Church tradition is not just transmission of information, but the effective presence of Jesus

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to a crowd of over 50,000 gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI used the occasion of his regular Wednesday audience to expound on the idea of apostolic tradition, saying that the Church relies not only on material information passed down through the centuries, but on the effective presence of Jesus himself.

The Pope based his audience on the subject of Ecclesial communion as well as the broader concept of tradition.

"Ecclesial communion”, which is “aroused and sustained by the Holy Spirit, [and] safeguarded and promoted by the apostolic ministry - does not only extend to the believers of a particular historical period, but embraces all times and generations," said the Pope.

He added that "Thanks to the Paraclete, the early apostolic community was able to experience the Risen Lord. Successive generations do the same, as the faith is transmitted and lived through faith, worship and the communion of the People of God.”

The Holy Father likewise stressed that “This transmission of the 'things' of salvation is what constitutes the apostolic tradition of the Church." The Holy Spirit "actualizes the salvific presence of the Lord Jesus, through the ministry of the apostles ... and through the entire life of the people of the new covenant."

He then explained that “This ongoing actuality of the active presence of the Lord Jesus in His people - worked by the Holy Spirit and expressed in the Church through the apostolic ministry and fraternal communion - is the theological meaning of the term Tradition.”

This commonly used term, he clarified, “is not just a material transmission of what was originally given to the Apostles, but the effective presence of the Lord Jesus ... Who, in the Spirit, accompanies and guides the community He gathered."

"Tradition," the Pope said, concluding his address, "is the communion of the faithful around legitimate pastors over the course of history, a community nourished by the Holy Spirit.”

“It is”, he said, “the organic continuity of the Church, ... the permanent presence of the Savior Who comes out to meet, redeem and sanctify us in the Spirit."

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Chinese underground bishop released

Beijing, China, Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - A Chinese bishop of the "underground" Catholic Church has been released after five months in police custody, reports AsiaNews. He remains however, under house arrest.

Bishop Giulio Jia Zhiguo, 70, returned April 19 to his residence, where he is under constant police surveillance. His release occurred while Chinese leader Hu Jintao was visiting the United States, local sources pointed out.

The bishop had been arrested Nov. 8, kept in isolation and subjected to heavy pressure to join the government-sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association. This was the eighth arrest for Bishop Jia since 2004; he has now spent 20 years in prison over his lifetime.
Bishop Jia is among the most prominent leaders of the Catholic community in the Hebei province, where government officials have undertaken a vigorous campaign to suppress the underground Church.

Despite the frequent arrest and interrogation of Catholic clerics, there are an estimated 1 million people active in China’s underground Church.

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Cardinal Lozano announces Vatican document on AIDS prevention

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, announced that his dicastery is preparing a document on ministry to persons with AIDS.

While an international conference on AIDS is currently taking place in Cabo City, South Africa, with over a thousand experts meeting to discuss the AIDS pandemic in Africa, the Mexican cardinal noted that “unfortunately, the illness is spreading: we’re talking about now some 42 million people affected by AIDS.” 

“And according to doctors,” he said, “for every person who has AIDS another three are infected with HIV, thus making it 169 million the number of persons affected around the world by this terrible pandemic.”

The cardinal said that while the task is difficult, the dicastery is preparing a document on pastoral ministry for persons with AIDS.  “It’s possible it will be ready this year,” he stated.

Cardinal Lozano said he was disappointed that most agencies involved in preventing the spread of the disease understand prevention “as the condom…Certainly the Catholic Church believes that the most important form of prevention is abstinence and marital fidelity:  in this way absolutely nothing can happen.”

The cardinal said the question of the use of condoms in marriages in which one partner is HIV positive poses a “problem.”  

“Precisely in this sense we are preparing a profound study that will be both scientific and moral. This study will certainly be presented to the Holy Father through the necessary channels and the Holy Father, according to his wisdom and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, will make the decision and will tell us which way to go.  What he says will be the position of the Church,” the cardinal said.

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Bishop denounces Notre Dame decision to allow ‘Monologues’ on campus

South Bend, Ind., Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop John D'Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese told students and faculty at Notre Dame Law School Friday that he was "deeply saddened" by university president Fr. John Jenkins' April 5 decision that “The Vagina Monologues” would not be prohibited on campus.

"This is Notre Dame," he said, according to the Observer newspaper. "We dare to say it is the school of Our Lady. … This place has a special obligation."

The bishop gave his address on the pastoral role of the bishop. He said the Second Vatican Council had a strong impact on the role of the bishop, shifting it from “CEO and administrator to a pastor and evangelist.”

When asked about his relationship with university administration, Bishop D'Arcy connected his pastoral role to the recent debates on academic freedom raised by the “Monologues” incident.

"It is important to recognize the independence of the university and its academic freedom," he reportedly said. "But I have pastoral freedom. I cannot refrain from preaching the Gospel."

He told audience members Friday that the disagreement on this issue has placed his relationship with the current administration “under stress.” However, he retains his respect for the university.

Though he denounced Fr. Jenkins' decision not to ban the "Monologues," the bishop advised students to read the play and become informed about the surrounding issues.

He said his actions and decisions have been based on the late Pope John Paul II's definition of academic freedom. The Catholic teaching states that members of a university should be treated with academic freedom so long as the rights of the individual members are maintained, the bishop said.

The bishop rejected a student's suggestion that Notre Dame was no longer a Catholic university. "I think among the major universities it is by far the most Catholic," he said. "I have great affection for it, and so does [Pope] Benedict [XVI]."

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Church leaders concerned about Iran's Christians

Geneva, Ill., Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - A Swiss Catholic Church delegation who recently returned from a week-long visit to Iran and says that Christians do not enjoy religious freedom in the Islamic country.

The 10-member delegation, led by Bishop Pierre Bürcher, auxiliary bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, Fribourg and Neuchâtel, found that Christian minorities in Iran were free to practice their religion but only within their own communities. They cannot speak about their faith outside their community.

As a result most Iranians knew little of Christianity and other religions, added Galgano.

The visit by members of the Swiss Bishops Conference's Islam Committee followed an invitation from Iran's Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, which had visited Switzerland in September.

During this current visit, the political crisis over Iran's nuclear aspirations, the controversy over the Mohammed caricatures, and the West’s perceptions of Iran were discussed. Iranians shared their desire for peace. As well as meeting Christian minorities in Iran, the Swiss delegation also visited Muslim holy sites.

There are 110,000 Christians among Iran’s 70 million people. A book containing speeches from the visits is to be published in Farsi and English, and distributed in Iran.

In another effort to further dialogue, Bishop Bürcher is attending the "Doha Trialogue" in Qatar this week between Middle Eastern Christians, Jews and Muslims.

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Freezing of embryos, an offense against the respect due to human beings, says Jesuit Priest

Paris, France, Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - In reaction to recent remarks by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini on thepossibility of adopting "left over" frozen embryos, Moral Theologian, Father Alain Mattheeuws S.J, offered an interview to the European Institute of Bioethics, stressing the responsibility of upholding the human dignity inherent to the embryos.

Father Alain Mattheeuws is a Jesuit with a doctorate in Moral and SacramentalTheology from the Institut Catholique de Toulouse. He is currently a professor at the Institut d’Etudes Théologiques in Brussels and wasinvited as an expert at recent Bishop’s Synod on the Eucharist in November of 2005.

In his interview, he takes on the delicate theme of bioethical research from the perspective of moral theology. Father Mattheeuws first gave moraldefinition to the act of freezing embryos: “It is morally illicit. Infact, we must ask ourselves what gives us the right to plunge an embryonic child into a ‘cold prison?’”  

He then quoted the encyclical Donum vitae regarding this issue: “The freezing of embryos, even when carried out in order to preserve the life of an embryo—cryopreservation—constitutes an offence against the respect dueto human beings by exposing them to grave risks of death or harm to their physical integrity and depriving them, at least temporarily, of maternal shelter and gestation, thus placing them in a situation inwhich further offences and manipulation are possible” (I, 6),” he said.

The priest then tackled the difficult question of moral responsibility, warning that“We must keep from judging the people and at the same time recognize intruth the illicit nature of what they have done, at times in good faith. All of this is to say that in our efforts to inform theirconsciences, we must protect their dignity with love and respect.”

With respect to the parents of these frozen embryos, he remarked that “even as parents,they cannot morally sign ‘a complete release’ of the embryos issued from their bodies and from their personsThe parents have on the one hand a ‘first right,’ but not an absolute right over their children.”

“It is naturally and morally good”, he said, “that parents of these embryos take care of them.”

He added that "It is in their hands to avoid adding one evil on top of another: to create a surplus of embryos and freeze them is one evil, to keep themin this state is another.  To decide to make them material forscience is also an evil. Parents must be vigilant in protecting thedignity of these frozen embryonic children. Their connection to their embryonic children cannot be dissolved.”

Father Mattheeuws also stressed the need for conjugal responsibility,underlining the “indissoluble link between the two significations ofthe conjugal act.”  “This moral and spiritual exigency is notalways understood or lived in the receiving of a child,” he said.

The priest/professor said that he wished to set this issue in the global perspective of parenthood, stressing that “if we restrict fatherhood or motherhood to a purely punctual act, we do not give a full account ofthe whole of catholic tradition regarding the bonum prolis et educationis or the finis procreationis et educationis.”

“Motherhood”, he pointed out, “involves the body, not only in the moment of the conjugal act, but in pregnancy, giving birth, and education.  Fatherhood is equally associated in this process by virtue of the conjugal act.”

Concluding, Fr.Mattheeuws said that “It remains for us to do the good possible, taking responsibility for the absurd condition in which these frozen embryos find themselves.”

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Bishop defends right to refuse participation in national audit

Lincoln, Neb., Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln is asserting his episcopal authority and defending his prerogative to not participate in the U.S. bishops’ national audit of compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, reported Lincoln Journal Star.

The Diocese of Lincoln and the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Mass., were the only Catholic jurisdictions in the U.S. that did not participate in the annual audit of compliance with guidelines on sex-abuse programs. Lincoln participated in the first audit, in 2003, but has declined to participate in subsequent audits.

In a March 30 statement, the bishop noted that the U.S. bishops’ charter on sex abuse is “only an advisory document” and participation is optional.

“The Diocese of Lincoln participated fully in the initial audit conducted by the USCCB and has exercised its right to refrain from further participation in an audit,” he said.

However, the chairwoman of the National Review Board appointed by the bishops, Patricia O’Donnell Ewers, called for “strong fraternal correction” of the two bishops for their refusal to participate.

In his response, Bishop Bruskewitz maintained that his diocese has always been in full compliance with the law and pointed out that the review board has no authority over bishops.

The Diocese of Lincoln does not recognize Ewers and her board “as having any significance,” said the bishop, citing the fact that some of the members of Ewers’ board “are ardent advocates of partial birth abortion, other abortions, human cloning and other moral errors.” The bishop named current board member Dr. Paul McHugh and former board member Leon Panetta.

The bishop’s supporters have indicated the diocese’s clean record on child abuse compared with other dioceses and praised the bishop for upholding Church teachings.

The diocese has a policy in place to protect children and to respond to any allegations of abuse. Background checks are done for all people who are employed by the diocese or by institutions, parishes or agencies which have any connection with the diocese. All people, including children and youth, are regularly instructed to report any incidents of abuse immediately. Any credible allegations are presented to the diocese’s own lay review board and then acted upon in accordance with canon law.

Bishop Bruskewitz has also questioned the existence of the National Review Board. “My personal experience with the Charter and the audit process has led me to conclude that it is fundamentally a costly and expensive undertaking that brings forward little result, at least as far as the Diocese of Lincoln is concerned,” he reportedly said.

He reiterated that the Lincoln diocese is in full compliance with all civil and Church laws and has implemented all norms issued by the Vatican for prevention of abuse.

“The Diocese of Lincoln certainly is concerned with the protection of children and has taken what it believes to be appropriate steps in this area,” the bishop said.

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Archdiocese of Dublin clarifies Church’s stance: Fr. Curran is not suitable professor of Catholic Theology

Dublin, Ireland, Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Dublin has expressed the Church’s opposition to the participation of Father Charles Curran in a controversial Theology conference due to be held at St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Ireland later this month.

The conference, titled, “The Risks of Theology” is taking place within the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Dublin although officials clarified that the Church is in no way involved with its organization.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said in a statement that “Rev. Charles Curran, while being a Roman Catholic Priest in good standing, has been declared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as ‘not suitable and not eligible to exercise the functions of professor of Catholic theology’.”

The statement, they said, was in response to queries regarding Fr. Curran’s invitation to the event.

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Argentinean bishop: What the Nazis did in secret is today made legal

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - During a recent homily, Bishop Luis T. Stockler of Quilmes, Argentina, lamented that “the experiments that were done secretly at the Nazi concentration camps, in the name of the so-called Arian race, are today done out in the open in the name of science and with the consent of lawmakers.”

Referring to the value of human life from the moment of conception, the bishop underscored the heritage that the Judeo-Christian faith passed on to humanity, because “there is no other religion that gives such value to each person.”

During his homily, Bishop Stockler emphasized the fact that humans are not “a mass of organized molecules that disintegrate at death in order to be absorbed into the universal energy to recycle nature’s metabolism.”   

Instead, he said that “The dignity of the human person lies in that we were created in the image and likeness of God and it is for this reason that human life is inviolable.”

“That is the reason why the Church is so inflexible when it comes to defending human life.  It’s not stubbornness, but rather the consequence of our faith,” he added.

“The one who in the name of Jesus Christ believes in the Father as Creator does not put himself in His place in order to intervene in or fabricate human life according to his own view.  Today, genetic engineering dares to manipulate human life and judge it in its prenatal state as undesirable in order to eliminate it,” the bishop stated.

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91st anniversary of Armenian Christian holocaust commemorated in Spain

Valencia, Fla., Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - This week, the Armenian community in Valencia, Spain, commemorated the 91st anniversary of the deaths of 1.5 million Armenian Christians who were killed by Muslim Turks in 1915 during a massive religious persecution.

The commemorations took place April 24th at the Church of St. Monica in Valencia and were organized by the Armenian Apostolic Church and Pro-Commemoration Committee.  Among those in attendance, was the Armenian Republic’s Honorary Consul in Spain, Luis Barbera.  

Beginning on April 24, 1915, the Ottoman Empire ordered a crackdown on Armenian Christians, which resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million people.

Although modern-day Turkey has never acknowledged that it took place, the persecution became the first case of genocide during the 20th century.

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Nicaraguan congress to consider legalization of abortion during Penal Code reform

Managua, Nicaragua, Apr 26, 2006 (CNA) - The National Assembly of Nicaragua is set to debate a proposal on Thursday that would reform the country’s Penal Code and allow for therapeutic abortion in that country.

The president of the Bishops’ Committee on Family Ministry, Bishop Juan Abelardo, as well as the president of the Nicaraguan Association for Life, Dr. Rafael Jose Cabrera, published a letter to the country’s legislators on March 25 urging that the statute be eliminated from the reform proposals.

The letter also denounced efforts by abortion clinics to secure approval of the new Code, underscoring that the clinics are interested in providing abortions “to any woman for any reason, with the only requirement being a signature of approval from the woman, her spouse or a close relative, and the signatures of three doctors.”

Similarly, the letter called for the preservation of morality and family values in Nicaragua, reminding lawmakers that the nobility of their words and actions must correspond to the responsibility they have as leaders of the country.

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