Archive of April 27, 2006

Catholic South Korean delegation visits communist north for first time

Seoul, South Korea, Apr 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Seoul sent its first-ever official Catholic delegation to North Korea Wednesday; this is the first time its members have been allowed to cross the border into the communist north. The group left for its three-day trip on April 26.

The 61-member delegation, made up of lay people and clergy, will inspect how the more than $10 million it has sent to North Korea for humanitarian aid has been used.

The delegation is being led by Mgr. Thomas Aquinas Choi Chang-hwa, director of the National Reconciliation Committee, established in 1995 to “deliver God’s love to our North Korean brethren.”

Many sources have said the visit has “raised hopes about an agreement allowing more religious freedom in the country”, ruled by a Stalinist regime and held by many to be an “an open air gulag.”

The delegation is scheduled to inspect conditions in health facilities it funded and to visit a food factory and a grain mill built with aid from Changchung – the only Catholic church in Pyongyang.

The visit comes after Pope Benedict recently installed a second cardinal for South Korea earlier this year. Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk is interested in rebuilding the Church in the communist country and having a priest installed there.

The cardinal also heads the Roman Catholic diocese in the capital of North Korea, although it is mostly a symbolic title since there are no practicing Catholic priests allowed in the country.

The two Koreas have been divided for more than 60 years. South Korea estimates there are about 3,000 Catholics in North Korea and about 12,000 Protestants, while in the South there are about 4.5 million Catholics.

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Pope Benedict: Law of God does not eliminate human freedom, but perfects it

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2006 (CNA) - Meeting with members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI expounded on the nature of humanity which, he said, finds its true freedom and happiness within the perfected humanity of Jesus Christ.

The Pope’s meeting with the Biblical scholars comes as the group completes their annual plenary assembly, in which they explored the relationship between the Bible and morality. Cardinal William Joseph Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and president of the commission, presided over the assembly.

The Holy Father began by greeting the participants--many of whom he knows personally, having himself been president of the commission prior to being elected Pope--stressing the importance of the plenary session’s theme.

''The primordial impulse of human beings'', he said, ''is their desire for happiness and a fulfilling life. Nevertheless, there are many today who think that such fulfillment must be attained autonomously, with no reference to God or to His law.”

“Some”, he added, “have even suggested the absolute sovereignty of reason and freedom in the field of moral norms. ... The proponents of this 'moral laicism' affirm that human beings, as rational creatures, not only can but must freely decide the value of their own behavior''.

Pope Benedict firmly called this a ''false conviction'', which ''is rooted in a supposed conflict between human freedom and any kind of law."

He pointed out however, that "the law of God does not mitigate or eliminate human freedom, on the contrary, it guarantees and promotes it. ... Moral law, established by God at the creation and confirmed in the Revelation of the Old Testament, finds its fullness and greatness in Christ.”

“Jesus Christ”, the Pope stressed, “is the way of perfection, the living and personal synthesis of perfect freedom in His total obedience to the will of God''.

Expanding on this thought, Benedict recalled that ''In revealing the Father and in His own actions, Jesus also reveals the norms for just human behavior. He explicitly underlines this connection when, at the conclusion of His lessons regarding love for one's enemies, He says 'be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect'.''

He likewise explained that ''The path indicated by Jesus through His teachings is not a rule imposed from the outside. He Himself walks this path and asks no more than that we follow Him. ... In the search for a Christologically inspired ethic, it is always necessary to remember that Christ is the Word Incarnate Who renders us participants in His divine life, and with His grace He sustains us on the path towards true fulfillment.''

Concluding his address to the theologians, the Holy Father stressed that ''The essence of human beings appears definitively in the Word made man," and "this relationship with Christ defines the highest fulfillment of man's moral actions. ... It is not an act dictated solely by external norms, it proceeds from the vital relationship that unites believers to Christ and to God.''

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Pope clarifies Church’s traditions, norms for canonization; announces new instruction

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2006 (CNA) - As the world watches the Catholic Church in its process for the beatification of John Paul II, the Vatican has released a message from Pope Benedict to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which just finished its plenary assembly. In it, the Pope clarifies the Church’s stance and means for assessing sainthood.

The message, released today, was addressed specifically to Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation.

The Holy Father wrote that ''From her beginnings, the Church has dedicated great attention to the procedures that elevate Servants of God to the glory of the altars. The causes of saints are considered 'major causes' because of their noble and material impact on the lives of the people of God."

Benedict then recalled many of his predecessors--including John Paul II--who sought to improve the Church’s ways of studying and celebrating the lives of saints, including the 1983 Apostolic Constitution ‘Divinus Perfectionis Magister and the ‘Normae servandae in inquisitionibus ab Episcopis faciendis in Causis Sanctorum.’

He wrote that "The experience of more than 20 years since this text was published has prompted this congregation to publish an 'Instruction for the procedure of diocesan inquiries into the causes of saints,' which is chiefly addressed to diocesan bishops and constitutes the first theme examined by the plenary."

The new instruction, he said, "attempts to facilitate the application of the 'Normae servandae' in order to safeguard the seriousness of investigations", into virtues, causes of martyrdom or possible miracles.

The Pope went on, saying that "It is clear that a cause of beatification or canonization cannot be initiated in the absence of a proven reputation for holiness, even when dealing with people who have been distinguished for their evangelical coherence and for particular ecclesial or social merits."

He then addressed the second theme of the plenary session--"the miracle in the causes of saints"--explaining that "miracles constitute divine confirmation of a judgment expressed by the ecclesial authorities on [a person's] virtuous life.”

“I hope”, he added, “that the plenary will study this subject deeply in the light of the tradition of the Church, of modern theology, and of the most accredited discoveries of science.”

He likewise cautioned that “in examining purportedly miraculous events, the competency of scientists and theologians comes together, although the decisive judgment falls to theology which alone is capable of interpreting miracles in the light of the faith.”

“It should also be clearly borne in mind”, he wrote, “that unbroken Church practice establishes the need for a physical miracle, a moral miracle is not enough."

Moving to the subject of martyrdom, the Pope said that in its truest sense, the source and motive of martyrdom must be modeled in Christ, not done for what he called “fake different reasons” like “political or social ones.”

“It is of course necessary”, he said, “to find incontrovertible proof of willingness to suffer martyrdom, ... and of the victim's acceptance thereof. But it is equally necessary that, directly or indirectly but always in a morally certain fashion, the 'odium Fidei' of the persecutor should be apparent.”

“If this element is lacking,” Benedict explained, “there is no real martyrdom in accordance with the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the Church."

The pontiff concluded his message by again referring to the late John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution "Divinus Perfectionis Magister" which deals with the need to associate bishops with the Holy See in dealing with the causes of saints.

Based on that document, the Pope said, "I have implemented the widespread desire that the substantial difference between the celebration of beatification and that of canonization should be more deeply underlined.”

Namely, he stressed that “particular Churches should be more visibly involved in the rite of beatification, it being understood that only the Roman Pontiff may concede veneration to a Servant of God."

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Holy See reaches working agreement with Bosnia-Herzegovina

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2006 (CNA) - Last week, on the anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI election to the papacy, a significant agreement was reached in the strained relationship between the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina the Holy See.

The agreement, which the Vatican announced, “confirms a number of principles and defines issues regarding questions of common interest” was signed at the presidential palace in Sarajevo on April 19th.

The Holy See was represented by Archbishop Alessandro D'Errico, apostolic nuncio to Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Bosnia-Herzegovina by Ivo Miro Jovic, Croatian member of the country's collegial presidency.

A statement--released today--said that the agreement, while "bearing in mind the respective independence and autonomy of State and Church and their willingness to collaborate with each other, establishes the juridical framework for their reciprocal relations.”

“In particular,” the communiqué went on, “it regulates the juridical position of the Catholic Church in civil society; her freedom and independence in her apostolic activities and in the regulation of her own affairs; and her freedom of worship and of action in the fields of culture, education, pastoral care, charity and the mass media.”

“The text also makes provision for the running of Catholic schools of all levels; spiritual assistance to the armed forces, and in prisons and hospitals; and the organization of Catholic healthcare and charity structures''.

The statement concluded by saying that the new agreement ''will come into force following the exchange of the instruments of ratification."

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Louisiana Senate passes pro-life bill

, Apr 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Louisiana Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would prohibit abortion except to save the life of the mother. The measure, which passed on a 30-7 vote, is similar to one enacted earlier this year in South Dakota. The legislation now goes to the Louisiana House of Representatives for consideration.

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, applauded Louisiana for taking a positive step toward “rebuilding the culture of life after decades of Roe v. Wade’s devastation.”

“Everyone’s life deserves the protection of law,” he added. “I pray that the Louisiana House will continue the work to protect the most vulnerable in the Bayou State, the unborn.”

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Vatican analyst examines reactions to Cardinal Martini’s statements on condom use

Rome, Italy, Apr 27, 2006 (CNA) - In an article entitled, the “Day After Carlo Maria Martini”, set for publication in English on Friday, Italian journalist Sandro Magister of “L’Espresso” analyzes the reactions to the controversial statements by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini regarding the morality of condom use.

Magister’s article will include both public statements as well as reactions from inside the Italian Bishops’ Conference to the proposals of the former Archbishop of Milan who, among other things, told “L’Espresso” that life does not begin at the moment of conception; an issue considered “non-negotiable” by the Catholic Church in terms of its defense of human life.

Magister will also include reactions by sociologist and former member of the Socialist Party, Paolo Sorbi, who is now head of the Pro-life movement of the Archdiocese of Milan, and Bishop Dante Lafranconi, who heads up the Italian bishops’ Committee on Family and Life.

The article will be available on Friday at:

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University takes strong stand against unmarried staff cohabitating on student trips

St. Paul, Minn., Apr 27, 2006 (CNA) - Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas has announced a controversial decision which bars unmarried staff or faculty, who travel officially with students, to share a room on those trips.

The new policy states that St. Thomas will pay for rooms for faculty and staff traveling with students, but only heterosexual spouses and children can share those rooms. The policy does not apply to staff traveling to professional conferences without students

That decision, made by university president Fr. Dennis Dease, is unlikely to end the controversy that's divided the St. Thomas campus for the past few months and left some wondering “what’s next?” reported the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

While the travel policy affects only a few professors, it became a flashpoint on campus after two unmarried, heterosexual professors were told in December they could travel with students only if they stayed in separate rooms.

As a result, the unmarried couple declined to lead a student trip to Australia in January. They and others noted that before last year they had traveled together, and gay faculty had traveled with their partners, on student trips and it was not an issue.

Some faculty fear the new policy will impact university culture and dissuade gifted faculty and students from coming to the university.

Fr. Dease said he hoped his track record of hiring and diversity would provide a comfort level for St. Thomas employees. He said gay and lesbian people on campus “enrich the community as much as anyone else.” But he added: "I hope that people don't expect that in order to respect their values, I have to sacrifice ours as an institution."

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Vatican discussion to explore the ‘disappearance of youth’

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Pontifical Academy for the Social Sciences has announced it will host a gathering of experts April 28 to May 2 to discuss the theme: “The disappearance of youth? Solidarity with children and young people in turbulent times.”

The event, which will take place at the central offices of the Academy, will feature speeches by Professor Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and professor of law at the University of Harvard; Msgr. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and professor of philosophy the University of Maria Asunta and Dr. Pierpaolo Donati, professor of sociology at the University of Bologne.

In addition, Professor Kenneth Arrow, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economics and professor emeritus of economics at the University of Stanford; Dr. Ombretta Fumagalli Carulli, professor of law at the Sacred Heart Catholic University of Milan; and Professor Rocco Buttiglione, Cultural Minister of Italy, will all be on hand for the discussion.

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Cuban government agents assault prominent dissident

Havana, Cuba, Apr 27, 2006 (CNA) - The leader of the internationsl Christian Life Movement, Oswald Paya Sardiñas, has issued a statement revealing that Cuban government agents severely assaulted Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, one of Cuba’s most prominent dissident leaders.

In his statement, Paya explains that similar acts “have been repeated against defenseless women and families and are true operations of the State Security in collaboration with other repressive groups and unscrupulous persons.”

“The assault against Martha Beatriz Roque was particularly savage and full of cowardice,” Paya continued.  “This is an assault against all of the peaceful opposition in Cuba, but also against all citizens.  It’s a Fascist-Communist style assault that goes beyond all limits of evil.  Likewise, it reflects a sense of impunity, and also indicates a serious danger for the Cuban society.”

Paya said that assaults of this kind against those who peacefully oppose the Communist regime would only lead to greater solidarity, “because we defend the rights of all Cubans, and that is only reason why they are attacking the peaceful opposition.”

The leader of the Christian Life Movement called on the “international community, on people of decency and of good will around the world” to “condemn this abusive and cruel act against a woman.”

Roque Cabello was one of dozens of dissidents arrested and imprisoned in 2003.  Despite her sentence of 20 years, she was released in July of 2004 for health reasons.

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Venezuelan bishops demand serious investigation into assassination of priest

Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela has rejected statements by the country’s Attorney General, Isaias Rodriguez, who said on Tuesday that the murder of Father Jorge Pinango was a crime of passion and not a result of the general lack of security which currently plagues the country.

The president of the Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Ubaldo Santana, read a statement warning that Rodriguez was depriving the case of due process and that his statements disparaged the slain priest, criminalized him and turned him into “an accomplice in his own death.”

“The investigations must respect the dignity of the person, be in keeping with the law, and once those responsible have been identified, proceed to the punishment of the guilty,” he said.

Bishop Santana criticized the “inhumane and indecent” way in which the state media has covered the story.  He reiterated that investigations are just beginning and that there should not be a rush to judgment.  “This monstrous crime has troubled the nation and highlights once again the grave lack of security and the moral decay of the country.”

The Vice President of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Roberto Luckert, criticized statements by Congressman Carlos Escarra, who said during a television interview that Father Pinango’s murder had to do with his private life.  “There has been a murder and the crime must be investigated.  We don’t need to be disparaging the poor priest” in front of his family, the archbishop said.

Vicente Alamo, one of the investigators handling the case, announced this week that one person who corresponds to descriptions of the attacker has been detained.  “At this time I have been informed that we are detaining someone who corresponds to the characteristics and to other information we have about the individual who we believe was responsible for the killing of the Undersecretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela,” he said.

Alamo also said the van that was being used by Father Pinango was found in the parking garage of an office building in Chacao.  He said it was left in the garage at 5:50am on Sunday and that witnesses said it was following a Chevrolet Aveo.  At 7:00am two individuals approached the vehicle and attempted to remove it but were unsuccessful.

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Lay group strives to bring lapsed Catholics back to faith

Manila, Philippines, Apr 27, 2006 (CNA) - A new Catholic group in the Philippines is helping to bring erstwhile Catholics back to their faith. Founder Henry Siy and his mostly lay companions, known as Defensores Fides, (Defenders of the Faith) have been working mostly on a one-on-one basis, to invite Catholics back.

Priests just can’t do the job by themselves, the group says.

"That's the problem with many of us [Catholics]. We put everything on the shoulders of priests," Siy, 52, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. "Worse, we rest our faith solely on priests and we focus on rituals. We are what they call ‘sacramentalized but not evangelized,’” not knowing the true meaning behind the rituals.

Since its founding in 2000, the group offers help in apologetics, which is the defense of the truth of Christian doctrines.

"Many of us have a deep faith but it stops there. We no longer know how to respond if we're asked to defend it," Siy said.

The group offers nine to 12 courses covering the sacred Scripture, sacred and Church tradition, salvation history, the Blessed Mother, the papacy and Christology.

The group came together because of their faith. Siy, a management consultant in the chemical industry, had started a small Catholic bookstore, Totus, six years ago. He invited a handful of regular customers to a meeting to give him an idea of the books they liked, but they decided instead to form a group of "defenders of the faith," reported the Inquirer.

The group, whose members come from a variety of professions, focuses mainly on Catholics who have joined evangelical denominations and the rapidly-growing Mormon church.

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