Archive of May 2, 2006

U.S. bishops urge for more action, commitment in Darfur crisis

Washington D.C., May 2, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have called on elected officials to strengthen their efforts to bring an end to the ongoing moral and humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

“Our nation cannot remain silent in the face of killings, rape and destruction,” said Bishop Thomas Wenski in a statement prepared for last weekend’s Save Darfur Rally.

The rally was sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of over 150 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations on the National Mall in Washington. Bishop Wenski is chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Policy.

“Our country can and must do more, much more, to defend and protect innocent civilians in Darfur,” he said. “Anything else would be unworthy of us as a people committed to human life and dignity.”

The U.S. Catholic bishops welcome the Administration’s latest efforts to strengthen the mission of the poorly funded, ill-equipped and undermanned peacekeepers from the African Union who have sought to bring some measure of protection to the helpless civilians of Darfur. Since last year, the bishops have repeatedly urged passage of the “Darfur Peace and Accountability Act.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has advocated for several years on behalf of the innocent victims of Darfur, who remain trapped in the midst of violent clashes between the Sudanese army and rebel forces, as well as subject to inhuman cruelty at the hands of the janjaweed militia under the sponsorship of the government in Khartoum.

In addition to the 400,000 people who have died since 2003, 2.5 million have been driven from their homes and 3.5 million are at risk of starvation.

In early 2004, Bishop John Ricard, then chairman of the Committee on International Policy, warned that Darfur was “rapidly becoming the newest symbol of human depravity and ethnic cleansing,” Bishop Wenski pointed out. Since then, many well-intentioned attempts have been made to stop the spiraling cycle of violence.

“As the security situation deteriorates both in Darfur and across the border in neighboring Chad, the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the 2.5 million who have fled their homes and the million more at risk of starvation has become a daunting challenge to the international community,” said the bishop.

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Hong Kong’s Cardinal says Vatican should cut talks with China

, May 2, 2006 (CNA) - China’s newly elevated Cardinal Joseph Zen has called for the Vatican to cut talks with his country’s government in light of the state’s decision to elevate Father Ma Yinglin to bishop on Sunday--something it did without the Holy See’s approval.

According to the Associated Press, Cardinal Zen said that the Chinese government also plans to appoint Father Liu Xinhong to bishop of the eastern Anhui province on Wednesday, despite the Vatican’s decision that Liu is not qualified for the post.

In 1951, newly communist China cut its ties with the Vatican, opting to form a state-sanctioned Catholic church without the approval or oversight of Rome. An underground Catholic Church--faithful to the Vatican--has also formed since then which is now said to contain some 10 million members.

The two major stumbling blocks to Holy See-China relations remain who has the authority to appoint bishops--the state or the Vatican--as well as China’s insistence that the Vatican halt its diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
On Tuesday, Cardinal Zen, who was appointed by the Vatican and an enthusiastic supporter of renewed relations, told the South China Morning Post that discussions "cannot continue because people will think [the Vatican is] prepared to surrender. We cannot budge. When you brutally place such a fait accompli, how can you call this dialogue?"

Leaders of the state-sanctioned church and the government however, say they do not believe that the Vatican will have an issue with the appointment of Father Liu.

Church vice-chairman Liu Bainian told Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK that "We believe the pope will not disagree. We have not considered whether this ordainment will bring negative consequences on Sino-Vatican relations." The government likewise, defended their right to make appointments without Holy See approval.

Cardinal Zen however, has his doubts. He thinks that the government is less fully behind the push to defy the Vatican than leaders of the state-run church, who would lose their power if discussions were revived.

"I doubt that it comes from the top of the leadership," Zen said. "I don't think they would do such insensitive things."

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Pope Benedict mourns death of influential Latin American Cardinal

Vatican City, May 2, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his personal condolences at the death of Cardinal Raul Francisco Primatesta, Archbishop emeritus of Cordoba, Argentina, a man who has been called a “living testimony to the social doctrine of the Church.”

The Vatican announced that the Holy Father has sent an official letter of condolence to Archbishop Carlos Jose Nanez of Cordoba.

Upon learning of the Cardinal’s death, the Pope wrote, “I offer my fervent prayers, united to the faithful of that diocesan community and to those of San Rafael, where Cardinal Primatesta previously exercised with faithfulness his episcopal ministry, asking God to grant eternal rest to he who, for so many years, was a diligent pastor.”
“Remembering his selfless pastoral work that distinguished his episcopal service in that nation,” the Holy Father continued, “working for the implication of the doctrines of the Second Vatican Council and for the renewal of the Church in faithfulness to Christ and toward the successor of Peter,” he expressed his condolences and also extended his apostolic blessing to participants in the funeral Mass “as a sign of Christian faith and hope in the Risen Lord.”

Following his retirement as Archbishop of Cordoba, Cardinal Primatesta became President of the Commission for Social Concern of the Argentinean Bishops' Conference.

As such, he was a critical and highly respected social mediator, who prevented greater conflict during the Argentinean Social crisis in the late 1990's.

Even in his later years, he was frequently sought by political authorities and social leaders for his advice in ways to avoid conflict. He was regarded by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as "a living testimony of the Social Doctrine of the Church."

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Vatican Social Scientists warn: no society can afford ‘vanishing youth’

Vatican City, May 2, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier today, the Holy See’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences concluded its 12th Plenary Session, discussing “Vanishing Youth? Solidarity with Children and Young People in an age of Turbulence,” concluding that no society can afford the loss of its young people, through neglect, abuse or abortion.

During a press conference this morning, the group said that the session included “over 30 presentations from scholars from every part of the world, meeting for more than 30 hours over five days.”

Professor Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Academy, said that the session’s “theme is part of a multi-year project of the Academy which is examining the broad implications of the demographic changes of the last few decades. Two years ago, the Academy’s plenary session looked at the aging population, with specific reference to social security and health systems.”

Therefore, she said “This year we looked at those same changes and their impact on children and young people worldwide. This opens a new possibility for Catholic social teaching, which to date has not focused as explicitly on the situation of young people as it has, for example, on labor, or women, or those living in poverty.”

The group, she said discussed the dire situations many children of the world live in, including those of neglect, abuse, oppression and sexual exploitation.

Among the discussions, Professor Gérard-François Dumont, Rector of the University of Paris-Sorbonne, recalled that while most of the world is familiar with China’s one-child policy many of these one-child families are now dominating Europe – “without government coercion.”

According to Glendon, This, he said “involves a certain ‘refusal of the future’ that will lead to a culture without brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or cousins.”

In his message to the Academy, Pope Benedict wrote that "By nature, love looks to the eternal…Perhaps the lack of such creative and forward-looking love is the reason why many couples today choose not to marry, why so many marriages fail, and why birth rates have significantly diminished."

Delegates also discussed the discrepancies of children in some cultures who are forced to grow up too quickly while others--mainly in the western world--suffer from an “endless adolescence.”

The latter, Glendon said, is “marked by an avoidance of responsibilities, a desire to maintain all available options instead of permanent commitments, and a refusal of moral limitations in the sphere of human sexuality, such a syndrome makes it almost impossible for young people to assume the enduring sacrifices on which stable marriages and families are built.”

"No society, no culture", she concluded, "can afford to suffer a 'vanishing youth', for with them would also vanish the real hope and noble ideals of every nation".

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Catholics respond to Da Vinci Code craze

Philadelphia, Pa., May 2, 2006 (CNA) - Several books and resources have been developed by Catholics to set the record straight about the false claims made about their faith in Dan Brown’s bestselling fiction novel, The Da Vinci Code, the film version of which will be released in theatres May 19.

The Catholic Church has given its imprimatur to “The Da Vinci Deception: 100 Questions and Answers about the Facts and Fiction of The Da Vinci Code,” published by Ascension Press.

The 144-page book counters allegations made by The Da Vinci Code. An imprimatur is an official declaration that a literary work is free from errors in Catholic doctrine and morals. It was granted by Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia.

Carl Olson of Eugene, Oregon has also written “The Da Vinci Hoax,” a 340-page, heavily footnoted book that seeks to debunk many of Brown’s assertions about Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the Catholic Church. Olson and his co-author Sandra Miesel have been giving talks around the country to mostly Catholic audiences.

In Malta, the Catholic Church will issue a manual that responds to questions raised by the novel in mid-May. The Institute of Pastoral Formation will organize other events and initiatives on themes raised by the book.

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Bishops of Bolivia criticize government for corruption, human rights abuses

La Paz, Bolivia, May 2, 2006 (CNA) - The Bolivian bishops began their annual assembly last weekend with an urgent call to the new government of Evo Morales to avoid reviving “the same ways of acting that in the past produced death and suffering.”

In their statement, which evaluates the annual state of the country, the bishops criticized the government for using force and pressure to implement its policies and for the lack of respect for human rights.  They also pointed out the contradictions between the statements and actions of different government officials as reasons for “uncertainty and confusion” in the country.

“It is dangerous to think that the new Bolivia is going to be created by ignoring the basic principles of respect for laws and agreements.  Only through interior change and renewal in each individual will we be able to reverse this situation of inertia, desperation, slavery and death,” the bishops stated, in response to the Bolivian government’s announcement that it would review contracts with foreign businesses in the country to give more power to the state.

Cardinal Julio Terrazas, who read the statement, also mentioned the upcoming election of a Constitutional Assembly, called for by President Morales, in order to draft a new Bolivian constitution.

The cardinal encouraged all Bolivians to participate in this initiative, but he warned this would not be a magic solution to the problems facing the country, such as poverty.  

This was the first time the bishops have publicly criticized the new government, coming at a time when President Morales has been in Havana meeting with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro.

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Senator Byrd proposes constitutional prayer amendment

Washington D.C., May 2, 2006 (CNA) - For the eighth time in 43 years, Sen. Robert Byrd (D—W.Va.) has proposed that the U.S. Congress adopt a constitutional amendment allowing voluntary prayer in public schools. Byrd introduced the amendment in the U.S. Senate April 27.

"The importance of prayer is recognized by people of faith in nearly all of the world's religions," Byrd said, according to the Daily Mail newspaper. "Yet, in America, prayer is increasingly barred from public life,” based on the argument that it violates the First Amendment."

Byrd believes the nation's courts pay too much attention to the clause in the First Amendment that says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," and disregards the second part about "prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."

"I believe that, in ruling after ruling, the U.S. courts have been moving perilously close to prohibiting the free exercise of religion in America,” he reportedly said.

Byrd said the "ingrained predisposition" in the courts against religious or spiritual expressions is contrary to the intent of the country's founding fathers. Byrd discussed this point with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

"It seems to me that any prohibition of voluntary prayer in school violates the right of our school children to practice freely their religion," the senator reportedly said. "Any child should be free to pray to God, of his or her own volition, whether at home, in church or at school."

Byrd also said that voluntary school prayer would help in "getting the country back on the right track,” reported the Daily Mail.

The amendment will go to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. The Supreme Court struck down prayer in schools in 1962.

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Church leaders in U.K. call for 'living wage' reform

London, England, May 2, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and other senior clerics joined trade union leaders at a rally yesterday, on the fest of St. Joseph the Worker, in calling for a living wage for workers in the United Kingdom, reported

The rally, held in the square of Westminster Cathedral, was preceded by a mass for migrant workers in the cathedral church. It was attended by 2,000 people. The mass is the first of its kind and is organized with the support of London Citizens, a community-based organization.

A “living wage” is the minimum level necessary for a human standard of living. London Mayor Ken Livingstone's Living Wage Unit has recommended a living wage of £6.70 an hour in London compared with the current adult minimum wage of £5.05 an hour, which will rise to £5.35 in October.

In recent years, thousands of migrant workers from central and eastern European states new to the European Union have come to London. These workers have been credited with keeping inflation down, but they have suffered with low pay and poor living standards.

The cardinal has highlighted the plight of migrant workers and called on Catholic parishes in the capital to welcome migrants whatever their legal status.

Catholic social teaching states that as a matter of justice, human beings have a right to work for a salary which will support them and their families.

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Amid growing energy crisis, Guatemala cardinal says politicians should ride bus or walk to work

Guatemala City, Guatemala, May 2, 2006 (CNA) - In response to the current energy crisis produced by climbing oil prices, Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno of Guatemala said this week that politicians should lead the way in living a simpler life.

The cardinal said he supported President Oscar Berger’s announcement that the country would change to daylight saving time and his call to conserve energy by carpooling and walking more.  “But politicians should lead the way in living more austere,” he said, “by carpooling and walking” to work.  “If the president begins to walk as an example, I’ll join him, because walking is also good for the heart,” the cardinal joked.

He noted that most Guatemalans use the public transportation system and consume little energy due to poverty.  “Our leaders are the ones who should lead the way in living simply, in a visible way, so that therefore our people are encouraged.”

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‘Gospel of Judas’: an ideological attack against the Church, says Argentinean archbishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 2, 2006 (CNA) - During his television program, “Keys to a Better World,” Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, said this week that the controversial “gospel of Judas” is part of an “ideological attack” against the Catholic faith and the Church.

“It seems anti-Catholicism sells well, which shows there is also a commercial venture at work” the archbishop said.  “This is not because of the dynamism of the market, nor is it by coincidence,” he warned.  “It is obvious that the commercial venture—the business—and the ideological venture are very much connected, and we need to remember that and be aware of all this.”

Archbishop Aguer noted that the contents of the “gospel of Judas” “have been known for at least 1800 years” and the text has always been considered part of the apocryphal writings of “a Gnostic sect where Christian truths, philosophical doctrines and, most especially, oriental mysteries were all mixed together, and the Church condemned it rapidly.”

The Gnostic ideology consisted of “an attack on the God of the Bible, with a strong anti-Jewish tendency. Against all of this they exalted the supreme god of the Gnostics and Judas was a key figure in the struggle against that Biblical God who they considered a Semitic God,” the archbishop explained.

“Now the ‘gospel of Judas’ is presented as if it had just been discovered, when in reality St. Iraneus of Lyon, in his work against the heresies in the year 180, had already unmasked this false gospel,” he said in conclusion.

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Uruguayan bishops want country to avoid commercial conflict with Argentina

Montevideo, Uruguay, May 2, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Uruguay has released a statement drafted at their last general assembly in which they call for efforts to avoid a commercial conflict with Argentina. The statement also announced a meeting between a group of bishops from Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil during the month of May.

The bishops pointed out that “the conflict that today affects our country’s relationship with Argentina caught the attention of the Assembly.  The bishops are very concerned about how this might immediately impact the people, especially those who live on the coast, but also about the future repercussions for relations between our two sister nations.”

Argentina and Uruguay are currently in a dispute over the construction of two cellulose plants which would bring in $1.8 billion in investments for Uruguay.  However, Argentina argues the plants would lead to an ecological disaster in the Uruguay River, which runs between both nations.

Both countries, together with Brazil and Paraguay, form a common market region known as the Mercosur, or southern market.

The bishops announced that Church leaders from the four countries would meet in Brazil at the end of May to discuss the issue.  

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