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Archive of June 7, 2006

World conference in Rome to address stem cell use in therapeutic research

Vatican City, Jun 7, 2006 (CNA) - The International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Pontifical Academy for Life will hold a World Meeting on the future of therapeutic research with stem cells in September, concentrating on its scientific aspects and bioethical challenges.

Stem cells can be harvested either from embryos-which requires the death of a newly conceived human-or from umbilical cord tissue and blood.

The conference is intended to provide a forum for evaluating the therapeutic applications of stem cell research in different clinical fields, as well as the future of such research in regenerative medicine, biotechnology, economics, and politics. "The top experts of the world in this field have been invited," said Jose Maria Simon, president of the Federation. Participants will also have a special audience with Pope Benedict XVI, he added.

For more information on the event visit: <http://www.stemcellsrome2006.org>

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Pope speaks on the Primacy of Peter

Vatican City, Jun 7, 2006 (CNA) -

Pope Benedict spoke today on the foundation of the Catholic Church upon the rock represented by St. Peter the Apostle, who he said, is the custodian of communion with Christ. The Holy Father made his Catechetical remarks during his general audience, which was held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of more than 50,000 people.

The Pope began his Catechesis by recalling how the Gospel of St. John, "in recounting the first meeting of Jesus with Simon, brother of Andrew, records a curious event: Jesus 'looked at him and said: so you are Simon, the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter)'."

"This fact takes on particular significance if we consider how, in the Old Testament, a change of name often accompanied a new mission," said the Pope before going on to mention a number of evangelical episodes that highlight "the will of Christ to attribute to Peter a special importance within the Apostolic college," such as when He stayed in Peter's house in Capernaum, or chose his boat on the Lake of Gennesaret.

"Peter himself," the Holy Father continued, "was aware of his special position: it was often he who would speak, also in the name of the others, asking for explanation of a difficult parable or the exact meaning of a precept. It was also Peter, Pope Benedict, said who made the first profession of faith in the name of the twelve Apostles. "To Jesus Who asks: 'But who do you say that I am?' it is Peter who replies: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'," the Pope said.

"In response," the Pope added, "Jesus then pronounced the solemn declaration that defined, once and for all, Peter's role in the Church: 'And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. ... I will give you the keys of the kingdom, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Benedict XVI went on: "The three metaphors Jesus uses are themselves very clear: Peter will be the rock foundation upon which the building of the Church rests; he will hold the keys of the kingdom of heaven to open and close to whom he will; and finally, he can bind and loosen in the sense that he can impose or prohibit whatever he considers necessary for the life of the Church. ... This describes ... what would later be qualified with the term 'primacy of jurisdiction'."

After the resurrection, Peter was the first of the Apostles to witness the appearance of Jesus, and this again marks "the continuity between his primacy among the
Apostles and the preeminence he would continue to have in the community that came into being following the events of Easter."

"The fact that a number of the key texts referring to Peter are associated with the Last Supper, during which Christ conferred upon him the ministry of confirming his brethren, shows how the Church, which was born from the Paschal remembrance celebrated in the Eucharist, has, in the ministry entrusted to Peter, one of her constitutive elements."

"This is primacy for all time," the Pontiff added, "Peter must be the custodian of communion with Christ. He must guide [people] to communion with Christ, and guide in such a way that the net does not break but supports that great universal communion by which together we can be with Christ, Who is Lord of us all. This is his responsibility, guaranteeing communion with Christ, with Christ's charity, and the implementation of that charity in daily life."

"Let us pray that the primacy of Peter," Benedict said in closing, "entrusted to weak human beings, may always be exercised in this original sense that the Lord intended; and that it be ever more recognized in its true significance by the brethren not yet in full communion with us."

During a brief ceremony held following the general audience, the Pope was granted honorary citizenship of the German town of Altotting.

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Court decision allowing Muslim course in public schools is ‘double standard’

Ann Arbor, Mich., Jun 7, 2006 (CNA) - The Thomas More Law Center has requested the United States Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that it is constitutional for a California public school to offer an intensive course on how to "become Muslims."

"This case cries out ‘double standard,’" said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the same court that decided the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because it contained the phrase "under God."

"Yet they allow a three-week intensive course on how to become Muslims, including class memorization of Islamic prayers and participation in Islamic religious rituals," said Thompson.

For three weeks in 2001, 12-year-old students in a California public school were placed into Islamic city groups, took Islamic names, and wore identification tags that displayed their new Islamic name and the Star and Crescent Moon.

The were also handed materials that instructed them to "Remember Allah always so that you may prosper," completed the Islamic Five Pillars of Faith, including fasting, and memorized and recited the "Bismillah" or "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate," which students also wrote on banners that were hung in the classroom.

A California federal trial court and the Ninth Circuit determined that these practices did not violate the Constitution.

"Although a public school may teach about religion, the school district here went far beyond an explanation of the historical or literary significance of Islam and placed these seventh graders into the position of becoming trainees in that religion," said Edward White III, the trial counsel handling the case. "These young children were indoctrinated in Islam, which the Constitution forbids."

The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to review this case within the next few months.

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Simple majority not enough to pass marriage amendment

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2006 (CNA) - The Senate today, voted to reject a proposed amendment to the US Constitution which would ban gay "marriage".

Although a slight majority of senators did vote in favor of the amendment - the vote was 49-48 - proponents of the ammendment did not come up with the 60 votes necessary to send the amendment to the next step.

Many sources, including many lawmakers in favor of the amendment, were forcasting failure. However, the amendment´s proposal, many point out, has brought the issue once again to the forefront and with a particularly polarizing effect.

Bishops and Archbishops in several dioceses, as well as other religious and non-religious groups have released recent statements in favor of the amendment.

Liberals have responded with arguements of their own, with some, including high profile Democratic Senator, Ted Kennedy resorting to name calling. Kennedy was quoted recently saying that, "A vote for this amendment is a vote for bigotry, pure and simple." Conservatives respond, however, that their support for a marriage amendment is not an attack on homosexuals, but rather an attempt to protect the institution of marriage.

The possibility still exists for individual states to propose amendments to their constitutions. And supporters of the amendment are hopeful that the issue´s reemergence will reinvigorate social conservatives for upcoming elections.

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US bishops support congressional resolutions denouncing Chinese ordinations

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Thomas Wenski has urged the Bush Administration to communicate to Chinese authorities the impact the unauthorized ordination of two bishops will have on relations between the two countries.

The April 30th ordination of Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kungmin and the May 3rd ordination of Bishop Joseph Liu Xinghong of Anhui, arranged by the government-sponsored Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), were not approved by the Vatican and immediately denounced by Pope Benedict XVI.

The recent ordinations of Catholic bishops by the People’s Republic of China "reflect a disturbing reversal of China’s official approach to religious freedom," wrote Bishop Wenski in a letter to U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.

"They thus become issues that properly concern our government in its efforts to promote human rights and religious freedom," he continued

"It would be helpful if the Administration could quietly interpret to the Chinese authorities the counter-productive effect that the CPA’s interference in the internal life of the Catholic Church is having on improved relations between our two countries," he urged.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA ) and Rep. Phillip S. English (R-PA) have introduced legislative resolutions denouncing the recent unauthorized ordinations of Catholic bishops by the People’s Republic of China. Bishop Wenski wrote to the two legislators, expressing his support for the resolutions.

Bishop Wenski is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ International Policy Committee.

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Spanish television channel publicizing boycott of the Pope demands rights to broadcast papal visit

Valencia, Fla., Jun 7, 2006 (CNA) - Organizers of next July’s World Meeting of Families, which will be attended by Pope Benedict XVI, have expressed dismay over the government-controlled television network, TVE, which is demanding the rights to broadcast the papal event even while it continues to provide a platform in its news programs for "groups that are inciting violence against the Holy Father."

According to the AVAN news agency, organizers of the WMF expressed their "surprise" at the "persistent determination" of TVE to be "immediately granted" the rights to broadcast the visit, despite the WMF´s agreement three months ago to give the rights to Radio Television Valenciana.

On Tuesday government officials met with Spain’s Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, Alberto Gasbarri - the Vatican official in charge of papal visits, and Archbishop Agustin Garcia Gasco of Valencia, in another attempt to obtain broadcast rights.

AVAN quoted WMF organizers as saying, "The impression is that TVE and the government have been unwilling to acknowledge the importance of the Pope’s visit to Valencia until now." Both Vatican officials and Church leaders in Spain said they were disappointed that at the same time that government officials were demanding broadcast rights, TVE has been providing wide coverage of radical groups that are inciting violence against the Pope and calling for a boycott of his visit.

"It is a deplorable paradox that they are demanding the rights to broadcast the Pope’s visit to the entire world and at the same time providing an outlet for those inciting violence and contempt for people’s religious freedom," sources said.

According to AVAN, in response to the insistent determination of government officials to obtain broadcast rights, Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia is defending the capabilities of the local institutions involved in the organization of the event and the technical and professional competence of Radio Television Valenciana to provide coverage. At the same time, he expressed his willingness "to collaborate with TVE in whatever is necessary."

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Volunteers for World Meeting of Families include 84 year-old woman

Valencia, Fla., Jun 7, 2006 (CNA) -

The AVAN news agency is reporting that an 84 year-old widow and mother of two is the oldest volunteer for the World Meeting of Families, set to take place in Spain this July. Her task will be to assist priests prepare to concelebrate the final Mass of the WMF with Pope Benedict XVI.

There are some 8,000 volunteers registered to help at the WMF, but Hortensia Bartolo Jarque is the oldest.

She explained that when she signed up to volunteer, she told organizers she would like to help priests vest for Mass, as she has been in charge of the priestly vestments at her parish in Valencia for over ten years. Jarque, who is a member of the Neocatechumenate, said, "Washing and ironing the chasubles and albs, as well as helping priests vest for Mass has been my job for a long time, but I will do whatever task they assign me."

Hortensia was born in the Spanish town of Teruel but she has lived in Valencia for more than 60 years, "and I thank God that I will soon be a witness of this historic moment of the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI."

She said she is awaiting the arrival of the Pope with "much excitement since, because of my age I doubt I will ever see such an event again."

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Catechists trained to use computer-based faith-education program

Parsippany, N.J., Jun 7, 2006 (CNA) - A new computer-based faith-education program for children unlocks a different Gospel story each month - linking Sunday Mass readings to the daily lives of students.

Gospel ChampionsTM features three skill settings for children grades K-8 and utilizes a family leaderboard to encourage kids to play repetitively with their parents, siblings, and friends. The game software also enables parishes and schools to send personalized messages to kids each time they play the game.

The game was designed by Third Day Games. Third Day Games along with Catholic publisher, Silver Burdett Ginn Religion, will hold training sessions across the nation to introduce Catholic educators the program.

"Video games are one of the most popular media forms for elementary age children," said Brian Mitchell, a catechist and president of Third Day Games.

The free training sessions will show Catholic educators how to take advantage of the unlimited distribution of the games to their K-8 children, as well as how to use the games in intergenerational teaching tools and for special needs children. All attendees will receive a free evaluation copy of the Gospel ChampionsTM video game product.

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Don’t expect endorsement of the Church, Nicaraguan archbishop tells political candidates

Managua, Nicaragua, Jun 7, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes of Managua has asked the country’s presidential candidates to refrain from pressuring the Church for an endorsement as national elections draw near.

He called for respect for the Church and told politicians, "If you come to see a bishop or a priest, do so as a regular citizen. And if you get any advice don’t try to manipulate or pressure the priest or bishop to take a set personal position regarding a particular party."

The archbishop also chided candidates who "manipulate religion," referring directly to a May 28 political rally in which Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega invoked the Virgin Mary and the angels.

"It is good to pray to God, but it should be done out of sincerity and not for election purposes," he said.

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