Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2006 (CNA) -
In a press release yesterday, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ international policy committee said that provocative acts of violence by extreme factions of Hamas and Hezbollah, along with disproportionate military responses from Israel, undermine efforts to create a just two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and endanger the vulnerable democracy in Lebanon.
“Once again the land that is holy to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim believers is wracked by violence and fear,” said Bishops Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, (FL) “The tragic and terrifying cycle of provocation and response, of occupation and resistance, has erupted in another spasm of deadly violence. This cycle must be broken, especially before it continues to expand into a broader and deadlier conflict. The violence must stop and a ceasefire must be secured.”
“The conflicts in the Holy Land and Lebanon are distinct, but they bear some fearful similarities. In both cases there were violent and provocative cross-border attacks on Israeli military personnel. The extreme armed factions of Hamas and Hezbollah, and their supporters, including Syria and Iran, bear grave responsibilities. It seems clear that these acts were intended to damage prospects for negotiation and to provoke strong responses that further weaken the chances for dialogue, agreement and progress.”
While the U.S. bishops recognize with great compassion the Palestinians’ “harsh realities of occupation and the yearning for a viable state of their own,” Bishop Wenski said, he stressed that attacks against innocent civilians, “violate the principle of civilian immunity and undermine the possibility of a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As strong friends of the people of Israel, we share their frustration and anger at the provocative attacks. It is long past time for all Palestinian leaders, including Hamas, to reject violence and terror and to act in ways that will lead to the establishment of a viable state for the Palestinian people living side-by-side in peace with a secure Israel.” He also called for Hezbollah to, “renounce violence, recognize Israel and respect its security.”
Israel has a right to defend itself, Bishops Wenski said, but support cannot be given to “sweeping counterattacks on civilian areas, civilian infrastructure, blockades and other acts of war in Gaza and Lebanon. Punishment of an entire population for the indefensible acts of extreme armed factions is wrong and causes unjustified harm to noncombatants. Such actions are also counterproductive because they deepen hostilities and widen the circle of violence. Israel must act with restraint. Otherwise we fear that Israel could isolate itself, undermine its long-term security interests and play into the hands of extremists who seek a wider confrontation and an unending battle with Israel.”
Bishop Wenski also said a secure and democratic Lebanon is in the best interest of everyone in the region.
“As steadfast friends of the Lebanese people, we believe that Lebanon, as the late Pope John Paul II said, should be ‘a model’ for people of different faiths living together in peace. The current conflict puts at risk the progress that has been made to free Lebanon from outside domination and from being used as a pawn in a larger struggle. Our Conference is deeply disturbed by the provocative acts of Hezbollah against Israel that precipitated the current crisis and provoked the disproportionate Israeli military responses. Both the initial act and the resulting reactions endanger the Lebanese people and their vulnerable democracy.”
The bishop urged greater participation from the United States to help end the conflicts.
“Our Conference calls upon the United States to exert greater leadership with all parties to the conflicts and to work more intensively and multilaterally to end the provocations and violence, to secure a ceasefire, to restrain Israel, to move toward negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to bring about security for Israel and a viable state for the Palestinians, and to ensure the independence of Lebanon.”
The bishop concluded by echoing Pope Benedict’s prayer for peace through Mary, the Queen of Peace.
Beirut, Lebanon, Jul 19, 2006 (CNA) - Caritas Lebanon has issued a humanitarian alert in response to the displacement of thousands of people who are fleeing the military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, saying it fears “an unprecedented catastrophe.”
The president and the secretary general of Caritas Lebanon, Louis Samaha and Habib Hatem, have sent a message to all the offices of Caritas around the world informing them of dozens of deaths and hundreds of wounded from the Israeli bombing of Beirut.
The message indicates that residents are fleeing the city in search of safety and that the city of Sidon has already taken in over five thousand displaced families in schools and shelters.
In response to Israeli warnings of new attacks on Beirut, Caritas Lebanon hopes, “they will not take place, as this is a very populated zone and there exists a real risk of an unprecedented catastrophe.”
“The people are overcome with fear and terror and are lining up at service stations, bakeries and supermarkets for fear of shortages of gas, bread and groceries as a result of the blockade imposed by Israel on ports and the Beirut airport,” the message adds.
“From the bottom of our hearts we hope and we pray God will rescue Lebanon from additional suffering,” the message says in conclusion.
Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2006 (CNA) -
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives split a vote Tuesday on a bill that would have allowed researchers to pursue embryonic stem-cell research without the destruction of human embryos. The U.S. bishops and pro-life advocates had supported the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act, saying that it would promote more alternatives and make embryonic stem cell research unnecessary.
The Senate approved the measure on a 100-0 vote, and the House unexpectedly voted on the measure late yesterday but failed to gain the full two-thirds majority necessary to send the bill to President George Bush to sign into law.
During the Senate debate leading up to the vote, pro-life Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, explained the need for the measure.
"We are directing the NIH to invest money in developing alternatives to the destruction of the human embryo for the obtaining of pluripotent stem cells," Santorum said. "We're instructing the government to look at these particular areas and others.”
Santorum said 16 studies published already are looking at methods of obtaining embryonic stem cells for research which won't harm the human embryo, reported LifeNews.com.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also supported the bill and urged senators to approve the measure.
“The effort to explore all feasible avenues of research that do not attack human life is worth pursuing,” Cardinal William Keeler wrote in a letter.
“Many studies suggest that stem cells from adult tissues and umbilical cord blood already have the versatility once thought to exist only in embryonic cells, or may acquire this versatility by various forms of ‘reprogramming’,” wrote Cardinal Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, head of pro-life activities for the USCCB.
Family Research Council spokesman Dr. David Prentice said the bill "does not violate ethical principles and such research is currently allowed. Senators should vote for this bill instead of the embryo destruction bill."
The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, the Susan B. Anthony List and Christian Life Resources also supported the bill.
The Senate and House, however, united to unanimously pass the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act, which would ban implanting a human embryo in a woman or animal for the purpose of harvesting cells or tissue.
The U.S. Senate approved as well the controversial Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would promote research using ‘new’ embryonic stem cell lines, encouraging researchers to destroy countless human embryos. The House had already voted in favor of the bill.
President George Bush said he intends to sign the first two measures into law but has vowed to veto the third.
The U.S. bishops discouraged the approval of the third measure, “as it violates a decades-long policy against forcing taxpayers to support the destruction of early human life,” said Cardinal Keeler.
The vote was 63-37; four short of the 67 that would be needed to overturn the veto that could come on Wednesday. All but one Democrat voted for the bill, while 19 Republicans backed it and 36 opposed it, reported Reuters.
Valle d'Aosta, Italy, Jul 19, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI asked the cloistered religious of the Carmel of Quart, the monastery he visited near his summer retreat in the northern Italy on Sunday, to pray for peace in the Middle East and for the conversion of terrorists.
Sister Maria, one of the ten religious of the Carmelite community of Quart told Italian Journal, “La Repubblica,” that the Pontiff told them, while referring to the conflict of the Middle East, “also pray for the terrorists because they don’t know that they are doing evil not only to their neighbor but to themselves as well.”
According to the nun, the Holy Father visited the Carmelite Monastery after learning that missiles from the terrorist group Hezbollah had struck the Israeli city of Haifa, which sits at the foot of Mount Carmel, the spiritual center of the world wide Carmelite Order.
“Now we se that the conflict has extended to Lebanon but also in many parts of the world there exists people who suffer from hunger and violence,” Pope Benedict told the religious.
“The contemplative life,” he added, “is rich in charity because it opens heaven to mankind who needs it so badly, because in today’s world it hardly seems as if God exists. And where there is no God, there is violence and terrorism.”
Vatican City, Jul 19, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican announced, this morning, that Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano has sent a telegram of condolence, in the name of the Pope, to the ecclesial and civil authorities of Indonesia following the tsunami that hit the island of Java on Monday and left more than 500 people dead and around 300 missing.
"Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic consequences of the recent tsunami in Java, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI assures all those affected of his closeness in prayer,” the text read.
“He commends the deceased to the loving mercy of the Almighty, and upon their grieving families he invokes divine blessings of strength and consolation. His Holiness likewise prays for the rescue workers and all involved in providing assistance to displaced families, encouraging them to persevere in their efforts to bring relief and support."
Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage on Tuesday, but House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., warned that the issue is not over, the Associated Press reported.
"For thousands of years the definition of marriage has been the union between one man and one woman. Marriage is the very foundation of our society where families are formed and communities are established," said Hastert in a statement.
"Today we are seeking to protect this vital institution as it is under attack by activist judges across the nation,” he continued. "It's unfortunate that more than a majority of democrats today have sided with these liberal judges and voted against this measure.”
The 236-187 vote was 47 short of the two-thirds majority needed to advance a constitutional amendment. While most all Republicans supported the amendment, it did not have enough support from Democrats to get a two-thirds vote. The Senate rejected the amendment last month, effectively killing it for this session of Congress. In 2004, the House vote was 227-186 in favor of the amendment.
The “no” vote came despite what is happening at the state level, where courts, legislatures and voters are accepting the same-sex marriage bans. Forty-five states have either constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage or statutes outlawing same-sex weddings.
Supporters of the federal amendment argued that Congress must trump the actions of judges who have ruled in favor of same-sex marriages.
President George Bush has also advocated that the ban be extended to the federal level.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said his group would help to make marriage an election issue in the fall. They will put out a voter scorecard that will include marriage.
"The overwhelming majority of the American people support traditional marriage," said Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., sponsor of the amendment. "And the people have a right to know whether their elected representatives agree with them."
The proposed amendment said that, "marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither the Constitution, nor the constitution of any state, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."
, Jul 19, 2006 (CNA) - Amnesty International’s recent decision to support abortion rights will cost the human rights organization “much of its credibility,” says a pro-abortion supporter.
“I am one who believes abortion should be legal in the early months,” writes Denise Noe in an editorial published on July 15 by MensNewsDaily.com. “However, legal abortion is not a basic human right similar to freedom of worship, assembly, and speech.”
Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who, historically, campaign for internationally recognized human rights. Amnesty has argued that its decision to support abortion is based on the principle of protecting women’s rights by defending and promoting sexual and reproductive rights.
Abortion should not be seen as an absolute necessity for women’s freedom, says Noe. “Few figures were more militant advocating women’s rights than suffragette Susan B. Anthony who strongly opposed abortion. Free Love advocate Victoria Woodhull was similarly outspoken in denouncing it.”
Noe also tells the story of Gianna Jessen, who survived an abortion when her biological mother was seven-and-a-half months pregnant. She has cerebral palsy as a result, but Jessen has asked: “If abortion is about women’s rights, where were mine?”
“Amnesty International should take no position on the legality or illegality of abortion but should continue to work to protect the rights of people who struggle politically and socially on either side of this issue,” Noe concludes.
Valle d'Aosta, Italy, Jul 19, 2006 (CNA) -
Quick, what’s the fifth country to be visited by Pope Benedict XVI during his Pontificate? The correct answer is now Switzerland. After setting foot outside the Vatican to visit Italy, Germany, Poland, and Spain the Holy Father reportedly made a surprise visit to Switzerland, yesterday.
According to Swiss newspaper, Tagesschau, Pope Benedict XVI, who is undertaking a brief vacation period in the northern Italian area of Les Combes until July 28th, has paid a brief visit to the region of Wallis in Switzerland.
The newspaper said that the visit to Swiss territory was so sudden that the President of the county, Moritz Leuenberger, could only send a welcome message, in which he recalled a previous meeting with the Pope.
“Your Holiness, welcome to Switzerland. I hope that you will enjoy being among us, as much as I felt upon my visit to you. With heartfelt wishes, Moritz Leuenberger, President of Switzerland,” the text said.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jul 19, 2006 (CNA) - A feminist leader has revealed that the National Council of Christian Churches in Brazil (NCCB) has been an ally for several years of organizations that promote abortion in the country and that together they have managed to silence a prominent pro-life leader.
Fatima Oliveira, executive secretary of the Feminist Health Network, made the revelation in an article published on the website of the Brazilian affiliate of Ipas, a multinational corporation dedicated to promoting “reproductive rights.”
Oliveira maintains in her article that she advised the NCCB in 2002 regarding an event supporting assisted reproduction techniques-which are not approved by the Catholic Church.
The NCCB is made up of representatives of the Catholic Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Brazil, the Reformed Christian Church, the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Brazil, the Methodist Church and the United Presbyterian Church.
Oliveira claims the NCCB is a, “democratic forum that engages in confrontation with the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil on various issues.” She maintains that in 2003 feminists obtained the support of the NCCB in silencing Father Luiz Carlos Lodi da Cruz, president of the Pro-Life Association of Anapolis.
She also claims that on September 28 of that same year, the date chosen by feminists to promote the legalization of abortion in Latin America, Father Lodi da Cruz declined to be interviewed by the national media, supposedly saying he would only speak if the NCCB authorized him.
Oliveira considers Father Lodi da Cruz’s decline to be evidence that her efforts at the NCCB were successful. “Therefore I think this is the time to establish a greater alliance with the NCCB, which has adopted a position that is much more peaceful and that contests many of the attacks of the Catholic Church against the feminist struggle for the right to choose,” she said.
Milwaukee, Wis., Jul 19, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has granted minor basilica status to Holy Hill, National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians in Wisconsin. Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of Milwaukee, shared the news during a special mass July 16th, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Discalced Carmelite Friars, who care for the popular pilgrimage site.
The Basilica of Holy Hill, National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians is one of 56 churches so honored in the United States and the second in Wisconsin. The Basilica of Saint Josaphat was named by Pope Pius XI in 1929.
The process to acquire this new status was initiated by the Discalced Carmelite Friars last April and supported by Archbishop Dolan. Approval of the designation request required materials documenting Holy Hill as a place of pilgrimage and special devotion, and a center of historic significance, characterized by architecture and artistry.
More than 250,000 people of all cultural groups visit Holy Hill annually. Its history is believed to extend back to the evangelization of the region by French explorer and Jesuit Father, Jacques Marquette, who is said to have surveyed the expansive beauty of the region from atop the hill. Since that time the hill has became a special place of prayer and faith.
Holy Hill is located 1,350 feet above sea level, offering visitors a spectacular view.
For more information on Holy Hill, visit www.holyhill.com