Archive of July 20, 2006

Lebanese Catholic patriarch meets with Sec. Rice, assured of international assistance

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2006 (CNA) - United States Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said the international community must help Lebanon apply United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, which affirms its call for the strict respect of Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout the country.

“I'm very concerned about the people of Lebanon, about Lebanon's freedom and democracy and a Lebanon where all Lebanese can prosper,” Rice told Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir yesterday. The Maronite patriarch was in Washington, wrapping up his one-month visit to the U.S.

“And we are, of course, working very hard to make certain that Lebanon retains its sovereignty,” Rice continued. “We're working very hard to try and minimize the impact of the current conflict on the Lebanese people. And I want you to know that we're not only working hard, but we're also praying for the people of Lebanon.”

Patriarch Sfeir told Rice that Lebanon would be too weak to apply SCR 1559 on its own. “Our interest is that all the citizens will be equal,” he told Rice. “When some are having arms and the others have not, there is no equality.”

Rice heads to New York today to meet with UN chief Kofi Annan. Rice and Annan are expected to have a joint briefing on the Middle East situation from the UN team that has been in the region.

According to Reuters, Rice said Tuesday that the U.S. believes there should be a ceasefire as soon as possible, but only "when conditions are conducive.”

"When it is appropriate and when it is necessary and will be helpful to the situation I am more than pleased to go to the region," said Rice.

Earlier Wednesday, Cardinal Sfeir led a special Mass for peace in his homeland at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church in Washington. More than 200 Lebanese Catholics attended the noontime mass.

"Are there no more peacemakers? I ask: Is war inevitable?" he said in his homily. "As Christians, we believe that war is not inevitable; people choose war, and people can choose peace. …Blessed are the peacemakers."

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington and his predecessor, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who retired this summer, also attended the mass.

In a telephone interview with the Washington Post before his meeting with Rice, the cardinal said the U.S. has the ability to "restrain Israel” and he intended to tell Rice that the U.S. should press Israel to stop the attacks.

He said he was surprised that the conflict had developed so rapidly and with such violence. However, he expects the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah will not end until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is solved, with both peoples established in their own states.

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Holy Father calls for prayer and penance for Middle East

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2006 (CNA) - The Press Office of the Holy See released, today, a communication from Pope Benedict XVI declaring this Sunday a special day of prayer and penance for peace in the Middle East.
The communiqué states, "The Holy Father is following with great concern the destinies of all the peoples involved and has proclaimed this Sunday, July 23, to be a special day of prayer and penance, inviting the pastors and faithful of all the particular Churches, and all believers of the world, to implore from God the precious gift of peace."
"In particular," the message continues, "the Supreme Pontiff hopes that prayers will be raised to the Lord for an immediate cease-fire between the sides, for humanitarian corridors to be opened in order to bring help to the suffering peoples, and for reasonable and responsible negotiations to begin to put an end to objective situations of injustice that exist in that region; as already indicated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Angelus last Sunday, July 16."
The Holy Father also called on charitable organizations to, “help all the people struck by this pitiless conflict.”

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Papal nuncio tried to talk with Hamas

Jerusalem, Israel, Jul 20, 2006 (CNA) - The papal nuncio to Israel personally attempted to intercede with Hamas on behalf of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, The Jerusalem Post reported yesterday. Archbishop Antonio Franco also called on both Hezbollah and Israel to immediately stop the violence and enter into diplomatic negotiations.

"The Pope is very concerned about the violent activity on both sides," said Archbishop Franco. "The use of force can be understood under the present situation, but reason has to prevail. Each of the sides has aspirations, but the armed battle must stop and diplomatic solutions should be used."

The archbishop made the comments in his parish on the Mount of Olives during a meeting with about 30 Catholic schoolteachers from the United States. The teachers were participating in a six-day anti-Semitism and Holocaust-awareness program, sponsored by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Archbishop Franco said immediately after the kidnapping he attempted to secure the release of Shalit via the Catholic Church's Gaza-based parish. But he received no response from the Hamas.

In response to a question asked by a teacher, the archbishop expressed his concern about the steady outflow of Christians from the Holy Land, blaming Israel’s construction of a security wall, which "separates families and places houses on one side and livelihood on the other," reported the Jerusalem Post. He also said Christians' minority status was a cause for the emigration.

In response to rumors that the Pope was planning a trip to Israel in 2007, Archbishop Franco said no plans have been made. 

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Holy See insists on rights of integrity for Lebanese, Israeli right to peace, and Palestinian right to sovereignty

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2006 (CNA) - In today's statement spurring Catholics to pray for peace in the region, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the rights of Lebanese, Israelis, and Palestinians in the Holy Land.

The Pope said that the people of Lebanon, who are currently suffering attacks from Israel in Israel’s attempt to root out Islamic militants Hezbollah, “have the right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected.”

That is not to say that the Holy Father does not understand the plight of Israelis who are fighting to stop terrorist attacks from Hezbollah and Palestinian assailants and to gain the return of Israeli soldiers who are being held by Hezbollah and fellow Islamic group Hamas.  The Israelis have, the Pope said, “the right to live in peace in their State.”

However, the Pope also affirmed Palestinians in their struggle for a land of their own saying, “Palestinians have the right to have their own free and sovereign homeland.”

Lebanese are hoping the Vatican can play a greater role in resolving the current conflicts in the Holy Land and Lebanon.  The Associated Press has reported today that Saad Hariri, son of assassinated Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri and leader of the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon’s parliament, met with Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano yesterday in the Vatican.  Hariri is reported to have asked for the Holy See’s assistance in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

The more than one-third of the population of Lebanon is Catholic.

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Catholic groups thankful for Bush's stem-cell veto

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic groups were pleased with President George Bush’s veto yesterday of a bill that would have provided federal funds for research in which human embryos are destroyed. The veto was the president’s first in his five-and-a-half year administration.

In a written statement, Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, thanked God for a president who acknowledges that embryos are new human life and that it is wrong to kill them.

Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, said a majority of senators “voted to expand the war on human dignity by voting to federally fund scientific research that requires destroying human embryos."

He commended Bush “for having the courage to stand up for the American concepts of human rights and human dignity. A nation that looks to use human beings as commodities is destined to decay and collapse."

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, also thanked Bush for vetoing the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.

"This stem cell bill is eminently worthy of President Bush's first veto," Anderson said. "It is profoundly immoral to create human life in order to destroy it, whatever the theoretical benefit might be.” To date, more successful therapies have been derived research on adult stem cells, he pointed out.

Anderson also called on members of Congress to focus on stem-cell research, “that does not violate basic human dignity."

"In this new era, our challenge is to harness the power of science to ease human suffering without sanctioning the practices that violate the dignity of human life," Bush said in the East Room of the White House after vetoing the measure.

The President announced his veto surrounded by 18 families who "adopted" frozen embryos not used by other couples to have children, otherwise known as "snowflake babies."

"Each of these children was still adopted while still an embryo and has been blessed with a chance to grow, to grow up in a loving family. These boys and girls are not spare parts," Bush said after several interruptions of applause from supporters. "They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research. They remind us that we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells. And they remind us that in our zeal for new treatments and cures, America must never abandon our fundamental morals."

In August 2001, Bush permitted existing federal research to continue, but has fervently advocated against increased government funding.

The vetoed bill will go back to Capitol Hill for debate and vote in the House and Senate. Political analysts believe that the president’s veto will not receive the necessary votes needed to override it. However, Democrats have vowed to press Republicans in Congress to pass the bill.

Bush signed another bill, which passed unanimously in the House and Senate that would ban "fetal farming," the prospect of raising and aborting fetuses for scientific research.

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Maronite bishop in Argentina sees Lebanon as messenger of peace for the region

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 20, 2006 (CNA) - In public statements expressing gratitude for the expressions of solidarity with the Lebanese people, the leader of the Maronite Catholics in Argentina, Bishop Charbel Merhi, said Lebanon, “will also overcome this violence and achieve peace because God put it in the region to be a messenger of peace, as John Paul II said.”

“Lebanon has been around for six thousand years,” the bishop said.  “In its long history it has gone through difficult times like those of today, but it always overcame all feelings of hatred and terrible persecutions.”

He noted that in order to achieve peace, “sometimes it is necessary to travel down the way of the cross. The peace of the Resurrection of Jesus came through the passion and death on the Cross,” he stated.

“Pray to God and to his Mother Mary for Lebanon and for us, so that so many innocents will no longer suffer.  We place everything in the hands of Jesus and Mary and we are sure that like the phoenix, Lebanon will rise gloriously from the ashes,” Bishop Merhi said.

The first Maronite Catholics came to Argentina in 1901.  Bishop Charbel Georges Merhi became the first Maronite bishop in the country in 1990, when he was appointed by Pope John Paul II.

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Spokesmen for European episcopal conferences to analyze presence of Islam on the continent

Rome, Italy, Jul 20, 2006 (CNA) - The spokesmen and communication directors of the different European bishops’ conferences will gather in Ireland July 20-23, to discuss the presence of Islam in Europe, the pastoral challenges in the field of communications, the Catholic perspective on freedom of the press, respect for religions and ecumenism, among other subjects.

The event is being organized by the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe and will take place in Maynooth, Ireland.  According to the Fides news agency, the idea for the meeting came from the Bishops’ Conference of Ireland and its director of communications, Martin Long.

35 representatives from 23 countries will participate.  Other issues to be discussed include reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the agenda of the European Union.

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Hong Kong diocese launches museum dedicated to early local Church history

, Jul 20, 2006 (CNA) - The Diocese of Hong last week inaugurated the Hong Kong Catholic Diocesan Heritage Centre, a mini-museum focused on the early local Church and its development, reported UCA News. The local Church was established in 1841.

Auxiliary Bishop John Tong Hon officiated at the July 9th, ceremony. The two-room facility is inside the Holy Spirit Seminary College library on Hong Kong Island.

More than 100 artifacts of historical religious significance have been put on display, but the exhibit will only be ready for the public in October. Eventually, the museum would like to grow to include 2,000 artifacts.

Before Bishop Tong blessed the rooms, he told attendees that the exhibit can inspire the current-day faithful to model their lives after the early missionaries, who were prayerful, simple, visionary, good communicators, concerned about the weak and poor, and who worked closely with lay people.

Some of the artifacts include a green Chinese-style pagoda, worn by Pope Paul VI when he celebrated mass in Hong Kong in December 1970. Others, such as a document submitted by Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) to Ming Emperor Wanli, are of historic value. Many regard Ricci as the founder of modern-day Christianity in China.

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Movement warns attacks on the family lead to slow destruction of Argentinean society

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 20, 2006 (CNA) - The Christian Family Movement warned Argentineans this week that attacks on the family would slowly destroy their society, “with not only psychological and spiritual consequences, but economic and political ones as well.”

The CFM emphasized that the family is attacked not only by widespread divorce, but also through other “more serious” means such as the making of homosexual unions equal to marriage, the adoption of children by same-sex couples, the legalization of abortion, and the promotion of euthanasia as “death with dignity.”

The group also denounced efforts to sterilize “the poor as if they were cats,” as well as efforts to, “imbue grade-school education with attitudes, values and ideas that are improper for children of that age and that attack the kind of upbringing parents have the right to give them.”  

In their statement, the CFM noted that such efforts are not born of the democratic process, “because they are led by a small group of representatives who do not always reflect the feelings and will of the majority, but rather the interests of certain minority groups who have economic, political, or social power.”

The movement warned that societies that embrace such attitudes become “suicidal” because they go against society itself.  Therefore the group is calling on Argentineans to reflect upon the defense of human life and the family, “so that we don’t have to try to turn back when it is already too late.”

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Bolivians to march in support of religious instruction in schools

La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 20, 2006 (CNA) - Leaders of various Catholic and Protestant schools and of pro-family associations announced they will be organizing a march in defense of the right to receive religious instruction, after a national congress on education declared the country’s educational system would be secularized.

Bishop Walter Perez of Potosi denounced the government for forcing implementation of its policies on education and health care.  “We are going to continue teaching religion in our schools,” he said.

In Santa Cruz, Javier Soria, leader of a parental school council, emphasized that parents have the right to decide what kind of education their children should receive.  “The State is trying to go above the heads of parents,” he said, adding that his group would not put up with attacks against the religious identity families choose to bestow on their children.  He announced that a march to “defend the Christian faith, its principles, and values” would be held on July 29th.  

The director of the Marist school in Santa Cruz, Jose Antonio Lopez, told reporters that Catholics schools are founded upon education and imbued with the principles of the Gospel.  “Either in the media or whatever way we can, we are going to speak the truth, that the Church is an entity in service to society and that in Santa Cruz 85% declare themselves to be Catholic,” he stated.

Last Friday the National Education Congress approved a proposal that would secularize the country’s schools, despite pledges by Bolivia’s Minister of Education that religious instruction would be upheld.  Representatives from the Catholic Church and from other institutions walked out of the meeting denouncing it as a simple attempt by the government to impose its policies.

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