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Archive of July 24, 2006

EU to vote on future funding for embryonic stem-cell research

Brussels, Belgium, Jul 24, 2006 (CNA) - Germany and Poland have been leading a multinational effort to reject European Union funding for embryonic stem-cell research. The issue is expected to come to a head today, when a vote will be held at a meeting of European science ministers.

Germany and Poland have been joined by Austria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Malta and Luxembourg in questioning the future of EU-backed experiments to include stem cells derived from embryos, reported the Financial Times. Slovenia dealt the coalition a blow late last week when it changed positions and turned in favor of funding the embryonic research.

An unnamed EU diplomat told the Financial Times that, “Germany is doing a lot of the [lobbying] work.”

In a letter last week, Germany wrote: "The EU science program should not be used to give financial incentives to kill embryos. The current proposal from the European Commission and the European parliament does not rule this out."

Germany’s position is in line with the European bishops, who jointly stated that such research raises fundamental anthropological and ethical problems.

“Many people are uneasy about research instrumentalizing human life and using it as a raw material,” said a statement from the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. “This is not just a Catholic position. Scientifically, there is no reason to make a moral distinction between an embryo at the very beginning of his or her life and after implantation in the womb or after 14 days.”

“Human dignity does not depend - and must not be made dependent - on decisions of other human beings,” the statement said. The bishops added that human life which is initiated in a laboratory rather than within a woman’s body needs particular protection.

If the majority of the EU's 25 members vote today to renew funding, such experiments would continue until 2014.  However, EU-funded research would not use stem cells for reproductive cloning and would not allow the creation of human embryos for research.

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Pope leads day of prayer, renews call for ceasefire

Vatican City, Jul 24, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI, making his Angelus address from the mountain retreat in the Italian Alps where he is vacationing, led Catholics in a worldwide day of prayer and penance for peace in the Middle East.  The Pope reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire and his insistence on the rights Lebanese, Israelis, and Palestinians.

Pope Benedict reminded the thousands of pilgrims and local residents at Les Combes in the Italian region of Valle d'Aosta that, following the worsening of the situation in the Middle East, he had proclaimed this Sunday as a special day of prayer and penance, inviting pastors, faithful and all believers to implore from God the gift of peace.  The Holy Father said: "I forcibly renew my appeal to the conflicting parties to begin an immediate cease-fire, to allow the passage of humanitarian aid and, with the support of the international community, to seek ways to begin negotiations.
 
"I take this opportunity," he added, "to reiterate the right of the Lebanese to the integrity and sovereignty of their country, of the Israelis to live in peace in their State, and of the Palestinians to have their own free and sovereign homeland."
 
The Holy Father expressed his particular closeness to the "defenseless civilian population, unjustly involved in a conflict of which they are only victims: both those in Galilee who are forced to live in shelters, and the great multitudes of Lebanese who, once again, are seeing their country destroyed and have been forced to abandon everything to seek refuge elsewhere.
 
"I raise a sorrowful prayer to God that the vast majority of people's aspiration to peace may be realized as soon as possible, through the harmonious commitment of leaders. I also renew my appeal to all charitable organizations to bring those people the concrete expression of shared solidarity."
 
Benedict XVI then recalled that Saturday marked the liturgical memory of St. Mary Magdalene, "the Lord's disciple who occupies a leading role in the Gospels," and that today is the day of St. Bridget of Sweden, "one of the patrons of Europe who lived in Rome and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land." Let us, he added, "ask her to help humanity today to create great spaces for peace, and especially to obtain from the Lord peace in that Holy Land towards which she had such profound affection and veneration."
 
"I entrust humanity entirely to the power of divine love," the Pope concluded. "And I invite everyone to pray that the beloved people of the Middle East may be capable of abandoning the path of armed conflict and of building, through the courage of dialogue, a just and lasting peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Catholics all over the world responded to the Holy Father's request for a world day of prayer and penance for peace.  Several parishes held special prayer services in addition to their regular Sunday Masses.  In Washington, D.C. Bishop Donald Wuerl reminded the faithful of the power of prayer to change hearts during a Mass at the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the Washington Post reports.

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Maronite bishops call for ceasefire, humanitarian corridors in Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon, Jul 24, 2006 (CNA) - Bishops in Lebanon called for an immediate ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors, over the weekend, seeking the assistance of the United Nations Security Council.

In an eight-point statement issued Friday, the Maronite bishops have expressed their support for the Lebanese government and condemned Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, based on the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah forces, reported AsiaNews.

"The painful incidents which Lebanon is witnessing are unjustified and inconceivable," reads the statement, which was issued after an emergency meeting of bishops, called by Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. The patriarch had just returned from on a one-month tour of the United States.

"Does the abduction of two Israeli soldiers deserve cutting all of the country's joints?” the bishops wrote. “The Lebanese people's tragic condition forces us to forget political discords and unite efforts to face the crisis."

The bishops called on humanitarian institutions, notably the Lebanese and international Red Cross, to provide the people with medication and food. Currently, more than 700,000 Lebanese citizens have fled for safety in other parts of the country or in Syria since the violence started July 12, reported Fides.

Caritas, the international Catholic assistance organization, as well as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, are mobilizing despite the difficulties caused by the current state of war. Caritas Lebanon has been asked by the government to care for 50,000 families mostly sheltering in public buildings, such as schools, in Tyre and Beirut. Caritas reported that water, food, and medicine are needed urgently.

The UNHCR is meeting the immediate needs of some refugees with tents, plastic sheeting and blankets in deposits in Syria and Jordan.

The bishops appealed to people of goodwill to help defenseless citizens who have been forced to flee; they urged all citizens to assist each other, regardless of creed. They also welcomed Pope Benedict’s call to pray for peace in Lebanon on Sunday.  

While U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, made a surprise visit to Lebanon over the weekend, an international meeting is still scheduled to be held in Rome, July 26th. Rice will meet with the foreign ministers of Italy, Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as the Lebanese foreign minister to discuss how a permanent ceasefire can be reached.

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Pope asks God to, “Grant us peace today”

Valle d'Aosta, Italy, Jul 24, 2006 (CNA) - As part of his participation in the worldwide day of prayer and penance for peace in Israel and Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI traveled yesterday afternoon to the small church of Rhemes Saint Georges, a few kilometers from Les Combes, the Italian alpine resort where he is spending a brief holiday.  At the church the Pope participated in a small liturgy and spoke of the need for immediate peace.
 
The Pope arrived at the church in the company of Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta, and greeted the faithful gathered there. Following the liturgy of the Word, the Holy Father referred to "the dramatic situation in the Middle East ... where war persists between Christians, Muslims and Jews." He exclaimed: "Lord, free us from all evil and grant us peace; not tomorrow or the day after, grant us peace today!"
 
Benedict XVI highlighted the importance of the Christian perspective as a way, "to end violence and overcome evil. ... At this time, in which there is great abuse of the name of God," he added, "we must affirm that the cross wins by love, affirming [also] the countenance of God which triumphs and brings light and reconciliation to the world. ... We need the testimony of God's victory though non-violence."
 
"Violence must be answered with love like that of Christ, that reaches unto death," he concluded. "This is God's humble way of winning, not with a stronger empire but with love that endures to the very end. ... Jesus' reconciliation and sacrifice are not in vain. ... There is a network of Eucharistic communion that overcomes cultural differences. ... This is the force for peace in the world."

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Vatican’s Cor Unum calls for aid to Lebanon

Rome, Italy, Jul 24, 2006 (CNA) - Over the weekend, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" broadcast a request for aid to Lebanon; specifically, to Caritas Lebanon: a member of Caritas´ International’s Confederation.  With their campaign, Cor Unum hopes to assist those suffering from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Islamic militant group, Hezbollah.

The communiqué from the Vatican states that, “given the persistence of the conflict in the Middle East and of the terrible plight of the peoples involved, the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum' wishes, in the name of the Holy Father, to demonstrate its closeness to those who are suffering.” They stated their intention of, “sending preliminary aid to help shelter the thousands of displaced people.”

Caritas Lebanon’s Mission has been divided into two parts.  The first is to, “help people in need and to restore their human dignity, regardless of their political, religious or social beliefs.” The second is to, “restore social solidarity in Lebanon, by encouraging individuals to sympathize with their fellow citizens and by fostering charitable giving by the wealthier segments of society.”    
 
The Caritas website has additional information on their mission in Lebanon as well as method for donating on-line.

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Italian Supreme Court rejects “eugenic” abortion ruling

Rome, Italy, Jul 24, 2006 (CNA) - The Italian Supreme Court ruled last week that parents do not have the legal right to abort a baby just because it is known, while the baby is still in the womb, that he or she will have a handicap, reported LifeNews.com.

Italian law says abortion is only allowed, "in order to avoid danger for the mother of the child." As a result, "a so-called 'eugenic' abortion is not admissible, unless fetal deformations endanger the mother's health," reads the ruling.

An Italian couple had filed a lawsuit against their doctor, arguing that the doctor should have told them about the potential physical disability of their child so they could have opted for an abortion or traveled to a country where courts would have backed their decision to end the life of their baby.

The Supreme Court’s ruling overturned a previous decision by the Appeals Court of Trieste, which had found the doctor guilty.

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Honduran cardinal says economic development would ease immigration to U.S.

Cincinnati, Ohio, Jul 24, 2006 (CNA) - The problem of illegal immigration in the United States could be dealt with more efficiently by focusing on economic development rather than on border patrols, said an influential Latin-American cardinal.

"Instead of trying to build walls or putting the National Guard on the border, we should see how development can be enhanced and labor services created," suggested Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, reported the Associated Press.

Programs for economic development could address both the concerns of Americans who want to slow immigration and the concerns of Latin Americans, who are troubled by the loss of talent and youth through emigration.

Assistance with economic development in Latin America would provide job opportunities in the developing countries and stem the flow of immigration, he reportedly said.

The cardinal said Honduras, for example, could supply palm oil and sugar cane for use in alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol.

The Cardinal-Archbishop of Tegucigalpa was in the U.S. to speak at a conference on Catholic evangelization and Hispanic youth.

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Pontifical council to publish document on AIDS

Vatican City, Jul 24, 2006 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care will soon publish an extensive document on AIDS, according to an announcement by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the council’s prefect.

In an interview with the Italian daily, “Corriere della Sera,” published last Thursday, the cardinal explained that the 400-page document is currently under review by medical, scientific, pastoral, and moral experts.

“Our task is to lay out the teaching of the Church on this disease, how it can be cured, what the Church is doing, how it can be prevented, and how the sick can be helped,” Cardinal Lozano said. 

“The Church is massively engaged on this front, as 27% of the centers that care for HIV-positive individuals are Catholic,” he underscored.

According to the cardinal, the document will include texts, illustrations and tables about the virus, the disease, and its prevention.
    
Asked about the Church’s position regarding the moral permissiveness of condom use, Cardinal Lozano responded that the document would reflect what the Church teaches on that issue, namely, that condoms are not a legitimate method for preventing pregnancy and that to present them as a means of ensuring “safe sex,” especially in the case of AIDS, is deceptive and dangerous in combating the spread of the pandemic.

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Pro-Marxist, anti-Catholic groups unite to attack Mexican Bishops

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 24, 2006 (CNA) - As part of their effort to support the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) in its bid to be declared winner of the disputed presidential elections, several anti-Catholic groups - including “Catholics” for a Free Choice - have united under the name, The Ecclesial Observatory, to attack the Mexican bishops.

The Ecclesial Observatory presents itself as a group of 15 Christian-inspired associations; but its agenda includes the promotion of abortion and homosexual unions.

Its leaders recently met at the National Center of Social Communications (NCSC) - which is also part of the collation - in order to accuse Church leaders, such as Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City, of acting with “ambiguity” and thus fostering an atmosphere of violence and confrontation.

The NCSC, founded by leftist militant Jose Alvarez Icaza, began as a “parallel” conference meant to counter the Fourth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council in 1992, in Santo Domingo, and to influence the final document produced by the bishops with Marxist liberation theology.

The Ecclesial Observatory claims Church officials have been supporting specific candidates and parties rather than democratic participation in general.  Jaime Laimes, one of the group’s spokesmen, accused some bishops of, “fostering an atmosphere of violence and confrontation, because there were many ambiguous actions that make one believe they were supporting the candidate of a particular party” - a reference to Felipe Calderon, the virtual winner of the presidential elections and candidate of the PAN party.

Father Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, denounced Laimes’ statements and denied that Cardinal Rivera had endorsed Calderon.  

Auxiliary Bishop Abelardo Alvarado, of Mexico City, said the bishops, “are awaiting the decision by the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary,” regarding the official winner of the July 2nd presidential elections.

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Ecuadorians oppose abortion even in cases of rape

Quito, Ecuador, Jul 24, 2006 (CNA) - A poll carried out in Quito and Guayaquil by polling firm, Informe Confidencial, reveals that the majority of Ecuadorians in both cities oppose abortion in all cases, including in cases of rape.

Responding to the question, “If your daughter became pregnant through rape, would you prefer to have or not have the child?” 54% of respondents in Quito said they preferred to have the child, while 36% said they would not.  In Guayaquil the difference was even greater, with 61% saying they would want their daughter to carry the child to term while 32% saying they would not.

Likewise, in response to the question of whether or not abortion should be allowed, 45% in Quito said the mother should make the choice while 50% said it should be illegal.  In Guayaquil 35% said the mother should be allowed to choose while 64% said abortion should be prohibited.

A ruling last May by the country’s Constitutional Court that definitively prohibited sale of the morning-after pill because of its abortifacient nature has sparked a new debate on abortion and the use of contraceptives in Ecuador.

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Evangelical theologian calls for abandonment of Christianity and return to Bolivia’s “Andean religion”

La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 24, 2006 (CNA) - Protestant theologian, Matias Preisweik, of the Ecumenical Higher Institute has proposed that Bolivia abandon its Christian roots and return to its Andean religion.

During his remarks at a forum entitled, “The State, Religion, and the New Political Constitution,” which brought together various religious leaders, Preisweik questioned if, “in this moment of re-appreciation of things Andean, is there not the dream of having a country ruled by the values of its own ancestral and holistic religiosity?”

Although Catholicism is not the official religion, Preisweik stated, the Church “is recognized as the tutelary institution, like the Armed Forces, but in religious matters,” and, “it portrays itself as a superior force that intercedes for Bolivians before the Kingdom of God.”
 
He said religious institutions should distant themselves from the State so that secularism can be implemented and so they don’t influence legal issues such as abortion.
 
In response, Archbishop Edmundo Abastoflor of La Paz recalled that the Church does not exercise or hold any political power and that her members live the vocation of service through educational and social works, in benefit of those in need.

The forum took place amidst a national debate over whether accept a proposal to remove religious instruction from schools.  The proposal will come before the National Assembly for a vote on August 6th.

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