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Archive of August 2, 2006

U.S. Bishops react to FDA move toward approving Plan B for over-the-counter use

Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2006 (CNA) - A pro-life spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reacted strongly against the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to move toward approving abortion drug Plan B for over-the-counter use.

In an unexpected decision July 31st, the FDA revived a long-stalled application to allow over-the-counter sales of Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill.

The FDA told the drug maker, Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., that it wanted to meet within a week to discuss how to allow adults to freely buy the drug, reported the Associated Press.

The contraceptive would be available without a prescription for people 18 and over, although the drug would still be kept behind pharmacy counters. A prescription would be required for people under 18.

“Making this powerful, abortifacient drug available without a doctor’s oversight could place women and their newly-conceived children at risk,” said Deirdre McQuade of the USCCB.

Plan B is a large dose of prescription hormonal birth-control pills, which is taken within 72 hours of intercourse. It works both before and after conception.

“Over-the-counter availability would allow these drugs to be used routinely, despite the fact that they are not approved for such use,” McQuade said. She said studies show many women do not understand that the pills should not be used routinely and many are also unaware of their abortifacient characteristics.

“Women for whom the drug is dangerous would not have the benefit of any clinical advice to alert them to the risks,” she warned. Furthermore, repeated use of emergency contraception “wreaks havoc on a woman’s cycle.”

A decision to make the drug available over the counter would also place pressure on pharmacists who “conscientiously object to dispensing drugs that can kill humans at their earliest stages of development,” McQuade stated. 

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Pope tells altar servers to be open to the call of the Lord

Vatican City, Aug 2, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI used much of his General Audience today to greet the thousands of altar servers who are visiting Rome as part of the international pilgrimage of altar servers, sponsored by Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium.  He told the many servers gathered that they should be open to the call of the Lord and be prepared if he is calling them to serve as priests.

The Holy Father began his remarks by recalling his first year serving Mass in 1935.  Pope Benedict, assuring them that he would keep his comments brief due to the heat, told the altar servers that he wished to offer a message, “that can accompany you in your life and your service to the Church.”

Benedict spoke of the Apostles and their great friendship with the Lord as well as their service to him and the Gospel. 

“Today, as a look out at you standing here in St. Peter’s Square,” the Pope told the many altar servers, “I think of the Apostles and feel the voice of Jesus who says to you, ‘I no longer call you servants, but friends, remain in my love and bear much fruit.’ I invite you: listen to this voice.  Christ did not just say this 2000 years ago, he lives and speaks to you now.”

The Pope called the servers to be open to their Vocations, “Perhaps to some of you the voice is saying, ‘I want you to serve me in a special way, as a priest, becoming my witness, being my friend and introducing others to this friendship.”

Benedict told the servers to listen faithfully to the voice of Jesus and that, while the Vocation of each person is different, He desires friendship with all.

The Pope told the servers that they are, “in a real way, already apostles of Jesus,” when they serve at the altar.  Benedict told them that by the way they serve, by their reverence and participation at the altar, they are providing a witness to others.

“The bond of friendship with Jesus flows forth from and finds its culmination in the Eucharist.  You stay very close to Jesus in the Eucharist, and this is the greatest sign of his friendship for everyone of us,” Benedict said.

Benedict told the young people not to let themselves fall into familiarity with their service at the altar - letting it become merely a function or habit.  “But,” he said, “rediscover everyday that what is happening is something great, that God is coming in the midst of us and that you are able to be close and assist, that His mystery can be celebrated and might touch the people.”

The Pope challenged the young servers to take the fruits of goodness and service and carry them to all areas of their life, this he said, would make them true apostles and friends of Jesus.

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Pope Benedict XVI reissues exhortation for peace in Middle East

Vatican City, Aug 2, 2006 (CNA) - At the conclusion of his weekly General Audience today in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI offered his prayers for those in the Middle East and renewed his call for an immediate ceasefire in region.

The Pope said, “with a heart overflowing with sorrow, I renew yet again my pressing appeal for the immediate cessation of all hostilities and violence.”

“I would like to repeat,” the Pope said, “that it is never possible to justify the spilling of innocent blood, no matter from which side it comes!”

The Pontiff, who has been calling for peace since the hostilities began, invited everyone to continue praying for the region.  “Our eyes are filled with the chilling images of the tortured bodies of many persons, above all of children - I think especially of Qana in Lebanon.”

Benedict referred, in part, to an apartment building, which was targeted by Israeli missiles on Sunday.  The bombing left nearly 60 Lebanese refugees dead, most of whom were children.  

The Guardian reports today that UNICEF estimates 290 children have been killed in the conflict to date and that somewhere near 45% of those forced to flee their homes have been children.

The Holy Father also exhorted the international community to get involved immediately to, “push the conditions for a definitive political solution to the crisis - one which is able to deliver a more peaceful and secure way for generations to come.”

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Dominican named director of Pope John Paul II Cultural Center

Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2006 (CNA) - The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., has a new interim director. Fr. Steven Boguslawski, a Dominican priest, began in his new post Aug. 1st. The 50-year-old cleric had served as rector of Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary since 2003.

Having concluded his tenure at Detroit’s seminary, Fr. Boguslawski was assigned to his new post after conversation with the Eastern province Dominicans and the directors of the Center.  Fr. Boguslawski will also become regent of studies for the St. Joseph Province, a roll which he will conduct from the Dominican House of Studies. Both the Cultural Center and the House of Studies sit on the edge of The Catholic University of America.  Fr. Boguslawski’s will remain at the JP II Cultural Center while a search continues for a long-term director.

The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center opened in the spring of 2001. It was established to foster greater understanding among people of different religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds through art, cultural programs, and study. Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit is the president of the center and chairman of its 13-member board of directors.

"The engagement of faith and culture is at the heart of the New Evangelization and emphasizes Christian freedom and responsibility,” said Fr. Boguslawski. “Pope John Paul II challenged the Church in the U.S. to focus considerable energy on this dialogue.”

In collaboration with the bishops who oversee the center, the priest said he would like to see the center “engage an array of strategic partnerships fulfilling its mission with ever greater scope and intensity for the service of the whole Church.”

Fr. Boguslawski was ordained to the priesthood in 1987, and has been a professed member of the Dominicans since 1981. He holds a number of graduate degrees, including two master’s degrees and a PhD from Yale University, as well as a STB and STL from the Dominican House of Studies.

He is currently on the executive committee of the Midwest Association of Theological Schools and a member of the board of advisors of the English edition of the international theological journal Nova et Vetera. 

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Supreme Court of Buenos Aires allows handicapped woman to undergo abortion

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 2, 2006 (CNA) - The Supreme Court of the province of Buenos Aires in Argentina issued a 6-3 ruling this week allowing a 19 year-old handicapped woman who was raped by a family member and became pregnant to undergo an abortion.

The case made its way to the provincial Supreme Court after both a lower court and the court of appeals in La Plata ruled against the abortion.

Justices Luis Genoud, Daniel Soria, Francisco Roncoroni, Hilda Kogan, Juan Carlos Hitters and Horacio Piombo voted to allow the young woman to undergo the procedure and said the matter should not have been taken to the courts as doctors have the authority to practice abortion, according to Argentina’s Penal Code, which does not prohibit abortion when “the pregnancy is a result of rape or an attack on the modesty of a mentally retarded or insane woman.”

“While the general rule is to preserve life from the moment of conception, there are exceptions. This is one of those exceptions,” the justices argued.  They also requested local officials provide all of the assistance necessary to care for the health and well being of the young woman and her family.

The three justices that voted to protect the life of the unborn are Eduardo Pettigiani, Federico Dominguez and Juan Carlos Mahiquez.  In their dissent they said the ruling by the court of appeals should have been upheld because the country’s Constitution, which protects the unborn from the moment of conception, takes precedence over the Penal Code.

They argued the clause in question in the Penal Code punishes the unborn with a death sentence in cases of rape.  This would constitute “discrimination against the children of women who were raped: The State looks after the criminal, gives him the chance to return to society and orchestrates the death of the unborn child,” they asserted.  “While a woman cannot be forced to be a mother, this does not necessarily imply that she has to sacrifice the baby.”  

The high court went ahead with its ruling even though some organizations, such as the Catholic University of La Plata, had offered to assist the young woman and adopt her child.

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Salesians bringing hope to refugees in Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon, Aug 2, 2006 (CNA) - Amidst the continuing conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, the Salesian houses in Lebanon at Al Fidar and El Houssoun are providing hope and support to the refugees.

Speaking to the Salesian News Agency, Antonio Raimondi, President of the International Volunteer Movement for Development (VIS) and Vice President of the Don Bosco Network (DBN), said, “There are now almost a million displaced and fleeing people trying to escape the bombing.  VIS and DBN continue to provide support for the centers in El Houssoun and El Fidar and we shall do so sending some of our experts to help the Salesian Communities as soon as possible,” he added.

According to Salesians in Lebanon, every day the situation in the centers is getting more complicated as is the work of the many local volunteers who are working non-stop to ensure the refugees get the first aid they need and to keep the children occupied. At El Fidar the Salesians are helping to care for the refugees now gathered together in four public schools to which others will soon be added. After a meeting with those responsible among the Shiite refugees the Salesians’ work team from Al Fidar VIS said there are at present in the region of Jbeil over 30,000 refugees of whom 50% are children and youngsters, and the number rises every day.

There are 14 centers taking in refugees.  The rest are scattered all over the place, staying with families, in sports facilities, small hotels, and many in tents among the trees on the hillside. The Salesian team is especially following up this last group since they are the ones in most need of assistance. At the same time the work team of the Salesians from Al Fidar and VIS are making plans for what will need to be done once the conflict comes to an end.

“At present, just at the El Houssoun center there are 30 families - a total of 130 people,” said Fr. Dany El Hayek, the Salesian in charge of the Don Bosco House in El Houssoun, “and another group of 44 families are totally dependent on the help the Salesians are able to provide.”

Other families in the village are providing accommodation for over 250 displaced people, while in the 15 neighboring villages there is a great network of support.

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Cardinal Rivera calls on Mexicans to pray for peace and reconciliation

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 2, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, has called on the faithful to participate in the days of prayer for peace and reconciliation in the country, which the Mexican bishops have designated take place in every parish until August 6.

During a Mass marking the fourth anniversary of the canonization of St. Juan Diego, the cardinal prayed for his intercession and that of Our Lady of Guadalupe to enlighten and strengthen, “our leaders, all the builders of our pluralistic society, and all men and women of good will, that they might genuinely restore the ethical foundation upon which they wish to build the future of our economy and social and political life.”

Likewise, during his homily at the Basilica of Guadalupe, the cardinal emphasized that the mestizo nature of Mexico proves that it is possible to accept one another without giving in to confrontation.

In their call for days of prayer, the bishops implored, “the protection of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to whom we have consecrated our country, and the intercession of Holy Mary of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico, that unity of Mexico may be maintained.”

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British researchers say cures from embryonic stem-cell research unlikely

London, England, Aug 2, 2006 (CNA) - One week after the European Union voted to approve funding for embryonic stem-cell research through 2013, two leading British scientists say that any potential cures from embryonic stem cell research are many years away, if ever they occur, reported LifeNews. They say media and lawmakers, who want funding for the controversial research, have managed to distort public opinion.

Professor Colin McGuckin, a specialist in regenerative medicine at Newcastle University, says the potential for embryonic stem-cell research to cure diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease had been exaggerated.

He also said funding is being mismanaged. He believes more funds should be directed for resolving basic health problems, such as infectious diseases which are killing millions of people in developing countries, rather than for speculative fields like embryonic stem-cell research.

Dr. Stephen Minger, director of the Stem Cell Biology Laboratory at King's College in London, has said people should not have false expectations that these therapies are just around the corner. In fact, he said much more "fundamental research" is needed before embryonic stem cells can ever come close to actually helping patients.

An editorial in the L’Osservatore Romano last week, called the EU decision to approve funding for embryonic stem-cell research “macabre product of a twisted sense of progress.”

Henrick Lesaar, director of legal affairs at the Brussels-based Commission for Catholic Bishops' Conferences in the EU, agrees with the editorial.  

“The funding of stem-cell research with stem-cell lines derived from human embryos will give an incentive to destroy human embryos for the purpose of deriving these stem-cell lines,” he told Vatican Radio. He encouraged European citizens, and Catholics especially, to engage in the public debate and to contact their parliamentarians, underlining the anthropological and the ethical considerations for these kinds of decisions.

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Canadian bishops assist in first democratic elections in Congo

Montreal, Canada, Aug 2, 2006 (CNA) - The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and its international development arm, Development and Peace, sent a five-member delegation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to observe the central African country’s first presidential democratic elections in 46 years.

There were almost 50,000 polling stations opened Sunday evening. About 25 million people were eligible to vote. There were 32 candidates for the presidency, and more than 9,000 candidates for the National Assembly.

Despite some violence, including seven polling stations set ablaze, the international community has declared the elections a success.

"When you talk about where the Congo was three years ago, what happened in the Congo yesterday was remarkable," Jean-Marie Guehenno, the U.N. under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, told reporters Monday at U.N. World Headquarters in New York.

"This is a county, if it consolidates peace that would make a difference not only for the Congo, but also for the rest of Africa. It would change the perception of Africa," he said according to a UPI report.

The Canadian Catholic observation team has been working with other international organizations since July 21st. Their mission in helping to ensure that the elections were fairly conducted and that results are accurately reported continues until Aug. 5th.
 
The delegation includes Bishop Luc Cyr of Valleyfield, Québec, Claude Berthiaume, a city councilor from the municipality of Greater Sudbury, Ontario, and three Development and Peace staff.
 
The delegation began its work in Lubumbashi, in Katanga Province, a region devastated by war and inhabited by tens of thousands of internally displaced people. The area is also an important mining zone; several Canadian companies have operations there.
 
During a visit to Canada last April, Bishop Fulgence Muteba of the Congolese Diocese of Kilwa-Kasenga said the Congolese people believe the presence of Canadian election observers will help to provide additional guarantees for a democratic vote.

Development and Peace and its Congolese partners have been supporting the democratization process in Congo since 2001 through a program financed by the government’s Canadian International Development Agency. The program includes nation-wide civic education and electoral education projects.
 
The most ambitious of these civic education programs is run by Congo’s National Episcopal Conference. Called CARTEC (Coordination for a Successful Transition), it has trained 50,000 volunteers across the country in techniques to increase public awareness about the electoral process.
 
In recent years, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has also supported requests by Congo’s National Episcopal Conference that the Canadian government support the democratization process in the African country.

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One million Costa Ricans to pay homage to Our Lady of the Angles

San José, Costa Rica, Aug 2, 2006 (CNA) - An expected one million Costa Ricans will visit the Basilica of the Angels in Cartago this week to honor the traditional August 2nd feast of Our Lady of the Angels, the patroness of Costa Rica.
 
Although the Marian feast is celebrated on August 2nd, the thousands begin their pilgrimage to the Basilica on the night before.   On that date in 1635, the Blessed Mother appeared to an Indian child named Juana Pereira.

Thousands of Costa Ricans travel from across the country to visit the Shrine, some on foot and even horseback, to express their devotion to the “Dark Virgin” and to obtain some of the miraculous holy water that flows from the rock upon which the Blessed Mother appeared. 

Each year hundreds of people design new vestments for the statue of Our Lady of Angeles, and one set of vestments is chosen and placed on the statue during the main celebration.  This year some 800 different vestments will be considered.

To maintain order and security Costa Rican authorities have called up hundreds of extra police officers, and the Red Cross has sent 1600 volunteers to set up 28 health stations on the main streets of Cartago.

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