Archive of August 3, 2006

Hezbollah uses Christian villages as shields in missile attacks

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2006 (CNA) - Recent reports indicate that Hezbollah is using Christian villages to shield its attacks against Israel.

According to Christian Solidarity International, Hezbollah is hiding among civilian populations, mostly in southern Lebanese towns, such as Ain Ebel, Rmeish, Alma Alshaab.

Launching attacks behind human shields is in violation of the Geneva Convention's provision for the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, which prohibits the use of civilians as military shields.

This is not a new strategy for Hezbollah. Col. Charbel Barka, a former South Lebanese Army commander, says Hezbollah is repeating what it did in attacks against Israel in 1996.

A Christian from the village of Ain Ebel, who requested to remain nameless for fear of a reprisal from Hezbollah, reported that he found Hezbollah fighters setting up a launcher on his rooftop. Hezbollah fighters ignored his pleas to stop and fired the missiles. He immediately gathered his family and fled his home, which was bombed 15 minutes later by an Israeli air strike.

Hezbollah has also attempted to stop Christians from fleeing their villages. According to Christian Solidarity International, on July 28, Hezbollah fighters fired upon several Christians fleeing Rmeish with their families, wounding two.

Sami El-Khoury, president of the World Maronite Union, adds that media reports about Christian support for Hezbollah are inaccurate.

"Contrary to Western press reports, indicating high percentages of Christian support for Hezbollah, 90 percent of Christians, 80 percent of Sunni and 40 percent of Shiites in Lebanon oppose Hezbollah," El-Khoury told Christian Solidarity International.

Christian Solidarity International has called for the United Nations to establish a politically independent commission to investigate Hezbollah's contravention of international law. The group has also urged the UN Security Council to deploy immediately an international force in Lebanon to facilitate a ceasefire, to stop the flow of arms from Syria to Hezbollah, and to assist the Lebanese government in fulfilling its obligation to disarm Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has been the ruling power in the south since Israel withdrew from Lebanon six years ago. Christian villages suffer from extensive neglect of infrastructure under Hezbollah rule. Once the majority, the Christian population in Lebanon has declined to under 40 percent due to pressures by Islamic militias supported by Iran and Syria.

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Retired U.S. Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, dies in Rome

Rome, Italy, Aug 3, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, died yesterday in Rome, at the age of 76.  Montalvo had served in the Vatican’s Diplomatic Corps for nearly fifty years and only retired from his U.S. post in December.

Montalvo who’s most important roles in the U.S. were to maintain relations between the Holy See and the Government of the United States as well as to present possible candidates for Episcopal offices in the U.S., returned to Rome upon his retirement. It was there that he passed away, in a hospice run by the Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich., according to the Catholic News Service.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, announced the archbishop’s death.  Sodano said on Vatican Radio, to “pray to the Lord, provider of all goodness, to grant eternal rest (to Archbishop Montalvo).” 

The Vatican announced that a wake will be held at the tomorrow for the remains of Archbishop Montalvo at the Chapel of Santa Maria in the Vatican and that the funeral Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Sodano at the Altar of the Chair, in St. Peter’s Basilica, on Saturday.

Montalvo was born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1930.  He was ordained a priest in 1953 and a bishop in 1974. 

The archbishop often took on challenging roles.  In the late sixties and early seventies Montalvo served at the Secretary of State in an office which worked with Eastern European countries still under the oppression of Communism.  After being ordained a bishop, he took over the Nunciature in Honduras and Nicaragua. He also was a major player in the brokering of a peace agreement between Argentina and Chile in the nineteen eighties   Montalvo served as the apostolic representative to mostly Muslim Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya and in 1986 Montalvo was moved to the splintering country of Yugoslavia.

During the mid-nineties, he also served as the president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Vatican’s diplomatic school.

Montalvo's term in the United States came during the last years of the Pontificate of John Paul II and he was faced with helping manage tensions surrounding the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which was opposed by the Holy See, as well as the fallout resulting from a major sex scandal in the American church.

According to CNS, Archbishop Montalvo was reported to have been suffering from lung cancer. 

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Parental notification initiative splits California voters; just over half of Catholics support

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2006 (CNA) - While the majority of Christians in California support parental notification legislation, California voters in general are split on a measure that would require parents of minors to be notified before their daughters have an abortion.

A new Field Poll, conducted between July 10th and 23rd, indicates that 57 percent of Protestants and 52 percent of Catholics in the west coast state support a parental notification bill.

Overall, however, 45 percent of Californians are opposed to it and 44 percent would vote for the measure. Non-Christians and people who claimed no religious affiliation opposed the measure 61 percent and 69 percent respectively.

Parental notification had stronger support among Republican voters (67 percent) compared with Democratic voters (28 percent).

The issue was already presented at the polls last year as Proposition 73. It was narrowly defeated, 53 percent to 47 percent. A parental notification bill is expected appear at the polls again this year as Proposition 85, but the wording will be changed, eliminating a definition of abortion, reported

There is also a big gender divide on this issue, with 53 percent of men backing the measure compared with only 36 percent of women.

Organizers believe the measure will fare better in a normal election year, reported LifeNews. But Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, does not expect any significant changes at the polls.

"Voters voted a certain way last year, and they tend to feel the same way now," DiCamillo told the San Francisco Chronicle. "That measure remained close throughout. People have come to terms with the issue and haven't changed their opinions," he was quoted as saying. 

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Pope Benedict explains the reason for his examination of the Apostles

Vatican City, Aug 3, 2006 (CNA) - During his General Audience yesterday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict gave a brief insight into his reason for the sequence of catecheses he has been offering in his weekly addresses.

The Pope, who traveled to the Vatican for the audience from his summer home in Castelgandofo, reminded those gathered that over the past months he has been considering the lives of the Apostles during his audiences.  The Holy Father announced that he would continue to do so, “in a way, so to speak, to make the Church more personal.” 

The Pope has been working his way through the twelve “friends” of Jesus, demonstrating the foundational roles that each Apostle had for the Church.  The Pope has begun his sequence of teachings with Simon Peter, then Andrew, the brother of Peter, followed by James “the Greater,” John, and James “the Lesser,” considering the important impact of each on the Church, at large, as well as examining the more personal relationship we know each Apostle had with the Lord.
In yesterday’s audience, the Pope noted, he stopped to consider the question, “what kind of people were the Apostles?”  The Holy Father discussed, in general, what their role with the Lord was.

“In short, we could say that they were “friends” of Jesus,” Benedict said.  He called them so at the Last Supper, the Pope recalled, mentioning passages in scripture which says, “I no longer call you servants, but friends.” 

“They have been, and they are able to be, Apostles and witnesses of Christ because they are His friends, because they knew Him due to their friendship, because they were close (to Him).”

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Knights of Columbus donate $100,000 for aid in Lebanon

Orlando, Fla., Aug 3, 2006 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus are making a $100,000 donation for humanitarian aid to those affected by the current conflict in Lebanon. The organization’s board of directors voted this weekend to forward the funds immediately to Caritas Lebanon, a member of the Catholic Church’s Caritas International Confederation.

“The conflict which began in Lebanon two weeks ago has taken a toll among Lebanese citizens from every walk of life,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. In addition, the Knights committed to pray for an end to the conflict and for reconciliation that will bring a just and lasting peace.

The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest lay Catholic organization, with more than 1.7 million members in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Philippines and Poland. Last year, the Knights donated more than $139 million to charity.

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Kung Foundation reports arrest of 82 year old Chinese bishop

Stamford, Conn., Aug 3, 2006 (CNA) - According to a press release yesterday, from the U.S. based Cardinal Kung Foundation, Bishop Yao Liang, 82, was arrested again by Chinese authorities on July 30.  The Bishop serves as auxiliary to the underground Roman Catholic Diocese of Xiwanzi in Hebei Province.  

Bishop Liang, who was previously arrested on March 31, 2005, is now being detained in Zhangjiakou City.  

The Kung Foundation reports that on August 1, 2006, Father Li Huisheng, 33, an underground priest in the Diocese of Xiwanzi, was also arrested.  His whereabouts are unknown.  The underground Catholic community responded to the arrests with group-protests and petitions for an immediate release of Bishop Yao Liang and Father Li Huisheng.  

In reaction to the protests, at approximately 2 o’clock in the morning on August 2nd, the public security bureau mobilized around 500 police, attacked the Catholic community in Zhangjiakou, Zhangbei County, and arrested some 90 underground Catholic faithful.  

In the shuffle, two male Catholics were seriously injured and required emergency hospital care.  One pregnant woman had a miscarriage.  

Approximately 70 of those arrested have now been released.  The other 20 are still being detained.

Joseph Kung, the President of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, said in a statement yesterday: "Repeatedly arresting an advanced age bishop, arresting a priest for his religious belief and activities, and then arresting some 90 Catholic faithful and seriously injuring some is clear evidence of total violation of human rights in China.”

Kung said that the actions follow another reported attack on a Protestant church on July 20th.

“This kind of atrocity has become so routine in China I believe that the governments and the corporations of freedom loving countries must urgently take into greater consideration - consistently and persistently, and not haphazardly - all human rights violations, including these reported above, when forming and implementing their respective political and commercial decisions of their China policies.”

Moreover, Kung said, “once again I urge the Olympic Committee to consider canceling the Games in China in order to preserve their good name and spirit.  Otherwise, the noble name of ‘Olympic’ could be severely tarnished by its association with religious persecution and human rights violations in China."

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Unborn child in Argentina saved from death as doctors refuse to administer abortion

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 3, 2006 (CNA) - The unborn child of handicapped woman who conceived through rape has been spared because he is too far developed for the abortion to be performed.   The doctors who would have been tasked with administering the abortion refused to do so because technically it would have required "induced delivery."

The Health Minister of the Buenos Aires province, Claudio Mate, confirmed that since the mother was in her fifth month of pregnancy, "any kind of procedure carried out on her would no longer be an abortion but rather an induced delivery."

On Wednesday doctors at the San Martin Hospital-where the abortion was to take place-refused to carry out the procedure, after an ethics committee met to debate the length of gestation of the pregnancy. They warned of ethical and medical complications in administering abortion during the 19th week of development.

"In light of the advanced pregnancy of the young woman who is interned here, it is practically impossible to administer an abortion," Mate said, adding that "all of the parameters were determined and technically speaking any intervention we might carry out would no longer be an abortion but rather an induced delivery or mini-cesarean.

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Senate passes bill to preserve Mt. Soledad Cross

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2006 (CNA) - The United States Senate swiftly passed a bill Tuesday, that will preserve a 29-foot concrete cross atop Mt. Soledad in San Diego.

The Bill to Preserve the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, which provides for the immediate acquisition of the memorial by the federal government, was passed unanimously yesterday.

The new legislation will become an important factor in the 17-year federal lawsuit by a self-proclaimed atheist to remove the cross from public view, says Charles LiMandri, west coast director of the Thomas More Law Center. The Center, which is a national public interest law firm in Ann Arbor, Mich., is leading the legal defense of the cross.

The cross is the centerpiece of the veterans’ memorial in San Diego, which has more than 1,700 granite plaques honoring veterans from the civil war to the current war in Iraq.

"This has been an extraordinary battle that many have waged to fulfill the wishes of the vast majority of San Diegans, the families of our military heroes and all who believe in the value of history," Mayor Jerry Sanders told San Diego’s 10 News.

The bill was first introduced in the House of Representatives by Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and was overwhelmingly passed July 19 by a vote of 349-74. It was transmitted to the Senate the following day.

The bill now goes to President George Bush, who has said he supports the bill and that he would sign it.

The Thomas More Law Center is directly involved in both the California appellate court and the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of San Diegans for the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial.

A number of organizations have joined the fight to keep the cross, including the California Department of the American Legion represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, the American Center for Law and Justice, and the American Family Association. 

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Archbishop of Miami appeals to Cuban exiles for calm

Miami, Fla., Aug 3, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Miami has called on Cuban exiles to remain calm amidst news that Fidel Castro has undergone surgery and has temporarily handed over the reigns of the Cuban regime to his brother Raul.

In a statement, Archbishop John C. Favarola noted, "The free Cuban people are watching with caution and attention the events related to the government on the Island," and he added, "The Archdiocese of Miami shares this hour with our Cuban brothers and

"We invite all to be calm, to exercise good judgment and to intensify their prayers for the good of Cuba so that these long suffering people may live in a society where all rights are respected," the archbishop said.

“We ask all parishes to include in the Prayer of the Faithful an intention for the welfare of the Cuban people," the statement said in conclusion.  "May Our Lady of Charity unify all Cubans and protect them from evil so that freedom, justice, truth and peace may triumph."

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Mexican bishops call on Lopez Obrador to carry out election dispute in courts, not on the streets

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 3, 2006 (CNA) - The Mexican Bishops’ Conference has criticized presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for carrying out his dispute of the July 2nd election results on the street instead of in the courts.

“We are surprised that candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has exceeded his public commitment to not affect third parties and continues seeking to resolve on the street that which should be resolved, according to the law, in the Federal Election Tribunal,” the bishops said in a statement signed by the Secretary General of the Conference, Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes.

The bishops expressed their regret that because of the results of the recent elections the country has witnessed “aggression and the lack of respect for the constitutional right of free transit.”   They called on Lopez Obrador to carry out his dispute in a different fashion, as “the immense majority of Mexicans” abhor verbal or physical violence and simply desire peace, unity and reconciliation.

“As men and women we are called to seek out and build up peace and to find pathways to dialogue in order to live in unity,” they added.  “Imposing one’s ideas on others leads to a refusal to compromise and a lack of respect.  From such attitudes come hatred, animosity, discord and contempt for others,” the bishops warned.

This contrasts with the “politically mature attitude” of the ruling party candidate, Felipe Calderon, the bishops continued, who has been proclaimed winner of the elections by the Federal Electoral Institute (FEI).  “We ask him to continue down this path” of respect for the law and institutions, they added.

After Calderon was declared winner by the FEI, Lopez Obrador announced he would challenge the results and demand a full recount.  He has since organized mass street protests in order to put pressure on the Federal Election Tribunal.

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