Archive of August 14, 2006

Catholicism offers positive view of human development, Pope says

Vatican City, Aug 14, 2006 (CNA) - Catholicism has positive ideas of offer about life, family and human development, which must be made known with courage and dynamism, said Pope Benedict XVI in a German Radio and Television interview released Sunday.

The German pontiff gave the interview in anticipation of his trip to his native region of Germany, in September.

“Christianity, Catholicism, isn’t a collection of prohibitions: it’s a positive option,” said the Pope.

“We’ve heard so much about what is not allowed that now it’s time to say: we have a positive idea to offer, that man and woman are made for each other, that the scale of sexuality, eros, agape, indicates the level of love and … then the family, that guarantees continuity among generations and through which generations are reconciled to each other and even cultures can meet,” the Pope said in response to a question regarding the nature of marriage.  

“It’s not a Catholic invention that man and woman are made for each other, so that humanity can go on living: all cultures know this,” he stated plainly.

He also reiterated the Church’s teaching on abortion and that the human person, whose life begins in the mother’s womb, must always be respected.

Regarding the AIDS epidemic and other issues of international development, the Pope stressed the key role of education and formation that focus on the whole human person.

“Progress becomes true progress only if it serves the human person and if the human person grows: not only in terms of his or her technical power, but also in his or her moral awareness,” he said.

“I believe that the real problem of our historical moment lies in the imbalance between the incredibly fast growth of our technical power and that of our moral capacity, which has not grown in proportion,” he explained. “That’s why the formation of the human person is the true recipe, the key to it all, I would say, and this is what the Church proposes.”

The Pope went on to speak about the Catholic schools and training centers throughout Africa and Asia, where human and professional formation are combined.

Pope Benedict also commended the African bishops for their ability to form positive and “exemplary” relations with Muslims in their countries.

“In many areas, following the destruction of war, the Church is the only structure that remains intact,” he said. As a result, the Church offers medical treatment to all people, including the many AIDS victims.

The Pope said there is also a great danger that the Middle East, where Christianity has its origins, will be left without Christians. “I think we need to help them a lot so that they can stay,” he said.

And while Europe became the centre of Christianity, “today other continents and other cultures play with equal importance in the concert of world history. In this way the number of voices in the Church grows, and this is a good thing.”

The Church still needs Europe, even if “it is only a part of a greater whole. We still carry the responsibility that comes from our experiences … all this is very important for the other continents too,” he said.

“So it’s important that today we don’t give up, feeling sorry for ourselves … We have to keep our dynamism alive, open relationships of exchange, so that new strength for us comes from there,” he said.

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Middle East conflict remains on Pope’s mind during holiday

Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 14, 2006 (CNA) - Despite the August summer holidays, the conflict in the Middle East is not forgotten and the decision to start a ceasefire today offers hope, said Pope Benedict XVI yesterday.

The Pope addressed a crowd of pilgrims from his summer residence at Castelgandolfo, prior to the Sunday Angelus. He said he hopes humanitarian aid will quickly get to the people in the war-torn region and that, “it is everyone’s hope that peace will prevail.”

The Pope also recalled that while many use their summer holiday to visit with family or to tour a new country, many others who are alone, such as the elderly and the sick, do not have the possibility to do so. To those homebound, or simply unable to travel, the Pope expressed his spiritual closeness. The entire month of August is used for summer holidays in most of Europe.

The Pope said that summer holidays also allow many people the opportunity for longer periods of prayer and contemplation, either in nature or in monasteries, or for spiritual reading.

Those who experience this restfulness of the spirit know how useful it is not to reduce vacation time only to entertainment. He urged the faithful to continue to attend Sunday Eucharist during their summer holiday, saying: “Wherever we find ourselves, we always need to be nourished by the Eucharist.”

After the Angelus, the Pope addressed the pilgrims in French, English, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Polish. Among the Polish pilgrims were family members of the victims who died in the recent roof collapse. To them, he extended his sympathies and his blessing.

He also urged the pilgrims to continue to persevere in their faith and wished all of them a good stay at Castelgandolfo and in Rome, one that would deepen their faith in God. “Upon you and your families I invoke an abundance of God’s blessings of peace and joy,” he said.

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Pope Benedict says westerners experiencing realization that there is something “more” to life

Vatican City, Aug 14, 2006 (CNA) - After years of creating a world with no room for God, people in the west may be experiencing a, “quest for ‘something bigger,’” Pope Benedict XVI said in an interview, made public this weekend.

As part of a television interview in preparation for a visit to his homeland, the Holy Father spoke to German and Vatican reporters about the wave of “enlightenment or secularization” that the west is experiencing and the resurgence of faith, which is now occurring in spite of it.

Benedict said that in the western world, “it’s become more difficult to believe, because the world in which we find ourselves is completely made up of ourselves… humanity has rebuilt the world by itself and finding God inside this world has become more difficult.”

At the same time, the Pope said, the west is encountering other cultures who still maintain an active faith in God.  “These cultures are horrified when they experience the West’s coldness towards God.”

Through this encounter the, ‘presence of the sacred’ reawakens many in the west and, “The quest for ‘something bigger’ wells up again from the depths of western people.”

Pope Benedict said that, “the search for something ‘more’ is especially evident in the youth.”  The Pope pointed to the tremendous response to World Youth Day in Cologne. 

Today, he said, a great number of youth are in the process of searching; and through their searching the Church can offer faith as the answer.

The Holy Father said that his upcoming visit to Germany, much like his visit to World Youth Day, “is an opportunity because we can see that believing is beautiful, that the joy of a huge universal community possesses a transcendental strength, that behind this belief lies something important and that together with the new searching movements there are also new outlets for the faith that lead us from one to the other and that are also positive for society as a whole.”

The Pope said that the main theme of his visit will be the need that mankind has to rediscover God.  “Not just any God,” the Pontiff explained, “but the God that has a human face, because when we see Jesus Christ we see God.

From this starting point, we can find reconciliation and peace among peoples, the Pope said.  “We must find the way to reconciliation and to peaceful coexistence in this world, the ways that lead to the future. We won’t find these ways leading to the future if we don’t receive light from above,” Benedict continued.  We must move from an understanding of God present in Jesus Christ, to an understanding of community, and only then are we able to effectively reach out among other cultures and peoples.

Returning to a discussion of last year’s World Youth Day, The Holy Father encouraged the many young people who, out of their experience of community and of a search for something larger, are also sensing a desire to do good for the needy.  “Go ahead,” the Pope said, “Look for opportunities to do good! The world needs this desire to do good, it needs this commitment!”

At the same time, the Holy Father encouraged young adults to take the courageous step of making a commitment to their vocations. “Young people are very generous but when they face the risk of a life-long commitment, be it marriage or a priestly vocation, they are afraid,” the Pope said.

Benedict said that young people are encouraged by the world to say to themselves, “Nowadays I can continually do whatever I want with my life, with all its unpredictable future events. By making a definitive decision am I myself not tying up my personal freedom and depriving myself of freedom of movement?”

The Pope exhorted them to overcome these doubts and, “reawaken the courage to make definitive decisions: they are really the only ones that allow us to grow, to move ahead and to reach something great in life. They are the only decisions that do not destroy our freedom but offer to point us in the right direction. Risk making this leap, so to speak, towards the definitive and so embrace life fully.”

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Bishop apologizes for delay in reporting sex abuse by priest to authorities

Santa Rosa, Calif., Aug 14, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Daniel Walsh of the Santa Rosa pledged never again to delay notifying authorities of priest misconduct.

He made the statement in a written apology issued to parishioners this weekend. In it, he admitted to waiting four days to notify authorities when a local priest owned up to having sexual relations with young boys, reported the Register.

Under the law, a bishop is required to notify authorities as soon as he is aware of such misconduct. Instead of going directly to police, the bishop contacted the diocese’s lawyer and asked him to file the report. In the meantime the priest, Fr. Xavier Ochoa, is believed to have fled to Mexico.

"As the district attorney reviews the actions of all involved in this horrible situation, my admission of failing to report the case immediately could cause me to be charged with a misdemeanor having the potential penalty of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine," Bishop Walsh wrote in a message to parishioners. "If I am found guilty for not taking immediate action, I will accept whatever punishment is imposed."

Bishop Walsh has said that he was trying to balance the removal of Fr. Ochoa from ministry and the proper legal steps with his diocesan attorney instead of making the correct immediate step.

In his message, the bishop apologized “for the tarnish it has placed on the reputation of the church and the clergy, as well as for the questions it has raised regarding our credibility and the church's policy of zero tolerance of sexual abuse."

"I can assure you that it is a mistake that I will not repeat,” he wrote. “I will ensure that in the future, all mandated reporters in our church obey the law or be removed from service."

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Catholic dissident leader in Cuba calls for peace and unity

Havana, Cuba, Aug 14, 2006 (CNA) - Amidst uncertainty about the health of Fidel Castro and a temporary transferal of power to his brother Raul, the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, has called on Cuban authorities, the international community, and peaceful opposition movements to exhibit calm reflection and responsible action in order to foster peace and unity among Cubans - both on the island and throughout the world.

In an official statement, the Catholic dissident leader told Cuban authorities that, “If their pronouncements and actions are oriented toward maintaining an atmosphere of peace and respect for all Cubans, then no institution, organization, or citizen will feel the need to use exclusive or offensive language, in threatening or attacking others.”  

“Such attitudes,” Paya said, “can lead to abuse and violence which is inconsistent with the atmosphere of respect, tolerance, and unity that Cuba needs and which all Cubans deserve by right.”

“Cubans have the right and the need to think and talk about their lives and their future with confidence and serenity - knowing how to listen and showing respect for neighbor and for order,” Paya stated.   He called on the EU, Latin America, Canada, the US, and the rest of the world to contribute “to an atmosphere of peace and serenity among all Cubans and, as much as possible, to understanding and dialogue among Cubans.”

“Any statement or action that seeks to define or determine what should happen in Cuba, anything that is not a call to calm and to peace, could increase tensions, distrust, and misunderstandings among Cubans and that is not what Cuba wants and needs,” Paya added.

Paya went on to warn against confusing “certain voices from the exile” who issue “irresponsible” statements with the voices of the “majority of the Cuban exiles who, while they have a peaceful spirit and also an immense and very just desire for a reencounter with their homeland whenever that is possible, though in an ordered and legal way, now prioritize the need for peace and unity in Cuba.”

Paya, who is also the leader of the Varela Project for a democratic transition on the island nation, likewise called on opposition movements to act with “responsibility and love toward the people of Cuba, above any particular strategies and political positions.”

The statement also addressed the CLM’s official position regarding the Castro regime.  “Our choice and our call is for peace among Cubans, for the sake of serenity, for the sake of respect of all for all and for the life and dignity of each Cuban, for the sake of avoiding confusion and statements and actions that could lead to confrontation among Cubans, for the sake of seeking the good of the people of Cuba.”

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Pro-life groups warn approval of sterilization in Argentina jeopardizes human rights

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 14, 2006 (CNA) - Pro-life groups in Argentina are warning that a new law on vasectomies and tubal ligations that was approved by the Senate jeopardizes the right to the corporal integrity of each person, recognized in numerous international human rights treaties.
They are also protesting the inclusion of these services in the country’s health care programs, warning that the goals behind such decisions could be less than honorable.
“As has taken place in other countries, such as Peru, the carrying out of these goals means limiting the freedom of individuals, especially those who are in so-called ‘risk groups,’” said leaders of the pro-life movement Fundar.  “In Peru a forced sterilization campaign, which has been rightly denounced, has affected more than 300,000 women and 24,000 men,” the group said.

In September of 1995, the Peruvian government set up a national family planning program that included sterilization without consent, especially among the country’s poor.

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Keep God in schools, Bolivians tell government

La Paz, Bolivia, Aug 14, 2006 (CNA) - Thousands of students and parents marched through the streets of the city of Oruro demanding that the government respect the faith of most Bolivians and that the clauses in the country’s Constitution that recognize the role of the Church in Bolivia not be modified or removed.

Representatives from public and private schools, as well as those from parochial schools, participated in the march, carrying signs calling for respect for religious practice.

Bishop Cristobal Bialasik of Oruro addressed the protesters, emphasizing that peace and unity in Bolivia will be achieved “if we respect our faith, if we respect God” and learn “to live the values that He teaches us.”

Article 3 of the Bolivian Constitution states that: “The State recognizes and sustains the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman religion.  It guarantees the public exercise of all other faiths.  The relations with the Catholic Church shall be governed by concordats and agreements between the Bolivian State and the Holy See.”

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Kirk Douglas urges Gibson to seek Catholic help

Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 14, 2006 (CNA) - Veteran actor Kirk Douglas has urged Mel Gibson to seek "spiritual guidance" from his own Church before consulting with Jewish leaders and groups in Los Angeles to help him make amends for his well-publicized anti-Jewish outburst, reported the Daily Variety.

Gibson outraged Jewish community leaders last month when an anti-Semitic rant he made during a police arrest made headlines. Gibson has since apologized for his drunken comments.

"Mel's first apology was too contrite and seemingly not remorseful,” said Douglas. “His second was an afterthought.”

The Jewish actor stopped short of describing Gibson as an anti-Semite but said he disagrees that Gibson "is now ready to talk to a Jewish group or a rabbi.

“He is a Catholic and appears to need some spiritual guidance,” he added. "Perhaps he should talk to one of his own faith."

Douglas also said Gibson is “in a mess” and desperately needs help for his alcoholism.

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Officials in Buenos Aires to poll residents on the issue of abortion

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 14, 2006 (CNA) - The Health Minister of the Buenos Aires province in Argentina, Claudio Mate, announced that the local government will carry out a house-by-house survey to find out what residents think about abortion. The survey, he said, could be the basis for a push to legalize the practice.

Mate told reporters that, in addition to other questions, respondents will be asked to answer anonymously whether “they have obtained an abortion during the last year or previously at some point.”  The data will be used, he said, to determine if abortion should be legalized.  “Personally, I think that when a woman is going to have an abortion, one of the last things she considers is whether or not it is legal,” Mate said.

“The data we will collect will help contribute to the general discussion of the issue, because it is good that discussions be not only values-based but also fact-based, and that we know the magnitude of things and if the method we are using is saving lives.  If (an abortion ban) is only complicating things more, then let’s review what we have,” he said.

Mate has recently said, “I am not in favor of legalization without a serious study of the impact of that decision on fetal deaths, but I think that the law should be flexible and include other causes that would permit one to obtain an abortion and not be punished.”

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