Archive of August 18, 2006

Pope chose unpretentious and thoughtful Bertone as Secretary of State within first months of Pontificate

Rome, Italy, Aug 18, 2006 (CNA) - An article published in the Italian journal “Il Riformista” today provides a unique glimpse into the man Pope Benedict XVI chose to head what is arguably the most important dicastery of the Vatican.  A surprising choice many Vatican insiders say, decided almost a year before it was announced.

The article characterizes Tarcisio Bertone as a man who, despite a great capacity for humor and jokes, prefers discretion and silence to “formal dinners, parlors, and idle chatter,” and therefore “fits well with the austerity of the German Pope.”  The 71 year-old Italian Cardinal, who is scheduled to take the reigns at the Secretariat of State on September 15th, will be responsible not only for communications between the Holy See and other nations, but also for caring for the universal Church and dealing with the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

Monsignor Francesco Moraglia, who worked with Bertone when the cardinal was Archbishop of Genoa, said that in his opinion Bertone exhibits a perfect blend of thought and action.  “The pope has chosen to have Bertone at his side because he is a peaceful man but also a man of action.”  Moraglia recalled for “Il Riformista” a time in which he was waiting for Bertone at the Cathedral of Genoa.  Despite the fact that he was running late for Mass, Bertone took a moment to encourage Moraglia to hurry the progress of a planned conference on “The Da Vinci Code.” “It is necessary to say something,” Bertone said as he was putting on his vestments, “because (the book) undermines our historical principles and therefore the faith.”

According to his friends and associates, Bertone is always one to thoroughly study the problem at hand before taking action.  Monsignor Giuseppe Versaldi, Vicar General of the Vercelli Archdiocese where Bertone was first appointed bishop, tells the story of Bertone’s appointment.  “After (Pope John Paul II) named him bishop, Bertone locked himself in his room all night and studied the life of Saint Eusebius, who was bishop of the city back in 345 AD.”

“Bertone spurred us all to study Thomas, Newman, Romini and to organize conferences in order to spread their thought,” Maria Antonietta Falchi recalled.  

Falchi, who in addition to being a member of the Political Science faculty of the University of Genoa also lends a hand at the archdiocesan office of culture, said that while he was a scholar, at the same time Bertone was always among the people.  “He could get along anywhere.  He said Mass on the docks with the workers.  He made his presence known throughout the region, even in the hall of the city council.”

Bertone’s priest secretary recalled for the paper an occasion in which Bertone decided to take a public bus to the Vatican.  As the Cardinal in his long black cassock and red fascia strode on to the bus, the people - especially a group of young people – stared in silence.  Bertone immediately broke the ice with his “characteristic” smile.  By the time he reached his destination the prelate had engaged the youth in a deep conversation on love, sex, virginity, and chastity.

Bishop Mauro Piacenza, who Bertone ordained to the episcopate in 2003, thinks that it is precisely Bertone’s adaptability which makes him a perfect candidate for his new position.  Piacenza says that the intellectual and spiritual foundation Bertone received in his religious congregation – the Salesians – is added to by, “the variegated experience of the oratory, the academic world, the Roman Curia, and two Metropolitan sees (Vercelli and Genoa).”  

In addition to such experiences Bertone also has plenty of practice working with the Holy Father, Piacenza points out.  

Bertone worked through the late nineties as second in command to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  It was through their work at the congregation that the two grew to understand and appreciate one another. And, many Vatican insiders say, it is this relationship that allowed Ratzinger to easily make the decision to call Bertone once again to his side, in replacement of the aging Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

But while the Holy Father quickly made up his mind as to who the new Secretary of State would be (some say with in the first two months of his pontificate) he waited to announce his surprising decision until June of this year.  

The announcement continues to surprise many in the Secretariat of State, who expected Sodano’s successor to be someone from within their ranks.  Most had presumed that Benedict would continue the practice, which had developed over the years, that the Vatican’s “prime minister” was someone groomed within the diplomatic corps and raised in the mindset of his predecessors.  The choice of an outsider, in fact, led many to joke that Bertone was chosen because he was the only one who could decipher the Pope’s tiny handwriting.

In a way, they may be correct.  It is not a hidden agenda of the current Pope to enact a reform of the Curia.  Bertone seems to be a man of like-mind and heart with the Pontiff and one who Benedict knows will be an excellent partner in carrying out his plans to move the Church forward.

“The pontiff of great teaching and great action in contemporary society finds in Cardinal Bertone, who becomes again his first and closest collaborator, a faithful friend, in whom he shares intellectually the analyses and, therefore, will strive with tenacity and with motivated movement to act on his plan of operations,” Bishop Piacenza said.  “The complementariness of their characters and the outspokenness of their relationship, in fact, will guarantee the effectiveness of the pastoral government of the universal Church.”

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Toronto AIDS conference promotes ‘abstinophobia’, says Ugandan activist

Washington D.C., Aug 18, 2006 (CNA) - Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, would be more effective in the fight against AIDS by speaking about their long and successful marriage rather than by promoting condom use, said a leading Ugandan AIDS activist.

“We don’t need more condoms from Bill and Melinda, but more hope and fidelity in marriage is a message of hope,” said Martin Sempa.

The Ugandan pastor is known as the “brains” behind the successful Ugandan educational campaign against AIDS, called the ABC program, which promotes abstinence and marital fidelity as the first two means of protection against the killer virus.

Sempa noted that Gates, who gave opening remarks at the Toronto International AIDS Conference this week, used the platform to promote the condoms approach to combating the disease. In fact, the crowd booed when he mentioned abstinence education and fidelity as approaches that are being used in some parts of the world.

“This [ABC] approach has saved many lives, and we should expand it,” he said to boos. The crowd began to cheer, however, when he spoke about the “limits” of such a program, and criticized abstinence and faithfulness as ultimately ineffective and unrealistic.

Sempa told that he avoided the Toronto conference because of the hostility he was likely to find to his message. The only trouble is, he said, the conference delegates are missing the basic fact that promiscuity is at the heart of the problem.

“The last gasp of life for a sexual revolution that has gone stale in the West is using the AIDS crisis as a means of keeping itself going,” Sempa told from Las Vegas, where he was giving a series of talks.

“Western experts, Bill Clinton, the UN, and the World Health Organization, look upon the AIDS problem as ‘not enough condoms’. We on the ground, those who actually live in the country, see that the problem is too much promiscuity,” he was quoted as saying.

Sempa also believes that the condom approach promotes a hatred and fear for abstinence and fidelity, which he calls “abstinophobia”, and a fear of marriage and motherhood, which he has dubbed “matriphobia”. The Toronto conference promotes both, he said, as well as loathing of traditional Christian values.

Sempa is a witness to the fact that the ABC program is extremely successful. In the 1980s, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Uganda was at 30 percent—in line with most African countries. Since the program was launched in 1987, the rate dropped to 6.2 per cent in 1994 and still remains among the lowest in Africa.

Furthermore, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Swaziland adopted the Ugandan program last year and are already seeing results.

Despite the success those at the Toronto conference slammed those who promote the program over the simple distribution of condoms. Gates’ wife, Melinda, went so far as to call into question the good will of people who oppose the condom approach, accusing them of having destructive ulterior motives. “If you oppose the distribution of condoms, something is more important to you than saving lives,” she reportedly said.

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Australians hopeful for first-ever local saint

Sydney, Australia, Aug 18, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics in Australia are hoping that a second miracle can be proven to canonize the country’s first saint in time for World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney.

According to Sr. Maria Casey, vice postulator for Blessed Mary MacKillop’s cause for canonization, several people have called to report favors received from the blessed.

Blessed MacKillop founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph in Australia and had a deep impact on the development of Catholic education in the country. She died in 1909.

Sr. Casey told the Catholic Weekly that the Vatican is currently considering a case in which a little boy had been found at the bottom of a pool and pronounced dead by paramedics but regained consciousness in his mother’s arms after she prayed for the intercession of Mary MacKillop.

If this case does not meet the necessary requirements to be considered the second miracle there are two other cases under investigation which might. One involves a woman cured of inoperable cancer who remains well after 10 years; the other is of a boy with multiple sclerosis and lymphoma who is now recovering.

Mary MacKillop was born in Australia in 1842.  The eldest of eight children, from the age of 16, Mary helped to support her family by working as a governess.

Mary eventually met Fr. Julian Tenison Woods, who asked her to help with the religious education of children in the outback. Years later, in 1866, she opened the first Saint Joseph's School in a disused stable in Penola. Young women came to join Mary, and so the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph was begun. The congregation later spread to the large cities in Australia, and is now also present in New Zealand, Peru, Brazil, Uganda and Thailand. 

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Catholic Relief Services pledges $10 M for Middle East

, Aug 18, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic Relief Services (CRS) announced plans for a $10-million emergency response and long-term reconstruction program for Gaza, northern Israel and Lebanon as a result of the one-month war between Israel and Hezbollah.

CRS is working with local partners, Caritas Lebanon and Caritas Jerusalem, to provide life-saving supplies for immediate needs and post-ceasefire recovery efforts. Caritas Lebanon has 36 offices, nine health centers and eight mobile medical clinics throughout the country, which are being manned by staff and 2,000 volunteers.

Since Israel launched its attack on Lebanon July 12, more than 900,000 Lebanese people have been displaced—nearly 25 percent of the total population. To date, CRS and Caritas Lebanon have aided more than 85,000 displaced people and are expected to assist more than 100,000 evacuees.

Many displaced people taking refuge in gardens, schools, churches, convents, mosques, bombed-out buildings, storage places and cars. They are depending on the assistance of humanitarian organizations to survive.

Food, water, hygiene kits, clothing, cleaning materials, mattresses, baby food and diapers are being distributed daily.

There are also more than 100,000 migrant workers in Lebanon who are having difficulty returning to their native countries. The Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre has provided thousands of migrants and refugees with basic supplies, medical assistance, psychological and moral support, as well as legal and repatriation counsel. The center is working with the Sri Lankan, Ethiopian and Philippines embassies to evacuate their nationals.

CRS is also assisting people displaced in northern Israel through contributions to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the American Jewish Committee.

In Gaza, Caritas Jerusalem is working to help the 1.4 million Palestinians, half of them children. Shortages of electricity, fuel, food, water, medicine, and medical equipment have reached critical levels. Housing and infrastructure are heavily damaged and inefficient wastewater treatment plants have led to major public health concerns.

Last week, CRS delivered 450 packages of food and hygiene items to families in Gaza and 950 packages to refugee camps.

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Pro-life leader urges Bush to name new FDA commissioner

Front Royal, Va., Aug 18, 2006 (CNA) - President George Bush should name a new commissioner to head the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to replace Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD, the current acting commissioner, says an international pro-life leader.

Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, claims that von Eschenbach in unable to act as an independent authority. He claims the current commissioner is too easily swayed by political pressure and it is the reason why he is allowing Barr Pharmaceuticals to submit a new application for over-the-counter use of its Plan B abortion drug.

Fr. Euteneuer claims the doctor is “kowtowing to Senator Hillary Clinton (D—NY)” which “disqualifies him from being an independent commissioner for the FDA.”

“Barr Pharmaceutical’s Plan B is an abortion-causing drug that contains high doses of a powerful synthetic hormone. Low doses of this hormone when used for ‘contraception’ are only available with a prescription. It makes no sense for the FDA, under Dr. von Eschenbach, to allow the higher dosage Plan B to be available without a prescription."

He said von Eschenbach should be replaced with a medical authority, “who puts the health of the American people first, and does not bow to pressure from politicians and pharmaceutical corporations.”

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First Museum of Protection of Life Blessed in Austria

, Aug 18, 2006 (CNA) - A Museum of The Protection of Life, the first of its kind in Europe, has been blessed in the Austrian city of Schrems.  The museum features displays on the miracle of life as well as on the deep physical, spiritual, and emotional wounds left by the process of undergoing an abortion.

The museum also features an immense cross made up of the instruments used for carrying out abortions, which were collected by Human Life International from an abortion clinic that was closed down.  

HLI, founded by Father Paul Marx, has succeeded in closing down two abortion clinics in Austria, including one in Salzburg.

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Archbishop exhorts Paraguayans to be “lights of hope” in carrying the country forward

Asunción, Paraguay, Aug 18, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Pastor Cuquejo of Asuncion called on Paraguayans this week to be lights of hope in order to help move the country forward and said, “Paraguay suffers because it needs to hear the word of God and put it in practice.”

During his homily on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, the archbishop invited the faithful to journey with Mary so that all corruption and societal evils keeping the country down might be eradicated through clear thinking and firm decisiveness.

“Our country constantly suffers harm and therefore it needs the light that comes from our hope, which should not mean acquiescence, because the Church and the Lord will have the victory.  Our hope should be the dynamism of faith that leads to solidarity with others,” he stated.

During the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of the Assumption—the patroness of Paraguay—hundreds of Catholics accompanied the country’s famous statue of Mary in procession to the archdiocesan cathedral, where Mass was celebrated.

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Negotiations in Colombia for release of hostages held by guerrillas moving forward

Bogotá, Colombia, Aug 18, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, praised this week the “extremely good will” of the government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) in their negotiations over a humanitarian accord that would open the door to the prompt release of several hostages being held by the Marxist group.

“I think there is much goodwill on both sides to come up with a humanitarian agreement -both President Uribe and the FARC have shown it,” the archbishop told Caracol Radio.

Regarding negotiations that would obtain the release of hostages being held by the FARC, Archbishop Castro said that talks with the guerrillas are not paralyzed and that the work of the Church and of the facilitators is being carried out with maximum discretion.

He revealed that an international commission, with the collaboration of the Church, is working with the utmost confidentiality to achieve an agreement between the two sides.

The archbishop urged that a humanitarian accord be adopted immediately and said, “Colombians should be confident and hopeful that the hostages will soon regain their freedom.”

He also called on the FARC to provide evidence that hostages are still alive.

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