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Archive of August 28, 2006

Pope calls for changes in lifestyles that harm creation

Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 28, 2006 (CNA) - At the conclusion of the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI told Italian pilgrims that Christians should work to stop the continued destruction of the environment, especially as it particularly affects the poor.

Recalling that on September 1st the Church in Italy will celebrate the 1st Day for Saving Creation, the Pontiff said creation is “a great gift of God exposed to serious risks from choices and lifestyles that are capable of degrading it.”

“Environmental degradation makes the existence of the poor of the earth particularly unsustainable,” the Pope said.

“In dialogue with Christians of diverse confessions, it is necessary to be committed to caring for creation, without squandering recourses but rather sharing them in solidarity,” he maintained.

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Saints Monica, Augustine offer hope to troubled families, says Pope

Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 28, 2006 (CNA) - Troubled families today can receive great comfort from the lives of St. Monica and her son St. Augustine, said Pope Benedict XVI yesterday, prior to the Angelus. Sunday was the memorial for St. Monica; today is the memorial for St. Augustine.

Monica (333-387), born of a Christian family, lived her life as a wife and a mother in an exemplary way, helping her husband to discover the beauty of the Christian faith and the strength of Gospel love, said the Pope. After her husband’s death, she dedicated herself even more fully to her three children. Augustine caused her great suffering with his rebellious character.

But Augustine (354-430) would later say that his mother bore him twice. The second time was after a long spiritual labor, consisting of prayers and tears, but in the end filled with the joy of seeing him not only embrace the faith and receive baptism, but dedicate his whole life to the service of Christ, the Pope said.

“How many difficulties are there in families even today and how many mothers are distressed because their children are taking the wrong paths!” the Pope exclaimed. “Monica, a woman who is wise and solid in the faith, invites them not to be discouraged but to persevere in their mission as wives and mothers, maintaining a firm faith in God and holding on to prayer.”

As for Augustine, his whole existence was a passionate search for truth, the Pope continued. In the end, not without a long interior struggle, he discovered in Christ the full and ultimate meaning of his life and of all of human history.

In adolescence, attracted by worldly goods and beauty, his actions were guided by egoism and possessiveness. His actions would cause great pain to his mother. But along his journey, and thanks to the grace of his mother’s prayers, he continued to open himself up more to the fullness of truth and love to the point of conversion, the Pope recounted.

Augustine’s ultimate conversion took place in Milan under the guidance of St. Ambrose, then bishop of the northern Italian city.

Augustine remains today a witness, for all people, of the journey toward God, supreme Truth and Goodness, the Pope stated. “Late have I loved you,” Augustine would write of his love for God in his famous autobiography, The Confessions.

The Pope prayed, “for all the young people who, thirsty for happiness, are seeking it by following the wrong paths and losing themselves in blind alleys,” asking for St. Augustine’s intercession.

The Pope closed by entrusting to Mother Mary all Christian parents so that they, like St. Monica, will accompany their children with good examples and prayers. He also entrusted to her all young people so that they, like Augustine, will journey always toward the fullness of Truth and Love, which is Christ.

“Only Christ can satisfy the profound desires of the human heart,” he concluded.

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Vatican: ‘Breakthrough technique’ in embryonic research does not satisfy moral test

Vatican City, Aug 28, 2006 (CNA) - A U.S.-based research company claims it has developed a new method to create embryonic stem cells in developing cures for diseases without harming or destroying the original embryo.

Scientists at Advanced Cell Technology Inc., led by Robert Lanza, claim to have developed the technique, which allows embryos to grow to the 8- to 10-cell stage before removing one cell. They then grow stem cells from that single cell. The company has been involved in the field of cloning and embryonic stem-cell research since the late 1990s.

Lanza says the embryos, after such a procedure, still can be implanted in women with the potential to develop normally.

The breakthrough technique, described Wednesday in the British online journal Nature, was meant to answer critics of embryonic stem-cell research. But it doesn’t seem to have worked.

Since the mainstream media picked up on the story late last week, the United States Conference Catholic Bishops and several reputable scientists involved in the field of embryonic stem cell research have pointed out that despite reports to the contrary, Advanced Cell Technology was unsuccessful in removing single cells from the embryos and that all 16 of the embryos involve in the procedure were destroyed.

But, while the success of the method is still in serious doubt, a Vatican official has said even if the method was successful it is still not ethical.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, told Vatican Radio and Reuters that manipulating and experimenting with embryos is wrong.

"Even if it didn't damage the embryo, it's still an issue of an invasive, unjustified operation on a human being ... You're going in, taking a piece of a embryo's organism to use for yourself," he was quoted as saying.

The company made things worse by extracting what could be a "totipotent" cell, he added. Totipotent cells are capable of reproducing a human embryo, he explained, which would lead to a second embryo being destroyed.

Furthermore, the bishop told Reuters there was also no way Lanza could ensure that embryos, which had cells extracted, could later go on to develop normally.

Bishop Sgreccia urged the scientists to look into other promising avenues, including adult stem-cell research, which is considered ethical and acceptable by all camps.

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Benedict XVI receives German Chancellor ahead of Pontiff's trip to homeland

Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 28, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI visited with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today at his summer residence, Castelgandolfo.  The two reportedly discussed current situations in the Middle East and the mounting tensions surrounding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Merkel told Deutsche Welle that she and Benedict, “had a very intense exchange on world politics, especially on the Middle East, but also on how the international community should deal with Iran.”  

"I was longing to pay this visit to the pope before he comes to Germany in September," Merkel said prior to the visit.  "I'm very glad that it will happen now…I'm also here to express the respect of all Germans which I represent as German chancellor."

The Chancellor told reporters that the hour-long audience was, "very impressive."

Merkel has had one prior meeting with the Pope, when she was head of the Christian Democratic Union Party, a party with strong ties to German Catholics.  

While Merkel was raised in a Protestant northern German family – her mother is a Protestant minister – she and Benedict are said to get along very well.

“The pope is a great leader of Christianity to which my protestant faith also belongs,” Merkel said.

Merkel, whose educational background is in physics, reportedly maintains a strong Christian faith. “I pray because it gives me an opportunity to contemplate,” Deutsche Welle reported her as saying. “Our faith makes us aware of the fact that many things are beyond the powers of human beings. But the Christian faith also moves the dignity of human life onto centre stage giving the religion a crucial role in present-day life.”

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Argentinean baby, saved from death two weeks ago, aborted Friday

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 28, 2006 (CNA) - The parents of a mentally disabled woman who had supposedly conceived through rape and had been given permission by the courts in Argentina to undergo an abortion finally had their wishes granted as the unborn child’s life was taken on Friday at a private clinic, in the city of La Plata.

Although the baby was a few weeks short of viability, the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires had authorized an abortion to be administered at the end of July.  However, doctors at a public hospital refused to comply with the order, objecting that the baby was too far developed for the procedure to take place.

Although the child’s great-grandmother had offered to care for him and local government officials had offered to provide economic assistance, the family’s lawyer told reporters the private clinic agreed to carry out the abortion, even though the woman was almost six months pregnant.

The director of the Bioethics Institute of the Catholic University of La Plata, Dr. Juan Carlos Caprile, strongly condemned the act and said the doctors who administered the abortion committed an act of “homicide on an innocent child of 6 months who was completely formed and all of whose organs were completely functioning, including the heart—which begins to beat at about 18 days after conception.”

“Once again the weight of the law has pierced, as with a sword, the heart of a small, defenseless victim, who was sentenced to death and was executed by professionals who claim to practice ‘the art of healing,’ but in reality engage in the ‘art of killing’,” Dr. Caprile stated.

“One of the techniques that could have been used is the scraping of the uterus, which cuts the child into pieces, killing him in the very sanctuary of life that is the maternal womb,” he said.  “Another method is the injection of saline solution into the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby, which causes his instantaneous death, after which he is extracted.”

“A cesarean operation may have also been performed, such that once the uterus is opened, the baby is extracted and dies in the process from lack of medical attention.  As he is extracted alive, he surely cries out begging for his life, as other babies do at that stage; (babies) who are blessed by the scientific advances that are practiced by neo-natal doctors, true professionals in the art of healing,” Dr. Caprile said.

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Chinese authorities release Catholic bishop after 10-year detention

Stamford, Conn., Aug 28, 2006 (CNA) - After more than a decade, Chinese authorities have released a bishop who was ordained to serve the country’s underground Roman Catholic Church.

Bishop An Shuxin, the auxiliary bishop of the underground Diocese of Baoding, in Hebei Province, was released yesterday after more than 10 years in prison, the Cardinal Kung Foundation reported on Friday.

He was arrested in May 1996 and has previously been seen only once, when he visited his elderly mother for a few hours on the Chinese New Year in 2000.
 
The 57-year-old bishop was given a work permit as a Roman Catholic bishop in China and has the permission from the Chinese government to do pastoral work.  He has not registered with the Patriotic Association and remains under surveillance, the foundation reported.
 
“We hope that this release is not an isolated case, but rather the beginning of the release of many dozens of other Roman Catholic bishops, priests, and faithful currently being jailed by the Chinese authorities across China,” said foundation president Joseph Kung.

Kung said there are six more bishops in prison. All other underground bishops are under surveillance, under house arrest, or hiding.

The release of other jailed clerics, “would show China's sincerity about improving its relationships with the Vatican and its human rights policy," said Kung.

The six bishops who are currently imprisoned include: Bishop Su Zhimin, 74, arrested in 1997; Bishop Han Dingxiang, 69, arrested in 1999; Bishop Jia Zhiguo, 72, who has been arrested 9 times since January 2004; Bishop Shi Enxiang, 84, arrested in 2001; Bishop Zhao Zhendong, 86, arrested in 2004; and Bishop Yao Liang, 83, arrested for a second time this past July. The whereabouts for the first five bishops remain unknown. 

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German police assure Pope’s safety during trip

Hamburg, Germany, Aug 28, 2006 (CNA) - German police have assured that Pope Benedict XVI will be safe in Germany during his mid-September visit and that appropriate security measures have been taken.

"The Pope is safe in Germany," Joerg Ziercke, head of the Federal Criminal Office, was quoted as saying in German Sunday paper, Bild am Sonntag.

Ziercke’s confident statement comes three weeks after attempted train bombings on two trains in western Germany. Three suspects for the failed attacks have been detained.

German authorities are holding a Lebanese man and a Syrian in connection with the July 31 incident. A third suspect is in Lebanese detention. Investigators are still looking into the suspects' motives and affiliation.

"The current arrests mean that the danger has peaked," Ziercke said. He added that he doubts Islamic extremists would target the Pope.

Authorities say the attack failed only because the bombs, built according to a design found on the Internet and concealed in wheeled suitcases, failed to explode.

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Nigerian priest says Church honored to take part in building country’s future

Konigstein, Germany, Aug 28, 2006 (CNA) - Father Peter Audu, a priest from the Archdiocese of Kaduna in northern Nigeria, recently told Aid to the Church in Need that the bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission has been chosen as one of six internal observers for next year’s presidential election. The first task for the observers would be to oversee next month’s registration of voters, he said. According to the priest, there are fears that religious or political factions could take advantage of poor border controls to bring immigrants into Nigeria from neighboring countries in order to register.

“To be chosen as observers is a great privilege for us,” said Fr Audu. “Of course there is apprehension, fear and some confusion, as with all elections in developing countries. But we are hopeful for a good election.”

President Olusegun Obansanjo has been barred by the senate from standing for a third term, and Fr Audu hoped that a new regime would benefit the north of the country: “The north needs a greater share of powers,” he said. “Nigeria is a rich country with its oil reserves, but it is not well-used. We need to develop others sectors as well, so that each state has something other than oil to help sustain it.”

Nigeria’s elections come at a time of unrest for the country. Fears of fragmentation along ethnic and religious lines have been increased by periodic riots and violent clashes, though Fr Audu said that Kaduna had escaped these recently: “The situation in Kaduna got to the stage where Christians had to defend themselves from attacks by Muslims. That actually helped the situation – the negative reaction (of violence) brought a positive impact, in that the clashes have stopped.”

He added: “Christians and Muslims need to live side-by-side. The Justice and Peace Commission is setting up a dialogue group to help us understand one another better, and one idea is to have a football match with mixed teams of Muslims and Christians – football can be a factor of unity! And we want to start a Peace Choir, which would play a social role, singing at seminars (on peace) and places like prisons. I am starting with the children in my parish, aged from seven to 13, and hopefully we will add Muslim children too.”

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Colombian congress to debate bill that would regulate euthanasia

Bogotá, Colombia, Aug 28, 2006 (CNA) - Colombian Senator Armando Benedetti, of the left-wing Social Party of National Unity, has sponsored a bill that would provide norms for the decriminalization of euthanasia, which the country’s High Court legalized in 1997 in cases of terminal illness.

Benedetti told reporters that euthanasia, or “assisted suicide,” should be requested by an adult or a minor who is “in full use of his mental faculties”—and in the case of a minor it should be endorsed by his parents or guardians.  However, the bill stipulates that “in cases in which an adult patient is unconscious and cannot express his wishes in writing or through any other means, his family members, or in their absence, the attending physician, shall be the one to make a written petition.”

The same would apply to minors who “have lost consciousness and cannot communicate in any way.” The bill proposes that “the attending physician, after consulting with the parents and obtaining their consent, shall administer euthanasia.”

However, the proposed bill would be in conflict with Colombia’s Medical Ethics Code, which states that doctors must “care for human life with the utmost concern and respect from the moment of conception.”

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Colombian priest killed on the island of Curacao

Medellin, Colombia, Aug 28, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Curacao, a part of the Netherlands Antilles, has reported the death of Colombian priest Father Alejandro Montoya, who was found dead at his home on August 23rd.  

According to local officials, details about the killing of the priest are sketchy but it is believed that his death occurred while his home was being burglarized.  Police have found the priest’s car, which was also stolen by the assailants, and they have detained a 43 year-old suspect.

The body of Father Montoya will be taken to Medellin in Colombia on August 28th, where it will be received by brother priests and his family.

Father Montoya was born in Medellin on September 15, 1946.  He received his seminary formation in Antioquia and afterwards was sent to the island of Curacao in the Caribbean.

Bishop Luigi Antonio Secco of Willemstad expressed his sadness at the news and called on the faithful to pray for the repose of Father Montoya’s soul.

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