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Archive of August 29, 2006

Argentinean archbishop says Church “speaks truth, in love” about abortion

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 29, 2006 (CNA) - Reacting to news that a mentally disabled woman who allegedly conceived through rape was finally administered an abortion, Archbishop Jose Maria Arancibia of Mendoza said, “The Church appeals to consciences and speaks with honesty; she trusts above all in the truth spoken with love.”

The archbishop sent a message to pastors and to the laity of his archdiocese encouraging them in their defense of human life. After expressing his sorrow over the news, he said, “We do not judge, nor condemn.  We offer our prayers to God.”

Likewise, he explained that as soon as the situation of the young woman became known, “a priest from the diocese went to the hospital” where she received the abortion.  “In such cases, the first thing to do is to listen and be informed.”

“From the beginning of this delicate issue, we have tried balance firmness and charity in the defense of life with respect for individuals and institutions,” he went on.  “This presupposes respectfully addressing the complexity of the human and ethical problem posed by the young woman’s case: the human rights of the mother and the unborn child, the respect for the law that governs us and its relationship to the moral order.  A simplification of the problem would save us a lot of headaches. But would we be acting in fidelity to the Gospel?” he asked.  “Would we not be betraying our consciences as citizens?”

Archbishop Arancibia praised Catholics for taking an interest in the issue and actively participating in the debate.  “They have made legitimate use of the means that democracy puts into the hands of citizens when they want to defend what they consider to be most important for social life,” he said.  “It is unjust to characterize their conduct as authoritarian or dogmatic.”

“What attitude should we have as Catholics towards these events?” he asked.  “We recognize and promote the legitimate laicity of the state and of the courts.  We are respectful of the institutions that govern our society.  We do not want to simply impose our faith on anybody.  We defend human values common to all, on the basis of our faith in God.  The means possessed by the Church are those of Christ: speaking to conscience, truth, and charity,” he added.

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Cardinal Bertone: a reform in the Roman Curia is indeed possible

Milan, Italy, Aug 29, 2006 (CNA) - Two weeks before starting his duties as the new Vatican secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone declared that a reform at the Roman Curia is very likely to happen, in order to make it “smaller and more agile.”

In an interview published by Il Giornale, a Milan newspaper, Cardinal Bertone noted that in the last fifty years “two reforms of the Roman Curia have been conducted, one right after the Second Vatican Council, by Pope Paul VI and another one by Pope John Paul II”.

“After almost two decades, he added, an evaluation of how the dicasteries are organized is more than comprehensible, in order to reflect on how to make the existing structures more efficient for the mission of the Church and eventually to consider whether all of them should be maintained.”

The Cardinal also pointed out that he is “optimistic” in the face of the duties he will assume in two weeks, duties which will make him the closest cooperator with Pope Benedict XVI in the government of the Church.

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Vatican Observatory director quashes rumors of anti-evolution appointment

Tucson, Ariz., Aug 29, 2006 (CNA) - Father José G. Funes, S.J., incoming director of the Vatican Observatory, has told friends that rumors he was appointed as part of the Vatican’s response to an evolution debate are “absolutely false.”

In a story appearing in the Arizona Daily Star this morning, Fr. Funes is said to have sent an e-mail to “friends” on an internet mailing list, dispelling rumors that Fr. George Coyne, his 73 year old Jesuit predecessor, was retired because of comments he made in support of evolution.  

Funes’s personal e-mail backs-up previous statements made he has made publicly.  Funes also reaffirms that Coyne had asked the Vatican to replace him in May.

The outgoing Coyne has served as head of the Vatican Observatory since 1978 - running operations both in Italy and at the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope in Arizona.  Over the past year Coyne had disputed Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn’s questioning of the theory of evolution, saying that God "lets the world be what it will be in its continuous evolution."

Last week Italian news agency ANSA reported that Schoenborn, a friend and student of Pope Benedict XVI, clarified his views, saying that his desire was not to categorically deny Darwin’s theory but simply point out that there are holes, "which (Darwin) himself recognized and regretted.”

“The open questions of the theory of evolution should be exposed,” the Cardinal said.  

Schoenborn confirmed that he and a group of former students will meet with Pope Benedict this week to study evolution and its alternatives.

“The alternative to the process of pure chance is not absolute determinism but rather the interaction between the actions of creatures and the divine creator who sustains their actions,” Schoenborn said - comments which some compare to the theory of “intelligent design.”

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Religious rights groups are incensed at “blatant assault on religious freedom in California”

Sacramento, Calif., Aug 29, 2006 (CNA) - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law yesterday, Senate Bill 1441, a bill that would potentially remove state assistance from organizations which stand-by religious beliefs deemed discriminatory towards homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, and the like.  The bill is being assailed by groups who say that the bill violates their first amendment rights by penalizing them for holding certain religious beliefs.

In a press release, the Sacramento-based Capitol Resource Institute pointed out that the bill, “will prevent parochial schools, such as private, Christian, Catholic, Mormon, and many other religious universities, from receiving student financial assistance if they also maintain a student code of conduct preventing behavior deemed immoral by their religious beliefs.”

“Forcing private education institutions to accept students engaged in behavior offensive to the school’s moral code is a serious infringement of the constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech,” the statement said.

Karen England, Executive Director of Capitol Resource Institute, said that the legislation “is an outright, blatant assault on religious freedom in California.”

“This bill is yet another attempt to prevent citizens with moral and religious principles from expressing their beliefs and educating their children according to those beliefs,” continued England. “On behalf of California families, private schools, and other private organizations, I express our outrage at this attack on our freedom.”

The release also worried about the effect a lack of scholarship support would have on society.  “By withholding state funding from schools, students’ educational opportunities will be severely limited,” the communiqué continued. “And limiting educational opportunities will result in a less diverse, less educated citizenry.”

In addition to concerns voiced for religious freedom, many disagree with the bill’s adding of the all-inclusive term “sexuality” to a list of characteristics upon which a person cannot be discriminated.

“As a citizen of California and a religious person, I am terribly disappointed in Governor Schwarzenegger,” stated Meredith Turney, Legislative Liaison for Capitol Resource Institute. “It is bad public policy to add to the list of protected classes a sexual behavior. Equating sexual preference with the immutable characteristics of age, national origin, or race will result in other variable behaviors being added to the list of invariable classes rightfully protected.”

Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families (CCF), a leading California-based pro-family organization, said that he and his associates blame Governor Schwarzenegger for not standing for their rights.  “He speaks at churches and says he believes in religious freedom and family values, yet he’s stabbing pro-family Californians in the back. People of faith are suffering under Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

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Human Genome director rejects use of science to deny existence of God

Madrid, Spain, Aug 29, 2006 (CNA) - The director of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins, says he believes in miracles and rejects the use of science for refuting the existence of God.

According to the website Caminayven.com, Dr. Collins explains in his new book “The Language of God,” which will be published in September, that “one of the great tragedies of our time is this impression that has been created that science and religion have to be at war.”  Collins also says that working on the human genome project has allowed him to, “glimpse God’s work.”

“When you take a great step forward it is a moment of scientific rejoicing because you have been searching and it seems you have found it,” he continued.  “But it is also a moment in which, at least I, feel close to the Creator in the sense that I am seeing something no human being has known before, but that God has known from all eternity.”  

“When you have before you, for the first time, these 3.1 billion words from the ‘instruction book’ which transmit all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery regarding humanity, you are incapable of contemplating page after page without feeling overwhelmed.  I cannot help but admire these pages and I have a vague sense that that is giving me a vision of the mind of God,” Dr. Collins stated.

Dr. Collins was an atheist until he was 27 years old, when a young doctor called his attention to the strength of his weakest patients. “They had terrible illnesses which they had no chance of escaping from and yet, instead of complaining to God, they seemed to lean on their faith as a source of comfort.  It was interesting, strange, and unsettling,” he said.

Later he read “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis, which helped inspire his conversion.  Collins explains that Lewis’s argument that God is a rational possibility was something, “I was not prepared to hear. I was very happy with the idea that God did not exist and that he had no interest in me.  And yet at the same time, I could not leave.”

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Free access to Plan B offers sex “with no muss and no fuss,” for virile men

Kansas City, Mo., Aug 29, 2006 (CNA) - While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to allow prescription-less access to the “Morning-after Pill” is drawing praise from abortion rights advocates, some are saying that young men who hope for sex, free of “consequences,” should rejoice as well.

In a new article decrying the approval of the pill last week, Chuck Weber, Executive Director of SaintMax Worldwide sarcastically points out that not only is Plan B a “victory” for women, it is also a “perfect game plan,” for “sex-starved guys on the prowl.”

Weber, without touching on the ethical problems of contraception itself, says the “victory” for guys is that, “No longer do men need whisper those all-too-familiar words at the height of passionate playtime: ‘do you have protection?’  This super-sized cocktail of synthetic hormones puts the burden of consequences squarely on the shoulders (or should I say ovaries?) of women.”

And Weber’s claim is even being acknowledged by women.  "Now they have one more reason to say: ‘I’m not going to use (a condom). I’ll buy you the pill in the morning,’" 23 year-old student Elizabeth Jones from New York told the Times newspaper.

Weber notes that the pill will also open the door for men who prey on minors.  “Widely available OTC access to Plan B for everyone 18 years or older - yes, men too - is an especially delicious development for adult gents who enjoy sex with minors but find the consequences (pregnancy and jail time) fouling up their lifestyle and cover-ups.”

The only way men can loose, he mockingly remarks, is if they happen to mention any possible side effects of Plan B such as abortion, nausea, and abdominal pain, or that it actually increases the risk of potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy, all of which are recognized by the company, Barr Pharmaceuticals.  In addition, Weber points out that sex starved men should also avoid mentioning there is no evidence that the legalization of Plan B actually reduces pregnancies or abortions, as many supporters have claimed.

But, even those who support abortion rights are backpedaling on previous claims that the drug will work miracles, as LifeNews pointed out in a report yesterday.  

Prior to the FDA’s decision, Planned Parenthood claimed that the drug would prevent up to 1.5 million unplanned pregnancies and 800,000 abortions per year.  When asked more recently about her group’s claims Jackie Payne, Director of Government Relations for the abortion superpower, admitted, “It will not reach that potential.”

James Trussell, director of the Office of Population Research at Princeton University, agreed with the revised estimate of what impact FDA approval will have and said it would be much lower than anticipated.

at doesn't mean zero, but it will be hard to measure because it will be so small," he told the AP. "If you look at the number of acts of unprotected intercourse on one hand, and the use of Plan B on the other, it's like a cork on the ocean."

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Archbishop reflects on anniversary of Katrina, says God will continue to bring good from suffering

New Orleans, La., Aug 29, 2006 (CNA) - Amid commemorations and ceremonies surrounding the first anniversary of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the American south, New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes took a moment to reflect on the challenges and memories resulting from the storm and to discuss the good which can come from the tremendous suffering experienced by his people.

The 73 year-old archbishop wrote in a special issue of the “Clarion Herald” of the profound changes faced by the people of his archdiocese, including himself. “I never dreamed that God would be asking me at this time in my life to assume the responsibility of shepherding this good archdiocese in the face of such overwhelming destruction.”

In addition to facing the destruction of a category 5 hurricane, the city of New Orleans was also forced to deal with a break in the levees which separated the city from Lake Pontchartrain.  The resulting water covered over 80 percent of the city.  Katrina and the resulting flooding are estimated to be responsible for $81.2 billion in damages and took the lives of at least 1,836 people, making it the costliest and one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history.

Forced to work from a command center in nearby Baton Rouge, Archbishop Hughes recalled the immediate support he received, which allowed him begin offering assistance to his flock within 48 hours of the storm.

“Communication was extremely difficult,” the archbishop recalled, “but we mounted a humanitarian and pastoral response that made it possible to assist rescue workers, provide food to the needy (almost 40 million pounds in the first four months) and pastoral care to the people in the shelters.”

“Catholic Charities mounted an extraordinary effort to provide survival assistance to those most in need (more than $6 million to date). Perhaps the most remarkable story was the restoration of schools so quickly to help stabilize family life and to provide education to children across racial and religious lines,” Hughes said.
 
Hughes said he thanks God for the many priests and staff members who worked as a team to provide the rapid response.  He also made note of the service several priests offered during and after the catastrophe, tending to the injured and those in need at the Superdome, where thousands sought shelter; the airport, where a giant medical station was set up; and in surround cities, to which many refugees fled.

“A crisis like this makes it clear how important it is to have good people in place to respond quickly and effectively.”

“Many people have asked me why God could have allowed this to happen. Lord Jesus has revealed to us, God’s ways are far more mysterious than ours. God is a loving God who, even when he allows suffering, wants to draw greater good. St. Paul has promised us that for those who love God all things will turn unto good. I have experienced God’s grace. I have been strengthened by the extraordinary support of so many good people, both here in the archdiocese and in the country at large.”

“I believe God is calling us to a new New Orleans wherein people of every race, ethnic and economic background are welcome and live together in harmony,” the archbishop continued.  “I believe that God is asking us to be a people of lively faith, earnest hope and self-sacrificial love.

Turning to the difficulties ahead, the archbishop mentioned a few areas of social concern.  “As we continue to contribute to the rebuilding of our archdiocese and the metropolitan area in accordance with our own abilities, gifts and roles, I believe that God is already helping us to experiment with a new kind of public education that will be more effective for our children. I believe God is asking us to find a new way to offer health care to all, irrespective of income or social standing. I believe that God is inviting our public officials to be persons of integrity, lead with conviction and truly serve the common good.”

“This is a moment to remember in prayer those whom we have lost, to reclaim a vision for the future and both to pray and work for a renewal that will transform the Church and wider community,” Hughes concluded. “God grant us this grace.”
 

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Appointment for Italian Archdiocese end rumors of immediate changes in the Curia

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco to be the new Archbishop of Genoa (Italy) today, replacing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and thus ending speculation on new changes in the Curia.  

Several Italian vaticanisti, had been speculating that Pope Benedict would move a member of the Roman Curia to succeed Cardinal Bertone, who will become Secretary of State the Holy See.  The move would allow the Holy Father to continue his rumored plan of changes for the Vatican’s leadership.

However, the new Archbishop of Genoa, 63 year old Bagnasco comes from the ranks of the Italian episcopate.

Archbishop Bagnasco was born on Jan 14th, 1943 at Pontevico and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Genoa on June 29, 1966.

In 1998 he was appointed Bishop of Pesaro, and in June 2003 was appointed by Pope John Paul II as the new Archbishop of the Military Services for Italy.

No announcement was made as to who will succeed Bagnasco at the Archdiocese of Military Services.

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Abortion becomes hot issue in Nicaraguan elections

Managua, Nicaragua, Aug 29, 2006 (CNA) - A candidate for the presidency in Nicaragua has sparked a heated public debate after his public comments in support of therapeutic abortion.  Edmundo Jarquin of the Sandinista Renewal Party told reporters, this week, that he backs a proposed Penal Code reform that would allow abortion.

As the other presidential candidates rushed to assure the public they are pro-life, feminist leaders warned they would vote against any candidate that does not support the legalization of abortion.

Candidate Eden Pastora, who is a former guerilla leader, distanced himself from Jarquin saying, “This is a tough issue.  We should not get involved because this is a case of individual conscience before God, science, and one’s family,” he said.

Jose Antonio Alvarado of the Liberal Constitutionalist Party told reporters, “We are totally pro-life.  Every effort humanly possible must be made to save and respect the lives of our citizens.”

Eduardo Montealegre of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alianza said he supported the right to life and he recalled the experience of the birth of his daughter at only 26 weeks of gestation.  She will soon turn 18.

In October the Nicaraguan congress is expected to debate the proposed changes to the Penal Code that would allow for therapeutic abortion, but would punish those who cause “injury or illness that would seriously endanger the normal development of the unborn.”

Ana Maria Pizarro of the Autonomous Women’s Movement, told reporters that feminists are ready to vote against any candidates that do not support the legalization of abortion.

Rafael Cabrera, president of Nicaraguans for Life, noted that doctors have the obligation “to try to save life and cure the mother and the baby inasmuch as it is possible.”

“I would not vote for anyone who wants to kill the innocent, who wants to violate the right to life.  I would not vote for anybody who wants to destroy the lives of those who cannot defend themselves,” he stated.

Father Miguel Mantica, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Managua, underscored that “every candidate should be free to explain his ideas and should do so honestly, because it would be very negative to go around saying things that one does not believe, only for the purpose of gaining votes.”

“All people of good will and who have principles should defend life, and thus therapeutic abortion, which has opened the door to abortion on demand in other countries, must be opposed in the most open way,” Father Mantica said, adding that the Bishops of Nicaragua would be sending a letter to congress calling for the removal of abortion from the Penal Code.

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Priest says the Mass helps tiny Turkmenistanian Church survive

Konigstein, Germany, Aug 29, 2006 (CNA) - Father Andrzej Madej, OMI, head of the mission ‘sui-iuris’ in Turkmenistan, spoke to Aid to the Church in Need recently of the tiny group of faithful Catholics who he serves in Turkmenistan and how their strength is sustained by the Eucharist.

According to Father Madej, there are not more than 64 baptised Catholics, about 50 Catechumens and an equal number of ‘friends of our faith’ in the Central Asian former Soviet Republic, which has some 5 million – overwhelmingly Muslim – inhabitants. “But catechetical work with adults and youths, prayer, particularly the Holy Rosary, and, most of all, the celebration of the Eucharist helps us survive and gives our community an inner dynamism and strength” the 55-year-old Polish missionary said.

Fr Madej, who is based in Asgabat, the Turkmenian capital, added: “Psychologically, we do feel isolated (from the rest of the Church): There are just two Catholic priests working in the country, but no nuns and no churches. Mass and all other religious activities have to take place in private homes.”

He went on to explain: “When I met with Pope John Paul II – five months before his death – I showed him a stone from Kopet-Dag mountain and said: ‘Holy Father, one day we hope to build a Catholic church in our country.’ The Pope then blessed the stone, which I am now keeping in my room, but hopefully not for a very long time.”

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Ring belonging to John Paul II stolen from Chilean museum

Santiago, Chile, Aug 29, 2006 (CNA) - A gold ring that belonged to the late Pope John Paul II has been stolen from a religious museum in the Chilean city of Coquimbo, located 450 kilometers north of Santiago.

According to the newspaper “El Mercurio,” the ring, which was donated in October of 2000 by the Pope, was stolen when burglars broke a window and entered the Shrine of the Cross of the Third Millennium, where the museum is located.

The director of the shrine, Ramon Bravo, revealed that the thieves, believed to be a man and a woman, also stole two golden pectoral crosses that were donated by the Apostolic Nuncio to Chile, Archbishop Aldo Cavalli.

He said the stolen objects, which have a combined commercial value of $600,000, are of enormous “religious and sentimental value” to Coquimbo.

Bravo also said that after the robbery, a gold ring and a silver pectoral cross donated in 2002 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger were taken off display.

Local police officials have alerted jewelers and collectors to be on the lookout for the precious items.

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