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Archive of September 15, 2006

Muslims outraged at Pope’s words, Vatican says he did not intend to offend

Vatican City, Sep 15, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI did not intend to offend Muslims with remarks about holy war during his pilgrimage in Germany this week, the Vatican said.  The Pontiff’s remarks, which briefly touched on the irrationality of forcefully compelling people to “believe” in a religion have drawn outrage from several voices in the Muslim world.
 
"It certainly wasn't the intention of the Pope to carry out a deep examination of jihad (holy war) and on Muslim thought on it, much less to offend the sensibility of Muslim believers," said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi in a statement late yesterday.

Several Muslim clerics have called on the Pope to apologize for his statements, made during a speech at the University of Regensburg this week.  However, some militant Islamic websites have gone further, unleashing a scathing campaign against the Pope, reported The Associated Press. The incident may also create tensions for the pontiff’s November visit with Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Turkey, which is 99 percent Muslim.
 
In his statement, Fr. Lombardi insisted that the pontiff respects Islam and wants to "cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward the other religions and cultures, obviously also toward Islam.”
 
"That which is at the pope's heart is a clear and radical refusal of the religious motivation of violence," he continued.
 
The remarks at which Muslims have taken offence were made by the Pope Tuesday, while in Germany. The Pope had quoted from a book recounting a conversation between 14th-century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and “an educated Persian” on the truths of Christianity and Islam.
 
"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the Pope said.

"He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached,'" he quoted the emperor as saying.
 
The Pontiff clearly indicated that his quote was simply that, a quote, and moved from the quote to a discussion of the need of greater interreligious understanding.  Fr. Lombardi noted that, “what emerges clearly from the Holy Father's discourses is a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid 'the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom.'”

“A just consideration of the religious dimension is, in fact, an essential premise for fruitful dialogue with the great cultures and religions of the world. And indeed, in concluding his address in Regensburg, Benedict XVI affirmed how 'the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions,” Lombardi said.

According to the AP, Turkey's top Islamic cleric asked Benedict to apologize about the remarks and unleashed a string of accusations against Christianity.
 
The head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate Ali Bardakoglu said he was deeply offended by the Pope’s remarks, calling them "extraordinarily worrying, saddening and unfortunate."
 
In Egypt, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, the leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, also called for an apology.
 
"The remarks do not express correct understanding of Islam and are merely wrong and distorted beliefs being repeated in the West," Akef said in a statement. Akef said he was "astonished that such remarks come from someone who sits on top of the Catholic Church which has its influence on the public opinion in the West."
 
The 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, based in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia said it regretted "the pope's quote and for the other falsifications."
 
Muhammad Ayash al-Kubaisi, a Sharia professor at Qatar University, has invited Pope Benedict XVI to participate in a public debate to challenge his recent comments about Islam. The professor sent the invitation in a letter to the pope on Thursday, reported Aljazeera.

It described the pope's statements as evidence of ignorance of Islamic teachings. It said such statements could allow the United States to justify their military operations in the Middle East and trigger cultural and religious clashes between the east and west.
 
The letter expressed shock at the Pope's statement and said everyone expects the pontiff to join the efforts to bridge the gap between east and west.

Al-Kubaisi said that the Pope should take a look at verse 2: 256 of the Quran, which says there is to be "no force in religion." 

Pope Benedict actually quoted that exact verse, even citing the paragraph number, at the beginning of his remarks.

For the full text of the Holy Father’s remarks see our special coverage at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/bavaria06/message9.htm

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Former Democratic Committee Chairman asks, can you be Catholic and a Democrat?

Manchester, N.H., Sep 15, 2006 (CNA) - David Carlin has been a Democrat nearly his entire life. The former Rhode Island State Senator and Chairman of his local Democratic Party, began voting for Democrats in 1960, when John F. Kennedy was elected the first Catholic President of the United States.  Nearly 50 years later Carlin is still a registered Democrat, but has written a book wondering if his Catholicism can still be reconciled with the party of his youth.

Carlin, who even received his party’s nomination for a U.S. Congressional seat in 1992, told the Catholic News Agency that he was motivated to write his new book, “Can a Catholic be a Democrat: How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of My Religion,” after years of frustration with his changing party.

While he notes that the power and leadership of the party has been shifting for years, Carlin now wonders if reconciliation between his faith and his party is possible any more.

Liberalism, Carlin said, can be divided into three categories: the “old, New-Deal liberals,” who came when the party was pro-labor, those who came into the party during the civil rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s, and those who joined following the moral revolution of the 60’s and 70’s.  

These later Democrats, who now run the party, Carlin noted, are pro-abortion, in favor of homosexual marriage and sexual libertarianism.  

And while many of his generation, those who joined the party due to its support of labor and civil rights, are still registered Democrats, Carlin said it’s only a matter of time before they recognize that the party has abandoned them.  

“Under the Democratic party of Roosevelt,” he said, “there was virtually no tension between Catholicism and the party’s platforms.”

But, Carlin continued, that’s not the case any more, “there’s been a divergence of Catholic views and Democratic views.  People like Howard Dean have a whole different set of attitudes.”
 
“Gone are the days of the political bosses who gained their power from the voice of the common man banding together,” Carlin lamented. Today’s Democratic Party is run by those with the most money - those who can fund the massive media campaigns necessary for election.  “And the wealthy leadership of the party is made up of secularists.”

And whereas Catholicism and some other Christian denominations continue to speak out against the permissiveness promoted by modern liberals, Carlin noted, the party has also become anti-Christian.

Carlin, who in addition to his life in the political realm is also a scholar and professor of Philosophy and Sociology, told CNA that, broadly speaking, there are three large groups of Democratic Christians that the party is in danger of loosing: white Protestants, black Protestants, and Catholics.

Many of the white Protestants who were a part of the New-deal and civil rights party that he himself joined have either compromised their religious beliefs for the sake of the party or realized the new route their party has taken and already left.

And it seems that many of them have become Republicans.  An August 26th study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life asked which party was more “friendly to religion;” Republicans had a 47-to-26 percent advantage over Democrats.

Black Christians, who Carlin said are typically more morally conservative and pro-family are also beginning to see the trend themselves, being forced to wonder how far they will go with a party which is off track morally.

“Catholics,” he said, “are realizing the conflict between their faith and the leadership of the party, much more slowly.”

The same Pew study found that almost half (47%) of Democrats polled wish that religion had a more important impact on government and 70% of those who identified themselves as “moderate” or “conservative” Democrats said that “liberals have gone too far in keeping religion out of government.” 

So, what is keeping Catholics in the Democratic party, and can they still reconcile their beliefs with the party line?

Carlin said that for the most part Catholics have simply not sat down and connected the dots.  They refuse to recognize that Roosevelt and civil rights Democrats no longer have power and that the party has left them.

He also noted that this realization could have happened long ago if there was better clerical leadership, guiding the Catholic conscience a bit more.

As it is, much of the party’s traditional base is slowly eroding, he said. And as Catholics and Black Christians continue to recognize that being a Democrat is not what it used to be, the party will find it more and more difficult to win elections.

The party has, indeed, started to take notice of the trend.  Just this year the Democratic National Committee boosted its outreach to Christians, even conducting a study as to how they might sway the Catholic and Christian votes more to their favor.  There has also been a media blitz of sorts, with numerous articles and blogs have popping up, declaring that the party is faith-friendly.

In the end, though, the divide may already be too great to bridge.  Carlin said while he would love the party to return to its roots, he’s not hopeful that it will happen, especially not in his lifetime.


Carlin’s book is available from Sophia Institute Press at www.sofiainstitute.com

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Pope’s new “Foreign Minister” hails from Muslim world

Vatican City, Sep 15, 2006 (CNA) - As the changes at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State kick into high gear today, Pope Benedict XVI moved quickly to fill a vacant slot with a man born and raised in mostly Islamic Morocco.  Archbishop Dominique Mamberti will take charge as the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States after having served as the Pope’s representative to such troubled zones as Sudan and Somalia.

Benedict made his announcement just after welcoming Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as the new head of the Secretariat of State.  Mamberti will work under Bertone and takes over for Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, who also started his new job as the “Governor” of the Vatican City State today.

The 54 year old Mamberti was born in Marrakech, Morocco in 1952.  He was ordained a priest in 1981, for the French Diocese of Ajaccio, on the island of Corsica.  

The archbishop completed degrees in both civil and cannon law before entering service with the Vatican’s diplomatic corps in 1986.  As a priest, he served tours in the Vatican delegations to Algeria, Chile, and Lebanon, as well as serving a stint at the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the U.N., in New York.

Prior to being made a bishop and sent to the Sudan in 2002 Mamberti also worked in the offices of the section he now leads.  

He served as Apostolic Nuncio to Sudan and Delegate to Somalia for two years, working with the bishops in those countries as they attempted to achieve peace between their people and radical Muslims.  In February of 2004 he was appointed Nuncio to nearby Eritrea, where he has served to the present.  

The Vatican lists Mamberti as fluent in French, Italian, English, and Spanish.

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Czech bishops announce papal visit for 2007

Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2006 (CNA) - The Czech Bishops’ Conference announced Thursday that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted an invitation by the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, to visit the Czech Republic in 2007.

Quoting the bishops’ spokeswoman, Katerina Rozova, the Efe news agency reported, “They both agreed that such a visit could take place during the first half of September” next year.

According to Rozova, the Czech cardinal “invited the Holy Father during a private conversation in Bavaria.”  However, she noted, “the official protocols have not taken place yet; rather, it was only accepted privately.”

Rozova also explained that there was no special reason occasion for the visit, but that the cardinal invited him “because he is the new Pope.”

Pope John Paul II visited Czechoslovakia in April of 1990 and the Czech Republic twice, in May of 1995 and April of 1997.

The Holy See has yet to confirm the announcement.

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Court of Appeals in Chile puts hold on distribution of morning-after pill to minors

Santiago, Chile, Sep 15, 2006 (CNA) - The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Chile has put a hold on the distribution of the morning after pill to minors aged 14-18 without a prescription and without parental consent after two legal challenges to the government’s decision to distribute the drug.

The two lawsuits, one filed by the mayor of the town of La Florida, Pablo Zalaquett, and the other by Juan Antonio Espina and Cristian Lagos, argue that the decision by the Chilean Ministry of Health jeopardizes the rights of parents to choose how their children will be educated, above all in affective and sexual matters.

The Court has given the Health Ministry five days to review its decision.  After that it must present documents that support the distribution of the pill to minors.

Government spokesman Ricardo Lagos Weber said, “The government is within its right to defend this policy” and “we are going to defend it in the courts.”

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Vatican to unveil necropolis discovered in parking lot dig

Vatican City, Sep 15, 2006 (CNA) - Vatican Museum archaeologists will unveil a necropolis next month, including a section discovered three years ago during the construction of a parking lot in Vatican City.

The Vatican Museums said the dig had revealed several burial structures and sarcophagi, along with tomb decorations including frescoes, mosaic floors, and inscriptions. Most of the tombs are well-preserved and date from between the era of Augustus (23 B.C. to 14 A.D.) to Constantine (306-337), reported The Associated Press.

Guided visits to the newly discovered necropolis will be part of celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of the Vatican Museums.

The Vatican has said the necropolis is only second in importance to the one underneath St. Peter's Basilica. 

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Family-diversity model has failed, traditional marriage must be protected by law, scholars say

Manassas, Va., Sep 15, 2006 (CNA) - For the first time, more than 100 legal and family scholars have signed a collective document declaring that family law should do a better job protecting marriage for the benefit of society and children and noting that the “family-diversity model” has failed.

“Family law as a discipline has badly lagged behind the social sciences in incorporating the evidence that marriage matters to children and society,” a press release on the document notes.  Many respected and influential voices in family law … reject the idea that law and society should support and affirm marriage, arguing instead for a family diversity model,” the signatories write.

The family-diversity model promotes the idea that no family form is superior to any other family form. It also “transforms family fragmentation from a social problem into a sign of progress” and maintains that marriage is not the preferred context for childraising, but only one of many possible and equal family forms from which adults have the right to choose.
 
“But 40 years of social experimentation has demonstrated conclusively: the ‘family diversity’ experiment has failed,” the signatories bluntly state.

“A major goal of marriage and family law should be supporting civil society’s efforts to strengthen marriage, so that more children are raised by their own married mother and father in loving, lasting unions,” the signatories say in what they describe as their common commitment in the ongoing national debate.

The document, called "Marriage and the Law: A Statement of Principles," was released this week by the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.

The document leads with a statement on marriage that appears in a ruling, written by Justice Stephen Johnson Field in Maynard v. Hill, which says: “[Marriage] is something more than a mere contract. . . . It is an institution, in the maintenance of which in its purity the public is deeply interested, for it is the foundation of the family and of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”
Justice Stephen Johnson Field, Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 210-11 (1888)

The signatories said they come together “to affirm seven great truths about marriage and the law.”

The first truth, they say, is that “marriage and family law is fundamentally oriented towards creating and protecting the next generation.”

The second truth is that marriage protects children. “The primary way that marriage protects children is by increasing the likelihood that a child will know and be known by, love and be loved by, his or her mother and father in a single family union,” they say.

Thirdly, “marriage is first and foremost a social institution, created and sustained by civil society.” While the law sometimes creates institutions, sometimes the law recognizes an institution that pre-exists law and which it cannot meaningfully create.

“No laws, and no set of lawyers, legislators, or judges, can summon a social institution like marriage into being merely by legal fiat,” the signatories write. “Marriage and family therefore can never be reduced to a legal construct, a mere creature of the state.”

Fourth, the law’s understanding of marriage is powerful. Fifth, marriage is irreplaceable social good, which impacts on the well-being of society and children. Sixth, a high divorce rate, unmarried childbearing, as well as violent or high-conflict marriages, hurt children. And finally, a good society cares about the suffering of children.

The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to high quality research and public education on ways that law and public policy can strengthen marriage as a social institution.

For more information, go to www.marriagedebate.org

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Chinese officials take away young bishop

, Sep 15, 2006 (CNA) - A young Chinese bishop, whose episcopal ordination was approved by the Vatican but not recognized by the government, was taken away by plainclothes officers who broke into the cathedral compound.

According to UCA News, Bishop Joseph Wu Qinjing of Zhouzhi was taken away Sept. 11 at 10:15 p.m. from Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral. His whereabouts remain unknown.

About 20 officers entered the compound and made their way to the room of the 38-year-old bishop. They knocked on his door without disclosing their identity.

When Bishop Wu opened the door, he was taken immediately to one of the vehicles parked outside the compound. Onlookers and others living on the cathedral compound saw two of the officers grab the bishop's shoulders while a third officer slapped him.

Fr. Song Guangyu of Zhouzhi told UCA News Sept. 14 that some local priests went to the provincial religious affairs office in Xi'an, the Shaanxi capital, to protest against the abuse of religious freedom and human rights.

They asked to see the bishop and give him some daily supplies, but were refused. They threatened to organize a demonstration in the city if officials did not give reasons for the assault and guarantee the prelate's safety.

Officials have already taken Bishop Wu away a few times since May, for questioning and to attend learning classes on the "Religious Affairs Regulations" that took effect last year.

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Short film produced by Spanish Salesian has successful run at Sundance

Madrid, Spain, Sep 15, 2006 (CNA) - The short film “A Girl Named Mary” (“Una chica llamada María”) by Spanish Salesian Father Angel J. Fernandez was awarded fourth place in the Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, according to Europa Press.

The film also received honorable mentions for “Best Short Film on Human Values,” “Best Photography,” and “Best Young Actor.”

“A Girl Named Mary,” which competed with 238 other films, is described as a modern-day portrayal of the story of the Annunciation. Because it won fourth place, it is expected that the film will be shown on various television networks in October.

The actors and crew involved in the film were young amateurs.  In addition to this film, Father Fernandez has also created a television series that analyzes the day-to-day problems of young people from a Christian perspective.

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Vatican cardinal says assistance mentality has not solved poverty in Latin America

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 15, 2006 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, said history has shown that a mentality of simply giving assistance without fostering change (“asistencialismo”) has not solved the problem of poverty in Latin America, and instead “has aggravated it and favors corruption as well.”

During the Second Latin American and Caribbean Congress on the Social Doctrine of the Church, which took place in Mexico and was organized by CELAM, the cardinal said solidarity without subsidies “often leads to deceptive assistance, which should be definitively renounced because the recent history of many countries in the region shows that it has not provided an effective and long-lasting solution to the problems of development and to the combating of poverty.”

Cardinal Martino recalled the words of Pope John Paul II, who lamented that because of poverty “too many people live a life without hope.”   Nevertheless, he cautioned against “falling into the temptation of looking at and treating the masses of the poor as a problem, instead of as subjects and protagonists of a better and more humane future for the world.”

On the other hand, he worried that in the majority of Latin American countries, the poor are viewed as unable to be integrated into globalization.  They are people, the cardinal said, “who do not see how the State and the markets can help them, support them and pull them out of exclusion.”

He explained that this situation is linked to “backward ideas and stagnation” in the democratic processes, caused by “not keeping promises and by the perception (of the populace) that these systems do not contribute to improving the situation of the majority.”   In addition, he added, there are the problems of drug trafficking, corruption, lack of security, “silent attacks against life in its beginnings,” and the lack of full religious freedom.  

Cardinal Martino called for the building of “a continent for all” and he invited people to follow the principles of the social doctrine of the Church, in which the defense and promotion of human rights are fundamental.  These rights should have “clear boundaries that no political, judicial, national or international body can cross,” he added.

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