Archive of September 18, 2006

Pope’s trip to Turkey still on

Istanbul, Turkey, Sep 18, 2006 (CNA) - According to parties on both sides, Pope Benedict XVI’s November trip to Turkey will continue as planned, despite violent reactions on the part of many Muslims to a speech he made last week.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said yesterday that his government would not block the visit.  “As far as we are concerned, there are no changes to the program,” Turkish news service Hürriyet reported.

Gul said that the Pope’s words were “particularly unfortunate” during a period in which, “the United Nations and countries in general are working to create an atmosphere of better understanding between religions and cultures.”

The Pontiff made a speech in Germany last week, in which he spoke of fostering greater cultural and religious understanding and respect.  However, in the middle of his speech he quoted a 14th Century Byzantine emperor who said that violent Islam was “evil and inhuman.”  Despite clarifications by the Vatican and the Pope himself, insisting that people read his entire speech, most have only quoted the portion that seems to slight Islam and the prophet Mohammed.

The Vatican has not given any official indication that the trip is in question.  On Sunday Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, told the press that he hopes the trip will occur and that, “there is currently nothing that we can see which would prevent it."

However, according to Italian daily “Corriere della Sera” the schedule of the trip might be slightly adjusted.  The paper reports that a meeting between Pope Benedict and Ali Bardarkoglu, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Minister is in question.  Bardarkoglu has been one of the most vocal critics of Benedict’s words and was one of the first to demand an apology.

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Philadelphia priests listen to victims’ stories

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 18, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Philadelphia took another step toward reconciliation with victims of sexual abuse last week, when three people recounted the abuse they and their family experienced by clergy.

"The fallout is indescribable," said the mother of two abused sons at the Friday afternoon gathering of about 500 priests, bishops and seminarians at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Her sons, now adults, became suicidal and alcoholic, and were deeply compromised as husbands and fathers, she said. One son is in prison.

Victoria Cubberley, 56, recounted how, when she was a teenager, three priests exploited her chaotic family situation by forcing her to have sex after she sought their help.

"This speech is but a whisper of the horrific screams that reverberate through my being to this very day," Cubberley reportedly said.

"It's as if the priest has sucked the soul out of the person and replaced it with just a vacuum, a deadness," said the third victim, Ed Morris, 44.

This was the first such gathering in the history of the archdiocese. Cardinal Justin Rigali chose the feast day of Our Mother of Sorrows for the gathering, and urged all local priests to attend.

Mary Achilles, the archdiocese's victims' assistance coordinator, said the gathering, called Witness to Sorrow, was timed in part to mark the first anniversary of the Philadelphia grand jury report on sex abuse in the archdiocese. A prayer service in the chapel followed the testimonies.

Fr. George Majoros of Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish described the event as a "very profound experience" that would propel him “to be a bridge to any victim or families who have been hurt."

"We need to be compassionate, better listeners. We need to protect the most vulnerable at all times. We need to listen more to the victims like we did tonight," Fr. Majoros told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "My hope is that their tears will help show us how to make things better - that this never happens again."

Keith Chylinski, a seminarian in his last-year, said he was deeply moved by the evening. He said the seminary has addressed the issue of clergy abuse. "It's given me greater resolve for us to be holy priests. That's going to be the only solution to all of this," he reportedly said.

The evening was shown live on a streaming video on the archdiocese's website. The archdiocese plans to archive the video on its site,

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Pope: the Cross is a symbol of the Love that overcomes hatred and violence

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2006 (CNA) - Following a statement regretting the violence that has erupted in reaction to his quotation of a 14th Century emperor last week, Pope Benedict continued his weekly Angelus address with a reflection on the feasts of the Exaltation of the Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows, which also occurred last week.

The two liturgical feasts, the Pope noted, come together, “in the traditional image of the Crucifixion, with the Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross.”

"What does it mean to exalt the Cross?” the Pope asked, asking if it was not a scandal to venerate the “shameful” tool of execution.

Yet, he continued, "Christians do not exalt any cross, but that particular Cross which Jesus sanctified with His sacrifice, fruit and witness of immense love.”

“Christ on the Cross spilt all His blood to free humanity from the slavery of sin and death. And thus, from a sign of iniquity, the Cross has been transformed to a sign of blessing, from a symbol of death to the symbol par excellence of the Love that overcomes hatred and violence, and generates immortal life," the Pope said.
In the same way, Benedict went on, Mary's suffering "forms a single whole with that of her Son. It is a suffering full of faith and love. The Virgin at Calvary participates in the salvific power of Christ's suffering, uniting her 'fiat' to that of her Son."
"Let us too renew our 'yes' to God Who chose the way of the Cross to save us,” he concluded. It is a great mystery that is still taking place, until the end of the world, and that also needs our collaboration," the Pope concluded.

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Security beefed up at potential Catholic targets as threats of retaliation continue

Castelgandolfo, Italy, Sep 18, 2006 (CNA) - Police across Italy have been ordered to raise security at potential Catholic targets, after Pope Benedict XVI angered Muslims last week with remarks against Islam, reported The Associated Press.

The Pope said he was “deeply sorry” for having offended Muslims with is remarks, which he said came from a text that did not even reflect his personal opinion.

Security was higher than usual at the papal palace in Castelgandolfo yesterday, where the Pope gave his usual message and prayed the Angelus with the faithful. Sharpshooters kept watch from a balcony while police dressed like tourists monitored the crowd.

However, at the Vatican, no additional security measures could be seen as tourists strolled across St. Peter's Square, reported the AP.

Despite the Pope's apology, protests and violence persisted across the Muslim world. Two more churches were set ablaze in the West Bank. Two armed Iraqi groups also threatened the Vatican with reprisals, in statements posted yesterday on the Internet, reported the Khaleej Times Sept. 17.

“Know that the soldiers of Mohammed will come sooner or later to shake your throne and the foundations of your state,” said the group Asaeb Al Iraq Al Jihadiya (League of Jihadists in Iraq), which often posts online video footage including attacks on American targets in the country.

It called on “all Muslims” to retaliate against “Christians and Jews, whose religions are hostile to Islam.”

Jaish Al Mujahedeen (the Mujahedeen’s Army) threatened on Saturday to strike at Rome and the Vatican. The group posted another statement issued on Sunday, saying that the group’s reply “will come with deeds, not words.”

Meanwhile a radical Islamic leader in London, England called for the Pope to be executed.  Anjem Choudary, who spoke at a demonstration he organized in front of London’s Catholic cathedral, said “Whoever insults the message of Mohammed is going to be subject to capital punishment.”

He also insinuated that perhaps Italian Muslims might want to carry out the death sentence saying, “there may be people in Italy or other parts of the world who would carry that out.”

"I think that warning needs to be understood by all people who want to insult Islam and want to insult the prophet of Islam."

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US bishops support UN resolution for Darfur

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has urged President George W. Bush and congressional leaders to work with greater urgency to help end the humanitarian disaster in Darfur. Yesterday, September 17th, marked the worldwide Global Day for Darfur.

“While the security situation continues to deteriorate in Darfur, the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the 2.5 million who have fled their homes and the million more at risk of starvation has become a deadly challenge. A dozen aid workers have lost their lives since June,” said Bishop Thomas Wenski in a statement, issued Sept. 15.

“With as many as 400,000 dead, we also renew our call to the administration to redouble its efforts to end the intolerable moral and humanitarian crisis in Darfur through sustained, high-level engagement that will ensure the compliance of the Sudanese government with its obligations under international law,” he continued. Bishop Wenski serves as chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Policy.

The U.S. bishops also said they support a resolution authorizing a United Nations mission to take over and build upon the inadequately equipped and understaffed peacekeepers from the African Union.

The appointment of a “special envoy who could focus diplomatic energies on attaining a comprehensive and lasting solution to the conflict,” Bishop Wenski said, would also be an effective step forward.

The bishop noted that while a peace agreement signed by the Sudanese government and one of the rebel groups in May offered hope that the conflict could end, Sudanese authorities have opposed a resolution to replace the African Union peacekeepers with a UN mission.

The USCCB is a member of the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of over 170 faith-based, advocacy and humanitarian organizations dedicated to raising public awareness about the ongoing crisis in Darfur.

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Argentinean daily publishes story on baby Martin, survivor of abortion

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 18, 2006 (CNA) - Amidst the controversy over two mentally disabled women who were permitted to undergo abortions in Mendoza and La Plata, an Argentinean newspaper has published a story on Martin, a healthy boy who was saved from abortion four years ago and today lives happily with his adopted family.

The newspaper “La Capital” published the story about the baby and how his great-grandmother saved him.

“Teresa is 64, works as a maid and lives on the south side of Rosario.  Together with her husband she raised her granddaughter Marta since the time she was six months old, when she came down with meningitis and suffered serious neurological damage.  Since then, Marta calls Teresa ‘Mommy,’ although she is really her grandmother,” the story indicates.

Marta is now 25 but she thinks she is only 2. Her illness left her with speech impediments, an inability to read and write, and difficulty using her hands.

When Marta turned 20, Teresa’s husband died and she intended to leave her granddaughter with her biological mother so that she could take care of her family’s affairs.

“Four months later she received an urgent phone call to come pick up Marta.  ‘I found her beaten, her head shaved, and she was pregnant.  I wanted to die,’ Teresa recalled.

She filed rape charges and took her granddaughter to the doctor.  “The doctor told me it was a shame I hadn’t taken her earlier because, he said, they could have removed it,” she said.  Marta was already five months pregnant at the time.

Nevertheless, Teresa said, “From the first moment, I said we were not going to get an abortion, even if Marta had been pregnant only one month.  Although it happened because of rape, the innocent child is not to blame.  Marta was carrying a life inside her and I could not allow it (the abortion).  I was only concerned that Marta was okay, especially during the delivery.  Afterwards we would see what we would do with the baby,” she said.

On April 16, 2002, a healthy boy named Martin was born.

“Although many people see Marta and think she doesn’t understand anything because of her mental age, she welcomed her baby with tears and immediately embraced him.  She cared for him during one whole year.  With the help of her grandmother, she learned to nurse him, ‘she laughed with him and even learned to change his diapers’,” Teresa added.  Although Marta loved the child, the family knew she would not able to take care of him and they decided to give him up for adoption.

One of Teresa’s cousins decided to adopt the baby.  “I told them I could not give him much money but I could love him and raise him,” the adoptive mother said, adding that Marta often comes to visit her son.  “Today little Martin is four years old and his mischievous smile brightens his face,” she continued.  “He loves videogames and birthdays.”

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US bishops join call urging Amnesty International to stay out of abortion debate

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has warned Amnesty International that a proposal to abandon its neutral stance on abortion for a policy of advocating for abortion as a “human right” will jeopardize the organization’s excellent record as a champion for human rights.

“To abandon this long-held [neutral] position would be a tragic mistake,” wrote Bishop William Skylstad in a letter to Irene Khan, the secretary general of Amnesty International.

Amnesty International’s work would be “harmed by this unprecedented and unnecessary involvement in the abortion debate,” the bishop warned. The USCCB joins the British and Canadian bishops who, in recent months, have cautioned Amnesty International on the same point.

Noting that the USCCB has worked with Amnesty International on a range of issues - most recently on a campaign to end the death penalty in the United States - Bishop Skylstad urged the organization not to “dilute or divert its mission by adopting a position that many see as fundamentally incompatible with a full commitment to human rights and that will deeply divide those working to defend human rights.”

“If Amnesty International were to advocate for abortion as a human right, it would risk diminishing its own well-deserved moral credibility,” Bishop Skylstad said. “It certainly would most likely divide its own members, many of whom are Catholic, and others who defend the rights of unborn children.”

The bishop pointed out that abortion is not considered a human right in international law, and both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the recently adopted United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning uphold the principal of the dignity of the unborn child.

“The right to life itself is fundamental,” Bishop Skylstad said. “This is no peculiarity of Catholic teaching, but an insight of the ‘natural law’ tradition of human rights that has produced so many advances in upholding human dignity.” 

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Holy Father speaks for Muslims who reject violence, says Vatican expert

Rome, Italy, Sep 18, 2006 (CNA) - Commenting on Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks given at the University of Ratisbona, the rector of the Pontifical Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies, Father Justo Lacunza, said last week, “The Pope has made himself spokesman of millions of people around the world, including Muslims, who believe that there is no need to mix violence with religion.”

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Father Lacunza said, “The Pontiff simply underscored that violence or war have no religious foundation.”

“By saying this, the Pope has simply echoed the sentiments and desires of millions of Muslims who in one way or another say: ‘violence and Islam cannot go hand in hand.  We are Muslims and we want to be Muslim believers in today’s world and thus be against those who use religion to harm others through violence.’  Religion cannot be the basis of any conflict, war or any other form of violence or attack, or of the will to eliminate others,” Father Lacunza emphasized.

In explaining the reaction of the Muslim world to the words of Benedict XVI, Father Lacunza pointed to two motives. “The first has to do with the Islamic world and that Muslims are very, very sensitive to everything that is said about Islam, especially by those who are not part of the Muslim faith.  And the second is that the Pope has touched upon a very delicate issue: violence and war.”

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Science, technology and ethics must all coalesce in stem cell research, says Pope

Castelgandolfo, Italy, Sep 18, 2006 (CNA) - On Friday, Pope Benedict XVI met at Castel Gandolfo with representatives of the International Congress on stem cells and called for research in which scientific, technological, and ethical knowledge are combined in respect for the human person at all stages of life.

The Pope began his discourse by saying, “When science is applied for the alleviating of suffering and when, in this sense, it discovers new resources, it proves itself to be twice as rich for humanity: for the effort of ingenuity invested in the research and for the benefit made known to those who are afflicted with disease.”

“Progress,” he said, “can only be truly such if it serves the person and if the person himself grows; and not only in his technical capacities but in his moral as well.”

Referring the theme of the Congress, which focused on the future of stem cell research, the Pope noted that “research with somatic stem cells merits approval and encouragement when it properly combines scientific knowledge, the most advanced technology in the field of biology, and ethics that stipulate respect for the human being in every stage of development of his existence.”

After underscoring the importance of such research, as well as the fruit it has born in recent times, the Pontiff also reiterated, “In the face of the frequent and unjust accusations of insensitivity directed against the Church, I would like to underline the constant support she has given over the course of her two thousand-year history to research aimed at the cure of illnesses and at the good of humanity.

If there has been - and there still is - resistance, it was and is against those forms of research that involve the planned suppression of human beings who are already alive, though they may not yet have been born," the Pope said.

Such research, he continued, “leaving aside the results that may be of therapeutic usefulness, is not truly at the service of humanity.  It occurs through the suppression of human lives that have equal dignity with respect to other individual humans and the researchers themselves.”

“History itself,” he added, “has condemned such science in the past and will condemn it in the future, not only because it is devoid of the light of God, but also because it is devoid of humanity.”

Continuing on his discourse, the Holy Father reaffirmed that "In the face of the direct suppression of human beings, there can be no compromise or prevarication; it is inconceivable for a society to fight crime effectively when it itself legalizes crime in the field of nascent life."

Recalling that the Congress emphasized that therapeutic benefits have been obtained from adult stem cells without having to resort to the destruction of embryos, the Pope noted that such a fact constitutes “a confirmation of the validity of the Church’s constant invitation to full respect of the human person from the moment of conception.”

Various experts from around the world attended the Congress organized by the Pontifical Academy of Life, including Msgr. Elio Sgreccia, president of the Academy, and Professors Gianluigi Gigli and Simon de Castellvi of the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors.

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Costa Rican president says Christ is light that guides nation

San José, Costa Rica, Sep 18, 2006 (CNA) - The President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez, said last week it was time for Costa Ricans to “leave fear behind” and follow the path to which Christ calls them, with the certainty that Jesus is the “light that guides Costa Rica’s compass” and the Gospel the place where “the millenarian answer to all our questions lies.”

During the closing of the second annual Social Week, President Arias said that in a world in which people are seeking light in order to distinguish between good and evil, mankind “cannot trust that immense scientific and technological changes will automatically resolve the great dilemmas” of the day, when in practice “inequality on a global scale and misery continue to be incompatible with everything that people profess.”

In Costa Rica, he explained, where social inequality grows day by day, it is clear that “human dignity includes very concrete and real things such as: a place to live, food, work, security, good heath, education, transportation, recreation.”  Consequently, the president noted, the “formal promulgation” of rights is not sufficient and their exercise cannot be separated from the material conditions in which people live, because “poverty is not only an embarrassment for the poor person, but also for the person who has more than enough.”

Regarding the Social Week, which ended September 1st and was organized by the Archdiocese of San Jose, the John XXIII Social School and the University of St. Paul, President Arias said it was “a call to discover the true ethic of equality” and “a light in the storm, to find the port of peace and prosperity that our ship is seeking.”

He called on Costa Ricans to “take on this enormous challenge that comes from the Gospel, guided by of love and dignity and armed with courage and the will to be better.”

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