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Archive of September 19, 2006

Nun shot in Somalia offered forgiveness with dying breath

Mogadishu, Somalia, Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - The Consolata missionary sister who was shot dead by Islamic extremists in Mogadishu, Somalia, forgave her killers with her final breaths.

Sr. Leonella Sgorbati, 70, was shot five times in the back, in broad daylight, as she was walking back to her residence from the pediatric hospital where she gave medical training. Sr. Sgorbati was returning home at midday for lunch. Two gunmen reportedly jumped out from behind parked cars and opened fire on Sr. Sgorbati and one of the security guards who accompany the sisters when they cross the street, reported MISNA. The guard also died.

The attackers were reportedly well aware of the sisters’ daily routines and knew that the only moment to strike was when they crossed the street.  Other sisters heard the shots and ran out onto the street, only to see the gunmen fleeing and Sister Leonella on the ground.

“We followed the stretcher into the hospital, where Sr. Leonella was rushed to the operating room. The medics brought four or five sacks of blood, but as much as they put in, came out,” Sr. Marzia Feurra, a Consolata missionary, told MISNA. “When the surgeon arrived he told us that there was nothing left to do.”

Sr. Feurra described Sr. Sgorbati’s final moments on the operating table. “Sister Leonella was still alive; she was in a cold sweat. We held hands, looked at each other and, before turning out like a little candle, three times she repeated to me ‘forgive.’ ‘Forgive, forgive, forgive…’ These were her last words,” she said.

Sr. Sgorbati’s funeral will be held Thursday at Consolata Church in Nairobi.

This morning Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram, through Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, offering his condolences and prayers to the Consolata community, of which Sr. Sgorbati was a part.  The communication called the sister’s death “tragic” and deplored the manner in which she was “barbarically murdered.”

“In firmly reaffirming his condemnation of every type of violence, His Holiness hopes that the blood poured from this faithful disciple of the Gospel will become a seed of hope for the construction of an authentic fraternity between peoples, in the mutual respect for the religious convictions of all,” the telegram said.

A Swedish journalist and a Somali peace activist, also foreigners, have been killed in Mogadishu recent months. According to the Associated Press, their deaths coincide with a rise in Islamic radicalism in Somalia, as a hard-line Muslim militia expands its reach.

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Head of Interreligious Dialogue meets with Muslim leaders in Rome

Rome, Italy, Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - In a continuing effort to diminish the violent reaction of radical Muslims who have torched Christian churches, killed a religious sister, and threatened the life of the Pope, Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, met with Islamic and Jewish leaders today in Rome.

Poupard told several Italian faith leaders that the Vatican is interested, as it has been in the past, in an open dialogue for the purposes of achieving peace.  "At this difficult moment our presence here is an invitation to authentic dialogue between those who believe in one God,” Italian news service ANSA reported the cardinal as saying.

"The alternative to terrorism and violence is dialogue and this path passes via the recognition of differences," he continued.

On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI, expressed sorrow over the violence that has resulted from a portion of a speech he gave at the University of Regenburg, during his recent trip to Bavaria.  While the Pontiff said that the words of the 14th century emperor who he quoted should not be attributed to him, he did not apologize for using them.  He said his purpose, as indicated by a press release from the Vatican, was actually to call for an understanding of the rationality of faith and the place it has in fostering dialogue between cultures and religions.

While many in the Muslim world continue their protests over the Pope’s choice of words, Abdallah Redouane, head of the Islamic cultural centre in Rome, said: "As far as we are concerned, we consider this chapter closed. Now we must look to the future."

Sami Salem, Imam of Rome’s mosque, who on Monday said the pope's words had "set us back many years", indicated that dialogue still had a long way to go. But, he too stressed his commitment to it.

"I hope for a future in which the representatives of every religion can be proud and enjoy the respect they deserve. I hope for a future of dialogue. I am here. We are always ready for dialogue," he said.

In the rest the world, Islamic leaders are divided.

The Prime Minister of largely-Muslim Malaysia said today that he thinks the Pope’s words of regret were “acceptable.”

However, leaders in Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, and Turkey say they are not appeased.  Some in Turkey are calling for their government to press charges against the Holy Father for “insulting Islam” and arrest him when he arrives for his November visit.

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Archbishop Myers responds to Milingo’s antics in New Jersey

Newark, N.J., Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop John Myers of Newark said he was “greatly saddened by the recent words and actions” of a retired African archbishop, Emmanuel Milingo, who has burst back into the media spotlight.  Milingo, who broke his own ordination promises as well as personal promises he made to Pope John Paul II, is holding a convention for married priests this week in the middle of the Archdiocese of Newark.

Archbishop Milingo, 76, first grabbed international attention when he was publicly married to Maria Sung in 2001 by cultic sect leader, Sun Myung Moon, in spite of the ordination promises Milingo made to live a life of celibacy and obedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Four months later, after a personal appeal from Pope John Paul II, the archbishop renounced his attempted union to Sung and apologized for causing scandal. Milingo was setup with housing for his retirement, but earlier this year suddenly fled Rome. This past July he reappeared in the United States to announce his renewed plan to change Church rules on celibacy through protest.

Milingo and his renounced wife Sung have now joined forces with other vocal Catholic dissenters to form, “Married Priests Now!”  This week Milingo attempted to boost membership in his club by inviting married, former Catholic priests and their wives to a convention in Saddle Brook, NJ.  

Archbishop Myers, in whose archdiocese the event is taking place, says Milingo has again broken the Church’s trust.

“His actions fly in the face of what we all believed was an honest reconciliation with Pope John Paul II several years ago and certainly will cause much distress to all who understand that his actions are contrary to the teaching and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church,” Myers said in a statement.  “That he has again chosen not to honor his word and his ordination promises is most unfortunate.”

Archbishop Myers recalled the Church’s long held teaching and practice concerning celibacy. “Those of us who answer the call to Holy Orders in the Latin Rite Church give ourselves entirely to God,” he said.

Though the Church’s stance on priestly celibacy is a “discipline” which could someday be changed (unlike its teaching on the ordination of women), the Church maintains that celibacy has a profoundly positive impact and is not something that an individual priest or bishop can decide to forgo.

“Chaste celibacy … permits the priest to dedicate himself completely to a new life of service. It is a gift to God, the Church and her people, freely given,” he explained.

Archbishop Milingo said Sunday that Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, has demanded that he send a letter of repentance by Oct. 15 to Pope Benedict XVI or face "canonical suspension," reported The Associated Press.

"Your behavior, activities and public statements during these past few months are completely contrary to the obligation of every bishop," Cardinal Re reportedly wrote in the letter, reported the AP. "In the name of Jesus Christ, I beg you to reflect seriously on your behavior and all its consequences."

Archbishop Myers, echoed the Cardinal’s words, saying that prayer would be his resort, “I can only pray that Archbishop Milingo will soon rediscover the core of his own priestly promise of celibacy, and work then to undo the confusion and sorrow he is causing with his current actions.”

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Violent Muslim reaction proves Pope’s point, says Catholic League president

, Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - The violent reaction and calls for more violence on the part of some Muslims, in reaction to Pope Benedict’s speech at Regensburg University, “underscores the Pope’s point,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue in a Sept. 18 statement.
 
“One of the points that the Pope made in his speech … was the necessity of linking faith to reason,” wrote Donohue. “He warned that uncoupling the twin values had horrendous consequences, leading people of faith to resort to violence.”

“Ironically, the violent reaction, and the calls for more violence, on the part of some Muslims underscores the Pope’s point,” Donohue continued. “The response of violence to non-violence is barbaric.”
 
Donohue pointed to the violence that has been perpetrated against churches since the Pope’s speech last Tuesday. In addition, he said, some Muslim organizations and leaders have encouraged violent reprisals for the Pope’s remarks.

Seven churches were firebombed in the West Bank and Gaza and two set fully ablaze. In some countries, Muslims took to the streets chanting “Death to the Pope,” burning him in effigy.

“In Somalia, Muslims were urged by a cleric to ‘hunt down’ the Pope and kill him,” Donohue observed. He quoted Sheik Abubakar Hassan Malin as saying: “Whoever offends our Prophet Muhammad should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim.”

It was in Somalia that Catholic sister, Leonella Sgobati, was brutally gunned down, allegedly as part of the protests.

The Mujahideen Shura Council referred to the Pope as “the worshipper of the cross” on its Internet site and pledged to “break the cross and spill the wine” in the “house of the dog from Rome,” Donohue noted.

“Not until Islam matures and Muslims come to reject the wanton destruction of innocent human life is there any chance of a real dialogue,” Donohue said. “The scene of Muslims calling for Jews and Christians to be murdered with impunity is all too common, as this latest demonstration of hate proves.”

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Roman Catholic, Orthodox Churches pledge to seek unity

Belgrade, Serbia, Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - Top Roman Catholic and Orthodox clerics declared Monday the time has come to heal the rifts between the two churches and to seek unity.

Sixty top Roman Catholic and Christian Orthodox clerics gathered for a week in Belgrade, Serbia, to renew theological dialogue this week, after talks broke off six years ago.

"East and West have been estranged from each other since the 11th century," said Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas, according to The Associated Press. The schism of 1054 created the two churches of Rome and Constantinople - now Istanbul, Turkey.

"It is time to recover the ancient unity,” he reportedly said, adding that, because of the new political reality in Europe, East and West must now also meet on the political level.

Cardinal Walter Kasper said the two churches should turn to their "unity in God, one faith, one baptism."

Metropolitan Zizioulas emphasized that the two churches ask God for the strength to put behind them the errors and misgivings of the past. Cardinal Kasper also called for "forgiveness, purification of our memory of bad things, from both sides."

A release from the Vatican this morning said that two central and interconnected questions will be addressed by the meeting, “the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the theme of ‘uniatism (regarding Eastern Churches who maintain their own Rites, but acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope).’”

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Human dignity must not be made subject to utility and productivity, affirms Pope

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - The interests and dignity of humans “must not be made subject to parameters of feasibility, utility, and productivity,” Pope Benedict XVI affirmed yesterday in a meeting with the new Ambassador of Austria to the Holy See.  

After receiving the Letters of Credence of Ambassador Martin Bolldorf, the Holy Father emphasized that, “The State and the Church, from different points of view, both have at heart the good of man ... whose interests and dignity must never be made subject to parameters of feasibility, utility, and productivity.”

The Pope recalled how "Austria and the Holy See have a long history of fruitful union…which is more than a mere historical truth.”  The vast majority of Austrians are Catholic, the Pope noted, which in itself, “influences orientations, choices and common interests that significantly concern man, his freedom and his dignity, as well as his future in time and in society.”

"One of these common interests is Europe," the Holy Father added, "especially as regards developments in the process of European unification. Nowhere else in the world as in Europe do history and culture bear the mark of Christianity. The regional and national field - the homeland ... whence the majority of people draw the most important elements of their own cultural identity - is becoming ever more incorporated into the European field, the common homeland that is Europe."

Referring to the road towards European integration, the Pontiff insisted that much depends, “on the citizens' faith in this project. In discussions on the expansion of Europe and on its Constitution, the question constantly arises of the identity and spiritual roots upon which the community of European States and peoples rests.”

“The most profound sources for a crisis-proof European 'whole' are to be found in shared convictions and in the values of history and of the Christian and humanist tradition of the continent."

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Court ruling in Peru recognizes anti-implantation effect of abortion pill

Lima, Peru, Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - A federal court in Lima has recognized the anti-implantation effect of the morning-after pill in a ruling that, at least temporarily, upholds an order to suspend the free distribution of the drug, in public hospitals.

The ruling recognizes what the drug manufactures have already admitted, namely that one of the mechanisms of the morning-after pill is to prevent implantation of a newly fertilized fetus in the uterine wall.  This makes the drug potentially abortifacient in the eyes of Peruvian law—a fact that has been repeatedly denied by the country’s Health Minister, Pilar Mazzetti, who authorized the distribution of the drug. Peru’s constitution protects unborn humans from the moment of conception.  

The September 6th ruling upholds a lower court’s decision to halt the distribution of the drug until its abortifacient mechanism could be ruled out.  The Health Ministry appealed that ruling.

The federal court in Lima issued a 2-1 decision upholding the lower court’s decision and recognizing the anti-implantation mechanism of the drug.

A final hearing on the issue has been set for October 27.

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Chilean youth demand that government halt distribution of morning-after pill

Santiago, Chile, Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - Some three thousand students gathered in downtown Santiago last week to demand the government of Chile halt the distribution of the morning-after pill, free of charge, to teens aged 14-18 and without the consent of their parents.

The students attending the protest, which was organized by “Youth For Life,” represented more than 30 different educational institutions.

“The idea is to meet with other young people who think differently but who share the value of the right to life,” said the group’s spokesman, Sebastian Otero.

The president of the National Institute Student Center, Julio Isamit, said, “Young people have gained the right to express their opinion, since society is misinformed and does not know that the morning-after pill is really abortifacient.  Let’s be sincere, there is no study that confirms it, but because there is doubt about it, the best thing is to wait.”

The young people were supported by their parents and by local officials, such as the mayor of Puente Alto, Manuel Jose Ossandon.

“The problem of teen pregnancy is not going to be solved by the distribution of the pill.  In addition, it is a lie that young people with little resources have no access to the pill, since at our clinics people have access to all medicines except those that are abortifacient,” Ossandon said.

The mayor of Lo Barnechea, Marta Ehlers, said, “It’s good that young people have an opinion and that they express their disagreements with the government.”

After the protest, the leadership of “Youth For Life” presented their requests to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.  A court of appeals in the country has put a temporary hold on the distribution of the pill.

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Holy See: Millions risk their lives to escape from the dictatorship of poverty

, Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - Yesterday, Archbishop Celesino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, delivered a talk to the "High-level Meeting on the midterm comprehensive global review of the implementation of the Program of Action for the Least Developed Countries (BPoA) for the Decade 2001-2010," telling the meeting’s participants that fences will not stop those trying to escape the poverty which binds them.

During the meeting in New York, which ends today, the archbishop said in English, "Twenty years ago, public opinion was moved by those who risked their lives climbing fences that kept them prisoners of dictatorial regimes. Today, millions risk their lives to escape from the dictatorship of poverty.”

“Fences,” he said, “will not stop them.”

“For their good and for the prosperity of all of us, developed countries and least developed countries must implement effective policies such as those found in the BPoA, so that the citizens of least developed countries will choose freely to remain at home, where they can attain ... employment and living conditions that can truly be called dignified."

“The Catholic Church has undertaken many initiatives in the last decade with a view to bringing both her own members and all people of good will to a greater awareness of the shared responsibility in relation to the problems derived from international trade and finance,” Migliore pointed out.

“The Holy See continues to encourage the international community, especially the more developed and medium income countries, to support the implementation of the BPoA, and appeals for a surge of solidarity."

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Taize leaders deny “conversion” of Brother Roger to Catholic faith

Paris, France, Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - The ecumenical Community of Taize issued a statement last week denying its founder, the late Brother Roger Schutz, underwent a “conversion” to the Catholic faith, saying instead he entered “progressively into a full communion with the faith of the Catholic Church without a ‘conversion’ that would imply a break with his origins.”

The statement denies a story in the French newspaper “Le Monde,” which the Taize Community said was based on a rumor spread “by Catholic traditionalist circles” and that “misrepresents his true intentions and defames his memory.”

The Taize leaders point out that the Bishop Emeritus of Autun, Raymond Seguy, has clarified his statements to Le Monde, telling France Presse: "I did not say that Brother Roger abjured Protestantism, but he showed that he subscribed fully to the Catholic faith."

“From a Protestant background, Brother Roger undertook a step that was without precedent since the Reformation: entering progressively into a full communion with the faith of the Catholic Church without a ‘conversion’ that would imply a break with his origins,” the statement notes.

It goes on to explain that in 1972, “the bishop of Autun at the time, Armand Le Bourgeois, simply gave him Communion for the first time, without requiring any other profession of faith from him besides the creed recited during the Eucharist, which is held in common by all Christians. Several witnesses were present and can attest to this.”

“Brother Roger's step was not understood by all, but it was welcomed by many: by Pope John Paul II, by Catholic bishops and theologians who celebrated the Eucharist in Taize, as well as by Protestant and Orthodox Church leaders with whom Brother Roger patiently built up trust in the course of many years,” the statement indicated.

“Those who at all costs want the Christian denominations each to find their own identity in opposition to the others can naturally not grasp Brother Roger's aims. He was a man of communion, and that is perhaps the most difficult thing for some people to understand.”

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Archbishop of Barcelona: Teachers not substitutes for parents

Barcelona, Spain, Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Luis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona reminded parents this week that the education of their children is their primordial right and that teachers complement them in that task but are not substitutes.

“Parents cannot transfer to teachers and to schools their own unique responsibility of educating their children.  This also means that teachers cannot substitute for the parents, but rather they must help them and complement them in their educational task,” the archbishop wrote in a letter entitled, “Parents and the School.”

Archbishop Martinez Sistach explained that parents “entrust the education of their children to the school and its teachers without renouncing their principal responsibility,” which they have as a “logical consequence of their fatherhood and motherhood.”  

For this reason, he added, parents should choose a school whose values “coincide with those of their own family.”

The archbishop also said harmonious relations between parents and schools are necessary for excellence in education, and he warned that when there are conflicts between teachers and students, serious problems arise when parents automatically take the side of their child against the teacher.

“The beginning of a new school year is an invitation to all of society to turn its gaze towards schools, to appreciate them and give them the support they deserve for the role they have in providing formation,” the archbishop said in conclusion.

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Aid to the Church in Need thanks Pope for his support of Catholic non-profit organizations

Konigstein, Germany, Sep 19, 2006 (CNA) - International humanitarian organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has offered its thanks to Pope Benedict XVI for his “precious endorsement” of their ministry during a speech in which he praised Catholic organizations which offer social help and evangelization to the world.

At the conclusion of their twice-yearly conference in Germany, the organization’s directors sent a message to the Holy Father thanking him for his preaching while in Bavaria, “and in particular for his homily at the Mass in Munich, when he addressed some of his remarks to the charitable agencies.”

In a press release sent today, ACN said that the Pope’s words are particularly relevant for them, “since the pastoral dimension which he urged, even in the case of social projects, has always been an indispensable condition for their collaboration and help throughout the world.”

ACN thanked Benedict for his “precious endorsement” and “valuable encouragement” which, they said, strengthens the resolve of their leadership and has “awakened the desire” in them to ask for a “word of guidance and direction” from the Pontiff in his roll as “Shepherd of the Universal Church.”

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