Archive of September 28, 2006

Protection of rights, human development, and religious freedom are pillars of peace, Vatican tells U.N.

, Sep 28, 2006 (CNA) - A high ranking Vatican official, who worked for years in the foreign ministry of the Holy See, encouraged the U.N. yesterday to work for peace by promoting human development and the fundamental human rights, such as religious freedom. In a speech to the General Assembly, former Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, criticized the “ideology of power,” epitomized by terrorist organizations, which often leads to denial of rights and tremendous human suffering.  

Lajolo, said that while the Holy See, “favors its (United Nations) ongoing reform in the fields of peace-building, development and human rights," the U.N. still has much to do in rooting out divisions in the world based on “culture, faith, wealth and levels of material advancement, and even more by attitudes towards power, authority and cooperation.”  

The archbishop, who now governs the Vatican City State pointed out that human pride, which brought about the divisions, misunderstandings, and hostilities in the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, is the same negative fundamental attitude that threatens world peace today.  “Terrorists, and their various organizations, are the contemporary version of it,” he said, “rejecting the best achievements of our civilization.”

However, Lajolo continued, “in a different nature” superpowers, regional powers, aspiring powers, and oppressed peoples also fall into making the mistake that “only force can bring about a just ordering of affairs among peoples and nations.”

There is an “ideology of power,” Lajolo continued, which scorns any restraint placed upon force and thus leads to greater inequality.  

The archbishop criticized those countries which continue to seek nuclear capabilities, as well as those which have refused to sign treaties against nuclear proliferation and testing.

“Our efforts to overcome divisions and to harmonize differences have been hesitant, at times even half-hearted,” Archbishop Lajolo said. And - noting the world destruction which can be brought about by nuclear weapons - he asked, “how can we stand still?”

It is necessary for the U.N. to recognize certain “pillars of peace” which standup against such “ideologies of power,” he said.  The Vatican representative noted that the support for such pillars begins with the promotion, defense, safeguarding of human rights.  And, he said, the protection of rights must occur from the start, not just after wars arise.

“Too often international bodies act, if at all, only after war is under way or when innocent populations have long been under assault,” he said.

“When the rights of whole groups of people are violated - grievous examples could be mentioned in Europe, Asia and Africa - or when they go unprotected by their own Governments, it is entirely right and just that this Organization intervene in a timely manner by suitable means to restore justice.”

Lajolo also urged the international body to work for the pillar of economic equality, noting that the lack of equality among people often leads to unrest and lays the foundation for violent uprisings.  

“At the root of war,” he said, “there are usually real and serious grievances: injustices suffered; a lack of development, democracy, human rights and the rule of law; legitimate aspirations frustrated, and the exploitation of multitudes of desperate people who see no real possibility of improving their lot by peaceful means.”

A solution, the archbishop reminded, is working more fervently to achieve the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals for underdeveloped countries.  

In recent months, talks for increasing world trade have collapsed, leaving many of the development goals unfulfilled. “These failures to correct fundamental inequalities in the world economic system,” Lajolo said, “are fast becoming lost opportunities to advance a moral alternative to war.”  

“Building peace for tomorrow requires doing justice today,” Lajolo concluded.

The archbishop then turned back to the “essential pillar” of human rights, exploring them in more detail. The rights to life, religious freedom, and of thought and expression are three primary rights which the U.N. must enforce in all countries as fundamental to human existence.  

“Every Government must clearly understand: violation of the fundamental rights of the person cannot be removed from the attention of the international community under the pretext of the inviolability of a State’s internal affairs,” he said.

The archbishop noted that, “even among States sitting on the Human Rights Council,” fundamental rights in several nations are not being protected.

The place of religion

The Vatican representative noted that although religion can be exploited for political end in some cases, it is the firm belief of the Holy See that, “at its best, truest and most authentic, religion is a vital force for good, for harmony and for peace among peoples.”

Noting interreligious days of prayer for peace called by both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Lajolo pointed out that, “in this last generation, the world’s religions, their leaders and their adherents have shown themselves time and again to be willing to dialogue and to promote harmony among peoples.”

Archbishop Lajolo then turned specifically to the recent words of Pope Benedict, which have been misunderstood by many in the Muslim world and have been used to spark violent protests resulting in threats of “holy war,” the destruction of Christian churches and even the death of a religious sister.  Lajolo began by pointing out that the Pope has “expressed sadness that some passages in his academic address could have lent themselves to misinterpretation.”

The real intention of the Holy Father, the archbishop continued, was to explain that, “’not religion and violence, but religion and reason go together’, in the context of a critical vision of a society which seeks to exclude God from public life.”

“Two days ago, while receiving the Ambassadors of OIC countries accredited to the Holy See, he added: ‘The lessons of the past must… help us to seek paths of reconciliation, in order to live with respect for the identity and freedom of each individual, with a view to fruitful cooperation in the service of all humanity…respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres, especially in that which concerns basic freedoms, more particularly religious freedom,’” Lajolo said.

Archbishop Lajolo indicated that it was the wish of the Pope to point out both that religiously motivated violence and the exclusion of religion form the political life must be rejected.  “The Holy Father, in defending the openness of political and cultural activity to the Transcendent, did not wish to do anything other than make a decisive contribution to the dialogue between cultures, by helping to open western thought to the riches of the patrimony of all religions, he said.”

“It falls to all interested parties – to civil society as well as to States - to promote religious freedom and a sane, social tolerance that will disarm extremists even before they can begin to corrupt others with their hatred of life and liberty,” this Lajolo concluded, will help bring peace.

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Attacker who stole Eucharist gets jail

Pittsburgh, Pa., Sep 28, 2006 (CNA) - A 37-year-old transient received a six-month jail sentence this week, followed by six months probation, after stealing a nun’s purse that contained a pix holding the Blessed Sacrament.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sr. Mary Morgan was returning from a Communion visit, when Toby Duran approached her for some money. When Duran was not satisfied with the $10 Sr. Morgan gave him, he ran off with her purse.

The 78-year-old nun of the Sisters of St. Joseph contacted police and told them that the Eucharist had been stolen along with her purse. The thief was found in the next two hours and, being informed that the Eucharist was inside, told officers where the purse could be found — under the siding outside the trailer that he, his wife and their infant call home.

The thief, who said he was Catholic, was reportedly brought to tears after being interrogated by the jail’s Security Chief, George David.

David emphasized the Catholic belief that the hosts are not merely a representation of God but are truly the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.

"He [Jesus] is out there in the dark, in the cold, in the mud," Chief David said, spurring the repentant Duran to confess the location of the purse, even though the confession incriminated him.

Sr. Morgan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that she had already forgiven Duran for the crime saying, "I don't think this was premeditated. He did it out of extreme necessity,"

Duran pleaded guilty to the April 4 purse snatching. The assistant district attorney dropped simple assault and harassment charges.

Senior Beaver County Judge Robert C. Reed sentenced him to six months, one month more than the usual sentence.   The judge also ordered Duran to pay $50 in restitution, even though Sr. Morgan told the district attorney she did not want the money back.

“I could tell he was repentant," she added. "I'm going to ask permission to visit him."

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Chicago publishes first Polish diocesan newspaper

Chicago, Ill., Sep 28, 2006 (CNA) - A new Catholic monthly will begin publishing in the Archdiocese of Chicago next month — in Polish. Barbara Otto, the four-year Chicago correspondent for Niedziela, a Catholic magazine published in Poland and sold in the U.S., will serve as news editor of the new publication, called “Katolik.” It will be the nation's only Polish-language diocesan newspaper.

Cardinal Francis George attended the launch of the newspaper at the Polish Museum of America, reported the Chicago Tribune.

"Newspapers have a certain role as information tools and they can be used to guide people along the way of the Lord," the cardinal reportedly said. "Newspapers are full of stories of people who are trying to follow Christ."

Funded by donations and advertising, more than 15,000 papers will be distributed, free of charge, in more than 50 parishes that celebrate Polish masses and in private schools that offer Polish language lessons.

The archdiocese estimates that nearly a million Roman Catholics of Polish descent live in Chicago and its suburbs.

While many of those faithful also speak English, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki said the newspaper will give Polish parishioners a more convenient and personal way to connect to the church.

The archdiocese also publishes “Catolico,” a Spanish-language monthly, and “The Catholic New World,” an English-language biweekly.

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Modern witness to self-sacrificing love brings life in Arizona

Yuma, Ariz., Sep 28, 2006 (CNA) - A Yuma family is welcoming a new baby girl this week after a two month journey that included a battle with cancer and the death of the child’s mother.  Veronica Destiny Celis was born September 24th after her mother chose to forgo chemotherapy and offer her own life for that of the child.

According to a report in the Yuma Sun, which offered full coverage of the Celis family’s difficult story, medical personnel at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix performed emergency surgery Sept. 24 to deliver baby Veronica. The next day her 36-year-old mother, who had been declared brain dead due to complications caused by her cancer, died.

The mother, from whom the baby received her name, had been kept on life support and in a state that supported the baby's life and development since Aug. 7th.

Aaron and Veronica were married for 21 years and moved to Yuma in 1985. They already had three sons: Jaime, 19; Kevin, 13; and Andrew, 10, but were hoping to someday have a little girl as well.

In a Sept. 16 interview with the Yuma Sun, Aaron recalled when his wife was first diagnosed with cancer.

"She was upset, but she always had more trust in God than me," he said.

Veronica underwent treatment and eventually went into remission. It was during this time that Veronica became pregnant with the baby girl they had prayed for.

However, soon after learning of the pregnancy, Veronica discovered that her breast cancer had returned.

The couple was faced with considering the doctors’ suggestions of an abortion, which would allow Veronica to undergo chemotherapy, or saving the baby, which would mean taking the chance that the mother herself would die.  When the baby reportedly appeared to Veronica in a dream, Veronica knew she could not have the abortion.  

Aaron recalled his wife’s decision to save the baby the next morning.  “God has given this to me and he knows why,” she told him.

During the months that followed Veronica’s cancer took hold of her body and the couple reached out in faith.  Yuma Sun reporter, Darin Fenger, told CNA that Aaron Celis first contacted the press with the story because he wanted more prayers for the mother and baby. “She was a very faithful woman,” Fenger recalled.  

Eventually, however, the cancer proved too strong and Veronica slipped into a coma and eventually succumbed to the cancer, leaving her husband with the last wish that he “take care of the baby.”  Which is why, when her last chances at life had passed, Celis knew he must keep his wife on life support until the baby could be born.

According to Jennifer Pool, the spokeswoman for the medical center, during the difficult weeks in which Aaron Celis watched his wife’s body continue to shut down, he remained close to the hospital’s chaplains.  And, through it all friends and family members said, Celis continued to hope for some sort of a miracle.

While his wife never recovered, the numerous prayers may have helped doctors in the extremely rare, but successful procedure of inducing labor in a woman who had been declared brain-dead.

Dr. Karrie Francois, a physician specializing in at-risk births, delivered the baby. She told the newspaper that it was "a truly rare birth” and that "there are only a handful of reported cases in the (medical) literature."

Francois said, although doctors wanted to keep the baby developing inside the mother for as long as possible, the baby had to be delivered prematurely because the mother's body had become so infected and her blood pressure had become erratic.

She also said it was one of the most emotional experiences she has had as a physician.  After the birth, "Aaron just cried and prayed," Francois told the Sun. "He was just thanking his wife for giving him this daughter."

Pool told CNA that baby Veronica was baptized in the delivery room, over the body of her mother, as Aaron had insisted.  Celis placed the child in the arms of its mother and asked for a picture to be taken.

The next day, life support was removed and the mother passed away.

Doctors predict Baby Veronica will likely remain hospitalized for about two months, as is normal with premature children.

Dr. Caren Lipsky, a physician who cares for high-risk babies, said Wednesday that the baby's weight, growth, and other measurements of progress are right on track. By Monday, the baby had been removed from most forms of artificial ventilation and by Tuesday, she was breathing well on her own.

Fenger said the community’s interest in the story as well as the outpouring of support has been overwhelming.  A benefit fund has been established and donations are being accepted at Wells Fargo Bank locations around Arizona. Donors need only refer to the Veronica Celis Fund.

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Inner-city school teachers present plan to eliminate Catholic education in Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia, Sep 28, 2006 (CNA) - The Confederation of Inner City Education Workers of Bolivia presented to the government this week a proposed law that would eliminate religious instruction, private education, as well as covenant schools, which are public schools administered by the Church.

The director of the Confederation, Rene Fernandez, said in the proposal called “Rescuing the Homeland,” “private and covenant schools will be affected the most.”

The proposal calls for the elimination of the subject of religion and rejects a government alternative that would allow the teaching of the faiths that are practiced in Bolivia.  “Education should be secular, if we want it to be scientific,” the proposal indicates.

Regarding covenant schools, sources close to the Church said they have a better infrastructure than other state facilities because of Church management.  Nevertheless, they warned that all of the advances made by the Church could be lost if the State takes over the schools.

There are 200 covenant schools in Bolivia.  Covenant school officials rejected the proposal and announced they would use appropriate means to oppose it.

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“Let the pilgrims return. The Holy Land awaits them,” says priest

Rome, Italy, Sep 28, 2006 (CNA) - “Let the pilgrims return.  The Holy Land awaits them.”  That’s the call made by Father Pierre Grech, secretary general of the Latin Bishops’ Conference of the Arab Regions, now that the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has ended.

“All of the security conditions have been met for pilgrims to return,” he said in an interview with the SIR news agency.  “Up until a few months ago, the streets and shrines were overflowing with devout faithful, later the war scared them away.  Now things are moving, slowly but surely.  We trust that things with get better in the coming months until Christmas,” he explained.

According to Father Grech, “the pilgrims are not only a source of income for Christians who live in the Holy Land, as many make their living from religious tourism, but also they are an opportunity for peaceful cohabitation.  With their presence, they help our communities to stay here as well.”

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Chilean bishops: drug addiction a challenge that must be unhesitatingly met

Santiago, Chile, Sep 28, 2006 (CNA) - The executive committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile warned this week that the drama of drugs is “a great challenge that must be unhesitatingly met.”  The bishops called for compassionate solutions that reach out those most vulnerable, such as young adults and children.

During the opening of meeting of experts on drug addiction, the president of the bishops’ Conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic, read the document that calls for addressing the roots of the problem of drugs.

We must be, “for a life without drugs, for social relationships without dependencies, and for a social and communal discussion of the issue based on the central value of human dignity…or we will end up building more jails, not facing reality, and allowing easy answers for situations that are much more profound,” the bishops said in their statement.

They noted that many families see their young members constantly coming and going in search of drugs. “Often these people and their families come to our parishes for help in overcoming their additions.  The ‘perversion of drugs’ is carrying away especially our young people,” the bishops denounced.

They went on to express caution against simply employing “punitive measures” to stop drug use instead of developing policies that provide long-term solutions, such as centers of rehabilitation and detoxification.

“We call on the State, on private businesses, and on all of society to invest in boosting the resources aimed at the sectors with the greatest poverty, to improve the quality of education, to generate real channels of participation and to provide dignified and quality housing to our brothers and sisters,” the bishops said.

As the country prepares to celebrate its bicentennial, the bishops called for an end “to the scourge of drugs and the enormous breach of inequality which so dramatically affects so many of our brothers and sisters.”

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Spanish youth travel to Calcutta to participate in inter-religious peace encounter

Valencia, Fla., Sep 28, 2006 (CNA) - A group of young people from Valencia are traveling to Calcutta, India, to participate in an international gathering on world peace and inter-religious dialogue organized by the ecumenical Community of Taize.

The Spanish youth, who are involved in Taize prayer groups, will stay in the homes of Indian families and in schools in the area.  They will also visit Catholic organizations and communities, such as the home of the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “in order to get to know the activities that they carry out in favor of peace and those most in need,” said Pablo Halcon in an interview with the AVAN news agency.

The main activities of the encounter will take place October 4-9 at Park Circus at the school of Don Bosco.  Brother Alois, the successor to the founder of Taize, the late Brother Roger, will be present at the encounter.

The Bishops’ Conference of India and the Archdiocese of Calcutta have collaborated with the Taize community in preparing the event. Calcutta was chosen as the host city “after a request by a group of the faithful” from that country who attended the funeral of Brother Roger in France last year.

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