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Archive of October 3, 2006

Vatican reminds the U.N. “reproductive health” does not mean worldwide abortion

, Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - During an address given to the General Assembly yesterday in New York, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said that the UN should not consider “access to reproductive health” as a key word for promoting abortion.

Migliore reminded the assembly of the care which was taken when crafting last year’s “World Summit Outcome Document.”  He said the document “sought to balance strongly held views,” and that it is therefore imperative to “ensure that respect for this delicate balance be maintained.”  It’s important to note, he said, that many delegations considered a paragraph on "ensuring access to reproductive health by 2015," to be clearly written as “a means of achieving the target of reducing maternal mortality rather than being a target in and of itself.”

The archbishop’s comments came as a response to the recently released, “Report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization.”  Migliore offered thanks to those who worked to compile the report and noted the ongoing process of reforming the international body.   

“As is often said, ‘reform’ is not an event but rather a process,” Migliore noted, adding, “to this end, we welcome the Secretary-General’s efforts in continuing to press for reform.”

“However,” he continued, “despite the progress made, much work remains in many different areas.”

Pointing out areas of particular concern, Archbishop Migliore told the assembly that they must “interconnect more explicitly and more effectively the areas of security and development.”

The Holy See has repeatedly emphasized that a lack of economic equality and development directly affects the global security by fostering a climate in which the world’s poorest are left with a sense of helplessness and resort to violence to fight for economic equality.

In a related issue of international security, the archbishop expressed the Holy See’s “deep concern” at the lack of progress in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation, “The whole UN system,” he said, “should grasp the opportunity to acknowledge the links between disarmament, development. and humanitarian concerns, and commit itself to strategies and programs to reduce the demand for arms and armed violence.”

The archbishop praised the establishment of the Central Emergency Response Fund and the innovative cluster coordination system, which he called “important modifications to the existing humanitarian assistance system.”  However, he said, “the United Nations should continue to play a leading role in balancing the autonomy of civil society actors with the need to provide effective aid to the most vulnerable.”

Migliore noted the success which has been achieved in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care, but lamented the fact that several countries seem “almost helpless” in tackling the spread of the disease.  The archbishop suggested that the UN turn its specific focus to those countries which are being devastated most profoundly by the pandemic.

Concluding his remarks, Archbishop Migliore said, “it is our sincere hope that this session of the General Assembly will continue to move from commitments to action, and the United Nations can continue the process of transforming itself into an institution ready for the challenges of the twenty-first century.”

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Vatican to unveil grand exhibit about Saint Peter’s Basilica

Vatican City, Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - "Petros Eni" (Peter is here), the ancient inscription found next to the remains of Saint Peter the Apostle is the title of an exhibit to be dedicated on October 12, 2006 and running through March 8, 2007 at Saint Peter´s Basilica.

The exhibit celebrates the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the great church built upon the foundations of another basilica which was constructed by the Emperor Constantine.  That ancient church was itself built over the ancient Roman burial grounds in which the Apostle Peter was interred.

Over 100 masterpieces from the world’s most famous museums will be on display in the exhibit, which is divided into six sections:

  • The first section displays artifacts relating to the historical foundation of the current basilica – including communications of the artists and architects who defined the layout of the new church
  • The second section lays out the most significant moments of the complex architectural process of erecting the monument, starting with Bramante’s idea.
  • The third section is dedicated to the ancient basilica of Constantine, upon which the current basilica was built.  This section gives particular attention to the architecture of Constantine’s structure and the time of the basilica’s foundation.
  • The fourth section is focused on “Ager Vaticanus,” the “Vatican territory”, an ancient area of Rome from which the Vatican takes its name.  The exhibit looks at this area of Rome from the time when the area was a burial ground to the foundation of the old basilica.
  • In the fifth section is covered the personalities and the works of the apostles Peter and Paul.
  • The sixth and final section is dedicated to two key themes: the primacy of Peter and Petrine devotion, looked at through the testimonies and pilgrimages of some of the more important and devout saints throughout the history of the Church, as well as of literary personalities, artistic contemporaries, and modern day pilgrims.
According to a communiqué from the Vatican, the exhibition incorporates architectural plans and studies of tremendous importance, artistic masterpieces, and numerous documents, some unpublished, from the main architects and artists who worked in the construction of the Basilica of Saint Peter such as Bramante, Antonio di Sangallo and works of Rafael, Michelangelo, Titian, El Greco, Caravaggio, Bernini, Borromini and Rembrandt.

In addition, the foundation in charge of preserving the heritage of St. Peter’s will display one of its most precious treasures: the wooden model which was crafted between 1559 and 1561 according to the sketches of Michelangelo.  Also on display will be some never before displayed artifacts discovered among the Vatican necropolis, including a fragment of the red wall with the inscription “Petros eni,” which is a testimony to devotion to Peter and gives its name to the exhibit.

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Turkish officials say plane hijacker was seeking help from the Pope

Rome, Italy, Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - New light has been shed on the hijacking of a Turkish Airlines plane which was overtaken Tuesday.  Reports have now surfaced that a single, unarmed Turkish man hijacked the plane, saying that he had a message to deliver to Pope Benedict.  Initial reports indicated that two men had hijacked the plane in protest to the Pontiff’s upcoming trip to the country, the message now appears to be one seeking the Pope’s help.

Agence France Press reports that the single hijacker, identified as Hakan Ekinci, took charge of the airliner and made the aircraft’s crew believe he had an accomplice at the rear of the plane.

The plane was diverted to Brindisi, Italy where Ekinci gave himself up to police and released his unharmed hostages after apologizing to them.  According to AFP Ergun Ozkoseoglu called Turkish television prior to Ekinci’s surrender.  “He is now apologizing to everyone and is waving to us,” Ozkoseoglu told the NTV channel as other passengers could be heard breaking into applause in the background.

"There was no panic" throughout the standoff, Ozkoseoglu said.

Ekinci -- reportedly a Turkish convert to Christianity and a conscientious objector -- deserted the Turkish army in May, while on a one-day furlough from his Istanbul garrison and fled to Albania, where he made an unsuccessful bid for political asylum, Istanbul Governor, Muammer Guler said.

Ekinci was about to be deported to Turkey where he faced arrest, the Turkish embassy in Tirana earlier informed authorities in Ankara.

"We were going to arrest him at the airport and hand him over to the military authorities," Guler said.

He confirmed that Ekinci had written in late August to the Pope, seeking his help to avoid military service in Turkey. "We are looking into the issue," Guler said.

Transport Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed that Ekinici was seeking help from the Pope.  "These persons are seeking political asylum and have said so to the (Italian) police," Yildirim told NTV television before learning Ekinci had acted alone.

NTV also claimed to have a copy of the letter Ekinci wrote to the Holy Father reporting that it read, "Dear pope, I am a Christian and I do not want to serve in a Muslim army.”

He also wrote that he was living in a UN-run refugee camp "in a country that has friendly relations with Turkey" -- apparently Albania -- and feared being extradited to Turkey.

Guler said the hijacker entered the cockpit about 20 minutes after the plane took off from Tirana and threatened the pilots with a parcel which he said contained a bomb, the Anatolia news agency reported.

He asked the pilots to divert the plane to Rome, but was told there was not enough fuel and the aircraft eventually landed at Brindisi.

Earlier reports had stated that two men had hijacked the plane with a different message for the Pope.  The message was reportedly in the form of a protest to the Holy Father’s upcoming trip to Turkey.

When asked of a possible connection to the Pope’s upcoming trip, Turkish Airlines chief executive Candan Karlitekin had told NTV: "The cockpit was told that it was a protest of this nature."

The Vatican has remained steadfast in its determination that the Pope’s trip continue as scheduled, even after violent protests following the misunderstanding of the words he spoke in Germany last month.

Prior to the Pope’s comments on Islam at the University of Regensburg, many questioned his safety in Turkey.  In May a novel was published entitled, “Assassination of a Pope.”  The book is written about a Turkish gunman who assassinates the Holy Father on his trip.

Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II, released a statement from prison two weeks ago, also warning Benedict not to visit.

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US bishops’ launches campaign for partial-birth abortion ban

Washington D.C., Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - As the U.S. Supreme Court opened and prepare to tackle the two challenges to the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, the Second Look Project launched a five-week public awareness campaign on the issue.

The campaign, called “Supreme Court Countdown: Partial-Birth Abortion”, began Oct. 2 when the Court opened its new term, and ends Nov. 8 when oral arguments in the case are scheduled.

During these five weeks, the Second Look Project will send a fact or quote on partial-birth abortion in an e-card each weekday to Congress, news media, and opinion leaders. These facts will also be posted on the Project’s website, www.secondlookproject.org.

“Six years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court invoked its Roe v. Wade decision to strike down state laws against partial-birth abortion,” said Deirdre McQuade of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, who oversees the Second Look Project.

“Now that the court is taking a second look at the horrendous practice of partial-birth abortion, this new campaign will help remind the public and our elected officials how much is at stake.”

President George Bush had signed the bill into law, but it was found unconstitutional by lower courts because it did not include exceptions for women’s health.

The procedure involves doctors partially delivering a child then crushing its skull with a metal instrument. After examining medical evidence, Congress passed the bill with no health exceptions, finding that the procedure, which results in the death of a partially born baby, was never medically necessary.

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Turkish plane reportedly hijacked in protest of Papal trip to Turkey

Rome, Italy, Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - Two men have hijacked a Turkish Airlines plane, supposedly in protest of Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Turkey next month.  The Pontiff is expected to travel to the mostly Muslim country November 28th – December 1st.

The commercial airliner with more than 100 people on-board was en route from Tirana, Albania to Istanbul, Turkey when two men overtook the cockpit over Greek airspace.  According to ANSA, two F-16’s were scrambled and forced the plane to land in Brindisi, Italy.

The hijackers have reportedly demanded a message be relayed to Pope Benedict XVI not to travel to their country.

When asked of a possible connection to the Pope’s upcoming trip, Turkish Airlines chief executive Candan Karlitekin told Turkey's NTV television: "The cockpit was told that it was a protest of this nature."

"There is no threat at the moment to the passengers or crew. We believe the hijackers will surrender," Karlitekin said. The hijackers told the pilots from the start that they would surrender once the plane landed, he said.

The Vatican has remained steadfast in its determination that the Pope’s trip continue as scheduled, even after violent protests following the misunderstanding of the words he spoke in Germany last month.

Prior to the Pope’s comments on Islam at the University of Regensburg, many questioned his safety in Turkey.  In May a novel was published entitled, “Assassination of a Pope.”  The book is written about a Turkish gunman who assassinates the Holy Father on his trip.

Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II, released a statement from prison two weeks ago, also warning Benedict not to visit.

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Book reveals more details of 1981 assassination attempt on Pope

Rome, Italy, Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - A new book, due to be published next year, provides greater detail of the 1981 assassination attempt on the late Pope John Paul II, including how he entrusted himself to Mary in the moments after he was shot and how doctors believed he would die in surgery.

The late Pope’s former secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, now archbishop of Krakow, is publishing his memoir, “My Life with Karol," which he wrote together with Italian author Gianfranco Svidercoschi. Brief excerpts were made available on Monday by the Italian publisher Rizzoli, according to Reuters.

In a chapter called "Those Two Bullets," Dziwisz recalls the shooting and the many glitches that arose in trying to get John Paul help in those critical moments.

"I tried to hold him up (after he was hit by the second bullet) but it was as if he was letting himself go sweetly," he writes.

"He had a grimace of pain but at the same time he was serene. I asked him 'where?' and he said: ‘In the stomach.’"

The cardinal tells how the Pope was taken to a part of the Vatican where aides believed there was an ambulance, but it was actually in another part and they had to wait for it to arrive.

On the way to Gemelli hospital, several kilometers north of the Vatican, the ambulance’s siren did not work. The driver had to navigate his way through Rome traffic by honking his horn non-stop.

"He was murmuring 'Why did they do it?' He uttered words of forgiveness for whoever shot him. I heard him pray, invoking 'Jesus, Mary my mother.'"

The Pope lost consciousness when the ambulance reached the hospital. In the confusion and shock, he was taken by mistake first to the 10th floor and then to the operating room on the ninth floor, where he surprised doctors by making it through surgery.

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Relations between Russian Church, Vatican have potential, says Alexy II

Moscow, Russia, Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - A positive step was made this week in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church during a meeting between Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, and Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

The two churches’ positions on key contemporary issues coincide, and there are many avenues for cooperation, the patriarch said.

According to a report by Interfax, Alexy II said he is "convinced that good relations and mutual support will contribute to the further development of cooperation on key modern issues between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church."

The two prelates met at St. Daniil Monastery, the patriarch’s residence in Moscow, on Monday at the initiative of the patriarch. The high-ranking delegation led by the cardinal arrived in Moscow Sept. 29.

Cardinal Tettamanzi presented the patriarch with a silver reliquary for the ashes of St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Marcellina and Bishop St. Dionysius, as well as a collection of St. Ambrose's books in Latin and their version in Italian.

“Common worship of these martyrs will unite us and our two churches in common prayer … and serve as a bridge," the cardinal said in presenting the gift.

The patriarch expressed gratitude, saying the books “will doubtlessly prove useful to the theologians of our church.”

Alexy II also praised long-time good personal contacts between priests of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Milan archbishop's office.

Cardinal Tettamanzi expressed regret for the Roman Catholic Church's missionary activity in Russia in the 1990s, saying it may have been insulting to the Russian Orthodox Church, “which had historically and continues to have the gift to proclaim the Gospel on this earth and the mission to bear witness to it.”

“It gives us anguish to realize that some Western Christians, including Catholics, failed to discern and recognize the incomparable spiritual richness of Holy Russia and to appreciate and respect the religious and cultural heritage of the great Orthodox tradition,” the cardinal reportedly said during the meeting.

He said this activity was increased due to the initiative of various individuals from the West, but it “does not always appear proper from an ecumenical viewpoint.” He added that proselytism today “is condemned by many among not only the Orthodox but also Catholics.”

“There must be no room for confessional competition in the name of the Gospel,” the cardinal stated.

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Bishop explains urgency of teaching young people to pray the Rosary

Madrid, Spain, Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - As October, the month of the Rosary, begins, Bishop Ramon del Hoyo Lopez of Jaen has called for a greater effort to teach children and young people how to pray the traditional Marian devotion.

In a pastoral letter, Bishop Lopez underscored that the “light of Mary’s Annunciation” should always “illuminate the darkness of our pilgrimage of faith.”  “In the recitation of the Rosary,” the bishop continued, “we journey with” the Virgin on that pilgrimage.

“The Rosary is a prayer to Mary, but also with Mary.  She makes herself present in our life with this simple and profound prayer of the Rosary.  A prayer so easy and at the same time so rich that it is worthy of being conserved and recovered wherever necessary, by the Christian community, the family, and all Christians,” he added.

Every Christian community should pray this prayer, Bishop Del Hoyo went on. “Teach it to the children and to young people.  I am sure that if we help them to understand and appreciate it they will surprise us adults once again by praying with their characteristic enthusiasm this prayer that is so full of meaning,” he explained.

The Spanish bishop also noted that the Rosary is the prayer of preference of the infirm and the elderly, and sometimes their only prayer. “I hope you receive my words of encouragement to maintain this prayer of ours before the Lord and to unite our voices.  It is probably the most efficacious prayer, together with the Mass, in our Church.  It is the most authentic daily encounter with our Mother of Heaven,” he said in conclusion.

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Pro-life victory in Brazil as abortion rights candidate loses bid for Senate

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - Pro-life groups in Brazil are celebrating the results of the country’s general elections in which abortion rights candidate, Jandira Feghali, lost to her bid for the Senate despite earlier polls that indicated she was ahead of her rival.

Media reports on the day before the elections placed Feghali eight points ahead of her rival, Fernando Dornelles.  However, the final vote tally revealed that Dornelles beat the pro-abortion candidate by several hundred thousand votes.

Leaders from Feghali’s Communist Party blamed the defeat on the “dirty tricks of the right,” referencing the efforts by independent pro-life groups to inform voters that as a congresswoman Feghali was a major backer of a measure to legalize abortion in Brazil.

Feghali had been enraged by the efforts of pro-life groups and, prior to the elections, accused the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro of actively campaigning against her.  Election officials responded by ordering an intense investigation and search of the residence of Cardinal Oscar Scheid for evidence of his political involvement.  Agents came up empty handed and officials were forced to lift a court ordered ban, which had been requested by the Feghali campaign to prevent Church leaders from speaking on abortion.

In the end, it appears that the conflict with the Archdiocese not only turned public opinion against Feghali, but also focused the campaign on the issue of abortion, which she had worked to avoid.

Feghali did everything possible to hide her ties to abortion from the public, including removing from her website all references to abortion and her voting record on the issue.

Pro-life analysts in Brazil told CNA, “If Feghali had been transparent and honest about the facts, she would have lost by a much greater margin.”

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Cardinal Zen tells of continued Christian persecution in China

London, England, Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics in China, whether they are members of the underground Church, affiliated with the Vatican, or of the official government-sanctioned China Catholic Patriotic Association, still face daily persecution, said Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong.

Cardinal Zen told a packed Westminster Cathedral Hall on Saturday how the churches are constantly supervised by the government, reported Christian Today. The conference was organized by Aid to the Church in Need.

Government intervention in church affairs also means that churches are not necessarily controlled by bishops but rather by select lay people who are used as “instruments of the government” within the congregations, he said.

“The Communist Regime is afraid of any contact that is not under their control,” he was quoted as saying.

“If they really understood how the Catholic Church is in the world, they would have no fear of the Catholic Church. The Church in China is such a small minority so why should they be afraid?” he said.

He said the relationship between the Catholic Church in Hong Kong and the Chinese government was “a very difficult one … But compared with mainland China, we are really lucky.”

The cardinal spoke of the two episcopal ordinations that took place earlier this year without Vatican approval. He described them as an attempt by the Chinese government to ensure the loyalty of the bishops only to itself, but this attempt failed, he reportedly said.

The bishops involved, “in their heart don’t feel assured as they know it is wrong” and are now seeking forgiveness from the Vatican, he stated.

Cardinal Zen expressed hope, however, in the Chinese government’s interest in relations with the Vatican since the election of Pope Benedict. He spoke positively of the recent invitation from the Chinese Church for a delegation to come from the Holy See – the first such invitation in years.

“We have to trust the Divine Providence,” he was quoted as saying. “So even after half a century we accept whatever happens because surely it is by Divine Providence.”

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Cardinal Bertone praises Marian devotion of Latin America

Vatican City, Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - In a message sent to the participants of the Latin American Meeting on Marian Pastoral Ministry, which concluded this past Sunday in Mexico, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone praised the profound Marian piety of Latin America and expressed the prayers of Pope Benedict XVI that Mary watch over the region.

In his message, the Secretary of State recalled that “these beloved lands are sprinkled with distinguished shrines and places dedicated to the Most Holy Virgin Mary, under diverse advocations, to which hundreds come on pilgrimage to express their affection, implore her help and consolation in the difficulties of life or feel her protection more closely in personal, family and societal ups and downs.”

“Mary is certainly deeply present in the hearts of people of any social standing,” the message continued, “and this is evidence of a profound religious sense, to which the Church is called to pay special pastoral attention.”

"Mary has guided and continues to guide all her children to Jesus, as she did at the wedding of Cana when she said to the dejected servants: 'Do whatever he tells you'" (John 2:5)," Cardinal Bertone said.

The Vatican Secretary of State concluded by communicating Benedict XVI’s wishes that the meeting would result "in a more profound awareness of what it means to be true disciples of Christ and witnesses of his Gospel."

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German cardinal slams media double standard regarding Christianity and Islam

Berlin, Germany, Oct 3, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Karl Lehman, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, criticized the media this week for its double standard regarding Christianity and Islam.

“At times one has the impression that artists, journalists and intellectuals, who have no qualms over confronting Christianity and don’t shy away from ridiculing it, treat Islam with much care and even trepidation,” Cardinal Lehmann told the weekly “Focus.”

The cardinal added that free expression in art and the media, coupled with respect for religious sentiments and symbols should require that all religious are treated equally.

“Mutual tolerance,” he said, “is the necessary foundation of a society that is proud of its freedom of expression in the arts and in the media, as guaranteed by the Constitution.”

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