Archive of November 6, 2006

Vatican opposes Saddam’s death sentence

Vatican City, Nov 6, 2006 (CNA) - Vatican officials said Sunday that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should not be put to death, even though he has been found guilty of committing crimes against humanity.

Iraq's High Tribunal on Sunday found Saddam guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to death by hanging. However, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, said carrying out the death sentence would be an unjustifiably vindictive action, reported Reuters.

"For me, punishing a crime with another crime, which is what killing for vindication is, would mean that we are still at the point of demanding an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," he was quoted as saying by Italian news agency Ansa.

"Unfortunately, Iraq is one of the few countries that have not yet made the civilized choice of abolishing the death penalty," he said.

The Church is generally against the death penalty. It argues that modern society has all the means necessary to render a criminal harmless for the rest of his natural life without capital punishment.

Fr. Michele Simone, deputy director of the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, told Vatican Radio that opposing the death penalty does not mean accepting what the former leader has done.

"Certainly, the situation in Iraq will not be resolved by this death sentence. Many Catholics, myself included, are against the death penalty as a matter of principle," the Jesuit priest was quoted as saying.

"Even in a situation like Iraq, where there are hundreds of de facto death sentences every day, adding another death to this toll will not serve anything," he said.

The death sentence automatically goes to a nine-judge appeals panel, which has unlimited time to review the case. If the verdict and sentence are upheld, Iraqi law stipulates that the execution must be carried out within 30 days.

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Benedict XVI: There is no conflict between true scientific progress and faith

Vatican City, Nov 6, 2006 (CNA) - Meeting today with members of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, Pope Benedict XVI said that, “Christianity does not posit an inevitable conflict between supernatural faith and scientific progress,” and assured the scientists that the Church supports their scientific research so long as it is a sincere search for the truth.

The scientists visited with the Holy Father as part of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy, which is considering the theme, “Predictability in Science: Accuracy and Limitations."

Pope Benedict noted that some people, “have seen in the progress of modern science and technology one of the main causes of secularization and materialism: why invoke God's control over these phenomena when science has shown itself capable of doing the same thing?”

However, the Holy Father continued, “God created human beings, endowed them with reason, and set them over all the creatures of the earth." In this way, he said, man became "the steward of creation and God's 'helper.' ... Indeed, we could say that the work of predicting, controlling and governing nature, which science today renders more practicable than in the past, is itself a part of the Creator's plan."
 "Christianity does not posit an inevitable conflict between supernatural faith and scientific progress," he stressed.
That being said, “Man cannot place in science and technology so radical and unconditional a trust as to believe that scientific and technological progress can explain everything and completely fulfill all his existential and spiritual needs. Science cannot replace philosophy and revelation by giving an exhaustive answer to man's most radical questions: questions about the meaning of living and dying, about ultimate values, and about the nature of progress itself," the Pope affirmed.
Pope Benedict then went on to address the issue of a scientist's ethical responsibilities. "His conclusions must be guided by respect for truth," he said, "and an honest acknowledgment of both the accuracy and the inevitable limitations of the scientific method. Certainly this means avoiding needlessly alarming predictions when these are not supported by sufficient data or exceed science's actual ability to predict. But it also means avoiding the opposite, namely a silence, born of fear, in the face of genuine problems. The influence of scientists in shaping public opinion on the basis of their knowledge is too important to be undermined by undue haste or the pursuit of superficial publicity."
"Our world continues to look to you and your colleagues" the Pope told his audience, "for a clear understanding of the possible consequences of many important natural phenomena. I think, for example, of the continuing threats to the environment which are affecting whole peoples, and the urgent need to discover safe, alternative energy sources available to all.”
"Scientists," he added, "will find support from the Church in their efforts to confront these issues, since the Church has received from her divine founder the task of guiding people's consciences towards goodness, solidarity, and peace.”

“Precisely for this reason,” the Pope continued, the Church is duty-bound, “to insist that science's ability to predict and control must never be employed against human life and its dignity, but always placed at its service, at the service of this and future generations."

The Holy Father then noted the necessity for science to work along side with philosophy and theology to answer the deeper questions of mankind.  "The scientific method itself," the Pope warned, "has inherent limitations that necessarily restrict scientific predictability to specific contexts and approaches. Science cannot, therefore, presume to provide a complete, deterministic representation of our future and of the development of every phenomenon that it studies.”
"Philosophy and theology might make an important contribution to this fundamentally epistemological question by, for example, helping the empirical sciences to recognize a difference between the mathematical inability to predict certain events and the validity of the principle of causality, or, ... more radically, between evolution as the origin of a succession in space and time, and creation as the ultimate origin of participated being in essential Being."
The Holy Father concluded: "At the same time, there is a higher level that necessarily transcends all scientific predictions, namely, the human world of freedom and history. Whereas the physical cosmos can have its own spatial-temporal development, only humanity, strictly speaking, has a history, the history of its freedom. Freedom, like reason, is a precious part of God's image within us, and it can never be reduced to a deterministic analysis"

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Catholic League says Denver Archdiocese subject of witch hunt

, Nov 6, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic League president William Donohue says the request that the Archdiocese of Denver release all church documents related to sexually abusive priests and church employees who covered up priests' actions is “absurd.” The five groups that made the request “should be dismissed as witch hunters,” he said.

The groups, including Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and Voice of the Faithful, made the demand at a news conference in Denver on Thursday. The groups also put their request in a letter to Archbishop Charles Chaput, saying they "want the truth exposed.”  The letter, as published by The Denver Post, claims that the archdiocese’s protection of private personnel files indicates that the archdiocese is keeping “deeply-held church secrets about clergy crimes.” The archdiocese rejected the demand.  Jeanette DeMelo, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, noted that no priest who has been accused of sexual misconduct is in active service in the archdiocese and encouraged anyone with a credible accusation to come forward.

“It is absurd for any institution to simply dump confidential personnel files on the lap of strangers,” Donohue wrote in press release last week. The media, he said, would not hand over its personnel files on demand. “Ergo, what's good for the media is good for the Catholic Church,” he said.

Donohue also clarified a “lie” about Archbishop Chaput’s efforts to fight proposed legislation that would have removed a statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims against the Church, but would not have done anything for victims of sexual abuse by officials in public institutions.  The archbishop, Donohue said, was in favor of a law that would allow for the disclosure of files - provided it included all institutions.

“The reason he rightly insisted on uniform application was due to the fact that when this issue was originally taken up, public schools were exempted,” Donohue explained. “It is only when the proposed laws were amended to include the public school industry that the teachers unions went ballistic, thus killing the legislation.”

The groups’ implication that “the Denver Archdiocese is responsible for the failure of Colorado lawmakers to pass this legislation is scurrilous,” wrote Donohue. “If they were really interested in protecting all minors, they'd begin by demanding that the Colorado Association of School Boards, the Colorado Association of School Executives and the Colorado Education Association stop their obstructionist tactics.”

The Denver Post reported that the archdiocese and lawyers, who have filed suits alleging sex abuse by clergy on behalf of some 30 plaintiffs, announced on Wednesday that one-third have agreed to out-of-court settlements with the archdiocese or are close to a settlement.

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“Jesus revolutionized the meaning of death,” Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 6, 2006 (CNA) - Thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday to pray the Angelus with Pope Benedict XVI Sunday.  The Pope told the gathered faithful that the days following the Church’s commemoration of All Souls represents "a good occasion to recall our loved ones in prayer, and to reflect upon the reality of death."
The reality of death, the Pope said, is one that wealthy societies "often seek to remove from people's consciences, which are entirely occupied with the concerns of daily life."

However, "despite all the distractions, the loss of a loved one causes us to rediscover 'the problem,' making us feel death as a real presence, radically hostile and contrary to our natural vocation to life and happiness,” the Pope continued.
"Jesus revolutionized the meaning of death," the Holy Father proclaimed. "He did so with His teachings, but above all by facing death Himself ... ‘With the Spirit that cannot die,’ one of the Church Fathers writes, ‘Christ killed death that kills man. In this way, the Son of God wished to share our human condition ... and reopen it to hope.’"
Whereas death has now been deprived of its “poison,” the Pope continued it is no longer the same.  “The love of God, working in Jesus, has, in fact given a new meaning to man's entire existence, also transforming death... Those who undertake to live like Him are freed from the fear of death, which no longer laughs scornfully like an enemy but, as St. Francis writes in his Canticle of Creatures, shows the friendly face of a sister.”
"Faith reminds us that there is no cause to be afraid of the death of the body, because it is a sleep from which we will one day be woken. True death, which we should fear, is the death of the soul, which the Apocalypse calls 'second death.' Indeed, those who die in mortal sin, unrepentant and closed in the proud refusal of God's love, exclude themselves from the kingdom of life."

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Nazi concentration camp unveils monument to Catholic priests killed in Holocaust

Berlin, Germany, Nov 6, 2006 (CNA) - A new stone sculpture was unveiled in Germany this weekend to commemorate the many Catholic priests and monks killed in a lesser-known World War II Nazi concentration camp near Berlin.

The sculpture, unveiled Saturday, is engraved with a cross and the names of 96 clergy who died at Sachsenhausen concentration camp on the north-west outskirts of Berlin, reported Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Cardinal Jozef Glemp, primate of Poland, attended the ceremony as most of the priests were Polish.

To date, historians working for the Archdiocese of Berlin have documented the names of 711 Catholic clergy from Poland, Germany, and other European nations who were incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen camp.

Hundreds were later transferred to Dachau and other Nazi sites, where they died. One of the surviving inmates, Kazimierz Majdanski, now 90, went on to become Catholic bishop of Szczecin-Kamien.

At the unveiling, Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky said the German Catholic Church was grateful for this memorial to the victims of Sachsenhausen camp, more than 600 of whom were Poles, reported DPA.

The Cardinal also appealed for continued vigilance against racism. 

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First American Catholic cathedral reopens

, Nov 6, 2006 (CNA) - The first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States reopened to the public in Baltimore Saturday after undergoing a $32-million restoration over the past two years.

“We, in Baltimore, have the blessing of having a special treasure in our care, in this basilica," Cardinal William Keeler told a crowd of 1,300 gathered outside the 200-year-old church during a special ceremony, after which he reopened the doors of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Cardinal James Francis Stafford was in attendance, representing Pope Benedict XVI. The ceremony launched a week of festivities, which will end Nov. 12 with a procession of more than 200 U.S. bishops.

Cardinal Keeler said what St. Peter's is to the Roman Catholic Church, the cathedral is to the United States, reported The Associated Press. He said Pope John Paul II hailed it as a worldwide symbol of religious freedom.

Though a few cathedrals were built in the British, French, and Spanish controlled territories that now make up the United States, Baltimore’s cathedral was the first constructed in the new country, being built not long after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.  The church came to symbolize the acceptance of Catholicism in the young country. Construction began in 1806; it was completed in 1821. Pope Pius XI designated it a basilica in 1937.

Still recovering from a car accident, Cardinal Keeler used a walker to follow five children through the doors of the basilica as the bells tolled. Visitors followed the archbishop inside during the open house Saturday, reported the Baltimore Sun.

During the restoration, workers found the cathedral's cornerstone and uncovered 140-year-old paintings of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on the walls beneath its 87-foot-high dome. Crews also restored 24 skylights in the dome.

Much of the restoration served to return the basilica to more closely match the designs of British-American architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who also designed the U.S. Capitol building.

Funding for the restoration was obtained and managed by the Basilica of the Assumption Historic Trust Inc.

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Bishops of Poland recall that the life should be defended irrespective of religious creeds

Warsaw, Poland, Nov 6, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Poland, Bishop Josef Michalik, has sent a letter to the leader of the Polish parliament reminding him that human life, from the moment of conception until natural death, should be defended regardless of the religious creed that one confesses.

The bishops’ letter, addressed to Marek Jurek, came as the Polish parliament begins debate on reforms to the Constitution that include adding the principle of “the defense of live from conception to natural death.”

In their letter, they stressed that the defense of life “is today a matter of reason and correct conscience, beyond the creed of each individual, inasmuch as faith strengthens respect for the natural law written on the heart of each human being.”

According to Bishop Michalik, today “not only is Europe on the verge of committing demographic suicide, the humanity of each person is placed in mortal danger each time we fail to appropriately respond to laws that authorize the killing of an innocent human being or when we try to convince ourselves that such murder is justifiable.”

Likewise, he stressed that the issue of the defense of life “is one of the fundamental ethics that go beyond politics and the interests of individual political parties.”

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Belgian conference encourages the New Evangelization in European cities

Brussels, Belgium, Nov 6, 2006 (CNA) - Thousands of participants of all ages came from Belgium, Europe, and beyond to gather last week for the “Brussels All Saints 2006” Congress.  The Congress, which is part of an annual gathering rotating through European cities, was titled “Come and See” and took place at the Sacred-Heart Basilica of Koekelberg and St. Michael’s Cathedral.

For a full week the Congress focused on Christian values aiming at making the Catholic Church more visible in Brussels’ landscape by encouraging a renewed Catholic culture.

During the closing session of the congress the European Cardinals who have organized previous congresses in Brussels, Lisbon, Vienna, and Paris as well as the head of the Archdiocese of Budapest, where the next congress will take place, called for a culture of God with more individual and collective responsibility.   Cardinals Godfried Danneels, Péter Erdö, José da Cruz Policarpo, Christoph Schönborn and André Vingt-Trois reflected on the living message of the Church in the heart of Europe’s cities.  

Cardinal Danneels issued a vibrant appeal for an increase in Christian ethics which challenge the media and politicians not to be silent on euthanasia, aids, abortion, illegal refugees, and poverty.

The Belgian cardinal was pleased that the objective of the congress, “to place the Church back on the map so that it can give to contemporaries its message on the sense of life,” had been achieved.  

In the way it approaches youth, Danneels stressed, “the Church should not behave like goldfish swimming comfortably in an aquarium but like a trout daring to swim against the current.”

In a keynote speech “The poor evangelise us in depth”, Andrea Riccardi, founder of the St. Egidio movement, addressed the crucial problem of the marginalization of the aged, infirm, and dying in European cities. “It isn’t a scandal if the healthy mix with the sick, if the wealthy mix with the poor, if the weak mix with the strong,” Riccardi affirmed.  He went on to call for an alliance between the humble and the poor, because he said, “in humility, grows the fraternity with the poor.”

Other prominent topics of the congress included a speech by Enzo Bianchi on prayer and Evangelisation, as well as testimonies connected with the “faith in the city.”  The issue of Muslim immigration and growth in Europe was also covered.

The hosts of the next Congress, Cardinal Erdö, and his Austrian neighbour, Cardinal Schönborn, told Aid to the Church in Need that they are hopeful that many young people “especially from Eastern Europe” will come to Budapest from 16-23 September 2007.

Cardinal Erdö also noted that half of the new vocations in his country came from youth inspired by World Youth Days.

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Relativism and the collapse of ethics are enemies for a tolerant society, affirms Cardinal Cañizares

Madrid, Spain, Nov 6, 2006 (CNA) - "One of the strongest and most difficult enemies of a tolerant society and for a culture of coexistence is the relativism and collapse of ethics which can be found in many aspects of contemporary culture," said the Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, in his opening speech at the 40th Social Week in Spain.

In his address at Toledo’s Rojo Theater, beneath a banner reading, "Christian Proposals for a culture of coexistence", the prelate stated, "when tolerance is understood as relative indifference it underestimates every glimpse of personal or collective conviction, or when the belief that there are no absolute truths dominates - that every truth is contingent and revisable and that every certainty is a symptom of immaturity and dogmatism, or when it considers that neither are there values deserving permanent and unconditional adherence then it is very difficult to build a tolerant society and a culture of coexistence." 

The archbishop cited Pope John Paul II as he reminded, "there is always someone who considers ethical relativism a condition of democracy, since it guarantees tolerance, the mutual respect between people and the adherence to the decisions of the majority, while moral norms, considered to be objective and mandatory, would lead to authoritarianism and to intolerance". 

"But when there is a lack of moral norms, mandatory and objective for all, for example in the respect of life, we can all see the serious consequences that arise," he insisted. 

"A tolerant society and a culture of coexistence is founded on the truth that makes us free and is fulfilled in love.  A society that destroys or diminishes liberty - truth founded liberty - or weakens and degrades the reality of love or the word 'love', leads to a road of intolerance.  Therefore, if we want to be free and to build a tolerant society, let us seek and serve the truth that is fulfilled in love," he said. 

"For any Christian, being tolerant and an agent of a culture of coexistence, should not be just an ornament, it’s part of his essence, the archbishop continued, because the Christian is a man of communion, of dialogue, and of encounter; because he was born out of love, of the communion, of the dialogue and of the encounter of God with man through his Son Jesus Christ."

"Communion, coexistence, and tolerance do not exist when the community imposes itself on men; tolerance is not real if some coexist with one another in indifference, seeking only their own advantages and interests", he added. 

"True tolerance tends naturally to communion and only arises when one perceives the undeniable dignity of one’s neighbor and diversity as wealth, when you recognize your neighbor with the same dignity and are willing to communicate your own capacities and gifts", emphasized the prelate of Toledo. 

"We need to live in tolerance, understanding this as obligatory respect to the conscience and to other people’s convictions; we need it as a firm base for a coexistence in liberty.  We need it abundantly in this intolerant world, unfortunately, it is rejected everywhere," he noted.

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Vatican experts say Pope may propose reform of liturgical music in coming weeks

Vatican City, Nov 6, 2006 (CNA) - Sources close the Holy See are saying that during his upcoming visit to the St. Cecilia Music Academy Pope Benedict XVI may address the need to recover the quality of sacred music in the liturgical life of the Church.

The feast of St. Cecilia, patroness of music, will be celebrated on November 22, and the Pontiff has announced that during that week he intends to visit the academy of music in Rome that bears the saint’s name.

According to Vatican sources consulted by the Catholic News Agency, the Holy Father, who has expressed his concern over liturgical music, may address the need to recover the place of sacred music, “both Gregorian and polyphonic,” in the Catholic liturgy.

“This pronouncement could even take the form of a ‘Motu Propio,’ an official document issued on the Holy Father’s own initiative,” sources said.

Since the election of Pope Benedict XVI, sacred music has been given greater attention in the Roman liturgy

On November 19, as part of the year of Mozart—one of Pope’s favorite composers—Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, will preside at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, in which the famous Philharmonic Orchestra of Vienna will present Mozart’s Mass of Coronation.

Although no time has been official allotted for remarks by the Holy Father, it is possible he will address the faithful at the conclusion of the liturgical celebration.

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Muslim boom in France: more mosques, fewer churches

Madrid, Spain, Nov 6, 2006 (CNA) - In the last thirty years more mosques and Muslim prayer centers have been built in France than Catholic churches in the last century.  Spanish weekly Alba revealed the statistics last week which, they say, indicate a Muslim boom in a nation historically considered “the eldest daughter of the Church.”

According to the publication, “immigration in France has led to a strong growth in the building of mosques and evangelical places of worship, which has been paralleled by the decrease in Catholic churches.  France now has more than 1,500 mosques, almost as many as exist in Istanbul, Turkey.”

The publication also notes that “in that last five years the Catholic Church has built 20 churches, mostly in Paris, Pontoise, and Nice, and 60 churches have been decommissioned.”

“The Muslim population in the European Union increases by one million people per year, and consequently, at that pace, the EU will have at least 40 million Muslims by 2025.  France is the country with the greatest number of followers of Islam: 10% of the population,” the article adds.

“The EU continues to attract immigrants.  According to Eurostat, the EU’s Office of Statistics, “the relative economic prosperity and the political stability of the European Union are highly attractive factors,” Alba notes.

“Europe is increasingly Islamized and France is at the head of the pack,” the article adds.

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