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Archive of November 7, 2006

Bishops say Catholics anxiously awaiting papal visit to Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 7, 2006 (CNA) - “The Church in Turkey awaits the encounter with Benedict XVI.  We are preparing for the celebration in December, when the Pontiff will meet with the Catholic faithful and their pastors at the Cathedral of Istanbul,” said Father Georges Marovitch, the official spokesman of the Bishops’ Conference of Turkey.

Father Marovitch said hundreds are requesting to attend the liturgy but “space is limited.” “Therefore we have decided to set up a huge television screen in the Church of San Antonio so that everyone can follow the celebration.”

According to the Italian news agency SIR, Father Marovitch also explained that after the Pope’s speech in Ratisbona, “the Turkish newspapers wrote that the President of Turkey would not meet with the Pope, but rather another government official would take his place.  At that time we were surprised, but later the news was clarified.  President Necdet Sezer will receive the Holy Father without his Prime Minister, Erdogan, who will be in Riga for the NATO summit.”

Turkish Catholics are also excitedly anticipating for the meeting between the Holy Father and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.  “Nothing has been leaked about the joint declaration they will sign.  I think it will be a surprise,” Father Marovitch.

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Benedict confronts Swiss bishops on secularization, liturgy, and lay involvement

Vatican City, Nov 7, 2006 (CNA) - Meeting with members of the Conference of Swiss Bishops today, Pope Benedict XVI urged a continued battle against the advance of secularization and relativism in the Church and noted a few key areas of concern for the Catholic Church in Switzerland.

"The advance of secularization and of relativism means not only that the Sacraments, especially participation in Sunday Mass, are reduced in frequency, but also that the moral values proposed by the Church are put in doubt," said the Pope.

The Pope, who said the meeting was, in some way, "the conclusion of their 'ad limina' visit of February 2005," which was cut short due to the failing health of Pope John Paul II, also wanted to take time for, "considering certain aspects of the current situation of the Church in Switzerland, identifying those elements worthy of being intensified and promoted, and those in need of correction and purification."
 
After highlighting the fact that many people live "as if God does not exist," the Pope called upon the prelates "to ensure that the Word of God and the Christian message are understood," and insisted they should adopt unanimous positions on theological and moral questions.

"The fundamental duty of the bishop, pastor, and master of faith," he recalled, "is to invite the faithful to a full acceptance of Church teaching."

Mass and Reconciliation

Turning to the liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed that "it is a right and duty of everyone to ensure (the Mass) be celebrated in accordance with the rules laid down by the Church." As for Sunday Mass, he stressed the need, "to avoid its being substituted, if there are no important reasons to do so, by a celebration of the Word," and "to ensure the homily remains an important moment of doctrinal and spiritual formation ... reserved to the priest or the deacon."
 
The Holy Father also addressed what the Swiss bishops called a “crisis being suffered by the Sacrament of Penance," in their five-yearly reports.  Benedict XVI identified the need "for dioceses to re-launch pastoral activity aimed at encouraging the faithful to individual confession... Call upon priests to be assiduous confessors, generously offering the faithful appropriate times for individual confession; encourage the priests to avail themselves frequently of this Sacrament."

Moreover, he continued, "priests must rigorously observe Church norms concerning collective absolution ... which can only take place under truly exceptional circumstances."
 
Priestly ministry and lay collaboration

Turning to consider the collaboration of lay people in priestly ministry, Benedict XVI explained that "care must be taken to ensure,... in parishes and pastoral centers, that the priest remains the pastor and that lay people help the priest, collaborating with him in the various sectors of pastoral life.

“The importance of the laity's role must not bring us to underestimate the ministry of priests, so indispensable for the life of the Church," the Holy Father said.

However, in this context the Pope called for, "an intensification in the formation of lay people to increase their faith and doctrinal knowledge, and grant them spiritual energies."
 
Benedict also turned to the question of priestly and religious vocations, which he said are, "a constant concern for the Church in your country."

"For the future of the Church in Switzerland, it is important to oversee the organization and orientation of seminaries and of the various faculties and schools of theology ... with a view to discernment and to the profound human, spiritual, cultural and pastoral formation of candidates to the priesthood.”

“Be equally attentive," he told the bishops, "to the initial and permanent formation of future priests, deacons and pastoral lay workers. A sure and faithful teaching of the tradition and Magisterium of the Church will ensure that everyone discovers the richness of Catholic faith."
 
Finally, the Pope concluded, "ecumenism is a sector in which the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed. The religious history of your country and your later experiences give you a special responsibility and mission in this field. Encourage your communities to commit themselves to an ecumenical journey based on the principles expressed in the Conciliar Decree 'Unitatis redintegratio' and in the 'Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism'."

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Holy See’s press office recalls “speech” never delivered by Pope

Vatican City, Nov 7, 2006 (CNA) - A “speech” allegedly delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to the Swiss bishops was released and few hours later recalled by the Vatican Press Office on Tuesday.

The “Sala Stampa” released a speech allegedly given by Pope Benedict in the context of the Ad Limina visit of the Catholic bishops of Switzerland (scheduled from November 7-9).

According to the Swiss press, the alleged “speech” released by the press office, and even summarized by the Vatican Information Service (VIS), was one prepared by the late Pope John Paul II, but never delivered, since the Ad Limina visit of the Swiss bishops was suspended in February 2005, when the Pope’s health became more precarious.

The speech was posted for few hours on the Vatican web page and was also released in Switzerland by the press office of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference. Both recalled the text without further comment.

The Vatican Information Service plans to release portions of Pope Benedict’s actual speech, which was reportedly improvised, on Wednesday morning.

The un-spoken speech, which was originally reported here at CNA said in part that, "The advance of secularization and of relativism means not only that the Sacraments, especially participation in Sunday Mass, are reduced in frequency, but also that the moral values proposed by the Church are put in doubt."

The orgininal speech also intended to consider "certain aspects of the current situation of the Church in Switzerland, identifying those elements worthy of being intensified and promoted, and those in need of correction and purification."
 
After highlighting the fact that many people live "as if God does not exist," the speech calls upon the prelates "to ensure that the Word of God and the Christian message are understood," and insists that they should adopt unanimous positions on theological and moral questions.

"The fundamental duty of the bishop, pastor, and master of faith," it says, "is to invite the faithful to a full acceptance of Church teaching."

Turning to the liturgy, Pope John Paul II's proposed speech affirmed that "it is a right and duty of everyone to ensure (the Mass) be celebrated in accordance with the rules laid down by the Church." As for Sunday Mass, the speech stresses the need, "to avoid its being substituted, if there are no important reasons to do so, by a celebration of the Word," and "to ensure the homily remains an important moment of doctrinal and spiritual formation ... reserved to the priest or the deacon."
 
The text also addressed what the Swiss bishops called a “crisis being suffered by the Sacrament of Penance," in their five-yearly reports.  There is a need, the speech says, "for dioceses to re-launch pastoral activity aimed at encouraging the faithful to individual confession... Call upon priests to be assiduous confessors, generously offering the faithful appropriate times for individual confession; encourage the priests to avail themselves frequently of this Sacrament."

Moreover, it continues, "priests must rigorously observe Church norms concerning collective absolution ... which can only take place under truly exceptional circumstances."
 
"Care must be taken to ensure,... in parishes and pastoral centers, that the priest remains the pastor and that lay people help the priest, collaborating with him in the various sectors of pastoral life.  The importance of the laity's role must not bring us to underestimate the ministry of priests, so indispensable for the life of the Church," the communique said, calling for, "an intensification in the formation of lay people to increase their faith and doctrinal knowledge, and grant them spiritual energies."

The talk also addresses "a constant concern" for the Swiss Church - vocations.  "For the future of the Church in Switzerland, it is important to oversee the organization and orientation of seminaries and of the various faculties and schools of theology ... with a view to discernment and to the profound human, spiritual, cultural and pastoral formation of candidates to the priesthood.”

“Be equally attentive," the speech said, "to the initial and permanent formation of future priests, deacons and pastoral lay workers. A sure and faithful teaching of the tradition and Magisterium of the Church will ensure that everyone discovers the richness of Catholic faith."
 
Finally, the text concluded, "ecumenism is a sector in which the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed. The religious history of your country and your later experiences give you a special responsibility and mission in this field. Encourage your communities to commit themselves to an ecumenical journey based on the principles expressed in the Conciliar Decree 'Unitatis redintegratio' and in the 'Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism'."

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Supreme Court to hear arguments re partial-birth abortion ban

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2006 (CNA) - Pro-life groups are hopeful as the United States Supreme Court heads into hearings Wednesday on the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban.

The ban was passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, but pro-abortion groups launched three lawsuits against it. Federal appeals courts in Nebraska, New York, and California declared the ban unconstitutional because it lacked a health exception in the case of a threat to the life of the baby’s mother.

The Supreme Court will now consider whether the ban needs a health exception, or if the abortion procedure is unnecessary to protect a mother's health, reported LifeNews.com. When Congress drafted the national partial-birth abortion ban, it did not include a health exception.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Rep. Steve Chabot, an Ohio Republican who sponsored the ban, said the health exception was excluded because Congress heard extensive medical testimony, which indicated that partial-birth abortions are “never medically necessary” and “oftentimes harmful to the woman.”

Medical professionals pointed out that partial-birth abortions are known to have caused cervical incompetence, trauma to the uterus, and lacerations or hemorrhaging, he said.

"The problem with the health exception is we have a number of abortionists who have testified that any pregnancy is a risk to a woman's health," he added. "So if you have a health exception in there, in essence, you have a phony partial-birth abortion ban.”

“The partial-birth abortion procedure kills a baby in the very process of delivery,” said Fr. Frank Pavone, national president of Priests for Life. “It is performed on healthy babies of healthy mothers, all in the name of the ‘freedom of choice’ that some politicians eloquently proclaim but never describe.” Fr. Pavone will attend the Supreme Court hearings.

There are approximately between 5,000 and 10,000 partial-birth abortions in the U.S. each year.

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Pope buys 'vaccination' bond to fight disease in developing countries

Vatican City, Nov 7, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI today became the holder of the first bond issued by the British government to help fund immunization programs for children under the age of 5 in the developing world.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was expected to fly to London to attend the bond sale on behalf of the Pope. The pontiff reportedly wants to show his full support for the initiative, which was first presented at the Vatican during a 2004 conference on poverty and globalization, reported ANSA.

"Benedict XVI's gesture, at once real and symbolic, expresses the Holy See's full support for an initiative which, with broad international guarantees, will produce immediate and direct advantages in the field of aid and development, producing new financing with specific and urgent aims," says a Vatican communique made public today. For example, thanks to the IFFIm, "by 2015, in 72 countries the lives of 10 million people will have been saved, 5 million of them children."

Britain is one of eight countries that have pledged support for a new international initiative was designed to help rich countries achieve some of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

The International Financing Facility for Immunization (IFFIm) aims to finance immunizations against polio, malaria and tuberculosis in the world’s 72 poorest countries.

IFFIm’s anticipated investment of $4 billion is expected to help prevent five million child deaths between 2006 and 2015.

Other countries that have committed to this initiative include France, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Brazil and South Africa who have promised to do so soon.

The initiative, which is backed by the World Bank, gets governments that have pledged immunization aid, to issue bonds for this purpose now. Britain has currently pledged the most funds to the program — 1.38 billion pounds over 20 years.

The money lent by bond purchasers goes straight into the vaccination programs in some 72 of the world's poorest countries.

In a brief address delivered in English at the moment of purchasing the first bond, Cardinal Martino said: "People living in poverty are looking forward to the time when corruption at the various levels of government or in the social sector will no longer hinder opportunities for development from reaching all members of society. A government that is truly responsive to the needs of its people is not only a necessity for development, it should also be seen as a right.
 
"Pope Benedict XVI believes that this is the time," he added. "This is why he has decided that the Holy See would participate in the International Finance Facility bond program. His Holiness recognizes the need to quickly provide the funds in order to respond to poverty, hunger, the lack of educational and literacy opportunities and the ongoing fight against the scourge of malaria and the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis."

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Seek out holiness in the little things of daily life, says Argentinean bishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 7, 2006 (CNA) - During the Mass of All Saints, Bishop Francisco Polti of Santiago del Estero told the faithful, “We do not need to seek out holiness in spectacular actions, but rather in the little things of every day. In our homes, in our places of work, and through the tasks of daily life.”
 
“The Lord calls everyone to holiness, not just a few,” the bishop said.  “The vocation to holiness is universal, that is, it’s for you and for me, for all men and women.”
 
Citing the words of John Paul II, who often repeated that “all Christians, no matter what their class or condition, are called to the fullness of life and the perfection of love,” Bishop Polti stressed that Catholics should be “firm in their struggle to achieve holiness and remember that we need the grace of God for this task and that we can count on divine help.”
 
“The riches of holiness which the lives spent in the service of God in the Church in Argentina present to us are a treasure of holiness that enrich each one of us, the Argentina people and the entire universal Church,” he added. 

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British doctors recommend euthanasia for disabled newborns

London, England, Nov 7, 2006 (CNA) - A leading medical association in England has suggested that doctors euthanize newborns who have severe brain damage or major physical problems.
 
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecology suggests killing the babies is preferable to any extensive surgeries or treatments, reported LifeNews.com.

The suggestion came in the form of a list of recommendations to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

While euthanasia is prohibited in England, the Royal College insists it be included in the ethical guidelines that are being developed by the Nuffield Council in light of new medical advances.

The physicians’ organization suggests that medical care for extremely disabled babies would be a financial, social, and emotional drain on the parents.

"A very disabled child can mean a disabled family. If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making," the group reportedly wrote in its report.

"We would like the working party to think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best interests test, and active euthanasia, as they are ways of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns," it added.

According to LifeNews.com, the group also said promoting euthanasia would reduce late-term abortions as parents could decide to kill the baby after birth if they decide the baby could not easily lead a healthy life.

The Catholic Church teaches that all human life, including the disabled, is sacred and must be protected from conception to natural death. 

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Government trying to play God with proposed medical research law, Bishop warns

Madrid, Spain, Nov 7, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Jesus Sanz Montes of Huesca warned the Spanish government this week that its proposed law on medical research seeks to take the place of God in the way it “fools around with life,” deciding who will live and who won’t.

“No matter how they shroud it in confusing, flashy words that are meant to be ambiguous, fooling around like this with life, as the government’s proposed law on medical research seeks to do, is an attack on life in that it places economic and partisan ideological interests above the most basic common good - human life - and against the most vulnerable of human beings - the embryo,” the bishop said in statement.

Bishop Sanz noted that man has attempted to play God repeatedly throughout history, but that today we are facing, “a situation that has never been on such a massive scale.”  “To play God today is to be the owner of human life, to control that life in all of his stages and all of its forms.  A control that decides who must be eliminated and when,” he emphasized.

Repeating the statement of the Executive Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Bishop Sanz stressed that the Church is not opposed to scientific advances, but rather to those, “forms of research that include the programmed elimination of already existing human beings, even though they may have not yet been born.”

“History itself has condemned this science in the past and it will do so in the future,” the bishops said in their statement, “not only because it is deprived of the light of God, but also because it is deprived of humanity.”

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Archbishop calls for new ways of witnessing to the love of God for those in need

Valencia, Fla., Nov 7, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia has called on the faithful to develop “new ways and methods” of making the love of God present to those most in need, with an emphasis on action more than words.

In his weekly letter, the archbishop said, “The life of the Church, throughout history, is made up of an unending chain of gestures and works of love towards neighbor based on the love of God.”  In this sense, he recalled that God expressed his love for man in the most radical of ways: giving the life of his Son, “in order to give life to the human person and to save him.”

Archbishop Garcia-Gasco explained that in his encyclical, “Deus caritas est,” Pope Benedict XVI stressed that, “the Eucharist is the food that strengthens us and drives us to do works of love and to practice charity.”  

Benedict XVI shows how the Eucharist brings together worship and moral values, the archbishop continued.  “In worship itself, in the Eucharistic communion, both being loved and loving others are included. A Communion that does not lead to the practice of charity is incomplete.  And vice versa: the commandment of love is possible only because it is not a mere demand: love can be commanded because beforehand it is given,” he said.
 
Therefore, the archbishop noted, “the love of God lies more in action than in words.  The Christian is one who participates with his life in the initiative of the love of God and puts it into practice.”

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Thousands gather to oppose ‘conversion’ in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov 7, 2006 (CNA) - More than 1,000 angry Muslim protesters gathered outside Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Silibin on Sunday after a rumor rapidly spread through cell phone text messages and e-mails that a group of Muslims had chosen to be baptized and convert to Christianity there.

Police also received the text message and had sent officers to the scene to prevent violence.

After four hours and repeated warnings by police the crowd eventually dispersed, having learned that it was actually 98 ethnic Indian children who were readying to receive First Communion, reported The Malaysia Star. The protesters included members of opposition parties and non-governmental organizations

Muslims are not legally permitted to convert to other faiths in Malaysia. According to a report by The Associated Press, those who have previously tried were sentenced to prison terms and religious rehabilitation programs. Proselytizing of Muslims is also illegal.

The country’s 26 million-member population is about 60 percent Muslim, 25 percent Chinese Buddhists and Christians, and 10 percent Indians, who are mainly Hindus and Christians.

The government has been largely successful in nurturing harmony since the deadly ethnic riots in 1969, and the country is often hailed as a model of coexistence for other multicultural nations.

State police said it would investigate how the text message began. Perak Religious Department also intends to investigate.

Fr. Fabian Dicom, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Penang, said the Church was extremely concerned that a group of people had been sowing ill-will through rumors. He said the incident had also infringed on the church members' right to worship.

“The Catholic Church has always believed that dialogue is the best platform to resolve issues and as such is extremely disappointed that there was no attempt whatsoever for dialogue,” he told The Malaysia Star.

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Hunger and malnutrition unacceptable in the modern age, Vatican says

Rome, Italy, Nov 7, 2006 (CNA) - Addressing The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, emphatically stated that, “hunger and malnutrition are unacceptable in a world that has levels of production, of resources and of know-how capable of putting an end to this scourge and its dramatic consequences."

The Vatican official made his comments on behalf of the Pope during the 23rd session of the U.N.'s intergovernmental committee for Food Security, in Italy.

"It is not the Church's vocation," the archbishop said, "to propose political, economic or technical solutions to meet the problems of society. However, in her mission to announce the Good News to all nations, she feels particularly close to those who live in conditions of poverty, suffering and malnutrition, and wishes to help them with the means at her disposal.”

“She is always ready to support those who work to strengthen international solidarity and promote justice among people, especially those who live in direct contact with people undergoing harsh trials," Mamberti said of the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Mamberti, offered greetings and encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI and noted the FAO’s ongoing efforts to solve the problem of world hunger. "Beating hunger in the world is a task that needs time to achieve... Despite the efforts of the FAO... of intergovernmental organizations and of various other associations, we note a persistence, even an increase in the impediments and imbalances that prevent millions of men and women from obtaining adequate nourishment."
 
"The plight of the multitudes whose right to life is in danger must continue to concern us and touch our consciences so that our behavior, wherever we may be, does not contribute to aggravating the inequalities between rich countries and poor ones,” the archbishop said.

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