Archive of November 9, 2006

Life issues determined mid-term elections, say pro-life leaders

Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2006 (CNA) - Pro-life leaders attribute the results of Tuesday’s mid-term elections to Republican candidates’ wavering positions on pro-life issues. The election brought a Democratic majority to the U.S. Congress for the first time since 1994.

“The most vulnerable seats in both houses were those held by politicians who had abandoned the pro-life and the pro-marriage principles that first brought them to power,” said Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International.

“In many states, voters turned out in large numbers to defend traditional marriage, but voters were not willing to support those who would not support their values. Some so-called conservative senators were all too happy to water down or jettison their ‘unwavering’ defense of the unborn in the name of political expediency and now they have paid the price,” Fr. Euteneuer said in a statement.

He blamed George Allen’s loss on his investments in Barr Pharmaceuticals--the manufacturer of the abortifacient Plan B. He said Jim Talent’s loss in Missouri was cause by his fearful refusal to oppose the state’s cloning initiative.

“The Giuliani-McCain-Romney wing of the Republican Party is responsible for this overwhelming defeat,” the priest charged. “If the GOP truly wishes to regain the trust of pro-life, pro-family conservatives, then they must look to leaders like Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who has never wavered on his principles or his defense of the innocent unborn, as their model.”

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said the Democratic Party made major gains because they presented some candidates who espouse pro-life views.

“The Democrats did not (and could not) gain any control in Congress by opposing the pro-life position,” Fr. Pavone said in a statement, “but rather by having enough candidates who claimed to embrace it (like Bob Casey, Jr.).”

The priest cited a political analysis, published in the Washington Post, which indicated that this election will change the quality of the Democratic presence in Congress.

“Party politics will be shaped by the resurgence of ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats, who come mainly from the South and from rural districts in the Midwest and often vote like Republicans,” the Post said. The newspaper added that top Democrats have already instructed their members that “they cannot allow the party's liberal wing to dominate the agenda next year.”

Fr. Pavone said he intends to ask the new Democratic House leadership what action they will take on the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which would require that a mother, who is seeking an abortion after 20 weeks gestation, be given the option of providing pain relief for her unborn child prior to the abortion procedure.

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Humanity must rediscover source of hope in the Eucharist, return to Eucharistic adoration, Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2006 (CNA) - Meeting with members of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses this morning, Pope Benedict XVI said today that he hopes the practice of Eucharistic adoration “will become ever more widespread.”

 The Holy Father recalled, "just how beneficial the rediscovery of Eucharistic adoration by many Christians is.”

“How much need modern humanity has to rediscover the source of its hope in the Sacrament of the Eucharist,” the Pope said. “I thank the Lord because many parishes, alongside the devout celebration of Mass, are educating the faithful in Eucharistic adoration. And it is my hope that - also in view of the next International Eucharistic Congress - this practice will become ever more widespread."

In his address to the delegates, the Pope first recalled how they are currently preparing the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, due to be held in Quebec, Canada, in June 2008.  Eucharistic congresses, he said, "are always a source of spiritual renewal, an occasion to make better known the Blessed Eucharist, which was the most valuable treasure Jesus left us. They also constitute an encouragement for the Church to spread the love of Christ at all levels of society, and to testify to it without hesitation."
Pope Benedict also referred to the forthcoming post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, which will bring together the key issues that arose during the October 2005 Synod on that Sacrament, the Pope concluded by giving assurances that the document "will help the Church to prepare and celebrate ... the Eucharistic congress to be held in June 2008." 

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Archbishop Burke: Catholics must create culture of life after election loss

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 9, 2006 (CNA) - The passage of a measure that allows embryonic stem-cell research and cloning in Missouri is a “clarion call” to all Catholics and people of goodwill to rededicate themselves to the creation of a culture of life in the state, said the archbishop of St. Louis.

In Tuesday’s mid-term elections, 51 percent of Missourians voted in favor of the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, also known as Amendment 2. While the five-page amendment purports to ban human cloning, it allows for embryonic stem-cell research and actually encourages a type of human cloning known as somatic cell nuclear transfer.

The technique also known as “therapeutic cloning” or “research cloning” involves replacing the nucleus of an unfertilized human egg with the nucleus from a skin or nerve cell. The egg then is stimulated to grow, with researchers removing the resulting stem cells - and sacrificing the embryo in the process.

While majorities of voters in 90 of the state's 114 counties rejected the measure, 13 counties and the city of St. Louis had enough votes to pass the amendment, reported The Associated Press.

“We made great progress in helping the citizens of Missouri realize the confusion and deception of the language of Amendment 2,” said Archbishop Raymond Burke in a statement issued the day after the election. “We have failed, however, to overcome the formidable resources of its proponents. In Missouri, we have lost a significant battle for the protection of human life.”

The Catholic Church in Missouri joined a statewide grass-roots effort, which opposed the measure. It sought to highlight the benefits of ethical umbilical-cord and adult stem cell research. It pointed out the deceptive ballot language and raised questions about the methods that could be used to obtain donor eggs.

However, the grass-roots effort was outspent and outdone by a nearly $30-million campaign designed by supporters.

“The citizens of Missouri have succumbed to a false hope created by a campaign which has played on the desire of us all to help those suffering from deadly diseases and serious injuries,” the archbishop said.

“Missouri’s Amendment 2 will come to be regarded as the bellwether of human cloning, and will sadly divert attention and public funds from successful and completely ethical umbilical cord blood and adult stem-cell research,” he continued.

“It will further erode respect for all human life and for procreation as the way new human life is to come into the world.”

“Moreover, the provisions of the Amendment will make available to certain biotech companies the money of the taxpayers of Missouri for intrinsically immoral research, whether or not the research ever brings about the promised life-saving cures,” he added.

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Vatican releases text of Pope Benedict’s address to Swiss Bishops

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2006 (CNA) - After originally releasing and retracting an undelivered draft written by Pope John Paul II, the Vatican Information Service released today their translation of an address given by Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of Switzerland on Tuesday.  In his speech, the Holy Father did touch on a few of the topics, such as the need to return faith to the center of people’s lives and the importance of the liturgy, which were highlighted in his predecessor’s speech

The visit of the Swiss bishops came, in large part, as a conclusion of their 2005 “ad Limina” visit, which was cut short due to John Paul II’s failing health.  In addition to offering the newly published address, Pope Benedict also spoke to the bishops in the midst of a Mass he concelebrated with them on Tuesday.
The Holy Father began his talk by addressing the question of faith, affirming that while people once used to grow in the virtue of faith, "as a part of life," today, "the opposite seems more natural, in other words, that in the end it is not possible to believe, that in fact God is absent. In any case, the faith of the Church appears to be a thing of the distant past." For this reason, "I believe it is important to become aware of the fact that faith is at the center of everything."
"Faith," said the Pope, "is above all faith in God... This centrality of God must, I believe, become visible in a completely new way in all our thoughts and actions. It is what animates our activities, which, otherwise, can easily degenerate into activism and become empty of meaning."
"This complete form of faith as expressed by the Creed, of a faith in and with the Church as a living entity in which the Lord is at work," is what "we must seek to put truly at the center of our activities. Even today, we see this very clearly: development causes damage when it is promoted exclusively, without (also) nourishing the soul."
"If, alongside aid in favor of developing countries, alongside the teaching of everything man is capable of doing, everything his intelligence has invented and his will made possible, if alongside all that, his soul is not also illuminated...then we learn only how to destroy. For this reason, I believe, we must reinforce our missionary responsibilities. If we are happy in our faith, we feel obliged to speak of it to others; the extent to which mankind welcomes it is in the hands of God."
Turning to address the question Catholic education, Benedict XVI mentioned "one thing which causes us all 'concern,' in the positive sense of the word: the fact that the theological formation of future priests and of other teachers and announcers of the faith should be outstanding. We need, then, good theological faculties, good major seminaries and well-trained teachers of theology."
"The unity of Scripture," Pope Benedict said turning to biblical scholarship, "is not a purely historical or critical fact ... but a theological fact. These writings form one Scripture, and can be fully understood only if read in 'analogia fidei,' as a unit in which there is a movement towards Christ and, conversely, in which Christ draws all history to Him." In this context, the Pope underlined the importance that, "alongside, with and within historical-critical exegesis," there be "an introduction to living Scripture as the actual Word of God."
The Pope then went on to speak about catechesis which "over the last fifty years has, on the one hand, made considerable progress in terms of methodology but, on the other, has lost a lot in terms of anthropology and the search for points of reference, to such a degree that it often does not even manage to cover the contents of the faith." It is important, Benedict XVI continued, for catechesis to fully value the faith, "and to find ways for that faith to be understood and accepted. Because religious ignorance today has reached a frightening level."
On the subject of the liturgy, the papal address made it clear that this "is not some 'self-expression' of the community which in the liturgy enters center stage, it is rather the community abandoning its 'being itself' to enter the great banquet of the poor, to become part of the great living community in which God Himself nourishes us. ... And it must be borne in mind that the homily is not an interruption of the liturgy for the purposes of making a speech, but that it is part of the sacramental event, bringing the Word of God into the present moment of the community."
"This means that the homily is itself part of the mystery, of the celebration of the mystery, and hence cannot be separated therefrom," said the Pope, highlighting the importance of it being the celebrant who pronounces the homily. "The priesthood is a thing of beauty only if the mission to be accomplished is seen as a whole, from which things cannot be cut off here and there. And this mission has always involved - even in the Old Testament rite - the priest's duty to link the sacrifice with the Word, which is an integral part of the whole."
As for the Sacrament of Penance, said the Holy Father, "we truly must learn it anew. Even from a purely anthropological point of view it is important, on the one hand, to recognize sin and, on the other, to exercise forgiveness. The widespread lack of awareness of sin is a worrying phenomenon of our times. The gift of the Sacrament of Penance consists, then, not only in the fact that we receive forgiveness, but also in the fact that we become aware of our need for forgiveness, ... and so we can also better understand others and forgive them."
On the question of episcopal ministry, the Pope highlighted the importance "that bishops, as successors of the Apostles, ... bear true responsibility for the local Churches entrusted by the Lord to their care. ... On the other hand, they must open the local Churches to the Universal Church." In this context, the Holy Father mentioned the difficulties of the Orthodox "with their autocepahlous Churches," and of Protestants "with the breakup of regional Churches. ... We are aware," he added, "of the enormous significance of universality, how important it is that the Church should open herself to totality, truly becoming, in her universality, one Church."
In closing, Benedict XVI touched on the question of ecumenism, highlighting the importance of guaranteeing the essential and God-given values of our society. "I believe," he concluded, "that if we learn to act together in this field we can achieve a large measure of unity, even where full theological and sacramental unity is not yet possible."

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Holy See disapproves of gay pride march in Jerusalem and pleads respect for believers

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2006 (CNA) - The Press Office of the Holy See expressed the Vaticans “intense disapproval” of a “demonstration of homosexual pride,” tomorrow in the Holy Land and asked for the beliefs of the world’s Jewish, Muslim, and Christians to be respected.
"With regret it was learned that ... on November 10, a so-called 'demonstration of homosexual pride' is due to take place in Jerusalem,” the Vatican communication began.
"Reiterating the pronouncements of the Catechism of the Catholic Church concerning people with deep-seated homosexual tendencies (para. 2358),” the message said, “the Holy See expresses its intense disapproval of this initiative, because it constitutes a grave affront to the feelings of millions of Jewish, Muslim and Christian believers, who all recognize the sacred character of the city of Jerusalem and ask that their beliefs be respected.”
"In the light of these factors and considering that on previous occasions religious values have been systematically offended, the Holy See nourishes the hope that the matter may be given due reconsideration,” the communiqué indicated.
"A note to the same effect has been presented by the apostolic nunciature in Israel to that country's ministry for foreign affairs," it concluded.
That note, written in English, begins: "The Holy See has reiterated on many occasions that the right to freedom of expression, sanctioned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is subject to just limits, in particular when the exercise of this right would offend the religious sentiments of believers." 

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Priest, injured in Iraq, utters first words in over 2 years

Minneapolis, Minn., Nov 9, 2006 (CNA) - For the last two years, Father H. Timothy Vakoc has lay nearly comatose in a Minnesota hospital. Last week, however, he shocked family, friends and caregivers by uttering his first words since being severely injured by an explosion in Iraq.

46 year-old Fr. Vakoc--a Minnesota native--first arrived in Iraq in 2003, following a stint as military chaplain in Bosnia and Germany. His duties in Iraq included holding prayer services and escorting the bodies of fallen soldiers to planes bound for the U.S.

Shortly after celebrating Mass on May 24th, 2004--the 12th anniversary of his ordination as a priest--he was struck by a roadside bomb near the city of Mosul. Shrapnel from the blast destroyed his left eye and embedded itself into his skull, causing brain damage.

From that point on, Fr. Vakoc has not been able to speak and has been in what doctors call a “minimally responsive” state. Staff at the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center had all but given up hope and declared that the priest would never speak again.

Then, on October 26th, everything changed.

His mother, Phyllis Vakoc, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper that "All of a sudden Tim was on the phone and he was talking to me…He said 'Mom.' He said 'goodbye.' He said a lot of things in between I couldn't catch. For two and a half years we've been waiting. We've been praying for a miracle."

That miracle happened in the presence of Brenda Simmons, a longtime friend of Fr. Vakoc. The Star-Tribune reported that she is a holistic health practitioner from Colorado who’d been working with the priest despite most hospital staff having given up hope.

The Star-Tribune recounted that on the afternoon of October 26th “when he woke up from a nap, [Simmons] said, ‘Hi, Tim. Can you say hi back?’

He said, "Hi."

Simmons, struggling to restrain her shock, replied, "Can you say Mom?"
"Very clear again,” she reported, “he said 'Mom,'…I was just like, 'Oh, my gosh…And I said, 'Tim, can you say, Thank you, God?' And he said 'Thank you, God.'"

Since then, progress has been steady, but sometimes frustrating for the once gregarious priest. The hospital has now stepped up therapy and the priest’s devout Catholic family continually waits for more words from their son and brother.

Patience runs high though, for the embattled family. According to the Star-Tribune, mother Phyllis recently told her son, “ I've waited two and a half years, Tim…And we can wait some more. We'll wait as long as it takes."

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International community should support suffering Church not corrupt Sudanese government, Cardinal says

Konigstein, Germany, Nov 9, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking recently to Aid to the Church in Need, Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum decried the continued suffering experienced by the people of Sudan and noted that it is the Catholic Church, not the corrupt Sudanese government, that provides most of the care for the needy people of his country.

“Millions of dollars are being handed over to a corrupt government,” Cardinal Zubeir Wako told the international charity.  According to the archbishop, humanitarian aid funds are being wasted instead of being entrusted to those responsible groups who are prepared to genuinely attend to the needs of the population. “Who is really aware of whom the Church is helping in Sudan? Who sees the sufferings of the Church and what was taken away from her? We demand that the Church be respected and trusted because she truly serves the people,” he added.

Cardinal Zubeir Wako pointed to the fact that hundreds of thousands of refugees were still not able to return to their homes in southern Sudan – despite the peace agreement of Jan. 9, 2005.  “It is not the state, but the Church that takes care of those forgotten people who have to live under inhuman conditions, very close to the Sudanese capital,” the cardinal said.

“Therefore,” he continued, “the international community must support the Church that is a suffering Church and yet does all it can to alleviate the misery of the people. The Muslims as well are aware of this fact. We have suffered for decades from what the people in Darfur are going through right now.”

Voicing concern over a lack of will to take action on part of the international community, the Cardinal said: “They will continue to negotiate or even remain silent and then declare that the problem is solved.”

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Controversial “politically correct” version of the Bible published in Germany

Berlin, Germany, Nov 9, 2006 (CNA) - A group of 52 biblical “specialists” have released a new version of the Bible in which inclusive language and “political correctness” have replaced some “divisive” teachings of Christianity in order to present a “more just language” for groups such as feminists and homosexuals.

According to the AFP news agency, the new version of the Sacred Scriptures was presented at a book fair in Frankfurt.  Entitled, “The Bible in a More Just Language,” the translation has Jesus no longer referring to God as “Father,” but as “our Mother and Father who are in heaven.”

Likewise, Jesus is no longer referred to as the “Son” but rather as the “child” of God.  The title “Lord” is replaced with “God” or “the Eternal One.”  The devil, however, is still referred to with masculine pronouns.
“One of the great ideas of the Bible is justice.  We have made a translation that does justice to women, Jews, and those who are disregarded,” said Pastor Hanne Koehler, who led the team of translators.

Last December, Matin Dreyer, pastor and founder of the sect “Jesus Freaks,” published the “Volksbibel” (The People’s Bible), in a supposed attempt to make the message of Christianity more “accessible.”  Jesus “returns” instead of resurrects, and multiplies “hamburgers” instead of the fish and loaves.  In the parable of the prodigal son, the younger son squanders his inheritance at dance clubs and ends up “cleaning bathrooms at McDonald’s.”

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Number of Catholics in Saudi Arabia have quadrupled since 1974

Madrid, Spain, Nov 9, 2006 (CNA) - Jose Luis Orella, professor of history and thought at St. Paul’s University in Madrid, said this week the number of Catholics in Saudi Arabia, where the Christian faith is outlawed, has quadrupled from 200,000 in 1974 to 800,000 today.

“Saudi Arabia, as protector of the holy Islamic sites, and under the strict interpretation of ‘wahhabism,’ completely prohibits any type of Christian expression or symbols in the country,” the professor said.

Speaking to Europa Press, Orella said the more than three million Christians that live in the Arabian Peninsula are of one hundred different nationalities, although most are from the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt.

In to order to repress Catholic worship, the government makes use of a special police force, the “mutawa,” “the real terror of immigrants, whom they cruelly harass,” Orella stated.  “Any book or object that can be classified as Christian is confiscated and thrown into the trash, and the ‘aggressor’ is incarcerated.”

Priests must operate in secret, he continued, by posing on paper as employees of the numerous companies that are based in Saudi Arabia, and Masses are celebrated either in diplomatic or in clandestine areas.

According to Amnesty International, 329 Christians were detained for different reasons between 1990 and 1993. In 1995 a man named Donato Lama was arrested for spreading the Christian faith and was sentenced to 70 lashes and 18 months in prison, after which he was deported to the Philippines.  In 1984, two other Filipinos, Ruel Janda and Amel Beltran, were beheaded.  More recently, in April of 2005, forty Pakistanis were detained for attending a clandestine Mass in an apartment.

Nevertheless, Orella called Saudi Arabia “the exception” among Arab countries, as both the head of the United Arab Emirates, the emir of Qatar, the King of Bahrain and the Sultan of Oman “have established good relations with the Vatican, and in the last years of the 20th century, they have established diplomatic relations as well.”

“The Catholic Church has a vicariate for Arabia, which includes all of the countries of the peninsula, in order to organize in the best way possible the spiritual help that Christians who have recently settled there need.  The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, is where the vicariate is headquartered and where a half-dozen churches have been built, as in Oman, where four churches have been built, and another in Bahrain,” Orella said.

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Cardinal Bergoglio reminds bishops that Church unity is achieved through service

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 9, 2006 (CNA) - In his remarks at the opening Mass of the 92nd Plenary Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, president of the body, said unity in the Church is achieved through service.

In his homily, the cardinal said, “a pastor attains and amasses the unity of his people” through service, “seeking the interests of Christ Jesus and not his own.”  He explained that unity is achieved through sincere love and humility that sees “others as superior,” and not through a spirit of discord and vanity.

Likewise, the cardinal recalled that “unity in the Church is a grace” and a “pure gift of the Lord.”

Cardinal Bergoglio invited the bishops to follow Mary’s example of service.  Embracing the attitude of Mary, “the first disciple, will give us the paternal ‘tenderness’ and the fraternal ‘compassion’ to exhort our people and to exhort ourselves to make our joy perfect ‘by remaining very united’.”

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Implementation of new education law in Spain will leave thousands of religion teachers out of work

Madrid, Spain, Nov 9, 2006 (CNA) - According to the Spanish daily, “La Razon,” one-third of the four thousand teachers that teach religion in public schools could lose their jobs if a new education law put forward by the Minister of Education is passed.  

The proposed law, which would reduce the number of hours dedicated to religious instruction, would leave religion instructors with less time on the job and no opportunity to make up the hours in other subjects.

Teachers union leaders have expressed concern over the proposal, saying the reduction in the number of hours allotted for religious instruction would endanger the jobs of teachers.  “Many would see their full-time days reduced to half-time, and they would be forced to assume the trouble of having to teach at additional schools in order to maintain a full-time work schedule,” union leaders said.

Many observers note that the real plan of the Spanish government is to implement the new subject, “Education for Citizenship,” as a secular alternative to traditional religious instruction.

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