Archive of November 14, 2006

Bishops call for dialogue on responsible transition in Iraq

, Nov 14, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. military should “remain in Iraq only as long as their presence contributes to a responsible transition,” said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a statement issued yesterday.

The statement was issued by USCCB president Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane during the course of the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore this week.

“The increases in sectarian violence and civil strife have made the challenge of securing a ‘responsible transition’ in Iraq even more urgent today,” the bishops said.

The statement indicates that the Vatican and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly expressed grave moral concerns about military intervention in Iraq and the unpredictable and uncontrollable negative consequences of invasion and occupation.  However, the statement continues, at this time there is a moral requirement to bring about security within the country.

“The Holy See and our Conference now support broad and necessary international engagement to promote stability and reconstruction in Iraq,” the statement reads. “The intervention in Iraq has brought additional moral responsibilities to help Iraqis to secure and rebuild their country.”

The bishops urged the Bush administration and the new Congress to abandon divisive rhetoric and engage in collaborative dialogue that “honestly assesses the situation in Iraq, acknowledges past difficulties and miscalculations, recognizes and builds on positive advances.”

They listed basic benchmarks for responsible transition in Iraq, including: fostering adequate levels of security; curbing wanton killings, indefensible terrorist attacks, and sectarian violence; strengthening the basic rule of law; promoting economic reconstruction to begin to create employment and economic opportunity for Iraqis; and supporting the further development of political structures and solutions that advance stability, political participation, and respect for religious freedom and basic human rights.

“Ultimately, this work must be done by Iraqis, but the United States and its coalition partners have a moral obligation to continue and intensify efforts with Iraqis … toward achieving these benchmarks,” they said.

The bishops expressed concern about the people of Iraq and particularly the deteriorating situation of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq. “Their vulnerability is dramatic evidence of the serious and growing dangers facing the entire nation of Iraq,” they said. “Effective efforts are required to end all sectarian violence and to make Iraq secure for persons of all faith communities.”

The bishops also expressed their concern for the military personnel in Iraq and their gratitude for their service. They urged all Catholics to daily for the safety of the military and for their families and offered their support and solidarity to families who have lost loved ones in Iraq.

The bishops’ statement came as President Bush met with his new bipartisan Iraq Study Group to explore options for procuring peace in the country.  The bishops said they hope the new study group will, “help bring about the honest dialogue that our nation needs.”

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UN chief says Christian-Muslim tensions derive from interpretations of faith

, Nov 14, 2006 (CNA) - Violence and tensions between the West and the Muslim world are not fueled by religion. Rather, they are fueled by fear, misunderstanding, economic disparities, wars by Western powers in Muslim countries, and the Arab-Israeli conflict, said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday.

"We should start by reaffirming and demonstrating that the problem is not the Quran nor the Torah or the Bible," Annan reportedly said after receiving a report by an international group of scholars that proposes solutions. "The problem is never the faith; it is the faithful and how they behave toward each other."

Annan traveled to Istanbul to attend a meeting of the U.N.-backed "Alliance of Civilizations Initiative," which enabled a group of about 20 experts to draft a report on how to promote peace. The report was given to Annan and made public Monday.

Any broad solution to the problem must include an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, he added, reported The Associated Press.

"As long as the Palestinians live under occupation, exposed to daily frustration and humiliation, and as long as Israelis are blown up in buses and in dance halls, so long will passions everywhere be inflamed," he was quoted as saying.

The claim that religion is not the root of international conflicts since Sept. 11, 2001, contradicts some theorists who believe cultural and religious identity is the main source of tension following the Cold War.

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Benedict XVI offers the Holy Family as a model for migrant families

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2006 (CNA) - In his message for the upcoming World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Benedict XVI proposed the Holy Family of Nazareth, which fled to Egypt to avoid the persecutions of King Herod, as a model of life for families affected by migration.

In a text, made public today, the Holy Father explained that, “In this misfortune experienced by the Family of Nazareth, obliged to take refuge in Egypt, we can catch a glimpse of the painful condition in which all migrants live, especially, refugees, exiles, evacuees, internally displaced persons, those who are persecuted. We can take a quick look at the difficulties that every migrant family lives through, the hardships and humiliations, the deprivation and fragility of millions and millions of migrants, refugees and internally displaced people. The Family of Nazareth reflects the image of God safeguarded in the heart of every human family, even if disfigured and weakened by emigration.”

Referring to the theme of the upcoming World Day, “The migrant family,” the Pope indicated the many difficulties encountered by families.

“The distance of its members from one another and unsuccessful reunification often result in breaking the original ties. New relationships are formed and new affections arise. Some migrants forget the past and their duties, as they are subjected to the hard trial of distance and solitude. If the immigrant family is not ensured of a real possibility of inclusion and participation, it is difficult to expect its harmonious development,” he explained.

In this sense, the Holy Father noted that, “the Church encourages the ratification of the international legal instruments that aim to defend the rights of migrants, refugees and their families and, through its various Institutions and Associations, offers its advocacy that is becoming more and more necessary.”

“To this end,” the Pope said, the Church, “has opened Centers where migrants are listened to, Houses where they are welcomed, Offices for services offered to persons and families, with other initiatives set up to respond to the growing needs in this field.”

“Much is already being done for the integration of the families of immigrants, although much still remains to be done,” he added.

The Pope also made a special mention of the difficulties of a growing number of women, “who leave their countries of origin in search of better conditions of life, in view of more promising professional prospects.”

“However,” he noted, “women who end up as victims of trafficking of human beings and of prostitution are not few in number. In family reunification, social workers, especially religious women, can render an appreciated service of mediation that merits our gratitude more and more.”

Pope Benedict also referred to the families of immigrants, “whose conditions seem to have gone worse in comparison with the past, also specifically regarding the reunification of family nuclei. In the camps assigned to them, in addition to logistic difficulties, and those of a personal character linked to the trauma and emotional stress caused by the tragic experiences they went through, sometimes there is also the risk of women and children being involved in sexual exploitation, as a survival mechanism.”

“In these cases an attentive pastoral presence is necessary. Aside from giving assistance capable of healing the wounds of the heart, pastoral care should also offer the support of the Christian community, able to restore the culture of respect and have the true value of love found again,” he said.

The Pope also made mention of, “the students from other countries, who are far from home, without an adequate knowledge of the language, at times without friends and often with a scholarship that is insufficient for their needs. Their condition is even worse if they are married. Through its Institutions, the Church exerts every effort to render the absence of family support for these young students less painful. It helps them integrate in the cities that receive them, by putting them in contact with families that are willing to offer them hospitality and facilitate knowing one another.”

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on Sunday, January 14, 2007.

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Democrats to return to funding for embryonic stem-cell research

Washington D.C., Nov 14, 2006 (CNA) - With a majority in Congress, Democratic leaders have indicated that they will likely propose a bill that would support public funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

Likely future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said such a measure would be voted on during the first 100 business hours of the next congressional session that begins in January, reported

President George W. Bush vetoed a similar bill in July. While the House voted 235-193 in favor of overriding the veto, the vote was 65 short of the two-thirds required to override it.

Pelosi admitted that the elections probably did not provide enough votes to override a second veto but she told the Washington Post that Democrats hope to "build public support for a signature."

Rep. Diana DeGette, a leading sponsor of the measure, told the Denver Post that Democrats will resurrect their campaign to lobby Bush to sign the bill.

"It's clear the new Congress is going to be even more favorable to embryonic stem-cell research," Sean Tipton, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, told the Washington Post.  In Tipton’s opinion, "the American people have had the opportunity to go to the ballot box on stem-cell research and...they've said yes to it."

An August Newsweek poll found that 48 percent of Americans favor public funding for embryonic stem-cell research and 40 percent don’t. That number is down from an October 2005 Newsweek poll which indicated a 50-36 percentage split.

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Holy Father to examine case of Milingo and married priests with Dicastery heads

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will meet this Thursday with the heads of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia to examine the controversial situation of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and to reflect upon requests by several priests who have previously requested dispensations from celibacy and readmission to ministry as married priests.

In a communiqué released late yesterday, the Holy See Press Office indicated that the first reason for the meeting is to, “examine the situation that has arisen following the disobedience of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo,” the excommunicated Bishop-emeritus of Lusaka, Zambia.

The message also says that the meeting will serve as an opportunity to, “reflect upon requests for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy and requests for readmission to the priestly ministry, presented by married priests over the course of recent years.”

The note concludes by saying that, “no other matters are scheduled on the order of the day."

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New president must keep election promises, bishop says

Konigstein, Germany, Nov 14, 2006 (CNA) - Newly elected Nicaraguan President, Daniel Ortega, must honor his promise to bring social justice to the country, Bishop David Zywiec, Auxiliary Bishop of Bluefields, on the country’s northern Atlantic coast, has told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

During a recent visit to the charity, the prelate called on the president, a former Marxist revolutionary, to repay voters’ trust by tackling poverty head on. “The people are saying that they want change,” the bishop stated. “We believe the government should be participative, and the people have to be a part of that. The country is rich in resources and the people need a share of this wealth.”

“It is the Church’s duty to press the government’s promise to focus on the poor,” he added.

Bishop Zywiec went on to outline Church projects addressing wide-spread poverty in Nicaragua, where civil war, dictatorship, and natural disasters have ravaged the economy, leaving it one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere.

Zywiec told how the Church in Bluefields has established an education program for school children in rural areas where there were no state-run schools.  20,000 children, who otherwise would not learn to read and write, have benefited thus far, said the bishop.  “The people can pay for the schooling by doing work for the teachers and the teachers also have the opportunity to study.”

The Church is also backing a plan to provide a leader to run health programs in each parish, he added.  According to the bishop, preserving peace between the country’s ethnic groups would also be a key concern for the government.  Bluefields is home to a large number of Miskito Indians and tensions over their territory have continued to mount, he explained.

Although Miskito territory is protected by law, small landowners who had lost their land to large corporations are seeking new land in those territories, explained Bishop Zywiec. “The government needs to ensure the law is carried out and the Miskito lands are clearly marked off to prevent tensions from developing,” he said.

In 2005, ACN gave more than 440,000 Euro for pastoral projects, such as construction of church buildings or the formation of priests, religious and laity, in Nicaragua.

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Archbishop reiterates Church’s neutrality in conflict in Oaxaca

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 14, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez Botello of Antequera-Oaxaca reaffirmed this week the neutrality of the Church in the political crisis that has shaken the southern region of Mexico and said his talks with key players in the conflict should not be interpreted as endorsement of the positions of any one side.

During Mass on Sunday the archbishop read a statement in which he again called on the parties involved to resolve the conflict peacefully.  The means for achieving an agreement, he said, “will never be weapons or attacks, but rather authentic service and brotherly regard for all.”

“Out of fidelity to her mission, the Church will never take sides with any of the parties involved in the conflict.  We are aware that only this way will our service as facilitators be trusted and effective.  We will continue to support everything that leads to a coming together, to dialogue, to a lessening of the violence and to opting for a peaceful and responsible solution for the good of society and not only of certain groups,” the archbishop said.

The Oaxaca conflict started as a teachers' strike for higher pay.  It expanded into a fight to oust Gov. Ulises Ruiz, with leftist protesters seizing the city center, building barricades, burning buses and seizing radio stations to call for revolution.

In his statement Archbishop Chavez also said the Church would not provide asylum to leaders of the Oaxaca People's Assembly, who are responsible for protests of recent weeks.  “We do not have either the resources or the infrastructure to guarantee the physical integrity of such persons,” he explained.

Such guarantees, he emphasized, are the responsibility of the government.

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U.S. bishops honor Denver immigration reform activist

, Nov 14, 2006 (CNA) - Jamila Spencer, a Denver resident and champion of human rights for immigrants, received the 2006 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award yesterday. The national award honors young Catholics for leadership in fighting poverty and injustice. 
Spencer’s position as the Associate for Public Policy for the Colorado Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of Colorado’s Catholic bishops, placed her in the forefront of the local immigration debate.

Spencer, 26, coordinated the Colorado bishops’ local initiative on immigration reform, which was largely modeled after the national initiative Justice for Immigrants: The Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform.
“Jamila’s Catholic faith, coupled with her own family’s difficult history of immigration, inspired her commitment to social justice,” wrote Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver in his nomination of Spencer.

“Jamila has been able to influence both the language and dynamic of this important issue…she has guided community leaders to look to the social teachings of the Catholic Church as a vital resource for understanding the many challenges facing our world today,” he added.
Spencer is the first U.S.-born citizen in her family. Her mother emigrated from Baghdad, Iraq 30 years ago and ultimately helped her family navigate a nine-year backlog of visa-processing to join her. Spencer’s immigration reform work has been inspired by her family’s determination to assimilate into American society, while respecting and practicing its own cultural traditions.
“I am passionate about insuring that there is a way for undocumented people to become lawful residents and citizens,” she said. “There are 12 million-plus people living in the shadows. As Catholics, we have a responsibility to help them feel welcome and find their place.”
“The immigration debate in the United States has been one of the most vicious debates in our country.  To enter into sincere dialogue is very difficult as there are a lot of people who are very angry and frustrated.  But, there is a lot of hope,” she said in accepting the award last night.

The Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award is presented each year by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. It pays tribute to Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (1928-1996), former archbishop of Chicago and a leading voice on behalf of the poor. 

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Argentinean bishops call for new education law that does not exclude God

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 14, 2006 (CNA) - As the Argentinean Congress prepares to debate a new law on education, the bishops of Argentina said this week “a comprehensive notion of education necessarily includes the transcendent dimension of man” and they insisted that the country’s new laws do not exclude God.

In a letter sent out at the conclusion of their general assembly, the bishops noted, “The principle and subsidiary role of the State should cooperate with the natural and inalienable right of parents to choose for their children an education that is in accord with their own convictions and beliefs, without discrimination of any kind.  The principle of freedom of conscience as a right of families, of teachers, and of students must be upheld.”

As debate on the new law approaches, the bishops recalled that “a comprehensive notion of education necessarily includes the transcendent dimension of man” and they pointed out that children and young people in Argentina deserve laws that not only take into account the “social, labor and scientific dimensions of the person,” but also the “cultural spiritual and religious” ones as well.

The bishops also stressed that the State is charged with providing financial assistance to both public and private schools, and they warned against excessive intervention in local school systems by the federal government.

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Certainty of the faith should impregnate daily life of Christians, archbishop says

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 14, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata called on Argentineans this week who claim to be Christians to lead a life that this consistent with the faith they profess.

Citing the popular saying, “He who does not live as he thinks will end up thinking as he lives,” the archbishop said Christians should allow the “certainty of the faith to impregnate our personality and influence our behavior.”

During his weekly program, “Keys to a Better World,” Archbishop Aguer said if there is no coherence between “our behavior and our thoughts, sooner or later we will ending up trying to justify the way we live.”  

“Living as one thinks implies, moreover, recognizing the value of particular certainties and of firm and absolute certainties regarding fundamental questions of the human condition.  Who am I? Where I am from and where am I going? Why does evil exist? What is beyond this life? And other fundamental questions that we must respond to, and if we do not have these firm certainties regarding these fundamental questions, we cannot live in a completely human way,” he explained.

He also recalled that Pope John Paul II said that “man can be defined as one who searches for the truth,” and therefore “the search for the truth does not remain stagnant in itself, in the same place, but rather the intention is to arrive at those absolute and firm certainties upon which the coherence between thought and action lies.”

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