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Archive of November 29, 2006

Vatican spokesman says question of Turkish entry into EU doesn’t involve Holy See

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2006 (CNA) - In response to comments by Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, on the possibility of Turkish entry into the EU, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Holy See “has neither the power, nor the specific or political role of intervening in the question of Turkey’s entry into the European Union.”
 
During a press conference after his 20-minute meeting with the Holy Father at the Ankara airport, Erdogan said he asked Benedict XVI for his support for Turkish entry into the EU and said the Pope told him, “We are not politicians but we desire to see Turkey in Europe.”

“This is outside the competence of the Holy See,” Father Lombardi stated, adding that nevertheless, “the Vatican looks positively on and encourages the path dialogue and of rapprochement in Europe on the basis of common values and principles.”

The Vatican spokesman also said that during the meeting, Pope Benedict expressed his “appreciation” for the Alliance of Civilizations initiative proposed by Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and co-sponsored by Prime Minister Erdogan. 

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Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I pray in Istanbul for unity between Churches

Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 29, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Istanbul this afternoon and prayed with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Patriarchal Church of St. George.  The two leaders offered conciliatory words and mentioned the steps in ecumenism already taken by their predecessors.

Following a short welcome in the See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Pope Benedict and Patriarch Bartholomew processed into the gilded church amongst a pack of prelates, photographers, and security forces and to the continuous ringing of bells.

The two took their place at the head of the Church as Orthodox cantors intoned traditional Christian prayers.  Following the ceremony Bartholomew formally welcomed the Pope to Istanbul, “with sincere joy and satisfaction.”  

The Ecumenical Patriarch recalled the tremendous significance the city of Constantinople/Istanbul has had in the life of the Church, as well as the previous visits of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II to his Orthodox predecessors.  “We are, both of us, as their successors and as successors to the Thrones of Rome and New Rome equally accountable for the steps - just, of course, as we are for any missteps - along the journey and in our struggle to obey the command of our Lord, that His disciples ‘may be one,’” Patriarch Bartholomew said.

“It was in this spirit, too,” Bartholomew reminded, “that we traveled to Rome only months later to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul.”

“We are deeply grateful to God that Your Holiness has taken similar steps today in the same spirit,” Patriarch said to the Pope. “We offer thanks to God in doxology and express thanks also to Your Holiness in fraternal love.

“Beloved Brother, welcome,” Bartholomew concluded, “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord."

Following the Patriarch’s words Pope Benedict offered his own, using Bartholomew’s fraternal welcome as a starting point and beginning his with a line from the 133rd Psalm, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity" (Ps 133:1).

The Pope also began his remarks by recalling the various steps already taken in reconciling the two Churches.  “I wish above all to recall the courageous decision to remove the memory of the anathemas of 1054,” the Holy Father said, referring to the act by which Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras removed the mutual excommunications of the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople - excommunications which signaled the final break between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  

Benedict noted that the joint declaration of Paul VI and Athenagoras, “written in a spirit of rediscovered love,” in 1965 was read in a celebration held simultaneously in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George.

“It is on this foundation of mutual love that new relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople have developed,” the Pope added.

The Holy Father also noted the deep history of the Church of Constantinople and the,
“rich harvest of martyrs, theologians, pastors, monastics, and holy men and women which those Churches brought forth over the centuries.”

“May this meeting,” Pope Benedict concluded, “strengthen our mutual affection and renew our common commitment to persevere on the journey leading to reconciliation and the peace of the Churches.”

Following their remarks the two prelates reverenced the relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory of Nanzianzus.  Both Saints had served as Bishops to the Church of Constantinople and are revered by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  

During his remarks, Patriarch Bartholomew mentioned the relics and noting the step taken by Pope John Paul II to return the relics to the possession of the Patriarchy.  The relics had been carried to Rome during the Fourth Crusade.

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Pope meets with diplomatic corps, emphasizes need for intercultural cooperation

Ankara, Turkey, Nov 29, 2006 (CNA) - Concluding his first day in Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI met this evening with members of the international diplomatic corps at the Apostolic Nunciature in Ankara.  The Pope emphasized the need for continued intercultural and interreligious cooperation in order to bring an end to terrorism and regional conflicts as well as to find solutions to problems of economic inequality, oppression, and disease.

Following an introduction from Bishop Antonio Lucibello, Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey, and a greeting from the Vice-Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Georges H. Siam, of Lebanon, the Pontiff expressed his appreciation and thanks for the work done by the many diplomats to Turkey.

Pope Benedict said that based upon the Gospel message and the work of the Second Vatican Council, “we have come to realize that true peace needs justice, to correct the economic imbalances and political disturbances which always give rise to tension and threaten every society.”

“The recent developments in terrorism and in certain regional conflicts have highlighted the need to respect the decisions of international institutions and also to support them, in particular by giving them effective means to prevent conflicts and to maintain neutral zones between belligerents, through the presence of peacekeeping forces,” he continued.

“All this, however, remains insufficient unless there is authentic dialogue, that is to say fruitful debate between the parties concerned, in order to arrive at lasting and acceptable political solutions, respectful of persons and peoples,” the Pope added.

“I am thinking,” he said, “most especially of the disturbing conflict in the Middle East, which shows no sign of abating and weighs heavily on the whole of international life; I am thinking of the risk of peripheral conflicts multiplying and terrorist actions spreading.

The Holy Father offered his appreciation to the work being done in the name of peace, by numerous countries around the world, and especially in Lebanon.  However, he reminded the diplomats that there is still much work that urgently needs to be done.  

“In your presence, Ambassadors, I appeal once more to the vigilance of the international community, that it not abandon its responsibilities, but make every effort to promote dialogue among all parties involved, which alone can guarantee respect for others, while safeguarding legitimate interests and rejecting recourse to violence,” the Pope said. “As I wrote in my first World Day of Peace Message, ‘the truth of peace calls upon everyone to cultivate productive and sincere relationships; it encourages them to seek out and to follow the paths of forgiveness and reconciliation, to be transparent in their dealings with others, and to be faithful to their word’ (1 January 2006, 6).

“Turkey, has always served as a bridge between East and West, between Asia and Europe, and as a crossroads of cultures and religions,” the Pope said, reiterating an idea he had previously touched upon during his trip. “During the last century, she acquired the means to become a great modern State, notably by the choice of a secular regime, with a clear distinction between civil society and religion, each of which was to be autonomous in its proper domain while respecting the sphere of the other.”

Religious liberty

Pope Benedict acknowledged the significant Muslim population of the country, but emphasized the Turkish Constitution’s recognition of, “every citizen’s right to freedom of worship and freedom of conscience.”

“The civil authorities of every democratic country are duty bound to guarantee the effective freedom of all believers and to permit them to organize freely the life of their religious communities,” the Pope emphasized. “Naturally it is my hope that believers, whichever religious community they belong to, will continue to benefit from these rights, since I am certain that religious liberty is a fundamental expression of human liberty and that the active presence of religions in society is a source of progress and enrichment for all.

“This assumes, of course, that religions do not seek to exercise direct political power, as that is not their province, and it also assumes that they utterly refuse to sanction recourse to violence as a legitimate expression of religion. In this regard, I appreciate the work of the Catholic community in Turkey, small in number but deeply committed to contributing all it can to the country’s development, notably by educating the young, and by building peace and harmony among all citizens.

As I have recently observed, "we are in great need of an authentic dialogue between religions and between cultures, capable of assisting us, in a spirit of fruitful co-operation, to overcome all the tensions together" (Address to the Ambassadors of Countries with a Muslim Majority, Castel Gandolfo, 25 September 2006). This dialogue must enable different religions to come to know one another better and to respect one another, in order to work for the fulfillment of man’s noblest aspirations, in search of God and in search of happiness. For my part, on the occasion of my visit to Turkey, I wish to reiterate my great esteem for Muslims, encouraging them to continue to work together, in mutual respect, to promote the dignity of every human being and the growth of a society where personal freedom and care for others provide peace and serenity for all. In this way, religions will be able to play their part in responding to the numerous challenges currently facing our societies. Assuredly, recognition of the positive role of religions within the fabric of society can and must impel us to explore more deeply their knowledge of man and to respect his dignity, by placing him at the centre of political, economic, cultural and social activity. Our world must come to realize that all people are linked by profound solidarity with one another, and they must be encouraged to assert their historical and cultural differences not for the sake of confrontation, but in order to foster mutual respect.

The Church in the world

While the Catholic Church does not desire to have a direct role in the political and economic life of the world, the Pope continued, “by virtue of her mission and her long experience of the history of societies and cultures, she wishes to make her voice heard in international debate, so that man’s fundamental dignity, especially that of the weakest, may always be honored.”

“Given the recent development of the phenomenon of globalized communications, the Holy See looks to the international community to give a clearer lead by establishing rules for better control of economic development, regulating markets, and fostering regional accords between countries,” Benedict said.

“The voice of the Church on the diplomatic scene is always characterized by the Gospel commitment to serve the cause of humanity,” the Pontiff continued.  Noting the, “extraordinary development of science and technology, with almost immediate consequences for medicine, agriculture and food production, but also for the communication of knowledge,” the Holy Father offered a challenge to, “re-position modern progress within the continuity of our human history and thus to guide it according to the plan written into our nature for the growth of humanity.”

Co-operation with the Orthodox Church

The Pontiff concluded his speech by mentioning the relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which was the initial priority of his visit to Turkey.  “As my thoughts turn to the first Christian communities that sprang up in this land, and especially to the Apostle Paul who established several of them himself,” the Pope said, “allow me to quote from his Letter to the Galatians: ‘You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another’ (5:13).”

“I sincerely hope that the good relations between nations, which it is your task to serve, may also contribute increasingly to the genuine growth of humanity, created in the image of God. Such a noble goal requires the contribution of all. For this reason the Catholic Church intends to renew its co-operation with the Orthodox Church and I hope that my forthcoming meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Phanar will effectively serve this objective,” the Pope said.

“As the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council emphasized, the Church seeks to cooperate with believers and leaders of all religions, and especially with Muslims, in order that together they may ‘preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values’ (Nostra Aetate, 3). I hope, from this viewpoint, that my journey to Turkey will bring abundant fruits.”

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Pope offers message of peace before Christian minority at Mary’s house

Ankara, Turkey, Nov 29, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI left the Apostolic Nunciature in Ankara, Turkey this morning and traveled by plane to Ephesus, where he celebrated Mass at the “House of Mother Mary” with a group of Turkish Christians.  The Pontiff spoke of “Christ, our peace,” and pleaded for peace in the world.

Amid strict security, to protect the Holy Father from threatening assassins, Pope Benedict returned to the themes of peace and religion, speaking not of Islam, but of Christianity.

Drawing from Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus, the Pope emphasized the motto of his trip to Turkey, "He, Christ, is our peace" (Eph 2:14).”  “Inspired by the Holy Spirit,” Benedict said, “Paul tells us that Jesus Christ has not only brought us peace, but that he is our peace. And he justifies this statement by referring to the mystery of the Cross: by shedding ‘his blood,’ by offering in sacrifice ‘his flesh,’ Jesus destroyed hostility ‘in himself’ and created ‘in himself one new man in place of the two (Eph 2:14-16).’”

“The Apostle explains,” both to Jews and Greeks, the Pope said, that “in a truly unforeseen way, messianic peace has now come about in Christ’s own person and his saving mystery. He explains it by writing, during his imprisonment, to the Christian community which lived here, in Ephesus.”

In addition to its ancient importance, the city of Ephesus holds importance for the early Church.  It was home to one of the earliest Christian communities, where St. Paul resided for three years, and St. John the Evangelist lived the last years of his life.  Tradition holds that Mary the Mother of God traveled with St. John and spent the last years of her life on earth in Ephesus as well.  In the year 431, an ecumenical council was held at Ephesus which proclaimed the divine motherhood of Mary.  And since early times Christians have gathered at the Sanctuary of “Meryem Ana Evì,” the House of Mother Mary.

“The Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ and of the Church,” the Pope continued, “is the Mother of that mystery of unity which Christ and the Church inseparably signify and build up, in the world and throughout history.”  And Paul is aware of his mission to proclaim the “mystery” of the grace and peace which Christ brings, the Pope added. “This mystery is accomplished, in salvation history, in the Church, the new People in which, now that the old dividing wall has been broken down, Jews and pagans find themselves united. Like Christ himself, the Church is not only the instrument of unity, but also its efficacious sign.”

“Grace is the power that transforms man and the world; peace is the mature fruit of this transformation…Christ is grace, Christ is peace,” Pope Benedict said.

Peace in the Holy Land

This message of peace which St. Paul proclaims to Jews and Gentiles, “can also extend, by analogy, to the relationship between the peoples and civilizations present in the world,” the Pope continued.  “Christ ‘came to proclaim peace’ (Eph 2:17), not only between Jews and non-Jews, but between all nations, since all have their origin in the same God, the one Creator and Lord of the universe.”

“Strengthened by God’s word, from here in Ephesus, a city blessed by the presence of Mary Most Holy – who we know is loved and venerated also by Muslims – let us lift up to the Lord a special prayer for peace between peoples,” the Holy Father implored.

“Let us implore peace and reconciliation, above all for those dwelling in the Land called ‘Holy’ and considered as such by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike: it is the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, destined to be the home of a people that would become a blessing for all the nations (cf. Gen 12:1-3). Peace for all of humanity!”

Peace among Christians in Turkey

“We all need this universal peace; and the Church is called to be not only the prophetic herald, but even more, the sign and instrument’ of this peace,” the Pope added turning to the need for ecumenical progress. “Against the backdrop of universal peace, the yearning for full communion and concord between all Christians becomes even more profound and intense. Present at today’s celebration are Catholic faithful of various rites, and this is a reason for joyful praise of God. These rites, when they converge in unity and common witness, are an expression of that marvelous variety which adorns the Bride of Christ.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” the Pope said, addressing the “little flock” of Christians in Turkey, “in this visit I have wanted to convey my personal love and spiritual closeness, together with that of the universal Church, to the Christian community here in Turkey, a small minority which faces many challenges and difficulties daily.”

The Pope told those present in addition, “the faithful of Izmir, Mersin, Iskenderun and Antakia, and others from different parts of the world, as well as those who could not take part in this celebration but are spiritually united with us…With firm trust let us sing, together with Mary, a magnificat of praise and thanksgiving to God who has looked with favor upon the lowliness of his servant (cf. Lk 1:48).”

“Let us sing joyfully, even when we are tested by difficulties and dangers,” the Holy Father said mentioning Fr. Don Andrea Santoro, the Italian priest who was murdered in Turkey this year.  The Pope noted that he was offering Mass for the Priest who was slaughtered by a 15 year-old Muslim, probably in the furor over caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, which appeared in European newspapers.

Mother Mary

“In this Eucharistic celebration we praise the Lord for Mary’s divine motherhood, a mystery solemnly confessed and proclaimed in Ephesus at the Ecumenical Council of 431,” the Pope also said.

The Holy Father recalled the moment when Christ gave Mary to the Apostle John and to the Church, “We have listened to a passage from Saint John’s Gospel which invites us to contemplate the moment of the Redemption when Mary, united to her Son in the offering of his sacrifice, extended her motherhood to all men and women, and in particular to the disciples of Jesus.”

“Mary’s motherhood, which began with her fiat in Nazareth, is fulfilled at the foot of the Cross. Although it is true – as Saint Anselm says – that ‘from the moment of her fiat Mary began to carry all of us in her womb,’ the maternal vocation and mission of the Virgin towards those who believe in Christ actually began when Jesus said to her: ‘Woman, behold your son!’ (Jn 19:26). Looking down from the Cross at his Mother and the beloved disciple by her side, the dying Christ recognized the firstfruits of the family which he had come to form in the world, the beginning of the Church and the new humanity.”

Through the fulfillment of Christ’s mission on earth and the creation of the Church with Mary at its heart, “Mary’s divine motherhood and her ecclesial motherhood are thus inseparably united,” Pope Benedict concluded. “Mary teaches us that the source of our joy and our one sure support is Christ, and she repeats his words: ‘Do not be afraid’ (Mk 6:50), ‘I am with you’ (Mt 28:20). To the strength of his arm let us entrust ourselves (cf. Lk 1:51).  Mary, Mother of the Church, accompany us always on our way! Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!”

Following the celebration of the Mass the Holy Father traveled from Izmir to Istanbul where he will meet the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

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Pope not worried about today’s al-Qaeda statement against him

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2006 (CNA) - Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, told the Italian press today that Pope Benedict XVI is not worried about a statement released by Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda, in Iraq.  The organization said the Pope’s current trip to Turkey is the continuation of an anti-Islam crusade.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq released a statement by internet Wednesday, saying that, “This visit of the pope has the aim of preparing a Crusade against Muslim countries following the failure of Crusade heads such as (US president George W.) Bush, (British premier Tony) Blair, (former Italian premier Silvio) Berlusconi and (Australia's prime minister John) Howard to extinguish the flame of Islam lit by Muslim brothers in Turkey.”

According to the AKI news agency, the terror group, founded by the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, says the Pope's trip is aimed at "cancelling Islamic tradition and cutting Islamic roots ... to send them (Turkey) into the arms of the European Union and stop the Islamic wave."

The terrorist statement also touched on the Holy Father’s controversial speech in Germany this year, as well as the conflicts currently underway in Iraq and Afghanistan.  “The pontiff of the Vatican has started his visit in Turkey, which in the past was a refuge of Islam,” the release said, “just a few months after his attack on Islam and its Prophet Mohammed and occurs at an extraordinary moment which concerns the Muslim world. The battles of the Crusade campaign against the Muslim world have been defeated by the mujahidin and their silence reveals that they have reached a dead end in Afghanistan and Iraq," the statement said.

Italian press organization ANSA has reported, however, that the Vatican is not concerned by al-Qaeda’s statement.  Fr. Lombardi said today that, “This type of message is not a concern on the part of the Pope nor for his entourage.”

The message confirms yet again, Fr. Lombardi continued, “the urgency and importance of a common commitment to speak strongly against the use of violence.”

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China to ordain yet another bishop in defiance of Catholic Church

Beijing, China, Nov 29, 2006 (CNA) - Relations between the Catholic Church and the government of China may be set back even further as the communist country announced this week that it had appointed and will attempt the ordination of yet another bishop for its Chinese Patriotic Catholic church.  The Holy See and Chinese government had been working to normalize relations in recent months.

Liu Bainian, deputy chairman of the government-backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, told The Associated Press that Rev. Wang Renlei had been appointed as a bishop in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, in eastern China. Wang is currently vicar-general of the Xuzhou diocese.

"Because China and the Vatican do not have diplomatic relations, China has elected its own bishops over many years," Liu said.

"We cannot wait until China and the Vatican establish relations to select a bishop," he said.

Various sources have told UCA News that Fr. Renlei will likely receive episcopal ordination on the feast day of St. Andrew at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Xuzhou city, Jiangsu province, 675 kilometers south of Beijing.

It would be the third known ordination this year carried out by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association without approval of the Vatican.

The Chinese government has refused to accept the authority of the Catholic hierarchy or the Pope, who has the exclusive authority to appoint Catholic Bishops.

The New York Times spoke yesterday to a Vatican official familiar with past contacts between Beijing and the Vatican, who said the latest move to consecrate another bishop came as a surprise.

"We feel very depressed about this news," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the Vatican has not yet issued a formal response. "It seems like we have to go back to the beginning again."

In recent months the Vatican and Beijing had traded emissaries and conducted quiet negotiations in an attempt to open China to religious freedom.

The Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, a China watcher who heads Asia News, told the Associated Press that the appointment was a "violent gesture against freedom of religion."

"It is a sign of the weakness of the Chinese government and tension in the Chinese society," he said in an e-mail.

However, a Church source close to the Vatican told UCA News it is hoped that the Nov. 30 ordination will not take place, because it would be a serious matter that would negatively affect dialogue between Beijing and the Holy See.

The ordination should be postponed in order to give a reasonable amount of time for the Holy See to undertake an investigation on the candidate, he said, adding that the Holy See heard about the election only on Nov. 21st.

If the ordination really does take place, the source said, the Vatican would have a serious reaction to it, though it is likely that this would be given only after Pope Benedict XVI returns from his Nov. 28-Dec. 1 trip to Turkey.

Chinese ties with the Vatican were broken in 1951 after the communists took power.  The Government allows “Catholic” worship in a state run church, though millions of Chinese practice their faith in “underground” Churches.

Restrictions on religious freedom in China are also an irritant in relations with Washington. A State Department report earlier this month ranked China along with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan among "countries of particular concern" for denying religious openness.

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Catholic prelate receives award from Hungarian Jews

Budapest, Hungary, Nov 29, 2006 (CNA) - A large organization of Jewish Hungarians has awarded their annual “For Jews in Hungary Award,” to a representative of the Catholic Church for the first time.  The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (Mazsihisz) has recognize Cardinal Peter Erdo, “For strengthening dialogue between the Catholic church and the Jewish church and for preserving the memory of the Jews killed during the Holocaust and those who saved them.”

The awarding of the “For Jews in Hungary” award, to the Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and President of the Hungarian Bishops Conference, marks the first time the annual award has been giving to a Catholic

According to the Catholic agency Magyar Kurír, Péter Feldmájer, President of the Federation, said the award has been given “for strengthening dialogue between the Catholic church and the Jewish church, as well as for preserving the memory of the Jews killed during the Holocaust and those who saved them.”

Feldmajer said the awarding of a Catholic cardinal was, “an unprecedented fact, of course, but I think every favorable course must have a start somewhere”..

“(The prize) has been given to all the Church, through my person,” Cardinal Péter Erdo affirmed.  

“The return to the past and the common search for the truth can have a beneficial, healing effect on society,” he added.

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Salesians celebrate 100 years in China

, Nov 29, 2006 (CNA) - The Salesian Fathers are celebrating this year a century of ministry in China, marking the centenary with a variety of activities in Hong Kong and Macao.  The Vicar General of the Salesian society, Father Adriano Bregolin, has traveled to China to attend many of the celebrations.

The Fides news agency reported that after a special Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, Father Bregolin shared with members of the Salesian order in that city “the meaning and grace that comes with being part of the family of Don Bosco.”

Among the activities marking the anniversary was a celebration entitled, “The Dream Continues,” which took place at Ocean Park in Hong Kong and reminded Salesians of the great responsibility of keeping alive the dream of St. John Bosco for China.

In Macao, Salesians celebrated the 100 year anniversary by inviting Father Paul Leung Kon-Chiu to work with Chinese immigrants in Canada, Australia, and the United States.

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Archbishop rejects attempt to legalize abortion and euthanasia in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 29, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon has denounced a proposal by the leftists PRI party to legalize abortion and euthanasia in Mexico City saying the idea goes “against human values such as life.”

Last week Representative Armando Tonatiuh Gonzalez Case of the PRI party introduced a measure that would legalize abortion and euthanasia in the Mexican capital.

According to the Notimex news agency, at the conclusion of Mass on Sunday Archbishop Rabago said abortion and euthanasia “are considered immoral acts by the Church, and therefore we will not accept such reforms.”  Life, he added, “is a gift that God has given us and He alone can take it away.”

The measure before the legislative assembly of Mexico’s Federal District calls for the legalization of abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy, for all women over the age of 18, for whatever reason.  Minors would have to present their request for an abortion in writing with the support of their parents.  Those who induce others to abortion through deception or threats would only be subject to a maximum prison sentences of three years.

Regarding euthanasia, the measure stipulates that the administration of euthanasia would be allowed if a person expressly requests it “for humanitarian reasons,” and if the person suffers from a terminal illness.

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President of Ecuador partially vetoes anti-life legislation

Quito, Ecuador, Nov 29, 2006 (CNA) - The outgoing president of Ecuador, Alfredo Palacio, has issued a partial veto of a law reforming the country’s healthcare laws that various organizations said were an attack on the rights of parents, freedom of conscience, and the respect for life from the moment of conception.

According to the association Pro-Life Action, Palacio reconsidered certain sections of the proposal “at the request of different pro-life, pro-women, pro-family, and pro-freedom of conscience organizations and movements.”

“The National Network of pro-life, women and family organizations thanks the Ecuadorian people and people of the entire world who supported us and who were the ones truly responsible for this triumph of life, family, and freedom of conscience.  The next step is to ask the Ecuadorian Congress to sustain the president’s veto and thus respect the Constitution of our country,” the group said in a press release.

Nevertheless, the group warned that three articles of the country’s healthcare laws need to be reviewed.  They include articles that allow for the importation of contraceptives without approval by the government, as well as articles that are ambiguous about emergency abortions and that open the door to approval of the morning-after pill.

“The task has been arduous, but the achievements have been great,” the statement indicated, especially considering the pressure from international organizations.  “We shall not dismay in our defense of life, the family and freedom of conscience,” the group stressed.

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Bishop offers positive picture of Catholic Church in Croatia

Konigstein, Germany, Nov 29, 2006 (CNA) - According to Bishop Djuro Hranic, Auxiliary Bishop of Djakovo, “there is a springtime for the Church” in Croatia.  The bishop told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that while obstacles remain, the future of the Croatian Catholic Church looks bright.

“With a very active laity, the Catholic Church has a good reputation among the people, also because – under the communist regime – it was a ‘sign’ of resistance,” Bishop Hranic said. “Now, there is a ‘thirst for faith’ in Croatia.”

“The Church has survived very bad times always committing itself to the truth, to freedom and human rights,” the bishop told ACN.  “Also, its social commitment has strengthened the Church’s reputation.”

“On the other hand, there are strong anti-Church tendencies in the media: The Church’s campaign in favour of Sundays free of work is being misunderstood as if the Church was only interested in church-goers. What the media do not see is the Church’s concern for women and families. There is no Church without healthy families. And whenever the bishops make a public statement, the media coverage is large, but widely critical,” Hranic lamented.

Regarding the returning of Church property which was stolen under communist regimes, the bishop said little is being done.  “There is no political will on the part of the government to give back what was confiscated by the communists,” he said.

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