Archive of December 7, 2006

Pope appoints new members to Pontifical Academy for Life, including one American

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI appointed four new members to the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life.  The new appointees include Dr. John Haas, an American who serves as president of the United States’ National Catholic Bioethics Center.

The Pontifical Academy for Life is a team of scientists and ethicists representing different branches of biomedical sciences who are appointed by the Holy Father to work with the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers and various other dicasteries to discuss issues related to science and the protection of the dignity of human life.

Dr. Haas’s appointment stems from his extensive expertise in bioethics and Catholic moral theology.  The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) of which he is president, was established in 1972 to provide education, research, and consultation in order to safeguard the dignity of the human person in health care and the life sciences.  The NCBC consults regularly with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as public policy makers, hospitals, and international organizations.

Prior to serving at the NCBC Dr. Haas taught as a professor at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, The John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies, the Pontifical College Josephinum, and the Ohio State University.

 In addition to Dr. Haas, the Holy Father also named Bishop Daniel Nlandu Mayi, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Dr. Alejandro Cesar Serani Merlo, Professor of Neurology and Bioethics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile; and Dr. Monica Lopez Barahona, Dean of Bio-sciences at the "Francisco de Vitoria" University of Madrid, Spain.  All four members were appointed as ordinary members.

The academy consists of seventy ordinary members named by the pope, as well as three "ad honorem" members and members through correspondence who work in institutes and centers of study on the culture of life.

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The Church discovers its identity as mother, in the Virgin Mary, affirms Cardinal Bertone

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican Secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, stated that the Church "always discovers and understands better" its "identity as mother, disciple, and teacher" in the Virgin Mary.  

The Prelate made this affirmation in a message on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI to the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Paul Poupard, and to the participants of the 11th Public Assembly of the Pontifical Academies.  

In the text, published on the eve of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Prelate emphasized that the theme of this event "The Immaculate Virgin, Mother of all men, icon of beauty and of divine charity," is intended "to emphasize the singular participation of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of all men, in the mystery of God, sublime mystery of beauty and charity."  

"The One and Trine God, who spreads His beauty and His charity throughout the world He has created, communicates their qualities to humans in a particular way through the most perfect Mediator, His Son Jesus Christ, modeling them and sanctifying them with the power of the Holy Spirit, so that they may be saints and immaculate in the presence of His love,” continued Cardinal Bertone.  

The cardinal reminded the participants that the objective of the Pontifical Academies is "to promote and to maintain, in the Church, in the cultural world, and in the world of the arts, a renewed and generous project of Christian humanism."

Bertone emphasized that "Mary of Nazareth excels among all creatures as a reflective mirror of the divine beauty because, having been preserved from original sin and filled with grace, is so animated and permeated by the love of the Holy Spirit, she is able to become the prototype of the human person that, in a fuller way and without reserve, receives the Son of God in the tragic hour of His passion and in the hour of the resurrection".  

"Maintain a deep unity with Christ crucified and resurrected, Mary is revealed as the Mother of all humanity, particularly to the disciples of her Son," he added.

Cardinal Bertone recalled the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” which says, "under the cross of her Son, 'Mary has been truly made the Mother of all believers" and that to her “maternal goodness” mankind of all times can direct their hopes and needs.  

"The Church,” Bertone continued, “in imitation of the Virgin Mary, is called to receive the Son of God in history and in the events of all peoples and cultures, contemplating the singular and luminous figure of Mary, always discovers and understands its identity as mother, disciple, and teacher better."  

"The Holy Father,” said Cardinal Bertone, “takes this opportunity to encourage all students of Mariology to ever greater commitment and more intense activity, both in study centers and in the field of academic publications, taking care to ensure that their methodology respects a fruitful interaction between the 'via veritatis' (the way of truth) and the 'via pulchritudinis,' (the way of beauty) which come together in the 'via caritatis.' (the way of love)”

Bertone’s message also announced the Holy Father’s awarding of the Pontifical Academies’ Prize, to the 'Section Africaine pour les Congres Mariologiques,' which is affiliated to the Pontifical International Marian Academy, “and is made up of young students and teachers of Mariology from various African countries."

The Marian Academy is, “distinguished for their significant academic initiatives, which seek to contextualize in African cultures the Maryological reflection," Bertone said.

He also announced, by the order of the Pope, the awarding of a Pontifical Medal to Fr. Fidel Stockl, O.R.C., of the Philippines, for his book, "Mary, Model and Mother of consecrated life: A Marian synthesis of theology of consecrated life based on the teachings of John Paul II."

"In conclusion, I express to all educators and especially to the members of the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate and of the International Marian Pontifical Academy, the lively satisfaction of His Holiness for the activities being carried out, with a generous pledge to promote, in word and action, in your respective spheres of life and study, an authentic Christian humanism," said Cardinal Bertone.

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Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act loses vote in House

Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2006 (CNA) - A bill which would have required doctors to notify women seeking an abortion that their unborn child as young as 20 weeks old undergoes excruciating pain during an abortion failed to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday.

The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, H.R. 6099, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R- New Jersey), failed by a vote of 250-162, short of the two-thirds majority required under rules that limit debate.

Smith said the bill would have made abortion slightly more humane.

"Not only is abortion violence against children, but now we know that abortions are painful to the baby as well," Smith said in debate on the House floor. "We ought to at least allow that child pain medication."

The bill would also have required doctors to provide patients with a consent form requesting or refusing anesthesia for the unborn baby.

Concerned Women for America responded with a statement insisting that women deserve full information before making a decision to abort.

“Regrettably, congressmen – many who denounced the use of torture against suspected terrorists – have voted to not let women know that abortion will torture their innocent unborn babies," said CWA president Wendy Wright.

Democrats who opposed the bill cited a study prepared by abortion advocates, which claimed to show that children do not feel pain until the 29th week of pregnancy.  The cited study, however, has been refuted several times.

Congress is expected to adjourn by the end of the week, and Democrats will control both chambers in January.

The Republican controlled Senate, however, failed to act on a similar bill introduced nearly two years ago.

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Denver Archbishop decries trend of discounting religious believers in political life

Orange, Calif., Dec 7, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to a crowd of some 700 people gathered in Garden Grove, California, for the Orange County Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. decried the growing exclusion of religion from the public square, and called for a shift in perspective regarding the place of religious believers in a democratic society.

The prayer breakfast, which was modeled on a similar event held in Washington D.C., is an effort to fulfill Pope John Paul II’s call for a “new Evangelization.”  The event began with the praying of the Rosary and a Mass, followed by breakfast and Archbishop Chaput’s address.

The archbishop, who is well known for providing a strong Catholic voice on important moral issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, immigration, and the death penalty, said that in recent years people in both major American political parties have wrongly tried to blame the conflicts in American public life on the active participation of religious believers.  

The argument against the participation of religious believers, Chaput said, is that “religion is so powerful and so personal that whenever it enters public life in an organized way, it divides people.  It repels.  It polarizes.  It oversimplifies complex issues.  It creates bitterness.  It invites extremism.  And finally it violates the spirit of the Constitution by muddling up the separation of Church and state that keeps Americans from sliding into intolerance.”

“The same argument,” he said, “goes on to claim that, once they’re free from the burden of religious interference, mature citizens and leaders can engage in reasoned discourse, putting aside superstition and private obsessions to choose the best course for the widest public.  Because the state is above moral and religious tribalism, it can best guarantee the rights of everyone.  Therefore a fully secularized public square would be the adulthood of the American Experiment.”

However, he pointed out, there are key differences between non-sectarian public institutions and a secularist ideology.  No Christian, Chaput said, should want to live under the tyranny of a secularist ideology.  “Whenever you hear loud fretting sparked by an irrational fear of an Established Church, somebody’s trying to force religious believers and communities out of the public discussion of issues.”

“Secularism isn’t really morally neutral.  It’s actively destructive…It ignores the most basic questions of social purpose and personal meaning by writing them off as private idiosyncrasies,” the archbishop said.

Americans are, “losing the Founders’ perspective on the meaning of our shared public life,” Chaput added.  “Certain beliefs have always held Americans together as a people.”  

“We have wealth and power and free time and choices and toys -- but we no longer see clearly who we are,” he lamented.

Decline of ideas

“Americans are a blessed people,” Chaput said, offering a list of social, economic, and recreational advantages, which Americans enjoy.
However, he noted, there are a growing number of disadvantages and inequalities.  “We face a decline of ideas and public service; growing moral ambiguity; a spirit of entitlement with rights exalted over responsibilities; a cult of personal consumption; and a civic vocabulary that seems to get more brutish and more confused every year,” the archbishop said.

Words, the prelate said, are a powerful tool, which can “form or deform the human conscience.”

While words like “tolerance” and “consensus” are important democratic principles, the archbishop noted, “but they aren’t Christian virtues, and they should never take priority over other words like charity, justice, faith and truth, either in our personal lives or in our public choices.”

After pointing out other words which are misused in contemporary society - words such as “choice,” “pluralism,” and “community” -  the archbishop turned to the word “democracy.”

“Democracy,” Chaput said, “does not mean putting aside our religious and moral beliefs for the sake of public policy.  In fact, it demands exactly the opposite.  Democracy depends on people of character fighting for their beliefs in the public square – legally, ethically and non-violently, but forcefully and without apology.”

“Democracy is not God.  Only God is God.  Even democracy stands under the judgment of God and God’s truths about human purpose and dignity,” he added.

According to the archbishop, the confusion in language has lead to several harmful trends in the United States, including an unhealthy individualism, increased cynicism toward public life and service, and a decline in democratic involvement.

Christ-centered season

Such a loss of perspective can be witnessed in modern America’s approach to Christmas, Chaput said.  

The archbishop noted that as Christmas approaches it has become readily apparent that many in the world have lost the proper meaning of Christmas.  

“Good will, joy, peace, harmony, the giving of gifts” are all, “beautiful and holy things,” he said.  But, “Joy is not generic.  Good will needs a reason.  We don’t suddenly become generous because the radio plays ‘Jingle Bells.’”

“Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ,” he said. It is about the birth of the Savior, who came, “because God loves us.”

“Christmas is a feast of love, but its God’s love first that makes it possible.  Christmas begins our deliverance from sin and death…That’s why we celebrate Christmas, and it’s the best and only reason the human heart needs.”

The Orange County Catholic Prayer Breakfast is organized by The Magis Institute, an association of Catholic business leaders and clergy, which aims to develop spiritual and intellectual resources which enable lay Catholic business leaders to aid the Roman Catholic Church in transforming the culture.

The full text of Archbishop Chaput's talk can be found at the Archdiocese of Denver website, here:

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Christian leaders to visit Holy Land, call for prayers for area’s Christians

London, England, Dec 7, 2006 (CNA) - The leaders of four of Great Britain’s largest Christian Churches will travel together to the Holy Land in solidarity with the Christians living there under tight Israeli security measures.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian, primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain and Reverend David Coffey, Free Churches moderator will make the pilgrimage together, from Dec. 20 to 23.

They are expected to meet local church leaders in Jerusalem Dec. 20, and make their way to Bethlehem the following day, where they will visit the Grotto of the Nativity and hold an ecumenical prayer service. They have also called for prayers throughout Advent for Holy Land Christians.

Cardinal O'Connor has said Bethlehem is "blocked in" by the Israeli security wall and checkpoints, reported the BBC.

Both Dr Williams and Cardinal O'Connor have urged other Christians to visit Bethlehem and warned of a Christian exodus from the town where Jesus was born.
In his Christmas address last year, Cardinal O'Connor declared that the Christ child would be weeping for the town of his birth as it was "steadily strangled". 

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US bishops push for humanitarian aid in Somalia

Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2006 (CNA) - The United States government must work more assertively with the United Nations and neighboring African countries to address increasing violence in Somalia, said Bishop Thomas Wenski in a letter to National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.

“Rising tensions, militarization and a lack of genuine dialogue have created a situation where a major conflict has become increasingly likely,” wrote Bishop Wenski in the Dec. 6 letter.

“Military action is not the solution to this problem,” wrote the bishop, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) international policy committee.

Instead, he called for “patient, long-term diplomacy, peace building and humanitarian support.” He recommended that the U.S. government engage with Somalia’s transitional federal government, the Council of Somali Islamic Courts and neighboring states to stop the escalation of conflicts and to publicly endorse peace talks scheduled for mid-December.

Should a conflict erupt in Somalia, it could spill over into other countries in the Horn of Africa, the bishop warned.

The U.N. and international community should also “increase diplomatic efforts aimed at reducing tensions, promoting dialogue, and supporting concrete steps to reduce the potential for war,” he said.

”The Somali people deserve international support in their search for a resolution to a worsening crisis that has already taken a devastating human toll in the last 15 years,” he said.

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Central American bishops call on priests to value gift of celibacy

Tegucigalpa, Dec 7, 2006 (CNA) - The Council of Bishops of Central America (SEDAC), which met in Honduras November 27-December 1, have called on priests to have a greater appreciation of “the gift of celibacy that they have received,” through constant spiritual, pastoral, affective, and intellectual formation.

In a recently released statement the bishops said, “Priestly celibacy lived out in affective maturity, a sign of the radicalness of their voluntary commitment to Christ and to his Gospel, is a precious example for all young people of the value of chastity and for all those called by the Lord to the consecrated life and to the ministerial priesthood.

The bishops thanked priests for their service despite the “difficult cultural context” in which they must carry out their ministry, often “in a culture of violence and death, in a pan-sexual environment, where ‘having’ is more important than ‘being’.”

In today’s world, they continued, “The true meaning of love is distorted.  Human sexuality is not appropriately respected and homosexuality is presented as something normal when, according to God’s plan it is totally the opposite.

The bishops also denounced corruption, drug trafficking and organized crime, which they said, foster a “climate of violence” and a “sense of powerlessness on the part of governments,” and lead to the spread of youth gangs.  

Returning to the theme of the priesthood, the bishops called on all priests who work in formation to carefully select seminary candidates and to make use of the human sciences in their discernment.

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Pope accepts resignation of Cardinal Glemp and appoints successor for Archdiocese of Warsaw

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Archbishop of Warsaw, who at nearly 77 years, has passed the age of retirement.  As his successor the Holy Father appointed Bishop Stanislaw Wojciech Wielgus of Plock.

In a letter accepting the cardinal’s resignation, Pope Benedict thanked him for his 25 years of service at the helm of the Archdiocese of Warsaw.

Cardinal Glemp’s successor, Bishop Wielgus, was born in 1939 and was ordained a priest on June 10, 1962.  From 1969 until his episcopal ordination he was a professor at the Department of Philosophy at the Catholic University of Lublin.

Since 1989 he has been rector of the Catholic University of Lublin. On May 24, 1999, he was named Bishop of Plock.  

The Warsaw archdiocese has an overall population of 1.5 million, of whom over 1.4 million are Catholic.  There are 1,076 priests, 3,011 religious and three auxiliary bishops in the archdiocese.

By decree of the Holy Father, Cardinal Glemp will remain the Primate of Poland until he reaches the age of 80.

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Bioethics institute calls on Argentinean lawmakers to respect life and not make distribution of morning after pill obligatory

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 7, 2006 (CNA) - As the Argentinean congress debates a measure that would make distribution of the morning after pill obligatory in the country, the Institute on Bioethics of the Catholic University of Argentina is calling on lawmakers to “care for life as a precious value” and not to force people to accept drugs that attack it.

In noting that the measure has not been appropriately debated, the Institute said the bill would eliminate the right of conscientious objection, violating a long democratic tradition based on fundamental human rights.

“Women and all citizens have the right to know about all of the possible mechanisms employed by the morning after pill through clear and objective information, so that with full understanding and clear consciences they can decide how to deal with this drug,” the Institute said.

The organization also questioned the motives of some in the country who “seek to foster a relativist mentality in the collective conscience” that would make people turn the other way when the State permits attacks against human life, “especially when it is weakest and most in need.”

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Secularism has become religion of the state, Spanish archbishop warns

Valencia, Fla., Dec 7, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia has denounced attempts to impose secularism in Spain, calling it “a new state religion” that seeks to relegate the practice of the Catholic faith to the private sphere.

The AVAN news agency reports that in a new pastoral letter, the archbishop warns of attempts to “prevent any kind of public display of religion, and especially the Catholic faith, thus denying freedom of expression and excluding [religion] from all dialogue.”

Archbishop Garcia-Gasco pointed to various signs, such as constant criticism of the Church, the elimination of religions symbols and the relegation of faith to the private sphere, as “keys” to discovering who is seeking to impose secularism.

“The (lay) State cannot impose religion, but it must guarantee that the followers of different religions can live in freedom and peace,” he explained.  The Church operates in independence on basis of the faith she professes, the archbishop stressed, “which the State must respect.”

Catholics are very clear: Church and State are two distinct spheres,” he said, recalling the words of Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est, where the Pope says that the Church does not seek to have “power over the State, much less to impose its perspectives and ways of behaving on those who do not share the faith.”

One of the pillars of Christianity, Archbishop Garcia-Gasco noted, is its “commitment to charity for those most in need,” from which comes her “commitment to justice.”  “The Church has always practiced charity directly and nothing prevents her from collaborating with the governments of each nation to promote social justice,” he stated.

In this sense, the archbishop explained that the collaboration between Church and State does not lead to confusion between the two institutions, as justice “is a point of convergence between faith and politics.” 

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