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Archive of January 23, 2007

China to repeal policy on sex-selection abortions

Beijing, China, Jan 23, 2007 (CNA) - The Chinese government has committed to do more to end sex-selection abortions and to correct a growing gender imbalance in the country.

The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, reported on Monday that the government will increase enforcement of laws designed to prohibit the use of ultrasounds to determine the sex of an unborn child.

A government document states that the gender-ratio imbalance … amounts to “a hidden danger” for society that will “affect social stability.'”

China instituted its coercive family planning policy in 1979. Since then, many Chinese women and families have undergone forced abortions and sterilizations, and many citizens who resisted the policy have faced arrest and harassment.

The result of the policy has led to a male-female ratio of 119-100.  The number is closer to 103-100 in most industrialized nations.

As a result, large numbers of Chinese men are finding it difficult to get married. The general imbalance is also blamed for an increase in crime, the trafficking of girl babies, prostitution, and the forcing of women into sexual slavery and domestic servitude.

Chinese couples are limited to one child for population control.  Therefore abortion and infanticide are frequently used to ensure that child is a boy, who can carry on the family name or run the family farm.

Most Chinese couples, however, can easily get around the new laws thanks to a black market of citizens who have purchased ultrasound machines and are willing to determine the sex of an unborn child from the trunk of their car or in their private homes.

Last year, China scrapped plans to prohibit sex-selection abortions altogether, but has pushed forward educational campaigns lauding virtues of baby girls.

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Bishops call on Catholics to be educated, speak out on stem-cell research

Raleigh, N.C., Jan 23, 2007 (CNA) - The bishops of North Carolina are calling on the state’s 400,000 Catholics to learn more about embryonic stem-cell research and to join them in defeating pending legislation that will likely recommend state funding.

Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh have sent joint letters to all pastors in North Carolina, urging them to acquaint their parishioners with the Catholic Church’s teachings on stem-cell research.

The letters were sent with a three-part document about the Church’s teaching on stem-cell research, written in an easily understood manner by a committee of Catholic doctors, scientists, and theologians.  The document is to be included in parish bulletins this month.

The inserts are titled “Introduction to the Ethics and Science of Stem Cell Research,” “Myths and Facts of Stem Cell Research” and “A Call to Action.”

In their letter, the bishops said Catholics must be educated in order to voice their opposition to the research and to any proposed public funding.

Over the past two years, a House health subcommittee of the N.C. General Assembly has been studying House Bill 632, the Stem Cell Research Health and Wellness Act, which would provide taxpayer funding for embryonic stem-cell research within North Carolina. 

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Abbot Pierre, founder of the Emmaus community, dead at 94

Paris, France, Jan 23, 2007 (CNA) - Abbe Pierre, one of the most popular and controversial figures in recent French Catholicism, died Monday at the age of 94 at a Paris hospital.

Martin Hirsch, president of the Companions of Emmaus, the organization found by Abbe Pierre in 1949 to reach out to the poor and to refugees, said his funeral would be held on Saturday “in the strictest privacy, at the cemetery of the community of Esteville.”  The French government has announced it would like to give the Capuchin friar a state funeral.

Abbe Pierre was born Henri Groues on August 5, 1912, was ordained to the priesthood in 1938.  He became famous under the code name that he used as an active leader of the French resistance during World War II, when he helped hundreds of Jews escape to Switzerland and Algeria to escape the Holocaust. The Nazis eventually arrested him, but he was able to escape to Algeria.  During that time he also began an effort to help the poor and needy, especially homeless families.  Out of this effort grew the Emmaus Community.

Besides being a defender of the poor and immigrants, Abbe Pierre authored several books, including one in 1994 in which he admitted he had had a brief sexual relationship with a woman.  He later voiced his approval for same sex-unions.

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Forensic doctor reveals former Mexican president ordered autopsy not to be performed on Cardinal Posadas

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 23, 2007 (CNA) - A forensic doctor in Mexico has raised eyebrows across the country by stating this week that former President Carlos Salinas issued a “written order” that an autopsy not be performed on Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas, who was gunned down in 1993.

In an interview on Radio 880, Dr. Mario Rivas Souza, Dean of Forensic Medicine in the Mexican state of Jalisco, said that upon learning of the death of Cardinal Posadas on October 24, 1993, he went “to the Red Cross facilities, to the operating room, where the body was.  I was tasked with removing the clothing, and I was not told where he was shot.  I removed the clothing from his body to notate the lesions it displayed.”

In addition, Dr. Rivas said that when the then-Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Girolamo Prigionne, asked him about the stain that the cardinal had on his beard, he told him it was “gun powder, and that in order for a wound to leave gunpowder, the shots had to be fired at very close range.”

Rivas said that then-Attorney General, Jorge Carpizo, lied when he said the shots entered the cardinal from behind, because “he didn’t even see the body.”

“I continue to hold that the cardinal was assassinated, and it was a complete assassination, nothing confusing about it.  He had fourteen gunshot wounds, his chauffer had nine, which means two people fired the shots, one who shot him and the other who shot the chauffer,” Dr. Rivas stated.

Lastly, he said that after speaking openly about the assassination of the cardinal, “authorities everywhere piled on top of me,” since “Jorge Carpizo gave clear instructions to cover up the affair and to say it was an accident.  I continue to say it was not an accident,” Rivas said.

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Navarro Valls says Spanish president leading the country in wrong direction

Madrid, Spain, Jan 23, 2007 (CNA) - The former director of the Holy See Press Office, Joaquin Navarro Valls, warned this week that by promoting homosexual unions, Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is leading that country down a path contrary to the rest of the world, which is rediscovering “the permanent and heterosexual nature of marriage.”

“32 states in the US have established that marriage consists of a union between one man and one woman, and Lithuania has just enshrined that in its Constitution.  Not to mention Latin America, Asia, or Africa.  In other places there is a rediscovery of the permanent and heterosexual nature of marriage,” he told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Navarro Valls also denied recent rumors in the media that John Paul II refused further medical treatments before he died.  “I think the death of John Paul II was the most transparent death of any public personality.  The Pope chose to remain at the Vatican because the same medical equipment was there as at a hospital, and the Pope never said, ‘Enough’.”

Navarro Valls has just announced he will take a new post at the Biomedical University outside Rome, in a move he described as “a return to my professional roots as a doctor.”

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Public officials who limit religious freedom are “unacceptable tyrants,” archbishop warns

Madrid, Spain, Jan 23, 2007 (CNA) - Upon celebrating the feast of St. Vincent the Martyr, patron of the Archdiocese of Valencia, Archbishop Garcia-Gasco warned that “when public officials and ideologies limit religious freedom they commit a profound injustice and turn political systems into unacceptable tyrants.”

In his homily, which was published by the AVAN news agency, the archbishop expressed his concern over “the culture fostered by public officials and some in the media, who seek to disregard God” and argue that reason cannot grasp the Divine.  These ideologies, he stressed, “aspire for a world without God, a world subject only to political power, to economic power, and to media power.”

Nevertheless, he emphasized, “no human power can limit the radical right that all men and women of this world have to know the Gospel, to live it and to spread it at all times during their lives.”  St. Vincent, the archbishop underscored, “reminds us that the mission of proclaiming the Gospel also encompasses social and public life,” and he encouraged Catholics “not to fear the risks.”

According to Archbishop Garcia-Gasco, throughout history, Christians “have been condemned as criminals, suspected of horrendous crimes” and he stressed that “the calumnies have decisively influenced the image of Christianity that has been spread throughout the world.”  He also noted the propaganda and malicious intent by many to create an anti-Christian public opinion.  The archbishop said Christians should respond by “remaining firm, united to the Pope and to the Church without fear.”

Continuing on his homily, Archbishop Garcia-Gasco denounced the secularist attempt to link the name of God “with vengeance or even with hatred and violence.”  “God and violence are incompatible,” he said.

“Reason open to God,” he went on, “is a source of happiness for man, and it invites us to reject fanaticism, to profoundly respect the dignity of the person, of all persons, in all stages of his existence.”  Likewise, he said, “reason open to God is a source of peace and understanding between cultures; it rejects violence and promotes the true progress and freedom of peoples.”

In face of the “new tyrannies” of the 21st century, Archbishop Garcia-Gasco exhorted the faithful to follow the Gospels and the example of St. Vincent the Martyr, “who teaches us tolerance in the face of intolerance; freedom in the face of submission; humanism in the face of fanaticism; conscience in the face of violence.”

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New book by John Paul II’s personal secretary says retirement was discussed

Rome, Italy, Jan 23, 2007 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II’s former personal secretary will release his new book this week on his experience as the late pope’s personal secretary.

“A Life with Karol” was written by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the pope's personal secretary for nearly four decades, and it is to be released by Italy's Rizzoli publishers on Wednesday.

Dziwisz recalls how the late Pope seriously considered resigning in 2000 because of his poor health and also mulled changing Church law so that popes would bow out at age 80, the age at which Cardinals no longer vote in Papal conclaves.

The current Archbishop of Krakow said Pope John Paul II called together a group of advisors to discuss the idea, but ultimately, “came to the conclusion that he had to submit himself to God's will, that is, to remain (in office) as long as God wanted.”

In the book, Dziwisz also reportedly writes that he is convinced the Soviet Union was behind the 1981 assassination attempt on John Paul. Dziwisz speculates that the Pope was considered a threat to its power given how the Polish people were rallying to topple communism during that period.

Last year, a report by an Italian parliamentary investigative commission said the leaders of the former Soviet Union were behind the plot and that Mehmet Ali Agca did not act alone. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the assassination attempt.

In a chapter called The Last Hours, Dziwisz recalls John Paul's final moments of life.

"It was 9.27 p.m. We noticed that the Holy Father stopped breathing,” he wrote, “some people stopped the hands of their watches at that hour."

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Progress towards Christian unity being made, Cardinal Kasper says

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said at a Vatican press briefing today that the current state of ecumenism is positive and offered a briefing on the Church’s relations with the Orthodox Churches, in addition to touching on Catholic-Protestant relations. The event was timed to coincide with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, being held from January 18 to 25.
 
Cardinal Kasper affirmed that last year had been particularly fruitful in ecumenical terms, with the Pope's trip to Turkey, during which he signed a joint declaration with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople; and the resumption of work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox.
 
The Vatican ecumenism chief said that currently, one of the main themes of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue is the primacy of Peter, with all the theological, canonical, and even emotional problems it brings. "It is necessary to continue to pray and be patient to ensure progress in this area," said the cardinal. "For now, replies have been received from various Churches, and these are being analyzed and discussed."
 
On the subject of a possible meeting between Benedict XVI and Alexis II, patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, Cardinal Kasper indicated that "for the moment nothing concrete has been decided." Relations with the Russian Orthodox Church are improving, close collaboration also exists with various dicasteries of the Roman Curia and various dioceses.
 
Kasper denied that the Holy See has abandoned relations with Protestant communities, describing such rumors as "groundless insinuations."  He pointed out that various ecumenical delegations have been received by the Holy Father and have participated in the Wednesday general audiences.
 
As for forthcoming ecumenical events, the Cardinal mentioned September’s European ecumenical meeting, due to be held in Sibiu, Romania; the plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, due to be held in Ravenna, Italy in 2007; and the second ecumenical congress of communities and movements, "Together for Europe," to be held in Stuttgart, Germany.  Kasper also mentioned the possibility of Pope Benedict’s presence at the Ravenna meeting.
 
At the end of his briefing, Cardinal Kasper presented his new book entitled "A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism, guidelines for its implementation," which has just been published in Italian, English, and French. It contains practical and pastoral suggestions to strengthen spiritual ecumenism, "which is," the introduction reads, "the soul of the entire ecumenical movement." The book is addressed to everyone involved in ecumenical activities in various dioceses and parishes, although each and every member of the Church is called to make their own contribution, above all through prayer.

The meeting, held in the Holy See Press Office, was also attended by Bishop Brian Farrell L.C. and Msgr, Eleuterio F. Fortino, respectively secretary and under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

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China says Vatican overture a "step forward"

Beijing, China, Jan 23, 2007 (CNA) - Church leaders of the "underground" and "open" Catholic communities in China have welcomed a Vatican statement concerning a special meeting on the Church in China and its overtures toward reconciliation.

Rome issued a statement on Saturday after a two-day meeting on China. The communist country severed diplomatic relations with the Holy See after taking power in 1949. The Vatican recently called for "respectful and constructive dialogue" to normalize ties.

The statement acknowledged that "almost all the bishops and priests are in communion with the Supreme Pontiff."

About half of China's 10 million or more Catholics belong to an "underground" church directly loyal to the Vatican despite the atheist government's opposition and the regular detention of priests and bishops. The remainder worship in the state-sanctioned church, which respects the Pope's spiritual authority but rejects his administrative power.

Hopes for reconciliation between China and the Vatican went through a tough period last year when the state-sanctioned church consecrated several new bishops without papal approval. The Vatican denounced the consecrations as a serious act that subverted the Church's fundamental principles.

Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the state-sponsored Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, told UCA News on Jan. 22 that the Vatican’s desire to normalize its relations with China is "beneficial and constructive to the improvement of Sino-Vatican relations."

According to UCAN, many Catholics there believe the advancement in reconciliation is proof that “the Holy Spirit has been working." The openness and willingness of Church officials at various levels to frankly and actively engage in discussion have boosted their spirits, they said.

Besides intensified dialogue, they added, the priority of both parties should be to boost friendship and trust, and to create a smooth and effective channel for diplomatic negotiation.

Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu of Mindong in southeastern China, told UCA News on Jan. 22 that the statement shows the Holy See fully recognizes the Chinese Church's past experiences and present endeavors, and that both "open" and "underground" Catholics are unalterably loyal to the pope's primacy. "The Holy See can rest assured about the faithfulness of the China Church," he stated.

In Hong Kong, Church-in-China observer Kwun Ping-hung told UCA News Jan. 21 the Vatican statement shows that the conditions for reconciliation are mature and that the Vatican has greater confidence in negotiations.

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