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Archive of February 1, 2007

Pope sends message to Christians in the Middle East: “be courageous and steadfast”

Vatican City, Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - Today in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, which is currently holding its fourth plenary meeting.  The Pontiff thanked the group for their work and offered particular words of encouragement for those prelates who reside in the Middle East.

“The difficult situation which individuals and Christian communities face in the (Middle East) is a cause of deep concern for us all,” the Holy Father said. “Indeed, Christian minorities find it difficult to survive in the midst of such a volatile geopolitical panorama and are often tempted to emigrate.”

“In these circumstances,” the Pontiff continued, “Christians of all traditions and communities in the Middle East are called to be courageous and steadfast in the power of the Spirit of Christ.”

“May the intercession and example of the many martyrs and saints, who have given courageous witness to Christ in these lands, sustain and strengthen the Christian communities in their faith!”

Addressing the entire group in English, the Holy Father also noted the importance of their meeting, “for our common journey towards the restoration of full communion.”

“The Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches share an ecclesial patrimony stemming from apostolic times and the first centuries of Christianity. This 'heritage of experience' should shape our future 'guiding our common path towards the re-establishment of full communion,’” Pope Benedict said.
 
"Many people today are still waiting for the truth of the Gospel to be brought to them," the Holy Father reminded. "May their thirst for the Good News strengthen our resolve to work and pray diligently for that unity required for the Church to exercise her mission in the world."

“Thank you for your presence today and for your ongoing commitment to the path of dialogue and unity,” Benedict said. “May the Holy Spirit accompany you in your deliberations.”
 
Through the gathered delegates, the Pope also sent his fraternal greetings to the th Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches: His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, His Holiness Patriarch Zakka I Iwas, His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, His Holiness Patriarch Paulus, His Holiness Patriarch Antonios I and His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Didymus I.

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Vatican reemphasizes opposition to U.N. document promoting abortion of babies with disabilities

Vatican City, Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - The Press Office of the Holy See re-released today a speech given by Archbishop Celestino Migliore to the United Nations in mid-December.  The speech by the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the U.N. in New York declares the Vatican’s refusal to sign a document which claims to support the rights of individuals with disabilities, but includes a provision supporting the abortion of babies, including those with disabilities.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was initially protested by Archbishop Migliore on December 13th, 2006 is due to be signed by member States on March 30.
 
In a note accompanying the talk, the archbishop recalls that, "since the beginning of work in July 2002, the Holy See has participated actively in the preparation of the document, collaborating in the insertion of explicit references to respect for the right to life and the recognition of the role of the family in the lives of disabled people. Nonetheless, in the final stage of the work, unacceptable references to 'reproductive health' have been introduced into articles 23 and 25 and, for that reason, the Holy See has decided not to adhere to the new convention."
 
In his English-language talk, Archbishop Migliore highlighted how "the Holy See has consistently called for disabled individuals to be completely and compassionately integrated into society, convinced that they possess full and inalienable human rights."
 
With reference to article 23 of the convention, he indicated that his delegation "interprets all the terms and phrases regarding family planning services, regulation of fertility and marriage in article 23, as well as the word 'gender,' as it did in its reservations and statements of interpretation at the Cairo and Beijing International Conferences," held respectively 1994 and 1995.
 
"Finally, and most importantly, regarding article 25 on health, and specifically the reference to sexual and reproductive health, the Holy See understands access to reproductive health as being a holistic concept that does not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension of those terms. ... We opposed the inclusion of such a phrase in this article, because in some countries reproductive health services include abortion, thus denying the inherent right to life of every human being, also affirmed by article 10 of the Convention. It is surely tragic that ... the same Convention created to protect persons with disabilities from all discrimination in the exercise of their rights, may be used to deny the very basic right to life of disabled unborn persons.
 
"For this reason," he concluded, "and despite the many helpful articles this convention contains, the Holy See is unable to sign it."

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Jews, Christians, and Muslims called to strengthen ties that bind, Pope says

Vatican City, Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a delegation from the Foundation for Inter-religious and Inter-cultural Research and Dialogue, led by their president, Metropolitan Archbishop Damskinos of Adrianoupoli. Among the members of the delegation was also His Royal Highness Prince Hassan of Jordan.
 
In his address to the group the Pope, who as Cardinal Ratzinger was one of the foundation's founding members, thanked Metropolitan Damaskinos for his gift of the first fruit of their labors: a joint edition of the three sacred texts of the three monotheistic religions, in chronological order and in the original languages. "It was our first project," the Pope recalled, "to make a specific and positive contribution to dialogue between cultures and religions."
 
"Jews, Christians, and Muslims," he went on, "are called to recognize and strengthen the ties that bind us together. It was this idea that brought us to create the foundation, the objective of which is to discover 'the most essential and most authentic message that the three monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - can communicate to the 21st century world,' with the aim of giving a fresh impulse to inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue through the joint discovery and communication of the elements in our respective spiritual legacies that contribute to reinforcing the fraternal bonds between our communities of believers."
 
"The rereading - for some people the discovery - of texts that are sacred to so many people enforces our mutual respect," said the Holy Father. "Men and women today await from us a message of harmony and tranquility, and the concrete expression of our shared will to help them realize their legitimate aspirations to live in justice and peace."
 
"The work of the foundation will contribute to raising ever greater awareness of all the aspects of the various cultures of our time that correspond to divine wisdom and serve the dignity of man. This will lead to greater discernment, and to a rejection of all usurpation of the name of God and denaturalization of man's humanity."
 
"Our respective religious traditions," Pope Benedict concluded, "underline the sacred nature of life and the dignity of the human person. ... We, with all men and women of good will, long for peace. For this reason I reiterate that inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue and research are not an option, but a vital necessity of our time."

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Despite different faiths, America is a country that prays, Bush says

Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - President George W. Bush spoke this morning at the 55th National Prayer Breakfast.  The U.S. President told the crowd of government officials, legislators, and dignitaries that despite the fact that the country is made up of people of many different faiths, “we are a nation of prayer.”

Bush recalled for the hundreds gathered in the Hilton Washington Hotel that, “each day millions of our citizens bow their heads in silence and solitude, or they offer up prayers in fellowship with others.”

“America prays,” he said.

“They pray for themselves; they pray for their families; they pray for their neighbors and their communities. In many congregations and homes across this great land, people also set a time -- set aside time to pray for our nation and those entrusted with authority, including our elected leaders,” the president added.

As he travels across the country, the president said, he is constantly surprised by the number of people he encounters who say they are praying for him personally. “Isn't that interesting,” Bush commented, “you're working a rope line and people come up and say, Mr. President, I am praying for you and your family.”

“The greatest gift a citizen of this country can give those of us entrusted with political office is to pray for us,” he said.

“Prayer changes hearts. Prayer changes lives. And prayer makes us a more compassionate and giving people.”

“When we pray,” the president continued, “we surrender our will to the Almighty, and open ourselves up to His priorities and His touch. His call to love our neighbors as we would like to be loved ourselves is something that we hear when we pray. And we answer that call by reaching out to feed the hungry and clothe the poor and aid the widow and the orphan. By helping our brothers and sisters in need, we find our own faith strengthened, and we receive the grace to lead lives of dignity and purpose.”

Bush also recalled a prayer written by Fr. Mychal Judge, a chaplain with the New York City Fire Department who was killed on September 11th, 2001.  "Lord, take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way," the president quoted.

“Father Mychal's humble prayer reminds us of an eternal truth: In the quiet of prayer, we leave behind our own cares and we take up the cares of the Almighty. And in answering His call to service we find that, in the words of Isaiah, ‘We will gain new strength. We will run and not get tired. We will walk and not become weary.’”

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South Dakota reintroduces abortion ban with stiffer penalties

Pierre, S.D., Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - The South Dakota House of Representatives yesterday introduced a new abortion ban for the state, this time carrying harsher penalties. The new bill increases punishment for illegal abortion to a class 4 felony, punishable by 10 years in prison.

Last year, South Dakota became the first state since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 to pass a near total ban on abortion.  The law, however, was challenged by a voter referendum, where it was narrowly defeated.  Many voters said they opposed the referendum only because it did not include exceptions for rape and incest.

According to the AP, This year's bill would allow rape victims to get abortions if they report the rapes to police within 50 days. Doctors would have to confirm the report with police and would have to take blood from aborted fetuses and give that information to police for DNA testing.

In the case of incest, a doctor would have to get the woman's consent to report the crime along with the identity of the alleged perpetrator before an abortion could be performed. Blood samples from fetuses would have to be provided to police in incest cases, too.
 
About 870 abortions take place in South Dakota every year, according to the most recent statistics listed with the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Earlier this year, Georgia also introduced a bill to ban abortion that contained no exceptions. 

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Archbishop proposes ‘new missal for new mission’

Canberra, Australia, Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - The liturgical renewal in the Church, which includes a revision of the English translation of the Latin Missal, will contribute to the missionary impulse of the Church, said Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge of Canberra, this week.

The archbishop wrote a letter to his diocese, published in the local “Catholic Voice,” telling the faithful about the changes that are coming to the English Mass and the spirit in which this liturgical reform is taking place.

“The whole point of liturgical reform at the Second Vatican Council was to generate new energy for mission,” he wrote. “And at a time when the Holy Spirit is calling the whole Church to become more missionary, my hope is that the new Missal will be one of the key sources of the new energy that new mission requires.”

“‘New Missal for new mission’ is not a bad motto for us all as we approach this new threshold in the ongoing journey of liturgical renewal in the Church,” he continued.

Archbishop Coleridge chairs the Vatican’s International Commission for the Preparation of an English Language Lectionary. He met with other bishops in Cape Town, South Africa, to work on the revision of the missal.

The revision, he said, is intended to ensure that the English is closer to the Latin original and that “it offers more of the riches of the Catholic tradition.”
 
“The language we use at Mass is a crucial factor in shaping our spiritual lives, our relationship with God in the Church, our mission in the world,” he wrote. “The bishops hope to provide in the new Missal words that are richer and deeper because they pass on to us more of the vast treasures of the Catholic faith through the ages.”
 
“We will have to learn new things, but it will be learning for a purpose. The bishops have no interest in disturbing priests and people just for the sake of it,” he added. “The liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council was always going to be a long and winding road, and this is a new phase of the unfolding journey. But this new phase, I am convinced, is no less under the influence of the Holy Spirit than was the first impulse that came to us from the Council decades ago.”

The archbishop said he plans to have both the Archdiocesan Assembly and the Clergy Assembly focus upon what that is involved in this new threshold of liturgical renewal in the Church.

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Vatican defends choice of Doubleday as pope's publisher

Vatican City, Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican on Wednesday defended the choice of Doubleday to publish Pope Benedict's XVI new book, "Jesus of Nazareth", in North America. It underlined that Doubleday has previously published works by Popes John XXIII and John Paul II as well as "The Catechism of the Catholic Church."

The Vatican issued the statement in response to an article in an Italian newspaper, which pointed out that Doubleday is an imprint of Random House, which owns the rights to the controversial book "The Da Vinci Code."

In November, the Vatican's publishing house announced that it signed an agreement with Italian publisher Rizzoli for the worldwide rights to Benedict's book. Rizzoli then reached a deal with Doubleday for North America, reported the Associated Press.

The Vatican also noted that Doubleday had always published the most important documents of the U.S. bishops, before the bishops established their own publishing house.

Benedict has said the book is a personal work about Jesus that is meant for general Catholic readers.

In the preface to the Italian translation, Benedict said the book is "absolutely not an act" of Church authority and "therefore, everyone is free to contradict me."

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Polish Politicians propose law to defend good name of priests

Warsaw, Poland, Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - A group of Polish politicians have joined with Radio María to present new legislation to protect priests from false accusations and slander.  Under the proposed law, priests in Poland would have the same judicial protection provided to other public officials, thus maintaining their good name and reputation before any groundless slander or defamation.  

The proposal seeks to legally protect priests who have been defamed or slandered by the media by requiring public prosecutors to open investigations and to administer appropriate punishment to those who make groundless attacks.  

If the initiative passes, Polish priests will enjoy the same privileges enjoyed by government representatives, senators, judges, as well as, high ranking business and public personalities.  

The initiative has been applauded by the League of the Polish Families, which forms part of the governmental coalition.  

Currently, the Catholic Church in Poland has created historical and legal commissions in forty-four diocese to study documents and files of the former communist police and the secret service, to determine which priests collaborated with the former communist regime.

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New Supreme Court chief justice in Uruguay supports legalization of abortion

Montevideo, Uruguay, Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - The new Chief Justice of the Uruguayan Supreme Court, Sara Bossio, who will assume the post on February 1, has said she supports the legalization of abortion in Uruguay.

Bossio argued that the country should end what she called the “double-speak” about abortion.  According to statements published by the newspaper “El Espectador,” Bossio is worried about poor women because “they have many kids and they have no way to obtain abortions, while women who are well-off can go to any clinic and get one.”

Although efforts to legalize abortion on demand have failed in Uruguay, pro-abortion lawmaker Margarita Percovich said a new bill on the issue would be coming before the Uruguayan Congress this month.

“Since we have so many reform measures to take up this year, we did not want to include it in the agenda of the Senate Health Care Committee, but we do plan to bring it forward in 2007,” Percovich said during an interview with the newspaper “La Republica.”

The feminist senator said that in order to prevent another defeat like the one in 2005, the bill would be presented “as a question of human rights,” and not as a health care issue.

President Tavare Vasquez, a leftist who has declared his full support for the defense of the unborn, said recently he would veto any law that would attempt to legalize abortion in Uruguay.

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Bishops say new constitution should acknowledge Catholic identity of Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of the Dominican Republic has asked the government commission charged with reforming the country’s Constitution to “clearly define” the identity of the nation, which was forged out of a Catholic faith that “inspired national sovereignty,” and to establish respect for the right to life conception to natural death.

“Dominican identity,” the bishops wrote in a letter to the commission, “should be clearly defined.”  

“It should contain a religious element - a reference to the Christian faith that inspired national sovereignty and that has historically shaped the behavior of Dominicans,” they stated, adding that the constitution should “clearly and firmly guarantee the religious freedom, of exercise and worship for all Christian confessions as well as for any other confession.”

Likewise the bishops recalled the duty of the State to “safeguard and defend the fundamental rights” of man, based “on innate and inviolable human dignity and not on mere consensus.”  It should be clear, they said, that “the right to life is from the moment of conception until natural death.”

The bishops underscored that the State has the duty to provide basic services to the populace, including free primary and secondary education, healthcare, housing, and decent employment.  Citizens have the duty to contribute to the common good, they noted, which could be achieved by establishing “an obligatory social service program for young people between 18 and 21.”

They also said the family should be recognized “as the primary cell of society” and that policies should be put in place that strengthen and help the family to carry out its mission.

On the other hand, the bishops recommended greater limits on the different government branches and they demanded that corruption, poverty, and poor health care be combated.

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Magazine for Christians in Muslim countries launched with U.N. panel discussion

, Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - The publication of an international journal in the United States to support small Christian communities living in predominantly Muslim countries was recently launched at the United Nations with a panel of religious experts from Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism.

Oasis was launched in the context of a panel discussion with Catholic, Muslim and Jewish leaders on interreligious relations in the library of the United Nation on Jan. 17. The magazine also seeks to educate Western Christians about Islam through the experiences of their Eastern counterparts.

Participants on the panel included Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Patriarch of Venice; Seyyid Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University; and Rabbi Israel Singer, head of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Dialogue. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson moderated the panel discussion.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations, hosted the event; about 200 people attended.

“If man is made in the image of the God who is love, can and should all men join together in constructing what John Paul II described so often as a ‘civilization of love’?” Anderson offered.

Nasr said the issue “was critical to human existence.” He admitted to being less than optimistic about what dialogue can achieve in light of current world events. Civilizations, he noted, go through cycles of peace and cycles of violence and it is important to understand the causes of these cycles. Rather than vying for political superiority, cultures and nations should “vie with each other in goodness,” he said.

Rabbi Singer praised the work done by the Second Vatican Council in furthering relations between Jews and Christians. That model should be applied today for interreligious dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims today, he suggested. The commitment by Pope John Paul II to this issue “changed history radically,” he said.

The rabbi added that religious believers should not let extremists “hijack” their faith. He praised the grand mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, who has made what Singer called “revolutionary” statements denouncing fundamentalist Islam and its followers.

Cardinal Scola said proposed that what is happening today is the “hybridization” of civilizations and cultures. He urged religious people to build up society by their testimony as believers. Every man and woman, he said, must become personally involved and trust that advances can be made through dialogue or through encounters with others whose beliefs or culture are different.

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Archbishop still hopeful Catholic adoption agencies can find solution in U.K.

Birmingham, Ala., Feb 1, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham spoke publicly today for the first time since Tony Blair announced that Roman Catholic adoption agencies would not be exempt from a new law requiring agencies to place children with homosexual couples.  The archbishop said he still holds out hope that an agreement can be reached that would keep Catholic agencies open in the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister announced on Monday evening that there would be no exemptions to new “anti-discrimination” legislation that would grant to homosexual couples the right to seek an adopted child at any facility in the U.K.  Blair granted Catholic institutions nearly two years to adapt to the new law, or face closure.

Archbishop Nichols told the Birmingham Mail today that he is hopeful that a “common sense decision,” regarding continued functioning of Catholic adoption agencies could be reached within the two year window.

"Obviously we are disappointed that the Government refused to grant to Catholic adoption agencies an amendment that would allow them to continue to serve the needs of children with good conscience,” the archbishop said.  "But nevertheless, we welcome the two-year review and hope to use this time to explore any way that the Catholic agencies can secure their work in the future.”

"It gives us the opportunity to look at different practical arrangements; such as with Catholic doctors who can work with NHS clinics but it's recognized they can't play any part in abortions. I would hope that the same principle can be achieved."

Archbishop Nichols emphasized that for the time being Catholic adoption agencies remain open and continue to refer homosexual couples to other venues.

Nichols noted that while the Church is not working to ban all adoptions by homosexual couples, “there is a common sense decision that children do well with a father and a mother, and I think the majority of people would accept that.”

"I don't think for a minute that a same-sex couple would produce a gay child, but they would not be as complementary as having a mum and dad,” the archbishop added.

"What we fear is that exceptions granted under the law for same-sex couples to have the right to adopt should somehow become a new norm, a new moral law, and that, I believe, is not broadly accepted in our society.”

According to the Birmingham Mail, the Catholic Church operates seven Diocesan adoption agencies in England and Wales, including Father Hudson's in Coleshill, near Sutton Coldfield.

In an article written prior to Prime Minister Blair’s decision, the archbishop noted that in addition to the good work Catholic adoption agencies do, Catholics are also more likely to adopt children.  Although Catholics only make up ten percent of the British population, Nichols pointed out, they are responsible for adopting one-quarter of the children. “Surely such a considerable proportion of adopters have a right of access to an agency that will understand, respect and support their Catholic faith and culture,” the archbishop said.

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