Vatican City, Feb 9, 2007 (CNA) -
In an address given at the Vatican Friday, Pope Benedict applauded efforts of the Central American nation of Colombia toward greater peace and reconciliation, but stressed the long road ahead as the country seeks to combat numerous social and moral ills.
The address came as the Holy Father received the official diplomatic letters of Juan Gomez Martinez, Colombia’s new ambassador to the Holy See.
The Pope noted that the country’s history had been “distinguished by its Catholic identity," a fact made clear by "the appreciation shown by the faithful to bishops and their collaborators as they seek to uphold the traditions and virtues inherited from their forebears."
Pope Benedict went on to laud Colombia's efforts "in search of peace and reconciliation, and its commitment to encourage progress and more solid democratic institutions." He also encouraged further steps toward the nation’s social stability, education and fight against poverty.
The Pope tempered his praise with words of warning against widespread problems which, he said, threaten "the dignity of people and the unity of families, evenly balanced economic development and an appropriate quality of life."
He also emphasized the Church’s role in combating the country’s social ills, saying that “the Catholic Church will ceaselessly continue to proclaim the inalienable greatness of human dignity. It is also necessary to appeal to the sense of responsibility of lay people in legislative bodies ... to ensure that laws always reflect principles and values in keeping with natural law, and that they promote the genuine common good."
He further promised the Church’s aid to the “most needy - and especially to internally displaced peoples who are so numerous in Colombia - and to victims of violence.”
“In this way,” he said, charitable institutions “also bear witness to the efforts of the Church which, ever within the limits of her own mission and of the circumstances being experienced by the nation, is architect of communion and hope."
The Holy Father turned particular attention to victims of what he called "the cruel scourge of kidnapping, which so seriously affects the dignity and rights of individuals,” calling for its end. “I accompany in prayer”, he added,” all those who are unjustly denied their freedom and express my closeness to the families, trusting in their imminent release.
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2007 (CNA) -
Speaking today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI called a new initiative aimed at combating pandemic disease an effort of solidarity “which our world needs in order to overcome every form of selfishness and to foster the peaceful coexistence of peoples.”
The Holy Father welcomed finance ministers from Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada and Russia, who outlined the new "Advance Market Commitment" project. In addition, Queen Rania of Jordan and Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank were also in attendance.
In his own words, the Pope said that the new project aims "at developing and producing vaccines against pandemic diseases, and making them available to poorer countries. ... [It] is meant to help resolve one of the most pressing challenges in preventative healthcare, one which particularly affects nations already suffering from poverty and serious needs."
Pope Benedict lent his "wholehearted” encouragement to the efforts of the new program “and its goal of advancing scientific research directed to the discovery of new vaccines.” “Such vaccines”, he stressed, “are urgently needed to prevent millions of human beings, including countless children, from dying each year of infectious diseases, especially in those areas of our world at greatest risk.”
"In this era of globalized markets," continued the Pope, "we are all concerned about the growing gap between the standard of living in countries enjoying great wealth and a high level of technological development, and that of underdeveloped countries where poverty persists and is even increasing."
Assuring the group of the Holy See’s full support, the Holy Father reiterated his words from the recent World Day of Peace, saying that, “every service rendered to the poor is a service rendered to peace, for ‘at the origin of many tensions that threaten peace are surely the many unjust inequalities still tragically present in our world'."
, Feb 9, 2007 (CNA) -
Workers and workers rights must be at the forefront of all sustainable development efforts, urged the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations in New York this week.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore told the UN’s 45th session of the Commission for Social Development on Thursday that it is imperative for the international community to enable economic growth through the availability of decent work and wages.
“Work itself should be decent,” he said. “Work is a right but it is also the duty of all people to contribute to the good of their society and the whole human family. Work is dignified by the people who do it; but it must also be dignified in itself,” he stated plainly.
The archbishop underlined the importance of work to “the whole social question”. It is “the condition not only for social development but for the cultural and moral development of all of us,” he told the UN’s Economic and Social Council.
“A constant policy goal at national and international levels must surely be the creation of a balance between economic development on the one hand and social justice on the other, enshrined in law, which protects workers and promotes their rights,” he said.
In this era of globalization, “it falls to the international community and governments to ensure both an enabling economic environment and the availability of work which is decent and properly remunerated,” he noted.
“A very great number of workers would benefit from a fair outcome in the negotiations of the WTO’s Doha Round, in particular regarding agricultural trade rules, to the benefit of many millions of the world’s 1.1 billion agricultural workers, 60% of whom are in workforces with little or no social safety nets,” he said.
The archbishop emphasized equal pay for women, who continue to be overlooked or undervalued in this regard in both rich and poor countries.
“The equality of women and men should be evident also in their treatment in the workplace, in salaries and in the acquisition of pensions,” he said. “Equality will be seen immediately through equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers and fairness in career advancement.”
He insisted on equal pay for equal work for migrants as well, who so often do the least desirable work in a society. He said law should me made to facilitate family reunification.
“Too often a lack of normal family life leads to evils such as human trafficking and prostitution on the margins of migrant communities,” he noted. “The market for such modern slavery could be undermined by allowing families to live together in the receiving country.”
The archbishop pushed for assistance to families so that parents can be more active in the upbringing of their children, and just wages that are sufficient to meet “ordinary family needs.”
Archbishop Migliore also addressed the extreme poverty still present in the world.
“No government, of however modest means, that should tolerate extreme poverty in today’s world. The world is far too rich to let the scandal of extreme poverty continue due to lack of imagination or politics of neglect,” he said. “Access to decent, safe and fulfilling work for the extreme poor is fundamental to the achievement of social development.”
Washington D.C., Feb 9, 2007 (CNA) -
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is urging Congress to address the moral and environmental dimensions of global climate change in light of a major international report released last week citing human activity as the likely cause of rising temperatures.
The letter to congressional leaders came from Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international policy committee.
The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a synthesis of scientific findings in over 100 countries, including the United States.
The IPCC found that “the warming of the climate is unequivocal” and that “continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.”
In his letter, Bishop Wenski addressed three major themes, drawn from Catholic Social Teaching, whic could help policymakers respond to global climate change.
He underlined the “priority for the poor” and the importance of ensuring that the needs of the poor and vulnerable around the world are not forgotten.
He also stressed the importance of pursuing “the common good”, rather than “economic, political or other narrow advantage.”
Finally, he emphasized that the “practice of prudence”, which often restrains us from acting in haste, in this case “requires us to act with urgency.”
The letter stated that the USCCB would work with Congress and others to address global climate change based on these three principles.
“We are encouraged by the increasing signs of serious attention to climate change,” Bishop Wenski said. “We hope this will be a time for our nation to come together across partisan, ideological and interest groups lines to address the moral, human and environmental dimensions of this growing challenge that faces all of humanity.”
The bishop enclosed a copy of the USCCB statement, “Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good.”
, Feb 9, 2007 (CNA) - A prominent cardinal condemned a two-year-old U.S. court decision that bars a Pennsylvania school district from teaching “intelligent design”.
Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna said in a lecture on Wednesday, sponsored by the Homeland Foundation, that restricting debate about Darwin's theory of evolution amounts to censorship, reported the Associated Press. The Homeland Foundation funds cultural and religious programs.
In 2005, a U.S. federal court ruled that the Dover, Pa., public school district could not teach the concept of “intelligent design” in biology class.
Intelligent design says an intelligent supernatural force is responsible for the emergence of complex life forms. The judge ruled that the theory was creationism in disguise.
According to the AP, the cardinal said the ruling meant that schools would only teach a materialistic, atheistic view of the origin of universe, without considering the idea that God played a role.
“A truly liberal society would at least allow students to hear of the debate,” the cardinal was quoted as saying.
Cardinal Schoenborn, who has spoken often on the topic recently, affirmed that the Catholic Church rejects creationism “The first page of the Bible is not a cosmological treatise about the coming to be of the world in six days,” he was quoted as saying.
He said “the Catholic faith can accept” the possibility that God uses evolution as a tool, but science alone cannot explain the origins of the universe.
Rome, Italy, Feb 9, 2007 (CNA) - The Italian Cabinet approved proposed legislation Thursday granting legal rights to unmarried heterosexual and same-sex couples. Many, including the Italian Catholic Church and opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi have now vowed to battle against it.
"This doesn't intend to create a new legal status," Family Policy Minister Rosy Bindi reportedly told a news conference, but would allow couples to register their cohabitation. She insisted it would not legalize same-sex marriage.
The issue has divided the current government, with Justice Minister Clemente Mastella abstaining from the Cabinet meeting. According to the AP, he stated that family, “as stipulated by the Constitution, is only that founded on marriage.”
Opponents say the law would launch an attack on the values and sensibilities of millions of Italians, but supporters argue that it would not create a new family model but only recognize the basic rights of couples.
Interior Minister Giuliano Amato reportedly added that the relationship doesn't have to be a sexual one to qualify for protection. He gave the example of two widowers who decide to live together.
According to the SIR news agency, the Italian Bishop’s Conference said today that the new legislation would create “far more serious problems than those it aims to tackle.”
The bishops stressed that it would “weigh heavily on the future of our society both at the legal and cultural level and will have a relapse on the lives of Italian families.”
Italian journalist calls for creation of Catholic Anti-Defamation League to combat ‘ideological manipulation’ of history
Madrid, Spain, Feb 9, 2007 (CNA) - Catholic journalist Vittorio Messori has called for the creation of a Catholic “Anti-Defamation League” in order to combat what he calls the “ideological manipulation” of history by those who are against the Church.
“Catholics,” he said, “now reduced to a minority (at least at the cultural level), should follow the example of another minority, the Jews, and create their own ‘Anti-Defamatation League,’ without seeking any kind of censorship or privilege, but rather only the possibility of rectifications based on specific facts and authentic documents.” Messori words came in his latest column published by the Spanish daily “La Razon.”
Messori points as an example to the case of the Catharists (a heretical group also known as the Albigensians), who take a lead role in The Da Vinci Code book and movie, along with other works, forgetting that their members “were followers of a dark, ferocious and bloody sect of Asian origin.”
In his column, the Italian journalist commented that for some, the most famous incident associated with this group is the “siege and taking of Beziers in July of 1209,” where supposedly some 40,000 people were massacred. The problem, he said, is the incident never actually took place.
The alleged massacre supposedly occurred at the order of Abbott Arnaldo Amalrico of Citeaux, “spiritual advisor to the crusaders,” who told the barons who asked him what to do with the conquered city: “Kill them all,” he reportedly said. “God will recognize those that belong to him.”
“Coincidently, we have many contemporary chronicles of the fall of Beziers, but none of them include anything about that ‘kill them all’,” Messori stressed.
He also pointed out that seventy years later, “a monk named Cesareo de Heisterbach, who lived in a monastery in northern Germany and had never once left, wrote a fantasy pastiche known as ‘Dialogus Miracolurum’,” in which he invented “the miracle” that “while the crusaders reeked havoc in Beziers (…) God had ‘recognized his own,’ allowing those who were not Catharists to flee the massacre.”
The reality, says Messori, is that Catholics did not want a massacre, and thus they sent ambassadors to the city to try to secure surrender. “Therefore, after a long period of tolerance, Pope Innocent III decided to go to war only when the Cartharists, in the previous year, killed his envoy who was bringing a peace proposal.”
The peace efforts of the great saints like Bernard and Dominic had also failed as well,” Messori notes.
The journalist also recalled that “the Catharists replied with fanatical violence to the offer to dialogue and negotiate,” attempting a surprise attack, but they were met by the Ribauds, who were mercenaries and adventurers and who pursued them all the way to the city. “When the Catholic commanders arrived with the regular troops, the massacre had already begun and there was no way to stop those furious ‘Ribauds’,” Messori writes.
“20, maybe 40,000 deaths?” Messori asks. “There was a massacre, unthinkable to the mentality of those times and explainable by the exasperation caused by the cruelty of the Catharists, who not only in Beziers, but for years persecuted Catholics.”
Therefore, he adds, “Only a storyteller like Dan Brown [of Da Vinci Code fame] can speak with ignorance about a ‘Albigensian meekness’.” Messori notes in his column that the principal episode occurred in the Church of the Magdalena, where there was room for no more than 1,000 people, and that Beziers was not left unpopulated and destroyed, because there was further resistance and a new assault was necessary.
“An Anti-Defamation League would not only be desirable and necessary for Catholics, but also in order to establish a just and realistic judgment about the past of Europe, forged during so many centuries by the Church as well,” Messori wrote in conclusion.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 9, 2007 (CNA) - A television documentary recorded in secret inside numerous mosques in Great Britain reportedly uncovered disturbing evidence that various British imans preach hatred of Jews and Christians, along with the submission of women and Islamic supremacy.
According to the Spanish daily “La Razon,” “Dispatches,” a Channel 4 documentary which aired on January 15, produced by reporter Robert Spencer, has caused great controversy and has Muslims on the defensive.
In an excerpt on the subject of women, the documentary shows Muslim leaders saying, “Allah has created the woman – even if she gets a Ph.D. – deficient. Her intellect is incomplete, deficient. She may be suffering from hormones that will make her emotional. It takes two witnesses of a woman to equal the one witness of the man.”
The videos, which were mostly recorded at a mosque in the Green Lane in Birmingham, show a local iman exhorting Muslims on the treatment of their daughters: “By the age of ten, it becomes an obligation on us to force her to wear hijab, and if she doesn’t wear hijab, we hit her.”
“Men are in charge of women,” it continued. “Wherever he goes she should follow him, and she shouldn’t be allowed leave the house without his permission.”
The documentary also shows preaching about Western democracy: “You have to live like a state within a state until you take over;” “We want the laws of Islam to be practiced; we want to do away with the man-made laws.” “Allah has decreed this thing, that I am going to be dominant. The dominance of course is a political dominance.”
The documentary featured other incendiary comments from imans as well: “Muslims shouldn’t be satisfied with living in other than the total Islamic state.” “I encourage all of you to be from amongst them, to begin to cultivate ourselves for the time that is fast approaching where the tables are going to turn and the Muslims are going to be in the position of being uppermost in strength, and when that happens, people won’t get killed – unjustly.”
A prominent mosque in Green Lane where the documentary was recorded has issued a press release in an effort to downplay the controversy. “It is extremely disappointing but not at all surprising that ‘Dispatches’ has chosen to portray Muslims in the worst possible light,” the press release stated. “‘Dispatches’ has opted for sensationalism over substance with total disregard for peaceful community relations.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 9, 2007 (CNA) - The vice president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Roberto Luckert, has denounced the government’s plan to emulate “the educational program that is being implemented in Cuba and which clearly is an affront to everything that the Constitution says about what education should be in a democratic state.”
According to Union Radio, Archbishop Lucker said Venezuela’s educational policy “should be free, it should be plural,” and he denounced officials for seeking to impose the Cuban educational model in Venezuela.
The archbishop concluded that he was not surprised to learn that the expedited approval of the government’s educational reform, despite not obtaining the approval of the National Assembly, was included in President Hugo Chavez’s sweeping new powers allowing him to legislate by decree.
Fortaleza, Brazil, Feb 9, 2007 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for the Laity announced recently the statutes and way of life of Brazil’s Shalom Catholic Community have received pontifical recognition as an international private association of the faithful for an “ad experimentum” period.
The founder of Shalom, Moises Laurel de Azevedo Filho, said, “We have received a grace today. It’s not because of our own merits, but rather it is a gift from God. A grace received for the edification of the Church and in service to humanity and therefore, we want to offer it, to respond with our commitment, because the only reason a charism exists is to be in service of the edification of the Church,” he stated.
The Brazilian founder recalled that the history of Shalom has been “a road full of grace, but also of trials and purifications.” “Today”, he said, “we are closing one circle and beginning a new one, a new time.”
The Shalom Community was founded in 1982 in Brazil in the city of Fortaleza. It is made up of men and women from different states of life: priests, consecrated laity, married couples, all united in the sanctification of their lives, in poverty, chastity and obedience, each according to his own state in life. They seek to live in contemplation, unity and evangelization, with the mission of explicitly proclaiming Christ, living and proclaiming His peace, the Shalom of peace, which is that of Jesus.
There are currently more than 2,000 members of the Shalom Community in 41 dioceses in Brazil and in 11 cities around the world.