Archive of February 14, 2007

Cardinal says genetic testing legislation should be amended

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Justin Rigali called on Congress to correct an “unfortunate and apparently unintentional loophole” in the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (H.R. 493), which might discourage parents from adopting or bearing children with disabilities.

The legislation is designed to prevent employers and health insurance companies from discriminating against individuals and their families, based on the results of genetic tests.

However, Cardinal Rigali explained that the bill seems not to address discrimination against families based on the pre-implantation or prenatal genetic testing of their child, or genetic testing performed on an adoptive child before an adoption is completed.

Rigali, who serves as Archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, expressed his concerns in a letter to the House Education and Labor Committee, which is expected to work on the legislation this week.

The Cardinal warns that, given the current bill, an insurance company may misuse knowledge of a child’s genetic defect to raise a woman’s premiums, cancel her insurance, or even pressure her to have an abortion or cancel adoption plans for a child with special needs, because the company does not wish to cover the additional needs of a child who will develop an illness or disability.

“The most fundamental and destructive form of such discrimination would be to use such information to seek to prevent a family from accepting a child with special needs into their lives,” the Cardinal wrote. “I urge you to amend H.R. 493 to make it clear that such invidious discrimination will not be permitted.” 

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Catholic group urges lonely hearts to pray to St. Raphael

London, England, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - On this Valentine’s Day, a Catholic organization is advising lonely hearts to pray to St. Raphael, one of seven archangels and the patron saint of "happy meetings."

"Many people have testified to the help they have received in finding a life partner through the prayerful help of the archangel," said Msgr. Keith Barltrop, director of the Catholic Enquiry Office.

“If something is for our good and happiness, then God will answer our prayers as we ask," he told The Telegraph.

The monsignor said he was certain every prayer would be answered but not always as expected.

"You might be praying for a tall, dark and handsome person to come into your life, or a beautiful brunette, but God may have prepared someone quite different but wonderful for you," he told the newspaper. "Prayerfully ask him, and find out for yourself."

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Catholic group warns of possible step toward eugenics

Ottawa, Canada, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - Canada’s Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) is calling upon all Canadians, especially obstetricians, gynecologists and expectant parents, to uphold the inherent worth and dignity of every human life after the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recommended that all pregnant women be given access to non-invasive prenatal genetic screening for fetal aneuploidy, with a particular emphasis on Down’s Syndrome.

COLF says the recommendation is a disturbing step towards eugenics in our society and Canadians must act to protect the basic human rights of the disabled, including first and foremost their right to be born.  

The executive vice president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada told the National Post that this screening was being recommended “so that a greater number of women would have the option to terminate their pregnancies should fetal abnormalities be detected.”

“Prenatal diagnosis demonstrates the positive advancements of science when it is employed to safeguard the life and integrity of the child and the mother, and does not place them at risk,” says COLF. “However, for most genetic conditions that can be identified in the womb, including fetal aneuploidy and particularly Down’s Syndrome, there are no available cures or therapies that can be administered before the child is born.”

“The predominant purpose of prenatal genetic screening for fetal aneuploidy is thus to offer parents the option of aborting ‘defective’ babies,” the group said. “This places parents in the position of making life-death decisions based on their own preferences, fears, and guesses about the future quality of their own lives and their children’s.”

“Rather than offering the parents of these children a way of eliminating their unborn, we should be providing them with more resources and support,” they suggested.

In their statement, COLF went on to explain the many positive contributions that people with an illness or a disability have made to Canadian society, citing Pope Benedict as well as Jean Vanier, the Canadian founder of L’Arche, an international federation of communities for people with disabilities.

“A society that aspires to social justice is measured by how it treats its weaker and more needy members,” COLF stated. “The announcement of the SOGC is a signal for Canadians to make a commitment to recognize and protect the rights of the disabled, including their first and fundamental right to life.”

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Bishops identify national priorities in Congo

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Congo issued a powerful statement at the end of their episcopal meeting, identifying priorities for recently elected officials, calling for investigations into recent violence and warning about the possible legalization of abortion.

“It is time for the nation to be governed and for the people to set to work, thanks to management which respects principles and rules of a democratic nation,” reads the statement issued by the Standing Council of the Bishops’ Conference.

The bishops said they are pleased that the federal election process is coming to an end and that, in view of municipal elections, “all the institutions of the Third Republic are operating.”

The bishops identified priorities for the new governors: guarantee territorial integrity and national sovereignty; consolidate national peace and harmony; create a national army and police force to guarantee security for all citizens; eradicate illiteracy; bring the population out of isolation; respect the dignity of the human person; and, open the country to Africa and the rest of the world.

“The country can only be rebuilt on the basis of authentic human values” the bishops said. They deplored “anti-values seen in the course of the electoral process — corruption, greed for money, the absence of moral criteria and fidelity to promises.”

In this regard, the bishops reiterated the local Church’s commitment to educating consciences and teaching the social teachings of the Church.

The bishops also the condemned the recent violence, which erupted in various towns in the Bas-Congo province, between police and the religious-political movement, Bundu dia Kongo. The United Nations reported 134 casualties.

The bishops offered their condolences to the victims’ families and said measures must be taken to prevent similar events in the future. They called for a public investigation into the clashes that broke out Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

On the occasion of the centenary of a Church-State Agreement (1906-2006), the bishops also called for a new agreement that would enable the Church to continue and to intensify its contribution towards Congo’s development.

They lauded efforts in Africa to promote respect for women and ensure equal opportunities but expressed concern about the “Maputo Protocol”. The protocol, they say, “opens the way for the legalization of abortion.”

The bishops also recalled the late Cardinal Frédéric Etsou, archbishop of Kinshasa, who died on Jan. 6: “A man of faith and conviction who followed closely the development of the Church and our country’s return to institutional legality, the cardinal left a legacy of self-giving for the sake of the Gospel to the very end,” they wrote. They thanked the state and the people for their public tribute to Cardinal Etsou.”

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Second Edwards Campaigner resigns over anti-Catholic statements

, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - The second of two liberal bloggers hired by John Edwards’ campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination resigned Tuesday, following continued pressure from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights over anti-Catholic comments the two have posted on the internet.  Catholic League President, Bill Donohue, told the AP late Tuesday night that in his mind the issue is now closed.

Melissa McEwan made the announcement late last night on her personal web-log, Shakespeare's Sister.  McEwan said that she left the campaign because she was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the level of attention focused on her and her family.

"This was a decision I made, with the campaign's reluctant support, because my remaining the focus of sustained ideological attacks was inevitably making me a liability to the campaign," McEwan said Tuesday night.

The blogger, who was hired as an advisor for Edward’s web campaign did not address her previous comments on Christianity and Catholicism, but apologized to her fellow “progressive bloggers.”  

“One of the hardest parts of this decision was feeling as though I'm letting down my peers, who have been so supportive,” McEwan said.

McEwan's resignation came just one day after another blogger, Amanda Marcotte, left the Edwards campaign for similar reasons.

The two were hired for Edwards’ staff a week ago.  The hires immediately received criticism from the Catholic League for a string of posts they made on their “progressive” blogs.  The Catholic League compiled a long list of offensive remarks, including one that questioned whether the Church would have had to, “justify [its] misogyny with another ancient mythology,” if the Virgin Mary had taken the Plan-B abortion pill.

Edwards released a statement late last week, refusing to fire the bloggers and offering his assurances that their comments were not meant to be offensive.

Then, on Monday, Marcotte released a review of the movie “Children of Men,” in which she criticized the Christian Doctrine of the Virginal Birth of Jesus.
“The Christian version of the virgin birth is generally interpreted as super-patriarchal,” she wrote, “where god is viewed as so powerful he can impregnate without befouling himself by touching a woman, and women are nothing but vessels.”

Donohue, had pledged to continue his “public relations blitz” until something was done to address what he called, “the glaring double standard that colors the entire conversation about bigotry.”  The Catholic League leader claimed that if Marcotte and McEwan had made comments against Judaism, African Americans, or homosexuals, they would have been immediately fired.

With the resignation of both women, Donohue says the public relations campaign is now over.  "It's too bad that Edwards didn't make the decision himself to get rid of them," Donohue said Tuesday night. "Why he had to wait for these women to bail on their own doesn't speak well for him. But I'm delighted, and as far as I'm concerned, this closes the issue. I have no vendetta against John Edwards."

This morning the Catholic League reaffirmed its decision to end the campaign with another statement from Donohue, “One of Yogi Berra’s most famous quips is, ‘It’s not over till it’s over.’ I have news for John Edwards—it’s over.”

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Benedict receives relatives of Israelis soldiers abducted by Hezbollah and Hamas

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - At the conclusion of his Wednesday General Audience today, Pope Benedict XVI received the relatives of three soldiers who were kidnapped last summer by the Islamic terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas.  

The relatives of the young soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Reghev, who have been held by the Lebanese group Hezbollah since July of 2006, and Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Palestinian group Hamas since June, asked the Pontiff for an opportunity to briefly speak with him about their loved ones, to which the Pope happily agreed.

The family members also gave the Holy Father a copy of a letter which requests the release of their loved ones.

The Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See, Oded Ben Hur, facilitated in the meeting and described it as "moving."

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Pope Benedict acclaims role of women in Church history

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - The role of women in the history of the Church was the theme chosen by Benedict XVI for his catechesis at today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 20,000 people.  The Holy Father reflected on the thankfulness the Church should have for the countless “manifestations of the feminine ‘genius.’”

"Jesus chose 12 men as fathers of the new Israel, 'to be with Him and to be sent out to proclaim the message,'" said the Holy Father, "but ... among the disciples many women were also chosen. They played an active role within the context of Jesus mission.”

In the first place, the Pope began, “the Virgin Mary, who with her faith and her maternal care worked in a unique way for our redemption. Having become a disciple of her Son, ... she followed Him even to the foot of the cross where she received a maternal mission for all his disciples in all times."

After mentioning other women who appear in various parts of the Gospel - such as Susanna, and Lazarus' sisters Martha and Mary - the Pope pointed out that "the women, unlike the Twelve, did not abandon Jesus at the hour of His Passion. Outstanding among them was Mary Magdalene ... who was the first witness of the Resurrection and announced it to the others." Pope Benedict also recalled how St. Thomas Aquinas referred to Mary Magdalene as "the apostle of the apostles."

In the first Christian communities, Benedict XVI went on, "the female presence was anything but secondary." St. Paul "starts from the fundamental principle according to which among the baptized 'there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female.'"  Furthermore, "the Apostle admits that in the Christian community it is quite normal that there should be women who prophesy, in other words who pronounce openly under the influence of Holy Spirit for the edification of the community."

Therefore St. Paul's subsequent assertion that "women should be silent in the churches" must "be relativized," said the Pope, and he explained that "the problem ... of the relationship between these two apparently contradictory indications should be left to the exegetes."

"The history of Christianity would have developed quite differently without the generous contribution of many women," said the Pope and he recalled how John Paul II had written: "The Church gives thanks for each and every woman ... for all the manifestations of the feminine 'genius.'"

"We share this appreciation, giving thanks to the Lord because He leads His Church, generation after generation, indiscriminately using men and women who know how to bring their faith to fruition ... for the good of the entire body of the Church.”

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Christians should announce the Gospel without fear, says Pope Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - This morning Pope Benedict XVI received Bishops from the Italian dioceses of the Marche region along with a group of pilgrims, he exhorted them to announce and to testify the Gospel with courage.  

"In the present climate of religious and cultural pluralism,” the Holy Father stated, “we recognize that the message of Jesus is not known by many, therefore, every Christian is called to a renewed and courageous commitment to announce and give testimony to the Gospel."  The light of the Gospel, the Pope added, is "a light for personal life and a sign that orients social life."

He directed and encouraged the Bishops to "dedicate every effort so that basic Christian formation is attended to as much in the cities as in the smallest centers, so that all the categories of faithful may be prepared to receive with fruit the Sacraments, indispensable food for growth in the faith."

Finally, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the bishops to promote, "a solid religious instruction that can withstand the challenges of an extensively secularized society."

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Cuban doctors and lawyers obtaining Master in Bioethics from Catholic university in Spain

Havana, Cuba, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - 33 doctors and lawyers from the Diocese of Santa Clara in Cuba are obtaining their Master’s degree in Bioethics from the St. Vincent the Martyr Catholic University of Valencia, Spain. 
University officials said the first part of the program, led by Spanish priest Father Blas Silvestre, will end in June and the beginning of the second part may be set for next September.  In Cuba, “the country with the oldest population in America, there is great interest over the issue of abortion, and this has a great effect on the field of bioethics,” Father Silvestre said.  He said other issues of great interest in Cuba were “genetics, euthanasia, and the treatment of the psychiatrically infirm.”
Father Silvestre said he was impressed by how well the course was received by health care professionals and lawyers in Cuba. “The students, heath care professionals, whether Catholic or not, have appreciated the atmosphere of freedom, dialogue and sensibility that the Master’s program has offered.”
The faculty of the program, which ends with a research project, includes professors from Cuba and Europe, ranging from doctors to psychologists to lawyers.
Students participating in the program are receiving instruction in some cases over the internet, with online instructions and virtual tutoring.

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Spanish diocese prohibits use of Catholic buildings by pseudo-religious sects and movements

Madrid, Spain, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - This week the Archdiocese of Burgos in Spain announced it has prohibited the use of church buildings and facilities by pseudo-religious sects that disguise or hide their true identity, in order to thwart their “chameleon-like strategy of proselytism.”

In a statement, the archdioceses denounced the “evil” and “fanatical” proselytism of religious sects “that employ the chameleon-like tact of toning down their own identity in order to resemble the religion of the majority in each place, which in Spain is Catholicism.” 

Thus, the statement continued, “sects initially encounter little resistance. Once they have conquered someone’s heart, their ‘reasons’ obscure common sense and it becomes easier to make the person a follower.”

The archdiocese warned that one of the strategies of such groups is to use Catholic facilities (schools, diocesan centers, retreat houses) to hold their events.  “It has been done and continues to be done despite the obvious manipulation intended to overwhelm the initial resistance of possible attendees and especially—if they are minors—of their parents or teachers, who in turn run the risk of concluding that such groups are compatible with the faith and with Christian morals simply because of the place where they are meeting.”

For this reason, the archdioceses said no Catholic facilities would be allowed to be used by pseudo-religious sects associated with movements and philosophies such as the New Age, Yoga, transcendental meditation, Rei-ki, Dianetics, and others.

If “the nature of a particular group that is requesting use of Catholic facilities is not known, the statement indicated, efforts must be made to obtain the essential information about the group that will enable officials to determine its purpose and goals.  Even if authorization is granted, “individuals capable of discernment may be asked to attend the meetings” to witness first-hand the group’s activities.

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Spain even more generous than Latin America: 800 Spanish missionary priests

Madrid, Spain, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - According to the Spanish bishops’ Committee on Missions and Cooperation Between Churches, a total of 800 Spanish diocesan priests are currently on mission in Latin America, with most in Peru (127), the United States (88), Venezuela (82) and Brazil (74).

In a message to mark the Spanish America Day on March 4, the president of the committee, Bishop Ramon del Hoyo of Jaen said, “Rather than a decrease in the Spanish Church’s missionary concern for the work of evangelization in Latin America,” the Spanish dioceses “have always been willing to cooperate.”

He explained that the theme for Spanish America Day this year is related to the theme chosen for the 5th Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM), which will take place in May in Aparecida, Brazil, and will focus especially on the missions.  

“For historical reasons related to culture and to language, the missionary spirit of the Spanish Church has always focused on the sister churches” of Latin America in a special way, “Bishop del Hoyo stressed.

In a letter sent to the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, encouraged the Spanish Church to “live true evangelical boldness” at a time in which Latin America “needs her religiosity to be awakened and nourished with decisiveness more than ever.”

The cardinal also thanked Catholics in Spain for their pastoral concern for Latin America “during more than 500 years of evangelization” and he called on them to “continue in this great missionary commitment” in these “extensive regions where the spiritual and earthly needs are so great.”

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Vatican addresses “serious anti-Christian attack” in Lebanon

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - Both Pope Benedict XVI and his Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, have addressed a Tuesday morning bomb attack in a Christian area of Lebanon, which killed three and left at least 20 others wounded.

The Press Office of the Holy See made public this morning a statement which describes the Holy Father as “profoundly grieved,” and in which he asks Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, “to express his spiritual closeness to the injured and to the relatives of the victims, and give them assurances of his prayers.”

“Entrusting to divine providence those who died so tragically,” the message continues, “the Holy Father invokes the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary upon the entire Lebanese nation. He calls upon the Lebanese people and their representatives to unanimously reject violence and hopes that, in this dramatic event, they may find the motivation for a commitment in favor of national unity and the common good."

Yesterday afternoon Cardinal Bertone also mentioned the difficulties in Lebanon at the conclusion of a Mass he was celebrating with the Opera Roman Pellegrinaggi.  “I urge you to pray for Lebanon, where there has been a serious anti-Christian attack today,” Bertone told the crowd at Mass.  “Let’s pray for this terribly tortured land for which the Pope has made several appeals already.”

According to Rome’s Religious Information Service, the attack on Bikafaya, in the heart of the Maronite area just south-east of Beirut, involved two bombs placed on two “micro-buses” that were detonated at the same time.  Three people died and about 20 were injured, in the attack.  

Cardinal Bertone called the attacks which took place in a Christian sector on the eve of the second anniversary of the murder of former Maronite Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, a “serious anti-Christian attack.”

According to the Associated Press, the buses carry residents of the nearby Christian mountain villages to and from work  

Pro-government groups said the attacks were intended to scare people away from Wednesday's rally for Hariri, who was an opponent of neighboring Syria's interference in Lebanese affairs. They were adamant the gathering would not be canceled.

Lebanon has been hit by a string of bombings the past two years that many government supporters blame on Syria. Syria has denied any role in the attacks, including the suicide truck bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on Feb. 14, 2005.

After Tuesday's blasts, the pro-government majority coalition in parliament said in a statement that it holds "the Syrian regime fully responsible for this despicable crime." It accused Syria of trying to "make Lebanon another Iraq by destroying its security and stability."

The coalition also pointed a finger at Syrian-backed Hezbollah and called for beefing up security on the border with Syria "to halt the flow of arms to subversive groups directly linked to (Syria's) regime."

The blasts occurred in the same predominantly Maronite Catholic area as most of the previous explosions that have rocked Lebanon since Hariri's assassination, targeting anti-Syrian politicians, journalists, as well as commercial and industrial centers. A U.N. investigation into Hariri's murder also is looking into the other attacks.

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Vatican Prefect for Clergy reemphasizes the value of priestly celibacy

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2007 (CNA) - In an article published this Wednesday by the daily edition of L' Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, defended the importance of priestly celibacy for the Church, qualifying it as "a precious gift from Christ."  

To recall the 40th anniversary of the Encyclical "Sacerdotalis caelibatus," written by Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Hummes emphasizes that celibacy "has to be reflected upon and fortified, especially in the, deeply secularized modern world."

"Studies indicate that the origins of celibacy went back to the apostolic times," said the Prefect.  He added that Pope Paul VI’s encyclical emphasized that "priestly celibacy, which the Church has kept for centuries like a brilliant precious stone, preserves all its value even in our times, characterized by a deep transformation in the mentality and framework."  

Cardinal Hummes also recalled in his article that during the meeting of the Heads of Dicasteries of the Roman Curia held on November 16, 2006, "the value of the option for priestly celibacy was reaffirmed, according to the Catholic tradition, and so too was defended the demand for a solid Christian and human formation for seminarians as well as for those already ordained priests."

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