Archive of March 1, 2007

Vatican website to include Chinese translations of papal speeches

Rome, Italy, Mar 1, 2007 (CNA) - Chinese translations of the pope's speeches and writings are soon to be posted on the Vatican website.

Msgr. Claudio Maria Celli, head of the department in charge of the Vatican site, made the announcement this week.

The Vatican website, which gets over 10 million hits a day, typically provides documents in English, Italian, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese.

Msgr. Celli said the decision to make Chinese translations of the pope's words available was a recent one, noting that many of the people visiting the site are in China.

Msgr Celli said some progress had been made on issue of recent ordinations of bishops linked to the Patriotic Association but he stressed that "the Church's internal life is not free" in China.

"Persecution, in the form of violent acts, coercion and beatings, no longer exists. But there are certainly cases of bishops and priests who every now and then are forced to remain in their homes and are subjected to political indoctrination," he continued.

Benedict XVI has made it clear he wants to make progress in relations with China and prelates and church organizations throughout the Church are looking for ways to help resolve tensions with China and unite its faithful, said ANSA.

Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, for example, superior general of the Society of Jesus, said in an interview with an Italian Catholic monthly that many young Jesuits want to go to work in China.

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New research shows effectiveness of natural family planning method

London, England, Mar 1, 2007 (CNA) - German scientists are now confirming what many Catholic couples have known for some time – the natural family planning method known as STM works.  Scientists have been taken aback by a new study which found STM to be as effective, if not more so, than the contraceptive pill in family planning.

For years married Catholics have used the natural family planning method known as the symptom-thermal method (STM) as a morally licit means to maintain the sexual part of their conjugal relationship while at the same time decreasing the chances of having additional children due to “physical, economic, psychological, or social conditions.”  The Catholic Church teaches that natural family methods can be used in a moral manner if the couple remains open to the blessing of children – something which the Church sees as essential to the vocation of marriage.

The new study brings light to the scientific effectiveness of STM, while ignoring its moral uses.

The symptom-thermal method enables couples to identify accurately the time of the woman's fertile phase by measuring two indicators — her temperature and observing cervical secretions. In the largest prospective study of STM, researchers found that if couples either abstained from sex, as required in STM, or used a barrier (condom, etc) method during the fertile period, the rate of unplanned pregnancies per year was 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent respectively.

The research was published in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction.

Out the 900 women who took part in the study, including those who had unprotected sex during their fertile period, 1.8 per 100 became unintentionally pregnant.

For an artificial contraceptive method to be rated as “highly efficient,” there should be less than one pregnancy per 100 women per year when the method is used correctly, explained Petra Frank-Herrmann, managing director of the natural fertility department at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

The results of this research, conducted by the German Natural Family Planning Study Centre between 1985 and 2005, indicates one pregnancy occurred per 250 women per year for STM users.

“Therefore, we maintain that the effectiveness of STM is comparable to the effectiveness of modern contraceptive methods such as oral contraceptives, and is an effective and acceptable method of family planning," said the researcher.

There are other benefits to STM. Toni Belfield of the Family Planning Association in England says STM puts contraception under a woman’s control. "It's easy to learn, it can enhance a relationship, and it's easy to stop if a woman decides she does want to become pregnant," she told The Guardian.

Rebecca practices the method with her husband, Geoff. They switched to STM after her intrauterine device (IUD) left her in constant pain and bleeding.

"I loved the fact that STM didn't require hormones, or putting anything unnatural in my body," she told The Guardian. It was also painless, she added, and made her more aware of her fertility cycle.

“What it does is teach you exactly what's going on with your body. I know my body and that's very liberating for a woman," another STM user added.

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New state strategy for National Marriage Coalition

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2007 (CNA) - The Washington-based Alliance for Marriage is building a nationwide network of state lawmakers, who would support a Marriage Protection Amendment, reported the Associated Press. The group had spearheaded the push for a federal constitutional amendment.

“We believe the day is coming when the Marriage Protection Amendment will be sent to the states,” said Bob Adams, vice president of the alliance, told the AP. “The time to organize for that is now, not 10 years down the road.”

The group says the November midterm elections resulted in a congressional leadership unsympathetic to their cause, making it difficult to reintroduce the federal amendment in Congress at this time. As a result, they’ve decided to look beyond Washington for supporters.

Adams noted that voters in the states have continued to approve ballot questions opposing same-sex marriage. Arizona was the only state where voters rejected such a measure.

Forty-five states have already passed laws or constitutional amendments prohibiting gay marriage.

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Korean youth pray for national reunification with WYD Cross

Seoul, South Korea, Mar 1, 2007 (CNA) - Gathered around the World Youth Day Cross, on a barricaded bridge that divides North and South Korea, about 100 South Korean young people prayed for the reunification of the two countries.
The young people youth carried the cross as far as they could to the north end of the bridge in Imjingak Feb. 24, where a razor fence serves as a quasi-border and sharp reminder of the division of the Korean peninsula. There, each of them prayed in turn, with his or her forehead against the cross, reported UCA News.

The young people were from the Diocese of Uijeongbu, which borders the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea. The WYD Cross and icon of the Blessed Mother they carried on their pilgrimage were gifts of the late Pope John Paul II to a group of young people in 1984. The cross has been carried throughout the world in preparation for each World Youth Day since.

The North and the South have been divided since Korea's liberation from the Japanese at the end of World War II. The subsequent Korean War heightened animosity between the two Koreas. It ended in an armistice in 1953, not a formal peace treaty, leaving the two countries technically still at war.

The veneration of the cross at the bridge was one of the many activities organized leading up to the first Korean Youth Day celebration in August and the next World Youth Day in July 2008.

The WYD Cross and the icon arrived in Korea from Africa on Feb. 18; its journey throughout the country began three days later on Ash Wednesday. Starting in the Diocese of Jeju, it traveled by plane and truck to the Uijeongbu Cathedral, where some 300 youth prayed the Stations of the Cross on Feb. 23rd.

The cross and icon were then taken to Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul, where Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk celebrated Mass with 700 young people Feb. 25th.

The cross and icon left for the Philippines the following day. From there, they will go to East Timor and islands in Oceania before reaching Sydney, Australia, where the international WYD celebrations will be held in July 2008.

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Recovering drug addicts in Brazil looking forward to visit from Pope Benedict

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Mar 1, 2007 (CNA) - A former drug addict from Moscow is one of thousands of recovering drug addicts from around the world looking forward to a visit from Pope Benedict XVI in May.  During his trip to Brazil for the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops Council (CELAM) the Holy Father will visit those seeking a fresh start through the “Fazenda da Esperança” program in Guaratingueta, Brazil.  

Some 2,000 former drug addicts are now preparing to receive Pope Benedict XVI at the men´s center of Pedrinhas, close to Guaratingueta. The Pope's visit is scheduled May 12th, 2007, a day before the 5th CELAM General Conference is set to begin in Aparecida.

The Russian lady said that she came to the center, which lies some 180 kilometres away from Sao Paulo, because she wanted a comprehensive program that worked. "My friends knew that this treatment works. There is no heroin available here."  The young lady told reporters for Aid to the Church in Need that she is recovering by prayer and community work, without other medication.

The “Fazenda da Esperança”, a Franciscan model of healing exists in more than eight countries worldwide, among them Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Mexico, and draws participants from throughout the world.

Ulrich Kny, Latin American expert at Aid to the Church in Need's headquarters noted that Pope Benedict’s desire to spend one day of his short trip to Brazil among those involved in “’Fazenda da Esperança,’ shows the importance of the problem of drugs and how much he appreciates the initiative of Frei Hans Stapel.”

“There is not only a detoxification,” he emphasized, “but also the discovery to be loved by God and to make a fresh start. The cured give a vivid testimony of healing by God nowadays, and this way the Gospel finds its continuation.”

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Archbishop calls on political parties in Dominican Republic to come up with common plan to save country

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Mar 1, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Ramon Benito De La Rosa y Carpio, is calling on the country’s political parties to draw up a “common agenda” in order to save the country, which he said is being overrun by drug trafficking.

During the Te Deum for the 163rd anniversary of the country’s independence, Archbishop De La Rosa asked political parties to put the interests of the nation above their own. Otherwise, he warned, true solutions to the country’s ills will not be the priority, and that would bring “negative consequences” for the nation.

“When monarchy was not the answer for the people, they sought out democracy.  Democracy is what we desire if we want to live in harmony,” he went on.  “But if democracies become weak, people look to dictatorships, as we had with the resurgence of the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, which was a weakness at the beginning of the 20th century,” the archbishop recalled.

Today more than ever, he continued, the Dominican Republic needs honest men who say no to “lying politicians who deceive when they say they are serving the country and all they think about is themselves and their own personal interests.”

Archbishop De La Rosa also urged that “the army of drug traffickers” that has invaded the country be combated.  “Drug trafficking has occupied us in the same way that foreign forces occupied us in the past.  It’s not drugs that are invading the country, it’s an army of drug traffickers that is invading,” he pointed out.

The archbishop called on Dominicans to celebrate this year’s anniversary by reflecting on the social ills that are affecting the country and are preventing it from moving forward.

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Spanish Minister of Education supports Church’s right to select religion teachers

Madrid, Spain, Mar 1, 2007 (CNA) - Spain’s Minister of Education, Mercedes Cabrera, expressed her support this week of a ruling by the Constitutional Court that recognized the authority of the Catholic Church to determine the competence of teachers hired to teach religion in the country’s schools.

During a press conference, Cabrera said the government is supporting the court decision because “whatever is part of the current norms must be respected.”

“The Catholic Church is responsible for recommending religion teachers, although the public administration hires them,” she said, adding that if the Church determines that a particular teacher is not qualified, “the school administrations cannot keep him or her” on the faculty.
Cabrera acknowledged that Spanish law protects the rights of workers but she noted the “specificity” of the situation of religion teachers, who must not only present appropriate academic credentials but also must be subjected to the moral analysis of the Church. 

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Bishops launch Lenten fundraising drive in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 1, 2007 (CNA) - The Council for Economic Affairs of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina has begun a Lenten fundraising campaign entitled, “We Are All The Church, It is Time to Share,” that will last until Holy Week, in order to help sustain the work of the Church in that country.

The bishops of Argentina exhorted Catholics to “live the faith in communion so that our communities may be the living presence of Jesus in the world, and so that his message of love and salvation will reach all mankind.”

They noted that the Church is sustained mainly through the generosity of the faithful and that thanks to them the Church is able to help those in need.  The bishops said 50% of the Church’s total income comes from parish collections.

“The Church does so much,” the bishops said.  “We are thankful to be sent by Jesus to the world, and we are grateful for the generous work of priests, consecrated, and lay faithful.  There is still much to be done for Jesus to be proclaimed in every home and for the Gospel to transform our country into a nation of brothers and sisters,” they stated.

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Peruvian Bishops’ Committee on the Family issues powerful call for defense of life

Lima, Peru, Mar 1, 2007 (CNA) - The Committee on the Family and the Defense of Life of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference issued a message this week urging the defense of the unborn child regardless of how he or she was conceived and calling arguments for the legalization of abortion lies.

In order to mark the Day of the Unborn Child, which is celebrated in Peru on March 25, the committee issued a statement reiterating the call of the Church for all Peruvians to welcome “the great and mysterious gift of life that shines in each human being, especially in the one awaiting to be born.”

The human being “begins to exist, as such, at the moment of conception - at that time as only a single cell,” the message states.  The circumstances of conception can vary, “and can even be dramatic,” it continues.  “The new being may be wanted or unwanted, perhaps not expected; he could be in the mother’s womb or in a laboratory slide, perhaps in a freezer; he could have been conceived out of love or out of violence, in the warmth of a home or in the coldness of an irresponsible lack of conscience.  But none of these circumstances changes the scientific truth, which remains safe and sound and never changes: we are dealing with a human being just as valuable as one already born,” the committee stressed in its message.

The committee also warned against the increasing threat of legalized abortion in Latin America, often under the banner of “therapeutic abortion,” which is even proposed “as a ‘solution’ to the drama of woman carrying a malformed baby or a baby that was conceived through rape.  Regardless of the mask they wish to use to cover it up, ‘therapeutic’ abortion will continue to be the murder of one human being at the hands of another.”

“Let’s speak the truth.  Death cannot bring peace to a society, much less to the heart of a mother.  The legalization of abortion is a fraud, it does not solve anything.  Let us work together for authentic and realistic solutions to social problems and to the human drama of facing a difficult pregnancy,” the committee’s message urged.  “Justice and national reconciliation will be achieved not at the cost of the lives of innocent and defenseless Peruvians, but rather with a generous ‘yes’ to authentic love and to the truth about man and the will of God for him,” the message stated in conclusion.

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Racism, eugenics still fuel Planned Parenthood, black pro-life leader charges

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2007 (CNA) - Racism surrounding the abortion rate must be recognized and stopped, said Day Gardner, president of National Black Pro-Life Union. “The eugenic policies of the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, appear to be alive and well and still directed at black women,” she charged in a press release.

Gardner was responding to a Feb. 26 press release on Reproductive Rights and African-American Women issued the previous day by abortion advocate Ipas.  In addition to discussing the history between blacks and abortion, Ipas listed reasons for black American women to take part in the abortion movement. It claimed the high rate of abortions among black women was reason enough to warrant their greater involvement and support.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, more than 90 percent of all abortion providers are located in metropolitan areas. Planned Parenthood, America’s leading abortion promoter and provider, identifies its core clients as young women, low-income women, and women of color.
According to Gardner: “The abortion industry purposefully targets the African American community. The question is why? The abortion industry places abortion clinics in our minority and poor neighborhoods to “coax us” into thinking abortion is the best answer — the only answer to an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy — and we ask why?
“Black women don’t have to kill our children to have productive, successful lives. Instead of embracing the ‘right to kill’ our children in the name of reproductive choice, we should be working to ensure that each and every African American child is given every opportunity—to experience life—to prove herself/himself—to become part of our rich cultural heritage—to change the world—and maybe also to save it.”

Since 1973, more than 44 million unborn children have been legally killed in this country; of these, almost 15 million of them were black.  Abortion is the number one killer of African Americans — killing more black people than all other deaths combined, Gardner states.
African-American women make up only 13 percent of the United States population of women who are of child-bearing age, yet 37 percent of all abortions are performed on black women. The abortion rate among black women is more than three times higher than that of white women.
“It is not whether black women have access to reproductive ‘choices’,” said Gardner. “But rather: Why they are fooled into thinking that they have to make a choice to destroy their child at all. Why have so many black women bought into the lie that their children, born in inner cities, are less deserving of life?”

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Rambo IV “is also a Christian film,” Sylvester Stallone confirms

Hollywood, Calif., Mar 1, 2007 (CNA) - Following his successful comeback in the latest “Rocky” movie, Sylvester Stallone is resurrecting another of his classic action characters for another installment of “Rambo.” And, just as he did for “Rocky Balboa,” Stallone is bringing his re-found faith to the movie with him.

In an interview with the “National Catholic Register,” Stallone recalls his return to Catholicism and how the birth of his daughter in the late ‘90’s was a crossroads for him.  “When my daughter was born sick, and I realized I really needed some help here, I started putting everything in God’s hands, his omnipotence, his all-forgivingness.”

The NCR reports that while Stallone grew up Catholic, he stopped going to church after he tasted fame and fortune.  Now however, he considers himself a churchgoing Catholic again.  “[This] puts me where I should be,” the action star said, noting that before his return to the faith, “I was alone in the world.  I though I would have to handle things my own way.”

Speaking about the fourth installment of the “Rambo” series, which Stallone is co-producing, directing, and acting in, “Sly” notes that his protagonist (John Rambo), “is a borderline atheist.  He doesn’t believe in anything anymore.”

However, Rambo’s mission in this movement, Stallone continued, “is to bring a group of Christians upriver into a very hostile territory, and they’re there to bring the Word of God and medicine and dentistry to these natives.  He starts getting influenced by their faith in the face of such incredible odds.”

“I think it may work,” he said.

“Here’s how it is.  I believe that you can have a Christian theme but you can’t hit it too heavy.  You can’t hit ‘em over the head with a hammer.  You have to be subtle about it,” he concluded.

The new movie is currently in production and has undergone several name changes.  It current working title is “John Rambo” and is presently scheduled for release in late January 2008.

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