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Archive of March 5, 2007

Tax-funded abortions top 200 per week at San Jose-based Planned Parenthood

San Jose, Calif., Mar 5, 2007 (CNA) - Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, based in San Jose, performed 22,685 abortions over two years — 2005 and 2006 — and most of these procedures were taxpayer-funded, according to a report published in the California Catholic Daily.

The Catholic newspaper based its article on the abortion agency’s annual reports, which are posted on its website.

According to the annual report, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte took in $55.5 million in 2005. Of this amount, 81 percent came from government agencies, such as the Department of Health Services’ Family Planning Access Care and Treatment program, the Medicaid program, and other government grants and contracts, all of which are funded by taxpayers.

In 2006, the organization took in $58.2 million, with the same percentage as the previous year coming from government funding. Of the $58.2 million, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, which is listed as a nonprofit organization, spent $56.1 million and reported an end-of-year surplus of more than $2 million.

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Sydney opens World Youth Day registration

Sydney, Australia, Mar 5, 2007 (CNA) - World Youth Day 2008 organizers have officially opened group registrations for the international Catholic youth event, to be held in Sydney, Australia, next July 15 to 20.

Group registrations opened officially on March 2nd, with still 500 days to until the start of WYD. Registration for individuals will open mid-year. Organizers are expecting 500,000 pilgrims.

"We are opening group registrations online now - earlier than is normal for World Youth Days - to capture information on expected numbers, language groups and special needs,” said WYD 2008 coordinator, Bishop Anthony Fisher, OP.

 "This will enable us to plan early and match groups to accommodation and catechesis sites throughout Greater Sydney," he said, adding that most pilgrims come as members of diocesan pilgrim groups, religious movements and youth groups.

Furthermore, the Australian government is offering all WYD pilgrims a free three-month standard visa in an effort to promote tourism throughout the country.

A new DVD, titled Sydney: Witness the Spirit, about WYD and Australian tourism sites will be available online. The DVD includes personal invitations from the archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, and Bishop Fisher.

Registration information is on the website (www.wyd2008.org) in English, Italian, Spanish, and French. 

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Paul VI called by God to lead Church through difficult time, Pope Benedict recalls

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2007 (CNA) - This weekend at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received members of the research and executive committees of the Paul VI Institute of Brescia, Italy. The group was founded in 1979 and promotes studies into the life, thought and activities of Pope Paul VI, who governed the Church from 1963 to 1978.

Benedict XVI recalled with gratitude how Paul VI had appointed him as archbishop of Munich, Germany and, three months later, as cardinal. That pontiff, he continued, "received the call of divine providence to guide the ship of Peter through a historical period marked by no small number of challenges and problems."

Paul VI's missionary zeal "inspired him and encouraged him to undertake important apostolic trips, even to distant nations, and to make prophetic gestures of great ecclesial, missionary and ecumenical value. He was the first Pope to travel to the Land of Christ," where his visit "took on clear symbolic significance, indicating to the Church that the way of her mission is to follow the footsteps of Christ."

The Holy Father indicated that "the secret of the pastoral activity that Paul VI carried out with such tireless dedication, sometimes making difficult and unpopular decisions, lay in his love for Christ... Until his last breath, his thoughts, energies and activities were for Christ and for the Church."

Pope Benedict pointed out "how arduous a task it was for Paul VI to lead the Church in the period following Vatican Council II." However, "he did not let himself be conditioned by misunderstandings and criticisms, although he sometimes had to endure suffering and occasionally-violent attacks, yet he always remained a firm and prudent helmsman of the ship of Peter.”

"With the passing of the years," he added, "the importance of his pontificate for the Church and the world becomes ever clearer, as does the value of his exalted Magisterium, which inspired his successors and to which I too continue to refer."

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Discovery India pulls showing of ‘Lost Tomb of Jesus’ documentary

Mumbai, India, Mar 5, 2007 (CNA) - The Discovery Channel has announced that it will not broadcast the “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” in India after protests from various Christian groups, led by the Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum, the India Catholic News Service reports.

The documentary, directed by Simcha Jacobovici and produced by James Cameron, had its worldwide premier on Sunday.

Protesters said the documentary, which claims to have found the burial place of Jesus, his alleged wife, Mary Magdalene, and their son, Judas, trivializes the Christian faith.

Father Babu Joseph, the spokesman for the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, said in a statement against the film, “the documentary is not based on proven historical fact. Historically speaking, evidences closer to the event have more authenticity than evidences dished out after 2000 years. According to Biblical and non-Biblical sources, it has been believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and that is the basis of entire Christian faith and tradition.”

Numerous archeological experts, such as the internationally renowned Holy Land archeologist, Professor Amos Kloner have also criticized the documentary.  Kloner, who revealed the findings of the very same dig 10 years ago, criticized the filmmakers' marketing strategy and said it is not based on proof, the Jerusalem Post reported last week.

Kloner said a similar film was released 11 years ago, and the new film, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, is simply a renewed effort to create controversy in order to make a profit.

The Discovery Channel’s Delhi office reportedly expressed regret for offending the Christian community.

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Ruins of possible early Christian church found in Spain

Avila, Spain, Mar 5, 2007 (CNA) - The official archeologist for the community of Avila, Spain, Rosa Ruiz Entrecanales, said this week that excavators have discovered the ruins of what could be the oldest early-Christian church in that city.  Initial studies indicate that the church dates to the 4th or 5th century, during the times of Priscilian, the first Bishop of Avila.

The archeological excavations began after a few discoveries were made during the early stages of the re-modeling of a central square of the city located behind the Basilica of St. Peter.  Speaking to the EFE news agency, Rosa Ruiz said, “For now it is too soon to come to a conclusion about the origin of the ruins,” but they could date to the 4th or 5th century.

She said the ruins had characteristics common to the Visigoth period, but that they appeared to pre-date that era “because of the tombs that are associated with the church.”

Rosa Ruiz noted that the ruins are located just a few feet from the Visigoth Church of Santa Maria la Antigua in Avila and that therefore “we are dealing with a church that was the model for the planning of all of the subsequent churches in this area.”

The Spanish archeologist underscored that the excavations were of a “purely investigative nature,” as “there is little information in Spain about the paleo-Christian world and the churches with these characteristics are few in number.  After the archeological study, she said, “the ruins would most probably be covered up.”

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Castro regime’s Office of Religious Affairs responsible for obstructing faith in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Mar 5, 2007 (CNA) - An independent journalist has published a bold article on the role that Communist Cuba’s Office of Religious Affairs has played in obstructing the faith.

According to Juan Gonzalez Febles of the popular blog on Cuban issues, “Religion in Revolution,” Cuba’s Office of Religious Affairs, under the leadership of Caridad Diego, carries out “activities against the natural rights of people and against the human, civil and political rights of the people of Cuba.”

Febles denounced the office for its policing and scrutinizing of the faith of Cubans, noting that it spies for the government on the activities of all religions confessions.  “Members of the governing Communist Party and of the Union of Young Communists infiltrate religious organizations in order to learn of their activities and of their internal workings,” he wrote. Depending on the evaluation of Office, such organizations will either be “strangulated or tolerated.”

Febles said that Commissar Diego “is responsible for some confessions not finding a place or permission to build churches, houses of prayer or merely the space to carry out their activities.  The police-like nature of the regime of Fidel and Raul Castro is most evident in the anti-social activities of the Office run by Diego,” he underscored.

“The scrutinizing eye of the dictatorship is never closed,” Febles warned.  “The battle against the faith of the people continues.  This is a very important part of the repressive determination of a military dictatorship,” he added.

“When Fidel Castro arrogantly declared in the 1970s that Cuba no longer had a relationship with the Queen of Heaven, he affirmed the totalitarian purpose of his regimen to intervene and condition the religious faith of the people,” Febles recalled.

Today, the Office of Religious Affairs “carries out this dirty work.”  It also maintains contact with “pseudo religious organizations throughout the world that support the dictatorship,” he explained.  “Some of these organizations are financed directly or indirectly by his office.”

When “Cuba is free and some of the archives are opened,” Febles emphasized, “all of these activities that are shrouded in secret today will undoubtedly come to light.”

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Pontifical Missionary Works in Italy publishes pamphlet for 15th Day of Prayer and Fasting for missionary martyrs

Rome, Italy, Mar 5, 2007 (CNA) - The Missionary Youth Movement of the Italian Pontifical Missionary Works has published a pamphlet entitled, “Murdered Missionaries: Hope for the World,” in order to mark the 15th Day of Prayer and Fasting for martyred missionaries, which will take place on March 24.

The movement notes in its pamphlet that “before a world that is ever more fearful of the future and before men and women who are no longer capable of raising their eyes and looking above, the slain missionaries invite us to be even stronger in the faith, to believe that a new humanity is possible, to hope for a better future.”

“The martyrs give us strength to continue because they are men and women who follow Christ and have shown that forgiveness and love are stronger than hatred, because with their sacrifices they show us that the Lord continues resurrected and alive, overcoming evil and death,” the pamphlet states.

“Without the witness of missionaries,” it continues, “the world would be poorer and more desolate, it would be even more difficult to have hope because the martyrs shine like the stars and with their testimony they illuminate the path of humanity towards the light that is Christ.”

“A life spent in love can transform consciences and lives.  Rather than inspiring sadness, martyrdom in the Church is experienced as a source of strength, energy and hope for continuing down the same path that Christ followed,” the pamphlet emphasizes.

The document also includes various suggestions for celebrating Eucharistic Adoration, the Way of the Cross and prayer vigils, as well as for making visits to the sick, offering one’s sufferings for the missions, donating blood to save lives and providing shelter for one day for a poor person or a foreigner.

The Italian group’s website can be found at: http://www.mgmoperemissionarie.com/vis_news.php?id_art=46

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Argentinean popular faith in “state of crisis,” bishop says

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 5, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Adolfo Urinoa warned last week of the faith of the people faces a “situation of urgency” and that Catholics need “to be disciples today, here and now.”

The bishop exhorted the faithful to be authentic disciples of Christ in order defend the religion of the people, which is facing “a decisive crisis” due to tremendous cultural changes and the media, which “fosters mistrust for the Church and for the values she proposes.”

“As disciples we learn to live as Him (Christ), in order to allow Him to shine forth in the way that we live, in our attitudes and actions, and thus make Him present to others and to facilitate the encounter with the living Jesus, particularly those who are far from Him and do not know Him,” Bishop Urinoa said.

He also expressed the need to exercise discipleship in community, in order to thus “transmit a testimony of fraternity that arises in those who know each other and feel unconditionally loved by God.”  This “sacrament of communion with God and between each other is normally the necessary condition for the formation of a disciple,” he continued.

“Maturity in following Jesus requires living ecclesial communities that strive each day to live unity on the basis of the Word and the Eucharist,” he explained.

Bishop Uriona also encouraged discipleship through the commitment to the poor and those left out, because they are a sort of “present-day sacrament” of the “presence of God who has given himself up for us.” Mary, he added, should be the disciple’s model of loving and attentive listening to God.

Concluding his comments, the bishop called on the faithful to take advantage of Lent to be converted and to strengthen “our relationship with Sacred Scripture,” which “nourishes our existence as disciples of Jesus Christ” and helps us to bring the Gospel “to this tired world that is full of the signs of death.”

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Vatican delegation begins Vietnam meetings

Hanoi, Vietnam, Mar 5, 2007 (CNA) - A delegation officially led by the Vatican’s Undersecrary of State for Relations With States, Monsignor Pietro Parolin has begun its highly anticipated visit to Vietnam.  The delegation’s visit is the next step in a process to reestablish diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Communist nation.

According to the Associated Press, Msgr. Parolin and his group was to meet today with the Archbishop of Hanoi, Ngo Quang Kiet and Archbishop of Thành-Phô Hô Chí Minh, Cardinal Pham Minh Man.  

Starting tomorrow the delegation will meet with government officialsLater in the week, the visitors are scheduled to meet with government officials, including Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who met last month with Pope Benedict XVI, at the Vatican.  

The group is also scheduled to visit churches in three central Vietnamese provinces including the dioceses of Quy Nhon, Binh Dinh and Kon Tum, and Tay Nguyen.

Both sides have expressed their desire to reestablish relations in the country.  The Vatican called Prime Minister Tan Dung’s visit, “of particular significance.”

Vietnam has one of the largest Catholic populations in Asia, with 6 million Catholics.

The Vatican has also indicated that official ties between the Holy See and Hanoi could lead to Catholic assistance in medical care and other social services for the Vietnamese people.

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Cardinal Pell speaks on dialogue with Anglicans, Muslims

Sydney, Australia, Mar 5, 2007 (CNA) - Sensational and inaccurate media reports about a document describing the status of Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue regarding Christian unity are “not helpful to the task of preserving and strengthening inter-church relations,” said Cardinal George Pell over the weekend.

The Cardinal-Archbishop of Sydney also discussed the interaction of Christians and Muslims in the world at a recent panel discussion he took part in.

The Anglican and Catholic churches have been talking for 40 years about how to foster friendship and co-operation, he explained in his March 4 column published in the Sunday Telegraph, adding that reports in recent weeks that the two churches planned to unite under the Pope were “much ado about nothing.”

“Reports of ‘secret plans’ to force an issue, destroy goodwill and create mistrust at a time when both trust and goodwill are essential among all Christians for the common [cultural] struggle,” he said.

“A hasty rush to unity would only produce a lowest-common-denominator form of cohesion, sacrificing the richness of traditions along the way and weakening Christianity still further,” he said.

The Cardinal noted that a significant number of Christians around the world continue to be persecuted, enslaved and killed for their faith.
 
Forum on Islam

The cardinal picked up on the latter theme during a recent panel discussion about Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia. Muslims in Australia are offered the same rights as other citizens, he said, but he doubts non-Muslim minorities in the Muslim world are afforded the same equality.

"Christians are being harassed, they're being persecuted and even sometimes in the Sudan being sold into slavery,” he was quoted as saying in The Australian. “I would like to know where my Muslim friends stand on this issue."

The cardinal also claimed that the Muslim community is overly sensitive to the criticism it receives in democratic societies and its leaders need to develop more appropriate responses to criticism.

"In a democratic society, every group is criticized,” he was quoted as saying. “Prime Minister (John) Howard said quite rightly last year that if Catholics rioted in Australia every time they were criticized, there would be regular riots.

"It's not appropriate that Muslims regularly reply to criticism with insults, denigration and evasions while avoiding the point of issue,” he continued, “and unfortunately we've seen too much of this from some Muslim public personalities.”

Cardinal Pell claimed that there is also a small minority of Muslims in Australia who do not identify with the country, who are hostile to it and who are “planning violence" against Australia and other Western countries. He said there is “significant evidence” to support this claim.

This “doesn't seem to happen in any other migrant group," he noted.

Cardinal Pell said integration was a "key tool" for a harmonious and secular democratic society.

"Equal rights, however, carry with them equal responsibilities. Problems arise when minorities demand special consideration that places them outside the law as it applies to other citizens," he reportedly said.

"Flexibility and adaptability are called for when refugees and immigrants arrive in our country but there is a limit in (adopting) minority demands beyond which a democratic host society cannot go without losing its identity," he was quoted as saying.

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