Vatican City, Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - This morning the Pope received members of the Rome-based charity organization, the Circle of St. Peter, for their traditional annual audience during which they present him with Peter's Pence, the proceeds of collections taken up in Roman churches over the last year.
In his address, Benedict XVI recalled that the tradition of collecting "Peter's Pence" was already in use "in the first Christian communities," and derives from "the awareness that each member of the faithful is called to support the work of evangelization, also in material terms, and at the same time to help the poor and needy."
"Peter's Pence is collected annually in all dioceses, parishes and religious communities," said the Holy Father, "and is then brought to the heart of the Church to be redistributed according to necessity, and to the requests that reach the Pope from all over the earth."
"May the Lord repay you and render your ecclesial service fruitful," Pope Benedict told his audience, "and may He help you to make all the initiatives of your Circle a success." In this context, the Pope recalled how for more than six years they have been "supporting the sick and their families" at the Sacred Heart Hospice. "A silent but eloquent witness of love for human life, which deserves attention and respect until its final breath."
After thanking them for their visit, the Pope encouraged the members of the Circle of St. Peter to continue their "charitable activities and their service of attending upon and welcoming the faithful in the Vatican Basilica and during the ceremonies presided by the Pope."
Berlin, Germany, Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Karl Lehmann, Bishop of Mainz and President of the German Bishops Conference, responded today to criticism over comments a few German bishops made regarding the situation of Palestinians in Israel. Lehmann said that while some of his brothers made harsh statements about the wall between Israeli and Palestinian territories, they do not deny Israel’s right to defend itself.
"Hard expressions are not to be confused with a global judgment on the whole situation," Cardinal Lehmann said in response to criticisms of Avner Shalev, Director of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
Shalev had sent a letter to Lehmann complaining about comments made by two German bishops which he felt compared conditions in the West Bank to the Holocaust.
The Diocese of Eichstaett’s Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke was reported by Germany's “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” as commenting on the bishops’ recent trip to the Holy Land, noting that they saw "photos of the inhuman Warsaw ghetto at Yad Vashem in the morning, and in the evening we go to the ghetto in Ramallah - that blows your lid off."
According to the report, Augsburg Bishop Walter Mixa also spoke of ghetto-like conditions and described the [West Bank] situation as nearly racism.
The Israeli’s have continued to extend a “security fence” in the West Bank, in part to prevent terrorist attacks. While the fence has reportedly caused a dramatic reduction of terrorism against Israeli citizens, it has been criticized internationally as greatly limiting the freedom of Palestinians, preventing their free movement, retarding their economic growth, and greatly reducing their access to medical facilities.
In his statement today Lehmann explained that “in the Palestinian territories, some bishops perceived a high tension owing to the oppressive situation, above all, near the safety fences and the walls of Bethlehem.”
The bishops’ were astonished and made some harsh statements, but “some of them were not adequate at all,” he admitted. However, he continued, such statements regarding the condition of Palestinians "must not be confused with a global judgment on the whole situation, based on an accurate examination of contexts, and of all the points of view.”
“Those who expressed themselves with hard tones about the situation in the independent territories, too, do not actually question the terrorism threat suffered by the Israeli people at all", and they "unconditionally profess the right to existence and self-defense of the State of Israel", confirmed the cardinal.
According to Lehmann, "hurting the sentiments of the people surviving the Shoah, or of the Hebrew population in Israel, has never been the intention of anyone. The German bishops are aware of their particular historical responsibility.”
The Cardinal’s response two days after the German Bishops’ Conference spokesman, Fr. Hans Langendörfer expressed similar sentiments. In his statement Fr. Langendörfer note that in all his speeches while in the Holy Land, “Cardinal Karl Lehmann expressly underlined the right for the State of Israel to exist, even though this right is still questioned by some parties, also with reference to the threat of terrorism suffered by its citizens."
Therefore, he added, "one cannot talk about the fact that the German bishops demonized one part of the conflict and had double standards: it is rather the opposite.”
Langendörfer also noted that the remarks of the two bishops sprang from the "emotional involvement of single individuals", and that those words had already been "corrected in a self-critical way."
Rome, Italy, Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - Speaking this morning from the headquarters of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) in Rome, Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, the newly appointed CEI President said he will continue to lead the bishops of Italy in speaking clearly but peacefully about current moral issues.
Archbishop Bagnasco, who replaced Cardinal Camillo Ruini at the bishops conference yesterday, said that he will continue to “relaunch” the proposals made at the recent CEI meeting in Verona.
“Clearness and serenity,” said Bagnasco, “must characterize the attitudes to be assumed in the current times. [Speaking clearly],” he added, “does not exclude [speaking with peace].”
“We are not allied with any throne, but we are the allies of man,” the new president said. “The richness of our Church is being rooted in the fabric of our people, even though it is not always acknowledged, and sometimes it is neglected.”
Bagnasco said he was glad to take on his new responsibility. “With hope, I accepted the act of my appointment by the Holy Father, in the service of the Church in Italy,” the archbishop said, repeating comments he made yesterday in Genoa, “When the Pope calls, we answer him.”
Rome, Italy, Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Joseph Zen, archbishop of Hong Kong, says the Vatican will face "crucial moments" with China as it seeks to establish diplomatic ties with the communist government.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, the cardinal warned that the situation in China, with regards to the Catholic Church, is “still dangerous and confused.” The cardinal said he has heard of recent arrests of Catholic clergy.
Zen says there is reason to be cautious in the process of seeking normalization with China.
The cardinal said he regarded the recent “illegitimate ordinations” of a number of bishops without Vatican approval as "very serious wounds in the unity of the Church." He said these ordinations provide a reason to be less optimistic about the establishment of diplomatic ties with the China. Cardinal Zen also expressed skepticism about a possible papal visit to the communist country before the Beijing Olympics next year.
Cardinal Zen is in Rome for some talks just weeks before Pope Benedict is expected to issue a message to Chinese Catholics.
The letter is expected to express the Vatican’s interest in pursuing respectful and constructive dialogue with the Chinese government and to pay tribute to those Catholics who have suffered for their loyalty to the Pope.
, Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - One of Wikipedia’s foremost contributors and editors resigned last week after it was learned that his supposed credentials as a professor of Religion with a PhD in Theology and a degree in Canon Law were fake, reported The Age.
The editor, who called himself Essjay, was recruited to work on the online encyclopedia’s arbitration committee, a team of “expert administrators” who vet content. But it seems no one vetted his credentials.
According to The Age, Essjay was found out after The New Yorker magazine referred to his estimated 20,000 contributions to the site and how he would spend up to 14 hours a day editing, "correcting errors, and removing obscenities".
However, afterwards a Wikipedia critic later told The New Yorker that Essjay’s biographical information was untrue.
Essjay is really Ryan Jordan, a 24-year-old college drop-out from Kentucky, who used texts such as “Catholicism for Dummies” to correct articles on religion. The New Yorker admitted to not knowing Essjay’s real name at the time of publication.
In a statement, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said he Essjay was asked to "resign immediately."
Detroit, Mich., Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - A new foundation is working to raise $10 million to open a new Catholic liberal arts college next year, after Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti announced that it will close and move to Florida this summer.
The new foundation, largely comprising professors, priests and professionals, will hold a benefit dinner March 16th to help raise the funds needed to establish the College of Saints Peter and Paul, reported The Detroit News.
Henry Russell, Chairman of the Department of Literature at the soon-to-be defunct Ave Maria College, is president of Saints Peter and Paul Educational Foundation. He told the Detroit News that the new college would likely be funded through many small donations that would create "a broader sense of ownership to all the Catholics in Michigan.”
Foundation members have looked at more than 20 locations in the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Diocese of Lansing, Russell said. They hope to open the school by fall 2008 and grow to 425 students and 28 faculty.
The College of Saints Peter and Paul would be unique to the state, Russell said. Faculty and students would be almost exclusively Catholic. Exceptions would be made for students still searching in their faith.
While students will study economics and biology, they will be taught through the lens of the Catholic faith and the reasoning behind the faith, Russell said.
While the Archdiocese of Detroit welcomes the new Catholic college, the archdiocese will not finance it, spokesman Ned McGrath told the newspaper. The college would be an independent organization.
For more information on the College of Saints Peter and Paul and the benefit supper, go to: www.sspeterandpaulfoundation.org.
Vatican City, Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - The imam of the Islamic university Al-Azhar in Cairo, the highest seat of Sunni learning, is expected to meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican March 22, AKI has reported.
The leading Muslim cleric, Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, acknowledged that there is the will on the part of the Holy See “to resume the work of inter-religious dialogue and overcome the chilly climate determined by the words of the Pope in his speech in Regensburg, Germany, [last September]," reported AKI.
During a visit to Cairo last month, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, extended the invitation to the leading Muslim cleric on the Pope's behalf.
The university of Al-Azhar has a permanent committee for dialogue with monotheistic religions, which has been active for eight years. Its mandate is to promote cooperation and understanding between various religious faiths. However, its work was suspended after the Pope’s controversial Regensburg address.
A joint Catholic-Islamic commission for dialogue was founded after Pope John Paul II visited al-Azhar in February 2000. The commission meets annually.
Boston, Mass., Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - A Boston mother is seeking compensation from Planned Parenthood, by way of a medical malpractice suit, after the abortion organization failed to kill her now two year-old daughter.
45 year-old Jennifer Raper, filed suit last week in the Suffolk Superior Court which claims that Dr. Allison Bryant, a physician working for Planned Parenthood at the time, was supposed to abort her child on April 9, 2004, but that it "was not done properly, causing the plaintiff to remain pregnant.”
According to the AP, Raper then went to see Dr. Benjamin Eleonu at Boston Medical Center in July 2004, and he failed to detect the pregnancy even though she was 20 weeks pregnant at the time, the lawsuit alleges.
It was only when Raper went to the New England Medical Center emergency room for treatment of pelvic pain in late September that year that she found out she was pregnant, the suit says.
She gave birth to a daughter on Dec. 7, 2004.
Raper is seeking damages, including child-rearing costs, alleging that Planned Parenthood and Bryant were negligent for failing to end her pregnancy and that Eleonu was negligent for failing to see she was still pregnant.
Konigstein, Germany, Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Bejoy Nicephorus D’Cruze of Khulna, South West Bangladesh, has told Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the faithful in his diocese continue to seek protection from Islamic fundamentalists.
“Christians in Bangladesh are a tiny minority,” Bishop D’Cruze said on his March 7th visit to ACN headquarters, “but the Church has its role, especially where we have churches and institutions.”
“We are afraid of fundamentalism. We still need protection, which the state is ready to give us,” he added.
According to the Bishop, in Bangladesh there are only about 300,000 Catholics and some 200,000 Protestants, among 147 million people.
The bishop said that Christianity’s recognition of the inherent dignity of all human beings also stands in stark contrast to Hindu’s caste system. “Some 35 percent in my diocese come from a low Hindu Background, Christianity can give them human dignity,” the bishop said.
“We have the best schools and colleges and good hospitals too. In Khulna diocese, there are 61 Catholic schools and 4 Catholic hospitals. Education is a priority for me. I have 53 well-trained catechists.”
Khulna diocese has about 29,000 Catholics out of a population of 15 million, and 21 priests, according to the bishop.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - The director of the Institute for Bioethics of the Catholic University of La Plata, Juan Carlos Caprile, said this week the morning after pill should not be called an “emergency contraceptive, but rather an emergency abortion,” since its many effects include the prevention of implantation of a fertilized ovum.
Caprile said the morning after pill that the government has begun distributing free of charge in the public heath care system “is abortifacient because it lessens notably the thickness of the internal part of the uterus, not allowing the embryo to become implanted between the 7th and 14th day after conception and eliminating it.”
“The latest scientific advances in molecular biology prove that the penetration of the ovum by the sperm marks the beginning of human life,” Caprile continued, “and therefore from that moment there is a unique and unrepeatable new individual who possesses all of the necessary information to develop his capacities.”
“It is for this reason that it has the right to life mentioned in the Argentinean constitution, en in the Declaration of Human Rights and in the Rights of the Child. It should be treated with the dignity that it deservers as a person with a physical, biological and spiritual dimension and a sense of the transcendent,” he added.
This week the government of Nestor Kirchner began distributing the morning after pill free of charge in public health care facilities throughout the country as a part of a national program of “sexual heath and responsible procreation.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Argentinean Society for Medical and Biological Ethics warned this week that a court ruling that grants prosecutorial immunity to women who seek medical assistance after procuring an abortion is “the first step towards the decriminalization of abortion.”
The Society questioned the ruling by Judges Maria Laura Garrigos and Rodolfo Pociello Argerich, who said women who seek medical attention after having an abortion are not subject to legal sanction.
The ruling came in response to the case of an underage girl who required medical attention after suffering complications from a clandestine abortion. The Natividad Frias case of 1996 enshrined into law prosecutorial immunity for women who seek medical attention to save their lives after having recourse to an abortion.
The new ruling establishes that a woman who has undergone an abortion is “above all a patient that the doctor is obliged to help and to cure. Forcing doctors to denounce their own clients,” the ruling said, would constitute “a flagrant violation” of doctor/patient confidentiality.
The Society said the ruling would open to the door to the legalization of abortion, although it does penalize “third parties” who participate in abortions.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 8, 2007 (CNA) - In comments on the case of Inmaculada Echevarria, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and has requested that her respirator be removed, Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Cartagena, President of the Spanish Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Family and Human life, said this week “those who lack the light of faith end up desiring death, and that is what is happening with the pro-euthanasia groups.”
During a radio interview, the Spanish bishop said, “There are more suicides in Spain than car accidents, because this is a culture that wants to obscure and extinguish the light of the faith or provoke an eclipse that ends up stripping all meaning from love, from suffering, and from the special situations of life.”
Bishop Reig Pla noted that Echevarria is “a widow who does not have any family. She lives in a state of loneliness.” Therefore she is susceptible to manipulation by “those who promote euthanasia.”
“The principle of her own autonomy and the fact that she can demand to have her respirator removed is a principle proper to every patient, but it is linked to what society must provide to each person. In this case, the principle of the doctors is the principle of doing good, and they have to help the one who is need,” Bishop Reig Pla continued.
He noted that Echevarria is being cared for “in a Catholic hospital. Life is a gift from God, it is the greatest social good, and we live together in order to help and support one another, and more so in cases of infirmity. It would be a barbarity if we were not to respond to her needs; a means that could seem extraordinary because of the number of years she has spent in the hospital, but is never disproportionate.”
Bishop Reig Pla said Echevarria needs to be surrounded by “good people, company and affection that will inspire in her desire to keep living, and to proclaim to her Jesus Christ, the one who can give a specific answer to her suffering.”
In Rome the Superior General of the Order of St. John of God, which administers the hospital where Echevarria is cared for, has “definitively prohibited” the removal of Echevarria’s respirator by hospital workers or personnel. Such an act would “be a betrayal of the spirit of the Order.”