Toledo, Spain, Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - In an interview with the Spanish weekly “Alba,” the Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, said, “Like Europe, Spain will either be Christian or it won’t.”
In the interview to be published this Sunday, the cardinal underscored that the Christian faith is the foundation of Spanish identity and that therefore, without the faith, “Spain may be something else, but it will cease to be Spain.”
Cardinal Cañizares said “a plan to destroy Spain” exists and that the Spanish state, which provides the least amount of financial assistance for the family in all of Europe, “shows that it does not see the family as fundamentally important.” He said the government’s current policy is “suicidal.”
He pointed out that “quick divorce” and homosexual unions made equivalent to marriage by the current Socialist legislation “degrade and debilitate” the institution of the family. “International observers warn that Spain has become a laboratory,” the Cardinal warned.
“It would be against my conscience and against who I am if I stopped speaking out, if my preaching were not what it is,” he said during the interview.
Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - Physician assisted suicide is contrary to the medical profession and, if legalized, would lead to more deaths among the most vulnerable members of society, warned the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) in a statement released last week.
The NCBC noted that since 1994, when Oregon passed the Death with Dignity Act legalizing physician assisted-suicide, several state legislatures have entertained similar legislative proposals. Legislative initiatives to decriminalize physician assisted-suicide are currently underway in California and Vermont.
“If such proposals become law, there will be a dramatic reversal of the healing role of medicine in society,” the organization said. “[A] medical professional has an obligation always to act in the best interest of the patient, even when the patient's own requests contradict that aim.”
The NCBC also warned against ageism and the tendency in society to equate personal dignity with the potential to contribute to society.
They warned against the risk of subtle coercion that could occur if assisted suicide were legalized. The elderly and the infirm could decide to opt for assisted suicide in order to relieve their families from the burden of care. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized these risks as well.
The group pointed to a 1996 study published by Duke University demonstrated that while the frail elderly are strongly opposed to assisted-suicide (only 39.9% supported assisted-suicide), 59.3% of their younger relatives favored it.
The NCBC also pointed to recent events in the Netherlands, where assisted-suicide was legalized and where non-voluntary euthanasia is now performed widely, even on neonates.
Citing Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae, the organization stated that “the truly humane method of caring for such members of our society is not to help them eliminate themselves, but to do all in our power to eliminate their suffering, while affirming their innate dignity and worth through the manner in which we care for them.”
In addition, the NCBC countered the argument that assisted suicide is favorable to extreme pain among the sick. “Today, there is no reason for a patient to seek death as a method to control pain,” the group said in a statement. “In fact, most persons who request physician-assisted-suicide withdraw that request if their depression and pain are treated.”
Vatican City, Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - On Saturday the Holy Father gathered by way of satellite link with thousands of university students from around Europe and Asia. Pope Benedict XVI joined a prayer vigil in the Paul VI Hall for the occasion of the fifth European Day for Universities. The Pope reminded the thousands of students gathered at the Vatican, as well as those joining him by satellite link that the Cross of Christ serves to illuminate all wisdom and learning for Christian students and teachers.
The initiative for universities was promoted by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) and the vicariate of Rome's office for pastoral care in universities. This year’s them was: "Intellectual charity, the way to renewed cooperation between Europe and Asia."
During the gathering there were satellite linkups with university students in the cities of Turin, Bologna, Manchester, Coimbra, Krakow, Prague, Tirana, Hong Kong, Calcutta, Manila and Islamabad.
At 5 p.m. the Holy Father arrived to pray the Rosary. He then extended greetings in various languages, both to the young people present in the Paul VI Hall and to those following events from the European and Asian cities.
"Intellectual charity," said Pope Benedict, "can unite the existential journeys of young people who, though they live at great distances from one another, nonetheless feel linked by their interior quest and the witness they bear." Briefly abandoning his prepared text, he then added: "perhaps I should write a new chapter of my Encyclical 'Deus caritas est' on the subject of intellectual charity."
The Pope called upon the university students to make an "original and creative" contribution to "building a new humanism, based on fruitful dialogue between faith and reason."
"The mystery of the Cross is not removed from the theme of intellectual charity, on the contrary, it illuminates it," he said. "Christian wisdom is the wisdom of the Cross. Christian students and, even more so, Christian teachers, interpret all reality in the light of the mystery of God's love, which has in the Cross its highest and most complete revelation.
"Dear young people," he added, "I entrust you once again to the Cross of Christ: accept it, embrace it, follow it. It is the tree of life! At its foot you will always find Mary, Mother of Jesus. With her, throne of wisdom, turn your gaze upon Him Who was pierced for us, contemplate the infinite fountain of love and truth, and you too will become joyful disciples and witnesses. This is my hope for each of you."
Vatican City, Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - A Holy See delegation led by Msgr. Pietro Parolin, under-secretary for Relations with States, today returned to Rome after a week-long visit to Vietnam. According to a report released by the Vatican Information Service today, concrete steps have been taken on the way to normalizing Vietnamese-Vatican diplomatic relations. Msgr. Parolin said he of the most import parts of the trip was the delegation’s visit with local Catholics.
During the visit, the members of the delegation met with Bishop Paul Nguyen Van Hoa of Nha Trang, president of the Episcopal Conference of Vietnam, and with the Vietnamese government's permanent committee for religious affairs which highlighted the role of the Catholic community in the country.
For its part, the Holy See delegation expressed the hope that Catholics may be able to make an ever greater contribution to the dissemination of moral values, especially as regards the formation of young people. And both sides, according to a communiqué made public today, "highlighted the fact that outstanding problems can be faced and duly resolved in mutual agreement, through patient and constructive dialogue."
The delegation also met various government figures with whom it raised the question of the normalization of relations with the Holy See. The Vietnamese authorities gave assurances that, following the prime minister's instructions, "the competent bodies are already at work, and certain concrete ways to begin the process of establishing diplomatic relations have been examined."
Of particular importance was the visit to the Diocese of Kontum, in the country's central highlands, mostly made up of ethnic minorities, the so- called "montagnards" who participated in the various ceremonies in large numbers.
"To everyone," the communiqué reads, "the delegation brought the encouragement and blessings of the Holy Father, towards whom the faithful showed signs of profound affection, filial devotion and faithfulness, in the hope that Pope himself will one day be able to make a pastoral visit to that country."
Rome, Italy, Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - Interreligious dialogue allows the people of different religions each to witness to their faith and religious experience and to grow in greater understanding of each other. However, participants in this dialogue need not abdicate their beliefs in the process, said Cardinal Ivan Dias.
The prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples gave a conference March 8 on evangelization in the context of religious pluralism. The conference was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University to mark the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Faculty of Missiology.
“Interreligious dialogue is an indirect manner of evangelizing through which Christians present their identity and listen to the religious convictions of their non-Christian interlocutors. It is a question of explaining and proposing one’s faith without wanting to impose it,” the cardinal told the conference.
Recalling the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the Church’s relations with non-Christian religions, Cardinal Dias said: “Christians must strive to discover in these traditions the working of the Holy Spirit … and, free of any superiority complex, lead these traditions to full knowledge of the truth in Jesus Christ.”
However, care must be taken that one’s faith not be diminished in the process, he warned.
“Under the pretext of not hindering interreligious dialogue some even put Jesus, true God and true Man, on the same level as the founders, some of them mythological, of these religions,” he stated. “This attitude is contrary to Our Lord’s mandate to preach the Gospel and make disciples throughout the world.”
“The interlocutor must be consistent with his religious traditions and convictions and ready to understand those of the other person, without dissimulation or closing but with truth, humility, honesty, aware that dialogue can enrich both parties,” he explained.
The Cardinal noted that Christians can find in non-Christian religions certain values of their faith, which they may have forgotten or neglected, such as rigorous fasting, frequent prayer, and asceticism.
There are different forms of interreligious dialogue, the Cardinal Dias said: dialogue of life, in which people strive to live in a spirit of openness towards others; dialogue of deeds, in which Christians and other believers cooperate; dialogue of theological sharing; and dialogue of religious experience.
, Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - The National Conference of Bishops of Brazil has issued a strongly-worded response to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who insinuated last week that the Church is hypocritical for opposing the distribution of condoms as a principal means of preventing AIDS.
Last Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, during the presentation of an AIDS prevention campaign centered exclusively on the distribution of condoms, Lula said that sex “is something that almost everybody likes” and that “many times this issue is not discussed because ‘my mother doesn’t like it, or my father doesn’t like it or the Church doesn’t like it’.” He said that an “international day against hypocrisy” should be created in response.
During his remarks Lula also stated, “Teenagers should not be told when they should have sex,” as “sex is something that almost everybody likes and is an organic necessity.”
The Brazilian Bishops’ Committee on Life and the Family issue a statement in response saying, “The Church does not agree with the way in which the President addressed the problem of the use of condoms.”
The brief statement underscored that “the position of the Church is clear. It always has been. It has not and will not change.”
“We will not cease from repeating our opinion on this. The way to educate our teenagers and young people is not through permissiveness, inciting them to engage in behavior without norms. Rather, we need to educate them based on consistent good principles.”
“This orientation falls first and foremost to parents,” the statement emphasized. “The family is the first and most important source of formation in human principles and values for the child. When the parents act thus, there are not being hypocrites. And the Church defends the fundamental right of parents.”
“We are not hypocrites. We never were. We never will be. We are consistent,” the statement indicated in conclusion.
Lisbon, Portugal, Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Portuguese Congress has approved a law that legalizes abortion up to the tenth week of pregnancy, despite that fact that the results of a recent referendum were non-binding due to low voter turnout.
Passage of the measure came as left-wing lawmakers garnered enough votes from among their own ranks and from independent members of congress.
The measure must be ratified by the President of Portugal, Anibal Cavaco Silva. Once ratified it would replace the 1984 law that allowed abortion only for cases of rape, if the life or health of the mother was threatened, or if fetal deformation had been detected.
Now, twenty three years later, the law will be changed after a February 11th referendum in favor of legalizing abortion up to the tenth week passed by a small margin, although the results were non-binding because less than 50% of the electorate cast a vote.
The new law will require women to receive counseling and information about how an abortion takes place and its consequences. They will also be required to observe a three-day waiting period before making the final decision.
Lawmakers opposed to the measure pointed out that the new law does not conform to the call by President Cavaco for a consensus on the issue, and that its passage confirms the suspicions of many that the Socialist Party and the Prime Minister “were deceiving voters during the campaign and on the very eve of the referendum.”
Rome, Italy, Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the European Network of the Institute for Family Policy, Lola Velarde, said this week there is an urgent need to create a European Alliance of the Family in response to the current crisis in Europe, which has become an old continent with an increasing number of broken homes.
The purpose of such an Alliance, Velarde said, would be to promote public policies that support the family through agreements between the different European governments, political parties, social institutions that are committed to making the family a political priority in each country.
“The outlook for the family in Europe has worsened in a very serious way: Europe is now an old continent, in fact those older than 65 now outnumber those under 14,” Velarde said during the opening of the European Congress on the Family, which ended on March 10.
She noted that the lack of young people is due to the fact that “there are less and less children being born and more than 1.2 million abortions” taking place in the 27 countries of the EU. Abortion, she warned, together with cancer, has become “the greatest cause of death in Europe.”
Regarding the number of marriages, statistics indicate that between 1980 and 2005 they declined to 621,000, falling by 21.8% despite an increase in the population by 34.1 million between 1980 and 2004. Moreover, in 15 years more than 11 million marriages have failed, affecting more than 16 million children.
Therefore, Velarde said, it is vital public policies that benefit the family be promoted and that the family be saved.
Rome, Italy, Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - Conviction in the faith demands respect for others, new Italian bishops’ conference president says
ROME – During an interview with Vatican Radio, the new president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, said that when a Catholic “is convinced of the ideas of the faith and therefore, of reason, the rest must be respected, even in diversity, with a non-aggressive but serene and challenging attitude.”
Archbishop Bagnasco told Vatican Radio that in order to strengthen Catholic identity, “We must truly discover, rediscover and consolidate that which we have. Only by not hiding or having a weak perception of who we are [as Catholics], will we be able to be undertake more dialogue and be more purposeful towards others,” he said.
In emphasizing that the faithful should bear witness to “the serenity and joy of the faith,” the archbishop said Catholics should be better prepared to engage the culture and meet the challenges of the day.
At the same time, he underscored that there are certain values that for the laity must be non-negotiable and that to abandon such principles is to “go against man and not to free him.”
Archbishop Bagnasco said the Church in Italy should look to the Magisterium of the Pope “with gratitude.”
“The Magisterium of the Holy Father represents one of the basic treasures of the Church. If this is true for the entire Catholic Church, I would say it is even more so, in a certain sense, for the Church in Italy since the Pope is in Italy and moreover is Bishop of Rome and Primate of the country.”
“It’s true that Italy has an immediate link to the Pope that is unique in the world,” the archbishop noted. “It’s not only logistical or physical but also a closeness of affection and faith. This is expressed in many ways, and we must care for it jealously and with much gratitude,” he stated.
Berlin, Germany, Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - While it is “impermissible to make any connection between Nazi policies directed at Jews and the current Israeli policy towards the Palestinians,” the German bishops cannot be silent about conditions in Palestine, said Ulrich Pöner, director of the German Bishops’ Conference Department for International Church Affairs and Migration.
“It has to be fundamentally accepted, including from those who have made certain statements criticizing the bishops, that the bishops cannot be silent when it comes to conditions in Palestine,” said Pöner in an interview with DW-WORLD.DE.
“They cannot do that, should not do that and will not do that. Just as they will continue to address, particularly to the Palestinians, the state of Israel's right to existence and the threat terrorism poses to the Israelis,” he underlined.
Pöner addressed the strong comments by some German bishops who visited the Mideast recently and one comment, in particular, comparing the conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank with those of the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.
“Some of the bishops were in Bethlehem and Ramallah for the first time and came into close contact with the suffering of the Palestinians,” Pöner explained. “That led to understandably emotional statements of several sorts, from a number of bishops.”
“As a matter of principle, in my opinion, one should be allowed to make strong, critical and emotional statements when in such a particular situation,” he said. “But there are limits. And those limits are reached when a particular word loses a certain quality for both the situation as well as for others' feelings and suffering.”
Pöner said he did not believe the statements could be put into an anti-Semitic context. “They were not intended in that manner and they should not be understood in that way,” he stated.
“Still, both the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Israeli ambassador have pointed out that they are certainly aware that criticism of the circumstances in the Palestinian areas -- and thereby criticism of the state of Israel's policies -- has to be permitted,” he noted.
He added that Cardinal Karl Lehmann’s apology to the director of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial about certain incidents on the Israeli-Palestinian border “is suitable to set the record straight on this issue for everyone with an interest in it.”
Vatican City, Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican announced this weekend, by way of the Press Office of the Holy See, that Pope Benedict XVI will spend his summer vacation days in the mountains of Northwest Italy.
“The Holy Father has accepted an invitation extended by the bishops of the Italian Dioceses of Treviso and Belluno-Feltre to spend his summer vacation in Lorenzago di Cadore in the Dolomite mountains,” the press release read.
“From July 9 to 27, Benedict XVI will stay in the same house, belonging to the diocese of Treviso, as was used in the past by John Paul II.”
Vatican City, Mar 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy Father’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday will be the first meeting between the president and this Pope and the highest-level Kremlin-Vatican talks in more than three years. Many are also hoping it will be a meeting of hope for Catholic-Orthodox relations and for the condition of Catholics in Russia.
Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Apostolic Nuncio to Russia, told Vatican Radio that the visit "certainly will be a portent of good fruits in further relations between the Holy See and the Russian Federation, to the advantage as well of the Catholic Church in Russia." Archbishop Mennini also said that the meeting between Pope Benedict and President Putin is likely to benefit the Catholic-Orthodox relations in Russia.
The archbishop was quoted by Vatican Radio as saying that relations between the two churches had already "much improved" during this pontificate. Pope Benedict has certainly made improved relations with the Orthodox a priority, and it seems to be having some positive effects.
"The president recently ... praised the efforts of the (Catholic) Church and religious groups in Russia for contributing towards this climate of reconciliation and communion between all the believers in Russia," Mennini told Reuters.
Some are even speculating that Putin may extend an invitation for the Pope to visit Russia, though officials at the Kremlin have unofficially denied this.
Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev invited Pope John Paul to Russia. However, in two meetings at the Vatican with John Paul, Putin did not issue any such invitation.
Asked about the possibility of an official invitation to Russia, Mennini told the Catholic daily “Avvenire,” that the meeting between heads of state, “will certainly be a significant event,” but that, “in this sense, it seems clear that the priority isn't identifying with a visit by the Holy Father to Moscow, but with progress in dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox [believers].”
Archbishop Mennini also confirmed for Vatican Radio that Putin has offered to hold the meeting in German, which he speaks fluently and which is the Pope’s mother tongue.
The Vatican meeting is part of a visit that includes talks with the Italian government and a pilgrimage to the shrine in southern Italy that holds the relics of one of Russia's most venerated saints, Nicholas, reported Reuters.