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Archive of March 20, 2007

Vatican instructs German bishops to cut ties with abortion counseling group

Berlin, Germany, Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican has instructed the German bishops to distance themselves from an abortion counseling group, called Donum Vitae, so that they will not be perceived as endorsing abortion, reported LifeNews.com yesterday.

Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued the instruction, which was initially reported in German newspaper Die Tagespos.

German law requires counseling before a woman has an abortion and German clergy considered the program to provide a way to persuade women not to have one.

However, the program also involves the issuing of a certificate “allowing” the abortion if the woman is not persuaded to keep her baby. The Vatican sees this as an endorsement of abortion and a violation of Church teaching on life issues, reported LifeNews.com.

In 1998, Pope John Paul II asked German clergy to stop issuing certificates, indicating that they had counseled pregnant women considering an abortion.

Die Tagespos reported that the Catholic Church in Germany officially asked parishioners in June 2006 to not work with Donum Vitae, but the Vatican now wants a more active enforcement of that request.

There are about 1,500 counseling clinics in Germany; about 250 are run by Donum Vitae. 

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Vatican Cardinal calls Mexico to make commitment to life and not death

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - As the Mexico City Legislative Assembly prepares to debate a bill that would legalize abortion in the Mexican capital, the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, has called on his countrymen “to be more committed to a better life and not to death.”

According to the Fides News Agency, during the inauguration of the 2007 Veracruz Health Expo on March 14, the Mexican-born cardinal condemned those who are seeking to legalize abortion and insisted that so-called “interruption of pregnancies” constitute “murder” as “they kill people.”

During his remarks Cardinal Barragan decried efforts in Mexico, Spain, Argentina and Italy to support abortion, euthanasia and same-sex “marriage.”

He noted that there is no basis for holding that life does not begin at conception and he emphasized that such a fact is not based on religious belief but on “scientific and biological questions.”

A few years ago the Mexico City’s Legislative Assembly legalized abortion in cases of rape, risk to the life of the mother, and fetal deformation.  Now it is debating a new measure that would allow for abortion up to the fourteenth week of pregnancy.

The Archdiocese of Mexico City announced that on March 25th, celebrated in many countries of Latin America as the Day of the Unborn Child, a pilgrimage against abortion will be held at the Basilica of Guadalupe, with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Norberto Rivera.

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Venezuelan bishop responds to Socialist youth brigade: Jesus Christ is the authentic “new man”

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - In response to a plan in Venezuela by supporters of “21st century Socialism” to create a youth brigade to promote the image of a “new man,” Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristobal called on the faithful not to let themselves be guided by ideologies but rather by the Gospel, which reveals that Jesus Christ is the authentic model for the human person.

In a recent pastoral letter, Bishop Moronta said those behind the plan to create a Socialist youth movement are really attempting to appropriate a concept that has its origin in biblical revelation, both in the Old and the New Testaments, in which Jesus Christ is presented as the authentic “new man” and his disciple, taught by the Master, as a new creature.

The bishop emphasized that while all believers in Christ are called to seek their own personal transformation and to model themselves after Christ, they should be guided by the Word of God and not by philosophies or ideologies.  In addition, he said, they are called to make new disciples for Christ and to help others to model their own lives after Christ the new man.

He praised the efforts of many ideologies and philosophies to promote the idea of the new man, but they must not treat it as if “it were a utopia with no relation to the transcendent.”

“Today is the time of the new man in Venezuela,” Bishop Moronta said, “because it is the time of grace and salvation that will culminate in the fullness of life.  Let’s spread the word, but let’s be living witness of this uniqueness, so that all believers and people of good will in Venezuela will take on the New Man, Jesus.  That is how we will be able to transform our society and bring about a moral renewal in our nation,” he said.

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Nicaraguan archbishop says country’s bishops are united in faith and practice

Managua, Nicaragua, Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes of Managua said this week there is no division among the bishops of Nicaragua and that the prelates share “a beautiful friendship, unity, and we see it in a permanent way in our work: our spiritual part is what is strong.  Unity in faith and practice, which is what we are called to.  There are other areas in which we may differ, but that does not mean we are divided.

The archbishop’s comments came as some in media claimed that disunity between the bishops led Cardinal Obando Bravo to accept an invitation from President Daniel Ortega to preside over a national reconciliation commission.

Archbishop Brenes said it was normal for there to be differences and he said he respected the personal decision of Cardinal Obando and that the Church exists “to serve and not to be served.”
 
For his part, Bishop Jorge Solorzano of Matagalpa expressed his support of Cardinal Obando and said, “I supported His Eminence because I know him.  During all the recent governments, he has worked for reconciliation and peace, that is, this is nothing new and he wants to serve.  He is a bishop emeritus and I know he is very capable and will do a good job.”

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Archdiocese of Mexico spokesman says government steamrolling new abortion law

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico, Hugo Valdemar, said this week the ruling PRD party is resorting to typical strong-arm tactics to ram through passage of a new law in the Mexico City assembly that would legalize abortion for almost any reason in the Mexican capital.

“We think passage of this criminal law is imminent,” Valdemar said, noting that lawmakers of the Legislative Assembly have not engaged in any dialogue with the Catholic Church about legalizing abortion, which he said, “is not democratic.”

At the end of Mass on Sunday at the Cathedral of Mexico City, Valdemar said, “Although the war has been lost, we must fight the battle, because at the public level we have to create awareness that this is a criminal law.”

He noted that Pope Benedict XVI has called on Catholics not to vote for candidates who support such initiatives, and he announced that this week the archdiocese would begin a period of prayer in support of human life and the archdiocesan newspaper would dedicate a special section to the issue.

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Last stage of preparation for Easter proof of God’s immense love

La Paz, Bolivia, Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santa Cruz, Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, said this week that the joy and expectation experienced during the last state of preparation for Easter is proof of the immense love that God has for the conversion of each one of His sons and daughters.

During his Sunday homily, the Cardinal said, “Reconciliation with God is the guarantee that authentic reconciliation will soon reign in Bolivia and make us truly feel like a new nation, with clear minds and hearts.”

“Bolivia’s problem is not a problem of riches or lack thereof, there are plenty.  Our problem is the total distrust of one another and the hatred and bitterness that is spreading and growing, sometimes seeking out justice.  We cannot move forward like this,” the Cardinal warned.

Regarding the controversial proposal to include the coca leaf on the national coat-of-arms, Cardinal Terrazas underscored the importance that Bolivians avoid “fighting about the conventional signs that represent a country.” He said he hoped the coat-of-arms would remain “completely free” of symbols that create division among the people. 

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Pope Benedict’s schedule for Austria trip formalized

, Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - The program for Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to Austria this coming September 7th to 9th has been formally accepted according to the Bishops Conference of Austria.  

Viennese Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn and the Bishops Conference issued a statement following their recent spring meeting announcing that the Holy Father has accepted the schedule they had send for his approval.

According to German press service DPA, at the heart of his trip will be the Pontiff’s pilgrimage to the Austrian basilica of Mariazell on September 8th, where he will celebrate the 850th anniversary of the pilgrimage site.

Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to arrive at Vienna’s Schwechat airport in the late morning of September 7th.  Around 12:45 local time he will lead prayers in the city center. In the afternoon, meetings with local dignitaries are tentatively scheduled.

On Saturday, September 8th, the Pope will travel to Mariazell, to celebrate the Holy Mass.

Returning to Vienna, the Pope will celebrate Sunday mass in Vienna's St. Stephens cathedral, according to DPA.

Sunday afternoon he is scheduled to visit Heiligenkreuz monastery near Vienna, before heading back to Rome in the evening. The Holy See is expected to release an official program in summer.

The bishops said they hoped for a strengthening of faith and a renewal of the church due to the visit.

"It is the pope's only trip to a European country this year so far, and therefore a big praise for Austria and a sign of the close connection between church and country," a spokesperson said.

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UK bishops, other religious groups hope last-ditch attempt in Parliament will discriminatory bill

London, England, Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - Several religious groups of various professions are hoping that a last-ditch effort on Wednesday to stop the passage of a controversial gay-rights law that could result in discrimination against religions will work.

Several Christian groups will hold a prayer vigil outside Parliament tomorrow morning to coincide with the Lords debate of the Sexual Orientation Regulations, reported The Telegraph.

Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders have criticized the new bill, arguing that that it would "discriminate heavily" against anyone who expresses the view that gay sexual acts are not equal to the conjugal love of heterosexual married couples.

The Catholic bishops have said that the regulations could force the closure of their 13 adoption agencies, which will lose government funding if they refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

Baroness O'Cathain will propose a motion against the regulations when they come before the House of Lords on Wednesday. Her motion notes “the widespread concerns that the draft regulations compromise religious liberty and will result in litigation over the content of classroom teaching.”

However, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said the debate on Wednesday is not enough considering the social importance of the issue. “Profound public concern about aspects of these Regulations has not been heard.  The debate on Wednesday in the House of Lords, although important in itself, will hardly compensate for the lack of a full debate in the House of Commons,” he said in a statement issued on behalf of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.

The cardinal expressed the bishops’ concern about the impact of the regulations on the “cooperation between faith-based voluntary agencies and public authorities in public funded services.”

“The truth is these new laws will prevent Christians acting in accordance with their conscience, whether they are running an adoption agency or a business," Andrea Williams, spokeswoman for the Lawyer's Christian Fellowship, told The Telegraph.

"Vulnerable people will suffer. And, most worrying of all, Ministers have admitted that the laws will apply to the delivery of education in schools,” she was quoted as saying.

"This suggests that teachers in schools (whether faith based or not) will no longer be able to teach established Christian doctrine about marriage and relationships for fear of being sued by gay rights campaigners," she reportedly said.

A House of Commons committee approved the regulations last week, but the procedure was heavily criticized by all the main parties because the government gave the 16 members just 17 hours notice of the hearing.

“It is, surely, an abuse of Parliamentary democracy that these regulations are being considered by Parliament only through a hurriedly arranged and very brief meeting of 16 appointed MPs, and a short debate in the House of Lords,” the cardinal also criticized. “During the House of Commons Committee meeting opportunity for serious debate was denied.”

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Federal budget must include care for poor, say US bishops

Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - Congress must remember the needs of the poor and vulnerable, both at home and abroad, when it considers the federal budget, said the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference last week, in a letter to Capitol Hill.

“Your budget choices have clear moral and human dimensions; they reflect our values as a people,” said Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane in his March 16 letter.

“We are pastors, not economists or policy makers. Our faith calls us to measure economic decisions on whether they enhance or undermine the lives of those most in need,” the bishop said, explaining the U.S. bishops’ intervention.  

“Too often the weak and vulnerable are not heard or seen in the budget debate. They do not have powerful lobbyists, but poor children and their families have compelling needs that have a priority claim on our consciences and our choices as the nation allocates limited federal resources,” he reasoned.
 
“Congress should shape and adopt a budget that ensures adequate funding for programs that help families in our country escape hunger and homelessness, find decent housing and employment, and have access to quality education and medical care,” the bishop urged.

Development and relief programs in Africa and other poor areas of the world should be a priority, he said.

“These wise and necessary investments will also increase our ability to assist and protect refugees fleeing violence and persecution,” he added.

The bishop also cited Pope Benedict’s encyclical, God is Love, in saying that the state must work to achieve justice “here and now.”

The entire letter can be found at www.usccb.org/sdwp.

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Cardinal O'Malley urges 4,000 women to stand up for life, family

Boston, Mass., Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Sean O'Malley called on thousands of Catholic women in Boston on Sunday to stand up for their values regarding life, marriage and family.

"You have a credibility, just by being women … that oftentimes is not accorded to priests and bishops," he reportedly told more than 4,000 women at the second Boston Catholic Women's Conference. "The Church is counting on our women to speak that word. I ask you to be courageous."

The women packed the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, surpassing the number of men at a similar conference on Saturday. The snowstorm reduced attendance at the men's conference to 3,000, about 2,000 fewer than expected, reported the Boston Globe.

Local parishioners started the men's event three years ago in response to the cardinal’s call for lay people to help rebuild and strengthen the Church, after the clergy sexual abuse scandal. These meetings have now become the nation's largest meetings of their kind.

One of the speakers at the women’s conference was Immaculee Ilibagiza of Rwanda, who shared about how her faith helped her survive the 1994 genocide. The program also included confession, singing, and Mass with the Cardinal.

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Vatican Council to emphasize importance of young adults in the working world

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity announced the plans for its ninth International Youth Forum, due to be held at Rocca di Papa near Rome from March 28 to April 1 on the theme: "Bearing witness to Christ in the world of work."

The forum is expected to be attended by around 300 people between the ages of 20 and 35, all with a solid background of commitment in the Church and in the world of work. They come from around 100 different countries and have various work and ecclesiastical experiences. Also participating will be around 30 guests, including speakers and participants in round table discussions.

The characteristics of young people entering the world of work in the various countries ("young people and the world of work today") will be the theme of the first day of the meeting, the communiqué noted. Particular attention will be given to the sociological, economic, and institutional transformations brought about by globalization, and the sometimes dramatic consequences thereof (human mobility, unemployment, frustration). Attention will also turn to creative and innovative capacities and potential, and the emergence of new professions.

According to the Pontifical Council, the second day will be dedicated to a pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to the discovery of the city of Rome which many of the delegates will be visiting for the first time.

"The significance of work for human life," especially in the light of the Church's social doctrine, is to be the theme of the third day, the press release continues. On the basis of John Paul II's Encyclical "Laborem exercens," attention will be given to the world of work in its entirety, considered as a world made up of human relationships where individuals have the right to self-realization in the exercise of their profession and where people learn to structure and unify their lives, rather than a machine to generate profit, regulated by competition and competitiveness and nourished by a consumer society."

"Announcing the 'Gospel of work' today" is to be the theme of the last day of the forum. Attention will focus on the spirituality of work, the state of pastoral care in the workplace, and the role of Catholic associations in achieving what St. Benedict called 'ora et labora,' the unity of an individual's professional and Christian life.

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Holy See: Youth have the right to truth and respect from media

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - “Youth have the right to ask the media to inform with truth, respecting the dignity due to every human,” so said the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop John Foley, at a meeting regarding “Information and protection of children’s rights” held in Messina, Italy yesterday.

Echoing Pope Benedict XVI’s recent message on World Day for Social Communications, the archbishop noted the duty of the media to treat all people, but especially the young, with the dignity they deserve.

Foley noted that “it is never too early to be involved in the media, not just as users but also as participants,” but warned that much of the content in modern media, “especially on the Internet, TV and movies – can contribute to corruption, instead of a healthy development.”

“The media have a duty to tell the truth, and only the truth,” the archbishop said.  And, he added, turning to the youth, “you have a right to ask this of the media!”

“You have a right to your dignity. The media have a duty to treat you with respect, and you have a right to ask this. They should never try to take advantage of you, to offer you temptation instead of healthy intellectual and spiritual nourishment.”

“You have the right to ask the media for what it takes to protect the common good,” the archbishop continued, “the right to ask for justice, to fight violence, to condemn corruption.”

Foley also expressed the importance of forming “media professionals that have the highest ideals and the best possible training.”

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Top Knight calls Mexico City abortion proposal “misguided and dangerous"

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 20, 2007 (CNA) - A bill being debated in Mexico City – which would legalize abortion in the area – is misguided and dangerous said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson.

"In a country that has made great progress in the democratic inclusion of all its citizens, a law such as this will remove legal protection from the most vulnerable members of society," Anderson said.

If Mexico City's assembly succeeds in legalizing abortion in that municipality, it will be the first such law in Mexico.

Anderson said that we should recall the words of Pope John Paul II who wrote: "[D]emocracy, [when] contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism. The State is no longer the 'common home' where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the life of the weakest and most defenseless members, from the unborn child to the elderly, in the name of a public interest which is really nothing but the interest of one part.”

The Supreme Knight is adding his voice to those of numerous Mexican Catholic leaders.  The Mexican Bishops Conference has repeatedly spoken out against what it calls a “program of extermination” being advanced by this and other legislation.

Luis Guevara, who serves as a liaison between the Knights of Columbus in the United States and those in Mexico noted: "The protection of the right to life is the most important right that a government can safeguard, and legalizing abortion in Mexico City sends the message that life is cheap and expendable. Such a law goes against the conscience of the vast majority of Mexicans who value and respect the dignity and value of each life."

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