Archive of March 21, 2007

Silenced theologian foretold disobedience of Vatican order

Rome, Italy, Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - Various websites have published a letter from Liberation Theology proponent Father Jon Sobrino, SJ, sent last December to the Father General of the Jesuit Order, Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach.  In the letter Sobrino, anticipates the official Notification from the Holy See pointing out erroneous propositions in some of his Theological works and foresees his reasons for rejecting it.

Last week, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published an official Notification regarding the Theological works of Sobrino.  After years of study, the CDF points out “diverse erroneous or dangerous propositions that could harm the faithful” and that “are not in conformity with the Doctrine of the Church.”
The errors pointed out by the CDF refer to the methodology upon which Sobrino bases his theological reflection, as well as his approach to the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of the Son of God, the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, the Self-consciousness of Jesus, and the salvific value of His Death.”

Although Sobrino has not made any public comments since the notification was published, various websites sympathetic to Liberation Theology reproduced the letter which he sent to Father Kolvenbach on December 13th, 2006.

In that letter, Sobrino reasserted his Theological beliefs on the points under question by the Holy See and foretold that the “fundamental reason” he would not adhere to the official notification would be the approval he had received from “a good number of theologians” who have read his books and whose “unanimous judgment is that there is nothing incompatible with the faith of the Church in my two books.”

“I don’t feel represented at all by the global judgment of the notification.  Therefore I don’t feel it is right to accept it,” Sobrino said, adding that adhering to it “would be disrespectful to the theologians” who support him and whom he said included Brazilian “Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, and Fathers Gonzalez Faus, J. Vives, X. Alegre, Carlo Palacio, Gesteira, Javier Vitoria, Martin Maier, and Sesboué.”

Sobrino claimed that over the recent years, Father Arrupe above all, but also Jesuit Vicar General, Father Vincent O’Keefe, and Papal Delegate, Father Paolo Dezza, “always encouraged me to respond with honor, fidelity, and humility.  They thanked me for my willingness to respond and they helped me understand that the way the Vatican curia does things is not always honorable or very evangelical.”

“What I want to add now is that not only have I received serious warnings and accusations from these congregations, above all the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but from early on there was a tendency at the Vatican, in various diocesan curias and among certain bishops, to oppose my theology—and liberation theology in general.  An atmosphere of judgment against my theology was created, a priori, often without having read my writings,” Sobrino argued.

Sobrino also claimed that a high-ranking cardinal at the Vatican was involved in an alleged campaign “to get rid of Gustavo Gutierrez, Leonardo Boff, Ronaldo Muñoz, and Jon Sobrino. That’s what I was told, and I think it is very probable.”

Sobrino said he is a victim of a smear campaign by uninformed persons who have not read his books.  “I don’t think this ‘bad reputation’ was something specifically personal, but rather part of a campaign against liberation theology,” he maintained.

The second reason

Later in his letter, Sobrino explained the second reason why he would not adhere to the notification, saying it was related to “the way the Vatican has worked during the last 20 or 30 years.  In these years, many theologians, good people with their own limitations of course, who love Jesus Christ and the Church and have great love for the poor, have been mercilessly persecuted.”

According to Sobrino, such individuals include “Archbishop Romero, when he was alive (there are still some at the Vatican who don’t like him, at least not the real Archbishop Romero instead of a watered-down one).”  The Vatican, he claimed, has tried to silence thousands of religious brothers and sisters who have been “immensely generous” in their ministries and to shut down base communities, whose members are “the privileged of God,” he said.

“To adhere to the notification, which expresses in large measure that campaign and that manner of operating, so often clearly unjust and against so many good people, would be to endorse it,” Sobrino stated.  “I don’t want to commit the sin of arrogance, but I don’t believe it would help the cause of the poor of Jesus and of the church of the poor,” he argued.

Against Ratzinger

In the third part of his letter, Sobrino aims his guns at Pope Benedict XVI and the criticism of his theology when he was still a Cardinal.

Although he admitted that “this is not a reason not to subscribe to the notification,” Sobrino asserted that “Cardinal Ratzinger, in 1984, did not at all understand liberation theology, nor did he seem to accept the critical reflections” of some liberationist authors. 
“Personally I think that even today it is difficult for him to understand it.  And one comment I have read on at least two occasions bothers me.  It is not very objective and is even a bit unjust. The idea is that ‘what some liberation theologians are seeking is fame and attention.’”

“It is not easy to dialogue with the Congregation for the Faith,” he argued.  “Sometimes it seems impossible.  They seem obsessed with finding any failing or mistake, to find what could be a different conceptualization of some truth of the faith.  In my opinion, what we have here is in large part ignorance, prejudice, and obsession with doing away with liberation theology.  Sincerely it is not easy to dialogue with that kind of mentality,” Sobrino claimed.

“Dear Father Kolvenbach, this is want I wanted to tell you.  You know well that, although these things are unpleasant, I can say that I am at peace,” Sobrino wrote in his letter.  “If you’ll allow me to be totally sincere, I don’t feel ‘at home’ in the world of curias, diplomacy, strategy, power, etc.  Being away from ‘that world,’ even though I’d not seek to do so, does not cause me anguish.  If you know what I mean, it actually brings me relief,” Sobrino said.

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Cause of canonization of German man who opposed Nazis moves forward

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - After thirteen months of work, the diocesan phase of the cause of canonization of Josef Mayr-Nusser, who was a leader in opposing the Nazis and died for his Catholic faith, ended this week in the Italian city of Bolzano.

Bishop Wilhelm Egger of Bolzano-Bressanone led the ceremony.  The cause now moves to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints for the next step in the canonization process.

“Thanks to the work of many volunteers, the diocesan phase was concluded in very little time, and this should be considered the fruit of the prayers of many people,” said the postulator of the cause, Father Josef Innerhofer.

Josef Mayr-Nusser was born into a rural household and was blessed with very devout parents.  He became leader of the Catholic Action movement in the German district of the Diocese of Trent in 1934.

Years later he secretly became a member of the anti-Nazi movement “Andreas Hofer Bund.”  When German troops overtook his region, he was forced to enroll in the Nazi secret police and was sent to Konitz, Germany.

When the time came for him to swear his oath of allegiance, despite the advice of his peers and of some of his superiors, he refused to comply saying he could not do so for reasons of conscience.  He was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Dachau.  On the way he was severely mistreated and was deprived of food and water.  He died in the city of Erlangen on February 24, 1945.

He is buried at the Church of San Giusepee in Bolzano.

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Church in Venezuela continues to wait for meeting with Chavez, Cardinal says

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, said this week the Church in Venezuela “continues waiting since last December for an audience with the president of the republic, Hugo Chavez.”

In a letter sent December 14th, the bishops expressed their concerns to Chavez about issues such as peace in the country, education, respect for opposing views, and Socialism. On that occasion the bishops requested a meeting with Chavez to exchange ideas about such matters.

The Cardinal also repeated his concerns about the security situation in Venezuela, saying government officials have the constitutional duty to confront it and to resolve it.

Cardinal Urosa said the problem of violence can be “resolved when one realizes that the other person is your brother or sister.”  Therefore, he said, “Holy Week will be a great opportunity, as every day should be, for renewing in our hearts the important Christian and human sentiments: spiritual growth, fraternity, the rejection of violence, love, and the defense of life.”

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Holy See and Chief Rabbi of Israel: State should never limit religious freedom

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel's Delegation for Relations with the Catholic Church met in Jerusalem March 11th-13th and issued a statement afterwards affirming that “the State should never limit religious freedom,” but that it has a duty to always promote and defend it, Vatican Radio has reported.

The statement, issued by Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia and Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen considered the theme: "Freedom of Religion and Conscience and its Limits."

The two addressed several themes of particular importance to the Holy Land, emphasizing the need to avoid “the improper use of religion” and the importance of teaching “respect for diversity.” These two issues, the statement continued, can be the basis upon which peace is established.

While such respect for diversity should be established, the religious leaders said, “the idea of moral relativism is antithetical to the religious view of the world and it constitutes a serious threat to humanity.

“Freedom of choice is derived from God and therefore is not absolute, but must reflect divine will and law,” reads the English-language communiqué. “Accordingly human beings are called to freely obey the divine will as manifested in the Creation and in His revealed word.”

“Secular society still requires religious foundations to sustain lasting moral values. Critical among these is the principal of the sanctity of human life and dignity.”

Duties of the State

“The State,” the joint statement affirmed, “should in no way limit freedom of religion for individuals and communities nor of moral conscience.”  At the same time however, the leaders affirmed that nations have “the responsibility to guarantee the wellbeing and security of society.”

“Accordingly [the State] is obliged to intervene wherever and whenever a threat is posed by the promotion, teaching or exercise of violence and specifically terrorism and psychological manipulation in the name of religion,” the statement adds.

It also pointed out that it is “legitimate” for “a society with a predominant religious identity to preserve its, as long as this does not limit the freedom of minority communities and individuals to profess their alternative religious commitments, nor limit their full civil rights.”

Duties of Religious leaders

Thus, the statement continues, “There is a special obligation upon religious leaders and communities to prevent the improper use of religion and to educate towards respect for diversity which is essential in order to ensure a healthy a, stable and peaceful society. In this regard, there is a special role for families, schools and the authorities of State and society as well as the media to impart these values to future generations.”

The declaration of the bilateral commission concludes with a call to religious and political leaders "to work determinedly to promote peace, dignity, security and tranquillity in the Holy Land for all its peoples and for the world as a whole." 

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Catholics to hold 72-hours prayer vigil at Tiller abortion clinic

Wichita, Kan., Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - Christians from Louisiana and other states will hold a 72-hour prayer vigil outside George Tiller’s infamous Wichita abortion clinic, beginning March 23 and running through to March 25.

The vigil is the initiative of the Catholic group, Our Lady of Guadalupe Rosary Crusade For Life, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The group has committed to holding round-the clock prayer vigils in Wichita twice a year until Women's Health Care Services closes.

Efforts are also underway to reinstate 30 criminal charges against Tiller for committing illegal late-term abortions. The charges were laid in December, but they were dismissed the following day at the request of District Attorney Nola Foulston. The merits of the case have never been questioned.

A campaign is ongoing to persuade members of the Kansas House to pass a resolution that would compel the current attorney general, Paul Morrison, to prosecute Tiller. An Ohio group has launched a national petition to gather signatures in support of such an effort.

Operation Rescue is encouraging those who cannot make it to Wichita to fast and pray over the weekend for an end to abortion.

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Reports of miracles attributed to John Paul just keep coming, official says

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - The investigation into three possible miracles attributed to Pope John Paul II are currently underway and dozens of reports of miracles continue to arrive every week from all over the world, said Msgr. Slawomir Oder, the Vatican official in charge of the beatification process for the late Pontiff.

Msgr. Oder said Tuesday that accounts of miracles have been sent via Internet, in the mail, or even left in envelopes on John Paul's tomb in the Vatican.

The Polish pope will move a step closer to sainthood on April 2, exactly two years after his death, with the end of the main fact-gathering part of the canonization procedures, reported ANSA.

A special ceremony is to be held in a Roman basilica, marking the end of the diocesan phase and the transfer of the file to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints for study.

The dossier, containing the testimony of people who knew Karol Wojtyla before and after he became Pope, will be examined by historians, theologians, and Cardinals.

If each of the three panels gives a green light, he will be beatified, though it is not clear how long the process could still take.

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Catholic bishop urges South Africa to take political action to ease situation in Zimbabwe

Harare, Zimbabwe, Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - The top Catholic archbishop of Zimbabwe is calling on South Africa to impose political pressures on President Robert Mugabe’s government, in an effort to stem the human rights violations in the country, Voice of America has reported.

In a statement last week, Archbishop Pius Ncube said South Africa is in a good position to put pressure on Zimbabwe and to force Mugabe’s government to change through sanctions, if necessary. Instead, South Africa chooses to remain silent, said the archbishop.

South Africa’s neighbor to the north continues to suffer what many are calling a total collapse, as Zimbabwe’s economy is in total collapse and its ruling regime fights to remain in power.

The prelate’s statement came as a civic group of exiled Zimbabwean dissidents in South Africa criticized African leaders for remaining silent about Zimbabwe. Europe and the United States have already condemned the situation. Yet, President Mugabe has remained defiant in the face of international criticism.

Ten days ago, several dozen opposition leaders were beaten while in police custody after they tried to gather for a prayer rally. One person died in the incident and several others were hospitalized. The group says dozens of other opposition activists have since been arrested.

According to Chris Moroleng, an analyst with South Africa's Institute for Security Studies, the confrontation between the Mugabe government and its opponents has entered a new phase.

The government is no longer waiting for incidents to occur. Rather, it is “preemptively attacking the opposition and civil society before a direct confrontation takes place," he was quoted as saying by VOA.

Defenders of South Africa's policy say behind-the-scenes diplomacy is far more effective than public statements, and broad economic sanctions would only hurt the Zimbabwean people.

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa also criticized South Africa’s inaction in a March 16 statement.

Africans should "hang our heads in shame" at this week's suppression of the opposition protest in Zimbabwe, he said.

"What more has to happen before we who are leaders, religious and political, of our mother Africa are moved to cry out 'Enough is enough'?” he wrote. “Do we really care about human rights, do we care that people of flesh and blood, fellow Africans are being treated like rubbish, almost worse than they were ever treated by rabid racists?"

Last week, Zwelinzima Vavi, Secretary-General of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), said events in Zimbabwe showed that South Africa's policy of "silent diplomacy" had not worked, reported CISA.

The security group of the Southern African Development Community is to meet in a few days to discuss the situation.

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St. Justin was a witness to the eternal truth which is Christ, Pope says at Audience

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - Continuing his catechesis on the important Saints of the early Church this Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to some 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on St. Justin, philosopher and martyr.  The Holy Father called St. Justin the most important of the Apologist Fathers of the second century.

St. Justin, said the Pope, was born in Samaria around the year 100. He “long sought after the truth” by studying Greek philosophy before converting to Christianity after meeting a mysterious old man who spoke to him “of mankind's incapacity to satisfy his aspiration to the divine through his own efforts,” then indicated “in the ancient prophets ... the path to God and ‘true philosophy,’” exhorting Justin to pray in order to open the “doors of light.”

After his conversion, Justin founded a school in Rome where he taught the new religion to his pupils free of charge. He was denounced for his activities and decapitated during the reign of Marcus Aurelius.

In his works “Justin seeks to explain, above all, the divine project of salvation that comes about in Jesus Christ, the Word of God,” said the Holy Father. “All men and women, as rational beings, share in the Logos, they carry in themselves a ‘seed’ and can catch some glimmers of the truth.

“Thus,” he added, “the same Logos that was revealed in prophetic figures to the Jews in the ancient Law, was also partially manifested as ‘seeds of truth’ to the Greeks. ... And because Christianity is the historical and personal manifestation of the Logos in its entirety, it follows that ‘everything of beauty that has ever been expressed by anyone belongs to us Christians.’”

Justin, in the conviction that Greek philosophy tends towards Christ, “believed that Christians could draw from that philosophy with complete confidence. The figure and work of Justin mark the ancient Church's decisive option in favor of philosophy, rather than of pagan religion,” with which the early Christians rejected “any form of compromise.”

“In fact, pagan religion did not follow the paths of Logos but persisted along those of myth, even though myth was recognized by Greek philosophy as having no foundation in truth. Therefore the decline of paganism was inevitable, stemming as a logical consequence of the removal of religion - reduced to an artificial agglomeration of ceremonies and conventions - from the truth of existence.”

Justin and the other apologists chose “the truth of existence over the myth of convention. ... In an age such as our own, marked by relativism in its debate of values, religion and inter-religious dialogue, this is a lesson that must not be forgotten.”

At the end of today's catechesis, the Pope recalled that March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day. “May this anniversary,” he said, “favor increased responsibility in the treatment of this sickness and an ever greater solidarity towards those who suffer from it. Upon them and their families I invoke the comfort of the Lord while encouraging the many initiatives the Church promotes in this field.”

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Faith and Major League Baseball featured in new film

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - A new full-length documentary looks at how faith has shaped the careers of several Major League Baseball players. The film will premiere on Sunday in the presence of Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix.

“Champions of Faith: Baseball Edition” features Mike Piazza, Jeff Suppan, Jack McKeon, Mike Sweeney, David Eckstein and Rich Donnelly.

These superstars of America's favorite pastime speak frankly about family, faith, sacrifice, leadership, humility and the many virtues and spiritual lessons they have learned from the game.

Shot in high-definition video and featuring thrilling game highlights from Major League Baseball Productions and music from legendary recording artist Bob Dylan, Champions of Faith claims to be an emotionally powerful, action-packed glimpse into the lives and personal faith of the nation's most popular sports heroes.

Other players, coaches and managers featured in the film include: Tom Glavine, Craig Biggio, Sean Casey, Pudge Rodriquez, Jim Leyland, Mike Scioscia, Juan Pierre, Mark Prior, Ozzie Guillen, A.J. Pierzynski, Lance Berkman, Chris Speier, Roberto Beltran, Sandy Alomar and many more.

The documentary is scheduled for DVD release at the start of the 2007 Major League Baseball season. It was produced by Tom Allen of Catholic Exchange and written by John Morales. This is the first-ever Catholic Exchange documentary.

For more information, go to:

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European Court of Human Rights sanctions Poland for not allowing near-sighted woman to undergo abortion

Rome, Italy, Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - The European Court of Human Rights has ruled Poland must compensate a woman who was denied access to “therapeutic abortion” because her life was never in danger.  The woman identified as Alicja Tysiac requested an abortion out of fear that her third pregnancy would aggravate her near-sightedness.

Polish law permits abortion in cases of rape, life of the mother, or fetal deformation.  Tysiac’s case, which occurred in 2000, was reviewed at the time by various Polish doctors who determined she did not meet any of the legal requirements.  Although she insisted on having an abortion, doctors told her that her life was not in danger.

Tysiac gave birth to the child by c-section and shortly after suffered a partial detachment of her retina, which aggravated her near-sightedness.

She took her case to the European Court of Human Rights, headquartered in Strasburg, which ruled in her favor this week.  It said Poland should pay her $51,000 in compensation.  Speaking to reporters after the hearing, she demanded abortion on demand be legalized.

The ruling passed on a 6-1 vote, with only the Spanish judge Javier Borrego voting no.

“The Court has ruled that a human being was born as the result of a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights,” Borrego wrote in his dissent.  “According to this logic, there is a seven year-old Polish child whose right to be born contradicts the Convention.  I never thought the Convention would go so far and I find it to be terrifying,” he said.

Polish congressman Szymon Pawlowski of the League of Polish Families called the ruling “embarrassing and scandalous.”  He said his group would propose a denunciation of the European Court of Human Rights by the Polish government.

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Pope asks Hong Kong Cardinal to stand fast

, Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - For at least a second time Pope Benedict XVI has rejected a request from Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen to accept his resignation as Bishop of Hong Kong.  Zen expressed his desire to step down from his responsibilities at the diocese, in order to allow him freedom to focus fully on the reunification of the Church in China and the reestablishment of active Vatican-Chinese diplomatic relations.

According to Cardinal Zen’s press secretary, the Holy Father replied to a recent resignation proposal with a letter asking Zen to stay the course as ordinary of Hong Kong, while continuing his work for the whole Church in China.

"The pope has already verbally told him to stay on the job some time ago," Dominic Yung, Zen's spokesman, told The Associated Press. "It's just a formal letter this time."

In an open letter to all Catholics in Hong Kong and obtained by the Union of Catholic Asian News, Cardinal Zen said he received a letter on March 19th, the Feast of St. Joseph, signed by Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, in which "he informed me that the Holy Father has decided not to accept my repeated request to be relieved from the office of the Bishop of Hong Kong."

In the letter, which is to be published in the March 25 issue of Kung Kao Po, the diocese's Chinese-language weekly, Cardinal Zen says the Pope has decided that "I carry on as the Bishop of Hong Kong and, in that position, do whatever I can to participate in the concerns for the Church in China in collaboration with the Holy See, until it will be arranged otherwise."

"Obedience is (a) fundamental duty grounded in our Sacramental Ordination. I look up to the example of St. Joseph and submit myself to the will of God," the Cardinal said.

He also asked the faithful to continue to pray for him. "I will petition the Holy See that a coadjutor bishop be soon given to our diocese," he added.

Cardinal Zen, who turned 75 in January, has already submitted one letter of resignation due to age requirements which are written into Canon Law.  According to several sources, Zen was verbally denied another resignation attempt when he pitched a similar proposal during this January’s special Vatican meeting on the Church in China.

The Church in China continues to be an area of concern for Roman officials.  Beijing severed ties with the Holy See in 1951 after the Communists took power and set up a separate Catholic church outside the Pope's authority, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).  There currently exist two Catholic churches in China: the official communist-controlled CCPA and an “underground” Church of nearly 12 million Catholics who remain loyal to the Pope.

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“Zimbabwe needs your prayers more than ever,” African priest tells ACN

Konigstein, Germany, Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - Father Joaquín Alliende, the international ecclesiastical assistant of Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), is asking all Catholic faithful to pray for Zimbabwe after receiving a message from a priest in the country.  “We recommend the Zimbabwean people to the Sacred Heart of the Lord, so that they will recognise the fruit of the Resurrection,” Fr. Alliende said.

ACN received a message from a Zimbabwean priest, who asked to remain anonymous but requested a call for prayers be issued.  “The political situation in Zimbabwe is reaching a boiling point,” the African priest reported.

“You may have seen the scenes of brutality against the leader and members of the only viable opposition party in the international media in recent days. For us who are on the ground, the brutality caused by a government which claims to be serving the interests of the people of Zimbabwe makes us very ashamed before the global family.”

“In this age and time,” he continued, “nobody would have expected such barbarism in a country which claims to be a democratic nation but this is the true reality in our sad and beloved country, Zimbabwe.”

“Like before, I am kindly asking for your prayers,” the priest said. “Actually, Zimbabwe needs your prayers more than ever before; for the people are experiencing a multitude of problems ranging from high inflation, unemployment, food shortages, and political violence.”

The priest said that although times are extremely tough, “we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel.”  He said that the recent show of violence against the people of Zimbabwe is actually a sign that things may soon change.  “The bankrupt regime has run out of ideas, money, and political credibility. Hence, the only weapon left it is to use force against its own people.”

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Pope Benedict sends prayers and condolences to people of Russia

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., has sent a telegram of condolence, in the name of the Holy Father, to Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, for the many victims of two recent disasters in the country: an explosion in a mine and a fire in a home for the elderly.
"Profoundly saddened by the terrible tragedy in the mine of Novokuznetsk and the violent conflagration at the old people's home in the village of Kamyshevatskaya, with the tragic death of many people and large numbers of injured, the Holy Father expresses his spiritual closeness to the citizens struck by these tragic events and to the entire population of the Russian Federation in these hours of anguish.”

“While raising fervent prayers to the Lord for the eternal repose of the deceased, he invokes heavenly consolation upon those weeping the loss of their loved ones,” the message continued.

“The Supreme Pontiff, in expressing his hopes for the speedy recovery of those injured in these incidents, offers his sincere condolences to relatives of the victims, invoking upon everyone abundant consolation from heaven.”

President Putin declared a state of mourning throughout the country after the two separate disasters, along with a recent plane crash, claimed the lives of at least 176 people.

A local official told Reuters on Wednesday that while rescuers continue to sift through the aftermath of a coal mine explosion, they don’t expect to find any more survivors.

An enormous gas explosion occurred at the coal mine, which is located in Siberia, killing at least 107 people.

Saturday’s plane crash killed six, but Monday night’s fire at an old people's home near the Black Sea initially left 62 dead.  According to local media, another elderly resident of the home died in the hospital overnight from a heart attack brought on by the fire.

According to Reuters, flags flew at half mast across Russia on Wednesday and entertainment programs were cancelled as the country mourned the losses.  

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