Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Justin Rigali has urged U.S. senators to reject legislation (S. 5), which would allow federal funding for stem cell research, including stem cells derived from the destruction of embryos. Senators are expected to vote on the bill this week.
In his letter to the Senate, dated April 4, Cardinal Rigali emphasized that the stem cell issue is not a matter of opposing progress. Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities.
“The question is whether our technical progress is guided by an equally advanced sense of the dignity of each and every human life,” the Cardinal wrote. He cited Pope Benedict XVI in saying that research, which relies on the intentional destruction of human life — including human life which is not yet born — is not truly at the service of humanity.
The Cardinal-Archbishop also noted that the results of embryonic stem cell research have not been as positive as had been promised.
“Problems, such as uncontrollable growth and tumor formation, have forced researchers to conclude that it may take a decade or more of very expensive research even to determine whether embryonic stem cells may someday be used to treat a human condition,” he noted.
On the other hand, he added, ethically sound research using adult stem cells has helped patients with more than 70 conditions in clinical trials.
Furthermore, stem cells derived from the byproduct of live births — such as amniotic fluid, placenta, cord blood, and the tissue of the umbilical cord — also show promise and do not pose any ethical problems.
Cardinal Rigali urged senators to reject the current bill and vote in favor of bill S. 30 instead.
S. 30 proposes to fund all stem cell research that does not harm or destroy a human embryo. It also includes a proposal to study the feasibility of banking amniotic and placental stem cells, modeled on the banking of bone marrow and cord blood stem cells.
The full text of the cardinal’s letter is available at: www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/bioethic/stemcell/s5letter.pdf
Abuja, Nigeria, Apr 9, 2007 (CNA) - Zimbabwe’s nine Roman Catholic bishops issued a pastoral letter on Easter Sunday that calls on President Robert Mugabe to end oppression and to leave office or face a mass revolt.
"The confrontation in our country has now reached a flashpoint," said the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference in their pastoral message, titled “God Hears the Cries of the Oppressed.” It was pinned up on Sunday at churches throughout the country.
"As the suffering population becomes more insistent, generating more and more pressure through boycotts, strikes, demonstrations and uprisings, the state responds with ever harsher oppression through arrests, detentions, banning orders, beatings and torture," the letter reads.
"Many people in Zimbabwe are angry, and their anger is now erupting into open revolt in one township after another," said the bishops. "In order to avoid further bloodshed and avert a mass uprising, the nation needs a new people-driven constitution that will guide a democratic leadership chosen in free and fair elections."
"Oppression is sin and cannot be compromised with," reads the letter, which likens human and democratic rights abuses under Mugabe to the oppression of biblical pharaohs and Egyptian slave masters.
The current conflict in Zimbabwe pits those determined to maintain their privileges of power and wealth, even at the cost of bloodshed, against those demanding democratic rights, the letter reads.
"The suffering people of Zimbabwe are groaning in agony," said the bishops. "A tiny minority of the people have become very rich overnight, while the majority are languishing in poverty. ... Our country is in deep crisis."
"God is on your side,” the bishops told the people. “He always hears the cry of the poor and oppressed and saves them."
Even Pope Benedict XVI singled out Zimbabwe among other troubled countries in his Easter message, saying: "Zimbabwe is in the grip of a grievous crisis."
There was no response from the government Sunday to the pastoral letter and Mugabe was out of the country, reported The Associated Press.
The bishops called for a day of prayer and fasting for Zimbabwe April 14 and said there would be a prayer service for Zimbabwe every week after that.
The majority of Zimbabwe's Christians, including Mugabe, are Roman Catholic.
Chicago, Ill., Apr 9, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George was released from the hospital on Easter Sunday, one day after slipping on the marble church floor at St. Ferdinand's Church and fracturing his hip.
The Cardinal was blessing Easter baskets at the time of his fall. He received applause after being helped back to the altar. He continued the Mass before being taken to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.
Cardinal George suffered from polio as a child and wears a brace on his right leg that causes him to fall occasionally, archdiocese spokeswoman Colleen Dolan told The Associated Press.
The 70-year-old Archbishop of Chicago will recover at home, Dolan told the Chicago Tribune. He has postponed or canceled all of his public appearances until he is feeling better.
The injury will require physical therapy and the Cardinal will use a walker for about a week so as not to put pressure on the hip while it heals, Dolan said. He is expected to resume his regular work schedule from home on Monday.
One of the events he missed was the Easter Mass at Holy Name Cathedral. The congregation prayed for him, reported the Tribune. Cardinal George celebrated Easter Mass in the chapel at his private residence.
He will also miss a pilgrimage this week to Rome to celebrate his 10th anniversary as Archbishop of Chicago. The trip will go on, led by Bishop Timothy Lyne.
The cardinal underwent surgery July 27 to have his cancerous bladder removed.
, Apr 9, 2007 (CNA) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue has come to the defense of Cardinal Roger Mahony, after the Cardinal was criticized in the Los Angeles Times last week for criticizing a Catholic politician who supports doctor-assisted suicide.
The Cardinal-Archbishop of Los Angeles recently spoke out against proposed legislation that would allow doctor-assisted suicide in the state of California. He also criticized Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Catholic, for supporting the bill.
Los Angeles Times writer George Skelton criticized the Cardinal in his April 5 column. In it, he referred to the Catholic Church as “looking like an ugly old political attack dog.” He also accused the Cardinal of violating the American separation of church and state and called for “a bill to reexamine the tax-exempt status of church property.”
“Cardinal Mahony is not going to be intimidated from speaking out about contemporary moral issues,” said Donohue in a statement, also released last week.
“Anti-Catholic bigots have tried before to strip the Catholic Church of its tax exempt status and failed miserably,” he continued.
He noted how an editorial in the Los Angeles Times on March 2, 2006, commended Cardinal Mahony for “reinforcing the right of religious leaders to speak out on the moral ramifications of political issues.” The issue that Cardinal Mahony addressed then was immigration.
“So how can it logically be that Cardinal Mahony is now all of a sudden violating the Constitution when he addresses doctor-assisted suicide?” Donohue wondered.
Donohue suggested that the cardinal’s comments regarding doctor-assisted suicide are in line with the Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees religious liberty and freedom of speech.
Vatican City, Apr 9, 2007 (CNA) - The director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, confirmed on Saturday that Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to Ayatollah Ali Jamenei of Iran asking for the release of the 15 British soldiers detained by Iran in March.
According to the Vatican spokesman, the letter was sent to Iranian authorities a few hours before the soldiers were released last Wednesday, after 13 days being held by Iran.
In commenting on the information published by the British day, “The Guardian,” Father Federico revealed that the Pope sent a letter to the Iranian spiritual leader in which he expressed his trust that “men of good will would find a solution to the crisis.”
According to Father Federico, the Holy Father asked Jamenei “to do everything possible to assure that the sailors and soldiers of the British Navy could be reunited with their families for Easter.”
According to the British daily, during the press conference last Wednesday in which he announced the release of the British sailors, Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad “used a language very similar to that of Benedict XVI, speaking about forgiveness and about a decision taken on the occasion of the celebration of the birth of the great prophet Mohammed and of the death of Christ,” the newspaper said in reference to a possible Papal intervention.
Manila, Philippines, Apr 9, 2007 (CNA) - Father Fransiskus Madhu, a missionary of the Society of the Divine Word who was killed in April 1st in the Philippines and who was one of the youngest priests in the country, was aware of the risks of his missionary work and was willing to give his life for the Gospel, according to statements to reporters by his closest friends.
In statements to the Philippine Inquirer, Father Patrick Guru described the slain priest as an energetic man who came from Indonesia two years ago “to serve and to bring peace,” and he ended up becoming a victim of the violence that has shaken the country.
Father Guru, who is also Indonesian, said, “We should condemn this killing, and all killings. It is very easy to kill and therefore we should create a peaceful atmosphere, beginning with ourselves.” Father Guru said he did not know the motive behind the killing but that he was confident authorities would find those responsible.
He also said that when Father Fransiskus came to the Philippines he was very happy. “He had wanted to be a missionary and spread the Word,” Father Guru recalled, noting he had learned the local dialect in less than two years and that he almost never traveled to Manila because he worked in Kalinga, where he died.
“He liked to work in that remote area,” Father Guru said.
Both priests are from the Indonesian island of Flores, where the population is mostly Catholic, and for families it is a great joy that a child becomes a priest or religious.
Father Guru said that for priests born in a predominantly Muslim country like Indonesia, working in a country as Catholic as the Philippines is cause for joy.
For the Society of the Divine Word, to which both priests belong, it has been very difficult to face the death of Father Fransiskus, one of the youngest priests. “But we must accept it. We don’t know when God will call us. He is the one who gave us life and the only one that can take it,” Father Guru added.
“As missionaries, we are prepared to go to any place where we are sent. We are prepared not only to spread the Word of God, but also to die in a country that is not our own,” he said.
Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 9, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Emeritus Ramon Ovidio Perez Morales of Los Teques has called on Venezuelans to seek unity and fraternity, saying the country is “divided and broken,” and he said that the Christ himself made the same plea from the cross and not from the comfort of “a hammock.”
“The Lord did not issue his message about unity, peace, reconciliation and forgiveness from the comfort of a hammock, but rather from the cross, as a victim of an unjust sentence, an unjustified persecution, when everyone beneath the cross mocked him.
Nevertheless,” the bishop continued, “he forgave a sinner and called for reconciliation.”
The message of unity and fraternity is very timely, he said, because the country is “divided and broken.” He said Venezuela urgently needs the message of Christ and that all Venezuelans must strive to follow it.
Likewise, he called on the faithful to strengthen their faith in God and to defend religion in schools. “Religious values are important in religious instruction (…) . It is important that our children know what kind of country they are living in from the moral and religious point of view,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Apr 9, 2007 (CNA) - The South China Morning Post reported this Saturday that the Beijing government will receive a copy of Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to Chinese Catholics five days before it is released to the general public.
Although the Hong Kong daily said the advanced copy would be a simple “courtesy gesture” on the part of the Holy See, other media outlets consider it a demand of the Chinese government in order to possibly censure the message.
According to the paper, Hong Kong’s Bishop, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, said the gesture would give the Chinese government “time to assimilate the details and prepare its reaction,” but not “the opportunity to negotiate changes to the content of the letter.”
The letter, which was announced by the Holy See’s Press Office on January 20th, has already been written in Italian and will be sent to Beijing when its Chinese and English translations are completed.
In March, Cardinal Zen said the letter would “focus on pastoral issues more than on diplomacy, as the letter is not being sent to the Chinese government, but rather to the faithful in China. The Pope’s concern is not diplomacy but rather the propagation of the faith.”
Castelgandolfo, Italy, Apr 9, 2007 (CNA) - Today, at midday, Pope Benedict XVI marked Easter Monday with the praying of the Regina Coeli, the Marian prayer which replaces the Angelus during the Easter Season. Speaking from his balcony at Castelgandolfo, the Pope reminded the faithful that those who have encountered the resurrected Christ and who believe, have nothing to fear.
After presiding over Easter Morning Mass yesterday in St. Peter’s Square and following a long week of liturgies and prayers, the Holy Father departed for the Papal retreat in the small village near Rome. He will remain at Castelgandolfo until Saturday.
The Holy Father offered a short reflection and prayed with those pilgrims gathered under his window as well as those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, who had an Audio/Video link to the Pope.
Prior to leading the group in prayer, the Pontiff of Rome recalled that Church’s “liturgy commits not only one day, but a good fifty days, to the Easter season, which concludes with Pentecost.”
The Holy Father also recalled the particular significance of Easter Sunday, which the Church considers to be spread across an entire week, forming the Octave of Easter.
Today’s liturgy, he continued, calls us to the tomb where Jesus appeared to those women who remained with him during His Passion, and tells us, like them “Do not be afraid.”
“Those who encounter the resurrected Jesus and who entrust themselves totally to Him have nothing to fear,” the Pope said. This is the message which Christians are called to spread to the ends of the earth.”
The Christian faith, in fact, was born “in the encounter with one person, with Christ who died and rose again. In our daily existence, dear friends, there are several occasions to communicate to others our faith in a simple and convincing way. And it is never more urgent that men and women in our age know and encounter Jesus, and thanks also to our example, are left to be overcome by Him.”
The Christian tradition loves to consider Mary in these first moments of resurrection, the Pope noted, as “the Mother of the Redeemer rejoices with the ‘friends’ of Jesus, who make up the newly born Church. As I renew my heartfelt Easter greetings to all of you, I invoke Her, the Queen of Heaven (Regina Coeli), to preserve the living faith in the resurrection in each of us and to restore the message of hope and love of the resurrected Christ.”
Following the Regina Coeli, the Pope greeted the faithful in several diverse languages.