Archive of April 11, 2007

Italian bishops react to graffiti threats against Pope, Genoa prelate

Rome, Italy, Apr 11, 2007 (CNA) - The Italian bishops' daily newspaper, Avvenire, sharply criticized the recent wave of anti-Church graffiti in Genoa, including death threats against Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, who heads the Italian bishops' conference.

In a front page editorial on Tuesday, the newspaper expressed deep concern over the "spray-paint terrorism" and the social context that would elicit such violence.

"Is it really possible that we live in a country that is so excited and excitable, so hysterical and intolerant?" the daily asked rhetorically.

According to ANSA, the words “Bagnasco Shame on You” were scrawled on the doors of the Genoa Cathedral a week ago, and the words “Death to Bagnasco” appeared on a wall over the weekend. The words were accompanied by symbols of 1970’s leftwing terrorist groups.

Leaflets with pornographic pictures of a bisexual Virgin Mary were found in the cathedral at the end of Saturday's Easter Vigil.

Earlier in the day, posters appeared downtown showing Pope Benedict shaking hands with Hitler or standing in front of a firing squad. Graffiti messages included “Death to the Pope” and “From Hitler's Soldier to God's Soldier” — a reference to Benedict's brief experience in the Hitler Youth movement.

Before Easter, Archbishop Bagnasco, speaking on behalf of the Italian bishops’ conference, expressed a strong stand against a federal bill that would grant legal recognition for cohabiting couples, including same-sex couples.

Italian politicians have expressed solidarity with Archbishop Bagnasco against the violence and have condemned the threats.

The Archdiocese of Genoa has responded with increased security around their archbishop. A police officer has been stationed at the chancery, where the archbishop has his main office. Police patrols around the chancery have also increased.

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Catholic Bioethics organization urges Senate to reject bill in favor of embryonic research

Washington D.C., Apr 11, 2007 (CNA) - The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) is urging the U.S. Senate to reject bill S.5, which would provide taxpayer money to support embryonic stem-cell research, a technique that requires the destruction of human embryos. The Senate began considering the bill this week.

“The NCBC endorses and supports government funding of all ethical forms of stem-cell research,” said NCBC president Dr. John Haas in a statement. “However, the proposed S. 5 legislation, if enacted into law, would reverse years of legal and social tradition of providing protection from non-therapeutic research on human beings.”

S.5 would intentionally create “a subclass of human beings, to be exploited for research purposes,” the NCBC said. It would also “fund research on cells derived from embryos from fertility clinics. However, embryonic stem-cell researchers have indicated that these sources of embryonic stem cells would be insufficient for the very purposes for which this legislation is proposed.”

“The use of public money for morally troubling research that has not yielded one single clinical benefit, when there are a number of ethical stem cell research alternatives that have treated, successfully, thousands of patients, is a misuse of public monies,” the NCBC statement noted. “There is not one peer-reviewed published paper on even a single human clinical trial that has used human embryonic stem cells.”

The NCBC is instead asking the Senate to support another bill, S. 30, which would “promote morally acceptable forms of stem-cell research, by funding all avenues of stem-cell research that do not involve harming or destroying a living human embryo.”

S.30 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 that has saved the lives of patients with dozens of conditions.

According to the NCBC, there are hundreds of papers on the clinical successes using adult sources of stem cells, including umbilical cord blood and placental sources.

In a statement on Tuesday, the White House expressed its opposition to the bill as well as President George W. Bush’s intention to exercise his power of veto if it is passed.

While the Democratic-led Senate seemed certain to pass the legislation on Wednesday, reported Reuters, it is unclear if passage would come with the needed two-thirds majority to override a veto.

In the first and only veto of his presidency, President George W. Bush rejected a similar measure last year. He had imposed restrictions to federally funded stem-cell research in 2001, which excluded research with embryos.

The NCBC noted that President Bill Clinton also opposed the creation of human embryos for research purposes.

“No matter what fate may be planned for the developing human being by others, the government must still maintain a posture of respect towards human life,” the NCBC statement said.
The center reminded the Senate that since the federal government first established federal regulations for the protection of human subjects in medical research in 1975, human embryos have been included under the federal definition of “fetus” and treated as “human subjects,” deserving of protection from harmful or destructive research. 

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Let us witness to the death and resurrection of the Lord, Benedict says

Vatican City, Apr 11, 2007 (CNA) - More than 50,000 people crowded into St. Peter’s Square this Easter Wednesday to attend today's general audience. The Pope, who arrived by helicopter from his residence in Castelgandolfo, dedicated his catechesis to the Easter Octave.

After reiterating his best wishes for Easter to the faithful, Benedict XVI spoke of Jesus' various appearances following His resurrection. "Also for us," he said, "they represent an invitation to enter more deeply into the Easter message ... and to follow the spiritual itinerary of the people who met Christ and recognized Him in those first days."

The Pope then recalled how St. John and St. Peter, after Mary had given them the news of the resurrection, had run to the tomb each trying to arrive there first, and he highlighted how for the Fathers of the Church this race towards the empty tomb represented "the one form of legitimate competition between believers: zeal in the search for Christ." Referring to Mary Magdalene, the Holy Father pointed out how she recognized Jesus "when He called her by her name."

“We too, if we seek the Lord with a simple and sincere heart, will find Him. Indeed, He Himself will come out to meet us ... He will call us by name ... He will draw us into the intimacy of His love." Like the Apostles, "we are called to be witnesses to the death and resurrection of Christ. We cannot keep the great news to ourselves, we must spread it to the entire world."

"If the Apostles had Jesus at their table," said the Pope recalling the supper at Emmaus, "then we have Him in our hearts." Of course, Benedict XVI explained, "when the sacred author tells us that Jesus appeared alive, this does not mean that He returned to his old life, as Lazarus had. The Easter we celebrate ... is a 'passage,' not a 'return.' Jesus did not go back to His earlier condition, He crossed a frontier to a more glorious, new and definitive condition."

When Jesus tells Mary Magdalene "do not detain me because I have not yet ascended," said the Pope, these words seem to contrast with the invitation to Thomas to put his finger in Jesus' side to ensure He was alive. "In fact, though, there is no contrast between the two episodes, on the contrary, one helps to understand the other. Mary Magdalene would have wished her Master as He was before, seeing the cross as a dramatic interlude best forgotten. Now, however, there was no longer any place for a merely human relationship with the Risen One. To meet Him there was no turning back, but the creation of a new relationship with Him." And Christ showed His wound to Thomas, "not to forget the cross but to make it unforgettable. ... The mission of disciples is to bear witness to the death and resurrection of their Master and of their new life."

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Independent audit of Boston child protection shows tremendous progress

Boston, Mass., Apr 11, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston announced yesterday that the results of a full and independent audit of the archdiocese regarding its compliance with the provisions of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People are now available.

The charter is the child protection policy adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002 in the wake of the sex abuse scandal in U.S. dioceses.

The audit was conducted by The Gavin Group, an independent firm retained by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It evaluated the archdiocese’s efforts to satisfy requirements relating to effective reporting and responses to allegations of sexual abuse, promoting healing and reconciliation with survivors and those harmed by clergy sexual abuse, ensuring that priests, deacons, educators, volunteers and other personnel are properly screened.

Boston was one of 11 U.S. dioceses to participate in a full review of its policies and practices. As part of the audit, The Gavin Group also selected 30 parishes of the archdiocese and conducted on-site audits.

As of the conclusion of the audit period, June 30, 2006, the Archdiocese had achieved compliance in 12 of the 13 audited articles of the charter. The archdiocese took remedial action to bring it into compliance in all categories by December 31, 2006.

Of the 30 audited parishes, eight still have not fully satisfied one component of the charter, which requires implementation of safe-environment programs for children in religious-education programs and training adults who work with children.

The archdiocese’s Office of Child Advocacy, Implementation and Oversight is currently conducting outreach to support parishes as they work to complete the training programs.

“Our continuing efforts to protect children have resulted in significant progress,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley in a statement. “While much has been achieved, I recognize that work must continue to be done in order to maintain safe environments in both our churches and schools. Protecting our children and preventing sexual abuse remains paramount and we will continue to work diligently as we strive to ensure our children’s safety.”

The archdiocese reports that more than 177,000 children in parishes and schools have been trained in the various aspects of safe environments, personal safety and abuse prevention. As well, more than 164,000 clergy, employees, volunteers, who work with children, and parents also have received safe-environment training and materials.

It is expected that the USCCB will release its 2006 audit results this week.

The Gavin Group report is available at:

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False remains of Joan of Arc were never considered relics, French diocese says

Paris, France, Apr 11, 2007 (CNA) - The Diocese of Tours said this week the supposed remains of St. Joan of Arc, preserved in Chinon (France) are in reality mummified Egyptian remains from the 3rd century and “were never considered relics by the Church.”

The spokesman for the diocese, Bertrand Vincent, said the results of tests carried out by a team of French scientists under the direction of Philippe Charlier “confirm one of the hypotheses put forward in recent months” about the remains of bones and clothing found in a container in a pharmacy in Paris in 1867 and that were erroneously identified as “relics of the Dame of Orleans” when in reality they were a hoax.

For years, both the diocese and the parish to which the remains belonged were “uninterested” in the remains, “which were never the object of devotion,” Vincent said, adding that the diocese has nothing to do with Charlier’s research.  “Nobody would have gone to see those bones” if Charlier had not done so, he stated, emphasizing that Charlier was acting on his own initiative.

Sylvaine Delacourte and Jean Michel Duriez of the French perfume companies Guerlain and Jean Patou, were also involved in the research and determined that the remains had the scent of burnt plaster and vanilla, which pointed to natural decomposition rather than to decomposition through fire.  “You might find the scent of vanilla in a mummy but not in the remains of someone burned at the stake,” Charlier said.

A human rib - apparently carbonized, the remains of burned wood, a piece of linen and a femur bone of a cat were also found in the container.

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Health Minister reveals support for legal abortion in Brazil

, Apr 11, 2007 (CNA) - Brazil’s Health Minister, Jose Gomes Temporao, announced publicly this week that he supports efforts to legalize abortion in the country, even though 65% of Brazilians oppose such an idea.

In statements to the Brazilian daily “Folha de Sao Paulo,” which published the poll results, Gomes Temporao said, “From the standpoint of public health, I am now in favor of legalization.”  He said he was not expressing an official government “position” because “at this time the government does not have a position on this issue.”  

The poll showing that 65% of Brazilians oppose the legalization of abortion was carried out by the Datafolha firm.  Currently Brazil allows abortion only in cases of rape or life of the mother.

Only 16% of respondents said the law should be broadened and 10% support abortion on demand.

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Mexico City official backs abortion for minors without parental consent

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 11, 2007 (CNA) - The director of the Institute for Youth in Mexico City, Javier Hidalgo, announced this week he would support a move to allow minors to obtain abortions without parental consent.

Hidalgo, a member of the Socialist PRD party, has supported efforts by the Mexico City Legislative Assembly to legalize abortion and told reporters that in cases of “unwanted pregnancies,” the State should assume responsibility for underage girls as in cases of guardianship.

According to the Mexican daily “Milenio,” Hidalgo said “women will not fully have the right to chose regarding the termination of pregnancies if the law stipulates they must have the consent of their parents.”

In response, Bishop Artemio Flores of Chalco called on young women to appreciate the dignity of motherhood and to protect the rights of their children.

Likewise, he explained that the Church “rejects the sophisms with which some are attempting to justify abortion, arguing that this is a question of public health for the good of women and of their right to make decisions about their bodies.” 

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Independent Catholic magazine in Cuba to cease operations, due to funding shortfall

Havana, Cuba, Apr 11, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic magazine Vitral announced on Tuesday that it would fold due to a lack of resources.

The magazine, published by the diocese of the western city of Pinar del Rio since 1994, was one of the few publications in Cuba not controlled by the government and provided a rare space for critical debate within the communist country.

The magazine was distributed through the Church's Cuban social network, reaching 10,000 subscribers.

According to diplomats, only two issues were published this year because the magazine staff was unable to get the paper and toner needed to produce each edition on six photocopiers, reported Reuters.

The Vatican showed their support for Vitral by naming its lay editor, Dagoberto Valdes, to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 1998, one year after Pope John Paul II's landmark visit to Cuba.

According to Reuters, an editorial in Vitral's last edition criticized the government's "anachronistic and ethically unacceptable" economic policies.

Cuba has been at a crossroads since Cuban leader Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother eight months ago following emergency surgery, it said.

"This could be the moment for those high in the government to steadily, gradually and peacefully open up the opportunity for participation by all Cubans," the editorial said.

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Human Life International responds to new Portuguese abortion law

Lisbon, Portugal, Apr 11, 2007 (CNA) - The President of Human Life International (HLI) has responded to Tuesday's press reports that Portugal's President Anibal Cavaco Silva has signed into law a new measure legalizing abortion for any reason, up to the tenth week of pregnancy.  

"Prime Minister Jose Socrates and President Anibal Cavaco Silva will be remembered in history as the men who gave legal sanction to the mass murder of Portuguese children" said The Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer after Cavaco Silva ratified a measure liberalizing Portugal's formerly strong abortion laws.

The legislation occurred despite the fact that the Portuguese people refused to approve a popular ballot doing the same thing earlier this year. Portugal is one of Europe's most Catholic countries.

The law had been promoted by Prime Minister Jose Socrates and passed by Parliament in February to bring Portugal more "up to date" with its European neighbors. Socrates called the old laws "backward" and a "national disgrace.”

Father Euteneuer responded by saying, "Any move liberalizing abortion is not human progress. That move, not the protection of life, is the genuine step backwards. HLI condemns this action in the strongest possible terms. History will remember Socrates as the one who gave Portuguese babies the cup of hemlock and Cavaco Silva as the one who signed their death warrants."

Desptite pressure from the Catholic bishops of Portugal and much of the population, Cavaco Silva refused to veto the law but opted instead to include some recommendations for its application, such as informing women about adoption as an alternative, restricting abortion advertising, allowing doctors who object to abortion to still be included in prior consultations and the creation a public network of psychological and social services for women who are considering an abortion.

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