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Archive of April 20, 2007

Australian state legislature votes for cloning bill

Melbourne, Australia, Apr 20, 2007 (CNA) - Despite calls from Catholic and Anglican bishops for Victoria State legislators to defeat a cloning bill, legislators in the lower house voted on Wednesday in favor of the draft legislation.

Introduced last month by Health Minister Bronwyn Pike, the legislation would allow Victorian scientists to clone human embryos for medical research through somatic cell nuclear transfer, commonly known as therapeutic cloning.

Scientists would be able to take the nucleus from an adult skin cell, insert it in an unfertilized egg and then use the resultant embryonic stem cells for medical purposes.

Premier Steve Bracks, a Catholic, who supports the legislation, called a conscience vote on the bill. Legislators voted in favor, 58 to 25.

Parties were divided over the issue, with 15 legislators breaking ranks with their party colleagues and crossing the floor to vote with the government in favor of the bill, reported The Age.

The vote, which came after an emotion-charged debate that lasted close to eight hours across two sitting days, pushed the bill to the committee stage.  

Last week, Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart had urged all politicians, especially those expressing Christian beliefs, to reject the bill. According to The Age, the archbishop wrote a personal letter to Bracks, asking that the legislation be reconsidered.

Archbishop Hart said it was wrong to believe cloned human embryos had no intrinsic value, arguing they "share the same human life that we all do."

The insight of the biblical and Christian tradition was not changed simply because of scientific claims of the potential benefits of therapeutic cloning, he reportedly said.

"To allow embryos to be deliberately created and then destroyed for scientific research is always unethical and would be an assault on the dignity of the human person at its most vulnerable," he was quoted as saying.

Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd voted against similar federal legislation, which passed in December.

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Cardinal welcomes Supreme Court partial-birth abortion ban

Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Justin Rigali welcomed the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upholding the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 in Gonzales v. Carhart, noting that it is “the first time in 34 years that the Court has upheld a ban of any type of abortion.”

“The Court is taking a clearer and more unobstructed look at the tragic reality of abortion, and speaking about that reality more candidly, than it has in many years,” said the Cardinal, who serves as the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities.

While the decision “does not affect the legal status of the great majority of abortions, and does not reverse past decisions claiming to find a right to abortion in the Constitution,” the Archbishop of Philadelphia added, “it provides reasons for renewed hope and renewed effort on the part of pro-life Americans.”

The Cardinal said he welcomed the Court’s explicit recognition of certain key facts:

  • abortion is the taking of a human life
  • government has a legitimate interest in protecting and preserving life at every stage
  • “respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child”
  • abortion may also cause grief and sorrow for women
  • the ethical integrity of the medical profession, as well as the fabric of our society, is threatened by the acceptance of practices that are difficult to distinguish from infanticide.
“The Court also acknowledges that in some past decisions, the usual rules for constitutional review were distorted by an unwarranted hostility to legislative efforts to respect unborn human life,” Rigali added.

“We hope today’s decision marks the beginning of a new dialogue on abortion, in which fair-minded consideration will be given to the genuine interests of unborn children and their mothers, to the need for an ethically sound medical profession, and to society’s desperate need for a foundation of respect for all human life,” the Cardinal concluded.

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Pope “profoundly in tune” with God’s Spirit, Cardinal Ruini says

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome, said this week the men who represent the Church, especially the Holy Father, “are profoundly in tune” with the Spirit of God.

The Italian cardinal says he has felt this way “since I was a child, at my parish in Sassuolo, and later as a student in Rome at the Gregorian University—a phase in which I absorbed this profound conviction that has guided my whole life and has been very important, I believe, for my work as Cardinal vicar [of the Rome Diocese], as the vicar of the Pope.”

In an interview with Vatican Radio about his two books on John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ruini said he was convinced that the Holy Spirit has worked through the two Popes, “who are the apex” of the Church.  “Therefore, I have been able to serve these two Popes with all my heart, with a profound conviction that this has come from my roots.”

For his part, the Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, Bishop Rino Fisichella, said the Pope “always carries with him the great mission that Jesus has entrusted. It is the mission with which he has been entrusted, which is to confirm the brothers in the faith and be the sign of unity for all.”

He noted that one of the principal characteristics of the Pontificate of Benedict XVI is his ability to communicate difficult concepts in simple terms that everyone can understand.  “This means that in him we find not only a pastor and a guide, but also an intelligent pastor who knows who to translate and give strength to the most difficult subject matter of our faith,” Msgr. Fisichella said.

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Journalists should be ethically balanced and love the truth, says Vatican official

Madrid, Spain, Apr 20, 2007 (CNA) - During the opening of a conference on the media and the Church in contemporary Spain, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer at the European Council for Culture, Msgr. Enrique Planas, said members of the media should love the truth and freedom and should be ethically balanced.

The characteristics of a “competent medial professional” are “knowing what to write, common sense, ethical balance and love for the truth and for freedom,” Msgr. Planas said during his remarks.  

The future, he emphasized, must be built on the foundation of truth.  “Information must be separated from opinion and it is important that no fact be hidden, no matter how much we don’t like it,” he said.

The Catholic journalist must “project and live the meaning of Christian humanism,” he added, using as a backdrop “the curtain” of the Gospel.

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Chinese Catholics reserve ticket to Olympic Games for Benedict XVI

Rome, Italy, Apr 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Fides news agency reported this week that Chinese Catholics have reserved a ticket for Benedict XVI to attend the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 as a gift for his 80th birthday.

“Holy Father we will book you a ticket for the 2008 Olympic Games so we can prepare to welcome you among us,” a group of Chinese Catholics told the Pope.

According to Fides, various parishes in Beijing and other parts of the country are offering special prayers for the Pope, and many of those interviewed expressed their desire to see him some day.  “We are looking forward to the Letter he is writing to us and we also hope to welcome him to China. This is our prayer. We know it will not be easy but we are hoping and praying for this,” said one parishioner.

A priest from Beijing took the opportunity as well to convey his best wishes to the Holy Father.  “We said a special Rosary for the intentions of the Holy Father. We wish him good health that he may continue to lead us to the truths of the Faith. We hope our prayers will lessen his fatigue. I found his homily about his eighty years of life deeply moving. He almost seemed to excuse himself for being so old but this makes him all the more important for us. His experience opens a path built with strong personal faith. This is what we urgently need and this is what we have received in these two years of pontificate.”

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Argentinean cardinal says schools should help students discover meaning of life

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has challenged Catholic teachers in the country to work for a kind of education that is the fruit of an encounter with God and that allows young people to discover the meaning of life.

In a message he gave at the end of a special Mass for schools, the Cardinal encouraged teachers to renew their commitment to education and to their calling as teachers.  He urged the teachers to seek out new and unique ways of educating students based on an encounter with God and to help students find the answer to their questions about the meaning of life.

Cardinal Bergoglio noted that living the faith and holding to a particular way of understanding the human person are not popular concepts in “these times of relativism and lack of certainties.”

“The less certainties there are, the easier it is for us to be convinced that the only thing that is solid and certain are the slogans of consumerism and the image that are proposed to us.”

He warned Catholics against becoming defensively entrenched in their own world or becoming bitter about reality.  The truths of the faith, he said, must lead believers to make “positive contributions” rather than isolating themselves from society. 

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Pope calls for greater respect for human rights in Sri Lanka

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2007 (CNA) - This morning at the Vatican Pope Benedict XVI and the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, met to discuss and reaffirm the need for a greater respect for human rights and a return to dialogue, “as the only way to put an end to the violence that is bloodying the island.”

"In the course of the talks - and in the light of the current situation in Sri Lanka - the need was reiterated to respect human rights and resume the path of dialogue and negotiation as the only way to put an end to the violence that is bloodying the island,” a press release from the Vatican Press Office said.

“The Catholic Church, which offers a significant contribution to the life of the country, will intensify her delicate task of forming consciences with the sole ambition of favoring the common good, reconciliation and peace," the communiqué concluded.

Following his meeting with the Pope, the Sri Lankan president subsequently went on to meet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B.

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Abuse victims, Spokane parishes approve $48-million settlement

Spokane, Wash., Apr 20, 2007 (CNA) - All of the alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Spokane, as well as the parishes and schools that are implicated in paying part of $48-million settlement have voted to approve the deal.

In documents filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, 161 people who filed abuse claims and 125 churches and schools all voted in favor of the plan.

The settlement would pay individual victims from $15,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the severity and length of abuse claimed, reported the Associated Press. It also calls for Bishop William Skylstad to issue a public apology, publish the names of the clergy accused in the cases and allow victims to address the parishes involved.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams is expected to confirm the settlement and diocesan plan for emerging from bankruptcy at a hearing next Tuesday. The diocese filed for bankruptcy in 2004.

Diocese attorney Shaun Cross told Spokane’s KXLY 4 that the settlement was remarkable.

"I've practiced bankruptcy law for 28 years and I've never seen unanimous plan where literally everyone involved, particularly a case this size and complex voted to approve. It's pretty remarkable," Cross was quoted as saying.

Not all claimants were pleased with the settlement but they agreed to it because they decided it was the best deal they could come to, reported the AP.

The diocese will pay the settlement from insurance settlements; sales of its downtown office building and other property; contributions from Catholic entities, such as cemeteries; a capital campaign; and payments from parishes.

The settlement requires local Catholics to contribute $10 million. Parishes intend to launch a fundraising campaign early next month.

The plan also sets aside $1 million for future claims.

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Pope Benedict praises work of the Papal Foundation

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2007 (CNA) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received members of the Papal Foundation, a Catholic organization based in the United States, which aims at supporting the ministry of the Holy Father.  The group makes an annual pilgrimage to Rome.

"Since its inception," the Holy Father said in his English address to the group, "the Papal Foundation has sought to advance the Church's mission by supporting specific charities close to the heart of the Successor of Peter in his solicitude for all Churches.”

“I willingly take this occasion to express my gratitude not only for the assistance which the Foundation has given to developing countries through grants supporting a variety of educational and charitable projects, but also through the many scholarships provided to pontifical universities here in Rome for lay faithful, priests and religious.”

"In this way," he added, "you are making a significant contribution to the formation of future leaders whose minds and hearts are shaped by the teaching of the Gospel, the wisdom of Catholic social teaching and a profound sense of communion with the Universal Church in her service to the entire human family."

According to the Italian Religious Information Service, Pope Benedict tackled several topics, from financing of parishes, churches, and sanctuaries, to the construction of houses for the homeless, the poor, and from helping victims of disasters, to fostering projects in support of life.

The Papal Foundation (www.thepapalfoundation.com) operates service projects around the world, with a particular focus on the Church in Eastern Europe, the poor and starving in Africa, and wherever there is a particular need.

The projects supported by the foundation, “involve feeding people and feeding people’s souls: the mission of sharing the Word of God.”

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