Archive of May 23, 2007

U.S. Bishops respond to the 18 Democrats who tried to correct the Pope

Washington D.C., May 23, 2007 (CNA) - The 18 Democrats who recently criticized Pope Benedict XVI when he answered questions about Mexico City’s legalization of abortion, both misrepresented the Pope’s remarks and defied freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a statement in response to the allegations of the 18 Democrats who attempted to correct the Pope.

“In an unfortunate May 10 statement, 18 of the 88 Catholic Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives criticized Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks concerning Mexican lawmakers legalizing abortion. The Representatives’ statement misrepresents the Holy Father’s remarks and implies that the Church does not have a right to voice its teaching in the public square.”

A great deal of noise was made about Benedict XVI and a bishop of Mexico City allegedly excommunicating the lawmakers in Mexico City who voted in favor of legalizing abortion. However, no such formal decree of excommunication was ever issued by the Pope or the bishop from Mexico City.

“The Holy See has made clear that neither the Mexican bishops nor the Holy Father have excommunicated any legislator. Rather, the Holy See reiterated longstanding Church teaching that anyone who freely and knowingly commits a serious wrong, that is, a mortal sin, should not approach the Eucharist until going to confession. “

“The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision of society.” (United States Catechism for Adults, p. 442) Consequently, every Catholic is obliged to respect human life, from conception until natural death, including lawmakers.

Ironically, the suggestion by the U.S. lawmakers that the Church not speak out on the matter, was a violation of the freedom of speech as well as the freedom of religion. “The Catholic Church always will and must speak out against the destruction of innocent unborn children. The right to do so is guaranteed by the Constitution that all legislators are elected to uphold. Speaking and acting against abortion is not a matter of partisan politics. It is a matter of life and death.”

The bishops concluded by urging “all Catholics, especially those who hold positions of public responsibility, to educate themselves about the teaching of the Church, and to seek pastoral advice so that they can make informed decisions with consistency and integrity.”

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Pope insists: Gospel did not destroy native cultures in America

Vatican City, May 23, 2007 (CNA) - During his weekly general audience, Pope Benedict reflected on his recent apostolic trip to Brazil and insisted that, despite the shadows in the process of announcing the Gospel in the new world, the Evangelization did not destroy but instead ennobled the native cultures.

Speaking before more than 25,000 people on a sunny day, the Pontiff said that his journey to Latin America, where he inaugurated the 5th General Conference of Latin American Bishops, "was primarily an act of praise to God for the 'wonders' worked among the people of Latin America, and for the faith that has animated their lives and culture over more than 500 years."

The Holy Father acknowledged that the "remembrance of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelization on the Latin American continent: ... the suffering and injustices inflicted by the colonizers on the indigenous peoples whose fundamental human rights were often trampled underfoot."

"But the obligatory mention of those unjustifiable crimes, condemned even at the time by missionaries like Bartolomeo de las Casas and theologians such as Francisco de Vitoria, must not prevent us from recognizing with gratitude the marvelous work achieved by divine grace among those peoples over the course of the centuries."

On the Latin American continent, the Holy Father continued, "the Gospel has become the mainstay of a dynamic synthesis that has different aspects in the different nations but everywhere expresses the identity of the Latin American people."

Finally, reflecting on the theme of the Conference, "Disciples and missionaries in Jesus Christ, that in Him our peoples may have life," Pope Benedict said that "the word 'disciple' suggests the idea of formation and of following [a master], the term 'missionary' expresses the fruit of discipleship, in other words bearing witness to and communicating a real experience: the truth known and assimilated."

"Joyfully renewing the will to be disciples of Jesus," he continued "is the fundamental condition for being His missionaries who 'start again from Christ,' to use the words of Pope John Paul II to the entire Church following the Jubilee 2000."

"With my apostolic trip," Pope Benedict concluded, "I wished to exhort people to continue along this path, presenting the unifying perspective of the Encyclical 'Deus caritas est,' a perspective that is inextricably social and theological and that can be summed up in this expression: 'it is love that gives life'."

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True information and moral values will bring success in fighting AIDS, Vatican says

Vatican City, May 23, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York, said yesterday during the 61st session of the UN General Assembly focused on the "Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS," that only by providing accurate information an respecting moral values, will AIDS be effectively controlled.

Reflecting on the fact that there are 39.5 million people presently living with HIV, with 2.9 million dying annually and 4 million new infections per year, Archbishop Migliore said that "the numbers speak for themselves, but they do not capture the whole story."

The Apostolic Nuncio said that $18 billion are needed in 2007 to help low- or middle-income countries fight HIV. "In aggregate the numbers seem overwhelming, but taken in their proper context, person by person, they are really only a fraction of what we as a world community can and should do. All of us must clearly step up our efforts."

"That is why,” he added, “for its part, the Holy See seizes this occasion to re-affirm its commitment to intensify its response to this disease, through its ongoing support for a world-wide network of some 1,600 hospitals, 6,000 clinics, and 12,000 initiatives of a charitable and social nature in developing countries."

Archbishop Migliore explained: "My delegation believes that providing information and opportunities for an education respectful of naturally based values is essential both in the development of scientific advancement and for personal prevention."

In an apparent reference to the "safe sex" condom-based UN campaign, the Nuncio stressed that "there can be no excuse that, twenty-five years into this epidemic, all people in all countries still do not have sound, accurate and reliable information so as to educate themselves and live safer lives."

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Chinese villagers riot over one-child policy

Beijing, China, May 23, 2007 (CNA) - Thousands of villagers in southwest China rioted last weekend against the state’s one-child policy, attacking family planning officials, overturning cars and setting fire to government buildings.

At the height of the demonstrations on Saturday, a crowd of several thousand stormed the Shapi municipal office, pulled down a wall and chased and beat officials from the family planning department, reported Guardian Unlimited.

Riot police were dispatched to at least four townships in the Guanxi autonomous region. Hong Kong media reported that the riots led to multiple injuries and possibly two deaths.

The riot came in the wake of a new crackdown by the Bobai county government against families that break birth control regulations.

Under state policies, dating back to the late 1970s, most urban couples can only have one child. Families from rural areas and ethnic minorities can have two children, especially if the first is a girl.

Financial penalties have increased and parents who fail to pay are being punished by having their property confiscated or destroyed.

A student from the area told the Guardian that his parents were fined 2,000 yuan because they had three sons in the 1980s. He said his uncle, who has five children and earns only 1,200 per month, was fined 20,000 yuan.

On Internet chat rooms locals said officials have confiscated cattle, DVD players, crockery and other household goods to make up for unpaid fines.

“Before we used to force women to have abortions but now the target seems to have changed to raising money,” one female state official told the Guardian. “I hate this job, but I have no choice."

Another local man said the riot started after state workers bulldozed the house of a poor farmer who could not afford the fine. The farmer reportedly went to the municipal office to protest and returned with three broken fingers, stirring up anger in his community.

Local governments and police stations have refused to comment. The state-run media has been forbidden from reporting on the incident. But online photographs show smashed cars, burning buildings and a rioter stealing a computer monitor. There were also images of work squads in army fatigues carrying sledge hammers.

The one-child policy has become a symbol of the wealth gap in China. Earlier this month, government officials admitted that many rich families violated the rules because they could afford the fines.

According to the ministry of public security, there were 87,000 protests reported in 2005, up 50 per cent from 2003.

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Improved China-Vatican relations requires Pope-appointed bishops

Rome, Italy, May 23, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican and China can only establish diplomatic ties if China allows the Pope to appoint bishops to the country, said Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, former foreign minister of the Holy See, in an interview with The Daily Yomiuri.

The archbishop noted that, even though the bishops appointed by the Vatican are not allowed to exercise authority in China, more than 85 percent of those appointed by the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, later asked to be recognized by the Pope.

The archbishop explained that diplomatic ties between the Vatican and China are desired because there are anywhere from eight million to 18 million in China and “the Pope wishes to have his representatives there in order to take care of their pastoral needs.”

“The real obstacle comes from the Chinese government, which is not yet willing to stop its interference in the appointments of Catholic bishops,” the archbishop was quoted as saying. “The Holy See and China can easily reach an understanding once this preliminary question is resolved.”

The archbishop, who serves as governor of the Vatican, refuted reports that Chinese authorities now consult with the Vatican before they appoint their own bishops through the Patriotic Catholic Association.

“It's not true,” he said. “But at present, more than 85 percent of the bishops in China, even if they are appointed by the government, ask for communion with the Pope.”

He said Pope Benedict is interested in the Holy See's diplomatic activity and its commitment to the defense of religious freedom and for the promotion of peace and development in the world.

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Another Black Friday for Coptic Christians in Egypt

Cairo, Egypt, May 23, 2007 (CNA) - A coalition of Coptic Christians is calling on governments of the world to intervene on behalf of the Coptic Christians of Egypt and demand that Egypt stop religious persecution and guarantee religious freedom and justice for all citizens.

For nearly four decades, the Coptic Christians in Egypt have been targeted by a wave of brutal attacks on their persons, churches, homes and businesses.

The Ibn Khaldoun Research Center has documented over 120 major attacks on the Copts during this period. Another study estimated that over 4,000 Copts were killed or injured during this same period. They have also suffered material losses in the tens of millions of dollars.   

The researchers noted that many of these attacks took place on Fridays, after the Muslim prayer in mosques. As well, the vast majority of these attacks were not committed by organized terrorist groups, but by ordinary people from the neighborhood.

Researchers believe the violence takes place under the influence of hate propaganda emitted through the media, the education system and mosque preaching. They report that Egyptian authorities have yet to adequately punish a single Muslim perpetrator.   

The latest attack on May 11 was in Bamha, 15 miles south of Cairo. A coalition of Coptic organizations worldwide reported that it began as the result of a rumor circulated among the Muslims that the Copts of the village were planning to convert a house, which they used for prayers, into a church.

The Muslim worshippers were incited by the Imam of the mosque and a few fanatics to rise and defend Islam against the “Christian infidels.” A Muslim mob, estimated to exceed 500, went on a rampage using fireballs, knives and hatchets. They burned 27 Christian homes and shops. At least 10 Copt were injured.

Rather than pursuing and arresting the perpetrators, the authorities conducted a meeting of reconciliation between the victims and the aggressors, where an imposed settlement virtually stripped the Copts of all rights.

Under the terms of the settlement, Muslims were not bound to pay for damages nor assume any criminal responsibility. As well, the prayer house, which was the center of dispute, would be used only for Sunday school classes and a cross may not be displayed on the building.   

The coalition noted that, ironically, only days after the Bamha incident, Egypt became a member of the UN's Human Rights Council.  

Thirteen Coptic associations, from North America, Europe and Australia, are members of the coalition.

For photos of the violence in Bahma, visit:

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Archbishop of Canterbury withholds invitations from homosexual and conservative bishops

London, England, May 23, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has not invited two American Episcopalian bishops — Gene Robinson and Martyn Minns — to a major conference next year, reported Reuters.

"I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion," Archbishop Williams wrote in his invitation to more than 800 Anglican bishops, asking them to attend the Lambeth Conference in July and August 2008. The invitations went out on Tuesday.

Bishop Robinson of New Hampshire is the first openly homosexual bishop. Minns is acting as the head of a new Nigerian-based church branch in the U.S., designed as a refuge for orthodox believers. The Anglican Communion does not recognize his position.

"I do not say this lightly, but I believe that we need to know as we meet that each participant recognizes and honors the task set before us and that there is an adequate level of mutual trust between us about this," Archbishop Williams wrote.

It is possible that others will either not be invited or will have their invitations withdrawn before the conference takes place if anything "untoward or unacceptable" occurs between now and then, an Anglican spokesman said.

Next year's Lambeth Conference promises to involve intense discussion on ideological and doctrinal issues that have caused serious rifts within the communion in recent years, including the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of homosexual bishops. 

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Catholic newspaper in Italy slams network’s plan to run anti-Catholic documentary

Rome, Italy, May 23, 2007 (CNA) - In a strongly worded editorial signed by Andrea Galli, the Italian Catholic daily “Avvenire” slammed the country’s state-run television network for considering the broadcast of a controversial documentary against the Pope and the Catholic Church produced by the BBC.
The RAI network recently announced it had acquired the rights to the documentary “Sexual Crimes and the Vatican,” in which the BBC directly attacks the Pope, calling him “responsible” for “covering up” sexual abuse, based on an erroneous and purposeful misinterpretation of a document published years ago by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which at the time was under the direction of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.  The document’s actual intent was to prevent sexual abuse.

After airing in Britain months ago, the documentary sparked an official complaint by the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom.  The archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, sent a complaint to the director of the BBC, accusing the network of lacking serious research, distorting the truth and open persecution against the Catholic Church.  

The documentary was produced by Colm O’Gorman, a militant anti-Catholic who years ago announced his commitment to attacking the hierarchy and especially the Pope.

Although RAI has yet to air the documentary, pirated copies of the program with subtitles in Italian have already found their way on to the internet. 

The front-page editorial in “Avvenire” compares the broadcast of the documentary to “fishing through a dumpster to find a rotten egg” and said the program consists of “a hodgepodge of assertions and false testimonies that were opportunely exposed by the Bishops’ Conference of England, which said the BBC ‘should be ashamed of the journalism used to create this unwarranted attack on Pope Benedict XVI.”

Avvenire said the documentary was “good only to be thrown into the dumpster,” adding that its producers “should bow their heads and ask for forgiveness.”

The head of a government committee that oversees RAI, Mario Landolfi, said last weekend he had written to the network’s general director asking that the document not be aired.  “To allow it would be to turn the public network into a firing squad ready to take aim against the Church and the Pope,” Landolfi said.

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Dissident theologian criticizes liberation theology and the Pope

Aparecida, Brazil, May 23, 2007 (CNA) - In a rare interview granted to the Argentinean daily “La Nacion,” dissident theologian Father Sergio Torres of Chile, current president of the dissident group “Amerindia,” acknowledged the serious errors of liberation theology but went on to criticize Pope Benedict XVI.

Torres told “La Nacion” that with the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference, taking place in Aparecida, Brazil, “27 years of a kind of interior exile within the Church has come to an end,” saying the process began last February when five bishops, led by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, held “long and detailed discussions” wit the most important liberation theology proponents: Father Gustavo Gutierrez of Peru, Fathers Carlos Mester and Oscar Beozzo, and Maria Clara Bimgemer of Brazil, and Pablo Bonavia of Uruguay.

“We are not the same, and things have radically changed: the Cold War ended, true Socialism in Russia and in other countries came to an end, and there are now new challenges.  We also made mistakes in our writings and interventions.  We sincerely hoped that Socialism was capable of bring about social transformation.  We were also the victims of the errors of others, because some of our people said and did things that were not supported by liberation theology.”  As examples, Torres pointed to the case of a Guatemalan nun who “celebrated” Mass because, she said, she was not going to wait for someone to ask her.  “Such cases were cited as examples of liberation theologians.  These mistakes contributed to us being called Marxists,” he said during the interview.

“In using the Marxist analysis, it was difficult to make a distinction between historical materialism and dialectic materialism,” Torres continued.  “We had bad luck.  Liberation theology developed in a time in which Marxism was growing, the revolution in Cuba took place and guerrilla movements sprang up in various countries.”

“We agreed on the need to seek out radical change,” he said, “but not on certain methods. Between that liberation theology and that of today there is a difference of context and of issues.”

The new themes of liberation theology, the Chilean priest said, include “the theology of feminist, Indian and Afro-American liberation and eco-theology.”  “Liberation theology today must hear the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth,” he added. 

Torres criticized Pope Benedict XVI for his “ignorance of Latin American in certain aspects, such as the natives and the situation of the family.”  Nevertheless, he said he was “happy” with the Pope’s discourse inaugurating the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference because of the mention of the “option for the poor.”

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Benedict XVI to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch in September?

Rome, Italy, May 23, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI could hold an historic meeting wit the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexis II, next September in Strasburg (France), according to a report by the Russian media reports.

Citing Orthodox sources, Russian media outlets said the central them of the meeting would be the issue of the uniates, members of the Orthodox rite of the Catholic Church present in the Ukraine.

The meeting would be historic given the Russian Patriarchate’s refusal to agree to such an encounter up to this point and its constant accusations against the Holy See of carrying out proselytism.

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Life Foundation in Spain denounces Amnesty International embracing abortion

Madrid, Spain, May 23, 2007 (CNA) - The director of the Life Foundation in Spain, Manuel Cruz, has denounced Amnesty International saying that in allowing abortion in certain cases, the organization “has made a serious break with the Right to Life, the first of all human rights, and therefore jeopardizes its excellent history as a defender of human rights.”

Several weeks ago, the director of AI, Widney Brown, told Reuters the organization had decided to support legal abortion in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother.

“The Right to Life is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Cruz said.  “Human rights cannot be general and therefore there can be no exceptions.”

“The object of the human right to life is all human life, from the moment of conception until natural death,” he added, explaining that, “If each human being is not respected and understood as such, with the dignity intrinsic to mankind, first feticide is accepted, which is a crime, and later its legalization is encouraged, as AI seeks to do now.”

“If AI encourages the legalization of the killing of the most defenseless human beings, with what authority will I continue denounce other human rights abuses?  How will it fight against the death penalty or torture, if it encourages the death and torture of the defenseless in the womb who have no voice?” Cruz questioned.

He also stressed that subjecting a woman who has become pregnant through rape or incest is akin to “raping her anew.”  “Her partner or family member taking her to have an abortion is just as serious as repeating the incest.  In such a situation, the best thing is to train counselors who can heal the wounds in the woman who desires to have an abortion and to dissuade her from doing to, thus avoiding post-abortion trauma, which is much worse.”

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French bishops hopeful for papal visit in 2008

Paris, France, May 23, 2007 (CNA) - Sources with the Bishops’ Conference of France announced this Tuesday that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted an invitation in principle to visit France in 2008.

Nonetheless, conference officials noted that the possibility that the visit by the Holy Father would take place in May of 2008, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Bernadette Soubirous was only “a hypothesis that must be studied.”

The invitation to the Holy Father was sent by Cardinal Jean-Pierre Richard, president of the Bishops’ Conference of France and by Bishop Jacques Perrier of Lourdes.

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