Sydney, Australia, Jun 7, 2007 (CNA) - Catholic lawmakers in Australia said yesterday they will vote in favor of therapeutic cloning regardless of the directives or warnings issued by the archbishop of Sydney.
Tony Stewart of the ruling Labor Party in the New South Wales state parliament, said he would rather go to hell than take orders on how to vote from Cardinal George Pell. "Maybe I'll go to hell, but if I go to hell I'm going to do so by saving a lot of lives, because that's what this bill is about," Tony Stewart said in a radio interview.
Cardinal Pell said recently that cloning is unethical and “a serious moral matter”, which could see the creation of human and animal hybrids.
“Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation must realize that their voting has consequences for their place in the life of the Church," he reportedly said.
Cardinal Pell was soon joined by Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth who also issued a similar warning. He said that Catholics who vote for cloning, "are acting against the teaching of the Church on a very serious matter and they should, in conscience, not vote that way; but if they do, in conscience they should not go to Communion."
The both prelates said they are considering refusing Holy Communion to Catholic lawmakers who vote in favor of the bill.
"We don't need a religious leader telling members of parliament what should be done," Stewart said in a radio interview.
Lawmakers are being allowed a conscience vote on a bill to bring the country's most populous state into line with the federal government, which overturned a ban on the so-called therapeutic cloning last year.
The new law would allow excess human embryos from in-vitro fertilization treatment to be used to create stem cells for research.
Both state premier Morris Iemma and his deputy, John Watkins, are Catholics who have said they intend to vote for the bill.
"I've already thought seriously about this legislation, and it passes all the ethical and moral issues that I need passed, and gives people hope," said Watkins, who admitted he is upset about the cardinal’s recent statements.
The Anglican Church is also asking lawmakers to vote against the bill.
San Antonio, Texas, Jun 7, 2007 (CNA) - In the sparse setting of their convent, the 23 nuns of the Salesian Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province have a new prayer intention, that the San Antonio Spurs win the championship.
With basketball players' names pinned to white smocks beneath their habits, the nuns have become ardent supporters of the Spurs.
It all started when Sister Filomena Conte, took up the cause. Sr. Filomena was the most avid fan in the convent. She watched or listened to every game, praying for the team and even corresponding with Coach Gregg Popovich.
The enthusiastic sister’s support knew no limits. When she suffered from a congestive heart condition and was ordered onto bed rest, she would listen to the games on the radio. When she was ordered to a hospital, she had one question as she waited with another sister: "Am I going to have a room before the game starts?"
Unfortunately, Sister Conte passed away on March 8th. Since her passing, the rest of the sisters have taken up her passion. “We pray for them to win, but we also pray for them to continue their sportsmanship," said Sister Sandra Neaves, the superior of the order in the Western U.S.
"We make a lot of noise in that room," laughed Sister Angelina Gomez.
The Spurs have embraced the nuns, hoping to bring the power of prayer to the court during their attempt at a fourth NBA title.
"Having them in our corner can never hurt, and we'll take any advantage we can," said Spurs spokesman Tom James. "We're obviously fortunate in this city to have wonderful fans of all ages and from all walks of life."
On Thursday, four of the nuns will attend the opening game of the championship series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, courtesy of the NBA.
The other nuns who can’t attend in person will watch from the convent. Neaves said not all will be able to keep cheering through the end of the late game; many are elderly and some are ill. But she said they will be cheering at tip-off with popcorn and prayers.
Commenting on the advantages of being Spurs fans, Neaves said, "Our work is mostly with young people so you go where the young people are," she said. Rooting for the Spurs also gives them a chance to show youngsters that "you can be faithful to a lifestyle that is upright and true and do a lot of fun stuff."
Vatican City, Jun 7, 2007 (CNA) - In an effort to be more environmental, the Vatican has decided that it will begin to use solar energy in some of its buildings as of next year.
Vatican engineer Pier Carlo Cuscianna came up with the idea of replacing the cement panels that make up the roof of the Paul VI auditorium with photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. Cuscianna said the cement panels had to be replaced due to weathering, so he thought it was the right time to make the move to solar.
The cells will produce enough electricity to illuminate, heat or cool the 6,300-seat hall, that is used for the pontiff's general audiences in winter and in bad weather, and for concerts.
"Since the auditorium isn't used every day, the (excess) energy will feed into the network, providing (the Vatican) with power, so other Vatican offices can use the energy," Cuscianna told The Associated Press.
A feasibility study, published in L'Osservatore Romano, found that the conversion made economic sense and quoted from Pope Benedict's speeches calling on Christians not to squander resources and to protect and care for the environment.
The new roof panels will have the same form and almost the same color as the cement panels they are replacing. The Vatican is considering the installation solar panels on other buildings, although landmarks, such as St. Peter's Basilica, would not be touched, he said.
Santiago, Chile, Jun 7, 2007 (CNA) - The organization “Muevete Chile has called on Chileans to support drug stores and pharmacies that have decided not to distribute the government promoted morning-after pill, known in the country as “Post Day.”
Muevete Chile explained that in response to the rejection by national chains to provide the morning-after pill, “the government has imported 25,000 doses of the same pill known as ‘Post Day’ from Colombia.”
The government has sought to force pharmacies to purchase the pills, but “none have been interested in buying them,” the organization reports. “If they force pharmacies to market the pill, it would not only be an attack against life, but also against freedom. The only option left will be for them to force us to buy it,” the group said.
Muevete Chile also pointed out that the manufacturers of “Post Day” acknowledge on their website that the pill has an anti-implantation effect. The pill “makes the membrane of the uterus thinner in such a way that the fertilized ovum cannot adhere to the uterus,” the website indicates.
Warsaw, Poland, Jun 7, 2007 (CNA) - Poland's Solidarity movement is expected to lead a nationwide strike on the feast of Corpus Christi today, to protest policies that require employees to work on religious and national holidays.
Solidarity is demanding that all retail stores be closed on Sundays and on the country’s 12 most important national and religious holidays, including New Year’s Day, Easter, Corpus Christi, All Saints’ Day, Independence Day, and Christmas.
A similar proposal was introduced in the Polish parliament this year, but has yet to be voted on, reported CWNews.
At a press conference earlier this week, the head of Solidarity’s retail division, Alfred Bujara, said Corpus Christi is the next holy day on which retail employees are expected to report for work.
Solidarity leaders do not know how many workers will join in the June 7 work stoppage. Some workers, Bujara said, are afraid to miss work because their employers have indicated that they might hire temporary workers in their place.
Stamford, Conn., Jun 7, 2007 (CNA) - An elderly bishop in China's underground Catholic church has been jailed again by police, nine months after his release from their custody, the Cardinal Kung Foundation reported.
Bishop Jia Zhiguo, 73, was taken away Tuesday by security agents in the northern city of Zhengding. However, it was not immediately clear why Jia was detained or where he was being held, the group said.
According to the Associated Press, a man who answered the telephone at the Zhengding Religious Affairs Bureau referred questions to the local government. Officials at the Zhengding government office and public security bureau said they had never heard of Jia and hung up without giving their names or any other details.
Jia was last released in September 2006 after being held for 10 months by local authorities. The reason was never made public but religious groups say Jia has been repeatedly detained over his refusal to affiliate himself with the Communist Party-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association.
"He was not even allowed to step out of the courtyard of his residence, was not allowed to administer the 'Last Rites' for his dying parishioners, and was not allowed any visitors," the foundation said.
In 1951 China broke off ties with the Vatican and set up a parallel church to undermine the faithfulness of Chinese Catholics to anyone besides the state.
This resulted in two churches in China, those faithful to the Holy Father and those who belong to the state Church. Those who remain faithful are forced underground and often jailed. The harassment can also include, the destruction of their churches, fines, and sometimes being sent to labor camps.
Worship is allowed only in government-controlled churches, and while many of these Catholics desire union with the pope, the government still appoints their priests and bishops.
The Cardinal Kung Foundation is named for the late Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pinmei of Shanghai, who spent 30 years in Chinese prisons and died in the United States in 2000 at age 98.
Havana, Cuba, Jun 7, 2007 (CNA) - The former president of Poland, Lech Walesa, one of the icons of the fall of Communism in his country, granted an interview to the independent Cuban press in which he called on Cubans not to lose their faith and to remember that “there is no universal model of transition.”
Walesa spoke with Dagoberto Valdes, the former director of the Catholic magazine Vitral, for an interview that was to be published by the magazine. Vitral was recently forced to cease publication but this week the blog Liberpress, which Valdes directs, posted the interview.
Asked about the case of Cuba, Walesa said, “All experiences are different. There is no universal model of transition. Each country and its citizens must find their own way. Nevertheless, we must remember that the human being has the potential to change himself and his surroundings. He has the power to free himself from fear. In this context, education and civic responsibility are very important.”
“Don’t lose faith! Think about civic activities, don’t doubt that your country awaits a great redefining and that when you have the change to get involved, do so,” he added.
Walesa recalled the history of the fall of Communism in Poland and influence of the election of John Paul II as Pontiff.
“They said we didn’t have a chance because in Poland there were more than 200,000 Soviet soldiers, and around Poland more than 1 million and they had nuclear weapons. At that time we received a gift in the form of a Polish pope, who traveled to Poland one year after his election. Thousands of people attended the Mass celebrated by John Paul II.”
“The nation awakened. Small dissident groups, independent trade unions, illegal organizations like the Committee of the Defense of Workers were able to interpret this enthusiasm of the populace and direct this phenomenon towards strikes, negotiations, peaceful resistance against the regime and towards final victory. That’s how Solidarity was born,” he said.
Likewise, he pointed out that the Catholic Church and the Polish laity collaborated in the building of civil society in Poland during the Communist era. “During the entire Communist era in Poland, the role of the Church cannot be separated from certain historical events. The Church has always supported the aspirations of the nation toward freedom. When I say the Catholic Church, I refer not only to the walls of the churches, but also the hierarchy together with the laity and the Catholic faithful,” he said.
“It began with the head of the Catholic Church, who awakened the nation, gave it faith and new hope. We took advantage of that, and ten years later, we finally overcame Communism,” Walesa added.
Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2007 (CNA) - A new online survey reveals a significant number of Christians — both male and female — admit to having an addiction to pornography.
ChristiaNet.com conducted the survey, asking 1,000 visitors to its website 11 questions about their personal sexual conduct and their thoughts on sexual moral issues, including pornography. The website also queried pastors to determine if they were addressing the issue of pornography with their congregations.
Of the Christian men and women who responded to the survey, 50 percent of the men and 20 percent of the women demonstrated addictions to pornography.
The survey also revealed that 30 percent of all pastors are dealing with or have problems with pornography.
The Internet, which has numerous porn websites and facilitates accessibility to pornographic material, has been thought to exacerbate the problem of pornography in society.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 7, 2007 (CNA) - The bishops of Bilbao, San Sebastian and Vitoria in Spain have issued a statement in response to the decision by the Basque separatist movement ETA to break a cease fire agreement, calling on the organization to “revoke its decision and announce a definitive end to its violence.”
In their statement the bishops called the decision by ETA to break the permanent cease-fire agreement “terrible news,” noting that the agreement was already breached last December 30, when ETA detonated bombs at the Madrid airport of Barajas, killing two Ecuadorian immigrants.
“We share the sense of frustration and pain spread throughout the populace,” the bishops said. “In keeping with the feeling of the majority of our society and in defense of the fundamental rights of the person, we call on ETA to revoke its decision and to announce a definitive end to its violence.”
“Violence,” the bishops continued, “is contrary to justice, freedom and peace, and closes all paths towards them. It should disappear without conditions.”
The bishops also recognized “the patient work of those who with honor and sincerity strive to keep open the paths towards peace and reconciliation.”
Hope is a necessary element in the building up of peace, they emphasized. “Those who endanger the path towards peace and undermine hope assume a very grave responsibility before society, history and God,” the bishops warned.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 7, 2007 (CNA) - The Church in Mexico presented this week an “Ethical Decalogue on the importance of respect and defense of life,” that “seeks to foster understanding of the value of human life from its very beginnings. The announcement was made by the rector of the Old Basilica of Guadalupe, Msgr. Pedro Agustin Rivera Diaz.
Msgr. Rivera Diaz said the Decalogue is “a wide and universal proposal, as human rights are not a question of religion or of particular interests, but rather of universal rights, and therefore this initiative is an invitation to reflect on the issues of the defense and respect of life.”
He also noted that the initiative is an expression of support for the National Commission for Human Rights, which is challenging a new law legalizing abortion in Mexico City.
The rector of the original Basilica of Guadalupe stressed that scientific data clear demonstrates that “human life begins at the very moment in which pregnancy begins as well.”
The Decalogue will be presented on various occasions during the coming weeks, with experts providing information on the scientific aspects of the origins of human life.
Vatican City, Jun 7, 2007 (CNA) - During a presentation of a new biography on Pope Pius XII, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the late Pontiff has been the victim of “a black legend” that must be dismantled.
During the presentation of the book “Pius XII: Eugenio Pacielli: A Man on the Throne of Peter,” by Andrea Tornielli, Cardinal Bertone pointed out that the Pontiff faced “a world immersed in violent and irrational passions, out of which has also produced accusations over his supposed silence about the holocaust.”
Speaking to reporters afterwards, the cardinal explained that there are “diverse elements that have contributed to the creation of a black legend about the person of Pius XII; but it is necessary to shed light on this matter.”
“The Palestinian question, the Communist question, have certainly contributed to deflecting the judgment of some against the Pope—who worked precisely for the protection of those suffering most, especially the Jews, in the face of the fanaticism of the Nazi persecution—because in fact the great majority of saved Jews who survived were eternally grateful (to the Pope) and many historians have continued to defend Pius XII,” Cardinal Bertone said.
The prejudice against Pius XII began in large measure in 1963 with the theatrical work “The Vicar” by Hochhuth, which made a caricature out of the person of Pius XII.