Archive of June 18, 2007

Pope meets with Orthodox Archbishop, issue joint declaration

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) -
The Holy Father received His Beatitude Chrysostom II, Archbishop of New Justinian and of Cyprus, in Rome on Saturday.  The two exchanged greetings and met privately, before adjourning to the Vatican Library.  There, the two leaders made formal statements, before exchanging gifts and signing a joint declaration in favour of ecclesial unity and of peace in the world.

In his discourse, the Benedict XVI said that the Archbishop Chrysostom’s visit was a consolation for him, because in this event he sees how “the Lord has not ceased to guide our steps in the way of unity and of reconciliation.”

The Pope observed that the Archbishop “had not come from Cyprus to Rome simply for an exchange of ecumenical courtesy, but to strengthen the firm decision to persevere in prayer so that the Lord may show us the way to reach full communion.”

The Archbishop of the Orthodox Church replied that “perhaps our eyes will not be able to see the much-desired unity of the Church, but with the grace of the Holy Spirit we will have done our duty in time and space as peacemakers and as true brothers, "ut omnes unum sint”.

His Beatitutude Chrsysostom II continued, saying that “The Orthodox way passes through spirituality, penance, fasting, the study of the texts of the Fathers of the Church…the sense of the sacred and above all, the Divine Eucharist: these are our spiritual weapons and we desire to fight together with the sister Church of Rome to transform European society, which is anthropocentric, into a Christocenctric society.”

In the joint declaration, the two spiritual leaders affirmed together their “firm and sincere disposition, in obedience to the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify the search for full unity among Christians.”  They encouraged, in addition, the Catholics and Orthodox Christians of Cypress to live in fraternity, due to their common Christian faith, and encouraged dialogue among Orthodox and Catholic theologians.

Finally, the two Church leaders appealed for peace: “We address…this appeal to all those who, anywhere in the world, raise their hand against their own brothers, exhorting them firmly to set down their arms and to work towards a healing of the wounds caused by war.”


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Pope tells the youth to imitate the example of Francis’ radical conversion

Assisi, Italy, Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) - Departing from the cathedral in Assisi, Benedict XVI traveled by car to meet the youth at the basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. Along the route he blessed disabled people from Assisi's Seraphic Institute.

The Holy Father greeted the young people awaiting him in the square of the basilica with a message of encouragement and challenge.

Benedict’s challenge to imitate the life of Saint Francis began with a small biography of the saint. 

"It was here," said the Pope, that Francis "established the 'headquarters' of his order, where the friars could come together, as if in a maternal bosom, regenerating themselves before starting out again full of apostolic energy.”

Francis' conversion at the age of 25 "came about when he at the peak of his vitality, his experiences, his dreams," said Benedict XVI. He also dwelt on Francis' character before his conversion, describing him as a "carefree and generous," person "who wandered the city of Assisi day and night with his friends."

"How can it be denied," the Pope went on, "that may people are tempted to follow the life of the young Francis before his conversion? That lifestyle hides the desire for happiness that dwells in every human heart." Yet the saint did not find "true joy" there, because "the truth is that finite things can give glimmers of joy but only the infinite can fill the heart."

Another feature of St. Francis was "his ambition, his thirst for glory and adventure," said the Pope, noting how the Lord used this characteristic in order to attract the saint "showing him the path of a saintly ambition projected towards the infinite."

"As He did to Francis, Christ also speaks to our heart. We risk passing our entire lives being deafened by loud but empty voices. We risk missing His voice, the only one that counts because it is the only one that saves."

"Do not be afraid to imitate Francis," said the Holy Father to the young people, "above all in your capacity to go back to yourselves. He knew how to create a silence within himself, listening to the Word of God. Step by step he let himself be guided by the hand towards the full encounter with Jesus, to the point of making this the treasure and light of his life."

"Francis was truly enamoured of Jesus. He met Him in the Word of God, in his fellow man, in nature, but above all in His presence in the Eucharist. ... The nativity scene of Greccio well expresses his need to contemplate [the Lord] in the tender human form of a baby. ... His experience on the mountain of La Verna where he received the stigmata shows what level of intimacy he reached in his relationship with the crucified Christ."

"Precisely because he was a man of Christ, Francis was also a man of the Church. From the crucifix of St. Damian he received the command to repair the house of Christ, in other words the Church. ... In the final analysis, that task was nothing other than the responsibility attributed by Christ to all the baptized. The Church grows and is repaired, above all, in the measure to which each of us converts and seeks sanctification."

"Like concentric circles, Francis' love for Jesus expands not only over the Church but over all things, seen in Christ and for Christ. Here are the origins of his 'Canticle of the Sun' in which his eye rests upon the splendor of the Creation" and which "even before being an exalted piece of poetry and an implicit invitation to respect creation, is a prayer."

"Francis' commitment to peace is also to be seen as a form of prayer. This aspect of his life is of great contemporary importance in a world which has so much need of peace yet does not manage to achieve it. Francis was a man of peace and an architect of peace. He showed as much in the mildness with which he approached men of other faiths, yet without silencing his own faith. ... If inter-religious dialogue today, and especially after Vatican Council II, has become a shared and indispensable patrimony of Christianity,
Francis can help us to discover true dialogue without lapsing into a position of indifference towards the truth or lessening our Christian announcement."

After the meeting, the Pope traveled to the Migaghelli sports field where he boarded the helicopter that took him back to the Vatican.

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Romney speaks out on stem-cell issue, Congress must be ethical and make use of science

Boston, Mass., Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) -

Lawmakers in Washington must move beyond partisan politics and offer support for stem-cell research techniques that bring science and ethics together to promote, protect and save life, said former Mass. governor Mitt Romney.

Romney commented on the passage of a bill in Congress last week that would use tax dollars to fund embryonic stem-cell research. The research is controversial because the process requires the killing of embryos.

Romney, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, suggested that the bill, pushed by a Democratic-controlled Congress, only exacerbates the controversy given that alternative techniques have been developed that do not require the use of embryos at all.

Romney noted that researchers in Massachusetts announced on Wednesday that they managed to transform regular skin cells into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells in mice.

“Their work points to a way to produce cells with the qualities scientists value about embryonic stem cells, but without the need to create, harm, or destroy human embryos, and therefore without ethical or political controversy,” Romney said.

“A number of such techniques have begun to emerge in recent years, and as last week’s exciting scientific publications showed, some of the world’s best stem-cell scientists are hard at work bringing them to fruition,” he continued.

“Our government should encourage and support these scientific developments, rather than undermine the effort to find a solution. Finding cures to diseases using methods that uphold ethical principles and sustain social consensus should be the objective of America’s approach to stem-cell research,” he said.

“Support for ethical biomedical research should be part of our collective identity as a noble society. Instead of turning the quest for cures into a partisan battle, Congress should embrace the exciting emerging lines of research that could meet the goals of all sides in the stem-cell debate,” he concluded.

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US bishops voice concern over Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urge Senate to action

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have urged co-sponsorship of a Senate resolution that seeks to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Marking the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War between Israel and a coalition of Arab states, the resolution acknowledges that the only way toward a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians is “to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict and to live in peaceful coexistence, mutual dignity, and security, based on a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace,” noted Bishop Thomas Wenski in a June 13 letter to the Senate. Bishop Wenski is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy.

“Resolution 224 appropriately affirms a two-state solution, with the State of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” Bishop Wenski continued. “A majority of Israelis and Palestinians yearn for such a two-state solution,” he said.

The bishop noted that resolution renounces violence and terror, reaffirms an unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and calls on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, and accept past agreements.

“It calls on both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to work for peace and to refrain from ‘any actions that would prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations,’” he said.

The resolution also urges the U.S. government “to pursue a robust diplomatic effort” to make a two-state solution a top priority.

The U.S. bishops said they believe this resolution is consistent with President George Bush’s vision of a two-state solution to the conflict and adds additional impetus to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent initiative for peace.

The USCCB Office of International Justice and Peace issued an action alert to dioceses across the country, asking them to contact senators in support the resolution.


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New Catholic website helps fight porn addiction

San Fernando, Calif., Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) - A Catholic apostolate is trying to help those caught in the grips of pornography addiction.

The apostolate, called Serenellians, is web-based and was begun in 2002 by Paul Rasvage, an oil refinery engineer, family man and a self-confessed pornography addict (who no longer indulges). The group got its name from Alessandro Serenelli, who killed St. Maria Goretti in a fit of lust and later repented.

“We exist to minister to those who wish to break their addiction,” said the 52-year-old.
Rasvage says he does not believe legal initiatives against pornography are enough. “Just trying to stop the illicit material is not good,” he explains. “You have to deal with the disordered desires, the root cause.”
The website lists a number of available resources for fighting these desires, including Church teachings, documents and saints’ writings. The flagship resource is a workbook, called Pure of Heart, by Rosemary Scott, which offers spiritual counsel, practical advice and meditations on chastity and purity.
For Rasvage, combating pornography and masturbation is made more difficult by the reluctance of the addicted to discuss their problem and a lack of Catholic teaching and counsel in homilies and in the confessional.

A common complaint from Catholic men is that many priests dismiss confessions of porn viewing and masturbation as “normal” or “nothing to worry about,” says Rasvage.
The Serenellians website gets between 3,000 and 7,000 hits per month. Most come from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. A few are starting to come from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and France.

To view the site, go to:

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"Baby hatch" at Catholic hospital causes concern

Kumamoto, Japan, Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) - Yet another infant was left in the “baby hatch” of a Catholic-run hospital in Japan. The Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto set up its first baby hatch for unwanted newborns on May 10, and on Friday, the third baby was dropped off, reported The Japan Times.

The baby hatch received a boy aged 3 or 4 on its first day. A healthy, two-month-old boy was dropped off Tuesday with a letter saying his parents "just can't raise him."

Each case is reported to police and a local child consultation office. The babies will be adopted or sent to homes for infants if the identity of the parents remains unknown or if the parents are deemed unable to raise them.

While the Kumamoto Municipal Government has endorsed the system, it has sparked debate with advocates calling it a last resort to save lives and opponents charging that it encourages parents to abandon their children.

The hospital has a policy of not disclosing or confirming each case, and information for each case comes through sources. Hospital spokespeople have said the hospital plans to announce the number of cases once a year.

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Spain approves law allowing therapeutic cloning of human beings

Madrid, Spain, Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) - Spain’s parliament has passed a new Law on Biomedical Research making the country the fourth in Europe and the ninth in the world to allow “therapeutic” cloning of human beings. 

Although the law prohibits “reproductive cloning” or the creation of new embryos for experimentation, it inconsistently “permits the production of cloned embryos in order to obtain research material from them.”

Last October, the Executive Committee of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference pointed out the contradiction in the measure, and after the approval of the law last weekend, it reissued the statement it made previously.

Diverse medical and family organizations have quickly expressed their rejection of the new law.  The president of the Spanish Forum for the Family, Benigno Blanco, called the new law an “ethical step backwards that must be absolutely rejected” because it turns the human embryo into “mere material” for research.

“I think it is a very negative law because Spain is going to be one of the only countries in the world where the life of a human being, in its phases of development, will be the least protected,” he said.

Likewise, the scientific director of VidaCord and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Monica Lopez Barahona, criticized the law for allowing “therapeutic cloning” that consists in the transfer of a nucleus from an ovum, “as if what were generated were not a zygote and therefore an embryo.”  “We are talking about a human being,” she said.

In addition to Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Sweden, Japan, Australia, Israel, South Korea and Singapore also have passed laws permitting “therapeutic cloning.”

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Costa Rica to bestow honorary distinction on John Paul II

San José, Costa Rica, Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) -  

The Costa Rican Congress has accepted consideration of a bill that would bestow a special honorary distinction on Pope John Paul II in recognition of his pastoral work carried out throughout his pontificate and that “contributed to knocking down the walls that divide humanity.”

Presented by Representative Jose Manuel Echandi, the bill emphasizes that the Servant of God John Paul II will remain as one of the greatest figures of human history in the religious, political and social fields.  Likewise, Echandi’s proposal makes special mention of the Pope’s travels around the world, especially to Latin America, which earned him the title of the “Pilgrim Pope.” He noted as well that Pope John Paul II was the first pope to visit Costa Rica.

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US and Mexican bishops approval statement on immigration reform

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) - The bishops’ conferences of Mexico and the US have issued a joint statement supporting immigration reform in the US that will regularize the status of 12 million illegal immigrants, after President Bush called on Republican lawmakers to support his reform efforts.

“Particular attention must be paid to legislation that would improve legalization programs and temporary worker programs and preserve the unity of the family,” the bishops said in their statement released that Thursday.

On that same day, President Bush said the time has come to take the necessary steps to legalize the 12 million undocumented immigrants and to strengthen the borders.

In their statement, the bishops also encouraged the Mexican government to carry out economic reforms that are necessary for creating new jobs. “Our two governments must collaborate to put an end to the suffering that affects migrants in our two countries,” the statement indicated.

Both bishops’ conferences said they were committed to defending the rights of migrants in both countries, saying, “We will continue fighting for them until justice is done.”

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Representatives of the Holy See and Vietnam discuss normalization of bilateral relations

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) - Representatives of the Holy See and of Vietnam met recently to discuss the re-establishing of bilateral diplomatic relations after decades of tensions between the two sides have eased.

The Vatican’s undersecretary for relations with States, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, said, “We foresee a way of reaching diplomatic relations,” and that the Vatican delegation also asked Vietnamese officials for information about Father Nguyen Van Ly, who was sentenced to eight years in prison after a trial that lasted merely one day.

According to the Vietnamese government, Father Van Ly, a renowned defender of human rights in the country, was found guilt of spreading “propaganda against the Communist regime.”  In 2006, he founded a democracy movement in the country known as “Block 8406.”

Archbishop Parolin said he had received a response from Vietnamese officials and that he was optimistic about the talks.

Earlier this year on January 25, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited Pope Benedict XVI to discuss normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations, which the Holy See called “a new and important step.”  Archbishop Pietro Parolin responded with a visit to Vietnam in March.

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Bishops upset over leak of Aparecida document

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) -  

Speaking to the Mexican news agency Notimex, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez of Guadalajara (Mexico) and Archbishop Alberto Taviera Correa of Palmas (Brazil) expressed their disappointment that the final Aparecida document has been leaked to the press before publication.

The Missionary Indigenous Council, which is an entity linked to the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (NCBB), was responsible for leaking the document to the press.  The group has since removed the document from its website.

Cardinal Sandoval told Notimex, “The bishops who participated have approved the document by the assembly. Anything else that has come out is illegitimate.”  “I think that those who leaked the document were afraid the Holy See would make significant changes or would shorten it.  But at the Vatican I was told no significant changes would be made,” the cardinal said.

Archbishop Taveira, who also participated in CELAM’s 5th General Conference in Aparecida, said those who leaked the document brought harm to ecclesial unity.

“I don’t know what reasons they had to leak the document,” he said, “but the prudent measure is for the Pope to first grant approval and then to publish.”

“I’m sorry they did not follow the established norms. That attitude harms communion, because they used reasons that are not ecclesial,” the archbishop said, adding that the matter would have to be discussed during the next meeting of the executive committee of the NCBB.

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Three of the Minnesota sextuplets pass away, three in critical condition

Minneapolis, Minn., Jun 18, 2007 (CNA) - In an update on the condition of the sextuplets born last week in Minneapolis, hospital officials told the Associated Press that three of the children have died.

Unfortunately, three of the boys Tryg, Bennet, and Lincoln have already passed away. The surviving children, two girls and a boy, remain in critical condition as of Sunday evening.

The parents, Brianna and Ryan Morrison, released a statement saying it has been "a difficult week" for them, and that they thanked everyone for their prayers and support.

"We continue to trust in the Lord and are hopeful for a good outcome for Cadence, Lucia and Sylas," the statement said

The four boys and two girls were born last Sunday about 4½ months early at a Minneapolis hospital. Doctors had encouraged the couple to abort all but two of their children, but they refused.

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