Archive of June 21, 2007

Pope issues an adamant call for peace in the Middle East

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - This morning, Pope Benedict told participants in the annual Meeting of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), of his "pain and concern for the delicate situation affecting vast areas of the Middle East." The Holy Father reiterated his concern and call for peace in a separate meeting with the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East.

He described the current situation in the Middle East by saying, "Peace, becomes even more fragile because of injustices, old and new. Thus it is extinguished altogether and gives way to violence which often degenerates into more or less open war until it ends up, as in our own time, as an urgent international problem."

"The Pope exhorted those in charge of restoring peace to accept their duty to bring peace by healing “the mortal illness of religious, cultural, historical or geographical discrimination."

Benedict XVI repeated his assurances that "the Holy Land, Iraq and Lebanon are present, with the urgency and constancy they deserve, in the prayers and activities of the Apostolic See and of the entire Church." He also called on the Congregation for Oriental Churches and its associated institutions to ensure that their "intervention in favor of so many of our brothers and sisters becomes more incisive."

To His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, who was present at the audience, the Pope renewed his condolences "for the barbarous killing of a defenseless priest and three sub-deacons in Iraq at the end of Sunday liturgy on June 3. The entire Church accompanies all her sons and daughters with affection and admiration, and supports them at this time of true martyrdom in the name of Christ."

The closeness of the people of the Middle East was also apparent in another meeting the Holy Father held with the Patriarch of the Assyrian church of the East. He said, “Today, tragically, Christians in this region are suffering both materially and spiritually.

Particularly in Iraq, the homeland of so many of the Assyrian faithful, Christian families and communities are feeling increasing pressure from insecurity, aggression and a sense of abandonment. Many of them see no other possibility than to leave the country and to seek a new future abroad.”

"These difficulties," the Pope added, "are a source of great concern to me, and I wish to express my solidarity with the pastors and the faithful of the Christian communities who remain there, often at the price of heroic sacrifices.

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Year of St. Paul to be celebrated to mark 2000 anniversary

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today announced that at 5.30 p.m. on June 28, eve of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, Benedict XVI will preside at the celebration of first Vespers in the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls.

During the ceremony, the Pope will proclaim a year especially dedicated to St. Paul, to mark the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the "Apostle of the Gentiles."

According to the Vatican Radio Calendar, the year will run from June 29, 2008, to June 29, 2009. No other details were available about possible events during the year at the time of publication.

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Dialogue continues with Assyrian Church of the East despite violent surroundings

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East in an audience.

Recalling the previous meeting of the patriarch with Pope John Paul II in 1994, Benedict brought to mind the joint declaration the two leaders signed concerning Christology. The visit also marked the founding of a joint Theological Commission for promoting dialogue.

The rest of the encounter centered around the discussion of how to promote greater inter-religious dialogue in the current violent and uncertain circumstances. The pope mentioned the troubling situation in much of the Middle East for Christians and pointed to the “successive waves of emigration” of “Christians from the Eastern Churches are now living in the West.”

"The Assyrian Church of the East is rooted in ancient lands whose names are associated with the history of God's saving plan for all mankind. .... Today, tragically, Christians in this region are suffering both materially and spiritually. Particularly in Iraq, the homeland of so many of the Assyrian faithful, Christian families and communities are feeling increasing pressure from insecurity, aggression and a sense of abandonment. Many of them see no other possibility than to leave the country and to seek a new future abroad.

"These difficulties," the Pope added, "are a source of great concern to me, and I wish to express my solidarity with the pastors and the faithful of the Christian communities who remain there, often at the price of heroic sacrifices.

"New hopes and possibilities sometimes awaken new fears, and this is also true with regard to ecumenical relations." Nonetheless, "it is to be hoped that the fruitful labor which the commission has accomplished over the years can continue, while never losing sight of the ultimate goal of our common journey towards the re-establishment of full communion."

"However long and laborious the path towards unity may seem, we are asked by the Lord to join our hands and hearts, so that together we can bear clearer witness to Him and better serve our brothers and sisters, particularly in the troubled regions of the East, where many of our faithful look to us, their pastors, with hope and expectation."

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Pro-life groups laud Bush for veto of stem-cell bill

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - Pro-life groups are pleased President George Bush followed through on his promise yesterday to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007.

The bill would have appropriated millions of taxpayer dollars to embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of embryos.

Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright reaffirmed that American taxpayers should not be forced to fund unethical research. She noted that ethical stem cell research is producing results without destroying embryos.

“Science is catching up to ethics,” she said, “proving that human beings should not be destroyed for science or to benefit another.”

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-chairman of the Bipartisan Pro-Life Caucus, also praised Bush for vetoing the bill and for expanding the federal commitment to pluripotent stem cell research.

“Today, President Bush has proved once again that he understands something that Speaker Pelosi and her allies cannot seem to comprehend — the future of stem cell research is in ethical stem cell research, not life-destroying research,” said Smith in a statement.
Smith noted the successive breakthroughs in adult stem-cell research and the lack of success in embryonic stem-cell research

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EU Court rules against life, Polish government to appeal ruling

Warsaw, Poland, Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - The government of Poland will appeal the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which requires the eastern European country to pay a citizen $36,710 in damages for denying her an abortion. The court ruled the woman’s rights were violated in a six-to-one vote.

Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski announced the decision to appeal at a news conference on Tuesday. "If we didn't appeal we would have to ease the anti-abortion laws in Poland and this wouldn't be good," Kaczynski told reporters.

The woman, Alicja Tysiac, was upset she could not get an abortion in 2000. She claims giving birth damaged her eyesight and she is now unable to take good care of her three children.

During her third pregnancy in early 2000, Tysiac visited three ophthalmologists who told her that carrying the pregnancy to term would damage her eyesight. However, they refused to sign a paper needed to approve an abortion for health reasons.

Tysiac also consulted with a gynecologist who told her there was no medical reason to have an abortion. After having a Cesarean section in November 2000, Tysiac claims her eyesight deteriorated considerably due to retinal hemorrhage. She can no longer see objects further than 12 feet away.

Because of her condition, the 35-year-old single mother receives a monthly $167 disability pay from the government. The court rejected her bid to cover future medical expenses related to her eyesight.

Judge Javier Borrego Borrego of Spain was the lone dissenter in the case.

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” he wrote. “Today, the court has decided that a human being was born as a result of a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. … I would never have thought that the Convention would go so far, and I find it frightening.”

Poland is one of the few European nations, including Ireland and Malta, to restrict abortions. They are only permitted to save the life of the mother, in cases of rape or incest and if the unborn child has severe physical deformities.

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Colombian Senate rejects bill to make homosexual unions equal to marriage

Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - Despite having been approved by the House of Representatives, the Colombian Senate definitively rejected a bill that would have granted financial rights to homosexual couples as part of a measure to make homosexual unions equal to marriage.

The bill, which would have granted inheritance rights and social security benefits to homosexual couples, failed during an attempt to reconcile the two versions of the bill.

The vote of 34-26 against the bill means it will not be sent to President Alvaro Uribe, who would have had the final word on whether or not to sign the bill into law.

Several leftwing senators decided to vote against the measure even though it was sponsored by a pro-homosexual activist, Senator Armando Benedetti.

The House of Representatives in Colombia approved its own bill on June 14.  However, the Senate version differed in some aspects, which provided pro-family Senators the chance to explain to the public why the bill should not be passed.

The measure was promoted by the organization “Diverse Colombia,” which has announced its mission is to achieve full recognition of gay marriage in Colombia.

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Priest says Christians in Iraq are dying out

Rome, Italy, Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - The procurator of the Chaldean Patriarchate before the Holy See, Father Philip Najim, warned that the terrorist attacks, kidnappings and forced conversions are making the Church in Iraq disappear, as extremists have turned Christians into “sacrificial lambs.”

“Closed churches, car bombs, forced conversions, kidnappings: in Iraq Christians are dying.  The Church is disappearing because of persecutions, threats and violence from extremists who leave no other option: convert or flee,” Father Najim said during a Mass for the repose of the soul of Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, who was killed on June 3 in Mosul together with three subdeacons.

Father Najim said the kidnapping of priests has become more common and the faithful are being forced to pay “taxes” if they want to remain in their homes or maintain their faith.  Such problems have led many Christians to immigrate to other countries as their only alternative, “renouncing their own roots, leaving behind their own homeland.”

Christians have become the “sacrificial lambs” that must be eliminated, he continued.  Extremists prevent them from freely professing their faith, they impose the Muslim veil on women and they remove crosses from churches.

In this sense, he said Father Ganni was “a martyr of this blood-stained Chaldean Church which Benedict XVI calls the Church of the living martyrs.”

“His martyrdom should be a new dawn for the life and future peace of Iraq, leaving room for Christian hope,” Father Najim said.  “We need the Holy See to encourage the Church in Iraq and all Christians to seek unity,” he stressed.

The Mass for Father Ganni was celebrated in the chapel of the Irish Pontifical College, where the martyred priest lived for five years.  Among those present were Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud, the former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches; Msgr. Mikhail Jamil, procurator of the Patriarchate of the Syrians of Antioquia before the Holy See; and Cardinal Desmond Connell, Archbishop Emeritus of Dublin.


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Local investigation into miracle complete, results sent to Rome for scrutiny

Denver, Colo., Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Denver has completed its investigation into whether Blessed Junipero Serra, an 18th-century missionary priest, intervened to save Kayla Rebecca Kellog from severe birth defects before she was born.

The girl’s family believes prayers to Bl. Serra led their child to be born completely healthy, despite doctors' warnings that she could be severely deformed. Kellog, now 14, resides with her family in Denver.

A team of specialists from the Denver archdiocese has spent seven months collecting documents, including independent medical data, reported the Rocky Mountain News-Denver. They interviewed the original obstetrical team and also assembled an independent medical panel to assess the case. The probe was finished in April and the documentation has been sent to the Vatican for review.

If the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints confirms the case as a miracle, it would lead to Bl. Serra’s canonization.

According to journalist Fr. Gerard Beigel, there has been a massive campaign to discredit Bl. Serra and his contemporaries. Writing in The California Mission, Fr. Beigel remarks: "The view of the missionaries as oppressors is now taught to children in fourth and fifth grades in many public schools throughout the state."

However, he noted, Bl. Serra made a long and hazardous journey to Mexico City to protest the treatment the Indians were receiving from civil authorities. His efforts resulted in a so-called ‘Bill of Rights’ for the Indians.

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Vatican reverses annulment decision of Kennedy-Rauch marriage

Boston, Mass., Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - In a decision that does not happen often, the Vatican has reversed the annulment of former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II's first marriage, which had lasted 12 years and produced two sons. The decision was announced on the Time magazine website.

Sheila Rauch had sharply criticized the Catholic Church for annulling her marriage to Kennedy. She alleged in a 1997 book that the Kennedy family's influence in the Church had made it possible. Rauch appealed the annulment to the Roman Rota.

Rauch and Kennedy, the eldest son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, were granted a civil divorce in 1991. She said she only learned about the annulment after Kennedy married his former congressional aide, Beth Kelly, in a civil ceremony two years later.

"The (original) annulment decision totally overlooked the fact that I felt that we had a very strong marriage in the beginning, we had two wonderful children, and it lasted," Rauch told The Associated Press. "I was certainly happy in the beginning. ... things unraveled, but that doesn't mean you didn't have a marriage."

Rauch was told of the decision to reverse the annulment by officials from the Boston Archdiocese in May, although the decision was actually reached in 2005.

Bai Macfarlane of Cleveland, Ohio, also has a case pending at the Roman Rota, in which she is seeking the intervention of the Vatican and challenging a US Catholic Tribunal's failure to uphold marriage.

In May 2004, Macfarlane had asked the Cleveland Tribunal for an investigation of her marriage hoping that the Church would advise her husband that he never had a licit reason to abandon her to seek a civil no-fault divorce.

The Cleveland diocese would not even accept her petition, so she appealed to Rome. In January 2005, the Roman Rota accepted her case, and on May 9, 2007 her advocate submitted a written argument on her behalf. 

According to the Church’s Code of Canon Law, there are limited reasons to separate from one's spouse (can 1151-1155). Those who agree to marry following canon law can never seek a civil separation or divorce unless it is foreseen that the civil judgments would not be contrary to divine law (canon 1692).  

These cases come at a time when some church officials believe that annulments are being granted too easily in the U.S.

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Brazilian super model answers colleague: abortion is never justified

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - Brazilian super model Fernanda Tavares criticized the statements of her colleague and personal friend, Gisele Bundchen, who recently came out publicly in support of abortion and criticized the Catholic Church for its position on the right to life.

Tavares, who is not known to be very religious and is involved in an extramarital affair with Brazilian actor Murilo Rosa, said she was “disgusted” by her friend Gisele because of her statements in support of abortion, especially because of her comment that “at four months practically nothing exists” in the womb of the mother.

Tavares, who is expecting a child from her relationship with Rosa, told the Brazilian daily “Folha de Sao Paulo,” “At one month the baby’s heartbeat can be heard.”  “It’s absurd for any woman, no matter how independent she is, to defend abortion,” Tavares said.  “We’re talking about another life,” she added.  She said she plans to marry Rosa in October after their baby is born.

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China continues to be inflexible in its anti-Catholic demands

Beijing, China, Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - A new spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Relations has reiterated the Communist government’s unacceptable terms for re-establishing diplomatic relations with the Holy See. 

According to a report by the state-run news agency, Xinhua, ministry spokesman Oin Gang said, “We sincerely hope to improve relations with the Vatican and we hope the Holy See will contribute to this process.”

In a clear message to the Vatican, which is preparing to publish a letter from Pope Benedict XVI to the 12 million Catholics in China—most of whom practice their faith in secret—Gang said, “China hopes the Vatican can appropriately see the fact that the Chinese enjoy religious freedom and that there have been a number of advances for Catholics in China.”

The statements are a warning to the Vatican to omit any reference to persecution, harassment or even death suffered by bishops and priests who do not adhere to the official “patriotic church” created and controlled by the Communist party.

Gang reiterated the two conditions demanded by the Chinese government for re-establishing diplomatic ties: “The Vatican should break diplomatic relations with Taiwanese authorities and should not interfere in the internal affairs of China in the name of religion.”  This last demand is a euphemism that means the Chinese governments intends to name Catholic bishops, a right the Pope cannot renounce.

China broke ties with the Holy See in 1951 after the rise to power of the Communist regime of Mao Tse Tung.

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French minister names Salesian priest as advisor

Madrid, Spain, Jun 21, 2007 (CNA) - France’s Housing and Urban Development Minister, Christine Boutin, has named Salesian priest Father Jean-Marie Petitclerc as one of her advisors.

Father Petitclerc is a writer, teacher and social worker and director of the Valdocco Association, which helps needy young people who live on the outskirts of Paris, Argenteuil and Lyon.  He is also a member of the National Council of Cities and of the National Agency for Urban Renewal.

Father Petitclerc explained that the work of the Valdocco Association is to foster the intellectual, emotional and physical capacity of young people, encouraging them and helping them to have confidence in themselves again.  The association is named after the first home for young people opened in Turin by the founder of the Salesians, St. John Bosco.

Last year, in response to an outbreak of violence in various cities in France, Father Petitclerc wrote a letter to the Interior Minister at the time explaining the reasons for the problem and offering solutions based on education and the formation of young people.

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