Archive of June 26, 2007

Holy Father changes rules for electing new pope

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2007 (CNA) - It was announced today that the Holy Father, Benedict XVI has brought back the traditional method for electing a new Pope. Under Pope John Paul II, the procedure was changed to a series of ballots punctuated with time for reflection and prayer if a pontiff was not chosen within the first three days.

The change back to the traditional rules was made public today in a "Motu Proprio," written in Latin. In the letter, Benedict XVI restores the traditional norm concerning the majority required for the valid election of the Supreme Pontiff to two thirds of the cardinals present.

In 1996, John Paul II changed the standard in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici gregis. Under John Paul II’s rules, a new Pope was validly elected by two thirds during the first three days of voting.

However, after three days of voting without an election, there would be a day dedicated to reflection and prayer, without voting. Thereafter, voting would resume for seven additional ballots, another pause for reflection, another seven ballots, another pause and yet another seven ballots. After which an absolute majority was to decide how to proceed, either for a vote by absolute majority or with balloting between two candidates. This was to happen only in the event that the cardinals arrived at the 33rd or 34th ballot without a positive result.

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Catholic condemned to death for blasphemy tells of his trauma

Lahore, Pakistan, Jun 26, 2007 (CNA) - Church and human rights bodies, including the Catholic bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace and the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, are challenging the judgment in the case of a young Catholic man, who has been sentenced to death.

On May 30, the Sessions Court sentenced Younis Masih, a 27-year-old furniture polisher, to death for blasphemy and fined him 100,000 rupees (US$1,663).

Younis, who has been imprisoned for nearly two years since being accused of blasphemy, was interviewed by UCA News on June 14.

"My knee joints ache due to the torture by police, who tried to make me confess the alleged blasphemy by beating me with heavy staffs," he told UCA News from within Lahore Central Jail. He said he is also denied clean water and other necessities provided to fellow inmates.

Younis denies the blasphemy allegation and recounted the events that led to the court’s most recent decision. On Sept. 9, 2005, about 70 members of a group singing devotional music attacked Younis, after he was accused of making derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad.

The next day, about 26 men continued the attack. They grabbed him from a billiards club and assaulted him. They abused his wife, threw bricks at his house and set it on fire. Several of the 50 local Christian families later fled the area.

When Younis went to police to report the assault, the police, in turn, registered a blasphemy case against him. He said a large mob, armed with sticks, gathered at the police station while he was there and refused to leave until a report was lodged against him for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Younis was jailed.

Difa-e-Islam Mahaz (front for the defense of Islam), an alliance of 22 Sunni religious organizations, organized a large demonstration at the Lahore Press Club, where they called for him to be hanged. They vowed to continue until Younis was sentenced to death.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a May 31 statement that it would monitor Younis' case and would help his counsel appeal before the High Court.

Nadeem Anthony of the Rights Commission told UCA News that police and Muslim clerics created an atmosphere of terror that led to the disappointing decision. Anthony claims the case was not investigated properly. He complained about "pressure from the religious extremists" and people taking the law "into their own hands."

Section 295-B of the Pakistan Criminal Code punishes those convicted of insulting the Qur'an with life imprisonment, and Section 295-C stipulates death for insulting Prophet Muhammad.

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National Catholic Bioethics Center announces educational opportunities

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 26, 2007 (CNA) - The National Catholic Bioethics Center has announced some important upcoming events for those who work in the health care or research field. The events are open to the public.

As part of their mission to help Catholics understand how to apply the Church’s moral teaching in today’s world of medicine, the center is sponsoring a series of seminars and a year-long distance learning certification program in health care ethics.

In 2007-2008 the NCBC will offer a series of one and two day seminars in cities across the country on "The Catholic Tradition in Health Care Ethics." At the heart of these programs is the application of the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services" of the United States Bishops to complex contemporary ethical dilemmas. Participants may choose to attend seminars in Boston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, St. Paul, or San Francisco. See the NCBC website for details of the events.

Continuing education credits are offered for some of these programs to doctors, nurses and chaplains through various accrediting agencies. See for details.

Those interested in furthering their knowledge of the Roman Catholic ethical tradition in the health care ministry through these programs are encouraged to visit the NCBC website or contact Julie Kelley, Administrative Assistant to Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. at 215-877-2660.

The NCBC was founded in 1972 to provide expert moral analysis and philosophical reflection to developments medicine and the life sciences.

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Euthanasia not merciful, says Mexican cardinal

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 26, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City said on Sunday that there is no mercy in euthanasia and criticized a new law on “living wills” that the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) is promoting in the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City.

The cardinal said he was surprised that the PRD is not addressing the problems of the country, but instead, pushing an agenda that focuses on their own morals. He said, “in a country with so many needs, a moralist agenda is given priority instead of proposals for true social reform.”

Questioned by reporters after Sunday Mass, the cardinal explained the Church is in complete agreement that treatment for terminally ill patients that only causes more suffering should be avoided, but precisely out of respect for such individuals, the Church maintains her condemnation of euthanasia.

Cardinal Rivera noted that the proposal by the PRD does not distinguish between euthanasia and avoiding undue suffering, and instead confuses the two, “making what is in reality an attack on the right to life appear to be an act of mercy.”

“By presenting their proposal as something merciful and innocent, they pretend to remove from public opinion the psychological shock that the word euthanasia carries,” the cardinal warned.

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Spanish parents: conscientious objection not “right-wing” tactic

Madrid, Spain, Jun 26, 2007 (CNA) - A group of parents in the Spanish city of Cadiz who recently exercised their right to conscientiously object to the course “Education for Citizenship,” have responded to a lawmaker of the United Left political party, saying their position has nothing to do with “right-wing tactics.”

Speaking to reporters, Representative Ignacio Garcia of the United Left, called the parents’ decision to conscientiously object “a political tactic orchestrated by the right and by conservative sectors.”

Javier Sanchez, spokesman for the parents, responded to Garcia with a statement in which he said, “There is no connection between our objection to the course and any political tactic ‘orchestrated by the right or conservative sectors’.”

“We have no idea what Mr. Garcia has based his statement on and we invite him to get to know us, to look into the matter and if he wants, to come to our homes, and he will realize that we are only normal parents concerned about the education of our children,” Sanchez said.

“We think the opposite is the case,” he continued.  Finding no one to help them in dealing with the matter, the group of parents decided to band together and make their objections known to the media, Sanchez said.  Unfortunately, politicians only pay attention when people begin to mobilize, he added.

Parents are concerned, he said, that the class goes above their heads in providing moral guidance that is dependent upon the teacher, the school, the text book and the government currently in office.  The reason, “That we are defending ourselves from this contempt and requesting that at least we be asked what kind of education we wish to give our children cannot be so hard for a lawmaker to understand,” Sanchez stated.

“We’re not trying to make Mr. Garcia agree with us,” his statement concluded, “but as the public servant that he is, we do demand and hope that at a minimum, instead of calling our actions ‘intolerable,’ he would understand them, respect them, and support our constitutional right to ideological and religious freedom.”

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Father Lombardi expresses solidarity with martyrdom of Christians in Iraq

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2007 (CNA) - Echoing the words of Pope Benedict XVI about the suffering of Christians in Iraq, the director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, said this week, "The whole Church accompanies with affection and admiration all her sons and daughters and supports them in this hour of authentic martyrdom for the name of Christ."

The Vatican spokesman made his comments during the latest edition of Octava Dies, the weekly news magazine produced by Vatican Television.

“With these intense and strong words, Benedict XVI has responded to the continual cry for help of the Christian communities of the Middle East, devastated by war, especially Iraq, where murders and kidnappings of priests and their collaborators have in recent weeks become a terrible manifestation of the situation of suffering that has gone on for a long time,” Father Lombardi said.

The Pope made his comments about the situation during the meeting of the organization for aid to Eastern Churches, and he made similar comments during a meeting that same day with the patriarch of the Assyrian Church, Mar Dinkha IV.

Father Lombardi noted that the Holy Father also mentioned the situation to Bishop Luis Sako of Kirkuk (Iraq), who explained in a letter that “Christians, who do not have their own militias to defend themselves, 'are totally vulnerable’."

Father Lombardi added, "We cannot forget the martyrdom of these our brothers, defenseless in the face of violence."

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Legalization of sexual relations between children “aberrant” says Peruvian bishop

Lima, Peru, Jun 26, 2007 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Peru, Bishop Juan Jose Larraneta, called a new law approved by the country’s congress that would lower the age for sexual consent to 14 “unacceptable and aberrant.”  Critics are saying the new law will only make the problem of sexual abuse of minors worse.

“The law approved by congress is simply aberrant, denigrating and humiliating,” Bishop Larraneta said on a local radio station.

“The law opens an extremely dangerous door to the abuse of minors, because if a person gives a young girl money, then he can have sex with her because she is going to say yes,” the bishop explained.

He warned the law would lead to “consensual rape.”  “I find it inexplicable,” he said.

Bishop Larraneta also criticized the logic behind the law, which was drafted and approved by feminist organizations in the country, who argue that young girls are already sexually active and that therefore the law would do nothing more than acknowledge a situation that already exists.

“With this logic,” he said, “let’s legalize corruption, robbery and child prostitution.”  There are some things that just “should not occur” because they are “evil,” the bishop continued, “and we must fight to eradicate them.”  He said he hoped Peruvian President Alan Garcia would veto the law.

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Faith is indispensable for rebuilding Spain and Europe, cardinal says

Madrid, Spain, Jun 26, 2007 (CNA) - During a Mass celebrated in the Mozarabic rite at the Cathedral of Toledo to mark the 1,400 anniversary of the birth of St. Ildephonsus, once a bishop of that city, Cardinal Antonio Canizares said Europe and Spain need to be rebuilt upon the values of the Christian faith. 

During his homily, Cardinal Canizares said St. Ildephonsus was an example for the reform and spiritual renewal so needed in 8th century Spain.

“Today as well, our society, Europe, Spain and Toledo itself needs a rebuilding that demands wisdom and spiritual profundity,” the cardinal said.  “Christians cannot be absent nor omit our service to this new society,” he added.

Today’s Christian, he underscored, should bear witness to the fact that man is made for truth and for good and should carry out concrete acts of solidarity.  The need for Christians to contribute to the rebuilding of Europe and Spain does not mean, as some fear, the restoration of the past, but rather contributing these goods in the context of democratic freedoms to social, cultural and human life, promoting those social values that derive from the Gospel.”

“Today in Europe it is urgent that we speak about the social and humanizing value of the faith, so as to awaken the public conscience,” the cardinal said, “in order that there be a recognition of the need for moral renewal, conversion and liberation from the materialistic and hedonistic life that is leading us down a demographic dead-end road.

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Archdiocese of Manila issues guidelines for proper dress in church

Manila, Philippines, Jun 26, 2007 (CNA) - Numerous complaints about skimpy attire in church have prompted the Archdiocese of Manila to issue guidelines for proper dress when attending Mass or other church services.

Last week, the archdiocese began distributing posters on proper church attire in its parishes and shrines. The posters are to be placed in areas where they are clearly visible.

“The posters clearly show how one can be properly dressed for church,” said Fr. Godwin Tatlonghari of the archdiocese's Ministry of Liturgical Affairs.

The guidelines indicate that women should not wear short skirts, skimpy shorts, sleeveless blouses, tank tops or spaghetti-strap tops and plunging necklines in church. Men should not wear caps, shorts and basketball jerseys.

Instead, the archdiocese recommends women wear blouses, corporate or office attire, school uniforms or long dresses, while men should wear shirts, jeans or slacks.

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Thousands of African parishes to get Catholic satellite radio

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2007 (CNA) - In an effort to reduce the digital divide separating the Church in Africa from the rest of the world, two organizations have launched a project to provide satellite radio to thousands of Catholic parishes in the continent.

The joint initiative of Faith Satellite Radio (FSR) and the World Catholic Association for Communication (SIGNIS) hopes to reach about 17,000 African parishes this year.

FSR and SIGNIS will be broadcasting high-quality digital Catholic programming to 31 countries in Africa, courtesy of Vatican Radio. The broadcasting will be available in nine different languages.

The new initiative offers both delivery of a satellite radio receiver and the broadcasting technology and content. The radio receiver is equipped with a data port that transforms it into a wireless modem capable of downloading data to personal computers; thus the radio can also broadcast multimedia content.

FSR will be offered to African parishes through the ‘Adopt a Parish in Africa’ campaign. For $38 US a month, parishes or individuals outside of Africa can “adopt” an African parish and offer them the FSR service.

For more information, visit:

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EWTN airs program to inspire Christians to end abortion

Irondale, Ala., Jun 26, 2007 (CNA) - EWTN aired a program yesterday intended to set Christians “on fire to peacefully work to end abortion."

The 30-minute documentary, called Being Human, focuses on ordinary people who are fighting abortion in their local communities through prayer and activism.

The program is intended to serve as a call to action for a national 40 Days for Life Campaign, which will take place across the country this fall.

The documentary, presented by Coalition for Life, features three pro-life volunteers: a businessman, a mother, and a college student.

Coalition for Life, a nonprofit group comprised of churches and individuals, was formed in 1998 when Planned Parenthood announced plans to build an abortion clinic in the Brazos Valley of Texas.

In the fall of 2004, the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life launched its first 40 Days for Life campaign -- a round-the-clock, 40-day vigil of prayer and fasting outside the local Planned Parenthood clinic.

The group says its effort led to a 28-percent drop in local abortion numbers that year and rejuvenated the pro-life community.

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