Athens, Greece, Aug 17, 2007 (CNA) - Greek-Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus yesterday condemned Ankara for refusing to issue him a visa so that he could conduct a planned visit to Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios later this week, according to the Greek newspaper Kathimerini.
“Although I believed that Turkey had wanted to show Europe, which it aims to join, and the rest of the world that it is a democratic and liberal country, it has thrown off its mask,” Chrysostomos said.
European Union members should be aware that the candidate state “does not respect human rights,” he added. The archbishop said he believed Ankara's move was provoked by its opposition to Nicosia’s (the capitol of Cyprus) plans to explore for oil in the eastern Mediterranean
Lima, Peru, Aug 17, 2007 (CNA) - Trimilenio, a service operated by VE Multimedios that offers free web sites for the Church, celebrated its first anniversary on August 15, 2006, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
According to the organization, “during the last twelve months, four thousand church institutions have requested space to create their own websites, and currently more than two thousand six hundred have been created and are constantly updated.”
Each week, Trimilenio receives more than fifty new users, including bishops, priests, religious, consecrated and laypeople who work actively in parishes, ecclesial movements and Catholic associations.
“Latin American missionaries who work in Asia and Africa also use Trimilenio in Spanish to create websites about their communities and to seek international help for the work they carry out,” the organization reported.
The work of Trimilenio includes not only free web hosting, but also training and formation for users through virtual workshops.
During the next year, Trimilenio will offer its users additional web tools, including personalized backgrounds, flash animations and online music and video.
Those interested can visit www.trimilenio.com to begin the process of creating their own website.
Jerusalem, Israel, Aug 17, 2007 (CNA) - The Christian minority in Gaza are under increasing pressure by Hamas to become Muslims, submit to Islamic law or leave the Gaza Strip, says a report by the Cybercast News Service.
Hamas, an Islamic terrorist group that won last year's Palestinian parliamentary elections, completed a military takeover of the Gaza Strip in June, handily defeating Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement. Following the takeover, Hamas announced that an era of strict Islamic rule had begun in Gaza.
According to a report in Middle East Newsline last week, Hamas is moving fast against non-Muslims in the area. Fatah officials who spoke to the news service on condition of anonymity said Hamas is pressing leaders of the 2,000-member Christian community to either convert to Islam or emigrate.
The Jerusalem Post earlier reported that Prof. Sana al-Sayegh, dean of the science and technology faculty at Palestine University and a Christian, had been abducted by several of her Muslim colleagues and forced to convert and marry a Muslim man.
Weeks after her disappearance in late June, al-Sayegh's family was invited to a meeting with several aides of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Surrounded by Hamas gunmen, a distraught and crying al-Sayegh informed her family that she had become a Muslim.
Hamas maintains that al-Sayegh's conversion was a matter of personal choice and that it is vigorously protecting the rights of Gaza's Christians, but Dr. Walid Phares, a leading Middle East expert and senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Cybercast News Service that the exact opposite is true.
"Hamas states that it 'protects' minorities with the same energy as the Taliban and the Islamist regime in Sudan," said Phares. However, "the reality is that the Jihadist agenda of Hamas includes gradual but strict implementation of shari'a law.”
Phares said that as a result of this increasing Islamic pressure, Gaza's Christian community is considering fleeing the area en masse. Many have already left.
In related news, about 300 Palestinians on Monday violated a Hamas ban on public demonstrations and gathered in a central Gaza City square chanting, "We want freedom." Many others were prevented from ever reaching the location.
Heavily armed Hamas militiamen quickly broke up the protest, wounding a large number of people with clubs and rifle butts, and arresting others.
Later in the day, Hamas forces raided the local offices of international and Palestinian news agencies and confiscated all coverage of the demonstration.
, Aug 17, 2007 (CNA) - A Romanian Orthodox Church leader on Wednesday said television has been "poisoning the souls of Romanians" with violent programs.
"We are becoming a savage and uncouth people," Metropolitan Bartolomeu Anania told more than 100,000 pilgrims at the Nicula Monastery in northwest Romania.
"It's a diabolical technique, which causes people to not be able to discern good from evil," the 86-year-old prelate said. "It is a slow crime that destroys the conscience and personality."
He said he was not "against modernity" or television itself — and admitted that he owns a television and a computer — though he disapproved of the way he said it was used.
The pilgrims had gathered around the icon of the Weeping Virgin, painted in 1691. Tradition says the painting wept for 26 days in 1699. The first miracle associated to the painting occurred in 1701 when it is said to have cured an army officer's wife who was going blind.
Bishop Anania is a possible successor to Patriarch Teoctist, who died last month. The Orthodox Church, which is predominant in Romania, is to elect a new patriarch Sept. 12.
Some observers say Bishop Anania, if elected patriarch, would reverse the work of Teoctist toward dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church
Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2007 (CNA) - Thousands of people from across the United States are expected to converge on Washington DC Aug. 18 to rally for family rights. Activists at the rally are trying to raise support for children who have been the victims of no-fault divorce which can cause them to lose of one of their parents.
Many of the participants will be non-custodial parents, whose children were forcibly taken from them through no-fault divorce, says rally speaker Michael Ross. Ross is president of the Family Rights Coalition of Michigan and is a member of the Knights of Columbus.
Michael McManus, president of Marriage Savers and an ethics and religion columnist, will address the rally on Sunday. McManus says that with the availability of unilateral no-fault divorce, dedicated and innocent spouses lost their negotiating power that had enabled them to keep custody of children and control the support due from an abandoner.
McManus points out that the Catholic bishops could lead all clergy, both Protestant and Catholic, in the fight for needed reforms regarding the family and no-fault divorce.
For more information, go to: www.dcrally2007.com
Asunción, Paraguay, Aug 17, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Pastor Cuquejo of Asuncion has called on Paraguayans to reflect as they get ready to go to the polls and to cast their vote “with clarity and transparency.”
Asked by reporters about Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte’s criticism of the Church leaders, Archbishop Cuquejo lamented the “repetitive” statements of the president and instead chose to exhort voters to “choose their next leaders better, with clarity and transparency, because the kind of government we will have during the next five years will depend solely on us.”
Duarte harshly criticized the bishops in recent weeks, saying that just as some priests have said they distrust politicians, politicians also “have the right to distrust priests and pastors.” In recent speeches he mentioned the cases of two priests, Fathers Jose Antonio Rubio and Fernando Lugo. “I said one had cheated (Rubio) and the other does not act like a priest (Lugo), so be careful. Nobody who behaves appropriately is going to be sanctioned,” he said.
Lugo recently announced his candidacy for president during the next elections, which resulted in his suspension from the priesthood.
“Priests and monks had a monopoly on the truth only during the Middle Ages,” Duarte claimed. “Everyone who distrusted them were taken directly to the bonfires and burned at the stake. We are in the 21st century,” Duarte said in response to the bishops who questioned his comments.
Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2007 (CNA) - A recent study appearing in the August 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reports that the abortion drug RU486 is as safe as having a surgical abortion. However, the study is being spun in favor of the abortion industry by the mainstream media.
The study has concluded that the risk to future pregnancies after a RU486 abortion versus a surgical abortion is equal. Journalists have interpreted the finding to mean that the abortion drug is safe, when in fact, neither is ever safe.
It is a leap in logic to say that both methods are safe, says Operation Rescue Senior Policy Advisor Cheryl Sullenger.
"Women are dying at an alarming rate from RU486 abortions and its widespread misuse in the abortion industry,” she told LifeSiteNews.com.
"Women who have had abortions have greater risks of miscarriage and infertility than women who have not had abortions,” she added.
Sullenger noted that the study did not compare women who had RU486 abortions with women who did not have any abortions.
“It is no accident that the study refused to compare these two groups of women, because we know they would have found that abortion hurts women, and that is obviously a conclusion that they did not want to reach," Sullenger was quoted as saying.
RU486 is a drug approved for aborting children who are at six weeks or less in their development. Three office visits are usually required for this kind of abortion. Some reports indicate that RU486 has a 15% failure rate, and that many women who receive the drug must also have a surgical abortion to completely remove the pre-born baby and other pregnancy tissue.
"Hiding the possibility of RU486's life-threatening dangers from women really shows that there is more concern [among the media] for selling abortions than for protecting and informing women,” Sullenger continued. “This misinformation campaign is really a horrific thing when you think about it that could needlessly cost women's lives."
Madrid, Spain, Aug 17, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Toledo said this week Christians need to strengthen their faith in the resurrection in order to confront the “light” mentality of the times characterized by the “nihilistic tetralogy” of hedonism, consumerism, permissiveness and relativism.
“Without faith in the resurrection,” the cardinal said, Christians lose the power to confront “the ‘light’ man of the civilization of our times, who carries as his banner a nihilistic tetralogy: hedonism, consumerism, permissiveness and relativism.” In other words, this modern set of beliefs centers on four things which all lack a foundation in the truth.
The elements of this nihilistic tetralogy create “a man without substance, without content, given over to money, power, success and unrestricted and limitless pleasure,” Cardinal Cañizares explained. Such individuals “lack orientation, have great moral emptiness and are unhappy even though materially they have almost everything,” he said.
The cardinal lamented that in today’s world, “faith in the resurrection has weakened, there has been too much silence in the teaching of catechetics and in preaching, and with all of that the Christian faith has been damaged” and reduced to “just another moral system.”
Havana, Cuba, Aug 17, 2007 (CNA) - In an article published by the magazine Vitral, Doctor Maria De la Luz Casas reminded doctors and students that the practice of medicine should be motivated by the desire to learn science that helps the patient, as “learning in order to have knowledge can be good (but) learning in order to serve can be better.”
“Perhaps it sounds strange to ask that we love our patients, perhaps it is better to say: let’s be committed to their wellbeing. Only this way can we find fulfillment for them and for ourselves,” she wrote in the latest edition of the magazine published by the Diocese of Pinar del Rio.
Patients should not be been seen as mere bodies that need to function, she said, but as “self-reflective and autonomous beings,” whose lives have meaning and “deserve to be respected because they are persons.”
She noted that one of the problems with current technology is that “man is considered to be at the service of science” and that it is often forgotten that while knowledge is good in itself, only knowledge that promotes the good of the person should be applied.
“We live in the era of science and this is a power that more often than not leads to abuse, discrimination and corruption because in practice it is connected to the political and economic spheres,” Dr. Casas stated. “When science and power are connected, they become dehumanizing, because man becomes the means of using that power, “she continued.
In her article she also addressed the issue of euthanasia, noting that it “minimizes the value of life and leads people to act according to their economic or social utility, forgetting that a fundamental part of the reason for human life is a person’s own existence.”
Quoting Spanish doctor and psychiatrist Aquilino Polaino, Dr. Casas reiterated that in doctor-patient relationships, “If there can be no cure, help should be given. If not that, then consolation, and if not that, then accompaniment.”
Rome, Italy, Aug 17, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday marked the second anniversary of the murder of Br. Roger, the founder of the ecumenical Taize community in France. He was stabbed to death during a prayer service at the age of 90.
Vatican Radio interviewed the current head of the community, Br. Alois, about the anniversary and the community’s faithfulness to their founder’s mission.
Br. Alois said that they will commemorate Br. Roger in the community during their prayers; “Tonight at the evening prayer we will remember the gift of his life and his death.”
Prior Alois sees the mission of Taize continuing by welcoming the diverse group of Christians that come to their community. “[N]ow it is important for us to welcome all of these young people here who come from different backgrounds, different churches, all of these different communities. For example, we have many young people from Orthodox countries: from Romania, from Ukrainia, from the Russian Orthodox Church, and many Catholic young people here; Protestant young people…”
Taize continues to focus on its main vehicle for bringing Christians together which is through prayer. “[T]hree times a day we come together for a common prayer, which we pay very much attention that this prayer is a prayer of adoration with listening, listening to the Word of God, moments of silence, and praising God; singing together.”
Br. Alois also said that the time for unity amongst Christians is short. “We think that these prayers prepare the heart to understand that Christ wants to bring us together and that today there is an urgency to continue on the way of reconciliation among Christians.”
Lima, Peru, Aug 17, 2007 (CNA) - Peruvians are calling it a miracle that despite the massive destruction to the Shine of Luren—located in the province of Ica--in the August 15 earthquake in Peru, the huge crucifix venerated for centuries by Peruvians was unscathed.
The image of the Crucified Christ, which has been venerated in the city of Ica since the 16th century, suffered no damage even though half of the shrine was destroyed by the 8.0 magnitude quake that shook the Peruvian coastline and took the lives of more than 600, leaving thousands wounded.
Officials said the shrine suffered severe damage and that there may still be victims buried beneath the rubble, as the church was almost full when the earthquake struck during a Mass for the Feast of the Assumption.
The Shrine of Luren, which dates to the 16th century, has been destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions due to earthquakes and fires. However, the famous image of the Crucified Christ has always remained intact.
The pastor of the shrine has left the lectionary that was used during the Mass open in an accessible part of the church, as rescue workers dig to find more victims.