Archive of October 9, 2007

Catholic bishops oppose population control program in Philippines

Manila, Philippines, Oct 9, 2007 (CNA) - Facing a proposed population control program, Catholic bishops in the Philippines are defending the Catholic teaching on birth control.  The Philippine parliament is considering a proposal to spend $22 million to buy condoms and birth control pills to stem the country's growing population.

Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, explained the Church's teaching on contraceptives:  "they destroy the fruitfulness of human reproductive capacities given by the Creator and hence are morally wrong."

He said the money is "better spent on education and poverty alleviation projects." 

The archbishop noted that the Church is not against population control if the sanctity of human life is protected.  He endorsed Natural Family Planning as one such population control method.  He further recommended that government funding instead be directed towards anti-poverty, anti-hunger, and educational projects.

Archbishop Paciano Aniceto blamed misgovernance and corruption for poverty, rather than overpopulation.  “It is an old exploded myth that the population is the culprit of our poverty,” he said.  Real development, he said, should proceed from "serious economic management and proper economic planning of our country."

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Prominent Christian murdered in Gaza

Jerusalem, Israel, Oct 9, 2007 (CNA) - The small Christian community in the Gaza Strip has been shocked and frightened by the murder of a prominent Palestinian Christian, the Associated Press reports.

Rami Khader Ayyad, 32, was found dead with a gunshot wound in his head and numerous stab wounds in his body.  Ayyad was the director of Gaza's only Christian bookstore and had been the target of death threats and an arson attack.  The threats accused him of conducting missionary work, a rare activity for Gaza's Christians.

He leaves behind two children and his pregnant wife.

On Friday, Ayyad reported that he was being followed by a car with no license plates.  He called his family Saturday afternoon to tell them he had been abducted but would be freed later in the evening.  Police were notified, but his body was found the next morning.

Reaction to his death focused on Ayyad's deep faith.

"He paid his life for his faith, for his dignity, and the dignity of the Bible and Jesus Christ," said Issa, a 24-year-old Christian who came to pay his respects at Ayyad's home. "I am terrified and cannot believe this has happened in Gaza," said Issa, declining to give his last name because of the tense atmosphere.

"We feel Rami was killed for his Christian faith," said Simon Azazian, a spokesman at the Palestinian Bible Society's head office in Jerusalem.  Ayyad's bookstore was associated with the Bible Society, a Protestant group.

Vatican Radio reports that the director of the Holy See's press office, Father Frederico Lombardi, SJ, condemned the event:  "The murder of a member of the Baptist Christian community in Gaza is terrible news, and if suspicions are true the incident may be one of grave religious intolerance on the part of Muslim extremists."

Others avoided making accusations.   Hussam Tawil, a Palestinian lawmaker who represents Gaza's Christians, said "It's too early to talk about the motive of this crime, which might be dangerous."

Hamas, which in June took control of the Gaza Strip from the secular Fatah movement, is not above suspicion in the violence.  It has vehemently denied involvement.

Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Gaza's Hamas government, expressed "great sadness" over Ayyad's death and said he ordered an investigation.  He also voiced support for peace: "I stress the strong relations between Christians and Muslims in the Palestinian arena," he said. "We are part of the same nation ... and we are not going to allow anyone to sabotage this historical relationship."

After such violence many Gaza Christians may try to leave their homeland.  There are 3,200 Christians living in Gaza among its 1.4 million Muslims.

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Vatican spokesman denies ownership of Italian soccer team

Rome, Italy, Oct 9, 2007 (CNA) - It seems as though the Italian bishops, despite their love of soccer, have not purchased the Italian club AC Ancona, as was previously reported. However, the new owners of the team have forged a relationship with Centro Sportivo Italiano (CSI) to bring more Catholic values to the club.

Yesterday afternoon, the press secretary for the Vatican, Fr. Federico Lombardi, told the press that neither the Vatican nor the Italian Bishop’s Conference has purchased AC Ancona or taken responsibility for it.

"The Vatican and the Italian Episcopal Conference have nothing to do with this project," declared Fr. Lombardi. "There are initiatives which have positive and commendable aims and, if the declared intentions can be effectively achieved, this is certainly a good thing," he said adding, however, that this does not mean that this is an initiative of the Vatican or of the Italian Episcopal Conference.

Perhaps the only connection between the Vatican and the soccer club is that the members of the team will be present at tomorrow’s general audience, where they will present Pope Benedict with a #16 AC Ancona jersey.

The team’s new owner, Sergio Schiavoni and his son Giampiero, the club's CEO, have both explained that their team will be unlike any other in the Italian soccer leagues.

The agreement with the CSI, an organization of lay Catholics, brings with it a commitment by both the club and the players to do good works "in remission of sins on the field," according to organization’s ethics code. The team will also contribute to social work in Italy and Africa.

The new agreement with CSI is an interesting twist since Ancona’s fans have historically come from the political left-wing, regularly waving Che Guevara banners and campaigning against neo-Fascists, according to ANSA news agency.

A representative for the team’s fan club said they welcomed any "worthwhile social initiatives" but did not expected to be "muzzled" by the club's new Catholic turn.

"We have ourselves fought for over 25 years to keep violence out of grounds and having to stick to an overt religious line would be an unacceptable infringement of our freedom of expression," the fan club said.

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Vote Life, Canada! requests emergency session of Canadian bishops

Quebec City, Canada, Oct 9, 2007 (CNA) - As the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) prepares to convene next week for its annual Plenary Assembly, the organization, Vote Life, Canada!, is calling for an emergency session to investigate how priestly actions contrary to the Church, have impacted the Canadian people.

On one particular occasion, Father Raymond Gravel, a Catholic priest and politician, publicly showed his support for issues that are strictly opposed to the Church’s teachings.

According to Eric Alcock, the President of Vote Life, Canada!, “Just last week, Catholics in Canada were scandalized by the television appearance of Father Raymond Gravel, Catholic priest/politician, who once again unabashedly expressed his support for both homosexuality and abortion."

In this incident, reported by, after defending active homosexuality, Fr. Gravel stated, "I also support abortion although I have never had one!"

Priests are prohibited from entering into political office by the Vatican.  However, Gravel was given permission to run for and accept his federal position by Bishop Lussier, the Bishop of Joliette, Québec.

Alcock expressed his concerns with the priest’s views, "If so called Catholic priests may publicly flout the weightiest Church teachings with impunity what hope is there, that pro-abortion politicians will take seriously the directives of their Catholic faith to uphold the common good of society?”

He requested that the bishops re-evaluate how they are leading their flock because he believes that a change of direction is necessary for Canadians to “be ready to re-institute legal protections for the Unborn.”

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Christmas wars begin again, city ballot organized to return Nativity display

Ann Arbor, Mich., Oct 9, 2007 (CNA) - A citizens' petition drive to re-establish a Christmas tradition has begun in Berkley, Michigan.  Under pressure from the American Civil Liberties' Union, the Berkley City Council voted to remove a decades-old nativity display.

Berkley resident Georgia Halloran launched a successful petition drive to place a Charter Amendment on the November ballot.  The amendment would overturn the city council's decision and would model the Nativity scene on a holiday display ruled constitutional by the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal court that governs Michigan.

Ms. Halloran described her efforts:  “Christmas is a national holiday. And we’re not going to let ACLU threats dictate how we publicly celebrate it.”

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, provided legal assistance to Halloran’s group.  It also offered to represent the city without charge should it be sued by the ACLU.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, commented: “Despite all of their public rationalizations of why the Nativity should be removed from city property, it is clear the city council acted out of fear of an ACLU lawsuit. The council made the wrong decision, and Berkley citizens are working within the political system to correct that wrong.”

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Greek Orthodox archbishop's liver transplant deemed impossible

Miami, Fla., Oct 9, 2007 (CNA) - Doctors in Miami have canceled a liver transplant for the head of the Greek Orthodox Church after finding that his cancer has spread too far.

68-year-old Archbishop Christodoulos was diagnosed with cancer in June.  He was scheduled for transplant surgery Monday, but during the procedure doctors discovered the cancer had spread to his abdominal cavity, making the transplant impossible.

Archbishop Christodoulos has been known for working to improve relations with the Roman Catholic Church, which were severed in 1054 and have been slowly recovering since then.  In 2001 the archbishop met with Pope John Paul II, the first pope to visit Greece in over 1,000 years.  Archbishop Christodoulos also met with Pope Benedict XVI last year.

The archbishop will remain hospitalized until doctors determine the next course of treatment.

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Residents of Italian Alps give Holy Father 115 foot-tall Christmas tree

Rome, Italy, Oct 9, 2007 (CNA) - Five towns in the Italian Alps have sent a 115 foot-tall Italian fir tree to Benedict XVI to be used as the Vatican Christmas Tree, as a sign of the “generosity and religiosity” of the region.

The tree, which will be transported to Rome the first week of December, will decorate St. Peter’s Square next to the traditional Nativity scene.  In mid-December it will be adorned with one thousand lights and garlands

In addition to the tree, residents of the region will donate 50 fir trees of various heights to decorate the interior halls of the Vatican.  One of the trees, which will be decorated by women from the town of Val Badia, will be placed in the Paul VI Hall and five others in the papal apartments.

The Holy Father expressed his thanks to the residents for the trees.

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2008 calendar with pictures of Benedict XVI on sale at the Vatican

Vatican City, Oct 9, 2007 (CNA) - This week the Photographic Service of the Holy See, which is operated by L’Osservatore Romano, released the 2008 picture calendar featuring 13 unpublished photos of Pope Benedict XVI during his summer rest at Lorenzago de Cadore. 

The Holy See’s Press Office issued a statement indicating that thirteen 42x30 centimeter high-quality photos were used for the calendar, which costs approximately six dollars.

The statement also explained that the photos are not “contaminated” by words or numbers, so that they can be kept as mementos or framed.  The calendar can be obtained at the offices of the Photographic Service located on the Via Peregrino at the Vatican or at bookstores near St. Peter’s Square.

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Guatemalan bishops propose sex-ed curriculum for students

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Oct 9, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Guatemala presented a teaching guide this week entitled “Education for Love.” The guide is aimed at helping parents and teachers to educate their children about sexuality based on science and Christian values.

Bishop Victor Hugo Palma, president of the Committee on Education of the bishops’ conference, explained that their proposal was meant “for all of society.”  There are no biblical quotes, there are not quotes of the Virgin Mary.  It’s pure science, based on reason and natural law.”

Bishop Palma noted that “the person is not a thing” and that an appropriate sex-ed curriculum was urgently needed.  He said the bishops had been working on the text for over a year and that it will be used for children in first grade through the third year of high school beginning in 2009.

Bishop Palma said the guides address various issues and while they acknowledge the existence of artificial contraception, they also warn against it.  “The different methods that exist should be made known.  But we are not in favor of those that are for avoiding births.  Comprehensive information must be given, not the simplistic information that has been provided up to now,” he said.

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Opposition to death penalty and support for abortion are contradictory, says Fundación Vida

Madrid, Spain, Oct 9, 2007 (CNA) - The director of the international office of Fundación Vida, Jose Antonio Retamar, said this week, “Any entity that claims to be against the death penalty but then supports abortion in certain circumstances incur a serious contradiction.” 

In response to the upcoming vote of the 62nd UN General Assembly on the worldwide suspension of the death penalty, Retamar said his foundation hopes delegates remember that the basis of the proposal is the human right to life.  “You cannot promote the abolition of the death penalty while at the same time you promote the legalization of abortion or you pressure for the introduction of feticide,” he added.

Retamar said he is completely opposed to the death penalty as it is a direct attack on “the human right to life.”  “The subject of this right is universal and thus there can be no exceptions, and its object extends from the moment of conception to natural death.”

“Therefore, those NGOs that do not accept the universality of the subject or limit themselves on the object do not base their claims on human rights but on an opportunistic social policy.”

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Archbishop who opposed Mugabe now to focus on evangelization

Harare, Zimbabwe, Oct 9, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Pius Ncube, an African cleric who has outspokenly opposed the dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, will now head pastoral programs in the Archdiocese of Bulawayo.  As pastoral director, the archbishop will coordinate pastoral work, pastoral training, and courses for pastoral workers. 

The archbishop resigned from his position as archbishop of Bulawayo on September 11 after allegations of an adulterous affair with a married woman.  He was rumored to have resigned in order to campaign against President Mugabe.

The archbishop put these rumors to rest by saying that his “passion is for evangelization”, and he does not have “the slightest interest in entering into politics.” There is also the fact that Church law forbids active clergy from holding political office.

He also warned that politicized clergy risked compromising Christian values.  “I have seen that many politicians are concerned chiefly with the accumulation of power and wealth, rather than with alleviating the suffering of their people.”

Nevertheless, Archbishop Ncube affirmed the Church's duty to protest injustices:  "I shall continue to speak out for human rights, that is non-negotiable. Come rain or high water, in a situation where there is gross oppression, as in Zimbabwe, I shall continue to speak out."

"This is part of the prophetic role of the Church - to stand up and strongly defend the human rights of the poor and oppressed people."

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