Vatican City, Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - Today Pope Benedict XVI received the letters of credence of South Korea’s new ambassador to the Holy See. The Holy Father took the opportunity to praise the witness of the many Korean martyrs by saying, "Their sacrifice reminds us that no cost is too great for persevering in fidelity to the truth.”
Benedict XVI spoke to the Korean diplomat in English, telling him that, “Regrettably, in our contemporary pluralist world some people question or even deny the importance of truth. Yet objective truth remains the only sure basis for social cohesion. Truth is not dependent upon consensus but precedes it and makes it possible, generating authentic human solidarity.”
The pontiff noted that in the midst of this societal uncertainty about the truth, the bold witness of those Koreans who laid down their lives for the truth has brought “remarkable growth of the Catholic Church in Korea.”
"Their sacrifice," he added, "reminds us that no cost is too great for persevering in fidelity to the truth.
"The Church - always mindful of the truth's power to unite people, and ever attentive to mankind's irrepressible desire for peaceful coexistence - eagerly strives to strengthen concord and social harmony both in ecclesial life and civic life, proclaiming the truth about the human person as known by natural reason and fully manifested through divine revelation."
Vatican City, Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - The Pope turned his attention today to the efforts aimed at promoting peace on the Korean peninsula and lent his full support to the push for reconciliation between the two countries.
Benedict XVI gave South Korea’s newly appointed ambassador, Francis Kim Ji-young, the assurance of "the Holy See's support for every initiative that aims at a sincere and lasting reconciliation, putting an end to enmity and unresolved grievances." And he praised the country's efforts "to foster fruitful and open dialogue while simultaneously working to alleviate the pain of those suffering from the wounds of division and distrust."
"Every nation shares in the responsibility of assuring a more stable and secure world. It is my ardent hope that the ongoing participation of various countries involved in the negotiation process will lead to a cessation of programs designed to develop and produce weapons with frightening potential for unspeakable destruction," said the Pope.
Vatican City, Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict issued a plea to all scientists today to stop using human embryos for research because it violates their God-given human dignity.
The head of the Catholic Church made his appeal specifically to South Korea, which has been in the international spotlight for its burgeoning bio-medical field over the last couple years, particularly in the area of stem-cell research.
The Holy Father spoke about the matter with South Korea’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Kim Ji-young. He noted that South Korea "has achieved notable successes in scientific research and development," especially in biotechnology which has "the potential to treat and cure illnesses so as to improve the quality of life in your homeland and abroad."
However, Pope Benedict was adamant in condemning the destruction and manipulation of embryonic humans: "discoveries in this field invite man to a deeper awareness of the weighty responsibilities involved in their application," and "under no circumstances may a human being be manipulated or treated as a mere instrument for experimentation.”
He continued his warning saying, “[t]he destruction of human embryos, whether to acquire stem-cells or for any other purpose, contradicts the purported intent of researchers, legislators and public health officials to promote human welfare.”
Making sure that people realize that the he is not against all forms of stem-cell research, the Pope pointed out that the Church does not hesitate to approve and encourage somatic stem-cell research: not only because of the favorable results obtained through these alternative methods, but more importantly because they harmonize with the aforementioned intent by respecting the life of the human being at every stage of his or her existence."
The admonition from Pope Benedict comes as South Korea announced plans earlier this year to remove some of the blocks to human embryonic stem-cell research in place since a 2006 scandal involving forged data in stem-cell studies.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - During a summit on “Islamophobia” organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Arab League of Cordoba in Spain, the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, demanded Muslims be granted the right to hold religious services at the Cathedral of Cordoba.
The first day of the summit quickly became controversial when Moussa demanded that the Cathedral, which was once a Mosque, be made available for Muslim prayer.
“All churches and mosques are built for prayer and to be used for this end; I think there wouldn’t be a religious clash at all; the clash would be instead of a political nature,” Moussa said. However, he ignored questions pertaining to why Christians are not only forbidden to pray in mosques but are even prohibited from building churches in some Muslim countries.
Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Angel Moratinos, who is president of the OSCE and the inspiration behind the summit, distanced himself from the controversy and said the Church would have to decide whether or not to allow the Cathedral to be used by Muslims. “Whatever the Church does will be done well,” he said.
Diocesan officials in Cordoba responded by reiterating the position Bishop Juan Jose Asenjo laid out last December when Muslims at that time made the same demands. Bishop Asenjo had said that “inter-religious dialogue” was necessary, but he warned that the “shared use of churches and places of worship would not be helpful to dialogue and would only create confusion among the faithful, resulting in religious indifferentism.”
The bishop pointed out that common worship space makes sense in “an airport or at an Olympic village, as these are not properly speaking churches but rather places of prayer, but that this is not the case with the Cathedral.” He said he was not opposed that Muslims have “dignified” places of worship but that “these places should be proportionate to the number of faithful that practices Islam, which in Cordoba is relatively small.”
“The seventeen centuries of Cordoba’s Christian history deserve to be respected,” Bishop Asenjo said at that time. Recent work by archeologists has shown that the Cathedral’s sub-floor dates to the 4th and 6th centuries. The Cathedral was completely destroyed after the Muslim invasion of 711.
Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - Judy Brown of the American Life League has reported pro-life successes in a letter calling for more vigorous anti-abortion activism. She singled out for praise a family man who organized his neighbors in Monrovia, California to prevent a Planned Parenthood office from opening in his town. These campaigns have reportedly succeeded in Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Ms. Brown also warned of abortion provider Planned Parenthood's attempts to expand. She writes that a new abortion facility has opened in Aurora, Illinois "thanks to its deceitful business practices." She also warns of such expansion efforts in Portland and Denver.
The letter included a statement from Steve Trombley, the Chief Executive Officer of Planned Parenthood of Chicago, expressing his fear of effective pro-life activism nationwide. He said "If our opponents block us from entering any community, it opens the door to them blocking us from going into every community."
The American Life League is organizing a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood locations across the country. More information is available at http://www.all.org/scripts/count/click.php?id=1
Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - The Nativity Project, a movement encouraging faith communities to set up Nativity Scenes in front of their city halls, government centers, or state capitol buildings is preparing to begin its annual campaign.
The campaign is organized by two groups, Christian Defense Coalition and Faith and Action.
Reverend Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, lamented the erosion of religious freedom. He exhorted people of faith to remind public officials that "the Constitution promises freedom 'of' religion not freedom 'from' religion."
He also explained the goals of the project:
"'The Nativity Project' offers an opportunity for people of faith to enter the public square and share the glorious news of Christmas. And this is, 'Peace on earth, goodwill toward man.' It is essential that the faith community not be intimidated or discouraged into surrendering their God given First Amendment freedoms which offer to all Americans the right to publicly worship God free from government interference or harassment.
The Nativity Project will discuss their plans today at a news conference at the United States Capitol Building.
Berlin, Germany, Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - The magazine Lateinamerika Nachrichten (Reports on Latin America) is encouraging Germans to send post cards to the president of Legislative Assembly of Nicaragua, Rene Nunez Tellez, to pressure the country to turn back from its pro-life policies and legalize therapeutic abortion.
Analysts consider this new case of European pressure on Nicaragua to be unprecedented. The post cards, which Germans are asked to send to the Nicaraguan embassy in Germany, include false information about the number of deaths the country’s pro-life laws have supposedly caused.
According to Carlos Polo, director for Latin America of the Population Research Institute, the campaign is being led by a small sector of German society and is an “intolerable meddling of German citizens in the affairs of another country.” “The message on the post cards demonstrates serious ignorance about what is being debated in Nicaragua and about what concerns Nicaraguans,” he said.
“No Nicaraguan lawmaker or any other authority has included cases of rape under the umbrella of so-called ‘therapeutic’ abortion nor has anyone attempted to elevate it to the level of a human right. This kind of talk is only coming from a group of Germans,” Polo warned.
“The post card’s claim that 54 women have died because of the outlawing of abortion is totally arbitrary and without basis, as Nicaragua’s Health Minister has recently explained,” he went on.
Polo said Nicaraguans should decide for themselves about their own laws and that the small group of Germans promoting this campaign see themselves as superior to Nicaraguans.
Denver, Colo., Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - Voter responsibility and moral issues in contemporary politics will be the topics of discussion at the Archdiocese of Denver's 2007 Gospel of Life Conference. Panel topics will include Catholic teaching regarding human sexuality and gender complementarity, stem-cell research, and the Catholic voter's duty to protect the dignity of human life.
The Most Reverend Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas will give two keynote presentations regarding faithful participation by Catholics in the political arena. Archbishop Naumann is a member of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Other conference speakers include the Most Reverend Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, and bioethicist Dr. Marilyn Coors.
The conference will take place on Saturday, October 20.
Hartford, Conn., Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Media Coalition (CMC) has urged the Catholic Bishops of Connecticut to withdraw their decision approving the administration of the potentially abortifacient "Plan B" drug to rape victims at Catholic hospitals in the state.
CMC president Mary Ann Kreitzer wrote a letter to the Connecticut bishops arguing that Plan B and other abortifacient drugs render the womb hostile to newly conceived life and are therefore immoral.
Connecticut law has recently begun to require hospitals to supply such treatment to rape victims. It has also forbidden any ovulation tests, which had been used previously to ensure that newly fertilized embryos wouldn’t be endangered by the treatment.
The Connecticut bishops claimed the administration of Plan B was acceptable in the cases where Connecticut law mandated its use because of doubt about the precise effects of the drug. "Administration of Plan B pills in this instance cannot be judged to be the commission of an abortion," they wrote.
Ms. Kreitzer denied that there is in fact doubt about the effects of Plan B: "Not only does the manufacturer of the Plan B regimen admit that one of the drug's modes of action is to prevent implantation of a developing baby, but the FDA states it as well."
She expanded her position in a commentary accompanying the letter's release:
"Rape is a horrible crime. Women need help and support at such a time. But the fact that the woman is the victim of a violent act cannot justify her committing a violent act against her innocent unborn child. It's a grave scandal to have Catholic bishops approve the use of this abortion drug. Their capitulation encourages further coercion by the government against the Church. No less than our First Amendment freedom of religion is at stake."
The Catholic Media Coalition is asking concerned Catholics to pray for and to contact the four Catholic bishops of Connecticut. Its website is at www.catholicmediacoalition.org
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - Senators from various political parties are calling for greater security measures by the federal and local officials in Mexico City to protect Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, who has recently become the subject of constant death threats.
Manlio Fabio Beltrones of the PRI party said the cardinal is a Mexican citizen that deserves the protection he is requesting from federal officials. “If the government of the Federal District has not wanted to heed the cardinal’s calls, the federal government should give him appropriate protection,” he underscored. Senator Federico Doring of the PAN party said the state has the duty to provide security for the cardinal if he can show that he is receiving threats.
Cardinal Rivera recently revealed that he has been the object of “constant death threats.” Lawyers for the archdiocese have sought intervention from officials to prevent the aggression against the cardinal that has been occurring regularly at the Cathedral in Mexico City.
The cardinal has come under fire recently from members of the Survivors Network of Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) for allegedly covering up abuse by a Mexican priest who was sent to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - The organization “Fundacion Vida in Spain,” which provides counseling to pregnant women, said this week that more than 287 women used its services during the first trimester of the year, with 151 women, or 52.6%, deciding not to go through with an abortion.
“This year so far we have seen more than 742 women at serious risk of having an abortion, and 416 decided to accept their pregnancies, that is, 56%,” said Fundacion’s director Manuel Cruz Moreno.
“Respect for human life in Spain is very low,” he noted. “Apparently there is respect for other peoples’ lives, and death is considered something newsworthy and regrettable. But at the same time there exists a recreational violence that has as its consequence the death of more than 100,000 human beings each year in our country through abortion, and nobody says a word,” Cruz Moreno said.
“In Spain there is also an innumerable amount of frozen human embryos estimated to be 200,000,” but that the exact figure is not known, he said.
He also denounced the spread of the morning-after pill in Spain, pointing out that more than 500,000 pills are distributed each year. “The consequence is that we are killing those who are the weakest, who have no voice, and nobody protests against it,” he said.
, Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - A new movie starring Nicole Kidman will belittle Catholicism and promote atheism to children, warned Catholic League President Bill Donohue.
The movie The Golden Compass is being produced by New Line Cinema and Scholastic Entertainment. It is based on the first volume of the His Dark Materials trilogy of books, written by the militant English atheist Philip Pullman.
“Atheism for kids. That is what Philip Pullman sells," said Mr. Donohue.
He continued: "The trilogy, His Dark Materials, was written to promote atheism and denigrate Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism. The target audience is children and adolescents. Each book becomes progressively more aggressive in its denigration of Christianity and promotion of atheism."
Mr. Donohue cautioned that a watered-down version of the film will deceive people into buying the books for children. "The movie is bait for the books," he said. "To be specific, if unsuspecting Christian parents take their children to see the movie, they may very well find it engaging and then buy Pullman’s books for Christmas."
The Catholic League is conducting a nationwide two-month protest of Pullman's books. It has also prepared a booklet titled "The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked" for those concerned about the movie. Its website is http://www.catholicleague.org
Madrid, Spain, Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez of Bilbao, condemned the recent attack by the Basque separatist group ETA and called for the “definitive end” of the terrorist organization.
The attack occurred Tuesday in Bilbao, leaving one person wounded.
In a statement also signed by Auxiliary Bishop Carmelo Echenagusia, the bishops condemned the terrorist act and expressed their closeness and support to the victim and his family. They also renewed their commitment to peace and encouraged the “Diocesan community to pray and work for it.”
, Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, yesterday addressed the 62nd Session of the U.N. General Assembly which is deliberating upon the theme of the "Peace-building Commission (PBC)."
"The Holy See," said the archbishop speaking English, "warmly welcomed the creation of the PBC, as a response to the need for greater coherence and coordination of international peace-building efforts in post-conflict situations."
In closing, he encouraged the PBC to continue "in the pursuit of its challenging task of helping to rebuild individual lives and entire countries ravaged by war. It shall have fully achieved this task when development, peace and security and human rights will finally be interlinked and mutually re- enforcing in a country which has known the devastation of armed conflict."
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 11, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Jamie Soto to be the coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento. He will assist Bishop William K. Weigand in 42,000 square mile diocese and will take over the position as bishop when Weigand retires.
After the announcement from Washington, D.C., Bishop Soto stated, “I am very honored by this appointment as the coadjutor bishop for Sacramento. This new turn of the road on faith’s journey with Christ Jesus fills me with anticipation as well as trepidation.”
Since 2000, Soto has served as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Orange County, assisting Bishop Tod Brown. He was also one of the bishops elected by the USCCB to attend the Fifth Latin American Bishops Conference in Aparecidea (Brazil) in May 2007.
“From the Southern Diocese of Orange, I have admired through the years the work of Bishop Weigand and the extensive pastoral ministry of the Sacramento Diocese,” said Bishop Soto.
Bishop Weigand expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to work beside Bishop Soto in the 103 parish diocese, serving 550,000 Catholics.
“I want to welcome Bishop Soto to the Diocese of Sacramento,” said Bishop William K. Weigand. “I am grateful and delighted by the appointment of Bishop Soto as he joins me to serve the People of God in the Diocese of Sacramento.
“It pleases me to know that I now will have his assistance to help me shepherd this vast 20-county diocese and, in due course, to succeed me. I ask for the prayers of all the faithful, clergy and religious as we prepare to warmly receive Bishop Jaime Soto,” continued Weigand.
The Diocese of Sacramento reports that as coadjutor, Bishop Soto will share pastoral and administrative responsibilities with Bishop Weigand. Upon the retirement of Bishop Weigand, Soto will become the head of the diocese.
In celebration of Bishop’s Soto’s appointment as Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento, a welcome Mass will be held at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on Monday, November 19, at 2:00 p.m.