Vatican City, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - Relations between the fledgling Eastern European countries Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Holy See took a big step forward today as Pope Benedict received the country’s president in an audience, solidified a diplomatic agreement with their government, and was invited to visit by the president Zeljko Komsic to visit the region.
The Pope highlighted that Catholic Church has helped bring stability to the war-torn region by working to reconcile the different ethnic and religious groups in the area. One of the key players in maintaining this delicate balance has been Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Vrhbosna, who was also present at the audience.
The newly ratified agreement recognizes “the juridical status of the Catholic Church and her institutions in ... civil society, …her independence to worship and practice the apostolate, and … the specific contribution she makes in the cultural, educational, pastoral, military, ... and charitable fields, as well as in the country's mass media."
During President Komsic’s discussions with Pope Benedict, mention was made of how the Church is contributing to the fields of education, social and charitable activities, and pastoral assistance to the Catholic faithful.
The Vatican Press Office briefly noted that President Komsic invited the Holy Father to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina.
More in-depth coverage of the situation of the Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found here.
Vatican City, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - This morning in the Vatican's Old Synod Hall, the book "Processus Contra Templarios," was presented by the Vatican Secret Archives.
The book, the third volume of the Vatican Secret Archives "Exemplaria Praetiosa" series, contains facsimile copies of the original acts of the hearing against the Knights Templar (1308-1311) which are kept in the Vatican Secret Archives, while an accompanying volume contains a critical edition of the transcription of the acts (from Schottmuller's transcription of 1877). The new book has a print run of just 799 copies and has already been ordered by collectors, scholars and libraries from all over the world.
Montevideo, Uruguay, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - A new attempt by lawmakers in Uruguay to put abortion up for vote in the Senate was thwarted this week when one Senator revealed the plan on a local television program.
On October 17, the Senate in Uruguay voted against legalizing abortion and removed it from a bill on sexual and reproductive health. Nevertheless, local media reported that after adjourning debate on the bill until next week, abortion supporters planned a new “surprise” vote on abortion on the same day debate would resume.
A report on the Indice 810 television channel revealed that the strategy was to hold the vote when Senator Julio Maria Sanguinetti, who is pro-abortion and who missed the last vote on the issue, would be present in the chamber, and to take advantage of the absence of Senator Carlos Baraibar, who is pro-life and who will not be in town on the day the debate resumes.
On October 17 the bill legalizing abortion failed to pass as the vote was a tie of 15-15. Only a simple majority was needed to get the measure approved, and abortion supporters hoped that the surprise vote would ensure passage.
Nevertheless, sources said the strategy to bring the measure up for vote again would not be successful in light of the television report.
Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, said this week that as a Venezuelan, he has the right to state his opinions about the country and that therefore he has no intention of taking off his religious symbols. His comments came in response to the Minister of Communication and Culture, William Lara, who said the cardinal should take off his cross and priestly garb before stating an opinion about the constitutional reform.
“In order to continue acting as the spokesman for the opposition, Jorge Urosa should abstain from using Christ, the cross and priestly garb during his propagandistic statements against constitutional reform. Otherwise he will continue being disrespectful to our Catholic Church which belongs to all, whether nor not we are bishops,” Lara said.
In response, Cardinal Urosa told reporters he had no intention of “taking off any of my religious symbols. I think I am a Venezuelan with full rights, but in addition I am a bishop with full rights and at the same time with duties that I must fulfill.” “We priests and bishops should be impartial in political matters but we cannot be indifferent in the face of people’s problems,” he added.
The cardinal stressed that the bishops, as pastors of the Church, are not part of any political opposition. He said he was pleased that Lara considers himself a Catholic, and that the bishops “speak to all Catholics, regardless of their ideology, social position, political militancy, because we have the duty to point out dangers, difficulties and to lead the way.”
He wondered why the negative response to his comments when the government has invited debate about the proposed constitutional reforms. “This is not logical,” he said. “Debate means there are varying opinions and that from the interacting and confrontation of these opinions concrete decision for the good of the country should come,” he said.
San José, Costa Rica, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - Several Catholic organizations in Costa Rica have expressed concern about EWTN’s Spanish-language channel possibly being dropped by Cable Tica.
EWTN’s channel has been included in Cable Tica’s lineup for several years but some customers close to the company said it is considering eliminating EWTN in order to make room for more secular channels.
Catholic leaders have called on all “pastors, friends and family to express our concern to Cable Tica to keep EWTN’s channel from being dropped.”
Subscribers can send their comments via the company’s website at www.cabletica.com
, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - Rayfan das Neves Sales, who killed American Sister Dorothy Stang on February 12, 2005, in the Brazilian region of Anapu, has been condemned to 27 years in prison.
Sales, who confessed to the crime, had already received the same sentence in 2005, but since he received a sentence of more than 20 years he had the right to appeal. The new sentencing ratifies what had been previously decided.
Sales was found guilty together with Clodoaldo Batista and Amair Feijoli da Cunha. The mastermind behind the killing, Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, was sentenced to 30 years.
Sister Dorothy Stang was 73 at the time of her death.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - UNICEF, the UN agency created to protect childhood, has joined forces with pro-abortion entities in order to “combat infant mortality” and improve women’s and children’s health.
The agency has launched a new campaign which includes promoting “safe abortion” and is joint effort with the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the UN Population Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others. The director of Fundacion Vida in Spain, Manuel Cruz, said the campaign includes the promotion of “safe abortion” and is being led by the executive vice director of UNICEF, Kul Gautam. The initiative also has the support of organizations in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Bangladesh.
Fundacion Vida said that while the purpose of the campaign is fight against the illnesses that affect mothers, the mechanism being used is that of widening women’s access to “professional care,” including “services before and during pregnancy, during the post-partum period, as well as safe abortion.”
Cruz denounced the ideological slant in favor of abortion that prevailed during the recent congress Women Deliver, at which “the true needs of healthcare for mothers and children” were ignored.
“Of the 98 sessions that took place during three days, 35 were on the promotion of abortion, while only six addressed improvement in medical care for births, three addressed neo-natal medical care and one addressed access to gynecological services,” Cruz said.
Washington D.C., Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - It looks as though the well-known lawyer and pro-life feminist Mary Ann Glendon may become the newest U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.
According to reports by ANSA in Italian, sources inside the Bush administration are saying that it is very likely that “President George W. Bush would appoint Mary Ann Glendon as the new US Ambassador to the Holy See."
Glendon is someone who is well prepared to serve in this post since she has worked with the Vatican frequently in the past. Her resume includes being appointed by Pope John Paul II to the newly created Pontifical Academy of Social Science in 1994, leading the 22-member delegation of the Holy See to the Fourth U.N. Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995 and serving on the Holy See’s Central Committee for the Great Jubilee 2000.
The most recent Vatican appointment for Glendon came in 2004 when she was made the head of the Pontifical Academy for the Sciences.
Interestingly, in a speech that she gave at the U.N. this past May, Glendon spoke about the theme of faith and politics, a topic that Pope Benedict has been quite outspoken about of late.
The president of the pontifical academy said in her address that a challenge for religious and cultural leaders is to motivate "their followers to meet others on the plane of reason and mutual respect, while remaining true to themselves and their own beliefs."
Glendon explained that often "religion has often been exploited for political purposes," but that dialogue is also hindered by "not only misunderstandings about the faith of others, but also a poor grounding in one's own faith."
Mary Ann Glendon has also distinguished herself as a lawyer. She is currently the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University and teaches and writes on international human rights, comparative law, and constitutional law issues.
Rome, Italy, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - Ten years after the brutal civil war in Bosnia the country's Catholic population has taken a steep dive, Vatican Radio reports.
More than half of Bosnia's Catholics have left the nation since 1992, and their exodus continues today.
In one diocese the number of Catholics has declined from 600,000 to 200,000. Many left during the war, but the majority of returnees are elderly. Young Catholics now leave the country for employment and education but do not return.
Any returning Bosnian Catholics face difficulty in recovering confiscated property and suffer high unemployment. Regulations hinder rebuilding destroyed property and restoring damaged villages. In one diocese, Catholics are trying to rebuild all of the churches destroyed by Serbian armies, but regulations require the churches to be built at the same size, despite shrinking congregations that cannot support such buildings.
Some critics have accused the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords of sidelining the rights of Catholics in Bosnia.
In Bosnia religious adherence usually splits along ethnic lines. The Croat residents are mainly Catholic, while the Serbs are mainly Orthodox. Bosnian Muslims are by far the majority group.
Belfast, UK, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - The Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a motion refusing to draft guidelines on abortion that would have changed how the law against abortion is interpreted. The proposed guidelines would have effectively legalized abortion "through the back door."
The group Precious Life lobbied heavily for the measure. It presented petitions signed by 120,000 people to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Director of Precious Life Bernadette Smyth praised the broad support the motion received. "Today, our Assembly Members -- Catholic and Protestant, Unionist and Nationalist -- represented the people of Northern Ireland by coming together to unite in their opposition to abortion," she said.
Stressing the importance of the decision, she continued: "the passing of this motion has sent out a clear, unanimous message to the Government in Westminster, and indeed to the world, that the people of Northern Ireland will stand for nothing less than the protection for our unborn babies and their mothers from abortion."
"This was a victory for our unborn children," Ms. Smyth declared.
Rome, Italy, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has come out against a controversial advertising campaign whose goal is to promote the idea that homosexuality is genetic.
The campaign, run by the regional government of Tuscany, uses a photo of a newborn whose hospital identity bracelet bears the French word "homosexuel." Its caption reads "Sexual orientation is not a choice." The image is expected to appear on billboards across Tuscany. The initiative has been praised by some homosexual rights organizations.
Cardinal Bertone told ANSA that, "Doing a publicity campaign like this is not a good idea. This is a bit strange. They shouldn't have gone that far."
The Catholic UDC party called the campaign a "chilling" exploitation of a baby to push the "erroneous" message that homosexuality was innate.
The Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo, who is openly homosexual, criticized aspects of the publicity campaign. He doubted that homosexuality could be explained away by genes.
"The initiative is in bad taste, in fact they've made a mess of it," he said in comments reported by the daily Corriere della Sera.
The Catholic Church teaches that a homosexual orientation is not sinful, but instead disordered. It is homosexual sex acts that are considered sinful.
Moscow, Russia, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the leader of the Russian Catholics announced that tensions between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church could be overcome if we “put Christ in the center of our relations.”
According to the AP, the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox continue to disagree: the archbishop admitted that the Orthodox “could have been better to us,” while the Orthodox Church asserts that Roman Catholics have been improperly seeking converts in Russian Orthodox areas.”
"During my 16-year service here, I never aimed at luring people from other religions to Catholicism," said Kondrusiewicz, who was leaving his post in Moscow to head a 1.5 million-member Catholic community in neighboring Belarus. He will be replaced by Don Paolo Pezzi, who held the position of president at a St. Petersburg seminary.
Deteriorating relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church have hindered a meeting by the two churches' leaders, as well as a papal visit to Russia.
"We are trying to break this wall of problems, and we should put Christ in the center of our relations," Kondrusiewicz said at a news conference.
President Vladimir Putin met Pope Benedict XVI during a visit to the Vatican in March, but papal hopes of going to Moscow were upset by lack of agreement with the Orthodox leadership.
Kondrusiewicz said the Vatican sees the Russian church as "a sister church" that has to unite efforts with other Christian denominations in the modern world "devoid of Christ."
Hyannis, Mass., Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - The mother of a woman who died during an abortion has secured a court order requiring an abortionist to release her daughter's medical records.
Eileen Smith's daughter Laura Hope Smith died during an abortion procedure at the Hyannis, Massachusetts office of abortionist Rapin Osathanondh on September 13, 2007.
Mrs. Smith had met with Osathanondh ten days after her daughter's death. He required her to meet him alone in a public place, refusing to allow her husband to accompany her. The doctor showed Mrs. Smith Laura's medical records, but did not allow her to copy them.
Upset by what she saw in those records, Mrs. Smith decided to take legal action to secure access to them.
"Although they are not in our hands yet, but should be soon. Let's hope they are the same records that I saw the first time," Smith told Operation Rescue. She is also seeking copies of her daughter's death certificate and autopsy report.
"The Smith family needs to know the truth about what happened to their daughter inside that abortionist's office so they can eventually find closure and healing. A cover-up is the worst thing that could happen for this family and the community. If Osathanondh is responsible for Laura's death on that abortion table, then he needs to be brought to justice so that other women don't suffer her fate," said Operation Rescue Senior Policy Advisor Cheryl Sullenger.
Naples, Fla., Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - A joint declaration from the leaders of various world religions has soundly condemned the use of violence in the service of religion, Agence France-Presse reports.
Some 300 Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu leaders and political figures gathered at an inter-religious summit in Naples. On Tuesday they decried violence in a joint declaration. "We can say with more emphasis than before that whoever uses God's name to hate others, to commit violent acts, to make war, blasphemes the name of God." Violence "strikes innocents and disfigures humanity," they said, adding "violence is always a defeat for all of us."
The three-day summit, titled "A World Without Violence: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue," was organized by the Rome-based lay Catholic community of Saint Egido. It is an annual event.
Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, the Ashkenazi great rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger, imam Ibrahim Ezzedin of the United Arab Emirates, Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams and the head of the Ecumenical Council of Churches Samuel Kobia attended, as well as several Catholic cardinals.
The joint statement quoted Pope Benedict XVI's Sunday address to the meeting: "Never, evoking the name of God, can one justify evil and violence." In his address the Pope had also urged the attendees to "promote reconciliation among peoples ... with respect for the differences among various religions."
Near the close of the summit, the delegates prayed separately and then joined a "peace procession" led by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
Rome, Italy, Oct 25, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican insider Sandro Magister has done it again. This time, the journalist for the Italian daily L’Espresso gives his readers a glimpse into Cardinal Biffi’s forthcoming autobiography and reveals the speech the cardinal delivered at the Conclave to the future Pope Benedict XVI.
On Friday, Magister’s article entitled, “Before the Last Conclave: ‘What I Told the Future Pope’” will explore the autobiography of Cardinal Giacomo Biffi which is set to hit bookstores in time for his 80th birthday (June 13). The book is called, "Memorie e digressioni di un italiano cardinale [Memories and Digressions of an Italian Cardinal]."
Biffi’s legacy is mostly tied to his years as the archbishop of Bologna (1984 to 2003), but according to Magister, “he reviews his entire life, from his birth in working-class Milan to when he became a priest, then a professor of theology, a pastor, a bishop, and finally a cardinal.”
The Vatican watcher goes on to call Cardinal Biffi's memoirs “obligatory reading for those who want to survey the current conditions of the Church from a viewpoint that is outside of the standard interpretations, and at the same time authoritative.”
Magister’s article includes the cardinal’s strong judgments on John XXIII, Vatican Council II and its repercussions, the "mea culpas" of John Paul II and the previously secret speech that Cardinal Biffi made to the future Pope Benedict XVI.
To view Sandro Magister’s article go to: http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/?eng=y