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Archive of November 8, 2007

Congressman attacks Olympics Bible restrictions, admonishes President Bush

Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - Congressman Thaddeus McCotter(R-MI), Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, denounced a reported Chinese ban on Bibles during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.  He introduced a Congressional Resolution condemning such government restrictions on Christianity and all religions.

"As the world stumbles toward the communist propaganda extravaganza labeled the Beijing Olympics, somewhere Chairman Mao is looking up at us and laughing," he said.

In a Wednesday speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives the Congressman cited a Catholic News Agency report.

"According the Catholic News Agency Bibles and all other religious symbols are among Communist China’s list [of] athletes’ prohibited objects due to security concerns."

CNA initially reported that Bibles would not be allowed into the Olympic Village.  A later report revealed contradictory policies in place.  The Chinese Olympic Committee made a slight change to its total ban on religious items.  It declared that "devotional objects” will be allowed in compliance with Chinese "freedom of religion" laws, but “religious objects meant to propagate a cult” would not be permitted.

The official website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games also recommends travelers to take no more than one Bible into China.

This recommendation was a specific target of Congressman McCotter's critical remarks, in which he also admonished President George W. Bush.

"Since the leader of the free world, President Bush has articulated his eagerness to attend the Communist China’s Olympics; I am compelled to ask three questions," the congressman said.

"Mr. President how many Bibles will you be taking to Beijing? Will you visit the 5 bishops and 15 priests imprisoned for opposing the Communist regime’s official church?  And will you tell China’s Communist tyrants this fundamental truth, 'No good government denies God’s presences'," he continued.

Congressman McCotter also called upon the Chinese government to allow the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom or other international human rights organizations unrestricted access to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games to “ensure the protection of Christians and other religious persons.”

In September 2007 Congressman McCotter, joined by several colleagues, authored a letter to President Bush urging him to reconsider his attendance at the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Congressman’s floor speech is viewable on-line at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3sR6WZVPKs

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Spanish archbishop addresses protection of juveniles and immigrants

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - At the 28th Conference of European Ministers of Justice, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro called for the rights of juveniles and immigrants to be protected and discrimination against them to be “eliminated.”  The apostolic nuncio to Spain participated in the conference as the Holy See delegate.

The archbishop indicated that "European statistics show how such people, in one way or in another, suffer forms of exclusion and inequality of treatment in the workplace, in education ... and in healthcare. ... Moreover exploitation and abuse, including sexual abuse, which affect juveniles and immigrants - especially women - raise many moral and legal questions."

"The Holy See delegation considers such situations to be in patent contradiction to the fundamental values which are rooted in European culture and inspire the process of integration among the peoples of Europe."  

"As for the situation of political asylum seekers and refugees, it must be noted," Archbishop Monteiro continued, "that legal procedures are generally limited to authorizing their entry into the country," without considering "the reasons that bring such people to escape from their native countries."

"Therefore, alongside humanitarian commitment, it is necessary to promulgate norms and procedures that translate the typical forms of European solidarity into legal terms, recognizing that, by reason of their dignity and the rights deriving therefrom, people must not be subject to discrimination."

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Pontifical academies: A culture worthy of human life

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - Today, the pontifical academies held their twelfth public session under Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of their coordinating council. For the occasion, Benedict XVI sent a message to the archbishop, stating that the session will give an opportunity for the academies to “harmonize their various initiatives, all of which have a precise objective: promoting, both in the Church and the world, a culture worthy of human life, fecundated by faith, capable of proposing the beauty of Christian life and of providing an adequate response to the ever more numerous challenges of today's cultural and religious context."

The pope also emphasized the theme chosen for the session - "Witnesses of His love (Sacramentum caritatis, 85). The love of God as shown by martyrs and by the works of the Church" - expresses "the fundamental link between the celebration of the divine Mysteries and the witness of life, between the experience of encountering the Mystery of God ... and the dynamism of a renewed commitment that causes us to be 'witnesses of His love'."

“It is more necessary than ever to re-present the example of Christian martyrs, both those of antiquity and those of our own time, whose lives and witness, even to the spilling of their blood, are the supreme expression of love of God."

The Holy Father concluded his message by mentioning "the works of charity that have flowered down the centuries through the efforts of generous faithful" who "have striven to create and promote charitable initiatives and institutions to meet the needs of the poorest, thus giving concrete expression to the close and indissoluble link between love of God and love of others."

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More than half of Christians have fled Iraq since 2003

Rome, Italy, Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Latin Rite Archbishop of Baghdad, Jean Benjamin Seleiman, said this week that of 700,000 Christians who were living in Iraq up until 2003, more than half have been forced by the violence to leave the country and take refuge in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

 

The archbishop also explained that Christians live amidst fear but that they are encouraged by ecumenical solidarity.  He also warned that in regions like Bassora and Mosul, the faithful live with “daily terror.”

 

Commenting on the country’s new Constitution, Archbishop Seleiman praised the new elements such as freedom of conscience, but he criticized other aspects such as the declaration that “any law that contradicts Sharia (Muslim law) is null.”

 

“Iraq is anthropologically structured in a tribal manner and this a great difficulty for the practice of human rights, because these presuppose the existence of free persons,” he warned.

 

According to local sources, more than 2.3 million people, mostly women and children, have fled the violence in Iraq.

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Priests and religions in Israel continue facing obstacles to obtain visas

Rome, Italy, Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - Despite promises from the government, priests and religious who serve or should serve in Israel continue to face many obstacles in obtaining visas that allow them to remain legally in the country. 

Father David Maria Jaeger, spokesman for the Franciscans who govern the holy sites in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, said this week, “The delays and denials cause enormous problems in ministry and in the functioning of the Church.”

“The real problem is that Israel does not have any norms for the issuing of entry and residency visas, beside what the official on duty tells you that day,” Father Jaeger said.  “Instead of this there ought to be norms that allow the Church to reasonably plan something achievable.”

“In the basic agreement signed with the Holy See in 1993, one of the tenets was the right of the Church to dispatch its own personnel in her own institutions,” he recalled.  The norms governing this right were to have been nailed down in March of 1994, “but up to now that has not taken place,” he added.

Father Jaeger pointed out that many priests have only been granted a one-year visa that allows only one entry.  “If they have to leave the country for some reason they cannot re-enter, unless they apply again,” he said.

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Vatican bioethics conference to examine the human embryo

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican is organizing a bioethics conference on the origin and development of the human embryo.

The conference will take place November 15-17.  It is part of a program called "Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest." A Vatican teaching and research program involving six pontifical universities, the endeavor was created in 2003 to further explore the relationship between science and faith.

The conference is a response to current debates about embryonic stem cells, cloning, genetic manipulation, and assisted fertility treatments.  These debates often overlook the crucial origin of organisms.

"The study of human life from the point of view of its individual origin acquires a particular interest in today's world," said the Reverend Rafael Pascual, dean of the philosophy department at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, the university hosting the conference.

The head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, was asked if in the scope of its research, the Vatican would entertain scientific views that differed from its own regarding the origin of life.

He said that in research, there must always be respect paid between two sides but at the same time each side must hold fast to its beliefs without compromise.

Catholic teaching has long condemned abortion, and in recent decades has spoken in defense of the ethical treatment of human embryos as technologies advance.  Taking into account considerable scientific evidence and theological considerations, Catholic teaching holds that human life begins at conception.

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"Prosperity gospel" preachers under investigation by the Senate

Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - A top Republican on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee is investigating the finances of televangelist preachers after allegations of corruption, the Associated Press reports.

The investigation by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is a response to reports of extravagant spending by preachers, whose purchases include Rolls Royces and a $30,000 conference table.  Senator Grassley said in a statement he was acting on complaints from the public and news coverage of the organizations, which enjoy tax exemptions.

Those under scrutiny include faith healer Benny Hinn, Georgia megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar, and one of the nation's most prominent women preachers Joyce Meyer.

Most of the organizations under investigation adhere to a variation of the "prosperity gospel" which teaches that God will reward faithful followers with material wealth.

Earlier this week Senator Grassley sent letters to a half-dozen Christian media ministries requesting answers by December 6 about their expenses, executive compensation and amenities, including the use of expensive cars and private jets.

"I don't want to conclude that there's a problem, but I have an obligation to donors and the taxpayers to find out more. People who donated should have their money spent as intended and in adherence with the tax code," Senator Grassley said.

Some ministries are already reporting that they are cooperating with the investigations.

Joyce Meyers Ministries issued a statement claiming that the IRS has already determined that they have not violated their tax-exempt status.

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Pat Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani stuns social conservatives

Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - Pat Robertson, televangelist and founder of the Christian Coalition, on Wednesday endorsed the socially liberal Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.

"It is my pleasure to announce my support for America's Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, a proven leader who is not afraid of what lies ahead and who will cast a hopeful vision for all Americans," Robertson said during a news conference with Giuliani in Washington.

Giuliani, former mayor of New York, supports abortion rights and homosexual rights despite the Republican Party's official stands against such issues.

Robertson, who made an unsuccessful presidential bid in 1988, is also the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Christian Coalition and Regent University.  Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Robertson claimed in a statement that the attacks occurred because Americans had insulted God and lost the protection of heaven by “allowing abortion and rampant internet pornography."

Robertson did not mention his differences with Giuliani on social issues in Wednesday's statement.

Senator John McCain, another Republican presidential candidate, was asked about Robertson's endorsement at a news conference with Senator Sam Brownback in Dubuque, Iowa.  He said: "Every once in a while, I'm left speechless. This is one of those times."

Some social conservative organizations were also taken aback by Robertson's endorsement. 

"We are stunned and extremely disappointed," said the Republican National Committee for Life in a Wednesday notice.  The committee suggested voters contact Robertson to ask him the reason for his decision.

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Uruguayan bishops react to legalization of abortion

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Pablo Galimberti denounced the legalization of abortion by the Uruguayan Senate, saying it violates “the first human right.”  Meanwhile the Bishops’ Conference of Uruguay opened an emergency meeting on Wednesday to draft an official response.

Although the norm must be approved by the country’s House of Representatives, the press reported that the bishops have not ruled out collecting signatures to nullify the law in case Congress has enough votes to override a promised presidential veto.

Shortly after his election in March of 2005, President Tabaré Vásquez said he opposed abortion and promised he would veto any attempt to make it legal.

The bishops are meeting in the city of Florida, 60 miles north of the Uruguayan capital Montevideo, in order to discuss the situation.

Bishop Galimberti told the daily Spanish “El Pais” that the vote “does not do honor to so many professionals, politicians, and Uruguayan defenders of the rights of minorities and of human rights who have raised their voices in international forums.”

He also explained that “there is much confusion on the part of many who think this right is defended only by religious arguments and that is not the case.”

“I think biology has shown that, from the first moment, the first cell already contains within it the equivalent of two to six encyclopedias put together,” the bishop said.

He said he was hopeful the president would veto the measure.  “His position is very commendable, very healthy and very hopeful.”

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Look to the Church Fathers to shed light on modern problems, writes the Pope

Rome, Italy, Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy Father marked the 16th centenary of the death of St. John Chrysostom today with a letter in which he pointed to the saint's "shining figure," and  proposed his example "for the joint edification" of the universal Church. 

The letter was read this morning at the opening of an international congress entitled, "St. John Chrysostom 1600 years after his Death," being held at Rome's "Augustinianum" patristic institute from November 8 to 10.

"The life and doctrinal teaching of this saintly bishop and Doctor ring out in every century," the Pope writes, "and even today they still induce universal admiration. The Roman Pontiffs have always recognized in him a living source of wisdom for the Church and their interest in his teaching became more intense over the course of last century."

Among the notable characteristics of St. Chrysostom, Pope Benedict cited, “his capacity to interpret Scripture in a manner the faithful could understand." He also sought "to strengthen the unity of the Church, ... at a historical moment in which it was threatened both internally and externally. He rightly felt that unity among Christians depends above all on a correct understanding of the central mystery of the Church's faith: that of the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation of the Divine Word."

"Having served the Church in Antioch as a priest and preacher for 12 years, John was consecrated bishop of Constantinople in 398, remaining there for five and a half years. In that role, he concerned himself with the reform of the clergy, encouraging priests by word and example to live in conformity with the Gospel."

St. John Chrysostom "tirelessly denounced the contrast that existed in the city between the extravagant wastefulness of the rich and the indigence of the poor." At the same time, he encouraged the wealthy "to welcome homeless people into their own houses." He also "stood out for his missionary zeal" and built hospitals for the sick.

He Strove for Church Unity

Talking of the bishop of Constantinople's ministry, Benedict XVI recalled how "[s]pecial mention must also be made of the extraordinary efforts undertaken by St. John Chrysostom to promote reconciliation and full communion between Christians of East and West. In particular, his contribution proved decisive in putting an end to the schism separating the See of Antioch from the See of Rome and from other Western Churches."

The Pope went on to highlight how "both in Antioch and Constantinople John spoke passionately of the unity of the Church throughout the world. ... For John, the unity of the Church is rooted in Christ, the Divine Word Who with His Incarnation united Himself to the Church as a head is united to its body."

Church Unity is Expressed in the Eucharist

The Pope also explained that "For John Chrysostom the ecclesial unity achieved in Christ finds unique expression in the Eucharist." His "profound veneration" for this Sacrament was "particularly nourished in the celebration of the divine liturgy. In fact, one of the richest expressions of Eastern liturgy bears his name: 'The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom'."

The Holy Father indicated how, "with great profundity, John Chrysostom develops his ideas on the effects of sacramental communion in believers. ... He tirelessly repeats that preparation for Holy Communion must include penitence for sins and gratitude for the sacrifice Christ made for our salvation. Thus, he exhorts the faithful to participate fully and devotedly in the rites of divine liturgy and to receive Holy Communion in the same way."

Benedict XVI expressed his hope that this centenary will be a good occasion to increase studies on the saint, "recovering his teachings and encouraging his devotion."

"May the Fathers of the Church," the Pope concludes, "become a stable point of reference for all Church theologians." And may theologians themselves discover "a renewed commitment to recover the heritage of wisdom of the holy Fathers. The result can only be a vital enrichment of their ideas, even on the problems of our own times."

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New book explores Mother Teresa's "crucible of faith, hope, and love"

Huntington, N.Y., Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - A new book from Our Sunday Visitor Press explores the life of Mother Teresa while examining the reports about her spiritual struggles recently released to the public.

Titled Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady, the book was written by Father Joseph Langford, MC, who helped Mother Teresa found her religious community of priests.

Father Langford, who knew Mother Teresa for thirty years, described the question he tries to answer in his book:  "Who, in reality, was Mother Teresa, beyond headlines and magazine covers, beyond the easy clichés of those who observed her from the outside?"

In Father Langford's view, the key element in Mother Teresa's inner life was the person and presence of Mary, the Mother of God.  The spiritual bond between Mother Teresa and Our Lady was noted by all who lived with her.  For her it was not a peripheral devotion, but an integral part of her spirituality and mission.

"It was Our Lady who taught her to see in the darkness, Our Lady who had seen through it first, and at its worst, as her Son struggled for his last breath. It was Our Lady whose faith bolstered and directed Mother Teresa's faith, and brought her to stand and not waver, despite the darkness, at the cross planted in her own soul," said Father Langford.

In recent months Mother Teresa's correspondence with her spiritual directors was released to the public, prompting press coverage and speculation that her faith was weak and hypocritical.  Father Langford refutes those rumors, saying "While her widely publicized but little understood darkness was indeed a challenge, it never placed her in crisis. Her darkness was a crucible of faith, hope, and love in which Mother Teresa became Saint Teresa."

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"Milagros,” movie on mother who prays to John Paul II wins film festival

Madrid, Spain, Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - The short film “Milagros,” produced by Spanish director Juan Garcia del Santo, won the top prize at the international religious film festival, “Religion Today,” held in Rome.  Among the members of the jury that selected the winners were Cristoph Zannussi and Enzo Sisti, producers of Gangs of New York and The Passion of the Christ.

According to the Spanish daily “La Razon,” “Milagros” recounts the experience—based on a true story—of Ana, a paraplegic girl whose father (played by the director) is an atheist university professor.  Her mother is a woman of profound faith who prays to John Paul II for the healing of her daughter, “which leads to a marriage conflict because of the father’s skepticism.”

Speaking about his character, Del Santo explained that he is treated as someone who “wonders about the meaning of life, between the rational and the spiritual.”  The film was financed by Del Santo, who said “Milagros” is a personal initiative in which Spanish director Javier Figuero of the University of San Pablo also collaborated.

The film, he said, seeks to show “the grandeur and beauty of the mystery of faith and of spirituality,” as well as “to explain the inexplicable” through real characters, using the example of Pope John Paul II and the miraculous healing of the French nun Marie Simon Pierre.

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New president of French bishops: Law on bioethics must respect human dignity

Paris, France, Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - Commenting on the country’s law on bioethics, the newly elected president of the Bishops’ Conference of France, Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois, said this week that it  should uphold “respect for human dignity” without exception.

The Archbishop of Paris made his comments during an interview on the Catholic television program “Le jour du Seigneur” (The Day of the Lord), in which he said, “We must be on the alert.  I think that with regards to respect for human dignity, we must be very aware of the way in which men and women are treated.”

The archbishop’s election as head of the bishops’ conference comes as he was also chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to be elevated to the College of Cardinals on November 24.  “I am amazed at the trust my brothers have placed in me in electing me so quickly. I feel like I am beginning an adventure about which I do not know the details,” he said. 

“I think that because of my 20 years of experience as a bishop, I have an important primary mission, which is to help my brother bishops to work together with each other” so that “their different sensibilities and tendencies can be expressed within the Bishops’ Conference,” he said.

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Vatican and Mozambique discuss Church and society

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) -  The Holy Father Benedict XVI received Armando Guebuza, the president of the Republic of Mozambique, in an audience at the Vatican today.

"The good relations existing between the Holy See and Mozambique were noted with pleasure, as was the convergence of ideas and intentions on the contribution the Church can make to the good of the entire nation, according to the Holy See’s Press Office.

The Pope and the president discussed further collaboration “in the field of healthcare, and education of the young generations who are the hope of the nation.” Benedict XVI also emphasized the Church’s commitment to strengthening and developing her presence in the university sector.

Mention was also made of the Rome Peace Agreement, the 15th anniversary of which was celebrated on October 4, and both parties agreed on “the need to achieve full national reconciliation.” “Finally the resumption of talks was proposed, with a view to an Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Mozambique."

 

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International Olympic Committee confirms personal Bibles will be allowed

Denver, Colo., Nov 8, 2007 (CNA) - Both the International Olympic Committee and the Beijing Organizing Committee have verified that the Bible and other religious materials will be permitted in the Olympic Village for personal use during the 2008 Olympic Games. However, the Beijing Tourism Administration’s limit on the number of Bibles remains in place.

An email from the US Olympic Committee states:

“We have received confirmation from both the International Olympic Committee and the Beijing Organizing Committee that Bible and other religious materials will be permitted in the Athletes Village for personal use.”

“The news reports that the Beijing Organizing Committee was considering a prohibition were completely incorrect and stemmed from a miscommunication between a journalist from Italy and a representative of the organizing committee.”

“In addition, there will be an area in the Athletes village where athletes, coaches and officials can worship - as is always the case at the Olympic Games.”

The email was obtained by CNA from Mike Falkenstine, president and founder of the China Resource Center.

The AP has reported that USOC spokesman, Darryl Seibel said that the Beijing Organizing Committee never considered any ban on Bibles.

''We fully expect that the standards established by the IOC for previous Games will be in effect for these Games,'' he said.

CNA initially reported that Bibles would not be allowed into the Olympic Village.  A later report revealed contradictory policies that still remain in place.

The reaction to the supposed ban has been immediate and widespread.

US Congressman Thaddeus McCotter introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives condemning any prohibition against bringing Bibles to the Beijing Olympics.

The President of the Catholic League, Bill Donahue, also voiced his disapproval saying that he would write the IOC to demand “an immediate investigation into allegations that the Communist Chinese government plans to violate the Olympic Charter by banning Bibles.”

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