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Archive of November 29, 2007

Pope takes major step to open dialogue with Muslims

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - Dialogue between Muslims and Catholics entered a new phase today as Pope Benedict replied to the October 13 letter from the 138 Muslims leaders and proposed that the dialogue be centered on human dignity and religious freedom.

The Pope’s reply to the Muslim initiative, "A Common Word between Us and You", was sent to Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, president of the Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought and one of the signatories of the original letter. According to the Holy See Press Office, the letter was written by Benedict XVI and signed by the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The interesting twist in the Pope’s proposal for dialogue is that he has insisted on changing the context of the talks. While the Muslim leaders’ letter framed future dialogue around the twofold commandment to love God and one’s neighbor, Benedict XVI’s reply suggests a change in the terms of discussion.

According to the Holy Father’s letter to the prince, the path to true dialogue lies in “effective respect for the dignity of every human person, on objective knowledge of the religion of the other, on the sharing of religious experience and, finally, on common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation.”

The letter also explained that Pope Benedict believes that this tack will lay a foundation for fruitful dialogue. The reply quoted a speech by the Holy Father in Cologne: "I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values.”

Vatican analyst Sandro Magister explained a few days ago how Pope Benedict’s approach is fundamentally different than the proposals of the original Muslim letter.

Drawing on what he sees as the clearest example of the Holy Father’s approach to Catholic-Muslim dialogue, Magister cited the Pope’s pre-Christmas address to the Roman curia on December 22, 2006:

"In a dialogue to be intensified with Islam, we must bear in mind the fact that the Muslim world today is finding itself faced with an urgent task. This task is very similar to the one that has been imposed upon Christians since the Enlightenment, and to which the Second Vatican Council, as the fruit of long and difficult research, found real solutions for the Catholic Church.”

He summarized Benedict’s methodology writing, “The pope is asking Islam to make the same journey that the Catholic Church made under pressure from the Enlightenment. Love of God and neighbor must be realized in the full acceptance of religious freedom”, writes the Vatican analyst.

The way forward proposed by the letter includes numerous channels of dialogue, such as, the “willingness [of the Pope] to receive Prince Ghazi and a delegation of the signatories of the letter” and “the readiness of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, in collaboration with other specialized pontifical institutes, to organize a working meeting.”

 

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Poll: New Yorkers “overwhelmingly applaud” Pope’s April visit

, Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - A new poll of New York City residents indicates that a majority of New Yorkers think Pope Benedict XVI's scheduled visit in April will be good for their city, and most New York City Catholics have a favorable attitude towards him.

According to a survey conducted by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, 70 % of New Yorkers think the visit will be good for the city, while only 15 % do not.  Eighty eight percent of Catholics specifically thought the visit would benefit New York, while only 9 % disagreed.

“Welcome, Your Holiness.  Overwhelmingly, New Yorkers applaud the Pope's plans to visit the city,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. 

Twenty nine percent of New Yorkers, including 60 % of Catholics, would like to attend the Pope’s mass at Yankee Stadium.

The survey also asked respondents' opinion of Pope Benedict and his papacy.  By a margin of 36-24 %, with 41 % undecided, survey voters answered that, yes, the Pope is leading the Catholic Church well. Catholics approved 62-22 %.

Fifty six percent of poll respondents had a favorable or very favorable opinion of Pope Benedict himself.  Eighty two percent of Catholics were favorable towards the Pope, while only 11 % had an unfavorable view of him.

“Most New Yorkers don’t know Pope Benedict XVI as well as they knew his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, so his favorability and approval are just OK," Carrol said.  "Maybe that will change in April.  As the song says, 'If you can make it here…'”

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Oklahoma bishop protests new anti-immigration law

Oklahoma City, Okla., Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishop of Tulsa has issued a pastoral letter calling Oklahoma's new immigration law immoral and unjust.

Bishop Edward J. Slattery wrote that the fact immigrants are in the country illegally is not the only issue.  He said they are still people who should be treated with dignity. 

The new law, House Bill 1804, makes it a felony to knowingly transport illegal immigrants, creates barriers on hiring illegal immigrants, and restricts benefits they can receive from the government or its contractors.  Charities and other private organizations that contract with the government to provide benefits could fall under the restrictions.

The bishop has opposed the legislation since it was first drafted last year.  In his latest pastoral letter, Bishop Slattery reminded people of his March, 2006 pledge that he would be jailed “when it become[s] a crime to love the poor and serve their needs."  He added "I pray that every priest and every deacon in this Diocese will have the courage to walk with me into that prison."

Bishop Slattery's pastoral letter, his second as a bishop, is titled "The Suffering Faces of the Poor Are the Suffering Face of Christ."  A 22-page flip book published in English and Spanish, it will be sent to all pastors in about three weeks, the bishop said Monday.

The Bishop’s Counter Proposal

The letter outlines a four-point action plan written “in response to the situation of fear created in so many of our neighbors in the implementation of H.B. 1804."  It calls for: equal access to all Catholic programs regardless of legal status; legal assistance through Catholic Charities to help those needing to establish or maintain their legal residence in the United States; diocesan cooperation with legal agencies to prepare a standardized "power of attorney" form for parents to establish guardianship for their children in the event only the parents are deported; and the provision of Catholic foster care for parents who have used their power of attorney to establish guardians for their children.

In the letter Bishop Slattery writes:  “I wish to make it clear that I do not speak as an elected official, whose service to the public proceeds from the will of those who elected him or her to office. Nor do I speak as a civil servant, appointed to the task and accountable to those by whom he or she has been appointed."

“Rather, I speak as the Catholic Bishop of this Diocese, and I speak with the authority of Jesus Christ, Who in His life here on earth always showed his predilection for the poor and oppressed.”

The pastoral letter also includes two prayers that Bishop Slattery asks pastors and parishioners to pray at the end of every Sunday Mass.

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Spanish government prohibits pro-life protests in front of Congressional building

Madrid, Spain, Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - Pro-life groups in Spain announced that the march planned for news Friday to demand a stop to illegal abortions would have as its destination the Ministry of Health, since the government said it would not allow the march to end at the Congressional building. 

Government leaders claimed Congress would be in session that day, although the official schedule does not list any meeting of the full body or of committees that afternoon.

The march is intended to demand that Health officials promote legal and administrative reforms to enforce the law on abortion which made the practice legal in three cases, especially in cases of “psychological health of the mother”.

The protests have been mounted in response to abuses like those that have taken place at the clinics run by Carlos Morin in Barcelona, where abortions up to the eighth month of pregnancy were being performed.

Likewise, pro-lifers will demand that more support be provided to pregnant mothers, “as abortion is a desperate decision out of a lack of social support for a woman in crisis,” and that greater attention be given to adoption as an alternative.

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Conference examines abortion’s effects on fathers

San Francisco, Calif., Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - The first national conference focusing on the effects of abortion on men opened in San Francisco yesterday.

The Reclaiming Fatherhood Conference, co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese of San Francisco, features experts from a variety of backgrounds and countries.  They will cover topics including the healing process for men after an abortion; abortion's effects on men's spirituality; fatherhood and abortion; and why men who have been involved in abortion come for help.

The Milwaukee-based Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation, headed by Vicki Thorn, organized the conference.  It seeks to bring to light the profound effect that abortion has on the fathers whose children are aborted.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, The head of the Knights of Columbus explained their support:

"As an organization of lay men that has a strong history and commitment to life, we think it is very important to highlight the issues faced by those fathers whose children are aborted."

"There are three victims of every abortion, the child and both of his or her parents, and it is our hope that this conference will be the beginning of a ministry within the Church to these fathers, who grieve the death of their unborn child in isolation and silence."

Anderson and Thorn believe the "Reclaiming Fatherhood" conference could help men deal with the psychological trauma of post-abortion reality in a way comparable to Project Rachel, a Catholic post-abortion ministry that helps women who have undergone abortions deal with their emotional and spiritual scars.

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Pope laments death of Italian soldier in terrorist attack in Afghanistan

Rome, Italy, Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI expressed his sorrow Wednesday and promised to pray for Daniele Paladin, an Italian soldier who was killed last weekend in Afghanistan “in the generous fulfillment of his own duty at the service of the security and the peaceful rebuilding of the Afghan peoples.”

Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent a telegram condolence in the name of the Pope to Paladin’s family members, expressing his spiritual closeness to them, to all those wounded and to the entire Italian nation.

The Pope assured the family of his prayers, and offered to all those mourning his apostolic blessing.

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New book by Fulton Sheen “at his best” published

Dallas, Texas, Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - Basilica Press has announced the first new book by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in over 25 years.

The book, Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s St. Thérèse: A Treasured Love Story, is a 187-page hardcover, gold-embossed commemorative edition including Archbishop Sheen's talks on St. Therese, 11 pages of biographical photos, and possibly the last letter the famous archbishop ever wrote.

Archbishop Sheen is considered by many to have been the twentieth century's greatest communicator.  His radio and television broadcasts were heard or viewed by millions each week, and his many books were usually bestsellers. 

The historic retreat on St. Therese was delivered in 1973 in Dublin, Ireland on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of her birth.  His talks examining the spirituality of the saint called the "Little Flower" became instantly popular.

Author and EWTN host Raymond Arroyo said of the new book: “There is only one Fulton Sheen, and here he is at his best: teeming with spiritual insight, filled with drama, and oh, so practical. It’s like going on a retreat with the master himself—a retreat I heartily recommend.”

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Venezuelan bishops deplore accusations linking them to violence

Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - On Sunday, the vice president of the Venezuelan Bishops Conference, Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro, denied that bishops are accomplices of supposed plans by the opposition to foster violence.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Rodriguez accused the Diocesan Institute of Maracay of planning a protest that took place last Monday and demanded the bishops’ conference disclose whether or not it knew of the plan.  He threatened the bishops with a lawsuit and suggested they were responsible for the death of one protestor.

Archbishop Luckert said the accusations were merely an act of desperation.  “They are desperate (in the government) and they are looking for enemies where there are none,” he said.  “The Bishops’ Conference has never been an enemy but always a friend of Venezuela and collaborates with the government however possible,” the archbishop said.

He also expressed his concern over the “lack of seriousness” that led the government to make these accusations, adding that the statements by Rodriguez are intended “to create an atmosphere of violence before the referendum, in order to justify anything.”  The archbishop reiterated the bishops’ opinion that Chavez’s constitutional reform is “morally unacceptable.”

“The president invited all Venezuelans to speak their minds about the reform.  He doesn’t like that? Well, too bad,” Archbishop Luckert said.  “We express our opinion, but it should be answered with arguments and not with criticism,” he stressed.

Last week Chavez called the bishops “bums, criminals and sloths.”

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Pope Benedict hopes to visit Ireland, says new Irish cardinal

Dublin, Ireland, Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - The Belfast Telegraph reports that Pope Benedict XVI has expressed hopes of visiting Ireland in what would be the first papal visit to the Emerald Isle in almost thirty years. 

The Pope reportedly made his wishes known to Cardinal Sean Brady at a private audience.  Cardinal Brady, one of the 23 new cardinals created last Saturday, repeated the invitation he made last year on behalf of the Irish hierarchy. 

Speaking immediately after his audience, Cardinal Brady said: "I took the opportunity of our brief meeting to renew the invitation on behalf of the Irish Episcopal Conference."

Cardinal Brady revealed that the Holy Father said in response: "I hope so."

Another papal visit could complete the "unfinished business" of Pope John Paul II's earlier visit.  His attempt to visit Armagh, the ancient seat of Saint Patrick, was thwarted by IRA violence.

Pope Benedict has cited on several occasions his belief that the peace settlement in Northern Ireland provides a model for the resolution of other conflicts in the world, especially those in the Middle East.

Vatican sources reportedly indicated that no commitment had yet been made, and the first definite sign of such a visit would be its inclusion in the Pope's draft travel schedule.

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Pope Benedict invited to Slovenia

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - Today in a meeting with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, invited the Holy Father to visit Slovenia in 2009 “for the occasion of the Year of Young People and for the closure of the National Eucharist Congress.”

Also within this meeting, "Prime Minister Jansa outlined the priorities and principal initiatives for the forthcoming six-month Slovenian presidency of the European Union, from January to June 2008. In this context, the Cardinal Secretary of State expressed his hope that the six-month Slovenian presidency may bring positive results and, in particular, peace and stability in the region of southeastern Europe.

The prime minister and the cardinal spoke about the process of church property being returned that was nationalized under the communist regime and the prospects for creating a diocese for the Slovenian military as well.

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Bishops satisfied by commitment to peace in the Holy Land

, Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - Two important Church officials, Cardinal Renato Martino and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Michel Sabbah, have expressed their satisfaction at the conclusions reached in at the peace conference in Annapolis on Tuesday. As a result of the summit, the leaders of Israel and Palestine have committed to formal negotiations for establishing peace in the Holy Land.

In statements to the SIR news agency, Archbishop Sabbah said he was hopeful leaders of both countries would “not repeat the same errors” of the past, and emphasized that the timeline for a peace agreement “is not too long”—one year in which “all of the issues should be resolved in order to avoid a new failure.”

In Annapolis, Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to begin formal negotiations in December in order to hammer out a peace agreement by the end of 2008. This is the first time in seven years that formal negotiations have existed.

Cardinal Martino said he was enthused by the announcement and called it “a good start that is encouraging to all those who are sensitive to the situation in the Middle East, and therefore we hope it will take shape.”

“We always call for a just solution for the problems of the Middle East.  This first step is a cause for joy and I hope the proposed timeframe will be respected,” he added.

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Investigators in Spain discover macabre abortion equipment

Barcelona, Spain, Nov 29, 2007 (CNA) - The Spanish daily “ABC” has revealed “terrible details” of police investigations into four clinics in Barcelona accused of practicing illegal abortions. According to the reports, investigators found “machines for crushing fetuses attached to drainpipes.”
 
The investigation into the clinics is ongoing, with six people arrested so far.  Sources quoted by ABC said the machines were found at the Ginemedex Clinic and at another clinic in Barcelona. “These machines crush large fetuses and reduce them to a paste that is later presumably washed down the drain. Thus the ‘proof the crime’ was erased and the legal obligation to bring this ‘recognizable organic residue’ to an incinerator was avoided,” the report states.

The judge overseeing the case has said grounds exists for charges of illegal abortions, false documents and malpractice against the six detainees, which include the owner of the Barnamedic conglomerate, Carlos Morin.

The other detainees include Morin’s wife, Maria Luisa Duran Salmeron, and Cuban doctor Pedro Avila.

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