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Archive of November 30, 2007

Pope's new encyclical calls for a rediscovery of hope

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - Today at noon in Rome, the Holy See released Pope Benedict XVI’s second encyclical, “Spe Salvi”, which proclaims the need for hope in modern society and the necessity for Christians to recover its true meaning.

 

The Pope begins his 75 page encyclical by explaining that “the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.”

 

“Spe Salvi” draws upon the rich treasure of Benedict XVI’s learning, with references from the lives of the saints and the Church Fathers. Armed with this wisdom and the virtue of hope, the Holy Father says, “The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.”

 

Naturally, this leads to the question, what is hope?  The pontiff relates that “to come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope.”

 

Yet Christian hope is different. Referring to the New Testament’s times, he writes, “Christianity did not bring a message of social revolution like that of the ill-fated Spartacus, whose struggle led to so much bloodshed. Jesus was not Spartacus, he was not engaged in a fight for political liberation.”

 

“Jesus… brought something totally different: an encounter with the Lord of all lords, an encounter with the living God and thus an encounter with a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within,” the encyclical explains.

 

“It is not the elemental spirits of the universe—relates the Holy Father—which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person.” 

 

This changes man’s world because “the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free.” Christians have hope because Jesus “tells us who man truly is and what a man must do in order to be truly human,” explains the Pope.

 

Turning to Hebrews 11:1, the Holy Father points to the impact of faith. “Faith is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for, and this present reality constitutes for us a ‘proof’ of the things that are still unseen.”

 

“Faith,” writes the Pope, “gives life a new basis, a new foundation on which we can stand, one which relativizes the habitual foundation, the reliability of material income.”

 

Does Modern Society Want Eternal Life?

 

Not content to remain at the level of the abstract, Benedict XVI turns his focus to modern Christian life.  The pontiff asks several crucial questions: How do we experience the Christian faith in our lives? Is it a “life-changing and life-sustaining hope?” Even more importantly, “do we really want this—to live eternally?”

 

“Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive,” he speculates. “What they desire is not eternal life at all, but this present life, for which faith in eternal life seems something of an impediment. To continue living for ever—endlessly—appears more like a curse than a gift.”

 

Consequently, “there is a contradiction in our attitude, which points to an inner contradiction in our very existence,” the Pope notes. “On the one hand, we do not want to die; above all, those who love us do not want us to die. Yet on the other hand, neither do we want to continue living indefinitely, nor was the earth created with that in view. So what do we really want?”

 

To answer to this deep question, “Spe Salvi” turns to St. Augustine, who says that “ultimately we want only one thing—‘the blessed life’, the life which is simply life, simply ‘happiness’.”

 

 

The transformation of Christian faith-hope in the modern age

 

The Holy Father begins his look at the modern Christian understanding of hope by asking, is Christian hope individualistic? In other words, does a person’s salvation depend only on their personal life, or does it hinge upon our service of others too.

 

Lamenting the “personalization” of salvation, the Pope asks, “How did we arrive at this interpretation of the “salvation of the soul” as a flight from responsibility for the whole, and how did we come to conceive the Christian project as a selfish search for salvation which rejects the idea of serving others?”

 

Moreover, “this programmatic vision has determined the trajectory of modern times and it also shapes the present-day crisis of faith which is essentially a crisis of Christian hope,” says the Pope.

 

Over the ensuing years, “the ideology of progress developed further, joy at visible advances in human potential remained a continuing confirmation of faith in progress as such,” the encyclical states.

 

At the same time, two categories become increasingly central to the idea of progress: reason and freedom. The result of this thinking is that “[p]rogress is primarily associated with the growing dominion of reason, and this reason is obviously considered to be a force of good and a force for good. Progress is the overcoming of all forms of dependency—it is progress towards perfect freedom.” In all of this, “the two key concepts of ‘reason’ and ‘freedom’…were tacitly interpreted as being in conflict with the shackles of faith and of the Church,” the pontiff explains.

 

Political Implications

 

This new idea of progress resulted in historic changes. “Spe Salvi” briefly addresses “the two essential stages in the political realization of this hope, because they are of great importance for the development of Christian hope, for a proper understanding of it and of the reasons for its persistence.”

 

The first development is “the French Revolution —an attempt to establish the rule of reason and freedom as a political reality.” During the eighteenth century, society “held fast to its faith in progress as the new form of human hope.”

 

“Nevertheless,” he recounts, “the increasingly rapid advance of technical development and the industrialization connected with it soon gave rise to an entirely new social situation: there emerged a class of industrial workers and the so-called “industrial proletariat.”

 

“After the bourgeois revolution of 1789, the time had come for a new, proletarian revolution”… “Karl Marx took up the rallying call, and applied his incisive language and intellect to the task of launching this major new and, as he thought, definitive step in history towards salvation,” the Holy Father articulates.

 

“His promise, owing to the acuteness of his analysis and his clear indication of the means for radical change, was and still remains an endless source of fascination,” he opined.

 

However, the Pope points out, “with the victory of the revolution…Marx's fundamental error also became evident.” “He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man's freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favourable economic environment.”

 

For Part Two of CNA's in-depth coverage of "Spe Salvi" click here.

 

To read the entire encyclical go to: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=165

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"Spe Salvi" challenges modern society and today's Christianity to self-examination of hope

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - “Spe Salvi—by hope we were saved,” with these words Pope Benedict XVI begins his second encyclical, which was released today. He asserts in the second half of his teaching that what is needed today, in a world often considered hopeless, is a self-critique of modern society, along with the rediscovery and living of Christian hope.

 

Beginning in number 22 of “Spe Salvi”, Pope Benedict challenges both modernity and Christianity to a self-critique. Modernity must enter into a “dialogue with Christianity and its concept of hope. In this dialogue Christians too, in the context of their knowledge and experience, must learn anew in what their hope truly consists, what they have to offer to the world and what they cannot offer. Flowing into this self-critique of the modern age there also has to be a self-critique of modern Christianity, which must constantly renew its self-understanding setting out from its roots,” the Pope writes.

 

The first step that he takes in this analysis is to say that “we must ask ourselves: what does “progress” really mean; what does it promise and what does it not promise?”

 

Once this is done, the Holy Father explains, “the ambiguity of progress becomes evident.” “Without doubt, it offers new possibilities for good, but it also opens up appalling possibilities for evil—possibilities that formerly did not exist.”

 

“Yes indeed, reason is God's great gift to man,” the Pope stresses, “and the victory of reason over unreason is also a goal of the Christian life.”

 

Benedict XVI’s conclusion is that “very simply: man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope.”

 

In this part of the encyclical, the Holy Father analyzes the ways that the condition of mankind affects society and what saves man from this state.

 

He begins by saying, “[t]he right state of human affairs, the moral well-being of the world can never be guaranteed simply through structures alone, however good they are.”

 

The pontiff’s second point is that there will never be a perfect government. “Since man always remains free and since his freedom is always fragile, the kingdom of good will never be definitively established in this world. Anyone who promises the better world that is guaranteed to last for ever is making a false promise; he is overlooking human freedom,” insists the Pope.

 

He summarizes his point by saying, “In other words: good structures help, but of themselves they are not enough. Man can never be redeemed simply from outside.”

 

The Christian Response

 

After showing that government cannot save man, Pope Benedict engages the other modern belief in salvation by science. “Science can contribute greatly to making the world and mankind more human. Yet it can also destroy mankind and the world unless it is steered by forces that lie outside it,” insists Benedict.

 

However, modern Christianity has not adequately responded to this need. The Holy Father writes that “we must also acknowledge that modern Christianity, faced with the successes of science in progressively structuring the world, has to a large extent restricted its attention to the individual and his salvation. In so doing it has limited the horizon of its hope and has failed to recognize sufficiently the greatness of its task—even if it has continued to achieve great things in the formation of man and in care for the weak and the suffering.”

 

Above all, “It is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love,” he insists. “In this sense, it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope,” the Pope reasons.

 

Continuing his analysis, he raises the question: “are we not in this way falling back once again into an individualistic understanding of salvation, into hope for myself alone, which is not true hope since it forgets and overlooks others? Benedict XVI answers, “Indeed we are not!”

 

Contrary to being individualistic, “[b]eing in communion with Jesus Christ draws us into his “being for all”; it makes it our own way of being. He commits us to live for others, but only through communion with him does it become possible truly to be there for others, for the whole,” the Holy Father explains.

 

In man’s day to day experience, he lives through “many greater or lesser hopes, different in kind according to the different periods of his life. Young people can have the hope of a great and fully satisfying love; the hope of a certain position in their profession, or of some success that will prove decisive for the rest of their lives,” relates the Pope.

 

Drawing on these experiences, “Spe Salvi” looks at their normal results. “When these hopes are fulfilled, however, it becomes clear that they were not, in reality, the whole. It becomes evident that man has need of a hope that goes further. It becomes clear that only something infinite will suffice for him, something that will always be more than he can ever attain,” writes Benedict.

 

“Thus, the Pope reflects, “Biblical hope in the Kingdom of God has been displaced by hope in the kingdom of man, the hope of a better world which would be the real ‘Kingdom of God’.”

 

Summarizing his dialogue Pope Benedict writes, “[l]et us say once again: we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain.”

 

How to Grow in Hope

 

Eager to teach people how to live in hope, the Holy Father spends this section of his encyclical on “settings for learning and practicing hope”.

 

Prayer

The “first essential setting for learning hope is prayer,” instructs the Pope.  Prayer is “a school of hope” about which one can say, “when no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me,” “Spe Salvi” explains.

 

Contrary to what some might say, praying “is not to step outside history and withdraw to our own private corner of happiness. When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well,” he relates.

 

“For prayer to develop this power of purification”—Benedict tells his readers—“it must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand, it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints”.

 

Action and Suffering

 

Benedict XVI’s second place for learning hope is in “action and suffering”.  “All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action,” he says. 

 

“Yet our daily efforts in pursuing our own lives and in working for the world's future either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless we are enlightened by the radiance of the great hope that cannot be destroyed,” cautions the Pope.

 

“Like action, suffering is a part of our human existence.”

 

What heals man, the Holy Father teaches, is not “sidestepping or fleeing from suffering …but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.”

 

Critiquing modern society, Benedict XVI emphasizes that a “society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society.”

 

“In the end, even the ‘yes’ to love is a source of suffering, because love always requires expropriations of my ‘I’, in which I allow myself to be pruned and wounded,” he insightfully explains.

 

Furthermore, Christian suffering means suffering “with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves—these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself.”

 

“Let us say it once again: the capacity to suffer for the sake of the truth is the measure of humanity,” the pontiff reiterates.

 

Another facet of the Christian encounter with suffering that the Pope recommends is a “devotion—perhaps less practised today but quite widespread not long ago—that included the idea of ‘offering up’ the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating ‘jabs’, thereby giving them a meaning.”

 

“Maybe we should consider whether it might be judicious to revive this practice ourselves,” he proposes.

The Final Judgment

 

“In the modern era,” the Holy Father explains, “the idea of the Last Judgment has faded into the background: Christian faith has been individualized and primarily oriented towards the salvation of the believer's own soul, while reflection on world history is largely dominated by the idea of progress.”

 

Yet, “for the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God,” the Pope reflects.

 

Meditating on the Last Judgment, Benedict writes, “[w]hat happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge? Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter?”

 

For some, their interior openness to the truth, in the concrete choices of life, “gets covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul,” he says.

 

Continuing his meditation, the Holy Father writes, that our “encounter with him is the decisive act of judgment. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation.”

 

Pope Benedict XVI goes on to exhort people to live with others in mind saying, “[o]ur lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve.”

 

He concludes his reflection by way of a question: “what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise?”

 

To read the entire encyclical go to: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=165

 

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An African saint and Vietnamese martyr are Benedict XVI's inspiration in “Saved by Hope”

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - In his new encyclical, “Spe Salvi” (Saved by Hope), Pope Benedict draws upon the example two saints—one from Africa and one from Vietnam—to show people how to live in hope.

 

At the very outset of “Saved by Hope”, the Holy Father holds up St. Josephine Bakhita (bio), a 19th century saint from Sudan, as an example of someone who has “a real encounter with this God for the first time.”  

 

St. Josephine was canonized by Pope John Paul II and born around the year 1869—she herself did not know the precise date—in Darfur in Sudan. “At the age of nine, she was kidnapped by slave-traders, beaten till she bled, and sold five times in the slave-markets of Sudan, he writes.

 

“Eventually”, Benedict relates, “she found herself working as a slave for the mother and the wife of a general, and there she was flogged every day till she bled; as a result of this she bore 144 scars throughout her life.”

 

Her moment of rescue arrived in 1882, when “she was bought by an Italian merchant for the Italian consul Callisto Legnani, who returned to Italy as the Mahdists advanced.”

 

The Holy Father tells his readers that “[h]ere, after the terrifying “masters” who had owned her up to that point, Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of ‘master’—in Venetian dialect, which she was now learning, she used the name ‘paron’ for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave. Now, however, she heard that there is a ‘paron’ above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme ‘Paron’, before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited.”

 

“What is more,” writes the Pope, she saw that “this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her ‘at the Father's right hand’. Now she had ‘hope’ —no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: ‘I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.’ Through the knowledge of this hope she was ‘redeemed’, no longer a slave, but a free child of God. She understood what Paul meant when he reminded the Ephesians that previously they were without hope and without God in the world—without hope because without God.”

 

“So,” relates Benedict XVI, “when she was about to be taken back to Sudan, Bakhita refused; she did not wish to be separated again from her ‘Paron’. On 9 January 1890, she was baptized and confirmed and received her first Holy Communion from the hands of the Patriarch of Venice. On 8 December 1896, in Verona, she took her vows in the Congregation of the Canossian Sisters and from that time onwards, besides her work in the sacristy and in the porter's lodge at the convent, she made several journeys round Italy in order to promote the missions: the liberation that she had received through her encounter with the God of Jesus Christ, she felt she had to extend, it had to be handed on to others, to the greatest possible number of people.”

 

“The hope born in her which had ‘redeemed’ her she could not keep to herself; this hope had to reach many, to reach everybody,” the Pope concludes.

 

A Saint in an Everlasting Hell

 

Towards the end of “Saved by Hope”, the pontiff suggests another modern day saint for reflection, this time from the East.  In the context of teaching on the meaning that Christians find in suffering, Pope Benedict relates the story the Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh († 1857) “which illustrates this transformation of suffering through the power of hope springing from faith.”

 

The martyr Paul’s letter begins, “The prison here is a true image of everlasting Hell: to cruel tortures of every kind—shackles, iron chains, manacles—are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief.”

 

“But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is for ever. In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone —Christ is with me,” quotes the Holy Father.

 

Le-Bao-Tinh’s letter continues: “How am I to bear with the spectacle, as each day I see emperors, mandarins, and their retinue blaspheming your holy name, O Lord, who are enthroned above the Cherubim and Seraphim? (cf. Ps 80:1 [79:2]). Behold, the pagans have trodden your Cross underfoot! Where is your glory?”

 

Benedict XVI also cites the martyr’s letter to describe the power of hope: “As I see all this, I would, in the ardent love I have for you, prefer to be torn limb from limb and to die as a witness to your love. O Lord, show your power, save me, sustain me, that in my infirmity your power may be shown and may be glorified before the nations ... Beloved brothers, as you hear all these things may you give endless thanks in joy to God… In the midst of this storm I cast my anchor towards the throne of God, the anchor that is the lively hope in my heart.”

 

The Holy Father describes this as “a letter from ‘Hell’,” because “it lays bare all the horror of a concentration camp, where to the torments inflicted by tyrants upon their victims is added the outbreak of evil in the victims themselves, such that they in turn become further instruments of their persecutors' cruelty.”

 

From this martyrs’ example, we can see that “Christ descended into ‘Hell’ and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well-nigh unbearable.”

 

“Yet the star of hope has risen,” Benedict insists, “the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil being unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering—without ceasing to be suffering—becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise.”

 

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Pope pens new hymn to Mary in "Saved by Hope"

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - At the conclusion of his encyclical released today, Pope Benedict honored Mary as our model of hope and asked for her intercession in showing us the way to the Father.

 

Using a title for Mary used for over a thousand years, the Holy Father explained how the “Star of the Sea” is our model for hope on our earthly journey.  He described the dark, turbulent waters that we face in life and the need to have a star as a guide to follow the route.

 

“Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history.  But to reach him we also need lights close by – people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way.  Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us?”

 

Following this introduction, the Pope launched into a prayer of praise to the Blessed Virgin giving examples of her model of hopefulness throughout her life.

 

“Your life was thoroughly imbued with the sacred scriptures of Israel which spoke of hope, of the promise made to Abraham and his descendants (cf. Lk 1:55).”

 

The Pope continued, “In this way we can appreciate the holy fear that overcame you when the angel of the Lord appeared to you and told you that you would give birth to the One who was the hope of Israel, the One awaited by the world.  Through you, through your “yes”, the hope of the ages became reality, entering this world and its history.”

 

Reflecting on the Visitation, the Holy Father expressed Mary’s joy at carrying the “hope of the world in her womb” as she traveled “across the mountains of history” to see her cousin Elizabeth.  “But alongside the joy which, with your Magnificat, you proclaimed in word and song for all the centuries to hear, you also knew the dark sayings of the prophets about the suffering of the servant of God in the world.

 

“Notwithstanding the great joy that marked the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, in the synagogue of Nazareth you must already have experienced the truth of the saying about the ‘sign of contradiction’ (cf. Lk 4:28ff).  In this way you saw the growing power of hostility and rejection which built up around Jesus until the hour of the Cross, when you had to look upon the Saviour of the world, the heir of David, the Son of God dying like a failure, exposed to mockery, between criminals.

 

“The sword of sorrow pierced your heart.  Did hope die?  Did the world remain definitively without light, and life without purpose?  At that moment, deep down, you probably listened again to the word spoken by the angel in answer to your fear at the time of the Annunciation: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary!’ (Lk 1:30).”

 

He continued, “…at the foot of the Cross, on the strength of Jesus’s own word, you became the mother of believers.  In this faith, which even in the darkness of Holy Saturday bore the certitude of hope, you made your way towards Easter morning.  The joy of the Resurrection touched your heart and united you in a new way to the disciples, destined to become the family of Jesus through faith.”

 

The Holy Father concluded his prayer by asking for Mary’s hand in guiding us to Christ.  “Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you.  Show us the way to his Kingdom!  Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way!”

 

To read the entire encyclical go to: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=165  

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Staunch pro-lifer Henry Hyde dies

Chicago, Ill., Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - Former Representative Henry Hyde died early Thursday at the age of 83. The Illinois Republican served the 6th District of Illinois from 1975 through 2006.  He retired at the end of the last term.

During Hyde's second year in Congress, he sponsored a proposal prohibiting federal funding for abortions.  The so-called "Hyde Amendment" faced legal challenges all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was declared constitutional in 1980.

Rep. Hyde was also instrumental in developing the Mexico City Policy, which restricts U.S. funds only to non-governmental organizations that agree not to perform or promote abortions in foreign countries.
Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Council of the Thomas More society, called Rep. Hyde "a giant in the pro-life community." 
"Henry Hyde stood for life both "in" and "out" of season, conducting himself with fairness, equanimity, civility and good cheer--but also with unwavering dedication," he said.

Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, eulogized the lawmaker.  "Henry Hyde was the quintessential gentleman and statesman. His profound compassion for the unborn will be remembered throughout history by the legislative protections that bear his name and from his eloquent, persuasive speeches."

President Bush recently awarded Hyde the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a president can grant an American citizen.  On Thursday Bush said of Hyde: "This fine man believed in the power of freedom, and he was a tireless champion of the weak and forgotten.  He used his talents to build a more hopeful America and promote a culture of life.  Earlier this month, in recognition of his good and purposeful life, I was proud to award Henry Hyde the Medal of Freedom."

The cause of his death was not made known.

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Kansas grand jury to investigate alleged late-term abortionist

Topeka, Kan., Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - A Kansas Supreme Court justice has ruled that the grand jury examining the case of a late-term abortionist can move forward with its investigation.

Abortionist George R. Tiller is being investigated for allegedly conducting illegal late-term abortions over the past four years.  He already faces 19 criminal charges for violating a Kansas statute that bans abortions on viable babies after 22 weeks' gestation.

Tiller had filed a Writ of Mandamus asking for an exemption from the laws governing the convening of citizen-called grand jury investigations and demanding that the grand jury not be seated.

Kansas Supreme Court Justice Kay McFarland denied the request in a Thursday decision.

The Kansas City Star is reporting that Planned Parenthood has dropped its plans to file a Mandamus action with the Kansas Supreme Court to block the grand jury after learning about yesterday’s ruling.

"We are very happy that the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled to follow the law and allow the grand jury to move forward,' said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "This is a victory for the rule of law, for the people of Kansas, and for the late-term pre-born babies that laws have been enacted to protect. As the grand jury investigation of Tiller moves forward, we pray for justice to be done."

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Lifetime of social work led 39-year old to Catholic clergy

Denver, Colo., Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, will ordain 39-year-old Deacon Mark Kovacik to the Catholic priesthood on Saturday, December 1 at 10 am in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.  Kovacik’s ordination will culminate nearly eight years of Catholic study at the Archdiocese of Denver’s Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary.
 
Kovacik, a native of Denver, spent two years teaching in Chuuk, Micronesia, and one year of Catholic missionary work in Israel. Upon returning to Denver, Kovacik continued to serve the poor and less fortunate, working five years with the Stout Street Clinic to provide medical care for the homeless.
 
Kovacik’s extensive travel, missionary work, and involvement with the Neocatechumenal Way, a Catholic movement, eventually revealed a call to the priesthood. He entered the seminary in 1999. His studies have specifically prepared him to be a missionary priest for the Denver Archdiocese, meaning the archbishop may assign him to serve as a priest anywhere in the world.
 
Kovacik’s journey reflects a common trend in men currently entering the priesthood. A national survey, conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, revealed a national average age of 35 for those entering the Roman Catholic priesthood in 2007. Analysis also revealed a highly educated class of ordinands, with more than 60 percent completing college before entering seminary. Many of the men went on to complete advanced degrees in law, medicine, and education before even considering the Catholic priesthood.

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Archbishop to Red Cross: humanity is “really one family”

Geneva, Ill., Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, spoke yesterday on behalf of Holy See's permanent observer mission to the United Nations to the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.  He discussed the ethical basis for providing aid to those in need.

Invoking the conference's theme "Together for Humanity," Archbishop Tomasi emphasized that humanity is “really one family.”  Coexistence among various communities and the construction of a peaceful world order are only possible when based upon the fundamental human dignity of every person, he said.

The archbishop said that the material and ethical survival of humanity rests upon the will to work for solutions for everyone.  He cautioned that globalization should not create imbalances in the world, where only some regions are prosperous and peaceful while others are impoverished and conflict-torn.  "Partial solutions that neglect a group of countries or a part of the national community are myopic, besides being unjust and unacceptable," he said.

Archbishop Tomasi said the victims of pandemics, international migration, urban violence and environmental degradation all need our support not out of condescending pity but rather out of solidarity.  He commended relief aid that respects the dignity of the poor and vulnerable: "Aid should be given as self-aid in order that local people may strengthen their own capacities and in this way fully exercise their freedom and responsibility."

According to the archbishop, the interreligious nature of Red Cross and Red Crescent interaction benefits from interreligious dialogue.  Noting the Holy See's efforts in that area, he also called for other religions to play a positive role in peacemaking and the pursuit of the common good.

Closing his speech, Archbishop Tomasi declared that the international community must be responsible for creating a decent life for present and future generations.

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Italian diocese refuses to permit Latin Mass

, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - Only months after a document issued by Pope Benedict XVI provided universal permission to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, An Italian diocese has forbidden its priests to celebrate any Latin Masses in the old rite.

Monsignor Andrea Giusto, the Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Savona-Noli in the Liguria region of northwest Italy, issued the order.  Currently, the see of Savona-Noli is vacant pending the appointment of a bishop.

In the absence of an appointed bishop, Monsignor Giusto said there is insufficient clarity about the licit celebration of the Tridentine Mass. 

"I firmly ask the priests of the diocese not to give permission to groups that ask for the celebration and to ensure that in no church in the diocesan territory Masses according to the pre-Conciliar rite are celebrated," Monsignor Giusto said.

 

The monsignor said a stable group of worshippers and their active participation were conditions for the proper celebration of the old rite.   He claimed a solid liturgical formation and knowledge of Latin were needed, and condemns Masses organized 'by invitation,' "almost as if they were a show or a private event."

 

According to the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, the order was prompted by a Tridentine Latin Mass that was celebrated in an oratory neighboring the church of the Genoese Una Voce Association, a group that favors the traditional Mass. 

 

The parish priest, Father Piero Giacosa, initially did not oppose the Mass but later criticized it.  "The Latin Mass was a concession by the Pope, it is supposed to unite, it cannot become a way to do proselytisms or to please the nostalgics, mostly [from] outside the Parish," he said.

 

Gianno Romollotti, a man present for the Mass, described the event: "I saw people of a certain age, moved. There were also young men, new faces. It was not hard to follow the Mass, in the booklet there was an Italian translation. The criticisms? It is jealousy, we will repeat it on December 8."

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Book made from priest’s skin now up for auction

London, England, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - A seventeenth-century book which is bound in human skin and details the execution of a priest who allegedly conspired in the Gunpowder plot will go up for auction on Sunday, the Telegraph reports.

The book is believed to have been bound in Fr. Henry Garnet's own skin.  Adding to the morbid aura of the item, some claim to see an image of the priest's tortured face on the book's cover.

The full title of the book is 'A True and Perfect Relation of the Whole Proceedings against the Late Most Barbarous Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and his Confederats[sic].'  It will go up for bidding at an auction house in South Yorkshire.

It is unknown how much it could sell for.  Sid Wilkinson, the auctioneer, said: "Because the subject matter is so strange, we thought putting an estimate on it might be a bit vulgar."

Father Henry Garnet was found guilty of treason for his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot, in which Catholic rebels attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament while King James I and the Protestant leadership of the country were inside. 

The priest claimed he was not involved in the plot, but did say he had heard details of the plot during confessions.  He claimed he tried to dissuade the plotters from their scheme.

The priest was executed in 1606.  According to legend, a piece of bloodstained straw at the scene of his execution developed an exact image of the priest's face.  The auctioneers suggest the same has happened to the book.

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Socialist Senator announces conversion and leaves politics over laws that “conflict with Christian ethics”

Barcelona, Spain, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - Socialist Senator Mercedes Aroz has announced her retirement from politics at the end of the legislative session over disagreements with her party’s leaders regarding the approval of laws such as homosexual marriage, which in her judgment “directly conflict with Christian ethics.”

In statements to Europa Press, Aroz explained that she has communicated her decision to party leaders in the region and that she will continue to be active in the party.  She announced her “conversion” to Christianity after embracing Marxist ideology for decades, in a process of personal transformation that went on “for various years” and which has culminated in her “full integration as a member of the Catholic Church.”

“My current Christian commitment has led me to disagree with certain laws of the government that directly conflict with Christian ethics, such as the regulations approved for homosexual unions or research with human embryos, and that in conscience I have not been able to support,” she said.

“I have wanted to make my conversion public in order to underscore the conviction of the Catholic Church that Christianity has much to say to the men and women of our time, because there is something more than just reason and science.  Through the Christian faith one comes to fully understand one’s identity as a human being and the meaning of life,” she said.

According to Aroz, religious freedom demands “respect and positive recognition” of religious practice, in the face of attempts by the State to impose secularism, and that the State [must] lay the foundation for facilitating “religious education in schools.”

Aroz’s retirement puts an end to her 32 year-long career as a Socialist politician, during which she has held numerous posts both in Congress and the Senate.

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Morning-after pill not leading to fewer teen abortions in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - According to official statistics from health officials in the Spanish region of Asturias, one in ten teenage girls has had an abortion during the last year.  The figures represent the highest number of abortions during the last 18 years and confirm that the distribution of the morning-after pill has not resolved the problem.

Asturias has become the Spanish region with the seventh highest number of teen abortions.  According to the Spanish daily “La Nueva España,” of the 57,000 women in Asturias between the ages of 15 and 24, 744 underwent abortions in 2005.


The newspaper reports that last year some 10,638 morning-after pills were distributed in Asturias, but that did not “stop abortions among Asturian teens.  In 2006, the number of abortions among this group of the populace surged and came within one tenth of those that were performed in 2004, when the record for the number of teen abortions in Asturias since the end of the 1980s was broken.”

Amelia Gonzalez, general director of Public Health in Asturias, the data shows that “something is failing in the formation of our teens in the sexual-emotional area.”

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700 Portuguese doctors call on national association to oppose to abortion

Lisbon, Portugal, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - According to a report on LifeSiteNews.com, members of the Portuguese Medical Association are circulating a petition on the Internet to urge the Association leadership to maintain its anti-abortion ethical code, asking it to "maintain with the greatest rigor and commitment the intransigent struggle for the ethical independence and autonomy of the medical profession."

The Code of Ethics of the Association states that "doctors must maintain respect for human life from its beginning", and "the practice of abortion constitutes a grave ethical failure".

Denouncing the "misuse of medical knowledge that various powers and pressure groups" are attempting to impose on the Association, the petition compares the government's demands with earlier movements for "forced internments in psychiatric institutions, sterilizations, and elimination of human beings for eugenic or racist reasons".

The doctors remind the Association that the 2,500-year-old Hippocratic Oath exists to resist the moral fashions of the times, which have often been a threat to the dignity of human life. They wish to avoid "the subjection of this Code to a changing 'ethic', molded to the taste of the interests, conveniences, ideologies or convictions of those who happen to have power or influence at the time."

Over 700 Portuguese doctors have so far signed the petition, which is addressed to the Bastonario (official spokesman) of the Medical Association, Pedro Nunes.  Nunes has repeatedly denounced the government's threats and has refused to capitulate.

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Nicaraguan government subpoenas feminists involved in abortion performed on sexually assaulted girl

Managua, Nicaragua, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - Government officials in Nicaragua have subpoenaed six members of the Women Against Violence Network, for being involved in the case of a young girl named “Rosita,’ who was raped by her stepfather and forced to undergo an abortion. 

The stepfather’s role in the incident was covered up and feminists from the Network never mentioned him in their condemnation of the crime. As a result, the feminist group has been denounced by the Nicaraguan Association of Human Rights (NAHR)

According to the Nicaraguan daily “La Prensa,” the six women have been summoned to appear before government prosecutors.

The women sought help from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights but were rebuffed and now claim that the accusations by the NAHR “lack legitimacy and legal basis.”  Press reports indicate that the NAHR accuses the women of “colluding with the girl’s stepfather, Francisco Fletes, and pushing for the abortion until they were able to obtain one for her at a clandestine clinic without adequate medical care.”
 
In addition, the women from the Network discarded the remains of the aborted child, whose blood samples would have provided a DNA link to the person responsible for the rape.

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Lawmakers approve homosexual unions in Uruguay

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - On Thursday the Uruguayan House of Representatives approved a new bill that would make civil unions, including same-sex unions, equivalent to marriage and grant them equal rights and protections.

Analysts expect the measure to be approved by the Senate as well before the end of the year, which would make Uruguay the sixth country in the world to implement such a law. The other countries with similar laws are Belgium, Holland, Spain, Canada and South Africa.

The law would grant couples who can prove to a judge they have been living together for at least five years the same rights and obligations as traditionally married couples, including inheritance rights and medical and social security benefits.

Representative Diego Canepa, who drafted the measure, said it was “unjust and discriminatory that the law protects only some unions and is not up-to-date with the social reality.”

In response, the secretary general and spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of Uruguay, Bishop Luis Del Castillo, said some kind of legal protection should be given to civil unions, “but it does not seem appropriate to make them equal to the marriage contract,” whose dimensions “exceed civil rights because it the foundation of the family and society.”

He said the bishops had serious reservations about the measure because it “distorts and weakens the image of marriage as the foundation of the family.”

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Protests against “Muhammed teddy bear” teacher break out, execution called for

Khartoum, Sudan, Nov 30, 2007 (CNA) - "Shame, shame on the U.K.," thousands of armed Sudanese protestors shouted, as they spilled out of their mosques after their Friday services to rail against Gillian Gibbons, a teacher from Britian that they claim insulted Muhammad.

The Associate Press reports that the disgruntled demonstrators gathered in central Martyrs Square outside the presidential palace, where hundreds of riot police were deployed. Efforts were not made to stop the rally, which lasted about an hour, even though the government promised on Thursday that they would prevent the promised protests.

Shouts calling for Gibbons' execution, could be heard from the crowd: "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."

One Muslim cleric from the Martyrs Mosque denounced Gibbons during his sermon, saying she intentionally insulted Islam. He did not call for protests, however.

"Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion," the cleric, Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, a well-known hard-liner, told his congregation.

"This an arrogant woman who came to our country, cashing her salary in dollars, teaching our children hatred of our Prophet Muhammad," he said, according to the AP.
 
The outcry comes one day after Ms. Gibbon’s trial, which ended yesterday with her being “convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammed." Gibbon’s was sentenced to 15 days in jail and deportation, but did not receive the heavier punishment of 40 lashes and 6 months in prison.

“In response to the demonstration, teacher Gillian Gibbons was moved from the women's prison near Khartoum to a secret location to protect her safety for the nine days remaining in her sentence,” her lawyer told the AP.

Several hundred protesters, not visibly carrying weapons, marched from the square to Unity High School, where Gibbons worked. They chanted slogans outside the school, which is closed until January and under heavy security, then headed toward the nearby British Embassy. They were stopped by security forces two blocks short of the embassy.

Britain, meanwhile, pursued diplomatic moves to free Gibbons. Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke with a member of her family to convey his regret, his spokeswoman said.

The majority of Britons expressed shock at the verdict by a court in Khartoum, alongside hope it would not raise tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain, the AP reported. Several Muslim groups in the U.K. and elsewhere have spoken out against the punishment of Gibbons.

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