Archive of December 21, 2007

Diocesan donations distributed to Minnesota flood victims

Minneapolis, Minn., Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - In response to the flooding in southeastern Minnesota in August 2007, the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota has been giving grants to those families hit hardest by the disaster.

The diocese, according to the AP, has distributed almost $492,000 in assistance from dioceses in Minnesota in addition to a big donation from the Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi.  The aid recipients comprised of 388 families in the southeastern Winona, Houston and Fillmore counties. Aid was not distributed on the basis of the recipients’ faith.

The Biloxi Diocese donated $45,000 to the relief fund.  After Hurricane Katrina, the Winona Diocese made a large financial contribution to its sister diocese in Biloxi.

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Korean missionary to be apostolic prefect of the Marshall Islands

Vatican City, Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict has appointed Fr. Raymundo Sabio to be the apostolic prefect of the Marshall Islands where he will serve 4,601 Catholics and seven priests.

The former apostolic prefect was Fr. James Gould who resigned from the pastoral care of the same apostolic prefecture the Holy Father accepted, in accordance with canon 401 paragraph 2 of the Code of Canon Law which states that a bishop can resign if unable to perform his duties due to health or serious matters.

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Benedict XVI recalls the hope and joy of Brazil visit

Vatican City, Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - In his annual Christmas greeting, Pope Benedict spoke of his trip to Brazil in 2007 as he met with cardinals, archbishops and members of the Roman Curia. Among his highlights, were meeting the young people at “Fazenda da Esperanca” and his gathering with the Brazilian bishops.

The Pope began his address by defining the Curia as a “working community held together by bonds of fraternal love which the Christmas festivities serve to reinforce."  The Roman Curia is comprised of the departments that assist the Pope in governing the Church and is headed by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.

As he focused on these “bonds of fraternal love”, the Pope recalled his trip to Brazil to meet with participants in the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, and with "the Church in the vast continent of Latin America."

Referring specifically to his encounter with young people in the municipal stadium of Sao Paulo, he said: "There are mass events which have the single effect of self-affirmation, in which people allow themselves to be carried away by the rhythm and the sounds, and end up deriving joy merely from themselves. On that occasion however, ... the profound communion which spontaneously arose between us caused us, by being with one another, to be for one another. It was not an escape from daily life but became a source of strength for accepting life in a new way."

The Holy Father then remembered the canonization of Brazilian saint Frei Galvao: "Each saint who enters into history," he said, "represents a small portion of Christ's return, a renewal of His entrance into time, showing us His image in a new light and making us sure of His presence. Jesus Christ does not belong to the past and He is not confined to a distant future. ... Together with His saints He is ... journeying towards us, towards our today."

Pope Benedict also revisited his time at "Fazenda da Esperanca" in Brazil, a facility where “people who have fallen into the slavery of drugs, rediscover freedom and hope.” He continued, “We must defend creation, not only with a view to its utility, but for itself - as a message from the Creator, as a gift of beauty which is promise and hope," because "mankind has need of transcendence.”

Turning then to his meeting with Brazilian bishops in the cathedral of Sao Paulo, Benedict XVI highlighted how "the experience of 'effective and affectionate collegiality' of fraternal communion in the shared ministry, led us to feel the joy of catholicity. Over and above all geographical and cultural confines we are brothers, together with the Risen Christ Who has called us to His service."

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Archdiocese of Sydney awards grant for adult stem cell research

Sydney, Australia, Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal George Pell has announced that Archdiocese of Sydney is awarding a $100,000 stem cell research grant to a team of researchers investigating the potential of adult stem cells.

The researchers, based in Adelaide, will use the grant to investigate the capacity of stem cells derived from human dental pulp to transform into neuron cells.  If the cells can be effectively transformed, they could be useful in treatments for victims of strokes.

The research team is led by Associate Professor Stan Gronthos of the Hanson Institute and Dr. Simon Koblar of the Australian Research Council Center for the Molecular Genetics of Development at the University of Adelaide.  Both researchers praised the contribution of their Ph.D. student Dr. Agnieszka Arthur for being instrumental in advancing their studies.  Dr. Arthur is a co-investigator of the grant and is doing postdoctoral work at the Hanson Institute.

“The project of Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr. Koblar brings new ideas and new thinking to adult stem cell research, and to the search for new treatments for people who have had a stroke,” Cardinal Pell said.

“Their research will initiate and foster a new collaboration between researchers in this area, and I am particularly pleased that the grant from the Archdiocese of Sydney will make a significant contribution to ensuring that their research project goes ahead,” the cardinal continued.

“This is exactly the sort of ethical, innovative and life-enhancing research that the grant was established to promote, and I am delighted that Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr Koblar will join the other distinguished winners of our previous grants in furthering this work.”

Ten applications were received for this year’s grant.  They were evaluated by an independent selection panel composed of professors with expertise either in law, medical research or medical ethics.  Two referees also assisted the panel in evaluating applicants.

Dr Bernadette Tobin, Director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, headed the panel.  She said all submissions had very high standards of scientific excellence.  She explained the selection panel’s decision:

“One of the referees judged that Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr Koblar’s innovative research would be highly likely to produce important new knowledge. And with new knowledge comes the hope of new treatments and therapies,” she said.

“In addition to this, Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr Koblar lead an established research team with a very good publication record in the area of adult stem cell research,” Dr. Tobin continued.

The Archdiocese of Sydney’s grant has funded three different kinds of stem cell research.  A 2003 grant funded an investigation into the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells derived from the nose to be used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.  The 2005 grant investigated therapies using skin-derived stem cells to regenerate skin for catastrophic burn victims.

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Nicaraguans defend anti-abortion laws against “grossly inaccurate” AP story

Managua, Nicaragua, Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - Three prominent Nicaraguans have reacted to an Associated Press story that claimed that Nicaragua’s new strict anti-abortion law had cost women’s lives, calling the report “misleading and grossly inaccurate.”

The November 27 AP story, "Nicaraguan abortion ban proves deadly," claimed at least three women and possibly twelve more had died because of the ban.

A letter to the Washington Times challenged the story.  Its signatories were Dr. Walter Mendieta, president of the Nicaraguan Medical Association; Lucia Bohemer, president of the Nicaraguan Association of Women; and Dr. Rafael J. Cabrera, the rector of the University of Medical Sciences in Managua.
The letter said that the November, 2006 law further restricting abortion removed an “outdated, phony, ‘therapeutic’ abortion exception” that was open to abuse and “incompatible with modern medical, moral and legal principles.”
The writers claimed that in the first 47 weeks of 2007, after the law went into effect, maternal deaths declined 23 percent.  These deaths include all deaths from the beginning of pregnancy until six weeks after delivery, including accidents, murders, suicide, and non-obstetrical deaths.  Eighty percent of the deaths resulted from conditions at the end of pregnancy, such as ecclampsia, hemorrhages, and puerperal sepsis.

The letter flatly denied the AP’s fatality report, saying “No woman has died in Nicaragua for not having a "therapeutic" abortion since the practice was banned in November 2006.” 

According to the letter, the law allows medical procedures to be performed on women with pregnancy complications, even if such treatments indirectly cause the death of their unborn children.  Reportedly, physicians who fail to provide such care are liable for their failure.  “Women with complications from pregnancy must be offered necessary treatment,” the letter said. 

The letter claimed the positive results of the Nicaraguan law were comparable to those found in other countries with strict abortion laws.

It also noted an outcome that went unmentioned in the AP article:  “Another positive result, not in any way to be minimized, is that more Nicaraguan children have escaped the abortionists' knives, poisons and suction machines.”

Accusing the AP story of fueling “unprecedented international interference” in Nicaragua, the letter decried the “intense pressure” from abroad.  Pressures came not only from what the letter called “the usual radical feminist and misguided human rights internationalists,” but also foreign governments.  According to the letter, some European countries have threatened to cut off financial aid to Nicaragua unless the law is changed.

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Pope Benedict says encounter with Jesus is the answer to world’s challenges

Vatican City, Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - Every year the Pope holds a “Christmas party” of sorts with the various offices that help him run the Catholic Church around the world. This year, Pope Benedict took the opportunity to share his reflections on important events from the past year including how encountering Jesus and sharing His Gospel is the answer to the world’s problems.

The Holy Father used his visit to Brazil where he opened the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM), as a springboard for talking about how the Church should engage the modern world.

Pope Benedict XVI recalled the theme of the conference, "Disciples and missionaries in Jesus Christ, that in Him our peoples may have life," and then mentioned some possible objections to this choice of subject: "Was it not," he asked, "perhaps excessively concentrated on interior life at a time in which the great challenges of history - the urgent problems of justice, peace and freedom - require the complete commitment of all men and women of good will, and in particular of Christianity and the Church?"

To answer this objection, the Holy Father proceeded, "it is necessary to understand the true meaning of the theme." The key idea is that of "finding life," he said, "and the theme presupposes that this objective ... is to be attained through discipleship of Jesus Christ and through commitment to His word and His presence."

Being a disciple of Christ, the Pope said, "means in the first place coming to know Him" by listening to the Word. And to meet Christ "we must listen, then reply through prayer and through practicing what He tells us."

Disciples of Christ are Missionaries

"The disciple of Christ must also be a 'missionary,' a messenger of the Gospel," said the Pope. On the other hand, the Holy Father raised an objection to evangelizing: "Here too the objection could be made as to whether it is still legitimate to 'evangelize' today? Should not all the religions and philosophies of the world coexist peacefully and together seek what is best for humanity, each in its own way?"

In answer to this objection, Benedict XVI mentioned the letter sent to him by 138 Muslim religious leaders in October. In his reply, the Pontiff explained how two different faiths should co-exist: "I expressed my convinced adherence to such noble sentiments, at the same time underlining the urgent need for a harmonious commitment in order to safeguard values, mutual respect, dialogue and collaboration. The shared recognition of the existence of the One God ... is a premise for joint action in defense of ... the dignity of all human beings, for the edification of a more just and united society."

Pope Benedict went on to say that, "Those who have recognized a great truth, those who have discovered a great joy, must pass it on, they cannot keep it to themselves. ... In order to reach fulfillment, history needs the announcement of the Good News to all peoples, to all men and women. How important it is for forces of reconciliation, of peace, of love and of justice to come together in humanity. ... How important it is, ... in the face of the sentiments and the reality of violence and injustice, for rival forces to be mobilized and reinforced.”

People should not be afraid to evangelize, the Pope said, because it marshals the forces of good against violence and injustice. Indeed, “through the encounter with Jesus Christ and His saints, ‘humankind’ is re-equipped with those forces for good without which none of our plans for social order is realized but, faced with the enormous pressure of other interests contrary to peace and justice, remain as abstract theories."

Then, the Pope definitively answered the question he had posed at the start of his talk, saying that the Aparecida meeting was right "to give priority to discipleship of Jesus Christ and to evangelization," and that this was in no way a "misguided retreat into interior life." This, he explained, "is because the renewed encounter with Jesus Christ and His Gospel - and only that - revives the forces that make us capable of giving the right response to the challenges of our time."

China and Austria

The Holy Father also considered the Letter he sent in June to Catholic Church faithful in the People's Republic of China, saying, “It is my hope that, with the help of God, the Letter may produce the desired fruits."

At the end of his address to the Curia, the Pope briefly mentioned his visit to Austria in September, and his meeting with young people in the Italian town of Loreto, "a great sign of joy and hope," he said.

"We must not delude ourselves," the Holy Father said, "the secularism of our time and the pressure of ideological presumption (to which the secularist mentality with its exclusive claim to definitive rationality tends), present no small-scale problem." Nonetheless, he concluded, "we also know that the Lord maintains His promise: 'Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age'." 

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Logo for U.S. Papal visit revealed to the public

Washington D.C., Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - The theme and logo for Pope Benedict XVI’s April visit to the United States were revealed on Wednesday.

The message “Christ our Hope” is placed over a full-color photograph of an open-armed Pope Benedict waving both hands.  The Pope’s image is before a yellow-screened photo of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.  In black type running at the top and over the cupola of the dome are three lines of type reading “Pope Benedict XVI/Christ Our Hope/Apostolic Journey to the United States 2008.”

The theme reflects that of the Pope’s recent encyclical “Spe Salvi”, which examined Christians’ hope in eternal salvation as a product of faith in Christ.

Donna Hobson, director of publications at the Catholic University of America (CUA), designed the logo.  She explained the creative decisions that went into its production.

“I wanted to incorporate the papal colors—yellow and white— and my vision was to show a welcoming, arms-open, smiling Pope Benedict,” she said.

Father David O’Connell, C.M., CUA president, said he was “pleased to volunteer the services of our university’s excellent publications office to design the logo.”

He also reported the university was looking forward to the papal visit, saying “Our CUA community is eagerly awaiting the pontiff’s visit to the United States, and especially to our campus, and we want to contribute to its success in every possible way.”

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Pope Pius XII’s beatification investigation delayed

Vatican City, Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has delayed the beatification process for Pope Pius XII to provide more time to study documents from World War II, Reuters reports.

When the Vatican issued a list of people whose causes for canonization were being moved forward last week, some analysts had expected to see Pope Pius XII’s name on the roster. Instead, Pope Benedict has set up a committee in the Secretariat of State to review old documents and to examine new documents that have only recently come to light.

Some Jewish groups have accused Pope Pius of being indifferent to the Holocaust and not speaking out against Hitler.  Some groups, like the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League, have asked that the canonization inquiry be suspended until all Vatican World War II-era archives are declassified.

Supporters of the wartime Pope, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, consider Pope Pius XII a holy man who worked behind the scenes to help Jews throughout the continent.  They point to his order that churches and convents in Rome take in Jews after the Germans occupied the city in 1943.  The Vatican holds that Pope Pius did not speak out more forcefully for fear of further Nazi reprisals that would worsen the position of both Catholics and Jews.

Pope Benedict has not signed a six-month-old decree recognizing Pope Pius’ “heroic virtues,” a necessary step in the progress to beatification.  Il Giornale reporter Andrea Tornielli said the Vatican was not doubting the holiness of the Pope, but was concerned about the effects of beatifying him too soon.  Top cardinals have reportedly advised the delay in the beatification because it could adversely affect relations with Jews and the state of Israel.

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Congress in Spain rejects petition by leftists to liberalize abortion

Madrid, Spain, Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - By a vote of 277-21, Spain’s House of Representatives rejected a motion presented this week by left-wing lawmakers that would have allowed greater access to abortion and made it a part of the national health care system.

Left-wing lawmakers requested that the vote on the motion be secret, but the measure only garnered the support of its sponsors.  Amendments by the ruling Socialist party to achieve a greater consensus on the application of the current law on abortions were in turn rejected by the motion’s sponsors.

Representative Carme Garcia, a supporter of the motion, said the amendment proposed by the Socialist party lacked clarity, and she criticized the government of Jose Luis Rodriquez for what she called its “ambiguous position” regarding the modification of abortion law, saying Zapatero was trying to “save face” before the upcoming elections.

Socialist party lawmakers said that while their amendment was intended to achieve a greater consensus, they agreed that abortion laws needed to be revised because they are currently “insufficient.”

“This requires a serious social debate,” they stated, emphasizing that they agreed with the premise of the motion but that they would continue to work for “a calm change based on consensus and dialogue.” “We just don’t think that this is the right time or manner of dealing with such a serious issue,” they said.

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Benedict XVI blesses Mexican nativity scene on display in Paul VI Hall

Vatican City, Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - During the Wednesday General Audience this week, Pope Benedict XVI blessed a Mexican nativity scene on display in the Paul VI Hall for an art show inaugurated that morning at the Vatican.

Created by Agustin Parra, the nativity scene consists of eleven hand-made wood carvings representing St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus, the tree Wise Men, two shepherds, an angel, a cow and a lamb.

The Holy Father greeted a delegation from Mexico led by the wife of President Felipe Calderon, Margarita Zavala, who was accompanied by Mexico’s ambassador to the Holy See, Luis Felipe Bravo Mena, and the governor of Jalisco, Emilio Gonzalez Marquez. 

A Christmas tree decorated with more than 400 ceramic pieces painted by hand is also on display. The tree is topped with a giant star with engravings that read “Gloria in excelsis Deo” and “Mexico.”

In addition to the art expo, a series of photos is also on display, including photos of Mexican children wearing the traditional attire of the region of Jalisco.

The art and photo expos are part of an initiative commemorating the 15th anniversary of the establishing of diplomatic ties between the Holy See and Mexico.

The nativity scene will be displayed in St. Peter’s Square beginning on December 24.

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New multimedia news website launches service in eight languages

, Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - Led by the Computer Network of the Church in Latin America (RIIAL), the new multimedia Catholic news website has launched its service, providing text, video and audio in eight languages to internet users.

In a recent interview, Archbishop Enrique Planas, who supported the project as head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and is the website’s current general coordinator, explained that the new source of Catholic news is “a news agency at the service of television throughout the world,” and that the daily operations are under the management of four Catholic media experts—Jesus Colina of Zenit news, Silvia Costantini,  Miriam Diez i Bosch and Andrea Scorzoni.

Archbishop Planas added that, “This should be a great movement in which television stations are both receivers and broadcasters, such that it constitutes a true network in which the patrimony of each one becomes the patrimony of all.”

“By its nature,” he explained, “in order to be a cooperative movement, each one of the members should contribute what it can.”

Archbishop Planas stressed that while the new service is being offered in close collaboration with the Zenit news agency, “these are two autonomous entities, united above all by the same spirit of balance, serious reporting and a spirit of service to the People of God.”

The site is still in its beta format but directors of the new service said they will soon be ready to launch all of their resources.

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Wisconsin bishop confronts legislature in emergency contraception dispute

Madison, Wis., Dec 21, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Robert C. Morlino of the Diocese of Madison has urged opposition to a state bill that would mandate hospitals, including Catholic ones, to administer the morning after pill, “emergency contraception,” upon request to women who have been raped.

In the newspaper for the Diocese of Madison, Bishop Morlino explained to readers that the bill did not protect the consciences of institutions or individuals who want to protect both women who have been raped and any babies possibly conceived in that rape. 

“Women who have suffered the tragedy of rape need to be protected, but if a pre-born child has been already conceived, the future of that child also requires our protection,” he said.

Bishop Morlino expanded on his concerns in a letter to the members of the Wisconsin Legislature.  He insisted that the safety, inherent dignity, and God-given rights of women were deeply important. 

In fact, the bishop said that Catholic hospitals have always provided emergency contraception “when this was appropriate.”  He said that such treatment was appropriate when every effort had been made to ensure the drug would not prevent implantation of a newly conceived human being.  In cases where implantation was prevented, he explained, “this would amount to an abortion.”

The bishop said this was not a distinctively Catholic issue, “but a matter of biology and human rights.”

Bishop Morlino distanced himself from the earlier stance of the Wisconsin Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had adopted a neutral position towards the bill.  He said the position of neutrality did not have its desired effect, and inadvertently caused scandal among Catholics who began to believe the bishops were becoming less fervently pro-life.  Bishop Morlino also said Bishop Jerome Listecki of the Diocese of LaCrosse was supporting him in his new approach against the legislation.

In his letter to the legislature Bishop Morlino said he was “firmly convinced” that conscience exemptions to the bill were threatened.  He also questioned the motives of some supporters of the bill, saying, “It is clear that Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and their colleagues are more interested in promoting a state-supported, contraceptive ideology than they are in simply, reasonably, protecting women.”

Bishop Morlino said that the peace especially hoped for in the Christmas season can only happen “when there is respect for every human being, protecting every woman and every pre-born human child.”


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