Archive of January 7, 2008

Human life under attack warns Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Jan 7, 2008 (CNA) -

Continual attacks against human life that are being launched around the world must be addressed by today’s intercultural and inter-religious discussion, Pope Benedict told the diplomatic corps this morning.

Expressing the unflagging efforts of the Church to support human rights, the Holy Father said, "In every continent the Catholic Church strives to ensure that human rights are not only proclaimed but put into practice.” 

“The Church willingly undertakes this service to the true dignity of human persons, created in the image of God. And on the basis of these considerations, I cannot but deplore once again the continual attacks perpetrated on every continent against human life", said the Pope.

While he rejoiced that “on 18 December the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling upon States to institute a moratorium on the use of the death penalty”, the Pontiff said that he sees multiple threats against human life.
"I regret, once again, the disturbing threats to the integrity of the family, founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. Political leaders, of whatever kind, should defend this fundamental institution, the basic cell of society", he said.

Religious freedom is another area where the Pope sees human dignity and human rights as being attacked. According to the Pope, “There are many places where this right cannot be fully exercised. The Holy See defends it, demands that it be universally respected, and views with concern discrimination against Christians and against the followers of other religions.”

Calling for actions that bring about real peace, Benedict XVI declared, "Peace cannot be a mere word or a vain aspiration. Peace is a commitment and a manner of life which demands that the legitimate aspirations of all should be satisfied, such as access to food, water and energy, to medicine and technology, or indeed the monitoring of climate change.”

Actions stemming from this way of life are the “Only in this way can we build the future of humanity; only in this way can we facilitate an integral development valid for today and tomorrow", the Pontiff said.

"Finally,” the Pope urged the diplomats, “I wish to urge the international community to make a global commitment on security. A joint effort on the part of States to implement all the obligations undertaken and to prevent terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction would undoubtedly strengthen the nuclear non- proliferation regime and make it more effective".

"Diplomacy is, in a certain sense, the art of hope", the Pope concluded. "It lives from hope and seeks to discern even its most tenuous signs. Diplomacy must give hope. ... May God open the hearts of those who govern the family of peoples to the hope that never disappoints!"

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Pope visits homeless shelter in Rome founded my Mother Teresa

, Jan 7, 2008 (CNA) - On January 4 Pope Benedict XVI visited a homeless shelter in Rome founded “20 years ago by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and currently operated by the congregation she founded, the Missionaries of Charity.”

The superior of the Dono di Maria shelter, Sister Mark Poustani, told Vatican Radio that the sisters were awaiting the Pope’s visit “with joy and gratitude”.

“We are a community of sisters and our first task is prayer,” Sister Poustani said.  “At this time there are eight of us.  We begin with prayer and at 8am we collect the fruit of that prayer, that is, the work with the poor.”  “We seek not only to give food but also the Word to our guests, sharing it with them every day,” she added.

By 1970 Mother Teresa had already expressed a desire to open a shelter for the poor in Rome.  “It was a great desire of hers.  And the Holy Father (John Paul II), when he visited our home in Calcutta in 1986, shared this desire.  The Dono di Maria shelter is the fruit of the encounter between these two desires, that of our mother and that of the Holy Father,” Sister Poustani stated.  The shelter was opened on May 21, 1988, by Pope John Paul II.

The sisters currently operating the shelter greeted Pope Benedict XVI with several gifts, including a photo of him with Mother Teresa from when he was a cardinal.

“The Pope is coming to his home, and it’s not only his because we are in the Vatican.  He is the head of the family, our father in the faith.  We pray always with the Pope and for the Pope.  We will show him our work and ask him to bless it. He will see our daily life.  We will not do anything out of the ordinary: every day we provide full meals to more than 70 people and two times per week we distribute the same amount of bread to people on the street.  We also have 50 small beds for the sick who are homeless,” Sister Poustani explained.

Since Mother Teresa’s death, the Missionaries of Charity have received over 900 new sisters and have opened homes in 14 new countries. They hope to open a new home soon in China.

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Vietnamese Catholics protest stealing of church property

Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 7, 2008 (CNA) - Hundreds of Catholics held prayer vigils in the Vietnamese capital over the weekend as part of a continuing effort to recover confiscated church lands, Agence France Presse reports.

After Saturday and Sunday Masses clergy and laity lit candles, placed flowers, and sang at the iron fence surrounding land once possessed by the Holy See’s delegate to Hanoi before his expulsion in the late 1950s.

"It's the land and the property of the church. We have the certificate of ownership of the property since 1933," one priest from the Hanoi archdiocese, told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

The 2.7-acre lot and the large French-colonial villa it holds have been put to other uses by the Vietnamese government.  The building has been used as a discotheque, while its garden has been turned into a parking lot.

Undercover police took video and photographs of the protesters, the priest said.  "Some Catholic followers were questioned by security officials, and some say they were pressured not to attend the prayers."

Vietnam has Southeast Asia’s second-largest Catholic community, with some six million adherents among a population of 84 million. 

The officially communist government continues to control religious activity and forbids Catholics from studying to become diplomats or police officers.  The Church remains barred from operating its own newspapers, schools, and hospitals.

Conditions for Vietnamese Catholics are reportedly improving.  Christian festivals such as Christmas are increasingly popular even among non-Christians. 

In a December meeting with Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung pledged to consider the property disputes.

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Chinese Communist party members punished for violating “one-child” policy

Beijing, China, Jan 7, 2008 (CNA) - Hundreds of people in a central China province have been expelled from the Communist party or fired from their government posts for violating the nation’s “one-child” policy, according to Agence France Presse.

“More party members, celebrities and well-off people are violating the policies… which has undermined social equality,” commission director Yang Youwang was quoted as saying.

The violators included 1,678 party officials or members.  500 were expelled from the party and 395 stripped of their posts.  The officials were reportedly fined as well.

More than 90,000 other people in the province violated the “one-child” policy last year.

The population control program began in the late 1970s to limit the growth of China’s population, which now numbers 1.3 billion.  Its enforcement has at times been brutal, involving forced late-term abortions and coercive sterilization of women.  According to the Chinese government, more than 400 million births have been averted due to the policy.

Under the birth restrictions, urban families are typically allowed to have one child while rural families may have two if the firstborn is a girl.  In recent years the policy has been ignored in rural areas, while newly rich city residents can afford the fines for law violations.

Last year several areas of the poor southern province of Guangxi suffered riots after an official crackdown on policy violators enraged some residents.

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