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Archive of January 30, 2008

Church in Italy insists on “abortion moratorium”

, Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - During an interview on the Italian TV network La7, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar for the city of Rome, said the Church in Italy continues supporting a “moratorium” on abortion but has not called for a “revolt” against the current law.

“The Church in Italy is not calling for a revolt against law 194 (which legalized abortion in Italy), but it cannot be denied that this is an intrinsically evil norm, which authorizes the death of an innocent human being,” the cardinal said.

He pointed out that one way for respect for life to be recovered in the country is for Italian politicians to read law 194 “in a comprehensive way,” so that the provisions included in the law which oblige the state to take measures to avoid abortions and support pregnant women are applied.  “In fact, these provisions have been forgotten,” Cardinal Ruini said.

“We need to do everything possible to help women to welcome their children,” he went on, recalling that 85,000 abortions have been avoided in Italy in recent years thanks to assistance from Catholic centers.

“The reality of abortion is that it takes the life of a living human being: this is the source of all the problems,” the cardinal stressed.  “Abortion is a drama for the woman, for the man, for the entire family, and therefore the Church’s approach is one of charity in all cases and not hostile persecution.”

Cardinal Ruini responded to questions posed by Giuliano Ferrara, the director of the newspaper “Il Foglio,” which proposed the idea at the beginning of the year of a moratorium on abortion, similar to the moratorium on the death penalty passed by the United Nations.

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Archbishop of Cincinnati says “Bodies...The Exhibition” undermines human dignity

Cincinnati, Ohio, Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Cincinnati has commented on the “Bodies...The Exhibition” presentation opening in Cincinnati, calling it “unseemly and inappropriate” and deeming it an improper destination for Catholic school field trips.

The “Bodies...The Exhibition” exhibit, which will spend seven months at Cincinnati Museum Center, displays 20 human cadavers preserved by polymerization and arranged in various poses.   The exhibit also includes between 200 and 250 preserved body parts.

Premier Exhibitions of Atlanta, the firm that puts on the exhibit, says the goal of the program is to show the inner workings of the human body.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk issued a statement on the exhibit’s opening, raising his concerns about the display.

He noted that concern for the dignity of the human person extends even to a dead body. 

“Catholic moral thought does not regard body and soul as entirely separate. Rather, it recognizes that human beings are embodied spirits. That means the body is more than just a container for the soul,” the archbishop wrote.

Archbishop Pilarczyk said the Church has consistently maintained respect for dead bodies.  Their long-permitted use in scientific research and in educational programs, he said, takes place in that ethical framework.

“Bodies...The Exhibition”, he said, did not proceed from the same respect for the body.  “The public exhibition of plasticized bodies, unclaimed, unreverenced, and unidentified, is a different matter entirely. It is unseemly and inappropriate,” he wrote.

Saying the exhibit, while perhaps well intentioned and educational, fails to respect persons.  “I do not believe that this exhibit is an appropriate destination for field trips by our Catholic schools,” Archbishop Pilarczyk stated. 

Parents, the archbishop said, should be the ones who take their children to see “Bodies...The Exhibition” if, acting “as the primary educators of their children,” they believe the exhibit has educational value.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has almost 500,000 Catholics and 117 Catholic primary and secondary schools.

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Franciscan superior attacked in Sarajevo

Konigstein, Germany, Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Franciscan Provincial Superior in Sarajevo was attacked by assailants demanding money on the night of January 21, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports.

Father Mijo Džolan, 58, who heads the province covering Bosnia and Serbia, was attacked at around 1:40 in the morning at the provincial house in Sarajevo.

Two masked men forced their way through the window of the Provincial’s bedroom and “woke him roughly.”  Holding a pistol to his head, they demanded money.  Father Džolan calmly explained that the provincial house had no cash.  Though the men accused him of lying and threatened to kill him, he again repeated that the house had no money.  The robbers then clubbed him on the shin with the butt of their pistol, after which they fled.

After the Provincial called for help, one of his fellow Franciscans found him, while their Muslim neighbors called the police.  Father Džolan was taken to a hospital for treatment but returned home soon afterwards.

Father Džolan spoke with ACN about the attack, saying, “It was an experience like nothing else. The whole time I was conscious of the very real danger of being shot dead by the intruders. I was not at all afraid; there was only a sense of powerlessness, which suddenly turned into a sense of grateful surrender to God. I found that a sense of total abandonment and loneliness was transformed into something quite new.”

Father Džolan said the incident had especially unsettled Catholic Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who worried the attack was an attempt at intimidation.  The priest had urged them to wait for a police investigation.  He said many people were pleased that the Church had not used the attack for short-term gain.

The Franciscan Provincial concluded his interview with ACN by reflecting on the good that could result from the crime.

 “I am grateful to a loving God for the fortunate outcome of this incident. Let us hope that the way in which these events have been interpreted will encourage the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina a little to work for justice, truth and love,” he said.

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Pro-life film festival launched in San Francisco

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - Inspired by major artistic events held at Cannes and Sundance, pro-lifers are organizing the first ever pro-life film festival, Ignatius Insight reports.

The Cinema Vita Film Festival will be held on March 7 in San Francisco.   Sponsored by Ignatius Press, Marriage for Life, the San Francisco Archdiocesan Office for Public Policy and the Oakland Diocesan Respect Life Ministry, the festival will encourage emerging filmmakers and showcase movies about the meaning and value of life.

Eva Muntean, a member of the festival’s organizing council and an employee of Ignatius Press, described the goals of the festival: "All forms of media should be used to spread the Gospel and give glory to God," she remarks. "Cinema is no different and the production of family values, pro-life movies is desperately needed to reach the masses in our modern age."

Muntean hoped the festival would improve the quality of pro-life cinema, saying, "Why is it today that films that reflect a positive view of the family and of life are not normally well made or professional? That needs to change. Cinema Vita is a necessary step in bringing about that change."

Another festival organizer, Vicki Evans, who works for the Office of Public Policy for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, says that the Cinema Vita Film Festival is meant to encourage the exploration in film of questions perennial to the human condition.

"What is life? Why and how is it sacred? Where do we come from? These are questions found in every human heart. And filmmakers, through their art, are able to draw them out and explore their significance in ways that are challenging and engaging," she said.

The film festival will feature a premier presentation of the German film “After the Truth,” an internationally acclaimed portrayal of the fictional trial of Dr. Josef Mengele, who perpetrated war crimes at the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

Cinema Vita is accepting submissions for 3-to-5 minute original films in the three divisions of high school, college, and an open category.  The films will be judged based on the overall impact of their message, the storyline or plot, technical quality, and appeal to a broad audience.  There is a $250 prize for each category plus “in-kind” prizes to encourage filmmakers.  The festival’s website is www.cinemavita.org.

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If you are far from God, you are far from yourself, says the Pope

Vatican City, Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict returned to his reflections on St. Augustine today, urging everyone to draw close to Jesus, saying that “those who are far from God are far from themselves.”

In today's general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope again dedicated his catechesis (for the third time) to the figure of St. Augustine.

The Holy Father recalled how in 1986, for the sixteenth centenary of the conversion of this Doctor of the Church, John Paul II wrote the Apostolic Letter "Augustinum Hipponensem" as a form of "thanksgiving to God for the gift that He has made to the Church, and through her to the whole human race, with this wonderful conversion".

After announcing that Augustine's conversion will be the subject of his next and final catechesis on the saint, the Pope indicated that he would dedicate his remarks today to the question of faith and reason, "a vital aspect of St. Augustine's biography".

St. Augustine's "intellectual and spiritual journey still represents a valid model for the relationship between faith and reason today, a theme that concerns not only believers but everyone who seeks the truth, and that is central to the equilibrium and the destiny of all human beings. These two dimensions - faith and reason - must not be separated or brought into conflict with one another, rather they must be harmonized,” the Pope said.

Augustine, the Holy Father reminded, had two maxims "which express this coherent blend of faith and reason: 'crede ut intelligas' (believe in order to understand), believing opens the way to entering the gates of truth" and, "inseparable from this, 'intellige ut credas' (scrutinize truth in order to encounter God and believe)".

"This harmony between faith and reason means, above all, that God is not far away from our reason and our lives. He is close to each human being, close to our heart and close to our reason," the Pontiff encouraged.

The Pope elaborated on God’s closeness to mankind further, "God's presence in man is profound and, at the same time, mysterious, but it can be recognized and discovered in our inmost selves. ... As the saint himself highlights in his famous phrase at the beginning of his 'Confessions', the spiritual autobiography he wrote in praise of God: 'You have formed us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in you'".

"Human beings, the saint writes, are 'a great enigma' and 'a great abyss', an enigma and abyss that only Christ can illuminate and save. This is important. Those who are far from God are far from themselves, they are alienated from themselves and can only encounter themselves if they encounter God and thus ... attain their true identity".

In his "City of God" St. Augustine highlights how "human beings are social by nature and antisocial by corruption, and can only be saved by Christ, the sole mediator between God and humanity, and the universal way to freedom and salvation", said the Holy Father. "As the sole mediator of salvation, Christ is the Head of the Church and mystically united to her".

Turning his attention back to the Apostolic Letter "Augustinum Hipponensem", Benedict XVI indicated that "John Paul II had wished to ask the saint what he had to say to modern man, and he responds with the words Augustine used in a letter written shortly after his conversion: 'It seems to me that men should be brought back to the hope of discovering the truth', the truth that is Christ Himself".

"Augustine", the Pope concluded, "encountered God and throughout his life experienced His presence in such a way that this reality - which is above all an encounter with a Person, Jesus - changed his life, as it changes the lives of those people, men and women, who in all ages have had the grace of meeting Him. Let us pray to the Lord that He may give us this grace and thus bring us to discover His peace". 

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Cardinal Sandoval warns “Popeye” could be manipulated to plead guilty

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara expressed his concern this week that officials charged with investigating the murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas, could warp statements by Alfredo Araujo Avila, known as “Popeye,” to make him plead guilty for the crime.

Cardinal Iniguez said news reports “seem to be aimed at warping statements by Araujo to make it appear he is confessing to killing Cardinal Posadas because he confused him with Chapo Guzman, something that is totally absurd.”  He pointed out that the theory that Cardinal Posadas was murdered amidst a gun battle between drug traffickers has been completely discredited.

The cardinal stressed that the capture of Araujo is important not because he was necessarily the person responsible for the murder but because “he knows, because he was there.”  Each time a drug trafficker is detained, he went on, the press links him to the Posadas case “and they say he was the one who killed him.  They have about three dozen drug lords they have made guilty of the Posadas case,” he said.

Cardinal Posadas died on May 24, 1993 at the Guadalajara International Airport after being shot 16 times. His chauffer, Pedro Perez Hernandez, was shot 10 times, and the car they were in took over 52 bullets.

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Turkish bishops: Pauline year is chance to intensify Christian identity

, Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Turkey has issued a statement for the celebration of the Pauline Year stressing the need for bolstering Christian identity in their country, which is dominated by the Muslim majority.

According to L’Osservatore Romano, the statement read by the president of the conference, Bishop Luigi Padovese, affirms that “the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of St. Paul involves every Christian community, especially because Paul is a teacher to all the disciples of Christ, but it especially involves us who live in Turkey, since the Apostle of the Gentiles is a son of this land and it is here that he developed his ministry.”

“It was here where he traveled, in less than thirty years, the majority of the 10,000 miles of his travels.  Here above all he experienced hostility, dangers, imprisonment and sufferings of all kinds in order to proclaim Jesus Christ and his gospel. We bishops think that some parts of his letters can be useful to our communities who live as a religious minority,” the statement indicated.

“Because of this situation,” the bishops continued, “we have a clearer awareness of our identity.  And if in the encounter with the Christian world the Apostle is our teacher in relations between different Christian communities, then he is the teacher and the foundation of unity. The faith of the Apostle in the risen Christ, his charity in giving of himself to all is the measure of every Christian in Turkey.”

The Bishops’ Conference of Turkey is composed of seven bishops: three of the Latin rite, two Armenian, one Syrian-Catholic and one Chaldean.  During January, the bishops have been studying the schedule of activities that will be celebrated at the places where St. Paul lived was born, lived and worked.

Tarsus, where St. Paul was born, is currently a Muslim city. The only declared Christian presence is that of three Italian sisters who care for the Eucharist in an apartment.

The Pauline Year will begin on June 28, 2008 and conclude June 29, 2009.

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Czech Catholic journalist helped to save hundreds of Jews in Italy

, Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - Karel Weirich, a Czech journalist whose mother’s last name was coincidentally Schindler—like the famous character of the Steven Spielberg movie—complied a series of lists with hundreds of names of Czechoslovakian Jews captured by the Nazis in Italy who he helped with money, clothing, medicines and eventually escape from their captors.

In an article entitled, “The Schindler of Pius XII,” written by Gaetano Vallini, the L’Osservatore Romano reported that “Weirich, a hidden and unknown hero, can be included among the saviors of the world in one of the darkest periods of history.”

“It’s not for nothing,” Vallini writes, “that the book by Alberto Tronchin about this person is entitled ‘A Re-Found ‘Joy’’, which tells how he saved hundreds of Czechs,” and was published “thanks to his niece Helena, who had access to his precious documents, not only the names, but the letters, identity documents and testimonies of an intense and risky activity.”

His story

Weirich was born in Rome on July 2, 1906, and while he was young his family moved often.  In 1925, after finishing his studies, he began to work as the secretary of the Pontifical Work of St. Paul the Apostle.  “In 1932 he was transferred to a similar post at the National Office of the Pontifical Missionary Works.  That same year he began to write articles about Czechoslovakia for the Vatican daily,” Vallini writes.

After the order by the Nazis to arrest all Jews in June of 1940, Weirich decided to found the Work of St. Wenceslas, together with other Catholics.  The organization was devoted to helping Jews in the concentration camps or those who were in hiding, many of whom were taking refuge in monasteries and convents opened by order of Pope Pius XII.

Because of his clandestine activity he was arrested on April 1, 1944 by the Gestapo.  He was condemned to death, but the Holy See intervened to get his sentence reduced to 18 months of forced labor at the concentration camp of Kolbermoor, where he remained until May 2, 1945.

Many Czechoslovakians who survived until the liberation of the concentration camps on September 14, 1943 attributed their survival to the work of Weirich, who saved the hundreds of letters he received thanking him for his efforts.

His niece, Helena, recalled that “every time her uncle was asked why he did not say anything about what he had done, he replied: ‘because that is the past.’  When they wanted to give him a medal, he said: ‘I accept it, but you should also bestow it on the cloistered brothers and sisters who hid people,’” Vallini wrote.

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Vietnam pursues legal action against Catholics following protests

Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - The government of Vietnam is seeking legal action against the Archbishop of Hanoi following Catholic prayer vigils and protests seeking the return of church lands confiscated after the communist takeover.

The police newspaper Capital Security on Tuesday reported that the Vietnamese government is conducting legal investigations of Archbishop Joseph Ngô and several other clergymen.  The government accuses them of abusing their power to incite their followers to confront the government.  In these confrontations, the government alleges, state-owned property was destroyed and public officials were attacked.

Church leaders in Hanoi believe the investigations are an attempt to intimidate individuals, following the failure of the government to intimidate Catholics as a whole.

Thousands of Vietnamese Catholics have gathered at the gate of the former residence of the papal nuncio in Hanoi since December 18.   They have demanded the return of the property, which was confiscated in 1959 and is now planned to become a restaurant and nightclub.

The government’s allegations against the demonstrators result from an incident on January 25 in which protestors scuffled with police and threw away commercial billboards that were posted on the fence of the former nunciature, after police beat two of the protestors.

One cleric said the government was “trying to turn crime victims into criminals.”

Father Joseph Nguyen, a witness of the January 25 incident, called the government press coverage a “shameful distortion of the facts,” according to VietCatholic News.

Father Nguyen said that during the demonstration a Hmong woman had climbed over a gate to place flowers on a statue of the Virgin Mary inside the building.

Discovered by security personnel, the woman was chased around the garden of the building.  “Disregarding the woman's explanations for her venturing into the building, the guards kicked and slapped her severely. In the witness of more than 2,000 Catholics, a security commander even loudly ordered his subordinates to beat to death the woman,” Father Nguyen said.

A man at the prayer vigil intervened, but he too was beaten.  Protestors then broke through the gate to rescue the two and scuffled with security personnel.

One prelate described the crowd’s motivation, saying, “the guards could not attack the woman brutally like that.”

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Fr. Bossi returns to the Philippines, hopes to go back to his mission

Manila, Philippines, Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Italian missionary Fr. Giancarlo Bossi arrived back in the Philippines on  Monday aboard a Philippine Air Lines flight from Hong Kong, following a five month absence due to his having been kidnapped.

Fr. Bossi was in the news last June after he was kidnapped by armed men, whom he later identified as Abu Sayyaf members, near the rural southern Filipino town of Payao.

During his month long captivity Pope Benedict said that “Fr. Bossi is in his thoughts and prayers everyday.” “We are hoping and praying that the Lord helps us.” 

The same day that he was rescued, Fr. Bossi was asked what he would like to do now that he was free he replied that if his superiors let him, he would go back to Payao, a fishing town in Zamboanga Sibugay where he has been ministering. "I have to go back to Payao," he said. "My heart is still in Payao…. They say that a priest must also be a father and so as the father of my community it is my duty to return to my people, to my children.”

Upon his return to the Philippines, the Italian missionary priest said,  “I am happy to be back.”

He told the Philippines Bishops’ Conference news service (CBCP News) he will await instructions from his superior, Fr. Gianni Sandalo, regarding his next assignment.

Though he hopes to go back to Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay, he said “it may not be that easy.”

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Sydney previews new Mass composed for World Youth Day

Sydney, Australia, Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - In a preview of World Youth Day, a new Mass composed for the July event was performed in Sydney on Tuesday, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The music for the Mass, “Benedictus qui venit,” was composed last year by George Palmer, a New South Wales Supreme Court judge.  The orchestral piece will be performed twice for hundreds of thousands of worshippers during the July 15-20 World Youth Day celebrations. 

The opening and closing Masses are the liturgies at which the musical score will be played. Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, will preside over the opening Mass and Pope Benedict XVI will lead the closing Mass at Randwick Racecourse, an event expected to be attended by nearly half a million people.

The Red Mass at which Palmer’s composition was performed on Tuesday is an annual event for judges, magistrates and lawyers.  A European tradition begun in the 12th century, the Red Mass was adopted in Sydney in 1931 by Catholic lawyers seeking God’s guidance in their professional work.  Several hundred members of the Sydney legal community attended the Mass, over which the Bishop of Wollongong, Peter Ingham, presided.

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US Bishops' ad campaign targeted for suppression in San Francisco

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 30, 2008 (CNA) - A pro-life campaign sponsored by the U.S. Catholic Bishops has drawn the ire of a San Francisco chapter of Planned Parenthood, which is trying to have the campaign’s radio advertisements removed from local stations.

The Second Look Project, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, says on its website that it presents “basic facts” regarding abortion, offering “information to help people make informed decisions based on fact rather than emotion.”

One of the radio ads, titled “Heartbeat,” begins with a thumping heartbeat.

"Hear that?" says the announcer. "It's the heartbeat of an infant in the womb at six months.”  The announcer then describes the heart rate of the child and how his or her chances of survival would be greater than 50%.” 

“"But even today, his mother could choose to have an abortion,” the advertisement continues.  The ad says that Roe v. Wade legalized abortion “for virtually any reason” through all nine months of pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood’s Golden Gate chapter has begun an e-mail campaign to have the radio spots taken off the air, according to LifeSite News. One e-mail read, “They're running ads in the Bay Area, Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C., that tout lies and contain gross inaccuracies and pro-choice activists throughout the Bay Area are asking us to do something about it.”

The e-mail then suggests readers write to the stations airing the campaign, asserting the stations are unethical for playing the spots.

Yet Planned Parenthood seems to use a different set of standards for its own advertisements. The group most recently made headlines for its outrageous "Mile High Club" television ads, which featured a gay flight attendant named Stephen who cruises the aisles, showering young passengers with contraceptives. With the lights dimmed and party music blaring, he sits on the pilot's lap, as the camera zooms out, the two exchange winks.

Second Look Campaign spokeswoman Deirdre McQuade told LifeSite News that past efforts to have the Second Look ads pulled were successful in Seattle in 2007.  However, she also noted that the present effort to stop the campaign would have no immediate effect, because the radio campaign had already ended.

McQuade suggested that people write in to support the stations that ran the advertisements.  "I think the best thing to do is to call or write to those same two radio stations (KCBS & KFRC) and just very pleasantly thank them. No need for being defensive or strident or anything,” she said.

“I don't think we do enough affirming of the stations that do run our ads,” she continued.

Regarding Planned Parenthood’s accusation that the ads “tout lies and contain gross distortions,” McQuade challenged the organization to provide specific criticisms.  "Where exactly do you say the lies are? We've substantiated everything we've said on our website," she said.

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