Archive of April 14, 2008

Weapons disarmament preceded by disarmament of hearts, says Cardinal Martino

Rome, Italy, Apr 14, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said this past week that, “To work for disarmament means to promote a preventative culture of peace, capable of preventing at the roots the causes that can degenerate human coexistence into the scandal of war.”

The cardinal made his comments during the inauguration of the International Seminar on “Disarmament, Development and Peace: Perspectives for Comprehensive Disarmament,” which took place last week in Rome.  During his remarks, the cardinal said every person “is a potential architect of disarmament if he has the courage to disarm his own heart.”

All people, he continued, are called to “be operators of peace, in their own lives and later in the world.”  This culture of peace “should be acquired first of all by the leaders of national and international institutions called to sharpen dialogue, mutual trust and diplomatic efforts to peacefully prevent and resolve controversies.”

Cardinal Martino later recalled the important role played by the great religions, “which are called to converge in the defense of the value of human life and dignity and to promote a true and appropriate pedagogy of peace.”

According to the “principle of sufficiency,” Cardinal Martino pointed out, states have the “right to armament necessary strictly for legitimate defense.”  However, he warned, “any excessive accumulation of arms or their generalized sale cannot be justified, neither legally and much less so morally.”

Recalling Pope Paul VI, the cardinal noted that “development is the new name of peace.”  This development, he said, cannot only be material; it must also be above all cultural, moral and spiritual, in order to open up for humanity a way to “authentic and lasting peace.”

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Pope Benedict calls for a “new humanism” to overcome violence

Vatican City, Apr 14, 2008 (CNA) - In the face of the eruption of violence around the world, Pope Benedict is calling for a “new humanism” that includes moral and spiritual development, to combat the spread of warfare.

The Pope’s message, which was made public on Saturday, comes less than a week before his address to the U.N., where many expect him to address violence and the need for strengthening the family around the world.

Cardinal Renato Martino and participants in a seminar entitled: "Disarmament, development and peace, prospects for integral disarmament", being held in Rome April 11-12, received the Pope’s letter. 

The Holy Father began his message by noting how the seminar’s topic is very relevant to humanity’s current situation. "Tension and war exist in various parts of the world, and even where the tragedy of war is not present, feelings of fear and insecurity are nonetheless widespread,” Benedict XVI noted.  “Furthermore, such phenomena as global terrorism blur the distinction between peace and war, seriously compromising the future hopes of humankind.”

"How", he adds, "can we respond to these challenges? How can we recognize the 'signs of the times'? Certainly, joint action on a political, economic and juridical level is needed but, even before that, it is necessary to reflect together on a moral and spiritual level. What is ever more vital is to promote a 'new humanism'".

However, the Pope cautioned, we cannot think of this “new humanism” in a way that reduces development to “simple economic growth,” rather, “it must include the moral and spiritual dimension. A truly integral humanism must, at the same time, also express solidarity," he said.

Achieving "True and lasting peace is unimaginable without the development of each person and of all peoples," Pope Benedict asserted. Yet, is it inconceivable “to think of reducing arms if first we do not eliminate violence at its roots, if man does not first turn decisively to searching for peace and for what is good and just".

The Pope also took aim at nations that spend exorbitant amounts of money on defense and in doing so, divert funds from “projects for the development of peoples, especially the poorest and those most in need of help".

Instead of allowing military spending to become a driving force of the world economy, the Pontiff called on States to “reduce military expenditure on arms and to give serious consideration to the idea of creating a global fund for peaceful development projects".
Benedict XVI affirms the need to do everything possible to ensure that "the economy is directed to serving human beings and solidarity, and not just to profit.”

"Nonetheless", the Pope acknowledges, "it will be difficult to find a solution to the various technical problems without man's conversion to good on a cultural, moral and spiritual level".

This transformation requires a “choral invocation of the culture of peace and for a joint education in peace, especially among the new generations. ... The human right to peace", he writes, "is fundamental and inalienable", and upon it "the exercise of all other rights depends," the Pope insisted.

Although the current situation in the world could give rise "to a justified sense of discomfort and resignation", the Holy Father points out that "war is never inevitable and peace is always possible. Even more so, it is a duty!  The time has come to change the course of history, to rediscover trust, to cultivate dialogue and to nourish solidarity", he says.

"The future of humanity depends upon a commitment on everyone's part. Only by pursuing an integrated humanism of solidarity, in which disarmament assumes an ethical and spiritual dimension, can humanity progress towards the true and lasting peace for which it longs,” the Pope concluded.


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Brazilian bishops reveal death threats against three prelates

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Apr 14, 2008 (CNA) - During its 46th Plenary Assembly last week, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil denounced the death threats that have been leveled against three of its members in recent days and called for investigations and increased security.

The prelates who have received death threats are Bishop Erwin Kraulter of Xingu, Bishop Jose Luis Azcona Hermoso of Marajo, and Bishop Flavio Giovenale of Abaetetuba.  The three bishops’ dioceses are in the state of Parana in northeastern Brazil. 

“We express our solidarity with these bishops who are currently suffering persecution and even death threats for the sake of the Gospel,” the bishops’ conference said in a statement.  “Any aggression against them affects all of us, their brothers in the episcopate, and the people who they fearlessly serve with zeal and courageous prophecy,” the statement continued.

The bishops said their support for the prelates also extends “to the people they defend: the indigenous peoples, children and teens who are used by human traffickers, sold for sexual exploitation and killed by drugs.”

They also called on authorities to launch “serious investigations and provide protection for the bishops under threat.  Their lives are precious for the people they defend and for us who support them.  Enough of the violence,” the bishops said.

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Holy Father to bring message of hope to Church in US, says Vatican official

Vatican City, Apr 14, 2008 (CNA) - The vice president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, Archbishop Octavo Ruiz Arenas, said that during his upcoming trip to the Unites States, Pope Benedict XVI will bring a message of hope to the faithful to encourage them to proclaim the Gospel of Christ with love and enthusiasm.

Speaking to Vatican Radio, the archbishop stressed the importance of the Pope’s eighth trip outside Italy, which is taking place “at a difficult time for the entire Church, in which we have to rescue again the values that flow from the Gospel in order that human rights may be respected” and so that the proclamation of the Gospel will be done “with love and hope.”

He also said that Pope Benedict hopes the trip will bring healing over the clergy sex abuse scandal, “to remind people that as ministers we are certainly fragile but that the strength of the Lord is what should animate the entire Church.”

Regarding the Pope’s visit to the United Nations, Archbishop Ruiz Arenas noted that it comes as the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is observed.

“The Church, in this field, has a strong message to proclaim.  She wants to again stress what human dignity is, which is not based on acquired rights or on rights that we seek out somewhere, but rather on the very essence of our being. We are children of God, we are all brothers and sisters,” he said.

Archbishop Ruiz encouraged Catholics to seek out equality so that we can all live out our dignity as human beings “with pride, respecting one another.”

He also noted the affection Latinos have for the Holy Father, for whom “we pray to the Lord to give him the strength to continue this work he is carrying out with profound apostolic sentiment.”

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Ignorance of meaning of suffering leads to acceptance of euthanasia, warns Mexican expert

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 14, 2008 (CNA) - The director of the Department of Bioethics at the Anahuac University in Mexico, Dr. Oscar Martinez Gonzalez, said the “incapacity to discover the meaning and value of suffering and to see the true face of death makes understanding the arguments against euthanasia difficult to understand.”

During a recent Bioethics Congress in Acapulco, Martinez said the country’s new law on living wills, which takes effect this year, “legalizes passive euthanasia” at the request of the patient.  Killing the infirm, he said, “ends the suffering and pain but also ends the life of the person.”  “A society that is not able to take care of the infirm is a society that has lost its way,” Martinez said.

For his part, Father Gonzalo Miranda, director of the Department of Bioethics at the Regina Apostolurum Pontifical University in Rome, noted that the new law has its origins in the Advance Directives that are widespread use in the United States and have two aspects: “One is the ‘living will,’ and the other is simply a directive for long term medical care,” he said.

“They are two different instruments that can be combined to establish what one wants to be done or not, and at the same time to help discern what is the best decision to make,” said Father Miranda.

While he pointed out that most living wills are not problematic, they are used by pro-abortion and euthanasia groups to “change the mentality of people to accept euthanasia.”

“The living will is not something that resolves problems,” as a person can’t know whether he will be cured in a week or in a month.  “In the United States,” he added, “70% of those who sign a living will change their minds once they fall seriously ill.”

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President Bush pulling out all stops to welcome the Pope

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict’s visit to the White House on Wednesday will be only the second time a Pope has visited the home of the President of the United States, the Associated Press reports.

In an unprecedented move, President Bush will drive out to meet Pope Benedict’s plane after it lands at Andrews Air Force Base.   The papal visit will bring an audience of 12,000 to the South Lawn of the White House, where the president will host an East Room dinner honoring the Pontiff.

Until this visit, the Associated Press reports, no president has given a visiting leader the honor of picking him up at the airport.

The White House arrival ceremony for the Pope will feature the anthems of the United States and the Holy See, a 21-gun salute, and the U.S. Army Drum and Fife Corps.  Both men will deliver remarks before they meet in the Oval Office.

The expected welcoming ceremony crowd of 12,000 will be the largest ever at the White House, exceeding in number the 7,000 people who came to greet Queen Elizabeth II last spring.

Though the White House dinner will feature Bavarian-style food for the German-born pontiff, the Pope will miss the dinner and instead attend a prayer meeting with the United States Catholic bishops.

President George W. Bush, speaking in an interview with EWTN, explained the reasons for his novel airport tarmac greeting of the Pope.

"One, he speaks for millions,” the president said.  “Two, he doesn't come as a politician; he comes as a man of faith; and Three, I so subscribe to his notion that there’s right and wrong in life, that moral relativism undermines the capacity to have hopeful and free societies.  I want to honor his convictions, as well.”

The president also described himself as a “believer in the value of human life.”

Since President Dwight Eisenhower’s meeting in Rome with Pope John XXIII, every U.S. president has met with the Pope at least once.  Pope Benedict’s visit will mark President Bush’s fifth meeting with a pontiff, a new record.

While Pope Benedict and President Bush share some common ground regarding abortion, homosexual marriage, and embryonic research, they have disagreed on the war in Iraq and the death penalty.  Pope Benedict has also spoken against punitive immigration laws and the U.S. embargo against Cuba, while favoring social welfare programs in ways that differ from the positions of the American president.

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Muslim cleric proclaims Rome will soon be conquered by Islam

CNA STAFF, Apr 14, 2008 (CNA) - A high profile Muslim cleric and Hamas member of the Palestinian parliament gave a sermon last Friday in which he declared that soon Rome, “the capital of the Catholics” will be soon overtaken by Islam. 

Yunis al-Astal, the cleric in question, told his listeners that “Very soon, Allah willing, Rome will be conquered, just like Constantinople was, as was prophesized by our Prophet Muhammad. Today, Rome is the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam…”

The diatribe was aired on Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV and predicted that Rome would become "an advanced post for the Islamic conquests, which will spread though Europe in its entirety, and then will turn to the two Americas, even Eastern Europe."

"Allah has chosen you for Himself and for His religion," al-Astal declared, "so that you will serve as the engine pulling this nation to the phase of succession, security and consolidation of power, and even to conquests through da'wa and military conquests of the capitals of the entire world.

According to FOX News, Al-Astal preached last June that it was the duty of Palestinian women to martyr themselves by becoming homicide bombers.

"When jihad becomes an individual duty, it applies to women too, because women do not differ from men when it comes to individual duties," he said in a June 23, 2007 interview. Al-Astal also called Jews "the brothers of apes and pigs" who should "taste the bitterness of death” in the interview.

The parliamentarian returned to this slur on Friday, saying that Rome “has planted the brothers of apes and pigs in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam.”

"I believe that our children, or our grandchildren, will inherit our jihad and our sacrifices, and, Allah willing, the commanders of the conquest will come from among them,” Al-Astal said.

"Today, we instill these good tidings in their souls – and by means of the mosques and the Koran books, and the history of our Prophets, his companions, and the great leaders, we prepare them for the mission of saving humanity from the hellfire at whose brink they stand."

To view video of Yunis Al-Astal go to:

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