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Archive of April 15, 2008

Pope promises to “do everything possible” to heal scandal of sex abuse

Aboard the papal plane, Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - While in transit to the United States today, Pope Benedict XVI took the opportunity to respond to the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, saying that he will do “everything possible to heal this wound” and that he will work to ensure pedophiles don't become priests.

The Pope’s words were part of answers he gave to questions submitted in advance by reporters aboard Shepherd One, a special Alitalia airliner that is ferrying him to the United States.

"It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general and for me personally that this could happen," Benedict said. "It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission ... to these children."

"I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future," the pope said.

Benedict XVI also said he was determined to prevent pedophiles from becoming priests in the Roman Catholic Church.

"We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry," Benedict said in English. "It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound."

Pedophilia is "absolutely incompatible" with the priesthood," Benedict said.
The Catholic Church in the United States has been hit particularly hard on the East Coast by the sex abuse scandals, and the Pope’s visit could serve as a key step in the healing process for the Church.

The Holy Father also spoke about how he sees this, his first visit as Pope to the U.S.
He described his visit as a voyage to meet a "great people and a great Church."

When the Pope lands at Andrews Air Force Base at 4 p.m. EST, President Bush will give him the honor of picking him up at the base.

On board the plane, the Pope also said that when he meets with President Bush tomorrow, he will discuss immigration and the difficulties of families who are separated by immigration.

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Without the Church, the world dies, says Madrid cardinal

Madrid, Spain, Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, said this week, “If there is a lack of priests in the Church, the Church dies, and if the Church is not present in the world, the world dies.”

The cardinal made his comments during the 45th Day of Prayer for Vocations in Spain.  He noted that the Church “needs priests and religious,” because there are no “substitutes for the ministerial priesthood or formulas that can be considered as alternatives to the ministry of the consecration of bishops, priests and deacons.”

Likewise, he called on young people to “respond to the invitation and call of the Lord to follow him in the priesthood and religious life,” so that “the Church can continue fulfilling her mission as the Sacrament of Salvation.”

Cardinal Rouco noted that in encountering Christ, mankind has always found it difficult “to acknowledge Him and acknowledge what He offers,” and he stressed that man must realize that “there is no other Savior besides Him.”

Many European countries, including Spain, he continued, are “very influenced by the search for an alternative to God to give meaning to the life of man and to understand what life brings,” but this is “the old temptation of the 20th century in which during difficult times,” it was believed that some person could substitute for God, but “there is no salvation apart from God or apart from those He has sent.”

“Now that this temptation is so strong and drags away so many people and groups to follow supposedly alternative paths,” we need men and women who want to be instruments of God “to make known His ways as our Shepherd.”

Cardinal Rouco called for prayers that more young people would commit to the mission of the Lord to be shepherds “to make Him present as truth, grace, life and the way that leads to Salvation.”

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President Bush addresses relationship with Pope Benedict, U.S. Catholics

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - On Friday, President George W. Bush publicly addressed Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States in an interview with EWTN. In addition, Bush also addressed concerns of interest to Catholics such as the position of Christians in Iraq, relations with China, and the creation of a “culture of life.”

The president explained the reasons he would meet Pope Benedict’s airplane upon its arrival at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, saying this unprecedented greeting was due to the particular significance of the Pope.

"One, he speaks for millions. 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 said.

President Bush thought his administration’s foreign policy was connected to these convictions.

“One of the tenets of my foreign policy is that there is an Almighty, and a gift of that Almighty to every man, woman, and child, is freedom.” 

The president, who described himself as a “believer in the value of human life,” said he thought the Pope spoke with clarity on such moral principles.

President Bush described his foreign aid policy as a “combination of faith and practicality.”  Hopelessness, he said, encourages terrorist recruitment, and it “invigorates our soul” to know Americans have saved lives through foreign aid.  Bush said “to whom much is given much is required” is one of his motivating beliefs. 

The president was asked about his response to the anti-Christian violence in Iraq, which has resulted in 40 bombed churches, murders, and Christians becoming 40 percent of the refugee population.

The president said he had urged the Iraqi government to understand the “vital importance” of minority rights in democracies, saying these rights were important in Iraq, the Holy Land, and throughout the Middle East.

The murderers of Christians like Archbishop of Mosul Paulos Rahho, the president believed, used their crimes to send a message that it was not worthwhile to “help a free society deliver.”

Bush said the violence was not government sponsored, but committed by “a bunch of thugs and killers who have this kind of dark dim view of the world and are willing to kill anybody who is willing to stand up to it.

“The same type of mentality that caused people to fly airplanes into our buildings to kill 3,000 of our citizens,” he said.

The president said that the Iraqi violence would be ended by stationing American troops there long enough “to have a civil society emerge.”

He said he was committed to providing troops to ensure safety for all Iraqis.  According to the president, the violence targeted not only Christian believers, but also other innocents.  He claimed insurgents and terrorists wanted to drive the United States out of the Middle East “because they hate free societies.”

When asked about the influence of his personal faith, President Bush said one cannot disassociate faith from how one lives life.
 
“I am optimistic because I happen to believe in certain universal principles, and I do believe that freedom is universal and that, if given a chance, people will self-govern and live in a peaceful, free society.  And history is my witness,” President Bush said.

When asked about what role his faith plays in sustaining him, the president said, “My faith has been so sustaining in the midst of what is a pretty hectic life, full of flattery and criticism.  Faith keeps a person grounded.  Faith reminds people that there is something a lot more important than you in life.”

He said he’d been “inspired” by prayers, and has come to understand more clearly “the story of the calm and the rough seas.”

President Bush also defended his decision to attend the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing despite China’s poor human rights record.  He said, “I can talk to them about religious freedom prior to the Olympics, during the Olympics, and after the Olympics.  I don’t need the Olympics to express my opposition to the Chinese leadership on freedom.  Because that’s all I have been doing as your president.”

The president insisted he had talked about human rights abuses in many foreign conflicts, citing Darfur, Burma, and the position of the Dalai Lama.  “They know my position,” he said of the Chinese government.  “If I politicize the Olympic Games, would it make less effective for me to deal with them, or more effective?”

The interview then turned to bioethical questions.

President Bush said that his decision to fund embryonic stem cell research that involved only cells from embryos that were already destroyed was the “right decision to begin with.”  He said the embryonic stem cell dispute marked the beginning of a “very interesting debate that future presidents will have to deal with:  science versus ethics, the value of life versus saving life, supposedly.” 

“I have obviously drawn the line in the sand.  Honoring life in all forms, is the touchstone for good science,” he said.

When EWTN host Raymond Arroyo asked President Bush whether there would be a pro-choice GOP nominee in the foreseeable future, Bush avoided a definite answer and instead talked about his own pro-life stand. 

“A culture of life is in our national interests,” he said.  “The politics of abortion isn’t going to change until people’s hearts change, and fully understand the meaning of life, what it means for a society to value life in all forms, whether it be the life of the unborn, or the life of the elderly, the life of the less fortunate among us or the life of the rich guy.”

President Bush said that Pope Benedict’s words provided support for politicians in difficult situations.  The president said, “I want to remind his Holy Father how important his voice is in making easier for politicians like me to be able to stand and defend our positions, that are I think, very important positions to take.”

Raymond Arroyo closed the interview by referring to President Bush’s words about looking into the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and “seeing his soul.”

Arroyo asked President Bush what he saw when he looked into the eyes of Pope Benedict XVI. 

“God,” the president answered.

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Philippines Cathedral damaged in bomb attack

Zamboanga City, Philippines, Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - Police in the southern Philippines city of Zamboanga city are investigating the explosion of two small bombs, one of which exploded outside a Catholic cathedral early Sunday morning, Reuters reports.  Muslim insurgents are suspected in the attack.

The first bomb’s blast shattered the windows of the cathedral and damaged two vehicles parked near the building.  The explosion created a half-inch deep crater on the blast site. 

Three men reportedly were seen riding a motorcycle near the location and leaving a bag in the area minutes before the explosion.

The Philippine military on Sunday said the bomb could have been intended to disrupt the 5 a.m. Mass but went off prematurely. 

Another bomb exploded near a coffee shop about half a mile away from the cathedral.

No one was injured in either blast.

"Whoever did this apparently did not want to cause real damage, just sow fear," Colonel Darwin Guerra, a commander of a local task force, told local radio.

Archbishop of Zamboanga Romulo Valles denounced the attack. 

“We are greatly saddened by these incidents. It is clearly an act of darkness. We should stand united,” the archbishop said.

According to Reuters, the city’s police chief said authorities were considering the possibility that militants trained by regional terror group Jemaah Islamiah were responsible for the attacks.

“We found traces of a mortar round and a mobile phone at the blast side," said Superintendent Jonathan Perez, saying the Saturday attacks were the first time that style of bomb had been used in the city.

The Philippines is fighting Muslim insurgencies in its southern islands.  Since 2002, Washington has been training and equipping its former colony to hunt down terrorists.  Dozens of U.S. Special Forces members are based in Zamboanga City.

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New stem cell technique could make human cloning easier

Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - The same newly-developed technique that ethically produces stem cells for research can also be used to lower the technical barriers to human cloning, the Independent is reporting.

With the new technique, cloning procedures are now so simple and efficient that some fear maverick researchers will soon attempt to clone humans.

Last year, researchers announced that they had genetically reprogrammed adult skin cells to return the cells to an embryonic-like state.  The reprogrammed cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), are believed to have great potential for health treatments.  The technique by which iPS cells are created is thought to sidestep ethical and practical issues surrounding human embryonic stem cell research, in which human embryos are created and destroyed.

Scientists have now used the same iPS cell creation procedure to create baby mice from the skin cells of adult animals.  Adult mouse skin cells, reprogrammed to become iPS cells, were inserted into early embryos produced by in-vitro fertilization (IVF).  Some of the offspring were partial clones, known as chimeras, sharing the genetic material of both the original embryo and the inserted iPS cells.  Other offspring were full clones, like Dolly the Sheep, completely matching the genetic make-up of the donor cell.

Some fear the technique will be used by IVF doctors to help infertile couples who want to have their own biological children.

“It's unethical and unsafe, but someone may be doing it today," said Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of American biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology, a pioneering company in stem cell and stem cell reprogramming research.

“Cloning isn't here now, but with this new technique we have the technology that can actually produce a child. If this was applied to humans it would be enormously important and troublesome.”

Though the technology for such cloning does not yet exist, Lanza said, “with this breakthrough we now have a working technology whereby anyone, young or old, fertile or infertile, straight or gay can pass on their genes to a child by using just a few skin cells."

The experiments on mice have demonstrated the possibility of taking an adult human skin cell, reprogramming it to induce an embryonic-like state, and then inserting the cell into a human embryo.  The resulting embryo would then be either a full clone of the adult or a chimera sharing its original genetic makeup and that of the adult cell’s donor.

Chimeras do occur naturally when two embryos fuse together early in life.  Dr. Lanza said there was no reason to believe a human chimera created by the technique would be unhealthy.

The research on mice proved that fully cloned offspring can be produced with the technique.  Researchers used a defective “tetraploid” mouse embryo with four sets of chromosomes instead of the normal two.  The embryo only developed into the placenta of the fetus.  The embryo was injected with an adult animal’s reprogrammed skin cell, developing from a single cell to become a full clone of the adult.

Dr. Lanza said the technique could easily produce cloned or chimeric babies.

“At this point there are no laws or regulations for this kind of thing and the bizarre thing is that the Catholic Church and other traditional stem-cell opponents think this technology is great when in reality it could in the end become one of their biggest nightmares," Lanza said. "It is quite possible that the real legacy of this whole new programming technology is that it will be introducing the era of designer babies.

"So for instance if we had a few skin cells from Albert Einstein, or anyone else in the world, you could have a child that is say 10 per cent or 70 per cent Albert Einstein by just injecting a few of their cells into an embryo," he said, according to the Independent.

No scientists working on iPS cells plan to use them for reproductive medicine.  They aim to produce stem cells for treatments of conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and stroke.

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Russia allows Pope Benedict documentary to be aired

Moscow, Russia, Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - For the first time ever, a state television channel in Russia will broadcast a documentary film about Pope Benedict XVI.  At the climax of the film, the Pope will speak on television to the Russian people and express his regard for them, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) informs Catholic News Agency.

The Pope’s greeting is addressed to Patriarch Alexei II, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church; to Orthodox Christians; to Catholic bishops and lay Catholics in Russia; and to all those living on Russian soil.  Pope Benedict’s address, which is partly in Russian, emphasizes the necessity of dialogue among Christians.

The documentary will be broadcast on April 16, Pope Benedict’s 81st birthday.

The documentary film, which was sponsored and promoted by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, will be broadcast by the state news channel Vesti.  The documentary depicts important stages in the life of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.  Russian people are generally unfamiliar with his life.

The Pope’s elder brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, has also contributed to the film by granting an interview, something he seldom does. 

ACN’s Russia expert, Peter Humeniuk, led the documentary project from the start.  He said there is an awareness in both Rome and Moscow that the “film and the Papal message are a beautiful symbol of the process of rapprochement between the two Churches.”

"During my journeys throughout Russia,” Humeniuk continued, “I come across many people who express a desire for objective information about the Pope and the Catholic Church. I hope that the film about Benedict XVI will help to meet this need."

The documentary was created in close collaboration with the Moscow Patriarchate. 

Support came from both Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, Vice-Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations, and Catholic Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Apostolic Nuncio to Moscow.  The film is introduced by Archpriest Igor Vyzhanov, the secretary for inter-Christian dialogue from the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.

Blagovest Media, an interdenominational Christian media agency, produced the film in St. Petersburg in collaboration with the Germany-based Catholic Radio and Television Network.

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Catholics should confront Socialist “cultural revolution”, says Spanish archbishop

Madrid, Spain, Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Sebastian of Pamplona said Catholics in Spain should confront the “cultural revolution” that is being carried out by the Socialist Party in the country by proclaiming God.
 
In an interview on COPE radio, the archbishop said, “Today in Spain Catholics need to be aware that we are capable of sustaining a face-to-face discussion with the message of the culture of the Socialist party which is seeking to promote a cultural revolution.  “We are not the opposition party,” he said, “but rather the Church of Jesus.”
 
“Fortunately our faith does not depend on politics,” he continued.  Politicians must be “put in their place” and not be allowed to legislate whatever they want.
 
“The world is governed by the principle of pleasure,” and in order to confront it and live in the truth we must realize that “we do not exist alone, but rather we exist in the world.”  This problem, he said, has its origin in the “non-recognition of God.”

Archbishop Sebastian said, “We need to proclaim God, to recover the notion of creation.  I don’t understand how one can be happy without having global vision.”

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More young people committed to the Gospel needed, says Venezuelan cardinal

Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - During the closing Mass of the 3rd National Missionary Congress convened by the Venezuelan bishops, the Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, said, “Young men and women are needed who desire to give their lives completely to the service of the Gospel.”

After encouraging participants at the Congress, most of whom were young people, to intensify their missionary activity “with apostolic zeal,” the cardinal called on the faithful to respond as the baptized to the call of the Lord Jesus to be disciples and missionaries in the different settings of society, in order to promote the marvelous fruit of the “spiritual renewal” that Venezuela needs so desperately.

Cardinal Urosa also noted the need for young people “who want to be priests and religious”. He held up as an example, fulltime missionaries like Mother Candelaria, a well known missionary, “whose example is popular today, as she consecrated herself to the Lord with an intense spiritual life, with full dedication to the affairs of God and showing charity to neighbor.”

More than 700 delegates from dioceses around Venezuela participated at the Congress.  The Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela, Archbishop Giacinto Berloco, urged participants to give greater priority to ministry for the family, young people, education, ecology and indigenous communities.

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Pope Benedict touches down in the United States

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - Shepherd One landed right on time this afternoon, bringing Pope Benedict XVI to the United States for the first time. President Bush, Laura Bush and their daughter Jenna paid Pope Benedict the honor of meeting him at the airport—the first time Bush has done so for a head of state.

The Pontiff was greeted by an honor guard of military servicemen and a crowd of 5,000 military family members.

After waving to the crowd, the Pope was transported via motorcade to the house of the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi. Normally, President Bush takes Marine One to the Andrews Air Force Base, but due to the scale of the preparations for tomorrow’s record crowd of 12,000 people at the White House, using the helicopter became impossible.

Pope Benedict will reside at the Apostolic Nunciature while in Washington and will receive an official welcome from the president on Wednesday morning at 10:30 EST.

To read commentary on the Pope's arrival read "Nothing Left Unsaid".

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Cardinal Corripio was a good shepherd, says Mexico City archbishop

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, said the priestly and episcopal ministry of his predecessor, Cardinal Ernesto Corripio Ahumada, embodied the mystery of the Lord as the Good Shepherd, “with all of its consequences: knowing, feeding, healing, carrying and above all giving his life for the sheep.”

After expressing his profound sorrow at the passing of Cardinal Corripio, Cardinal Rivera said the image of the Good Shepherd, which the Church celebrates on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is “a beautiful image that is applied to God in the Old Testament, which Jesus applies to Himself”, “apostolic tradition has applied to the bishops” and which could also be applied to the late cardinal.

Cardinal Rivera also noted that Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” is a canticle of “serenity, trust and hope, which undoubtedly inspired Cardinal Corripio” and should “inspire all of us as we are frequently disoriented and weak,” surrounded by “mistrust and despair,” as “many things confuse us to the point of not knowing, or not wanting to know, what is good and what is evil.”

He also recalled the many memories of “how the Lord desired to unite the life of Don Ernesto to the paschal mystery,” as during “great tribulations” “he bore witness to the love of the Crucified one”. According to the cardinal, these sorrows were not only limited to the illnesses he suffered but also encompassed “the spiritual suffering for his seminarians, priests and faithful, to whom he communicated the fullness of life.”

“We implore the Lord Jesus, the Gate of the sheep and the Way to reaching the Father’s House, to receive into his merciful heart our brother Ernesto” for all of eternity, the cardinal prayed.

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Gender-based abortions gaining ground in U.S., say experts

Front Royal, Va., Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - The practice of sex-selective abortions that has unbalanced the male-female ratio in many Asian and Muslim countries is now believed to be happening among immigrant communities in the United States. 

In a sex-selective abortion, parents choose to abort their unborn child based on whether he or she is of the sex they prefer.  In communities where the practice is common, female babies tend to be disproportionately aborted.

According to Stephen W. Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute, a recent study from the National Academy of Sciences examined whether sex-selective abortion happened in the United States.  Researchers Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund, examining figures from the 2000 U.S. Census, noticed that U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean, and Asian Indian parents tended to be male.

Investigating what they called “son-biased sex ratios,” the researchers examined the effect of birth order.  First-born children of the Asian demographic groups under study showed a normal sex ratio at birth, roughly 106 girls for every 100 boys.  If the first child was a son, the sex ratio of the second-born child was also normal.

However, in cases where the first child was a girl the researchers found that the second child tended to be a boy.  Almond and Edlund said, “This male bias is particularly evident for third children: If there was no previous son, sons outnumbered daughters by 50%.”  According to Mosher, this means that, in families already with two girls, for every 150 third-born boys there were only 100 surviving third-born girls. 

The researchers concluded the imbalanced sex ratios were evidence of sex-selection, “most likely at the pre-natal stage.”

Similar sex imbalances have been documented among Canadian Asian immigrant communities.  The Toronto Globe & Mail reported that, according to 2001 Canadian census data, the proportion of girls under age 15 in the South Asian communities of two cities is two percentage points below the ratio for the rest of the population in the same cities.

Stephen Mosher, citing a 2006 Zogby/USA Today poll, said that 86 percent of Americans support banning sex-selective abortion.

Mosher, noting similar but ineffective bans in China, argued that banning the use of ultrasounds to detect the sex of unborn children would be ineffective.  Instead, he argued that a “straightforward” ban on sex-selective abortion would be the best approach.  Former Senator Jesse Helms, Mosher said, introduced legislation to ban the practice each year he was in the U.S. Senate.

“Where is the pro-life champion in the Senate who will carry on Helm's battle? Where is the legislator who will seek to protect unborn baby girls from the ugliest form of misogyny imaginable, a misogyny that kills?” Mosher asked.

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Vietnam to return confiscated lands to prominent Catholic basilica

Hanoi, Vietnam, Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - The local government of Quang Tri province in Vietnam has agreed to return land it confiscated surrounding the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of La Vang.

The land being returned was seized after the Communist government took control of the country in 1975.

La Vang is one of the most important Catholic sanctuaries in Vietnam, according to Fr. J.B. An Dang. It was built to commemorate a 1798 apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The site has been rebuilt several times, and is a major site of pilgrimage for Catholics in Vietnam.

Archbishop Stephen Nguyen Nhu The and Bishop Francis Le Van Hong, respectively archbishop and coadjutor bishop of the Archdiocese of Hue, met with the local government of Quang Tri last Thursday. 

Nguyen Duc Chinh, vice-chairman of the Peoples Committee of Quang Tri, said that the government had decided to return 52 acres to the Church.  While 58 acres had been confiscated, 6 acres would remain government property.  However, according to the vice-chairman, the Church may use the land for its own activities.

Bishop Francis Le Van Hong confirmed the news in a letter to the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

Reaction to the announcement has been mixed.  Some believe the government wants to make a gesture of goodwill in its dialogue with the Catholic Church on land issues, while others think the move reflects the government’s desire to secure the benefits tourists and visitors would bring to the area.  Many are skeptical, referring to past government promises that were not fulfilled.

On February 1, Hanoi Catholics agreed to stop protesting at the grounds of the former papal nunciature when the Vietnamese government promised to return the property.  At present, no progress on that promise has been made.  Some Catholic activists in Hanoi, viewing the promise as hollow, have called for protests to resume.

Dedication to Our Lady of La Vang dates back to the 261 years of anti-Catholic persecution in the country, which lasted between 1625 and 1886.  The persecutions created about 130,000 victims.  Persecution of the Church was at its worst under the rule of Minh Mang, called the “Nero of Indochina,” who reigned from 1820 to 1840.

Many Catholics took refuge in the forest of La Vang, and reported that the Virgin Mary appeared to them to comfort, heal and protect them.

The Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1961 designated the church of La Vang as the National Sacred Marian Center. The following year, Pope John XXIII elevated the church to the rank of Minor Basilica.  In 1988, Pope John Paul II publicly recognized the importance of Our Lady of La Vang, expressing his desire to rebuild the La Vang Basilica to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first apparition.

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New compendium examines Pope Benedict’s teachings on marriage

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2008 (CNA) - A report examining Pope Benedict XVI’s writings on marriage has just been released.“Pope Benedict XVI on Marriage:  A Compendium,” has been published by the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and released on the eve of Pope Benedict’s first papal visit to the United States.

The compendium collects and analyzes the Pope’s public remarks about marriage over the first three years of his pontificate.  According to the analysis, the Pope has spoken publicly about marriage on 111 occasions, often connecting marriage to wider themes such as human rights, world peace, and the dialogue between faith and reason.

He has called the family the “fundamental nucleus of society” and the “primary agency of peace,” while urging people to end the “growing crisis of the family.”

"Over and over again he has made it clear that the marriage and family debate is central--not peripheral--to understanding the human person, and defending our human dignity," said Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.

The report cites many instances where the Pope has spoken on marriage.

On September 27, 2007, Pope Benedict addressed participants in a conference of the Executive Committee of Centrist Democratic International.  In his address, he connected the crisis of the family to philosophical skepticism:

“There are those who maintain that human reason is incapable of grasping the truth, and therefore of pursuing the good that corresponds to personal dignity. There are some who believe that it is legitimate to destroy human life in its earliest or final stages. Equally troubling is the growing crisis of the family, which is the fundamental nucleus of society based on the indissoluble bond of marriage between a man and a woman. Experience has shown that when the truth about man is subverted or the foundation of the family undermined, peace itself is threatened and the rule of law is compromised, leading inevitably to forms of injustice and violence.”

Pope Benedict also devoted a large part of his message for the World Day of Peace on January 1 to examining the role of marriage in developing a culture of peace and openness to life, saying:

“Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace.”

“This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace.”

When receiving the credentials of the new U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, Pope Benedict connected American efforts to safeguard marriage and the family to what he called “the American people’s historic appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse and in shedding light on the inherent moral dimension of social issues.”  This role, Pope Benedict said, was at times disputed “in the name of a straitened understanding of political life and public discourse.” 

However, he thought the role religion played in American life reflected many Americans’ view of interreligious and intercultural dialogue as a “positive force for peacemaking.”

Maggie Gallagher summarized the report’s interpretation of Pope Benedict’s writings on marriage, saying, "The short pontificate of Benedict XVI is already a standing rebuke to those voices of our time who seek to make us ashamed or embarrassed of caring about marriage and sexual issues, who try to get us to view the contemporary marriage debate as merely a distraction from more important issues."

"Pope Benedict clearly connects life and marriage, the human person in the human family, with the most fundamental international issues of peace and human rights facing our times."

The full report can be viewed at www.marriagedebate.com .

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