Asunción, Paraguay, May 27, 2008 (CNA) - Pedro Zerolo, a well-known homosexual activist and the executive secretary of Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE), traveled last week to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay—where he met with president-elect and former bishop Fernando Lugo—to promote gender ideology and the legalization of gay marriage in South America.
After meeting with Lugo, Zerolo said Spain and Paraguay would work together on issues of poverty, education, gender and climate change. Zerolo also met with feminist and homosexual groups, telling them he is hopeful Paraguay will “develop policies with a gender perspective.”
In Argentina Zerolo met with President Cristina Kirchner, encouraging her to “move into the future” by allowing the approval of a measure that would legalize gay unions and give gay couples the right to adopt children. If Kirchner gives the green light, the measure would go before the Argentinean Congress.
“The same people who didn’t want anything to change in Spain will oppose this law here. But I’m not worried about protests from the right and from the Church,” Zerolo said.
Zerolo was president in 1993 of the Gay Collective of Madrid. In 1998 he was elected president of the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals. He won reelection to the post in 2000 and 2002.
As a member of Spain’s Socialist party, he was one of the main supporters of the legalization of homosexual unions in Spain. He participated in various attempts to get Spain’s Congress to modify the law on gay issues.
In 2005 he legalized his union with his gay partner. In addition to working for the Socialist Party, he is a Madrid city council member and a confidant of President Jose Luis Zapatero.
Mexico City, Mexico, May 27, 2008 (CNA) - As the fifteenth anniversary of the murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo of Guadalajara was marked in Mexico, the Mexican Bishops’ Conference insisted that his death was a “crime of the state” and demanded that the government subpoena former President Carlos Salinas for further testimony.
“Because we need to know the truth, these three words which have been mentioned this morning are key: justice, truth and peace. If there is no justice, there is no truth, and if there is no truth, there will be no peace, and when there is no harmony between these three words, in real life we find ourselves facing what is happening in the country right now, like being afraid to leave one’s own house,” said Bishop Leopoldo Gonzalez, secretary general of the conference.
During the presentation of a new book on the murder, which contains new information indicating the cardinal was not killed because of “confusion” between two bands of drug lords, as the official government account claims, but that rather he was the direct target of one of the groups.
Mexican Congressman Jose Antonio Munoz Serrano said, “Today, 15 years after the murder there still has been no conviction for the killing of Cardinal Posadas and seven others. Solving this crime means returning credibility to our institutions,” he said.
Vatican City, May 27, 2008 (CNA) - The crypt below St. Peter’s basilica, which houses tombs from the first centuries of the Church and some Roman families, has had its largest mausoleum refurbished, Cardinal Angelo Comastri announced today.
Cardinal Comastri, who is the archpriest of the papal basilica of St. Peter's in the Vatican, presented the results of the recently-completed restoration of the Valerii Mausoleum at a press conference this morning.
The mausoleum, which dates from the 2nd century A.D. and is famous for its stucco decorations, can be found as one walks through the middle of the necropolis toward the tomb of St. Peter.
According to a Vatican press release, the stuccowork was in need of restoration because it had been damaged by the instability of the microclimate in the necropolis and by earlier restoration using inappropriate materials.
The operation, which lasted ten months and was undertaken by a team of experts specializing in underground restorations, was carried out using scalpels, mini drills and, for the most delicate areas, laser equipment. Furthermore, by studying stucco fragments conserved in the storerooms of the Fabric of St. Peter's, it was also possible to recompose three of the four-sided Greek columns known as hermae.
The Valerii family mausoleum has been covered within a glass case to allow viewing while maintaining a proper internal microclimate, which is constantly monitored by a high-precision computerized system. New illumination, using fiber optic cables, makes it possible to admire the colored surfaces, frescoed to imitate polychrome marble, and the white stucco decorations, modeled to replicate marble statues.
The restoration work was made possible with help from the "Fondazione pro Musica e Arte Sacra."
Vatican City, May 27, 2008 (CNA) - The latest statistics for the Catholic Church have been released by the Vatican for the years 2000-2006. The results show that the overall population has remained stable but that Europe’s population has continued to decline while African and Asia have maintained strong growth.
The Statistical Yearbook of the Church, says that over the seven year period, the Catholic presence in the world has remained stable at around 17.3 percent of the total population.
The number of Catholics in Europe has only shown a one percent increase, despite the fact that 25 percent of all Catholics live there.
All other areas of the world showed a more substantial increase. In the Americas and in Oceania the number of Catholics grew by 8.4 percent and 7.6 percent respectively; in Asia they remained more or less stable with respect to population growth, whereas in Africa they increased from 130 million in 2000 to 158.3 million in 2006.
The ranks of the clergy also saw an upswing with the number of bishops in the world rising from 4,541 in 2000 to 4,898 in 2006, an increase of 7.86 percent.
The number of priests also increased slightly over this seven-year period by about 2,000, that is from 405,178 in 2000 to 407,262 in 2006, an overall rise of around 0.51 percent.
In keeping with the trend in Catholic population growth, the global south (Africa and Asia) saw priestly vocations increase by 23.24 percent and 17.71 percent respectively. The Americas maintained their number of priests, while Europe and Oceania witnessed a decline in their priestly ranks of 5.75 percent 4.37 percent correspondingly.
The number of diocesan priests increased by two percent, going from 265,781 in 2000 to 271,091 in 2006. By contrast, the number of religious order priests showed a constant decline, down by 2.31 percent to 136,000 in 2006.
Europe was the only continent to take a hit in the number of religious order priests: in 2000 they represented 51 percent of the world total, in 2006 just 48 percent. On the other hand, Asia and Africa together represented 17.5 percent of the world total in 2000 and 21 percent in 2006. The Americas remained steady at around 30 percent, and Oceania a little more than one percent.
Non-ordained religious numbered 55.057 in the year 2000 and 55,107 in 2006. Comparing this data by continent, Europe showed a strong decline (down by 12.01 percent), as did Oceania (16.83 percent), the Americas remained stable, while Asia and Africa increased (respectively, by 30.63 percent and 8.13 percent).
Female religious are almost double the number of priests, and 14 times that of non-ordained male religious, but their numbers are falling, from 800,000 in 2000 to 750,000 in 2006. As for their geographical distribution, 42 percent reside in Europe, 28.03 percent in America and 20 percent in Asia. The number of female religious has increased in the most dynamic continents: Africa (up by 15.45 percent) and Asia (up by 12.78 percent).
A final bright spot that the statistical yearbook noted was an upswing in the number of seminarians in diocesan and religious seminaries. Globally, their numbers increased from 110.583 in 2000 to more than 115.000 in 2006, a growth of 4.43 percent. In Africa and Asia their numbers went up whereas Europe saw a reduction of around 16 percent.
Bogotá, Colombia, May 27, 2008 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Fabian Marulanda, said the death of FARC leader “Tirofijo” could be an opportunity for the rebel group to realize that power cannot be obtained through violence and that it should reconsider choosing peace.
“This could be an opportunity for the FARC to realize the difficulty of maintaining its positions and its ideal of achieving power through armed force,” Bishop Marulanda told the press.
However, the bishop also called on the Colombian government to be prudent in the wake of news of the death of Tirofijo. “Triumphs must me handled with even greater prudence than failures, because the one who is defeated or wounded can react in unexpected ways,” he said. “The commanders of the guerrillas must be hurt by the death of someone who was an icon to them, their supreme commanding idol,” the bishop explained.
Tirofijo, also know as “Manuel Marulanda” and whose real name is Pedro Antonio Marin, died on March 26. However, his death was confirmed only last Saturday by the Colombian government and confirmed by the FARC on the following day.
Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 27, 2008 (CNA) - Theft, violence, vandalism and public consumption of drugs characterized the 12th annual “Homosexual Parade”, which was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil this past weekend.
According to press reports, gay activists even attempted to occupy a space reserved for journalists due to the large crowds. One man was injured when he was hit by a parade float, and 200 people had to be treated for excessive drug and alcohol use.
Sao Paulo student Marina Gonclaves, 25, was a victim of one of the assaults. “This year the violence was worse than ever. My cell phone and my camera were stolen. There were two police officers nearby, but they never even saw what happened. I am never coming back,” she said.
According to police, more than 50 reports of robbery were filed, but only one person was detained.
The traditional gay parade is financed each year with public funds and sponsorships. The state of Sao Paulo spent some $225,000 on the parade, with the state of Petrobras donating some $100,000.
Madrid, Spain, May 27, 2008 (CNA) - The Spanish association E-Cristians is urging the Catalan Institute of Language not to move ahead with its plan to modify the official definition of marriage to include homosexual unions.
“Our first objection is that of the universal nature of definitions. Marriage is understood throughout the world as a union between a man and a woman,” the Christian association explained.
The integrity of the Catalan language needed to be safeguarded, E-Cristians said, adding that, legislation to change the concept in Spanish should not be applied to the Catalan dictionary. This type of move would limit the scope of that language in an effort to apply national uniformity. E-Cristians noted that the Spanish Royal Academy of Language has avoided changing the definition in Spanish “because this language isn’t limited to one just one region either.”
“In our society marriage is still understood to mean the union of two people of the opposite sex,” the association stated, underscoring that “homosexuals are a minority made up of about 2-3% of the population” and that “this group is not very inclined to marriage.”
“There is also an etymological reason,” E-Cristians said. “The root of the word matrimony necessarily points to the presence of a woman linked to maternity.”
Rome, Italy, May 27, 2008 (CNA) - In an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa, Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong warned that “nationalism is a real danger” in China and could lead to fascism or dictatorship.
Cardinal Zen referred to analysts who “see in recent events in China the danger that the country is on the road to fascism, or maybe is heading towards a dictatorial regime with strong nationalist tendencies.”
“The government has insisted greatly on Chinese pride for the upcoming Olympic games, saying it is only a healthy national sentiment and not ideological nationalism,” the cardinal said.
Asked about the obstacles that prevent the re-establishing of diplomatic relationships between Beijing and the Vatican, Cardinal Zen said, “The main difficulty is the absence of true religious freedom in China.”
“For the Church it is essential that the Pope can freely choose bishops,” he went on, noting the “the (Chinese) government is still intervening” in this matter.
“Establishing diplomatic relations right now would mean legitimizing a religious policy that does not respect real freedom for believers,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Zen further explained his thoughts on Vatican Radio, underscoring that the Holy Father “with much sincerity, has reminded us of the nature of the Church, as the Lord has made her. The Church is apostolic. And today it must be guided by the bishops led by the successor of St. Peter. Unfortunately, it is still not possible to realize this ideal of the Church in China, but there are signs of closeness with the recent music concert at the Vatican with the Holy Father in attendance.”
Madrid, Spain, May 27, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid said this week that gender ideology and the laws inspired by it, such as those condoning so-called gay marriage, are an expression of “man’s rebellion against his biological limits.”
The cardinal’s comments are included in a new book entitled, “Interviews With Twelve Spanish Bishops,” by Isidro Catela. Sales from the book will be donated to pastoral work in Kenya.
Cardinal Rouco said the law on homosexual marriage “is a modern version of the desire to be like God the Creator and not his creatures, to not accept his law, which reveals the fundamental goods of man and of society and, therefore, guarantees the dignity, freedom and equality of mankind better than any human construct that is outside it,” he added.
The cardinal noted that human laws need not coincide to the letter with the moral law, but they must protect fundamental concepts “without which society cannot subsist.”
In his interview with Catela, Cardinal Rouco also referred to other issues such as the lack of vocations, which is a result of the “crisis of the family,” and the possibility of World Youth Day 2010 being held in Madrid.
Hanoi, Vietnam, May 27, 2008 (CNA) - In a year featuring unprecedented Catholic demonstrations targeting the Vietnamese government, a delegation from the Vatican will meet with the Vietnamese government to discuss controversies surrounding confiscated church properties and the appointment of bishops.
Vietnam has not had diplomatic relations with the Vatican since its communist government took power in 1975. The Holy See has persistently sought official dialogue with Vietnamese authorities, which has helped improve the situation of the Church in the nation. A Vatican delegation visits Vietnam almost every year.
VietCath News Agency reports that the Vatican delegation will visit Our Lady of La Vang Shrine, the main Catholic shrine in Vietnam. The local government has promised to return to the shrine’s basilica about 52 of the more than 57 acres in property that it confiscated in 1975.
Monsignor Barnabe Nguyen Van Phuong, chief of Asian affairs of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, explained that the appointment of bishops remains a delicate issue. The officially atheist Communist government refuses to give up its control over appointments. The long delays in episcopal and diocesan administrator appointments caused by the government’s foot dragging have hampered the normal activities of the Church, he explained.
“This has always been a central point on the agenda in the bilateral meetings between the Vatican and the Vietnam government,” said Monsignor Barnabe Nguyen.
Monsignor Barnabe Nguyen said that the visit would also focus upon the demonstrations in Hanoi organized by Vietnamese Catholics who are seeking the return of the former papal nunciature.
The nunciature was seized by the communist government in 1959. Since December 18, after a pastoral letter from Archbishop of Hanoi Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet reported the building was to be converted into an entertainment and commercial center, demonstrators have prayed and rallied at the nunciature’s gates. The demonstrators have defied a government ultimatum threatening “extreme actions” if the demonstrations did not cease by January 27.
The disagreement between the disenfranchised Catholics and the government appeared to be solved when Archbishop Ngo confirmed that the government had promised to return the Nunciature in a February 1 letter. However, there are signs that promise will not be fulfilled.
Venerable Thich Trung Hau, a leader in a government-approved Buddhist organization, in February claimed that the nunciature was on Buddhist land wrongly confiscated by French colonists, who turned it over to the Catholic bishop. The Buddhist leader charged that the Bao Thien pagoda, built in 1054, was once on the nunciature’s property, but a state publication reported the pagoda was located five kilometers north of the disputed property. Some believe the Buddhist leader’s charges indicate that officials in the government are trying to obstruct the return of the nunciature.
Similar property disputes are taking place across Vietnam, with demonstrators protesting for the return of Hanoi lands formerly belonging to a Redemptorist parish and opposing plans to demolish a monastery in the Diocese of Vinh Long to build a hotel.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone wrote a letter to Archbishop Joseph Ngo on January 30 expressing the Pope’s solidarity with the protesting Catholics and saying that Pope Benedict is following events in Vietnam. Cardinal Bertone said that the Vatican has contacted the Vietnamese government to resolve the nunciature dispute between the city government and the archdiocese.
Beijing, China, May 27, 2008 (CNA) - Chinese officials have exempted families with children killed, severely injured, or disabled in the devastating Sichuan earthquake from the restrictions of China’s one-child policy. The May 12 quake, which left more than 65,000 dead, was particularly painful for many Chinese because so many children died.
China expert Steven W. Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute, welcomes the policy changes. "Many of China's rural schools are so poorly constructed that they became death traps during the earthquake. The heavy tile roofs simply came crashing down on the heads of the children below. They had no chance to escape."
The Chengdu Population and Family Planning Committee, located in Sichuan’s capital, said that families affected by the disaster can obtain a certificate to have another child, the Associated Press reports.
The Chinese government normally enforces its one-child policy by fining couples who have more than one child. However, the committee’s announcement said that if a child born illegally was killed in the earthquake, parents will no longer have to pay fines, though previously paid fines will not be refunded. If a couple’s legally born child was killed but its illegally born sibling survived, that sibling can be registered as the legal child, the authorities explained.
Illegally born children are denied many rights, including nine free years of compulsory education.
Mosher, who has followed the one-child policy since its inception and described it in his most recent book “Population Control”, went on to comment that "The natural human reaction to losing a child is to have a make-up child as quickly as possible. But this will not be possible for most of the couples who have lost children to the quake, regardless of what the government policy is. Most women of childbearing age have been sterilized, or their spouses have been sterilized. Unless the government begins offering free tubal ligation and vasectomy reversals to these poor people, there will be no more children."
The authorities have also ruled that adopted children do not violate the one-child policy. About 4,000 children were orphaned in the quake and many Chinese have expressed interest in adopting them. Officials said they would make every effort to connect children with relatives.
China’s one-child policy was instituted in the late 1970s. According to the government, the policy has prevented 400 million births. Its putative goals include ensuring better education and health care to a smaller population.
Critics have charged that the policy has encouraged forced abortions and sterilizations. The policy has also created a sex imbalance in the country as boys are preferred to girls, who are disproportionately aborted.