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Archive of December 3, 2010

US Vatican Embassy condemns ‘harmful’ WikiLeaks

Rome, Italy, Dec 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See has condemned “in the strongest terms” the unauthorized disclosure of State Department cables possessed by WikiLeaks. Disclosure of the cables’ contents could be harmful to individuals and international relations, the embassy said in response to questions from CNA.

More than 800 cables in the WikiLeaks “Cablegate” project appear to involve the Vatican. More than 700 were labeled as originating at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, a CNA analysis of preliminary data found.

The cables’ subject labels indicate they involve issues regarding intelligence, national security, the Vatican’s internal governance, and Vatican relations with the U.S. State Department. Human rights and religious freedom were among the most numerous subject labels.

Vatican-related cables also involve other countries including China, Cuba, Iraq, Israel, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Around 250,000 State Department cables were reportedly obtained by WikiLeaks, a self-described non-profit media organization. The organization says the documents will expose corruption and provide “unprecedented insight” into the U.S. government’s foreign activities.

Nancy M. McNally, the State Department’s public affairs program assistant for the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, sent CNA an e-mail response Dec. 3.

“While we cannot speak to the authenticity of any documents provided to the press, the Embassy condemns in the strongest terms any unauthorized disclosure of classified information that could have harmful implications on the individuals mentioned and on global engagement in general between nations.”

The embassy’s response said the United States and the Vatican have “a very productive diplomatic relationship” on religious freedom and human rights issues.

“Our interests and values are often similar, especially in the case of religious freedom and human rights,” the embassy continued. “We work with our Holy See partners in a variety of ways to defend and advance religious freedom in all nations and to advocate for the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people.”

The embassy spokesperson declined to speculate about whether the leaks could endanger that work, saying that the State Department and its embassies will not comment on materials, including classified documents, which may have been leaked.

“As for our partnership with the Holy See, we plan to continue our work in advancing human rights and religious freedom — along with other important initiatives. The unauthorized disclosure of any classified information will not change that.”

Noting the United States’ three decades of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, the U.S. embassy told CNA it expected this “close partnership” to continue “productively into the future.”

A journalist associated with WikiLeaks told the British newspaper The Telegraph on Nov. 29 that some Vatican cables will be released “in the next few weeks.”

Some international experts, including former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, have voiced concern about whether the WikiLeaks organization is being manipulated by “interested parties,” including intelligence agencies, which are seeking to advance their own objectives.

The organization is working with established media to obtain the “maximum possible impact” and has given pre-release access to journalists and researchers from five media partners. These are the French newspaper Le Monde, El Pais in Spain, The Guardian in Britain and Der Spiegel in Germany. The Guardian shared its material with the New York Times.

The five news organizations are working together to review the material and to plan the timing of their reports, the Associated Press says.

Le Monde's managing editor, Sylvie Kauffmann, told the Associated Press that media partners have been advising WikiLeaks on which documents to release publicly and what redactions to make. New York Times executive editor Bill Keller told readers in an online exchange that the newspaper has suggested to its media partners and to WikiLeaks what information it believes should be withheld.

Some of the redacted information includes sensitive material such as the names of State Department sources and personnel.

Earlier this year the New York Times came under fire for its coverage of documents involving Pope Benedict XVI’s response to sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. The newspaper used documents provided by a lawyer seeking to sue the Vatican in court. Some media reports on these documents also ignored a key Italian-language memo which provided a broader perspective on the case of a sexually abusive Milwaukee priest.

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Islamic states push for global anti-blasphemy resolution

Madrid, Spain, Dec 3, 2010 (CNA) - The Organization of the Islamic Conference has sponsored a draft resolution at the United Nations that would condemn the “defamation of religion” and create a global “anti-blasphemy law.”

The draft resolution was presented by Pakistan in the name of the Islamic conference, which holds a majority of the seats on the U.N. Human Rights Council, according to the Spanish daily ABC.

The Muslim organization hopes to secure passage of the resolution by the U.N. General Assembly. However, the resolution has been met with widespread rejection, especially for its condemnation of the criticism of radical Islam by the media.

The United States and European countries have warned that a resolution of this kind constitutes an attack on freedom of expression and could lead to greater persecution of religious minorities.  Experts say “defamation” can only be liable to legal sanction when it involves persons and not concepts or feelings.

According to the Spanish daily, many Muslim states have a legal system based on Sharia (Islamic law) and have established anti-blasphemy laws that in practice only condemn insults against the prophet Muhammad but not against other religions.

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Benedict XVI meets with victims of Baghdad cathedral massacre

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI met with Iraqi Christians injured during the Oct. 31 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad.

The 26 Iraqi Christians, led by Father Giorgio Jahola, attended the Pope’s Wednesday General Audience Dec. 1. The group spoke later spoke with the Pontiff and met with Archbishop Fernando Filoni, the substitute for the General Affairs of the Secretariat of State and former papal nuncio to Iraq.

A one-year-old girl who lost her father and her three-year-old brother in the attack, as well as seven students attacked on their way to university classes, were among the group of Iraqis.

All 26 were able to make the trip to Rome with assistance from the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Vatican.  The survivors of the attack—three children, 16 women and seven men—received medical treatment at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.

During their exchange with the Holy Father, they thanked him for the medical attention they received and for his words of comfort. They also shared photos of loved ones who lost their lives in the massacre that killed 58.

Fr. Jahola recalled the two priests who died offering their lives in exchange for the faithful present in the church. He also expressed regret that investigations into the attack have not yielded results, reported the Vatican's semi-official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

“In order to defend the cause of Iraq, we need sensible and honest lawyers who will investigate the errors committed against the Iraqi people,” he said. “No one has investigated the causes of these latest attacks … making us think that Iraqi officials are accomplices in this tragedy.  After the attack, the church was closed.  No one could enter the next day because they were cleaning it.  They erased all the signs of the tragedy.  We want answers,” the priest said.

On Oct. 31, gunmen linked to al-Qaida took over 120 faithful hostage at the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation during Mass.

After the Iraqi military raided the church to free the hostages, over 58  people, including two priests, were killed.

Pope Benedict lamented the disaster after he prayed the Angelus on Nov. 1. He condemned the “savage” attack and offered prayers for the victims.

“I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, even more ferocious in that it has been inflicted upon defenseless people gathered in God's house, which is a house of love and reconciliation,” the Pope said.

“I express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, now stricken again, and I encourage its pastors and faithful alike to be strong and firm in hope.”

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Pope urges Costa Rica to defend life issues

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict welcomed the new ambassador of Costa Rica to the Holy See, praising the diplomat's country for its pro-life policies. The Pontiff also stressed the importance of Costa Rica working to “safeguard” the institution of marriage as defined between “one man and one woman.” 

The Pope received the Letters of Credence of new ambassador Fernando F. Sanchez Campos on Dec. 3. He affirmed the diplomat's country as "a people who centuries ago welcomed the evangelical seed” which sprouted into “countless educational, healthcare and humanitarian initiatives.”

“Thus the children of your land well know that in Christ the Son of God man can always find the strength to combat poverty, domestic violence, unemployment and corruption, seeking social justice, the common good, and the integral progress of human beings,” he said. “No one must feel themselves to be detached from the attainment of these exalted goals.”

In this context, the Pope urged public authorities to work as “a moral force” that supports “each individual's freedom and sense of responsibility.”

“This must not undermine the fundamental values which support the inviolable dignity of the person, beginning with the unswerving protection of human life,” he said.

He then praised Costa Rica for its involvement in the American Convention of Human Rights – also known as the San Jose pact – a 1969 initiative by several Latin American countries that urges the protection of human life from conception to natural death.

“I am pleased to recall that it was in your country that the Pact of San Jose was signed,” the Pope said, expressing hope that Costa Rica will not change its position in the future and “violate the rights of the unborn with laws that legitimize in vitro fertilization or abortion.”

Pope Benedict also urged political leaders to work against juvenile delinquency, child labor and drug trafficking, citing the importance of “security in cities, adequate education of children and young people, due attention to those in prison and effective healthcare for everyone.”

He then lauded Costa Rica for distinguishing itself in the field of environmental protection and its “search for a balance between human development and the safeguarding of natural resources.”

“Protecting the natural environment will facilitate the defense of peace, because the two are intimately related,” he said.

“I encourage all Costa Ricans to continue to work toward what favors true human development, in harmony with the creation, while avoiding spurious and false interests, and lack of foresight in a field of such transcendent importance.”

The Pontiff also made reference to families as “pillars” of Costa Rican society and national stability.

“This institution is suffering, perhaps like no other, the effects of the broad and rapid transformations of society and culture,” he said, adding that “nonetheless, it must not lose its true identity.”

“Thus, no measure will be in vain if it favors, safeguards and supports marriage between a man and a woman.”

In his address to Ambassador Sanchez, the Pope also sent his greetings to Costa Rica as they celebrate the 375th anniversary of the country's patroness, the image of Our Lady of the Angels. The history of the image goes back to the 17th century, a time when the city of Cartago was racially segregated. A poor Mestizo woman named Juana Pereira discovered an image of the Blessed Mother carved in dark stone on the Aug. 2 Feast of the Holy Angels.

No matter where Juana placed the image, it kept disappearing and returning to the same place it was discovered. A shrine was then built in that location to house the three-inch statue, affectionately called “La Negrita" (the little black one). Pope Pius XI declared the shrine of the Queen of Angels a Basilica in 1935.

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Theology must be a work of love for God, Pope tells theologians

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Theology must be a work of faith and not only scholarship, Pope Benedict XVI told members of the International Theological Commission Dec. 3.
 
“No theological system can subsist if it is not permeated by the love of its divine 'Subject’” the Pope said.

He urged the theologians to stay close to the heart of the Church and the Church’s concern. Theology, he said, "must remain faithful to the nature of ecclesial faith: centered on God, rooted in prayer, and in communion with the other disciples of the Lord as guaranteed by communion with Peter's successor and the entire college of bishops."
 
The Pope said that theologians always pick up where the Fathers of the Church and earlier generations of theologians left off.  The faithful theologian today should consider “the Fathers and theologians of Christian tradition to be his masters.”

“Rooted in Sacred Scripture, read with the Fathers and the Doctors, theology can be a school of sanctity, as shown by Blessed John Henry Newman,” Pope Benedict said, referring to the recently beatified 19th century theologian and Church leader.

The Pope also said that theology can contribute to the Church’s social mission, to the dialogue with other religions, and can be a way to promote peace in the world.

“Indeed, knowing God in his true nature is also the sure way to ensure peace,” he said. “A God who was not perceived as a source of forgiveness could not be a light along the path of peace.”

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Signers protest removal of Manhattan Declaration app from iTunes

New York City, N.Y., Dec 3, 2010 (CNA) - After Apple Inc. removed the Manhattan Declaration application from iTunes over complaints that it had offensive material, signers are urging the corporation to make it available again.

The Manhattan Declaration application for iPhones and iPads was dropped last month when the activist group Change.org gathered 7,000 signatures for a petition claiming that the application promoted “bigotry” and “homophobia.”

The Declaration – a Christian statement drafted in 2009 that supports religious liberty, traditional marriage and right to life issues –  has nearly 500,000 supporters.

The iPhone application, which was previously available for purchase on iTunes, was removed around Thanksgiving.

CNA contacted Apple Dec. 2 for the reason behind the pull. Spokesperson Trudy Muller said via phone that the company “removed the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.”

When asked if Apple plans to release additional statements on the matter, Muller said she had no further comment.

Manhattan Declaration organizers have started an online petition of their own, urging Apple to reinstate the application. On the site's blog, they explained that the application was initially accepted by Apple and rated as 4+, meaning it contained no objectionable material.

“Yet Apple pulled the app shortly after a small but very vocal protest by those who favor gay marriage and abortion,” they said.

“Anyone who takes the time to read the Manhattan Declaration can see that the language used to defend traditional marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious liberty is civil, non-inflammatory, and respectful.”

Disagreement, they added, “is not 'gay-bashing.'”

Organizers said they have personally contacted Apple founder Steve Jobs and are awaiting a response. Their petition to reinstate the Manhattan Declaration application has over 24,000 signatures as of Dec. 2.

 

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Pope intensifies prayer for China, as state church prepares to choose leaders

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the first day of December, Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics around the world to pray for the Church in China, as the country's state-run Catholic Patriotic Association prepares to choose new leaders.

“I commend to your prayers and to those of Catholics throughout the world the Church in China,” he said, mentioning that the country's Catholics were “going through a particularly difficult time.” The Catholic Patriotic Association will meet Dec. 7-9 to select its new top official, as will the so-called “Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China.”

Neither of those associations has received the recognition of the Holy See, although the Vatican has acknowledged the fidelity of some individual bishops who choose to operate within the confines of China's state-run church while pledging their obedience to the Pope.

Before November 2010, relations had been slowly improving between Beijing and the Holy See. However, on Nov. 20, the Catholic Patriotic Association ordained a new bishop without the Pope's approval.

Fr. Guo Jincai received his illicit ordination as a bishop after the Chinese government reportedly detained several bishops loyal to the Holy See, to force their cooperation in the ceremony.

“We ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, to sustain all the Chinese Bishops,” the Pope prayed on Dec. 1, before a crowd of around 8,000 pilgrims at his Wednesday audience.

“We also entrust to the Virgin Mary all the Catholics of that beloved country, that, through her intercession, they may be able to live an authentic Christian life in communion with the universal Church, contributing in this way also to the harmony and common good of their noble people.”

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U.S. bishops launch new website for book about Pope Benedict

Washington D.C., Dec 3, 2010 (CNA) - An extensive new website dedicated to a book on Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy launched on Dec. 1 under the sponsorship of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishops’ conference published the book “Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy” in the fall in conjunction with Rowan & Littlefield Publishers’ imprint Sheed & Ward.

The new website provides a tour of the new book with a photo gallery and excerpts from its essays and personal reflections.

It provides video clips from contributors Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.

The book itself is edited by Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, RSM, who directs USCCB media relations. She characterized it as a “Cliff Notes” for understanding Pope Benedict.

Forewords to the book were written by King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Shimon Peres of Israel. It includes introductory material from Cardinal George, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and John Thavis, who is Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service.

The book includes more than 100 full-color photographs showing Pope Benedict in formal public appearances, in meetings with leaders and lay Catholics, and in quiet moments of personal study or contemplation.

Visitors to the new site can also purchase the book through various retailers. The site is located at http://www.popebenedictbook.com.

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