Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 14, 2011 (CNA) -
The bishops of Mexico recently met with Church officials in Colombia to discuss ways to end the violence that has claimed the lives of nearly 35,000 in Mexico.
Several bishops from Mexico attended the 15th Plenary Assembly of bishops in Colombia to seek guidance on how to deal with the violence that has swept Mexico.
Archbishop Carlos Garfias Merlos of Acapulco, Mexico reflected on the conference Feb. 10 saying, the work carried out by the Church in Colombia to disband armed rebel groups could also be replicated in Mexico.
He noted that while it is still uncertain whether the Church in Mexico will be asked to assist in ending the violence in the country, preparations should be made, as such a request could come “in the short or medium term.”
Archbishop Garfias later told Vatican Radio that the meeting gave the Mexican bishops a chance “to learn about the experience and the contributions that the Church has made to society in Colombia.”
Over the course of the Feb. 7 – 11 meeting in Bogota, Colombia, the bishops shared pastoral experiences on solving armed conflict and discussed elements that are essential for peace building.
The Mexican bishops received “excellent guidance during these three days, and we are bringing back a lot of ideas that I think will be helpful,” Archbishop Garfias concluded.
Rome, Italy, Feb 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Christians need to cooperate in creating Egypt’s new government to ensure that all of the nation’s citizens are treated as equals, according to Jesuit Fr. Samir Khalil Samir.
Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president for nearly 30 years, stepped down on Feb. 11 due to pressure from demonstrators that had occupied Cairo’s central Tahrir Square for 18 days.
Fr. Samir, an Egyptian expert in Islam and adviser to the Church on Muslim-Christian relations, noted the resignation of the president was the will of the people but said that it is the next step that really counts.
Mubarak’s government catered to the wealthy classes for three decades, “what we need now is something to help people to live a little more humanly,” Fr. Samir told CNA over the phone after the announcement.
“Maybe after this, after having passed through an authoritarian regime, people will really try to do something more democratic,” he said.
He was encouraged by the fact that the protests sprang from the people. He marveled that they were “moderate” and included all ranks and religions in society.
“Christians and Muslims were together. We didn’t have any extreme appeal to Islam. Also, we didn’t have any aggression against Israel or the U.S., any flag burned,” he said with apparent surprise.
The result is “a new hope for Egypt,” he said.
What is most important now, he explained, is that the reformed constitution brings with it equality for all people, Christians and Muslims.
He pointed to recent signs of hope that show that winds of change were already in place for this in society. A local magazine released a new 22-point project written up by moderate Islamic intellectuals on Jan. 24. It includes a provision that calls for a distinction to be made between state and religion.
In his New Year’s Day address, ex-President Mubarak referred twice to development towards a “civil society” –the Egyptian pseudonym for a separation of church and state.
That’s not to say that people don’t expect an “Islamic trend” in the new government, said Fr. Samir. It would be a “normal” occurrence in Egypt, where 90 percent of the population is Muslim.
A “secular” government like that in Lebanon is preferable to one that is completely “one-sided,” he said. He is not expecting religion to be absent from the debate in a country where all people, Muslims and Christians, are very religious.
He expects the Muslim Brotherhood to attempt to exert its influence on society as they often have, but he said that their influence has been widely overestimated.
“Usually they ‘Islamize’ more external aspects, like the veil and what you can see,” said Fr. Samir. “It could happen, we are used to it.”
They will work to convince people that men and women should not work together, should dress in a certain style and that some jobs are not appropriate for women. “But, they cannot put a law (in place) for that,” he said.
Egyptian society, he said, “has made an evolution to distinguish between morality and law.”
And, he mentioned, the moderation of the group in recent years in Egypt shows signs “that the Muslim Brotherhood is also going this way.”
The Brotherhood represents a similar threat to Egypt as “aggressive atheists” do to the West, he said.
The key, he added, is not to fear Muslims. Christians have to work together to convince them that “the true religion is something in your heart and not in your appearance - in your clothes and in your dress,” he said. “You can be a very good Muslim and not have the appearance of a Muslim, and you can be a very good Muslim having a Western culture.”
“All of us Christians, but also open-minded Muslims, have to spread this approach to religion,” he said.
Nevertheless, the “threat of Islamization ... exists always” in the Egypt where there is such a large-percentage Muslim population, said Fr. Samir.
The major concern for Christians at this point is ensuring equality, especially in three major areas, according to the Jesuit priest. The first is equality in the job market, “that there will not be a preference for a Muslim over a Christian.”
In addition, Christians should be allowed to obtain building permits for churches as easily as their fellow citizens do for mosques. A law from the late 1800s has made it very difficult for Christians to build until now.
The third point was that of the liberty of conscience. Egyptians should be free to convert from Christianity to Islam and vice versa with no threat of harm against the person who converted, he said.
Those may be mostly “symbolic” points in nature - as there are not many people who seek to convert -but “at least it means we recognize the rights of conscience which is over the tradition or over the religion.
“The main point is this: that we are all under the same rule,” he said.
Egyptians had made the “small step” of being able to speak more freely about equality in recent years, he said, “and if, on the occasion of this small revolution, we obtain something more, it’s good.”
Christians, he said, must be “careful” to act in the process of cultural development and politics, to make themselves present in society rather than holing themselves up in “ghettos.”
“Christians must be very much involved in the society, in the political and social and economic world of the nation,” said Fr. Samir.
They have a role in society and sometimes they do not take it up because of fear of Islam, he explained.
It is essential to respond with honesty and truth, said Fr. Samir. “I have to say what I have to say, and if something, someone is saying something wrong against Christianity, I have to correct it. And if I’m saying something wrong I have to agree that the other side corrects me.”
In the previous government, Christian officials were appointed by the president because in popular elections they did not stand a chance.
The key, he said, is that all are given the same chance and that the best people are placed in the positions they deserve.
Rome, Italy, Feb 14, 2011 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of France has condemned the manipulation of France's first “savior sibling.”
Umut Talha, whose name in Turkish means “hope,” was born Jan. 26 at a hospital in Paris. The boy was “designed” through in vitro fertilization and genetic selection to cure one of his siblings of a serious genetic disease that causes anemia and requires repeated blood transfusions.
Using in vitro fertilization, scientists conceived a number of embryos and discarded those considered “unfit.” They then implanted the embryo that did not carry the disease so that the baby could be a compatible donor.
In the future, cells extracted from Umut’s umbilical cord could be transplanted to his older brother to cure him.
In their statement issued Feb. 9, the French bishops noted that the desire “to cure a sibling for humane reasons is honorable.” They expressed their understanding of the parents’ sadness and their hope in a medical solution, but stated, “to legalize the use of the most vulnerable human beings to cure another is not worthy of man. To conceive a child in order to use him—even if to cure another human being—is disrespectful of human dignity.”
“Utilitarianism is always a step backwards. It is dangerous for a society not to respect the primordial interests of the child as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of Children,” the bishops said.
They called for “acceptable research be carried out so appropriate therapeutic treatments will be found.”
Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris rejected the use of “savior siblings” as “the exploitation of one human being for another,” as he spoke Feb. 8 before the French National Assembly. It is wrong “to use someone exclusively for another, as one child would become an instrument for seeking a cure for another child. Are we going to turn each other into instruments?” he asked.
The first “savior sibling” was born in the United States in 2000, followed by similar cases in Spain and Belgium.
The Church opposes the manipulation of persons as tools for scientific research, and differentiates between the humane act of wishing to help one’s neighbor from the use of defenseless persons as instruments of research.
Catholic teaching also opposes in vitro fertilization for two main reasons: First, because it is a procedure contrary to the natural order of sexuality and attacks the dignity of the spouses and of marriage. The technique also involves the elimination of human embryos both inside and outside the womb, resulting in numerous abortions in each case.
Rome, Italy, Feb 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Seventy years ago this week, Karol Wojtyla was “pushed” forward in his vocation by the death of the last member of his close family.
The anniversary was recalled on Italy’s national television channel RaiUno on Feb. 13 by Italian journalist and writer Gian Franco Svidercoschi. He was close to Pope John Paul II and has written numerous books about the late pontiff’s life.
Svidercoschi was given a couple of minutes during regular programming to offer an anecdote about his friend Pope John Paul II’s life.
The tragic event of his father’s death is one that many books on the late Pope “seem to neglect,” said Svidercoschi. For the journalist, however, due to this event—which took place 70 years ago this week—the future Pope was given a further impulse to pursue his vocation.
In 1941, a 20-year-old Karol was working at a stone quarry after the government closed Jagiellonian University where he studied philosophy. He returned from work on Feb. 18 to find that his father, also named Karol, had died of a heart attack.
His sister had died before his birth, his mother died when he was a young boy and his older brother also lost his life six years earlier to scarlet fever. He was “alone,” said Svidercoschi.
“And this,” he explained, “brought about a change, or perhaps it pushed him harder toward that which he already felt inside, that is, to become a priest.”
It is important to remember that these “Polish years” were “the decisive years that formed this Pope, because every experience that he had, every trial that he overcame, in some way then returned and was represented during his pontificate,” said Svidercoschi.
The young Wojtyla’s personal experience of war and Nazism in the 1940s and of Communism in Poland in the years that followed “explains his attentiveness to the cause of man,” said the journalist.
Pope John Paul II put a great deal of emphasis during the first half of his pontificate on advocating for democracy against communism, especially in the Eastern bloc European nations ruled by the Soviet Union. His position against authoritarianism is credited with the eventual fall of communism in Eastern Europe.
Svidercoschi remembered that Wojtyla’s formation during “the Polish years” continued throughout his priesthood until he became Archbishop of Krakow. As archbishop, he took on a “battle” for the creation of new churches that showed him the relationship between the law of God and that of man, “that is, the right of man to be respected.”
All these experiences, Svidercoschi concluded, resurfaced again when he became Pope.
Lordsburg, N.M., Feb 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Marshall and Winnie Kuykendall of New Mexico – a couple celebrating their 82nd wedding anniversary this Valentine's Day – were honored recently as the national winners of a “Longest Married Couple” contest.
The couple told CNA on Feb. 11 that the recognition shows that “not many people stay married” these days.
“When we got married we took an oath to stay together until death do us part,” they said. “And it's recorded in the courthouse!”
The Kuykendalls, both originally from Arizona, married in 1929, just five months after they met. Marshall and Winnie have one daughter, who has been married for 56 years herself, and two grandchildren.
Mr. Kuykendall said that the two “got along well” in high school and that Mrs. Kuydendall “thought I was a pretty good catch.” Mrs. Kuykendall reflected that over the last 82 years, one of their biggest joys in life was starting a family.
The Worldwide Marriage Encounter held a ceremony and celebration in the Kuykendalls' honor on Feb. 12, at the Hampton Inn in their hometown of Lordsburg, N.M. Scott and Karen Seaborn, who serve as the United States Ecclesial Team for the marriage enrichment organization, expressed their congratulations to the couple, concluding the nationwide search that drew more than 300 total applicants, including nominees from every U.S. state.
Marshall and Winnie, who are respectively 103 and 102, travelled to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., where the Seaborns presented them with memento gifts, a certificate of achievement and a plague of recognition from the “longest married” project. They were also honored by the governor, state legislative officials and the Lordsburg mayor.
Over 45 family members and friends attended the presentation, which was broadcast live by a large number of radio stations across the U.S.
"It is truly an honor to have shared time with Marshall and Winnie and their family. It is a moment that we will never forget," the Seaborns said.
Out of the 312 nominations for the nationwide contest, 100 couples have been married for between 70 and 79 years, while 155 other nominees could boast anywhere from 60 to 69 years.
Dick and Dianne Baumbach, two Marriage Encounter weekend organizers who ran the contest, told EWTN News in November 2010 that it was specially designed to “give younger couples hope for their own marriage.”
The Baumbachs gave Marriage Encounter much of the credit for their own 44 years so far, stating that their original weekend rescued their love during a difficult time in 1973. Couples from all religious and non-religious backgrounds attend the weekends, to improve their communication skills and deepen their dedication to one another.
Marriage Encounter's presence in more than 90 countries makes it the world's largest pro-marriage movement. More information on its programs, as well as the state and national longest-marriage winners, is available at http://www.wwme.org/.