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BY Jim Cosgrove
Feminists Defend Fujimori Population Programs
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/REUTERS, June 30 — Even as a Peruvian congressional commission concluded that former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori conducted a “no-holds-barred sterilization campaign” aimed at minorities, the impoverished, Catholics and traditional families, Peruvian feminist groups have rallied behind the disgraced, deposed president's family planning policies, according to the Associated Press.
The congressional commission said in the June report that FujimorI's programs had the help of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.N. Population Fund.
Susana Chavez of the feminist organization Manuela Ramos defended FujimorI's program as “excellent in terms of access and information.” She attacked current Health Minister Fernando Carbone and Prime Minister Luis Solari for cutting government funding for artificial contraception and refusing to support the abortifacient “morning-after pill.”
The Manuela Ramos group claims that of the 600,000 Peruvians born each year, at least half are unwanted or ill timed; the organization does not say how it knows this.
The AP reported that current president Alejandro Toledo's health ministry has focused its energy on making births safer rather than preventing them.
Belfast Campaigners Laud Review of Abortion Law
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, July 7 — The leading pro-life group in Great Britain, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, has welcomed a decision by Belfast high court Justice Brian Kerr to review the legality of abortion in Northern Ireland.
Independent Catholic News quoted Betty Gibson, chairman of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in Northern Ireland, who said: “The pro-abortion lobby … wants to make abortion widely available in Northern Ireland and claims that the law here is unclear. [The society]'s case is that the law is perfectly clear. The law on abortion in Northern Ireland gives considerable protection to unborn children, which is what the overwhelming majority of people here want.”
As Mo Mowlam, a former secretary of state for Northern Ireland, once put it when she complained about the strength of opposition to abortion here: “It's called democracy.”
Two Leading Bishops Die
CHALDEAN NEWS AGENCY/VHEADLINE.COM, July 7 — July has seen the deaths of two important Catholic clerics at opposite ends of the world, according to local news services.
In Beirut on July 7, Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael I Bidawid, an outspoken critic of U.N. sanctions against Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, died at age 81 after nine months of illness. After studies in Rome, he returned to his native Iraq as a priest in 1947. He served as rector of the seminary in Mosul and bishop of Amadya in northern Iraq. In 1966 he was transferred to the Diocese of Beirut and became patriarch of the Chaldean Catholics in 1989.
In Venezuela, Cardinal Ignacio Velasco Garcia, archbishop of Caracas, died July 6 at age 74, Vheadline.com, a Venezuelan news Web site, reported. Cardinal Velasco gained renown recently by taking part in the civil campaign to recall and remove from power leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Cardinal Velasco was ordained a priest in the Salesian order in 1955. He was made a bishop in 1989 and appointed archbishop of Caracas in 1995.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Ponders U.N. Membership
THE AUSTRALIAN, July 1 — The Holy See, which currently maintains an observer status at the United Nations, is seriously considering applying for full membership, the national daily newspaper The Australian reported, citing a statement by Vatican diplomat Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran.
“We will have to weigh carefully the consequences and the advantages and disadvantages of such a step,” the archbishop told reporters. “We are at the stage of elaborating the project, which is currently being studied by lawyers in the [Vatican] State Secretariat.”
The Holy See is currently represented at the United Nations in New York by its permanent observer, Archbishop Celestino Migliore.
Archbishop Tauran said no decision had yet been made on full U.N. membership.
Hindu Nationalists Denounce Pope's Remarks
TIMES (INDIA) NEWS NETWORK, July 7— In a resolution passed July 6, the Hindu nationalist group RSS called on the Indian government to lodge a protest against Pope John Paul II for alleged interference in Indian affairs, reported India's Times News Service.According to the resolution, the Pope's call for Christians to spread their faith in India as in every other land constituted an attempt “to infringe on our national ethos and disturb peace.”
RSS called John Paul's statement a “direct challenge” to Indian local “sovereignty” and suggested that force, fraud or bribery were involved in many conversions to Christianity. It asserted that “conversion is not just a change of the form of worship of prayer but subversion of national loyalty.”
The past months have seen ongoing tensions between local Indian officials with ties to extremist nationalist groups and the Holy See, which points to attacks on local Christians and attempts to persecutemissionaries as violations of international human-rights agreements India has signed — and by which it is bound — which include the freedom of religion.
Vatican Seeks Agreement With Czech Government
CTK NEWS AGENCY, July 5 — According to Prague-based CTK News, the Holy See still awaits an official note from the Czech government clarifying the relations between the Church and the Czech state. The news service cited a July 5 statement by Czech Catholic Bishops’ Conference spokesman Daniel Herman.
This past spring, the Czech lower house of parliament, its Chamber of Deputies, refused by a strong majority of votes to ratify the agreement previously signed between the Vatican and Prague.
“The Holy See has expressed its surprise and regret over the rejection of the agreement by the Czech Parliament,” Herman told the news service. “The main question on which it is necessary to agree will be whether the Czech government and the parties supporting it are interested in an agreement with the Holy See.”
The Czech Republic is one of the last post-communist governments still lacking an agreement with the Church.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Unborn Lost in the Translation
COLUMBIA (Missouri) DAILY TRIBUNE, June 29 — It seems that some Democratic presidential candidates have become coy about their pro-abortion politics — at least when it comes to Spanish-speaking voters.
According to a June 29 report by the Columbia Daily Tribune, two of the candidates for the Democratic nomination for president omit their strong pro-abortion stances on their Spanish Web sites: the (formerly pro-life) Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.
Is it a strategic choice, knowing that many Hispanics, Catholic and not, wouldn't vote for someone they know to favor killing the unborn?
When contacted, the congressmen's campaigns said they simply had not finished their translation work on the sites. They promised that the candidates’ strong “pro-choice” positions would find their way onto the sites when they were completed — although, according to the paper, they did not specify when that would happen.
Wal-Mart Embraces ‘Gay Rights’
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 2 — After an extensive lobbying campaign conducted by a small group of homosexual-activist shareholders, America's largest private employer, Wal-Mart Corp., has decided to include homosexuals in the list of protected groups in its anti-discrimination policy, according to the Associated Press.
The Pride Foundation, which led the shareholder campaign, boasted about the policy change it had wrought: “The change means nine of the 10-largest Fortune 500 companies now have rules prohibiting discrimination against gay employees, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The one exception is the Exxon Mobil Corp.,” it said in a statement.
For those concerned with the traditional family, the news was a disappointment, coming less than two months after the retail chain removed several racy magazines from its shelves. Wal-Mart also will require its 1.1 million employees to undergo “sensitivity training.”
Ten Commandments Un-American?
CNSNEWS.COM, July 2 — In what CNSNews.com called a stinging rebuke, a federal appeals court on July 1 demanded that Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore remove his display of the Ten Commandments from his courthouse — and asserted that the commandments had played no major part in American history.
The three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals compared Moore's refusal to remove the monument to past refusal of southern governors to comply with desegregation orders.
“That there were some government acknowledgments of God at the time of this country's founding and indeed are some today, however, does not justify under the Establishment Clause a 5,280-pound granite monument placed in the central place of honor in a state's judicial building,” the court ruled.
One of its arguments against the monument was that it used a specific Protestant translation and ordering of the commandments,which Jews and Catholics might find objectionable — although no Catholic groups were involved in the attempt to remove the monument.
Moore has garnered vast public support among Alabama voters for his advocacy of public acknowledgement of religion.
BY Jim Cosgrove
A Motley Crew of Catholics
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, June 24 — According to a recent religious survey, 1 out of 4 Australians is a Catholic of some variety or another. But diversity within the faith is growing all the time, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The paper noted that parochial schools now include those for immigrants of the Maronite, Melkite and Armenian Catholic rites alongside schools for Muslim, Greek, Jewish and Coptic children.
Brian Croke of the Catholic Education Commission pointed out that the schools demonstrated the “growing religious pluralism” of the region. Catholic school growth is strongest where immigration has landed the most people, producing areas in New South Wales where Catholics make up a strong majority of the population.
It has also created new ethnic enclaves. For instance, St. Hurmizd Assyrian School in Sydney opened in January 2002 with 86 pupils — the only Assyrian Christian school in modern history built outside the Middle East.
Many Assyrian Catholics have begun to flee their native Iraq in the wake of sanctions, war and growing Islamic extremism.
Likewise, Maronite Catholics have fled Lebanon in increasing numbers since that country's civil war of the 1970s and 1980s, swelling an ongoing exodus of Melkite and Armenian Catholics from the Holy Land and around the region.
Sink the ‘Lust Boat’!
BBC, June 23 — Polish customs officials June 22 boarded the Langenort, a renegade ship operated by Women on Waves, a Dutch pro-abortion group that had promised to smuggle abortifacient RU-486 pills into Poland. Protestors pelted the ship with eggs and red paint.
Malgorzata Wilkosz-Sliwa, spokesman for Polish prosecutors, said the Langenort's crew would not be in breach of Polish abortion laws so long as any pills remained on the ship.
“If no one tries to distribute [the pills], then there is no crime,” she told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Later, though, Polish officials fined the project 12,000 zloty ($3,150), saying the boat “breached procedures for entering the port and did not obey the orders of the port commander,” Life Site News reported June 25.
In Poland, unborn life is protected by law but with a number of exceptions for rape, incest, fetal defect and the “health” of the mother. Women on Waves has previously discussed distributing the abortion-inducing pills in Ireland but has not yet attempted to do so.
Ugandan Girls Abducted from Catholic School
REUTERS, June 25 — Thirty children from a Catholic girls school in northeastern Uganda were abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army rebel sect June 23, Reuters reported. Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu called for the rights of the children of northern Uganda to be protected.
The Lord's Resistance Army, led by a self-proclaimed prophet, wants the country to be governed according to the Ten Commandments. The group has abducted thousands of children over the course of a 17-year-long campaign in northern Uganda, using the boys for soldiers and the girls for concubines.
Independent Catholic News reported on June 17 that 15 refugee children between ages 7 and 15 were taken from a Catholic orphanage in Adjumani, Uganda.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Bosnian Runs 35-Hour Marathon to Glimpse the Pope
REUTERS, June 23 — A Catholic runner began a grueling 35-hour run from his native town of Mostar to faraway Banja Luka on June 21 to see Pope John Paul II begin his apostolic visit to Bosnia, Reuters news service reported.
The runner, Aleksandar Gola, said he would make the run in honor of the Holy Father, who came to Bosnia-Herzegovina to beatify a lay Catholic and urge religious peace in the country that still is divided along sectarian lines.
“I know this will be a long journey. But my wish to touch the Holy Father is stronger than any fatigue,” Gola told a local newspaper before he set out.
A number of threats to the Pope's safety were reported by extreme nationalists in Banja Luka, the largest Orthodox Serb-dominated city in Bosnia, which still nurses memories of savage repression by Catholic Croats against Serbs during World War II.
“The biggest reward for me,” said Gola, running with an escort of an ambulance containing his son, “is that I am going to be among four people who will be given Communion by the Holy Father.”
1,000 Masses for the Pope
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, June 19 — More than 1,000 parishes around the world have promised to hold Masses of thanksgiving to mark the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's pontificate this October, according to the English news site Independent Catholic News. And the promise all began with a family in South London.
The Ryans of Croydon, South London, began a Web site months ago to track the celebration Masses parishes were planning for Oct. 16.
“We want to create a spiritual bouquet,” Patrick Ryan said. “We are hoping to ring the world in prayer on Oct. 16 with Masses starting in Fiji, followed by New Zealand and then each country doing likewise as the sun circles the Earth until it sets at the close of day off the west coast of Alaska.”
The Ryans already have commitments from churches on all five continents: from the Arctic to the Equator, China, Congo, Belarus and Israel, and there are still four months to go.
To register a parish for this event, visit http://www.jp2-jubilee.org.
Pope Welcomes Staff of Hospital Named for His Brother
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, June 18 — While greeting Polish pilgrims after his general audience in St. Peter's Square on June 18, Pope John Paul II welcomed the staff of Powszechny Hospital in Bielsko-Biala, which has been renamed for the Pope's brother, Edmund Wojtyla.
As a young doctor, Edmund had worked in the hospital. He later caught scarlet fever from one of his patients and died at age 26 in 1932.
During his 1983 visit to Poland, John Paul recalled with emotion attending his brother's medical school graduation, which took place when then Karol Wojtyla was only 10 years old. The doctors from the hospital spoke of Edmund's dedication, kindness and sense of humor, noting that he used to tell jokes to cheer up his patients.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Interim Bishop Welcomed in Phoenix
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 23 — The Catholics of Phoenix are apparently pleased with their new interim bishop, who was appointed as apostolic administrator June 18 following the arrest of Bishop Thomas O'Brien in connection with a hit-and-run accident, according to the Associated Press.
The news service spoke to parishioners at the local cathedral, where Archbishop Michael Sheehan read from a letter promising happier times for the diocese, which had been rocked by abuse scandals.
“Like the phoenix bird rising from the ashes, the Church of Phoenix will rise to new heights,” the archbishop promised, adding: “My heart goes out to all who are hurting.”
Archbishop Sheehan is the archbishop of Santa Fe, N.M., but he is stepping in to also oversee the Phoenix Diocese until a new bishop can be appointed, which could take up to a year.
Hispanics Support Estrada — Erik Estrada
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, June 19 — The Bush administration, hoping to reach out to Hispanic voters, has looked for conservative judicial appointees who are also of Latino origin. One of its strongest candidates, Miguel Estrada, is currently in limbo, watching as Democratic senators filibuster his appointment.
Republicans had hoped to use this opposition to win Hispanic votes, but things aren't working out that way, according to The Washington Times.
“The Hispanic electorate doesn't care. They don't know about it, they are not well informed and they don't consider it to be an important issue,” said Sergio Bendixen, a Democratic pollster in Miami who surveyed 800 Hispanic voters on the subject.
Bendixen reported that that 28% of Latinos supported Estrada, 11% opposed and 61% were indifferent. Bendixen said many of those respondents who backed Estrada confused him with Erik Estrada, former star of the 1970s TV cop show “CHiPs,” who is now popular in Spanish-language soaps.
“I'd say a good third think that way,” Bendixen explained, noting that one respondent said Estrada ought to be confirmed because he'd been such a good actor on “CHiPs.”
Passions Flame Again Over Gibson Film
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, June 25 — The Anti-Defamation League of America, working with an early draft of a script leaked from the set of Mel Gibson's upcoming movie, The Passion, warned June 24 that the film on the death of Christ likely will be anti-Semitic.
The league called the script “replete with objectionable elements that would promote anti-Semitism” and pointed to the report of a committee of scholars from several religions who agreed.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had initially embraced the same report, has since backed away from its findings, saying it will wait to review the final film. Gibson had threatened to sue the bishops’ conference and the Anti-Defamation League.
The Anti-Defamation League report included a series of questions such as: “Will the final version of The Passion continue to portray Jews as bloodthirsty, sadistic and money-hungry enemies of Jesus?”
Gibson has denied he or the film is anti-semitic, and, according to the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Jesuit Father William Fulco, who translated the script into Latin and Aramaic, has said it has “no hint of deicide” by the Jews.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Scottish Anglicans Accept Women Bishops
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, June 13 — The Scottish Episcopal Church by a large majority voted at their general synod ending June 14 to accept the consecration of women as bishops, ending a tradition that dates back to the foundation of that Protestant body.
The Church of England has not yet decided to make this concession to feminist requests; this would make the Scots the first church in the United Kingdom to grant women the miter, according to Independent Catholic News.
Out of 153 votes cast by leading churchmen, 124 voted Yes, including all seven bishops. It was only in 1992 that the Church of England admitted women to its priesthood.
Now, the news site reported, one out of every five of its priests is a woman.
New Book Tells Tale of Catholic Activism
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, June 14 — In his new book, The Pope's Battalions, author Ross Fitzgerald recounts the heavy involvement of Catholics in the labor movement and Labor Party of Australia, noting with some disapproval that they attempted to infuse both with religious principles, according to a recent review in The Sydney Morning Herald.
The book examines the work of Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne and Labor Party leader B.A. Santamaria. It recounts how the Australian labor movement was split when secular activists objected to the Christian principles promoted by the two Irish émigrés.
Fitzgerald points to the work of a group of Melbourne Catholic lawyers who founded the city's Campion Society and published its edition of The Catholic Worker. The group fought hard in the wake of World War II to keep the unions free of communist domination and drew on the Church's assets in the hope of “completely transform[ing] the leadership of the labor movement” and “implement[ing] a Christian social program.”
In the long run, the effort failed, and the labor movement in Australia became secular and progressivist, much like its American counterpart, which was once infused with elements of Catholic social teaching.
Abuse of Language Threatens Sanctity of Life
FIDES, June 13 — Leading Catholic bishops in Europe met at a conference June 11-14 promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Family, opened by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, the Vatican missionary news agency reported.
The cardinal called the position of family in Europe critical, noting how secularization threatened its very structure. The cardinal said legislation in some European countries could only be described as evil, showing no respect for the rights of the individual, the family or for life itself.
He explained that the abuse of language to obscure traditional moral distinctions regarding life issues was a major weapon used by enemies of the family and pointed to a countermeasure issued by the pontifical council: its lexicon of 78 ambiguous terms often employed to cloud the debate on issues such as abortion, contraception and euthanasia, a document that is now being translated from Italian.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Calls Refugee Situation “Offense Against God”
Independent catholic news,June 16 — Speaking to pilgrims from his study window overlooking St. Peter's Square on June 15, Pope John Paul II spoke of the forthcoming World Day of Refugees in light of Trinity Sunday.
John Paul noted that “God is not solitude, but perfect communion,” according to Independent Catholic News. From this divine source, he explained, “derives the vocation of all of mankind to form one great family, in which different races and cultures meet and enrich each other reciprocally.” Because of this, “every situation in which persons or groups of people are forced to flee their own land to seek refuge elsewhere is a serious offense against God and all men.”
The Holy Father called upon the “the international community to commit itself to taking care of not only the symptoms but [also] above all the causes of the problem: that is, to prevent conflicts by promoting justice and solidarity in every sphere of the human family.”
Indian Nationalist Rebuked for Criticizing Pope
THE TIMES OF INDIA, June 15 — The president of India's United Christian Council, Bishop Anthony Pappusamy, June 15 strongly condemned the remarks of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, head of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, The Times of India reported.
The minister had responded to Pope John Paul II's insistence on religious freedom for every Indian — including those who choose to covert to Christianity. In defense of her state's anti-conversion laws, she said the Holy Father “has no business to comment on a law passed by democratically elected governments in our country.”
Bishop Pappusamy said Jayalalithaa, who had promoted the law, was fanning “hate politics.” He insisted the bill “violated … basic human and religious rights” and summed up her attack as showing “her immaturity and bias.”
The bishop noted that the rights of Indians were protected by international declarations and agreements, which the Pope, as a head of state represented in the United Nations, had every right to invoke. He further warned that Christians would be forced to launch political demonstrations if she did not withdraw her antipapal remarks.
Vatican Observatory Summer School
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, June 13 — The Ninth Vatican Observatory Summer School in Observational Astronomy and Astrophysics will take place in the summer papal residence at Castel Gandolfo from June 15 to July 11, Vatican Information Service reported.
This year's focus is “Observations and Theoretical Understanding of Galaxy Evolution: From the Local Universe to the Distant Universe.” Some 26 young scholars from 20 developing countries will be in Rome for the 2003 summer session, led by Vatican Observatory director Jesuit Father George Coyne.
Each of the scholars has received a scholarship that covers at least 75% of school costs including travel, room and board. The school is meant to help promising scholars from poor countries begin their careers in research on the cosmos.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Memorial Service Held for Gregory Peck
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, June 16 — Los Angeles' new Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral hosted a June 16 memorial service for screen legend Gregory Peck, who died June 12, Independent Catholic News reported.
Peck, who was 87, died in his sleep at home, leaving Veronique, his wife of 48 years, four children and several grandchildren. The frequent movie hero starred in 52 films.
Peck was born in La Jolla, Calif., in 1916. At age 10, he entered St. John's Roman Catholic Military Academy in Los Angeles, where he briefly considered becoming a priest.
In his second film, The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), Peck won an Academy Award nomination for his performance as a Scottish priest working as a missionary in China.
Pulitzer to Holocaust Denier Might Be Revoked
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 11 — In 86 years, no Pulitzer Prize for journalism has ever been revoked — but that might soon change, according to the Associated Press.
The most controversial Pulitzer ever awarded was given in 1932 to New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty, who covered the Soviet Union and doggedly denied the forced famine imposed by Josef Stalin on the Ukraine, which killed approximately 7 million people.
In April, a Pulitzer subcommittee launched its review of Duranty's prize. The 1990 book Stalin's Apologist documents the charge that Duranty knew about famines but did not report on them, fearing it would cut off his personal access to Stalin, whom he famously interviewed years before.
The Times' credibility has been in the spotlight since the Jayson Blair affair earlier this spring. Catholic Eye, a weekly bulletin published by the National Committee of Catholic Laymen, reminded readers May 29 that when Cardinal Bernard Law resigned, the Times editorialized the Boston archbishop had presided over a “disgraceful cover-up.”
But the “newspaper of record” had its own Cardinal Law, Catholic Eye intimated — editor Howell Raines, whose “imperial meddling, diversity obsessions and mercurial management style all made Blair possible.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Radio María Launches in Mexico
CATHOLIC RADIO UPDATE, June 7 — For decades, anticlerical legislation prohibited almost all religious broadcasting in Mexico. With the new conservative government there, however, such laws have been pared back, and religious radio has undergone a renaissance.
Up to now, that renaissance has been limited to evangelical Protestant stations. Now a powerful Catholic station will go on the air in Mexico for the first time in living memory.
Radio María México has begun operations in Guadalajara, Jalisco, according to the online newsletter Catholic Radio Update. It will broadcast 24 hours a day, with a peak signal of 10,000 watts.
The station's headquarters were blessed on May 31 by Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez of Guadalajara.
Bishops Appeal for Mention of God in EU Constitution
EU BISHOPS’ CONFERENCES, June 5 — Bishop Josef Homeyer, president of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, wrote on June 5 to Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, president of the European Convention, calling for references to Christianity and God in the preamble of the new EU Constitution.
The bishop's statement reads, in part: “My brother bishops and I have read with great interest the keenly awaited draft preamble of the EU Constitution. I … should like to express my astonishment that the preamble includes a list of important elements in European civilization but does not refer explicitly to Christianity. Without wishing to detract from other contributions, no other religion or philosophical movement has inspired Europe as much as Christianity.
“Allow me also to renew our proposal for a reference to God in the constitution. A reminder of the limits of human power and of responsibility before God, humankind and creation would be an important sign that public power is not absolute. The union would thus explicitly recognize that its citizens, be they Christians, Jews or Muslims, are free to invoke God. This recognition would represent a guarantee of the freedom of the human person and would help many citizens to identify with the values of the European Union and the future constitution. That such a reference need not be discriminatory is demonstrated clearly by, for example, the German and Polish constitutions.”
Even Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski, an atheist, has denounced the “godless” tone of the constitution, according to London's Daily Telegraph. “There are no excuses for making references to ancient Greece and Rome, and the Enlightenment,” he said, “without making references to the Christian values which are so important to the development of Europe.”
‘Choose Life’ Planned for Trafalgar Square
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, June 6 — People of all faiths will be gathering for a massive pro-life rally in Trafalgar Square on June 29, Independent Catholic News reported.
The rally will be followed by a walk to Parliament Square, leaving a candle outside Methodist Central Hall in memory of the unborn.
Further events and services will include the newly composed Requiem for the Innocents by Joseph Estorninho and Mass in Westminster Cathedral.
The event has wide patronage, including the archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor; the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams; and England's chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks.
BY Philip S. Moore
Little Missionaries Visit Pope
FIDES, June 6 — Thousands of child members of the Pontifical Missionary Childhood Society were scheduled to pay a call on Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Basilica on June 14, reported Fides, the Vatican missionary news service.
On Jan. 6, the Holy Father sent a letter to children members of the society encouraging them in their missionary activity. He urged them to listen to the words of Jesus, take part in Mass and show their solidarity with less fortunate boys and girls. He asked them to pray a Hail Mary every day and the older ones to pray a daily rosary.
The Missionary Childhood Society, one of the four Pontifical Missionary Societies, aims to educate children to a missionary spirit and to cooperate, with the offering of prayers and material aid, in meeting the needs of less fortunate children in mission countries. As part of the June 14 festivity, the children were to gather before the Pope to renew their promises to serve as missionaries to their peers.
New Israeli Ambassador Visits Vatican
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, June 2 — Oded Ben-Hur, the new ambassador of the State of Israel to the Holy See, presented his documents to Pope John Paul II on June 2.
In his response, the Holy Father said, “Your presence today is a testimony to our common desire to work together to build a world of peace and security, not only in Israel and the Middle East but [also] in every part of the globe, for all peoples everywhere.”
The Pope noted that the desire for peace “is probably nowhere more acutely felt than in the Holy Land. There is absolutely no question that peoples and nations have the inherent right to live in security. This right, however, entails a corresponding duty: to respect the rights of others. Therefore, just as violence and terror can never be an acceptable means for making political statements, neither can retaliation ever lead to a just and lasting peace.”
He also noted “difficulties that the Catholic faithful in the Holy Land face on a daily basis. Many of these problems, such as access to Christian shrines and holy sites, the isolation and suffering of Christian communities [and] the dwindling of the Christian population due to emigration are in some way connected to the current conflict but should not discourage us from seeking possible remedies now, from working now to meet these challenges.”
Sainthood for Pope John Paul I?
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 9 — He wasn't Pope for long, but his sanctity is still remembered. That's the growing consensus on Pope John Paul I, the Italian Pope whose reign lasted only 33 days in 1978.
The Associated Press reported that the case is building to make John Paul I a saint. His native diocese in northern Italy has begun to compile a dossier to promote his cause, according to Father Giuseppe Bratti, secretary to the bishop of Belluno-Feltre, who has appointed a priest in Rome as postulator for the cause.
The AP noted that some 300,000 Catholics have signed letters of support for the cause.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Santorum's C-SPAN ‘Miracle’
NATIONAL REVIEW, June 3 — Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online (she is also a Register correspondent) recounted a story in the magazine told by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.
It seems that in 1998, as he fought a losing battle to outlaw partial-birth abortion, Santorum was moved to give a final, seemingly futile speech to the empty Senate gallery — and to the C-SPAN cameras. The speech lasted more than 90 minutes and didn't change a single vote.
But, the senator recalled, “five days later, I got an e-mail from a young man at Michigan State University … [that said], ‘Senator, on Thursday night I was watching television with my girlfriend. We were flipping through the channels and we saw you. … After a while I looked down at my girlfriend, and she had tears running down her face. And I asked her what was wrong, and she looked up at me and said, “I'm pregnant, and tomorrow I was going to have an abortion, and I wasn't going to tell you, but I'm not going to have an abortion now.”’”
Santorum said the next April, a little girl was born and given up for adoption. She is now 4 years old.
Princeton Hosts Anti-Catholic Art
CATHOLICLEAGUE.ORG, May 30 — The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University is hosting an art exhibit called “Ricanstructions” by Juan Sanchez, which contains sacrilegious artworks — including scapulars and images of the Virgin Mary arranged in a circle, naked female torsos arranged in the shape of a cross and a display of “torn-up images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
The Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights reported that several students of various faiths complained to the administration about the works, which the Princeton dean defended by noting that they had previously been exhibited at a Catholic school, St. Bonaventure University in New York.
Recent Convert Part of Business Scandal
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, June 4 — In a Catholic twist to the recent business scandals roiling Wall Street, the chief counsel for troubled Tyco International, Mark Belnick, is accused of earning a $12 million bonus from his boss, former chief executive officer Dennis Kozlowski, for helping cover up Kozlowski's extravagant misuse of company funds.
At the same time, Belnick was converting from Judaism to Catholicism, under the guidance of an Opus Dei priest in Washington, D.C. He appears to have given most of the money he actually collected — some $2 million — as gifts to Catholic causes. These included the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, D.C.; Thomas Aquinas College in California; Opus Dei; and the Eternal Word Television Network in Alabama.
The paper reported that Belnick, former president of his local synagogue, was received into the Church shortly before the scandal broke.
A key player in that conversion, according to the Journal, was occasional Register Columnist Opus Dei Father C. John McCloskey, who runs the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C.
“Mr. Belnick joined an elite fraternity of Father McCloskey's converts,” the paper stated, which includes economist Lawrence Kudlow, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, conservative political columnist Robert Novak and ex-abortionist Bernard Nathanson.
The news story printed private e-mail conversations about the faith between Belnick and Father McCloskey, raising concerns.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Ireland Flip-Flops on Cloning
THE IRISH EXAMINER, June 2 — The usually pro-life government of the Republic of Ireland has surprised its fellow members of the European Union by coming out against an EU resolution that seeks to ban all human cloning.
The Irish Examiner reported that the government doesn't back the ban, which includes prohibiting the cloning of embryos for research, because it would set back scientific advancements on major diseases. This decision conflicts with the Irish Constitution's firm protection of unborn life, asserted Dana Rosemary Scallon, an Irish member of the European Parliament.
The government stance was also criticized from the left, by Green Party parliamentarian Patricia McKenna: “We would be very concerned about this development, and it wouldn't be the first time the government has given a public impression of being conservative about something like this when behind the scenes they are privately backing it,” she told The Irish Examiner.
Scallon warned that the Irish government might even challenge its nation's constitution in order to allow therapeutic cloning in Ireland.
Jerusalem Patriarch Calls for End to Occupation
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, May 30 — The Latin-rite patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, has called on Israel to withdraw completely its troops from the Palestinian territories as a means to stop terrorism.
Their presence in the territories, he said, was actually encouraging violence rather than damping it. He said that because Israel was the far stronger party in the conflict, that nation had the responsibility to “to take the first step to stop the cycle of violence,” the French news agency reported.
“The occupation of the territories is nourishing terrorism,” he said. “The situation has led to economic and social strangulation.”
Speaking at Kirchentag in Berlin, the ecumenical gathering of German churches, Patriarch Sabbah said Palestinians “are living constantly in a situation of injustice.”
Cardinal Joins Queen for Jubilee
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, June 2 — The leading Catholic churchman in Britain, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, joined other leaders of different faiths June 2 for a thanksgiving service marking the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II, Independent Catholic News reported.
The queen and her husband, Prince Consort Philip, rode through central London to Westminster Abbey to the tolling of church bells. While the 1953 coronation was strictly Anglican, this anniversary service was ecumenical, including as lectors Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor and several low-church Protestant ministers.
Present were all senior members of the royal family, as well as Sir Edmund Hillary, who finished his climb of Mount Everest on the very same day 50 years ago.
The queen's remarks on the occasion included the following: “Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings and to put my trust in God.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Wants Christ in EU
BBC, May 31 — The Holy See is outright angry that its repeated pleas have been ignored, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported, and that the new proposed European Union Constitution makes no reference to the continent's historic religious background — Christianity.
Such references have been replaced by vague citations of Europe's “spiritual impulse.” But the Greco-Roman and Enlightenment heritage of the continent receive explicit mention.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the constitution's architect, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, said he could not single out Christianity for fear of offending other religious believers.
“We could not mention it more explicitly because, otherwise, we should have mentioned the other religious traditions present in the continent, from the Jewish one to the Muslim one,” Giscard said.
Vatican press spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls called for the next draft of the document to include exactly such a mention of the region's predominant religion.
“This omission would be very important and serious, even from a purely historical point of view,” he said. The Vatican position has been backed by Romano Prodi, European Union commission president.
Earlier in the same week, Vatican officials expressed anxiety at the prospect of opening the EU to include Turkey — effectively making that country's porous border with the Middle East the last frontier separating millions of Islamic migrants from life in wealthy, underpopulated Europe.
Key Cardinal Dies at Age 78
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 1 — Pope John Paul II's former special envoy to the Soviet Union, Cardinal Francesco Colasuonno, died May 31 in Puglia, Italy. He was 78.
John Paul wrote a telegram expressing his regrets and his admiration for Cardinal Colasuonno, who had helped him minister to the Catholics of the one-time “captive nations” behind the Iron Curtain and oversee the religious revival that followed the fall of communist regimes.
The Holy Father lauded the cardinal's “intense and patient work as an apostolic nuncio, especially during his service in the countries of Eastern Europe during a particular and difficult period in the history of those nations.”
The AP noted that his death reduces the number of voting cardinals in the College of Cardinals to 111.
Pope Meets with Cardinal Law
THE BOSTON HERALD, June 1 — In their first one-on-one meeting since the Holy Father accepted his resignation Dec. 13, Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law met with Pope John Paul II on May 31, The Boston Herald reported.
Church officials offered no hint as to the meeting's purpose or agenda. They said it was a private audience, which means its subject matter is traditionally not revealed to the press. The cardinal was in Rome on business with Vatican congregations on which he still serves. He also attended the celebration of the Tridentine Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major on May 24.
Cardinal Law was long considered one of the Pope's favorite cardinals, the daily noted. He now keeps a low profile, the paper said, serving as a chaplain to a group of nuns outside Washington, D.C.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Santorum as Popular as Ever
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 22 — After weeks of attacks in various media — and by prominent Democrats and homosexual Republicans — Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., seems to be still unscathed — at least in his home state.
Commenting on a Supreme Court case in an interview published April 22, Santorum remarked that overturning sodomy laws would undermine the legality of laws prohibiting polygamy and incest.
Santorum's constituents seem untroubled, according to the Associated Press. An independent poll released May 22 showed that the senator had the same 55% approval rating that he was earning in April, before all the publicity concerning his comments, according to the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The AP speculated that some undecided voters might have been turned against Santorum, boosting his disapproval rating from 20% to 33%.
“The folks back home in Pennsylvania are largely unconcerned about Sen. Santorum's remarks about homosexual activity,” commented Clay Richards of the Quinnipiac Institute.
Some 58% of respondents to the same survey said homosexual activity is wrong, while 27% considered it acceptable and 14% were undecided.
Archbishop Criticizes Prime Minister
THE OTTAWA CITIZEN, May 29 — Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais, leader of the Catholic Church in Canada, has criticized that country's parliamentary leader, Prime Minister Jean Chretien, for telling journalists that unlike President George W. Bush, “I am a Catholic and for abortion.”
In a confidential letter reported in The Ottawa Citizen on May 29, the archbishop addressed the issue. He referred to the letter from the pulpit at Notre Dame Cathedral.
“It has to do with his remarks recently about Bush,” the archbishop told congregants. “He threw in the abortion issue as something we could be proud of.”
The archbishop has in the past called for Catholic voters to “raise a stink” every chance they can get concerning government funding of abortion.
The Citizen reported that more than 2 million abortions have been performed in Canada since it was legalized in 1969.
Bishop Wuerl Says Boston Posting is ‘Speculation’
POST-GAZETTE, June 8 — Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh brushed off as “speculation” reports in the Boston Globe that he was leading the list of candidates to be named archbishop of Boston. Bishop Wuerl, 62, said he was working full steam ahead on plans in his Pennsylvania diocese.
The Boston daily reported June 8 that some Church officials considered Bishop Wuerl the most likely candidate for the post. Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as archbishop in the midst of last year's sex abuse scandal.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Bishop Wuerl has long been said to be among the top choices to replace Cardinal Law because of his “documented determination to remove known child molesters from ministry.”
The Pittsburgh daily noted that “Vatican decorum” prevents a bishop to say whether or not he is about to be appointed to another diocese. “However, the subtleties of Church diplomatic parlance are such that a bishop who knows he is about to be named to a diocese normally says he ‘can't comment’ rather than dismissing leaks as speculation,” the paper said.
Bishop Wuerl did not use those words, however.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Iraq's Christian Liquor Stores Attacked
THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 22 — In a region of the world where alcohol is mostly illegal — banned because it conflicts with the Koran — Iraq was once an oasis, The New York Times reported. But the place is drying up.
Saddam Hussein closed Basra's discos and bars in the 1990s in an attempt to burnish his image as a good Muslim, although he allowed local Christians to keep their liquor stores open.
Now those Christians are the victims of vigilante attacks by newly dominant Shiites; firebombs, shootings and warnings of worse have rained down upon Christian liquor-store owners since the fall of secular-minded Saddam, the paper noted.
“They told me, ‘If you don't close the shop in an hour, we'll destroy it.’ I closed,“ one shop owner said.
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Gabriel Kassab of Basra has advised all 150 liquor-store owners in that city to shut down for their own safety, according to the Times.
Archbishop Kassab said harassment of non-Muslims has worsened since the war; for instance, Christian women are frequently accosted for leaving the house without Islamic garb.
French Republic Attacks Church at U.N. Meeting
CATHOLIC FAMILY AND HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE, May 19 — The government of France, which has been officially anticlerical more or less since 1789, has weighed in against religion at the United Nations, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute reported.
The Catholic lobbying group was stunned to hear a French delegate at a U.N. debate assert that religious — and even moral — concerns have no place in U.N. debates.
The subject at hand was abortion, specifically the application of the National Abortion Federation, a trade association of abortionists, which was applying to the U.N. for status as a nongovernmental organization. The delegate from the Holy See pointed out the federation “does not respect life. It destroys life in its budding stages, when it most needs our protection.“
Arising in outrage, the French delegate to the meeting accused the papal ambassador of injecting “moral” and “religious” criteria into proceedings of the United Nations.
Russian Orthodox Church Assumes Czarist Privileges
FORUM 18 NEWS, May 27 — The Russian Orthodox Church is taking on many of the trappings of an official state church, suggested a report by Forum 18 News out of Oslo, Norway.
“There has been a steady increase over the past seven years in concordat-style agreements between the Russian Orthodox Church and various organs of state,“ the report said.
It noted the Orthodox Church is routinely granted preferential status in prison ministries, allotted government money to rebuild some of the many churches once destroyed by the communists and designated to give talks to local police. An Orthodox chapel has even been built alongside the Ministry of Internal Affairs building in Moscow, the site reported.
Such privileges for the Orthodox are seen by some as a threat to the religious liberties of Catholics; however, they mirror the Church-state arrangements traditionally sought by popes for Western countries.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Son Who ‘Mercy’-Killed Parents Released
BBC, May 16 — Daniel Gardner, 53, admitted to killing his parents, Stanley, 79, and Eileen, 83, at their London home in March 2002. Daniel had spent many years caring for the older couple at home; Eileen Gardner suffered from advanced Alzheimer's disease, while her husband was terminally ill, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Daniel Gardner himself has diabetes, which forces him to walk on crutches. Apparently, as he admitted in court, he hit a breaking point March 4 — that day he put plastic bags over his parents' heads so they would suffocate and then he tried to kill himself.
Having pleaded guilty to manslaughter, Gardner was sentenced to two years of rehabilitation and community work. The judge noted in his sentence the defendant had been suffering “from a serious depressive illness which put you under huge emotional strain,” and he was not a danger to the public.
Local euthanasia groups called for streamlined, state-administered mercy killings for such patients as the Gardners, while Phyllis Bowman of the group Right to Life commented, “One needs to ask why his parents were not admitted to proper hospice or hospital care.”
Baby Auctioned Off for Parts
THE AGE (Australia), May 19 — A female gang in the Southern Italian city of Bari has been charged with auctioning off a newborn child, taking bids even before the baby was born, possibly from people interested in using its organs for transplant.
The Age reported that three Ukrainian immigrants, including the baby's mother, a prostitute, sold the child for $623,000 to undercover police who'd been trying to crack a drug ring. The officers were shocked when the gang members offered them an unborn baby.
“There's a five-month parcel waiting for you if you're interested,” they said, then kept the officers posted about other bids on the child's life that they had to beat.
On May 9 the baby was born and given to the officers, and the parents were arrested. Police are now investigating the other “bidders,” even as shocked Italian legislators call for new laws to prevent organ trafficking.
Priests Take Sacraments to SARS Victims
FIDES, May 16 — At least 45 priests in Hong Kong have put themselves forward, volunteering for exposure to the deadly SARS virus in order to bring the sacrament of anointing the sick to patients, reported Fides, the Vatican missionary news agency.
The local diocese had called for volunteers and the priests responded. Five priests have been chosen to remain in SARS hospitals and the other 40 to visit Catholic families in quarantine.
The priests have been given a special course in precautions to take when carrying out their ministry among the sick.
“The sacrament of [annointing] the sick gives strength, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties of those who are seriously ill and the fragility of old age,” volunteer priest Father Joseph Vhan said, “and it helps to overcome the temptation to discouragement and despair when facing death.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
John Paul Offers Condolence for Terrorism Victims
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, May 17 — In a telegram sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano in the Holy Father's name to Archbishop Domenico De Luca, apostolic nuncio in Morocco, the Pope prayed for the victims of a terrorist attack May 16 in Casablanca.
“Having learned with emotion of the attacks last night in Casablanca, the Holy Father prays for the numerous victims and for their families in this trial,” the telegram said. “Denouncing once again the blind violence that strikes innocents, he asks the Almighty to enlighten consciences and to aid men in their efforts for peace. On this sorrowful occasion the Pope assures the people and the leaders of Morocco of his deepest sympathy.”
Pope Denounces Land Confiscations in Zimbabwe
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, May 16 — Addressing new diplomats at the Holy See on May 15, Pope John Paul II sharply questioned Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe's program of seizing land from white farmers and distributing them to his political cronies, Agence France-Presse reported.
The Holy Father called the “land reform” program an “error” that could only lead to greater disharmony in the troubled land.
“It is an error to think that any real benefit or success will come simply by expropriating large landholdings, dividing them into smaller production units and distributing them to others,” the Pope told the assembled legates.
Where agrarian reform is needed, he said, it must be viewed as “a complex and delicate process … Justice must be made available to all if the injuries of the past are to be left behind and a brighter future built.”
Since the reforms began three years ago, Mugabe's forces have taken 11 million hectares of farmland — and watched a nationwide famine set in.
John Paul promised the Church's full support in attempts “to construct a culture of dialogue rather than confrontation, of reconciliation rather than conflict.”
Cardinal Kasper Preaches at St. Martin-in-the-Fields
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, May 19 — Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, preached May 18 at a healing service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, on the topic of “Healing and Christian Unity.”
This was the first time a member of the Curia addressed a congregation in an Anglican church in England, Independent Catholic News reported. The cardinal conveyed greetings from the Holy Father, who said he fondly remembers his 1982 trip to England. At that time, the Pope said, he recognized how much the churches shared the same Christian traditions and common heritage.
Cardinal Kasper said Jesus wanted all his disciples to be as one and for Christians to be united as one people of God.
“The challenge of our time is the striving for peace,” the cardinal said. “God wants peace and Christians should be peacemakers. God sent Jesus Christ to heal the wounds of our division so that Christians may be signs of peace and reconciliation.”
The cardinal called the divisions between Christian churches a “scandal on the face of the world.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Judge: Parents Must Decide on Child's Life Support
THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 17 — In a difficult end-of-life case, a New York judge has ruled that parents generally do not need to obtain a court's permission to remove a child from life support if he is in a persistent vegetative state.
New York Supreme Court Judge Doris Ling-Cohan decided that a 3-year old girl who never regained consciousness after a seizure last New Year's Eve did not need to be kept on a respirator.
The order was issued verbally in April. The girl died April 17, but the facts of the case were only made public a month later.
Previously, New York law had been ambiguous on the rights of parents in such cases.
Though a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference said he thought that in this particular case the removal of the girl from a respirator was “consistent with Catholic teaching,” the conference opposes a Family Health Care Decisions bill, which would establish procedures for family members and others to make health care decisions for an incapacitated patient.
The group is concerned about how the bill would address people without surrogates, pregnant women and the withdrawal of food and water from dying patients.
Sunday Now a Day of Spirits
DELAWARE NEWS JOURNAL/NEW YORK TIMES, May 19 — A number of states, including Delaware and New York, have looked to an unlikely source of revenue in tough fiscal times: increased tax receipts through more sales of liquor. How to achieve that? Leave liquor stores open more days each month.
Legislators have begun to re-examine centuries-old “blue laws” designed to keep the Sabbath holy by banning sales of alcohol (in some states, even wine), the Delaware News Journal reported.
The New York Times reported that the Delaware bill opening the shops passed with little opposition and went into effect May 18. In New York, the legislature passed a slightly different proposal, still requiring that liquor stores close one day per week but permitting the store to choose the day.
Laws restricting Sunday liquor sales face challenges in Kansas, Washington state and Rhode Island, the News Journal reported, also noting that four of the five most populous states now permit liquor sales on Sunday. Only Texas does not.
THE MONTREAL GAZETTE, May 14 — It seems that Islam has become the largest non-Christian faith in Quebec — as it already has in the rest of Canada, according to The Montreal Gazette.
Immigrants “from south Asia, north Africa and the Middle East” have swollen the population of Muslims in Quebec to 108,620 — an increase of more than 140% during the 1990s. Canadian census figures show that Muslims now outnumber Jews in both the province and the nation.
Chairman Bashir Hussain of the Montreal Chapter of the Council of Muslim Communities in Canada recalled that there were once only a few of his coreligionists in Montreal.
“Now,” he said, “we have about 30 mosques and places of prayer, and it's still not enough.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Americans Capture Saddam's Adopted Monastery
L.A. TIMES-WASHINGTON POST NEWS SERVICE, April 11 — It seems deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had a fondness for monasteries — at least for one Greek Orthodox establishment, which he visited for 90 minutes in 1980 and decided to adopt.
He paid for the reconstruction of the medieval complex and created for himself a lavish two-story private suite, which he'd intended to use as a private retreat.
Saddam, who built dozens of palaces for himself, never actually returned to St. Matthew's Monastery, which was founded in the fourth century. A vibrant Christian minority — both Greek Orthodox and Chaldean Catholic — still exists in Iraq.
U.S. special forces and American-backed Kurdish troops arrived at the monastery on Maqlub Mountain near Mosul on April 10, according to the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, and captured it without damaging any of buildings or causing much disturbance to the three Orthodox monks and Bishop Loqa Shaya, who reside there, according to Brother Polus, 71, a blind monk who has been at St. Matthew's for 42 years.
“We were living in the same way before the war, during the war,” he said, “and we will remain the same after the war á praying for peace.
Officers Seize Nativity Scene Made of Cocaine
ANANOVA.COM, April 4 — Someone's dreaming of a white Christmas.
The news site Ananova.com reported that customs officials at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport had seized a nativity scene shipped from Peru — and found it was made of pure cocaine.
The set, which its intended recipient, a 50-year-old native of Rome, called “a unique artwork from South America,” contained 3 kilograms of the drug worth more than $2 million.
According to police, the manger, ox, donkey and all human figures in the set were made of the illegal stimulant.
Iranian Woman to Travel Around World for Peace
FIDES, April 11 — Poupeh Mahdvinader, a 29-year-old woman from Iran, is about to cycle around the world on a pilgrimage from St. Peter's in Rome to the Mecca in Saudi Arabia, reported Fides, the Vatican missionary agency.
The cyclist will pedal up Italy across France to Britain, then fly to the United States, cycle across America, fly to Japan and on to New Zealand, China, India, Oman and finally to Saudi Arabia and the Muslim holy place of Mecca — along the way trying to spread a message of peace and friendship among peoples and collect money to help orphaned children.
The young social worker, who is a Muslim, visited the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on April 11, where she was welcomed by its president, Archbishop Renato Martino.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Collectors Fight for Vatican Euros
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, April 14 — The city-state of the Vatican is a sovereign nation, which entitles it to print money and mint coins; since few are minted, they are frequently gobbled up by collectors. But rarely if ever have these people fallen to blows.
But that's what happened April 10 as more than 4,000 people lined up at the Vatican's mint to purchase specially minted euro coin sets. These sets are already worth more than seven times their face value, according to Agence France-Presse.
Profit-seeking and curious collectors lined up in the rain in Rome to buy the 13,000 boxed coin sets, which bear the image of Pope John Paul II and mark the 25th anniversary of his election as pope.
Fights broke out when the line moved too slowly, drawing blood in several cases. All the euro sets were sold — and many were immediately resold on eBay, the news service noted.
Vatican Radio Goes Back to Court
BBC, April 10 — A long-standing legal case filed by residents of a Roman suburb against Vatican Radio will now return to court, reported British Broadcasting Corp.
The suburbanites complained that the radio service, which beams the Church's message and Catholic news around the world, damages their health with its radio transmitter, exceeding Italian limits on electromagnetic emissions.
On April 9, the Supreme Court of Italy ruled that the Vatican transmissions fell under Italian jurisdiction and that three officials of Vatican Radio would have to stand trial.
Father Federico Lombardi, the stations' program director, said in a radio statement, “Vatican Radio hopes that a new trial will finally dispel unjustified and unfounded allegations against it,” denying charges that a higher number of cases of leukemia in the outlying Roman district of Santa Maria di Galeria were connected with the transmissions that originate there.
Scottish Church Tries to Save Roman Seminary
SCOTLAND.COM, April 13 — The Scottish Catholic bishops have embarked on a 1-million-pound ($1.5 million) fund-raising campaign to preserve their Roman seminary, the historic Pontifical Scots College, which has been underpopulated and underfunded for years, reported the news site Scotland.com.
Leaflets will be distributed in every parish in Scotland asking for donations, which will be used to endow the college in perpetuity. It is currently funded by annual gifts from each of the eight dioceses throughout the Celtic region, which are expected to decline in the near future, as the number of churchgoers in Scotland continues to decline.
The seminary was founded in 1600 at the height of the Protestant Reformation as Mary, queen of Scots, battled for her throne against Protestant challengers.
There are currently only 11 undergraduates and five graduate students at the seminary.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Archdiocese Fires Official Who Criticized Bush
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 11 — Frank Fromherz, peace and justice director for the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., for the past 12 years, was laid off shortly after he sent an e-mail to hundreds of Catholics encouraging anti-war protests and calling on “the international criminal court to indict and prosecute our own President [bush] as a war criminal,” the AP reported.
Fromherz had received repeated warnings about the compatibility of his personal activism and his role as official spokesman for Archbishop John Vlazny.
Archbishop Vlazny told his flock of 350,000 Catholics that they should focus on praying for peace, noting that “divisiveness is not at all helpful.”
Rochester Diocese Hopes to Expand Cathedral
DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE, April 8 — The Diocese of Rochester, N.Y., plans to expand its Sacred Heart Cathedral and create a large parking area, reported the Rochester, N.Y., daily newspaper.
But the plan has hit opposition from neighborhood activists. They object to the planned demolition of 11 houses on the land, which they say will impair the area's residential character, and have taken their complaints to Rochester's city planning office.
The two sides met at Rochester City Hall on April 8 to discuss the creation of an environmental impact statement. The renovation would include the interior of the cathedral, which diocesan officials call outdated.
“It needs to be more welcoming than it has been,” explained diocesan spokesman Michael Tedesco.
Some local Catholics strongly oppose the proposed changes. Parishioner Michael Brennan predicted the renovation would cost vastly more than the $6 million to $8 million the diocese is projecting and total some $15 million to $20 million.
“It's going to bankrupt the parish,” Brennan warned.
Diocesan officials said they were unaware of any lay opposition to the project.
Homosexual Speaker Banned From Catholic Pulpit
MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE, April 3 — The archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis has banned Mel White, an activist who crisscrosses the United States promoting pro-homosexual attitudes among Christian churches, the daily reported.
That message includes White's personal story as an ordained Protestant minister who tried unsuccessfully through prayer to be cured of his same-sex attractions.
White had been invited to give the homily at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis, but the invitation was withdrawn, thanks in part to the work of Catholic Parents Online, a lay movement in the archdiocese, according to the paper.
The Star-Tribune noted that White, 63, had helped found a national organization, Soulforce, which attempts “to break through homo-phobia in Christian churches.”
Homophobia? While condemning homosexual acts, the Cate chism of the Catholic Church says homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (No. 2358).
BY Jim Cosgrove
SARS Fears Shorten Asian Holy Week
FIDES, April 4 — The rites of Holy Week in Hong Kong were scheduled to be modified and simplified, reported Fides, the Vatican missionary news agency, because of the deadly new form of pneumonia called SARS.
The Hong Kong Diocese told all 53 of its parishes that they should not distribute palm fronds on Palm Sunday, wash parishioners' feet on Holy Thursday or baptize catechumens by immersion during the Easter Vigil. The sign of peace was forbidden during Mass, as was Communion on the tongue.
The diocese instructed parishes not to allow holy water, booklets and missals in church for fear of transmitting the new virus, which kills 4% of those who catch it.
For holy Communion and confession, priests were instructed to wear face masks, Fides reported.
In neighboring Singapore, the archdiocese cancelled catechism classes, children's liturgies and most parish functions.
Most English Priests Dissent
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (London), April 6 — In the land of Henry VIII, papal authority is once again rather tenuous, reported The Daily Telegraph.
Msgr. Stephen Loudon, former military chaplain, and Professor Leslie Francis of the University of Wales conducted a survey of 1,482 Roman Catholic priests — almost half the total number in England and Wales.
They found that 43% of those priests actively oppose the Church's teaching on contraception and 19% were unsure, leaving only 38% in support of the orthodox position, according to the paper.
Smaller percentages — between one-fourth and one-fifth — favored the ordination of married men and practicing homosexuals, while some 10% thought an inclination to pedophilia should not be an obstacle to active ministry. A full 61% of the priests said priests should not be removed from ministry for having sex with a married woman.
“This contains potentially explosive information for the Catholic Church,” Francis commented to the conservative British paper.
In September, the results will appear in the book The Naked Parish Priest.
Francis noted that the younger priests in England and Wales had the most liberal attitudes, presaging an ongoing shift away from traditional moral teachings, he concluded.
A representative of the Catholic bishops' conference criticized the methodology of the survey, calling the questions “very general and, on occasions, confused and confusing to the respondents.”
Church Decries Condom Gimmick
EXPATICA.COM, April 3 — In the eastern German city of Erfurt, local tourism officials have decided to promote the city by distributing souvenir condoms emblazoned with an image of the city's historic cathedral, reported Expatica.com, an English-language news site for Germany, France, Holland and the Netherlands.
Church officials consider the condoms “a profane misuse of a sacred symbol,” said Father Reinhard Hauke, a priest of St. Mary's Cathedral in Erfurt.
“We still think it's a great promotional gimmick,” said Carmen Hildebrandt of the Erfurt tourist board.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Church Official Emphasizes Christian Unity
THE GAZETTE (Canada), April 5 — Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican's Council for Promoting Christian Unity, called for ongoing efforts at dialogue between Christians and non-Christians — but not at the expense of unity among believers in Christ, according to The Gazette.
Several attendees at an April 4 conference of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churchmen at Université Laval expressed a concern, according to the paper, that many Christians in Canada were more committed to pan-religious efforts at promoting world peace than concrete attempts to bring Christian churches closer together.
While dialogue with non-Christians remains important, Cardinal Kasper said, ecumenism itself must be firmly based on fundamental Christian doctrines.
The 70-year-old bishop and theologian warned that any talk of a “macro-ecumenism” that included non-Christian faiths could only lead to confusion.
Letter From bin Laden Found in Italian Mosque
XINHUA.NET, April 5 — A 1996 letter from Osama bin Laden was found in the local mosque in Cremona, northern Italy, reported Xinhua.net, a Chinese news service.
Italian police found the letter inviting young Saudis to enlist in a jihad against the United States during a recent raid aimed at turning up terrorist conspirators. The letter called for spectacular attacks on America and on American symbols throughout the world.
The imam of that mosque was arrested earlier in the week along with the one-time head of a Florence mosque and five other Muslims. All were charged with conspiring to help Ansar Al Islam, an Islamic group recently expelled from northern Iraq by American troops.
Pope Meets French Minister Regarding Iraq
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 5 — Pope John Paul II met with French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin on April 4 to discuss the U.S. war against Iraq, which was opposed by the Holy See and the French government, the Associated Press reported.
Their joint statement reflected their shared view that decisions about postwar reconstruction should rest with the Iraqi people, not just the coalition.
The Holy Father and the foreign minister agreed on “the need to abbreviate the suffering of the civilian population as well as the hope that the international community will help the Iraqis to themselves be the architects of the reconstruction.”
“We are concerned about the increasing risk of confrontation,” de Villepin said later at a news conference, “[and about] divisions and fractures between our world and the Arab world.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Bishops Propose Mixed Meetings
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 3 — A panel of Catholic and Episcopal church delegates on April 1 presented a proposal that bishops of each group attend the other's meetings in order to promote ecumenism.
The AP said this notion was a response to the 1999 report issued by the ecumenical panel that brings together Catholic and Anglican representatives.
Anglican bishops would be brought along with Catholic bishops during official visits and synods at the Vatican and take part — though not vote — in U.S. bishops' conferences. Conversely, Catholic bishops would join meetings of Anglican bishops.
The report mentioned that many issues stand in the way of unity between the two communions — principally the role of papal authority. Other seemingly insuperable obstacles include the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopacy in the Anglican church, which Pope John Paul II has authoritatively taught is impossible for the Catholic Church.
If the proposal is approved, it could mean women Episcopal bishops attending Vatican synods and American bishops' conventions.
‘Voice of the Faithful' Meets With Cardinal George
CATHOLIC CITIZENS.ORG, April 4 — Voice of the Faithful, an activist group that seeks to democratize Church governance, has been banned from using parish property in many dioceses. But Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has agreed to meet with the group, explaining through a spokesman that the group's agenda is still in formation and it ought not to be dismissed as dissenting, according to an April 4 report by Catholic Citizens of Illinois.
In his invitation to meet with the group, however, Cardinal George indicated he thought the group's motto, “keep the faith, change the Church,” was “problematical.” The cardinal also said he thought the best way to increase lay participation was to strengthen the structures put in place after Vatican II and that any renewal in the Church must begin with “the renewal of Christian discipleship.”
Voice of the Faithful members held a rally on March 30 at Dominican University on Chicago's west side after announcements appeared in several local parish bulletins. At last year's bishops' meeting, Cardinal George was one of 10 only U.S. bishops to meet with the group.
Catholic Citizens of Illinois noted that Voice of the Faithful seeks major changes in the Church, including lay-run parishes and what it calls “equality for women,” and frequently speaks of using economic pressure — through withholding of donations to parishes and dioceses — to pressure Church authorities to comply.
Its report cited Archbishop John Myers of Newark, N.J., who called the group “anti-Church and, ultimately, anti-Catholic … a cover for dissent.”
Peggy Noonan to Write Book on John Paul
OPINIONJOURNAL.COM, April 7 — Former Ronald Reagan speechwriter and longtime columnist Peggy Noonan announced April 7 she will be taking a leave of absence from writing op-eds for The Wall Street Journal to pen a book on Pope John Paul II, which should appear in 2004.
Noonan is also author of What I Saw at the Revolution, a history of her work in the Reagan administration.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Times Tars Phlilipines Population Growth
THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 15 — In a report that read like a warning of a bacterial epidemic, the Times noted with grave alarm the growth of the population in the Philippines. It blamed the Church for resistance to contraception and belittled the viability of natural family planning, referring to it inaccurately as the “rhythm method” and failing to note its high level of effectiveness as admitted even by the United Nations and Planned Parenthood.
The report cited “the influence of the powerful church” as the reason the Philippine government does “little to curb population growth.”
The New York daily noted the Philippines doubled in population in the last 50 years, reaching some 80 million souls, and might well double again in the next 50. The news service criticized the government for failing to promote artificial birth control as other developing countries have done — under heavy pressure from international aid agencies. It noted with surprise the “miniscule” level of AIDS infections in the country but warned of an “explosion to come.”
The Times cited with approval the work of Terry Scott of DKT Philippines, “a local nonprofit organization that advocates condom use” by showing villagers American television programs such as “Sex and the City” and “Friends.”
Christians Afraid After Kashmir Massacre
FIDES, March 28 — The Christian communities of India and Pakistan braced themselves for a new wave of violence, according to Fides, the Vatican missionary news agency, after a massacre on March 24 in which 24 Indians — including women and children — died at the hands of terrorists in the Valley of Kashmir.
A coalition of Christian organizations wrote an official communiquÈ deploring the attack and demanding action “against the perpetrators of these crimes which try to intimidate the population and sabotage the process of peace in the region.”
Population Problem Past Point of No Return
THE TIMES (London), March 28 — Even if Europeans woke up tomorrow and decided to start having children again, it would be too late to make much of a difference, The Timeswarned.
The continent will still be depopulated for decades — or forced to replenish itself by accepting millions of non-Western immigrants, many of them of the Muslim faith.
The paper cited researchers who pointed out there are so few women now of child-bearing age in Europe that even a 1950s-style baby boom would take a long time to have any demographic impact.
“The year 2000 marked a turning point,” the paper noted. “There will be fewer parents in the next generation than in this one.”
The current birth rate in the European Union is only 1.5 per woman compared with the 2.1 or so required simply to replace the existing population.
The studies cited in the paper pointed out that if current trends continue, the population of the European Union will decline by as much as 88 million people, down from its current peak of 375 million. This would make the top-heavy retirement systems of Western Europe completely unsustainable.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican: Homosexuality Has No 'Social Value'
THE GUARDIAN (U.K.), April 1 — The Holy See has issued a 900-page lexicon designed to help Catholics cut through the jargon used in reports by the United Nations and various international agencies frequently to obscure or distort the moral content of policy documents.
In it, the Vatican debunked such euphemisms as “safe sex” and “reproductive health” and insisted the condition of homosexuality has no “social value” — to the predictable outrage of gay activists.
The Guardian called the 900-page Lexicon On Ambiguous and Colloquial Terms About Family Life and Ethical Questions“one of the Vatican's most scathing attacks yet on what it considers deteriorating social values.”
The newspaper quoted the book as saying “Leaders who encourage the use of condoms for safe sex are running a commercially motivated ‘exercise in self-justification.'"
It added that the book accused pro-condom forces of “concealing the fact that tests show condoms don't work 10% of the time.”
Pagan Games Return
REUTERS, March 31 — Some 40 Italians gathered in Rome's Colosseum on March 31 wearing breastplates and plumed helmets to stage a gladiatorial combat in defiance of police, according to Reuters.
“After 2,000 years, Rome is reliving the revolt of the centurions,” read the banner they held.
The gladiators generally make a living posing with tourists for photographs and staged the games as a protest against Italian authorities, who banned them from the historic ruin.
“How dare they say that we disfigure the Colosseum?” asked Franco Magni, a.k.a. “Brutus,” a swordsman dressed in sandals and armor.
The barelegged centurions and gladiators waved swords, raised fists and chanted “we want to work” to the smiles and flashbulbs of passing tourists with cameras.
Roman authorities have criticized the gladiators for wearing “tacky uniforms” and using cheap plastic swords, and proposed regulations that would require more authentic outfits.
Hang-Glider Tries Protest at St. Peter's
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, March 28 — An Austrian peace activist landed his hang glider in a deserted St. Peter's Square early March 28 and tried to post an anti-war sign only to be arrested, Associated Press reported.
The 26-year-old flyboy was awaited by some seven supporters who held video cameras and banners and were likewise held by Italian authorities.
The man landed at about 6:30 a.m. local time, when the square was virtually empty, police said.
Vatican airspace — which, the AP noted, does not include an airport — is closed to aviators.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Lieberman Vows to Push Domestic-Partner Bill
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, March 31 — Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., a presidential contender, announced March 31 he will promote a bill in the Senate that would extend “domestic partner” benefits for the consorts of homosexual federal employees, according to the Associated Press.
Such domestic partners could file an affidavit that they are living in a committed, intimate relationship to receive the same benefits as spouses — including life and health insurance, retirement pay and worker's compensation. The bill is not likely to fare well in the Republican-controlled Congress.
“If it doesn't get done in the next two years, I intend to introduce and sign it as president of the United States,” Lieberman told the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
One of Lieberman's rivals for the nomination, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a Catholic, co-sponsored the same legislation. Another, Howard Dean, signed a similar bill while he was governor of Vermont.
“Conservative politicians — and indeed conservative political leaders, with all due respect,” Lieberman said, “have no monopoly on moral values.”
San Fernando Cathedral Resplendent
THE SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, March 30 — With great pomp and festivity, San Fernando Cathedral was dedicated March 29. The almost 300-year-old church received a careful, complete restoration and renovation, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
The oldest church in the city hosted 700 visitors for its official reopening, including bishops, a papal legate, local politicians, wealthy donors and parishioners.
Amid clouds of incense and ringing music, a dark blue curtain was pulled down at a climactic moment to reveal the church's 24-foot-tall retablo. Arranged around the theme “Jesus Christ, Word and Sacrament,” the hand-carved Mexican altar screen is gilded in 24-karat gold and features a six-foot-tall statue of Christ on a cross, surrounded by the four Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
“We wanted it to be the crowning moment,” explained the cathedral's rector, Father David Garcia. “The retablo symbolizes a moment of faith, the height of human talent.”
The festivity marked the end of a $5.8 million project that preserved and restored the oldest cathedral sanctuary in the United States.
Catholic Church Burned for Safety
THE RAPID CITY JOURNAL, March 30 — St. Joseph's Church in Scenic, S.D., a 1919 Catholic church, was put to the torch March 26, according to the South Dakota daily.
Flames rose 100 feet above the wooden church, which was abandoned long ago because it was structurally unstable. St. Joseph's was built to serve a missionary congregation of Lakota Indians. Heated only by one wooden stove, the church once catered to more than 50 families.
“It was one of those icons on the prairie,” said Jim Durham of Longhorn Enterprises, the company that owns the town of Scenic, including the former church. He said the building was a safety hazard.
The company plans to demolish many other buildings in Scenic to make room for new constructions that will serve summer tourist business. The site of the former church will house a nondenominational chapel.
BY Jim Cosgrove
The Specter of a Primary Challenge
HUMAN EVENTS, Feb. 24 — A Republican congressman is poised to challenge pro-abortion Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., in that party's May 2004 Senate primary, reported the conservative weekly Human Events.
Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., hinted at such a run to a cheering crowd of supporters. Toomey, 41, is a convert to the solid pro-life position, Human Events noted.
“The truth is, when I was first a candidate and in my first term, I was still struggling with the issue of banning all very early-term abortions,” Toomey said. “Somewhere toward the beginning of my second term — after the birth of my daughter and after a lot of thought, reflection and prayer — I realized that the only way to be at peace with my conscience would be to be 100% pro-life, to support a ban on abortion from the moment of conception.”
Toomey has accrued a 100% pro-life voting record since 2000, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
Specter is remembered for helping block President Ronald Reagan's Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork in 1987. He is currently the strongest Republican supporter of human cloning.
Contraceptive Exemptions in Arizona
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 20 — The Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee decided by a 6–3 vote to pass along a bill that would spare Catholic employers a crisis of conscience, the Associated Press reported.
Currently, state law requires all employers in the state who provide prescription drug coverage as part of health insurance to pay for contraceptives. The 2002 bill did include narrow exceptions for religious organizations that “hire people of the same faith and provide goods or services related to their faith.” But this law still required Church hospitals, for instance, to pay for contraceptives sought by non-Catholic employees. Similar laws are being challenged in New York and California.
Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, argued that this mandate was unjust. Republican Sen. Mark Anderson, sponsor of the new bill, said it would expand the current exemption to cover “any religious corporation, association, educational institution or society.”
National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day
AMERICAN LIFE LEAGUE, Feb. 20 — Rock for Life, a youth outreach sponsored by the American Life League, is encouraging students to wear pro-life T-shirts to school on April 28 as part of National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day.
The campaign already tapped into teen-agers’ love of rebellion: A school official in Pennsylvania told a student to remove a pro-life shirt because its message was allegedly the equivalent of a swastika, reported the American Life League. In Ohio, a student was threatened with suspension for wearing Rock for Life's “abortion is homicide” shirt.
“Our goal is to have every pro-life student in America wear a pro-life T-shirt to school on April 28,” Rock for Life said. “You have a constitutional right to free speech in your public school. Exercise that right by making the sanctity of human life the dominant message in your school on April 28.”
To obtain a T-shirt, visit the group's Web site at www.rockforlife.org/special_events/tshirt_day.htm.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Italian Catholics Can Get ‘Unchristened’
ZOOMATA.COM, Feb. 17 — Disaffected Catholics might soon be able to renounce their baptism legally, according to the Italian news site Zoomata.com.
The Italian Bishops’ Conference has outlined a formal procedure for adult nonbelievers to note officially that they are no longer practicing Catholics, to be noted alongside baptismal information in parish records. The procedure was set up under pressure from anticlerical forces, according to the site.
Some 98% of Italians are baptized, while only 36% attend Mass regularly and 14% never attend. It is unknown how many Italians will take advantage of the new procedure, which has no sacramental significance, according to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the bishops’ conference.
“You can't cancel a sacrament,” he said, “any more than you can cancel the act of being born.”
Chinese Government Seizes Faithful Priest
VOICE OF AMERICA, Feb. 12 — Another Catholic priest has been imprisoned for saying Mass, according to Voice of America, an international broadcast service funded by the United States, and the Cardinal Kung Foundation, a human-rights organization and advocate for the underground Catholic Church in China.
He joins the dozens of priests and bishops currently imprisoned for loyalty to Rome, the organizations reported. Communist officials arrested the 37-year-old Father Dong Yingmu in Baoding en route to saying last year's Christmas Mass.
Some 4 million people take part in the schismatic “patriotic church” loyal to Beijing, while it is estimated millions more remain faithful to the underground Church that answers to Rome.
According to the news service, a representative of the Chinese government has insisted the arrest never happened.
Korean Bishops Call for Peace
FIDES, Feb. 14 — The Catholic bishops of Korea issued a statement addressing the proposed U.S. war in Iraq and the burgeoning development of nuclear weapons in North Korea, according to Fides, the Vatican missionary news agency.
“Peace is the task par excellence for humanity,” the statement said. “Today the whole world trembles at the threat of war about to break out before our eyes. … Peace is not reached with arms or with international decrees; it is built with a firm decision to stop the production of weapons. If powerful nations assigned only 1% of their military expenses to solving the problem of world hunger, this would lead to peace. It is not right to sacrifice the lives of thousands of innocent people in the name of ‘war on terrorism.’
“We fail to understand why the United States wants to go to war with Iraq. War produces nothing but war. We unite with the Pope, the bishops of the United States [and] our brothers in the Middle East to say: ‘We want peace not war!’
“We implore North Korea to renounce its threat, which will only worsen the situation and create greater tension instead of helping to solve the crisis through dialogue. We must find a way to live as brothers and sisters and we must reach peace for the good of all.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Might Renounce Taiwan Ties
THE STRAITS TIMES, Feb. 18 — Bad relations between the Vatican and the Chinese mainland government date back to the conquest of that country by Mao Zedong in 1948.
The communist government persecuted Catholics, setting up a schismatic “patriotic church” to corral believers into obedience to the state. The vast majority have refused to join it and make up a lively underground Church. In return the Holy See has always refused to recognize the communist government and retained ties to Taiwan, which still claims to be the legitimate ruler of all China.
This may change soon, according to the Catholic bishop of Hong Kong. Bishop Joseph Zen told The Straits Times that Rome might be willing to renounce its ties to Taiwan in return for renewed legal contacts with Catholics on the mainland.
“The Vatican has made it clear that it is ready for a compromise, ready to renounce diplomatic relations with Taiwan,” Bishop Zen said.
The chief obstacle is Rome's insistence on the right to appoint bishops in China, a right it possesses throughout the rest of the world.
The bishop said that “the bishops in Taiwan [would] understand” if the Vatican broke ties with their government. “We don't know if all the priests or the faithful understand.”
Religious Leaders Meet to Promote Peace
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, Feb. 11 — The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue organized a symposium in Rome on Jan. 16-18 on “Spiritual Resources of the Religions for Peace” with 38 participants from 15 countries, representing most major world religions.
The Final Declaration was made public in early February. It said, in part: “[T]oo many people see and employ religion as a force of divisiveness and violence, rather than a force for unity and peace. … We hold that the scriptures of each religion teach the path to peace, but we acknowledge that our various sacred writings have often been and continue to be used to justify violence, war and exclusion of others. …
[W]e must all recognize the need for new, contextual studies and a deeper understanding of our various scriptures that clearly enunciate the message and value of peace for all humanity.”
Moscow Joins Rome in Plea to EU
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, Feb. 16 — The Russian Orthodox Church has joined the Holy See in asking the European Union to make an explicit recognition of the role of religion in its new constitution, reported Independent Catholic News.
Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk wrote former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who now chairs the committee drafting the constitution, calling for “a reference to the Christian heritage of the European Union, as well as to other religious traditions and secular thoughts and ideas. … The proposed provisions of the constitution of Europe leave aside the tremendous layer of religious culture, which inspires minds and hearts. A Europe that renounces religion, and especially Christianity, as one of its fundamental life-giving forces cannot be the fatherland for many people who live here.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Scalia: Judge Selection Has Become Too Political
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 13 — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told a University of Pennsylvania audience the selection of judges has descended into the political arena, to the detriment of legal scholarship and honest constitutional interpretation, the Associated Press reported.
The culprit, according to Scalia, is the recent notion that the Constitution should be periodically reinvented to suit contemporary attitudes. Pointing out that approximately six of 13 federal courts are operating at less than full strength, Scalia lamented the politicization of judicial nomination and confirmation proceedings.
Calling himself an “originalist,” Scalia insisted the Constitution's literal, original meaning is the one judges should seek to discover and apply. If more judges took that approach, he said, politicians would be less intrusive into the judicial realm.
“We're not looking for good lawyers anymore,” Scalia said. “The most important thing we look for are judges who will read into the Constitution the rights that we like and read out of the Constitution the rights that we don't like.”
Scalia, a Catholic, has cited the Roe v. Wade decision as an example of judicial activism.
Group Targets Pro-Abortion Speakers at Churches
AMERICAN LIFE LEAGUE, Feb. 13 — The Crusade for the Defense of Our Catholic Church, a project of the Catholic pro-life group American Life League, released a new public service ad focused on pro-abortion speakers who appear at Catholic churches.
The ad was sparked by Feb. 9 talk given by Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton at a Chicago parish during Mass.
The full-page ad ran in the Washington Times and several other newspapers. It was aimed at Catholic pastors and featured a picture of Sharpton with the caption, “Al Sharpton is not a Catholic priest!”
Also shown were five other pro-abortion Democratic presidential candidates: Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.; Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.; Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.; Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo.; and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat.
The ad explained that these candidates’ positions on abortion meant they should be “disqualified from delivering homilies.”
According to American Life League, a copy of the ad has been sent to the entire U.S. hierarchy of bishops.
Columnist Calls for Lay Preachers in Church
NEWSDAY, Feb. 17 — Columnist Bob Keeler of the Long Island, N.Y., daily Newsday pointed to the recent sex abuse scandal in the American Church as evidence that laymen should sometimes supplant clergy in the pulpit, delivering sermons.
In a recent column, Keeler suggested the lack of “prudence” and “justice” displayed by some bishops in handling abusive clergy — plus the fact that “talent is randomly distributed” — meant that talented laymen should sometimes be dubbed to deliver homilies, a practice forbidden by canon law.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Australian Archbishop Outlines ‘Just War’ Principles
THE AUSTRALIAN, Feb. 4 — In an op-ed article, the leading bishop in Australia, Archbishop George Pell, called on his flock to consider the complex, nuanced Catholic doctrine of “just war” in considering their responses to America's contemplated attack on Iraq.
He began by reminding them that Christ calls us to “render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar” and comparing America to imperial Rome: a distant, overwhelmingly powerful nation that keeps the peace, which is easy to take for granted or resent.
Archbishop Pell noted that the pacifist strain in Christian thought was rejected by Church Fathers in favor of a doctrine acknowledging the state's duty to “repress evildoers.”
The Australian bishop noted the threat of terrorism might sometimes allow for pre-emptive strikes against those planning such actions.
He said such a “unilateral pre-emptive strike, without international sanction” would prove “a two-edged sword, a dangerous doctrine, destabilizing the international order.”
Scottish Church Rallies Catholic Voters
THE HERALD (U.K.), Feb. 10 — In Scotland, several anticlerical political candidates oppose the existence of Catholic and other parochial schools, and Church leaders there have asked the faithful to vote to preserve religious education, according to The Herald.
In response, some British observers have accused Catholic leaders of attempting to corral parishioners into voting as a bloc.
The Church will prepare for the May 1 vote by sending a letter, signed by seven bishops, to regular churchgoers reminding them that Catholic schools are in danger.
Ivan Middleton of the Humanist Society of Scotland denounced the move, saying, “I think that most Catholics will think for themselves — it reeks of being the school bully.” The letter, however, merely asks each voter to be “guided by your conscience” in the voting booth.
Gerard Depardieu Embraces God in Notre Dame
THE OBSERVER (U.K.), Feb. 9 — The fiery French movie star Gerard Depardieu, who has played in both racy erotic thrillers and an adaptation of George Bernanos’ Catholic novel, Under the Son of Satan, has returned to the Church, The Observer reported.
Depardieu credits his conversion to a meeting with Pope John Paul II in 2000: “He looked at me and told the cardinals around him: ‘You must talk to him about St. Augustine,’” Depardieu recalled. “I had to admit that I knew nothing about him.”
There was some talk of a film adaptation of Augustine's Confessions. The film never came off, but Depardieu bought the book and kept it by his bedside. Eventually, it won him over.
The actor planned to mark his conversion in theatrical fashion by offering a dramatic reading from Confessions at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and explaining how it drew him back to God.
Depardieu told a French paper: “Augustine's quest touched me personally because it reflected my own fragility. … I have a mystical, religious temperament, colored by a persistent temptation to ask: Why? In Augustine, I have rediscovered these questions, the quest for truth — the why of what we are.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Parish Housekeeper Honored by Pope
THE HAMPSTEAD AND HIGHGATE EXPRESS, Feb. 10 — In Kent, England, a devoted 62-year-old parishioner and housekeeper at her local Catholic church was hit by a happy bombshell as she said goodbye to her pastor one Sunday.
In front of 200 other lay people at Our Lady Help of Christians, the priest announced that rectory housekeeper Joan Cooney had been granted a medal by Pope John Paul II.
The award, the Bene Merenti, was issued to recognize her 46 years of service to the parish, including work for the homeless.
Cooney was flabbergasted. She told The Hampstead and Highgate Express: “I was so shocked. I couldn't believe I was worthy of such an award. … I was totally, absolutely gob smacked. I don't know how I walked up to receive it; I'm still shaking now just thinking about it. … I love this parish and I have always said it is my heaven on earth. I will continue do the best I can for the parish until they decide to get rid of me.”
Insult the Pope, Go to Jail
REUTERS, Feb. 7 — A former press agent for Poland's old Soviet-bloc government, Jerzy Urban, has reinvented himself as a caustic critic of Pope John Paul II, who is still wildly popular in his native land.
Now Urban faces legal trouble for insulting the Holy Father in print, calling him “senile” and suggested he should “go to bed, or gobble caviar” instead of visiting Poland.
Under that nation's laws, offending the head of a sovereign foreign government — such as Vatican City — is punishable by up to three years in jail.
“His article abused the legally admissible rules for freedom of speech,” prosecutor Maciej Kujawski told Reuters. “It used offending, ridiculing words aimed at humiliating the Pope.”
Vatican Seeks Common Ground With Greek Orthodox
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 10 — The Holy See has dispatched Church leaders to Greece this month to encourage cooperation between Catholic and Orthodox churchmen on issues of peace, social justice and human rights, according to the AP.
Greek Orthodox leader Christodoulous invited this visit in return for a visit by Orthodox prelates to Rome last month and as a follow-up to Pope John Paul's historic visit to Athens in 2001.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's leader in ecumenical efforts, heads the delegation.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Rev. Al Sharpton Speaks During Mass
CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Feb. 10 — Black activist Rev. Al Sharpton — who became famous touting the false claims of Tawana Brawley, who said she had been assaulted by a New York state prosecutor — is again running for president.
One of his first campaign stops was the annual dinner for the National Abortion and Reproduction Rights Action League. There he pledged full support for abortion on demand.
One of his next stops was the Chicago church St. Sabina's, according to the Chicago Tribune, a mostly black parish overseen by the controversial Father Michael Pfleger, a white priest who emulates a “black” gospel speaking style in his sermons.
Sharpton spoke during a Mass at the parish, denouncing the Bush administration on a wide variety of issues.
Chicago's Cardinal Francis George opposed the speaking engagement. Archdiocesan spokesman Jim Dwyer said Sharpton's endorsement of abortion upset Cardinal George.
“It's only logical that the leader of the Catholic Church in Chicago wouldn't want people in the churches speaking against the beliefs of the Church,” Dwyer said.
According to the Tribune, Sharpton's speech began as a talk but developed into a fiery sermon, “with the church's band at one point emphasizing Sharpton's points with impromptu riffs.”
Ohio Catholics Mourn Bishop
TOLEDO BLADE, Feb. 9 — Bishop James Hoffman, bishop of Toledo, Ohio, since 1981, died of cancer Feb. 8. He was 70.
As the sixth bishop of Toledo, he served for longer than his predecessors, according to the Toledo Blade.
The son of a shoe-store owner, Bishop Hoffman had previously served as chancellor of the diocese.
He was renowned as an advocate of lay activism in the Church, appointing laymen to top administrative roles in the diocese and encouraging lay involvement at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
President Bush Speaks at National Prayer Breakfast
CNN, Feb. 6 — President Bush attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast in mid-February, as is traditional for chief executives, according to CNN.
“It is fitting that we have a National Prayer Breakfast,” the president said. “It is the right thing to do because this is a nation of prayer.
… The thing I hear the most … from our fellow citizens regardless of their political party or philosophy is, ‘Mr. President, I pray for you and your family and so does my family.’ That's what I hear. I turn to them without hesitation and say, ‘It is the greatest gift you can give anybody … to pray on their behalf.’ I especially feel that because I believe in prayer. I pray. I pray for strength. I pray for guidance. I pray for forgiveness. And I pray to offer my thanks for a kind and generous almighty God.”
Bush asked attendees to pray for the astronauts who died on the space shuttle Columbia and for America's men and women in uniform.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Sign of Cross Banned at Soccer Matches?
BBC, Jan. 6—Members of the Scottish Parliament have suggested forbidding soccer fans from making the sign of the cross at games, seeing in the gesture a provocation by majority Catholic fans of the Celtic team toward majority Protestant fans of the rival Rangers.
The Catholic bishops of Scotland have condemned these proposals as “absurd and unworkable,” according to the British Broadcasting Corp. A Church spokesman said it could foresee no circumstances in which the religious gesture should ever be treated as a breach of the peace.
“These proposals strike at the heart of people's personal religious beliefs,” said the spokesman, who was unnamed in the report. “Under no circumstances would the Catholic Church allow this gesture to become illegal.”
A Liberal Democrat member of the Scottish Parliament, Donald Gorrie, one of the proponents of the cross ban, responded: “There are actions which are very praiseworthy in the right context, such as a Catholic crossing himself or singing a national anthem, but these can become very provocative if they are made in a very ‘in your face’ way to try to rile the other side.”
Gorrie said he had no intention of changing the law but simply wanted to let local police judge when a gesture was intended provocatively.
Christians Organize Aid for Cyclone Victims
FIDES, Jan. 3—After the violent cyclone that hit the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, the local Catholic Church began arranging food aid and shelter for thousands of victims on the islands most affected.
On Tikopia, Fataka and Anuta, a tidal wave submerged whole villages and destroyed all communications, leaving at least 2,000 feared dead. Local offices of the Pontifical Mission Societies told Fides, the Vatican missionary news service, that the government, with the aid of Australian teams, is trying to verify damage and count the victims.
Christian aid organizations have been somewhat delayed because they are waiting for government permission to proceed with collection of funds and distribution of emergency supplies.
The situation is complicated by political instability in the Solomon Islands, which came out of a civil war in 2000. There are still rebel groups that oppose the government there.
Poland and Malta Seek to Protect Unborn from EU
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, Jan. 6—The overwhelmingly Catholic nations of Poland and Malta are expected to join the European Union next year. But first they are seeking to retain their right to protect unborn life, according to Independent Catholic News, a U.K.-based online daily new service.
The primate of Poland, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, asked the European Union to make a specific constitutional allowance for Poland to set its own laws on abortion, as Ireland is currently permitted to do by Protocol 17 of the Treaty of Rome.
In December, the island nation of Malta negotiated a similar clause, safeguarding its ban on abortion.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Rome Street Cleaners Visit Papal Nativity Scene
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, Jan. 5—Since he ascended to the papal throne, Pope John Paul II has made a practice of visiting the Nativity scene set up annually by the workers of Rome's Sanitation Department. This year, the Holy Father changed his custom and invited the workers to visit him instead.
He summoned Rome's garbage collectors to visit the papal Nativity scene in the Vatican Apostolic Palace and greeted them personally in Clementine Hall, thanking them for their years of hospitality in inviting him and praising them for “the important service their company makes for the city and its population.”
During the brief encounter, the Pope said that this year while he did not see their Nativity scene in person, he was satisfied to admire it “in a photograph … as well as in a small reproduction of it, built with the same materials. However, at the end of the Christmas festivities, I wished to invite you in answer to your courtesy.”
Russian Patriarch Blames Vatican
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 4—Moscow Patriarch Alexy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, told a newspaper that he blamed the Vatican for worsening relations between the churches, singling out last year's decision by the Holy See to establish western dioceses to serve Roman Catholics residing in Russia.
“Our church was presented with a fait accompli, while such issues need to be seriously discussed beforehand,” the patriarch complained. “The Vatican's decision once again revealed its strategy of insistent missionary work among Orthodox peoples, to which we are categorically opposed.”
Roman authorities have responded that local Catholics—many of German or Polish descent—have a moral right to be overseen by their own bishops.
Patriarch Alexy did not rule out further dialogue between the historically divided churches and said he continued “to hope for a change in the Vatican's position.”
Official: Pope ‘Deeply Worried’ Over Iraq
LA REPPUBLICA (Italy), Jan. 4—Pope John Paul II is “deeply worried” about the likelihood of an upcoming war between the United States and Iraq, according to Archbishop Renato Martino, the Pope's longtime envoy to the United Nations who now heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Archbishop Martino emphasized the Church's position that no single country can act unilaterally to police the world.
“The Pope lives the drama of the moment, he feels involved personally,” the archbishop told the Italian paper La Reppublica. “We cannot think that there is a universal policeman to take a stick to those who behave badly.”
He suggested that Americans were comfortable acting unilater-ally “because American society is very close-knit and it feels sure of itself. Then there's the aggression it suffered on Sept. 11. The fact that they hadn't ever suffered aggression on their own territory played a role in the reaction, which can be understood. Yet it's clear that, being part of the international assembly, the United States must also realize the needs of others.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Mummers Parade Spares Church
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 4—Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua averted an ugly incident in Philadelphia as a comic parade troupe decided not to skewer the Catholic Church for the mishandling of child-abuse allegations in other dioceses.
The Slick Ducks Comic Brigade, a popular participant in Philadelphia's annual Mummers Parade, had planned to dress up as priests, nuns, cardinals and altar boys to lampoon the recent clerical-abuse scandal.
The group had previously dressed up as participants in the O.J. Simpson murder trial and in President Bill Clinton's sex scandal and had announced that priestly abuse would be its 2003 theme.
But protests from Mayor John Street, and Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua helped change their minds. The cardinal had called their planned march an “attack on the Catholic faith.”
One Slick Duck, John Brown, who calls himself a “very conservative Catholic,” explained: “If we were in Boston, we might have done it. There was no priest scandal in Philadelphia.”
Artist to Sculpt Monument at Ground Zero Chapel
THE PLANO STAR COURIER Jan. 8—Texas artist John Collier has been chosen to sculpt the first memorial monument to those who died at the World Trade Center in September 2001 at a Catholic parish near Ground Zero.
St. Peter's Church, a venerable Wall Street-area parish, will house the sculpture.
That church was used as a makeshift hospital for firefighters, police and other victims of the terrorist attacks. It was the place where fire-fighters carried Fire Department Chaplain Father Mychal Judge, who was killed by debris after giving last rites in one of the towers.
Collier's theme is “resurrection.” He said he intends to depict four patron saints in the monument: St. Michael the Archangel, patron of police officers; St. Florian, the patron saint of firefighters; St. Joseph, patron saint of workers and of the universal Church; and one more saint whom he has not yet chosen. It will be female, he predicted—either St. Teresa of Avila, patroness of aviators, or St. Mary Magdalene, first witness of the Resurrection.
“As grand as any secular memorial might be, it can only say, ‘Remember,’” Collier told the paper. “But our Lord offers more. He offers resurrection, which is the hope of the dead.”
Church Might Put Two Priests on Trial
DAILY HERALD (Illinois), Jan. 6—One of the tribunals set up to deal with clerical-abuse allegations might hold its first trials soon, according to the Chicago suburban daily.
Two priests from the Chicago suburbs are likely to face a hearing before the canonical tribunal for allegations that may result in their permanent removal from the priesthood.
If it receives Vatican permission, the Archdiocese of Chicago is likely to try Father John Robinson, 57, and Father Raymond Skriba, 70, each of whom has already been removed from service.
Some 20 Chicago priests have been similarly taken out of parishes and may await Church trials, according to the paper.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Missionaries Lead Peace Prayers in Ivory Coast
FIDES, Dec. 21—After months of fighting between Muslim rebels and government forces, the African nation of Ivory Coast is praying for peace, reported Fides, the Vatican news agency.
A local missionary working in rebel-held Korhogo told Fides, “Since Korhogo fell into rebel hands the city has been emptied, but the churches have been filled! … In our parish we provide schooling and a meal for 2,000 children as well as recreation and sports. It is heartening to see them kicking a football or running a race while war continues. We continue to organize prayers for peace, the rosary every Saturday morning and in front of Blessed Sacrament during daily exposition. Many non-Christians—most here are animists—come to join the prayers. I think the local animists are edified to see the way Christians pray for peace, unlike Muslims who even pray for war. Recently one imam in the main mosque prayed publicly for the death of the president. We ask you … to remember the Ivory Coast in your prayers, that these long-suffering people may have a new year of peace.”
Flemish Priest Fired for Banning French
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 30—Ever since the small kingdom of Belgium was founded in the 19th century, tensions have stirred between its Flemish majority and a large minority of French-speakers.
The dispute burst into the sanctuary as Flemish Father Jos Verstraeten cancelled French-language Masses in 2001 at his parish of St. Peter's in Wezembeek-Oppem outside Brussels. That left French-speaking Catholics in his town to hold Mass in cafÈs and private homes.
The French ban made Father Verstraeten a star in the Flemish nationalist movement, which also sponsors one of the more successful socially conservative political parties in Europe, the Vlaams Blok.
In late December, Cardinal Godfried Danneels moved Father Verstraeten to another parish. In response, Flemish activists gathered at the priest's last parish Mass, waving flags and singing the nationalist anthem “The Flemish Lion.”
According to the AP disputes between Dutch and French-speakers have brought down numerous governments in Belgium.
Priests in Malawi Accused of Vampire Conspiracy
REUTERS, Dec. 23—Vigilante violence has convulsed the small African nation of Malawi thanks to strange rumors of vampire attacks that have spread across the country.
Those alleged attacks have been blamed on international aid agencies. The country is suffering political turmoil and food shortages, and now many villagers have come to believe that food aid from foreign donors is only being dispensed in return for human blood.
Three Catholic priests were injured by stoning and another man died after accusations they were part of the vampire conspiracy. Malawi President Bakili Muluzi has blamed the rumors on his political opposition, saying they are trying to undermine his government, according to the wire service.
Muluzi condemned the rumors as irresponsible and malicious and told a news conference: “No government can go about sucking blood of its own people. That's thuggery.”
Malawi is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Religious Groups Denounce Cloning Report
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 29—The Holy See joined Muslim clerics and Jewish rabbis in condemning recent reports that a human baby was created by cloning.
A statement from the Vatican pointed out that the announcement had not been verified by science and “has already given rise to the skepticism and moral condemnation of a great part of the international scientific community. … The announcement in itself is an expression of a brutal mentality, devoid of any ethical and human consideration,” said papal spokesman JoaquÌn Navarro-Valls.
The Associated Press reported that Muslim clerics denounced cloning as evidence of the “chaotic” future facing mankind, while Israel's Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau said Judaism rejects the creation of life by such artificial means.
The company, Clonaid, announced it had cloned a woman and produced a new baby girl.
Its spokesman and chief executive officer, Brigitte Boisselier, is a chemist with no background in genetics. She is also a bishop in the religious sect of Rael, founded by a former race-car commentator who goes by the name Rael.
Rael reported he was abducted by aliens—including buxom, anthropomorphic feminine robots—who taught him the secret of human origins.
His sect, which claims 55,000 members around the world, teaches that extraterrestrials created mankind by cloning and that man's destiny is to reproduce in this manner.
The Raelian movement has filed appeals to the United Nations to investigate the Vatican over charges of clerical child abuse and is conducting an “apostasy campaign” aimed at Catholics.
Pope John Paul, Poet THE INDEPENDENT (U.K.), Dec. 31—Pope John Paul II will publish another volume of poetry, his first since taking the papal throne, according to the British paper The Independent.
The collection of religious meditations in verse will first appear in KrakÛw , Poland, where Karol Wojtyla long reigned as archbishop.
John Paul “wishes that the first edition be published in KrakÛw, like all his previous poetic works,” according to spokesman Father Pawel Ptasznik.
Father Adam Boniecki, a friend of the Pope, said he expected the book to be “a very personal, philosophical poem, a very intimate spiritual diary.”
Vatican to Open Files From Start of Nazi Period
DEUTSCHE WELLE, Dec. 30—In response to recent accusations leveled against Pope Pius XII suggesting he cooperated with the Nazi movement, the Vatican will throw open its secret archives to scholars, allowing them to examine all original documents from the relevant period, according to Deutsche Welle, a German news service.
Starting in January, historians will have full access to the previously sealed materials, which cover the years from 1922 to 1939, including Eugenio Pacelli's term as papal nuncio in the troubled interwar Germany.
The Vatican noted that most of the documents between 1931 and 1934 were destroyed during Allied bombings in the course of World War II.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Bishops Sue State Over Birth Control Mandate
NEW YORK NEWSDAY, Dec. 31—A new state law in New York forces any employer who provides prescription medical coverage to also pay for contraceptives. The bishops of New York state, in coalition with several Protestant groups, have filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law on First Amendment grounds, according to the Long Island daily.
The suit, filed Dec. 30, asks for a religious exemption to the law for institutions that do not accept the morality of contraceptive and abortifacient medication.
“In our judgment, abortion and contraception advocates have been given free reign to dictate public policy in New York state at the expense of religious freedom,” read a statement signed by Cardinal Edward Egan of New York and other local bishops. “We pray fervently for a return to religious tolerance and respect for diversity in this great state.”
Pro-Life Doctor Named to Panel on Women's Health
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 31—Dr. W. David Hager, an obstetrician/gynecologist who works at the University of Kentucky, has faced a flurry of controversy over his appointment to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel for Reproductive Health Drugs. He is one of 11 doctors appointed in late December.
Hager's appointment drew attacks from feminist and pro-abortion groups because he has publicly questioned the safety of the abortion drug RU-486, taken pro-life stands in the media and taken part in a campaign by the Christian Medical Association to reverse the 1996 federal approval of that drug, which Catholic columnist Pat Buchanan called “a human pesticide.”
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America called Hager's appointment “a frontal assault on reproductive rights.”
Canada Court Backs Gay Books for Kids
REUTERS, Dec. 20—In a ruling that has outraged pro-family groups in Canada, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that local school officials may not prevent homosexual-themed textbooks from kindergarten classrooms, according to the wire service.
One such book is called One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads. The case began when a school in British Columbia responded to parental complaints by forbidding a gay kindergarten teacher from assigning such books to his class. The court ruled that their religious objections to the material cannot be taken into account by Canadian schools.
Canada's Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, writing for the majority, ruled that the governing principle of secularism rules out “any attempt to use the religious views of one part of the community to exclude from consideration the values of other members of the community. … Tolerance is always age-appropriate.”
Catholic groups had joined Protestant, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh parents in demanding the removal of the books.
The Catholic Civil Rights League condemned the decision, saying it denied social conservatives any say in school policy.
Thomas Langan, president of the league, said: “The aim of the game is to shut people up.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Abortion Battle in Korea Continues
FIDES, Dec. 17—“People who are born and those about to be born have the same human dignity,” wrote Bishop Casimir Song Yul-sup, new secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, in the bishops' paper, The Catholic Times.
The Korean bishops have long struggled to change that country's extremely permissive abortion laws, which allow destruction of the unborn through all nine months of pregnancy, mirroring American law.
In Korea, some 4,000-5,000 unborn babies are killed every day, some 1.5 million a year — more than are destroyed in the United States, which has a much larger population.
In December 2000, the bishops' conference sent Korea's National Assembly a petition bearing 1.2 million signatures requesting change in the law.
The bishops intend to continue their fight, they said, because “rich or poor, born or still in the mother's womb, all human beings are equal with human dignity and created in the image of God.”
The Saintly Gaudi?
REUTERS, Dec. 11 — Artist Antoni Gaudi was neglected in his day.
The great Catalan architect and designer created some of the most interesting and innovative buildings that stand in his native Barcelona, Spain, but he died in a pauper's hospital, almost forgotten, in 1926 with his great monument, the Cathedral of the Holy Family, still unfinished.
It was ransacked and the plans for its completion destroyed by anarchists during the Spanish Civil War.
But now the cathedral is venerated as one of Barcelona's greatest landmarks, according to Reuters news service, as the Church considers Gaudi's case for beatification.
This year Barcelona has seen a variety of exhibits and conferences to mark the 150th anniversary of Gaudi's birth. His workshop has now become a shrine for religious pilgrims.
Local devotees of the master builder intend to complete what Gaudi called his “cathedral for the poor” by 2020.
Bethlehem Is Dying of Apathy
INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, Dec. 17 — The city of Bethlehem is dying.
So say the Elizabethan Sisters of Padua, who operate the town's Caritas Baby Hospital. According to Independent Catholic News, a U.K.-based online news service, the sisters have issued the following appeal against Israeli occupation and the terrorism that brought it on:
“Bethlehem is dying, due to the apathy of the entire Christian world. … We are all being punished; we live like prisoners, like animals in a cage, fed by the humanitarian organizations.
“We are not a city of terrorists that deserve a continuous, brutal repression. We are a humiliated city, exhausted, reduced to a mortal cage, massacred by a never-ending revenge.
“A few days from Christmas, here in Bethlehem we do not know what celebrating means. Misery reigns on our desolate streets, covered in rubbish. … A few days before Christmas our best and profound sentiments have been blown away by the cold winds of war, as dead leaves.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
High-Tech Food for the Poor
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 17 — For some months, officials in the African nation of Zambia have been in a standoff with the United States over food.
Even as famine threatens millions in that poor nation — reducing some people to eating grass — its leaders have refused U.S. food donations because they contain genetically modified crops such as corn, which are eaten throughout the United States by consumers but totally banned in the European Union.
Former Holy See representative to the United Nations Archbishop Renato Martino called for Zambia to accept the donations, according to the AP.
“I lived 16 years in America and I ate what came from the market,” he told reporters at a press conference. “So far I have had no ill effects.”
Pointing to the plight of Zambians, Archbishop Martino said he “wouldn't make such a big deal” about the food's origin, noting that “when you're hungry, you eat everything.”
He recalled that during World War II he ate bread that had marble powder mixed into it to stretch the scant rations.
“We ate it because that's what we had,” he explained, calling the duel between Zambian and American officials more “political than scientific.”
Love Has No Limits
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, Dec. 14 — Pope John Paul II addressed attendees at the Federation of Christian Organizations for International Volunteer Service, telling them that Christians are called to bear witness to the “provident compassion of our heavenly Father.”
He explained that “love for our neighbor, which knows no bounds, needs to be nourished in the hearth of divine charity. This means dedicating much time to prayer, listening attentively and constantly to the Word of God and above all living an existence centered on the mystery of the Eucharist.”
“The secret to the efficacy of all your projects,” he reminded the volunteers, “is therefore constant reference to Christ.”
Peace Is a Most Precious Good
FIDES NEWS, Dec. 16 — Addressing seven new ambassadors to the Holy See, Pope John Paul II emphasized respect for human life and the search for world peace.
He bemoaned today's “eclipse of the sense of God,” which has “resulted in an eclipse of the sense of the transcendence of man and of the intrinsic dignity of human life.”
The Holy Father warned that “caught within the narrow confines of a materialistic outlook on reality, which easily leads to absorption with self and a utilitarian approach to living, people sometimes fail to recognize the nature of life as a gift, a gift which finds its genuine meaning and purpose in openness to the truth of its origin in God and in the exercise of wholehearted solidarity with other human beings.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Family Sues Man Who Killed Catholic
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Dec. 13 — Mary Stachowicz, 51, was killed in November allegedly by a 19-year-old co-worker, Nicholas Gutierrez, after she asked him about his homosexuality. Reportedly Gutierrez said the deceased reminded him of his mother and had enraged him with her question.
Stachowicz, a devout Catholic, was found stabbed, strangled and left in the crawl space of Gutierrez's Chicago apartment. Now Stachowicz's family is filing a wrongful-death civil suit against Gutierrez to make sure he does not profit by writing a book or taking part in a movie about his crime, according to newspaper.
Gutierrez has been charged with first-degree murder, burglary and concealment of a homicide but so far not of a hate crime. Stachowicz's family has insisted the murder qualifies for such charges since it was inspired by her religious beliefs about homosexuality.
Her gentle questioning was part of a religious outreach, her children told the paper, and an attempt to help the troubled young man.
Post Offices Ordered to Trust in God
AFA.NET, Dec. 13 — After a lawsuit filed by the American Family Association, the U.S. Postal Service has been ordered by a judge to put up framed posters containing the official U.S. motto, “In God We Trust,” in some 38,000 post offices across the country.
Association member Frank Williamson filed the suit after he donated three framed copies of the motto to Texas post offices in a national American Family Association initiative and they were taken down.
“The U.S. Postal Service decided to design the poster after researching Williamson's complaint and discovering that the U.S. House of Representatives had adopted a resolution two years ago that supported putting the motto in every public building possible,” said Postal spokesman David Lewin.
American Family Association chairman Don Wildmon praised the decision, saying, “We have distributed over 400,000 posters since the campaign started, with tens of thousands now hanging on public classroom walls, in city halls and other public buildings because of individual citizens like Mr. Williamson.”
Man Acquitted of Shooting Alleged Abuser
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 17 — Former altar boy Dontee Stokes, 26, was acquitted of attempted murder, reckless endangerment and assault by a Baltimore jury, the wire service reported.
Stokes admitted to shooting Father Maurice Blackwell, a priest whom he said had raped him 10 years before — an act he had reported to the Church. The Archdiocese of Baltimore had sent Father Blackwell to three months of psychiatric observation and then returned him to duty under restrictions — a decision the archdiocese has said it regrets.
The jury accepted Stokes' plea of temporary insanity brought on by the psychological damage caused by the abuse. He was convicted of three gun charges, although the jury requested a lenient sentence.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore said in a statement that “one sad chapter is concluded,” and it hoped that this verdict would bring a “greater measure of reconciliation and peace.”
Of the man he shot, Stokes said: “I have no message for Maurice Blackwell; I'll pray for Maurice Blackwell.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Clerics Protest Anglican Primate's Homosexual Views
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (UK), Oct. 14—The incoming Anglican primate, the next Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, is known for permissive views on homosexual behavior. Now the clerics who staff one of the wealthiest and most prominent parishes in the United Kingdom are conducting a financial protest: They plan to refuse their church salaries, according to the London daily.
Instead they will be paid directly by their congregations. The revolt might spread across the country, said Rev. William Taylor, rector of the parish leading the protest, St. Helen's Bishopsgate in London. He called Williams' views immoral and divisive. Taylor and other “evangelical” members of the Anglican Church have threatened other protest moves as well.
A group representing their views, Reform, was scheduled to meet in mid-October. It has called on Williams to change his views in an orthodox direction or resign.
Crash Survivors Still‘Alive'—and Winning
REUTERS, Oct. 12—If you've seen the movie Alive, you know that three decades ago, a team of rugby players from Uruguay endured a plane crash in the Andes. The survivors were driven to eat the flesh of those who died in the crash. (St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that one may consume the dead if the only alternative is starvation.)
Now the surviving team members have gotten together again, this time to play the match that never took place 30 years ago.
The team, the “Old Christians,” crashed on Oct. 13, 1972, en route to play the Chilean team “Old Boys.” Some 16 team members survived more than two months in the snow—through desperate measures—before they were rescued by helicopter.
Twelve of the players reconvened on the 30th anniversary of the crash to beat the former Old Boys players 28-11, according to Reuters news service. Priests celebrated Mass on the rugby field before the game, and helicopters whirred over the field to commemorate the rescue.
“To this day, the sound of helicopter rotor blades makes the hair on my arm stand on end,” survivor Javier Methol said.
What had he learned from the ordeal? “You should not fear death but live your life fully.”
Women's Group Labeled‘Heretical'
THE MERCURY (Australia), Oct. 11—A feminist group called Ordination of Catholic Women will meet in Tasmania, Australia, next month to promote a female priesthood, according to Australia's The Mercury. But it has met unexpected grass-roots resistance.
The group's organizer, Ann Ryan, told the paper she had been described as a “heretic” and “rabid feminist” by other Catholics, and many Catholic papers across Australia had refused to run ads for the conference.
Ryan called the charges merely “amusing,” and rejected the Pope's 1994 authoritative letter, reiterating the constant teaching that the Church can never ordain women. She told the paper she wished she had more publicly dissented from Humanae Vitae when it was issued in 1968.
“We don't expect change on the issue of women's ordination soon, but we do want to keep discussion open,” Ryan said. “This is not about the Church of today, it's about the Church of the future.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Stands Up for Children
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, Oct. 15—Archbishop Renato Martino, outgoing Holy See representative to the United Nations, addressed a U.N. committee Oct. 14 concerning the rights of children. He noted the problems facing millions of children around the world, including injustice, poverty, epidemics and sickness, lack of educational possibilities and lack of basic social services, according to the Vatican Information Service.
Archbishop Martino said that “carrying out the mission of promoting and protecting the rights of children and caring for their spiritual and physical well-being has been the concern of various agencies of the Catholic Church for centuries. Let this discussion help to remind the family of nations that the future of humanity rests upon the shoulders of today's children and young people. Let us pledge to lighten that burden by continuing to promote and protect their rights and provide them with what they need to enhance their well-being.”
Vatican Condemns Falwell's Prophet-Criticism
TEHERAN TIMES, Oct. 12—Ignace Moussa Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, criticized the American evangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell for his blunt remarks about Mohammed. On the CBS show “60 Minutes,” Falwell had called the founder of Islam “a terrorist ... a man of war.”
In a meeting with the Iranian ambassador to the Holy See, Mostafa Boroujerdi, Daoud stressed that Christians respect Islam as a monotheistic religion, according to the Teheran Times.
Daoud said the Vatican was eager to deepen its dialogue with the Muslim world. He also thanked the Islamic Republic of Iran for its tolerant treatment of Christian minorities and Catholics in particular. Boroujerdi responded by reaffirming the need for mutual respect among the followers of different faiths.
Dispute Over Mother Teresa‘Miracle'
TIME ASIA, Oct. 21—The first recognized posthumous miracle attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta is under question, according to Time Asia.
On Sept. 5, 1998—one year after the heroic sister died—Monica Besra, a resident of Dangram, almost 500 miles from Calcutta, invoked Mother Teresa's help for abdominal pain. She pressed a medallion with the sister's image against an area that contained a tumor and the pain immediately ceased.
Two weeks ago, the Vatican accepted this event as probably miraculous and moved forward the process for Mother Teresa's canonization, the magazine reported.
But questions have arisen about the miraculous nature of Besra's cure from her husband, Seiku Murmu, and the doctors who had been treating Besra.
“My wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle,” Murmu said. “I want to stop this jamboree, people coming with cameras every few hours or so.”
Besra admitted she saw doctors, but insisted the pain from her tumor only abated when she applied the medallion and prayed to Mother Teresa.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Ohio Schools May Teach Evolution Debate
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 14—Last week a committee of the Ohio Board of Education recommended the state's science teachers teach students about the theory of evolution—including the ongoing debates over its accuracy and completeness.
According to Associated Press, individual school districts would be allowed to decide whether or not to discuss “intelligent design,” a theistic position promoted by many scientists that argues the development of life in the universe reflects traces of a higher intelligence. The wire service reported this unique approach to the origins of life is already in place in many school districts.
Vandals Trash Ex-Homosexual Ads
CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA, October Bulletin—Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) has placed colorful ads in the Metro subway stations in Washington, D.C., “in response to the hate directed against ex-gays,” as the group's executive director Regina Griggs told the pro-family group Concerned Women for America.
“With all this talk of‘diversity,' we thought it was time to alert people to the need for tolerance of ex-gays and the possibility of overcoming homosexuality,” she said.
“It's time that people trapped in homosexuality know that they have a choice,” said Robert Knight, a board member of PFOX.
Vandals have trashed at least two of the 10 advertisements so far, covering them with insulting graffiti, reported Concerned Women for America.
In the past, homosexual activists such as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) have pressured media companies to reject ad campaigns featuring former homosexuals. In 1998, when a coalition of pro-family groups, including Concerned Women for America, sought to place TV ads featuring ex-gays, GLAAD successfully lobbied TV stations to reject the ads.
Bad Taste Stops Selling
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 11—For at least 20 years, radio pundits have said bad taste makes for good ratings and station managers will put up with anything that boosts their Arbitron ratings. But that seems to be changing, according to Associated Press.
A wave of cancellations and dismissals has struck the “shock” industry, the wire service reported.
Just this month, a Phoenix disc jockey called the widow of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile. “You're hot,” the DJ said to the bereaved mother of three. “Are you going to the game today? Do you have a date?” He was fired a few days later.
Likewise, the New York-based radio announcers Greg “Opie” Hughes and Anthony Cumia were canned shortly after they egged on a couple who had sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral on the Feast of the Assumption as part of a stunt campaign sponsored by Sam Adams Beer.
Scott Shannon, an influential national radio programmer, told Associated Press, “For the stations and the shows that do those kind of stunts, there certainly has been a re-examination of conscience, attitudes and guidelines.”
Tom Taylor, editor of Inside Radio,agreed. “They're becoming more careful. There's a thing in their heads, the self-censoring thing:‘Should I do that?'”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Ambassador Says Bangladesh Is Example of Harmony
THE DAILY STAR (Bangladesh), Oct. 2 — As he completed his assignment as Vatican ambassador to Bangladesh, Joseph Adams called that country an “excellent example of religious and communal harmony in the world,” according to The Daily Star newspaper in Bangladesh.
He praised the government for its role in promoting interethnic and interreligious amity in a part of the world that sees much strife. Adams called his six years in Bangladesh the “golden time” of his life.
Bangladesh president Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed cited the work of the Pope, who has visited Bangladesh in the past, in fostering peace, tolerance and compassion around the world — especially between members of religious groups that have historically been hostile toward each other.
Bangladesh is a Muslim enclave in the Indian subcontinent, created as part of Pakistan during the bloody postwar partition of Britain's former colony. It later won independence after a destructive civil war.
Marriage Helps Men and Women Alike
LIFESITE NEWS (www.lsn.ca), Oct. 4 — For some 30 years researchers have believed that marriage benefits men more than women. Feminist research in the early 1970s suggested that marriage was a patriarchal institution, created for and mainly benefiting men. But a recent, exhaustive study in Australia suggests both sexes find emotional and psychological advantages to those who marry as opposed to those who remain single.
The study covered 10,641 adults who took part in the 1996 Australian national survey of mental health. Psychologist David de Vaus of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, wrote of the results in the winter issue of Family Matters. He said it is “unequivocal” that, “when a range of types of mental disorders are considered, marriage reduces the risk of mental disorders for both men and women.”
Ban Designer Children?
DAILY TELEGRAPH (United Kingdom), Oct. 4 — A think tank in the United Kingdom has suggested a ban on genetic manipulation and selective abortion employed to create children with higher IQs, or a reduced propensity for crime, according to the London Daily Telegraph.
Published in the current issue of Genetics and Human Behaviour, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, an independent research institute, linked such efforts with the discredited “science” of eugenics.
Chief of the Nuffield Council, professor Bob Hepple, told the Daily Telegraph: “This is a potentially explosive area. The subject has an ugly history.” He went on to call abortions carried out based on genetic information about a child's likely intelligence or behavior “morally unacceptable.”
He also suggested that criminal justice could be disrupted if defendants began to cite their genetic predispositions to anti-social behavior as factors mitigating their personal responsibility.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Receives an ‘Arms’ Chair
WWW.NEWS24.COM (South Africa), Oct. 2 — Artists from the African nation of Mozambique gave Pope John Paul II an armchair crafted out of dismantled weapons left over from that country's decades-long civil war, which was resolved with the help of the Catholic lay apostolate, the Community of Sant'Egidio.
News24.com, an Internet news source for South Africa, reported the artists presented the Holy Father with the chair during his weekly audience on Oct. 2 with some 15,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. The artists are exhibiting other works in Rome.
After the audience, sculptor Fiel Dos Santos told News24.com, “The Pope expressed his wish that our country will live in peace after so many terrible years.”
The artists also gave John Paul a symbolic pickaxe in honor of the peacemaking campaign begun in 1996 when the ecumenical Christian Council offered people pickaxes in return for turning in their weapons. Two years later, sculptors associated with the group “Nucleo de Arte” volunteered to turn the weapons into artworks that celebrated peace.
The Holy Father also offered greetings to the people of Mozambique, who celebrated “10 years of peace without weapons in their hands.”
Orthodox Patriarch Welcomed by Pope
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, Oct. 7 — After meeting pilgrims who came for the canonization of Msgr. Josemaría Escrivá, Pope John Paul II welcomed a visit from Teoctist, the Orthodox patriarch of Romania, according to the Vatican Information Service.
“Beatitude and dear brother,” said the Pope in Romanian. “You are making this visit animated by the sentiments and the hopes that I myself feel. Your current visit is a purifying act of our memories of division, of often-strong confrontation, of acts and words that have led to painful separations. The future, in any case, is not a dark and unknown tunnel. It is lit by God's grace: on it the invigorating light of the Spirit shines in a consoling way. This certainty prevails not only over every human discouragement or fatigue that at times hinders our steps; it convinces us above all that nothing is impossible for God, and that, therefore, if we will be worthy of it, he will grant us the gift of full unity.”
Princess Invites Pope to Visit Sweden Next Year
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 4 — Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden brought greetings to Pope John Paul II and once again invited him to visit that Lutheran country in honor of the famous St. Brigid of Sweden.
Princess Victoria, 25, met with the Holy Father briefly as she visited Rome. According to Associated Press, she invited the Pope to attend celebrations from May 31 to June 1, 2003, at Vadstena, site of the convent St. Brigid founded, to mark the 700th anniversary of St. Brigid's birth.
“He's a fantastic man,” the princess concluded about the Pope. Papal spokesmen made no statement about whether the Pope would be able to make the trip.
Associated Press noted that although John Paul has trouble standing, he insisted on getting up from his chair for a group photo with the princess and her associates.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Amazon Sells Pedophile Books
WORLDNETDAILY.COM, Oct. 2 — Columnist Art Moore has revealed on the Web site WorldNetDaily.com that the online bookseller Amazon.com openly and knowingly sells books advocating sex between adult men and boys.
Two such books it sells are Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers by David Riegel, and “another book apparently published by the North American Man-Boy Love Association called Loving Boys,” according to Moore. In that book the author admits that he “eschews both the common Judeo-Christian belief that man-boy contacts are morally wrong and the traditional psychiatric premise (never honestly tested) that they are unnatural, perverted and harmful for boys.”
The U.S. Justice Foundation, a conservative think tank, has threatened to sue Amazon.com for “contributing to the potential rape and molestation of children,” by selling these books.
In response to threatened lawsuits, boycotts and prosecution, Amazon.com released a statement saying it did not endorse the ideas contained in such books but believed “people have the right to choose their own reading material. … Our goal is to support freedom of expression and to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover and buy any title they might be seeking.”
Bush Gives Green Light to Condom Cash
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, Oct. 2 — Under pressure from Democrats in the Senate and from Republican New York Gov. George Pataki, President George W. Bush has approved the expansion of a New York state program that employs federal Medicaid money to distribute free birth control and condoms to the poor.
Some 800,000 more New Yorkers will now be eligible for the expanded program, according to The New York Daily News.
“It's an enormous breakthrough,” crowed Joanne Smith, a lobbyist for contraceptive services.
Bush administration officials claimed they had never been opposed in principle to the expansion of such services, as contraceptive advocates had claimed.
Pro-Abortion ‘Catholics’ Grab Abuse Issue
DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE (Rochester, N.Y.), Oct. 2 — Abortion and population-control advocate Catholics for a Free Choice has continued its campaign against the Holy See at the United Nations, this time bringing in a victim of alleged sexual abuse by a priest to testify against at the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The testimony will take place in Geneva next week, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
The witness, Mark Furnish, 31, is an attorney based in Albany. He has accused Father Robert O'Neill, now a suspended priest, of abusing him in the early 1980s. Furnish will also speak at a Rome news conference.
According to Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for Free Choice: “We want to talk about the problem of clergy sexual abuse, which is a worldwide problem. We want the committee to engage the Vatican in a conversation regarding this problem and to ask the Vatican what it is doing about it.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Criticizes Italian Leader Over Quip
REUTERS, Sept. 28 — While his policies have been much more favorable to the Church than those of previous governments, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has come under fire by the Vatican for making insensitive remarks about 35 Liberian immigrants who drowned last month while trying to enter Italy illegally.
In an interview last week, he was questioned about why police used small, pedal-operated boats (or pedali) to collect the bodies. Berlusconi said, “It's not every day that they have to pick up corpses, and sometimes pedali work well. None of the [corpses] complained.”
The next day, Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano condemned his remarks as flippant.
“Sometimes spirited quips are not only out-of-place but also macabre, in bad taste and downright offensive,” the paper wrote in an editorial. “It is inconceivable to be ironic about the dead.”
Berlusconi replied to questioners, “Perhaps you would have preferred it if the bodies had been picked up in a big boat.”
Hundreds of illegal migrants try to enter Italy every day through her large, vulnerable coastline as an entry point to the European Union, which has abolished internal border controls. The Berlusconi government has taken numerous measures to try to stem the flow of immigrants, citing the burdens to its public welfare system and the increasing threat of Islamic fundamentalism in Italy.
Pope to Become Honorary Citizen of Rome
LA REPUBBLICA (Rome), Sept. 23 — It is a city in which his first predecessor, St. Peter, and many other popes died as martyrs and which later popes ruled as monarchs right up until 1870, when Italian nationalists conquered the last of the papal states. Successive popes until Pius XI held themselves “prisoners of the Vatican.” Now, the City of Rome will offer Pope John Paul II honorary citizenship.
Mayor of Rome Walter Veltroni will confer citizenship on the Holy Father on Oct. 31, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Details have yet to be finalized, but Holy See officials said the mayor would likely hand the Pope the keys to the Eternal City at a Vatican ceremony.
Holy Father to Address Parliament of Italy
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 2 — In a historic gesture, Pope John Paul II in November plans to address a joint session of the Italian parliament, a body that once helped displace papal government in Italy and for which Catholics were once forbidden to run or vote on pain of excommunication.
The Holy Father will speak to the legislators on Nov. 14.
Marco Politi, a biographer of the Pope, wrote in La Repubblica, “It will be a Polish Pope to enter the palace that symbolizes the sovereignty of the Italian people. It's as if only a Pope who came from afar could definitely close the gap” separating Church and state in Italy, where anticlericalism is still alive and well.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Saddam and al Qaeda Are Not Allies
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Oct. 1—Mideast expert Daniel Benjamin, former member of the National Security Council, wrote in the Oct. 1 New York Times that Saddam Hussein, for all his unsavory and cruel activities, has never been an ally of the terrorist organization al Qaeda.
Like other fundamentalist Muslim sects, al Qaeda is dedicated to overthrowing secular despotisms such as Saddam's. Benjamin argued that attacking Iraq “would not be a continuation of the war against terror but a deviation from it.”
While Saddam is eager to obtain weapons of mass destruction, Benjamin argued, there is no evidence to show he is inclined to hand them over to elements he cannot control, such as Islamic terrorists who might be as likely to use them against him as against the United States.
However, Benjamin concluded, if Saddam were about to be removed from power—and likely hanged from a lamppost by angry Iraqis—then he “might break the taboo on giving terrorists weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, as images of the United States attacking another Muslim nation are beamed throughout the Middle East and South Asia, many will take it as confirmation of Mr. bin Laden's argument that America is at war with Islam.”
Health Providers Can Refuse to Fund Abortions
REUTERS, Sept. 25—Last week the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill strengthening “conscience clauses” that allow health plans and hospitals to refuse to offer abortions without any state or federal penalty Reuters news source reported.
The Abortion Nondiscrimination Act passed with a majority of Republicans voting for it and most Democrats opposing it, according to Reuters. The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed by the president, would protect Catholic hospitals that have merged with secular health care companies, which are now under heavy pressure in several states to offer abortions.
‘St. Francis’ Opera Opens in St. Francisco
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 26—Olivier Messaien, an avant-garde 20th-century composer, was also a fervent Catholic. His grandest work, “St. Francois d'Assise,” is one that is rarely performed, perhaps because it lasts five hours and requires a 97-piece orchestra and a score that weighs 25 pounds.
But the San Francisco Opera last month premiered the piece to great audience enthusiasm and glowing reviews, according to Associated Press.
“This company has never undertaken this kind of challenge,” said Conductor Donald Runnicles to Associated Press. “Just the size, the dimensions. This has galvanized the company.áWe all feel like evangelists.”
Runnicles worked with German director Nicolas Brieger, who at first declined the task. “It was my prejudice,” Brieger said, “I thought, ‘I have nothing to do with this Catholic world.’ I had left this Church. When they offered it to me I said, ‘No.’ Donald said, ‘Wait. Listen. Take your time.’”
Brieger now says he is proud to have been part of presenting such a unique, accomplished piece of music. The opera follows the life of St. Francis, including his conversion, his mystic experiences and his reception of the stigmata, or wounds of Christ.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Russian Patriarch: Rome Is ‘Expansionist’
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 18 — Hopes for a papal meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II seemed to fade last week as the Moscow prelate made bitter public complaints against what he called the “expansionist” actions of Latin-rite Catholics in Russia.
Patriarch Alexei gave an interview to the magazine Famiglia Cristiana, in which he related a list of grievances. He said Roman Catholics behave as if “there exists neither a church nor a Christian culture in Russia,” pursuing a “vast expansionist strategy for Russia.”
Meanwhile, pressure by the Russian government on Catholic priests and laity continued, in what Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz has called a “large-scale anti-Catholic campaign.” He noted that five foreign-born priests had been expelled from the country, numerous churches had been vandalized and construction permits for new parishes had been denied.
According to Associated Press, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters that the expulsion of priests was tantamount to a persecution of the Church.
Musical Dialogue Bridges Christian-Muslim Divide
>FIDES NEWS, Sept. 23 — Even as attacks on Christians by Islamic militants continue in Pakistan, clergy of the two faiths seek to promote peace, according to a report by Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency.
Addressing a Christian-Muslim program of “Interreligious Dialogue Through Music,” Bishop Andrew Francis, ecumenical officer of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said, “We are a people of hope in the present-day situation of hatred, intolerance and killing.”
Recalling incidents of violence and killing of Christians in the last 12 months in Pakistan, the bishop urged media figures to use their public platform to promote values of brotherhood and respect among members of different religions.
United States Helped Iraq With Biological Weapons
THE BUFFALO NEWS, Sept. 23 — Some 16 years ago, when Iraq was still considered a somewhat disreputable American ally, the U.S. government allowed American pharmaceutical companies to sell Saddam Hussein's government biological cultures that can be used for bio-weapons, according to The Buffalo News, citing 1994 testimony to a U.S. Senate committee.
These germs included West Nile Virus, E. coli, anthrax, botulism and other potentially fatal biological cultures. The Commerce Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush permitted at least 72 such sales between 1985 and 1989.
These germ cultures, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later noted had “biological warfare significance,” also included clones, substances and chemicals that could devastate wheat crops, cause rickets and produce a nerve gas much more lethal than sarin — the gas used on the Japanese subway by cult members some years ago.
The testimony was given to the Senate Banking Committee during hearings concerning the poor health of returning Gulf War veterans. The Buffalo News questioned whether Saddam still possessed the materials and whether they might be used against invading U.S. troops.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Official Clarifies Statement on Homosexual Ordination
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 20 — Last week an influential Vatican official, Father Andrew Baker of the Congregation for Bishops, published an article in the Jesuit journal America arguing that homosexually inclined men should not be ordained priests.
In the face of controversy, Father Baker has stood by his position but made it clear he is not promulgating official teaching in the article.
In the article, Father Baker argued that homosexual men have special difficulties staying celibate in an all-male seminary environment and remaining faithful to Church teaching — especially those that condemn homosexual behavior and call homosexuality a disorder.
War Over the Cross in Italy
NEWS24.COM, Sept. 19 — A proposed law that would place crucifixes in public places in Italy — such as schools and train stations — has sparked controversy.
Promoted by the conservative party The Northern League, the bill has been attacked by Islamic and Jewish groups, who said it hearkens back to fascist Italy.
The bill was introduced after a recent appeal from Pope John Paul II during a talk on the Feast of Exaltation of the Holy Cross that crucifixes be made more visible throughout society.
Abdel Smith, leader of the controversial Italian Union of Muslims, responded to the bill by likening the crucifix to a rotting cadaver.
Education minister Letizia Moratti explained to parliament that the crucifix would hang in state schools and hospitals as “a symbol of Christian civilization, its roots and its universal values, all of which are essential elements of the historical and cultural heritage of our country.”
Pope Blesses Soccer Team
DAILY RECORD (U.K.), Sept. 17 — Perhaps the best soccer team in the world, Real Madrid (Royal Madrid), visited Pope John Paul II two weeks ago to get his blessing en route to playing an important match against a local Roman team.
The team is nine-time winner of the European Cup. It went to Rome to see the Pope, who played goalkeeper as a teen-ager, wearing No. 1 for his school team in Wadowice, Poland.
The Holy Father addressed Real Madrid, speaking of the “nobleness” of sport and of its power to bridge differences among peoples.
Future Accord With Traditionalists?
UNA VOCE.ORG, September — On its Web site this month, the “traditional Catholic” group Una Voce offered hints of a possible accord between followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Vatican.
It cited an interview in the French Una Voce magazine with Jesuit Father Pierre Blet, professor of Church history at the Gregorian University in Rome. In the interview, Father Blet noted some members of the Pius X Society were warmly received at the Vatican during the Jubilee Year, but negotiations had stalled over what level of acceptance the society must give to the documents of Vatican II. Father Blet said he expected this snag to be overcome.
He went on to address the liturgy, suggesting that many cardinals in the curia are open to wider permission for the Mass of St. Pius V, noting that “the Pope himself celebrated this Mass during his recent vacation.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Columbia President Apologizes for Anti-Clerical Barb
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 25 — Columbia University President Lee Bollinger apologized for a snide remark made over the public-address system at halftime as his school's football team played longtime rival Fordham University on Sept. 21, according to Associated Press.
Columbia's marching band announcer made an allusion to recent sex scandals involving clergy, using a double entendre referring to altar boys.
Bollinger phoned Fordham President Father Joseph O’ Hare to say he regretted the student's remarks, which Fordham students, along with the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, had called anti-Catholic.
The marching band member who wrote the script stood by it. Said Columbia student Andy Hao, “You should blame the priests that molest kids and degrade the name of the Church rather than blaming some college kid who wrote a football script.”
Davis Endorses Human Embryonic Research
REUTERS, Sept. 22 — California Gov. Gray Davis, a self-described Catholic, signed a bill Sept. 22 endorsing research using human embryos — destroying them, then mining them for “stem cells,” which could produce medical advances.
Such experiments were partly defunded by President Bush last year and are explicitly condemned by the Church.
“As the country ages, I believe more and more Americans will see the value stem cell research has in enhancing quality of the lives of the people they love,” said Davis, a vocal supporter of abortion.
Searching for God at Ground Zero
USA TODAY, Sept. 19 — Jesuit Father James Martin has a vow of poverty — and a graduate degree from the Wharton School of Business.
A former executive at General Electric, he has done pastoral work with homeless people, street gangs and Kenyan refugees. Now he is the associate editor of America magazine and an author. His latest book is Searching for God at Ground Zero (Sheed & Ward), a reflection on his own experiences working with rescue workers, volunteers and survivors at the site of America's greatest domestic terror.
Father Martin writes, “If any people still doubt the reality of evil in the world, let them come to the World Trade Center. And if any doubt the presence of God in the world, let them come to the World Trade Center.”
Prepare for World War IV
TOWNHALL.COM, Sept. 25 — Columnist Paul Craig Roberts, in last week's Townhall.com, pointed to the broader ambitions of some policy-makers who favor a war with Iraq.
He cited Commentary magazine editor Norman Podhoretz's recent call for the United States to wage “World War IV” against most of the Islamic world. Podhoretz wrote last month that “regimes that richly deserve to be overthrown and replaced are not confined to the three singled-out members of the axis of evil, [Iraq, Iran and North Korea].”
“At a minimum,” Podhoretz wrote, “the axis should extend to Syria and Lebanon and Libya, as well as ‘friends’ of America like the Saudi royal family and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, along with the Palestinian Authority.”
Podhoretz suggested the United States “impose a new political culture” on the defeated region of the Middle East.
BY Jim Cosgrove
United Nations Sex Scandal Gets Scant Coverage
NEWSMAX.COM, May 7—Even as the United Nations wrapped up its contentious conference on children—in which the Holy See and the United States fought with some success to keep “abortion rights” out of the prescription for young people's well-being—most media have been quiet about the unfolding scandal of U.N. aid workers sexually exploiting vulnerable young people, in return for desperately needed food and shelter.
The conservative Web site Newsmax.com and the news service UPI reported on the abuses in West Africa, especially Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, which were first uncovered in February, and have provoked an investigation by U.N. officials. “We can barely cope with the cases that are being referred to us,” Dileep Nair, U.N. undersecretary general admitted to UPI.
In 2001, more than 400 cases were reported of such abuse. In a report, U.N. staffers “acknowledged that they knew such practices happened. Regrettably, even in situations where such information had been brought to their attention in the past, no action had been taken to monitor or redress the situation.”
Newsmax.com pointed to the relatively slight media attention to these ongoing abuses, compared to saturation coverage of long-past cases concerning Catholic clergymen.
Church in Philippines Scrubs the Net
ANANOVA.COM, May 12–Catholic leaders in the Philippines have spotted a serious threat to the practice of the Faith—Internet addiction—and acted to protect the faithful, reported the Internet news site.
Concerned that thousands of Filipinos have become hooked on Internet pornography, gambling and violent content, bishops in the Philippines have launched their own filtered Internet service, CBCP World. This service, they said, “assures the users of fast access to wholesome, clean and educational materials.” A similar service exists in the United States, provided by www.familink.com.
At a public Mass in a park in Manila that accompanied this announcement, Bishop Jesus Cabrera lamented: “Many are so addicted to the Internet that they don't go to church anymore.”
At his Mass May 12 for Ascension Sunday, Pope John Paul II announced a new Church document, “Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel.” Said the Pope, “We must enter into this modern and ever- more replete communications network with realism and confidence, convinced that, if it is used with competence and conscientious responsibility, it can offer useful opportunities for spreading the Gospel message.”
Burrowing into Mohammed's Mountain
THE TIMES OF LONDON, May 5—It's not widely known outside missionary circles that Christianity is illegal in many Muslim countries, the London daily noted.
In Saudi Arabia, preaching Christ or saying Mass is punishable by death. In Egypt, a moderate ally of the United States that was Christian for centuries before the Islamic conquest in the 8th century, conversion to Christianity is also subject to the death penalty.
In Pakistan, speech disrespectful of Mohammed—for instance, a recital of those sections in Dante's Inferno that depict him in hell as a “sower of discord”—can also merit beheading.
But dozens of British missionaries have decided to brave these dangers and infiltrate “Dar-Al-Islam,” by taking “sleeper” jobs and preaching Christ secretly, reported the Times. An evangelical group called Frontiers, based in Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, has for at least 10 years sent members to take jobs as teachers and doctors, to offer Christ to souls where the Gospel is prohibited by law.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Bush to Greet the Pope in Europe
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 14—It seems that Pope John Paul is a high priority for President Bush, who has made extensive, repeated efforts to win Catholic support for his presidency—for instance, by opposing federal funding for most stem cell research, and by seeking to ban all cloning. According to sources in the White House, the first schedule for Bush's trip next week to Rome did not include a papal visit.
Staffers realized that this was an oversight, reported the Associated Press, and juggled his schedule to accommodate the Holy See. Bush is expected to meet with the Holy Father on May 28, between the president's meetings with NATO officials and Russian diplomats.
Columnist Gloats Over Pope's Illness
THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 4—In an Op-Ed piece dealing with Church scandals, self-styled “collapsed Catholic” Bill Keller seemed to take delight in describing Pope John Paul's age and infirmity, pointing to them as a metaphor for a Church Keller considers sclerotic and corrupt.
He scorned the Pope's attempts to discipline and guide the American cardinals, and craft a new policy that protects youngsters from abuse, while preserving the rights of priests who are accused.
Then Keller suggested that John Paul had learned authoritarian ways from the Communist bureaucrats he used to confront—and finally become much like Leonid Brezhnev, in refusing to re-examine long-held doctrinal positions. The Times writer recounts a capsule history of the background behind Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae, noting wistfully that the Church would be quite a different institution had Paul VI not reaffirmed her constant teaching about contraception. Keller went on to speculate about when John Paul will die—much the way the Rastafarians of Jamaica bang on a drum three times a day for the death of the Pope.
Two Cardinals Reach 80, Lose Voting Privileges
CWNEWS.COM, May 9—Senior citizens are a major factor in most secular elections—especially since retiree lobbies are frequently the best organized, and the elderly the most likely to vote. But in papal conclaves, no one over 80 may vote for a new pope, thanks to changes in electoral rules made by Pope Paul VI. CWNews.com reported this week that two cardinals, Bernardin Gantin and Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, had reached age 80 and joined the ranks of the non-voting cardinals. Gantin, once prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, will remain as dean of the College of Cardinals—although his age and ill health mean he will not actually preside over the election. That will fall instead to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as the most senior active cardinal.
The Catholic news site pointed out that Gantin has “worked closely with every Pontiff since Pius XII,” and “had often been seen as a potential Pope himself, and a representative of the rising strength of Catholicism in the Third World and especially in Africa.”
The other retiring cardinal, Kim, was archbishop of Seoul, Korea, from 1966 until 1998, when he retired—overseeing an explosion in the growth of the Church in his country. The Church now has 124 active cardinals—all but seven of whom were appointed by Pope John Paul II.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Absent Parents Drowning ‘Tweens’ in Cash
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, May 6—A recent report in the daily newspaper noted with alarm the growth of a “high-rolling ‘tween’ demographic: 9- to 14-year-olds, with an average weekly income of more than $20.”
Such children are increasingly given lavish allowances by “guilt-ridden” parents, who work too many hours to spend much time with them, the paper said. “Tween financial wherewithal is reshaping childhood itself,” it warned, pointing to high-priced pre-teen rituals such as luxury birthday parties, lasertag games, catered bar mitzvahs and other high-end entertainments, which some children are coming to expect.
The Monitor cited another study that found that “tweens” expect parents to spend between $124 and $182 on their Christmas gifts. The story concluded that “to many tweens, money is something that spills from ATMs.”
Bush Aide's Resignation Highlights Women's Hard Choices
THE BOSTON GLOBE, May 6—Cathy Young, a libertarian columnist often critical of feminism, pointed to the surprising retirement of key Bush aide Karen Hughes as an instance of a common phenomenon: “Successful woman sacrifices high-powered career for motherhood.”
The Globe columnist noted that Hughes was strongly motivated by concern about her 15-year-old son, whom she wished to be schooled in Texas, rather than Washington, D.C.
“It is an undisputed fact that women are far more likely than men to quit or scale back their careers for family reasons… A man who puts in long hours at work can be seen as working ‘for’ his family; a woman tends to be seen as shortchanging hers,” Young noted. She suggested that there is some biological basis for this, in the different psychologies of men and women, and the priorities they bring to the workplace.
But Young also argued that some of these priorities are malleable, and that men may have begun to defer career advancement for family reasons as well—although the evidence for such a change so far is scant.
Catholic College Coming to Georgia
THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, May 9—There is no Catholic college in the state of Georgia—but there will be one soon, according to the Atlanta daily.
The co-founders of the school have already collected nearly $10 million towards the creation of Southern Catholic College, which will operate in Dawsonville, Ga.
Paul Voss, the new school's vice president, is leaving a tenured position as a professor at Georgia State University to help start the school. “I jumped from a wonderful job to a bit of uncertainty,” he told the Journal-Constitution. “As a product of a Catholic school and somebody who values the Catholic intellectual tradition, it's a leap of faith both literally and figuratively.”
Tom Clements, another founder and the chairman of the college, retired in 1999 as CEO of Conduit Software, selling his business for some $70 million. “It became a question of how can I give back and build the community,” Clements said. “There are 235 Catholic colleges in the country. Only seven of them are in the Southeast. There are none in Georgia… [T]he Catholic population has increased by 95% in the last decade. Today we could support two or three Catholic colleges.”
Atlanta Archbishop John Donoghue led a groundbreaking service last week. While the diocese will not have an official role in the management of the college, its founders promise close cooperation with the Church.
BY Jim Cosgrove
United Arab Emirates to Help Restore Church of Nativity
NOVOSTI, April 29 — The United Arab Emirates will finance the restoration of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity and the nearby Omar Mosque, each of which were damaged in the battle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants, the Russian news agency reported.
Sheikh Hamdan al-Nahayan, the UAE's foreign minister and chairman of the UAE Red Crescent Society, has contacted Palestinian authorities and begun negotiations for immediate restoration of the religious sites after Israeli troops pull out of Bethlehem.
Instructed by the UAE president, the Red Crescent Society has already discussed the issue with the Palestinian authorities. Sheikh Hamdan said to journalists that historically, Muslims have always respected and protected Christian shrines.
European Politics Affected by Fertility Decline, Group Says
CATHOLIC FAMILY & HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE, April 26 — The recent advances of right-wing, anti-immigration parties in France, the Netherlands, Britain and other European countries are a consequence of the refusal of European families to have children, the New York-based organization said in a press release.
Pointing to Europe's “precipitous drop in fertility,” C-FAM president Austin Ruse warned that “the electoral success of the anti-immigrant French presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen appears indicative of a continent-wide embrace of nationalistic political parties, which hold that cultures are being eroded and that a sharp rise in crime is attributable to the influx of an ever-growing number of poor and uneducated immigrants.”
Ruse noted that France, the United Kingdom, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands all possess sizeable and influential nationalist, anti-immigrant parties. In the absence of a major rise in birth rates across the continent, Ruse added, this trend could only continue.
Muslim Radicals Blamed for Renewed Indonesian Violence
BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION, April 28 — The February 2002 peace deal between Christian separatists and Muslim nationalists in the eastern Moluccan Islands has begun to fray, the British network reported.
BBC said that Indonesia's three-year sectarian conflict flared up again after the radical Islamist group the Laskar Jihad renounced the deal in late April. Its leader, Jafar Umar Thalib, told a rally of thousands of supporters to resume attacks on local Christians.
The Laskar Jihad militia, thought to have some 15,000 active members, has been importing Islamic fighters from Java to the Christian region of Sulawesi in the Moluccan Islands to attack Christians. This mirrors the strategy employed by the Indonesian government last year to attempt to crush East Timorese Christians who sought independence.
Only the intervention of U.N. peacekeepers, mostly from Australia, brought that genocide to a halt, and smoothed the way for East Timor's recent free elections as a sovereign nation.
Laskar Jihad seeks to impose Islamic law throughout Indonesia, which is about 85% Muslim with Christian, Hindu and animist minorities.
BBC noted that “the fighting in the eastern Moluccas has left more than 6,000 people dead and forced 750,000 to flee their homes since January 1999,” and suggested that Jafar Umar Thalib may be connected to the al-Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden.
BY Jim Cosgrove
The Pope Goes Forth to Make Saints
THE WASHINGTON POST, April 28 — After trips this spring and summer to Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Guatemala and Mexico, Pope John Paul II will visit his native Poland from Aug. 16-19, reported The Washington Post.
Despite his poor health — he is thought to suffer from Parkinson's disease-the pope intends to continue his grueling travel schedule. He will lead celebrations of World Youth Day in Toronto and proclaim new saints in Guatemala and Mexico, including Juan Diego of Guadalupe. Juan Diego will be the second Catholic folk hero to be named a saint this year, after the June 16 canonization of the stigma-tist and mystic Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
Pro-Condom Lobby Attacks Vatican in European Papers
PLANET OUT, April 30 — The British homosexual activist newspaper applauded the latest move by “Catholics for a Free Choice,” the Planned-Parenthood-funded organization that opposes Church teaching on most issues of sexual morality.
It seems that 29 members of the increasingly powerful European Parliament, “from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Spain and the United Kingdom” have signed their names to the full-page ads from “Catholics for a Free Choice” which appeared for the first time in Sunday's European Voice newspaper.
The ads read, in part, “Catholic bishops preach sanctity of life. But their ban on condoms contributes to the tragedy of AIDS and death around the world. Most Catholics disagree with this policy.”
Neither the advertisement nor Planet Out makes mention of the documented connection between promiscuity and AIDS, or the connection between monogamy and prevention of the disease.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Investing in Poverty Reaps Rich Rewards
ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 26 — Ohio's Marianist fathers take vows of poverty just like Franciscans, and in that spirit, they practice frugality and scrimp for savings. Unlike most friars, however the Marians also invest and bring in hefty returns that they turn back over to the Church.
Associated Press reported that in late April the order gave $5 million to the University of Dayton, on top of $12.5 million donated earlier to the school in the past year and a half. The money will be used to pay for scholarships and general expenses, according to the university.
The university was founded by the order, officially called the Servants of Mary, which still helps staff the school. “We live very, very simply,” Marianist Father Ken Templin told Associated Press. “We eat lots of pasta. We spend very little money on clothing, very little money on what we would call recreation and culture stuff … Gospel values go counterculture to materialism, consumerism — having everything you want when you want it. With us, there's a resistance to that.”
Nun Says Castro Put Cuba ‘In the Trashcan’
AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, May 2 — Cuba's communist leaders have an unlikely neighbor in what was once Havana's upper-class Nuevo Vedado district — a convent of five cloistered Dominican nuns.
And, the Akron daily reported, one of those nuns is Texas-bred Sister Maria Rosario Fernandez, who left Havana as a teen-ager but returned four years ago to pray for her native country.
Sister Fernandez, now 60, fled Havana at age 18 as communist dictator Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. She returned in 1998, the year of Pope John Paul II's historic visit to the Caribbean island nation.
The Dominican nun said that Castro's physical aging mirrors the deterioration his regime has wrought on Cuban society since he assumed power.
“He's just dilapidated — like the island,” Sister Fernandez told Knight Ridder Newspapers. “When I left, he was 33 and so handsome. This man could have done something beautiful. He turned everything into the trashcan. … To take God out of the home and country, to me that is a big mistake.”
Abuse Allegations Involve Less than Half of 1% of Priests
ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 28 — Deploying its reporters across the United States to survey Catholic bishops and other officials about the extent of recent sex scandals, Associated Press has found that bishops have passed along complaints to police and district attorneys concerning “at least 260 clergymen,” many of whom are already retired or off-duty.
While some dioceses did not give information, Associated Press estimated that the number of priests disciplined since the scandal erupted in the press in January 2001 as “higher than 177.”
The journalists concluded that “even if the figure were higher, it would still likely represent less than half of 1% of the 46,075 priests in the United States. And many of the complaints come from decades ago.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Italian Embassy Hosts First Mass in Afghanistan
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, Jan. 27 — Italian, British and French soldiers gathered at the Italian embassy in Kabul Jan. 27 for the first Mass in Afghanistan since 1993, the news service reported.
The Mass was offered in the embassy courtyard because the chapel, the only one in Afghanistan, was too small to accommodate the 60 soldiers from the International Security Assistance Force. Father Ivan Lai, who celebrated the liturgy, planted a wooden cross in a garden where the altar was set up.
The chapel will hold services every Sunday for all Christians in Kabul, Agence France Presse reported. During the Taliban era, three Little Sisters of Jesus who remained in the Afghan capital went to the chapel each Friday to pray. They also took refuge in the building during the U.S. bombardments in the campaign to hunt down terror suspect Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network.
American Surrogate Mother Gives Birth to Italians' Twins
AP WORLDSTREAM, Jan. 26 — The Italian minister of health has ordered a study that may lead to an ordinance against exporting embryos for implantation in surrogate mothers, the news service reported.
Girolamo Sirchia ordered the study after an American woman gave birth to twins conceived by a couple in Rome.
The genetic mother of the twins born in the United States had her uterus removed in 1993 because of a tumor, according to Italian media. Her eggs were fertilized with her husband's sperm, and the embryos were then frozen. Five embryos were flown two years ago to a surrogate mother center at an unidentified location in the United States.
Sirchia said the Italian Parliament would start debate in March on a law to regulate artificial procreation.
Cathedral Dedicated in Formerly Communist Albania
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 26 — Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, has dedicated a new cathedral in Tirana, Albania's capital. The new church seats 700 and is the country's second cathedral.
“It was very important to build this cathedral in Tirana,” said Cardinal Sodano, who celebrated a Mass Jan. 26 with Archbishop Rrok Mirdita of Tirana. “This is a historic day for Albanian Catholic believers.”
Practically all Albanian cathedrals were destroyed under the former communist regime, and Albanian authorities shot and imprisoned hundreds of priests. Only the Cathedral in Shkodra, 52 miles north of Tirana, was left standing, though used as a sports stadium.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Pleased as Dove of Peace Finds Its Way
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 27 — Pope John Paul II seemed delighted as a dove that was intended to fly off over St. Peter's Square flew into his studio instead — and then out again. Young Italian members of Catholic Action had joined the Pope at his top-floor window overlooking the square to release two doves as part of their peace day celebrations Jan. 27. One bird went back inside.
The dove's second release led the crowd to applaud and Pope John Paul to smile. He called the doves an important and symbolic gesture “dedicated to so many children who, unfortunately, are still victims of wars and grave injustices.”
Jewish and Catholic Leaders Take Joint Stand
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Jan. 29 — Jewish and Catholic leaders ended a religious conference in Paris with a joint vow to combat anti-Semitism, the French news agency reported. As the two-day conference wrapped up, Pope John Paul said the two faith groups, working together, can make important contributions to ensuring that religious values have only positive effects on the continent.
“We must transmit to new generations our riches and common values,” the Pope said in a letter to participants.
Issues covered at the conference included co-existence, the challenge of secularism and promoting the memory of the Holocaust. In a closing statement, Catholic representatives stressed their “wholehearted brotherhood with Jewish communities based not on political considerations but in our deepest spiritual convictions.”
Jewish delegates praised the Pope for his role in building bridges between the two faiths. Conference host Henri Hajdenberg, former president of the European Jewish Congress, said the Pope was the first Catholic leader to grasp the significance of the defining events of 20th century Jewish history, the Holocaust and the founding of the state of Israel.
Head of Magicians Group Asks for Patron Saint
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Jan. 30 — Father Silvio Mantelli wore a magician's top hat along with his black suit and Roman collar when he appeared for an audience with Pope John Paul at the Vatican. But he wanted to make a special request. Accompanied by a group of Catholic magicians, he asked that the Vatican declare St. John Bosco patron saint of magicians.
St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesian order, was known for his work with disadvantaged youth and for drawing the attention of young people through tricks and amusements.
Father Mantelli, an Italian priest and amateur magician, heads the organization Magicians Without Borders, which finances children's projects around the world with proceeds from magic shows.
He also presented the Pope with a magic wand from India, expressing his hope that the Holy Father continue to “weave his great magic around the world — peace and serenity.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Catholic League Sued by California Artist
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, Jan. 24 — A California artist has sued the Catholic League for remarks made about an art exhibit that included figures of the Pope and nuns defecating, the San Francisco daily reported.
Jon Howard, a Santa Rosa, Calif., artist who is part Cherokee, said that comments made by League president William Donohue as part of his criticism of the exhibit made American Indians seem “stupid.”
The exhibit was by another artist, Antoni Miralda, at the American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts. The museum's director had told the League that the defecations are symbolic of the cycle of eating and fertilization of the earth that keeps life going.
Donohue then asked, in a statement criticizing the artwork's display, whether depicting the Lone Ranger and Tonto would have been “a more earthy statement.”
Howard complained in his lawsuit that Donohue's comment exposes him to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy because it impugns that American Indians are “Tonto” (the Spanish word for “stupid”) and that California artists are “bad.”
A League spokesman said the $100 million defamation lawsuit is “absurd on its face.”
Florida Town Declares Satan Not Welcome
THE ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, Jan. 28 — At a meeting of the Town Commission in Inglis, Fla., overwhelming public support was expressed for Carolyn Risher, the mayor who declared that Satan is not welcome in the Florida west coast town.
Risher's declaration, printed on town stationery and ritually placed inside wooden posts at four corners of town, led to the threat of legal action from the American Civil Liberties Union.
But the ACLU seemed appeased by a Town Commission vote that the proclamation was the work of an individual, not a town official, the St. Petersburg daily reported. Said Gary Edinger, an attorney with the ACLU chapter in Gainesville, “This takes care of it nicely.”
Priest Gave General Absolution After Towers Fell
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Jan. 30 — Father John Delendick, a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, gave general absolution to people on the scene at the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.
Father Delendick, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, was one of 500 fire department personnel interviewed in an oral history project concerning the events in New York City on Sept. 11, said the New York daily.
The priest said that as he and uniformed personnel ran from the collapse of the second tower, a policeman asked him to hear his confession.
“I looked and said, ‘This is an act of war, isn't it?’” Father Delendick recounted. “He said, ‘Yeah, I believe so.’ I said, ‘Then I'm giving general absolution.’ I gave everyone general absolution and I kept running.”
Old Catholic Church Sues Hispanic TV Station
THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE, Jan. 18 — A pastor of an Old Catholic church has sued KXLN-TV in Houston and Univision for a broadcast describing how Mexican immigrants felt deceived into thinking their baptisms and weddings were sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church, the Houston daily reported.
A suit brought by Father John Kroll and St. Alban's Church said a Spanish broadcast described Father Kroll as one “who poses like a Catholic priest” in a chapel rented from a flower shop in northwest Houston. The story failed to state that he is an ordained priest of the Old Catholic Church, which split from the Catholic Church after the First Vatican Council.
An attorney for Father Kroll said the story focused on the misunderstanding of many “new immigrants” that they were participating in a Roman Catholic liturgy when they were getting married and baptizing their children at St. Alban's.