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Keeping an eye on the news from the Vatican.
BY John Lilly
Gaza Preacher Calls for Holy War Against Vatican
WORLD NET DAILY, Sept. 24 — Sheikh Abu Saqer, leader of Gaza’s Jihadia Salafiya Islamic outreach
movement, said Pope Benedict’s apologies for worldwide reaction to his remarks
about Islam and his invitation for Muslim leaders to meet with him Sept. 25
were “mere diplomatic acts” and then called for a holy war against the Pope,
the news service reported.
The Holy Father Sept. 17 said he
was “deeply sorry” for the reaction to his comments, and said Sept. 20 the
words he quoted did not reflect how he himself felt. He said the intent of his
remarks were to call for a dialogue on the role of religions in modern life and
the need to separate violence from faith.
The imam’s response was to
criticize Christian leaders as “afraid” because they realize Islam is Allah’s
favorite religion and that they are going to hell unless they convert. The Gaza preacher declared the “green flag of Mohammed” would
soon be raised over the Vatican.
Cooler heads prevailed,
however, at the Pope’s meeting Sept. 25 with ambassadors from 21 Muslim nations
and the Arab League, as Turkey’s
top Islamic cleric, Grand Mufti Ali Bardakoglu
praised Pope Benedict for scheduling the meeting to get the dialogue between
faiths back on track.
Benedict: Tourism Should Help Cultures
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 27 — Pope Benedict said tourism should help different
cultures bridge gaps and promote dialogue among the world’s different peoples,
reported the Associated Press.
Sept. 27 was World Tourism Day,
and the Holy Father made the remarks before about 30,000 pilgrims and tourists
gathered in a sunny St. Peter’s Square to attend his weekly general audience.
He said, “I hope that tourism will
increasingly promote dialogue and respect between cultures, thereby becoming an
open door to peace and harmonious cohabitation.”
Secret Nazi-Era Archives Could
THE UNIVERSE, Sept. 26 — A Jesuit historian
has said that the Vatican’s
approach to dealing with Nazi Germany will be justified following the Holy See’s decision to make public its secret files relating to
the Pontificate of Pius XI, the British Catholic newspaper reported.
Father Giovanni Sale, a historian
from the Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica, said the
documents that are now available from the Vatican Secret Archives will allow
scholars to erase claims the Church was not a staunch opponent of Nazism,
fascism and other forms of totalitarianism.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Father Sale said
the new documents will paint a clear picture that the Church was “steadfast in
the fight against totalitarianism, against fascism, against Nazism, but also
against communism,” he said. Now, scholars “will have the possibility to truly
rewrite important pages of 20th-century history — this time based on solid and
BY Jim Cosgrove
Italian Political Parties Endorse “Baby Bonus'
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 4 — Opposing political parties in Italy have supported giving cash benefits to women during pregnancy or after birth — widely seen as a way of encouraging women not to have abortions, Associated Press reported.
The opposition Margherita party is proposing a 2006 budget amendment that would have the government pay $295 a month — starting from the sixth month of pregnancy until birth — to housewives, unemployed women or women who do not have maternity benefits and whose total household income is less than $47,000. For single women earning less than $29,400 a year, the payment would be $412 a month starting with the third month of pregnancy.
The party came forward with its plan — which on Dec. 2 reached committee level in the Chamber of Deputies — in response to a government budget proposal to pay a bonus to women who give birth. The opposition saw this as a way of the government currying support from the Church.
While the idea of a baby-bonus is not new in Italy, a country with one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, tying it to an anti-abortion initiative is.
This comes on the heels of Pope Benedict's recent denouncement of the killing of the unborn and the use of the so-called “morning-after pill.” In a speech in early December to Latin American bishops, the Pope said, “It is necessary to help all people to gain awareness of the intrinsic evil of the crime of abortion,” he said. He also appeared to be referring to the RU-486 abortion pill when he denounced “facilitating the elimination of the embryo.”
Pope Times Poland Visit to Avoid Soccer Frenzy
NEWKERALA.COM, Dec. 7 — Pope Benedict is likely to visit Poland next May to avoid soccer frenzy, sure to be associated with the June 9 kick-off of the World Cup in neighboring Germany, the wire service reported.
Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, former longtime secretary to Pope John Paul II, said “it would be better for the pilgrimage not to take place at the same time as the World Cup,” and that a final decision of the date of the Holy Father's visit was expected soon.
The Polish media reported earlier that Pope Benedict was likely to honor Holocaust victims with a visit to the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.
Pope and Palestinian Discuss Middle East Peace
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 3 — Pope Benedict XVI met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and stressed the need to integrate all Palestinians in the peace process, the Vatican said — an apparent reference to extremist elements blamed for recent violence, according to the Associated Press.
Violence marred primary elections across the Palestinian territories, but Abbas told reporters Dec. 3 that he was working to “bring calm” to the region. Abbas also said that Pope Benedict with his “symbolic weight … can carry out a decisive role for peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.
At the end of their private 20-minute meeting in Benedict's library, Abbas invited the Pope to visit the Holy Land, saying he would “be very welcome in Jerusalem and all the Holy Places.” Pope Benedict thanked him for the invitation.
“I asked for his support and help in easing the difficult problems that the Palestinian people suffer,” Abbas said. His visit to the Vatican was his last major appointment in a three-day visit to Italy.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Roman Women Are Converts to Convents
TELEGRAPH, Nov. 28 — Growing numbers of educated Italian women are throwing away their high heels and lipstick and opting for the austere life of nuns in closed convents, according to the London Telegraph.
At a conference organized by the Vicariate of Rome and Italy's Union of Superiors of Women Religious, it was found that 550 women in Rome chose to withdraw to cloisters this year compared with 350 two years ago.
“They are realizing that what the world has to offer to them is not all it is made out to be,” said Sister Pieremilia Bertolin, the secretary general of the union. “They are starting to reason with their heads and not just believing the messages advertising throws at them.”
Pope Says More Must Be Done to Stop Bloodshed
AKI, Nov. 28 — Pope Benedict XVI said “stronger international resolve” is needed to halt the bloodshed in Sudan's ethnically troubled Darfur region, according to the international news agency.
The Pope made the appeal during a Vatican audience with the Cardinal of Khartoum, Gabriel Zubeir Wako. “The horror of events unfolding in Darfur, to which my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II referred on many occasions, points to the need for a stronger international resolve to ensure security and basic human rights,” Benedict XVI said.
The Holy Father welcomed the recent enactment of Sudan's new Constitution — the result of a peace accord between Khartoum's Muslim authorities and the mainly Christian and animist former rebels in the country's south — as an opportunity and duty for the Catholic Church to “contribute significantly to the process of forgiveness and national reconstruction.”
He told Cardinal Wako, “Though a minority, Catholics have much to offer through interreligious dialogue as well as the provision of greatly needed social services. I encourage you therefore to take the necessary initiatives to realize Christ's healing presence in these ways.”
Vatican Examines Possible Miracle by John Paul II
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 29 — Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz said a Church tribunal will focus on a possible miracle performed by Pope John Paul II in France as the Vatican pursues the late Pope's case for beatification, Associated Press reported.
Archbishop Dziwisz, who was personal secretary to John Paul, told reporters in Rome that “there are no problems with miracles because there are many, but they have picked one because they don't need more.”
The process was “proceeding very well,” he said, and could be over as soon as March, the Ansa news agency reported.
The archbishop added, “There are many testimonies; we must choose the most accurate ones to show the personality of John Paul II.”
Vatican Defends Singer's Ban
REUTERS, Dec. 2 — The Vatican defended its decision to exclude Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury from its Dec. 3 Christmas concert, saying she had threatened to promote the use of condoms to fight AIDS during the show, according to Reuters.
The concert is a traditional fund-raiser for charities. It is not attended by the Pope but is attended by dozens of cardinals and other top Vatican officials.
It is then broadcast on Italian television on Christmas Eve.
“The Vatican decided to exclude Daniela Mercury from the cast not because of her convictions about contraceptives even if they are not in agreement those of the Catholic Church,” said Father Giuseppe Bellucci, a priest who organized the show. “She was excluded because she had announced that at the concert she would openly promote the use of condoms to fight the plague of AIDS.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Beatifies Mexican Martyrs
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 21 — In Guadalupe, Mexico, the Vatican beatified 13 Mexican martyrs who died during a Roman Catholic uprising in the late 1920's that was crushed by the Mexican government, Associated Press reported.
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, arrived from Rome to oversee the ceremony, and Pope Benedict XVI delivered a message by satellite to spectators in a 60,000-seat soccer stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city, 280 miles northwest of Mexico City.
The 1917 constitution that grew out of the Mexican Revolution tightened already tough restrictions on the church, banning public masses and religious garb. The revolutionary limits sparked the Cristero War of 1926-29 in which tens of thousands died fighting the government over religious restrictions.
Among those beatified was Luis Padilla Gómez, who was arrested, tortured and killed by soldiers for his religious work in 1927. Also beatified were Ezequiel Huerta Gutiérrez, Ramón Vargas González, José Sánchez del Río, who was stabbed to death at age 14, and priests José Trinidad Rangel, Andrés Sola Molist and Dario Acosta Zurita.
Pope Benedict Praises Pro-Life Activists
REUTERS, Nov. 16 — Pope Benedict warmly praised pro-life activists as the Italian government was considering deploying them into abortion businesses to try to dissuade women from killing their babies, Reuters reported.
Italy has for weeks been caught up in a national debate over whether to allow the use of an abortion pill, known as RU-486, which blocks the action of the hormone progesterone, needed to sustain a pregnancy.
Speaking Nov. 16 at the end of his weekly general audience to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square, the Pope hailed the work of Movement for Life.
He lauded the group for its “courage” in opposing abortion. He told the group, “You are writing pages of hope for the future of humanity.”
First Vatican Envoy in Yemen Accredited
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, Nov. 21 — Munjed Hashem became the Holy See's first ambassador in the Arab country of Yemen, UPI reported.
Yemen and the Vatican began efforts to build relations a year ago when a Catholic Brotherhood delegation led by papal adviser Prince Carlo De Bourbon made an official visit in line with the late Pope John Paul II's bid to bridge the gap between civilizations.
There are currently two churches in the city of Aden in south Yemen. The government planned to build a third church in Sanaa in response to the late Pope's efforts, but the plan was strongly opposed by some Muslim groups.
A joint official statement stressed “the importance of dialogue between religions, and the need to encourage tolerance and rapprochement between peoples and civilizations to serve international peace and security.”
Cardinal Says Mass Is Not a ‘Performance’
ALLAFRICA.COM, Nov. 18 — Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said, “People don't come to Mass in order to be entertained. They come to Mass to adore God, to thank him, to ask pardon for sins and to ask for other things that they need,” the African news service reported.
In an analysis of the recent Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, Cardinal Arinze said an increasing number of Catholics have “a more Protestant concept of the Eucharist, seeing it mainly as a symbol.”
“Vatican II brought many good things, but everything has not been positive, and the synod recognized that there have been shadows,” Cardinal Arinze acknowledged. “There has been a bit of neglect of the holy Eucharist outside Mass.”
He added that there's “a lot of ignorance, a lot of temptations to showmanship for the priest, who celebrates facing the people. If he is not very disciplined, he will soon become a performer. He may not realize it, but he will be projecting himself rather than projecting Christ.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Work Starts on Nativity Scene at St. Peter's
ANSA, Nov. 15 — Vatican preparations for Christmas got under way Nov. 15 as workmen began erecting the traditional Nativity scene in front of St Peter's Basilica, the Italian news agency reported.
The Nativity scene has been a regular Christmas fixture in St Peter's since 1982, when the custom of building a 13-foot-high house with life-size figures in it was started by Pope John Paul II. Along with a giant fir tree which is always placed near it in the square, the creche has become a Vatican fixture, and families often make special trips to see it.
Nativity scenes were the cause of controversy in Italy last year after several schools decided against having one in order to avoid offending Muslim pupils. Amid the controversy, John Paul II stressed that they were part of Christian culture.
He said, “They are a familiar and expressive representation of Christmas. They are an element of our culture and our art.”
Iraqi President Discusses Freedom With the Pope
AKI, Nov. 10 — Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican on Thursday for talks believed to have centered on religious freedoms in Iraq and the country's new constitution, the news service Adnkronos International reported.
The Vatican is seeking a commitment by the Baghdad government because it fears that the Christian community, a tiny minority in a traditionally Muslim country, may be marginalized in the ongoing political processes and forced to flee from Islamic fundamentalism.
Talabani had a brief private audience with the Holy Father, followed by a meeting with Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Talabani also met with Italy's top officials, including Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The president stated, “I explained to His Holiness that the Iraqi Constitution will consider all Iraqis — Christians included — equal and will respect all religions. All kinds of freedoms will be guaranteed for all.”
Vatican Newspaper Denounces Abortion Pill
AGENZIA GIORNALISTICA ITALIA, Nov. 15 — L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's daily newspaper, claims that “a sort of contest between regions that are becoming avant-garde banners of the denial of the value of life” has developed as a result of the latest requests for authorization for experimentation on the abortion pill RU-486, the Italian news service reported.
The column “Rome Watchdog” stated the contest was “in the name of a misinterpreted lay status of the state, in the name of scientific progress that alleviates people's suffering, in the name of supposed emancipation of women.”
It is a “cruel, cynical hypocrisy, because the morning-after abortion pill aims at disguising the real nature of the abortion that it in fact comprises and remains a suppression of an innocent human life.”
Human life, the column stated, “is not something that is dispensable, something that can be the subject of banal experimentation to be used on a standardized and easy basis as a popular [and the most tragically effective] means of birth control.”
Irishman Named British Ambassador to the Vatican
GUARDIAN UNLIMITED, Nov. 15 — The Foreign and Commonwealth Office raised eyebrows in diplomatic circles when it announced an Irish Catholic in his mid-30s is to be the new British ambassador to the Vatican, the British website reported.
Francis Campbell, 35, is a former foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair.
He will be the first Irishman to represent Great Britain abroad since the partition of Ireland in 1921.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Radio's ‘Podcasts’ Hugely Successful
MAIL & GUARDIAN ONLINE, Nov. 8 — The Vatican Radio's “podcasting” service, launched with little fanfare during the summer, has proved unexpectedly popular, according to Mail & Guardian Online.
“It has been a success right from the start,” said Jean-Charles Putzolu of the Vatican Radio's web team.
Vatican Radio began its podcasting — an automated way of making audio files, such as radio shows, available for download over the Internet — in mid-August by making available for download an interview given to Polish television in which Pope Benedict remembers his predecessor, John Paul II.
“I have just come back from a conference abroad on international radio and I can assure you that Vatican Radio, like the BBC, is at the forefront in the podcasting world,” said Putzolu. “Our long-term aim is to expand the service to comprise all of the 39 languages in which Vatican radio broadcasts.”
Archbishop: Relations With Russia Not Yet Possible
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 8 — Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's foreign minister, said after returning from Moscow that an upgrade in relations is not yet possible, Associated Press reported.
Archbishop Lajolo had said at the start of his Oct. 26-30 Russian visit that the Vatican was hoping to establish full-scale diplomatic relations with Moscow, telling Russian media that the current ties don't correspond to the weight each wields in the world.
The head of the Russian church, Patriarch Alexy II, maintains that a papal visit to Russia would be possible only after the Catholic Church stops its alleged poaching for converts in Russia and other ex-Soviet lands and ends alleged discrimination against the Orthodox in western Ukraine. The Vatican has denied the allegations.
“I am convinced that like the Holy See, the Patriarchate wants our reciprocal relations to be more fraternal, open and trusting,” he said. “There are objective reciprocal differences that require a more profound study.”
German Theologian Is Not Catholic, Vatican States
SPERO NEWS, Nov. 8 — Despite claims otherwise, the Vatican said Protestant theologian Klaus Berger is not a Catholic, and reemphasized the Church's teaching excluding dual membership, Spero News reported.
“In the discussion concerning the confessional identity of the exegete Klaus Berger of Heidelberg, who claims to be a Catholic and — according to what has now been made public — in 1968, participating in the Protestant supper, became a ‘member of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church,’ the assertion has been made that ‘Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope,’ had precise knowledge of ‘the matter in its formal aspects’ and ‘raised no objections,’” the Vatican said in a statement issued Nov. 8 by Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls.
“This assertion is false,” the declaration continued. “Until the current discussion arose, no information beyond what was commonly known reached the cardinal, now Pope; there was no knowledge of a dual confessional identity. Thus, the cardinal had no reason to take up a position on the question of Mr. Berger's confessional identity and, indeed, he never pronounced himself on the subject.”
The Vatican statement concluded, “Obviously, the norms of Catholic canon law, which exclude dual membership of the Catholic Church and of a Protestant Landeskirche, remain in full force without exception, and are therefore also valid in this case. The Church cannot obtain any dispensation from this rule, not even in the sacrament of penance.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Urges Christians to Avoid Temptations of Success
AGENZIA GIORNALISTICA ITALIA, Nov. 2 — Pope Benedict said that to be happy it is necessary “to follow a morally unexceptionable life, against any illusory alternative of success obtained via injustice and immorality,” the Italian news service reported.
The Holy Father exhorted the 30,000 faithful who attended his general audience in St. Peter's to accept the constant call of the prophets to side with the marginalized, supporting them with abundant aid.
He explained that for Christians, “loyalty to the divine word consists in fundamental choice, which is charity towards the poor and needy: respecting the biblical call to be generous towards the poor and to brothers and sisters in need, without self-interest or the usury that destroys the lives of the poor.”
Vatican Deplores Barbaric Act in Indonesia
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 31 — The Vatican called the beheading of three Indonesian girls from a Christian high school a barbaric act, and said that the Pope was praying for peace among the people of the region.
Unidentified assailants attacked a group of girls from a private Christian school in the tense province of Central Sulawesi, beheading three and seriously wounding another. Police said that one of the heads was left in front of a new Christian church and the others near a police station.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, but Central Sulawesi has a roughly equal number of Muslims and Christians. A sectarian war in the region in 2001 and 2002 killed about 1,000 people from both communities. Beheadings, burnings and other atrocities were common. The Government mediated a truce, but the killing of Christians resumed.
Joaquín Navarro-Valls, the Vatican spokesman, said: “The Holy Father charged Msgr. Joseph Theodorus Suwatan, bishop of Manado, to offer his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and the diocesan community.”
Vatican Condemns Iran President's Remarks
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Oct. 29 — The Vatican condemned as “unacceptable” Irans President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement that Israel should be wiped off the map, the French News agency reported.
“The grave events of the past days in the Holy Land have caused great concern in the Holy See, which in unison with the international community strongly condemns all acts of violence: the terrorist attack in Hadera [in northern Israel], the reprisals that followed, and particularly grave and unacceptable comments denying the right to existence of Israel,” said a Vatican statement.
Ahmadinejad told a conference Oct. 26 in Tehran entitled “The World Without Zionism” that “the establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world. As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map,” he said, quoting Iran's late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The Holy See “called on all leaders in the Middle East to listen to the ardent desire for peace and justice of their peoples, to avoid acts leading to division and death, and to engage with courage and determination to create the conditions necessary to resume dialogue, the only path to ensure a peace and prosperity for all children of this world.”
Pope slips out of Vatican, prays at shrine
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 30 — Pope Benedict XVI made an unannounced trip Oct. 29 to a shrine outside Rome that was beloved by Pope John Paul II, Associated Press reported.
Benedict celebrated Mass in honor of the Madonna during the “private pilgrimage” to the Mother of the Graces of Mentorella shrine, about 30 miles from Rome, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said. The previously unannounced visit fell on the 27th anniversary of the first time John Paul prayed at the shrine as Pope, the ANSA news agency reported.
The Polish-born John Paul had prayed at the shrine two days before his Oct. 16, 1978, election, and returned there on Oct. 29, 1978, as well as several more times during his pontificate.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Urges End to Tensions With China
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 16 — The Holy See hopes that tensions between the Catholic Church and China will end soon, Associated Press quoted the Vatican secretary of state as saying Oct. 25.
“Let's hope that soon these tensions of the moment will end,”’ Cardinal Angelo Sodano was quoted as saying by Ansa and Apcom, two Italian news agencies.
Pope Benedict XVI has been seeking to re-establish diplomatic relations with China, where worship is allowed only in government-controlled churches.
“The Holy See has always said that it is ready for dialogue, ready for contacts, ready to explain its traditions,” Cardinal Sodano said in the report. “However, we must always insist on this concept that the Church is one, in all the world, in all cultures, in all nations, and governments do not have the right to tell men and women how they must live their faith.”
Vatican Marks 40 Years of Jewish Dialogue
EUROPEAN JEWISH PRESS, Oct. 26 — The Vatican was to celebrate 40 years of dialogue with Judaism by holding a special conference Oct. 28 to retrace the relationship between the two religions, Cardinal Walter Kasper said.
The cardinal is the president for the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. The celebration is due to take place on the anniversary of Nostra Aetate (In Our Time), the declaration on the relationship between the Church and non-Christian religions adopted by the Second Vatican Council and promulgated on Oct. 28, 1965, by Pope Paul VI.
Jewish-born French Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger and Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee were to retrace the four decades of dialogue between the Church and Judaism at Thursday's anniversary conference, Cardinal Kasper said.
The late Pope John Paul II made many efforts to improve this relationship, and Pope Benedict XVI reiterated the call for a deepening of the dialogue during his visit to the Cologne synagogue in Germany last August.
Joint Ceremonies Impossible Without Unity
AGENZIA GIORNALISTICA ITALIA, Oct. 11 — Cardinal Angelo Sodano went over Pope John Paul II's writings concerning the hosting of a joint Mass by Roman Catholic priests and priests of other denominations, Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reported.
The Pope's guidelines are contained in Ut Unum Sint according to which “no such ceremony is legitimate unless approved,” the cardinal said, adding that exceptions, if any, apply solely to provision of Communion to single persons of other Churches.
Hence, according to Cardinal Sodano, joint ceremonies “are impossible prior to an open joint acceptance of a common understanding” between the Church of Rome and other prospective Churches. Cardinal Sodano's comments were topped up by a call for greater unity among Catholic priests on this issue, as a means of ensuring that Christians of other denominations are drawn closer to Catholicism. According to the cardinal, “the only way for that to be achieved is through our strict abidance by the Church's current discipline.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Benedict to Open New Session at University
AGENZIA GIORNALISTICA ITALIA, Oct. 15 — Pope Benedict XVI will chair the ceremony for the opening of the 2006 session at the medicine facility of the Catholic University in Rome on Nov. 25, the Italian news service reported.
Popes John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II also visited the facility at Gemelli university hospital.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the university's foundation, Benedict XVI went to Gemelli hospital to visit his brother who was hospitalized, and when he was a cardinal he had visited John Paul II there.
Exorcism Course Continues at the Vatican
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 14 — Regina Apostolorum University is offering a course in exorcism and demonic possession for a second consecutive year, concerned about the devil's lure — particularly among young Italians, the Associated Press reported.
Standing in solemn prayer, around 120 priests, lay people and theology students began the course that is intended to clear up misconceptions and understand what makes people turn to the occult.
The opening class of the “Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation” Oct. 13 at Regina Apostolorum featured lectures about liturgical and spiritual aspects of Satanism and problems related to exorcism.
In recent years, police have discovered sites in the Castelli hill towns outside Rome where they say Satanic cult followers hold black Masses.
“The aim of this course is to express a clear vision of the phenomenon,” said Italian Bishop Andrea Gemma, a leading exorcist who delivered the opening lecture. “Exorcism … is an important prayer of the Church to help those who believe to be, or who really are suffering from a diabolic infestation.”
Church Seeks to Regain Site of the Last Supper
TIMESONLINE.CO.UK, Oct. 13 — The Vatican will offer the historic synagogue at Toledo in Spain to Israel in exchange for the room of the Last Supper in Jerusalem, the website of The Times of London reported.
The proposals, contained in a draft agreement between the Israeli government and the Vatican, come on the eve of a state visit to the Vatican in November by President Moshe Katzav.
Il Messaggero, the Rome daily, said possible reciprocal gestures include the return to Jewish control of the 12th-century synagogue in Toledo, which is now the Church of Santa María La Blanca.
The Upper Room, where the Last Supper is said to have taken place, is also where the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost. It was transformed into a mosque, and since the foundation of Israel, the area has served as the site of Jewish yeshivas, or religious schools.
God, not the State, Creates Rights
AGENZIA GIORNALISTICA ITALIA, Oct 15 — In his first personally signed letter to the leader of a state-run conference, Pope Benedict said “a healthy lay state logically has to recognize in its legislation the moral instances that are part of man's very existence,” the Italian news agency reported.
In his letter sent to the Liberty and Laicism conference in Norsia, where St. Benedict was from, the Holy Father told Marcello Pera, the head of the Italian Senate, it was hoped “that the reflections that will be made on this subject will take into account man's dignity and also his fundamental rights, which are values that are subject to any state jurisdiction. These fundamental rights are not created by law, but are inscribed in the very nature of the human person, and are ultimately due to the Creator.”
The conference, which was held Oct. 15, was sponsored by the Magna Carta Foundation and the Foundation for Relief.
The Pope said, “For a cultural and spiritual renewal inside Italy and the European continent, we need to work so that laicism is not interpreted as hostility to religion, but is seen as quite the contrary. This would mean it is seen as a commitment to guarantee everyone, individually and in groups, the possibility of living and demonstrating their own religious convictions, while fully respecting the needs of the common good.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Condemns Use of Abortion Pill in Italy
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 7 — Italy's first experiment with the abortion pill RU-486 is sparking controversy in this overwhelmingly Catholic country, with the Vatican newspaper condemning the experiment this week as an “act against life,” the Associated Press reported.
“Yet another act against life,” L’Osservatore Romano said in its Oct. 6 edition. “Once again science is put at the service of death.”
Last month, Sant’Anna hospital in Turin, northern Italy, started giving out the abortion pill. On Sept. 21 — after about two weeks and after 26 women took the pill — Health Minister Francesco Storace halted the experiment, citing legal and health reasons. The hospital resumed its dispensation of the abortion pill Oct. 17.
L’Osservatore Romano said that Turin experiment “makes abortion become an increasingly easy [method of] contraception, the most tragically effective one.”
The paper said, “We have arrived to such an eclipsing of conscience that we see the act of killing the most defenseless of the innocent as an act of freedom.”
Cardinal Wants Eastern and Western Churches to Meet
REUTERS, Oct. 11 — Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Ukraine suggested that Pope Benedict try to arrange a worldwide meeting of bishops from the Catholic and Orthodox Churches with the long-term aim of reunification after nearly a thousand years of schism, Reuters reported.
Cardinal Husar made the proposal during a speech to the Bishops’ Synod in Rome. The Orthodox Churches split from Rome in the Great Schism of 1054. Relations between the two churches have been particularly tense since the break-up of the former Soviet Union in 1991.
The Russian Orthodox Church, the largest in worldwide Orthodoxy, has accused Catholics of using new-found freedoms to woo converts away in countries of the former Soviet Union.
Cardinal Husar asked the synod members, according to a priest briefing reporters, “If the Eucharist is the source of life in the Church and we both have it, why are we not united?”
Pope Benedict Praised for Beatification of Bishop
ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE, Oct. 12 — The Anti-Defamation League expressed gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI over the beatification of World War II-era German Bishop Clemens August von Galen — known as the “Lion of Muenster” — who courageously spoke out publicly against the Nazis’ murderous policies, a press release from the organization stated.
During an Oct. 9 Vatican ceremony, Pope Benedict hailed the “heroic courage” of Bishop von Galen, and described the man who condemned anti-Semitism as a model for those in public roles today. While addressing pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father later praised the bishop for “protecting the Jews.”
In a letter to Pope Benedict, Abraham Foxman, the organization's national director, and Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, its interfaith affairs director, stated:
“Cardinal von Galen's life was an example of one who put doing right and good in the eyes of the Lord above political expediency. His brave battle against anti-Semitism and his protection of innocent lives should stand as a lesson for all time, not just to adherents of the Catholic Church, but all peoples and all faith communities.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Secret Police Spied on Cardinal Ratzinger
THE TIMES OF LONDON, Oct. 3 — At least eight East German communist agents were ordered to report on the private life and political views of the future Pope Benedict XVI during the Cold War years, according to his secret police files published in Berlin, The Times of London reported.
It was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's deep anti-communism and his profound suspicion of atheist states that made him a target of the East German Stasi. Their suspicions seem to be confirmed by his long friendship with Karol Wojtyla, the Polish cardinal and future Pope John Paul II.
The release of the Stasi documents came at a particularly poignant moment for the Pope as he opened his first bishops’ synod since his elevation to the papacy last April.
In his opening remarks, the Holy Father said, “A tolerance that allows God as a private opinion but which excludes him from public life, from the reality of the world and our lives, is not tolerance but hypocrisy.”
In a comment that could just as well have been directed at the East German spymasters who pried into his life, he said: “When man makes himself the only master of the world, and master himself, justice cannot exist.”
Sony Apologizes for Blasphemous Advertisement
REUTERS, Oct. 1 — Sony has apologized for an Italian advertising campaign for its PlayStation game console that featured a young man wearing a crown of thorns with the slogan “Ten years of passion,” Reuters reported.
The ad shows a young man wearing what looks like a crown of thorns. The image recalls Mel Gibson's recent blockbuster movie, The Passion of the Christ. On closer inspection, the crown is decorated by thorn-like squares, crosses, triangles and circles — the characteristic symbols of the Playstation's joystick.
“This time they've gone too far,” said Antonio Sciortino, editor of Famiglia Cristiana (Christian Family), a mass-circulation Catholic weekly. He was quoted as saying in the Corriere della Sera newspaper, “If this had concerned Islam there would have been a really strong reaction.”
Cardinal Ersilio Tonini called it “an irreverent mockery. The advert displays a lack of taste which conceals a lack of respect. Kids shouldn't be induced into believing that the passion of Christ is a game,” Tonini said Sept. 30.
In a statement, Sony Computer Entertainment Italia expressed regret over the reaction to the ad. It acknowledged that the “spirit of the message was misunderstood” and said the campaign would not continue.
Benedict Inviting President Katsav to the Vatican
THE TIMES OF LONDON, Oct. 1 — Israel's president will visit the Pope at the Vatican next month in a move marking a new era of reconciliation between the Roman Catholic and Jewish faiths after centuries of hostility, The Times of London reported.
The state visit by Moshe Katsav to the Holy See Nov. 17 is unprecedented. “This is an historic event, the first such visit in 2,000 years; this is history in the making,” Oded Ben-Hur, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, said Sept. 30.
Archbishop Kevin McDonald, who is in charge of relations with other faiths for the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, said that the event was of great significance.
“The Vatican has always wanted to try and engage with religious questions separately,” he said. “In the context of relations with the state of Israel, there are political issues as well.
“Obviously the situation of Christians in the Holy Land and the Holy Places are important issues for the Holy See and these are things that the Holy See will want to discuss with the Israeli authorities.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Bishop: Church Doesn't Interfere With Domestic Affair
PRAVDA, Sept. 27 — Italian bishops rejected accusations that the Church interferes with the country's domestic affairs, insisting the Church should have its say on moral issues, the Russian daily reported.
The long-standing accusations have been renewed recently as the head of Italian bishops, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, said he opposed giving full legal rights to unmarried couples. The comments drew criticism, and on Sept. 23 the cardinal was booed by a small group of students as he received an award in the Tuscan city of Siena.
Bishop Giuseppe Betori, General Secretary of the Italian Episcopal
Conference, added the Church “will never give up … its duty to speak in a clear and strong way in order to enlighten believers and all men of good faith both on matters of faith and ecclesial life and on issues of great moral relevance, such as human life, family, justice and solidarity.”
Pope Greets Israelis and Palestinians in Audience
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 28 — Pope Benedict XVI issued special greetings to a group of Israelis and Palestinians attending a seminar on peace, the Associated Press reported.
“I greet in particular those Israelis and Palestinians who have come to Rome to participate in the Education to Peace seminar,” the Pope said Sept. 28, speaking in English at his weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square. “Upon all of you, I invoke God's abundant blessings of peace and joy.”
The audience marked Benedict's return to the Vatican after a two-month vacation, first in the Italian Alps near France and then in the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills south of Rome.
Benedict XVI Invited to Visit Serbia — Conditionally
PRAVDA, Sept. 29 — Serbian President Boris Tadic met with Pope Benedict XVI and said he hoped the Holy Father could visit the country “very soon,” but said certain preconditions had to be negotiated first with the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Russian newspaper Pravda reported.
Tadic told reporters that the possibility of a papal visit was raised during his 25-minute meeting — the first between a pope and a Serb president. There were some “preconditions” that had to be worked out first, Tadic said, referring to an agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church to invite the Holy Father.
A pope has never visited Serbia — a traditional ally of Russia — partly due to an enduring rivalry between the Catholics and the Orthodox, the two traditional Christian Churches separated since the Great Schism in 1054.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said Tadic had invited the Pope to visit, and that Benedict had thanked him for the invitation and “expressed hope that such a visit could take place in the future.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Church Denies Hiding War Crimes Suspect
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Sept. 21 — The Church denied that it was sheltering a top Croatian war crimes suspect, after an allegation by a United Nations prosecutor that the suspect was hiding in a monastery and that the Vatican had refused pleas to help find him.
Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor for the United Nations criminal tribunal for the war in the former Yugoslavia, made her allegations in an interview published in a British newspaper, The Telegraph. She said General Ante Gotovina, 49, is accused of murder — 150 Serbian civilians are alleged to have been killed during an operation to control the Krajina region of Croatia in 1995 — and the deportation of thousands of people.
In a Sept. 20 statement, the Vatican said that its foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, had asked Del Ponte to provide more detailed information about her allegations, but that she had not responded.
Once the information is provided, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls said, the Holy See can aid in the search for Gotovina.
Cardinal Decries Legal Status for Unmarried Couples
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 19 — Giving legal recognition to unmarried couples in Italy would eclipse the nature and value of traditional families and cause grave harm, Cardinal Camillo Ruini told the Associated Press.
Cardinal Ruini said he did not believe most unmarried couples, both heterosexual and gay, want legal recognition. In a rare concession, however, he suggested that common law norms might be applied to offer some protection in certain cases — but not to homosexual couples.
The comments by Ruini, the president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference and the Pope's vicar for Rome, came amid a renewed debate over whether Italy should grant de facto couples some form of legal recognition.
Cardinal Ruini said Sept. 19 that de facto unions, while on the rise in Italy, “don't automatically imply any requests for legal recognition.”
He said that heterosexual couples are either looking to marry, or else “want to remain in a situation of anonymity, without any bonds.” As far as gay couples go, Cardinal Ruini said, “They are not always looking for legal recognition: On the contrary, many run away from it on principle, and want it to remain an exclusively private matter.”
Christians Under-Represented in EU, says Vatican
CHRISTIAN TODAY, Sept. 16 — The Vatican has urged that more weight be afforded for churches and Christians in the arrangement of Europe, Christian Today reported.
Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's foreign minister, said Europe's Christians must work against the pressures to push faith as a private affair into the social background. He stressed the enormous contribution of the Church to the social and cultural life of Europe in the areas of health and education: “It would therefore be political error if Europe were to reduce the phenomena of church or Christians to an internal aspect of human experience, and thereby to a purely private affair.”
Archbishop Lajolo contended that Christians, which comprise four-fifths of European Union citizens, were underrepresented in political committees, the media and in cultural institutions.
He urged that Christians should not allow their potential to influence to be simply pushed out or ignored “under the pretext of the so-called laicization of political society.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Condemns Plans for ‘Dual Mother’ Embryo
AFP, Sept. 9 — The Vatican condemned plans by a team of British scientists to create a human embryo using genetic material from two women, Agence France Presse reported.
A team of scientists at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom were granted government approval Sept. 8 to create a human embryo using genetic material from two women, raising the future prospect of babies with a pair of mothers.
The scientists will transfer the components of a human embryo nucleus — made by one man and one woman into an unfertilized egg from another woman.
“This is a real experiment whose success remains to be proved, but which, from the moral point of view, violates at least three prohibitions, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Vatican radio. “A real clone will be produced, the embryo from which the nucleus is taken is destroyed and they then create a new embryo implanted in a woman who becomes a substitute mother.
Bishop Sgreccia added, “All this constitutes a string of violations that is morally reprehensible, and not only from the Catholic point of view.”
Ethiopia and the Vatican Establish University
ETHIOPEA HERALD, Sept. 13 — The Ethiopian and Vatican governments yesterday signed an agreement providing for the establishment of an international standard Catholic University in Addis Ababa, AllAfrica reported.
The agreement was signed by Education Minister Genet Zewde, Ethiopian Catholic Chruch Archbishop Abune-Berhan Surafel and Foreign Affairs Minister Seyoum Mesfin and Vatican Ambassador Archbishop Ramiro Ingles.
The Church has five colleges in Ethiopia, according to the archbishop.
Zewde thanked the Ethiopian Catholic Church and the Holy See for their efforts in contributing to the development of the education sector in general and establishment of the university in particular.
Vatican's Invitation to China Is Rejected
THE CHINA POST, Sept. 14 — Beijing has rejected a Vatican invitation to four Chinese Catholic bishops to attend next month's synod in Rome, citing advanced age and poor health of three of them as well as the Holy See's continuing official ties with Taiwan, the China Post reported.
Pope Benedict XVI invited bishops Anthony Li Duan (78) of Xian, Aloysius Jin Luxian (89) of Shanghai, Luke Li Jingfeng (85) of Fengxiang and Joseph Wei Jingyi (47) from Qiqihar. The latter two are from the unofficial Church, which is in communion with the Holy See.
Catholics on the mainland were divided from the universal Church, and each other, in 1951 after Mao Zedong established the patriotic association to oversee Catholic churches. The association rejected papal authority and placed Church affairs, including appointments under government control.
According to the report, Taiwan has long prepared for losing the Vatican's diplomatic recognition to Beijing, whose procrastination on accepting the Holy See as the sole authority on Catholicism prolongs its image as an atheist communist state. China's modernization drive will remain incomplete without official ties to the Vatican.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Seeks to Heal Orthodox/Catholic Rift
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 5 — Unifying all Christians and healing the 1,000-year rift between Catholics and the Orthodox is “particularly urgent,” Pope Benedict XVI said in a message reported by Associated Press.
The Sept. 4 symposium, held in the town of Assisi, was organized by the Pontifical Antonianum University and the theology department of the University of Thessaloniki in Greece.
Benedict said it was “unfortunate” that the lack of full unity meant that Orthodox and Catholic priests couldn't jointly celebrate Mass.
He said, “Realizing full communion of Christians must be an objective for all those who profess faith in” one Church.
International Convention Commemorates Dei Verbum
AGI, Sept. 1 — More than 400 participants — including approximately 100 bishops — from 98 countries, met in Rome Sept. 14-18 at a national Bible convention called “The Sacred Scripture of Church Life,” Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reported.
The Holy See's press office stated that the meeting, which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Constitution Dei Verbum, will be chaired by Cardinal Walter Kasper. Kasper himself, together with Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a bible scholar, will be the main speakers.
Joseph Ratzinger also worked on the Constitution. One of the most important innovations of the II Vatican Council was to reaffirm the centrality of the Bible in the Church and the world. The document, approved just before the council's closure on Nov. 18, 1965, was vital in the affirmation. According to Cardinal Kasper, it was a text that “brought about an increasing awareness of the importance of the sacred Scriptures.”
Holy Father to Declare 5 New Saints
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 5 — Pope Benedict XVI will declare five people saints next month and another 17 candidates are to be beatified soon — an indication that the Vatican shows no sign of slowing the process under the new Pope, Associated Press reported.
Benedict himself will preside over his first saint-making ceremony, canonizing the five in St. Peter's Square on Oct. 23, Vatican Radio reported Sept. 5.
Among the five is Josef Bilczewski, the Polish archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine, who was greatly admired by Catholics, Orthodox and Jews alike during World War I, Vatican Radio said. The archbishop's life spanned the time during which Lviv was under Polish control, after which it reverted back to Ukraine.
Also being canonized is a priest from Lviv, Father Zygmunt Gorazdowski, who founded the Congregation for the Sisters of St. Joseph to care for the sick and poor. A Chilean Jesuit, Father Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, and Italians Felice da Nicosia, a Franciscan lay brother who lived in the 1700s, and Father Gaetano Cantanoso, who founded a religious order, will also be canonized.
Vatican Radio ‘Owns’ Pope Benedict's Voice
SPERO NEWS, Sept. 5 — Pope Benedict XVI has entrusted Vatican Radio with the exercise and protection of the copyright and intellectual property rights to his voice, Spero News reported.
A note made public Sept 2. stated that, Vatican Radio, the radio station of the Holy See, has the duty to compile, store and administer the audio archive of the Holy Father, ensuring its sake-keeping and overseeing, exclusively and in all circumstances, its copyright and intellectual property rights.
The report stated that the agreement covers all audio recordings of Pope Benedict's voice dating back to the period prior to his elevation to the Chair of Peter, with the exception of those rights already legitimately acquired by third parties.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Castel Sant'Angelo at Risk of Collapse
REUTERS, Aug. 30 — Italy has said it will pump more than $1.2 million of emergency funding into Rome's Castel Sant' Angelo after a newspaper published an exposé of its decay, including holes in the walls, faulty wiring and crumbling brickwork, Reuters reported.
“The problems faced by this extraordinary monument that represents the heart of Rome demands an extraordinary effort,” Culture Minister Rocco Buttiglione told reporters.
The imposing fortress overlooks the Tiber River and backs onto the Vatican City. It was originally a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian in 139 A.D. and later became part of the city walls, medieval citadel, jail, refuge for besieged popes and more recently a museum that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Newspaper Editor Calls John Paul II ‘a Martyr’
EXPRESSINDIA.COM, Aug. 26 — The editor of the Vatican newspaper said that Pope John Paul II was a “martyr” even though he survived a 1981 assassination attempt, reported the Indian news service ExpressIndia.
Mario Agnes, editor-in-chief of the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano, told an annual pro-Catholic political meeting that the stones in St. Peter's Square where John Paul's blood was shed should be preserved because it was the blood of “an authentic martyred Pope.”
Ever since Pope Benedict XVI announced May 13 that he was putting John Paul on the fast track for possible sainthood, there have been questions about whether he could be declared a martyr. Doing so would remove the need for the Vatican to confirm that a miracle attributed to his intercession had occurred after his April 2 death for him to be beatified.
Aide Recalls John Paul II's Last Hours
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Aug. 27 — As he lay near death, Pope John Paul II was aware of the crowd in St. Peter's Square below his apartment window and calmly viewed death as a “passage from one room to another,” a longtime secretary said in an interview broadcast Friday night.
“He heard everything,” Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, said in an interview with TG5, an Italian television station, in Krakow, Poland where he was installed as archbishop. “He heard the square, he heard the prayer, the presence of the young people. The Holy Father heard, because he was conscious right to the end, almost to the end, even the last day.”
Archbishop Dziwisz said the last words he heard the Pope say were totus tuus, the Pope's Latin motto for “completely yours,” dedicating himself to the Virgin Mary. He said a nun who was near the Pope in his final hours told him that she heard the Pope say, “Let me go to the Lord.”
“We were at his side in these last moments,” Archbishop Dziwisz told TG5. “For him, death was really a passage from one room to another, from one life to another.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Jewish Leader Asks Pope to Open Vatican Archives
THE SCOTSMAN, Aug. 19 — A Jewish leader urged Pope Benedict to open up all the Vatican's archives dealing with the Second World War and the Holocaust, according to the website of The Scotsman.
Welcoming him on a historic visit to a synagogue in Cologne, Abraham Lehrer told the Holy Father he had a special responsibility to open files that critics say would show how much Pope Pius XII knew about the Nazi slaughter of Jews.
The Pope's visit was laden with emotion and widely judged a success. In the audience of dignitaries before him were death camp survivors, including Vera Lehrer, the mother of the community leader Abraham.
Rabbi Netanel Teitelbaum, his voice breaking, said, “A lady with numbers on her arm, given to her in Auschwitz, could never have dreamed in 1944 that in 2005 her son would be greeting a German Pope at a German synagogue.”
Pope's Warnings on Terror and Anti-Semitism Hailed
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Aug. 23 — Pope Benedict XVI yesterday won praise from Jews and respect from some Muslims for his blunt warnings about the rise of anti-Semitism and terrorism during his first foreign trip as Pope, the Associated Press reported.
Benedict condemned the “insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism” that inspired the Holocaust and warned about the new rise of anti-Semitism — comments that drew praise from Jewish leaders around the world.
He seemed to harden his stance on terrorism when he spoke to Germany's Muslim community a day later, warning that terrorism risks exposing the world “to the darkness of a new barbarism” and urged them to join Christians in fighting terrorism.
Saying that Benedict's comments were a “new season,” in Christian-Muslim relations, Magdi Allam, Italy's leading Islamic commentator, told the Associated Press, “Finally a Pope who, before a Muslim delegation, condemns Islamic-rooted terrorism without exception.”
Threats Against the Vatican Investigated
AKI, Aug. 24 — Spanish police are investigating a fax signed by al-Qaeda and containing veiled threats against the Vatican that was sent to TVE state television Aug. 22 and to the daily newspaper ABC Aug. 23, reported the Italian news agency Ad Kronos International.
The three-page Arabic missive accuses the Vatican of having supported the Nazis and the Iraq war: “In the war in Iraq, the Vatican has supported capitalist countries who are just interested in Iraq's oil. The people in charge will pay for what they have done. Hitler, who was hand in hand with the Vatican, murdered 44 million people in order to steal their wealth,” the fax stated.
The report said Spanish police are “exhaustively” analyzing the fax, which they believe was authored by an al-Qaeda sympathizer rather than a cell member. Islamist terror experts believe they have “quite reliable indications” of who could be behind the fax, based on the place it was sent from — a state office in Catalonia, in northeastern Spain.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Names Bishop for New Diocese
NEWINDPRESS.COM, Aug. 17 — The Vatican named Father Robert Miranda as the first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Gulbarga, India, the Indian news service reported.
Vatican ambassador to India, Archbishop Pedro Quintana will confer the episcopal ordination on the designate Bishop Miranda, along with other bishops, in Gulbarga on Aug. 18. The districts of Gulbarga, Bidar and Bijapur form the new diocese, the 150th in India. There are 25 parishes in the diocese.
Bishop-designate Miranda served as a priest for 23 years in Bidar. The report said growth of Catholic population and increase in social activities are the two main criteria for the creation of a new diocese.
Priest Murdered During Robbery
SABC, Aug. 12 — A Roman Catholic priest has been shot dead during a robbery at Hlokozi in southern KwaZulu-Natal, the South African Broadcasting Service reported.
Father Smilo Mngadi, the Marianhill Diocese spokesperson, says Father Bennedict Mkhize was shot by a man wearing a balaclava and died on the scene.
Mkhize's colleagues fled the mission when they heard gunshots. Mngadi says they are concerned that criminals are targeting places of worship.
According to the report, the death of Father Mkhize comes only weeks after senior Bishops Themba Mngoma and Mansuet Biyase died of ill health last month.
King Juan Carlos Requests Meeting with Holy Father
AGENZIA GIORNALISTICA ITALIA, Aug. 16 — Pope Benedict XVI will meet with King Juan Carlos of Spain, suggesting that the king wanted to discuss the country's legalization of homosexual “marriage,” the website for the Italian news service reported.
After the private hearings with the ambassadors of Venezuela, Paraguay and Ecuador, the Pope will meet the Spanish king and queen on Sept. 5. Juan Carlos had asked the Spanish ambassador to the Holy See to meet Benedict, and this was interpreted by some observers as an opportunity for the Vatican to express dissent on recent laws approved by the Zapatero cabinet, including same-sex “marriage.”
The report added that on Sept. 14, Pope Benedict will be at the Vatican to bless the statue dedicated to Opus Dei founder St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, and, on Sept. 30, he will pay a visit to the children hospitalized at the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital in Rome, as both John XXIII and John Paul II did at the beginning of their office.
Vatican Helps ‘John Paul’ Actor Get a U.S. Visa
CBC ARTS, Aug 14 — The actor who plays Pope John Paul II in a new movie had trouble getting into the U.S. from Italy for a recent publicity visit, until the new Pope intervened, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Piotr Adamcyzk, 33, plays the late Pope in the Hallmark Channel movie “A Man Who Became Pope,” which aired Aug. 15.
Pope Benedict recently screened the movie for Roman Catholic cardinals, bishops, priests and other Church officials. They were so impressed with Adamcyzk's portrayal that when they heard of the actor's trouble getting a visa, they stepped in to make his U.S. publicity trip possible.
Adamcyzk met with John Paul before starring in the movie, the report said. “I felt like that 6-year-old boy all over again,” Adamcyzk said. “The Pope looked at me and said ‘You must be crazy. Why would anyone make a movie of my life? I'm just a man.’”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Chinese Youths Visit Pope Benedict
ASIANEWS, Aug. 10 — A delegation of 120 Chinese citizens between 17 and 30 visited Pope Benedict XVI in Paul VI Hall before leaving for World Youth Day, AsiaNews reported.
During the greetings and presentation to the Holy Father, the youths sang an Easter hymn. Only 20 of them were from the People's Republic of China; another 15 come from Hong Kong and at least another 60 from Taiwan. Youths from Japan and Korea were also present at the audience.
Among the youths, there are members of the official church, which is recognized by the government, as well as members of the underground Church, which is in communion with the Holy See. A group of 50 youths from the underground church from northern China reached Cologne yesterday. All have asked for a visa citing only “tourism in Europe.” The youths told AsiaNews that asking for a visa for “religious reasons” risked rejection.
Holy See Calls for Moratorium on Land Mines
CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY, Aug. 8 — Archbishop Silvano Tomasi called for a moratorium on the production and use of hidden weapons, especially antipersonnel mines, according to Catholic News Agency.
During his address at the 11th session of the convention for the prohibition or limitation of the use of some conventional weapons that can produce excessive or indiscriminate traumatic effects, the Holy See's representative noted that the use of certain armaments in numerous conflicts following World War II allow us today “to make objective judgments from the standpoint of humanitarian international law, as well as from a strictly pragmatic point of view, about the consequences of the use of an entire category of arms,” especially antipersonnel mines.
“We cannot help but salute this choice for precaution and responsibility,” he said, adding that the Holy See fully supported the resolution of the European Parliament calling for “an immediate moratorium on the use, accumulation, production and transfer or exportation of mines.”
Archbishop Tomasi said the Holy See supports an international dialogue to create a regulatory body that would over see the use or elimination of these arms. “The moratorium on the use of mines should be prolonged during this entire period of consultation.”
Holy See Donates to Missing Persons Commission
FENA, July 15 — The Holy See donated $5,000 to the International Commission on Missing Persons to support the activities of this institution in resolving the issues of missing persons, according to the Bosnia-Herzegovina news service.
The Holy See has been supporting the organization's activities since 2002, and its total donation to date is estimated at $25,000.
Kathryne Bomberger, executive director of the International Commission on Missing Persons, said the significance of this support is much greater than the actual material value of the donation. It shows the missing persons’ families that the international community still prioritizes the problem of missing persons in former Yugoslavia.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Newspaper Decries Homosexual ‘Marriage’ in Canada
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 21 — The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano called Canada's legalization of homosexual “marriage” a distortion of God's plan for the family, Associated Press reported.
Canada became the fourth nation to grant full legal rights to same-sex couples when the Supreme Court's chief justice signed legislation July 20.
“The distortion of God's plan for the family continues,” said the Vatican daily. “In Canada, homosexual unions have become equal to marriage.”
International Cooperation Urged to Combat Terrorism
AGENZIA GIORNALISTICA ITALIA, July 12 — “Joint international efforts” are needed in the face of the aggressive terrorist onslaught, according to the Vatican's UN delegate during talks on illegal arms trading in New York.
Agenzia Giornalistica Italia quoted Bishop Celestino Migliore saying the fight against “terrorism, organized crime and human trafficking” requires a common approach. Apart from “illegal arms trading, we should be looking into the causes of such demand.”
What's needed is a concerted effort aimed at “establishing the culture of peace.” The Vatican also highlighted the human rights side of conflicts and the need to “safeguard child-soldiers.” This requires “long-term strategies” and “investments towards prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace building.” The Vatican also emphasized its open support of “a binding international arms trade convention.”
Vatican Praises Kingdom of Bahrain
GULF DAILY NEWS, July 5 — Archbishop Giuseppe De Andrea, Vatican ambassador to Bahrain, praised the Middle Eastern kingdom for its contribution to dialogue between religions, the Gulf Daily News reported.
Archbishop De Andrea presented the Official Medal of the Pontificate of the late Pope John Paul II to former Islamic Affairs Undersecretary Khalifa bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Khalifa played a key role in organizing the first Islamic-Christian dialogue held in Bahrain in 2002. He is the first person from the Middle East to receive the honor.
Archbishop De Andrea said in a letter of commendation, “It is not only a memento of John Paul, whom the whole world admired, but an enduring token of the profound and fraternal respect and appreciation we have for Shaikh Khaifa.”
Italy Increases Security Around Vatican
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 11 — Police stepped up the alert level around the Vatican, subway workers removed trash bins and an around-the-clock security monitoring system was installed at Italian airports after the London bombings, Associated Press reported.
Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu convened top security and law enforcement officers for a second day of talks July 8 and “particular attention” was paid to the possible threat to Italy and preventive measures that had to be taken, a ministry statement said.
Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli said, “It's evident that after New York, Madrid and London, Italy represents the most probable next objective of the terrorists. The time has come to begin to think also about our house, and to use the same resources currently committed in Iraq to prevent and combat possible attacks on our territory.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican May Declare John Paul II a Martyr
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 1 — Vatican officials no longer are dismissing outright the notion that Pope John Paul II could be declared a martyr, the Associated Press reported.
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said it was up to groups of theological experts to decide if the May 13, 1981, attempt on John Paul's life — as well as his long, public suffering before he died — warranted a declaration of martyrdom.
“In a technical, theological, juridical and canonical sense, the martyr gives his life for the faith,” Cardinal Martins said in response to questions at a news conference, according to the Apcom news agency.
“`We have to verify the motive for the attempt on the life of [Karol] Woytyla. And this will be the work of theologians.”
According to AP, Cardinal Camillo Ruini stated, “John Paul truly spilled his blood in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981, and then again, not just his blood but he offered his life during the long years of his illness.”
Pope Benedict Accepts an Invitation to Israel
AKI, July 6 — Pope Benedict XVI said visiting Israel was a “priority” after accepting an invitation to visit the country from Israeli premier Ariel Sharon, the news agency AKI reported.
“I have already a long list of commitments to visit foreign countries, but Israel has a priority,” Israeli communications minister, Dalia Itzik, quoted the Pope as saying, in an Israeli radio report. Benedict XVI received stamps marking the visit of the late John Paul II to the Holy Land and the Church's upcoming World Youth Day in Cologne during meetings at the Vatican with Itzik and Germany's finance minister, Hans Eichel.
According to the report, Itzik used the opportunity to present Benedict XVI, who was elected Pope in April, with a letter from Sharon inviting the Holy Father to visit Israel, said Oded Ben-Hur, Israel's ambassador to the Holy See.
Follow-Up to Exorcism Class Offered
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 12 — To help priests combat a growing interest in Satanism, Regina Apostolorum University is offering a follow-up to a course on exorcism given earlier this year, the Associated Press reported.
The new course, which will start in October, will explore biblical, theological, historical and legal aspects of satanism. Exorcists will give the last lesson in February.
University officials said fascination with Satanism is on the upswing and priests need “solid preparation” for it. Officials said recent crimes related to Satanism show it's a problem that's often underestimated.
When the first course began, Italy was gripped by the ritual satanic deaths of three people, including a 19-year-old allegedly stabbed to death because her killers believed she personified the Virgin Mary. The report said two rock band members were later convicted of murder.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Orthodox Ready to Resume Dialogue With Vatican
REUTERS, June 30 — Orthodox leaders hailed Pope Benedict's commitment to Christian unity, and said they were prepared to resume a theological dialogue that has been stalled for five years, Reuters reported.
“Our Orthodox Church shares fully the same commitment,” said Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamum, a leading Orthodox theologian, in Rome for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
He said their highest-ranking prelate, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, had convinced the Orthodox Churches that follow him to appoint two delegates each to the international mixed religious commission.
“This will allow us to resume our theological dialogue in the near future, concentrating now on crucial ecclesiological issues concerning, in particular, the subject of the primacy” of the pope, he said.
Benedict XVI to Visit Synagogue in Cologne
EXPATICA, July 5 — Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Synagogue of Cologne during a trip to his native Germany in August, Cologne Archbishop Joachim Meisner said on Vatican Radio.
Archbishop Meisner said he was pleased that “a German pope would be coming to visit the Synagogue of Cologne,” the oldest synagogue north of the Alps.
The Vatican has confirmed the Holy Father's August 18-21 trip to Cologne, where he will attend World Youth Day celebrations, but is not expected to publish a detailed itinerary until a few days before the departure date.
Benedict vowed to improve relations with the world's Jews during a meeting at the Vatican last month with international Jewish leaders.
Vatican Teaches Tomorrow's Astronomers
REUTERS, June 29 — Summer school is in session at the Vatican Observatory, Reuters reported, and the students are glad to be there.
Established in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, the observatory is hosting young, promising scholars for one-month courses at the papal summer palace of Castel Gandolfo.
“The Vatican wants to show its appreciation for science,” said Father Chris Corbally, a soft-spoken Jesuit from Britain who is the observatory's vice-director and dean of its international summer school. “Science is an important value in human life and therefore it is important to the Catholic Church.”
There are two giant telescopes on the roof, each covered with wood and steel domes visible for miles from the palace, built on the ruins of Roman emperor Domitian's residence.
“We have very little history in my country, but here you just breathe the history,” said Sarah Chamberlain, 25, a Ph.D. from Australia. “There are books written in 1667 by some of the people that I have only read about or have been taught about in first year physics. To be in this place is absolutely fantastic. Galileo walks here.”