Media Watch

Iraq Bishop: ‘The Serpent's Head Has Been Crushed’

ASIANEWS.IT, Dec. 16 — Iraqi Catholic bishop Rabban al Qas, who hails from the long-suffering Kurdish region of northern Iraq, lauded the capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as a “moment of joy for all Iraqis,” the Internet news agency AsiaNews reported.

Bishop al Qas said the capture marked the start of the “peaceful rebuilding” of Iraq, assisted by what he called a “liberating” military occupation. In a message to Pime, the Italian missionary organization, the 54-year-old bishop declared: “The serpent'd head has been finally crushed.”

Bishop al Qas noted that despite his manifest crimes, Saddam'd human “dignity must be respected.” However, he called on Saddam to confess his crimes — to admit the thousands he murdered or tortured and the millions who died in wars he launched.

“Even Christian forgiveness,” the bishop said, “presupposes confession and atonement.”

One-Day Siege at Colombia Cathedral Ends

MISSIONARY NEWS AGENCY, Dec. 15 — A 28-hour protest in the cathedral of Colombia'd capital city of Bogoá ended Dec 10.

The symbolic “occupation” of the church was conducted by relatives of hostages being held prisoner by the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Some 30 family members of kidnapped people locked themselves in the cathedral, according to the Missionary News Agency, trying to call attention to their relatives’ plight.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe promised renewed negotiations with the hostage-takers, explaining that his own Conciliation Commission would meet with a delegate of the guerillas to seek freedom for the prisoners.

Uribe'd promise came on the heels of a presidential meeting with Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Sáenz of Bogotá, president of the Colombian bishops’ conference.

“I believe we all have the duty to help,” the cardinal told the Missionary News Agency. “These are people who were abducted five, six or seven years ago.”

French President Seeks to Ban Religious Symbols

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 17 — In an attempt to shore up the militant secularism that has marked the French Republic since its revolutionary birth — and a reaction to large-scale Islamic immigration — French President Jacques Chirac has announced he will support a bill in Parliament that would ban Islamic head scarves and other personal religious emblems, such as Jewish yarmulkes and large crucifix pendants, in public schools.

The bill would also permit companies to ban these symbols in the workplace if they choose.

“Secularism is one of the great successes of the Republic,” Chirac said in a national address, reported by the Associated Press. “It is a crucial element of social peace and national cohesion. We cannot let it weaken.”

The passage of the law is seen as likely, according to the Associated Press. French Islamic groups have denounced the measure as an attempt to stigmatize the large and growing Muslim population in France.

Chirac rejected a proposal to add the Jewish holy day Yom Kippur and the Muslim feast Eid el-Kabir to public-school calendars. And a proposal earlier this year to extend government support to private, mostly Catholic schools in France was shelved after mass demonstrations by French leftist organizations.