Media Watch

Polish Catholics Divided About Iraq War After First Combat Death

WARSAW, Poland — Polish Church representatives have defended their country's decision to send troops to Iraq after an army major became the first Polish fatality in the conflict.

“Declarations that one should always seek peaceful solutions sound very nice, but the question remains how to do this with terrorists, fanatical politicians and dictators,” Archbishop Jozef Zycinski told members of his Lublin Archdiocese.

The archbishop was speaking after the death of Maj. Hieronim Kupczyk, who was buried Nov. 10 in the northern port of Szczecin. Archbishop Zycinski told Poland's Catholic Information Agency the 44-year-old officer's death had been a “gesture of solidarity” with Iraqi citizens.

“I can't agree with suggestions that one should be a pacifist in every situation and always seek peaceful solutions,” the archbishop noted. “When the Holy Father talks of globalizing solidarity and brotherhood, we should be aware that this solidarity also requires help to defend democracy's foundations in countries that wish to build it.”

However, Polish involvement was questioned by Father Piotr Mazurkiewicz, a priest and political scientist at Warsaw's Cardinal Wyszynski University, who said: “We aren't dealing here with a humanitarian intervention but with a preventive war. So one can valid-ly doubt whether the life and health of Polish soldiers should be put at risk.”

“In my opinion,” Father Mazurkiewicz noted, “neither American nor Polish armies should be in Iraq.”

In September, Poland's 2,350-member force took command of one of Iraq's four stabilization zones, supported by 20 other countries, making up a 9,000-strong brigade.

The mission was, however, opposed by 60% of Poles in an August survey by Warsaw's Public Opinion Research Center, with only a quarter of respondents predicting Polish soldiers would “cooperate well” with Iraqis in the area south of Baghdad.

“Many people are asking if this war is needed — but war is never needed,” said Poland's Catholic military bishop Slawoj Glodz. The bishop led a service Nov. 14 for 19 Italian soldiers and police killed in a lorry bomb attack at Nasirea.

“We are not in Iraq to unleash war,” Bishop Glodz said, “but so as not to prolong it and to make sure it stops.”

(ENIEcumenical News International)

Venezuelan Bishop: Government Is Trying to Undermine Church

KONIGSTEIN, Germany — The Venezuelan government has come under fire for trying to undermine the country's bishops and encouraging the faithful to turn away from them.

In a strongly worded attack, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana of Maracaibo accused the government of Hugo Chávez of discrediting Venezuela's bishops who have openly criticized the administration's social and economic record during the past four years

“The most difficult problem the Church faces is the denigrating of the Venezuelan episcopal conference,” the archbishop said.

The archbishop, whose diocese is in the northwest of the country, criticized the deterioration of living standards among key sections of society, a problem he blamed on the Venezuelan authorities' attempts to centralize government.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the German-based Catholic charity that supports persecuted and oppressed Christians, the archbishop said Venezuela's difficulties were compounded by delays in the payment of government subsidies to schools.

“These delays have restricted the functioning of schools,” which the Church is involved with, Archbishop Santana noted. Thus, he urged Aid to the Church in Need to continue its support for the Church in Venezuela.


Philippine Archbishop Picked For National Reconciliation Plan

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Arroyo has launched a national plan of reconciliation with a variety of extremist and opposition forces, and designated as a negotiator Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao.

Arroyo announced the plan Nov. 13 to mend relations with the family of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos as well as with ousted President Joseph Estrada, businessman Eduard Cojuangco Jr., the Philippine Communist Party, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the soldiers responsible for a recent mutiny and the political opposition.

The ambitious plan also foresees the establishment of a “truth commission” to shed light on cases of human-rights violations and embezzlement during the Marcos dictatorship.

Archbishop Capalla will be the chairman of the Catholic bishops' conference starting Dec. 1.

Arroyo spokesman Ignacio Bunye defined the initiative of national reconciliation as “genuine and sincere.”

He denied that the statement was a strategy in view of the May 2004 presidential elections and underlined the importance of the nomination of the archbishop of Davao.

“I believe,” Bunye said, “that the facilitator must be a figure that has the esteem and confidence of all the parts involved.”


Ireland's Bishops Take Stand on Embryo Rights

IRISH BISHOPS' CONFERENCE, Nov. 17 — Meeting with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern on Oct. 29, representatives of the Irish Bishops' Conference urged him strongly to fight European Union proposals to fund stem-cell research using aborted embryos.

Ireland is one of the key countries the Holy See hopes will lobby the European Union to not promote such research, which cannibalizes human embryos for parts.

The bishops issued a statement about their meeting: “Notwithstanding the possibility (as yet unproven) of therapeutic benefits in the long term, it is our position that neither the deliberate destruction of human embryos nor the use of embryonic stem cells that would be obtained by means of such destruction can be justified. … We asked the government to take a lead in advocating that the EU should give significant research funding to adult stem-cell research.

“[T]he public impression is that the Irish government is neutral on this matter…” the bishops added. “We believe that this is an issue so fundamental that neutrality is not an option.”

Chaldean Superior: Don't Turn Iraq Into Palestine

FIDES, Nov. 14 — Speaking to the Vatican's missionary news service, Fides, Iraqi priest Father Denka Toma worried aloud about the future of his country: “We do not want Iraq to be another Palestine! No state, a nation left at the mercy of terrorist groups and its people dying of hunger!”

Father Toma is the superior general of a seventh-century Catholic monastic group in Iraq called the Antonian Order of St. Ormizda of the Chaldeans, with 45 members.

The monastic leader suggested that “the United States, after demobilizing the Iraqi police force, should put security into the hands of Iraqis or at least involve them. … The people are exhausted by three wars in 20 years and 12 years of sanctions.”

Speaking of his order's mission, Father Toma said, “In all these years of war, violence and hunger, we have remained at the side of the people and we remain today. The Chaldean Catholic Church is support and comfort for all, also for many non-Christians. Today the Chaldean monks are a real consolation for the people: Without them many more would have emigrated.”

Threats of Renewed Religious Strife in Indonesia

MSSIONARY NEWS SERVICE, Nov. 17 — A recent truce that diminished interreligious violence on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi seems vulnerable to collapse, the Missionary News Service has warned.

On Sulawesi and other Indonesian islands, Islamist militias seek to subdue Christian villages and impose Islamic dominance. Sulawesi police have been put on high alert, the news service reported, after a representative of the Catholic Church and his driver were found this month dead in their car with gunshot wounds.

Soon after, 300 Muslims surrounded a police station to protest the arrests of several Muslims under suspicion of attacking Christian villages from Oct. 9-12, when 11 Christians were killed and 12 injured by mobs. One Muslim was apparently killed in the arrests and one young Christian lynched by the vengeful crowd.