Page 2, 18th December 1998

18th December 1998
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News Review

THE VATICAN

VATICAN CITY—Cloning human embryos to produce cells for therapeutic purposes amounts to "producing human beings for sacrifice," the Vatican newspaper said last week.

"The cloned embryo will be deliberately crushed and that is simply monstrous." said L'Osservatme Romano on December 11.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Vatican Radio that the Church was categorically opposed to the cloning of human beings. "Experiments of this type bring us back to the German concentration camps," he said. "It is a matter of destroying one human being for another's use."—(CNS) VATICAN CITY-1n what he described as "crowning" a 28-pan series of audience talks on the Holy Spirit, Pope John Paul 11 last week paid tribute to the place of the Virgin Mary, saying that when Christians deepen their devotion to Mary, they open the way for the Holy Spirit to work more powerfully in their lives.

"The consent she expressed at the Annunciation 2,000 years ago represents the point of departure for a new history of humanity" the Pope said at his weekly general audience last Wednesday.

Speaking on the 50th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights the Holy Father told the crowd "You have come to reaffirm the right to life of unborn babies" adding, "I hope from my heart that this commitment to defend the great gift of life from birth to its natural end would be shared by all."—(CNS)

VATICAN CITY—The Pope expressed his dissatisfaction with the number of annulments being granted to American Catholics in an audience with bishops from the United States at the end of last month.

Speaking to bishops from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, the Holy Father warned that the easy availability of annulments could cause the faithful to misunderstand a declaration of nullity as "divorce under a different name".—(CWR)

EUROPE

ROME—A couple who were set to marry have now instead embarked on separate, celibate religious lives.

Following a mutual agreement, Lorenzo Langella, 31. became a priest this week in his southern town of Sessa, near Caserta, after his once inseparable partner Concetta became a cloistered nun.

"One may even discover Christ via a relationship, " the-now-Padre Lorenzo, who had been with Concetta since secondary school, said as he mounted the local cathedral steps to be ordained. "I am grateful for God and to my ex-girlfriend."

"Naturally, " he added, "I haven't seen or heard from her since she took her vows.

"But our tie remains alive and indissoluble in prayer and a life that each of us has consecrated with God."

A spokesman for the local diocese said: "He will be used in the vocational field. Singular experience may prove to be extremely useful to help guide many young men to take, eventually, signs of a vocation seriously, even if they are still having a relationship with somebody at the time."—(Bruce Johnston, Rome Correspondent) LONDON—The Pope last week accepted the resignation of Bishop John Jukes, following his 75th birthday earlier this year.

Bishop Jukes, who has served as almajai"' bishop of the Diocese of Southwark with special responsibility for Kent since 1980, will continue in his role as Vicar General of the Diocese for the time being.

Archbishop Michael Bowen will begin a consultatiOn process in the New Year regarding the future of the Diocese, in which one of the options to be considered will be the possible division of the Diocese.

LONDON—The winners of the 1998 Philip Lawrence Awards, which promote good citizenship among young people, were: Somali Blades, Sheffield, using football to break down barriers in the community; Smart Zone, Durham, for drug and health awareness sessions run by young people; Vibe Tribe, Sheffield, for improving an estate, running play schemes and producing a video on youth alienation; It Matters, Corby, using photography to highlight young people's issues; and Aik Saath (Togetherness), Slough, for promoting peace initiatives between gangs.

LONDON—Catholics still have a long way to go to assimilate Vatican H's teaching on interfaith relations, said a senior Vatican figure on a visit to London last week.

Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Intereligious Dialogue, told a select multi-faith audience at St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill that local communities were the primary place for building good faith relations.

He noted that new communications technology was bringing people of different faiths together to work for better mutual understanding and to battle against dehumanising social forces.

Bishop Fitzgerald welcomed efforts by Christians to use meditation and prayer techniques drawn from other faiths. However, he said that there were limits to interreligious prayer and that different ways of worship must be respected. No one must be made to feel they are compromising their faith. He said that the best form of common prayer was probably silent contemplation.

He ended with a call for people of all faiths to trust in a higher power. If people were united in this conviction, he said, then the world can look forward to the coming millennium with greater hope. LONDON—Up to seven international companies are competing to produce the first cloned baby, according to a senior government scientific adviser, it was claimed last week.

An associate of a leading US biotech company, BioTime Inc. told The Express newspaper that human cloning was already at an advanced stage, and that it was "quite possible" that a woman was LONDON—The pro-life charity Life last week blamed the Government 'nil organisations like the Family Planning Association and Health Education council for the rise in schoolgirl pregnancies and abortions.

A spokeswoman, Angela Cones, said: "Huge sums of money have been spent on disastrous sex education, underage sex clinics and tasteless advertising of so called "safe-sex", all of which have inevitably resulted in yet more unplanned teenage pregnancy, abortion and rampant sexually transmitted diseases".

The denouncement came after official government figures showed that nearly one in 100 girls aged 15 and under became pregnant in 1996, an increase of 11 per cent on 1995, and 9.4 in a 1,000 girls wider the age of 15 became pregnant in 1996, a total of 8,829. Over half of these pregnancies — 4,550 — were aborted.

already pregnant with a cloned child.

The report says that one company is already attempting to buy land on a Caribbean island with the intention of setting up a cloning research facility.

The pro-life charity Life said that "human beings should not be deliberately manufactured to serve the largely selfish purposes of others" and urged the British government to "give a moral lead by saying no to all human cloning".

PRESTON—Three Swedish peace activists pleaded `not guilty' to charges of conspiracy to commit criminal damage at Preston Crown Court last Friday, after they tried to attack a Trident nuclear submarine with hammers in September.

The Liverpool Catholic Worker group held a vigil outside the court for the three Christian activists.

The group will remain in custody until their trial at Preston Crown Court on 24 May.

EDINBURGH—The Catholic Women's Ordination movement held a protest outside a bookshop in Scotland's capital last week, in support of the book Women at the Altar, by Sr Lavinia Byrne.

The Vatican censured Sr Byrne's book after it called for the ordination of women priests.

Demonstrators read excerpts from the book during the protest. The convener of CWO in Scotland, Gillian Lawrence, said: "We refuse to let this discussion be stifled. This is a human rights issue in the Church which has gone very wrong."—(The Tablet)

EDINBURGH—Father Noel Barry, press secretary to the Cardinal Winning last week told a Scottish court of his love for former nun Caroline Keegans, while maintaining he did not have a sexual encounter with her in 1985.

Fr Barry, 42, of St Joseph's in Milngavie, who is suing The Scottish Sun over a two-year old report which claimed he had a relationship with a headmistress Annie Clinton, said he "fell in love" with Ms Keegans in 1984.

He told Edinburgh Sessions court last Thursday that on one intimate night in January 1985 at the Crest Hotel in Preston he did not break his vow of celibacy.

"I took the decision to continue as a celibate priest. I am as open to feelings and emotions as anyone else in this room but I have lived celibacy faithfully" he said. Barry says he has not kept in touch with Keegans for several years.

Fr Barry and Miss Clinton are each suing News Group Newspapers for £200,000 damages after The Scottish Sun claimed that he and Clinton had a "close six year relationship".

The case continues. DUBLIN—A statue of the Virgin Mary, covered in flowers and fixed to the roof of a Toyota Corolla car, led a procession from the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook to the studios of RTE in protest at changes to the Angelus, broadcast on the state television channel.

"There is nobody blessing themselves. nothing about Our Lady," said a nun taking part in the rally. "It is just like an ecumenical thing, but the Angelus is completely Catholic."

Meanwhile, a statue of the Virgin Mary with symbols of drug dependency at her feet was unveiled last week by the Archbishop of Dublin.

Archbishop Connell said that the statue, unveiled outside a drug dependency clinic in Jobstown, would bring hope "through faith and art, to those fighting against drugs and drug-dependency".—(The Irish Times)

BONN—The German Bishops' Conference has defended the practice of granting Church asylum to refugees whose applications to live in Germany have been declined by the state.

"Church asylum is the attempt to help protect the rights of the refugee who has been ordered out of the country in an unfair legal procedure," said a discussion paper of the German bishops' Migration Discussion Group. In spite of medieval tradition. which allowed for Church asylum, no current German law guarantees that a person who is on Church property is free from prosecution. But recent German governments have rarely taken advantage of the law.

Since tougher immigration laws were introduced in Germany in June 1993, there have been several legal blunders, which allowed for the deportation of refugees whose life was in danger in their home country. "Christianity and the churches are now challenged to even more actively advocate for the protection of those needing assistance," the Migration Discussion Group said.— (CRTN, Aid to the Church in Need) VIENNA—A petition signed by leading priests and lay people has called for the Vatican to discipline the contentious Bishop of St Pollen, Kurt Krenn.

An open letter. sent to the Austrian Apostolic Nuncio. Archbishop Donato Squicciarini, said that Bishop Krenn had "polarised" the diocese since his appointment and had made the Church "a laughing stock by his public pronouncements."

The letter said that the bishop's recent outburst in which he called the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schifinborn, a "liar" on national television was the "final straw".

The petition was presented by the Forum for the Church's Future, a coalition of prominent Catholics led by journalist Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi. —(Kathpress) WARSAW—Pope John Paul II will address the Polish parliament during a pastoral visit scheduled for June next year.

The Pope is expected to start his visitwhich will last for just two days-in the city of Gdansk, where he will beatify three candidates for sainthood. The Holy Father will then travel to Warsaw where he will be greeted at the parliament by the Polish chancellor Wieslaw Walendziak and the speaker of the house.

It will be Pope's first visit to his homeland since June 1997.—(Kathpress)

THE AMERICAS

WASHINGTON D.C.—A Catholic official last week urged Congress to maintain its ban on funding human embryo research, saying that "in trying to serve humanity we should not support actions that are fundamentally wrong."

Richard Doerffinger, associate director for policy development for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, in addressing the U.S. Senate said that "scientific progress must not come at the expense of human dignity".—(CNS) WASHINGTON D.C.—An agreement to settle the dispute over the scores of crosses erected by militant Catholics outside Auschwitz concentration camp has been condemned as "unacceptable" by a leading Jewish figure in the U.S.

Rabbi Avi Weiss last week told members of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council they would "cave in" if they signed an agreement that would remove crosses but would not affect a Catholic church adjoining the nearby Birkenau concentration camp.

Weiss said: "this agreement is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. and will alienate millions of people from supporting this important institution."— (CNS) ROCHESTER, New York—Fr Jim Callan, the priest who was suspended in August for calling for women priests, ministry for gay Catholics and intercommunion for non-Catholics, has been indefinitely suspended by Rochester Bishop Matthew H. Clark, it was announced last week.

Since his original suspension Fr Callan, 51, has repeatedly stated that he will not back down on any stands he has taken.

Fr Callan has been told to leave his house in the city, which is owned by his former parish, but that he was now free to live at another rectory in the diocese. Fr Callan says he has already been invited by two priests to live at their rectories.— (CNS) OTTAWA—Four Catholic Church organisations told the Supreme Court of Canada last week that children should have the right to sue their parents for parental neglect.

During the case of Ryan Dobson, a 5year-old New Brunswick boy who is suing his mother for injuries suffered in the womb, the Catholic Group for Health, Justice and Life told the court that not to allow children that right "would be contrary to natural justice".

Ryan's mother was the driver of a car involved in an accident in 1993 while she was 27 weeks pregnant. The boy was delivered by Caesarean later the same day, suffering permanent mental and physical impairment.

The Canadian Abortion Rights Action League, said the ruling in favour of Ryan would have a negative impact on a woman's freedom of choice about her own body during pregnancy.—(CNS)

GUATEMALA CITY—Otto Ardon 1 $ 1 1. 11,6' 1

investigating the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi, last week resigned following repeated complaints by the Guatemalan Church over his handling of the case.

A priest who lived on the same premises as Bishop Gerardi — the human rights activist who was killed at his home in April — Fr Mario Orantes was subsequently charged with the murder, though independent investigators regard him as innocent. Supporters of Gerardi argue that the murder was planned by members of the armed forces, and believe that Ardon Medina showed bias in not pursuing military suspects.

The Church welcomed the news though the country's attorney general, Adolfo Gonzalez Rodas said the resignation would not affect the course of the inquiry. A new prosecutor was due to be named this week.—(The Tablet)

LIMA—Peruvian bishops have denied reports from a French news agency that married priests are active in parish work in the country.

Agence France Presse last month claimed that 300 members of a group called Dialogo y Vida, consisting of married priests. were ministering in the cities of Huancayo and Chimbote.

Bishop Luis Barnbaren Gastelumendi of Chimbote denied any knowledge of such a group. though he conceded that it was difficult for a bishop to know what is happening in remote parishes. "I have here the painful situation of two married priests", he said, "if they are being active it is in secrecy. without my knowledge and against canon law."

Archbishop Jose Paulin Rios Reinoso of Huancayo would not comment on the reports.—(CWR)

ASIA

PYONGYANG—Catholic. Protestant and Buddhist groups in South Korea have contributed more than half of all donations received from non-governmental groups to North Korea's starving, a Red Cross official said last week.

A report to the National Assembly said that the Catholic Church donated $ 3.4m to North Koreans from January 1997 to August this year, with Protestant churches contributing $5.4m and Buddhist groups Slm.—(NCR) GUWAHARTI, India—Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil last week said he "categorically rejected" the $237,000 kidnap ransom demanded by Santal tribalists for the release of Fr Thomas D' Silva who was abducted by the group last month.

Menamparampil, who reiterated the Church's commitment to peace in the region after he rejected the kidnappers demand, stayed at the mission during a week of negotiations.

His secretary, Fr Lukose Cheruvalel, said the mission initially decided not to publicise the kidnapping to help negotiations and reduce risk to the priest's life.—(NCR) NEW DELHI—The Indian government as denied that attacks on Christians have increased in the country. while at the same time a government-sponsored commission suggest that threats against minorities are on the increase.

In a letter to the US government on November 23 the external affairs ministry said that the international media has wrongly attributed communal motives to crimes which say that India's 23 million Christians are under threat.

Meanwhile the government sponsored National Commission for Minorities accused the government of failing to properly protect minorities.

It referred to "unabated attacks on minorities all over India" in which attackers are "sure that they can get away" without punishment.—(NCR) CANBERRA—A second attempt to restrict Australia's abortion laws was approved by the federal legislative assembly last week.

The Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Bill replaced a first Bill which was scuppered by legislators who could not accept some of its proposed measures to protect unborn children from the threat of abortion.

The new Bill. passed by 11 votes to six, obliges women considering abortions to view pictures of foetuses as they develop over two week intervals from conception to birth. and to receive information on risks of abortion.

Nicola Pantos, of the Australian Capital Territory Right to Life Association, congratulated the assembly's decision and said the Bill marked an important step in the pro-life movement's struggle for rights for the unborn.

She said: "The Bill is basically about providing women with important information, relevant to their health, which they can use to give informed consent on abortion."—(Simon Caldwell. Oceania correspondent)

AFRICA

KINSHASA—The Archbishop of Bukavu has called for a Christmas ceasefire in Central Africa in a pastoral letter marking the start of the Advent season.

In the letter, Archbishop Emmanuel Kataliko argues that security and lasting peace is unobtainable until all sides to conflict declare a ceasefire.

He identifies the ongoing ethnic strife between Hutus and Tutsis as a major source of instability in the Great Lakes region and urges Catholics to reflect on the meaning of Advent, which he describes a time of trusting and reconciliation. There is evidence of a new breakthrough in peace talks.

Last month, Laurent Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo met the Pope in Rome. Two days later in Paris, Kabila signed an interim peace deal, under pressure from critics of his regime's human rights record.

The Archbishop calls in his pastoral letter for the new agreement to be put into practice swiftly to end fighting in the region.--(Kathpress)




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