Page 4, 1st March 2002

1st March 2002
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Page 4, 1st March 2002 — Europe
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Europe

Pope accused of 'interference'

MEMBERS of the European Parliament are pushing for a resolution against the Holy See for what they call "undue interference" in nations' laws on divorce.

The Strasbourg politicians, outraged by the Pope's attack on gay marriage as well as the culture of divorce, wish to publicly condemn John Paul H's address on January 28 to the ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

In the address he called on "agents of the law in the civil field" to "avoid being personally involved in what might imply cooperation in divorce".

The "motion for a resolution on the interference of the Holy See in the laws on marriage and divorce" was proposed in the European Parliament by Maurizio Turco, deputy of the Italian Radical Party. It has already been signed by at least 32 European parliamentarians, most of them members of the Socialist Party, the European Free Alliance, or the Radical Party.

The text criticises "the statements of the Pope as undue interference with the aim of subverting the principle of impartiality of civil law and to make the respect of specific religious prescriptions prevail over the respect of acquired civil rights".

Among the signatories of the motion against the Holy See is Daniel Cohn-Bendit. leader of the May 1968 revolution in France and deputy of the European Free Alliance in the European Parliament.

Jews criticise Pius film poster

TEN JEWISH leaders in France have signed a petition expressing opposition to the poster for the film Amen, which depicts an elongated Christian cross that turns into a Nazi swastika.

"Without making a statement on Costa Gavras' film, which the majority of us have not yet seen, we understand the strong emotion felt by the Catholic world because of Olivieiro Toscani's poster," the text states.

The petition was published last week in the weekly newspaper La Vie. Signatories include Henri Hajdenberg, former president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, and Rene-Samuel Sirat, former Grand Rabbi of France.

"We affirm without ambiguity our commitment to freedom of expression.the statement states. "However, we consider as unhealthy this amalgam between the Nazi emblem and a religious symbol."

Other signatories include Gerard Israel, historian of religious ideas; Emmanuel Weintraub. president of the French section of the World Jewish Congress; and Madeleine Cohen. vice president of Judeo-Christian Friendship.

German bishops oppose cloning

THE GERMAN bishops have condemned embryonic stem cell research and genetic manipulation of human beings.

Their decision came at the plenary assembly of the German bishops' conference in Stuttgart, just week's after the country's Parliament approved a law authorising the importation of stem cells from human embryos.

Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz, president of the bishops' conference, said the "Church will never cease to speak of the embryo as being man from the beginning, and of human dignity".

"We are certainly not against scientific research,the cardinal said.

"However. today the border between research and practical application is extremely tenuous." due in part to economic interests, he added.

Pope invited to return home

CARDINAL Jozef Glemp, primate of Poland, has officially invited Pope John Paul II to visit the land of his birth, a spokesman for the bishops' conference said.

"The bishops' conference expresses the hope that John Paul II will respond favourably to this invitation," the spokesman said.

The Pontiff is likely to visit his native country this year some time in late August or early September.

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski is expected to deliver an official invitation to the Pope during an audience at the Vatican this week.

John Paul II last visited Poland in 1999, and has made a total of seven visits since becoming pope in 1978. He is the former Archbishop of Cracow.

Africa

Clerics warn of Malawi famine CATHOLIC priests in Malawi have urged the government to declare the country's worsening famine a "national disaster" in the hope of increasing international support.

"We urge the international community to hurriedly assist the Malawian population in this human crisis," the priests' statement read. In particular, the priests criticised the government's unwillingness to reduce the price of the staple, maize.

At the current price, most people cannot afford the maize, forcing them to resort to "unorthodox survival tactics like feeding on roots or eating leaves", said the priests.

Last year's floods, the worst in living memory, and the mismanagement of food reserves are blamed for the crisis in which 2.3 million families — or three fourths of the population — do not have sufficient nourishment, compared with one third the year before.

Last year, the government exported some 60,000 tons of maize from its strategic grain reserve to Kenya.

Justice promised for 'adulteress'

NIGERIA. s president promised that his country will handle justly the case of a woman sentenced to death for adultery.

Olusegun Obasanjo, who was in Rome last week attending a meeting of the UN Fund for Agricultural Development. said: "Nigerian society is macho and chauvinist, and a society is not changed overnight. However, we must begin to change it and to break those social rules on which it has been based to date."

Mr Obasanjo, a Catholic, said that justice can be "expected" for Safiya Husseini, 35, sentenced to stoning by a Muslim court of Sokoto state. for having a child out of wedlock.

Bishops' joy at Sudan peace

THE BISHOPS of southern Sudan have publicly expressed their "great joy" over a "historical declaration of peace" announced by rebel groups in the war-ravaged region.

"We want to assure you that your decision to reunite has brought new hope for our people," said the bishops said in their letter to the leaders of the SPLA rebel group.

"By uniting you have put an end to the policy of 'divide and rule'. Do not give space to evil to separate you."

They then went on to quote the Pope's message for World Day of Peace: "No peace without justice. and no justice without forgiveness is what I wish to say to those responsible for the future of the human community."

Pope grieves for rail crash victims

JOHN PAUL 11 expressed his grief for the victims of the worst train accident in Egyptian history, which killed at least 373 people on Wednesday.

In a telegram sent to the apostolic nunciature of Egypt. the Holy Father promised his prayers so that God will gather "in his peace the numerous victims of this tragedy."

-The Pope expresses his deepest sympathy to the families in mourning because of the tragedy, hoping that they will find consolation and solidarity in their brothers,added the papal message, which was sent by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state.

Vatican

Syrian leader meets Pope

THE POPE has discussed the Middle East crisis with the President of Syria.

John Paul 11 interrupted his annual retreat to receive President Bashar Assad in audience. The two discussed, among other things. the possible ways to re-establish peace in the Middle East.

According to Fr Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican Press Office. the talks also touched on relations between Syria and the Holy See, following John Paul II's historic to Damascus last May 5-7. Syria is two per cent Catholic and 86 per cent Muslim.

President Assad, 36, and the Pope reflected on -ways to reestablish peace in the Middle East, particularly in the Holy Land. in virtue of the known United Nations resolutions," Fr Benedettini said in an official statement.

Vatican Radio case dropped A ROME judge has thrown out a case against Vatican Radio directors accused of polluting the air with electromagnetic waves from transmission towers, saying that Italy has no jurisdiction over them.

Judge Andrea Calabria, of the First Section of the Criminal Court of Rome, said the three directors have immunity under the 1929 Lateran Pact between the Holy See and Italy that established the Vati

can as an independent citystate.

A Citizens' Committee of Cesano, supported by the Green Party, presented the accusation in court, citing the waves emitted by 28 Vatican Radio antennas in the centre of Santa Maria di Galeria. about 18 miles from Rome.

In early 2001, the committee claimed that the waves caused leukemia. A study showed, however, that there were even fewer cases of leukemia in the area than iii the rest of the province.

Americas

One in four Catholic in US

ALMOST A quarter of Americans are Catholics, according to statistics released last week by the US Conference of Bishops.

America's 63,863,030 Catholics represent 6.2 per cent of the world's one billion faith

ful. The US has 46,041 priests: 30,655 diocesan clergy and 15,386 vowed to a specific order. There are 4,917 seminarians. including 3,400 in formation for the diocesan priesthood.

Crisis of values in Argentina THE ECONOMIC crisis in Argentina is at root a "crisis of values", a senior bishop has said. writes Aid to the Church in Need.

Bishop Jose Maria Arancibia of Mendoza said that for decades the common i nterest of the Argentinean people had been neglected by the country's political leaders.

"The gap between the rich and the poor is becoming increasingly larger these days.Bishop Arancibia said, adding that the "loss of its middle class" was causing great damage to the country.

"The most urgent need n ow is solidarity and common sense.the bishop said.




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