"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
|January 22 is the 37th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Every year pro-lifers go to Washington, D.C., to mark this anniversary and to stand up for life. This file photo shows a march in a previous year.|
Many are challenged to put their Christian faith into action in their response to the needs of migrants and refugees. The 96th World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on January 17. In his Message for the Day, which was issued on October 16, Pope Benedict XVI exhorted Catholics to proclaim the Gospel by their treatment of refugees and migrants.
The Pope's message follows:
"The celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees once again gives me the opportunity to express the Church's constant concern for those who, in different ways, experience a life of emigration. This is a phenomenon which, as I wrote in the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, upsets us due to the number of people involved and the social, economic, political, cultural, and religious problems it raises on account of the dramatic challenges it poses to both national and international communities. The migrant is a human person who possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance (cf. n. 62).
"This year's theme 'Minor migrants and refugees' touches an aspect that Christians view with great attention, remembering the warning of Christ Who at the Last Judgement will consider as directed to Himself everything that has been done or denied 'to one of the least of these' (cf. Mt 25:40, 45). And how can one fail to consider migrant and refugee minors as also being among the 'least'? As a child, Jesus Himself experienced migration for, as the Gospel recounts, in order to flee the threats of Herod, He had to seek refuge in Egypt together with Joseph and Mary (cf. Mt 2:14).
"While the Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that the best interests of the minor shall always be safeguarded (cf. Art. 3, 1), recognizing his or her fundamental human rights as equal to the rights of adults, unfortunately this does not always happen in practice.
"Although there is increasing public awareness of the need for immediate and incisive action to protect minors, nevertheless, many are left to themselves and, in various ways, face the risk of exploitation. My venerable Predecessor, John Paul II, voiced the dramatic situation in which they live in the Message he addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations on September 22, 1990, on the occasion of the World Summit for Children.
" 'I am a witness of the heart-breaking plight of millions of children on every continent. They are most vulnerable, because they are least able to make their voice heard' (L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, October 1, 1990, p. 13). I warmly hope that proper attention will be given to minor migrants who need a social environment that permits and fosters their physical, cultural, spiritual, and moral development. Living in a foreign land without effective points of reference generates countless and sometimes serious hardships and difficulties for them, especially those deprived of the support of their family.
"A typical aspect of the migration of minors is the situation of children born in the host country or of those who do not live with their parents, who emigrated after their birth, but join them later. These adolescents belong to two cultures with all the advantages and problems attached to their dual background, a condition that can nevertheless offer them the opportunity to experience the wealth of an encounter between different cultural traditions. It is important that these young people be given the possibility of attending school and subsequently of being integrated into the world of work, and that their social integration be facilitated by appropriate educational and social structures. It should never be forgotten that adolescence constitutes a fundamental phase for the formation of human beings.
"A particular category of minors is that of refugees seeking asylum, who, for various reasons, are fleeing their own country, where they are not given adequate protection. Statistics show that their numbers are increasing. This is, therefore, a phenomenon that calls for careful evaluation and coordinated action by implementing appropriate measures of prevention, protection, and welcome, as set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (cf. Art. 22).
"I now turn in particular to parishes and to the many Catholic associations which, imbued with a spirit of faith and charity, take pains to meet the needs of these brothers and sisters of ours. While I express gratitude for all that is being done with great generosity, I would like to invite all Christians to become aware of the social and pastoral challenges posed by migrant and refugee minors.
"Jesus' words resound in our hearts: 'I was a stranger and you welcomed Me' (Mt 25:35), as, likewise, the central commandment He left us: to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, but together with love of neighbor (cf. Mt 22:37-39).
"This leads us to consider that any of our concrete interventions must first be nurtured by faith in the action of grace and divine Providence. In this way also hospitality and solidarity to strangers, especially if they are children, become a proclamation of the Gospel of solidarity. The Church proclaims this when she opens her arms and strives to have the rights of migrants and refugees respected, moving the leaders of Nations, and those in charge of international organizations and institutions to promote opportune initiatives for their support.
"May the Blessed Virgin Mary watch over us all and help us to understand the difficulties faced by those who are far from their homeland. I assure all those who are involved in the vast world of migrants and refugees of my prayers and cordially impart to them the Apostolic Blessing."
On December 7, the U.S. bishops sent a letter to all U.S. Senators urging support of the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment to the Senate health care reform bill. They also encouraged voter support of this bill.
A U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) press release reported ". . . The bishops also sent to the senators two fact sheets: Abortion and Conscience Problems in the Senate Health Care Reform: http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/hatch-nelson120409.pdf and the one on What the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment Does: http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/nelsondo.pdf
"The letter was signed by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chair of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the bishops' Committee on Migration."
The Bishops' letter follows:
"On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), we strongly urge the Senate to adopt essential changes to the health care reform bill to ensure that needed health care reform legislation truly protects the life, dignity, consciences, and health of all.
"Therefore, we urgently ask you to support an essential amendment to be offered by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Robert Casey (D-PA) to keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of health coverage that includes elective abortions.
"Sadly, the current Senate bill fails to keep in place the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions or health plans that include elective abortions a policy upheld in all health programs covered by the Hyde Amendment, the Children's Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and now in the House-passed 'Affordable Health Care for America Act.' We believe legislation that violates this moral principle is not true health care reform and must be amended to reflect the Hyde restrictions. If that fails, the current legislation should be opposed.
"This amendment will have the same effect as the Stupak-Pitts-Ellsworth-Kaptur-Dahlkemper-Smith-Lipinski Amendment already accepted in the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. Like that amendment, it does not change the current situation in our country: Abortion is legal and available, but no federal dollars can be used to pay for elective abortions or plans that include elective abortions. This amendment does not restrict abortion, or prevent people from buying insurance covering abortion with their own funds. It simply ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people's abortions.
"The bill currently before the Senate allows the HHS Secretary to mandate abortion coverage throughout the government-run 'community health insurance option.' It also provides funding for other plans that cover unlimited abortions, and creates an unprecedented mandatory 'abortion surcharge' in such plans that will require pro-life purchasers to pay directly and explicitly for other people's abortions. The bill does not maintain essential non-discrimination protections for providers who decline involvement in abortion. The Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment simply corrects these grave departures from current federal policy.
"We urge the Senate to support the NelsonHatch-Casey amendment. As other amendments are offered to the bill that address our priorities on conscience protection, affordability, and fair treatment of immigrants, we will continue to communicate our positions on these issues to the Senate.
"The Catholic bishops have long supported adequate and affordable health care for all. As pastors and teachers, we believe genuine health care reform must protect human life and dignity, not threaten them, especially for the most voiceless and vulnerable. We believe health care legislation must respect the consciences of providers, taxpayers, and others, not violate them. We believe universal coverage should be truly universal, not deny health care to those in need because of their condition, age, where they come from, or when they arrive here. Providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative, and urgent national priority."
Further information is available at www.usccb.org.
(Editor's note: The following is a press release from Caritas.)
88-year-old Miriam Makamure is one of the 30 residents of the Mucheke Old People's Home in the town of Masvingo, Zimbabwe, being provided with food through Caritas Zimbabwe.
The international networks of Catholic development and humanitarian agencies CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis, together the largest alliance of development agencies in the world, say the World Food Summit has failed to produce a concrete agenda for moving away from business as usual, even as the number of hungry in the world continues to rise. CIDSE and Caritas react to the disappointing outcome declaration, which was issued already on day 1 of the Summit.
"Holding a Global Summit on Food Security now was extremely important to keep the political and public spotlight on the issue of spiralling world hunger. But the outcome Declaration has brought nothing concrete, and many of its statements are open to wide and often concerning interpretations," said Alicia Kolmans, from CIDSE's German member, Misereor.
"The Declaration reaffirms the need to invest in small-scale agriculture, but there are no concrete proposals how this should best be done, nor have leaders committed to mobilizing the necessary financial commitments within the next five years," said Bob van Dillen from Cordaid, the Dutch member of the Caritas and CIDSE networks.
The civil society forum held in parallel to the Summit brought together people from North and South, from every continent, and included farmers' associations and social movements, NGOs, as well as women's, youth and indigenous groups.
Michael O'Brien from Trocaire, the Irish member of the CIDSE and Caritas networks, noted, "There is a clear consensus amongst all these stakeholders that the liberalization agenda promoted over the last decades by the World Bank and other actors has categorically failed, and that there is a real need to strengthen farmers' involvement in policy making and implementation."
"If the international community is serious about investing in small-scale agriculture in developing countries to deliver food security and poverty reduction, it must commit to working with agencies and actors that have a history and capacity to work with small-scale farmers," said Ambroise Mazal of CCFD, CIDSE's French member organization.
"Governments recognized last year the need to improve global governance of food, and an important first step was made with the agreement on the reform of the Committee on Food Security a few weeks ago. All stakeholders must invest together in this Committee to ensure it produces real policy change, and that these policies are adhered to," said Alberta Guerra from FOCSIV, CIDSE's Italian member organization.
CIDSE and Caritas welcome Pope Benedict XVI's intervention at the Summit. In his morning address to leaders at the Summit, he said that the right to food has an important place within the pursuit of the universal rights of all human beings, beginning with the fundamental right to life. Solidarity with poor countries and involvement of local communities is required to promote sustainable agricultural development.
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
After first passing the Stupak Amendment, which prohibited only some abortion funding, the U.S. House of Representatives on November 14 passed the so-called health care reform bill with a 220-215 vote, with 39 Democrats opposing it and one Republican favoring it.
With the Stupak Amendment, some Democrat congressmen, such as Steve Driehaus of Cincinnati, claimed that this amendment somehow cured the pro-culture of death health care reform proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, making it acceptable to those who hold the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all human life. Driehaus then, claiming to be pro-life, voted for the health care legislation.
So was the Stupak Amendment a victory for pro-lifers? No, concluded American Life League (ALL), an uncompromising pro-life organization, which stated: "It was a crushing blow to the pro-life movement and to the millions of human lives now at risk because of it. In fact, it hurt the pro-life movement by including several abortion-enabling provisions to be transmitted as "compromise" to the U. S. Senate."
ALL continued in its November 16, 2009, statement that the Stupak Amendment does not even maintain the status quo, in that it fails to even address, much less prohibit, the following pro-abortion advances made under the health care legislation:
"1. Abortions are covered through private plans . . . The bill also requires the existence of at least one insurance plan that covers abortion 'services' in each state. Tax dollars may not fund abortions under private insurance, but those private plan participants are paying for abortion through their premiums.
"2. Section 222 of the bill prohibits the expenditure of federal funds for abortion provided only through HHS.
"3. Under Section 258, conscience protection for pro-life physicians and pharmacists will not be honored or provided.
"4. Under Sections 1714 and 1920, 'family planning' services will be offered through government-run health care options.
"5. Under Section 2526 of the bill, teenage girls will be provided with 'family planning' services through a government-run health care scheme.
"6. Section 240 of the bill prohibits 'option suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing, regardless of legality.' However, 'nothing in [the previous] paragraph (1) shall be construed to apply to or affect any option to (A) withhold or withdraw of medical treatment or medical care.' The bill's provisions for advance care planning consultation outlines that dehydration and starvation are not to be considered euthanasia, assisted suicide or mercy killing."
ALL concluded: "As widely reported in the media, the Stupak Amendment allowed approximately 40 pro-life representatives to give the appearance of supporting pro-life protections without sacrificing the major components of the 'Pelosicare' bill.
"Without the aggressive lobbying efforts of the National Right to Life Committee and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, it is altogether probable that the Stupak Amendment would not have passed the House. Had the Stupak Amendment failed, none of the anti-life provisions included in the legislation would have been carried to the U.S. Senate in its current form."
Even assuming that the moral deficits in the pending legislation could be remedied, which is frankly unlikely, there remains yet another very serious problem with the legislation. The introduction of the wholesale takeover of the health care system by the federal government is in violation of the principle, supported in Christian ethics as well as in sound political philosophy, of the doctrine of subsidiarity. This longstanding doctrine of subsidiarity teaches quite clearly of the dangers of excessive governmental intervention.
"If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then America, defend life!"
Pope John Paul II
Subsidiarity is a basic principle of Catholic social teaching, and was again explained by Pope John Paul II in 1991 in his encyclical Centesimus Annus: "A community of higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the [lower] of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society."
Pope Benedict XVI writes in Caritas in Veritate that "subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state."
In a document issued jointly by Most Rev. John F. Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City, KS, and Most Rev. Robert W. Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO, this danger was pointed out clearly:
"The writings of recent Popes have warned that the neglect of subsidiarity can lead to an excessive centralization of human services, which in turn leads to excessive costs, and loss of personal responsibility and quality of care . . . diminishing personal responsibility or creating an inordinately bureaucratic structure which will be vulnerable to financial abuse, be crippling to our national economy, and remove the sense of humanity from the work of healing and helping the sick."
Bishop James Vann Johnston of Cape-Girardeau and Springfield, MO, pointed out that "[t]he threat of federal power to coerce health care providers, employers, and individuals into participating in actions contrary to conscience and Catholic teaching" was illustrated in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's action against the Catholic Belmont Abbey College on the grounds that it removed coverage for abortion, contraception, and voluntary sterilization from its health insurance plan provided to its employees. After expressing that he cannot support the so-called health care reform, the Bishop added, "But, the essential element of the principle of subsidiarity is the protection of individual freedoms from unjust micromanagement and manipulation by the state."
Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, ND, expressed his opposition to the so-called health care reform: "States, towns, fraternal organizations, businesses, cooperatives, parishes, and especially the family have not only legitimate freedom to provide the goods they are rightly capable of supplying, but oftentimes do so with far greater efficiency, less bureaucracy and, most importantly, with personalized care and love."
All of the pending bills have been uniformly condemned by all serious pro-lifers, including the Catholic Medical Association, Focus on the Family, the Christian Medical and Dental Association, the Southern Baptist Convention, Family Research Council, and numerous individual bishops throughout the United States. A fuller exposition of the reasons for objection by serious pro-lifers can be found at lifesitenews.com.
Even assuming that we were able to secure clear language protecting against abortion funding, euthanasia counseling, health care rationing, denial of conscience rights, etc., those in charge of implementing this legislation have made their pro-death inclinations abundantly clear, and would have great authority to corrupt what otherwise might be thought to be clear and incorruptible language of the legislation.
There is truth in the humorous but sad aphorism, "I'm from the federal government, and I'm here to help you."
This administration, or future ones, having put the feet of this nation on this disastrous path of government-operated health care, would certainly find this power and control intoxicating and there would be irresistible further advances in these dangerous policies.
Our nation's founding fathers understood this principle of evolutionary aggression, and attempted to establish checks against the arrogation of power to the central government, in the creation of the federal system, with all powers reserved to the states which are not specifically delegated to the national government.
The erosion of the authority of the states by the legislative and judicial aggression of the central government has corrupted the system to the extent that it would not be recognizable by the draftsmen of the U.S. Constitution. This latest federal initiative could well tip the balance to the point of irrepairability.
This article was authored by Robert C. Cetrulo, President, and Fred H. Summe, Vice President, of Northern Kentucky Right to Life.
On November 17, Pope Benedict XVI attended a world preview showing of the film "John Paul II." The film was made by "Lux Vide" and RAI (Italian Broadcasting Corporation), in collaboration with other European television companies and CBS in the United States.
After viewing the film, the Pope remarked:
". . . Today, in a media context, the work we have seen carries out an important service, combining the requirements of divulgation and the deepening of knowledge. Indeed, while it responds to a widespread demand of public opinion, the film offers a historical-biographical reconstruction that, despite the limitations of the means of communications, makes a contribution to offering people greater knowledge and awareness besides stimulating reflection and at times, profound questions.
"The story opens with the attack on the Pope's life in St. Peter's Square and, after a broad review of his years in Poland, continues with his long Pontificate. It reminded me of what John Paul II wrote in his Testament concerning the attack on his life on May 13, 1981:
" 'Divine Providence miraculously saved me from death. He Himself Who is the One Lord of life and death extended this life of mine, and in a certain way He restored it to me. Ever since that moment it has belonged even more to Him' (Testament of Pope John Paul II, March 17, 2000, n. 2; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, April 13, 2005, p. 5).
"Seeing this film has renewed in me, and I think in all who had the privilege of knowing him, a feeling of profound gratitude to God for having given to the Church and to the world a Pope with such a lofty human and spiritual stature.
"Over and above any particular evaluation, however, I consider this film to be a further attestation, the umpteenth, of the love that people, all of us, feel for Pope Wojtyla and their great desire to remember him, to see him again, to feel him close. Over and above the more superficial and emotional aspects of this phenomenon, there is certainly an intimate spiritual dimension that we here in the Vatican note every day, as we see the swarm of pilgrims who come to pray or even only to pay their respects briefly at his tomb in the Vatican Grottoes.
"That emotional and spiritual bond with John Paul II, which became very strong in the days of his agony and his death, has not been cut short.
"It has never ended, because it forms a bond between souls: between the great soul of the Pope and the souls of innumerable believers; between his fatherly heart and the hearts of countless men and women of good will who recognized him as the friend and champion of humankind, of truth, justice, freedom, and peace. In every part of the world, a multitude of people have admired him above all as a consistent and generous witness of God . . ."
Vampires seem to be very popular in the popular media. On television we have "Vampire Diaries" and in the theaters the "Twilight" series.
The Decent Films website calls the newest assault, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," "essentially uncritical celebrations of that overwrought, obsessive passion that is the hallmark of immaturity." This is an unhealthy "passion that wholly subordinates all sense of one's own identity and elevates the beloved to summum bonum, or even the sole good; passion that leaps as readily to suicidal impulses and fantasies as to longing for union."
They go on to comment that "a narrative that wallows in the intoxicating power of temptation and desire, that returns again and again to rhapsodizing about the beauty of forbidden fruit, may reasonably be felt to be a hindrance rather than an affirmation of self-mastery."
In contrast they recommend the recent alternative "The 13th Day," "the best movie ever made about Fαtima the most beautiful and effective, as well as one of the most historically accurate." Also recommended is "Up," which is described as "wonky" but without ever losing "touch with the ragged human emotions underlying the story."
"The 13th Day" rates the maximum Moral-Spiritual Value of +4 ("a feast for the spirit") and "Up" a +3, while "Twilight: New Moon" is -2 ("problematic").
Steven D. Greydanus elaborates. "Nothing like mutual complementarity can exist between humans and vampires at least, not without completely rewriting vampire nature somehow. Vampires have nothing to give and everything to take; humans have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Humans may complete vampires, but vampires don't complete humans, any more than a lion completes an impala."
Laura Miller sees the "Twilight" phenomena as "the 21st century's version of the humble governess who captures the heart of the lord of the manor," catering to the "traditional feminine fantasy of being delivered from obscurity by a dazzling, powerful man." Unfortunately here it is not a living man, but an undead one.
Mary Rayme wonders why this is and looks back to when Anne Rice's Interview With a Vampire became an O and R-rated movie in 1994. Our Sunday's Visitor's Family Guide to Movies and Videos describes it as "excessive gore, graphic violence, stylized depictions of sexual perversions." By the grace of God Rice has since repented and come back to the Church, but the vampire invasion continues. In the Nineties we were offered "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," as if the undead could be slain. Most recently she notes we have Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Saga books and their film adaptations. Charlaine Harris' novels inspired HBO's "True Blood."
Then a seemingly endless number of such titles: Kim Harrison's demonic For A Few Demons More, Christopher Moore's so-called "comedic detective novel," Bloodsucking Fiends, and the pro-death Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria, and Warren Pleece.
Scholastic Books publishes Confessions of a Teenage Vampire. Heather Brewer wrote Eighth Grade Bites and 9th Grade Sucks. Harper Teen publishes titles such as Wicked Lovely, Evernight, The Summoning, Emily the Strange, Vampire Kisses, as well as The Vampire Diaries by L. J. Smith.
"Films almost always reflect the needs and pressures of its time," Sebastian Taro Groth notes, "and clearly modern day vampires being so mainstream seems to be symptomatic of a serious problem. Only time will tell how long we elevate alienation and repressive hunger to a desirable ideal."
He notes especially the attack on our youth. In Britain there are "Young Count Dracula" for teens and the children's show "Little Dracula." "Vampires in modern society," he says, "are characterized by the need to fit into society, to try and act as though they are human to as great a degree as possible, to suppress their hunger and their unnatural urges in order to conform to society and its expectations."
Catholic League president Bill Donohue contrasts their praise for "Thirst" about a Roman Catholic priest vampire with their scorn for "The Passion of The Christ."
The Los Angeles Times called the first film "beautifully composed images of aestheticized violence." Mel Gibson's film, however, they called "overwhelming level of on-screen violence."
In a letter to "Catholic Answers" Karen Kupris gave some practical advice. "As parents we must discuss with our children the disordered thinking that our society pushes on our kids and try to correct it."
"And," she added, "pray very hard for your children as St. Monica prayed for St. Augustine, because they need very much to be God-centered."
The issue of religious freedom was addressed at an October 26 United Nations meeting in New York City. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations spoke at the 64th General Assembly meeting considering human rights questions.
His talk follows:
"As we take up the promotion and protection of human rights, we know that the dignity of the human person is what motivates our desire to commit ourselves to work for the gradual realization of all human rights.
"For some time now the United Nations has examined the notion of freedom of conscience with regard to religion and freedom of its expression. This has manifested itself especially in the context of the promotion and protection of universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, cultural diversity, and the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance in the world.
"The right to religious freedom, despite being repeatedly proclaimed by the international community and specified in international instruments as well as in the Constitution of most States, continues to be widely violated today. There is, unfortunately, no religion on the planet which is free from discrimination. Acts of intolerance, and violations of religious freedom, continue to be perpetrated in many forms. In fact, more and more cases are brought to the attention of the courts or international human rights bodies.
"With the increase of religious intolerance in the world, it is well documented that Christians are the religious group most discriminated against as there may well be more than 200 million of them, of different confessions, who are in situations of difficulty because of legal and cultural structures that lead to their discrimination.
"Over the past months some Asian and Middle Eastern countries have seen Christian communities attacked, leaving many injured and others killed. Their churches and homes were also burned down. Such actions were committed by extremists in response to accusations against individuals, perceived according to anti-blasphemy laws as being in some way disrespectful of the beliefs of others. In this context, my delegation welcomes and supports the promise of the government of Pakistan to review and amend such laws.
"Blasphemy laws have too easily become opportunities for extremists to persecute those who freely choose to follow the belief system of a different faith tradition. Such laws have been used to foster injustice, sectarian violence, and violence between religions. Governments must address the root causes of religious intolerance and repeal such laws that serve as instruments of abuse.
"Legislation which restricts freedom of expression cannot change attitudes. Instead, what is needed is the will to change. This can most effectively be achieved by raising the consciousness of individuals, bringing them to a greater understanding of the need to respect all persons regardless of their faith or cultural background. States should refrain from adopting restrictions on freedom of expression which have often led to abuse by the authorities and to the silencing of dissenting voices, particularly those of individuals belonging to ethnic and religious minorities. Authentic freedom of expression can contribute to a greater respect for all people as it can provide the opportunity to speak out against violations such as religious intolerance and racism and promote the equal dignity of all persons.
"The advocacy of hatred and violence towards specific religions which persists in various places suggests a state of mind characterized by intolerance. For this reason it is imperative that the people of the various faith traditions work together in order to grow in mutual understanding. Here there is need for an authentic change of minds and hearts. This can be done best through education, beginning with children and young people, on the importance of tolerance and respect for cultural and religious diversity.
"Cooperation among religions is a prerequisite for the transformation of society and must lead to a change of minds and hearts so that a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence among peoples can truly be built.
"This Organization has for many years provided the international community with benchmarks for what countries need to do in order to make concrete advancements in respecting human rights. A key to this lies in adhering to the foundational instruments of the United Nations and in faithfully applying the principles enshrined therein, so that all people regardless of their beliefs will be accorded full respect in keeping with their dignity as members of the human community . . ."
vatican city Pope Benedict XVI attended a concert on December 4 in the Sistine Chapel. President Horst Kohler of the Federal Republic of Germany hosted the event which marked the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
At the end of the concert, the Pope indicated that the Berlin Wall was "a frontier of death which for many years divided our homeland, forcibly separating people, families, neighbors, and friends. Many at the time saw the events of November 9, 1989, as an unexpected dawn of freedom after a long and harsh night of violence and oppression due to a totalitarian system which, in the end, led to nihilism, to an emptying of souls.
"Under the communist dictatorship no action was held to be evil and always immoral in itself. What served the aims of the party was good, however inhuman it could be," the Pope added.
The Pontiff said the current Federal Republic of Germany is proof that "the social order of the West is better and more humane." This is largely due to the "Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany" which "exhorts men and women, responsible before God the Creator, to give priority to human dignity, to respect marriage and the family as the foundation of all societies, and to show esteem and profound respect for what is sacred to others.
"May the citizens of Germany faithful to the duty established in the Basic Law concerning spiritual and political renewal in the wake of National Socialism and the Second World War continue to collaborate for the construction of a freer and more social society."
The Pope continued: "The history of Europe in the twentieth century shows how responsibility before God is of vital importance for moral political activity. God brings mankind together in true communion and shows individuals that, in their communion with others, a greater One is present, One Who is the original cause of our lives and of our joint existence. This is particularly evident in the mystery of the Nativity when this God comes close to us with His love and, as a Child, requests our love."
vatican city On November 28, Pope Benedict XVI received Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum, Sudan. The Pope assured the Cardinal of "my prayers and deep concern for the peaceful development of civil and ecclesial life in your nation."
The Holy Father said:
"The cessation of the civil war and the enactment of a new Constitution have brought hope to the long suffering people of Sudan. While there have been setbacks along the path of reconciliation, not least the tragic death of John Garang, there now exists an unprecedented opportunity and indeed duty for the Church to contribute significantly to the process of forgiveness and national reconstruction. Though a minority, Catholics have much to offer through inter-religious 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.
"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. Today, I add my voice to the cry of the suffering and assure you that the Holy See, together with the Apostolic Nuncio in Khartoum, will continue to do everything possible to end the cycle of violence and misery.
"Dear friends, upon you and your people I invoke God's blessings of wisdom, fortitude, and peace!"
washington, D.C. The U.S. Catholic Church will celebrate National Migration Week January 3 - 9. The theme will again be "Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice" with a focus on children following the theme chosen by Pope Benedict XVI for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
In a press release, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reported:
" 'Children are an exceptionally vulnerable population that are easily taken advantage of, exploited and abused. This is particularly true when they are undocumented and unaccompanied in a foreign country and, all too often, with nobody to turn to for help,' said Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration.
"In addition to traditional types of material, including bulletin inserts, prayer cards, and an Advent booklet all three available in English and Spanish the Committee on Migration has launched other exciting initiatives in anticipation of the 2010 National Migration Week. In coordination with The Catholic University of America, a new educational Website will launch later in December (to be hosted at http://libraries.cua.edu/archrcua/packets.html) and will focus on the important role that the Catholic Church has played in the immigration debate throughout Twentieth Century America. 'We hope that this will be a great source for teachers, directors of religious education, and others interested in this issue,' said Bishop Wester.
"A small grants program is also being developed to provide seed money to parishes, schools, and local Catholic organizations who want to launch a project or program related to migration."
(Source: usccb press release)
"I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you
natural hearts. I will put My spirit within you and make you live by My statutes, careful to observe My decrees."
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
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