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Volume 3, Issue 52

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  • John N. Lupia
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 14, 2003

      Volume 3, Issue 52

      FRIDAY 14 March 2003

      Day of Abstinence

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      • Pope to Visit Bosnia in June, Says Srpska President
      • Christ Revealed That God Is Poor, Retreatants Told
      • Church Would Vanish If It Didn't Talk About Christ, Says Theologian
      • Vatican Official Criticizes Pressures Exerted in U.N. Security Council
      • Mideast Council of Churches Prepares for the Worst
      • North Korean Catholics Celebrate Their First Official Mass in Seoul
      • Russell Shaw on Iraq, Just War and Prudential Judgments
      • U.S. Senate Backs Ban on Partial-Birth Abortion

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      Pope to Visit Bosnia in June, Says Srpska President

      ROME, MARCH 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II will visit Bosnia and Herzegovina this June to beatify Ivan Merz, according to the president of the Bosnian Serb controlled Republika Srpska.

      For now, the Vatican has neither confirmed nor denied the report. The Pope is on retreat this week at the Vatican.

      According to President Dragan Cavic, the Pope will travel to Banja Luka to beatify layman and intellectual Merz (1896-1928) in the land of his birth.

      The president made the announcement Wednesday following a meeting in Banja Luka with a Vatican delegation, which included Monsignor Renato Boccardo, organizer of papal trips.

      Cavid added that he discussed "general issues, especially those related to security," with the Vatican delegation.

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      Christ Revealed That God Is Poor, Retreatants Told

      Preacher at Spiritual Exercises Meditates on Bethlehem and Poverty

      VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- By being born in Bethlehem, Christ revealed to us that God is poor, because he has given himself totally to people, John Paul II and other retreatants heard.

      Archbishop Angelo Comastri, the preacher of this week's Spiritual Exercises at the Vatican, began a meditation today with a reflection on the most important moments in the life of Jesus.

      "If Jesus' words are like a portrait of the face of God -- an extraordinary portrait as it has been drawn by Jesus himself -- the authentic portrait of God, the authentic picture of God, is not Jesus' words; it is Jesus' life," he said.

      "Then, let us contemplate Jesus. Let us contemplate his actions, his behavior, because every gesture, every form of behavior of Jesus manifests God, recounts the mystery of God," he said within earshot of the Pope and his aides in the Roman Curia. They were gathered in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

      "And let us begin with Bethlehem, as it is God's first step in history," Archbishop Comastri continued. "It is the first step of the Word incarnate."

      "At Bethlehem, God entered history with the steps of a poor, humble and meek man. Why?" he asked. "Because God chose poverty? Because Jesus presented himself as poor -- and the truth is he could not have been more poor!

      "Mary, the Mother, the immaculate one, goes from Nazareth to Bethlehem and when they arrived, the Evangelist says, 'there was no room for them.' How is this possible? There is no place for the Son of God who is born in this world? He is the Creator of the world, and there is no place for him?"

      The preacher said the "sign" the angel gave the shepherds to recognize the Savior was poverty: "You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."

      In reality, he added, the word used in the original instead of manger makes reference "to the interior of a cave in which there was hay and manure. How is this possible? We must meditate on this announcement of the angel, as it is also addressed to us."

      "Why does poverty form part of God's manifestation?" the preacher asked. He cited a passage from First Letter of John, "God is love," and said that it means there "is gift," because "only where there is love, is there a gift. ... God is the infinite gift of self."

      "But whoever gives does not give because he possesses," the archbishop said. "The mystery of God is a mystery of giving. In God, the only verb conjugated is 'to give': The Father gives himself to the Son and the Son is the gift of the Father, and he gives himself back to the Father in the embrace of the Holy Spirit who is the 'Person-Gift.'"

      "This is the mystery of God, something so impressive that it causes vertigo," he said. "God knows only one action, the action of giving.

      "And given that the one who gives does not possess, whoever does not possess is poor. God, who is infinite love, the infinite gift, is also the infinitely poor." The retreat ends Saturday.

      * * *

      Church Would Vanish If It Didn't Talk About Christ, Says Theologian

      Distinguishes Proselytism from Evangelization

      ROME, MARCH 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- If the Church did not talk about Christ, it would "cease to exist," says theologian Severino Dianich.

      The professor, of the Florence-based School of Theology of Central Italy, addressed a conference here on "The First Proclamation," organized by the Italian episcopal conference's Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith.

      "Among today's Christians," Dianich said, "there is widespread difficulty in defining the essential content of one's faith," especially when meeting nonbelievers, or "threshold Christians," namely, those who only draw near to the Christian community every now and then or who remain on the margin.

      In his address, reported by the Italian bishops' SIR agency, the theologian said that the Church cannot exist "if the communicative act of the faith is missing; [...] if it is not oriented to others."

      In this connection, Dianich said that it is necessary to clarify two prejudices that are turned into accusations against believers: the accusation of "intolerance," in proclaiming the Gospel to those who do not believe; and the centuries-old conflict between the Church and the modern "liberal or democratic" society.

      To surmount these problems, Dianich clarified the difference between "proselytism" and "evangelization." The second, he explained, "is concerned with the good of the person, regardless of whether he is for or against the proposal of faith."

      Regarding the relation with society, Dianich recalled that the Church, in proclaiming the Gospel, is at the "global service of the needs of the human family," which means that its action is not only directed to believers, but also to nonbelievers.

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      Vatican Official Criticizes Pressures Exerted in U.N. Security Council

      The Powerful Pressure the Small, Says Archbishop Martino

      VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican official criticized the pressure that the most powerful nations are exerting in the U.N. Security Council to influence the votes of the less powerful.

      "Each of the voters should be left free, with no interference," said Archbishop Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. "It is not right that the large exert more pressure on the small than their capacity to resist."

      The United States and others have been lobbying U.N. Security Council members to support military action against Iraq.

      In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, Archbishop Martino said: "When promises or threats are made on the future of a people, no matter who makes them, the decision-making process is falsified and the principle of the equality of the dignity of nations is injured."

      According to the archbishop, countries should use "the force of reason and not the reasons of force" to explain their positions on the issue.

      "The United Nations came into being to guarantee all against abuses and it is unacceptable that its very functioning is subjected to the logic of domination," he said.

      Archbishop Martino, who for 16 years was permanent observer of the Holy See before the United Nations, thinks that the postponement of the voting of the Security Council is a "positive event," because "every action that defers military action is welcome."

      "With more time, there will be a better evaluation of the reality and the decisions will be more appropriate," he concluded. "Moreover, with the passing of the days, the states might listen more to world public opinion, which I consider a decisive factor."

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      Mideast Council of Churches Prepares for the Worst

      BEIRUT, Lebanon, MARCH 13, 2003 (ZENIT.org-Fides).- The Middle East Council of Churches is preparing for a humanitarian disaster that an Iraqi war could bring.

      In Iraq, Syria and Jordan the MECC is preparing to help an estimated 2 million internally displaced persons and as many as 5.4 million more who will need food aid when war disrupts delivery of monthly government aid.

      In a letter dated Feb. 26 and addressed to friends and partners, MECC secretary Riad Jarjour said that Mideast churches are praying for the best but preparing for the worst.

      MECC has conducted training sessions for volunteers in Jordan and Syria near the Iraqi border to enable them to deal with the problems of internally displaced persons and refugees.

      It has also identified some 18 centrally located local churches in Iraq where food supplies and other aid will be received and distributed to all in need without regard to religion.

      In addition the MECC is in contact with the Iraqi Ministry of Health and local hospitals and is allowed to deliver emergency medical supplies as needed.

      * * *

      North Korean Catholics Celebrate Their First Official Mass in Seoul

      SEOUL, South Korea, MARCH 13, 2003 (ZENIT.org-Fides).- North Korean Catholics participated officially for the first time in a Mass as part of a visit to South Korea.

      The 16 Catholics attended the eucharistic celebration March 2 in Seoul's Myongdong Cathedral and were led by Samuel Chang Jae-on, chairman of the Association of the Catholic Church in Pyongyang.

      Some 1,200 people celebrated the Sunday liturgy, presided by Auxiliary Bishop Luke Kim Woon-hoe. In his homily the bishop said that the visit of the North Korean Catholics was "an important step in national reconciliation and the process of reunification," adding that he hoped that Catholics in the North would soon have priests to serve them.

      "Being united with North Korean Catholics was highly significant for us all after 50 years of division of the country," said Paul Han Jung Kwan, executive secretary of the Korean Bishops' Conference.

      An estimated 3,000 Catholics in North Korea have been without priests and men and women religious since 1953, when the local clergy and missionaries were expelled by the Communist regime. Only one church, Changchung Church, remains in Pyongyang.

      The group of North Korean Catholics was part of a delegation of 105 believers of various faiths who traveled to Seoul on March 1 to commemorate the independence movement that liberated Korea from Japanese occupation in 1945. The group returned to Pyongyang on March 3.

      * * *

      Russell Shaw on Iraq, Just War and Prudential Judgments

      Tells Where the Vatican and White House Concur -- and Differ

      NEW YORK, MARCH 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- As part of its ongoing survey of commentaries on the Iraqi crisis, ZENIT turned to American writer Russell Shaw for his perspective on U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein.

      Shaw is author of "Papal Primacy in the Third Millennium" and "Ministry or Apostolate: What Should the Catholic Laity Be Doing?" (both from Our Sunday Visitor).

      ZENIT: The Vatican has said explicitly that the Holy Father is not a pacifist, and the Pope himself has called for Iraq to give up its prohibited weapons.=
      Nevertheless, the Pope has repeatedly come out against a military solution to the issue. What are the main factors behind the different views of the U.S. administration and the Church?

      Shaw: The main reason for the difference lies in differing prudential judgments.

      President Bush and his people believe the consequences of not going to war --especially, the risk that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction would end up in the hands of terrorists -- would significantly outweigh the bad consequences of war itself.

      The Holy Father and his people plainly believe that at this time whatever good might come from overthrowing Saddam Hussein would not be proportionate to the bad results, such as provoking more terrorism, adding fuel to the Christian-Muslim conflict between played out in many parts of the world, and doing long-term damage to the United Nations.

      For the most part, I think, the Vatican and the White House are operating on the same moral principles, but they disagree about the likely outcomes of various courses of action. On the whole, I think the Vatican's view is the correct one.

      Q: The "war on terrorism" seems to have fueled the moves against Iraq. Does the need to defend the United States against terror attacks, together with fears over the weapons of mass destruction possessed by Iraq, change the way in which traditional just war principles should be applied?

      Shaw: Traditional formulations of just war theory don't make provision for preventive war -- that is, for military action in anticipation of aggression that hasn't yet occurred but is deemed likely.

      Adding this element to just war theory is in the nature of a refinement of what the theory already says about the legitimacy of self-defense, but it is something new, and in that sense it's a change. In principle, too, I think it is a reasonable change.

      A nation does not have to wait until it is attacked before initiating military
      action to defend itself. But even if one accepts that idea in principle, it does not follow that the principle applies now in the case of Iraq. That has simply not been established up to now. The argument that Iraq poses a clear and present danger to the United States is too hypothetical for my taste at this point.

      Q: Some orthodox Catholics, especially in the United States, insist that the final decisions on military action are a prudential judgment that lies with civil authorities, not Church authorities. Where is the dividing line here between God and Caesar?

      Shaw: There are several ways of responding. For one thing, the United States is hardly the only country that will be impacted by what does or doesn't happen in Iraq, so it is unilateralism to say the only prudential judgment that counts rests with the civil authorities of the United States. Many nations have interests at stake here and have a right to be involved in the decision.

      As for the right of Church authorities to speak out, even if one holds, as I do, that the judgments they express are prudential judgments, one must recognize that they bring a special, and highly relevant, dimension to this matter that legitimates their participation in the debate.

      They are far more politically disinterested than the civil authorities can possibly be, and they also are, as one might expect, much more in touch with the Christian moral tradition.

      When, responding to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States attacked al-Qaida and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the Holy See supported that action as legitimate self-defense -- and I don't recall that people who now invoke the dividing line between God and Caesar did so then.

      Q. How should Catholics in the armed forces react concerning a possible war against Iraq?

      Shaw: Catholics in the armed forces should react on this occasion as they always should react -- by forming their consciences in light of sound moral principles, the counsel of prudent moral advisers including especially those who speak for the magisterium of the Church, and their best understanding of the facts, and then doing what their well-formed consciences tell them to do.

      I suppose most if not all will elect to carry out the orders of their military commanders to the best of their ability. If they do so on the basis of sincerely formed judgments of conscience, they won't hear any criticism from me.

      Q: Regarding the role of the United Nations in authorizing any military action: In the past the Church has been a strong critic of the United Nations in areas such as family planning, abortion and feminism. Some also fear the loss of legitimate national sovereignty by handing over all military decisions to a sort of unelected world government. How do you see the role of the United Nations?

      Shaw: Yes, the Church has been a critic of the United Nations in the areas you mention -- and yet the Holy See has remained a strong supporter of the U.N.

      I think the fundamental reason can be found in Blessed John XXIII's "Pacem in Terris," whose 40th anniversary we are observing this year.

      Pope John spoke of the need for an international "public authority" -- not in place of, but in addition to, existing nation-states -- committed to the international common good; and he made it clear that, although the U.N. was not that body, nevertheless it was an important, necessary step on the way -- see "Pacem in Terris," 136-145.

      In the unstable, highly dangerous, and increasingly interdependent world of 2003, that clearly remains the view of Pope John Paul II and the Holy See.

      And I think it is eminently correct.

      If the U.N. didn't now exist, we would have to create it, though I hope it would then be a U.N. without all the faults of the present one.

      And while neither the United States nor any other country can entirely give up its right to act alone, if need be, to defend itself -- or to defend the international common good -- acting outside or in defiance of the U.N. except in case of clear necessity is a very dubious procedure indeed.

      That, after all, is just what Saddam Hussein has been doing. We should seek ways to reform and strengthen the U.N., not undermine it.

      * * *

      U.S. Senate Backs Ban on Partial-Birth Abortion

      Legislation Heads to House with Bipartisan Support

      WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 13, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. Senate easily approved a bill to ban the partial-birth abortion, a ban twice vetoed by Bill Clinton but strongly supported by President George W. Bush.

      The measure was approved by a bipartisan 64-33 vote. Among its supporters was Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic leader.

      The bill now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives, which last year supported the ban by a nearly 2-1 margin.

      During this week's debate in the Senate, foes of the ban argued that the bill violates two U.S. Supreme Court rulings -- Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion on demand, and Stenberg v. Carhart, in which five justices held that Roe covers even partial-birth abortions.

      In a statement after today's vote, Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said: "President Bush, 70% of the public, 64 senators, and four Supreme Court justices say there is no constitutional right to deliver most of a living baby and then puncture her head with a scissors."

      "But five Supreme Court justices said that partial-birth abortion is protected by Roe v. Wade, and 33 senators agreed," Johnson said. "We hope that by the time this ban reaches the Supreme Court, at least five justices will be willing to reject such extremism in defense of abortion."

      The bill legally defines a partial-birth abortion as any abortion in which the baby is delivered "past the navel ... outside the body of the mother" before being killed.

      "This is a heinous act," said Senator Michael DeWine, an Ohio Republican, according to the Associated Press. "It is immoral. It is wrong and it is simply something a civilized society should not tolerate."

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