Korean Bishops: Understanding Dynamism of Christian Life

Vatican City, Dec. 03, 2007 (CINS /VIS) - Benedict XVI today received prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea and the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaator, Mongolia, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. Their coming to Rome, the Pope observed in his talk, has helped to strengthen "the bonds of collegiality which express the Church's unity in diversity and safeguard the tradition handed down by the Apostles."

Continuing his English-language address to the prelates, the Holy Father spoke positively of the growth of the Church in Asia, recalling how the testimony of Korean martyrs and of many others on the continent "speaks eloquently of the fundamental concept of 'communio' that unifies and vivifies ecclesial life in all its dimensions."

"To remain in Christ's love also has a particular significance for you today," the Pope told the Korean bishops, who in their reports had highlighted the negative effects of a secularist mentality. And he encouraged them to "to be effective shepherds of hope," striving "to ensure that the bond of communion which unites Christ to all the baptized is safeguarded and experienced as the heart of the mystery of the Church."

"The gateway to this mystery of communion with God is of course Baptism. This sacrament of initiation - far more than a social ritual or welcome into a particular community - is the initiative of God. Those reborn through the waters of new life enter the door of the universal Church and are drawn into the dynamism of the life of faith."

"The word 'communio' also refers of course to the Eucharistic center of the Church. ... The Eucharist roots our understanding of the Church in the intimate encounter between Jesus and humanity and reveals the source of ecclesial unity: Christ's act of giving Himself to us makes us His body."

Benedict XVI told the bishops that "programs designed to highlight the importance of Sunday Mass should be infused with a sound and stimulating catechesis on the Eucharist. This will foster a renewed understanding of the authentic dynamism of Christian life among your faithful."

He continued his address to the prelates: "I encourage you to ensure that religious are welcomed and supported in their efforts to contribute to the common task of spreading God's Kingdom." By sharing the "living treasures" of their spirituality with the laity, religious "will help to dispel the notion that communion means mere uniformity."

The Pope then went on to consider "the importance of the promotion of marriage and family life in your region," recalling how, in this "vital apostolate, ... the growing complexity of matters regarding the family ... raises the question of providing appropriate training for those committed to working in this area."

"I am also aware of the practical gestures of reconciliation undertaken for the wellbeing of those in North Korea. I encourage these initiatives and invoke Almighty God's providential care upon all North Koreans," the Holy Father concluded. "Throughout the ages, Asia has given the Church and the world a host of heroes of the faith. ... May they stand as perennial witnesses to the truth and love which all Christians are called to proclaim."

Rudd election buoys Bishops' Reconciliation hopes

Australia, Dec.03, 2007 (CINS /CNS) - Australia's Catholic Bishops have issued a statement reflecting the hope that "Indigenous Australia will be listened to", on the back of Prime Minister Elect Kevin Rudd's acceptance speech.

Acknowledging the traditional custodians of Australia, the Bishops say they affirm their respect for the elders, memories, traditions, culture and hopes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

“The Catholic Church in Australia, as always, looks forward to working in partnership with the new government and with indigenous communities to improve the situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout the nation, the statement stated.

“Earlier this year we welcomed the high priority that the Federal Government placed on addressing disadvantage in remote Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.

“However, we also emphasised that there is much more to be done to address fundamental causes of entrenched disadvantage.”

The Bishops' statement addresses a number of areas for action which include: tackling child abuse, poverty, housing, substance abuse and employment.

“Any response must be designed and implemented to take into account the particular circumstances of different communities.

“We now urge the Federal Government to pursue the even more challenging task of addressing the underlying causes of disadvantage in our indigenous communities.

“In this way the healing process required at the heart of our nation can be furthered.”

Catholic Bishops of Korea assigned "duties" to their faithful

Seoul, South Korea, Dec.02, 2007 (CINS /AsiaNews) – Sharing ones goods with others ad the sanctification of the family, but above all bringing the Gospel to those who do not know it, in order to be an integral part of the Universal Churches mission.  These are the “duties” assigned by the Korean Bishops to their faithful at the beginning of the Advent season.

The prelates in fact have written a letter to each of the parishes under their guidance which will be read on Sunday December 2nd, the first Sunday of Advent. The indications contained in the various texts “should become a path to follow not only during this holy period, but throughout our entire lives”.

In his pastoral letter entitled ‘Family is a Base for Life,. Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jinsuk, Archbishop of Seoul, said: “Most of all, the noble right and value of family, which is the fundament of respect for human beings, must be clearly proclaimed and recognized to create a social environment in which the value of life is fully respected”. 

And he reiterated that “continuous efforts are needed for the abolition of the so-called ‘Mother-Child Health Law’ and capital punishment, for the prohibition of the human embryo cloning, and for the promotion of natural childbirth”.  

Andreas Choi Chang-mou, Archbishop of Kwangju, instead invites his community to “renew the our image and manifest the mystery of the divine incarnation.” in his pastoral letter entitled, “The Word Incarnate Lives in the Middle of Us.”

And in a joint statement released by the entire Bishops’ Conference the Korean prelates urge “care for the marginalized as the greatest expression of Christian love and mission”. And they hoped that “the faithful have an interest in the restoration of the order of creation through the environmental protection and pastoral care for the youth who are the future of the Church”.

Catholic Bishops praised Stem cell breakthrough without embryos

Washington DC, USA, Nov 23,2007 (CINS/CNA) - Prelates across the United States are lauding the Japanese research team of Dr. Shinya Yamanaka and the University of Wisconsin-Madison team of Dr. James Thomson for their efforts in advancing stem-cell research.

In a press release yesterday, Philadelphia Cardinal , Justin Rigali commended the scientific advances:

“Studies published this week in the journals Cell and Science offer new hope for advancing stem cell research and therapies while fully respecting the dignity of human life.

“Scientists in Japan and Wisconsin used four genes to ‘reprogram’ ordinary adult human cells, creating ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’ (iPS cells).

James Thomson, head of the Wisconsin team and the founder of human embryonic stem cell research, says these cells ‘meet the defining criteria’ for pluripotent human embryonic stem cells, ‘with the significant exception that the iPS cells are not derived from embryos.’

“Thus the goal sought for years through failed attempts at human cloning – the production of ‘pluripotent’ stem cells that are an exact genetic match to a patient – has been brought within reach by an ethical procedure. This technology avoids the many ethical landmines associated with embryonic stem cell research: it does not clone or destroy human embryos, does not harm or exploit women for their eggs, and does not blur the line between human beings and other species through desperate efforts to make human embryos using animal eggs.

Ian Wilmut, head of the team that cloned ‘Dolly’ the sheep, now says he is abandoning efforts at human ‘therapeutic cloning’ to pursue this adult cell reprogramming avenue instead, because it is technically superior as well as ‘easier to accept socially.’

“I am grateful today for scientists who took up the challenge of finding morally acceptable ways to pursue stem cell research, and for government leaders who have encouraged and funded such avenues. This advance reminds us once again that medical progress and respect for human life are not in conflict; they can and should support and enrich one another for the good of all.”

In a press release, Madison, Wisconsin Bishop Robert C. Morlino also offered his praise to the research team.

“Catholic voices in the bio-medical community have consistently claimed that ethical alternatives could be found to make the destruction of human life through embryonic stem cell research unnecessary. I continue to support the successful work being done by so many researchers using adult stem cells and I thank and congratulate those researchers and scientists who have now found a seemingly ethical way to replicate ‘embryonic’ or pluripotent stem cells without destroying human lives.

“Now that this breakthrough has been made and research with pluripotent stem cells can move forward in a seemingly ethical way, I reiterate my insistence that there is never a reason to sacrifice human lives for the sake of hoped-for but heretofore unrealized scientific advances.

“This breakthrough is certainly among the many gifts of God for which all of us should be grateful this Thanksgiving.”

Thai Bishops: The call to vote, participation in political life, a moral duty

Bangkok, Thailand, Nov.19,2007 (CINS/AsiaNews) – Thailand’s Catholics “must take part in politics i.e. to use the vote with the instinct of righteousness in order to restore political and social unity.” This is the sense of the message published yesterday by the President of Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Msgr.  Philip Banchong Chaiyara, centred on the parliamentary elections due December 23rd next.

Msgr. Chaiyara explains that the responsibility to vote, “is a virtue, the partaking in political process is a morale obligation; it is the significant fundamental of all Christian.  It is a sacred duty as consideration based on reason and conscience are needed to vote for the good candidates who are capable, with moral conduct and sacrifice for the benefit and happiness of all”.

The prelate concludes by underlining that “This coming December is very significant to all Thais not only that we, Thai people, will celebrate the King’s 80th birthday anniversary but it will also be the 75th anniversary of the Democracy system in Thai political history. Let us celebrate these anniversaries in the best possible way”.

Decembers’ elections will be the first to take place since the military junta took power in a peaceful coupe- with the blessings of King Bhumibol – to overthrow Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, accused of corruption. There are only 480 seats available to the 800 candidates who have been presented by the 22 parties on the electoral list.

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