Catholic Bishops condemn Pakistan bomb

Karachi, Pakistan, Oct.24,2007 (CINS/totalcatholic)- The Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference has condemned the bomb blasts that killed and injured hundreds of people marking the return of a former prime minister from self-imposed exile.

"We consider the killings at Karachi an act of extreme cowardice and terrorism, and demand that the government should ensure the safety of the lives of citizens," said a statement issued

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, the president of the bishops' conference and chairman of the bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace.

Two blasts, including one by a suicide bomber, rocked the rally in Karachi on October 18.

The blasts killed more than 130 and injured approximately 290 people who were celebrating the homecoming of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party.

The statement said the bishops expressed "solidarity and condolences with the families of the deceased" and condemned the carnage.

Demanding "fair and prompt inquiry of the tragic incident and strict action against the culprits," the Church has urged "citizens irrespective of religion, cast and creed to work for peace and harmony in the country," it said.

Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Pakistani bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace said "the massacre has come at a time when the nation was looking forward to more open political action and revival of democracy".

Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan comes ahead of the general election in January.

"This is a wake-up call for all political parties to stand firm and united," said Mr Jacob.

Islamist groups had threatened to target the former prime minister for declaring that she would not hesitate to allow United States forces to enter Pakistan in pursuit of Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

More than 97 per cent of Pakistan's nearly 165 million people are Muslim. Christians, Hindus and others make up just three per cent.

European bishops welcome agreement on EU treaty

Brussels,Belgium, Oct.22, 2007 - (CINS / COMECE) COMECE’s (Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community)  Secretary General Mgr Treanor greets the announcement of an agreement on the new treaty for the European Union. The agreement, reached by the 27 Heads of States and Governments at the European Council of Lisbon last night, brings an end to four years of difficult endeavours and to the institutional crisis following the rejection of the EU constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

He said: COMECE welcomes the fact that concern for the European common good and the interest of 500 million citizens finally prevailed over threats linked to issues of national interest.

COMECE particularly welcomes the introduction of article 15b in the Treaty establishing the European Community, which stipulates that ‘The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States.’ And especially alinea 3: ‘Recognising their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organisations.’ On the basis of this article, which introduces a new provision into the Treaties, the EU institutions will engage in a deeper dialogue with the Churches, thus allowing Christians to accompany more effectively the process of European construction. This should lead to a Union characterized by more Justice and Solidarity and an enhanced Responsibility for major global challenges.

COMECE notes with interest that the Reform Treaty introduces a preamble to the Treaty on European Union that recognises the cultural, religious and humanistic inheritance of Europe 1. Nevertheless, Mgr Treanor considers that ‘The debate about the Christian roots of Europe is inseparable from the reflexion on the European identity; thus, it needs to be continued’.

The Reform Treaty will be officially signed by the 27 Heads of States and Governments on December 13th in Lisbon. The ratification process will then start: through referendum in Ireland and presumably by parliamentary decision in all the other Member States.

The COMECE Secretariat encourages Christians to follow closely the issues and challenges of the European debate during the following months. The Reform Treaty, despite its shortcomings and complexity, represents a satisfying institutional solution for the enlarged EU; it introduces necessary reforms into the decision-making process that should allow European construction to continue in an efficient and just way.
In the light of the outcome of the Lisbon Summit, it is worth recalling Pope Benedict XVI’s recent remark: ‘If (…) on some points justified criticisms can be raised about certain European institutions, the process of unification remains a most significant achievement which has brought a period of peace, heretofore unknown, to this continent, formerly consumed by constant conflicts and fatal fratricidal wars..’2

1- "DRAWING INSPIRATION from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law"

2- Adress of HH Benedict XVI - Meeting with the Authorities and the diplomatic corps. Hofburg, Vienna Friday, 7 September 2007

Pope appeals to the Bishops of the Congo for peace and reconcilaition

Vatican City, Oct.19,2007 (CINS/SIR) -  “I ask the Christians and all the population of the Country to open paths of reconciliation, so that the ethnical and social differences, lived in mutual respect and love, will become a shared asset, not grounds for division". This is the appeal made by Benedict XVI as he received in audience the bishops of the Bishops Conference of the Congo in Rome this morning. “Your Bishops Conference – highlighted the Pope – never stops to reawaken the consciences and strengthen the wills, thus making a specific and effective contribution to the establishment of peace and reconciliation in the Country". In addition, the Pontiff highlighted “the urgency of developing a genuine missionary dynamism within the local Churches”, because “the Church cannot do without this primordial mission”, that is, “to become more and more faithful and reliable witnesses of Christ”. Then, the Pope spoke of the “living ecclesial communities” as examples of a “pastoral of closeness” that acts as “a powerful wall against any cults". In this respect, the Pope invited the Congolese Bishops to “take special care of the initial and ongoing Christian training of the devotees, so that they will become perfectly aware of the Christian mystery and will live rooted in the reading of the Holy Writs and in sacramental life”. 

In addition, Benedict XVI placed emphasis on the “substantial drop in the number of canonical marriages”, a genuine “challenge that has an impact on the family” as a unit that is "irreplaceable for the stability of the structure of society". Speaking in particular of the situation of the Congo, the Pope said: "The civil law, the weakening of the family structure, as well as the weight of some traditional customs, especially the extortionate cost of a dowry, act as a real curb on the commitment of the young to marriage". “It is important – added the Pope – to help the couples acquire a human and spiritual maturity which is essential to responsibly take on their mission as a Christian married couple and as Christian parents, reminding them that love is one and indissoluble, and that the Christian marriage contributes to the full accomplishment of their human and Christian calling”.

Special meeting of Bishops prepares for synod on word of God

Tokyo, Japan, Oct.19,2007 (CINS/CBCJ) - The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan (CBCJ) held a special plenary assembly in Tokyo Oct. 5 in preparation for the synod of bishops to be held at the Vatican next October. That gathering, the twelfth regular gathering of representatives of the world's conferences of bishops, will deal with the theme "God's Word in the Church's Life and Mission."

Prior to the meeting, the CBCJ had requested opinions from each diocese and the superiors of men's and women's religious orders and missionary societies. The opinions were in response to 21 questions at the end of the preparatory lineamenta ("outline" or explanation of the suggested theme) sent to every country's bishops' conference from the synod secretariat.

The questions were varied, ranging from concrete matters such as, "Do experiences and practices with the Bible exist in your particular Church?" to general questions like, "What importance is shown to the Word of God in the life of your community and among the faithful-at-large?" or "From pastoral experience, describe the factors which foster a listening to the Word of God and those which hinder it." There were also questions such as, "Is priority given to dialogue with the Jewish people?" that do not apply to the situation of Japan.

At the Tokyo meeting, the bishops examined a compilation of responses and Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki will summarize them to be forwarded to Rome by the end of November after final approval by the CBCJ standing committee. At last February's plenary gathering of the CBCJ, Archbishop Takami was chosen to represent the CBCJ at the synod.

The synod secretariat in Rome will assemble an Instrumentum Laboris (working paper) based on the responses from the various bishops' conferences and that will become the basic resource material for the synod.

After the Tokyo meeting, Kagoshima Bishop Kenjiro Koriyama told a reporter he was surprised at the regional variation with respect to lay people's reading of Scripture. In Kyushu and elsewhere, he said, the opinion is that "Scripture is for priests to read."

"Since I didn't think many people read Scripture, I thought that was so, too," he said.

However, he was surprised at the meeting to hear other bishops say that the situation is very different elsewhere.

"I learned that every diocese's situation is very different," he said.

Bishop Koriyama said on the one hand educating believers with the Catechism as central can be a factor leading to lay people's separation from the Scriptures, but on the other hand a "Scripture only" approach poses a problem.

He said, "I think it would be good to produce an introduction to Christianity giving first place to Scripture, based on the Bible rather than the Catechism. In Scripture such matters as the sacraments also appear. I look forward to the synod's discussion on that content."

Bishops' Spokeswoman Criticizes New Guttmacher Study Calling For Global Promotion of Abortion

Washington, USA, Oct. 19, 2007 (CINS /USCCB) - Deirdre A. McQuade, an official of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), criticized a study by researchers from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization published in the October 13, 2007 issue of The Lancet, calling for the global legalization and promotion of abortion, “Induced Abortion: Estimated Rates and Trends Worldwide.”

“Some say the new Guttmacher study shows that legalizing abortions makes them ‘safe;’ but the study's methodology is flawed. The authors start out by simply defining ‘safe’ abortions as ‘those that meet legal requirements' in countries with permissive laws,” said Ms. McQuade. “But by this unusual definition, legal abortions are 'safe' even if they kill women as well as their unborn children. The authors then say that illegal abortions are ‘harmful’ – even when women experience no medical complications – because women have to violate the law. This is a closed semantic circle into which no fact about real-life women can intrude.”

“An accompanying Lancet editorial says the worldwide abortion situation has been worsened by the United States’ Mexico City policy. But the study says that total worldwide abortions substantially decreased from 1995 (when the policy was not in effect) to 2003 (after it was reinstated),” Ms. McQuade continued.

“Lost in the authors’ ideological fog is the fact that abortion always kills; legal or illegal, it sometimes also kills women, especially when they are poor and have a terrible health care system. Promoting more abortions will not change this. Rather than pitting women and their children against each other, we need to stand in solidarity with both and focus on improving the quality of global health care,” Ms. McQuade said.

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