MONDAY     February 28, 2000    vol. 11, no. 41    SECTION THREE

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WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant continued:

  • The Church in Germany - which direction will it take?
  • Congress backs Vatican against pro-abort factions out to oust the Holy See
  • Nigerian Christians struggling with loss of democracy
  • Christians being singled out in India for special stipulations for conversion
  • Felons convicted for defrauding Archdiocese of Boston over molestation claims
  • Pope pledges solidarity with beleaguered people of Mozambique in wake of cyclone, famine and floods
  • Latest ShipLogs of visitors sailing on the DailyCATHOLIC

    Bishop's Adviser on Sects in Mainz Offers Help to Religious Seekers

        MAINZ, GERMANY, FEB 25 (ZENIT).- Based on the observations of the Bishop's Adviser on Sects in Mainz, the current trend in Germany is toward a "do it yourself" mentality as regards religion. Theologian Eckhard Türk just completed his 1999 report on sects.

        Dr. Türk wrote, "Everyone who wants to and has the necessary small change gathers the elements for a religion put together for himself on the esoteric market: from astral projection to Zen Buddhism, from consciousness expansion to Yin and Yang, he chooses the elements for a religion put together for himself." He added that authoritarian sect leaders and gurus are largely "out," while anything that adds to personal well-being from a religious standpoint, and which can easily be combined with other elements, is "in."

    Problems and Dangers of Esoteric Practice

        At the same time, the theologian noted the problems and conflicts that are connected with this trend. Many of the people who asked for advice the Diocese of Mainz's Office for Sect and World View Questions described their esoteric practices as extremely problematic. Often, people were separated from their family environment and were led by their esoteric understanding into the middle of serious conflicts. "In a few cases the esoteric lifestyle was even life-threatening, since people trusted dubious esoteric healers and refused medical therapy," warned Türk.

        Based on such developments, repeat questions didn't want simple information, but psychological and theological counselling. According to Türk's data, in 1999, a total of 789 telephonic and written requests for counselling were received in the diocesan office on sect and world view questions. About a third of these requests required long-term counselling.

    Doomsday Groups had Fewer Followers

        In his analysis of the current situation of sects in Germany, Türk noted that in the past year Millenarian and Doomsday groups hardly found any followers for their message, and belief in a doomsday at the turn of the century was almost absent. In Rhineland-Palatinate, the German "Land" including Mainz, as in the whole country, the best-known "end times" group, the Jehovah's Witnesses, actually lost members.

    Scientology Falters Considerably

        The number of people belonging to other "sect-like" groups, like the New Apostolic Church, the Moon Sect, and Hare Krishna, stagnated in 1999, according to the theologian. This was also true for Scientology. There are certainly still individual Scientologists operating in business enterprises. The cooperation of Microsoft with Scientologists in the development of "Windows 2000" also raised furor and an increased number of questions at the Office for Sect and World View Questions. However, the German section of Scientology was somewhat weakened by persons leaving the group, as well as by a reduction in course participation and purchase of materials.

        The advisor on sects also noted that in the past year there were an increased number of requests for information that cannot be classified as one of the known sects or psycho-groups. Questions about books and brochures entitled, "Nourishment with Just Prana Light," "Your Days are Numbered," "Uncover your Past Lives," "Germany Needs Mary's Help," and "Divine Knowledge," were hard to answer, because the groups behind them are so poorly known. At the same time, as in previous years, there were a large number of questions on Satanism, Magic, the occult, UFOs, Nostradamus, and Exorcisms. Some of these areas appear to have a growing trend.

    Not Just an Advice Booth

        Türk stressed in his yearly report that his Office for Sect and World View Questions is not just an advice booth, but also the distribution point for pastoral care and formation in this field for the diocese. "The problems and the questions on sects and the esoteric scene must be taken as a challenge for the Church," he explained. The Church's presence in the religious and world view "market" is urgently necessary. Christians in Church communities must be made capable of approaching people in search of religion and offering them help in their quest for a life direction, stated Türk.

        Courses for Interested Parties in over 100 Seminaries and Conferences The theologian noted that minicourses on this theme were held in almost 100 seminaries and weekend conferences in the Diocese of Mainz last year. The Office for Sect and World View Questions is also present on the Internet with corresponding information. The point of all this is to give the life-giving power of Christian message anew to men and women. According to Türk, the task is to enable "people to find their way in the incomprehensible market of sense and salvation offerings, and to be able to develop an identity from the Christian faith." ZE00022520

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        WASHINGTON, DC ( - The US Congress this week began considering resolutions condemning the ongoing attack on the presence of the Holy See at the UN. The resolutions threaten that a Vatican ouster from the UN would "further damage relations between the United States and the United Nations," according to a report from the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-fam).

        A campaign to revoke the Vatican's status as a Permanent Observer at the UN began last year under the leadership of the pro-abortion US group, Catholics for a Free Choice. Nearly 400 organizations, mostly pro-abortion advocates like International Planned Parenthood Federation, have joined the call for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to "review" the Holy See's status with a view to downgrading them to non-governmental organization status.

        Even campaign organizer Frances Kissling does not believe her campaign will be successful. Rather she expects the campaign will "keep the Vatican on its toes" during UN conferences. It is understood her intention is to intimidate the Holy See delegations and its allies in the developing world. The Holy See participates in a coalition of Latin American and Muslim states that has successfully kept abortion from becoming an international human right. The Senate and House resolutions emphasize that the attack on the Holy See comes mostly over the question of abortion.

        The resolutions, introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-New Jersey, in the House, and by Sens. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, and Bob Smith, I-New Hampshire, in the Senate, praise the Holy See's work at the UN. The resolutions also counter the claim that the Holy See is not a state and thereby should be afforded no place at the UN by pointing out that the Holy See has traded diplomats for 1600 years and is recognized as a state by as many 169 nations.

        The resolutions "strongly object to any effort to expel the Holy See from the United Nations as a state participant by removing its status as a nonmember state Permanent Observer," and says "that any degradation of the status accorded to the Holy See would seriously damage the credibility of the United Nations by demonstrating that its rules of participation are manipulable for ideological reasons rather than being rooted in neutral principles and objective facts of sovereignty."

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    Capital's Archbishop Denounces Saudi Arabian Interests

        ABUJA, NIGERIA, FEB 25 (ZENIT).- The number of dead resulting from the conflict between Christians and Muslims over the enforcement of the Islamic Law ("sharia") in the city of Kaduna, in northern Nigeria, has risen to 400.

        Today, after a period of silence, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo spoke out, denouncing the application of the "sharia" as a violation of the Constitution.

        There was an eerie calm in Kaduna today. The army now controls the areas that were the scene of pitched battles with machetes, work instruments, and firearms. According to a nun who works in the city, this morning a band of Muslims tried to attack a group of Christians who survived the arson of a village near Kaduna, but the police intervened in time. At present, the streets of the city are being swept clean. There is filth and burnt material everywhere, to say nothing of bodies lying on the ground awaiting burial.

    Destruction of Democracy

        "There are those who are blowing on the fire to destroy democracy," the Archbishop of Abuja said to the Vatican agency "Fides." "There are circles that do not like President Olusegun Obasanjo's policies and use the religious problem to make things difficult for him. There were armed civilians in Kaduna. But they don't have money to buy those arms. Who is arming them? Who is financing these revolts?"

        The Archbishop responded to the above questions without hesitation. "Those circles that have emerged against Obasanjo have contacts abroad and use the sharia issue to exacerbate spirits. It is not accidental that the ambassador of Saudi Arabia attended the ceremony introducing the sharia in Zamfara, yet no representative from the central government of Nigeria attended. All know that Saudi Arabia has promised economic aid to the states that establish the Islamic Law. However, before they never helped Nigeria."

        Observers wonder why the conflicts broke out in Kaduna, and not in other states where the "sharia" will be enforced. "Kaduna is of Christian majority. But there is a small, well-organized fanatic minority that is funded from outside. How can Christians accept the law of a minority imposed by force which is against the federal Constitution? Sadly, the fanatics argue that the Constitution was written by Christians and that they cannot accept it. They accuse Christians of separating religion and politics, whereas for them they are one and the same thing," the Archbishop explained.

        In the meantime, two other states, Niger and Sokoto, have turned the "sharia" into law, which will be enforced in May. The governor of Niger has echoed the words of his counterpart in Zamfara: "The sharia will not apply to citizens of other religions." This is in contrast with what is actually happening in this state, however, where the separation of men and women and the legal restrictions (such as the prohibition on the consumption of alcohol and others) affect all.

        Sokoto, however, is a strong center of Islam in Nigeria. Sultan Attahiru Bafarawa, head of the Muslim community, decided to speed up matters and have the "sharia" enforced on May 29. "I have decided to create the necessary structures for the introduction of the sharia, because it is a wish of the people and because Sokoto is the center for the propagation of Islam in Nigeria," the Sultan announced.

        According to observers, the acceleration is in keeping with a plan for Islamization that could affect at least 6 of the 36 states that make up this young country, the most populous of the African continent, which was opening to new relations with the West, after 15 years of military dictatorship. ZE00022505

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        CALCUTTA, India ( - Hundreds of Christians protested outside a government office on Thursday against a state government order that anyone seeking a religious conversion must receive police permission.

        Religious conversions have become controversial in India with extremist Hindu groups claiming Christians have tricked or forced the poor or uneducated into converting to their religion. In recent years, Christians, who make up a tiny minority of the population, have been subject to attacks and even murder by extremists.

        The order by the Orissa state government requires people who are converting to Christianity to apply to a local official and receive police clearance. The United Forum of Catholics and Protestants said the order is unconstitutional.

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        BOSTON ( - Two prison inmates and the mother of one of the men were charged this week with trying to defraud the Archdiocese of Boston by filing a false claim they were molested by a priest as children.

        Sean Murphy, 35, and his mother, Sylvia Murphy, 57, were indicted by a grand jury on a conspiracy charge and two counts of attempted fraud in the amount of $850,000. Byron Worth, 41, of Ashburnham, who is in prison with Murphy on unrelated charges, was indicted on conspiracy and attempted larceny charges. Murphy and Worth allegedly attempted to recruit other inmates at the state prison in Shirley, Massachusetts.

        The men falsely claimed to have been sexually abused by former priest John Geoghan when they were children. Sylvia Murphy allegedly falsified school records to show the family lived in the parish where the priest served two decades ago.

        The archdiocese has reportedly paid out millions of dollars to settle lawsuits claiming Geoghan, 65, assaulted 77 children while he worked in five parishes over 30 years.

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    Pope Launches Solidarity Campaign for Devastated Country

        MAPUTO/CAIRO, FEB 25 (ZENIT).- Two weeks of rain and cyclone "Eline" have put an end to years of effort for Mozambique's progress. The country, which was already in difficulty after 2 years of war, has come to a sudden standstill, to the detriment of numerous micro development projects being carried out by several organizations. At present, 800,000 people are in danger of epidemic; and 600,000 are homeless, having escaped from certain death, carrying a minimum of clothing on their backs. At least 70 persons died as a result of the cyclone, according to the U.N. "Cholera, meningitis and malaria are the most immediate risks, and some are already dying from these ailments," UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy said, on her return from Mozambique.

        From Cairo, John Paul II offered prayers for Mozambique and appealed to the international community to give "effective" signs of solidarity.

        Vast areas of the country are submerged and can only be reached by helicopter. A good part of the southern province of Gaza, and the central province of Inhambane, are inaccessible by land. South African radio reported that special teams have arrived from the United States. The World Health Organization has warned about the risk of epidemics, particularly cholera and malaria, caused by stagnant water. French and South African humanitarian agencies are collaborating by air.

        The U.N. has made an appeal to collect $14 million to be distributed to 8 humanitarian agencies working in the area, managing food, health, water, hygiene, education, communications, and coordination. Since last Wednesday, some 500 persons are being treated for malaria in the Manhica hospital north of the capital, Maputo. Even before the floods, malaria was the principal cause of mortality in Mozambique. The Foreign Minister said that extensive areas of agricultural production have been destroyed. The government has requested $65 million from the international community for emergency aid.

        According to Fr. Antonio Rusconi, director of Radio Maria in Mozambique, "the hospitals are full because of malaria. For example, the hospital next door to our center has not a single place left. The risk of cholera is greater outside the capital because the water isn't good." Given the situation, the Catholic Church has opened its places of worship so that the homeless can be sheltered. ZE00022502

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