WEDNESDAY     February 2, 2000    vol. 11, no. 23    SECTION THREE

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SECTION THREE Contents: Go immediately to the article:
WORLD NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant:
  • Still time to protest stem-cell research procedures
  • FCC reverses controversial religious ruling
  • Vatican paper: Pope is not incapacitated
  • Focus on Capital Punishment
  • Guatamala demands priest return
  • Pope emphasizes Consecrated Life
  • Cardinal Law on Catholic Education taking the lead

  • WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant

    New Guidelines would Permit Destruction of Living Embryos

       WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB 1 (ZENIT).- The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has decided to extend the deadline for public comment on a revised set of guidelines for stem cell research. The "novelty" of the new guidelines is that not only will researchers be able to harvest cells from dead embryos (normally from abortions), but also will be able to kill "unwanted" embryos from fertility clinics in order to extract the stem cells and still receive Federal funding for their research.

        Embryonic stem cells are the undifferentiated cells in the human blastocyst, from which any type of human cell may later develop. Supporters of the process claim that the blastocyst is not really an embryo, but a "pre-embryo." However, this is just a word game, according to Dr. Dianne Irving, a former career-appointed NIH bench research biochemist/biologist. "The immediate product of fertilization is a human being with 46 chromosomes, a human embryo, an individual member of the human species, and ... this is the beginning of the embryonic period."

        Currently, a Congressional ban prevents Federally funded human embryo research. Research on entire live fetuses is still altogether illegal. The new guidelines would open a loophole, claiming that human embryo stem cell research does not fall under the ban. Essentially, the "surplus" embryos would be killed in private fertility clinics so that the research can be done in Federally funded centers without ever technically breaking the ban on live fetus research. The actual guidelines are available for reading at .

        Dr. Irving, who represented the U.S. Catholic Medical Association in the October "Guadalupe Appeal" conference on bioethics in Mexico City, indicated that it is unusual that the NIH would extend the period for public comment, and that this probably indicates a large groundswell of opposition to the measure. Nonetheless, this extra time period could allow supporters of the technique to skew the comments in favor of the proposed guidelines. The NIH invites written comments from all, either by mail (Stem Cell Guidelines, NIH Office of Science Policy, 1 Center Drive, Building 1, Room 218, Bethesda, MD 20892), fax (++1 (301) 402-0280), or email

        Dr. Irving also indicated that the use of embryonic cells is unnecessary for stem cell research. She cited, for example, a study in which a team of Italian and Canadian scientists, led by Angelo L. Vescovi in Milan, was able to metamorphose adult neural stem cells into the blood-making stem cells of the bone marrow. ZE00020120

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    Calls for Silence Over Papal "Resignation"

       VATICAN CITY, FEB 1 (ZENIT).- For reasons of the "liberty of the Church," but also for reasons of "good manners," it is time to stop talking about the Pope's resignation. This appeal is made in the February 2 issue of "L'Osservatore Romano," following weeks of rumors and conjectures on the Holy Father's state of health in the Italian media.

        Ever since the influential Italian ANSA agency mistranslated statements of Bishop Karl Lehmann, President of the German Bishops' Conference (Cf. ZENIT, January 10, 2000), making it appear that he was leading a call to pressure the Pope into retirement, local papers have been filled with veiled and not-so-veiled statements that the Pope really should resign for health reasons.

        Such a decision belongs strictly to the Pope himself, according to the Vatican newspaper. The fact that the Pope is frail does not mean he is unable to do his work. Therefore, it is both pointless and inopportune to spread suppositions as to who should give evidence on the Pope's "incapacity" to govern the Church.

        This is the first time "L'Osservatore Romano" has taken such a clear position on the debate. "Physical weakness does not mean incapacity or an 'irreversible' and impossible condition. These are distinctions that must be made for clarity of thought and ... to defend papal liberty; moreover, it is better not to formulate suppositions (fortune telling) on who should certify the condition of permanent reduction (another concept that must be clarified) in the ability to communicate," the article states.

        "In theory, one can imagine the Pope's resignation, since this has already occurred in the Church's 2000 years, but it is important to stress the absolute freedom of the Pope to say something like this."

        No one can intervene in a decision of this kind, and less so reporters. "It is a question of 'libertas ecclesiae' [liberty of the Church]", Marchetto writes.

        "We add that there are also considerations that we could define as good manners, in addition to those stemming from the fact one is Catholic, that demand that all this 'buzzing' around the topic now be silenced," continued the article.

        "Can one not give Pope Wojtyla, who has struggled for liberty all his life, the liberty to make decisions without this type of pressure? Moreover, he is the Pope!" the newspaper concluded. ZE00020109

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       WASHINGTON, DC ( - The Federal Communications Commission last Friday reversed a controversial ruling that had limited the amount of religious programming on noncommercial television stations.

        The commission said "it has become clear that our actions have created less certainty rather than more, contrary to our intent." Instead, the commission said it would defer the definition of education, instructional, or cultural programming to each broadcaster, unless "such judgement is arbitrary or unreasonable."

        New guidelines published in early January require broadcasters operating with noncommercial educational licenses -- favored by non-profit religious broadcasters -- to devote at least one-half of their programming hours to "educational, instructional, or cultural" shows. However, the commission had said programming that is "primarily devoted to religious exhortation, proselytizing, or statements of personally-held religious views and beliefs" does not qualify as educational, cultural, or instructional.

        After a widespread outcry and the threat of congressional legislation to reverse the decision, FCC Chairman William Kennard issued a statement that claimed the ruling did not establish new rules, but only clarified existing policy. When critics who said the ruling curtailed free speech were not mollified, the commission met last Friday and rescinded the order by a four to one vote.

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       ROME ( - The Roman Colosseum was bathed in golden light on Tuesday as an anti-death penalty coalition recognized the decision by the US state of Illinois to declare a moratorium on all executions.

        The coalition -- which includes the United Nations, the Italian government, the city of Rome, the Vatican, the Catholic Sant' Egidio group, and Amnesty International -- began the campaign in December to illuminate the Colosseum in gold light for two days every time someone in the world is spared execution.

        On Monday, Illinois Gov. George Ryan issued an executive order for a moratorium on executions while a special panel studies the state's capital punishment system. Ryan said the system was "fraught with error," noting thirteen death row inmates in Illinois have been freed or taken off death row since 1987 after errors in their convictions were found.

        The Colosseum was chosen for the campaign because of its worldwide visibility -- millions of visitors see it every year -- and it was the site of thousands of executions by the Roman Empire. Tuesday's lighting was the eighth time since the campaign began.

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       GUATEMALA CITY ( - Guatemala's government over the weekend ordered a priest to voluntarily return from the United States or face extradition in the case of a bishop murdered there in April 1998.

        Attorney General Leopoldo Zeissig said Father Mario Orantes Najera, 40, had until Tuesday to appear before investigators. After that, authorities planned to request his extradition. Father Orantes' family said the priest had fled to the US and was in hiding following death threats made against him and for medical treatment.

        Father Orantes had been jailed from July 1998 to February 1999 as a suspect in the murder of Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera, who was murdered two days after releasing a report that blamed the military and death squads for most of the deaths during the country's 36-year civil war. Human rights groups and Catholic leaders dismissed the idea that Father Orantes, who lived with Bishop Gerardi, was involved and said the investigation should focus on the military and death squads.

        After President Alfonso Portillo called for a new investigation into the crime during his inauguration on January 14, police arrested a former presidential guard, an Army officer, the man's father, who is a retired officer, and the bishop's cook, who was also jailed briefly in 1998. The arrests were based on testimony from Ruben Chamax Sontay, a man who was near the bishop's home on the night of the killing, authorities said.

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    John Paul II's Prayer Intention for February is for Vocations and Jubilee Pilgrims

       VATICAN CITY, FEB 1 (ZENIT).- 18,000 men and women religious have come to Rome over the past few days to participate in the Jubilee of the Consecrated Life. The climax of the celebrations takes place on the morning of the Presentation of the Lord in St. Peter's Square, when the participants will meet with John Paul II.

        The celebrations of the religious during this Holy Year have been thought out in great detail, including very original initiatives that made the last two days particularly intense. Today was dedicated to the mission and testimony of the consecrated. The participants celebrated by going to the Basilica of St. Mary Major and spending time in adoration of Christ present in the Eucharist, the sole reality that gives meaning to their consecration.

        Yesterday afternoon the participants enjoyed music, songs, testimonies, and images. The event, which took place in the Paul VI Auditorium in the Vatican, was televised for the general public.

        For two hours, the program celebrated the meaning of a life dedicated to God, from the first call to the consecration, a road that at times costs blood. Among those present were 9,000 men and women religious and consecrated laity, an extraordinary expression of charisms showered on the Church over the past 2000 years.

        The ceremonies began with a Swahili dance, which provided the background for the enthronement of the Gospel, symbol of the radical adhesion of the consecrated to Christ's message. This was followed by large screen pictures evoking the awakening of a vocation. A young girl, who will spend her life for God, spoke for all: "I had an inner certainty that life is a gift and that it must be given. This certainty fills me with peace and joy. The missionary life seemed to be the answer. I wanted to do something for others. This was the way and I couldn't dismiss it, in spite of all the sacrifices."

        Passages from Sacred Scripture, poems by saints and theologians, intertwined with the solemnity of singular notes like those of the Gregorian Choir of the Monks of the Spanish Monastery of St. Dominic of Silos, made of this moment of the consecrated's celebration an extremely strong message for the general public. The ceremony included a "Via Lucis," or fourteen stations recalling Christ's post-resurrection appearances.

        These men and women, who breathe the dust of dry African lands, spend sleepless nights caring for AIDS patients, or are consecrated to a contemplative life in a monastery, present a challenge to the world of the third millennium. In the words of Capuchin Sisto Zarbellon, one of the presenters of the event, "we respond to the challenges of the world with the challenges of the Gospel. This is our call."

        The Jubilee of the Consecrated Life, which will be held on Wednesday, will begin at the Vatican with the ceremony of crossing the Holy Door and blessing of the candles, symbol of the light of Christ for every faithful and, in particular, for the consecrated, who must keep it burning. During the ceremony, as a sign of love for the poorest of our times, the donations of religious communities throughout the world will be given to the works of charity and help carried out on behalf of the Holy Father. The Jubilee day of the consecrated will end in St. Peter's Basilica in the afternoon with prayer in common.

        During the month of February, John Paul II appeals to all Catholics around the world to pray that "Christian communities will be adapted and welcoming terrain for all vocations of special consecration," that is, vocations to the religious life or to lay movements, according to the three evangelical counsels: chastity, poverty and obedience.

        Moreover, John Paul II has also revealed his missionary intention for the month: "That the pilgrims who visit Rome, Jerusalem and other places of Christian spirituality, will become messengers of the Gospel of hope for the men of our times."

        A series of intentions are proposed by the Apostleship of Prayer and the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples for each month, and the Holy Father chooses one general intention and one missionary intention from the lists.

        The Apostleship of Prayer is an ecclesial association that came into existence in the middle of the last century at the initiative of the Jesuits, inspired by the revelations of the Sacred Heart to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque, which took place in France in the 17th century. This initiative, which has spread throughout the Church, has persons who are responsible in the different dioceses. The central direction is in Rome, in the Jesuit mother house.

        The Apostleship of Prayer consists in promoting the union of faithful in the sacrifice of the Mass through the offering of prayers, works, joys and sacrifices of every day in reparation for offenses against the Heart of Jesus -- God's redeeming love for humanity. ZE000020104 and ZE00020108.

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       BOSTON, 1 (NE) "Catholic schools are needed now more than ever before," stated Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston, at the beginning of the celebration of the Week of Catholic Schools in the United States. Acknowledging that there is something wrong in our present culture -something that the mass media news makes evident- the Cardinal stated that "Catholic schools have a unique role in this nation in preparing us for the new millennium."

        Cardinal Law emphasized the level that Catholic schools have reached, but explained that the fundamental difference of this education is "the dimension of faith that is interwoven in the educational process." Recalling a document of the US Episcopate, he stated that "Catholic schools were dedicated to communicating the truth in all its fullness," task that they accomplish in the "context of a community of faith," motivating students and teachers to live the experience of service and dedication to our brethren.

        The new century and new millennium need young men and women "firmly rooted in the enduring truths about God, about the human person, about the family, about human solidarity. This is what Catholic education is about. We really have something to celebrate!" concluded the Archbishop of Boston.

         For more headlines and articles, we suggest you go to the Catholic World News site at the CWN home page and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and the Dossiers, features and Daily Dispatches from ZENIT International News Agency CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC, but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

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