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FRI-SAT-SUN      December 11-13, 1998      SECTION THREE       vol 9, no. 240

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Catholic World News Service



      VATICAN ( -- In a message to the United Nations, on the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Pope John Paul II today called the date "an appeal for an examination of conscience by each of the states which voluntarily signed the text if 1948."

      The Pope's message was delivered to the President of the UN's Assembly General, Didier Opertti Badan. In it the Pontiff called attention to the fact that human rights are still "the object of grave and continual violations." Too many governments, he said, honor human rights only when it fits their convenience.

      The Holy Father argued that the Universal Declaration reflects a basic agreement, framed in explicit moral terms and founded on a common understanding of man. The text, he said, finds its roots in "diverse national, cultural, and religious traditions."

      In closing, the Pope called for greater solidarity among the world's nations, and a greater understanding that the full recognition of human rights requires an attitude of compassion toward the poor, the weak, and those who are suffering.


      VATICAN ( -- The bishops of the Philippines have issued a strong statement charging that the country's government has both committed and allowed multiple violations of human rights.

      The bishops' statement, issued on the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recited "a litany of injustices," and concluded that the country had seen violations of "civil rights, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, including the right to development."

      The violations-- which have continued even after the lifting of the martial-law regime under which the Philippines were ruled for years-- include offenses by government and by other parties. In the latter category, the bishops cite the many kidnappings which have taken place in the Mindanao regime, as Islamic terrorists fight for autonomy there.

      Other offenses mentioned by the bishops include electoral fraud and political corruption, the refusal to allow collective bargaining in industrial disputes, the offenses committed by paramilitary groups with apparent connivance of local authorities, the exploitation of children, and the general poverty of the people.


      PARIS ( - The French National Assembly on Wednesday approved a bill that grants new rights to unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples despite heavy opposition from conservative parties and the Catholic Church.

      The PACS bill would allow a Civil Solidarity Pact between two cohabitating people over the age of 18 to allow them inheritance rights, joint tax filing status, and other rights traditionally allotted only to families. The bill, heavily supported by the ruling coalition of Socialists, Communists, and Greens, will be taken up by the Senate next March.

      Supporters of the bill said the measure is needed to bring the law in line with the evolution of French society. Critics, including the country's bishops, said the bill would set up a Byzantine maze of social relationships, undermining the family as the foundation of society, and is the first step on a path to legalizing same-sex marriage.


      WARSAW ( - Pope John Paul II will make his eighth visit home to Poland next year, according to a joint announcement by Polish bishops and the government this week.

      Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski, speaking at a Church-government committee meeting on Monday said the Holy Father will visit the country for 12 days next June and journey to 18 locations including Gdansk, Warsaw, and his hometown of Wadowice. "A detailed plan of the visit will be announced at the start of next year after John Paul II personally accepts it," said Wieslaw Walendziak, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek's chief of staff and deputy chairman of the committee.

      Walendziak said the Pope insisted on including a visit to Warsaw's Umschlagplatz -- a railway ramp from which Nazi Germans deported Jews to the Auschwitz death camp during World War II -- and meetings with Polish legislative, judiciary and executive authorities in parliament.

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December 11-13, 1998 volume 9, no. 240   DAILY CATHOLIC