Referring to the Pope's possible trip to Iraq, the Cardinal explained that the Vatican is still waiting "for the all-clear sign from the Baghdad government." He also explained that the thorny question of the Nazareth mosque will not affect the papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which should take place in March of 2000. However, the Vatican is convinced that "some extremist group" has decided to force this issue, but Cardinal Sodano trusts "that a sense of responsibility will prevail."
Cardinal Sodano is also confident regarding future relations with communist governments of the Far East. "There is nothing unchangeable in history. If men are wise, things can change." At the same time, he confirmed the Vatican's hope to open new avenues of dialogue with China and North Korea. In referring to the latter country, which has just been visited by a Vatican humanitarian delegation, the Cardinal expressed the hope that "this trip might open a door."
The Vatican Secretary of State feels it is necessary to reestablish the moral sense of humanity in the new millennium, which will lead to real and lasting goals of civilization. On this road, the contribution of religion is fundamental, especially that of Christians, called to be "the salt of the earth and the light of the world," Cardinal Sodano concluded. ZE99120209
This is the third occurence of an initiative promoted by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and for Social Communications, which this year is being held with the provocative title, "The Cinema: Pictures for a Dialogue Among Peoples and a Culture of Peace in the Third Millennium."
When greeting the participants in the meeting, which is being held in the context of the International Spiritual Film Festival in Rome, the Holy Father analyzed how movie actors and directors can best serve the cause of harmony among peoples.
However, this objective seem both distant and ethereal. Therefore, the Pope himself suggested the formula to reach it: "In his complex and mysterious reality, it is necessary that the human person become the reference point for quality films proposing culture and universal values."
It must be a cinema that keeps people in mind, "every person, one and indivisible," because if on the contrary, it only considers "some aspect of the impressive complexity of the human being, it inevitably ends up being reductive, and ceases to be a beneficial cultural service."
Meanwhile, shooting has begun in Jerusalem on "The Body," a movie written and directed by Jonas McCord, denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The plot concerns a Catholic priest, played by Antonio Banderas, sent to the Holy Land to investigate the claims of an Israeli archeologist, played by Olivia Williams, that she has discovered the body of Christ. Banderas denies that the film is intended to offend Christians during the Jubilee year, saying, "You never know with these kind of things ... but we are just trying to just be honest." Writer/director McCord holds that his work is timely and universal. Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah declined to comment. ZE99120221 and ZE99120207
The seven sexuality-focused awards, totaling nearly $8.8 million, were given to projects organized by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Jordan, Tanzania, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia, Russia and the Pacific Region. UNFPA executive director Nafis Sadik praised the UN Foundation for their contribution, saying, "This assistance will help give [young people] some of the information and services they need to protect their health [and] to make informed and responsible choices." UNFPA has been a strong proponent of adolescent "reproductive rights" unrestricted by the guidance of parents.
In Jordan, UNICEF and UNFPA will use their $3.1 million in grant money to create a "comprehensive youth strategy for the country." While UNICEF intends to assist adolescents -- particularly girls -- in developing their "livelihood opportunities," UNFPA will work to "encourage attention to adolescent reproductive health among decision-makers" in the government and the schools. UNFPA will also use its grant to "encourage participation of 42,000 girls age 13-17 in reproductive health activities and life skills."
The two African projects, run by UNICEF and WHO, will focus on involving youth in HIV/AIDS prevention programs. UNFPA will conduct a similar project in the Pacific with $2.3 million from the UN Foundation.
Another $2.1 million from Turner's organization will finance UNICEF and UNFPA projects in Russia, where a poor economy has fueled high abortion, STD, and unwed pregnancy rates. UNFPA plans to provide "reproductive health information to adolescents through summer camp and vocational schools" to 100,000 to 200,000 young people in six Russian cities.
In a related story out of Glasgow, Scotland's Cardinal Thomas Winning has condemned plans by Scottish Health Minister Susan Deacon to increase the number of centers offering sex advice and contraceptives including abortifacient morning-after pills.
"Last weekend, new figures showed large numbers of under-age children having sex," Cardinal Winning told the BBC on Thursday. "You do not tackle that problem by throwing condoms and pills at these vulnerable young people."
He added, "Education in choice, in relationships and, yes -- unfashionable though it may be to say it -- in morality, is needed. We need to equip young people with the life skills to make their own choices and avoid peer pressure. Clinics such as those favored by the minister make it harder, not easier, for young people to say 'no' to premature sexual experiences."
"Family life in Scotland is under attack from many quarters -- the government should be attempting to support it, not undermine it with these clinics which effectively promote immorality," he said.
The cardinal also advised pro-life advocates that their protests should remain peaceful, a possible reference to recent demonstrations by the newly-formed Precious Life Scotland who have been accused of using militant or extreme methods.
"I want there to be no doubt in anyone's mind that the Roman Catholic Church condemns unreservedly any violent, intimidatory or aggressive protest," he said. "I have made it clear, even to church groups from overseas who favor militancy, that there can be no place for such behavior in Scotland. I respect the people of Scotland too much for that."
He added, "Targeting of individuals and their families, jostling people in the street, frightening people -- these tactics are simply not acceptable." Instead, Cardinal Winning called for peaceful distribution of information which would bring home the "awful reality" of abortion.
"Abortion is a crime against humanity," he said, "a crime with two victims, the unborn baby and the bereaved mother. That is why the Church's efforts in recent years have gone into providing real choice to women facing crisis pregnancies -- unlike those who say that abortion is the only option."
While in France, ZENIT reported that Father Stanislas Lalanne, spokesman for the French Episcopal Conference, has expressed disapproval of the recent decision of Segolene Royal, France's Delegate Minister for Secondary Schools, to distribute the "morning after" abortive pill among students.
"It is not possible to ignore the difficult situation that adolescents experience, facing early pregnancies," stated Fr. Lalanne. "But it is precisely for this reason that families and educators must direct the young morally and not deceive them by saying that simple precautions can repair the consequences of their irresponsible behavior."
A hard condemnation of the French government's decision was expressed by theologian Gino Concetti in an editorial in the Italian daily edition of L'Osservatore Romano. "The French authorities have opted for the easiest and most permissive solution, but also the most debatable. Today it is more necessary than ever to promote a policy of giving correct information on sexuality and encouraging youths and adults not to commit acts that go against life." ZE99120303
This striking "mea culpa" of the Spanish Church is written in a document with the significant title, "God's Faithfulness Lasts Forever. A Look in Faith at the 20th Century," which was approved by the Episcopate's plenary assembly last week. The text, which was published today, is 16 pages long and is divided into three parts. One is dedicated to "Confession of Sins and Petition for Forgiveness, for the self-sufficiency of modern times, secularism, unheard of violence, the lethal misery of entire populations, the culture of death and the crisis of the family.
"The blood of so many of our citizens spilt as a consequence of hatreds and vengeance, which are always unjustified, and in the case of many brothers and sisters as the gift of martyrdom for the faith, continues to cry to Heaven for reconciliation and peace. May this petition for forgiveness obtain for us from the God of peace the necessary light and strength to know how to always reject violence and death as a means of resolving political and social differences," continued the document.
"We all must ask for forgiveness: the bishops, the Church, and the entire society," he explained. "The Church was also a victim of the war, and we are not asking others to ask us for forgiveness."
The bishops believe that one of the great sins of this century that is coming to an end is "having often rejected the Heaven God offers us, arrogantly considering it a false consolation or an infantile dream."
"This is the case of the crime of abortion and also of euthanasia. The Church cannot stop asking the Lord for forgiveness for the life of so many innocents brutally deprived of their right to see the light, as well as for so many elderly, sick and handicapped, whose life is underestimated, threatened, and even taken away in virtue of purely material calculations of efficiency," wrote the Bishops.
The Spanish Bishops believe that at the end of the second millennium, "the Church has returned to being a martyr Church. The testimony of thousands of martyrs and saints has been stronger than the violence of insidious false prophets of irreligion and atheism."
Finally, the Bishops give a clear explanation of the objective of the document: "with a memory purified before the merciful God, who has done and continues to do so much for us, we are encouraged and encourage all to walk confidently toward the future. We have confidence in human beings because we trust God. We will remain vigilant in face of idols that will offer us heaven on earth, but which will end by handing us over to discouragement and death. Confidence in God helps us to learn from the past, including from our errors and sins, and helps us to look toward a future in which we can truly hope for the best." ZE99120208