Although the pontifical representatives were able to meet with Iraqi officials, for the time being it has not been possible to find out if a date has been established. A few days ago, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Raphael Bidawid, said the papal trip could take place between January 16-20, but the Vatican has not confirmed these dates.
Vice-Premier Tareq Aziz declined to talk about his meetings with Archbishop Vigano. He limited himself to saying that discussions continue about the proposed papal visit.
"The delegation has returned to Rome today, and should return to Baghdad soon to take up negotiations with the Iraqi side," Aziz stated. Aziz stressed that neither the Vatican delegation nor Iraqi authorities will comment officially on the meetings held over the last four days.
As expressed in a letter last June, John Paul II would like to visit Ur of the Chaldeans, which is 400 kilometers south of Baghdad, considered the birthplace of Abraham, Father of the three monotheist religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. ZE99112408
On October 21, the Constitutional Court declared that Article 24, paragraph 2 of the Federal Law on military service was not in contravention of the Constitution. Under the terms of this law, citizens who are studying in private higher education establishments have no right to defer military service until the completion of their studies, causing panic among seminary students at Orthodox, Catholic, and other schools.
The court examined complaints from students at a private higher education school was an infringement of the constitutional right to an education, and decreed that the Law on Military Service preserved equality of opportunity insofar as a citizen has the choice of where to pursue a given course of study: either in a state higher education institution, which provides free education and qualifies him for a deferral of military service; or in a private institution which does not qualify for a deferral. Some private colleges and universities can apply for state accreditation which accords the right to defer military service.
In the Russian Federation, there are currently more than 100 Christian higher education institutions, including Orthodox and Catholic seminaries, theological schools, evangelical seminaries, and universities. Seminaries and church-run universities offer specializations, such as theology and catechetics, which are not included in the list of specializations which have state accreditation.
Father Pierre Diumulen, rector of the Catholic Seminary in Moscow, noted that following the court decision there has been a marked increase in the number of theological students being called up for military service. Father Diumulen added that a two-year break in study necessitated by military service may well a have detrimental effect on the students studies.
The pro-family Family Research Council dismissed the pamphlet as politics, not education. "We're all for the facts about homosexuality getting out, but you won't find them in this publication," said spokesman Janet Parshall. "This is another attempt by the homosexual lobby to silence any views on homosexuality but its own."
The booklet's authors said it was produced in response to concerns that "school personnel were receiving inaccurate information on the issue of sexual orientation and how to address it best with students." The booklet says "the promotion of 'reparative therapy' and 'transformational ministry' is likely to exacerbate the risk of harassment, harm, and fear."
"The primer does not acknowledge the unhealthy consequences of homosexuality," Parshall said. "It presents a one-sided case that promotes homosexuality by advocating censorship of information in schools about the opportunity for individuals to experience a healthy change and leave the homosexual lifestyle. Thousands who have desired to change have done so." The council also released two of its own booklets entitled "Top 10 Strategies Used by Homosexual Activists in Schools" and "How to Protect Your Children from Pro-Homosexuality Propaganda in Schools."
"Unborn babies merit respect: they cannot speak, I will be their voice!" said Sr. Anna Perez Cossio, of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. Sister Anna, 26, works at the University Hospital in Brazzaville, Congo, in the maternity and pediatric wards. In addition to babies killed in abortions, she witnesses every day the death of as many as fifteen child patients, starving and exhausted victims of the war in the Pool region.
Distressed at the sight of so many children killed by abortion and war, Sister Anne set up a local pro-life movement. "It is terrible to see unborn babies in our garbage bins," she said. "They cannot speak. I will be their voice!" She has already convinced several doctors to join the movement, which will provide assistance and counseling to help women decide to keep their babies, even when they feel the only solution is to abort.
"Very often the father refuses to accept his responsibility and to recognize the child as his," she said. Many of the women coming for an abortion have been abandoned by the father and their family, and are young, with no means of livelihood and fear that alone, they cannot cope with a child.
"We help them to overcome their fears, to accept and welcome the child. We also offer spiritual guidance." Once the baby is born the movement puts the new mothers in contact with a forum of young enterprises, whose members help the mother with micro-loans to start a small business and make a living for herself and her baby.
The movement also focuses on prevention by means of sensitization. "This evil must be eliminated at the roots. Young women must be warned of the great dangers of abortion," said Sister Anne. The group organizes courses in schools and parishes to explain the physical and psychological damage caused by abortion.