Cardinal Silvestrini met with the Iraqi Catholic Patriarch, His Beatitude Raphael Bidawid, in the Vatican yesterday. At present, the Patriarch is mediating between Baghdad and the Vatican to define the details of John Paul II's pilgrimage to Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham's birthplace, Father of the Faith of believers of the three monotheist religions.
No details were given about the meeting between the Patriarch and Cardinal but, during a press conference today to present the book, "Jubilee 2000 and the Catholic Eastern Churches," prepared by his Congregation, Cardinal Silvestrini seemed confident that the trip would take place.
"The Catholic Eastern Churches are living in very difficult circumstances. Emerging from harsh persecution by an atheist regime in Central and Eastern Europe, weakened by social and political instability in the Middle East, they have become the target of a heated debate fanned by the Orthodox Churches," he said.
"Finally, after recovering their freedom, Eastern European Catholics are attempting to rebuild pastoral structures that were destroyed and, in spite of enduring difficulties, are desirous to overcome all forms of controversy with their Orthodox brothers," Cardinal Silvestrini stated.
Bishop Claudio Gugerotti, under-secretary of this Vatican Congregation, explained that the volume "Jubilee 2000 and the Catholic Eastern Churches" is being published at this moment in order to appreciate and live the spiritual attitudes that the Jubilee promotes, paying special attention to the Eastern tradition."
The press conference offered the opportunity to announce a meeting of Bishops and religious Superiors of the Eastern Catholics of America and Oceania, which will take place in Boston, from November 7-12. According to Cardinal Silvestrini, the purpose of the meeting is to study "the questions that affect life and the future of Eastern Catholics in the countries of immigration."
After the Vatican clarified its position regarding the papal trip to Iraq -- insisting that it cannot be used for political ends, the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica" disclosed that Bishop Raphael Bidawid, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, traveled secretly to Rome over the weekend to agree with the Vatican Secretariat of State on the minimum conditions for the Pope's visit to Iraq.
His Beatitude Bidawid returned to Iraq yesterday. Although he did not meet John Paul II, he was received by the Holy Father's close collaborators in the Secretariat of State, who insisted on the strictly religious character of the papal pilgrimage. The Pope wants to make this trip very much, but rejects any politicization of it whatsoever.
United States pressures against the papal trip have intensified over the last weeks. Opposition to Saddam has led the U.S. to exhort John Paul II to "reconsider his decision" so as not to reinforce the dictator's position.
No news has been given about the last-minute mediation of Patriarch Bidawid, who arrived in the Vatican with the hope of setting a date for the trip -- something he was unable to accomplish. "We wait for Baghdad's response," the Vatican stated.
However, the Apostolic Nunciature in Iraq announced yesterday that a meeting was held between the Nuncio and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to discuss John Paul II's visit, with a possible date sometime in December. Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto met with Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf to study the recent events that affected both sides in planning the papal visit to Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham's birthplace.
The Iraqi press stated that, although no date for the visit has been set, al-Sahaf expressed to Archbishop Lazzarotto that Iraq will be very happy to receive the Vatican team of planners who usually prepare the Pope's visits, to discuss details of the pilgrimage. ZE99102105 and ZE99102002
The vote by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) for an unconditional repeal was made as part of a May 4 agreement with the UN setting up East Timor's independence referendum at the end of August.
Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, invaded mainly Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognized by the United Nations. In August, the region held a Jakarta-proposed referendum to allow Timorese to choose either autonomy within Indonesia or full independence. After the pro-independence results were revealed, pro-Indonesia militias, armed and backed by Indonesia's military, went on a rampage, killing thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee the former Portuguese colony.
Timorese independence activists welcomed the vote, but said it was only a first step toward respecting East Timor's overwhelming decision for independence. "Indonesia's new Parliament and President must now act to put relations with its neighbor on a peaceful footing," said John M. Miller, spokesman for the East Timor Action Network. "Renouncing its claim to East Timor is only a first step."
Miller called for Indonesia to assist in the safe return of Timorese refugees who fled their homes during the recent massacres, the disbanding and disarming of militias, cooperation with international investigations of human rights violations, and the prosecution of Indonesian military officers and militias leaders responsible for abuses dating back to 1975.
"Indonesia must also renounce all claims for compensation for any infrastructure or investment in East Timor," said Miller. "After two and one-half decades of looting its resources and murdering its people, it is the height of arrogance for Indonesia to demand anything from East Timor. Having left the territory in ruins, it is Indonesia which owes the people of East Timor, not vice versa," added Miller.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, said the ban is designed to protect "the most vulnerable members of our society." "This is about infanticide," he said from the Senate floor. "This is a baby who is all but born and then killed."
In the partial-birth abortion procedure, the abortionist delivers the near full-term baby until only his head remains within the birth canal, then pierces the back of his neck with scissors and suctions out his brains. According to eyewitnesses, the babies evidence pain, flinching at the stab of the scissors and then going limp as they die.
The current bill would make partial-birth abortion a felony punishable by a fine and/or a two-year prison term unless the procedure is "necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness or injury." The mother could not be prosecuted under the measure.
The House of Representatives has passed by a veto-proof margin the ban each time it came up for consideration. Nearly 30 states have passed partial-birth abortion bans, but courts have overturned many of them.
The current debate over the procedure has been motivated by new revelations of a profit motive for preferring partial-birth abortion over other methods. According to several pro-life groups, the procedure is often favored by abortionists because it provides intact fetuses for sale to researchers.
The University of Washington advertises on the National Institutes of Health's Web site that they "can supply tissue from normal or abnormal embryos and fetuses of desired gestational ages between 40 days and term. Specimens are obtained within minutes of passage and tissues are aseptically identified, staged, and immediately processed according to the requirements of individual investigators." Pro-lifers note that the ad admits late-term abortions are being done on healthy babies.
The pro-life group Life Dynamics of Texas has pioneered the discovery of the research connection by obtaining invoices which detail orders for organs and body parts of aborted babies, that list organizations that pay for fetal tissue services provided by Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, through groups such as Opening Lines and the Anatomic Gift Foundation. Although the sale of fetal tissue is illegal under current legislation, "site fees" and "services rendered" are paid by the buyers.
"Because partial birth abortion is the only existing method that provides the industry with the whole cadavers needed for accurate dissection and distribution, questions have been raised concerning the validity of the procedure," said the American Life
According to a report in Thursday's Catholic Times newspaper, St. Thomas More High School, in Tyne and Wear, is to accept a small cash prize from the Family Planning Association (FPA). The award is dedicated to the memory of Pamela Sheridan who believed in "the ability to use contraception effectively."
The pro-life charity Life has demanded that the school makes its sex education policy publicly available. "I think the Catholic community is entitled to know what their policy is," said Life trustee Nuala Scarisbrick. "The FPA does not normally uphold the truth of the Catholic faith. The materials I have read do not promote the kind of attitudes toward sex that concerned Catholics, Christians, Muslims, and orthodox Jews would approve."
She added, "They are value free. They do not promote abstinence and chastity or that human life begins at conception. They also promote abortifacients such as the morning-after pill which can cause an abortion."
Colin Finlay, senior pastoral tutor at St. Thomas More, defended the school's decision to accept the award. "Our emphasis is on creating understanding, including understanding other people's points of view," he said. "We talk about all points of view in a non-judgemental fashion. We follow the ethos of not throwing the first stone."
"We stress that sex is meant to be part of a loving relationship with the possibility of children and preferably within a married relationship," he continued.
FPA is affiliated with the International Planned Parenthood Federation.