Msgr. Bruno Forte, an Italian theologian, told a Vatican Radio audience that the International Theological Committee-- which met in Rome last week-- said that the Vatican-appointed group was setting up standards for the process of asking forgiveness, including the need to be faithful to the truth and to affirm the solidarity of living Christians with their forefathers, despite any criticism of the latter.
Msgr. Forte has been appointed to chair a subcommittee of the International Theological Commission, which will prepare a "working document" on the questions involved in an appeal for pardon.
Pope John Paul II has several times repeated his suggestion that the Church should prepare for the third Christian millennium by examining her pasts, identifying failures, and asking for pardon. Msgr. Forte emphasized the need to prepare adequately for this gesture, which he described as "prophetic."
The Theological Commission addressed the practical difficulties involved with such a measure. Msgr. Forte alluded to two obvious difficulties: "In what sense can someone ask pardon for faults committed at another time, by other people? And how can we maintain the solidarity of all baptized people in Christ, across space and time, while at the same time we acknowledge that our predecessors might have committed these faults?"
The answer to both questions, the theologian stressed, must be found in fidelity to the truth. The Church should recognize the errors of her children, as any mother does; and the children should recognize that they are bound together in the love of Christ.
The group said it would spend at least $2.7 million, depending on how much they can raise, to print 45 million voter guides that highlight particular issues and where candidates stand on them. They will also initiate a campaign of phone calls, mailings, and advertisements encouraging registered voters to go to the polls on November 3.
Spokesman Arne Owens called the announcement a "blueprint to our supporters on how we envisioned allocating funds" so they "would have some degree of confidence that we would be good stewards of the hard-earned dollars they are providing to us."
It will be important to counteract a coalition of pro-abortion groups who announced on Tuesday that it is planning to spend more than $1 million to help defeat pro-life candidates for Congress.
The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), and others said their goal is to blunt expected Republican gains in the November 3 elections. In election years when the president is not on the ballot, the political party not holding the White House often gains seats in Congress. NARAL president Kate Michelman said about 60 vulnerable House and Senate seats would be targeted.
PPFA, the largest abortion provider in the country, said it would spend more than $1 million on voter education and campaign contributions to pro-abortion candidates. NARAL has already aired television commercials in New York targeting GOP Sen. Alfonse D'Amato and in Washington state against GOP Rep. Linda Smith running for Democrat Sen. Patty Murray's seat.
A statement issued on Tuesday said Factor Mendez should present evidence of his claims to prosecutors rather than simply making public claims. Bishop Gerardi was killed two days after presenting a report which blamed the military for most of the deaths during the country's 36-year civil war. Although initial suspicions pointed toward retribution, prosecutors eventually arrested and charged a priest who lived with the bishop at the time.
Mendez said his activist group has "irrefutable documents" pointing to military involvement.
Archbishop Renato Martino, the permanent Vatican observer at the UN, emphasized family issues in an address to the General Assembly, which was discussing the general topic of social development. Archbishop Martino indicated that the other main priorities of the Holy See were the war on poverty and the defense of human rights.
The Vatican delegate suggested that the defense of human rights entails respect for the family, and for the rights of parents. A strong family life, he observed, is "the best guarantee of social development for aged people, the young, the handicapped." The family, he said, is "the first defense against the world's upheavals."
The urgency of his remarks took on added significance when it was announced in Santiago, Chile that for the first time since strong population control policies were launched in Latin America in the early 70s, the Latin American Center for Demographics (CELADE) admitted on Tuesday that at least some Latin American countries will soon face the problem of a declining population of young people.
CELADE, a branch of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), said that life expectancy in Latin America has increased systematically since 1970, but during the same period of time, the birth rate has declined from 5 children per woman to less than three.
"The region is definitively moving toward an aging population," said Jose Antonio Ocampo, president of CELADE, after issuing the document. "Therefore, Latin American governments will have to face new health and social security problems related to a larger, older population." The report added that if the population trend continues, the region's birth rate will be below 2 per woman by 2025 when experts concede that at least a birth rate of 2.5 is needed to ensure an stable population. The report said that the countries with the highest rate of aging are Cuba, Uruguay, and Argentina.
Cuba, the only country in which abortion on demand is legal, has the lowest birth rate in the region, and by 2000, it will be the Latin American country with the smallest population of young people -- only 21 percent. Cuba is followed by Uruguay, with only 24.8 percent, and Argentina, with 27.7 percent.