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April 22, 1998             SECTION TWO              vol 9, no. 78

WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant provided by Catholic World News Service



     VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II is planning a trip to Mexico in January, 1999, according to that country's apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Justo Mullor. The trip will furnish the occasion for the Pope to deliver the apostolic exhortation that will mark the formal conclusion of the special Synod of Bishops for the Americas, which met in Rome last year.

      Although the Vatican said that a January trip was "probable," there was no formal confirmation of the dates for the visit. The timing of that trip could be influenced by different factors, including the process of editing the apostolic exhortation.

      During the American Synod, which was held in Rome in November and December 1997, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City invited the Holy Father to visit Mexico, to pray at the sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and to issue the apostolic exhortation there. His suggestion was greeted with enthusiasm by the other American bishops.

      The January trip would be the fourth visit by Pope John Paul to Mexico. He previously traveled there in January 1979, May 1990, and August 1993.


     CHICAGO (CWNews.com) -- Pro-life activists in the United States suffered a shocking setback on April 20 when a jury in Chicago found two pro-life groups guilty of extortion under a law designed to help fight organized crime.

      Joseph Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League, who has been battling in court with the National Organization of Women for 12 years, was ordered to pay $86,000 in damages to abortion clinics. Under the federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law, Judge David Coar could triple that amount. And other abortion clinics could lodge their own claims, running the total award into the millions.

      Fay Clayton, an attorney for the National Organization of Women, called the verdict "the biggest courtroom defeat for the anti-abortion movement ever." Scheidler, however, said that he would appeal the court's decision, and remained resolute that he would continue acting to save unborn children. And Chicago's Cardinal Francis George said his archdiocese might join in the appeal, adding that the verdict was "unjust."

      The RICO law, passed by Congress in 1970, was originally intended to curb Mafia activities. The main author of the legislation, Professor Robert Blakely of the University of Notre Dame, said the legislation was being misused in this case, to stifle legitimate political protest. "Anyone who loves the First Amendment has got to sleep uneasily tonight," he told reporters.

      However, in 1994 the US Supreme Court ruled that the abortion clinics could use the RICO law against Scheidler and Operation Rescue. And when the case finally came to trial in Chicago, the clinics presented witnesses who said they felt threatened and intimidated by the tactics of the pro-life groups, which included pickets and blockades. Scheidler testified, to no avail, that he had always explicitly rejected all forms of violence.

      Scheidler was found guilty along with two colleagues, Andrew Scholberg and Timothy Murphy. Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, an original defendant in the case, had earlier reached an out-of-court settlement with the abortion clinics, clearing the way for his run for a seat in the US House of Representatives.


     VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- At a press conference on the opening day of the Synod of Bishops for Asia, Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-Hsi, SJ, of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, told reporters that he still had confidence some bishops from mainland China would attend, although none were present for the opening ceremonies.

      Cardinal Shan, who is the relator general for the special synod, met with the media along with Archbishop Thomas Manamparamil, SDB, of Guwahati, India, the secretary general of the special synod; Bishop Joseph Vianney Fernando of Kandy, Sri Lanka, the head of the public-information committee; Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, MSSP, of Baalbek, Lebanon, the vice-chairman of the information committee; Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, OMI, of Nueva Segovia, Philippines, and Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong.

      Cardinal Shan reminded reporters that two Chinese bishops-- Mattias Duan Yinming of Wanxian and his coadjutor Joseph Xu Zhixuan-- had received personal invitations from Pope John Paul to participate in the synod. Although those bishops may not have had time to obtain visas, he said, they could still receive government permission to travel to Rome before the three-week session ends. "And two seats are being kept open for them," Bishop Fernando added.

      Bishop Tong said that the Patriotic Catholic Association-- the government-controlled body which claims to preside over the Catholic Church on mainland China-- had announced that no bishop would be allowed to attend the synod in Rome without presenting a written invitation. The Pope's gesture toward the bishops of Wanxian would appear to fill that condition.

      In one of the more dramatic statements during the first day of discussions at the Synod of Bishops for Asia, Bishop Stephen Fumio Hamao of Yokohama said that the Church in Japan was guilty of failure to fulfill her "prophetic" role in denouncing the "inhuman" political system that involved that country in World War II.

      And Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, calling attention to relations between Asia and neighboring Africa, asked his fellow bishops to work for "decolonization" of the undeveloped world, and issued a special call for help in evangelizing the region the Maghreb, in northwestern Africa.

      Bishop Hamao began his intervention by recalling the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and mourning the thousands of people whose lives were ended in an instant. But he said that those bomb victims were in a real sense the victims of Japanese aggression, which had brought the country into the war, and had devastated several neighboring Asian lands. "The Church neglected her prophetic role to bear witness to the will of God and to protect human life," he said.

      The Japanese bishop said that his fondest wish was for the Church to promote the development of enduring peace. "Peace is a gift, the fruit of a healthy human community," he said. He urged that the cause of peace be placed at the center of the Church's missionary efforts in Asia.

      Cardinal Gantin thanked the Asian bishops for their help with missionary work in Africa, but observed, "missionary cooperation among the poor churches has never been more necessary." He said that the Asian Church, which has had experience in missionary work and in contact with Islam, could be particularly helpful in extending the work of evangelization in northwest Africa, where Islam is now dominant.