VATICAN CITY—In record time, the diocesan stage of the inquiry for the beatification of Pope Paul VI has been closed and documentation was understood to have been forwarded yesterday to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints.
According to Vatican sources, the Congregation has to work overtime at the Pope's own request, in order to see if there is a case for the beatification of his predecessor in time for Jubilee celebrations next year.
The Pope — who before he can proclaim Paul VI "Blessed" requires the prior approval of Mgr Jose Martin Saraiva, who heads the Congregation is understood to want both his predecessor and John XXIII beatified at the same time. If this were to occur, it would set a new record for Paul VI, who died in 1978, putting him just behind the Opus Dei founder Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, who took 17 years to earn the title Blessed.
The cause of Pope John XXIII was begun 34 years ago and has been lagging until recently. Its documentation is now being examined by the Congregation.— (From Bruce Johnston in Rome) VATICAN CITY—The Vatican has given its blessing for the release, as an "act of clemency", of Mohamed Ali Agca, the Turkish terrorist serving a sentence in an Italian jail for shooting the Pope in 1981.
Details of the development emerged through diplomatic channels at the weekend, when it was said that the Vatican was urging the Italian state to filially take a position on the matter, while making clear that it was not opposed to such a move itself.
"Things are beginning to move," was the only comment by a Vatican spokesman in reply to rumours circulating in Rome. It may be no coincidence that on May 27, three days before the Pope is due to travel to the Adriatic port of Ancona, where Agca is being held, a tribunal hearing is scheduled to examine the Turk's request to have the remainder of his term commuted to day release, at the least.
Last month Agca wrote to the Pontiff asking him to intercede in order that he might be either pardoned or extradited to his native Turkey. "On the eve of the Holy Year 2000," he wrote, "devoted to reconciliation and remission of sins, I believe my prayer might be answered."— (From Bruce Johnston in Rome) VATICAN CITY—The Pontifical Academy for Life condemned euthanasia and assisted suicide and recommended a return to the Hippocratic Oath in a statement issued last week.
Presenting the conclusions of a Vatican conference on The Dignity of the Dying, the Pontifical Academy said: "We reject with vigour and absolute conviction every form of euthanasia, understood as recourse to actions or omissions by which one hopes to bring about the death of a person in order to spare him pain and suffering."
It called on governments not to legalise or remove the penalties for such actions and said that everyone is entitled to a natural and dignified death.
The Academy drew on the advice of a team of experts from the fields of biology, psychology, medicine, philosophy, theology and law.—(Zenit) VATICAN CITY—Pope John Paul II condemned black market economies in the Third World and industrialised nations alike during an address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
"Black market economies reflect not only a refusal to participate in the national life through social contributions and taxes, but they also place workers, especially women and children, in an uncontrollable and unacceptable situation of submission and servility," the Pope said.
The Pontiff also criticised the large differences of payment between people at the highest and lowest echelons of society. "An excessive discrepancy in salaries is unjust," he said, "not only because it creates dangerous inequalities in society, but also because it leads to disrespect towards those involved in manual or poorly paid jobs."—(Aid to the Church in Need)
ROME—The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity last week refuted the objections of Italian Protestants who are hostile to the notion of indulgences presented by John Paul II in his convocation bull of the Great Jubilee.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Cardinal Edward Cassidy said that "what is essential in the bull and in the Jubilee is the conversion of heart."
The Cardinal was responding to an open letter published by Waldensian pastor Salvatore Ricciardi in which he decried the fact that, in his opinion, the Jubilee bull is centred on notions such as indulgences and the remission of sins.—(Zenit) ROME—Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger has appealed for Europe to extend religious liberty and tolerance to Muslims.
Referring to new immigrants primarily from Islamic countries, the Archbishop of Paris said: "Either the integration of the immigrants in Europe is achieved under the sign of social promotion and religious freedom or there will be disintegration in which the human and cultural cost will be great for the whole of humanity.
"The Church puts religious liberty at the heart of human rights. And she does so, not for confessional or partisan reasons, but because religious freedom affects man's capacity to appeal to that Being who is greater than he is, what European tradition calls transcendence."
He added: "Plurality and diversity are written in the heart of the West in new terms since the coming among us of Orthodox and many practising Moslems, some of whom are very fervent. Starting from this point, it is interesting to wonder what new face civil recognition of religious liberty will have tomorrow."— (Zenit) LONDON—The Christian Institute has claimed that it has been the victim of a propaganda campaign by the leading gay rights campaign group, Stonewall.
Stonewall printed half a million leaflets urging people to write to the Institute's patron Baroness Young urging her to drop her campaign to prevent the reduction of the gay age of consent to 16.
The Christian Institute has also criticised an NOP poll conducted on behalf of Stonewall and the Brook Advisory Service. It said that Stonewall had "rigged" the poll results to claim public support for a lowering of the age of consent.
Colin Hart, the Institute's director, said the poll "has been used to claim that the public opposes the stance taken by the House of Lords in opposing the reduction in the age of consent. This is completely misleading.
"According to Stonewall's own poll only 35 per cent of the population believe that the age should be lowered to 16."
BRUSSELS—A united Europe is the best way to achieve and maintain peace, the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union said in a document published this week.
In Truth, Memory and Solidarity Keys to Peace and Reconciliation, the bishops appealed to politicians to search for a just peace, "a just peace being the only means capable of preventing war."
It urged leaders to "pay attention to the actual suffering and sacrifices of people" and emphasised "the necessity to alleviate them instead of evading this ethical claim by attempts at ideological justification."
The bishops acknowledged recent efforts at peace in Europe's history, citing among other instances the demolition of Communist dictatorships without bloodshed. They also look to the model of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which "makes clear that the internal peace of a society cannot be reached and maintained as long as one attempts to evade the question of how to deal appropriately with the burden of memory."
The bishops also highlighted grave concerns about the return of war in Europe and the proliferation of conventional weapons and the spread of nuclear technology for military purposes.
STRASBOURG—A European Parliament report on women's health which calls for legalised abortion has divided Irish MEPs.
The report, passed by the Parliament last week, appeals to member states to legalise induced abortion in certain circumstances, such as rape or where a woman's life is in danger. Four female MEPs voted in favour of the abortion recommendation, while 11 male MEPs voted against.
Ms Heidi Hautala, the report's author, said: "If you combine relatively liberal legislation, based on the judgement of the woman involved, with efficient consultation and health education, you may reduce abortion figures."
The Irish Pro-Life campaign, which condemned the report, said it was dishonest to argue that induced abortion was medically necessary when all the evidence pointed to the contrary.—(The Irish Times) MADRID—A Spanish bishop has accused his government of "making sexuality banal" through a new campaign WASHINGTON D.C.—Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, a leading Vatican diplomat, asked the US government for "clarification" of its reasons for continued attacks on Iraq. The Vatican's secretary for relations with other states met foreign secretary Madeleine Albright and other senior officials during a visit to the US last week.—(CNS) against AIDS. Cardinal Ricardo Maria Caries Gordo, Archbishop of Barcelona, said that the campaign was irresponsible in its promotion of the use of condoms.
He said that the best defence against the virus was "respect for others, self-control and taking sexual abstinence seriously."
AIDS groups accused the cardinal of being "out of touch with reality."—(Kathpress) DUBLIN—The current influx of immigrants into Ireland has been met with responses ranging from "active hope to unreasoning rejection," according to the Irish bishops.
A statement by the Irish Bishops' Conference this week urged the country to "recall the varied experience of Irish people who found themselves strangers in other lands."
"Attitudes of hostility or superiority towards strangers are incompatible with what Jesus requires of us," it said The bishops added: "The task of welcoming immigrants, including refugees, becomes a responsibility for the whole community."
VIENNA—Religious leaders from Kosovo will attend a conference in Vienna this week with the hope of reaching some form of peaceful resolution to the bloodshed and turmoil that has blighted the region in recent months.
Bishop Marko Sopi, the Catholic bishop of Kosovo, Rexhep Boja, president of the Islamic Community of Kosovo and Bishop Kyr Sava, of the Serbian Orthodox church, will all attend the meeting, which will be presided over by Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation.
Following the peace accord proposed in France, Rabbi Schneier hopes that Serbia and the Albanian influenced Kosovo Liberation Army will also sign the treaty, saying that these meetings will allow a "climate for substantive talks which cannot be accomplished by ground troops, bombs, or solely by the negotiations of political leaders."—(CNS) ST PETERSBURG—Protesting schoolchildren, teachers and parents were forcefully removed from a Christian school by police last week, after a stand-off lasting 17 days.
Pupils and staff at the Open Christianity school began the protest on February 22 after the school was ordered to be closed by the city government who said it was unlicensed, fell short of fire and safety regulations and was run by a social rather than religious group.
A spokesman for the Dutch-based organisation claimed that the real issue was foreign religious groups teaching in the country after a law Was' passed in 1997 prohibiting "hatred and incitement to public disorder" being taught in schools under any guise.
Police Chief Viktor Vlasov said that the students have "lost their childlike acceptance of this world" due to their education, adding: "You can believe in God but not turn this into fanaticism."(CNS
NEW YORK—The Templeton prize for progress in religion has been awarded to a nuclear physicist and theologian who has spent his academic life attempting to reconcile science and faith.
The prize of $1.24 million will go to Professor Ian Barbour of Carleton College, Minnesota, for his work in examining moral implications of technological advances such as human cloning and nuclear power. He insists that although science is a "very powerful tool" it cannot answer the spiritual and ethical questions posed by humanity.
Professor Barbour is to receive the prize in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London, and in a public reception at the Kremlin, Moscow. The prize was founded in 1973 with Mother Teresa as the first recipient.—(CNS) BATON ROUGE—A gunman stormed into a church Bible study evening in Louisiana last week and began firing indiscriminately, killing four people including his own wife and son.
Police said the apparent motive was marital problems and that the accused had shot and killed his mother-in-law before descending on the New St John Fellowship Baptist Church near Baton Rouge. Along with his wife and young son, a 53-year-old woman and 19-year-old man were killed and a further four members of the congregation injured.
The gunman was eventually cornered in a nearby neighbourhood and captured after a shoot-out with police during which he was wounded, leaving him paralysed from the waist down.—(CNS) MEXICO CITY—The Primate of Mexico has condemned the exploitation of women in an outspoken address marking the World Day of the Woman.
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico City, said: "The Catholic Church cannot accept the new forms of marginalisation that women experience in a hedonistic consumer society, where she is turned into an object of consumption, masking her exploitation under the pretext of the mores of the times." He said the Church would support women and "offer them salvation, dignity, and new perspectives in life, so that they will never be the victims of physical or psychological violence, either in the family or the workplace, nor should they feel compelled to follow along with those who justify abortion."—(Zenit) HAVANA—John Paul II has appointed Archbishop Luis Robles Diaz as the new Apostolic Nuncio in Cuba. The new Nuncio was born in Grullo, Mexico, in 1938; he was ordained to the priesthood in 1963. Archbishop Robles has previously served as a Vatican diplomat since 1967 in hotspots throughout Latin American, Africa and Asia. He replaces Archbishop Beniamino Stella, who has been appointed Nuncio in Colombia.—(Zenit) SANTO DOMINGO—Rival political parties signed a Church-brokered deal this week after months of partisan conflict that has paralysed the government of the Dominican Republic.
The parties are now committed to seeking national reconciliation and dialogue after Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Rodriguez, Archbishop of Santo Domingo, appealed to the vying factions to end their "permanent state of confrontation" and co-operate for the good of the island.
The Cardinal asked leaders to "reflect, because at the end of the day the one who pays the price for the institutional crisis is the entire country," and arranged for them to meet together to set an agenda for co-operation.—(Zenit) RIO DE JANEIRO—The Church has criticised the Brazilian government for cutting social benefits while unemployment rises.
The Brazilian bishops' conference attacked President Cardoso's economic policy last week, which it said helps the rich at the expense of the poor.
In a document analysing the country's economic reforms, Brazil's bishops said that ultra-liberal policies had devastated society. President Cardoso rejected the criticism as "naive".—(Zenit) LIMA—Raiders who have stolen priceless works of religious art from a colonial church are believed to be part of an organised syndicate of art smugglers, according to Peruvian police.
Thieves stole 16th century paintings and other artifacts from a small church in the village of Sausa last week, the latest robbery in a spate of similar incidents. Cesar Aranda, Mayor of Sausa, said: "We think it was a highly organised art theft gang that has been operating in the region." Authorities believe the stolen works of art raise as much as $30,000 when sold abroad.—(CNS) SANTIAGO—A Chilean bishop has broken ranks to denounce the Vatican's intervention in the Pinochet affair.
Bishop Carlos Camus of Linares criticised the Holy See for sending a letter to the British Government about the former Chilean dictator, which the Vatican said contained a "humanitarian" appeal. He said that Gen Pinochet had never made a humanitarian gesture to his victims, so the Vatican should not be making such a gesture on his behalf.
President Carlos Menem denounced the bishop's statement, which he said was inspired by a personal dislike for the Pope. The Chilean bishops' conference thanked the Vatican for its intervention in the case in a statement issued last month.—(Kathpress)
LUCKNOW—An extremist Hindu movement has claimed that there is an international conspiracy to convert Hindus to Christianity and called for conversions to be restricted.
During the annual convention of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, general-secretary K Sudarshan said that there is a "well orchestrated" plot to "spread Christianity in Asia and parts of Africa."
Christians account for just three per cent of the 950 million population, which Mr Sudarshan claimed made it a "vulnerable ground" where there is more scope for conversions.—(CNS) BEIJING—China has announced its interest in improving relations with the Vatican — but at what is likely to be deemed by the Holy See as an unacceptable price.
China's Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said last week: "We are willing to improve relations with the Vatican but we have some principles. These principles are that the Vatican must first sever socalled diplomatic relations with Taiwan."
He also said that the Vatican would have to promise "not to interfere" in China's internal affairs.—(Aid to the Church in Need) TOKYO—Japan's Catholic bishops have urged their government to take measures to protect human embryos against genetic manipulation and destruction. While noting the advantages of genetic therapy, the bishops warned against eugenic trends, which would be aimed at "improving" the human genes.
The bishops are concerned with the recent genetic research and wave of abortions in their mostly non-Christian country.—(Aid to the Church in Need) WELLINGTON—Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Carlos Belo of Dili has expressed his support for US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's call for an international presence in East Timor.
"It is reassuring to hear that the governments of New Zealand, Australia and the United States have given their support to an international presence in East Timor," Bishop Belo said during a visit to Australia and New Zealand.
He warned that pro-Indonesian East Tunorese are being armed by the Indonesian army.—(Aid to the Church in Need)
FREETOWN—A rebel leader has told his forces to release three missionaries captured during intensive fighting in Sierra Leone.
Foday Sankoh, imprisoned leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), asked his army to release the missionaries, who include Brother Noel Bradshaw, from Ireland, who was kidnapped by the RUF on February 28. Two priests, one Italian and one Sierra Leonean, are also being held.