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Vatican

Holy Thursday collection for Japan disaster relief

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has decided the collection taken up at his Holy Thursday evening Mass will be used to help those affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan.

The March 11 disaster left more than 13,000 people dead and another 13,700 unaccounted for. More than 150,000 were made homeless and many lost their jobs, especially in the fishing industry.

Vatican paper praises fertility ethics of films

VATICAN CITY -- The official Vatican newspaper has praised two recent Hollywood movies for showing the ethical downsides of sperm donation.

In the lead article in the Saturday edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Carlo Bellieni writes in “When Cinema Tells the Truth” that the movies, both released in 2010, reflect “many doubts and misgivings” about fertility treatments that use sperm or eggs from anyone outside a married couple seeking to conceive. Such techniques are forbidden by the church.

In “The Back-Up Plan,” Bellieni writes, Jennifer Lopez plays a woman who resorts to sperm donation “out of rage toward men,” but who, “ironically and with great embarrassment, immediately afterwards finds love with the right man.”

In “The Switch,” starring Jennifer Aniston, a male friend of an expectant mother secretly substitutes his own semen for that of her designated donor.

“The film shows this man’s regret for what he has done, not being able to tell the child that he is his father,” Bellieni writes, “while the little one sadly collects photos of strangers to imagine a parent he doesn’t have.”

Pope: End of bloodshed in Ivory Coast, Libya

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI appealed for an end to the bloodshed in Ivory Coast and Libya, saying hatred and violence never led to victory.

He called for all sides involved in the separate conflicts to end the fighting and start talks.

"I continue to follow with great apprehension the dramatic events the dear people of Ivory Coast and Libya are experiencing," he said at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square April 6.

The pope said his prayers are with all those affected by the conflicts.

"Violence and hatred are always a failure! For this reason I am making a new and urgent appeal to all sides involved to begin working for peace and dialogue and prevent further bloodshed," he said.

The pope also expressed his hopes that Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, would soon be able to enter Ivory Coast.

The pope had sent the Ghanaian cardinal as his personal envoy to show his solidarity with the people affected by the conflict and to offer support for efforts for peace and reconciliation.

Bishop, drained from sex abuse, retires early

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the early resignation of an “emotionally drained” bishop in Australia whose diocese has been the focus of several prominent sex-abuse scandals.

The Vatican announced on Monday that Bishop Michael John Malone, 71, of Maitland-Newcastle has resigned under a provision that requires the resignation of a “bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause.”

The ordinary retirement age for Catholic bishops is 75.

The local Newcastle Herald newspaper reported in January that Malone, who had led the diocese since 1995, said he was seeking early retirement because he was exhausted by dealing with cases of clerical sex abuse.

“I’m emotionally drained by what has happened and feel disillusioned,” Malone told the paper. “I toss and turn at night over the sex abuse committed by clergy and experience a lot of anxiety.”

The bishop suggested his handling of the scandal, which included the publication of a full-page apology in the Herald last year, had alienated some of his own clergy.

“The priests believe I have not been supportive of them,” Malone said.

Vatican: No interreligious prayer at Assisi

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI and representatives of the world's major religions will make speeches and sign a common commitment to peace when they meet in Assisi in October, but they will not pray together, the Vatican said.

In fact, Pope Benedict's formal prayer service will be held at the Vatican the evening before the encounter Oct. 27 in Assisi with leaders of other Christian communities and representatives of the world's main religions.

The October gathering will commemorate the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's "prayer for peace" encounter in Assisi. The 1986 event was seen by many as a milestone in interreligious relations but was criticized by some Catholics who said it appeared to inappropriately mix elements from Christian and non-Christian religions.

The Vatican press office issued a statement April 2 giving the theme for the 2011 event -- "Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace" -- and a general outline of events.

"Every human being is ultimately a pilgrim in search of truth and goodness," the Vatican statement said.

Pope calls for Libyan cease-fire

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI is calling for an immediate cease-fire and peace negotiations in Libya, where U.S. and allied European forces have been targeting military assets controlled by the country’s dictator, Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

Benedict made his statement on Sunday, following his weekly recitation of the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, saying he was “progressively more concerned about the well-being and safety of civilians” in Libya.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to international organizations and to political and military leaders for the immediate launch of a dialogue that will halt the use of arms,” the pope said.

The pope’s words marked a shift from his statement a week earlier, on March 20, when he urged “political and military leaders” to ensure Libyans’ “access to humanitarian relief,” but notably stopped short of calling for an end to the United Nations-authorized attacks on Gadhafi.

In calling for a diplomatic solution on Sunday, Benedict said that “at times of greater tension it is even more essential ... to support even the faintest sign of openness and of desire for reconciliation between the parties involved.”

Pope appeals for suspension of fighting in Libya

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI appealed for a suspension of fighting in Libya and the immediate start of a serious dialogue aimed at restoring peace to the North African country.

Speaking at his weekly blessing March 27, the pope said he was increasingly concerned at the news from Libya, where rebels supported by U.S. and European airstrikes have battled the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"My fear for the safety and well-being of the civilian population is growing, as is my apprehension over how the situation is developing with the use of arms," the pope said.

"To international agencies and to those with political and military responsibility, I make a heartfelt appeal for the immediate start of a dialogue that will suspend the use of arms," he said.

The pope said that in moments of great international tension, there was more urgency for diplomatic efforts that take advantage of "even the weakest sign of openness to reconciliation" among the parties in conflict. Solutions should be "peaceful and lasting," he said.

The pope offered a prayer for "the return of harmony in Libya" and throughout North Africa.

Vatican mourns Taylor as 'last diva of cinema'

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican’s official newspaper eulogized actress Elizabeth Taylor as the “last remaining star in the firmament of old Hollywood,” and praised her contributions on AIDS and other charitable causes.

“The curtain falls on the violet eyes of Hollywood” read the headline over Taylor’s obituary in the today's edition of L’Osservatore Romano.

Lauding her as a “great actress who became too soon an icon of the star system,” the article noted that Taylor’s career, which began in childhood, was later marked by an “impressive series of health problems and accidents on the set.”

Author Emilio Ranzato lamented Taylor’s turbulent private life, including her eight marriages and “abuse and addictions,” as well as poor artistic choices later in her career. But he wrote that Taylor managed to “redeem herself thanks to an ever more decisive commitment to charity work, often in tandem with her friend Michael Jackson.”

Vatican says gay opponents are victims, too

VATICAN CITY -- A Vatican official told a United Nations body March 22 that people who openly object to homosexual behavior are at risk of losing their human rights when they are prosecuted or stigmatized for their beliefs.

“People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behavior between people of the same sex,” said Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature, which may also be expressions of religious convictions, or state opinions about scientific claims, they are stigmatized, and worse—they are vilified, and prosecuted,” Tomasi said.

“The truth is, these attacks are violations of fundamental human rights, and cannot be justified under any circumstances.”

In his statement, Tomasi said the Vatican “condemn(ed) all violence that is targeted against people because of their sexual feelings and thoughts, or sexual behaviors.” The Vatican also rejects all legal discrimination “based just on the person’s feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings.”

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