Friday, 29 January 2010

Bible Possibly Written Centuries Earlier, Text Suggests

By Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Staff Writer

Scientists have discovered the earliest known Hebrew writing — an inscription dating from the 10th century B.C., during the period of King David's reign.

The breakthrough could mean that portions of the Bible were written centuries earlier than previously thought. (The Bible's Old Testament is thought to have been first written down in an ancient form of Hebrew.)

Until now, many scholars have held that the Hebrew Bible originated in the 6th century B.C., because Hebrew writing was thought to stretch back no further. But the newly deciphered Hebrew text is about four centuries older, scientists announced this month.

"It indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research," said Gershon Galil, a professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa in Israel, who deciphered the ancient text.

BCE stands for "before common era," and is equivalent to B.C., or before Christ.

The writing was discovered more than a year ago on a pottery shard dug up during excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, near Israel's Elah valley. The excavations were carried out by archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At first, scientists could not tell if the writing was Hebrew or some other local language.

Finally, Galil was able to decipher the text. He identified words particular to the Hebrew language and content specific to Hebrew culture to prove that the writing was, in fact, Hebrew.

"It uses verbs that were characteristic of Hebrew, such as asah ('did') and avad ('worked'), which were rarely used in other regional languages," Galil said. "Particular words that appear in the text, such as almanah ('widow') are specific to Hebrew and are written differently in other local languages."

The ancient text is written in ink on a trapezoid-shaped piece of pottery about 6 inches by 6.5 inches (15 cm by 16.5 cm). It appears to be a social statement about how people should treat slaves, widows and orphans. In English, it reads (by numbered line):

1' you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
2' Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3' [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
4' the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
5' Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

The content, which has some missing letters, is similar to some Biblical scriptures, such as Isaiah 1:17, Psalms 72:3, and Exodus 23:3, but does not appear to be copied from any Biblical text.


Top Legal Scholar Warns Abortion Issue Can Divide a Nation

Professor Robert George     By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.
(NEW YORK – C-FAM)  In Washington last Saturday night, a top legal scholar from Princeton University said that the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in 1973 led to deep societal divisions as well as to unprecedented political and religious alliances, which will be called on to lead a struggle for the “soul” of the nation once the decision is overturned.

     “Abortion and embryo-destructive research are at the heart of the divide between the nation’s major political parties,” Professor Robert George said, galvanizing support for the pro-life plank in the Republican Party while drawing disaffected Democrats to the Republican camp. In response, “Barack Obama is trying to win over religiously serious Catholics and Evangelicals,” he said, who united around the pro-life cause, “without altering in the slightest his support for abortion, including late-term and partial-birth abortions.” Obama’s recent attempt to woo religious leaders has support among some left-leaning Catholics who argue that collaboration would lead to fewer abortions, a prospect George called “delusional.”

     George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, a seat once held by US President Woodrow Wilson. George is also the Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He delivered the lecture, entitled “Our Struggle for the Soul of our Nation,” to an international audience gathered at the Rose Dinner commemorating the thirty-seventh anniversary of the United States supreme court decision Roe v. Wade.

     In what some took as counsel to foreign jurists now reviewing their abortion laws, George said that when the American court usurped “the constitutional authority of the people” to strike down the nation’s laws, they “no doubt believed that legal abortion was a humane and enlightened policy” that would be “easily integrated into the fabric of American social and political life.” Instead, it was “an unmitigated disaster,” he argued.

     Despite what abortion advocates promised and the court believed, George instructed, the decision “has taken the lives of more than fifty million unborn victims…done immeasurable moral, psychological, and sometimes physical harm to women…corrupted physicians and nurses by turning healers into killers…undermined the moral authority of the law by its injustice…abetted irresponsible – even predatory – male sexual behavior…[and] metastasized into widespread elite support for deadly embryo experimentation and even...the horrific and grisly practice of fetal farming – the creation of human beings by cloning or other experimentation and transplantation.”

     UN human rights experts say that George’s remarks hold important political and social considerations for other nations now under pressure by UN staff and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to weaken legal protection of the unborn based upon false claims that they are necessary to uphold UN human rights agreements. They point to Colombia which liberalized its laws in 2006 subsequent to a lawsuit backed by the New York law firm Center for Reproductive Rights. Other cases include Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic which successfully fended off pressure last year from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and various NGOs to overturn their laws.

     George concluded that the 2012 U.S. presidential election “will almost certainly be the decisive one when it comes to the Supreme Court and the future of Roe v. Wade.”


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

So the law knows the fetus is a human being after all

Woman guilty of cutting baby from womb
By Dan Nephin, AAP January 26, 2010

A judge has found a woman guilty but mentally ill of murder for cutting a baby from the womb of a pregnant teenager, killing her.

Allegheny County judge Jeffrey Manning on Monday convicted 40-year-old Andrea Curry-Demus of second-degree murder and kidnapping in the July 2008 death of Kia Johnson.

Prosecutors say Curry-Demus lured the 18-year-old Johnson to her home, bound her, removed the baby and tried to pass it off as her own. The baby now is living with Johnson's relatives.

The prosecution argued that, despite her mental problems, Curry-Demus knew right from wrong and should be convicted of first-degree murder.
Curry-Demus faces an automatic life sentence, but the judge's finding allows her mental illness to be treated.



 VATICAN CITY, 23 JAN 2010 (VIS) - Made public today was the Holy Father's Message for the forty-fourth World Day of Social Communications, which will be celebrated on 24 May and has as its theme: "The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word". The Message, published in various languages, is dated 24 January, Feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists.

   Excerpts from the English-language version are given below:

   "Church communities have always used the modern media for fostering communication, engagement with society and, increasingly, for encouraging dialogue at a wider level. Yet the recent, explosive growth and greater social impact of these media make them all the more important for a fruitful priestly ministry.
   "All priests have as their primary duty the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, and the communication of His saving grace in the Sacraments. ... Responding adequately to this challenge amid today's cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies. ... Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word".
  "Priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different 'voices' provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources".
  "Using new communication technologies, priests ... must learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord. Yet priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ. This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a 'soul' to the fabric of communications that makes up the 'Web'".
  "Our pastoral presence in that world must thus serve to show our contemporaries, especially the many people in our day who experience uncertainty and confusion, 'that God is near; that in Christ we all belong to one another'. Who better than a priest, as a man of God, can develop and put into practice, by his competence in current digital technology, a pastoral outreach capable of making God concretely present in today's world?"
  "Consecrated men and women working in the media have a special responsibility for opening the door to new forms of encounter, maintaining the quality of human interaction, and showing concern for individuals and their genuine spiritual needs. They can thus help the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord's presence, to grow in expectation and hope, and to draw near to the Word of God which offers salvation and fosters an integral human development".
  "With the Gospels in our hands and in our hearts, we must reaffirm the need to continue preparing ways that lead to the Word of God, while being at the same time constantly attentive to those who continue to seek. ... A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute".
  "The development of the new technologies and the larger digital world represents a great resource for humanity as a whole. ... But this development likewise represents a great opportunity for believers. No door can or should be closed to those who, in the name of the risen Christ, are committed to drawing near to others. To priests in particular the new media offer ever new and far-reaching pastoral possibilities, encouraging them to embody the universality of the Church's mission, to build a vast and real fellowship, and to testify in today's world to the new life which comes from hearing the Gospel of Jesus".
  "At the same time, priests must always bear in mind that the ultimate fruitfulness of their ministry comes from Christ Himself, encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation. ... May the Lord make all of you enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new 'agora' which the current media are opening up".


Sunday, 24 January 2010

Pope asks priests to get online, spread the Gospel

(CNS/Paul Haring)

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a message embracing the evangelizing potential of digital media, Pope Benedict XVI asked priests around the world to use Web sites, videos and blogs as tools of pastoral ministry.

"The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more St. Paul's exclamation: 'Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel,'" the pope said in his message for the 2010 celebration of World Communications Day. "Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word," he said.

The pope's message, released at the Vatican Jan. 23, was tailored to the current Year for Priests, focusing on the theme: "The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: New media at the service of the Word." World Communications Day will be celebrated May 16 in most dioceses. The pope said that while priests should not abandon traditional methods of pastoral interaction, they cannot afford to pass up the opportunities offered by digital media. He said "the recent, explosive growth and greater social impact of these media make them all the more important for a fruitful priestly ministry." For priests to exercise their proper role as leaders in communities, they must learn to express themselves in the "digital marketplace," the pope said.

"Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, Web sites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis," he said.

The pope emphasized, however, that the church's role is not simply to fill up space on the Web. Its overriding aim is to express in the digital world "God's loving care for people in Christ," not just as an artifact from the past or a theory, but as something concrete and engaging, he said.

Because digital media cross over religious and cultural boundaries, the church's presence requires sensitivity "to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute," he said. In order for priests to effectively use new media, formation programs should teach them how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, the papal message said. This formation in digital media should be guided by sound theology and priestly spirituality, it said.

"Priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ," the pope said. In this way, they help give a "soul" to the Web, he added.

Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said the message once again illustrated the pope's mainly favorable view of new media.

"The pope is aware of the limits of new technologies, but he wants to make the point that these new means of communication play a positive role, both in the wider society and in the church," the archbishop said in a briefing with reporters. Archbishop Celli said the message doesn't mean that the Vatican now expects every priest to open a blog or a Web site, but rather to make appropriate use as possibilities present themselves. He said that task will probably be easier for younger priests, who are already more involved in new media.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

KGB and the plot to taint Pope Pius XII

by John Follain, from The Sunday Times
February 18, 2007

THE KGB hatched a plot to smear the late Pope Pius XII as an antisemitic Hitler supporter and fostered a controversial play that tarnished the pontiff, according to the highest-ranking Soviet bloc intelligence officer to have defected to the West. Former Lieutenant-General Ion Mihai Pacepa, who headed the Romanian secret service before defecting in 1978, has broken a silence of nearly half a century to reveal that he was involved in the operation code-named Seat12, a Kremlin scheme launched in 1960 to portray Pius XII “as a cold-hearted Nazi sympathiser”. The result, according to Pacepa, was the 1963 play The Deputy, by Rolf Hochhuth, which argued that Pius XII had supported Hitler and encouraged him to launch the Holocaust. It ignited a furious debate over Pius XII’s attitude towards Hitler.
     The controversy was revived when the director Costa-Gavras adapted the play for his 2002 film Amen, whose poster depicted a swastika twisted into the cross. The cold war plan had the motto “Dead men cannot defend themselves” as the Pope had died in 1958. “Because Pius XII had served as the papal nuncio in Munich and Berlin when the Nazis were beginning their rise to power, the KGB wanted to depict him as an antisemite who had encouraged Hitler’s Holocaust,” Pacepa wrote in an article published by the National
Review. To obtain original Vatican documents, the KGB recruited the Romanian foreign intelligence service to pretend that Romania was ready to restore its broken relations with the Vatican. Pacepa said he was granted access to its archives by Mon-signor Agostino Casaroli, who was in charge of confidential talks with Soviet bloc authorities. Pacepa persuaded Casaroli, whom he met at a Geneva hotel, that he needed to find historical roots that would help Romania to justify publicly its change of heart towards the Vatican. For two years, three spies posing as priests smuggled documents out of the Vatican archives and the Apostolic Library to be photographed. “Everything was immediately sent to the KGB via special courier,” Pacepa said. “In fact, no incriminating material against the pontiff ever turned up. Nevertheless, the KGB kept asking for more documents.” On a visit to Bucharest in 1963, General Ivan Agayants, chief of the KGB’s disinformation department, told Pacepa that Seat12 had “materialised into a powerful play attacking Pope Pius XII, entitled The Deputy”, Pacepa related. In his article he claims that Agayants took credit for the outline of the 1963 play, by the unknown Hochhuth, and added that its appendices of background documents had been put together by his experts with the help of the material that Pacepa had obtained.
    The play, published in book form with an appendix that Hochhuth called “historical documentation”, was translated into some 20 languages. “Today, many people who have never heard of The Deputy are sincerely convinced that Pius XII was a cold and evil man who hated the Jews and helped Hitler to do away with them,” Pacepa said. Asked about Pacepa’s article, Hochhuth has denied any KGB influence and insisted that the play was all his own work. In the early 1960s he defended his portrayal of Pius XII, saying: “The facts are there — 40 crowded pages of documentation in the appendix to my play.” Hochhuth later wrote another controversial play, Soldiers, in which he accused Churchill of ordering the murder of Wladyslaw Sikorski, the Polish general.
   The Vatican is now pursuing its efforts to have Pius XII declared a saint. Among those who have defended Pius is Israel Zoller, the chief rabbi of Rome in 1943-44, who said the Pope had instructed bishops to allow Jews to seek refuge in convents and monasteries. Father Peter Gumpel, a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said of Pacepa’s article: “We already knew that Soviet Russia was very hostile to Pius XII and started a fully fledged campaign against him. “There was definitely a communist influence over the play.”

Another possible miracle - Pope Pius XII

An unnamed man in Castellammare di Stabia in the south of Italy has claimed he was inexplicably healed from incurable prostate cancer after he prayed to Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli). After examining the patient's medical records the Vatican has asked the Archbishop of Sorrento, Felice Cece, to set up a diocesan tribunal to investigate the claims further.

If the Vatican ultimately approves a miracle the way will be clear for the beatification of Pius XII, after which he will be declared "Blessed".

Friday, 22 January 2010

Adult stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research

A new adult stem cell treatment developed in the UK has restored sight to several patients in a trial. Researchers at the North East England Stem Cell Institute regrew the outside membrane of damaged corneas from stem cells taken from a healthy eye. All of them were suffering from limbal stem cell deficiency, a painful eye disease that prevents the cornea from renewing itself. 
Dr Francisco Figueiredo, who co-led the project, told the London Telegraph: "Corneal cloudiness has been estimated to cause blindness in eight million people worldwide each year. The stem cell treatment option is aimed at total cure rather than symptom relief only. This new treatment will alleviate patient suffering and remove the need for long term multiple medications as well as returning the patient to functional and social independence."
A larger trial with a longer follow-up will be carried out to determine whether the treatment is reliable, safe and effective in the long term. 

Is enthusiasm waning for embryonic stem cell research?
From the public's point of view, the shine seems to be wearing off embryonic stem cell research as the months stretch on without miracle cures. An editorial in the financial newspaper Investor's Business Daily spoke recently of the "failure" of Proposition 71, the California referendum which authorised the creation of a US$3 billion stem cell research centre. But, says the editorial, embryonic stem cells have failed to deliver. "When funding was needed, the phrase 'embryonic stem cells' was used. When actual progress was discussed, the word 'embryonic' was dropped because [embryonic stem cell research] never got out of the lab."
Even the lurid pages of London's premier tabloid, the Daily Mail, are sceptical. A recent feature focused on desperate parents taking children to China for shady stem cell treatment. The newspaper reminds its readers: "The fact is that people's expectations about stem cells are unrealistically high, warns the International Society for Stem Cell Research, a leading body of experts. Indeed, the conventional view is that it will be years, perhaps even decades, before stem cell therapy is sufficiently understood and safe and effective enough to use widely."
Since 2001 opposing camps in the US, the UK, Australia and Europe have been debating, often heatedly, the ethics of embryonic stem cell research. Is the air hissing out of the balloon?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Just the rest I needed!

Details of possible Pius XII miracle emerge

Rome, Italy, Jan 19, 2010 / 12:21 pm (CNA).- Some details of the case under investigation regarding a possible miracle attributed to Venerable Pope Pius XII have been made public.  The story features not just
one former Pontiff, but two.

On Tuesday morning, Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli published an article in Il Giornale describing at length the situation which "mysteriously involves" John Paul II.

Tornielli reported that this case was brought to the attention of Benedict XVI shortly before he approved a measure on Dec. 19, 2009 venerating Pope Pius XII's life of "heroic virtue," whose cause had been on-hold for the previous two years.

In 2005, a teacher of 31 years of age was expecting her third child in the city of Castellammare di Stabia.  She began to have strong pains, which after many tests and a biopsy, signaled the presence of Burkitt's lymphoma.  The condition is typified by swollen lymph nodes, often starting in the abdominal region, and the cancer can spread to bone marrow and spinal fluid.  Not only was her health in danger, but that of her unborn child was also threatened.

The woman's husband first prayed for the intercession Pope John Paul II, who was then only recently buried in the crypt of St. Peter's.  It wasn't long before the Holy Father appeared to the woman's husband in a dream.  The spouse described to Tornielli what he saw that night, "He had a serious face.  He said to me, 'I can't do anything, you must pray to this other priest...'  He showed me the image of a thin, tall, lean priest.  I didn't recognize him; I didn't know who he might be."

Several days passed before he, "by chance," came across a picture of Pope Pius XII in a magazine and recognized him as the man John Paul II had shown him in the dream.

The man wasted no time in bombarding Pius XII with prayers for his wife's healing and following her very first treatments she was declared free of the cancer, the tumor had disappeared.  In fact, she was cured so quickly that her doctors pondered the notion that they may have originally misdiagnosed the pathology.

The tests and charts were reconsulted and the initial diagnosis was confirmed.

In the absence of the tumor, she had her baby and returned to work.  After some time had gone by, she decided to contact the Vatican regarding her experience.

A local news source, the Sorrento & Dintorni, ran an article on Sunday offering a basic story of the possible miracle and the diocesan response to it.  According to their report, a Tribunal has been organized by Archbishop Felice Cece of Sorrento-Castellammare to determine the nature of the occurrence and whether it will move on to the Vatican.

According to Tornielli, if they decide positively, the case will be sent on to Congregation for the Causes of Saints for investigation by a team of doctors to declare whether the event was explicable by natural means.  If there is no explanation found for the healing, theologians from the Congregation will debate the issue.  Only with their "go-ahead" can a dossier subsequently reach the hands of Pope Benedict XVI for official recognition.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told CNA on Monday that there is no telling how much time the entire process might take.

He also mentioned that if a case arrives to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints it is examined in chronological order based on the date of arrival and there are thousands of cases pending review.

However, he added, "exceptions might be made for Popes, etc."

There was no mention in Tornielli's report of where the lymphoma had manifested itself in the woman's body.  According to the National Institute of Health, Burkitt's lymphoma is treatable and more than half of those diagnosed with the cancer are cured with intensive chemotherapy.


Catholic relief to Haiti


 VATICAN CITY, 19 JAN 2010 - The Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" released the following English-language communique late yesterday:
   "In light of the request of the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum' that Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the international humanitarian agency of the Bishops of the United States, co-ordinate the Church's relief efforts in Haiti at this stage, CRS has been holding on-site meetings with the Haitian Episcopal Conference, the apostolic nuncio and several foreign Catholic charitable agencies, now operating in Port-au-Prince, to assess and respond to the disaster.
   "The group initiated immediately the provision of food, water, clothing, shelter and medical aid for the displaced survivors in informal camps. Twelve sites have now been jointly determined as distribution points for further provision with security and operational assessments already undertaken. Personnel and supplies from neighbouring Santo Domingo and other nations continue to arrive through a variety of Catholic aid organisations.
   "As with previous disasters, the concrete generosity of Churches, institutions and individuals worldwide is again being manifested. The needs and challenges remain significant, particularly on the level of movement of goods and people and security, and are likely to grow as the effects of the earthquake in and beyond Port-au-Prince become increasingly evident".


Saturday, 16 January 2010

Friendly, isn't he?

Friday, 15 January 2010

Colours revealed: Abortion to be massively pushed

Secretary Clinton Announces 5-year Funding Push, Including Abortion
By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.

      (NEW YORK – C-FAM)  In Washington last week, United States (U.S.) Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton announced that the United States would engage in a massive funding push over the next five years to promote “reproductive health care and family planning” as a “basic right” around the word. Clinton has previously stated for the record that this includes abortion. The plan includes potentially siphoning off funds currently directed towards fighting HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria.
     Commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the controversial International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Clinton said there were only five years left to achieve ICPD’s goal that “all governments will make access to reproductive healthcare and family planning services a basic right.”
     Last April, in testimony before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, when asked whether the United States' definition of “reproductive health" includes abortion, Clinton replied that, "We happen to think
that family planning is an important part of women's health and reproductive health includes access to abortion that I believe should be safe, legal and rare." ?
     In her remarks last week Clinton specifically emphasized the importance of the abortion component of the Obama foreign policy by saying, “One of President Obama’s first actions in office was to overturn the Mexico City policy, which greatly limited our ability to fund family planning programs.” The 1984 Mexico City Policy required all non-governmental organizations that receive federal funding to refrain from performing or promoting abortion services, as a method of family planning, in other countries. In fact, notwithstanding Clinton’s assertions, the ICPD outcome document likewise rules out abortion as a method of family planning.
     Despite the economic downturn, Clinton announced that “The U.S. Congress recently appropriated more than $648 million in foreign assistance to family planning and reproductive health programs worldwide. …the largest allocation in more than a decade.” The “centerpiece” of the Obama foreign policy, she said, would be the Global Health Initiative. She said the initiative “commits us to spending $63 billion over six years.” This will link the reproductive rights agenda to high profile global health concerns. Launched by the World Economic Forum in 2002, the initiative is supposed to focus on HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, and malaria.
     The plan to link abortion rights to the Global Health Initiative through the issue of maternal and child health was announced at the 2007 United Nations (UN)-sponsored “Women Deliver” conference by abortion rights groups such as International Planned Parenthood and Center for Reproductive Rights as well as the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). At that time, these groups also called for linking abortion rights to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by inserting a target for “universal access to reproductive health” under MDG 5 on maternal health. Critics see this as a stratagem to dip into funds previously directed to fights AIDS and other diseases.
     Last week Clinton pledged U.S. commitment to the reproductive health target, saying, “We have pledged new funding, new programs, and a renewed commitment to achieve Millennium Development Goal Five, namely a [three-fourths] reduction in global maternal mortality, and universal access to reproductive healthcare.” That target has never been accepted by the General Assembly in open debate, and was soundly rejected the last time it was raised in 2005.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Towards an Evaluation of Pius XII

by Pietro De Marco
My Christian formation took place in the Church of Pius XII. My parish priests, my religion teachers were men of the Church of Pius XII. No anti-Semitic attitudes were transmitted to me, unless one maintains that the Creed, the Catechism, the Mass, and the Gospels were or are anti-Semitic. For years, I prayed on every Good Friday for the "perfidi Judaei," knowing since my youth that "perfidus" in Church Latin means "unbelieving" with respect to Christ.
My high school religion teacher and spiritual director – mine, and of many others in Florence – until the time of his death, Fr. Raffaele Bensi, was a priest of the Church of Pius XII, even though he had been trained for the priesthood during the two preceding pontificates. He was a priest of the Church of Pius XII also in his intense activity to help the Jews and the men of the Italian anti-fascist Resistance conducted during the war.

But I learned from Fr. Bensi that the Church, with the same courage and freedom with which it sought to help the Resistance and the Jews, also meant to save the lives of the men on the other side, when the defeated were made beasts to be hunted.

The Church of Pius XII was then still the sovereign Church in its judgment of history, in the decisions its men faced, in the horizons of ultimate choice to which these were called. It might err, in men just as in this or that act or judgment, but it drew its capacity for judgment and for jurisdiction from its own supernatural foundation: and in that, no circumstance founded otherwise could replace or compel it. This is the meaning of its "perfectio," which is strictly connected with martyrdom, because collision with other powers – even the most legitimate – is certain.

I add that the tested and enlightened humanity that emerged from the second world war and from its chains of retaliations and massacres understood the meaning of this limitless and sovereign exercise of charity (and forgiveness) by the Church, according to which it had one day saved an Italian resistance fighter and the next day had wished to withdraw from summary execution a German or a fascist. It was the right to give sanctuary, the right to bind and loose, as a manifestation of the lofty and meek justice of God.
Fr. Bensi spoke to us with admiration and, at the same time, detachment of the book "Pastoral Experiences" by the "rebel" Fr. Lorenzo Milani. But Milani himself, perhaps his most beloved pupil, had been born for the priesthood and always held to the austere, difficult, virile dialectic of the Church of Pius XII; he was never "conciliar." Bensi himself had no tolerance for the fashions and the choruses of the conciliar period; he taught us to keep our minds and hearts vigilant against catchwords, against "turning points" and "conquests," which are always equivocal in a religious tradition.

Thus, even during my time as a young Catholic connected with projects of "reformatio Ecclesiae" and very close to the political left – the 1960's and '70's, to give an idea – the Church's more than spiritualistic transcendence and its ultimate primacy over the city of man remained for me undeniable facts. This meant a primacy that was also "social," in the meaning proposed by Henri De Lubac in "Catholicisme." It meant the Church-as-institution as an irrevocable form of the manifestation of the Holy.

Together with the Church-as-institution and Rome, which represents it, not even the "white Father" of my adolescence was ever eliminated from within me by upheavals or revolts. My Catholic ties to pope Pius XII weathered the test of the 1960's. The aggression carried out against him by the "Vicar" of Hochhuth seemed to me – and still seems – despicable; but in reality it seemed that way to everyone, even in progressivist Catholic circles. It must be said, however: persons born, like me, at the time of the war, if they were not subsequently "remade" ideologically, retain an unparalleled sense of the complexity of daily life and of history,
and an aversion to rhetoric. To the contrary; they retain a sense of and a need for truth that has little to do with an abstract raging, whether twenty or sixty years later, over events that have become incomprehensible in the meantime, even when their details are better known.

Anyone who had told him that Pius XII should have "spoken," "born witness," "incarnated the Word," would not have been spared Fr. Bensi's reproof. The "white Father" did what his conscience told him: and it was the conscience of a pope; that is, of someone really, and not just rhetorically, responsible for the universal Church and for the spiritual and, at that moment, even physical health of many. Pius XII both wanted and knew how to avoid being impeded from action. And from the safety of his position between spiritual guide and head of state, he worked in practical ways for the good of many, and to an enormous extent, I believe.

The unfavourable comparison with Gandhi – newly proposed in recent days – is unsustainable. The Church, the Christian people, is not a nation, does not mobilize itself as a great ethnic group; the German army of
occupation cannot be compared to the English troops; the British leaders were not the SS. Pope Eugenio

Pacelli did not have decades before him, but a meager ration of days, each of which might have been the last of his rule. Nor did Gandhi – I hazard to say – have the complexity of a Christian saint; he was imbued from the start with Tolstoy's simplified Gospel. It is foolish to imagine the pope at the head of a non-violent demonstration in St. Peter's Square, on any day whatsoever of 1943. Such an exhibition, supposing it would have been thinkable for the rigorous mind of Pius XII, would not have disconcerted the German high command.

It was, instead, pope Pacelli's impenetrable brilliance and his capacity as a leader that stopped Hitler at the gates of Vatican City. Words could not have had any effect on Hitler, but he probably was affected both by the manifestation of the bond between the Vicar of Christ – yes, the Vicar! – and his universal people, i.e. an extraordinary degree of political-religious charisma, and by the fear that laying hands on the pontiff would have had a delegitimizing, profaning effect upon him, Hitler, and not only among Catholic peoples.

In short, the only foundation and the only arena of political action that remained for Pius XII in the face of Hitler was his person, as the "Pope's body," and his charisma of authority. He wanted these to remain free and operative, and he kept them so for as long as he could. Pacelli's freedom was the residual "libertas Ecclesiae," and this represented, and saved, the lives of many.

It is too simple to insist today – perhaps recalling as a counterexample the sacrifice of Fr. Kolbe – that Pacelli, in the midst of that turbulence, should have gone to meet a personal "martyrium." Martyrdom would have
been only a liberation from the burdens of office, from the daily exercise of charisma. I have reread "Murder in the Cathedral" by T.S. Eliot. It was published and performed in 1935, but I don't know if Pacelli was familiar with it at the time. Shortly before his death the protagonist, Thomas Becket, faces temptations old ("real goods, worthless but real," as he says) and new, presented to the archbishop by the ultimate Tempter, himself. In the face of the supreme temptation, that of certain sanctity through martyrdom, Thomas examines and chooses the option of sufferance, of non-action: neither going towards nor drawing back from martyrdom.

Pacelli chose action. But there's a difference between him and Becket. Thomas could rely on the pope to make up for the blood spilled and the void left in Canterbury by his own defenseless self-offering to his assassins. But Pacelli was the pope, and there was no principle of order greater than him on the earth.

In Pius XII, therefore, there is manifested the heroism of the one who works under extreme responsibility, in
the exceptional situation: it is the sanctity of the rock, the marvelous Catholic sanctity that flows from decisive action, and not from homilies. It is a sanctity that, perhaps after torment, knows it cannot stop because of torment and indecision.

The miracle of Pius XII is that of the house built upon the rock (Mt. 7:24), which he kept intact in silence – and by virtue of silence – and which was thereby capable of providing shelter and protection in a place that
words would have destroyed.

Of course, Pacelli has nothing to do, in part because of his aristocratic birth, with the famous "clasa discutidora" of Donoso Cortés. Pacelli had already experienced the dangerous vacuity of revolutionary wordmongering as a nuncio in Munich, Germany, in 1919.

Rationality, incarnating the role of the guide – "pasce oves meas" – and work: in part because of all these the "gentle Christ on earth" looked upon the horror with eyes that, in my mind, fortunately do not resemble those of the Dostoyevskian reprises of Christ so attractive for us. He was a model of sanctity neither smiling, nor utopian, nor sacrificial.

For this reason, too, it is a source of riches for us – and a gift of the Catholic "complexio oppositorum" – that the sanctity of Pius XII should be so, and that the Church should intend to propose it to us. Raised to the altars, he will be a lofty model of charismatic responsibility and rational rigor, of which we have a tremendous need.


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Pius XII’s New Status Draws Criticism and Praise

Posted by Edward Pentin

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 3:39 PM
      Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to proclaim Pope Pius XII as “venerable” surprised and delighted many who have been campaigning to clear the wartime Pope’s name, but provoked predictable protests among some Jewish leaders. Although an increasing number of Jewish and Catholic historians say there is plenty of well-documented evidence to suggest Pius was one of the Second World War’s greatest heroes, critics still accuse him of being “silent” and doing nothing to save Jews during the war.
        Benedict XVI issued a decree Dec. 19 attesting to the “heroic virtue” of Eugenio Pacelli, pope from 1939 to 1958, giving him the title of “Venerable.” Now a panel of medical experts and Vatican theologians can proceed with investigations into alleged miracles attributed to the late Pontiff’s intercession. Once a miracle is approved, Pius XII can be beatified. There are said to be several miracles under investigation. Sister Margherita Marchione, a Religious Teachers Filippini nun who has written more than 60 books on the late Pope, records some of them in a new book soon to be published. They include testimonies of a boy cured of leukemia and parents who were able to have a child after praying to Pope Pacelli.
     Following the Dec. 19 announcement, the World Jewish Congress called the move “inopportune and premature,” while Yad Vashem in Jerusalem described the move as “regrettable.” At the time of this writing, Pope Benedict’s planned historic visit to Rome’s synagogue on Jan. 17 continued to be “under review.” Most of the critics complained that Benedict XVI issued the decree before Vatican Archives documents on Pius’ pontificate had been made available to historians.
     The Vatican argues that the document volume is vast — 16 million files in total, all of which need to be catalogued. The process not likely to be completed until 2014 at the earliest, according to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.By issuing the decree now, the process can move forward, even if beatification may be years ahead. Father Lombardi stressed “there is nothing hidden or to hide” and that the archives are unlikely to reveal anything historians don’t already know. The Vatican also points out that some archives, for example those relating to Pius’ life just before his election as pope, are already open to scrutiny by the general public, but are hardly ever examined.
    Recently uncovered evidence has led to a growing consensus among respected historians and some prominent Jews that Pius XII acted heroically in saving and protecting Jewish lives. It’s widely believed that he was the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated after his death by the Soviet Union, which saw the Church as a threat. Pius was also a fervent anti-communist.
    Although unwilling to comment on the beatification process because he is a non-Catholic, Gary Krupp, the Jewish president of Pave the Way, a foundation promoting interreligious dialogue, says Pius should be honored as Righteous Among Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem — the sort of equivalent, he says, of a Jewish canonization.
      Over a four-year period, Krupp said his organization has uncovered “a ton of information” supporting the case that Pius XII acted heroically to save thousands of Jews, possibly as many as 860,000 in total. “Through our research of documented proof, we have discovered that secretly he saved more Jews than all of the world’s religious and political leaders combined,” he added.Krupp stressed that many of Pius’s heroic acts were carried out anonymously and undercover. He and historians also argue that Pius was sometimes silent in condemning the persecution because it had been proven that the louder the Church spoke out, the more the Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis.What Krupp finds difficult to fathom is why Jewish leaders today, most of whom were born after the war, refuse to acknowledge these facts, while those who were alive during the war, or knew the Pope personally, had nothing but words of tribute for Pius when he was alive..“It’s the most absurd thing,” he said. “I challenge any writers to go to the archives of The New York Times or the Palestine Post and look up every single article written about Pius XII and the Jews. You’ll see hundreds of articles, and not one is negative.”
     One criticism leveled by Italy’s Jewish leaders after Benedict XVI’s announcement was that 1,021 Jews were deported from Rome to Auschwitz on Oct. 16, 1943, “amidst the silence of Pius XII.” But the accusation was denied by Sister Margherita.“What the Jewish leaders neglect to state is that as soon as Pius XII learned about the deportation of 1,021 Jews to Auschwitz, he ordered his secretary of state, Cardinal Maglione, to protest,” she said. “The Nazi commander immediately stopped the deportation of the remaining 5,000 Jews. They were saved because Pius XII sent word to the 155 convents and monasteries in Rome to open their doors and hide the Jews.”Adding to Sister Margherita’s research, Krupp’s foundation recently discovered a telegram showing an order from Berlin to take those Jews as hostages to Mauthausen rather than send them to Auschwitz.“There is every reason to believe that the Vatican thought, based on the orders from Berlin and probably through their contacts, that they would be able to negotiate the release of the 1,021 Jews,” Krupp said. “No one knows who sent them to Auschwitz.”
     Earlier this year, Krupp’s foundation unearthed further evidence, already provided by a former German general, that Hitler planned to kidnap Pius and loot the Vatican.“We’ve proven without any question that this man was the greatest hero of World War II,” said Krupp. “It’s time Pius XII is recognized for his life-saving efforts even while his very life was in danger during this terrible period in history.”
      In her new book on Pius, Sister Margherita said these attacks are as much “political and ideological attacks on Christianity” as they are against Pius XII. Such attacks, she insisted, “can be refuted by anyone who carefully examines the evidence.”

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

God's gift to man - the dog, man's friend

A Canadian boy has been rescued from a charging cougar by his golden retriever, and says his pet dog saved his life.

11-year-old Austin Forman, who lives near Vancouver, was gathering firewood in his backyard when his dog, Angel, started acting strangely. Angel started following him, to and from the woodshed, Austin said, almost as though she was checking to make sure he was OK. Suddenly, Angel ran toward Austin and jumped over a lawn mower right into the path of a charging cougar. The boy ran inside, and his mother called 911 while the dog fought the cougar. "I knew at that moment that I would have to go get help, otherwise [Angel] wouldn't have any hope," Austin said. When the police arrived, the cougar was shot, as it chewed on Angel's neck. Austin said, "I was shocked and scared at the same time. I wasn't expecting a cougar at all to be in our yard," he said. "I feel very, very lucky. If it wasn't for my dog, I don't think I would be here. "She was my best friend, but now she's more than a best friend she's like my guardian now." Angel suffered some puncture wounds on her head, neck and one of her hind legs. Austin was not hurt.
    It is said that the dog is man's best friend. But remember, the dog is God's gift.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Some of the Vatican's Secret Archives Revealed


A 13th-century letter from the grandson of Ghengis Khan to Pope Innocent IV is just one of 105 secret documents revealed by the Vatican in a new book.

The collection spans 1,200 years and documents the story of the papacy. Nineteen of the documents, which are available in the book "The Vatican Secret Archives," have never been published before.

Pope Leo XIII ordered the archives opened to researchers in 1881, and currently 60 to 80 scholars work there each day, sifting through the parchments, ledgers, letters and texts.

The new book lets readers see some of the things the academics have seen, including handwritten letters to Pope Pius IX from Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis written in 1863 while the Civil War raged on.

There is also a note from Michelangelo written in 1550 demanding payment from the papacy which was three months late, and complaining that a papal conclave had interrupted his work on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Letters to the pope from Hitler and Japan's Emperor Hirohito are also in the book. Cardinal Raffaele Farina wrote the preface which reads: "An aura of mystery has always surrounded this important cultural institution of the Holy See due to the allusions to inaccessible secrets thanks to its very name, as well as to the publicity it has always enjoyed in literature and in the media."

According to National Geographic, 264 popes have reigned over the course of more than 2,000 years and in that time they have written major parts of the history of the Western world. Their stories fill some 30 miles of shelves in the Vatican Secret Archives , home to many of the pivotal documents of Western history.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Pius XII Friend to the Jews

Last Updated: 3:33 AM, December 28, 2009
Posted: 1:03 AM, December 28, 2009
A recent papal decree moved Pope Pius XII, among others, closer to sainthood -- returning to the forefront the controversy over his role in World War II and the Holocaust.
Growing up Jewish in Queens, I never dreamt I would be defending the man I once believed to be a Nazi sympathizer and an anti-Semite. But my work since 2002 with my wife, Meredith, and the Pave the Way Foundation has led me to this point.
We founded Pave the Way to identify and eliminate nontheological obstacles between religions. Thus, despite our early prejudices, we decided to investigate the papacy of Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli), one of today's greatest sources of hurt between Jews and Catholics.
After years of research in documentary evidence and eyewitness testimony, what we found shocked us. We found nothing but praise and positive news articles concerning Pius' actions from every Jewish, Israeli and political leader of the era who lived through the war.
A few articles in the postwar era suggested that he should have done more to confront the Nazis -- but it wasn't until 1963, in the wake of the fictitious play "The Deputy" (written five years after Pius died), that accusations began flowing that he had failed to act, that he was a cold-hearted Nazi sympathizer who couldn't care less about the Jewish people.
The evidence strongly suggests this was part of a KGB-directed and -financed bid to smear Pius, a Soviet disinformation campaign meant to discredit the Catholic Church, which at that time was profoundly anti-Communist.
In any case, the facts simply don't match what so many have come to believe about Pius.
It is unquestionable that Pius XII intervened to save countless Jews at a time most nations -- even FDR's America -- refused to accept these refugees. He issued false baptismal papers and obtained visas for them to emigrate as "Non Aryan Catholic-Jews." He smuggled Jews into the Americas and Asia. He ordered the lifting of cloister for men and women to enter monasteries, convents and churches to hide 7,000 Jews of Rome in a single day.
Among the 5,000 pages of documents that Pave the Way has located, there is abundant evidence that Pacelli was a lifelong friend of the Jews. Some highlights:
* In 1917, at the request of World Zionist Organization Director Nachum Sokolow, Nuncio Pacelli intervened with the Germans to protect the Jews of Palestine from extermination by the Ottoman Turks.
* In 1925, Pacelli arranged for Sokolow to meet with Pope Benedict XV to discuss a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
* In 1930, Pacelli supported the German bishops' orders excommunicating anyone who joined "the Hitler Party."
* In 1938, Pacelli intervened to defeat a Polish anti-koshering law.
* In 1939, A.W. Klieforth, the US consul general based in Cologne, Germany, wrote a confidential letter to Washington reporting on the "extremeness" of Pacelli's hatred of National Socialism and of Hitler.
* In 1947, at the United Nations, he encouraged the 17 Catholic countries out of the 33 in favor to vote for the partitioning of Palestine to create the State of Israel.
* A 1948 deposition by Gen. Karl Wolff, the SS commandant for Italy, revealed the Nazis' wartime plan to kidnap the pope, kill countless cardinals and seize the Vatican.
But the personal tales may be more compelling. Pacelli's childhood best friend was Guido Mendes, an Orthodox Jewish boy. He tells how Pacel- li shared Shabbat meals with him. Mendes taught him Hebrew, and Pacelli helped him to emigrate to Palestine in 1938.
Pius XII's detractors prefer to criticize rather than simply look at the evidence. Two years ago, Pope Benedict XVI ordered the opening of the Vatican's archives up to 1939, containing much evidence of Eugenio Pacelli's activities leading up to his papacy. According to the sign-in sheets, few of Pius' critics have bothered to come to the archives to view the material.
Pinchas Lapide, a Jewish historian, theologian and Israeli ambassador, stated that the actions and policies of Pius XII saved as many as 860,000 Jews.
Albert Einstein, Golda Meir, the chief rabbi of Palestine, the chief rabbi of Rome and the heads of every Jewish organization showered praise upon him during his lifetime.
Were all these witnesses who lived through the war misguided?
Gary L. Krupp is president of the Pave the Way Foundation, which has many of the documents noted here online at and which will soon publish a book with the main evidence in English, Hebrew, Spanish and French.