FaithWorld

Pope breaks tradition with BBC broadcast

pope bbcPope Benedict called for people to remember the significance of Christ’s birth in a Christmas message specially recorded for Britons and aired on the BBC on Friday. It was the first time the pope has addressed a Christmas message specifically to one of the countries visited during the year, the BBC said. (Photo: Pope Benedict records his BBC ”Thought for the Day” address at the Vatican December 24, 2010/Osservatore Romano)

Pope Benedict XVI is seen during a recording session for BBC radio’s ”Thought for the Day” programme, at the Vatican December 24, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Osservatore Romano

Pope Benedict XVI is seen during a recording session for BBC radio’s ”Thought for the Day” programme, at the Vatican December 24, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Osservatore Romano)

The pope recalled his four-day state visit to England and Scotland in September, and told the people of Britain and every part of the English-speaking world that they were in his prayers in the Holy season.

“Let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down. He gives us hope, he brings us life,” he said in the message pre-recorded at the Vatican.

Condoms still banned for birth control: Vatican

Pope Benedict’s acknowledgement that using condoms may be justified to stop the spread of AIDS did not signify a change in the Catholic Church’s ban on their use as contraception, the Vatican said Tuesday. cdf(Image: Heading of statement on condom use, Dec 21, 2010/ Bollettino Sala Stampa della Santa Sede)

In a statement, the Vatican’s doctrinal department said there had been “erroneous interpretations” of the pope’s words which had caused confusion concerning the Church’s views on sexual morality. In a book published last month entitled “Light of the World”, the pope used the example of a prostitute to say there were cases where using a condom to avoid transmitting HIV could be justified as a “first step” toward moralization, even though condoms were “not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.”

Liberal Catholics welcomed the comments in the book but the conservative wing of the Church expressed concern and Tuesday’s statement appeared partly aimed at reassuring them.

Pope Benedict not fully welcome at German parliament next year

reichstag (Photo: The Reichstag building in Berlin, November 22, 2010/Pawel Kopczynski)

A rousing welcome in Berlin it may not be.

Pope Benedict’s invitation to address German parliament during his visit to his homeland next September 22-25 has not sat well with some members of the opposition. Volker Beck, the Green party floor leader, has protested that inviting a religious leader to address parliament, the Bundestag, is unprecedented and the wrong place to speak about religion.

“The German Bundestag is justifiably cautious when inviting a foreign head of state,” Beck told the German daily Die Welt. “Firstly the pope is the head of a religion and secondly the head of a state.”

European human rights court faults Ireland on abortion ban

echr (Photo: European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, January 30, 2009/Vincent Kessler)

The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Ireland on Thursday for stopping a Lithuanian cancer sufferer from terminating a pregnancy, in a blow to the predominantly Catholic country and its tough abortion laws. In a final ruling, the rights court found Ireland had not respected the privacy and family rights of the Lithuanian woman, who was living in Ireland and feared a pregnancy could trigger a relapse of her cancer, in remission at the time.

The court, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, ordered Ireland to pay 15,000 euros ($19,840) in damages to the woman, who was forced to travel to Britain, where the laws are more liberal, to have an abortion. Terminating a pregnancy has long been a fraught issue in Ireland, where some of the toughest abortion laws in Europe allow terminations only when the mother’s life is in danger.

“The Court concluded that neither the medical consultation nor litigation options, relied on by the Irish government, constituted effective and accessible procedures which allowed (her) to establish her right to a lawful abortion in Ireland,” it said a statement on the ruling. Here is a court press release and the full text of the judgment.

Pope Benedict decries growing Christianophobia in Europe

creche (Photo: Pope Benedict XVI blesses a nativity scene at the Vatican December 15, 2010/Tony Gentile)

Pope Benedict voiced the Catholic Church’s deep concern over “hostility and prejudice” against Christianity in Europe on Thursday, saying creeping secularism was just as bad as religious fanaticism. In the message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, marked on Jan. 1, he also reiterated recent condemnations of lack of religious freedom in countries in the Middle East where Christians are a minority, such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

He said Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world and that it was “unacceptable” that in some places they had to risk their lives to practise their faith. But he reserved his strongest words for Europe, where the Church says it is under assault by some national governments and European institutions over issues such as gay marriage, abortion and the use of Christian religious symbols in public places.

“I also express my hope that in the West, and especially in Europe, there will be an end to hostility and prejudice against Christians because they are resolved to orient their lives in a way consistent with the values and principles expressed in the Gospel,” he said in the message.  “May Europe rather be reconciled to its own Christian roots, which are fundamental for understanding its past, present and future role in history.”

Algeria hails its religious freedom, critics not so sure

algiers (Photo: An Algerian stands near the newly restored Notre Dame D’Afrique Basilica in Algiers December 13, 2010/Zohra Bensemra)

A Catholic church that has been a landmark in Algeria’s capital for over a century has officially re-opened after restoration work, providing a symbol of religious tolerance in the mainly Muslim country. Algeria is emerging from a nearly two-decade-long Islamist insurgency, but the Catholic community has maintained a presence, even though several Christian clergymen have been among hundreds of thousands killed in the violence.

The Notre Dame d’Afrique basilica was built by French settlers in the late nineteenth century.  An inscription running around the inside of the dome reads: “Our Lady of Africa, pray for us, and for the Muslims.”

“Religious freedom in Algeria is a reality,” Religious Affairs Minister Bouabdellah Ghlamallah told reporters after a ceremony to mark the completion of repair work on Monday. “Everybody has the right to practice their religion provided that the law is fully respected,” he said.

German abuse victims humiliated by compensation sums

heimkinder (Photo: A man wearing a T-shirt reading “former foster home child” at a news conference presenting the final report on abuse in foster homes in Berlin, December 13, 2010./Thomas Peter)

German victims of abuse in foster homes say the 120 million euros proposed as compensation was “humiliatingly” small compared with damages awarded in other countries, and vowed to fight for more. After a two-year inquiry, a government-appointed panel on Monday recommended 120 million euros be set aside for an estimated 30,000 victims expected to file abuse claims.

“It’s a poor start to the compensation process and another humiliation of victims,” the VEH victims’ group leader Monika Tschapek-Güntner said. “Roughly 30,000 victims are expected to apply for damages which will leave individuals between 2,000 and 4,000 euros.”

Tschapek-Güntner said that a deal struck between abuse victims and the Catholic Church in Ireland resulted in payments averaging 76,000 euros per victim. Irish compensation claims are expected to top 1 billion euros.

Drug shootout mars Virgin of Guadalupe festival in Mexico

Tecalitlan 1 (Photo: Chairs scattered in a courtyard after an attack on pilgrims in Tecalitlan December 10, 2010/Stringer)

Suspected drug cartel gunmen attacked each other during annual religious celebrations in a small Mexican town, killing 11 people and wounding 22 others, local authorities said on Saturday.

The rival gangs shot machine guns into the packed central square of Tecalitlan late Friday night and wreaked havoc on the festival in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe, one of Mexico’s most cherished national and religious symbols. The gunmen also lobbed a grenade into the crowd.

virgin (Photo: Pilgrims going to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City December 11, 2010/Felipe Courzo)

Tecalitlan is close to Apatzingan, where the worst violence flared in clashes to track down the drug lord. Jalisco state is famous for traditional mariachi music and locals were enjoying a concert as part of several days of events for the Virgin, who is said to have appeared to a Mexican peasant in the 16th century.

Dutch public believes Catholic Church covered up abuse-poll

abuse victimsA large majority of the Dutch public believes Roman Catholic Church authorities covered up sexual abuse, a poll found on Sunday, revealing the extent of the damage to the Church’s reputation in the Netherlands.

An independent commission said Thursday 1,975 people have declared themselves victims of sexual and physical abuse while under the care of the Church since 1945, ranking the Netherlands second worst in Europe behind Ireland in a scandal that has rocked the Church in Europe and the United States. (Photo: Pictures of sexual abuse victims placed outside the Vatican Embassy in London September 9, 2010/Stefan Wermuth)

The Maurice de Hond poll showed 82 percent of respondents believe most Church authorities knew about the problems, while 81 percent believe the pope also knew. Some 78 percent said they were “extremely disappointed” by the abuses.

UK envoy feared anti-Catholic violence after Vatican offer to Anglicans

vaticanLondon’s Vatican ambassador feared anti-Catholic violence in Britain after Pope Benedict offered to accept traditionalist Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks. Catholic-Anglican relations faced their worst crisis in 150 years because of the offer, which undercut the authority of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the cable quoted Ambassador Francis Campbell as saying after the offer last year. (Photo: Pope Benedict and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at the Vatican, November 21, 2009/Osservatore Romano)

The cable, dated November 30, 2009 and published by The Guardian newspaper in London on Saturday, reflected concerns that have since eased. Tensions that it predicted for the pope’s visit to Britain in September this year did not materialise.

The confidential cable, signed by U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Miguel Diaz, said Campbell noted that England’s Catholics were a minority and mostly of Irish origin. “There is still latent anti-Catholicism in some parts of England and it may not take much to set it off,” it said, paraphrasing his words. “The outcome could be discrimination or in isolated cases even violence against this minority.”