The Pope said the serious mental health problems frequently experienced by women who have had an abortion reveals the irrepressible voice of moral conscience, which suffers serious injury whenever human action betrays a person's vocation to be truly human. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
The Holy Father also said doctors must emphasize that abortion does not solve anything, but instead kills a child, and damages the mother, the father, and often entire families.
Speaking about the second central theme of the meeting - methods for retrieving stem cells from ambilical cord blood, Pope Benedict said this is an issue with delicate ethical questions that must be addressed bearing in mind the priority that must be given to the common good.
ALL AFRICA REPORT: Catholic bishops from eight African countries have appealed to political leaders in the SADC region to oversee the development of a roadmap for peaceful elections in Zimbabwe, stressing that "elections at this stage would be dangerously premature".
In a statement addressed to SADC, the bishops said they "strongly believe" that conditions in the country are "emphatically not conducive to elections in 2011. They applauded the GPA and unity government it created but expressed great concern that two years later, few aspects of the agreement had been fulfilled.
Regarding elections, the bishops said conditions are not conducive because the GPA was not fulfilled, the constitutional reform process was incomplete, the voters roll is not updated, there is no freedom of association and media is "severely restricted". "The nation is in the grip of extreme fear; polarization is still evident; there are increasing signs of intimidation and/or violence as the election campaign builds up."
Father Oskar Wermter who helps needy people in Mbare, told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that the atmosphere is tense and the so-called "ruling party" has not changed its tactics of violence and intimidation.
He said although Robert Mugabe has shown no respect for the church in the past, the IMBISA statement was important because it shows the church is in touch with people on the ground and bishops are well informed about life in both the rural and urban areas. "Our bishop came here to Mbare to see what is going on and he can then inform the conference," said Father Wermter.
He described an incident when ZANU PF thugs attacked a soup kitchen being run by the Catholic Church, for people displaced by the recent violence in Mbare. "They have no morals. They just walked in and started beating up volunteer workers there. Some were taken to hospitals with injuries."
The appeal was signed by bishops from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Sao Tome e Principe, South Africa & Zimbabwe, who appealed to SADC to be "the agent that brings about this urgently needed recovery of Zimbabwe".
The bishops explained that if those in power choose to hold elections in 2011, then they "assert emphatically" that two things be considered as preconditions - a roadmap leading up to the elections be put in place and that the elections be conducted according to SADC's guidelines for elections.
The facilitation team for South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, who is SADC's chief negotiator on Zimbabwe, is expected in Harare this week to work on a roadmap with the three major political parties.Father Wermter agreed and stressed that violence was a key issue: "People are nervous. The constant threat of violence is hanging over them and they are afraid to go out after dark. As long as that continues there should be no elections in Zimbabwe".
Unfortunately SADC does not have a good record of supervising elections in Zimbabwe and has failed to pressure Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF into implementing what they agreed to in the SADC-brokered GPA.
There has been a general consensus among civic groups that the U.N. and the international community should also be allowed to monitor elections in Zimbabwe.
Mehdi Hasan, President of the Human Rights Commission for Pakistan told Fides: “we are on the whole in favour of a moratorium on applying the blasphemy law in Pakistan, but our official position is to ask for its abolition. It needs to be remembered that prior to 1986 there were no cases in Pakistan and now in the last 20 years there have been about 1,000, while about 70 people, only accused of blasphemy were murdered.
Representative of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance in Punjab, Christian Najmi Saleem, tells Fides: “Our objective is to stop the abuse of this law, which especially affects Christian minorities. If a moratorium will help then it is welcome. But we believe that some changes are needed. We hope that the work of the Minister for Religious Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, will bring results.”
Fr Mario Rodrigues, Director of the PMS in Pakistan, tells Fides that “the blasphemy law is called “the black law”. Anyone who opposes or challenges it today risks their life. The idea of a moratorium on its application is a favourable one. At least it may dissuade people from making false accusations. Nut I think it will be difficult for the Government to pass it.”
Haroon Barket Masih, head of the Masihi Foundation, providing legal support to Asia Bibi, the Christian woman condemned to death for blasphemy, says to Fides, “We fully support this proposal. It would be an important first step in stopping this law from creating further harm. It has hurt many people and still others may suffer. I also think it would be a balanced move from a political perspective: with a temporary moratorium, on the one hand the Government could say to radical Islamic groups that the law remains in force, but in the meantime they stop its misuse and exploitation.”
According to Peter Jacob, Secretary of the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Pakistani Bishops, “The solution does not seem feasible from a strictly legal point of view, because you can not stop the police or judicial authorities from investigating or prosecuting those who commit a crime. Also,” he told Fides, “the innocent victims currently in prison or on trial would not benefit. We continue, therefore, our campaign to abolish it.”
In Europe, the proposed moratorium on blasphemy has been launched by the Italian Catholic daily Avvenire. Prof. Mobeen Shahid, Pakistani Christian scholar, Professor at the Pontifical Lateran University, advocates: “Since there are precedents before judges, in which the authenticity of the charges is in doubt, I believe that the Supreme Court of Pakistan or the Government could issue a moratorium on lawsuits related to art. 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code (which includes the so-called blasphemy laws, ed).”
CATH NEWS REPORT: The Australian pilgrim centre in Rome, Domus Australia, will feature a portrait of the heroic Vietnamese prelate, Cardinal Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, in its chapel, reports theCatholic Weekly.
He regarded Australia as his second home, and he and Cardinal Pell were close friends.Cardinal Van Thuan was jailed in 1976 in Hanoi for 13 years, at least nine of them spent in solitary confinement. When he was released in 1989 he was never allowed to return to Vietnam and he became a frequent visitor to Australia, where his mother and sisters had settled prior to the Communist takeover in Vietnam.
A process for the cause of canonisation for Cardinal Van Thuan began last year in Rome where he spent his final years, before his death in 2002.
His portrait in Domus Australia will join those of celebrated clerics in Australia's Church history like St Mary of the Cross and Fr John Therry, as well as others who have influenced and been welcomed by the Church in Australia, including Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II.
The Vietnamese Australian community has given more than $50,000 towards the cost of the project, the bulk of it raised at the community's New Year celebrations in Sydney this month, said the report. To Vietnamese Catholics he is a much loved, saintly figure.
Fr Liem Duong, assistant parish priest at Sacred Heart Church, Cabramatta, and one of five chaplains serving Sydney's Vietnamese community, said it was a privilege and a great honour for the community to be able to contribute to Domus Australia and for Cardinal Van Thuan's portrait to be hung there.
Cardinal Van Thuan's portrait – on a canvas of approximately 2 metres x 2.5 metres – is one of 32 paintings the Sydney archdiocese has commissioned from portrait artist Paul Newton for the chapel of Domus Australia.
BISHOP AND CONFESSOR
Feast: February 26
Bishop of Gaza in Palestine, b. at Thessalonica about 347; d. at Gaza, 26 February, 420. After five years in the Egyptian desert of Scete he lived five years in a cave near the Jordan. In spite of his impaired health, he frequently visited the scene of the Resurrection. Here he met the Asiatic Mark, at a later date a deacon of his church and his biographer. To effect the sale of the property still owned by Porphyrius in his native city, Mark set out for Thessalonica and, upon his return, the proceeds were distributed among the monasteries of Egypt and among the necessitous in and around Jerusalem. In 392 Porphyrius was ordained to the priesthood, and the relic of the Holy Cross was intrusted to his care. In 395 he became Bishop of Gaza, a stronghold of paganism, with an insignificant Christian community. The attitude of the pagan population was hostile so that the bishop appealed to the emperor for protection and pleaded repeatedly for the destruction of pagan temples. He finally obtained an imperial rescript ordering the destruction of pagan sanctuaries at Gaza. A Christian church was erected on the site of the temple of Marnas. In 415 Porphyrius attended the Council of Diospolis. The "Vita S. Porphyrii" of Mark the Deacon, formerly known only in a Latin translation, was published in 1874 by M. Haupt in its original Greek text; a new edition was issued in 1895 by the Bonn Philological Society.