Friday, March 28, 2003

Is this why the Pope favors Iraq over America? From L'Espresso Online: In recent days, Fides, news agency of the Vatican�s De Propaganda Fide office, published online a weighty dossier on the Chaldean Church. In large part it�s a dossier on Iraq, home to a good number of Chaldean Catholics, with their patriarch, Raphael I Bidawid (in the photo, next to his procurator in Rome, Philip B. Najim). The dossier gives a positive image of Christians in this country. Yes, there is the threat of war, the lack of food and medicine, the plague of emigration. In addition, �from time to time, incidents take place, especially since the gradual spread of a fundamentalist current in the Arab world.� But on the other hand, Catholics in Iraq �don�t undergo discrimination� and enjoy �religious freedom,� even if it�s �within the limits set by the state.� And what about Saddam Hussein? Says Msgr. Antonios Mina, representative of the Chaldean church to the Vatican�s Congregation for Eastern Churches: �Relations with the government are good. In the government, there is vice premier Tareq Aziz, who is a Chaldean Catholic; his wife is a strong believer. Patriarch Raphael Bidawid is highly esteemed, respected by the civil authorities.� Nothing new to this point. On the contrary. On repeated occasions, Patriarch Bidawid has praised Saddam Hussein in an even stronger manner. Most recently, in an October interview with �Panorama,� he said: �Christians here are privileged. Saddam gives us what we want, listens to us and protects us.� Regarding Islamic extremists: �They have infiltrated the veins of religious power and are trying to steer it in their direction. But the government keeps them in check. Saddam is capable; he fools them into being more open in order to uncover them. He will get them.� So the Pope is willing to support a regime which is actively persecuting Muslims so long as the Christians are left alone? How does that square with his ecumenical stance? CarrieTomko@aol.com

The Pope opposes the actions of President Bush and American military forces in Iraq. He gives the appearance of favoring the regime of Saddam Hussein, saying almost nothing negative about it while he condemns America for invading and disrupting world peace. I took a look at the State Department's Religious Freedom Report, and found the following: There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report. Although Shi�a Arabs are the largest religious group, Sunni Arabs traditionally have dominated economic and political life. Sunni Arabs are at a distinct advantage in all areas of secular life. The Government also severely restricts or bans outright many Shi�a religious practices. The Government for decades has conducted a brutal campaign of killings, summary execution, arbitrary arrest, and protracted detention against the religious leaders and followers of the majority Shi�a Muslim population and has sought to undermine the identity of minority Christian (Assyrian and Chaldean) and Yazidi groups. The regime systematically has killed senior Shi�a clerics, desecrated Shi�a mosques and holy sites, interfered with Shi�a religious education, and prevented Shi�a adherents from performing their religious rites. Shi'a Arabs, the religious majority of the population, long have been disadvantaged economically, politically, and socially. Christians also report various abuses including repression of political rights. The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iraq and thus is unable to raise directly with the Government the problems of severe restrictions on religious freedom and other human rights abuses. However, the U.S. Government makes its position clear in public statements and in diplomatic contacts with other states. In 2001 the Secretary of State designated Iraq a country of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act for its severe violations of religious freedom. Iraq was similarly designated in 1999 and 2000.... In the north, an Islamic group called the Jund al-Islam seized control of several villages near Halabja during the period covered by this report, and established an administration governed under Shari�a. The group is alleged to have ties to the al-Qaida network and many from the group had spent time in Afghanistan while it was under the control of the Taliban. The group changed its name to Ansar al-Islam in December 2001. The group continued to control a small section of the northern part of the country along the Iranian border at the end of the period covered by this report. Local authorities claim that the group seeks to expand the area under its control by undermining the local administration, with the ultimate goal of imposing rule under Islamic law over all of the northern part of the country.... The Government for decades has conducted a brutal campaign of killing, summary execution, and protracted arbitrary arrest against the religious leaders and followers of the majority Shi�a Muslim population and has sought to undermine the identity of minority Christian (Assyrian and Chaldean) and Yazidi groups. Despite supposed legal protection of religious equality, the regime has repressed severely the Shi�a clergy and those who follow the Shi�a faith. Forces from the Intelligence Service (Mukhabarat), General Security (Amn al-Amm), the Military Bureau, Saddam�s Commandos (Fedayeen Saddam), and the Ba�ath Party have killed senior Shi�a clerics, desecrated Shi�a mosques and holy sites (particularly in the aftermath of the 1991 civil uprising), arrested tens of thousands of Shi�a, interfered with Shi�a religious education, prevented Shi�a adherents from performing their religious rites, and fired upon or arrested Shi�a who sought to take part in their religious processions. Security agents reportedly are stationed at all the major Shi�a mosques and shrines, and search, harass, and arbitrarily arrest worshipers. This is the regime that John Paul II is favoring over America and Bush. Why? CarrieTomko@aol.com

Apparently I'm not the only one who is finding the Pope's position on the war and America confusing. Bill O'Reilly voices a similar opinion and is taken to task by William Donohue for holding it. Fox News Network talk show host Bill O�Reilly last night criticized Pope John Paul II for not having �a position on Saddam [Hussein].� After commenting on the brutality of Saddam Hussein�s regime, O�Reilly said, �And then the pope sits in Rome and says, gee, this is terrible, but does not throw his moral authority behind removing this dictator.� Catholic League president William Donohue commented on O�Reilly�s remarks as follows: "Bill O�Reilly has made no secret about his contempt for Pope John Paul II. On his radio show on March 5 he explicitly said, �I have never liked this pope. I have always felt he was an autocrat who had no vision about how people live in the real world.� Now he is implying that the Holy Father is giving a wink and a nod to Saddam Hussein. �O�Reilly�s ramblings about the pope do not make him an anti-Catholic. But it does make him an ignoramus. The pope does not have a �position� on Saddam Hussein anymore than he has one on George W. Bush. But he does have a position on the culture of death and all that it represents. Indeed, there is no one in the world who has more forthrightly addressed issues like genocide, torture, abortion and the like than Pope John Paul II. For O�Reilly to suggest that the pope is soft on Saddam is scurrilous. Since I seldom watch TV and don't have cable, I'm not familiar with Bill O'Reilly. Usually I'm 100% behind William Donohue in his defense of the Catholic Church, but not this time. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Pope John Paul II is frequently credited with the fall of the iron curtain. He visited Poland and soon after Solidarity brought communism to an end. The changes in power were bloodless. That is unique in the history of world dictatorships. John Paul II seems to be especially gifted with the ability to galvanize the opinion of the masses and sway world history. Today he is making repeated strident statements about peace. Together with his Cardinals and Bishops who follow his lead, he is labeling America the invader of Iraq, the destroyer of world peace, the aggressors. For the past week in particular, but even before the war started, this message has come from Rome. It has been an open secret for a long time that he disapproves of America. When he speaks to or for the press, he ignores Iraq's violation of United Nations trust over the last 12 years. Seldom does he mention the way the Iraqi regime has treated their own people. Rather, he presents a position that the Iraqi regime is above reproach. Now comes the news from China (see link below), Russia, and North Korea (see excerpts of two stories copied at the end of these comments) http://edition.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/east/03/24/willy.column/ that these countries are viewing America as a potential invader of their countries as well, indicating that they fear this aggression and lack of cooperation with the UN. These nations, joined by the French and German anti-war stance, are repeating the Papal mantra of aggression and invasion, painting America as the evil country bent on world domination. Is it just coincidental that world opinion seems to be galvanizing around Rome's political opinions, or is a scenerio similar to Poland's being written for America? Excerpts from recent articles: Two stories from the Associated Press: MOSCOW (March 26) - Reflecting a new chill between Moscow and Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov accused the United States on Wednesday of trying to destroy Iraq and waging what he dubbed an information war against Russia. Ivanov also supported the proposal of some legislators to put off ratification of a pivotal U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty, saying the war in Iraq could fuel unfair criticism of the pact. ``Maybe now is not the right moment psychologically to bring this document up for ratification,'' Ivanov said. ``If we wait for some time, and concentrate all our efforts on ending the war ... then at a more quiet moment we can quickly deal with this issue.'' The treaty, signed in May by Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Bush, calls on both nations to cut their strategic nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds, to 1,700 to 2,200 deployed warheads, by 2012. The Senate unanimously approved the treaty earlier this month in what was seen as a diplomatic move to win Russian support for war in Iraq. But Moscow has only hardened its stance. ------------------------------------------ PANMUNJOM, Korea (AP) - Claiming the United States may attack, North Korea on Wednesday cut off the only regular military contact with the U.S.-led U.N. Command that monitors the Korean War armistice. The move will further isolate the communist North amid tensions over its suspected nuclear weapons programs. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on Wednesday dismissed as ``groundless'' allegations by the North that American forces may attack. ``There will be no war on the Korean Peninsula as long as we do not want a war,'' Roh was quoted as saying by his office, adding that Washington has repeatedly pledged to resolve the crisis peacefully Meanwhile, U.N. envoy Maurice Strong said that North Korean officials told him in meetings in Pyongyang last week that they ``reserved the right'' to reprocess their spent fuel rods that experts say could yield enough plutonium for several atomic bombs within months. Such a move would spike tension even further. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Thursday, March 27, 2003

With all the war news, it's easy to forget that there are Mid-East countries that are not in the midst of conflict. The United Arab Emirates are on the south end of the Persian Gulf, approx. 1000 miles away from the war. Gulf News today has a story about the safety UAE offers to those who wish to do business in that country. From the article: The UAE remains a very safe and secure place, said Richard G. Olson, U.S. Consul-General, while a prominent Australian businessman censured his government for issuing an advisory against travelling to this region. "It is particularly safe for businesses," Olson said, speaking to Gulf News briefly on the sidelines of the Gulf Maritime 2003 exhibition, which opened in Sharjah on Tuesday. He explained the U.S. administration had issued a general advisory against travelling to this region, which is why non-essential diplomatic staff had been moved to other locations, but reiterated the UAE is still very safe, and far removed from the war theatre. In Buddhist News there is a story about a professor at Centenary College who is protesing for peace by holding a one-man silent sit-in in his classroom: Shreveport, Louisiana -- Professor Peter Huff's opinion of the war in Iraq is not loud but certainly is clear. This week, the head of the religion department at Centenary College in Shreveport has taken a vow of classroom silence in protest of what he calls a "morally illegitimate war.""Over the weekend, I decided I needed to make a statement," Huff said before class. "I wanted it to be peaceful itself."In the tradition of the Quakers and Ghandi, he chose silence.During the regular class period, Huff set up a blanket and bolster to perform a Buddhist meditation. A letter to students explained what he was doing and why. Students have been asked to sign in, pick up handouts and can stay with him or dismiss themselves."Many Americans will sleepwalk through this international crisis," he wrote. "As members of the intellectual community of Centenary College, we cannot afford to see the war as simply one more current event. I encourage you to use this opportunity to think critically about your role as American citizen and world citizen." Lastly, from Arabic News comes yet another story about the Pope's stance on the war. From the article: Pope John Paul on Wednesday firmly opposed the U.S-British war against Iraq refusing to bless it as a just war. The Vatican renewed today his call on the international community to save Iraq an imminent human disaster as a result to the aggressive American war. The chairman of the Papal Council of Justice and Peace, Renato Martino, stressed that there is an urgent need for human aid to Iraqi people who suffer from the war. CarrieTomko@aol.com

France has proposed joining forces with the Vatican in opposition to the war according to a story in the Guardian Unlimited. The same article mentions the peace flag...rainbow colored. Hmmm. From the Guardian: France's President Jacques Chirac, whose popularity has soared since he refused to support the war, has written to the Pope to thank him for his peace efforts and to suggest they join forces. "The Holy See and France should continue to work together to have the primacy of law, justice and dialogue among people prevail," the French prime minister wrote in a letter to the Pope, published in the French Catholic newspaper La Croix. Armies of Vatican officials and Roman Catholic priests are repeating the peace message nationwide, hanging giant rainbow peace flags on church facades and calling on the world's pacifists to fast and pray for peace. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

At the catholicnexus website there are 11 entries over the last three days in which the Pope speaks of the need for peace. It sure seems to be the No. 1 priority of the papacy. What could he have in mind for America to do right now that would produce this immedite peace? Does he think that our military can simply lay down their arms and go home? That's mighty wishful thinking if he does! Meanwhile a report at Compass Direct documents the reprisals against Christians living in Iraq, including the torture and murder of a nun and a Kurdish Christian father of five. According to the article, Over the past few weeks, local church leaders report that anti-Christian rhetoric has dominated Friday-prayer sermons in Baghdad�s mosques. �Mohammed said fight the infidels with everything you have,� Abu Bakr al-Sammerai declared at the Abdel Qadr al-Gaylani mosque on March 7. Cardinal McCarrick wades in on the morality of the war. Speaking of the one-third of U.S. soldiers who are Catholic and for whom war represents a moral dilemma, he says, "Certainly. Because of this, as an episcopal conference we have been very careful not to classify their participation in the conflict as immoral, both because we are not up-to-date on all the facts that have led to the conflict, as well as because these young people do not have decision-making power" CarrieTomko@aol.com

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

* * * * * Apart from war news, it's a rather slow newsday. This report of a Pope-endorsed cult of St. Joseph of Copertino is a nice change of pace from news of the conflict. Pope endorses saint's aerial ecstasy From Richard Owen in Rome THE Pope has endorsed the cult of a 17th-century �flying monk�, declaring St Joseph of Copertino to be �a model for our times�. In a message marking the 400th anniversary of the birth of St Joseph, the Pope said that the Franciscan friar, who was said to amaze congregations by levitating and flying through the air, was spiritually close to our times. He is the patron saint of aviators and students. The son of a carpenter, St Joseph was born in 1603, allegedly in a stable, at Copertino near Lecce, and was ordained in 1628 despite being so illiterate and simple- minded, according to contemporaries, that he walked around with his mouth open all the time, earning him the nickname �the Gaper�. His reputation for flying brought Vatican disapproval and he was forbidden to say Mass. But he found refuge in monasteries and churches in Naples, Assisi, Pesaro and Fossombrone and became famous for his �flights�. Wtinesses record that after falling into an ecstatic trance, St Joseph would utter a loud cry and soar into the air, sometimes flying down the nave and sometimes flying out of the church and across the hills for several miles. Well, do we believe it or not? Do these ecstasies come from God every time, or are there other sources? And should we still expect such miracles today, or do they belong strictly to days gone by? CarrieTomko@aol.com

Monday, March 24, 2003

Texas bishop suggests new model for seminaries By Peter Finney Jr. Catholic News Service NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- A new model of seminary training in which men take academic courses at the seminary but live in a parish setting while studying for the priesthood should be examined in the wake of the scandal of sexual abuse by clergy, Dallas Coadjutor Bishop Joseph A. Galante said in a speech at Tulane University in New Orleans. Bishop Galante's suggestion came in a question-and-answer session following his March 13 lecture, "Renewing the Hope and the Trust of the Faithful in the Institutional Church," delivered as part of the university's annual Judeo-Christian Lecture Series. Bishop Galante is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse. "I personally think we should look at formation in terms of whether or not segregated seminary training for secular (diocesan) seminarians is the ideal," Bishop Galante said. He suggested having a small group of two to three seminarians live in a parish setting while receiving spiritual direction from a priest and working with a formation team, "a community of lay people and religious within that parish." "The seminarians could go to a seminary for academics, but the (priestly) formation would take place out in the real world," Bishop Galante said. "I would like very much for us to seriously look at that." As for whether or not the church should examine its current practice of ordaining men who may have a homosexual orientation, Bishop Galante said, "Orientation itself is not an impediment to ordination. ... Is there anything that says God can't give them the gift of celibacy?" I wonder if there is any chance this could work? * * * * * Moving on to a new take on the United Nations: Quit the UN? Linda Chavez, CEO and President of the Center for Equal Opportunity, says yes, "Pretending that the United Nations is worthy of our unqualified support is not in our nation's best interest." CarrieTomko@aol.com

Amy Welborn has included a link to a 1999 article from America which examines the Pope's teaching on war. How, I wonder would the Pope's position have applied to the Nazi concentration camps? Would waiting and negotiation have been an improved choice? Innocent people died in that war. Their lives might have been spared. But the cost elsewhere in human lives would have been higher. It has been said that European politicians worked at appeasement for too long as it was. Had we continued with UN negotiations for disarmament, would the same be said about us as well? The Pope's teaching concentrates on concern for the innocent. So how to determine who is innocent and who is guilty? Is a soldier in uniform automatically guilty because he wears it? No one wants to die in a war, though some are more willing than others to fight for a good cause. Was the soldier on the front lines responsible for deciding to go to war? If he was not, what takes away his right to be considered innocent as well? Must he first attempt to kill, or is his innocence removed the moment he joins an army? With children and old people it is easy to label them innocent. What about the rest of us? Are we always innocent? The term "innocent" bothers me a lot. I think there are parallels between the Pope's position on the war in Iraq and his position on the condition of the Roman Catholic Church. What has brought me to that conclusion primarily is Malachi Martin's comment at the end of WINDSWEPT HOUSE (p. 643) where he says: This Pontiff had won his great victory over Soviet Marxism. And he had enabled millions already born and millions more yet unborn to escape the cruelest tyranny so far realized by evil hearts. But he had achieved that victory in the name of human solidarity. And once he had done that--once this Pope had acted successfully in the name of human solidarity as the indestructible cement of human fraternity; of human identity as a family--he and his papacy had been co-opted into the building of that solidarity. Thus, the essential mission of the Catholic Church had been mongrelized. For, in sacred principle, Pope and papacy are not suposed to act as surrogates for human solidarity, but for the kingdom and the regime of Jesus of Nazareth as Lord of human history. Nevertheless, he as Pope, and his administration as the papacy, were aligned with a purely human goal." War is more in line with the thinking of past papacies. They fought for the survival of Christianity when Islam attempted to convert Europe. Today, however, Europe and the Pope are trying to make peace with Islam. And no one is really sure if making peace with Islam will permit the survival of Christianity, because no one is sure that Islam will permit any other faith to exist. The French have expressed fear that the conflict in Iraq will lead to a war of religions. The Pope believes the same thing it seems, and statements of the Bishops and the Pope have placed the idea into the headlines. In our television coverage of the war, we have not been given any statistics on Iraqi casualties from the war, or any indication whether civilian structures were destroyed by the bombing. On the contrary, we have been left to believe that the only structures being destroyed are those associated with the regime. A different perspective emerges when reading Mid-East news sources...a picture that places America in a much different light. The following reports come from a Gulf news source: Air raids wreck civilian home Baghdad |Reuters | 24-03-2003 When Shafa Hussein returned from taking her sick son to a Baghdad hospital, she found her home in ruins, destroyed in U.S.-British air strikes. Her house in the Qadissiya residential area of central Baghdad was reduced to rubble and all her belongings, including money, food and furniture, were buried under heaps of concrete. "Thank God that my husband, my child and myself were not hurt," said the distraught 39-year-old woman. Five other houses were demolished and 12 damaged in the raid, which residents said took place at 7.30pm on Saturday. They said several people had been wounded and taken to the nearby Yarmouk hospital, but no one had been killed. The target of what residents said had been cruise missiles was not clear. President Saddam Husssein's Salam palace, hit in air strikes on Friday, is about three km away. And there is the following story about civilian deaths: Images of death, violence shock Arabs Amman/Manama/Sanaa/Dubai |By Our Correspondents | 24-03-2003 People all over the Arab world yesterday went in a state of shock over the footage of dead bodies shown on Al Jazeera television. Dead bodies of the Iraqis shown on the television in southern Iraq made many Jordanians not only tremble but it also deepened their previous position towards war on Iraq. "They (pictures) were disgusting and terrifying," said a 22-year-old Jordanian girl, who asked not to be named. "How did they (Allied Forces) bomb them? What kind of strikes are these? It is obvious they were civilians, particularly the children." Some of the pictures showed children with their brains blown out, bodies of adults without the upper parts, and scores of bodies in a pool of blood. "This is unbelievable," said Yomna, another Jordanian woman in her early 20s. Despite the fact that she and her family were forced to leave Kuwait in the early 1990s, shortly before the eruption of the Gulf war forcing Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, Yomna said she has now completely changed her views towards Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and she strongly supports him. "I fully support him because he said no to the United States. He makes me feel proud of being an Arab." Not the picture we are getting here. Not at all. I try to imagine how I would feel about America if my home had just been destroyed by an American missile. What would it take to persuade m e to forgive? A lot, I think. I would have to end up with a better life than I had before such a tragedy at the very least. So how are we going to provide a better life for people whose lives have been shattered such as these stories indicate? CarrieTomko@aol.com

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