Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pope says Bertone unites pastoral activity and doctrinal preparation

For his first major change at the most senior level of the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict Thursday tapped Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the archbishop of Genoa and a trusted former colleague at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to be the new secretary of State, succeeding Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 78, who has held this post for 15 years.

The Pope also named the prelate who will replace American Cardinal Edmund Szoka, president of the Governorato of Vatican City State, appointing Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, currently secretary for Relations with States essentially a Vatican foreign minister - as the new governor of the mini city-state. Cardinal Szoka, former archbishop of Detroit, has been in the Vatican since 1990, first as president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See. In October 1997, he was named president of the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City and on February 22, 2002, named president of the Governatorato for Vatican City State.

Though these changes had been expected for some time, the way they were announced was indeed quite unusual for the Vatican. An almost laconic note from the Holy See Press Office stated: The Holy Father, in accordance with Canon 354 of the Code of Canon Law, has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of State, requesting him, nonetheless, to remain in office until September 15, 2006, with all the faculties inherent to that role. On the same date - September 15 - the Holy Father will appoint Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., archbishop of Genoa, Italy, as the new secretary of State. On that occasion, His Holiness will receive in audience the superiors and officials of the Secretariat of State in order to publicly thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano for his long and generous service to the Holy See, and to present the new secretary of State.

The same formula was used to announce the appointment of Archbishop Lajolo as successor to Cardinal Szoka. Normally, a papal nomination becomes effective the moment it is announced. However, for reasons known only to the Pope and perhaps the subjects involved Cardinal Bertone will not officially take over as secretary of State until the September date announced by the Pope.

Over the years I have been told by people named to curial positions or as papal nuncios or bishops that approximately 48 hours passed between a person being notified that the Pope intended to name them to a certain post and the time expected for that persons answer. Exceptions were made if deemed reasonable.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano released a statement Thursday following the announcement that the Pope had accepted his resignation and that Cardinal Bertone would succeed him. A number of journalists have asked me in recent days, he said, for interviews on my activity in service to the Holy See. I will be able to do that in the fall when I will have ended my work as secretary of State. For now, he added, I thank everyone for the interest with which they follow the activity of the Pope, his collaborators, and the Catholic Church throughout the world.

Cardinal Sodano, 78, is dean of the College of Cardinals. He replaced Cardinal Ratzinger when he became Pope in April of last year. He was named pro-secretary of State on December 1, 1990, succeeding Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, most noted for creating the Vaticans Ostpolitik, a policy that helped lead to the eventual demise of communism. Sodano was made a cardinal on June 28, 1991, at which time the word pro was removed from his title and he became secretary of State.

Today, said the cardinal in his statement, I would like to express my gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI who, notwithstanding that I was beyond retirement age, wished to renew the trust that the late Pope John Paul expressed in me, calling me to this post 15 years ago. I send fraternal best wishes to my successor, Cardinal Bertone to whom I have been linked by ties of esteem and friendship.

Cardinal Sodano joined the Holy Sees diplomatic corps in 1959 after having attended the Pontifical Ecclesiatical Academy. Over the years he served in Ecuador, Uruguay and Chile where he remained for 10 years and was instrumental in helping resolve a territorial crisis between Argentine and Chile called the Beagle Channel question. He visited countless nations on special missions, both as apostolic nuncio and secretary of State.

Cardinal Bertone, 71, the fifth of eight children, will bring an eminently pastoral touch to this diplomatic post in which he will be the Popes closest advisor. In fact, the cardinal read excerpts from a letter written by Pope Benedict to the people of Genoa that will appear in the June 24th edition of the Vatican paper, LOsservatore Romano which point to this trait. The pontiff wrote: In these three years in which he has guided the archdiocese of Genoa, you have learned to appreciate the gifts and qualities that made him a faithful pastor capable of uniting pastoral activity and doctrinal preparation. These characteristics and the reciprocal friendship and trust that matured over years of common service induced me to choose him for this high and very delicate task.

Being a worthy pastor, a Good Shepherd, is eminently important to Benedict XVI, not only in the collaborators he chooses in the Vatican but on a personal level as Pope.

Another quality said to be shared by the two friends is their ability to think rationally and express their thoughts clearly, reasonably, without ambiguity, never leaving questions in a listeners mind as to what they said. With either one of them, it is never a question of what he meant to say. Speaking clearly and unambiguously must be a hallmark of a diplomat, as must tact, good judgment and discretion.

Who is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and what is his background?

Tarcisio Bertone was born in the province of Turin in the Piedmont region of northern Italy on December 1, 1934. After studies in Turin, he entered the Society of St. John Bosco - the Salesians - did his novitiate in Pinerolo and made his religious profession in 1950. He wrote a dissertation on tolerance and religious freedom which earned him a licentiate in theology from the Salesian faculty in Turin. He went to Rome for further studies and reeived a doctorate in canon law with a thesis on Governing the Church in the Thought of Benedict XIV Pope Lambertini (1740-1758).

Ordained a priest in 1960, Fr. Bertone was brought to Rome in 1967 to the Salesian University where he was a professor of moral theology, then a director of theologians, a professor of canon law, and dean of the faculty of canon law.

Among his accomplishments, he collaborated in the final phase of the revision of the Code of Canon Law, became rector of the Pontifical Salesian University and was named secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1995, where he stayed for 7 years, a trusted collaborator of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. As congregation secretary he was entrusted by John Paul II with a number of delicate tasks, including the publication of the third part of the Secret of Fatima, and working with sensitive cases such as those of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, and questions regarding Medjugorje.

John Paul II named him archbishop of Genoa in 2002, making him a cardinal a year later. This is the first time since 1969, when Cardinal Jean Villot, archbishop of Lyon, was named as secretary of State, that the head of a major diocese has occupied this post. In fact, Cardinal Bertone is only the fourth secretary of State since 1969 (Cardinals Jean Villot 1969-79, Agostino Casaroli 1979-1990 and Angelo Sodano 1990 to 2006).

Upon being named Thursday, Cardinal Bertone, considered affable, approachable, down-to-earth and possessing an excellent sense of humor, held a press conference in the diocesan seminary in Genoa. During the reading of an official communication on his nomination, the archbishop of Genoa joked that this is truly a Piedmont relay race with Cardinal Sodano, using a sporting term to say he had been handed the baton by a fellow Piedmontese.

As he read the official communiqu, say news reports of the conference, the cardinal broke for long minutes of silence as well as several emotional moments when he seemed close to breaking down when speaking of the diocese and people he loves.

The secretary of State-elect shares many traits and interests with Pope Benedict, not least of which is the same summer mountain retreat. In recent years the cardinal has spent at least a week every September among the mountains of Valle dAosta in the very same Salesian community in Les Combes, Introd where Pope Benedict and John Paul II before him on ten occasions - has spent a little R and R time. In fact, the Holy Father will come to Les Combes after his July 8-9 trip to Valencia for the Fifth World Meeting of Families, staying in this tranquil mountain setting from July 11 to 28.

If there is one thing that the people of Piedmont and his many friends elsewhere in Italy can tell you about Cardinal Bertone, it is that he is a passionate football fan (soccer to Americans). He was, in fact, the first cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church ever to announce a soccer match. He did two such radio reports on matches between the Italian football teams of Genoa-Turin and Sampdoria-Juventus.

Once, during a radio transmission, he was asked to name the formation of a hypothetical Vatican soccer team. Without losing a beat, he joked that he would name (Cardinals) Ratzinger as the coach, Ruini as the center forward, Sodano as the producer/director and Tettamanzi on defense. Cardinal Ruini is the Popes vicar for Rome and Dionigi Tettamanzi is the archbishop of Milan.

JUNE 19,2006

As readers of Joans Rome know, I dedicated several issues of this column to Pope Benedicts travels to Poland, the last of which was posted a day after my return from Krakow and was devoted to the Holy Fathers remarkable and unforgettable visit to the former concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Because of a very quick trip to the United States, I missed a weekly column. Thus, I am happy to resume today, and Id like to thank everyone who told me they missed reading the latest news from the Vatican and from Rome.

I would also urge you to visit these pages next week when I tell the astonishing and very beautiful story of a couple whose faith and love and total selflessness has turned their lives upside down with new children, new joys and new challenges.


A little publicized event during Benedict XVIs trip to Poland was his blessing on May 27 of a train called Totus Tuus, Latin for all yours, the well-known motto of Pope John Paul whose love for and devotion to the Virgin Mary was a hallmark of his papacy.

On Saturday, May 27, the third day of his trip to John Pauls homeland, Pope Benedict visited his predecessors hometown of Wadowice, after which he drove to the shrine of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, dedicated to the Passion of Our Lady and His Sorrowful Mother, and then to the shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, about seven miles outside of Krakow. The Popemobile stopped at the Lagiewniki station and Benedict, standing next to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, blessed the newly-built train which runs between Krakow and Wadowice, with intermediate stops at the two shrines of Divine Mercy and Kalwaria Zebrzydowska.

The air-conditioned cars, painted yellow and white with the words Totus Tuus on the sides, travel at a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour. Trains leave the Krakow station three times daily, offering 184 seats, room for 225 standing passengers, and space for eight wheelchairs, available through special lifts. Round trip fare is $6 for adults. Passengers can view documentaries about Pope John Paul and listen to his speeches and homilies on a number of television screens positioned throughout the three cars. Programs are available in various languages. Just before arriving at each station, detailed information about the town or shrine is given to pilgrims.

News reports from Poland indicate that in just several weeks of operation, the Totus Tuus train The Popes Train has had great success with visitors traveling to the sites linked with John Pauls life and ministry in Poland.

For a look at the train, click here:


Though it has been known for months that Pope Benedict would travel to Valencia, Spain in July to preside at the closing days of the Fifth World Encounter of Families, only earlier this week did the Vatican release the Popes schedule as well as some statistics on the Church in Spain.

The World Meetings of Families (WMF) are organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family, which was founded in 1981 by John Paul II when he wrote the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. He also established these family meetings whose aim it is to celebrate the divine gift of the family and to unite families in prayer, speaking, learning, and sharing. The encounters also study the role that the Christian family plays as a domestic church and the basis of evangelization. The WMF take place at three-year intervals. The four previous ones in Rome in 1994, Rio de Janeiro in 1997, Rome again in the Jubilee Year 2000 and Manila in 2003 have all drawn at least a million people.

According to the website for the Valencia program, every WMF consists of five main activities: An International Congress on Pastoral Theology, a Congress on Children, Eucharistic celebrations for the families on pilgrimage, a gathering and festival with testimonies from the families, and the concluding Mass by the Pope, concelebrated by the cardinals, bishops and priests from all over the world.

The program this year starts July 1, though Pope Benedict arrives only the morning of July 8. After a welcome ceremony he will visit the cathedral of Valencia and the basilica of the "Virgen de los Desamparados," pray the Angelus in the "Plaza de la Virgen," and walk to the nearby archbishop's palace where he will have lunch with the papal party. At 5.15 p.m., he is scheduled to pay a courtesy visit to King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain at City Hall.

He will also receive Spains Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero but the premier will have to go to the Pope at the archbishops residence. Zapateros election has strained relations with the Church in Spain, a country of 42 million people, of whom 39.5 million are Catholic. His leftist government approved a law on same sex marriages two days before Benedict was inaugurated as Pope, The Italian news agency, ANSA, reported that Spain's ambassador to the Holy See, Francisco Vazquez admitted that Zapatero's government had "stuck a finger in the Church's eye" by approving the law on same-sex marriages two days before Benedict's inauguration.

In a country that is overwhelmingly Catholic - a religion that forbids divorce - the Zapatero government has also made it easer for Spaniards to divorce civilly and has also scrapped plans by the previous conservative government to make religion classes obligatory in schools. Adding fuel to the fire, the Zapatero government has provided funding for a conference on the family organized by a Spanish association of gays and lesbians to discuss alternative family models two weeks before the pope's visit. The conference is scheduled to take place in Valencia, near the cathedral.

Speaking in Spain where he was recently awarded an honorary doctorate degree, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that Pope Benedict is very anxious to make the trip to Valencia for the family meeting because he hopes to recover the essence of the family. Navarro-Valls described the Popes speech as intense, and very rich, suggesting that it will be much discussed afterwards.

Observers believe that Benedict XVI will meet head-on the challenges facing families today, in Spain and elsewhere, including attacks on life itself with abortion and euthanasia, and attacks on traditional families by those who support same sex unions, gays adopting children, and the like. Since his election 14 months ago, Pope Benedict has been a vigorous defender of traditional marriages the sacramental union between a man and a women of the sanctity of life and of the family as the basic cell of society. The most awaited of the Popes talks in Spain will be his remarks Saturday at Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences where he will participate in a festive meeting with families and again on Sunday morning when he will preside at Mass at the same site.

In the event you are still deciding where to take your family this summer, why not consider Valencia? Its never too late to plan! To learn more, click here:

Let me know if you are going. Perhaps well meet as Ill be there for a few days covering the WMF and Pope Benedicts weekend visit. Buon viaggio!


This past week in the Vatican was basically a very quiet one. Benedict XVIs activities were limited to the Angelus on June 11 and 18, to the Wednesday general audience on June 14 , the Corpus Christi (or Corpus Domini, as it is called here in Rome) Mass on June 15 at St. John Lateran and the procession to St. Mary Major Basilica, and an audience on June 17 with the Saints Peter and Paul Association.

By the by, for those of you planning trip to Rome: the Wednesday general audiences now start at 10 a.m., instead of 10:30 and will have that schedule throughout the summer, according to the Prefecture of the Papal Household, the Vatican office that arranges all papal audiences, be they private for a head of State or the weekly general audiences. While I assume most of you know how to request tickets for the weekly papal audience, for those not in the know, heres what to do: Before your visit to Rome, contact by fax or e-mail either The Bishops Office for U.S. Visitors to the Vatican, which is part of the Pontifical North American College and is run by the tremendously affable Msgr. Roger Roensch (rhymes with wrench)( or Santa Susannas, the Church for American and English-speaking Catholics in Rome that has been run since 1922 by the Paulist Fathers ( Should you forget to do this before your trip, both the Visitors Office and Santa Susannas usually have a few tickets left over by the end of Tuesday afternoons when they distribute the tickets previously requested. And, notwithstanding what some travel agencies or web sites might tell you, tickets to ALL papal events are FREE!

The Wednesday Audience: Remembering St. Andrew

Pope Benedict dedicated the June 14th Wednesday general audience to the Apostle Andrew who was, according to St. Johns Gospel, the first Apostle to be called by Jesus, who then brought his brother, Simon Peter, to the Lord. In fact, said the Pope, the liturgy of the Byzantine Church honors him with the title Protklitos, the first-called. The Holy Father said that the fraternal relationship of these two great Apostles is reflected in the special relationship between the sister Churches of Rome and Constantinople. To highlight this relationship, my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, in 1964 gave the relics of Saint Andrew, which until then had been kept in the Vatican Basilica, back to the Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop of Patras, Greece, where, says tradition, the Apostle was crucified.

A later tradition the Pope told the 35,000 pilgrims tells that Andrew, before he died in Patras after undergoing the torture of crucifixion, asked to be placed on a cross different from that of Jesus and, in fact, he was crucified on a X-shaped cross. Benedict said that Andrew taught us that our crosses become valuable if they are seen and welcomed as part of Christs cross. Only by that Cross are our sufferings ennobled and take on their true meaning.

The name 'Andrew' is Greek and means courage or virility. Andrew, the son of Jonas, was the brother of Simon Peter and though Peter became the first Pope, Andrew was the protoklitos or first-called by the Lord. He was a disciple of St. John the Baptist until told he should follow Jesus The Pope noted that in the Gospel of John, when some Greeks wish to see Jesus, it is Andrew, with Philip, who brings their request to the Lord. Jesus response, with its reference to the grain of wheat which dies and then produces much fruit (cf. Jn 12:23-24), is a prophecy of the Church of the Gentiles, which would spread throughout the Greek world after the Lords Resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Benedict added that according to some ancient traditions, Andrew preached the Gospel among the Greeks until he met his death by crucifixion. His example inspires us to be zealous disciples of Christ, to bring others to the Lord, and to embrace the mystery of his Cross, both in life and in death.

Numerous places lay claim to relics of St. Andrew. According to a Vatican guidebook of Vatican City, the Museums and the Basilica, the relic preserved in St. Peters since the 15th century (in the former basilica) that was given by Paul VI to the bishop of Patras was the head of the saint. His body, says tradition, was moved in 1208 from Constantinople to the Church of Sant'Andrea (St. Andrew) in Amalfi, Italy.

Last Wednesdays audience catechesis on the Apostle Andrew comes just two weeks before the June 29th feast of Saints Peter and Paul, when a delegation from the Ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople will be in Rome to reciprocate the yearly visit by a Holy See delegation to Istanbul for the November 30th Feast of Saint Andrew, patron saint of the patriarchate. The ecumenical delegation will attend the June 29th Vatican ceremony that commemorates not only Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles and patrons of Rome, but is the day on which the Pope bestows the palliums on new metropolitan archbishops as a symbol of their authority. Benedict, as bishop of Rome, wears his own distinctive pallium, which was bestowed on him on April 24, 2005, the day he officially inaugurated his pontificate.

Later this year, to commemorate St. Andrews feast day, Benedict XVI will visit Turkey.

A Plea to End the Spiral of Violence in the Holy Land

The Holy See Wednesday called for an end to the blind violence causing innocent victims in the Middle East and asked the international community to give necessary humanitarian assistance. The appeals came in a statement by papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls who noted that the Holy See is following with great apprehension and pain the episodes of increasing, blind violence that continue to bloody the Holy Land. He said Pope Benedict is close, especially in his prayers, to the innocent victims, their families and to the peoples living here who are hostage to those who delude themselves into thinking they can solve the ever more dramatic problems in the region with force and unilaterally.

Navarro-Valls was referring to the seven members of one Palestinian family who died in an explosion on a Gaza beach the previous Friday, and the firing of rockets on Israelis by the Palestinian group Hamas in response. Israelis, however, said they did not attack the beach, saying the cause was an unexploded bomb from another war. Tuesday an Israeli air strike killed a Palestinian and his accomplice responsible for launching rockets into Israel. That attack also claimed the lives of nine civilians, further angering Palestinians aroused over the deaths at the Gaza beach.

"The Holy See, said the Director of the Holy See Press Office, invites the international community to quickly activate the means necessary for providing due humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, and joins the call to leaders of both peoples to, in the first place, show due respect for human life, especially that of defenseless civilians and children, and to courageously resume the path of negotiations, the only path to reaching the just and lasting peace to which everyone aspires."

Corpus Christi: Gods Gift to Us, Food for All Mankind

Thursday, June 15, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, known in many countries as Corpus Christi or Corpus Domini, was a holiday in the Vatican and only one event was scheduled for Pope Benedict - the Mass and procession in the evening to celebrate this feast which commemorates the Real Presence of Christ - Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity - in the Eucharist. This annual celebration includes Mass at 7 p.m. in the square outside the Popes cathedral church of St. John Lateran, a procession with the Blessed Sacrament down Via Merulana to St. Mary Major Basilica and a blessing of the crowd gathered there.

Via Merulana, originally called Via Gregoriana, was laid out by Pope Gregory XIII during the Holy Year 1575. There is a Via Gregoriana in Rome today, near the famed Spanish Steps. Among Pope Gregorys achievements: he reformed the calendar, founded the papal observatory, as well as several colleges and seminaries, including the Gregorian University, and built the Quirinale Palace, for years the summer residence of Popes and now home to the president of Italy.

The feast of Corpus Christi is due in part to the visions of a 13th century Augustinian nun, Julianna of Lieges, known for her devotion to the Eucharist. In one vision, Our Lord appeared to her, reminding her there was no solemnity honoring the Blessed Sacrament and she began to promote such a feast. Pope Urban IV, who also wished to honor the Eucharist, wrote a Bull in 1264 in which he spoke of the love of Our Lord and Savior as expressed in the Holy Eucharist, ordering Corpus Christi to be celebrated annually on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Indulgences could be gained, he wrote by attendance at Mass and reciting the Office composed at Urbans request by St. Thomas Aquinas, which many say is the most beautiful office of the Breviary. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, about this same time in history - which was a period of infrequent communion - the elevation of the chalice and host came into being at Mass as well as placing the host in a monstrance for Eucharistic adoration. Corpus Christi is a moveable feast and in some countries is observed on the first Sunday following Trinity Sunday.

In his homily Thursday, Pope Benedict said the consecrated Host is the "food of the poor," the "fruit of the earth and of the labor of mankind, a gift that requires the synergy of the forces of the earth and of the gifts of the heavens: sun and rain. When, in adoration, we contemplate the consecrated Host, the mark of creation is speaking to us. Then we discover the greatness of this gift, but we also discover the Passion, the Cross of Jesus and His Resurrection." "Guide us along the roads of our history! the Pope appealed to God. Always show the Church and her pastors the right path! Look at suffering humanity, anxiously wandering among so many uncertainties; look at the physical and mental hunger afflicting them! Give men bread for the body and the soul! Give them work! Give them light! Give them Yourself! Purify and sanctify us all!

"Bring us to understand," he concluded, "that only by participating in Your Passion, by saying 'yes' to the cross, to sacrifice, to the purification you impose upon us, can our lives mature and reach their true fulfilment. Gather us from all the corners of the earth. Unite Your Church, unite lacerated humanity. Give us Your salvation!"

After Mass, during the Eucharistic procession to St. Mary Major, thousands of faithful lining the streets prayed and sang, accompanying the Blessed Sacrament which was set in a monstrance in the open Popemobile before which the Holy Father knelt in prayer.

Church Reacts to European Union Vote to Fund Research with Human Embryos

A statement was released Thursday afternoon, June 15, by the Commission of Bishops Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) that deplored the vote hours earlier by the European Parliament to fund research that would effectively destroy human embryos. COMECE secretary general, Msgr. Noel Treanor, said that while COMECE supports an effective European Union research policy for the common good, it objects to proposed EU funding for research activities with human embryos and human embryonic stem cells because, he said, it raises fundamental anthropological and ethical problems. Many people are uneasy about research instrumentalizing human life and using it as a raw material. This is not just a Catholic position. Scientifically, there is no reason to make a moral distinction between an embryo at the very beginning of his or her life and after implantation in the womb or after 14 days. Human dignity does not depend on decisions of other human beings.

The statement notes that the proposal of the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) was adopted by 284 votes to 249 with 32 abstentions. The European Parliament itself was divided on the issue, and a significant number of MEPs voted either to exclude funding for all research on human embryos and human embryonic stem cells or at least to tighten the ethical guidelines in order to avoid the further destruction of human embryos. We take also note of the fact that the amendment adopted by the Legal Affairs Committee which according to the rules of procedure of the European Parliament is responsible for ethical questions in new technologies was not respected by the ITRE Committee.

The bishops affirmed that every human life begins at conception and needs particular protection if it is created outside the womans body. Human life must never be instrumentalized. We therefore remain opposed in principle to the destruction of any human embryo and the use of human embryonic stem cell. Since the use and destruction of human embryos is an issue which touches on the inviolability of human life and dignity and thus concerns most deeply held convictions of many EU citizens, the EU has a moral duty to abstain from promoting through joint funding such research prohibited in several member states.

The statement which was echoed in following days by prelates from countries throughout the EU and by experts in bio-ethical issues concluded: We therefore urge the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers together with the European Commission to rethink their attitude towards this issue and to concentrate the EUs joint research efforts on truly common research priorities that are less controversial. We take this opportunity to renew our support for the EU to finance research on adult stem cells.

In Italy stem cell research is prohibited and any attempt to change that would face strong reaction from the Roman Catholic hierarchy and from the Vatican itself. Given this EU vote, it is likely that Pope Benedict might place this issue among those he considers as challenges facing the modern family during his two-day visit to Valencia for the World Meeting of Families.

Birth of a Global, Inter-Faith Coalition Against Detention of Migrants and Refugees

Also on Thursday: Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders took part in the launching of a new global, inter-faith coalition against the detention of Migrants and Refugees, an initiative supported by over 100 human rights organizations in 42 countries, including the JRS, the Jesuit Refugee Service, one of the organizers of the conference held at the headquarters of Vatican Radio. Jesuit Father Lluis Magrina said at the conference that this new coalition intends to raise awareness of migrants detention policies in the public opinion, enabling it to exert pressure on governments and to discourage the use of detention, seeking possible alternatives. He said the new coalition can act as a pressure group, not only in international organizations such as the United Nations and European Union but also on national governments as well.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and interim head of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, said it is especially worrisome that detention is being used, in violation of international human rights laws, as an instrument to deter the arrival of refugees and to persuade them to leave. The cardinal highlighted the Catholic Churchs work in favor of human rights, stressing especially the Churchs concepts of human being and human dignity. As human dignity is innate in every human being, he said, Catholics should cooperate with other faiths within the common human family to prevent anyone from losing his or her dignity.

Without giving any time table or precise ideas as to format or content, Cardinal Martino said that Pope Benedict is planning to speak out on the conditions of prison inmates around the world.

During the Sunday Angelus, the Holy Father pointed out that Tuesday, June 20 is the World Day of the Refugee, promoted by the United Nations. This Day hopes to draw the attention of the international community on the conditions of so many people who are forced to flee, because of grave forms of violence, their own countries. These brothers and sisters of ours seek refuge in other countries, animated by the hope of returning to their native land or, at least, of finding hospitality where they have asked refuge. While I assure them of remembrance in my prayers and of the constant concern of the Holy See, I hope that the rights of these persons will always be respected and I encourage ecclesial communities to help them in their needs.

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