Posts Tagged ‘peace’

Secretary of Justice and Peace Council Comments on Benedict’s Message

By Mercedes De La Torre

ROME, JAN. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On the first day of the new year, in which the World Day of Peace was observed, Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, commented on the Pope’s message for the Day, titled “Educate Young People in Justice and Peace.”

Bishop Toso pointed out that the Holy Father trusts young people, because they show hope and are able to receive God in the midst of human history.

ZENIT spoke with the Salesian bishop, professor of social philosophy, former rector of the Pontifical Salesian University and Consultor for 20 years of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, about Benedict XVI’s message.

ZENIT: Why does Benedict XVI address young people in particular in this 45th Message for the World Day of Peace?

Bishop Toso: Benedict XVI wished to address this message in particular to young people who today live in a world of incessant transformation, in a world that sociologists describe as “liquid”: new projects are begun and are not solidified, so that youth live in a reality that changes constantly, and even those points that seem to be the most solid also seem to change.

In this context of swift changes and a lack of solid points of reference, Benedict XVI addresses young people, seeing them as a part of the human family that has great resources of hope. In fact, young people, especially in the World Youth Day that was held in Madrid, but also in other events that we have learned about in the media, are showing — also in reference to the fall of regimes and the need to erect democratic institutions — a young, fresh intuition, which helps adults to accept the fundamental values we must invest in and which can constitute the foundation of a more just and peaceful society.

ZENIT: Why does the Pope have confidence in young people as builders of peace?

Bishop Toso: Benedict XVI’s confidence in young people is based above all on two motives: the first is that young people, in face of life and the great responsibilities of the human family, believe in the possibility of a profound transformation, of the renewal of institutions, and their enthusiasm can be the engine for positive change in our societies, even becoming witnesses and leaders, enabling adults to question themselves.

The second reason is that Benedict XVI believes in the capacity of young people to intercept God, to receive Him in the midst of human history as the One who can help humanity to come out of the dark tunnel in which it finds itself. In reality, the dark tunnels that cause despair are different, disallowing even the possibility of a more just world. They are tunnels represented by the food crisis, the financial crisis, the crisis of appropriating essential resources, the ecological crisis and, above all, the anthropological, ethical crisis.

ZENIT: How can young people help to create a more fraternal society?

Bishop Toso: As the Message for the World Day of Peace acknowledges, young people not only have the task to be involved in the educational process, but they have a mission — Benedict XVI states clearly — to stimulate, to be an example to adults and to one another.

Young people especially have a youthful and genuine intuition in regard to great values and they make every effort and commit themselves enthusiastically in the small daily things as well as those that are important: respect for the environment, the fight against corruption and illegality, the implementation of justice, and dignified and respectful treatment of persons in the field of the economy, in the field of finance. With their example, they have the possibility of offering models of what could be the construction of a new society, and new human relations based on the values of fraternity, solidarity and mutual gift — values in which young people are particularly sensitive.

It is often said that today’s young people are the first generation that think that their descendants will live in worse conditions of life. However, I sincerely believe that young people of the age of globalization wish and know that they can contribute to the construction of a better, more united and solidary humanity, the humanity that Jesus Christ inaugurated with his Incarnation.

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By Tony Assaf

ROME, MARCH 1, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Christians and Muslims in Lebanon are looking forward to sharing the Feast of the Annunciation as a national holiday, says the secretary general of the Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue.

Mohammad Al-Sammak said this in an interview with ZENIT while he was in Rome for a Feb. 22 conference on the theme, “The Future Is Living Together: Christians and Muslims in the Middle East in Dialogue.”

It was organized by the Sant’Egidio Community, an international Catholic organization that focuses on prayer, spreading the Gospel, ecumenism, and dialogue with other religions and non-believers.

Al-Sammak, who also serves as a political counselor to the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, became the first Muslim to participate as an active member in a Synod of Bishops in 1995 when John Paul II convoked a special assembly of the prelates of Lebanon.

Al-Sammak is also one of the 138 Muslim leaders who signed the open letter “A Common Word Between Us and You,” addressed to Benedict XVI and various heads of other Christian churches and confessions.

He worked for three years on a project with the Lebanese government to make the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, a holiday for both Christians and Muslims. Last week the authorities issued a decree making that day a national feast day.

In this interview with ZENIT, Al-Sammak spoke about the past, future, and other elements shared by Christians and Muslims in the Middle East.

ZENIT: What do you think of the crisis in Islamic and Christian relations in the Middle East and the fact that after 14 centuries of living together we are once again participating in a conference on dialogue?

Al-Sammak: Basically, the Muslims and Christians in the Middle East are condemned to decide to live together.

There is no third way: either they choose to live together or they are forced to live together.

Let us say that the coexistence between Christians and Muslims is not something premeditated but it is a choice. And since we have built a common life on the basis of a choice, we must be aware that there are differences between us and create a culture founded on respect for these differences and acceptance and living with them.

Neither of us can abolish nor impose our own way of life on others.

The diversity and plurality of our Arab societies — Christian and Muslim — are a vital and fundamental component and even an historical component. At the same time, they are also a formula for the future if there is a future for this region.

ZENIT: What could the future of the Middle East be if the Christians disappeared?

Al-Sammak: There is no future for the Arab region if the Muslims and Christians do not live together.

What is happening now in that region in regard to the diminishment of the number and role of Christians is a disaster not only for Christians but also for Muslims, and will lead to the disintegration of that society and the loss of the wealth of diversity and the scientific, economic, intellectual and cultural expertise of the Christians who emigrate.

Emigration is not so much a loss for the Christians as it is for the Muslims and at the same time it is a defeat for Islam-Christian coexistence.

ZENIT: To what extent are Muslims aware of the danger of a disappearance of Christians from the Middle East?

Al-Sammak: I must admit that the Christian preoccupation for the future is greater than the awareness that Islam has of this danger.

It must be our duty to broaden the circle of Islamic consciousness about the emigration of Christians and the gravity of the exodus of Christians for Islam in that region and the rest of the world.

The Christian exodus brings an indirect message to the world: that Islam does not accept the other and cannot live with others.

At this point the other world, or the Western world in general, following this logic, would have the right to say: If Muslims do not accept the presence of Christians among them, in reality an authentic and historical presence, why must we accept [Muslims] in our societies?

This reflects negatively on the Islamic presence in the world and so it is in the interests of Muslims, for the image of Islam in the world and for the interests of Muslims in different parts of the world, to maintain the presence of Christians in the Arab world and to protect this presence with all its might not only out of love for Christians but because this is their right as citizens and inhabitants of the region, who were there before Muslims.

ZENIT: Speaking of Muslims in the world, especially in the Western world, one often hears talk of Islamophobia. What, according to you, are the causes and solutions to this phenomenon?

Al-Sammak: Some of these causes stem from historical circumstances inherited from Western culture, which has a negative vision of Muslims that has its roots in literature and is reflected day after day in the media in one way or another.

But what feeds this phenomenon is the behavior of some Islamic extremists in the Western societies and when I speak of unacceptable behavior, I am not necessarily talking about terrorism, which is in itself dangerous, negative and catastrophic, but I am also talking about the confusion between religion and tradition.

Tradition is not religion and some of these persons of whom I am speaking unfortunately come from Muslim societies [that have] local customs and traditions that they say are part of the religion even if they are not, and perhaps they are contrary to the religion itself.

They live in Western societies clinging to those traditions because through them they think that they are expressing their independent personalities. And so they come to these Western societies that do not accept them, and they understand themselves to be different in culture, in language, in religion, in food in “halal” and in “haram,” etc. and begin to feel themselves marginalized from social life; and to develop their own personality they cling to the traditions that they practiced in their countries and sanctify them, that is, they elevate them to the level of the holiness of religion in such a way as to give the impression to Westerners that if this is Islam, one cannot live with it.

But this is not Islam, these local traditions that come from African countries, from Pakistan, from Afghanistan, from India, etc.; the confusion between what is really religious and what is a social tradition to which a religious identity is given, leads to an increase in Islamophobia, understood as hatred of Islam based on ignorance.

Because ignorance about Islam derives from two things: The first is an erroneous interpretation of Islam by some Muslims and the second is the lack of understanding of Islam by some non-Muslims.

The basis of this social behavior practiced by some Muslims who come from underdeveloped or poor or primitive societies is not only in the fact that they ignore the social traditions of the West in the societies where they go to live, but that they also and above all ignore a large part of the constants of their faith and they negatively project this in such a way as to cause this situation of Islamophobia.

ZENIT: There is a growth in the currents of Islamic extremism. What is the impact of this growth on the Christians of the Middle East?

Al-Sammak: I think that these movements have already gone beyond the growth phase and that perhaps today we are witnessing the beginning of the phase of their decline.

This growth reached its height a short time ago but the drop in numbers has begun.

These movements do not only have an impact on Christians in the Middle East but above all they have an effect on Muslims.

Extremism is an attempt to monopolize the truth and an attempt to monopolize God and to monopolize the sacred; it is also an attempt to interpret religion according to the interests and concepts of certain movements and so the way of relating to Muslims is determined by these interpretations that are a threat to Islam, for Muslims and for Christians.

Thus we need a process of correction of these concepts through cultural and educational projects, and I can say that Arab countries are already conscious of this aspect after having paid a high price for the spread of the extremism that has begun to fade due to the courageous steps taken by different countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria and others.

All of these countries have begun a new and courageous reflection to revive the practice of the true faith in a correct and positive way.

ZENIT: What do the Muslims of the Middle East expect from the next Synod of Bishops? Will you participate?

Al-Sammak: I participated in the previous Synod and I am grateful to His Holiness John Paul II not only for inviting Muslims to a Synod but also for having insisted on us participating as active members and not just as observers.

I, personally, was a member of working commissions and this was a fact without precedent in the history of synods in general and in the history of Muslims at Christian meetings.

In reality, the next Synod is very important because it will discuss the topic of Christians in the East; and this is not an issue that only regards Christians but an issue that is also of interest to Muslims because they have the same fate in the East.

What affects Christians in the Middle East also affects Muslims.

Therefore we are very interested in what will happen and what will be decided in the next Synod. So far we have not received any invitation to participate but I hope that this will happen and I hope too that the Islamic participation will bring about something similar to what it did in the Synod on Lebanon.

Also because if we Muslims participate, we will assume the responsibility for implementing what will be decided at the Synod in view of a common Christian-Muslim responsibility.

We have said this many times because we are responsible for implementing what was established by the post-synodal declaration, at least for what regards Lebanon. A similar declaration will also be issued by this Synod and so the Muslims could have a responsibility for implementing it.

ZENIT: In your opinion, is there a continuity between the path taken by John Paul II and that of Benedict XVI?

Al-Sammak: I think that in restoring the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which was once annexed to the Pontifical Council for Culture, Pope Benedict XVI wanted to return to dialogue with the other religions, including the Muslims.

In fact, we have all seen how the Pope welcomed the Islamic initiative “A Common Word Between You and Us,” which regards love in Islam and Christianity. I had the honor of being among the first signatories of this document.

The Pope’s visit to Palestine and Jordan and his conversations with Muslim leaders opened new and broad perspectives to reactivate the dialogue launched by John Paul II in Assisi in 1986.

We have followed this work and we consider it among the most important missions that the Vatican is undertaking in relation to the Muslim world. We cannot however not take account of what is happening in some Muslim countries such as Nigeria, Indonesia and Malaysia.

There are some pathological aspects of Islamic-Christian relations that can only be dealt with through a culture of dialogue and a culture of respect for differences.

The role that the Vatican can play is clear in the process of openness toward the Islamic world to encourage and promote this culture and establish it in Islamic societies.

ZENIT: The Lebanese government decreed the Feast of the Annunciation as a common feast for Christians and Muslims. In what measure can such initiatives, especially when they are promoted by the state, promote coexistence?

Al-Sammak: This is one of the achievements that we are proud of and that we have been working on for the past three years.

For three years we have been organizing on March 25 a Muslim-Christian gathering centered on Mary, reciting verses from the Gospel and from the Qur’an that regard Mary, seeking to show what is common to Islam and Christianity.

Last year from the podium of the former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, I personally declared his agreement and his approval of the declaration of March 25 as a Muslim and Christian feast day. The idea was that on this day everyone must continue to work, because the former prime minister said: “I want the Lebanese to work one day more not one day less.”

My brothers and I of the Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue (of which I am the secretary general) accepted the decision, because we wanted in any case to dedicate this day to Muslims and Christians.

Last week we met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and we again proposed this idea to him, and he immediately supported it. And 48 hours later a decree was issued that declared March 25 a national holiday and a day of celebration: a day of [interreligious] work for both Muslims and Christians.

Cardinal Lozano Barragán on Future of Health Care

“Putting Technology at the Service of Man”

ROME, OCT. 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address delivered by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, during a conference co-sponsored by the Vatican dicastery and the Acton Institute, titled “Health, Technology and Common Good.” It was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Oct. 28.

* * *

My Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been honored to welcome all of you into this one-day conference which reflects themes based on Health, Technology, and Common Good. Well, I shall do this duty with pleasure, on behalf of the joint organizers of this Conference: The Acton Institute and the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.

First of all, it is my duty to welcome all the distinguished speakers of the day. We have a wide spectrum of topics as well as experts for each session. So let us give all of them a hearty welcome and wish that they will enlighten us throughout the day. Then, to all the participants so that the reflections of today will lead us to more fruitful action in the future.

I have been asked to present “The Future for Health Care: Putting Technology at the Service of Man.” Well, I am to do that presentation in two divided sessions, one in the beginning as I am doing now, and the other at the end of the day as closing remarks.

Part I: Introduction

Therefore, at this moment I shall try to introduce briefly the day’s theme: Health, Technology and the Common Good. First of all, there needs to be a clear understanding of what health is; because technology must be oriented to health, and to the future of care health. I am sure Monsignor Jean Laffite is an expert to explain it to us in detail. It has been my experience as the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care that there is a lot of confusion regarding health, even among political leaders as well as Church leaders. Many bishops from all over the world, when they come to visit the Pontifical council, had asked me to present for them what does it mean health today, especially when there are lot of technological developments. So I prepared especially for them a short volume called “Metabioethics and Biomedicine.”

My point is there are people who seriously want to understand clearly what health is, especially at this period of globalization, when they are bombarded with partial or unclear information, especially from various international organizations, NGOs and other associations who are involved in health care. There is clearly a paradigm shift in the ethical reflection on health. This so called “New Paradigm” is supposed to be the official thought of the United Nations and its various bodies like WHO and UNESCO.[1] It is supported by four NGOs in particular: “Women’s Environment and Development Organization,” “Earth Council,” “Green Peace” and “International Planned Parenthood Federation.”

According to its proponents the objective of the new global ethics is to achieve global well-being within the confines of sustainable development. This global well-being is what forms the target also known as World Health Organization Quality of Life (WHOQOL) and is defined as: “the perception by the individual of his position in life, within the context of the culture and system of values in which he finds himself, and in relation to his goals, expectations, models and interests.”

It covers six areas: 1. Physical health, 2. Psychological health, 3. Level of independence, 4. Social relations, 5. Context (economy, freedom, security, information, participation, environment, traffic, climate, transport…) 6. Spirituality. Aside from social duties, the basic factors are autonomy and self-determination.

One of the precepts of this new paradigm is “Health For All”. Health for all is defined as at Alma Ata: “the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

It requires ten aspects: health education, adequate nutrition, clean drinking water, basic health care, maternal infant care, immunization against the major contagious diseases, prevention and control of local endemic diseases, suitable treatment in the event of common disasters and illnesses, access to basic medicines and reproductive health.

Although apparently there are values in this new paradigm shift what is basically wrong is an ideology that is “closed to the transcendent.” First of all, there is an ethical subjectivism and relativism. Since there no objective validity in their argument those who hold to this thinking concentrate their activities above all in “lobbies,” to seek or buy consensus. Their thinking is based on a distinction made between the human being or individual and the person. In any case, there are only rights for the person, not for the human being or the individual.

One is a person only when he acts as such in the complex world of interrelationships of sensorial, mental, conscious, social activities, symbolic gestures, etc. If, at any given moment, someone is not capable of acting as such, he ceases to be a person and is simply a human being or an individual, deprived of any right that could be described as human right. This gives rise to questions related to health issues of the individual in relation to technological advancement, especially concerning the right to life of the fertilized egg, the human state of the “pre-embryo” or the embryo, the right to abortion, the ban on eugenics, euthanasia, etc.

As background of this way of thinking we find the confusion between well-being and happiness. And also the concept of liberty as something absolute and closed in itself.

In contrast with the position of the New Paradigm, we can approach to the authentic concept of health such as is described by the servant of God John Paul II: According him health is a tension towards harmony at the physical, psychological, spiritual and social level, and not mere absence of illness, and which enables man to fulfill his God-given mission in the stages of life he finds himself.[2]

Part II: The Future of Health-Care: Putting Technology at the Service of Man.

Following this pontifical description of health, what will be the future of the technology in the field of health, if it will be authentic progress?

Addressing the participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, Pope Benedict XVI said: “The health of the human being, of the whole human being, was the sign chosen by Christ to manifest God’s closeness, his merciful love, which heals the mind, the soul and the body…. Going to the aid of the human being is a duty: both in response to a fundamental right of the person and because the care of individuals redounds to the benefit of the group. Medical science makes progress to the extent that it is willing to constantly discuss diagnosis and methods of treatment, in the knowledge that it will be possible to surpass the previous data acquired and the presumed limits. Moreover, esteem for and confidence in health-care personnel are proportionate to the certainty that these official guardians of life will never condemn a human life, however impaired it may be, and will always encourage endeavors to treat it. Consequently, treatment should be extended to every human being, meaning throughout his or her entire existence. The modern conception of health care is in fact human advancement: from the treatment of the sick person to preventive treatment, with the search for the greatest possible human development, encouraging an adequate family and social environment.”[3]

Therefore, when we speak about putting technology at the service of man we are considering humanity as such and for the common good in general. As the Second Vatican Council had observed, “Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment, today takes on an increasingly universal complexion and consequently involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family.”[4]

In today’s globalized world we need to think in terms of human connectivity. Some of the modern technologies in health care themselves are connecting human race. An example is “eHealth” or health-care delivery supported by information technology, of digital data — transmitted, stored and retrieved electronically — in support of health care, both at the local level and at a distance.

Internet has helped connect so many medical personnel by providing information on the latest achievements in health technologies, thanks to servers installed by medical faculties and medical journals. Another example would be “Telemedicine.”

When the patient and doctor are in far away places, they could use modern communication technologies (two way interactive consultation and digital image/data transmission) to send radiology images, laboratory reports, medical records, etc.

Telemedicine has proven very efficient, especially in emergency situations like NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) intervening in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, or the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. In 1994 they have improved it into ACTS or Advanced Communication Technology Satellite.

In 1996 TIP (Portable Telemedicine Instrumentation Pack) was made available for easy transportation by health care personnel. Today we can speak of telesugery, teleradiology, teledentistry, teledermitology, telepathology, teleoncology, telepsycology, telecardiology, teleneurology, telenursing, etc.

The European Health Telematics Observatory’s (EHTO) assertion is illustrative: health telematics activities are used by hospitals (34%), telephone utilities (14%), academic institutions (12%), clinicians (12%), governments (7%) and social services (4%).[5]

Some of the technologies enhance the past groundbreaking achievements in health care science: the concept about “public health”, Epidemiology and its branches like Neuron Epidemiology, Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Cancer Epidemiology, etc., Health Economics and Health Management and so on. This last one branch has helped form health policies where there is awareness that spending on health care “is not an expenditure but an investment.” This has also helped strategies of preventive and promotive measures in health care.

During my pastoral visits around the world, it is very heartening for me to see dozens of immaturely born children being cared in the incubators by well-trained, diligent and gentle health care personnel; or hundreds of children born to HIV infected mothers saved due to the timely administration of AZT. In the same way the news coming from a country in Africa that the death toll could be reduced to 1 from an average of 26 every month, thanks to the assistance they are getting from the Good Samaritan Foundation for the purchase of anti-retroviral medicine as well as basic nutrients.

Technology and Bioethics

What are the main principles that must lead the future of health technology? We try to answer regarding the biomedical field. As a general principle we can establish this; that which builds man is good, and that which destroys him is bad.

We know that Biomedical technology holds a great deal of promise in the areas of diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Strong health care systems invariably rely heavily on access to and use of health technologies. But we must also be aware of the fact that technology and medicine are only a part of the health care system and undue insistence on their capabilities may give more emphasis in meeting the demands of the providers than that of the human persons. The ultimate criterion in the use of all technologies must be the good of man. Everything technologically possible need not be ethically oriented. For this, ultimately we need a bioethics that is open to the transcendent.

In discussing the sciences of life and reflecting on the experimental sciences that manipulate life, one wonders about correct human behaviour in relation to human life, deficiency in human life, increase in human life, improvement in human life, procedures to be followed to obtain this improvement and deviations to be avoided. As a final condition, we find ourselves before the binomial necessity-satisfaction. This means that there is a living subject that aspires at improving himself, to do this he must journey along a path, and to do this he must plot the path, and to do this he must first know where he is heading for. Within the context of life, it is necessary to know what life is, what is the better life that one desires, the path to be followed and the path to be avoided in this journey, for instead of donating life, it could be taken away. In other words, biotechnology appears as a project for the building of man through the life and health sciences, that can build or destroy.

The horizon for Ethics in itself is finality. The horizon of Technology is only the possibility. The technology itself, is neuter, can build or destroy man. All depends from its direction, and the direction is given to Technology by Ethics. Therefore, in order to have a true code of bioethics, which provides us with rules of behaviour in the area of health and life, the first, question we must ask ourselves concerns the project for man, which involves the manipulation of life and health. Authentic Bioethics must appear as the project to improve human life and includes all the life and health sciences as its base, as that “intus legere” (inte-lecto, reading from inside) which in any analysis always concerns the final synthesis of what cannot be anything other than the construction of human life.

For a vital project to function (like any other project), it is necessary to understand the living reality that expects improvement as much as possible. This is a path that belongs to Bioethics. Here, we find rules which cannot simply be formulations or imperatives external to the person, instead they are real constructions of the same person and which little by little bring it nearer to the “better person”, thereby increasing its density.

This complexity brings him to a consciousness of his reality which means being relational, open and thus embarking on his journey, that is, freely opening himself up to the Other, which in this case is the fulfillment of the Power of Truth and Love, which is precisely God. To attain freedom, Man in his project for development, opens himself up to the force of genuine progress in Biotechnology in order to ascertain, each time ever more that his vital completeness is in constant harmony with God, with all of humanity and with the whole surrounding environment.

And now, if we try to pass over the natural way of thinking to Revelation of God, in Catholic thought, this Ethics that is open, “objective”, real, and with no constrictions, opens up to full communication with God the Almighty Father who brings about in us the Truth of His Son through His Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection. He fulfils all our aspirations by bringing us along the Way that is Christ, in the fullness of the Love of His Spirit. Catholic Ethics and Bioethics are the Christ’s journey within us, to His Father through His death and resurrection, in the Love of the Holy Spirit. In this way, Bioethics will be the journeying within us of the Spirit along the paths of the life and health sciences. “Those led by the Spirit are the children of God” (Romans 8,14). The Spirit infuses in man the ability to journey towards the total construction of Christ — this ability are the virtues — and directs him into the comprehension of Christ Himself as a way, by means of the Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.

We Christians know that the only possibility for the true vital construction of man is the resurrection. Stated in concrete historic terms, the only possibility for vital construction is union with Christ, who died and rose from the dead. This is the only Ethics that is objectively valid and to which all the authentic values found in non-Christian ethics come close to and as such are indicators of the sole reality which goes beyond illusions of vital permanence.

According to the Roman Catholic view, the construction of man is a theandric construction where divine and human actions intertwine. In translating these actions into principles of valid action for guiding Biomedicine, we can state the following:

1. The human being is a creation of God, it is from Him he comes and to whom he must tend as his exemplary and final Cause. The person is in the image of God, member of the Body of Christ, citizen of the people of God.

2. Human life is received from humanity, not as property but to be administered. Human life is inviolable from its very conception to its natural end. The dignity of the human person is inviolable. It is on this that all Anthropology and Bioethics is based.

3. The origin to human life must lie solely in marriage and solely as the fruit of the marital act.

4. Spouses are not the cause of human life but the instruments of God in
communicating life.

5. From Christ, the human person is capable of reflection, is an end in himself and can never be considered as a means.

6. The human person has his freedom and responsibility that he must put to practice in order to attain fulfillment. There is no freedom without responsibility that in turn implies respect for the freedom of others.

7. The totality is above the part and sometimes the part must be sacrificed in favor of the totality. The human person is in solidarity and must tend towards the common good.

8. The only explanation of life and its single source is Christ who died and was raised to life. If death and suffering are considered in unity with the death of Christ they are the only source of life.

9. In this context, the three principles of subjective Bioethics: autonomy, beneficence and justice, can be accepted and justified.

10. The human person is the synthesis of the universe and is the reason for everything that exists. Biomedical science and technology must be at the service of human life and not vice versa, namely, such knowledge should be used to develop man and never to destroy him.

Conclusion

If then we make an attempt to define Catholic Bioethics and so, try to synthesize principles that lead the authentic future of health Technology we can enounce the following as conclusion of this paper: The Bioethics is “The systematic and detailed study of the conduct that constructs man through the health and life sciences in order to walk in Christ towards the Father, the fullness of life, by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

This theological vision implies a profound structural dialogue with all sciences and technologies involved, with all the unifying ideas from the analyses, made by the different philosophical and theological schools, also in dialogue with other religions, bearing in mind that it is a behavioral study and therefore cannot be solely a line of reflection but must be concretized as a guiding light to resolve the difficult problems raised by science and technology.

Javier Cardinal Lozano Barragán
president
Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care
Vatican City

[1] See Kim Yersu, 1999. “A Common Framework for Ethics of the Twenty-First Century.” UNESCO, Division of Philosophy and Ethics. Cited Nov. 15, 1999, at http://www.unesco.or.kr/ethics/yersu_kim.htm.

[2] See John Paul II, “Message for the World Day of the Sick for the Year 2000,” “Dolentium Hominum,” 42 (3, 1999), No. 13.

[3] Benedict XVI, Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, March 22, 2007.

[4] “Gaudium et spes,” No. 26.

[5] See Department of Essential Health Technologies (WHO), “Information Technology in Support of Health Care”, p. 2 at http://www.who.int/eht.



“The Most Difficult Moment Was in Cairo”

ROME, SEPT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Though Cardinal Renato Martino wanted to be a missionary, his poor health prohibited him from following that dream. Instead, he joined the Holy See’s diplomatic service and in this way, he says, fulfilled his great desire to evangelize.

Cardinal Martino is now the president of two pontifical councils: the Pontifical Councils of Justice and Peace, and the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers. This summer he celebrated the golden anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, a vocation with which he says he is “still enchanted.”

In this interview with ZENIT, the 74-year-old prelate reflects on some of the milestones of his ministry.

Q: Your Eminence, how did you discern your vocation?

Cardinal Martino: I come from a family marked by faith and Catholic tradition, with a wonderful mother, who was also an artist. The holy card marking my 50th anniversary to the priesthood, with the Virgin and Child, was painted by her. [I had] a strict father and four brothers and sisters. A large family, totaling 56 people at Christmas gatherings; I have 13 nephews and nieces and 26 great-nephews and nieces.

Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a missionary. I was fascinated by the Jesuit missionary preachers who came to Naples, to our parish.

Unfortunately, the dream very soon vanished, because I was too frail and the doctors told me clearly that my constitution would not endure in missionary lands.

My desire to carry the Gospel to the world took on another path. Through a number of circumstances, I frequented the Vatican Diplomatic Academy, the oldest in the world and, since 1962, I have worked with the nunciatures of Nicaragua, Philippines, Lebanon, Canada and Brazil.

Between 1970 and 1975, I was in charge of the section for international organizations in the Secretariat of State. Subsequently, on Sept. 14, 1980, the Pope at that time, John Paul II, sent me as pro-nuncio to Thailand, as apostolic delegate, to attend to the relations with Singapore, Malaysia, Laos and Brunei.

In 1986, I was appointed permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York and, in that capacity, I took part in the major international conferences promoted by the United Nations during the 90s, particularly in New York, 1990, at the World Summit for Children; in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1992, at the Conference on Environment and Development; in Barbados, 1994, at the Conference on Small Island Developing States and, that same year, in Cairo, at the Conference on Population and Development.

In Beijing, China, 1995, at the World Conference on Women; in Istanbul, Turkey, 1996, at the Conference on Human Settlements; in Rome, 1998, at the Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court; in New York, 2000, at the Millennium Summit;

In Monterrey, Mexico, 2003, at the International Conference on Financing for Development. Also, in Madrid, Spain, at the World Assembly on Aging, and, that same year, in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the Conference on Sustainable Development.

Q: You have had to face many difficult situations, including frequent disagreements with United Nations offices and delegations that, particularly in the 90s, were especially critical of the Holy See, above all with regard to demographic policies, abortion, contraception … Could you comment on this experience?

Cardinal Martino: The most difficult moment was in 1994, in Cairo, during the Conference on Population and Development. President Bill Clinton’s administration, together with a greater part of the developed countries, were determined to get the conference to recognize abortion as an international right.

Some nongovernmental organizations even requested that the Vatican delegation be expelled from the United Nations. But with the Lord’s help and thanks to the support, on that occasion, of Latin American and Islamic-majority countries, we succeeded in rejecting the attempt to approve abortion as a contraceptive method.

As head of the Vatican delegation, I managed to obtain the support of 43 delegations and to ensure that paragraph 8.25 of the final document adopted by the conference should declare that “on no account may abortion be invoked as a family planning method.”

This regulation remains in force to this day, despite frequent and continuous attempts to eliminate it. So far, voluntary interruption of pregnancy, which, unfortunately, is still a dramatic phenomenon these days, has never been approved by any United Nations body.

Q: What mission to you look back upon with most satisfaction?

Cardinal Martino: From May 15 to 21 this year, at the express request and in representation of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, I visited Ivory Coast, a country torn by a long period of strife and bloodshed.

During my stay, I celebrated the Eucharist in several cities and parochial communities; I met with the bishops and highest authorities in the country. Particularly, I attended a meeting with the President, Laurent Gbagbo, who appointed as his prime minister former rebel chief, Guillaume Soro, a brilliant 34-year-old Catholic.

In order to give consistency and solidity to the peace agreements, I invited both of them to the solemn Mass I celebrated in St. Paul’s Cathedral, in Abidjan, on May 20.

The cathedral was crowded with faithful, together with the bishops and civil authorities. I encouraged the people of Ivory Coast to continue along the way of peace and to promote national reconciliation and the participation of all the country’s living forces, without any form of political, religious, cultural or ethnic exclusion.

When the time came to exchange a gesture of peace, I invited the president of the republic and the prime minister to come up to the altar to receive my peace gesture. After that, I invited them to exchange peace with each other: They hugged each other, assuring that this would last — a great gesture of reconciliation, before the applause of several thousand people.

All this was transmitted live by the national television channel. I instructed them never to forget that day, should difficulties arise in the future, because this was a historical gesture, a commitment of peace and concord sealed in the cathedral, before God. To all the people of Ivory Coast, to the numerous innocent victims, to the groups of those displaced, to those wounded, and to so many others, I expressed the spiritual closeness of the Holy Father and, in his name, I offered some financial help toward the primary needs of those in most dire hardship.

This was the most effective way of presenting the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and its practical application.

I have also been thanked for this meeting and for the reinforcement of the peace process by the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, who I had met before he took on that position, because he represented South Korea before the United Nations during the same period as my stay in New York, where I attended to a group of South Korean Catholics.

For 18 years, I administrated confirmation to members of this group. I saw Ban Ki-moon in Rome, when the promotion of his candidature had not yet begun, and I told him I was sure of his election. He looked at me in surprise, incredulously. I assured him: We’ll talk about it after your election. I’m sure you will do a lot of good.

Q: On Oct. 1, 2002, John Paul II called you to Rome, to take over the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, but as head of this dicastery, you continued your travels throughout the world …

Cardinal Martino: Taking on the direction of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and, since March 11, 2006, also that of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers, allows me to sustain and prolong the task of evangelization which I wished to carry out from the days of my youth.

The publication and diffusion of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was a stimulating task. As I noted in the introduction to the volume, “transforming social realities with the power of the Gospel, to which witness is borne by women and men faithful to Jesus Christ, has always been a challenge and it remains so today at the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era.”

I am fully aware that the announcement of Jesus Christ is not easily swallowed in the world today, but precisely because of that, the people of our time are in need, more than ever, of faith that saves, of hope that enlightens, and of charity that loves.

These are the reasons that move the Church to intervene with its teachings in the social field, in order to help and accompany Catholics in serving the common good.

Q: Is there something that you would like to accomplish but which you have been unable to?

Cardinal Martino: I have no regrets. I am still enchanted with the priesthood. I thank the Lord every day for the grace of the priesthood. I have celebrated more than 19,000 masses, and each one of them has been a real gift to me, because, even if my role had only been that of celebrating the Eucharist alone or for a small community, I would, however, be grateful to the Lord for having had the opportunity to serve him.



Beijing Faces a Faith Explosion

ROME, JUNE 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A new documentary, “God in China. The Struggle for Religious Freedom,” explores the best-kept secret of China: religion. According to the documentary, China is going through a massive resurgence of religious belief that the authorities of the atheistic regime are neither able to control nor contain.

Written and directed by Raphaela Schmid, director of the Becket Institute, and produced by Yago de la Cierva of Rome Reports TV News Agency, the documentary was previewed by students, professors and journalists in Rome.

With its new office in Rome, the Becket Institute is exploring ways to go beyond the conventionally academic means to educate a wider public about religious freedom.

“One such way is making topical television documentaries about religious freedom, based on the situation in various countries,” Schmid said.

While not a film exclusively about Catholic issues, the China documentary offers unprecedented insight into both sides of the divide between the “official,” or the government-controlled Patriotic Association of Catholic Churches, and the “underground” Church that remains loyal to Rome.

The film takes viewers across China where they meet believers of different faiths struggling for religious freedom, walking a thin line between toleration and persecution. In some places they discover new freedom, in others they suffer state control and even persecution.

From a rural underground parish to a clandestine seminary, from a state-sponsored Buddhist Academy to a mosque at the heart of Beijing’s Muslim community, Chinese people from all walks of life candidly tell their stories and offer their assessment of what the future may hold for them.

The film coincides with the first official admission that at least 30% of all Chinese declare themselves to be members of a religion. More surprisingly, 20 million of the 60 million members of the Communist Party confess belonging to a religion.

It also makes clear the limitations various religious communities, whether state-controlled or independent, continue to face. “During the Cultural Revolution, faith communities were driven underground,” Schmid explains. “In 1978, Deng Xiaoping’s liberalization program began to open doors for the return of religion to Chinese public life.”

Schmid said that some properties were restored and religious rights reaffirmed in the recently revised constitution. But even this limited sort of freedom came at a price: obeying the directives of the state-run Bureau for Religious Affairs.

In the case of the Catholic Church, the Catholic Patriotic Association was founded in an attempt to bring Catholic Church teaching in line with Communist party ideals.

“Those who refused to compromise had to remain underground,” Schmid said. Throughout the documentary, viewers are made aware of the dangers that still exist. Christians who do not surrender their faith to government directives are in danger of being arrested. Mass is celebrated secretly, and makeshift churches can be torn down by local authorities from one day to the next.

Schmid said that while the underground Church is less vigorously persecuted today, there are still many bishops and priests in prison. In addition to more obvious issues of freedom, the documentary explores more subtle problems, such as making the teachings of the Church accessible to the faithful.

“It’s important to understand that joining the Patriotic Association is not a mere formality for Chinese Catholics,” Schmid explained.

“The problem is that, under state control, the Church cannot speak up on important issues such as abortion, the one child policy, human rights, and the death penalty — and for this they must have leaders who do not acquiesce to a mutilated version of the faith, accommodated to the demands of the state.”

Reflecting on her experience in China, Schmid said, “What struck me most during the filming of this documentary in China was the generosity and kindness of the people we met, particularly those who did so at great personal risk.”

The film on China is the team’s second venture. The first project was about religious freedom in Turkey and was filmed shortly before Benedict XVI’s visit there last November.

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Learning Peace in Bethlehem

Within the Israeli-built wall that segregates Bethlehem from its neighboring communities, Bethlehem University of the Holy Land is a haven for some 2,500 students.

The university, supported by the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches and staffed by the De LeSalle Christian Brothers, is the only Catholic Christian institution of higher learning in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Brother Daniel Casey, vice chancellor and chief executive officer of Bethlehem University, was among the 100 or so members of the Vatican agency that coordinates funding to Eastern Catholic Churches that met in Rome last week for their annual meeting. The agency, known by its Italian acronym ROACO, is under the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

Founded in 1973, the university opened almost a decade after Pope Paul VI’s historic visit to the region when Palestinians expressed their desire for a Catholic University in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Throughout its 30-year history, the Christian brothers, educational leaders, and the local Church have all supported the university and the ever-increasing numbers of students who receive practical training and an education in an atmosphere of true Christian dialogue.

Despite the recent infighting between Fatah and Hamas, and increased tensions in the Holy Land, Brother Casey said the culture and ethos of Bethlehem remains Christian.

“Bethlehem is in a unique position, in that it is the town that Jesus was born in, and the Christian population here, along with the two neighboring towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, is nearly a majority,” Brother Casey said.

“It is very different here than in Gaza where the number of Christians is infinitesimal,” he added.

Christian-Muslim dialogue is a high priority in the region, said the vice chancellor. The university and other area agencies educate both Christian and Muslim students to know and understand each other, know their religions, and to work together. “I believe we are successful at this,” Brother Casey said.

There are very encouraging signs, he added. People in the area respect the university’s Christian ideals and long-standing traditions. “We still adhere to a Sunday Christian day of worship. We are one of the few places that is closed on Sunday and open on Friday, the Muslim day of worship,” Bother Casey said.

Moreover, Christian and Muslim students actively participate in their faiths and attend worship services. The university Mass is well attended. The Orthodox Christians also hold regular services, and a room for prayer is provided for the university’s Muslim population.

Benedict XVI has expressed deep concern for the Christians and others in the entire Middle East. In addresses both to ROACO as well as the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Pope urged both respect and charity as principles for dialogue.

Against a backdrop of tension that pervades the whole region, Brother Casey said that the university does its best to maintain normalizing influence.

“There is a definite fear no matter where you live. In casual conversation I often hear people express gratitude for another day but unease at what the night will bring,” Brother Casey remarked. While fear is inevitable, the university continues to hold international conferences, regular academic sessions, and to turn away applicants that exceed its capacity.

The past year presented special challenges. The crippling embargo, recently lifted, prevented the Palestinian Authority from providing much-needed aid to all of the region’s institutions, including universities.

But, Brother Casey said, grants provided through UNESCO by the World Bank and Saudi Arabia allowed the university to continue to operate. “We did not experience the dire financial consequences that other sectors did,” Brother Casey said. “Hundreds of families in the area had no regular income.”

Students at the university also face unique challenges on a regular basis. Surrounded on all sides by the Israeli wall, most Palestinian towns, including the small town of Bethlehem, are virtual prisons. Students traveling to school from outside of Bethlehem are subject to random gate closures, military harassment and security checks that can cause long delays.

“I’ve experienced this myself, even as a foreigner,” Brother Casey said. “There are people who have not been out of Bethlehem for five years. Living in Bethlehem is like living in a prison.”

“This has an awful effect on people,” he added. Brother Casey believes the violence the world witnesses among Palestinians is oftentimes a reaction to what is happening in their own lives.

“Young men who have no opportunity for employment, who have not made university admission, have absolutely nothing to do. They are naturally angry at their lot and are prey to the political situation. It breeds a violent reaction,” Brother Casey said.

In addition to fostering positive relations among young people of different faith backgrounds, the university offers hope to many young people. As always, Brother Casey said Palestinians are looking for the way forward. With the lifting of the embargo and another new government, he said there is some hope.

“The idea of prayer has never been so pertinent as now,” he said. “I hope people will pray for peace in the Holy Land.”