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Ancient Gospels papyrus donated to the Vatican
Benedict XVI received as a gift to the Holy See one of the most ancient manuscripts of the Gospels, an artifact that demonstrates Scripture's historical actuality.
The Pope was given the 14-15 Bodmer Papyrus (P75), dated between AD175 and 225, in January, by Frank Hanna and his family, of the United States.
"The papyrus contains about half of each of the Gospels of Luke and John. It was written in Egypt and perhaps used as a liturgical book," explained Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church.
The Bodmer Papyrus contains 144 pages and is the oldest manuscript that contains the text of the two Gospels in one papyrus.
L'Osservatore Romano commented that "almost certainly it was destined for a small community, a Greek-speaking Egyptian 'parish' that, as is habitual in all Christian liturgies, read the Gospel during the Eucharistic celebration."
The oldest transcription of the Our Father, as recounted by Luke, is found in this papyrus.
The document agrees with the Codex Vaticanus, a fourth-century edition of the Bible. The Bodmer Papyrus demonstrates, therefore, that the oldest versions of the New Testament that are preserved in their totality correspond with the Gospels that already circulated among the Christian communities centuries earlier.
Zenit News Agency
British bishops losing same-sex adoption fight
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster lodged a strong complaint in January against a new government policy that will require Catholic adoption agencies to give equal service to same-sex couples, charging that "religious conscience is overruled by regulation."
He expressed a "deep sense of disappointment" that Prime Minister Tony Blair did not "respond more flexibly" to his plea that Catholic agencies should be exempt from the anti-discrimination provisions of the Equality Act.
While expressing some gratitude for a two-year period that will allow Church-run agencies to adapt their policies to the new rules, the Cardinal indicated that Catholic agencies would not act in violation of Church teachings - "I want to make it clear that our agencies must be able to act with integrity and in accordance with Catholic principles and should not be asked to do otherwise."
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor observed that the government's policy was based on an assumption that homosexual couples can serve as well as heterosexual married couples in raising children. "This, I believe, is far removed from the instinct and conviction of most people. Most would seem to hold to the standard view that a child flourishes best in the care of a father and mother, just as within that relationship is a child conceived."
He added that support for married couples as the ideal parents is not a peculiarly Catholic position, but is "shared by all the major religious faiths in this country."
At the same time Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham warned that Catholic adoption services might be closed down by the new national policy.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican communion, joined with the Anglican Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, in a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair supporting the Catholic leaders. "The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well- meaning," the Anglican bishops argued.
Catholic World News
Most Americans want restrictions on abortion
A new CBS News poll has found that a majority of Americans want to prohibit abortions in all or most cases, or want greater restrictions. The poll results are consistent with the results of a 2006 poll.
According to the poll, 47 percent of Americans want to prohibit all or most abortions, and 16 percent want them to be greatly restricted.
About 30 percent of those polled want to limit abortions to the very rare cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother. Twelve percent want abortions allowed only when the pregnancy threatens the mother's life. Five percent said abortions should always be illegal. Only 31 percent of those polled want to permit abortion in all cases.
The poll was conducted from 18-21 January and surveyed 1,168 adults nationwide.
The CBS poll is backed up by other recent polls, such as one by Zogby, which found that 69 percent of voters think that federal funds should not be used for abortions, 69 percent support parental notification for girls 16 or younger and 55 percent say the notification law should apply to girls 18 and younger.
Zogby also found 56 percent of Americans back a 24-hour waiting period on abortion, 64 percent would charge criminals with a second crime for killing or injuring an unborn child in the course of an attack on a pregnant woman, and 69 percent don't want their tax money to pay for abortions or promoting abortion in other nations.
A third poll, conducted by Newsweek in November 2000, found the number of pro-life Americans rose five percent while the number of Americans who support abortion fell four percent compared to a previous poll it conducted in 2005.
Catholic News Agency
Benedict XVI: children and the media
Benedict XVI's message for the 41st World Day of Social Communications, this year due to be celebrated on 20 May, on the theme, "Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education", was made public on 24 January.
In his message, Benedict notes that "the complex challenges facing education today are often linked to the pervasive influence of the media in our world ... Indeed, some claim that the formative influence of the media rivals that of the school, the Church, and maybe even the home. 'Reality', for many, is what the media recognise as real."
Educating children to be discriminating in their use of the media was "a responsibility of parents, Church, and school" with the role of parents "of primary importance".
The approach should be positive, with children "exposed to what is aesthetically and morally excellent" and so developing "appreciation, prudence and the skills of discernment" in such areas as "children's classics in literature, fine arts and uplifting music".
The media industry needed to foster the education of the young "in the ways of beauty, truth and goodness" by promoting "fundamental human dignity, the true value of marriage and family life, and the positive achievements and goals of humanity".
Programs and products "which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray anti-social behaviour or the trivialisation of human sexuality", especially when directed at children and adolescents, were "perversions".
Benedict concluded with an appeal "to the leaders of the media industry to educate and encourage producers to safeguard the common good, to uphold the truth, to protect individual human dignity and promote respect for the needs of the family".
Vatican Information Service
Religious persecution growing worldwide
Religious rights groups have underlined that religious persecution is on the rise worldwide and especially in Islamic countries.
On Religious Freedom Day, 16 January, the Institute on Religion and Democracy issued a statement indicating that "millions are discriminated against, beaten and tortured, imprisoned, and killed because they follow Jesus Christ or are members of other minority religions."
President George Bush, who had declared 16 January to be Religious Freedom Day, urged Americans to "continue to promote the importance of religious freedom at home and abroad."
According to a recent report by the UK-based Release International, an estimated 250 million Christians will be persecuted in 2007. Most persecution takes place in parts of the world under Islam, Communism, Hinduism and Buddhism, but that "persecution is growing fastest of all in the Islamic world."
Even in moderate Muslim countries, the rights of Christian minorities were not safeguarded, said Release International, with abuses suffered by Christians including "kidnapping, forced conversion, imprisonment, church destruction, torture, rape and execution."
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom was established under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. The independent panel compiles a list of countries that violate religious freedom. Those designated as "Countries of Particular Concern" are eligible for US government sanctions or other actions.
The list includes Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Burma, North Korea, Sudan, Eritrea and Uzbekistan.
Catholic News Agency
France no longer Catholic says new survey
According to a recent survey, only 51 per cent of French people now identify themselves as Catholic, down from 80 per cent a decade ago, with the number of professed atheists rising to 31 per cent.
The shift has led some commentators to lament that the nation once known as the eldest daughter of the Church can no longer be considered Catholic.
"In its institutions, but also in its mentalities, France is no longer a Catholic country," writes Frederic Lenoir, editor in chief of Le Monde des Religions, according to a report cited by Christian Post.
Among the respondents who did identify themselves as Catholics, only 10 per cent attend church services regularly, the poll showed. More remarkable, only half of the self- identified Catholics say that they believe in God. Some respondents indicated that for them, Catholicism involves a social or cultural identity rather than a religious commitment.
In an interview with Le Figaro, French Jesuit Fr Henri Madelin commented: "All the values that France has stood for, which went beyond religious ownership and which had been appropriated by the whole of society, are under attack today.
"If we continue along this path, the practice of the Catholic faith is going to become a counter-culture ... One Belgian bishop recently said that his Church would soon become as small a minority as the Church in Turkey ...".
Fr Madelin concluded: "If Christians no longer see the extraordinary gift that was given to them historically by the Orient, then other continents, other Churches will pick up this richness which is considered here as a poverty".
Catholic World News
South Dakota reintroduces bill to ban abortions
The South Dakota House of Representatives on 31 January introduced a new abortion ban for the state, this time carrying harsher penalties. The new bill increases punishment for illegal abortion to a class 4 felony, punishable by 10 years in prison.
Last year, South Dakota became the first state in the US since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 to pass a near total ban on abortion. The law, however, was challenged by a voter referendum, where it was narrowly defeated. Many voters said they opposed the referendum only because it did not include exceptions for rape and incest.
This year's bill would allow rape victims to get abortions if they report the rapes to police within 50 days. Doctors would have to confirm the report with police and would have to take blood from aborted fetuses and give that information to police for DNA testing.
In the case of incest, a doctor would have to get the woman's consent to report the crime along with the identity of the alleged perpetrator before an abortion could be performed. Blood samples from fetuses would have to be provided to police in incest cases, too.
About 870 abortions take place in South Dakota every year, according to the most recent statistics listed with the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute.
Earlier this year, Georgia also introduced a bill to ban abortion that contained no exceptions.
Catholic News Agency
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 20 No 2 (March 2007), p. 4
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