Friday, May 11, 2007

Another roundup of Benedict-in-Brazil news

...To news reporters: careful now with all that spinning, you'll get absolutely dizzy, then where will your depth perception be....

~from The Times: Pope thrills crowds after shaky start
Pope Benedict XVI met President Lula da Silva of Brazil yesterday, a day after their subordinates clashed over proposed changes to abortion legislation in the most populous Catholic country in the world.

Local church leaders have attacked plans by the new Health Minister to hold a referendum on changing Brazilian abortion laws, which permit a termination only in the case of rape or if the pregnancy threatens the life of the woman. Pope Benedict said that he backed the Church position of excommunicating politicians who voted for legalisation. Mr da Silva says that he is against abortion, but that the matter should be treated as a question of public health.

According to the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, the Vatican is pushing to have religious instruction again made obligatory in Brazilian public schools, a change that would require a change to the constitution.

On Wednesday an estimated 15,000 people spent hours in the drizzle in front of the Saint Benedict monastery waiting to welcome the Pope to where he is staying during his time in São Paulo. The crowds greeted him with football-style chants of “Olé, olé, olé, olé, Bento, Bento” as he appeared on a balcony. He gave a four-minute greeting and blessing.

~from Basque News: No sex, no drugs: Pope addresses youth groups in Brazil
At the rally, the pontiff urged tens of thousands of young Catholics packing the stadium to resist the temptations of wealth, power and other "snares of evil," and told them to promote life from "its beginning to natural end."

The references to church prohibitions against abortion and euthanasia came on Thursday in Benedict's first major speech since arriving in Brazil on his first pilgrimage to Latin America.

While he made no mention of the church's battle against Brazil's free distribution on condoms to combat AIDS, he touched on sexual themes with a call for fidelity between spouses and chastity "both within and outside marriage" - church language for responsible sex.

His warnings against drug use, violence, corruption and the temptations of wealth and power were sure to sound across the region.

And his condemnation of the "devastation of the environment of the Amazon Basin" was particularly important in Brazil, where Catholic activists have been working with the landless - at times at odds with the Vatican.

~from the Belfast Telegraph: Pope stirs up row over abortion
Pope Benedict XVI has touched down in the most populous Catholic country in the world in what had been billed as an attempt to shore up the mass of the faithful against desertions to evangelical churches and threats from the supposedly subversive liberation theology.

But yesterday, as he addressed crowds of children in São Paolo and met Brazil's President, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, his agenda had already been swept aside by an abortion controversy stirred up on his flight over.

The 80-year-old Bavarian theologian, formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had never given a press conference since becoming the Pope two years ago, but he ensured his debut before the media would not quickly be forgotten.

The background to the hullaballoo was the recent vote by Mexico's parliament to legalise abortion. An Italian reporter on the plane asked the Pope whether he agreed that Catholic MPs in Mexico City who voted for legalisation should be considered excommunicated. The Pope replied: " Yes. The excommunication was not something arbitrary. It is part of the [canon law] code. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in Communion with the body of Christ. Thus, they [the bishops] did not do anything new or surprising, or arbitrary."

The Rev John Coughlin, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, flatly contradicted the Pope, saying there was no provision in canon law which stated that Catholic politicians who voted to legalise abortion automatically excommunicated themselves.

~from Globe and Mail: Pope urges Brazilian youth to resist 'snares of evil'
The Pope's speech at a Thursday evening youth rally at a soccer stadium in Sao Paulo was sure to resonate across the region, home to more than half the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.

Delivered in Portuguese, Benedict's address was lengthy and full of moral instruction, notably concerning sexual conduct. Saying young people were the future of the church, the 80-year-old Pope warned against drug use, violence, corruption and the temptations of wealth and power.

“Seek to resist forcefully the snares of evil that are found in many contexts,” he told the crowd of some 40,000, with thousands more camped outside the stadium.

He made no mention of the church's battle against Brazil's free distribution of condoms to combat AIDS, but implored his young audience to promote life from “its beginning to natural end.” The Vatican prohibits contraception, in addition to abortion, euthanasia and in vitro fertilization.

Benedict called for fidelity between spouses and chastity “both within and outside marriage” — church language for responsible sex — and instructed the young to build a society based on Christian moral values.

The crowd burst into a loud cheer when he mentioned his predecessor, the late John Paul, who visited Brazil three times. But they also shouted, “I love you,” when Benedict finished talking.

Many in the crowd shared the pope's views — polls show that Brazilians are overwhelmingly against expanding access to abortion. But beyond the stadium, the pope's comments on excommunicating politicians who favour legalizing abortion continued to provoke debate.

Catholics have been arguing whether politicians who approve abortion legislation, as well as doctors and nurses who take part in the procedure, subject themselves to automatic excommunication under church doctrine.

Asked during an in-flight news conference Wednesday whether legislators who legalized abortion in Mexico City should rightfully be considered excommunicated, Benedict answered “Yes.”

But his spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, later said Benedict did not intend to formally excommunicate anyone — a rare process under church law — and on Thursday the Vatican released a slightly edited transcript that dropped the word “yes” from the Pope's response.

Father Lombardi told reporters such edits are common. “Every time the Pope speaks off-the-cuff, the Secretariat of State reviews and cleans up his remarks,” he said. [grrrrrrrrrrr, spokesmen. Why did the Pope's remarks need to be cleaned up???? He spoke with clarity on this issue. God save us from nuancers.]

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