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February 2, 2004

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International Briefs
From Catholic News Service

Vatican's initiatives to aid African AIDS orphans

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican announced the launch of two initiatives to help African AIDS orphans as it released Pope John Paul II's 2004 Lenten message, which focused on the needs of children. At the request of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," the Vatican's coordinating agency for Catholic charitable agencies, the Vatican post office issued a stamp dedicated to children with AIDS. At a Vatican press conference Jan. 29, Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the council, said all proceeds from the sale of the stamp, which will sell for .45 euros, or about 56 cents, would be donated by Pope John Paul to a new project aimed at helping AIDS orphans in Kenya. The Vatican also announced it was setting up a special bank account for Italian citizens to donate money for the project.

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Internet fuels 'sex tourism,' official warns

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Internet is expanding tourist choices around the world, but it also is favouring the growth of the "sex tourism" market, a Vatican representative warned. Msgr. Piero Monni said purveyors of pedophilia and prostitution in foreign countries often are able to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. He said the ability to conduct this kind of exploitation should not be considered part of the freedom of electronic communication. Msgr. Monni made his remarks Jan. 29 at the First World Conference on Tourism Communications in Madrid, sponsored by the World Tourism Organization. A copy of his remarks was released at the Vatican. He said the online tourism market has grown enormously in recent years, offering valuable information to prospective tourists and widening the possibilities of travel. But he said it was important to recognize that the "disgraceful pedophile market" and sexual tourism have been promoted online.

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Mexican bishops criticize Bush immigration plan

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Mexican bishops have criticized U.S. President George W. Bush's proposal to overhaul immigration laws as an unrealistic and unfair approach to migration reform. "We see it as a partial solution, a Band-Aid," Mexico City Auxiliary Bishop Guillermo Ortiz Mondragon, spokesman for the Mexican bishops' conference, said Jan. 27. "We feel (Bush's) proposal needs to be expanded." Bishop Ortiz said nations have the right to regulate border security "for the good of society," but added "that shouldn't go against people's dignity." Bush's proposal, unveiled Jan. 8, would create a temporary worker program for illegal immigrants currently in the United States and for workers abroad who are offered jobs by U.S. employers. Migrants in the United States would be given three-year renewable visas, though Bush asked Congress to decide how many times working papers could be renewed. The president made clear his plan offered no sure path toward citizenship, arguing such a measure would amount to rewarding lawbreakers.

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Israelis, Palestinians in 'deadly turmoil'

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Noting two days of violence that have rocked the region, the Jerusalem director of the Middle East Council of Churches said Palestinians and Israelis were locked into a game of "deadly turmoil." A day after eight Palestinians -- including three civilians -- were killed in Gaza and seven injured, a suicide bomb tore through a packed Jerusalem bus during rush hour traffic, a few yards from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's official residence. Sharon was not at the residence at the time. At least 10 Israelis were killed and some 40 wounded in the Jan. 29 blast. "As far as the churches are concerned, we condemn the bombing, but of course we can't condemn on one hand and ... not look for the root causes and at the continuing deterioration of the political situation," said Ramze Zananiri, Middle East Council of Churches' Jerusalem director. The Catholic Church is a member of the council.

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Maronite Catholics maintain identity in Lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) -- Members of the Maronite Catholic Church in Lebanon have been able to maintain their identity in an Islamic-dominated region, said a U.S. Jesuit priest based in Lebanon. "What I find admirable about the Maronites in Lebanon is that, in the many centuries since the Arab conquest, they have adapted themselves to that new culture without losing their own roots," said Jesuit Father Martin McDermott, who has served in Lebanon for 31 years. "In the face of some fundamentalists who try to identify Arab culture with Islam stands the simple and obvious fact that the Maronites, the historical people of Mount Lebanon, have made their country a refuge for minorities, as well as a space where Arabic peoples can still breathe some measure of freedom," Father McDermott said. "When the muezzin's call to prayer sounds from minarets (of mosques) in the cities and villages of Lebanon, it is answered across the valleys by the bells of the Maronite churches, calling their faithful to worship God in a liturgy mostly in Arabic, but retaining many elements of Syriac," Father McDermott said.

Copyright (c) 2003 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method, in whole or in part without the prior written authority of Catholic News Service.

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