Current Events

Catholics and Anglicans

As the Seattle Post-Intellgencer reported on May 17, 2005, “The historical separation between Roman Catholics and Anglicans has narrowed after both found common ground on the position of Mary, mother of Jesus, according to a document conceived at the highest church levels and released in Seattle yesterday. Anglicans, already close to Catholics because of liturgy and traditions, have moved even closer through their understanding of Mary as outlined in the joint statement, which took five years and an international committee to complete. The document seeks to transcend past controversies on Catholic dogma, including the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary…

“The result might be an elevation, or at least a heightened acknowledgment, of the place of Mary — particularly for Anglicans, the denomination born in England during the Reformation and called the Episcopal Church in the United States. Anglicanism is considered closest to Catholicism because it gives Mary a pre-eminent place among the saints, includes her in Communion prayers and holds six Marian feast days. Among other matters, Catholics and Protestants disagree over the Catholic dogmas of the Immaculate Conception — the assertion that Mary lived a life free from sin from the moment she was conceived — and the Assumption, the belief that her body and soul were taken into heaven when her earthly life ended. Those dogmas have ‘created problems not only for Anglicans but also for other Christians,’ the document said, largely because they are not explicitly supported by Scripture.”

The Catholic Church and Sunday

As Zenit reported on May 22, 2005, “Every parish is called to rediscover the beauty of Sunday, the day of the Lord, says Benedict XVI… ‘in which Christ’s disciples renew, in the Eucharist, communion with the One who gives meaning to their joys and exhaustions of each day.’… The theme of the Italian Eucharistic Congress — ‘We Cannot Live without Sunday’ — repeats the words expressed before their death by the 49 martyrs of Abitene, a city of the Roman province of ‘pro-consular Africa,’ present-day Tunis, in the year 303, at the time of Diocletian’s persecutions. ‘This is what we are called to repeat today,’ said the [pope].”

The Catholic Church and Spain

Zenit reported on May 23, 2005: “Benedict XVI in his message said he is aware that ‘the Catholic Church in Spain is ready to take firm steps in its evangelizing projects’ and added that ‘the transmission of the faith and believers’ religious practice cannot be confined to the purely private realm’…. Cardinal Antonio Rouco of Madrid offered a catechesis in the Church of St. James the Elder affirming: ‘Spain will be Christian and Catholic or it will cease to exist as such. In other words, if it loses its roots, not only will it cease to be Catholic Christian, but it will cease to be Spain.'”

Pope Benedict XVI and the British Press

As Zenit reported on May 23, 2005, Peter Jennings, press secretary to Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, had some strong words about the negative coverage of the British press pertaining to the new pope. In his interview with Zenit, he stated:

“The British media works out of a framework of liberal secularism and does not understand events from the perspective of faith… Attitudes towards the Catholic Church in Britain have changed considerably for the better over the past three decades. Unfortunately there is still a trace of an anti-Roman mentality combined with a general British suspicion of all things ‘foreign.’

“In addition, hostility now is based more on an aggressive secular agenda that dominates the British media… The British media is hostile to the Church of England, too. In fact, for some journalists, there is a respect for the strength and coherence of the Catholic Church… Don’t judge British society by the British press! The press has its own agenda. There was very widespread and positive interest among British society, at every level, in the death and funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II, and the conclave, election and inaugural Mass of Pope Benedict XVI. People who had never been into a Catholic Church attended a special requiem Mass for Pope John Paul II celebrated in St. Chad’s Cathedral, situated in the center of Birmingham, on the day of the funeral Mass in Rome….

“The attitude of the British press to Christianity is generally hostile. Its attitude to Judaism and Islam is completely different because of the potential criticism that would follow hostile and negative reporting of these faiths.”

New Elections in Germany

As The Associated Press reported on May 23, 2005, “[German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroeder shocked the country on Sunday, announcing his high-risk early election plan shortly after his Social Democrats (SPD) were booted out of office in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany’s most populous state, ruled by the party for 39 years. Bringing forward the election by one year to this autumn carries huge risks for Schroeder.”

The article continued to explain:

“The result solidifies the conservative majority [the Christian Democratic Union party, “CDU”] in the Bundesrat [upper house of parliament], although it leaves them just shy of a two-thirds majority that would allow them to block virtually all government legislation, including the budget. The SPD has now seen its support decline in nine consecutive state elections. NRW was the last state ruled by a coalition of the SPD and the leftist-environmentalist Greens, leaving the federal coalition in Berlin as the last ‘Red-Green’ alliance.”

Schroeder’s challenger in new elections will be “Opposition leader Angela Merkel [who] vowed on Monday to oust Gerhard Schroeder — a move that could make her Germany’s first woman chancellor — after he put his job on the line with a shock call for early elections. Merkel grew up in the former East Germany and became a protege of ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. Now she is the favorite to take on Schroeder in a federal election that could come as early as September.”

Better Future Relations Between USA and Germany?

The Associated Press asked the poignant question in its article of May 24, 2005: “With Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder soon to face disgruntled voters, would a different Berlin government improve the tattered U.S.-German relationship?” The article continued: “Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Union opposition party, would find it a stretch to restore the relationship to its Cold War heyday – but she’s been far less critical of President Bush and the Iraq war. A Protestant minister’s daughter who grew up under communist rule in East Germany, Merkel is almost certain to be the conservative CDU’s candidate in early elections called for by Schroeder after his party badly lost a local weekend election.”

The article pointed out: “People in Germany remember in particular Merkel’s visit to the United States on Feb. 24-25, 2003, as the [Iraq] war neared. She met with Vice President Dick Cheney, said the danger from Iraq was real and that pressure must be kept on Saddam Hussein. She disputed Schroeder’s refusal to support a war under any circumstances, even with the approval of the United Nations. ‘Anyone who rejects military action as a last resort weakens the pressure that needs to be maintained on dictators and consequently makes a war not less but more likely,’ she wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece ahead of her visit.”

At the same time, according to The Associated Press, “Merkel differs sharply with Bush on one pressing issue: She opposes European Union membership for Turkey, which Bush has supported.” In addition, if people think that a German government under Merkel will become a strong friend of the USA, they might be wrong. The Associated Press stated:

“Thomas Risse, a professor of international politics at Berlin’s Free University, said that if elected, Merkel might bring more a change in style than in substance… ‘As far as the substance of the trans-Atlantic relationship goes, I don’t see much difference,’ he said. Germany is not going to send troops to Iraq no matter who the chancellor is, he said, and Merkel’s party supports a U.N. security council seat for Germany, just as Schroeder does. The U.S. has not taken a public position on a seat for Germany, but it’s unlikely the Bush administration looks with much comfort on the idea. ‘If people in Washington think it’s going to be that much easier with a CDU government,’ Risse said, ‘they’re in for a lot of surprises.'”

Most conservative American journalists have given up on Schroeder and are already celebrating Merkel’s perceived soon-coming victory. As Der Spiegel reported on May 25, 2005, in its article, “Who is Angie?”: “The White House won’t miss Schroeder… But who is Merkel? The American government is pretty unsure about her… The biggest concern is the coming German election campaign. Bush’s government is afraid that the old wounds of the Iraq war will be opened. Schroeder will take every opportunity, it is feared, to remind the Germans that Merkel was a supporter of the US-led war. In light of the present disaster in Iraq, Merkel could be facing difficulties in Germany, according to American commentators. And that would be likewise true for Bush at home.”

In summary, people might be surprised either way: Although not too many give Schroeder a chance to win in the next election, Schroeder might surprise them. And if Merkel wins, she, too, might surprise many people.

Turkey and the EU

As the EUobserver stated on May 24, 2005, “A change of government in Germany in September to favour the Christian Democrats could spell trouble for Turkey’s bid to become a member of the EU. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s decision to seek early elections after his party’s regional election defeat on Sunday (22 May) has already prompted the CDU to let it be known that one of its campaign themes will be its opposition to Turkish EU membership.”

The article continued:

“CDU politician Matthias Wissman, the head of the Europe committee in the Bundestag, told German daily FT Deutschland, ‘We will tell people that the likelihood of full EU membership for Turkey is much much lower under a [CDU] government. Of course, Germany does not decide alone about [Turkey’s] membership,’ he added, ‘but Germany’s weight in the EU means that a German change of position can also lead to a change in the EU’s position.'”

EU Battle Groups

The EUobserver reported on May 23, 2005: “EU defence ministers meeting on Monday in Brussels took some more steps towards the creation of the bloc’s own rapid reaction ‘battle groups’ by deciding to speed up the bloc’s notoriously slow decision-making process… Meanwhile Germany signed itself up to two more battle groups with France and Spain as well as with Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia with the first to be ready in the second half of 2008 and the second during the first half of 2010.”

Water Shortage in Middle East?

AFP reported on May 21, 2005, about the possibility of serious water shortage in the Middle East. The article stated:

“The Middle East is faced with the prospect of a serious water crisis that could lead to political tensions and hamper prosperity, experts told a session of a World Economic Forum (WEF)… Hazem Nasser, former Jordanian water and irrigation minister, [told the audience:] ‘In 1950, the Arab population was 75 million. In 2,000, it was 300 million, and is expected to grow to 600 million by 2025.’ He said the deficit of water in the region was 30 billion cubic meters (approximately 7.95 trillion imperial gallons) last year and is expected to grow to 175 billion cubic meters (46 trillion gallons) in 2025. ‘Most of the countries in the region have exhausted their water resources,’ he said.”

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