From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ALC NEWS SERVICE, No. 2 - February 8, 2003

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Sat, 08 Feb 2003 21:48:24 -0800


ALC NEWS SERVICE, No. 2 - February 8, 2003

Editor: Fernando Oshige

CHILE:	  Prestigious Chilean Biblical scholar Dagoberto Rammrez passed away
URUGUAY:    Waldensian Church presents study about bio-ethics and 
reproductive health
ITALY:	  Cardinal Ortega observes regression in the situation of the 
Catholic Church in Cuba
BRAZIL: IECLB in mourning for death of Pastor Kunert
GERMANY: European and US Churches reject war against Iraq

Prestigious Chilean Biblical scholar Dagoberto Rammrez passed away

SANTIAGO, February 6, 2003 (alc). Prestigious Chilean Biblical scholar 
Dagoberto Rammrez Fernandez had a fatal heart attack in Salvador, Brazil 
February 4 and is deeply mourned in Evangelical and ecumenical circles.

He passed away 24-hours after traveling to Brazil on vacation and shortly 
before assuming position of dean of the Theological Evangelical Faculty 
(FET in Spanish) in Santiago de Chile this month.

"We have lost a great friend, an exception Biblical scholar and an enormous 
promoter of ecumenism in Chile," Dora Canales, dead of the Evangelical 
Theological Faculty, told ALC in a phone interview. Canales said that 
Dagoberto Ramirezs body will be repatriated tonight and an ecumenical 
memorial service will be held in the Methodist Church of Providence, where 
he was pastor.

On Saturday, his remains will be cremated in the General Cemetery, 
according to Dagoberto Rammrezs wishes and his ashes will be taken to 
Iquique, his native city.

Rammrez, age 67, studied Theology at the Evangelical Institute of 
Theological Studies (ISEDET) in Buenos Aires and obtained his doctorate in 
Sacred Scriptures at the Argentina Catholic University in 1976.

After a long period of exile in Argentina, he returned to Chile and joined 
the FET as a professor. He was also one of the most important leaders in 
the Latin American Biblical Network and the Commission on Churches 
Participation in Development (CCPD).

In Chile he was also an active promoter of the ecumenical movement, having 
held the position of Executive Secretary of the Diego de Medellin 
Ecumenical Center and director of the magazine "Pastoral Popular."

Waldensian Church presents study about bio-ethics and reproductive health

MONTEVIDEO, February 6, 2003 (alc). A special commission from the 
Evangelical Waldensian Church presented a preliminary report of their 
finding about bio-ethics and reproductive health after studying the issues 
last year.

The 2003 Synod of the Evangelical Waldensian Church of the River Plate, 
meeting in Playa Fomento Uruguay said it sought "attend to meet the needs 
of the community in diverse manners."

For this reason, during 2002, it studied and debated "through a commission 
specifically created for this purpose, issues related to bio-ethics and in 
particular reproductive health, at a time when the Uruguayan and Argentina 
parliament were debating laws related to these issues."

In the presentation, the Bio-ethical Commission stated "We approach the 
field of bio-ethics when we are committed to a discipline  whose 
primordial but not exclusive task is centered on scientific investigation 
derived from biotechnology. The aim was to try to clearly indicate when and 
how this has a true and positive impact on human life in its different 
stages, phases and situations."

Regarding Reproductive Health, the commission used the Law to Defend Human 
Reproductive Health, approved by the Uruguay Chamber of Commerce, as a 
frame of reference. We addressed the issue because we confront a painful 
human reality of a personal and social nature. We have 66 years of evidence 
that demonstrates that the threat of punishment and/or punishment is not 
enough and is nearly always more detrimental for the victims while 
exonerating the victimizers, said the commission.

While we do not find pre-established rules, norms and laws for each and 
every case in our reading of the Bible, we do find an announcement: God 
made human suffering His own, by becoming human, inviting us to carry the 
weight of another, of the fallen and promising us that the only law is that 
of love, to understand and place ourselves in the someone elses situation.

Cardinal Ortega observes regression in the situation of the Catholic Church 
in Cuba

ROME, Feb 6 (alc) In an interview with the Catholic Zenit news agency, 
Cardinal and Archbishop of Habana Jaime Luis Ortega y Alamino said that he 
saw little progress in the situation of the Catholic Church in Cuba and in 
fact believed it had regressed.

Five years after Pope John Paul IIs visit to Cuba, Ortega said that "we 
have begun to return to an ideology that has become more insistent, with 
propaganda similar to that of the old days."

However, he noted, "our Church has broken its silence: the presence of John 
Paul II not only let the world know but also the Cuban people. Many people 
discovered or re-discovered faith as a living reality and everyone 
experienced those days as an opportunity to manifest their deepest feelings 
with great joy and freedom. All of this left its mark."

He also observed that nothing has changed in State-Church relations. "The 
Office on Religious Affairs is still above us, which depends on the 
Communist Partys Central Committee and exercises control at both a 
national and local level. It is a fact: In Cuba the Church is still very 
limited and is frequently ignored by the authorities."

He denied, however, that an anti-religion campaign has been launched. "The 
Church is not attacked. Not directly," he said. "However, there is a return 
to the idea of revolution that demands your soul and complete sacrifice. 
Clearly, the Church has a conflict with this concept. There is a silent 
struggle against the Church, considered a private entity, something that 
could take energy and strength away from the revolution. As a result, it is 
always seen with certain indifference."

He also said that he does not believe that the hope and expectations 
awakened by the Popes visit have been disappointed. "The Popes visit 
touched the heart of Cubans and broke the dark veil that had surrounded the 
Church for many years. Perhaps those who expected major changes at a 
socio-political level have been disappointed. Personally, I did not hold 
these type of expectations," he said.

"However, something is changing at this level," he said. "The Varela 
Project arose from the initiative of some Catholics, and proposes a 
grassroots revolution to take on a democratic transition. The leader is a 
committed Catholic (Oswaldo Paya)," he said.

He recalled that he congratulated Pa}a last December when the European 
Parliament granted him the Sajarov Prize, as he has always exercised 
freedom of conscience despite so many difficulties. "He does not propose 
violent methods, he does not preach hate. Now, this does not mean that the 
Church supports his movement more than others. Today there are several 
opposition groups in Cuba and it is not the task of the Church to give 
political indications," said the cardinal.

Regarding the Popes invocation "that the world open to Cuba and Cuba to 
the world," Ortega commented that after the Popes visit many heads of 
State came to Havana and some countries renewed diplomatic relations with 

"It was logical to expect that Cuba would also open to the world," he said. 
"The commercial horizon has opened a little, but I do not believe that the 
Pope was referring to this. Rather, he pointed to the need to be open to 
the Western world, to the Christian civilization that we form a part of. 
Above all, Cuba should be more open to itself. It should hold a dialogue 
with society, as was openly requested by the Cuban Catholic Bishops 
Conference," he said.

"However, there has been a regression, some steps backward. Even in the 
field of economics. Small businesses and individual or family activities 
that would have been permitted in previous years are overloaded with a 
heavier tax and are pushed toward the informal sector. And people continue 
to flee the country using every possible means," he said.

The Cardinal noted that after the Popes visit he has only met once with 
President Fidel Castro, in 2001. "I asked him very concrete questions, 
related to support for our charity works and the entry of foreign religious 
personnel for our pastoral activities. There was a notable increase shortly 
after the Holy Fathers visit but in these past three or four years the 
number has continued to be practically the same," he said.

Regarding the demand of the Catholic Church to have its own schools, the 
Cardinal said that "the Church cannot access teaching, considered to be the 
exclusive role of the State. Authorities do not want to discuss the issue."

He also complained about limited access to the media. "We do not have 
access, other than when there are events of a celebratory nature, such as 
Christmas. There is no information about the activity of the Church, with 
the exception of some brief news about the Pope. It is as if the Church did 
not exist in Cuba," he said.

IECLB in mourning for death of Pastor Kunert

By Edelberto Behs

PORTO ALEGRE, February 7, 2003 (alc). After a prolonged illness, Pastor 
Augusto Kunert passed away late Thursday. Kunert was president of the 
Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (IECLB) from March 
1979 to July 1985.

The memorial service will be held Friday in the Cementerio Evangelico in 
the city of Novo Hamburgo, Porto Alegre, where he lived for the past two 
years. Augusto Ernesto Kunert, age 79, was married to Lori Bernhard Kunert 
with whom he had two children.

The IECLB took great steps forward during Kunerts term, as he understood 
that the Church also has a major role to play in Brazilian society. In 
1978, the Church became committed to the campaign to gain amnesty for 
political prisoners and in 1982 it addressed the issue of agrarian reform 
for the first time, adopting "Gods earth  earth for everyone," as the 
theme for study for congregations and regional councils that year.

The grandson of a pastor Augusto Kunert began his studies in the 
Pre-Theological Institute in Sao Leopoldo. Prior to finishing his studies 
in Theology he was convened in 1942 by the Riogrande Synod to assume the 
parish of Pamitos and Mondai in the state of Santa Catarina, as a 
substitute pastor. He was 18 at the time.

That year Brazil declared war on Germany and the federal government banned 
the pastoral activity of German workers in the country, which meant the 
temporary loss of a significant number of pastors who worked in

Brazilian theology students were convened to replace the German pastors. At 
that time Kunert was responsible for 32 congregations and visited them on 

He returned to the Theology Faculty in 1946 and concluded his studies in 
1949. He was then pastor at the Evangelical Community of Trjs Forquilhas. 
 From early on Kunert understood that "service is the obedient response to 
faith" and that the preaching of the Church should not be restricted to the 
spiritual environment, but should address peoples physical and material 

Kunert saw a vertical and horizontal dimension of Christian faith. For this 
reason, as well as being pastor he was also a teacher at Trjs Forquilhas 
and reactivated the local school. He also got involved in the health care 
field, building a hospital.

An admirer of the President of the Republic Getzlio Vargas (1930-1945; 
1951-1954) for the labor laws he introduced into the country, Kunert ran as 
alderman in Trjs Forquilhas, in Osorio on a Partido Trahalhista Braisileqo 
(PTB) ticket. He was pastor and alderman from 1951 to 1954.

He stayed in Trjs Forquilhas until July 1956, when he transferred to 
Taquara, also in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where he was pastor until 
January 1961. He later accepted the Churchs request and directed Pella and 
Bethania asylums in Taquari until May 1969.

When the IECLB was constituted in October 1968, Kunert was elected regional 
pastor (a type of bishop) of the 4th Region, based in Sao Leopoldo, a 
position he assumed in May 1969. He then constituted a Public 
Responsibility Commission.

In October 1978, he was elected pastor-president of the IECLB in the 
General Council that met in Joinvilla, Santa Catarina. In February 1979, he 
transferred to Porto Alegre, to assume the presidency of the Church, a 
position he held until his voluntary retirement in 1985.

Even in retirement, Kunert participated in Church commissions in the World 
Lutheran Federation and continued collaborating with the Brazilian 
Ecumenical Movement.

European and US Churches reject war against Iraq

BERLIN, February 5, 2003 (alc). Representatives from European and US 
Churches and ecumenical organizations meeting in this capital published a 
statement opposing the war on Iraq and lobbying for a peaceful solution to 
the conflict.

"We deplore the fact that the most powerful nations of this world again 
regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy. This creates an 
international culture of fear, threat and insecurity," the statement said. 
"As churches we pray for peace and freedom, justice and safety for the 
people of Iraq and in the Middle East as a whole. Such prayer obliges us to 
be instruments of peace."

Protestant Church leaders from Europe and the United States, who were 
joined by representatives from Orthodox and Evangelical Churches in the 
Middle East met here today and the declaration was handed over to German 
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The meeting was convened by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 
consultation with the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the National 
Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA) and the Middle East 
Council of Churches, hosted by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).

"We cannot accept the stated objectives of a war against Iraq, as laid out 
by these governments, in particular the US. Pre-emptive military strike and 
war as a means to change the regime of a sovereign state are immoral and in 
violation of the UN Charter," Church leaders said.

"We appeal to the Security Council to uphold the principles of the UN 
Charter which strictly limit the legitimate use of military force and to 
refrain from creating negative precedence and lowering the threshold for 
using violent means to solve international conflicts," the statement added.

"We believe that military force is an inappropriate means to achieve 
disarmament of any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. We insist that the 
carefully designed mechanisms of the UN weapons inspections be given the 
time needed to complete their work."

The Churches also called "on the Government of Iraq to destroy any weapons 
of mass destruction and related research and production facilities. Iraq 
must cooperate fully with UN weapons inspectors, and guarantee full respect 
of the civil and political, economic, social and cultural human rights for 
all its citizens. The people in Iraq must be given hope that there are 
alternatives to both dictatorship and war."

After warning that "a war would have unacceptable humanitarian 
consequences, including large-scale displacement of people, the breakdown 
of state functions, the possibility of civil war and major unrest in the 
whole region," Church leaders said that "all governments, in particular 
members of the Security Council have the obligation to consider the whole 
complexity of this issue."

They also said that "all peaceful and diplomatic means to compel Iraq to 
comply with UN Security Council resolutions have not been exhausted."

"For us it is a spiritual obligation, grounded in God's love for all 
humanity, to speak out against war in Iraq. Through this message we send a 
strong sign of solidarity and support, to churches in Iraq, the Middle East 
and in the USA.

We pray that God will guide those responsible to take decisions based on 
careful reflections, moral principles and high legal standards," concluded 
the statement.

Participants also included leaders from Churches of France, Austria, 
Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Holland, the United 
Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the United States, 
and Orthodox Churches from Russia, Greece and Action by Churches Together, 
based in Geneva. 

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