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Sexuality, globalisation on cardinals' agenda

Discussion at this week's cardinals' consistory at the Vatican has been wide-ranging, from the need for a manual to help the Church better understand human sexuality to the pros and cons of globalisation.

During the second day of work on Tuesday, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo told the gathering that his department is preparing a "lexicon" on issues related to sexuality and the family.

Trujillo, head of the Vatican's Council for the Family, said the book was being prepared by 50 experts in various fields, such as anthropology, sexuality, sociology and psychology. There was no indication on when the book would be ready.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, briefing reporters on the closed-door meetings, said he expected the manual to include new definitions of sexuality and anthropology that have come into use in recent years or have taken on different meanings. He cited as examples the terms "sexual health" and "gender".

At the U.N. population conference in Cairo in 1994, the Vatican clashed with women's groups and other countries over the use and meaning of those terms in official documents.

Journalists are receiving only a daily verbal briefing of general information about the meeting, but none of the speeches made by cardinals.

In one apparent about-face, one cardinal did not tell the assembly what he had hinted to the media he planned to say.

Cardinal Aloisio Lorscheider of Brazil told the French Catholic newspaper La Croix at the weekend that the Pope was cut off from reality.

"The Pope is a prisoner of circles that surround him (in the Vatican) and cut off from the roots," Lorscheider told the newspaper.

According to Navarro-Valls, Lorscheider did not make the comments in the assembly hall when he spoke Thursday. Navarro-Valls said Lorscheider's speech concentrated on the Jubilee year in 2000.

Several cardinals spoke about the pros and cons of globalisation, saying that while it had made life easier for some, it had left many orphans of global economics in its wake.

The independent Catholic group "We Are Church" gave reporters a seven-point petition asking the cardinals to take up such thorny issues as more theological freedom and giving local Catholics a say in the appointment of their bishops.