Archive of January 8, 2007

Pope notes international challenges for the new year: hunger, arms races, and attacks on human life

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - Meeting with diplomats from around the world today in the Vatican’s Regal Room, Pope Benedict XVI addressed several of the most significant problems facing the world today: hunger, the continued arms race, an influx of refugees, and various attacks on human life.  The Holy Father traditionally meets with the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Vatican at the start of the new year.

“At the start of the year,” the Pope told the 175 diplomats, “we are invited to turn our attention to the international situation, so as to focus upon the challenges that we are called to address together.”

“The worsening scandal of hunger,” Benedict began, “is unacceptable in a world which has the resources, the knowledge, and the means available to bring it to an end.”

The continued problem of world hunger, he said, “impels us to change our way of life, it reminds us of the urgent need to eliminate the structural causes of global economic dysfunction and to correct models of growth that seem incapable of guaranteeing respect for the environment and for integral human development, both now and in the future.”

The Pontiff renewed his call to the leaders of wealthy nations to increase their efforts at helping poor countries to reap the benefits of their own natural resources.  He also lamented the delay, on behalf of the international community, in implementing new plans for attacking the problem of hunger.  

“It is to be hoped,” he said, “that the trade negotiations of the ‘Doha Development Round’ of the World Trade Organization will be resumed, and that the process of debt cancellation and reduction for the poorest countries will be continued and accelerated.”

“At the same time, these processes must not be made conditional upon structural adjustments that are detrimental to the most vulnerable populations,” the Pope added.


“Equally,” the Holy Father continued, “in the area of disarmament, symptoms of a developing crisis are multiplying, linked to difficulties in negotiations over conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction and also to the rise in global military expenditure.”

“Security issues – aggravated by terrorism, which is to be utterly condemned – must be approached from a global and far-sighted perspective,” Pope Benedict said.


The Holy Father also called for additional support for those organizations tasked with humanitarian assistance.  

A tragedy, “which looms ever larger is that of the movement of persons,” the Pope said

“Millions of men and women are forced to leave their homes or their native lands because of violence or in order to seek more dignified living conditions.”

“It is an illusion to think that migration can be blocked or checked simply by force,” he added. “Migration and the problems to which it gives rise must be addressed humanely, with justice and compassion.”

Attacks on life

Finally, the Pope said, “how can we not be alarmed, moreover, by the continuous attacks on life, from conception to natural death?”

The Holy Father condemned continued international pressure to promote policies which increasingly attack human life - even in areas where the culture traditionally supports respect for life.  Areas, he said “such as Africa, where there is an attempt to trivialize abortion surreptitiously, both through the Maputo Protocol and through the Plan of Action adopted by the Health Ministers of the African Union – shortly to be submitted to the Summit of Heads of State and Heads of Government.”

“Equally,” Pope Benedict said, “there are mounting threats to the natural composition of the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, and attempts to relativize it by giving it the same status as other radically different forms of union.”

“All this offends and helps to destabilize the family by concealing its specific nature and its unique social role.”

“Other forms of attack on life are sometimes committed in the name of scientific research, “the Holy Father continued. “There is a growing conviction that research is subject only to the laws that it chooses for itself and that it is limited only by its own possibilities. This is the case, for example, in attempts to legitimize human cloning for supposedly therapeutic ends.”

The Holy Father then moved on to speak about a few positive developments over the past year.

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New York Times editor uncovers false reporting in Latin American abortion story

, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - The public editor of the New York Times has found that readers of its weekly Times Magazine were denied thorough and accurate reporting in a pro-abortion story published last spring.  The story, written to criticize the many pro-life laws of Latin American countries, was apparently riddled with inaccuracies and untruths.

The cover story on abortion in El Salvador in The New York Times Magazine on April 9th claimed that “a few” women in the Central American country were serving 30-year jail terms for having had abortions.

The article focused especially on the case of a 26-year-old female inmate named Carmen Climaco.  

Climaco was interviewed for the article and was held forth as an example of someone imprisoned for choosing to abort her “18-week old fetus.”

However, after ran a story exposing the real facts about Climaco’s case, in a Nov. 27th article, complaints started arriving at the New York Times.  

While the magazine’s publisher replied to complaints about Hitt’s article by saying there was “no reason to doubt the accuracy of the facts as reported,” New York Times Public Editor, Bryon Calame, uncovered a different story.

In a Dec. 31st article Calame reported that the freelance reporter, Jack Hitt, failed to consult court documents, which clearly state that Climaco was found guilty of infanticide and not imprisoned for having an abortion.  Based on forensic evidence that the baby was full-term and breathing independently at the time of death, the cause of death was determined to be strangulation.

Calame writes that the “care taken in the reporting and editing of this example didn’t meet the magazine’s normal standards” and that Hitt admitted, “no editor or fact checker ever asked him if he had checked the court document containing the panel’s decision.”

According to the Times, the public editor serves as the readers' representative.  The public editor writes bi-weekly columns in which the opinions and conclusions are his own.

In addition to uncovering a lack of fact checking in the article, Calame also noted the ease with which facts could have been checked.  At his request, a correspondent for the Times in El Salvador walked into a court building without making any prior arrangements and obtained an official copy of the Climaco infanticide court ruling a few minutes later.
Calame also underlined that, “exceptional care must be taken in the reporting process on sensitive articles such as this one to avoid the slightest perception of bias.”  He reported that in writing his initial story Hitt also used an unpaid translator who has done consulting work for an abortion advocacy group, called IPAS.
IPAS, in turn, used the Hitt story on its website to seek donations to help appeal Climaco’s case and to assist the organization in its continued work to promote the legalization of abortion across Central America. IPAS has reportedly taken down its appeal.  However, other abortion groups have picked up the Hitt story and are using it to rail against laws restricting abortions.

Some are now questioning the motives of the Times.  According to Life Site News El Salvadoran writer, Julia Cardenal, who was interviewed for the initial New York Times piece, has recently criticized the Times for false reporting.  Writing in an editorial in one of the largest papers in El Salvador, Cardenal asked rhetorically if the intention of the Times piece was, "to cause indignation in the United States so that they will pressure us to legalize abortion?"
Even after the court ruling became available in English on Dec. 8th, Times Magazine editor, Gerald Marzorati, continued to defend the article, saying it was “as accurate as it could have been at the time it was written,” Calame reported. Marzorati also refused to bring the court findings to the attention of complaining readers and to run a correction or editor’s note.

“One thing is clear to me, at this point, about the key example of Carmen Climaco. Accuracy and fairness were not pursued with the vigor Times readers have a right to expect,” Calame concluded. 

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The Pope accepts resignation of Archbishop admitted to have collaborated with Polish communism regime

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Press Office of the Holy See has confirmed Pope Benedict XVI’s acceptance of the resignation of Monsignor Stanislaw Wielgus as the Archbishop of Warsaw (Poland).  Wielgus, who submitted his resignation only hours after taking on his new position, has admitted to collaborating with the Communist regime during their control of Poland.

The resignation of the Archbishop of Warsaw – one of the most influential positions in the Polish Church - was presented this Sunday, the same day scheduled for Archbishop Wielgus’s inauguration in the Basilica Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Warsaw.

In his place, the Pope has named Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the former Archbishop of Warsaw, as the temporary archdiocesan Administrator.

On Saturday, an independent Polish commission announced the results of their investigation of Archbishop Wielgus.  In their statements to the Polish edition of Vatican Radio they confirmed he had collaborated with the Polish communist regime in the past.  

Wielgus has admitted to communicating with the regime but, he said, "I did not perform any espionage missions, I have never done damage to anyone through my words, nor with my acts."

Reading a written statement, the archbishop qualified the accusations against him and denied doing any harm to the Church.  "I do not want to justify myself.  I know that I did not have to maintain any relationship with the communist regime of Poland.  I am very sorry to have traveled out of Poland - that is the reason for those contacts.  But in that period I felt the duty to continue with several important scientific investigations, to acquire a formation for the good of the Church."  

Reaction from the Vatican

Before Monsignor Wielgus’s statements, Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Press Office of the Holy See and of Vatican Radio released a statement affirming that, “Archbishop Wielgus' conduct in the past years of the communist regime in Poland has seriously compromised his authority, even with the faithful. Therefore, despite his humble and touching request for forgiveness, his resignation from the see of Warsaw and its prompt acceptance on the part of the Holy Father seemed an appropriate way to address the disorientation that has been created in that country.”

Father Lombardi noted that this is a moment of great suffering for the Polish Church,“to which we all owe so much and which we love. A Church that has given us pastors of the stature of Cardinal Stefan Wyszybnski and, above all, of Pope John Paul II.”

Father Lombardi also requested that the universal Church be, "spiritually united to the Church in Poland and support her with prayer and encouragement, so she may soon recover her serenity.

Attacks of vendetta

Father Lombardi recalled nevertheless that many of the documenting materials being used to condemn Archbishop Wielgus and other churchmen were, "produced by officials of an oppressive and blackmailing regime.”

"So many years after the end of the communist regime, with the loss of the great and unassailable figure of Pope John Paul II, the current wave of attacks against the Catholic Church in Poland, rather than a sincere search for transparency and truth, has many hallmarks of being a strange alliance between the persecutors of the past and their adversaries, a vendetta by those who used to persecute the Church and were defeated by the faith and the thirst for freedom of the Polish people,” he pointed out.

Father Lombardi concluded his statement by recalling, "'The truth will make you free,' says Christ. The Church is not afraid of the truth and her members, to be faithful to their Lord, must be able to acknowledge their own faults.”

“We hope that the Church in Poland will be able to live and surmount this difficult period courageously and clearly, so that she will be able to continue to offer her precious and extraordinary contribution of faith and evangelical energy to the Church in Europe and the world," Lombardi said.

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Pope points to interreligious dialogue and respect for human rights as positives for the new year

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - During his extensive speech to members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Benedict spoke briefly of the “positive elements characteristic of the modern age,” including an increase in intercultural and interreligious dialogue and a greater respect for human rights.

After discussing major areas for international concern, such as hunger, the arms race, and attacks on the right to life, the Pontiff said “this overview of matters of concern must not distract our attention from the positive elements characteristic of the modern age.

“I should like to mention first of all the growing awareness of the importance of dialogue between cultures and between religions,” the Pope began.  “This is a vital necessity, particularly in view of the challenges we all face regarding the family and society. I want to draw attention, moreover, to numerous initiatives in this area aimed at building common foundations for harmonious co-existence.”

With the establishment of the United Nations’ Council for Human Rights last year, Pope Benedict said, “it is to be hoped that this will focus its activity on defense and promotion of the fundamental rights of the person, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom.”

Within the framework of development, various initiatives have been undertaken to which the Holy See has not failed to pledge its support, at the same time reiterating that these projects must not supplant the commitment of developed countries to devote 0.7% of their gross domestic product to international aid,” he said.

“Another important element in the collective struggle to eliminate poverty, in addition to aid – which one can only hope will expand – is a greater awareness of the need to combat corruption and to promote good governance. We must also encourage and continue the efforts that have been made to guarantee human rights to individuals and peoples, for the sake of more effective protection of civilian populations,” the Holy Father added.

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Benedict points out reasons for concern and hope on world’s continents

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - After discussing various positive and negative occurrences over the past year with the world’s 175 diplomats to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI focused on the world’s continents and proposed continued international cooperation to advance freedom and peace.

In what was the most extensive part of his long and detailed discourse, the Pontiff said that, “in considering the political situation in the various continents, we find even more reasons for concern and reasons for hope. At the outset, we note that peace is often fragile and even mocked.”


In respect to the African Continent, the Pope began, “The drama of Darfur continues and is being extended to the border regions of Chad and the Central African Republic. The international community has seemed powerless for almost four years, despite initiatives intended to bring relief to the populations in distress and to arrive at a political solution.”

“I invite all those concerned to act with determination,” the Pope said, “we cannot accept that so many innocent people continue to suffer and die in this way.”

The Holy Father also noted the worsening situation in the Horn of Africa, “with the resumption of hostilities and the internationalization of the conflict…With regard to Uganda, we must pray for the progress of negotiations between the parties, in order to hasten the end of that cruel conflict which has even seen numerous children enlisted and forced to become soldiers,” he lamented.

“I repeat: we must not forget Africa with its numerous situations of war and tension. We must remember that only negotiations between the various protagonists can open the way to a just settlement of the conflicts and offer a glimpse of progress towards the establishment of lasting peace,” the Pontiff emphasized.

Turning to the Great Lakes Region, which “has seen much bloodshed over the years through merciless wars,” the Pope said, “recent positive developments are to be welcomed with interest and hope, especially the conclusion of the period of political transition in Burundi and, more recently, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

“Yet it is urgent that these countries commit themselves to restoring the proper functioning of the rule of law, in order to disarm the warlords and allow society to develop.”

“Finally,” he said, “I should like to mention the Ivory Coast, urging the embattled parties to create a climate of mutual trust that can lead to disarmament and peace. And I should like to speak of Southern Africa: in the countries of this region, millions of people are reduced to a situation of great vulnerability that clamors for the attention and the support of the international community.”

The Holy Father said that among the “positive signs for Africa is the wish expressed by the international community to keep its attention focused on this continent. Likewise, the strengthening of Africa’s continental and regional institutions bears witness to the desire of the countries concerned to take increasing charge of their own destiny.”


The Holy Father began his remarks concerning the Americas by noting that his May trip to Brazil, “gives me the opportunity to turn my attention towards that great country, which awaits me with joy, and towards the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The Pope pointed out, in general, the region’s “improvement in certain economic indicators, the commitment to combat drug-trafficking and corruption, the various processes of integration, the efforts to improve access to education, to fight unemployment and to reduce inequalities in the distribution of revenues,” as “signs to be viewed with satisfaction.”

“If these developments are consolidated,” the Pope said, “they will be able to make a decisive contribution to overcoming the poverty that afflicts vast sectors of the population and to increasing the stability of institutions.”

Referring to the elections which have taken place in several countries throughout the Americas, the Pope said, “it should be emphasized that democracy is called to take into account the aspirations of the citizens as a whole, and to promote increasing respect for all the components of society, according to the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and justice.”

“Yet,” he added, “the practice of democracy must not be allowed to turn into the dictatorship of relativism, by proposing anthropological models incompatible with the nature and dignity of the human person.”

“My attention,” the Pope continued, “is focused in a special way on certain individual countries – notably Colombia, where the long internal conflict has provoked a humanitarian crisis, especially as far as displaced persons are concerned.”

“Our attention is also turned towards Cuba. In voicing the hope that all of its inhabitants may realize their legitimate aspirations, amid concern for the common good, I should like to renew the appeal made by my venerable Predecessor: ‘Let Cuba open itself to the world, and let the world open itself to Cuba.’ Mutual openness to other countries can only bring benefits to all concerned,” Pope Benedict said.

“Not far away,” he added, “the people of Haiti continue to live in great poverty surrounded by violence. I pray that the interest of the international community – manifested among other things by the conferences of donors that took place in 2006 – will lead to the consolidation of institutions and will allow the people to become the architects of their own development, amid a climate of reconciliation and harmony.”


Regarding the Asian continent, Pope Benedict spoke first of China and India, “countries that are in rapid expansion, and I hope that their growing presence on the international stage will bring with it benefits for their own populations and for other nations.”

“Likewise,” the Pope said, “I pray for Vietnam, recalling its recent entry into the World Trade Organization.”  However, the Holy Father said, “my thoughts go out to the Christian communities. In most Asian countries, they tend to be small but lively communities, with a legitimate desire to be able to live and act in a climate of religious liberty. This is not only a primordial right but it is a condition that will enable them to contribute to the material and spiritual progress of society, and to be sources of cohesion and harmony.”

“Dangerous sources of tension are lurking in the Korean Peninsula,” Benedict said. “The goal of reconciling the Korean people and maintaining the Peninsula as a nuclear-free zone – which will bring benefits to the entire region – must be pursued within the context of negotiations. It is important to avoid gestures that could compromise the talks, and likewise to avoid making their results a condition for the humanitarian aid destined for the most vulnerable sectors of the North Korean population.”

“In Afghanistan, in recent months, we can only deplore the notable increase in violence and terrorist attacks,” the Holy Father said. “This has rendered the way out of the crisis more difficult, and it weighs heavily on the local population.”

The entire Middle East, Pope Benedict said, “is also a source of great anxiety.”

“I renew my urgent appeal to all parties involved in the complex political chessboard of the region, hoping for a consolidation of the positive signs noted in recent weeks between Israelis and Palestinians. The Holy See will never tire of reiterating that armed solutions achieve nothing, as we saw in Lebanon last summer.”

Calling for a global approach to solutions in the Middle East, the Holy Father said, “In particular, the Lebanese have a right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected; the Israelis have a right to live in peace in their State; the Palestinians have a right to a free and sovereign homeland.”

“When each of the peoples in the region sees that its expectations are taken into consideration and thus feels less threatened, then mutual trust will be strengthened,” Benedict added.

“This trust will grow if a country like Iran, especially in relation to its nuclear program, agrees to give a satisfactory response to the legitimate concerns of the international community. Steps taken in this direction surely help to stabilize the whole region, especially Iraq, putting an end to the appalling violence which disfigures that country with bloodshed, and offering an opportunity to work for reconstruction and reconciliation between all its inhabitants.”


Speaking of Europe, the Holy Father noted that, “Bulgaria and Romania, nations with a long Christian tradition, have joined the European Union.”

Benedict also expressed his hope, “that the fundamental values that are at the basis of human dignity will be fully protected, particularly religious freedom in all its dimensions and the institutional rights of Churches.”

In addition to remembering the Christian tradition of Europe, the Pope noted need to “purify” the tensions of the past, “by promoting reconciliation at all levels, since this alone opens the way to the future and gives hope.”

“I also appeal to all those on European soil who are tempted by terrorism, to cease from all such activity: actions of this kind only lead to more violence and create fear among populations – they are simply a dead end. And I must also mention the various ‘frozen conflicts’ and today’s recurring tensions linked to energy resources, in the hope that they will find a rapid and definitive solution,” he said.

The Pope also added his prayers for the Balkan region and expressed is hope that the region, “will arrive at the stability so ardently desired, particularly through the integration of the nations concerned into continental structures with the support of the international community.”

“In her commitment to serve humanity and to build peace,” the Pope concluded, “the Church stands alongside all people of good will and she offers impartial cooperation. Together, each in his place and with his respective gifts, let us work to build an integral humanism which alone can guarantee a world of peace, justice and solidarity.”

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Denver archdiocese settles 15 cases of abuse

Denver, Colo., Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Denver has settled 15 cases of alleged sexual abuse by clergy through mediation, it was announced last week.

According to a press release from the independent mediators of the abuse cases, two law firms filed suits against the archdiocese, one from Minnesota and one from Florida. Florida lawyers Jeffery Herman and Adam Horowitz filed 19 cases. All 19 of their clients decided to come before the independent mediation panel. However, four decided not settle out of court and continue with the judicial process.

The settlements range from $30,000 to $150,000. The settlement payments made by the archdiocese total $1,585,000.

The Judicial Arbiter Group, who ran the mediation process, said the settlements would not have been possible without the “positive attitudes” of the lawyers, plaintiffs and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver.

The archbishop met with 18 of the plaintiffs during the mediation process. During their meeting, the archbishop listened to the stories of plaintiffs and offered his apology for their pain. Mediation began in May 2006.
In addition to the 15 settlements reached through the mediation panel, three other individuals did not file a lawsuit but approached the archdiocese directly to have their claims considered, the archbishop said in a statement.

The independent mediation panel was led by the Honorable Richard Dana of the Judicial Arbiter Group in conjunction with Chief Heather Coogan of the Auraria Campus Police Department and John Dahlberg, a certified rehabilitation specialist.

The mediation outreach panel will remain available to address any other plaintiffs who may wish to have their claims evaluated, said the archbishop. He added that he will remain available to anyone who desires to discuss their own personal situation with him.

“Even though the childhood sexual abuse described in these lawsuits occurred decades ago,” Archbishop Chaput said, “we take seriously any allegation of sexual abuse, regardless of how old the claim.   We deeply regret the suffering of any individual who has suffered childhood sexual abuse and we have a sincere desire to help any victim heal.  We believe this successful mediation program further exemplifies our commitment to address this very serious issue.”

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New Salt Lake City bishop called from service in San Francisco

Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Press Office of the Holy See announced Monday morning that Pope Benedict XVI has named a new Bishop for the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah.  Bishop John Charles Wester, who is currently serving as an Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco will take the reigns of the Utah diocese.  The diocese has been without a bishop for over a year.

The 56 year-old Bishop Wester was born in San Francisco and ordained a priest for the Archdiocese in 1976.  After serving in various assignments around the diocese, including stints as a pastor and school administrator, Wester was appointed an Auxiliary Bishop in 1998.

Prior to Wester’s appointment, the previous Bishop of Salt Lake City was George Niederauer, the current Archbishop of San Francisco.

Bishop Wester said during a press conference today that he is filled with “gratitude and awe” at the prospect of his new ministry.  

Noting his need to learn about the diocese, Wester said, “as your bishop, my first obligation is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ ‘in season and out of season.’ I can only do this effectively if I know you well and have a firm grasp of your priorities, concerns, dreams and plans. In a particular way, I wish to learn from our priests, my most important collaborators in my ministry as your bishop.”

“With (the priests),” he said, “I hope to continue the excellent work of Archbishop Niederauer in promoting beautiful liturgies, sound faith education programs, loving and compassionate service to the poor, prudent stewardship of our resources, and parishes that flourish throughout the diocese.”

The newly appointed bishop then briefly addressed the growing Hispanic population of the diocese in Spanish.

He also noted the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has Salt Lake City as its headquarters.  “I look forward to building on the strong ties that the Archbishop (Niederauer) and former bishops, as well as the catholic community, have developed over the years with our brothers and sisters,” the bishop said.

In greeting Bishop Wester, Monsignor J. Terrence Fitzgerald, Diocesan Administrator of the Salt Lake City said, “we welcome you with the warm embrace of traditional Utah hospitality and pledge to you our loyal support.”

The Diocese of Salt Lake City which encompasses the entire state of Utah has approximately 180,000 Catholics, who are served by 85 priests, 70 permanent deacons, and 86 religious.

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EWTN to air pro-life programs and special live events in January

Irondale, Ala., Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - EWTN will air special pro-life programming this month to mark the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade (Jan. 22), as well as to celebrate life and to fight the culture of death.

According to a press release from the network, Fr. Andrew Cox of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, South Africa, will explain why artificial contraception contravenes the will of God for mankind in “Open to Life” (Jan. 18 at 2 p.m.; Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. (all times U.S. Eastern)).

Dr. Ann Moell will give a lecture on reproductive issues and her new attitude towards birth control in “Life Is a Gift” (Jan. 20 at 5 a.m.; Jan. 23 at 11 a.m.).

Fr. Wade Menezes will address important life questions with concrete examples of how to live the gospel message of life, love, and joy in a society that seeks to devalue the mystery of God’s creation in his series, “The Gospel of Life vs. the Culture of Death” (Episodes 1-5, Jan. 20, from 9 a.m. to 11; Episodes 6-10, Jan. 21, from 9:30 a.m. to noon).

The program “Building a Culture of Life” will explore what pro-lifers around the world are doing to combat their government’s strong-arm pro-abortion tactics (Jan. 22-26 at 3 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.).

EWTN will also provide live coverage one of the largest pro-life rallies in the country, the West Coast Walk for Life in San Francisco. Fathers Francis Mary Stone and Mark Mary Cristina will provide coverage of the day’s events. (Jan. 20 at 1:30 p.m.; rebroadcast Jan. 20 at 8 p.m.; Jan. 22 at 5 p.m., and Jan. 25 at 1 p.m.).

EWTN will then go live to the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., for the Vigil Mass for Life and the Annual Mass for Life.  

Marcus Grodi and Deb Piroch will provide full live coverage of the 34th annual March for Life, beginning with messages from pro-life speakers at the Rally for Life (Jan. 22 at 11 a.m.; rebroadcast Jan. 22 at 10 p.m., Jan. 23 at 9 a.m., and Jan. 27 at 1 p.m.).

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Fides news agency presents report on missionary deaths in 2006

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - The official news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples issued its annual report on December 30 listing the names of missionaries who were killed while carrying out their work during 2006.

“According to the information we have,” the document indicates, “this year 24 persons were killed, one less than in 2005, they were priests, religious and lay pastoral workers.”

The Fides list includes not only missionaries in a strict sense, but “also local church personnel who died a violent death, preferring to offer their lives rather than give up their witness and apostolate.”

The report explains that the word “martyrs” is intentionally not used in order to steer clear of the assessment that the Church will eventually provide and also because of the lack of information in most cases about the lives of each individual and even the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

Despite this, the news agency said it asks the Church, “to pray for them and to remember their sacrifice, known to God, for all they did to foster the growth of the Church all over the world at the service of human promotion and evangelisation.”

The highest number of deaths occurred in Africa, where nine priests, one religious and one lay Catholic were killed in 2006.  The country where most priests were killed was Kenya, with three deaths, followed by Nigeria with two.  The only religious to be killed in Africa was Sister Leonella Sgorbati of Missionaries of the Consolata, who died in Mogadishu (Somalia).  One lay Catholic who was killed in Mozambique was of Portuguese origin.

Six priests, one religious and one layperson were killed in the Americas in 2006.

In Asia two priests, one religious and one layperson lost their lives last year, and in Oceania one member of the Brothers of St. John of God was killed in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

The Fides report also noted that the long list of unnamed witnesses to the faith that were killed in 2006 should also be remembered.

The entire report can be found at:

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Cardinal of Congo unexpectedly called to the House of the Father

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Federic Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi, Archbishop of Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo), who had been in Brussels to receive medical treatment passed away on Sunday.

Cardinal Etsou, one of the most outspoken Catholic leaders in Africa, studied in the Minor Seminary of Bolongo (Lisala) and later attended the Major Seminary of Kabwe, where he completed his first cycle of Philosophy (1949-1953) and a year of theology (1953-1954).

He then entered the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (C.I.C.M.) and was ordained a priest on July 13, 1958. As a priest, he worked as a vicar in two parishes of Kinshasa: Saint Francis (Kintambo) and Saint Peter’s (Kinshasa).

Years later his Congregation sent him to study Sociology at the Catholic Institute of Paris (France) and Pastoral Theology at the "Lumen Vitae" center in Brussels (Belgium).

After completing his studies in 1968, he returned to Kinshasa, where he was named Pastor of the Parish of Saint Peter and - at the same time - vice-provincial of his Congregation.  On July 8, 1976 he was named Coadjutor Archbishop of Mbandaka, where he became Archbishop one year later.  July 7, 1990 he was named Archbishop of Kinshasa.  A year later, in 1991, Pope John Paul II named him a Cardinal.

Since July of 2000 the Cardinal had presided over the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Today, Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolence to Bishop Daniel Nlandu Mayi, the Auxiliary Bishop of Kinshasa.  "I pray to the Father of Mercy," wrote the Holy Father in his telegram, "to welcome in the light and peace of His Kingdom this pastor who consecrated his life with enthusiasm and abnegation to the service of Christ and His Church, in particular in the archdiocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro and in that of Kinshasa. I give thanks for the ministry of this eminent son of Africa, who was also president of the episcopal conference and who dedicated himself to announcing the Gospel, and to the service and promotion of the peoples of that continent."

With the departure of Cardinal Etsou the College of Cardinals will be made up of 185 members; and on Tuesday, when Cardinal Adolfo Suarez Rivera turns 80 years old, the number eligible to vote in a Papal conclave will be reduced to 110.

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Feminist organizations launch offensive to legalize abortion in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Mexican pro-abortion organization “Group for Information on Elective Reproduction” has launched a campaign backed by various feminist organizations to legalize abortion in the country by federalizing Mexico’s most liberal state laws.
The organization has sent a proposal to Mexico’s House of Representatives that would make the permissive laws on abortion in such states as Hidalgo, Yucatan, and Baja California applicable throughout the country through a reform of the Federal Penal Code - thus going over the heads of state legislatures.

The proposal would legalize abortion in all 32 Mexican states in cases of rape, “imprudence”—that is, when a woman gets pregnant after failing to use contraception—threat to the life of the mother, congenital deformation, threat to the health of the mother, artificial insemination without consent, and economic hardship.  In other words, it would allow abortion on demand for any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy.

In an explanatory note that is part of the proposal, the Group argues that the “current state of laws on abortion has led to a lack legal certainty and security, both for women as well as for health care workers.”

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Daily Catholic newspaper makes its debut online

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - On New Year's Day, California Catholic Daily, an independent Catholic newspaper, went online at

California Catholic Daily is the successor to four monthly print newspapers: San Diego News Notes, Los Angeles Catholic Mission, San Francisco Faith and the Spanish-language La Cruz de California. The monthly print editions ceased publication at the end of November, and were merged into a single daily digital newspaper, which published its first issue online Jan. 1.

According to editor Bob McPhail, editorial content will be updated daily. The California Catholic Daily also features free classified ads, a free calendar section, a blog entitled "Notes from a Cultural Madhouse," and a regular column on day-to-day pro-life activities. It also has a section in Spanish.

The digital newspaper has articulated as its mission “to speak out against the false gods and idols of the day – materialism, hedonism, consumerism, narrow nationalism... holding up for all to see a body of moral truth based on human dignity and rights... and unconditional respect for all human life from conception to natural death.”

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Pope Baptizes new babies on Feast of Baptism of the Lord

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - Celebrating the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI baptized 13 newborn babies from various countries and remarked at the tremendous gift of life of which a newborn child reminds mankind.
"Each child born," said the Holy Father in his homily, "brings to us the smile of God and invites us to recognize that life is His gift, a gift that must be accepted with love and protected with care, always and at all times."
"Each child born is entrusted by God to its parents. How important, then, is the family founded upon marriage! The cradle of life and of love."
After highlighting the fact that "Baptism is adoption and assumption into the family of God, in communion with the Holy Trinity," the Pope affirmed that newborns, "from being children of human parents, become also children of God in the living Son of God."
"In Baptism we are adopted by the heavenly Father," said Pope Benedict, "but in His family there is also a mother, the Mother Church."
"Christianity is not just a spiritual reality, an individual reality, a simple subjective decision that I take, but something real, something concrete, perhaps even something material. The family of God is built within the concrete reality of the Church."
The Holy Father called upon the parents and godparents of the children just baptized to teach them "to pray and to feel themselves to be active members of the real family of God, of the ecclesial community."
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of that Catechism, ... could prove an extremely useful and exact tool to help you to grow in your own knowledge of Catholic faith, and to transmit it fully and faithfully to your offspring. Above all, do not forget that it is your testimony, your example, that has the greatest influence on the human and spiritual growth of ... your children."
Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square after the Mass, the Holy Father pointed out the close relation between the Baptism of Jesus and the Baptism of each Christian.
"Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which closes the period of Christmas," he said, pointing out that the Baptism is mentioned, in different ways, in all the Gospels. "It was, in fact, part of the Apostles' preaching, because it constituted the starting point of the entire arc of deeds and words to which they were called to bear witness."
Jesus' Baptism was extremely important for the apostolic community, "not only because then, and for the first time in history, the mystery of the Trinity was made manifest clearly and completely, but also because with that event Jesus' public ministry began. ... The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan anticipates His Baptism of blood on the Cross and symbolizes the entire sacramental activity with which the Redeemer would achieve the salvation of humanity."
The Holy Father recalled that "this Feast is, after Easter, the oldest," and indicated how "there is a close correlation between the Baptism of Christ and our own Baptism. In the Jordan, heaven opened to show that the Savior has opened the way of salvation, and we can follow it thanks to the new birth 'of water and the Spirit' that comes about in Baptism. In Baptism we are inserted into mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, we die and are born again in Him, we cloth ourselves in Him. ... The duty that arises from Baptism is, then, that of 'listening' to Jesus, believing in Him and following Him obediently, doing His will." 

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Christ’s message is one of hope and light, Pope says on Epiphany

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - Presiding at Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI said that there is nothing to fear in Christ’s message and remarked that failure on the part of Christians is an indicator that “the light is Christ, and the Church reflects that light only by remaining united to Him.”
In his homily, the Holy Father affirmed that the Epiphany is "the 'manifestation' of Christ to peoples," who "are represented by the Magi, the mysterious pilgrims from the East. We celebrate Christ, the goal of peoples' pilgrimage in search of salvation".
"Who," the Pope asked, "are the Magi today? How, our minds upon the modern world, can we interpret these mysterious gospel figures?" To answer this question, he considered Vatican Council II which, he said, was moved "by the desire to announce Christ, light of the world, to modern humanity," and which identified "the need to create a new political and economic world order, and at the same time and above all a spiritual and cultural order, in other words a renewed humanism."
At the beginning of the third millennium, characterized by the phenomenon of globalization, said the Holy Father, there is a risk of losing sight of this challenge, "a risk greatly reinforced by the immense growth of the mass media which, although on the one hand they immeasurably increase our sources of information, on the other they seem to weaken our capacity to achieve a critical overview."
Recalling the final messages of Vatican Council II, the Pope indicated that the first was addressed to rulers and the second to men of thought and science, "two categories of people," he said, "that in some way correspond to the gospel figures of the Magi." To them, he went on, "it is today more than ever necessary to add the representatives of the great non-Christian religious traditions, inviting them to contemplate the light of Christ, Who came not to abolish but to bring to fruition what the hand of God had written in the religious history of civilizations, especially in the 'great souls' who contributed to building humanity with their wisdom and their exemplary virtue. Christ is light, and light cannot obscure but only illuminate, clarify and reveal.
"Therefore," he concluded, "let no one be afraid of Christ and of His message! And if in the course of history Christians, being imperfect and sinful, have sometimes betrayed Him with their behavior, this highlights even more the fact that the light is Christ, and the Church reflects that light only by remaining united to Him."

Following the Mass, the Holy Father also greeted the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, pointing out how the Gospel of Matthew lays great emphasis on the Epiphany, a vitally important event because it marks the beginning of the conversion of "pagan peoples to faith in Christ. ... If, then, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds of Bethlehem represent the people of Israel who welcomed the Lord, the Magi are the 'first fruit' of the Gentiles, also called to become part of the Church, the new people of God, no longer based on ethnic, linguistic or cultural homogeneity, but solely on shared faith in Jesus, the Son of God.
"For this reason," he added, "the Epiphany of Christ is at the same time the epiphany of the Church, in other words the expression of her vocation and universal mission." Benedict XVI then went on to greet "our brothers and sisters of the Oriental Churches who, following the Julian calendar, will celebrate Christmas tomorrow." He also recalled the fact that today is the World Day of Missionary Children, "the feast of Christian children who live the gift of faith with joy and pray that the light of Christ may reach all children in the world.

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Lay groups back decision of bishop to resist Muslim attempts share use of Cordoba Cathedral

Cordoba, Spain, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - Various Catholic lay organizations in Spain have expressed their complete support of the actions of Bishop Juan Jose Asenjo of Cordoba, who is resisting pressure from Muslims seeking to force the Catholic Cathedral to be used as a mosque.

The president of the Muslim Assembly of Spain, Mansur Escudero, has been pressuring authorities to turn the Cathedral of Cordoba into a “multi-religious” center where Muslims can pray towards Mecca.

In response to Bishop Asenjo’s resistance, Escudero held a press conference on January 1 outside the Cathedral during which he publicly prayed that God would “soften the bishops’ heart.”

Victoria Briceño, president of Catholic Action in Cordoba, told the Spanish daily ABC that the organization is in complete agreement with the bishop and that Escudero “should have done the same with the imams who won’t allow the ‘infidels’ (Christians) to enter mosques.”  She chided the Muslim leader for his publicity stunt and said, “It’s not necessary to call journalists in order to pray.”

Juan Jose Primo Jurado, president of the organization Nocturnal Adoration in Spain, told ABC, “The first step towards coexistence is mutual respect.  The freedom and ease with which Muslims can practice their faith in traditionally Christian countries, including Spain, is not extended to Christians in Islamic countries,” he said.

Msgr. Santiago Gomez Sierra, vicar general of the Cordoba diocese, said Escudero’s request was “disproportionate” and reiterated the differences between how Muslims are treated in the West and how Christians are treated in Muslim countries.  He called attempts to pressure the Church “sad…disproportionate and unjust.”

“As part of a minimum of reciprocity, Muslims should also think about how they respect religious freedom where they are the majority,” Msgr. Gomez said.

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Pro-family activists in Spain demand plan to increase birthrate

Madrid, Spain, Jan 8, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Institute For Family Policy in Spain, Eduardo Hertfelder, said last week the drastic decline in child births and the increase in abortions that have left Spain with the lowest birthrate in Europe require urgent action on the part of the government.

“This situation, which can truly be classified as an authentic social catastrophe, requires the development of a National Plan of Support for Childbirth,” Hertfelder stated.  

Such a plan, he added, should be based on several fundamental principles, including an increase in public and private aid and the creation of health care centers for pregnant women, as well as increased tax breaks and low-interest loans for families with children.

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