London, England, Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - A coalition of women's groups and health organizations has criticized a United Nations-sponsored conference dedicated to improving maternal health for its abortion advocacy.
The coalition includes Concerned Women of America, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, and the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In a letter released Saturday, the coalition expresses "profound disappointment and dismay" that the Women Deliver Conference failed to meet its objective of reducing maternal mortality and morbidity. The letter also condemns abortion advocates for distracting the conference from its goals.
"Regrettably, the conference agenda was so preoccupied with promoting the ideology and practice of abortion that the genuine healthcare needs of women and children were virtually ignored in the plenary sessions and overwhelmed in the panel discussions," the letter states.
The women’s advocacy groups pointed to the use of unreliable data to justify legalizing abortion and the inclusion of organizations that have a financial interest in promoting abortion. The Women Deliver organizing committee includes the International Planned Parenthood Foundation and Marie Stopes International.
The coalition's letter accuses the organizing committee of manufacturing a false consensus by ensuring "only the views which reinforced its pre-conceived ideas were represented during the conference."
The coalition concluded their letter by calling on the conference to focus on basic health care, skilled attendants, and emergency obstetrics to promote healthier pregnancies and safer births instead of abortion promotion.
Mosul, Iraq, Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - Two Catholic priests kidnapped more than a week ago in Mosul have been released and are in good health, the Agence France-Presse reports.
Fathers Pius Affas and Mazen Ishoa were kidnapped last Saturday after receiving threats from an unknown group. They were reportedly held for a ransom of one million U.S. dollars, but it is unknown at present whether one was paid.
According to the Rome-based missionary agency Middle East Concern, Syro-Catholic Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa was in charge of negotiating the release of the priests.
Pope Benedict XVI, who had appealed for the priests' freedom the day after the kidnapping, responded to the news of the priests’ release by saying he was “extremely happy on hearing the news” and that he had followed "the recent events closely and with great concern."
The pontiff expressed his hope that their release would be "a sign of peace that we hope is possible to develop" as "events of this kind must not happen again," Vatican Radio reported.
The freed priests have returned to their church in Mosul. Father Affas, a native of Mosul, has been a priest there for forty years.
Iraq's Christians, most of whom are Catholics of the Chaldean Rite, number about one million. Unlike larger groups, they lack a militia of their own to provide security. Islamists and criminal gangs have targeted Christians for killing and kidnapping. They are also bombing some churches and confiscating homes. Many Chaldeans are leaving the country, and their population is believed to have shrunk to half its previous number.
Manila, Philippines, Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - A priest in the Philippines has been officially declared excommunicated for breaking the seal of confession, GMA News reports.
Archbishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon declared that Father Alejandre Galias was under the severest possible Church penalty after investigating an allegation he had violated the secrecy of a confession, which is supposed to be absolutely confidential.
"We found out that he really violated such rule and thus incurred an automatic excommunication," Archbishop Bastes said. He has notified all the dioceses in the Philippines about Father Galias' status.
Under the excommunication, Father Galias is barred from administering or receiving the sacraments and cannot hold any position within the Church. Father Galias has also been accused of running a fraudulent group that poses as a religious community.
Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz explained that the priest would need to appeal to Pope Benedict XVI if he wished to reconcile with the Church. “It requires the Holy Father to lift an excommunication," he said. “It is quite serious." Excommunication is always intended to be primarily a medicinal penalty so that the person who is excommunicated recognizes their error.
New Orleans, La., Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - U.S. Representative Bobby Jindal has won the Louisiana gubernatorial election to become the nation's youngest governor and the first non-white to hold the governorship in Louisiana since Reconstruction. The governor-elect also is a strong Catholic who has authored pamphlets on Catholicism that have drawn the ire of some Protestants.
Jindal had 625,036 votes, 53 percent, with about 92 percent of the vote tallied. His acquisition of the majority of votes avoids a run-off election in November.
A 36 year-old Republican, Jindal is the son of Indian immigrants. He was educated at Oxford and oversaw the Louisiana health department before first running for governor in 2003. His 2007 campaign took advantage of the incumbent governor Kathleen Blanco's perceived failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"My mom and dad came to this country in pursuit of the American dream. And guess what happened. They found the American Dream to be alive and well right here in Louisiana," he said to cheers and applause at his victory party.
Jindal converted from Hinduism to Catholicism in his teens. His faith became an issue in the campaign when opponents launched an advertisement misrepresenting some of his essays explaining his view of Protestantism. The advertising effort tried to stir up anti-Catholic sentiment by focusing on heavily Protestant areas of the state.
, Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - The bishop of Portland, Maine has responded to the controversy over the Portland School Committee's decision to provide contraceptives to children as young as eleven at a public middle school's health clinic.
Bishop Richard J. Malone voiced his sympathy for parents who expressed "outrage and disbelief" at the committee's decision. He lamented the contradictory messages students were receiving from parents and school officials for causing confusion and difficulty among children.
He attacked the decision as flawed on many levels. "It communicates to young people that adults have given up on forming young people in virtues like chastity. It promotes a purely pragmatic response to the moral problem of sexual activity by young people," he said.
Bishop Malone further criticized the new policy as an infringement upon the rights of parents. He called for parents to make their opposition known to the school committee, and he urged the committee to rescind its decision.
Contraceptive access will require initial parental permission to use the health clinic, but parents will not be notified if their children request contraceptives. Area high schools have offered oral contraceptives for years.
Sydney, Australia, Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will arrive at World Youth Day 2008 in Australia aboard the “Sydney 2000”, the largest cruiser in the region, which will be met by seventeen other ships in the Sydney Bay as the Pope arrives for the massive youth event.
Steve Lawrence, Director of the Office for Evangelization and Catechesis of the Australian Bishops, and Father Peter Williams, Director of the Department of Liturgy, explained that Pope Benedict XVI will arrive by ship to the Sydney Bay around 2pm local time and will be welcomed by fourteen ships filled with young people, in addition to dozens of small boats and vessels.
The welcoming ceremony will take pace in Barangoroo where, after a welcoming by the Aborigines, the Festival of Youth will take place. At the conclusion of the Festival, the Holy Father will ride through the streets of Sydney in the Pope mobile.
Regarding the Via Crucis on Friday of WYD week, the fourteen stations will be subdivided into six places symbolic of the city and will be reenacted by some one hundred “actors.” Young people will be able to choose between the six places to participate in the prayers.
The Via Crucis will begin at the Cathedral of St. Mary. The other places chosen for the stations include Domain Park, the Sydney Art Gallery, the Sydney Opera House, Barangoroo Bay and Cockle Bay.
“The selection of various places will allow the greatest number of people and of residents of Sydney to be involved. Evangelization teams have been working for some time to sensitize the people to this moment,” organizers explained.
The key moments of the papal visit will be the vigil and the final Mass at Randwick Race Track. Young people will travel to the track via four different routes, two of which will cover more than 25 kilometers.
Organizers expect more than 300,000 for the Vigil and as many as 500,000 for the final Mass on July 20.
Santiago, Chile, Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - More than 70,000 young people traveled to the Shrine of St. Teresa of the Andes on October 20 in order to renew their commitment to be missionary disciples of Christ and to prepare for World Youth Day 2008.
A special pilgrim cross will visit different cities in Chile until July of 2008, when young people traveling to Australia will take the cross with them to WYD.
“This pilgrimage brings us together as Christians and citizens and calls us to continue giving faithful witness that God is the greatest joy,” said Father Galo Fernandez of the youth apostolate Esperanza Joven.
The pilgrimage was divided into twelve stations at which young people reflected on different aspects of the faith. At midday there was a prayer for Chile, and in the afternoon Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz celebrated a closing Mass.
El Cajon, Calif., Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - It was a relatively quiet day. We had four to five prayer warriors at the clinic praying all four mysteries of the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and one faithful prayer warrior praying in front of the tabernacle at St. Kieran’s.
I was able to give pamphlets and flyers to about 15 people in cars driving in or out of the parking lot. They all were surprisingly receptive when I asked if I could give them information about Planned Parenthood -- the number one abortion provider in the country. I gave them information on contraceptives and messages on chastity and told them that this information would help them make informed choices concerning their bodies and their relationships, however I could not get into too much discussion because their cars would be blocking the driveway. About three drivers would not roll down their windows or the driver would look the other way as I approached them.
I did have a good discussion with a young lady passerby named Isla. I gave her the information and asked if she had a boyfriend. She said she did and that she hoped to marry him. I told her that her chances of having a successful marriage would be better if they did not have sex until they were married. She said that, although they were living together, that's exactly what they were doing. I hope I was able to encourage her to help maintain that commitment until they married.
All in all, the morning went well and with the prayer warriors and their signs, the drivers passing by once more had the opportunity to consider the question of abortion.
Original story can be found at California Catholic Daily.
Panama City, Panama, Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - The organization “Alliance for Life and the Family” in Panama has sponsored a new bill that would counteract a controversial “sexual guide” that promotes sexual promiscuity and even bestiality. The group’s proposed measure would instead strengthen the institution of the family as a system of education.
The members of the organization attended a hearing of the congressional Committee on Education this week in order to promote the importance and viability of the proposed law. Juan Francisco De La Guardia of the Panamanian Institute for Family Education, explained that the measure was first presented a few weeks ago by Representative Vladimir Herrera. He said it would stipulate that the family participate in all decisions regarding the education of their children, especially in the area of sexuality.
“Currently there is a rough draft that would be used to establish sexuality guides that are not in agreement with our customs and principles,” De La Guardia explained. He said the contents of these guides, which include material favorable to homosexual relations and even relations with animals, would be incapable of fulfilling the objective for which they were supposedly created, which is the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and of AIDS.”
“We think it is exactly the opposite, that they promote promiscuity, they destroy the authority of parents and confuse our children,” he stated.
The new measure would strengthen the role of the family as the primary educator of children and would establish the creation of a special commission on sexual education made up of parents and civil leaders.
Paris, France, Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, warned this week of the difficulties posed by inter-religious dialogue with Muslims, since they “do not accept discussions about the Koran, because they say it was written under the dictates of God.”
In an interview with the French daily La Croix, Cardinal Tauran said that currently inter-religious dialogue can take place “with some religions, yes. But with Islam, not at this time. Muslims do not accept discussion about the Koran, because they say it was written under the dictates of God. With such an absolutist interpretation, it’s difficult to discuss the contents of the faith.”
Referring to the recent letter sent by 138 Muslim leaders to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders about inter-religious dialogue, Cardinal Tauran said, “If believers were consistent with their faith, the world could be different. Because wars are not caused by religions, but by men,” he said.
The cardinal noted that religions are often attacked because terrorists use them to justify their actions. “Religion inspires fear, therefore, because it is perverted by terrorism,” as in the case of Muslim extremists.
Catholics should not hide what they stand for, but should rather “clearly manifest what we believe.” The cardinal also said that Catholics should be able to find common ground with Muslims in the areas of respect for human life, the family and the value of religion in education.”
The French cardinal also explained that it is important that “in dialogue between believers, it is stated that what is good for one is good for the other. It should be explained to Muslims, for example, that if they are allowed to have Mosques in Europe, it is normal for churches to be allowed to be built in their countries.”
Cardinal Tauran noted that Benedict XVI “has explained that we share with Muslims and Jews a common treasure which is the Ten Commandments. In addition, the Pope generally explains how our dialogue should be: we should be ready to give an account for the hope that is in us; and on the basis of our common values, we should consider every believer as our neighbor and not as an adversary or competitor.”
Vatican City, Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - Today, the Holy See Press Office announced that the Holy Father met with Francois Bozize, the President of the Central African Republic who was “subsequently going on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.”
"During the cordial discussions consideration was given to questions concerning the situation in the Central African Republic, with particular reference to the peace process and the role played by the Church in the fields of national dialogue, healthcare and education. Mention was also made of the need for the international community's support to help the country overcome poverty and the other difficulties it currently faces."
Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 22, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela has announced its official position regarding the constitutional reform undertaken by President Hugo Chavez, who seeks to turn the country into a Socialist state.
In their exhortation, the bishops warn that the reform plan “harms the fundamental rights of the democratic system and of the human person, endangering freedom and coexistence. We consider it unacceptable in light of the Social Teachings of the Church.”
The bishops went on to note that the Chavez proposals, “due to the radical and profound changes they would bring to the structure of the State, go way beyond reform.” They emphasized that the proposal of a “Socialist State” would violate Venezuela’s Constitution, exclude those with opposing views from the political process and restrict freedoms.
“In this proposed Socialist model, the State and the government would be led by a president who could be continuously re-elected, with extremely wide powers that would allow him control over institutions, property and resources. A Socialist, Marxist, Leninist, Statist model is contrary to the thinking of the liberator Simon Bolivar and is also contrary to the personal nature of the human being and the Christian vision of mankind, because it establishes absolute dominion of the State over the person.”
The bishops pointed out that the experience of other countries that have adopted such systems has led to oppression and the loss of personal freedoms, as well as economic hardships and increased poverty. They also reiterated that the “solution to the drama of poverty, to social injustice and hurtful inequalities is found neither in unrestrained capitalism nor in Marxists Socialism, but in the practice of social justice and effective charity.”