Archive of January 21, 2008

Slain Filipino “martyr” praised by Pope, bishops, friends

Zamboanga City, Philippines, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - Father Jesus Reynaldo Roda, a missionary in the Southern Philippines murdered by armed men suspected of links to al-Qaeda, won praise for his courage around the world, MindaNews reports.

Father Roda, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, was serving at Notre Dame of Tabawan School as part of a humanitarian mission.  On January 15, armed men forced their way into the school chapel in which the priest was praying.  The priest resisted their kidnapping attempt, and was shot and killed.

According to a letter from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Benedict XVI was “saddened” over the “brutal and tragic killing” of the priest.

"Paying tribute to the courage and faithfulness shown by this generous priest in his ministry as head of Notre Dame School, his Holiness commends Father Roda's example to priests and people throughout the region, and especially to the young," Cardinal Bertone said.

“Fr. Rey is a martyr, a great missionary… His death is a beautiful reminder for all of us of a true commitment and strength to the calling of our service (to God),” said Archbishop Romulo G. Valles, Archbishop of Zamboanga City, in his homily during a Friday evening mass and vigil held at a chapel in the Zamboanga Metropolitan Cathedral.

Father Antonio Moreno, president of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Zamboanga University, called for a “speedy but thorough investigation” into the priest’s killing.  He spoke on behalf of an association of private schools, of which Notre Dame of Tabawan is a member.

“He was a very good person, helpful and kind especially to the poor,” said the priest’s co-worker, Oscar Pulay, Sr., principal of Notre Dame of Tabawan.
Pulay told MindaNews that the people of Tabawan “lost a father.”  He said that the priest sponsored many students who are now studying at different universities.

“He was a simple person but serious in life and had a big heart for the people of Tabawan,” said Father Roda’s friend and seminary classmate Father Raul Biyasbas in his testimony at the cathedral.
“He would rather sacrifice himself as long as [it was] for the good and welfare of his people,” he added.

Father Roda’s remains will be buried at an OMI cemetery on January 23.  Two other OMI clerics, including a bishop, have been killed in the region.

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Notre Dame law prof endorses McCain as “best pro-life choice” for president

South Bend, Ind., Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - Dr. Gerard V. Bradley, a prominent law professor at Notre Dame University, has endorsed Arizona Republican Senator John McCain for president.  Bradley also revealed that the senator has moved to a more consistent pro-life position on embryonic stem cell research.

Professor Bradley, an expert in both constitutional law and the role of religion in law, is the current president of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

Writing Friday in an essay at National Review Online, Bradley referenced McCain’s support for the Born Alive Infants’ Protection Act, which prohibited partial-birth abortion.  Bradley noted staunch pro-life Kansas Senator Sam Brownback has also endorsed McCain’s candidacy.

Though McCain has supported destructive research on surplus embryos originally created for IVF treatments, the Notre Dame professor believes McCain has reconsidered this support after having face-to-face conversations with Bradley.  “Now he realizes that there is no need to exploit ‘spare’ embryos, in light of recent successes with adult cells. And so he has been telling South Carolinians over the last few days,” Bradley wrote. John McCain’s campaign website does not note such a shift.

Bradley also noted McCain’s consistent opposition to torture as a reason for his support, writing, “all torture raises questions about the meaning of human dignity and the immunity of all persons against unjustified physical attack. In other words, torture is a life issue, too.”  Bradley wrote that, to his knowledge, McCain is the only Republican candidate to have clearly rejected torture.

Recounting the McCains’ 1993 adoption of a child from a Bangladesh orphanage run by Mother Teresa, Bradley noted that they had rescued another child, who was adopted by best friends of the couple.  Speaking of Senator McCain’s wife Cindy, Professor Bradley said, “While she was touring the facility, Mother Teresa unexpectedly said to her (in so many words): ‘If you do not take those two babies with you, now, they could die right here. But you can save them.’ Cindy McCain did.”  This, Bradley thought, was further evidence of Senator McCain’s pro-life qualifications.

Senator McCain has said his models for Supreme Court Justices are Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.  Both are noted opponents of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the United States.  Bradley believed this means McCain will appoint a justice who will vote to overturn the decision.  Such an appointment is vital, Bradley claimed, because if the court soon revisits the Roe v. Wade decision and does not overrule it, the court will not consider the case again for “a very long time.”

In discussing other Republican candidates, Bradley conceded the solidity of Governor Mike Huckabee’s pro-life convictions and he said he did not question the sincerity of Governor Mitt Romney’s present pro-life stand.  Bradley thought the senator’s experience made him the better candidate.  “Being battle-hardened in defense of life is a real plus,” he wrote.

Senator McCain “has demonstrated himself to be the best pro-life choice,” Bradley concluded.

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Lambs blessed by Benedict XVI on feast of St. Agnes

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - This morning in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, in keeping with the tradition for today's feast of St. Agnes, the Pope today blessed two lambs, the wool of which will be used to make the palliums bestowed on new metropolitan archbishops on June 29, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

The pallium is a white woolen band embroidered with six black crosses which is worn over the shoulders and has two hanging pieces, front and back. Worn by the Pope and by metropolitan archbishops, the pallium symbolizes authority and expresses the special bond between the bishops and the Roman Pontiff.

St. Agnes of Rome was held in high regard in the early Church for her virginity and her heroism under torture at a very young age (12-13). Her martyrdom has been celebrated on January 21 since at least 354 A.D. and her praises have been sung by the likes of St. Augustine and St. Ambrose.


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Benedict XVI meets with presidents of Togo and East Timor

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - In the past few days, the Holy Father has been engaged in diplomatic meetings with the presidents of the Republic of Togo and East Timor to discuss the happenings in their respective countries.

While meeting with Faure Gnassingbe, the president of the Republic of Togo on Saturday, the Pontiff discussed the strong relations “that exist between the Holy See and Togo, with particular emphasis on the contribution Catholics make to the integral progress of the Togolese people. The need to achieve complete national reconciliation was underlined as was the urgent importance of bringing aid to the numerous refugees and victims of last October's floods.”

Pope Benedict also met with the President of the Republic of East Timor Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta to discuss the “cooperation between the Catholic Church and the State in the fields of education, healthcare, and the struggle against poverty.”

“The political and social situation of the country was also examined, with particular emphasis given to the process of national reconciliation and to the support of the international community for the consolidation of democratic institutions.”

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Pope names St. Paul as the “patron” of the Synod on Holy Scripture

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - Upon receiving the participants of the Sixth Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod, who are preparing for the next meeting on the Holy Scripture, the Pope recalled that the event will coincide with the Year of St. Paul. 

Pope Benedict noted that the Synod, which will take place this October “will reflect on the ‘Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church.’  The great tasks facing the ecclesial community in the modern world (and among the many I particularly stress evangelization and ecumenism) are centered on the Word of God and, at the same time, draw from there their justification and support.”

The Holy Father continued, “Just as the Church's missionary activity ... finds its inspiration and its goal in the Lord's merciful revelation, so ecumenical dialogue cannot base itself on the words of human wisdom or on skillful strategies, but must be animated exclusively by constant reference to the original Word, which God consigned to His Church to be read, interpreted and lived in communion.”

”In this context, St. Paul's doctrine reveals a particular strength, clearly founded on divine revelation but also on his own apostolic experience which, ever and anew, made it clear to him that not human wisdom and eloquence but only the force of the Holy Spirit builds the Church in faith.”

Benedict XVI also observed that the Synod will coincide with the celebration of the Pauline Year. This meeting, he said, will offer pastors of the Church an opportunity to reflect on “the witness of this great Apostle and Herald of the Word of God. ... May his example be an encouragement for everyone to accept the Word of salvation and to translate it into daily life, in faithful discipleship of Christ.”

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Catholic universities must present the faith, not give in to cultural trends, exhorts Pope

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - Today the Pope received participants of the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Catholic Education and advised them that in their work of reform, they must seek to effectively communicate the Truth in the modern world.


The Holy Father told the gathered academics that it is entirely appropriate that they should consider how Catholic institutions can “incisively and effectively” spread the Gospel.


Faced with an educational crisis, “schools must ask themselves about the mission they are called to undertake in the modern social environment,” the Pope said. Catholic schools, “though open to everyone and respecting the identity of each, cannot but present their own educational, human and Christian perspective,” the Pontiff explained.


The modern context of global society presents Catholic institutions with a “coming together of religions and cultures in the joint search for truth”. This means, "not excluding anyone in the name of their cultural or religious background,” and on the other hand, “not stopping at the mere recognition” of this cultural or religious difference, Benedict XVI reflected.


The Pope also provided the educators with specific recommendations for reform of the ecclesiastical study of philosophy and theology. In the field of philosophy, he asked that changes be made so that the “metaphysical and wisdom-related dimensions of philosophy” are highlighted. “The ecclesiastical disciplines”, he added, “especially theology, are today subjected to new interrogations in a world tempted, on the one hand, by a rationalism which follows a false idea of freedom unfettered by any religious references and, on the other, by various forms of fundamentalism which, with their incitement to violence and fanaticism, falsify the true essence of religion.”


Pope Benedict also raised the possibility of “examining the suitability of reforming the 1979 Apostolic Constitution ‘Sapientia christina’, which serves as the basis upon which to formulate criteria to assess the quality of those institutions, an assessment required by the Bologna Process of which the Holy See has been a member since 2003.


The Pope went on to refer to another theme being examined by the plenary assembly, that of reforming the document “Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis” for seminaries, issued in 1970 and updated in 1985. Any reform, said the Pope, has to take into consideration the situation within the Church as a whole. He also added that, “The formation of future priests must, furthermore, offer them guidance and help to enter into dialogue with contemporary culture.”


The formation of future priests in the human and cultural dimensions must be “significantly reinforced and sustained also with the help of modern sciences, because certain destabilizing social factors that exist in the world today (such as the situation of separated families, the educational crisis, widespread violence, etc.), render new generations fragile”, the Holy Father noted.


The Pope concluded his talk by highlighting the need for “adequate formation in spiritual life so as to make Christian communities, particularly in parishes, ever more aware of their vocation, and capable of providing adequate responses to questions of spirituality, especially as posed by the young. For this to happen, the Church must not lack qualified and responsible apostles and evangelizers.”

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President of Spanish bishops congratulates new Jesuit superior general

Madrid, Spain, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, sent a letter of congratulations to the Society of Jesus for the election of Father Adolfo Nicolas of Spain as the new superior general of the Jesuits.

“The Society of Jesus has an enormous importance and I congratulate you,” Bishop Blazquez.

“I am sure that together with his companions, in communion with the Holy Father, Father Nicolas will be able to carry ahead the mission that the Lord has entrusted to you,” he added. 

Bishop Blazquez recalled that the new superior is from Palencia, a diocese which Bishop Blazquez led from 1992 to 1995. He also quoted St. Teresa of Avila who said that the people of that diocese are “great and noble.”

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Cardinal Pell given Korean "Award for Life"

Seoul, South Korea, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, Cardinal George Pell, was awarded with the "Grand Prix Mysterium Vitae" established by the Archdiocese of Seoul, South Korea.

The award is granted every year to "an international personality who stands out for their support for the cause of life."

The Archdiocese of Seoul said in a statement that one of the reasons why Cardinal Pell was selected for the award was his creation and support of an Australian campus for the John Paul II Institute for Life and the Family.

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Cuban bishop: Church seeks more openings for her mission

Havana, Cuba, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - Speaking to the Spanish news agency EFE, the general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, Bishop Juan de Dios Hernandez Ruiz, said that ten years after the historic visit of John Paul II to the island, there exists a “slow improvement” in relations with the government, but the Church is seeking more opportunities for carrying out her mission of evangelization.

Bishop Hernandez told EFE the Pope’s visit allowed Cubans to know for certain that the Church “was alive,” but he pointed out that there is still a long way to go in order for the Church to fully unfold her mission of evangelization in the country.

Since John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in January 1998, relations between Church and State “have experienced difficult moments but things have moved ahead slowly with both sides increasingly seeking out improvement,” the bishop said.

“In this gradual process in Church-State relations, despite that our counterparts are people who do not have the gift of faith, I have seen an effort to understand the Church’s essence and activity,” he added.

Bishop Hernandez went on to say that 10 years after the Pope’s visit, relations with the State “are experiencing a slow, progressive, gradual process of improvement.”

He noted that while “dialogue has always existed” between the two parties, today it is possible “to express our thoughts and interests in a frank and unambiguous manner.”  “There remains the greatest challenge, however, that of evangelization, of being able to carry out our mission more widely, to bring the gospel to distinct areas of society,” which implies, among other things, greater access to the media, which is state-controlled.

During the interview Bishop Hernandez underscored that he did not intend to “romanticize” or “idealize” the current state of Church-State relations.  “That would certainly be dishonest and insincere,” he said.

“The Church in Cuba is striving to achieve greater openings for her mission, just like in any other part of the world,” the bishop said in conclusion.

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Christian dissident denounces elections in Cuba as illegitimate

Havana, Cuba, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, has issued a statement denouncing Sunday’s elections to the Popular Assembly as illegitimate and insisting on the need for changes to the Cuban electoral system to make it authentically democratic.

“For many years we have called for changes in the laws to ensure greater respect for the rights of citizens.  We have especially insisted on a new electoral law, because it is fundamental for people’s exercise of their sovereignty,” Paya said in his statement.

He said the electoral process in Cuba is flawed from the outset because only official government bodies can nominate candidates. “Those who can be elected are not average Cuban citizens but rather only those designated by these Candidacy Commissions,” Paya said.

He called the Cuban electoral process a “joke” and a “violation of the Constitution.”  “Politically speaking it is a grave violation of popular sovereignty, and in terms of ethics it harms the dignity of persons and right of our people to define their lives and their future,” he added.

Regarding yesterday’s elections, the Christian Liberation Movement leader pointed out that “never before has such an intense, disproportionate and at the same time disloyal campaign been carried out.  All of the media paid for by the people has been used to promote a vote that is definitely not an election.  It has truly been ‘marketing’ with artists, athletes and a parade of everything considered to be popular in order to influence the elections,” Paya said.

The Christian Liberation Movement has sent a proposal to the government “supported by more than 25,000 voters” calling for a referendum and new election laws, “which will allow citizens to nominate and elect their congressmen and other representatives at all levels.” 

“We do not have the authority or the intention of telling any Cuban whether to vote or how to vote, but we do have the responsibility and the mission to call on Cubans to act freely, that is, moved by their own consciences, out of honor, out of love of country, of freedom, of neighbor and of the dignity of their children, without fear.  That is liberation,” Paya said in conclusion.

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Presidents of Argentina and Chile hope to celebrate 30 years of peace with the Pope

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - Officials in Argentina and Chile are in discussions with the Holy See about the possibility of President Cristina Fernandez and her Chilean counterpart President Michelle Bachelet holding a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the peace accord between the two countries that was brokered by the Holy See.

This year both nations will commemorate the historic agreement mediated by Cardinal Antonio Samore, who was sent by Pope John Paul II to help prevent a war between the two countries over the ownership of the strategic Picton, Lennox and Nueva islands during the Beagle conflict.

The meeting between the two presidents and the Pontiff, which could take place towards the end of the year, was proposed after it was determined that the initial idea of Pope Benedict XVI visiting the two countries would not be a possibility.

Chile and Argentina are preparing special events to commemorate the role played by Cardinal Samore, considered in both countries to be responsible for preventing an armed conflict between the two heavily Catholic nations.

Both countries recall the words of Cardinal Samore, who uttered the memorable phrase on Christmas Eve of 1978, “I see a small light of hope at the end of the tunnel.”  From that moment on, peace talks proceeded on friendlier terms and a peace treaty was accepted by both countries. The conflict reached a bloodless conclusion when Pope John Paul II presented the final peace treaty in December of 1980.

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Vandals hit Canadian Catholic church

Ottawa, Canada, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - Vandals painted upside-down crosses and anti-Christian slogans on a church in Ottawa on early Sunday morning, the Ottawa Citizen reports.

The slogans, painted in blue on the front and side of St. George’s Roman Catholic Parish, alluded to Satan and Hell.

Though saying the vandalism was disappointing, church pastor Fr. Leonard St. John doubted it was a hate crime.

"The words Satan appears there, and darkness, but a lot of them are misspelled," Father St. John said. "I think it was more vandalism than anything. I think they set out to vandalize the thing and that's just what they put down."

The church has been broken into before and its poor box has been robbed, but it has never before been vandalized.

Father St. John said the graffiti removal would cost hundreds of dollars.

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Cardinal Rouco: abandonment of God is cause of crisis of loneliness

Madrid, Spain, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - During the ordination of Auxiliary Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela said that the abandonment of God in today’s society is the reason for the “radical loneliness” that leads to crises in marriages and families.

During his homily at the Mass of ordination, the cardinal from Madrid stressed that “the idea that ‘God has died’ has left unequivocal signs in contemporary society, among others, that of loneliness in people.”

“There is no human power that can fill the space for God in the consciences of people and, consequently, in the heart and the interior of society,” he added.

“This radical loneliness is the typical malady of today’s society, and it is at the heart of the crises and breakups of marriages and families,” the cardinal said, pointing out that “only God can cure that loneliness.”

Faced with the contemporary situation, during which “times will come in which people will no longer tolerate sound doctrine,” Cardinal Rouco pointed out that “the mission of the bishop is that of proclaiming God, insisting in season and out of season, reprimanding, reproving and exhorting with all patience,” in a reference to the words of St. Paul.

“Only by being true and authentic witnesses of Jesus Christ,” the cardinal continued, and confronting the battle of ideas and the just ordering of society, with “apostolic service to the word of truth and a life a humble love for others can the bishop effectively contribute to making every community of the faithful ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’.” “Only in this way will hope again begin to flourish,” he said.

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Austrian expert: Manipulation of embryonic stem cells no longer necessary

Vienna, Austria, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - Günter Virt, an Austrian expert in moral theology, said this week that given the advances in recent years in the field of adult stem cell research, there is no reason to destroy human embryos. 

Virt said that progress in this area of research and in areas related to the reprogramming of induced adult stem cells means that the importance of embryonic stem cell research has diminished dramatically.

During a conference in Vienna, the moral theologian spoke at the inauguration of a congress on stem cell research organized by the Institute for Ethics and Law in Medicine. He told the congress “the human being is human from the beginning,” that is, from the moment of conception, and therefore the manipulation of embryos is not only medically, but also morally unnecessary. 

Throughout the meeting other experts encouraged the promotion of ethical research with adult stem cells and underscored the urgent need to protect embryos.

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Pauline Year to be ecumenical and full of cultural events

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - As was announced last week, the Press Office of the Holy See released the schedule for the year dedicated to St. Paul today. Running from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, the celebration will focus on rediscovering the person of St. Paul and his teachings, improving unity amongst Christians and pilgrimages to places associated with his life.

At a press conference at the Vatican today, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the archpriest of the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, gave a presentation of the coming year’s events.

He remarked how when Pope Benedict proclaimed the Pauline year to commemorate the second millennium of the birth of the Apostle of the Gentiles he highlighted the ecumenical dimension of the event.  St. Paul "was particularly committed to bringing the Good News to all people, and made prodigious efforts for the unity and harmony of all Christians,” the Holy Father noted.

Cardinal Montezemolo explained how the Pauline year "will provide an occasion" to undertake various activities: "rediscover the figure of the Apostle; reread the numerous Letters he sent to the first Christian communities; relive the early years of our Church; delve deeply into his rich teaching to the 'gentiles'; meditate on his vigorous spirituality of faith, hope and charity; make a pilgrimage to his tomb and to the numerous places he visited while founding the first ecclesial communities; revitalize our faith and our role in today's Church in the light of his teachings; pray and work for the unity of all Christians in a united Church".

Numerous activities are planned at all levels for the Pauline year. On the pastoral level there will be daily ordinary and extraordinary liturgical celebrations, meetings for prayer and the Sacrament of Penance. A cultural religious program has also been developed and includes catecheses on St. Paul, conferences, congresses and concerts.

Artistic tributes to St. Paul and his dedication to the Gospel will also be presented. Exhibitions, publications, postage stamps, the coining of a special medal, the issue of a stamp and a two euro coin by the Governorate of Vatican City State are all in the works for the celebration.

People will also have the opportunity to go on pilgrimages to Pauline sites in and outside of Rome. Within Rome, pilgrims can visit the basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls and find their way through it with a soon-to-be-published guide, which will be available in numerous languages.

The Pauline year will also see the significant academic contribution of a new edition of the Acts of the Apostles and of the Letters of St. Paul.

Finally, the cardinal turned his attention the ecumenical program, ecumenism being an important aspect of the Pauline Year. He announced that the chapel currently used as the baptistery, located between the basilica and the cloister of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, will become the "Ecumenical Chapel, maintaining its characteristic baptismal font but designated as a place in which to offer our Christian brethren a special place for prayer, either within their own groups, ... or together with Catholics, without the celebration of the Sacraments".

This chapel will also be used to house the remains of St. Timothy of Antioch and of other unknown fourth century martyrs, which were discovered in the hypogeum of St. Paul during restoration work on the basilica in 2006.

Cardinal Montezemolo also made public a website under construction that will be constantly updated with information relating to the Pauline Year. The web address is: (currently only available in Italian and French)

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"40 Days for Life" initiative launches second wave after 340 children saved by earlier effort

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2008 (CNA) - A pro-life group has launched a forty-day initiative coinciding with Lent to fast, pray, and reach out to the community to end abortion.

The 40 Days for Life campaign first took place in Fall of 2007.  National campaign director David Bereit said local groups had asked that the next event be scheduled for Lent. 

"Lent is a season of prayer, fasting, repentance and renewal. It is our prayer that the efforts of the thousands of people who will participate in 40 Days for Life in their home towns will touch hearts and minds, save lives, and help mark the beginning of the end of abortion in America," Bereit said.

During the Fall campaign, Bereit reported, over 100,000 people prayed and fasted while more than 22,000 took place in prayer vigils outside abortion centers.  “Abortion facilities experienced sharp setbacks -- some cutting back hours and others closing for days at a time -- and at least 340 innocent children were spared from death by abortion," Bereit said.

Bereit reported that Planned Parenthood had called the numerous actions last Fall “unprecedented assaults,” circulating “crisis” e-mail alerts to raise financial help to counter the event.  He quoted Planned Parenthood national president Cecille Richards, who wrote, "Planned Parenthood is under attack and we need your help to fight back! RIGHT NOW, THE LARGEST ANTI-CHOICE PROTEST WE'VE SEEN IN A VERY LONG TIME [emphasis in the original] is taking place.”  

"Following the tremendous impact experienced during the first wave of 40 Days for Life, we can't wait to see what life-saving results will be accomplished from February 6 until March 16," said Bereit.

The 40 Days for Life website can be found at

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