Archive of May 13, 2008

Vatican creates calendars of Benedict XVI and JPII

Vatican City, May 13, 2008 (CNA) - The unofficial Vatican newspaper, “L’ Osservatore Romano” has created two calendars for 2009: one from the pontificate of Benedict XVI and the other from the Servant of God John Paul II’s reign.  Each calendar contains 13 photos chosen from a selection of the finest available close-up images of the two Popes.

The calendars have been produced by the Vatican Publishing House, cost five Euros (approximately $ 7.75) each and may be purchased in the offices of the photographic service of "L’ Osservatore Romano" at the Vatican, or in the main newspaper kiosks and bookshops nearby.

The calendars may also be ordered by e-mail by contacting the address: [email protected] .

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Vatican launches Latin section on its website

Vatican City, May 13, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican website has opened a Latin section for papal texts and religious resources translated into Latin.

The main site at links to the section under the Latin title “Sancta Sedes,” which means “Holy See.”  The section includes the Catechism, the Code of Canon Law, and the documents of the Second Vatican Council in the ancient tongue.

The New Vulgate Latin translation of the Bible, which had been published elsewhere on the Vatican website, is also included in the new section.

Pope Benedict XVI has long advocated the Latin language.  According to the BBC, Pope Benedict addressed cardinals of the Church in Latin shortly after he was elected to the papacy. 

Last year he granted blanket permission for all priests to celebrate the Mass in Latin from the 1962 Missal, which had been largely abandoned after the Second Vatican Council.

He has also encouraged the use of the language in seminaries.

The Pope’s official Latinist, American priest Father Reginald Foster, has long advocated the language.

“It's not like French and some of these philosophical languages where you can write a whole page and say nothing - in Latin you can't do that!” he said, according to BBC News.

Father Foster hosts Vatican Radio’s weekly program “The Latin Lover,” in which he explains the historical and contemporary uses of the language.  He also holds an internationally renowned tuition-free Latin program in Rome for several weeks each summer.

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N. Ireland party leaders united in opposition to expanded abortion license

Belfast, UK, May 13, 2008 (CNA) - The leaders of the four main political parties in Northern Ireland have written to MPs in the British Parliament stating their opposition to extending the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

The action marks the first time all four parties have taken a united stand on a major issue, the BBC News reports. 

The Liberal Democrats in the British Parliament have proposed an amendment that would expand the act’s permissive abortion laws to include Northern Ireland.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, which could include the amendment, was scheduled for a second reading in the House of Commons on Monday.

According to BBC News, Jeffrey Donaldson, chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly's pro-life group, said: "The pro-life group in the assembly thought it would be useful for the four leaders to write to each MP re-stating that position."

"I think it's a very powerful message we have here, four political leaders coming from very diverse political perspectives but united in their view that we do not want the 1967 Act, with all its implications, imposed on Northern Ireland," Donaldson said. 

"The issue of abortion is a matter that should be left to the assembly itself.”

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Bishop of Rockville Centre forbids weekday Communion services

Rockville Centre, N.Y., May 13, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop of Rockville Centre William Murphy has issued a pastoral letter restricting the practice of Communion services at parishes and schools in his diocese.  He said the ban on Communion services would bring the archdiocese into conformity with the liturgical norms of the Church.

Writing in an eight-page letter sent on Friday, Bishop Murphy reflected on the importance of the Eucharist.  "The Eucharist is the greatest gift Jesus left us…  The celebration of the Eucharist gives us our identity as well as our life,” he said.

The bishop said that Communion services, in practice, often sever what he called “the connection between receiving the Sacrament and celebrating the sacrifice.”

“The two go hand-in-hand,” he continued.  “Receiving the Sacrament is the culmination of participating in the sacrifice.”

“There is an inherent interconnection between sacrifice, Real Presence, and Communion,” Bishop Murphy said.

“In the popular mind, all too often the purpose of Mass is still seen as an action simply to consecrate hosts; some people think their participation in the Eucharistic Prayer is all about watching the priest and then receiving Holy Communion,” he wrote.

Bishop Murphy said that the internal “offering” of ourselves both differentiates a Mass from a Communion Service and provides context for the laity’s “full, conscious, and active” participation in the Mass.

He ordered the Communion services in the diocese to end by July 1. Bishop Murphy explained in his letter that the Communion services were originally intended for use on Sundays only in remote, missionary parishes where priests could rarely visit. 

According to Newsday, for the past thirty years, students at the elite Chaminade High School in Mineola, NY could receive Holy Communion during a 15-minute Communion service just before lunch.  Schools like Chaminade have said they conduct the services because they lack the time to celebrate Mass amid classes.  Some schools lack priests to celebrate Mass.

At some parishes in the diocese, church workers hold the services on weekday mornings because no priest is available for Mass.

In his pastoral letter, Bishop Murphy said that in 1997 his predecessor Bishop John Raymond McGann had instituted a moratorium forbidding any new Communion services from being offered on weekdays, though the moratorium allowed parishes with existing services to continue to hold them.

Since that moratorium, Bishop Murphy said, liturgical legislation has clarified that “Celebrations of the Word, especially the use of the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours is encouraged, the distribution of Holy Communion is not a part of such service nor should it be.”

Celebrations of the Word include all of the designated Mass readings for the day but no Eucharistic prayer or consecration.  At Communion services, the Mass readings are followed by the reception of Communion Hosts consecrated by a priest at a previous Mass.

Bishop Murphy said celebrations involving Communion services could no longer be held on weekdays.

“I, as Bishop, am declaring that no weekday Celebrations of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion will be allowed in this Diocese thereby bringing our Diocese into conformity with the liturgical norms of the Church,” he wrote.

“This new policy must not be seen as ‘taking something away’ from the laity,” the bishop insisted.  “All of us are called to offer our proper roles in the Liturgy and none of us is other than servant of the Church when we fulfill any role in the Liturgy”

According to Newsday, several schools and parishes who hold Communion services have said they would follow the bishop’s instructions.  Some, however, said they were disappointed the services would end. 

Others saw the bishop’s letter as an opportunity to reflect on the importance of Holy Communion and to counter its casual reception among some Catholics.

"I think it's positive and something to be embraced," said Father James Williams, president of Chaminade, Newsday reports. "The bishop is the teaching arm of the church."

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Pontifical Council examining plight of immigrants

Vatican City, May 13, 2008 (CNA) - Beginning today the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples is meeting at the Vatican to address how to spiritually provide for emigrant and itinerant families. 

The full council will be meeting at the Vatican from May 13-15 on the theme: "The emigrant and itinerant family."

Cardinal Renato Martino opened the session with an address that pulled together many of the council’s most recently published documents. In his speech, Cardinal Martino showed how the pastoral guidelines of the council should be integrated into the various areas of ministry that it undertakes.

The Pontifical Council is tasked with ensuring that the spiritual needs of those who have been forced to abandon their homeland, as well as to those who have none, are met. The council’s ministry extends to a wide range of people including: emigrants, refugees and displaced persons, foreign students, nomads, circus workers, tourists and pilgrims, seafarers, airport workers, drivers, women and children who live on the streets, and people of no fixed abode.

According to a statement released by the council, the full council consists of 26 prelates, including cardinals, archbishops and bishops from various countries, and 14 consultors. The consultors are also of various nationalities and provide their expertise on the various aspects of human mobility with which the council concerns itself.

Over these days the plenary assembly will hear testimonies from people who work directly with families in certain sectors of human mobility. The testimonies will come from experts who work in Australia, the United States, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Germany.

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Heroic Catholic nurse who saved Jews during WWII dies

Rome, Italy, May 13, 2008 (CNA) - On May 12 Irena Sendler, the courageous Polish Catholic nurse who saved Jewish children from death at the hands of the Nazis, died at the age of 98 in a hospital in Warsaw.

Sendler became known as the angel of the Warsaw ghetto for having saved 2,500 Jewish children from certain death.

During that time she worked for the Warsaw department of social wellbeing which administered the community soup kitchens throughout the city.  She worked tirelessly helping Jews and Catholics.

After the creation of the Warsaw ghetto, Sendler was able to take in the children of many families in order to keep them from being deported to the concentration camps.  She transported the children in ambulances as if they were sick with typhus, she hid them in trash cans, tool boxes, supply chests or coffins and later in convents and Catholic homes.

She created an archive with the real identities of the children so that one day they could be reunited with their surviving family members.

In 1943 she was detained by the Gestapo and taken to prison where she was brutally tortured.  A Divine Mercy holy card was found in her cell with the phrase, Jesus I trust in you, which she kept until 1979 when she gave it to John Paul II as a gift.

She never betrayed her mission and she was sentenced to death, but she was freed thanks to the intervention of the Polish resistance.

At the end of the war she was able to recover her archives. Although most of the families of the children she saved had died in the concentration camps, she placed many of the children in orphanages, and some were sent to Palestine.

In 1965, the organization Yad Vashem of Jerusalem granted her the title righteous among the nations.  During the last years of her life she received the thanks of the children she had saved, and was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Pro-life movements to propose amending Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Rome, Italy, May 13, 2008 (CNA) - A coalition of European pro-life and family organizations, led by the Italian organization Movement for Life, will present a proposal to amend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to include recognition of the rights of the unborn.

Carlo Casini, president of Movement for Life, said on Monday after a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI that various pro-life groups in Europe will present the petition called “For The Sake of Life and the Dignity of Man” in December to a host of European institutions, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

The proposal would amend the declaration to recognize the right to life of the unborn and would acknowledge marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

“We think the Magisterium of the Pope should be translated into works that have a far outreach and firm conviction, especially now as we mark 30 years of legal abortion in Italy,” Casini said.

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Believing in aliens not opposed to Christianity, Vatican’s top astronomer says

Vatican City, May 13, 2008 (CNA) - The Director of the Vatican's Observatory, Fr. José Gabriel Funes, said in an interview with the Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano, that believing in the possible existence of extraterrestrial  life is not opposed to Catholic doctrine.

The 45-year-old Argentinean priest heads the Vatican Observatory, founded by Pope Leo XIII with offices at Castelgandolfo, near the Apostolic summer palace, and another in Tucson, Arizona. Fr. Funes has been in charge of the Observatory since August 2006.

The astronomer began the interview titled, "The Alien is my Brother," by saying that, "Astronomy has a profound human value. It is a science that opens the heart and the mind. It helps us to put our lives, our hopes, our problems in the right perspective. In this regard, and here I speak as a priest and a Jesuit, it is an apostolic instrument that can bring us closer to God", said Fr. Funes in the interview. 

Regarding the beginning of the universe, Fr. Funes says that he personally believes that the "big bang" theory seems to him the most plausible, and that it does not contradict the Bible. "We cannot ask the Bible for a scientific answer here. At the same time, we don't know if in a near future the 'Big Bang' theory will be superseded by a more complete and precise explanation of the origin of the universe."

When he was asked about the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the Director of the Vatican Observatory responded that "it is possible, even if until now, we have no proof. But certainly in such a big universe this hypothesis cannot be excluded."

Asked is he sees a contradiction between the Catholic faith and believing in aliens, he said, "I think there isn't (a contradiction). Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures over the earth, so there could be other beings, even intelligent (beings), created by God. This is not in contradiction with our faith, because we cannot establish limits to God's creative freedom. To say it with St. Francis, if we can consider some earthly creatures as 'brothers' or 'sisters', why could we not speak of a 'brother alien'? He would also belong to the creation."

Fr. Funes says that taking the image of the lost sheep in the Gospel, "we could think that in this universe there can be 100 sheep, equivalent to different kinds of creatures. We, belonging to human kind could be precisely the lost sheep, the sinners that need the shepherd. God became man in Jesus to save us. In that way, assuming that there would be other intelligent beings, we could not say that they need redemption . They could have remained in full friendship with the Creator."

"But if they were sinners?" L'Osservatore's journalist asks.

"Jesus became man once and for all. The Incarnation is a single and unique event. So I am sure that also they, in some way, would have the chance to enjoy God's mercy, just as it has happened with us human beings."

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Courageous Catholic convert who denounced Nazi barbarism chronicled

Rome, Italy, May 13, 2008 (CNA) - Fritz Michael Gerlich, a German convert to Catholicism, systematically denounced the Nazi barbarism and Hitler for over 13 years.  After his arrest, he was sent to the concentration camp of Dachau where he was killed. Now, two authors recount his story in the book, “A Journalist Against Hitler.”

In the latest edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Gaetano Vallini chronicles Gerlich’s story, explaining that in 1923 while working for the newspaper "Münchener Neueste Nachrichten", Gerlich denounced “one of the most serious betrayals in German history,” referring to Hitler’s failed attempt to take power on November 8 of that year.

Gerlich said Hitler was an “idiot,” but a dangerous one, because he knew how to manipulate others into doing what he wanted them to do.  In 1927, Gerlich’s life took an unexpected turn.  Used to living as an agnostic, he met Therese Neumann—who died in 1962 and whose cause for beatification is in process.  She was known for bearing the stigmata and for having survived for 35 years without food or water, living only on the Eucharist.  Through his encounter with her, Gerlich embraced the faith and was baptized on September 29, 1931, taking the name of Michael.

Gerlich was not allowed to express his opinions in his articles and so he decided to found a new publication entitled "Illustrierter Sonntag", in which he continued to criticize Hitler. After this publication was closed down, he founded “Der gerade Weg” in 1932, in which he warned of the coming barbarism of Hitler.

In one of his more outspoken editorials he described Hitler as full of hatred and surrounded by a group of people “who all share one common objective: the desire to destroy.”

He also warned of the Nazi’s anti-Semitic plans to proclaim “a new religion on the basis of the myth of race.”  As the elections were held which put Hitler in power, Gerlich wrote: “Those who don’t vote today assume a grave responsibility before God, their children and their children.  And moreover we say: it is the duty of every Catholic to vote for the parties that defend the eternal principles of the Church.”

On March 9, 1933, he was arrested, despite his plan to flee to Switzerland.  “I am ready to respond with my life for what I have written. I will not retract.  I am a Catholic,” he proclaimed.

Fritz Michael Gerlich was killed at the Dachau concentration camp on June 30, 1934.

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Maryknoll missionary follows in steps of missionary bishop in North Korea

Rome, Italy, May 13, 2008 (CNA) - L'Osservatore Romano published an article this week on the apostolic work of the Maryknoll priest Gerard Hammond, a missionary in North Korea who is following in the footsteps of American Bishop Patrick Byrne, who served in Korea and Japan during and after World War II.

Father Gerard Hammond has visited North Korea 30 times to bring humanitarian aid.  He is a member of the delegation that the Eugene Bell Foundation sends to the country two times a year to distribute medicine to fight tuberculosis.

Going to North Korea is “like participating in a pilgrimage, because that land is holy,” Father Hammond said. He said his inspiration has been the work of Bishop Patrick Byrne.

While still a priest in Japan, Father Byrne was the director of the Maryknoll mission in Kyoto. During World War II, despite being from the United States, the government allowed him to continue his apostolic work.  He later became a mediator between the U.S. and Japan in order to prevent violence in the Japanese territories occupied by U.S. forces.

With the approval of then-Archbishop Pietro Doi of Tokyo, Father Byrne contacted U.S. troops who were aboard the U.S.S. Missouri that was heading towards the Japanese capital.  He urged the Americans to exercise restraint, “a message the U.S. troops heeded as they took control of the territory without a single shot,” L’Osservatore reported.

As bishop, Byrne was arrested in 1949 in Korea.  He died from pneumonia in 1950 at the age of 73 near the Yalu River, during “the march of death” of prisoners who were deported after the military occupation of Seoul.

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Chinese Catholics begin recovery from devastating earthquake

Chengdu, China, May 13, 2008 (CNA) - After a massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake on Monday, priests in the devastated southwestern province of Sichuan are trying to help survivors and assess the extent of damage and loss of life in their communities. Bishops and priests are asking for relief aid and prayers, while Catholic organizations are soliciting donations to help quake victims.

China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs said at a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday afternoon that the quake has killed 11,921 people and destroyed 500,000 buildings in Sichuan and its neighboring provinces.

Local priests told UCA News that information is still incomplete, in part because telephone systems were disrupted and roads damaged.  They confirmed at least one church collapsed and dozens of others were partially damaged by the earthquake, which measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.

Father Simon Li Zhigang, administrator of the Diocese of Chengdu, told UCA News that he could not reach by phone the priests in Wenchuan, where there are about 100 Catholics, or Beichuan, where there are several hundred.

The priest said that a layman who worked at a church in Mianzhu was killed by falling rocks and debris, while two other laypeople were seriously injured.  Two churches in the diocese had partially collapsed, while one was completely flattened.  Another thirty have been damaged.

In the Diocese of Nanchon, about 150 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, Sister Wang Yan told UCA News that the activities room added to their church building shook for seven minutes, casting almost everything to the floor. 

“I thought it was the end of the world,” she said.

Dozens of laypeople were staying in the wood-built Nanchong city church because they feared sleeping in their damaged brick houses, she said.

Father Xie Bangyong in the Diocese of Chongquing said that priests had divided into groups to see if area Catholics were safe and to assess damage to old churches.  All priests, nuns, and laypeople were safe, he said, though a non-Catholic church maintenance worker’s leg was broken during the quake.  Fissures had also appeared in some old churches.

Auxiliary Bishop Paul He Zeqing of Wanzhou said that a residence for priests and another for nuns in Liangping had become unsafe.  “Other churches, all newly built, are not affected,” he said.

Bishop He led Catholics in prayer for the quake victims at the Tuesday morning Mass.  He also urged them to donate to relief efforts.

In eastern China, the Diocese of Shanghai has donated 1 million yuan, about $143,000, for earthquake relief.  Bishop of Shanghai Aloysius Jin Luxian directed all parish priests to pray for victims and survivors during special Eucharistic Adoration sessions scheduled for Sunday.  He also told parish priests to donate Mass collections for that day to relief efforts.

Underground Bishop Joseph Wei Jingyi, from Qiqihar in the northeastern Heilongjiang province, wrote and circulated a prayer he wrote asking God to look after those spiritually and physically wounded by the disaster.

In southern China, the Tianrun Service in the Diocese of Jiangmen urged Catholics through its website to donate medical aid, clothes, tents and money it said it would send through the government's civil affairs department or other charity organizations, UCA News reports.

The northern China-based Jinde Charities, a national Catholic non-governmental organization, has also appealed on its website for prayers and donations for earthquake survivors.

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Catholic League declares end to Rev. Hagee controversy

, May 13, 2008 (CNA) - An apologetic letter sent by the Texas pastor Rev. John Hagee to the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has put an end to the controversy surrounding his alleged anti-Catholic views, the Catholic League said on Tuesday.

Hagee had been criticized for reportedly calling the Catholic Church “The Great Whore,” an “apostate church,” the “anti-Christ,” and a “false cult system.”  He had also accused the Catholic Church of nurturing anti-Semitism.  Hagee repeated allegations of Pope Pius XII’s indifference to Nazism and linked Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitism to his Catholic education.

Hagee’s views became a national issue after he endorsed Arizona Senator John McCain’s bid to become the Republican presidential nominee.

In a May 12 letter to the Catholic League and its president Bill Donohue, Rev. Hagee said he was writing to “clarify my views” and “advance greater unity between Catholics and Evangelicals.”

“I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful,” he wrote.  “After engaging in constructive dialogue with Catholic friends and leaders, I now have an improved understanding of the Catholic Church, its relation to the Jewish faith, and the history of anti-Catholicism.”

He said that in his zeal to oppose anti-Semitism, he had concentrated on the “darkest chapters” in the history of Catholic and Protestant relations with Jews.  He acknowledged that he may have contributed to the “mistaken impression” that the anti-Jewish violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition “defines the Catholic Church.”

“It most certainly does not,” Hagee declared.  He said he had not sufficiently expressed his admiration for Catholics who opposed the persecution of Jews and he cited the work of Rabbi David Dalin, who praises Pope Pius XII’s personal intervention in saving Jews during World War II.

Rev. Hagee said he now better understood how references to the Catholic Church as the “great whore” and the “apostate church” have been used in classic anti-Catholic rhetoric.  He said that his interpretation of such phrases teaches that such a church appears only “during the seven years of tribulation after all true believers – Catholic and Protestant – have been taken up to heaven.”

“I pledge to address these sensitive subjects in the future with a greater level of compassion and respect for my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ,” he said.

CNA has learned that a lunch at Les Halles hosted by Rev. Hagee proved to be a crucial turning point for bringing about the reconciliation. Those present for the luncheon included, Russell Shaw, Robert Reilly, Sen. Tom Coburn, several other well-known Catholics, David Brog, the head of Christians United for Israel and Mr. and Mrs. Hagee.

One of the attendees, Deal Hudson, explained to CNA that, "This lunch at Les Halles in Washington DC illustrates the point from my book that Catholics and Evangelicals need to recognize their de facto partnership, protect it, and nurture it."

"Pastor Hagee should be congratulated for seeking this reconciliation with Catholics. His humility and generosity point the way for all Christians who want to continuing working together to build a culture of life. Christians cannot allow themselves to be divided at such an important time in the history of our nation. Pastor Hagee recognized the necessity of overcoming this division and reached out to Bill Donahue who graciously accepted his expression of regret. John Hagee is obviously a man who puts his faith before political squabbles," Hudson added.

Bill Donohue replied to Hagee’s letter in a Tuesday statement, saying Hagee “has pledged to provide a more complete and balanced portrayal going forward that will not reinforce mischaracterizations of the Catholic Church.”

“The tone of Hagee’s letter is sincere. He wants reconciliation and he has achieved it. Indeed, the Catholic League welcomes his apology. What Hagee has done takes courage and quite frankly I never expected him to demonstrate such sensitivity to our concerns. But he has done just that. Now Catholics, along with Jews, can work with Pastor Hagee in making interfaith relations stronger than ever. Whatever problems we had before are now history. This case is closed,” Donohue said.

The Associated Press reached John McCain for comment while he was campaigning in Washington state. He described Hagee's apology as "very helpful." “Whenever somebody apologizes for something they did wrong, then I think that that's a laudable thing to do," he added. When McCain was asked if he or his campaign played a role in brokering Hagee's letter, he just stated: "I certainly wasn't."

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Rally for marriage and the family to be held at Democratic National Convention

Washington D.C., May 13, 2008 (CNA) - Marriage and the family are two issues that are bringing together the Alliance for Marriage Foundation and the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders, who have announced plans for a rally at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this coming August.  

The rally was announced on Wednesday by Matt Daniels, president and founder of the Alliance for Marriage Foundation (AFM), and Mario Paredes, the president of the newly created Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL).

CALL, whose executive board includes San Antonio Archbishop José Gomez and Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, will join prominent national Latino leaders from across the country, including Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, to encourage political leaders to stand up for marriage.

“The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders is committed to being a national voice on social justice issues and to impact the national dialogue and its outcome,” said Paredes. “The future of marriage and family in America is no different. We, in the Latino community, must stand and make our voices heard united as one.”

CALL, which was formed in 2007, is an organization of men and women committed to being a national voice for Catholic, Latino business and professional leaders in the United States.

In a press release announcing the rally, CALL said that, “Latino voters are some of the strongest supporters of AFM’s Marriage Protection Amendment. During Convention Week, Hispanics will rally to encourage political leaders to stand up for marriage.”

AFM also plans to urge Republican leaders at their National Convention in Minneapolis to protect marriage.

“For far too long the votes of Latinos have been taken for granted by Republicans and Democrats,” said Rev. Sam Rodriguéz, who serves as an advisory board member for AFM. “As our numbers grow, our influence is growing, and it is time for leaders of both political parties to put protecting marriage and strong family values at the center of their agenda,” he said.

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