Lagos, Nigeria, Sep 4, 2008 (CNA) - Father John Mark Ikpiki, a prominent Catholic priest, was killed by armed robbers in Nigeria on Monday in what was described as a shocking and dehumanizing crime.
Father Louis Odudu, the Director of Pastoral Affairs at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, said robbers shot Father Ikpiki and stole his car. Father Odudu reported the assailants abandoned the car sometime later, according to an e-mail CNA received from Catholic journalist Peter Dada in Lagos, Nigeria.
Father Ikpiki, a priest of the Diocese of Warri, is described on the diocesan web site as a preacher, an “educationist,” a psychologist, and a communicator. He published the Living Witness Series of educational material to help people to grow in knowledge of God and knowledge of self.
The priest authored more than ten books and offered retreats and seminars for young people.
He held two bachelor degrees in philosophy and theology, one of which was granted by the Urban Pontifical University of Rome. In addition to three master’s degrees in social psychology, educational management, and communication, he held a postgraduate diploma in education.
According to the Diocese of Warri’s web site, Father Ikpiki was diocesan chaplain to the Catholic Dramatic Society and director of communications for the diocese. He edited The Messenger of Peace, the diocese’s magazine.
Father Odudu described the slain priest as very loving, cheerful, and hard working. He was someone God had used to touch several lives, Father Odudu said.
Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 4, 2008 (CNA) - The internet video sharing site YouTube has removed four well-viewed videos which criticize Planned Parenthood, including some featuring Planned Parenthood fundraisers agreeing to process a donation from a donor pretending to have racist motives. The move has prompted Live Action, the pro-life student organization which produced the videos, to charge YouTube with censorship.
The Live Action videos, some of which were the focus of national media attention in the past year, were removed over the past two weeks on the grounds they contain unspecified “inappropriate content.”
“These four videos have received over 160,000 YouTube views in total with the oldest video having been public on YouTube for over seven months,” said Live Action Media Director David Schmidt. “Why are these videos being removed now?" he asked.
"It is discriminatory for YouTube to selectively censor material that clearly does not contain inappropriate content," stated Live Action President Lila Rose in a press release. "We will continue to apply pressure on YouTube until it restores the videos."
In the past, YouTube has censored other pro-life videos. In February 2008 an American Life League video which criticized a Planned Parenthood advertisement was removed on the grounds it had “inappropriate content,” though the original Planned Parenthood advertisement remained posted to YouTube.
On July 2, a CNA video investigating pro-abortion activist Eve Reinhardt was censored by YouTube. After pressure from the Population Research Institute and other supporters, the video was restored on July 4.
Lila Rose told CNA in a Wednesday phone interview that YouTube still had not responded to their inquiries as of Wednesday morning.
“We need to keep those videos up to expose the truth about Planned Parenthood,” she said.
The censored videos are viewable at http://www.liveactionfilms.org/youtube/
Melbourne, Australia, Sep 4, 2008 (CNA) - The Australian Catholic Students Association is condemning a bill in the state of Victoria that will decriminalize abortion up to 24 weeks of development and also force pro-life medical professionals to perform an abortion if the mother’s life is at risk.
The Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008 under consideration in the southeastern state of Victoria will, if passed, decriminalize abortion including abortions performed up until birth as long as two registered medical professionals agree “abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances.” Whether or not an abortion is “appropriate” will depend on “the woman's current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.”
Right to Life Australia also claims on its website that, “The legislation shuts the door on any judge who tries to find a right to life for the unborn baby in the common law. The Bill provides for an amendment to the Crimes Act which states, “Any rule of common law that creates an offence in relation to procuring a woman's miscarriage is abolished.” The Bill enshrines the so called right to abortion completely, and warns judges never to review this ‘right’ to kill babies.”
Elise Nally, President of the Australian Catholic Students Association (ACSA), notes that the Bill does not reflect wider community attitudes to abortion.
"A majority of Australians want to see the number of abortions reduced. Instead, this Bill does the opposite, and sends the message that abortion is the best answer to an unwanted pregnancy. Women in vulnerable positions particularly may find themselves under more pressure to seek abortions under the proposed law,” she noted.
Allowing widespread abortion as a panacea for a woman’s difficult circumstances, Nally argues, produces harmful physical and mental problems for women instead of helping them. "Legislators should be looking at ways to promote alternatives to abortion, such as mandatory counselling. This would also help to prevent vulnerable women being pressured into having abortions," Miss Nally said.
Patrick Giam, ACSA's Media Officer, attacked the portions of the bill that violate mdeical professionals' right to conscientious objection as totally unacceptable.
"Not only does this Bill attack the right to life, which all unborn children deserve, it also attacks doctors' freedom of belief. Even where doctors may have reasoned moral views against abortion, this Bill forces them to assist women to procure abortions and in some cases even perform it themselves. This is a deplorable attack on the freedom of our medical professionals.
"Even the AMA Code of Ethics does not require a medical practitioner to refer a woman seeking abortion to another practitioner. This obligation in the Bill will compromise the ability of our doctors to act in a professional and morally responsible manner," Giam said.
Washington D.C., Sep 4, 2008 (CNA) - At the 2008 Conference on Immigration in Washington D.C., bishops from Mexico and the United States called for immigration reform that respects human rights and the dignity of those affected by violence against undocumented immigrants.
During the conference, which took place July 29-31, the bishops said, “It is urgent that help be given to Central American immigrants who pass through Mexico and to those who manage to cross the border into the United States.
They pointed out that “many people feel forced by extreme poverty to immigrate to the United States to work mainly in agriculture, landscaping, construction and the service industry.”
Leticia Gutierrez of the Mexican Bishops’ Office of Migrant Ministry said kidnappings and violence against Central American immigrants have become more common place in Veracruz and other regions of Mexico.
Rome, Italy, Sep 4, 2008 (CNA) - After 100 years without a new church, the Catholic Community of Lu Dong in the Diocese of Tong Zhou in China celebrated the consecration of two new churches where the faithful can now attend Mass and pray daily.
According to the Fides news agency, on August 4 and 5 Bishop Jose Tong Chang Ping, together with forty priests, presided at the consecrations of the two new churches, one for each of the two towns that comprise the 3,000 strong local Catholic community.
“The celebrations included a large Eucharistic Procession, festivities and fireworks in honor of the Immaculate Conception, to whom the second church was dedicated,” Fides reported.
Since 1995, thanks to the efforts of priests and faithful and with the help of Catholics from other communities, prayer groups, formation centers, a small shrine and a home for the elderly have all been established.
The Diocese of Tong Zhou, a Italian Franciscan mission, currently has 12,000 Catholics, 26 priests, 40 religious and 3 seminarians. Another 20 seminarians are studying and serving in other communities or dioceses. The Diocese administers five clinics and two shelters.
, Sep 4, 2008 (CNA) - A joint statement on marriage has been issued by a group of Orthodox Jewish and Catholic leaders, affirming their faiths’ “shared commitment” to God’s design of marriage between one man and one woman. Challenging efforts to create a “new definition” of marriage, the statement reaffirms the duty of the state to safeguard the traditional place of marriage.
Representing Catholics, the Bishop of Rockville Centre William Murphy signed the statement. He was joined by consulting members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
On the Orthodox Jewish side, Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, the rabbi of the Young Israel Synagogue in New York, signed the statement with consulting members of the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America.
The statement says that, at a time when many U.S. communities are discussing the meaning of marriage, leaders of both faiths affirm their commitment to “the ordinance of God, the Almighty One, who created man and woman in the divine image (Gen. 1:26-27), so that they might share as male and female, as helpmates and equals (Gen. 2:21-24), in the procreation of children (Gen. 1:28) and the building up of society.”
Noting the rise in demand for the legal establishment of same-sex marriage, the statement authors acknowledge the equal human dignity of all people but insist that this dignity “does not justify the creation of a new definition for a term whose traditional meaning is of critical importance to the furtherance of a fundamental societal interest.”
Saying that God’s design for marriage “clearly revolves around the union of male and female, first as husband and wife, and then as parents,” the statement explains that the goal of reproduction and the raising of families constitute the “unique goal” and “essential function” of unions between a man and a woman.
Laws describing same-sex unions as marriage, the statement argues, “Dilutes the special standing of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Noting that every society’s future depends on its ability to reproduce and to raise young people in a stable environment, the statement asserts “it is the duty of the state to protect the traditional place of marriage and the family for the good of society.”
While granting that others are free to disagree with them, the signatories conclude: “we hope that even those outside of our common religious traditions will recognize that we speak from the truth of human nature itself which is consistent with both reason and the moral life.”
Sacramento, Calif., Sep 4, 2008 (CNA) - A pending bill in the California state legislature could force Catholic doctors and others opposed to assisted suicide to inform terminally ill patients of several facts, including that they have the “right of refusal or withdrawal from life-sustaining treatment.”
The bill’s official title is the “California Right to Know End-of-Life Act of 2008,” though the Sacramento Bee has characterized it as “right-to-die legislation.”
Assembly Bill 2747 is an amended version of a euthanasia bill previously proposed By Assemblywoman Patty Berg, a Democrat from Eureka, the California Catholic Daily reports.
Opponents called the first version a “stealth assisted-suicide bill.” It would have allowed doctors to administer “palliative sedation” to induce a coma and to starve patients to death under a provision called “voluntary stopping of eating and drinking.”
The original bill also required terminally ill patients to be referred to the group “Compassion & Choices,” a euthanasia advocacy organization formerly called the Hemlock Society.
Though Catholic ethics allow the refusal or withdrawal of medical treatment in some situations, the California Catholic Conference (CCC) says the amended version of the bill is “still unnecessary and possibly dangerous,” calling the new version “less egregious” than its predecessor.
Republican State Sen. Sam Aanestad told the Sacramento Bee that some doctors who treat cancer patients oppose the bill because they believe it interferes with medical care at a time when patients need compassion.
“What they don't need is another governmental intrusion into the relationship between themselves and their doctor,” he said.
Aanestad also argued that requiring doctors to recite “a laundry list developed by Sacramento politicians” years before any refusal of treatment is necessary could encourage depressed patients to make rash decisions to hasten their deaths.
Democratic Sen. Sheila Kuehl told the Sacramento Bee that patients diagnosed with terminal illnesses have the right to have their questions answered.
“Right now, all too often, your questions are brushed aside,” she said.
The bill was approved by the state Senate on August 20 by a vote of 21 to 17. The assembly was expected to approve the bill and send it to the governor this week.
Minneapolis, Minn., Sep 4, 2008 (CNA) - The political spotlight will be focused on Sen. John McCain later this evening as he delivers his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, but Gov. Mike Huckabee took time this afternoon to talk with reporters about the role of faith in the McCain-Palin ticket.
The former presidential contender first turned his attention to the buzz surrounding McCain’s pick of the Governor of Alaska, saying, “I think Senator McCain has made a magnificent selection with Sarah Palin.”
With impact of Hurricane Gustav, and Democrats energized by their convention in Denver, the Republican Party opened its convention without the momentum being in its favor. But with the addition of Palin, Huckabee said, “value voters” have become “energized” and the level of excitement has completely shifted over the last week.
According to the former governor of Arkansas, the press unintentionally helped create the buzz about Palin by attacking her for only being the mayor of a small town and by focusing on her daughter Bristol’s pregnancy.
“The press did not intend it,” he quipped, “but what they have done, they have thrown Joseph in the well. What was intended for harm has turned out for good. And I’m sure it was never their goal to make her the absolute hero, not just of value voters, but of women, and frankly, fair-minded Americans.”
The discussion then turned to the role that Sen. McCain’s faith plays in his decision making process.
“I really believe that it’s a very important part of what makes him tick,” Huckabee said.
Gov. Huckabee described his understanding of John and Cindy McCain’s faith by recalling a trip he took with Cindy McCain to Rwanda on The One Campaign. During long bus rides between the various communities and villages, the governor explained that he became very convinced of the authenticity of both John and Cindy McCain’s faith, after talking with Cindy.
Explaining why Sen. McCain rarely references his faith when speaking in public, Huckabee observed: “John McCain comes from a generation where people did not openly talk about their faith; it was just sort of considered bad form. It didn’t mean they didn’t have it, but they weren’t as comfortable in expressing it openly, as maybe I would be.”
Gov. Huckabee also spoke of a meeting with McCain’s pastor on Wednesday night about John McCain’s faith and whether it’s real. The former governor of Arkansas said that he came away from the meeting feeling very comfortable about the Republican presidential nominee’s faith.
Sen. John McCain will address the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul on Thursday evening during the 9:00 hour (CST), according to the convention’s website.
Rome, Italy, Sep 4, 2008 (CNA) - Vicenzo Battaglia, president of the International Pontifical Marian Academy, explained this week that the 23rd Congress the academy will host in Lourdes for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Mary to St. Bernadette Soubirous will focus on the doctrinal foundations that explain these kinds of events.
In an article entitled published by the L’Osservatore Romano, Battaglia said the congress will take place in Lourdes September 4-8 and will be led by Cardinal Paul Poupard, Pope Benedict XVI’s special envoy.
“The importance and relevance of the theme that will be discussed, approved as is customary by the Pope, lies in the great interest of scholars and public opinion in a phenomenon which raises many questions because of the notable number of true or presumed ‘apparitions’ that have occurred in the past and that continue to occur even today,” Battaglia said.
He said that 22 experts have participated in organizing the Congress, which aims to provide “doctrinal foundations” to assist in properly interpreting and discerning Marian apparitions.
The conclusions of the congress will be made available to bishops, priests and all those who are “called to educate and guide the people of God, so that the faithful will know how to distinguish, in light of the sources of the faith, between true and false Marian apparitions.”