Archive of September 10, 2008

Cubans in Miami join in celebration of 400th anniversary for Our Lady of Charity

Miami, Fla., Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - Thousands of Cubans in Miami gathered for a Mass on the feast of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba, and to participate in the jubilee year decreed by the bishops of Cuba to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the devotion.

According to the newspaper El Nuevo Herald, thousands gathered at the Bank United Center at the University of Miami where they were challenged during Mass to “renew their faith, hope and spiritual commitment.”

On Monday afternoon, hundreds walked in procession with the statue of Our Lady of Charity which is venerated at the shrine dedicated in her honor in Coconut Grove.

“This jubilee year has been a time of renewal in order to bring the message of salvation to the members of our family, our friends and all those in our communities,” said Archbishop John C. Favalora of Miami.

Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando recalled that Our Lady of Charity “is a gift from God to the Cuban people who are suffering so much from hurricanes right now and from previous storms.”

The original statue of Our Lady of Charity was found in 1612 by three fishermen—a black slave and two Indians—during a storm in Nipe Bay.  After finding it they took it to the town of El Cobre.

In 1916 Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre was declared Patroness of Cuba by Pope Benedict XV and on February 24, 1998, Pope John Paul II crowned her Mother of the Reconciliation of Cuba.

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Protests and internet reporting by Catholics elicit threats from Vietnamese police

Hanoi, Vietnam, Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - Amid ongoing demonstrations held by Vietnamese Catholics who seek to recover confiscated church properties, the Vietnamese government has accused the Archbishop of Hanoi of inciting the protests. Meanwhile, Vietnam Police Generals have threatened to punish anyone who “incites protests” or writes and distributes articles relating to Catholic protests on the internet.

The accusations and threats come as the Catholic Bishop of Hung Hoa has charged the state-run media with lying and presenting fake Catholic priests as critics of the protests.

In the Monday edition of the New Hanoi, the Vice-Minister of Public Security Lt. General Nguyen Van Huong strongly criticized the Catholics demonstrating at Thai Ha, accusing them of “belittling the laws, and disrupting public order” while threatening to severely punish anyone “who incites protests.”
Major-General Nguyen Duc Nhanh, the Director of the Hanoi Police Agency has said that priests' mere presence at Catholic demonstrations qualifies as incitement.

“The presence of priests where Catholics assemble to pray illegally, or to perform riot behaviors, or to destroy state properties, by itself, is an act of riot stimulation,” he claimed.

Major-General Nanh also reportedly threatened to punish anyone who writes and distributes on the Internet articles about the Catholics’ demonstrations.

Catholic News Agency has received information from sources, who have requested anonymity for their own safety, that the communist government is monitoring CNA reports on the protests.

The Vietnam Police is an organization with a military hierarchy, comparable to the Soviet KGB, Fr. An Dang tells CNA. It is seen as the “sword and shield” for the defense of the Communist Party.

“The fact that two Generals of the ‘sword and shield’ speak out simultaneously against protestors signals potential hard-line measures to force them into submission,” he explained.

The New Hanoi newspaper has also accused Archbishop of Hanoi Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of trying to associate the property dispute concerning the Redemptorists’ Thai Ha Church in Hanoi with the dispute surrounding the former papal nunciature in the same city. The paper also criticized the archbishop for encouraging 82 Hanoi priests to sign a Letter of Communion with the parish, Fr. An Dang said.

A Letter of Communion was recently sent by Bishop of Hung Hoa Anthony Vu Huy Chuong to the Provincial Superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam and the Superior of Thai Ha Monastery, concerning the Thai Ha Church property dispute.

In the letter, the bishop gave his full support to the Vietnamese Redemptorists’ efforts to regain their land.

“I have prayed,” Bishop Anthony Vu wrote, “that justice and the truth may be honored not only in Thai Ha but also in anywhere that people still have to suffer injustice and dishonesty.” He added that his diocese is not an exception.

“Recently,” the bishop said, “the vicar of Can Kiem confirmed with me that the man who spoke on state television against Thai Ha on behalf of Can Kiem parishioners is only a local government official – not a Catholic at all.”

The bishop’s report that the media is presenting false Catholics echoes another incident in which state newspapers on September 7 introduced as Catholic priests two men named Pham Huy Ba and Nguyen Van Nhat. The men spoke against the protestors at Thai Ha, but the Archdiocese of Hanoi immediately confirmed that the men are not Catholic priests, saying “They are never ever priests. It is the government that ‘ordained’ them.”

Bishop Anthony Vu ended his letter by calling the false accusations and distortions state run media have leveled against Catholics “extremely sad and wearisome.” He then asked Catholics to pray on the feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary “for the Church in Vietnam and the nation.”

Fr. An Dang reports that thousands of Catholics continue their peaceful protests daily at Thai Ha.

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Caritas Haiti aids 'desperate' situation in wake of four hurricanes

Port au Prince, Haiti, Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - Caritas Haiti, the local branch of the Catholic pastoral charity Caritas International, has provided relief aid to Haiti after the passage of Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike left hundreds dead and 600,000 people in need of aid. Caritas Haiti staff in Gonaïves, one of the worst-hit cities, report that the situation is bleak, with the director general of the organization saying it is “desperate.”

In Gonaïves 25,000 people have lost their homes and are in 150 temporary camps. Acres of farmland have also been destroyed.

The Bishop of Gonaïves has transformed his compound into a provisional relief center, which now supports about 500 victims of the hurricanes.

Before the passage of Hurricane Ike, Caritas had already sent two trucks of food and other relief items into the city. Caritas Haiti plans to provide emergency relief such as fresh water and sanitation to 4,000 people. It also plans to build five shelter camps and help to rebuild 500 homes.

The organization hopes to help 2,000 families recover from the disaster.

Caritas Haiti Director General Père Serge Chadic appealed for assistance, saying:

“The situation in Haiti is desperate. These storms have left people with nothing. We need outside help.

“The people are in need of food shelter, and water,” he continued. “In a country already wracked by conflict and food riots, we’re appealing to the outside world for support.”

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India bishop says government not doing enough to stop anti-Christian violence

Rome, Italy, Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Alex Dias of the Diocese of Port Blair in India’s Andaman and Nicobare islands has charged that the Indian government is not doing enough to halt the anti-Christian violence in the state of Orissa. Speaking in an interview, the bishop warned that the violence could spread if it is not halted in time, saying “The world must know that these things happen in India.”

“The government of Orissa and the Indian government are not doing all they should do, despite the presence of police,” Bishop Dias said in an interview with SIR News. “But if the violence against Christians is not stopped in time, it risks spreading to other Indian states that are famously anti-Christian, such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisghar. There are some signs of this happening already.”

The series of anti-Christian attacks began when a Hindu leader was killed by suspected Communist militants. Hindu extremists used the leader’s death as a pretext for the violence, in which many Christians have been killed and many Christian churches and homes burned to the ground.

“Even if all the world knows Christians are not responsible,” the bishop continued, “the Hindu fundamentalists want to kill a Catholic leader too. The archbishop is doing all he can to curb the violence, meeting politicians in Delhi, but that’s not enough.”

Bishop Dias said the India Supreme Court’s ban of a planned procession bearing the ashes of the murdered Hindu leader is a positive development, claiming that more actions against Christians were planned to follow the event.

“The world must know that these things happen in India, which boasts to be the world’s greatest democracy,” the bishop told SIR. “What is happening is ridiculous. In a democracy with a lay government, every religion should have its freedom.”

According to Bishop Dias, international diplomatic pressure is needed despite the Indian government’s condemnations of the violence and the deployment of a special police force.

“They should have acted earlier,” the bishop said of the Indian government. “They took action after the pressures of the Bishops Conference, in my opinion, a bit late and not adequately.”

Though it is reported that the situation in Orissa has calmed, there are still some attacks in relief camps.

“People do not want to stay there, because they feel threatened,” Bishop Dias explained.

There is still peace in the Andaman and Nicobare Islands, where about 40,000 Catholics make up a fraction of the archipelago’s total population of 400,000. Bishop Dias told SIR that after the violence in Orissa began, he met with the delegates of the local media.

“They all condemned the incidents,” he said. “Then, on September 4, we organized a procession with other Christian leaders and 12 delegates of the other religions.”

“The governor of the Andaman Islands reassured us that it will not happen here,” Bishop Dias reported.

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Judge rules ban on teacher’s classroom ‘God Bless America’ banners violates free speech

San Diego, Calif., Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - A federal judge ruled on Friday that a San Diego high school teacher has a free speech right to display patriotic banners in his classroom with messages such as “God Bless America,” “In God We Trust,” and “One Nation Under God.” School officials had ordered the banners removed on the grounds they promoted a “Judeo-Christian” viewpoint.

Brad Johnson, a high school math teacher, had displayed such red, white and blue banners in his Poway Unified School District high school for twenty-five years before they were ordered removed. The school district allowed classroom displays by other teachers that included posters of Buddhist and Islamic messages, Tibetan prayer flags, and other displays.

The Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against the school district on Johnson’s behalf, arguing that the school district’s actions amounted to government hostility toward a specific religion. The lawsuit also alleged that the school district violated Johnson’s free speech rights by imposing a viewpoint-based restriction upon him, according to a Tuesday press release from the Thomas More Law Center.

The Poway Unified School District responded to the lawsuit with a motion seeking to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim.

Federal District Judge Robert T. Benitez ruled that the lawsuit may proceed, stating in his decision:

“Whether described as speech from a religious perspective or speech about American history and culture, through display of his classroom banners, Johnson was simply exercising his free speech rights on subjects that were otherwise permitted in the limited public forum created by Defendants and in a manner that did not cause substantial disorder in the classroom.  Thus, Johnson has made out a clear claim for relief for an ongoing violation of his First Amendment free speech rights.”

Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center lawyer handling the case, praised the decision by saying the judge’s “strongly worded” opinion “sends a clear message to school districts across the country that hostility toward our nation’s religious heritage is contrary to our constitution.”

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, added his own comments, saying “Many public schools exhibit a knee-jerk hostility towards Christianity and seek to cleanse our nation’s classrooms of our religious heritage while promoting atheism or other religions under the guise of cultural diversity.”

If the lawsuit is successful, the speech restriction will be overturned and Johnson will be allowed to display his banners.

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Apostles bring the true joy of Christ to all, says the Pope

Vatican City, Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - Speaking to 9,000 pilgrims gathered at the Paul VI Hall this morning, Pope Benedict reflected on St. Paul as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Though he did not belong to the group of the Twelve that Jesus called during his ministry, Paul nevertheless claims the title for himself, he explained.

The Pope recalled St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes, "For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me." The grace of God transformed Paul from a persecutor to a founder of Churches.

St. Paul, the Holy Father continued, "shared the three principal characteristics of a true apostle."

The first is to have seen the Lord and to have been called by him. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says that he had been called by the grace of God. One becomes an apostle by divine vocation, not by personal choice, Pope Benedict said.

The second characteristic, the Holy Father taught, also underlines the divine initiative: "an apostle is someone who is sent and therefore acts and speaks as a delegate of Christ, placed totally at his service."  Pope Benedict went on to expound on the Greek word apóstolos, which means "one who is sent, dispatched, the bearer of a message."

“The title of apostle is not and cannot be a merely honorary title. It truly, even dramatically, involves the entire existence of the person concerned,” the Pontiff underscored.

The third characteristic of an apostle is "dedication to the work of proclaiming the Gospel and founding Christian communities." The Pope explained, "Apostle' is not an honorary title, it consumes the entire being of its subject." He recounted Paul's exclamation in the first letter to the Corinthians: "Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?"

This type of dedication to the Gospel, including suffering for its sake, is exemplified by St. Paul, Benedict XVI said. Indeed, St. John Chrysostom described Paul as having a "soul of diamond," he added.

St. Paul, the Holy Father noted, "can point to his many trials and sufferings that speak clearly of his courageous dedication to the mission. In this context he sees an identification between the life of the apostle and the Gospel that he preaches; the apostle himself is despised when the Gospel is rejected." Pope Benedict asserted, "Saint Paul was steadfast in his many difficulties and persecutions, sustained above all by the unfailing love of Christ."

The Pope concluded by repeating a passage from St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians: “‘Not that we lord it over your faith; rather, we work together for your joy, for you stand firm in the faith.’ This remains the mission of all the apostles of Christ in all times: to be collaborators of true joy," Benedict emphasized.

After his discourse on St. Paul as an apostle, the Holy Father greeted the French, to whose country he will go in two days to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Marian Apparitions at Lourdes.

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Pope sends message to France as he prepares to visit

Vatican City, Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - This coming Friday, Pope Benedict XVI will fly from Rome to Paris, thereby commencing his first visit as Pope to France. In anticipation of the visit, the Holy Father has penned a message to the nation lauding its strong tradition of faith and culture.

"On the eve of my arrival," writes the Holy Father, "I send cordial greetings to the French people and to all the inhabitants of that beloved nation. I am coming as a messenger of peace and fraternity. I know your country well. On various occasions I have had the pleasure of visiting it and of appreciating its generous tradition of welcome and tolerance, as well as the solidity of its Christian faith and of its exalted human and spiritual culture.

"On this occasion the reason for my trip is to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes," he adds. "After visiting Paris, the capital of your country, it will be my immense joy to join the multitude of pilgrims as they follow the stages of the Jubilee journey, in the footsteps of St. Bernadette, to the grotto of Massabielle. At the feet of Our Lady, I will pray intensely for the intentions of the entire Church, particularly the sick and the needy, as well as for peace in the world."

The youth have been on Pope Benedict’s mind and heart as evidenced by his request for prayers for the youth of France this past Monday. In his letter, Benedict turns his attention to the youth again: "For all of you, and especially for the young, may Mary be a mother ever- ready to meet the needs of her children, a light of hope that illuminates and guides you on your way."

The Pope concludes his message by inviting everyone to pray for the success of his journey, and by invoking the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary.

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Bishops correct Biden: protecting unborn from abortion is a ‘demand of justice’

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut William E. Lori, writing in a Tuesday statement, have responded to Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph Biden’s comments that the point at which human life begins is a “religiously based view,” by saying that his remarks “do not reflect the truth on the matter.”

Criticizing the senator’s claim that views on abortion should not be imposed on others, the bishops emphasized that basic justice, not just private religious belief, shows that every human being has a right not to be killed.

Sen. Biden had made his remarks in a Sunday interview with Tom Brokaw on NBC’s Meet the Press, where he said that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter of religious faith and cannot be “imposed” on others.

Cardinal Rigali, who chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop Lori, who chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, said Biden’s remarks “do not reflect the truth on the matter.”

While noting that Biden had rightly said that human life begins at the moment of conception, the two bishops explained that the Catholic Church recognizes the obligation to protect the unborn rests upon both a biological question and a moral question, “neither of which is private or specifically religious.”

The biological question concerning when a new human life begins is addressed in embryology textbooks, which, according to the bishops, “confirm that a new human life begins at conception.”

“The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact,” the bishops insisted, adding “modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child.”

The bishops explained the moral question has legal and political consequences, characterizing the moral question as:

“Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed?”

“The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody,” the bishops answered, saying, “we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not.”

The bishops wrote that this is not solely a Catholic teaching but also “a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will.”

They also noted that the U.S. Declaration of Independence also points to the same truth.

“Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view,” the bishops charged, “have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into those who have moral value and those who do not and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society. Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.”

“Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice,” the bishops concluded.

Father Thomas D. Williams, LC, a Vatican analyst for CBS News, wrote in a Wednesday essay on National Review Online that Biden’s comments also threaten his reputation for being a person of conscience.

“When you say on national television that you agree with your Church that abortion is murder, but that you intend to support legislation that keeps abortion fully available, you leave voters wondering why you would support a right to what you consider to be murder,” Father Williams claimed.

“How many other convictions of conscience is Biden prepared to sell out on if they happen to conflict with those of his major donors or the prevailing political winds? And if he could commit a diplomatic blunder like this during his campaign, what would he be capable of in office?”

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Peace in Colombia needs to be real, says bishop

Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Pablo Salas of El Espinal said this week that the Church in Colombia seeks to be an instrument of peace and a prophetic voice of justice and truth despite the lack of attention paid to her message.

According to Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Salas said that in spite of the respect enjoyed by the Church, little attention is paid to her message by those involved in the country’s civil conflict. The peace the country needs, he said, is not one found in cemeteries but rather one that is real and is brought about by all.

Bishop Salas also reflected on the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt saying that it is reason for hope, even though violence continues to mark the lives of Colombians.

Nevertheless, he said, the Church remains open to contributing whatever type of mediation possible that will help bring about peace in the country.

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Catholic bishops call for end to ‘inhumane’ worksite ICE raids

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - Speaking at a press conference in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, several Catholic bishops questioned the effectiveness and humaneness of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and called for them to be abandoned.

John Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, said the present is “a dark period in our country on the issue of immigration.” After the failure of the immigration reform bill in Congress last year, he argued, there has been an “unprecedented emphasis on enforcement-only initiatives.” The bishop charged that these initiatives are “designed to create an atmosphere of fear in immigrant communities,” and constitute a policy of “deportation by attrition.”

He emphasized that the bishops did not question the right of the government to enforce immigration laws, but questioned whether worksite raids are effective and “most importantly, humane.”

Bishop Wester explained that he had witnessed the consequences of such raids first-hand, which he said include the disruption of communities, the separation children who are U.S. citizens from their parents, and the removal of minor children’s primary caregivers.

“We call upon President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security to reconsider the use of worksite enforcement raids,” he said, asking the government to “please abandon them” if human rights protections can’t be implemented.

Bishop of Laredo James Tamayo also asked that the U.S. government consider ending worksite enforcement raids, charging that they “undermine basic human dignity and family unity” and “pit human beings against each other in a violent and frightening way.”

“Just enforcement must take place in a way that balances the national interest with the basic God-given rights and dignity of human beings.

“In the Church’s view, these raids fail to meet this test,” he insisted, pointing out that many families have mixed legal status and are broken apart by the raids.

Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, emphasized the Catholic Church has never supported an “open borders” immigration policy. However, he voiced concerns about immigration enforcement, state and local initiatives restricting undocumented immigrants’ ability to find housing and employment, the growing number of arrests, and the continued dependence of the families of arrested workers on Catholic Charities.

Kerwin reported that the immigration enforcement budget is projected to continue to grow from $9.7 billion in 2004 to $15 billion in 2009. He added that in 2007 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had arrested 30,000 people as part of an expanding initiative to arrest persons with “outstanding removal orders.”

“The Department of Homeland Security now detains 32,000 people per night, most of them in 310 local prisons,” Kerwin claimed.

He compared the arrest rates in fiscal year 2004, during which 685 people were arrested in immigration raids and 160 criminally charged, with the uncompleted fiscal year 2008 figures of 3,900 arrested and more than 1,000 criminally charged.

Kerwin also noted that Catholic parishes and Catholic Charities agencies are trying to provide necessities and basic services for the families of persons arrested, noting that one Catholic Charities branch in Fall River, Massachusetts is still helping immigrant families 16 months after a raid at a textile manufacturing facility in the area.

“More than 75 percent of the Catholic agencies that attended a workshop on raids at our national Catholic gathering on immigration in July and August of this year have been involved in raid-response work,” he said.

Addressing the press conference, Bishop of Las Cruces Ricardo Ramirez described the recent raids in Roswell, New Mexico and raised concerns that local police officers are enforcing federal law.

The bishop explained that he is “very impressed” with the training for federal agents trained to enforce immigration law, saying “They already know the Spanish language, they know immigration law, and know how to treat people in humane way.”

However, he commented, local police are often not trained so thoroughly or effectively.

Bishop of Orlando Thomas Wenski, noting national security concerns are often cited in the immigration debate, asked whether targeting “people working in meatpacking plants” is the “best use of scarce resources on the part of government.”

During the press conference all the bishops endorsed “comprehensive immigration reform.”

Replying to a question about the timing of the press conference and whether the bishops wanted to make immigration an election issue, the bishops noted that the raids are an ongoing issue. However, they said their statements would be sent both to the McCain and Obama campaigns.

Asked about allegations that the U.S. bishops are using immigration to fill emptying pews, one bishop said, “Our concern is about people of all faith[s]. Our perspective is a humanitarian perspective, for all individuals seeking a better way of living for themselves.”

Another speaker responded that “the reality is that people are already here… we’re just responding out of human need.”

“We don’t ask people their religion, we just serve them,” he added.

One topic of discussion concerned women left unattended at the Arizona border after being deported. These women are reportedly expected to cross the Sonora Desert by themselves despite the dangers, which include rape.

Speakers characterized anti-illegal immigration activists as a “vocal minority” and said most Americans support or can be persuaded to support immigration reform. Some argued that the U.S. is close to historic levels of employment and claimed that immigrants, rather than suppress the job market, actually stimulate the economy.

Explaining the motives of the U.S. bishops, Bishop Wester said they hope to “reframe the question,” correct false information, and emphasize the complexities of immigration problems.

Bishop Ramirez asked the press to show the “human face” of immigrants.

He explained that in one New Mexico town, media coverage helped stop raids where the police were going into the schools and “intimidating children” of illegal immigrants. This police action made their parents afraid to send their children to school or shop for groceries until the people affected by such action received media attention.

“That human face really made a difference, and the raids stopped,” the bishop said.

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Pro-life groups warn new abortion law in Spain will not bring solutions

Madrid, Spain, Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Spanish Federation of Pro-Life Associations said this week that a new law widening access to abortion would do nothing to solve the problems related to the issue, and that change would come only with measures that respect life, help pregnant women and encourage teens to change their behavior.

In a statement, the federation called for “serious and real debate” involving “people without economic or political interests in the practice of abortion,” in order to shed “light on the medical, psychological and social reality” of women who have suffered the consequences of abortion as well as those who opted instead to keep their babies.

In response to a government announcement that the law on abortion would be liberalized, the federation called instead for greater care for pregnant women and a commitment by the country’s institutions to help them.

“The scorn for the unborn human being” must be corrected, the federation stated, as well as the pretension of turning crimes into rights, the manipulation of language and the claim that abortion is ‘a sign of progress and freedom’.”

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Ecuadorans encouraged to vote for life in referendum on Constitution

Quito, Ecuador, Sep 10, 2008 (CNA) - Ecuadorans are preparing to vote on a new constitution and with the September 28 referendum around the corner, the president of the Ecuadoran Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza, has issued a call to Christians to remember that “life, the family and peace are goods we must aspire to and ensure that they contribute to a better future.”

In an interview with the Ecuadoran daily “La Hora,” the archbishop announced a day of prayer set for September 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, “to unite our prayers for the protection of certain values that have been singled out recently and that seem to be overshadowed in this Constitution reform.”

Asked whether the day of prayer was in reality a call to vote no on the referendum, Archbishop Arregui replied, “Not necessarily.” “The decision is always complex and each person is free to decide.” “What we do ask is that Christians responsibly confront the fact that life, the family and peace are goods we must aspire to and ensure that they contribute to a better future.”

Archbishop Arregui said the bishops are not campaigning against the government but rather preaching “what we have always preached, such as the commandment not to kill, which is always valid” and “is one of the mainstays of the Christian tradition.” 

The archbishop did nevertheless warn that “There is a worldwide pro-abortion movement that has come into contact with our culture and was represented at the Constitutional Assembly.”

The prelate also recalled that the Church presented a “complete and reasonable” proposal to the Assembly to preserve “Christian values and the family.”  However, the Ecuadoran Congress approved texts that were “ambiguous and clearly dangerous to the consciences of Christians,” and therefore dangerous to the family, human life, marriage and the right of parents to choose what kind of education their children will receive.

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