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Archive of January 8, 2009

Special ceremony to be held for new archbishop of Vancouver

Vancouver, Canada, Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI last Friday accepted the resignation of Archbishop of Vancouver Raymond Roussin, S.M. who has been succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop J. Michael Miller, C.S.B.

Although coadjutor bishops do not normally have any ceremony to mark their taking office, Archbishop Miller’s succession will be marked by a special Mass on the Solemnity of the Conversion of Paul. The Mass will be held on Sunday, January 25 at 3:00 p.m. at Vancouver’s Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Cathedral.

During the Mass, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, will bring greetings to Archbishop Miller, Archbishop Roussin and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

The 69-year-old Archbishop Roussin announced his retirement last Friday, citing an ongoing battle with depression, the Associated Press reports.

For bishops, normal retirement age is 75.

“I believe my call is from God and to be a bishop, to be a pastor. I was unable to do it,” he told the Canadian Press, saying he has suffered from depression for several years.

Archbishop Roussin took office in 2004. One year later, he disclosed his illness in a letter to Catholics in Vancouver, explaining that he wanted to help remove any stigma “wrongly” associated with the disease.

“It was a time that I just couldn't see clearly what I had done that was good, and I could not see anything clearly possible for the future. (I went public) to show it was not the destruction of my life, although it could have been,” Archbishop Roussin said.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver ministers to an estimated 500,000 Catholics.

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Nancy Pelosi reiterates support for embryonic stem cell research

Washington D.C., Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has described herself as an “ardent, practicing Catholic,” has again reiterated her support for funding embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).

Her remarks were published January 4 in the International Herald Tribune, discussing Democratic proposals to implement funding legislation to overturn policies set by the Bush administration.

"I myself would favor legislation, so it is the law,” she said.

Speaker Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, has been criticized by bishops and other Catholics for her misleading remarks on Catholic teaching and ethical duties towards unborn human life, the California Catholic Daily reports. In her August 2008 interview with Meet the Press, she said the point at which life begins has been “an issue of controversy” over the history of the Church.

Among other prominent prelates, Cardinal Justin Rigali of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Bishop William Lori of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine issued a joint statement that said the Speaker “misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.”

Last September, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer invited Speaker Pelosi to converse with him about her Catholic faith and her positions in conflict with Catholic teaching.

“Let us pray together that the Holy Spirit will guide us all toward a more profound understanding and appreciation for human life, and toward a resolution of these differences in truth and charity and peace,” he said.

There has been no report concerning whether Speaker Pelosi has conversed with the archbishop, the California Catholic Daily reports.

Speaker Pelosi’s latest remarks on embryonic stem cell research come as the incoming Congress and the Obama administration are expected to lift restrictions on its funding.

In 2001, President George W. Bush signed an executive order prohibiting federal funding of research on embryonic stem cells, excepting 60 existing stem cell lines from embryos which had already been destroyed. In June 2007, another executive order authorized the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to fund stem cell research only if the cells were produced by methods that do not create, destroy, or harm human embryos.

Bush vetoed ESCR funding bills in 2006 and 2007. Justifying his 2007 veto, he said “If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers -- for the first time in our history -- to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos.”

“I made it clear to Congress and to the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line,” he added. “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical -- and it is not the only option before us.”

In June 2008 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterated the teaching of the Church on ESCR, saying “Harvesting these ‘embryonic stem cells’ involves the deliberate killing of innocent human beings, a gravely immoral act.”

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NIH grants $2 million to study effectiveness of cell phone sex-ed soap operas

Newark, N.J., Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - A $2 million, four-year National Institutes of Health grant is funding a study on the effectiveness of cell phone soap operas which promote condom use.

Nurse educator Rachel Jones, who teaches at Rutgers University's College of Nursing in Newark, New Jersey, developed the campaign using professional actors and scripts based on focus groups of women in Newark and Jersey City.

The soap opera features a girlfriend, “Toni,” and her boyfriend “Mike” after his involvement with another woman.

In the soap opera, Mike attempts to kiss Toni, but she pushes him back.

“Just because I've decided to take you back, it doesn't erase the fact that you cheated on me,” she says in the video.

"Look, we're going to be using condoms from now on… And tomorrow, we're getting tested. And that's that," she continues, kissing him.

Rachel Jones reported the focus groups’ reaction to the soap opera.

"Women who watched the first pilot were getting upset, angry, exacerbated," she said. “Women really saw themselves in that video. We're really resonating with urban contemporary themes that we believe are relevant to women.”

The series of 12 20-minute episodes was funded by a Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey grant.

A $2 million National Institutes of Health grant will test the campaign’s effectiveness. Women in the study will watch the episodes on their cell phones and have their “risk-reduction behavior” measured in comparison with a control group of women who will receive only text messages urging condom use.

In total, 250 women will participate in the study, Fox News reports.

"What we believe will happen is that knowledge alone is not effective at changing behaviors," Jones said. "We believe that women in the community will so identify with heroines in the story their own behaviors will change as well."

Jones reported that in her experience, women would come to her with sexually transmitted infections and understood they were being exposed to HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy. However, they still avoided condom use even when they knew they were not in exclusive relationships.

She claimed that 82 percent of HIV/AIDS infections affecting 18- to 29-year olds are transmitted through heterosexual sex with an infected sexual partner.

"We have to normalize condom use," she added, according to Fox News, claiming that women’s sexual partners consider insistence on using a condom a sign of distrust.

On Wednesday CNA spoke about the soap opera study with Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association.

Huber said the program sounds like “safe-sex ads” which “recommend, or at least do not discourage, high-risk sexual behavior, as long as a condom is used.”

“I think that sends a very dangerous message to youth, by minimizing the risk associated with casual sex.”

This approach, Huber claimed, reduces sex “solely to the physical consequences.” She also accused the approach of being disingenuous in its claims.

She told CNA that even with 100 percent condom use, CDC studies show that two of the four most transmitted STDs are still transmitted by skin to skin contact.

“These messages increase the risk of STDs, not to mention the risk of emotional and other consequences.”

Huber said that abstinence education is “absolutely” more effective than “safe sex” programs. She explained to CNA her view that the so-called safe-sex educational approach “oversimplifies the risks associated with casual sex, sending the inaccurate message that sex can be had without consequences as long as a condom is used, and that’s not true.”

“Abstinence education, on the other hand, eliminates all that risk,” she commented.

CNA asked how abstinence education advocates would respond to Nurse Jones’ claims that her program resonates with “urban contemporary themes” and is “relevant to women” with its “nitty gritty stories of risk and risk reduction.”

“By underlining ‘resonating with inner city youth,’ to me, she really is promoting the soft bigotry of low expectations,” Huber answered. “She is basically saying that a message that still puts youth at risk is good enough for certain youth, and we strongly disagree.

“We think that all youth should be afforded the opportunities and the skills necessary to make the best decisions for their life, regardless of socioeconomic or geographic background.

“Abstinence education resonates with students regardless of their sexual history,” she continued, stating that students who come into an abstinence program being sexually active are more likely to discontinue that activity.

“If they don’t discontinue that activity, or if others become sexually active later, they have fewer partners and are no less likely to use a condom than anyone else,” she added, acknowledging such action was still not ideal.

“Those who are virgins are more likely to remain so as a result of the [abstinence] program, about twice as likely. And this is a message that doesn’t put them at risk at all.”

“If people don’t want to see their tax dollars used for this sort of project, they can certainly register their complaint with the head of NIH,” Huber pointed out.

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Cuban cardinal describes advances, calls for more openness for Church’s work

Havana, Cuba, Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - In a recent homily at the Cathedral of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino underscored the advances the Church in Cuba has made in society but he called for greater openness for her work of evangelization, especially in the areas of education and the media.

 

During his homily, the cardinal pointed out that “the Holy Father invites us to consider, at this difficult time for humanity because of the global economic crisis, what the material and moral deficiencies of our time are that have led to this crisis, generating a growth in poverty, the main negative factor for peace, since, as always happens, it is the cause of unrest and even social violence.”

 

After commenting on the need to re-establish solidarity for confronting the global economic crisis, Cardinal Ortega pointed out that “the Church’s mission in Cuba is none other than to foster values, support the family as an indispensable institution, open paths of hope, since without motivated men and women the desired economic and social improvement that has been announced in the country cannot take place.”

 

“We are not content with eventual broadcasts on radio and television, we should have systematic access to the press, radio and television. We can never put aside the educational mission of the Church, which could have other dimensions, we want to continue expanding our work with the elderly, who are so numerous, and also with other groups in need,” the cardinal added.

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Editor of First Things, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus passes away

New York City, N.Y., Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, the famous convert to Catholicism and editor-in-chief of the journal First Things passed away this morning in New York at 9:30 a.m. EST.

CNA was informed of Fr. Neuhaus’ death through an announcement from George Weigel who stated, "Father Richard John Neuhaus was called home to the house of the Father at about 09:30 EST today. May God grant him the reward of his labors, and give consolation and peace to those who loved him and who will carry on his work."

Fr. Neuhaus himself revealed his battle with cancer in an article written on December 5. "The nature of the cancer is beginning to come into clearer focus, and I hope to have more details in short order. Meanwhile, I will, please God, continue to be as engaged as possible in the work of First Things and other apostolates, even as I am compelled by grace to know more deeply our solidarity within the Body of Christ," he wrote.

In late December, the First Things blog disclosed that Fr. Neuhaus’ health had taken a turn for the worse. During the Christmas Season he became "dangerously ill" from what appeared to be "a systemic infection," which left him very weak. "Entering the hospital the day after Christmas, he was sedated to lower an elevated heart rate and treatment was begun for the infection."

A source close to Fr. Neuhaus told CNA that a few days ago the priest received the last rites from Fr. George Rutler, and since then had lost consciousness, along with a steady deterioration in his vital signs.

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Pope reviews conflicts around the globe, asserts need for fighting poverty

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - Build peace by fighting moral and material poverty, the Pope said today as he gathered diplomats from the more than 175 States that the Vatican maintains relations with and offered his assessment of the different situations faced around the globe.

The Holy Father began his annual address to the diplomatic corps by expressing his closeness to all those who have suffered either from natural disasters, such as the earthquakes in China, or from terrorist attacks which have "sown death and destruction in countries like Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Algeria."

The lack of peace around the world, the Pope said, requires that everyone redouble their efforts "on behalf of security and development." Peace, he said, "cannot be built when military expenses divert enormous human and material resources from projects for development, especially the development of the poorest peoples."

The Holy Father then turned to his message for this year's World Day of Peace, which had as its theme "Fighting Poverty To Build Peace." He pointed out that "to build peace, we need to give new hope to the poor."

Giving new hope to the poor, he stressed, must address both the material and moral levels."There is an urgent need to adopt an effective strategy to fight hunger and to promote local agricultural development, all the more so since the number of the poor is increasing even within rich countries. ... On a deeper level, bolstering the economy demands rebuilding confidence. This goal will only be reached by implementing an ethics based on the innate dignity of the human person."

"I know how demanding this will be, yet it is not a utopia!" the Pope reminded.

"Today more than in the past, our future is at stake, as well as the fate of our planet and its inhabitants, especially the younger generation which is inheriting a severely compromised economic system and social fabric."

Building a less impoverished society also requires a healthy incorporation of religion, the Pope said as he reflected on the moral poverty of many societies.

"Moreover, a society which is 'secular' in a healthy way does not ignore the spiritual dimension and its values, since religion - and I thought it helpful to repeat this during my pastoral visit to France - is not an obstacle but rather a solid foundation for the building of a more just and free society."

And yet, this past year is filled with acts of discrimination and "very grave attacks directed at thousands of Christians" the Holy Father noted. These attacks "show to what extent it is not merely material poverty, but also moral poverty, which damages peace. Such abuses, in fact, are rooted in moral poverty."

"Christianity is a religion of freedom and peace," said the Pope, "and it stands at the service of the true good of humanity. To our brothers and sisters who are victims of violence, especially in Iraq and in India, I renew the assurance of my paternal affection; to the civil and political authorities, I urgently request that they be actively committed to ending intolerance and acts of harassment directed against Christians, to repairing the damage which has been done, particularly to the places of worship and properties; and to encouraging by every means possible due respect for all religions, outlawing all forms of hatred and contempt. I also express my hope that, in the Western world, prejudice or hostility against Christians will not be cultivated simply because, on certain questions, their voice causes disquiet."

He encouraged the faithful not to lose heart "in the face of such adversity" because "if the trials and tribulations are painful, the constant presence of Christ is a powerful source of strength. Christ's Gospel is a saving message meant for all; that is why it cannot be confined to the private sphere, but must be proclaimed from the rooftops, to the ends of the earth," he insisted.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict also received attention from Pope Benedict who maintained that "military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned." The Pontiff also expressed his hope that, a cease fire will be reached and that "negotiations for peace will resume, with the rejection of hatred, acts of provocation and the use of arms."

Looking ahead to his visit to Africa in March, Pope Benedict called upon the inhabitants of that continent "to welcome the Gospel and to live it consistently, building peace by fighting moral and material poverty." He also said that Africans must focus on protecting children, many of whom have experienced the trauma of being refugees and displaced persons.

The Pope closed his speech to the diplomatic corps by quoting from his Message for this year's World Day of Peace: "The poorest human beings are unborn children. But I cannot not fail to mention, in conclusion, others who are poor, like the infirm, the elderly left to themselves, broken families and those lacking points of reference. Poverty is fought if humanity becomes more fraternal as a result of shared values and ideals, founded on the dignity of the person, on freedom joined to responsibility, on the effective recognition of the place of God in the life of man."

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Christians in Holy Land celebrate Epiphany amidst conflict

Rome, Italy, Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - Amidst the suffering caused by the conflict in the Gaza Strip but with the hope of a peace accord soon being reached, Christians in Bethlehem celebrated the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord at the Basilica of the Nativity.

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the Custodian of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzabella, who walked from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, was greeted during his journey by Palestinians and Israelis, but this time in silence. “Even the scouts did not organize their procession as a sign of respect for the city of Gaza, which has been under continuous attack for the past several days,” the newspaper reported.

After the Te Deum, the pastor of the Church of St. Catherine, Franciscan Father Samuel Fahim, told parishioners, “What is happening in these days in our region is very sad and allows us to experience what is written in the Gospel, when so many innocent children are massacred. But as Jesus was with them during those times, He is here today too.  For this reason we return to Him, imploring that He transform our sadness into joy, war into peace. And we want to live the feast of the Epiphany with this spirit,” he said.

LOR also reported that despite the economic crisis, pilgrims continue to come to the Holy Land, new accommodations are being built to welcome them.  Restoration work also continues at Mount Tabor, Gethsemane and Nazareth.

Catholic News Agency has teamed up with the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land to launch an initiative called the Memorial Hall Project. The aim of the project is help sustain a Christian presence at the many sites of the Holy Land so that Christians can continue to enjoy these spiritual treasures for years to come.  More information can be found at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/holyland/ 

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Young people bring “Bread for my brother” to Ecuadorans most in need

Guayaquil, Ecuador, Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - For the last seven years, dozens of young Catholics in Ecuador have been volunteering to bring food and spiritual assistance to hundreds of people who live in extreme poverty on the streets of Guayaquil through a program called “Bread for my brother,” created by the Christian Life Movement.

The newspaper Expreso published the testimonies of volunteers and noted their youthfulness and the effectiveness of the program, which now has seven groups throughout the city.
 
One of the program’s coordinators is Alvaro Florez Rojas, a business and marketing student, who takes to the streets of Guayaquil each week with 50 volunteers to help some 300 people, mainly the elderly and children, who live on the streets.

“Everybody who knows him calls him ‘Alvarito.’  He is the one who brings the goods, which minutes later are distributed. The menu that night was chicken. Children have the priority. He was made a coordinator two years ago, when the previous coordinator was no longer able to continue. He had just turned 18,” the newspaper reported.

The “Bread for my brother” program is sustained through donations and was created after the Fourth Congress of Catholic University students took place in August of 2002 in the city of Santiago de Guayaquil.  According to the program’s official website, it was created “in response to the need to assist the growing number of indigenous people in our city, in order to help these brothers and sisters in need to rediscover their dignity as children of God through comprehensive works of solidarity.” Their outreach programs help to cover the poor’s most urgent material, spiritual, psychological and housing needs.

 More information on the program can be found at: http://www.mvc-ecuador.org/

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Leaders pay tribute to Fr. Richard Neuhaus

Denver, Colo., Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - Tributes to Fr. Richard John Neuhaus are pouring in from around the country, mourning the loss of a mentor, advisor, friend and spiritual father.

President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush issued a statement expressing their sadness and their gratitude for his life of service to "the Almighty." President Bush also related that Fr. Neuhaus was "a dear friend, and I have treasured his wise counsel and guidance."

Throughout his life, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was involved in many intellectual and spiritual pursuits. In 1990, he founded the journal First Things, tackling both secular and sacred issues. His legacy led Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute to comment:

"God does not owe us a thing, but I wish he had given us at least ten more years of Neuhaus. Seventy-two is too young for him to have left us. There is no one quite like him. He leaves behind many spiritual sons and daughters, though; George Weigel, Jody Bottum and many others. Even so, he cannot be replaced and he will be sorely missed every single day for years to come."

Kevin "Seamus" Hasson, founder and president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, also paid tribute to the late priest, calling him "one of the great thinkers of his generation."

Hasson also highlighted Neuhaus’ contributions to ecumenism, which the Lutheran convert was continually involved in. "The Church lost a great warrior, the faith community at large lost a patient and insistent champion of ecumenism, and the world lost a magnificent human being." Hasson also revealed that the Becket Fund will soon announce a permanent memorial in his honor.

Fr. Neuhaus also left his mark on higher education, a fact to which Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society testified. "Father Neuhaus was a gift to us all," Reilly said. "With his passage from this world The Cardinal Newman Society mourns not only the passing of an heroic defender of truth, especially in higher education, but also of a beloved advisor, generous supporter and dear friend.  Those of us left behind will be blessed by Father Neuhaus’ voluminous corpus of works and grand legacy—and now his prayers of intercession—for many years to come."

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated for Father Richard John Neuhaus at the Church of the Immaculate Conception--414 E. 14th Street, New York City--on Tuesday, January 13, 2009, at 10 a.m.

For more funeral information please visit: http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6458

 

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Raymond Arroyo remembers Fr. Richard John Neuhaus

Washington D.C., Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - On April 11, 2005, I entered St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with my friend Father Richard John Neuhaus to pay our respects to the recently deceased Pope John Paul II.  After kneeling before the pontiff’s body, as we left the basilica, I remarked at how small the pope appeared.  “That wasn’t him.  He isn’t there,” I said.  “No,” Father Richard said pinching fresh tears from his eyes.  “He is there.  These are the remains, what is left behind of a life such as we are not likely to see again, waiting with all of us for the resurrection of the dead, the final vindication of the hope he proclaimed.”

As was his wont, Father Richard John Neuhaus was capable of delivering impromptu corrections with an eloquence and precision that would elude the best of us.  When I learned of his passing today at the age of 72, his words echoed in my memory.  He too lived a life we shall not likely see again.  He was not only a renowned intellectual and an exemplary man of letters, but as his remark to me illustrates, he put his mind and his art at the service of Mother Church and the truths she protects.  He was firstly and lastly a man animated by his faith.  May God welcome him as he makes his final journey homeward.  Godspeed my friend.  RJN rest in peace.

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Malaysian government allows Catholic newspaper to print, with restrictions

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - The Malaysian government has announced it will allow a Catholic newspaper’s Malay edition to be published, but will not allow the paper to use the word “Allah” as a translation of “God.”

For more than a year the Herald, the main Catholic weekly in Malaysia, has been in a legal dispute with the government over its use of the word "Allah" as a Malay translation for the word "God." The government claimed the usage would confuse Muslims, though the paper is read almost exclusively by Christians.

The newspaper insisted it has used the word "Allah" as it has been used for centuries in the Malay language, arguing the Arabic word’s use predates Islam.

Various news reports say the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, who is the publisher of the Herald, wrote a letter asking the Home Ministry to lift the ban.

Che Din Yusoh, a senior official with the ministry's publications control unit, explained the decision preserving the ban to the Associated Press.

"If they stop printing the word 'Allah,' they can publish anytime," Che Din said. "You can use another word. It's permissible for us.”

Islam is Malaysia’s official religion. The majority Malay ethnicity forms 60 percent of the country’s 27 million people and are all Muslim.

Malay is also spoken by many indigenous Christian tribes in the Sabah and Sarawak states, who read the Malay edition of the Herald.

The newspaper also publishes in English, Mandarin, and Tamil. It has challenged the ban on the word “Allah” in court, claiming that the ban is unconstitutional and threatens religious minorities’ religious freedom.

However, Rev. Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, told the AP that the newspaper is willing to stop using the word to avoid further confrontation.

"We welcome this new view ... giving us back the right to use our national language," he said.

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Mexican bishop will continue warning against 'sins of the voting booth' despite threats

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 8, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Florencio Olvera Ochoa of Cuernavaca in Mexico announced this week that despite the threats he has received, he will again publish his “Decalogue of electoral sins” for the 2009 election season, which will be decisive for the state of Morelos.

The bishop published a similar Decalogue in 2006, inspired in the principles of the Church’s Social Doctrine, earning him a lawsuit, which was later dismissed.  “My duty is to take care that love of country is made a priority, especially in Morelos where there will be decisive elections and in which the people must choose life, family, dignity and peace,” the bishop said.

Bishop Olvera Ochoa said his “10 commandments” of the voting booth would be “proclaimed from the pulpit,” and he reiterated that the main message would again be voting for “candidates who support life.”

 “The Decalogue I issued only contains principles that stem from natural law and the Social Doctrine of the Church,” he added.

 In 2006, the Worker’s Party in Morelos filed a lawsuit against the bishop for allegedly violating the constitution and for “meddling in political affairs.”  The party, which is openly pro-abortion and pro-homosexual, felt it was “singled out” by Bishop Olvera Ochoa, who said at that time that a Catholic could not vote for parties that defend abortion, gay unions and euthanasia.

The lawsuit was dismissed, but party officials said a lawsuit would be filed again if the bishop reissues his Decalogue.

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