Archive of January 20, 2009

New pro-life ad depicting Obama as unborn child to run during Inauguration

Chicago, Ill., Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - A new pro-life ad that depicts an unborn child who grows up to become President-elect Barack Obama will air repeatedly in Chicago during Black Entertainment Television’s coverage of the president-elect’s inauguration.

The 30-second spot is the first in a planned series of an education advertisement campaign titled “Life: Imagine the Potential.”

The ad displays an ultrasound of a baby and says “This child’s future is a broken home.” The ad says the unborn boy will be abandoned by his father and his single mother will struggle to raise him.

Despite the hardships, the ad continues, this child will become the first African-American president.

The ad then cuts to a picture of President-elect Obama.

“Life: Imagine the Potential,” the ad concludes.

The ad was produced by, a site which launched last September to educate and inspire Catholic voters.

Brian Burch, Executive Director of, explained the motivations for the advertisement in a Monday press release.

“Our message is simple: Abortion is the enemy of hope. The purpose of our new ad is to spread a message of hope about the potential of every human life, including the life of President-elect Obama,” Burch said.

“Many Catholics and pro-life Americans recognize that Barack Obama steadfastly supports abortion. And while we'll pray for his conversion, that doesn't diminish an essential truth: that each human life has dignity and worth,” he continued.

“Given the political climate, we acknowledge that the fight to protect human life faces an uphill climb. For this reason, we developed an ad that we hope can transcend the political obstacles ahead, and provoke the consciences of our leaders and fellow Americans.”

CNA contacted for further comment but received no reply by publication time.

The ad may be viewed at

Other pro-life reactions to President-elect Obama’s inaugural include a planned protest on the north side of Pennsylvania Ave. near the Canadian embassy.

Protesters plan to hold three large banners stating “President Obama social justice and human rights begin in the womb" and "53,000,000 children have died through abortion...President Obama stop the violence.”

Their banners will also quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

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English bishops announce evangelization training initiative

London, England, Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Nottingham Malcolm McMahon, the prelate responsible for missions in England and Wales, recently urged parishes to make evangelization training a priority for 2009 and announced a new initiative toward that end.

“At this time of year many people make New Year’s resolutions.  I encourage you to include ‘making time for evangelization training’ one of yours,” said Bishop McMahon, who chairs the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelization and Catechesis. 

“To proclaim and share the faith is the reason that the Church exists - all of us, from the youngest to the oldest, lay, consecrated and ordained can play our part in home mission. Consider putting aside some time to learn how to evangelize more effectively; this is sure to bear fruit on many levels,” the bishop said.

The training initiative called “Fanning the Flames” is focused upon helping parishes establish Parish Evangelization Teams, a press release from Bishop McMahon’s office states. It is led jointly by the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelization (CASE) and Catholic Evangelization Services.

Monsignor Keith Barltrop, Director of CASE, explained the initiative tour:

“This tour provides us all with an opportunity to find out what Catholic Evangelization is all about and how to set up a parish team to animate it.  The focus is practical and those who attend a day will receive information, resources and hopefully lots of inspiration. Everyone is welcome.”

Tour sponsors say that the initiative was inspired by St. Paul and is being launched during his Jubilee Year.

A press release from Bishop McMahon’s office quotes 2 Timothy 1: “That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God's gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord.”

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Rebels set fire to crowded church in Congo

Kampala, Uganda, Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - The Ugandan army has accused rebels of setting fire to a crowded Catholic church in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with some churchgoers being killed.

Army spokesman Capt. Ronald Kakurungo said Ugandan troops on a joint anti-rebel mission in the Congo reported that rebels with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) on Saturday set fire to a church in the Congolese village of Tora.

It was unclear how many people had been killed, the AP reports. The UN-run Radio Okapi also reported the attack on the church and civilian homes in the nearby village Libombi.

Come Mbolingaba of Caritas Congo said employees had spoken to villagers and confirmed the attack but had no information on the number of casualties.

"They burned people who were praying in a church," he said, according to the Associated Press.

Rebel spokesman David Matsanga said that rebels were not in the area and did not commit any atrocities.

The U.N. reports that the Lord's Resistance Army rebels have killed 537 people and kidnapped 408 in the Democratic Republic of Congo since September, 2008. Survivors of the attacks have reported that rebels attacked homes, raped women and murdered men with bats and axes.

Caritas Internationalis in a December press release reported a series of massacres carried out in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the LRA on Christmas Day and the days following.

Caritas Dungu-Doruma reported that over 400 were killed in attacks in northern Congo. The attacks included an assault upon a Catholic-organized Christmas Day concert in Faradje City. According to the director of Caritas Dungu-Doruma, the rebels returned the next day, killing about 150 in total.

Another attack on a church took place at the same time in Duru, north of Dungu. Reportedly 75 were killed and the church burned down.

Caritas stated that about 6,500 people have found refuge in the area with the Catholic Church.

Caritas Dungu-Doruma has pleaded for peace and has urged the Congolese government to protect the population from these attacks. The areas have been plundered, leaving people in desperate need of aid. The number of dead bodies also creates the risk of spreading disease.

The rebel Lord’s Resistance Army has been fighting primarily in northern Uganda for two decades. They have a reputation for brutality and for abducting children to serve as sex slaves and soldiers.

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Knights of Columbus launch ‘Coats for Kids’ program

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - On Monday the Knights of Columbus began to distribute thousands of coats to needy children through its “Coats for Kids” program.

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal charitable organization, purchased 7,800 coats from OshKosh B'gosh and London Fog. The coats will be distributed through local Knights councils in several U.S. cities, beginning today in Washington, D.C.

Parents who are unable to secure warm clothing for their children are invited to bring their children to distribution locations to receive a new coat.

"As our nation faces tough economic times, we believe it is very important to respond within our communities in concrete ways to help those most in need," Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said in a press release. "Helping children in need was a fundamental reason for the formation of the Knights of Columbus in 1882 and continues to be a very important component of our work today."

The "Coats for Kids" program is an outgrowth of the Knights' "Help a Child in Need" campaign, which began in 2006 by encouraging people to donate to charities in their areas in support of poor children.

Coats are also scheduled to be distributed later this month in the Detroit and Chicago areas. More details are available at the Knights of Columbus’ website

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Pope sends greetings to President Barack Obama

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - This morning Pope Benedict sent a telegram welcoming Barack Obama as the new President of the United States and assuring him of his prayers.


The text of the telegram is below:


On the occasion of your inauguration as the forty-fourth President of the United States of America I offer cordial good wishes, together with the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you unfailing wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high responsibilities. 


Under your leadership may the American people continue to find in their impressive religious and political heritage the spiritual values and ethical principles needed to cooperate in the building of a truly just and free society, marked by respect for the dignity, equality and rights of each of its members, especially the poor, the outcast and those who have no voice.


At a time when so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world yearn for liberation from the scourge of poverty, hunger and violence, I pray that you will be confirmed in your resolve to promote understanding, cooperation and peace among the nations, so that all may share in the banquet of life which God wills to set for the whole human family (cf. Isaiah 25:6-7).  Upon you and your family, and upon all the American people, I willingly invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. 


Benedictus PP. XVI

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Pope Benedict to visit town hall in Rome

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - The Holy Father has accepted an invitation from the mayor and local council of Rome to visit their town hall in March.


During the visit, which will take place on March 9, the Pontiff will participate in an extraordinary session of the council focusing on the theme: “the universal value of Rome, capital of Catholicism and of its values."


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Bolivian president claims to be Catholic but worships the ‘Pachamama’

La Paz, Bolivia, Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - After attending a Mass in which he received Communion, Bolivian President Evo Morales said he was Catholic but that he still worships Mother Earth (“Pachamama” in the Quechua language). He also added that he was “disappointed” that some Christian groups are questioning parts of the new Constitution that will be subjected to a referendum on January 25.

“I am Catholic but I am very disappointed at some leaders of the Catholic Church, not those of the base church,” Morales said during an interview on Erbol Radio.

The Bolivia bishops have said they are not opposed to the new Constitution, but have outlined ten sections that dangerously open the door to practices such as abortion and the loss of parental authority.

“I believe strongly in the rites and in Mother Earth (Pachamama),” Morales said.  “But of course I am a Catholic and an admirer of Jesus Christ.”

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Terrorist group attacks Apostolic Nunciature in Venezuela

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - The terrorist group known as “La Piedrita” launched six tear gas canisters inside the Apostolic Nunciature in Venezuela, taking advantage of the lack of security that the Venezuelan government is obligated to provide.  The latest attacks were the sixth time the Nunciature has been the target of such attacks.

According to the Catholic Daily of Venezuela, members of the group “La Piedrita” (The Little Rock) also threw pamphlets in support of the Chavez government into the Nunciature.  Officials said there were no serious injuries or that no damage was done during the attacks.  “Our house is surrounded by an extensive garden and this protected those of us who live here,” said a nun from the Nunciature who requested to remain anonymous.

Attorney Tamara Suju, who represents Nixon Moreno, a refugee at the Nunciature since 2007, told the Catholic Daily that the tear gas bombs were made by the Anonymous Venezuelan Military Industries Company.

Suju also explained that the pamphlets contained insults against Archbishop Ubaldo Santana, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, and Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas, accusing them of taking advantage of the faith of the people.

Suju said the attacks were part of an “escalation of violence against democratic aspects of Venezuela” and that the Chavez government “is washing its hands by saying that (La Piedrita) is an out-of-control group.”  She said it is part of the National Armed Forces, which provides cover for the group.

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Indiana Catholics remember Roe v. Wade, look to defeat FOCA

South Bend, Ind., Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - Catholics in South Bend, Indiana marked the tragedy of the legalization of abortion at an evening Mass and vigil at St. Matthew Cathedral on January 18. During his homily, Father Tom Foley asked the assembly to pray for President Obama and described the devastating effects that the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) could have on the U.S. if it reaches the president’s desk.


According to the Fight FOCA website, the legislation would rescind any state laws limiting abortion in any way such as parental consent for minors, informed consent for the mother, partial birth abortions and the requirement that only licensed physicians perform abortions. It would compel taxpayer funding of abortion and force faith-based hospitals and healthcare facilities to perform abortions.


Father Foley also mentioned two ways that American Catholics can help prevent the passage of FOCA.  The first is to participate in the postcard campaign that is being launched by the American bishops on January 25.  This coming weekend, post cards will be provided by local churches nationwide for parishioners to fill out and send to their congressmen and senators.


Additionally, Fr. Foley reminded the congregation of the bishops’ call for a day of prayer and fasting on Thursday, January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion.


Following the Mass, Bishop D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend led a vigil which included Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction, hymns and special prayers for women who have had an abortion and for the men involved in the decision.


The bishop also led prayers for elected officials and those in the medical profession.

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Hollywood sect seeks expansion in Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - The Church of Scientology, which has as a number of Hollywood stars as its spokespersons and members, is seeking to expand in the Colombian cities of Bogota, Cali and Medellin.

According to the daily “El Tiempo,” in Medellin the sect has been operating for four years out of the home of Jairo Alonso Ramirez, an electrical engineer who quit his job to become the leader of the temple.

The newspaper reported Ramirez hopes to expand the Scientology temple in Medellin to other parts of the city.

“The key is self-determination, that one decides himself about his life,” Ramirez said of Scientology, revealing that courses on childrearing, relationships, marriage and stress are offered at his “temple.” He says that some 300 people meet daily to discuss different issues at a cost of $60 per person.

Scientology is portrayed as “an exact science of thought that invariably always works, unlike faith healings or traditional therapies” which they consider to be inconsistent. The group also claims that it is the “only route of Health for humanity.”

Members are recruited by free courses and tests. During sessions called “auditions,” they are offered the opportunity to overcome their spiritual failings and their sufferings. Most of the members end up psychologically dependent on the group and financially committed.

The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by followers of the American Ronald L. Hubbard.

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Cardinal calls for end to ‘burdensome stigma’ surrounding leprosy

Rome, Italy, Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - Marking the 56th World Leprosy Day on Sunday, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán on Sunday delivered a speech praising efforts to care for leprosy victims and calling for an end to the “burdensome stigma” sometimes attached to their condition.

Cardinal Barragán addressed his remarks in a letter to the presidents of bishops’ conferences and to bishops responsible for pastoral care in health around the world. In his remarks, he called the observance of World Leprosy Day a “great appointment of solidarity” with those who are affected by leprosy, which is also known as Hansen’s disease.

According to the cardinal, who is President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, the disease strikes over 250,000 people each year, most of whom live in conditions of poverty. About 12 percent of all new cases are children under the age of 15.

Noting Christ’s love for children, the cardinal appealed to leaders of government organizations to pay special attention to children sick with leprosy who “run the risk of seeing their futures mortgaged by the negative consequences of their illness.”

The cardinal also cited the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child’s call to provide children with “the highest attainable standard of health” as a motive for anti-leprosy work.

Cardinal Barragán lamented persistent “unfounded fears” about Hansen’s disease, which he attributed to “ignorance.”

“These fears generate feelings of exclusion and often burdensome stigma towards who are afflicted by leprosy, making them especially vulnerable,” he said.

World Leprosy Day should offer correct information about the disease and its “devastating effects” while also encouraging “active fraternal solidarity,” the cardinal advocated.

“Basing itself on the example of Jesus Christ, the physician of bodies and souls, the Church has always dedicated special care to people afflicted by leprosy,” he explained. “Down the centuries it has been present through the institutions of Congregations of men and women religious, and through voluntary health-care organizations made up of the lay faithful, thereby contributing in a radical way to the full social and communal integration of such people.”

Cardinal Barragán praised Blessed Father Damian de Veuster, who ministered to leprosy patients in Hawaii, as “the untiring and exemplary apostle of our brothers” and “a lighthouse of faith and love.”

Father Damian is a symbol of all those who minister to leprosy patients today, the cardinal continued.

“These, together with Blessed Damian, are writing the most beautiful pages of the missionary history of the Church,” he said. “Inseparably linked to evangelization in their care for the sick, they proclaim that the redemption of Jesus Christ, and his salvific grace, reach the whole of man in his human condition in order to associate him to the glorious resurrection of Christ.”

Cardinal Barragán also lauded Raoul Follereau, the Catholic layman who founded and promoted World Leprosy Day. Follerau’s anti-leprosy work, the cardinal said, continues through the association Friends of Raoul Follerau.

“To him, and to those who follow him with the passing of time, goes an especial applause and our gratitude for the very many initiatives that they promote, which have the merit of always keeping alive care for those afflicted by Hansen’s disease, of sensitizing public opinion, and of stimulating people’s involvement in supporting programs and the gathering of financial resources,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Barragán closed with a prayer and an expression of concern for leprosy victims and those who dedicate themselves to their care:

“May the Immaculate Mother of God, ‘Salus Infirmorum’, intercede with her son Jesus, the ‘physician of bodies and souls,’ for the overall health of those with leprosy, and imbue those who care for them with a maternal spirit!”

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Italian atheist bus campaign fails to materialize

Genoa, Italy, Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - An Italian atheist group’s attempt to copy a British atheist bus advertisement campaign has stalled because of poor fundraising and the decision of the transportation’s advertising company to reject their ads on the grounds that they may be offensive.

The Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) sponsored bus ads in Genoa reading “The bad news is that God doesn't exist, the good news is that you don't need him.”

However, the advertising company IGP Decaux, which handles transport advertising for Genoa and many other large Italian cities, rejected the ad, the International Herald Tribune reports.

An IGP Decaux spokeswoman told the International Herald Tribune the company was worried “some people could find the message offensive to their culture, morality or their religion.”

While the British atheist ad campaign raised more than $200,000, the UAAR raised about $10,500 for the ad campaign, enough to pay for ads on two buses in Genoa for four weeks.

"To get ads on buses in Rome or Milan would have cost much more," said Giorgio Villella, events coordinator for UAAR, who said the group couldn’t have paid for the free publicity the controversy has sparked.

The UAAR reported about 3,000 members, but claims another 500 have joined since their campaign began.

Villella alleged that Church pressure helped axe the campaign.

"In Italy, to do such things just isn't possible,” he said, arguing that the Church “remains very strong politically.”

“Our Constitution says that there is no state religion, but in reality that isn't the case,” he claimed, according to the International Herald Tribune.

Neither the Vatican nor the Archdiocese of Genoa officially responded to the campaign.

On Monday the Catholic group Christian Reformists launched its own campaign, putting up more than 5,000 posters around Rome which read “God exists, and even atheists know it.”

Similar campaigns have taken place in Washington D.C. and Spain during the past few months.

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Passage of FOCA would translate into hatred for the unborn, Bishop Vasa writes

Eugene, Ore., Jan 20, 2009 (CNA) - Robert Vasa, Bishop of Baker, Oregon has published a vehement essay charging that those who profess to love God, but back abortion, are “liars” who lack love for the unborn child.

His essay, published on Tuesday in the bishop’s diocesan newspaper the Catholic Sentinel, discussed Christians’ duties to the unborn while warning about the proposed Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).

Bishop Vasa began by quoting a passage from 1 John 4:

“Beloved, we love God because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from Him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

The bishop said it was hard to believe a Catholic in good standing could say he or she does not love God, adding: “But the inspired scriptures tell us that whoever does not love his brother or neighbor does not and, indeed, cannot love God.”

He added that every Catholic, especially Catholic legislators, must declare that “the pre-born child is our brother, our sister, our neighbor!”

“It may sound a little strong to state that legislators ‘hate’ the pre-born child but hate is an absence of love and love means to wish another well,” Bishop Vasa explained. “There is nothing about abortion that wishes the pre-born child well.

“The preservation of abortion ‘rights’ is already an absence of love for the pre-born child but the passage of FOCA could be construed as nothing less than active and positive disregard, even hatred, for these our brothers and sisters.”

Bishop Vasa described FOCA as a proposed Congressional bill that would establish abortion as a federal right and preclude state limitation or regulation of abortion.

“Further, since abortion would be a federally protected right, it is very possible that even Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Physicians would be mandated to provide this heinous service,” the bishop warned.

The bishop then noted the U.S. bishops’ postcard campaign to stop FOCA, saying the proposal “is not an action which would limit or alter present permissive abortion laws, which some so-called Catholic pro-choice persons might object to, it would simply preclude a dramatic expansion of that permissiveness. Thus it would be very difficult for any Catholic, no matter how much in favor of abortion itself, to find a reason to refuse to participate in this campaign.”

“At the same time, I do not see how any Catholic senator or representative could vote for the passage of FOCA without recognizing that such a vote would constitute a direct and intentional declaration of their disdain for Catholic teaching,” Bishop Vasa continued. “Such a vote would be tantamount to a public declaration of their intention to abandon the Catholic faith.”

While preserving abortion rights is already “an absence of love for the pre-born child,” Bishop Vasa wrote, “the passage of FOCA could be construed as nothing less than active and positive disregard, even hatred, for these our brothers and sisters.”

He then paraphrased St. John: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but votes for FOCA, thus showing a disregard for his pre-born brother or sister, he is a liar.”

The bishop also said that Catholics have an obligation to participate in the anti-FOCA campaign, which he described as a “concerted effort to show love for the tiniest and most defenseless of our brothers and sisters.”

He said it seemed “particularly incumbent” for supporters of President Barack Obama’s candidacy to make clear their opposition to FOCA. As a candidate, President Obama has pledged to pass FOCA as his first official act.

Bishop Vasa, writing in his column, also noted diocesan pro-life activities and Masses to “pray for the two-fold victims of abortion, the child and the mother.”

“Regardless of how many years have passed since the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court Decision and regardless of how prevalent and routine abortion has become in this country, the simple truth remains, it is an act of extreme violence to the pre-born child and to the distressed mother,” Bishop Vasa’s column concluded.

“Thus, if anyone says, ‘I love God’ and still favors abortion, he is, to quote St. John, a liar. May we all live out faithfully what it means to love God.”

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