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Archive of January 28, 2009

Mother of 12 shares photo journal from National March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - Becoming frustrated with the lack of media coverage of the National March for Life, writer and mother of 12, Barbara Curtis decided to create a photo journal on her blog to document the nearly 300,000 people defending the rights of the unborn.

 

The Virginia-area mother has released 477 photos displaying the diverse races, ages and religions of the pro-life movement on her blog website.

 

“The annual March for Life is the most under-reported event in the nation,” she explains on her blog.  “This is my fourth year redressing the lack of Dinosaur Media coverage with an online photo journal. If a picture says a thousand words, then people can see the truth about Pro-Lifers here: a dazzlingly diverse movement filled with youth, vitality and joy.”

 

She also recalls 2007 and 2008, when the number of supporters was nearly 200,000.  Prior to the recent march, “we wondered what would happen in 2009 - two days following the inauguration of the most proudly pro-abortion president in this sad episode of our nation's history. This year there were 300,000!”

 

On the site, MommyLife.net, those who attended the March last Thursday in Washington, D.C. can find photos of their groups.  “I stood on a column in front of the Department of Labor for 2 1/2 hours shooting over 700 pictures. I have cut them to 477 - preserving such a large number for the sake of documentation and so that marchers can find their groups.”

 

Along with being active in the pro-life movement, Curtis is also a writer and cares for 12 children ranging from 8 to 39.  Her three youngest children are adopted and have Down’s Syndrome like one of their older brothers.  She explained to CNA, “While I’m old enough to be a grandmother - and do have 12 grandchildren so far - I am energized and excited about the younger generations, so being at the March with so many young people gives me great hope for the future!”

 

To view photos of the 2009 March for Life, visit: http://picasaweb.google.com/BarbarasMommyLife/MarchForLife2009

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Thousands attend Boulder debate on atheism and religion

Boulder, Colo., Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - Writers Dinesh D’Souza and Christopher Hitchens brought their polemics on religion and atheism to a debate Monday evening at the University of Colorado at Boulder before a sold-out crowd of 2,050 in the campus’ Macky Auditorium.

D’Souza, a Catholic and author of the book “What’s So Great about Christianity,” argued that Christianity is the foundation for many common values such as scientific inquiry and respect for the individual. Additionally, he asserted that Christianity proposes the best answer for bridging the chasm between man and God.

Hitchens, a prominent atheist and author of the book “God is not Great,” argued that religion’s influence is largely bad for the world. He said religion makes otherwise good people do bad things, forestalls human thought, and limits human responsibility.

The debate, moderated by Denver radio talk show host Dan Caplis, was sponsored by the St. Thomas Aquinas Center for Catholic Thought, an intellectual outreach program of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder, Colorado. The event centered on the theme “What’s so Great about God? – Atheism vs. Religion.”

Father Kevin Augustyn, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, prefaced the debate, saying, “As Catholics, we are not afraid of intellectual debate. Faith and reason are not opposed to each other.”

D’Souza opened his initial argument by stating he would debate on “the ground of reason alone.” He listed what he believed to be important to all people, including atheists: concern about the idea of the individual, science as an autonomous enterprise, the equal dignity of women, the abolition of slavery, and compassion.

“Christianity brought these values into the world,” he argued, claiming that slavery was abolished in Christian societies between the fourth and tenth centuries.

Modern science, he said, was “faith-based” in that it was rooted in Christian assumptions. We presume that we live in a lawful, rational universe whose external rationality is mirrored in our own minds, presumptions nourished by Christianity.

“It is no accident that modern science developed in Western culture,” he said.

D’Souza then argued that the universe was “finely tuned for life.” Imagining that the physical settings of the universe could be altered by a control board, he argued that an infinitesimal change to one constant would render an inhabitable universe impossible.

He also proposed that despite natural constraints, “in some way, man is free from fixed laws.” Man is placed between two distinct domains of “the way we are” and “the way we ought to behave.”

“You might do well to consider living as if there is a God, because ultimately that will make you a better person,” he suggested.

Hitchens opened his comments by half-jokingly saying that he does not value compassion and quite enjoys crowing over the misfortunes of others.

He began his argument by ridiculing the popular idea that the absence of religion would cause moral chaos. If Jesus and Mary or any other religious figure were proved “entirely mythical,” he questioned, “would you really look at your neighbor differently? Would you then become a thief, a rapist?”

If atheism were correct, Hitchens argued, “we would be in precisely the same place we are now” in considering what our duties are towards others and why we are here.

He then claimed that religion, by holding that a revelation from God has happened, suppresses these questions by holding that it is only necessary to live up to religious commandments. This makes personal responsibility meaningless and attacks mankind in “our deepest integrity” by saying we have no knowledge of good and evil.

This is also the “origin of totalitarianism,” Hitchens claimed.

He further accused the God of Christian belief of making us sick and commanding us to be well, suggesting this view of God is “very incompetent, very vicious, or very cruel.” He questioned why God would redeem others’ suffering only by taking away sins, and not by going to jail or becoming sick for them.

D’Souza responded by arguing that without Christianity “we would be a very different civilization,” noting that only Western, Christian-influenced countries appear to rush to help disaster victims across the world. He cited an Indian proverb from his youth which says “the tears of strangers are only water.”

Hitchens then raised the raised the questions of why Christianity should be considered superior to other religions, such as Islam.

D’Souza replied by noting the disconnect between “the way things are” and “the way they ought to be.” This can be explained by supposing a chasm between the “human level” of existence and the “divine level.” In D’Souza’s view, Islam and Judaism hold that this chasm may be closed by mankind building a “ladder” to climb to God.

Christianity, however, declares this project “wonderful but impossible” by teaching that the chasm “has to be closed from the other side” through God entering the world in the person of Jesus Christ.

Hitchens responded by attempting to equate Mohammed’s claims to be a prophet with Christian claims that Christ is an emissary from God, while D’Souza countered that Hitchens neglected to consider the place of Christ’s divinity in Christian theology.

Other topics raised in the debate included the existence of natural rights, the historicity of the Gospels, the reliability of the first Christian witnesses and the nature of Catholic teaching on the salvific necessity of Christ and the Church.

D’Souza also described how he had first met Hitchens after the latter penned an essay in the left-wing magazine The Nation supporting legal protections for the unborn.

Hitchens then explained that he finds it “extraordinarily objectionable” to exclude the “occupant of the womb” from the human family.

Following the debate, CNA spoke with Father Augustyn. He said it was an “excellent debate” with both speakers doing “very well” on their positions. In his view, D’Souza countered and “unmasked” some of Hitchens’ “unfair” and “selective” comparisons of religions.

“At the same time, Christopher Hitchens is a formidable opponent. He’s very witty, very sharp, he makes good points, and he brings out audience participation. I don’t think his arguments hold water, but I think he is a good debater.”

The St. Thomas Aquinas Center has scheduled follow-up sessions to discuss the debate in campus classrooms on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Father Augustyn characterized them as apologetics or “question and answer” events.

He reported that the debate had been streamed via live video to another building housing 300 viewers, bringing total attendance to more than 2,300.

“This is the largest event we’ve hosted in our history,” Father Augustyn said, appealing for more partners to assist the parish ministry’s evangelization mission on campus.

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Husband’s kiss revives comatose woman

London, England, Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - A woman who doctors believed could remain comatose indefinitely recently revived after her husband asked her for a kiss.

Just ten days after giving birth to her son, Telford, Shropshire resident Emma Ray suffered a heart attack and collapsed while shopping with her husband, Andrew. Andrew performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her, after which she was taken to a hospital where doctors were able to restart her heart.

“She could wake up the following day, she could wake up in a month, or you may be left with a sleeping beauty,” Andrew Ray said a doctor told him, according to the Daily Mail.

Andrew went to great lengths to try and rouse his 34 year-old wife from her comatose state, playing recordings of their baby son Alexander and of their daughter Ella and songs from their wedding reception.

“I would speak softly to her, clasp her hand, pinch her fingers, all the time telling her I loved her or begging her to wake up. By the time I asked her to kiss me I was approaching my wits' end,” he told the Daily Mail.

He bent over his wife’s hospital bed and said “Emma, if you can hear me, please just give me a kiss.”

“'What happened next was beyond my wildest dreams,” he told the Daily Mail. “She turned her head towards mine, puckered up her lips and gave me a little kiss.”

“I couldn't believe it. My heart felt like it was going to leap from my chest –it suddenly felt like a huge weight had been lifted.”

Doctors who witnessed the kiss were astonished by her response.

Emma ray continued to drift in an out of consciousness. Her brain had been oxygen-starved after her heart attack, resulting in short-term memory loss.

She was eventually allowed home but requires ongoing rehabilitation for the brain damage.

“The recovery is awful because I have so little memory,” Emma told the Daily Mail.

Her husband said he was grateful his wife had survived.

“She can walk quite well holding hands now, and at least our kids still have a mother and I still have a wife,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.

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U.S. bishops concelebrate Mass on Tet during Vietnamese visit

Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - A joint group of U.S. and Vietnamese clergy concelebrated Mass for Tet, the first day of the Lunar New Year in the Archdiocese of Hue in central Vietnam on Monday. The occasion marks the first time in decades that Catholics from the archdiocese could join foreign clergy in the celebration.

Archbishop of Hue Stephen Nguyen Nhu The and hundreds of Vietnamese priests concelebrated the Monday evening Mass with the U.S. delegation, Fr. J.B. An Dang tells CNA. Tens of thousands filled Phu Cam cathedral in Hue for the Mass.

The U.S. delegation was led by Archbishop of San Francisco George Niederauer and included Bishops Todd Brown of Orange, Dan Walsh of Santa Rosa, and Ignatius Chung Wang, an auxiliary bishop of San Francisco.

On Sunday the American delegation had concelebrated Mass for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul with Bishop Joseph Chau Ngoc Tri and priests from the Diocese of Danang, about 50 miles south of Hue.

Tet 2009 marked the first day of the Year of the Ox. Vietnamese Catholics customarily celebrate Tet as Thanksgiving Day, giving thanks to God for his many graces in the past year. They also pay respect to their ancestors and express gratitude to their living parents and grandparents. Young children receive red envelopes of cash called “li xi,” which means “lucky money.”

At the end of the Lunar New Year Mass in Hue, children were given red envelopes filled with something other than cash—Bible Verse greeting cards.

Like Hanoi, the Archdiocese of Hue has repeatedly clashed with the Vietnamese government over the ownership of confiscated church properties, Fr. An Dang reports.

Our Lady of La Vang Shrine, the most-visited religious Catholic shrine in Vietnam, is the focus of one of the most intense conflicts. Since 1975, all 58 acres of land surrounding the basilica have been seized by the government.

Last April Nguyen Duc Chinh, deputy chairman of the People's Committee of Quang Tri, at a meeting with Archbishop Stephen Nguyen Nhu The and Bishop Francis Le Van Hong, announced that 52 acres around the basilica would soon be returned to the church.

However, Fr. An Dang says, the official’s promise remains unfulfilled.

Another conflict concerns An Bang parish, which is about 16 miles southeast of Hue city. About 800 Catholics live and fish in the parish area, where a makeshift church was built “in the middle of nowhere” on land donated by a parishioner upon his death.

“Parishioners in this congregation are so impoverished that their newly erected church has not even a single chair. Churchgoers often struggle with rain or hot sun since there is no roof, no wall, nothing,” Fr. An Dang tells CNA.

“Their poverty, however, does not appeal to the pity of the government nor can it spare them from attacks of officials who are so driven by greed and ambition that they have been trying to take every step to dissociate the people with their legitimate need for a decent worshiping place where they can be in communion with Christ. They have turned down each and every request to build a ‘real church’ from the priest and his parishioners while publicly announcing they had already made plans to seize the land and turn the area into a tourist resort.”

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Read Scripture as the 'Word of the Holy Spirit,' Pope Benedict teaches

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - Commenting on Saint Paul’s Pastoral Letters at the Wednesday general audience, Pope Benedict XVI warned Christians not to read Scripture as “a historical curiosity,” but rather, as “the Word of the Holy Spirit.”

In his address to the 8,000 people gathered in the Paul VI Hall this morning, Benedict XVI spoke of how St. Paul emphasized the need to read Sacred Scripture "as 'inspired by' and proceeding from the Holy Spirit" in his pastoral letters, two to Timothy and one to Titus.

These Letters, the Holy Father said, refer to a situation in which "certain erroneous and false doctrines had arisen, such as the attempt to present marriage as something bad. This concern remains current today because Scripture is sometimes read as a historical curiosity and not as the Word of the Holy Spirit, in which we can hear the voice of the Lord Himself and perceive His presence in history."

Faithfulness to the deposit of faith handed on by the apostles is also insisted on in these three Letters, the Pope said. “This so-called ‘deposit’ is the criterion of faithfulness to the announcement of the Gospel," he explained. According to St. Paul, Scripture and Tradition are seen as the "firm foundation laid by God" for the life of the Church.

Built upon this “firm foundation,” the Holy Father said, St. Paul teaches strongly and decisively that the mission of the Church is universal.

The Pastoral Epistles also contain "a reflection upon the ministerial structure of the Church. They present for the first time the triple division of bishops, priests and deacons."

"We have the essential elements of Catholic structure. Scripture and Tradition, Scripture and announcement form a single whole,” Pope Benedict observed. “But to this structure, so to speak, a doctrinal structure, must be added a personal structure, the successors of the Apostles as witnesses of the apostolic announcement."

On the topic of bishops, the Pope recalled how in the Letter to Timothy the bishop "is considered as the father of the Christian community.” “The idea of the Church as the 'house of God' has its roots in the Old Testament and is formulated in the Letter to the Hebrews. In the Letter to the Ephesians we read that Christians are no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens and saints, members of the house of God," he said.

The Pontiff concluded by asking St. Paul to help Christians to live as members of “God’s family,” and to help their pastors to be strong and loving fathers, committed to the formation of the house of God, the community, the Church.

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Pope Benedict asks SSPX to accept Vatican II

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - After delivering his usual Wednesday address today, Pope Benedict XVI explained his recent decision to lift the excommunications on four bishops ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. The Pope said he hopes the bishops will respond to his decision by accepting his authority and the teachings of Vatican II.

The four bishops in question--Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso del Gallareta--were all excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988 because Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre chose to ordain them without permission from the Pope. These prelates compose the leadership of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).

Pope Benedict explained his motivation for lifting the excommunications, saying, "I have undertaken this act of paternal benevolence because those same bishops have repeatedly expressed to me their profound suffering at the situation in which they found themselves.”

As he explained his reasons for removing the excommunications of the four bishops today, the Pope called on them to take the next step towards full reconciliation.

"I hope that this gesture of mine will be followed by a prompt commitment on their part to take the further steps necessary to achieve full communion with the Church, thus showing true faithfulness to, and true recognition of, the Magisterium and authority of the Pope and of Vatican Council II," Pope Benedict said.

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Pope Benedict concerned about Christians in Middle East

Rome, Italy, Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - During his intervention Tuesday at the General Assembly of the Meeting of the Aid Agencies for the Middle East, Archbishop Fernando Filoni of the Vatican Secretariat of State said Pope Benedict XVI is concerned about the situation Christians in the Middle East are facing.

 

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop said the Pope is concerned about all those who suffer and about the lack of future prospects. “Many have left their land due to unemployment or lack of recognition in a society influenced by Islam,” where there is no “freedom and respect,” the archbishop said.

 

“Benedict XVI has already been informed about this situation by the bishops of Iraq and Iran during their respective ‘ad limina’ visits,” the Vatican daily reported.

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The Holocaust reminds us that violence cannot acheive brotherhood, Pope says

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - People around the world celebrated Holocaust Memorial Day on Tuesday, and Pope Benedict added his voice to the commemorations by reflecting on the Shoah at today’s general audience. The tragedy of the Holocaust should remind men that dialogue, love and forgiveness are the only way to true brotherhood and peace, the Pope said.

The Holocaust should serve as “an admonition against oblivion, negation and reductionism, because violence against a single human being is violence against all," the Holy Father cautioned.

Noting that yesterday was the day on which ceremonies were held to remember the Holocaust and its victims, Pope Benedict recalled that he too has visited Auschwitz, where "millions of Jews were cruelly massacred, innocent victims of blind racial and religious hatred.”

"As I once again affectionately express my full and indisputable solidarity with our Brothers and Sisters who received the First Covenant," the Pope continued, "I trust that the memory of the Shoah will induce humankind to reflect upon the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man."

The lesson that should be drawn from the Holocaust is for both “old and new generations,” and this lesson is that “only the arduous path of listening and dialogue, of love and forgiveness, can lead peoples, cultures and religions of the world to the longed-for goal of fraternity and peace, in truth," Benedict XVI said. 

"May violence never again humiliate man's dignity," he prayed. 

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Dominican cardinal slams President Obama’s new abortion policy

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) called the decision by President Barack Obama to lift the prohibition against giving federal funds to organizations that promote abortion overseas “embarrassing for the United States.”

 

The cardinal said it was a “political contradiction” that the new American president “would decide to leave Iraq, where so many people have died, and now give an incentive to death in the United States and the world.”

 

“Mr. Barack Obama is radically mistaken, so I hope he has the time and the chance to reflect that this is not the way to begin the moral reconstruction of the United States,” he added.

 

“The United States,” the Archbishop of Santo Domingo said, “is not going to benefit at all from this measure, what he (Obama) is doing is bringing down the country’s morality even more.”

 

The cardinal said the decision would have “dramatic consequences” for the Dominican Republic, because “in our country there are many institutions dedicated to promoting abortion and killing children” that will now receive American dollars.

 

He called on Dominicans to work “to provide our children with healthy environments, a place where they can live in peace and that they can be welcomed by a society that can educate them.”

 

Organizations that promote abortion in the Dominican Republic such as “Profamilia” and “Mujer y Salud” said last week they would be requesting funding from the U.S. agencies that provide overseas assistance.

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Chavez supporter 'invades' bishops' office, makes demands

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - The organization “National Front of Women for a Yes Vote,” led by Venezuela’s Minister for Women’s Affairs, Maria Leon, repeatedly disrupted the offices of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela on Monday to demand the bishops support the referendum to allow Hugo Chavez to run for re-election indefinitely.

 

Accompanied by a throng of journalists from the state-run media, Leon and a group of women demanded to meet with a representative of the bishops.

 

Father Jose Gregorio Salazar Monrroy, the Undersecretary of the Bishops’ Conference, met with Leon briefly and said later the document she had, which was supposedly representative of “millions of women in Venezuela” would be delivered to the president of the Conference, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana.

 

“We have come to ask you to change…and that you create a new Bishops’ Conference, with us women,” Leon said.

 

According to the Diario Catolico, which had access to a copy of the document, the text stated that “the heroines who make up the National Front of Women for a Yes Vote reject in the strongest of terms” the document issued by the bishops, because “it expresses a partisan and sectarian political position in response to the historic process our country is experiencing under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez.”

 

Last January 13, the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela rejected the proposal to amend the constitution put forth by President Chavez that would allow indefinite re-election for all public offices and expressed concern about the attempt to “reverse the decision of the people that has already been expressed” against re-election in an earlier referendum. 

 

The bishops said the haste with which the proposal has been put forth could “translate into greater political and social confrontation, gravely affecting an already weak peace.”

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Election of Kirill as new patriarch brings Pope happiness

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - Following the general audience address today in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Benedict shared his happiness at hearing that Metropolitan Kirill was elected the new Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. The Holy Father also said in a telegram to the patriarch-elect that he hopes full communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches can be achieved.

"Upon him I invoke the light of the Holy Spirit for a generous service to the Russian Orthodox Church, entrusting him to the special protection of the Mother of God,” the Pope prayed as he noted the Metropolitan’s election.

Metropolitan Kirill, is currently the leader of the Orthodox Church in Smolensk and Kaliningrad, and serves as the president of the Department for External Church Affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow. He will succeed Patriarch Alexy II, this coming Sunday.

In an English-language telegram sent to the newly-elected Patriarch, the Pope writes: "May the Almighty bless your efforts to maintain communion among the Orthodox Churches and to seek that fullness of communion which is the goal of Catholic-Orthodox collaboration and dialogue.

"I assure Your Holiness," he adds, "of my spiritual closeness and of the Catholic Church's commitment to co-operate with the Russian Orthodox Church for an ever clearer witness of the truth of the Christian message and to the values which alone can sustain today's world along the way of peace, justice and loving care of the marginalized."

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity also voiced its pleasure at the fact that the Orthodox elected "a Patriarch with whom we have maintained fraternal relations for many years, and who met the Holy Father immediately following his election in April 2005, and again in the months of May 2006 and December 2007.”

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Congressmen introduce legislation to reinstate Mexico City Policy

Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) - Four U.S. Congressmen introduced legislation on Wednesday in an attempt to  reinstate the Mexico City Policy, which was overturned by President Obama on January 23.  

Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced House Resolution 708, describing it as aimed at restoring the “abortion-neutral” Mexico City Policy. According to a press release from Reps. Smith and Sensenbrenner, the federal funding restrictions establish a “wall of separation” between abortion and family planning.

The Mexico City Policy, which was introduced by former President Reagan in 1984, prevents federal funds from going to overseas groups that promote or perform abortions.

“One of President Barrack Obama’s first acts in office was to issue an executive order to allow U.S. taxpayer money to flow to groups that perform abortions or actively work to overturn pro-life laws all over the world,” said Rep. Smith. “It’s a sad statement about his list of priorities. With Americans facing an economic crisis the likes of which we’ve not seen in generations, he chooses to enact a policy that will redirect funds to foreign organizations promoting and conducting abortions.”

Rep. Smith argued that the Mexico City Policy represents “common ground” and prevents funding “radical groups” who are “intent on spreading the scourge of abortion.”

He charged that the president’s reversal of the policy would fund programs that have “little or no regard" for the sovereignty of democratic nations that oppose abortion as a means of family planning.

Rep. Sensenbrenner likewise criticized President Obama’s policy decision, saying:

“With one swift stroke of his pen, our new President gave the green light for the execution of thousands of pre-born children whose parents will find it easier to deny them the right to enter this world.  I can think of no clearer signal to illustrate our changing times, and highlight the fact that after 14 years of relatively easy times, we pro-lifers now face a huge challenge in our cause to protect the life of the innocent unborn children who have no voice but ours to speak out for their survival.”

The congressman argued that President Obama must resist funding groups that “export” abortion as a method of family planning if he is truly interested in reducing the number of abortions.

A Senate amendment to the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 had also been reintroduced in an effort to restore the Mexico City Policy. The amendment was defeated by 60-37 in a Wednesday vote.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), reputed to be a pro-life Democrat, voted against the amendment. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) was the only Democrat who voted in favor of the measure.

Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) broke with fellow Republicans and opposed the amendment.

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Southern Africa bishops call on Mugabe to relinquish power

Pretoria, South Africa, Jan 28, 2009 (CNA) -

The Catholic bishops of southern Africa have accused Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe of perpetrating genocide, saying: “We, the Catholic bishops of southern Africa, call on Mugabe to step down immediately.”

Their remarks came in a Tuesday statement from the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC). Presented by SACBC president and Archbishop of Johannesburg Buti Tlhagale, the statement resulted from a Praetoria meeting between the bishops of Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland.

According to the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA), the bishops called on regional leaders to cut ties with Mugabe, warning that a failure to do so would make them guilty of “passive genocide.”

“The appalling tragedy in Zimbabwe means that the time of talking is over,” the bishops said. They asserted that mediation and negotiations have failed, claiming that six months of talks have resulted in stalemate.

They called on the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC), which opened another summit on Zimbabwe in Pretoria on Monday, to stop supporting and giving credibility to the Mugabe regime.

“Failing this, SADC leaders accept complicity in creating the conditions that have resulted in starvation, displacement, disease and death for ordinary Zimbabweans. This is nothing short of passive genocide,” the bishops said, CISA reports.

They urged that Mugabe step down to allow a coalition interim government to be formed for the purposes of national recovery and to prepare for immediate internationally supervised and credible presidential elections.

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