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Archive of March 30, 2009

‘Reproductive rights’ to top of U.S. foreign policy agenda, Secretary Clinton says

Houston, Texas, Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) - Speaking at Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s national conference in Houston this past Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that promoting “reproductive rights” –including abortion- will be at the top of the government’s international agenda.

After being honored by Planned Parenthood with the Margaret Sanger award for her “work on behalf of women’s health and reproductive rights,” the Secretary of State said “I have to tell you that it was a great privilege when I was told that I would receive this award. I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision.”

 

Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was openly sympathetic with to Nazi Germany’s eugenic practices and was strongly committed to preventing blacks, Hispanics and poor people from reproducing.


Praising the organization that endorsed her after during her unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton said that “the overarching mission of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the cause of reproductive freedom that you continue to advance today is as relevant in our world now as it was a hundred years ago.”

“Yet,” she continued, “we know that Margaret Sanger's work here in the United States and certainly across our globe is not done. Here at home, there are still too many women who are denied their rights because of income, because of opposition, because of attitudes that they harbor. But around the world, too many women are denied even the opportunity to know about how to plan and space their families. They're denied the power to do anything about the most intimate of decisions.”


“I want to assure you that reproductive rights and the umbrella issue of women's rights and empowerment will be a key to the foreign policy of this Administration,” she assured as the crowd applauded.


“I believe that women's rights and empowerment is an indispensible ingredient of smart power and therefore is integrated into our renewed emphasis on diplomacy and development… and I was very proud when President Obama repealed the Mexico City policy,” Clinton said, eliciting thunderous applause.


“As a result, nongovernmental organizations overseas can once again use U.S. funding to provide the full range of family planning services so that women and their families can get access to the healthcare that they need,” she said.


Clinton officially announced that the United States will once again fund family planning, including abortion as an option, through the United Nations. “We are going to fund a contribution of $50 million this fiscal year. That's a 130 percent increase over our last contribution, which was made in 2001.” “Congress has also approved the Administration's request for $545 million in bilateral assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs this year,” she informed the audience.


The Secretary of State also revealed that Obama’s policy towards dismantling and defeating al-Qaeda and their allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan will include “assisting women's development in those two countries”   because “we know that access to family planning broadens the horizons and expands the vision of women everywhere.”


Clinton then connected national security and political instability around the world with the need to promote family planning and abortion.


“Simply put, infant mortality is connected to a lower quality of life. And a lower quality of life is the by-product of inadequate healthcare, including inadequate family planning options.”


Moreover, Clinton claimed that Indonesia “in ten short years has moved from tyranny to democracy” because of the coexistence of “Islam, modernization, and women's rights.”


“There is a connection between the commitment to family planning and the secular democracy that Indonesia has become,” she argued.


Clinton then said that NGOs like Planned Parenthood are “one of the great exports that America has,” and said that, “at the end of the next four years, I hope that we'll be able to look around the world and see that it is more peaceful, more prosperous, more progressive, and that, in particular, women's voices will be heard at every place where important decisions are made, and that organizations like Planned Parenthood will be our partners.”


Clinton ended her speech by thanking Planned Parenthood’s leadership for its advocacy for “women's reproductive health” in deliberations about the Obama Administration’s future healthcare system.

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Vatican’s China commission meets to examine local Church life

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) - Last Saturday it was announced by the Vatican press office that the commission studying the importance of the Catholic Church in China since 2007 will meet at the Vatican March 30 – April 1.

 

The commission, which was created by Pope Benedict XVI, includes “superiors of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia with responsibility in this area, as well as certain representatives of the Chinese episcopate and of religious congregations.”

 

The first meeting of the commission, which took place March 10-12, 2008, discussed the letter the Holy Father addressed to Chinese Catholics on May 27, 2007.  Participants “considered how that pontifical document was received, both inside and outside China” and “reflected upon the theological principles that inspired the Letter in order to understand the prospects arising therefrom for the Catholic community in China.”

 

According to an announcement for today’s meeting, it will focus on “certain aspects of the life of the Church in China” in the light of the Pope’s Letter with particular attention being given to “important ongoing religious questions.”

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Another Mexican state approves reform blocking abortion

Guadalajara, Mexico, Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) - The Congress of the State of Jalisco has approved a reform of the state constitution so that it protects the right to life of the unborn from the moment of conception.

Representatives of one of the most important state legislatures in Mexico modified article 228 of the state constitution. Javier Guizar Macias of the PRI party said, “Instead of incarcerating someone who undergoes abortion…the reform stipulates giving the person medical care, psychological counseling, so that she can reflect on the issue.” 

The measure passed by a vote of 31-0 with 2 abstentions.

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Weigel and Kmiec lock horns over Notre Dame at the Chicago Tribune

Chicago, Ill., Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) -

On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune invited the Catholic scholars Professor Douglas W. Kmiec and George Weigel to express their opposing views about the controversial invitation of President Barack Obama to give the commencement address at the Catholic University of Notre Dame.

In his column “Notre Dame's common ground,” Professor Douglas Kmiec, who was a dean at the university, and who defended Obama as the best option for Catholic voters in the recent election, writes that regarding the selection of commencement speakers “it's depressing to think Mother Teresa is deceased.”

“The controversy over President Barack Obama at Notre Dame –he says- is different. Even as unprecedented numbers of Catholics voted for the president… there's the rub, the Catholic Church is the foremost defender of unborn life, and properly, uncompromising about it. Obama is more pragmatic, accommodating other religious and scientific views that see the origin point of life differently.”

According to Kmiec, Notre Dame's president, Fr. John Jenkins, has “made it plain that the commencement invitation represents no disregard of the church's commitment to life. And while it is unfortunate the local prelate, Bishop John D'Arcy, has chosen to be elsewhere rather than pray with Obama and engage him in conversation, the significance of the bishop's absence and Jenkins' candor is surely not lost on our intellectually gifted 44th president.”

Kmiec then asks: “So with all this reservation and dissent, should Notre Dame regret Obama's acceptance? And in light of the commotion being stirred up by Obama's detractors, should Obama feel unwelcome?” “No, on both counts,” he responds.

“Both Notre Dame and our new president are ‘fightin' Irish’ when it comes to working for social justice,” Kmiec argues, and mentions  the administration's “early victories” extending health insurance to children, rectifying imbalances in a tax code neglectful of the working man, and persuading Congress to allocate abundant resources for educational reform.

Obama’s presence would also be the best way to honor Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, 92, Notre Dame's president emeritus, says Kmiec. “Today, Father Ted has been rendered nearly blind by illness, but he, like Obama, can see clearly two great goods missed by the short-sighted critics of the invitation: first, that while on Inauguration Day, all Americans rejoiced in the election of the first African-American to the presidency, today we are with him or against him irrespective of race, and second, that despite our occasionally profound disagreement, if we are truly to learn to live with one another, we will need to find a way, as Obama has remarked, ‘that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all.’”

George Weigel, responded to Kmiec’s piece with an article titled, “The university's egregious error.” Weigel, who was Pope John Paul II’s biographer and is a senior fellow of  Ethics and Public Policy Center, responds that when a university invites a prominent personality to deliver a commencement address, both “the invitation and the award of an honorary degree are a university's stamp of approval on someone's life and accomplishment.”

“Which is precisely why the University of Notre Dame, which claims to be America's premier Catholic institution of higher learning, made an egregious error in inviting President Barack Obama,” he writes.

According to Weigel, since Inauguration Day, “Obama has made several judgment calls that render Notre Dame's invitation little short of incomprehensible,” among them, to put the taxpayers of the United States back into the business of paying for abortions abroad, expanding federal funding for embryo-destructive stem-cell research and defending that position “in a speech that was a parody of intellectually serious moral reasoning.”

Besides all of this, he says, “the Obama administration threatens to reverse federal regulations that protect the conscience rights of Catholic and other pro-life health-care professionals.”

“How any of this, much less the sum total of it, constitutes a set of decisions Notre Dame believes worth emulating is not, to put it gently, easy to understand,” Weigel writes.

Weigel also points out that “the Catholic defense of the right to life is not a matter of arcane or esoteric Catholic doctrine: You don't have to believe in the primacy of the pope, in seven sacraments, in Mary's assumption into heaven, in the divine and human natures of Christ—you don't even have to believe in God—to take seriously the Catholic claim that innocent human life has an inalienable dignity and value that demands the protection of the laws.”

That conviction, the EPPC senior fellow argues, is the one that “once led men like Notre Dame's former president, Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, to work for decades on behalf of civil rights for African-Americans. That claim and that work made it possible for Obama to be elected president of the United States.”

“And, in a bitter irony, it is precisely that claim that is contradicted, indeed trampled on, by the Obama administration's policies on a whole host of life issues.”

“If Notre Dame had invited the president to address a symposium on the grave moral issues the president himself acknowledges being at the heart of the biotech revolution, that, too, would have been a public service. For that is one of the things great universities do: They provide a public forum for serious argument about serious matters touching the common good,” Weigel asserts.

“But, to repeat, a commencement is not a debate, nor is a commencement address the beginning of some sort of ongoing dialogue, as Notre Dame officials have tried to suggest. A commencement address and the degree that typically accompanies it confer an honor. That honor is, or should be, a statement of the university's convictions.”

“Notre Dame's leaders invite the conclusion that their convictions on the great civil rights issues of our time are not those that once led Hesburgh to stand with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and proclaim an America in which all God's children are equal before the law. And that is very bad news for all Americans,” he concludes.

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Holy Father emphasizes reflecting on the Passion of Christ as Easter approaches

Rome, Italy, Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) - Prior to Sunday’s Angelus, the Holy Father celebrated Mass at the parish of the Holy Face of Jesus, in Rome.  He reminded the parishioners that God is always near, especially in times of suffering and encouraged them to reflect on Jesus’ mindset as he entered into his crucifixion and death.

 

At the church, which was dedicated to St. Maximilian Kolbe in 1982, Pope Benedict first greeted parishioners under heavy rain.  He said, “Unfortunately it is raining, but the sun is on its way.” "We know that the sun, though it may be hidden, exists; that God is near, that He helps us and accompanies us. In this way do we wish to progress towards Easter, knowing that suffering and difficulties are part of our life, but aware that behind them is the sun of divine goodness."

 

Later that morning, during his homily, Pope Benedict reflected on Sunday’s Gospel and exhorted the faithful to enter into Jesus’ state of mind in the period running up to Easter, reliving the mystery of His crucifixion, death and resurrection, not as mere spectators but as participants.

 

In his closing remarks, he addressed the youth present in the audience: "Allow yourselves to be attracted by Jesus. Looking at His Face with the eyes of faith, ask Him: Jesus, what do You want me to do with You and for You? Listen to Him and, guided by His Spirit, accept the plans He has for each one of you."

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Sebelius Communion ban to apply in Washington

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) -

According to the Washington Times, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington plans to maintain the pastoral request Kathleen Sebelius’ bishop made in 2007 asking her not to receive Communion.

Governor of Kansas Kathleen Sebelius is looking to move to Washington D.C. to become the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius is President Obama’s second nominee to the post after Tom Daschle withdrew from consideration after it was revealed he failed to pay $140,000 in taxes.

Gov. Sebelius has both political and religious controversy surrounding her, with her local bishop, Archbishop Joseph Naumann asking her to refrain from Holy Communion for her "30-year history of advocating and acting in support of legalized abortion." The archbishop told CNA that he came to the point of asking the governor to refrain from Communion after speaking with her over a two-year period at various levels.

Upon hearing that she was nominated by President Obama, Archbishop Naumann wrote in his weekly column in The Leaven that "her appointment to HHS is particularly troubling."

If Sebelius’ nomination as HHS Secretary is accepted and she moves to Washington D.C., she will face the same request to not receive Communion.

According to the Washington Times, Archbishop Naumann contacted Archbishop Wuerl and informed him of the discussions he had held with Gov. Sebelius.

A spokesman for Archbishop Wuerl, confirmed to the Washington Times that church officials in Washington would support Naumann’s admonition and act accordingly.

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Salesian describes success of papal visit to Africa, denounces poor coverage

Luanda, Angola, Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. Filiberto Rodríguez, Superior of the Salesian Vice-Province in Angola, wrote a letter this week sharing his impressions of the successful visit to Africa by Pope Benedict XVI, as well as some criticism of the media coverage.

“In my opinion the Pope’s Visit more than satisfied the expectations there were. Making great sacrifices (walking miles and miles on foot – there are no buses or underground or other means of transport) the people enjoyed it, moving from one place to another enthusiastically accompanying the Pope,” Father Rodriguez wrote.

“The Church,” he added, “will carry out a serious evaluation of the preparations, the events and the results and will take note of the points it needs to insist on: the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation, since it offers to the world the person of Jesus Christ. The Pope was a missionary of the Gospel and wanted to be nothing else. This ought to be the first thing to think about.”

Father Rodriguez went on to note that there was some criticism in the media “of the absence of the President from some of the large gatherings. There has been talk of looking more at and understanding better the great needs of the poor people. In the end things go well, because the people are good and know how to put up with things. Those on the inside considered some of the organization chaotic at times.

“For some of us,” he continued, “it would have been better if a large part of the international press had not come. They are only looking for things to sensationalize. They want to sell their own papers and they are not interested in the ordinary people (whom they manipulate considering them museum pieces or market fodder), nor the purpose of the Pope’s journey.”  

“Many journalists tell you: ‘we want to report the other visit’. My dear friends the journalists: the Pope’s meeting with the People that is the visit! Come and see and report the other things during the year (you forget us most of the time).”

“In fact no government, no organization has ever in the course of history been so close to the poor and to those who are suffering as has and is the Church and its Institutions,” he stressed.

Concluding his reflections, Fr. Rodríguez rebuked some of the criticisms leveled against the Pope’s remarks. He reserved his harshest words for the Pope’s European critics.

“Is it the Spanish policies of sexual incitement and disorders that will set the world to rights? What about teenage pregnancies in Spain? Is it by having abortions that the consciences of young Spaniards are liberated? Is it by sending a container of condoms that you educate and control HIV in Africa?” he asked.

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Anthony Williams withdraws application for Knights of Malta

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) -

Yesterday, Order of Malta Federal President Noreen Falcone wrote members of the Order saying that former Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams had retracted his application to the Order due to protests from members.


Williams had reportedly been invited to submit an application to the Order last month, but pressure from current members concerned about his support for abortion “rights” and being an early supporter for same-sex marriage, caused him to withdraw his application without comment.

 

Falcone addressed the issue in a letter to the Knights and Dames of the Federal Association—one of three Order of Malta associations in the United States—regarding the candidacy of Williams.

 

She voiced concern about the “considerable discussion” that took place over Williams’ application, calling some of it “not always enlightened.”

 

Falcone particularly objected to “inaccurate” descriptions of the Order’s admission process. “All applicants must successfully complete an 18-month period of formation before consideration” she said. This process also includes an applicant meeting an “initial threshold for admission,” and an “additional examination” before being approved by the Board of Directors and Sovereign Council in Rome.

 

The process, according to Falcone, also requires applicants to participate in “spiritual activities and hands on volunteer projects with the poor and sick.”

 

CNA contacted Executive Director Joe Dempsey of the Federal Association for the Order of Malta for clarification on what the “initial threshold” and “additional examination” include, but Dempsey said he was unable to comment on the subject. He described Williams' application as an internal private matter, adding that the Order was going to let President Falcone's letter speak for itself.

 

Concluding her letter, Falcone asked members not to subject the Order and candidates to “needless embarrassment” again by publically criticizing candidates, but instead voice their concerns to the Board of Directors or the candidate’s sponsor.

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Say 'yes' to feminine genius, delegates urge at conference

Rome, Italy, Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) - During a recent gathering on the role of women in promoting human rights, Cardinal Renato Martino and some 100 delegates from organizations that work for the rights of women expressed the urgent need to say “yes” to the feminine genius, to life and to the family, in order to adequately promote the defense of human rights.

During the event, which took place in Rome the weekend of March 20-21 and was organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, representatives spoke of the need to build a culture of peace through education and fighting poverty.  They also denounced the confusing language that is used in laws that claim to be for the good of women but are in fact detrimental.

Invoking the call by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to develop and empower the “feminine genius,” Cardinal Martino reiterated the urgency of saying “‘yes’ to God and to life, above all in response to the threat of poverty, the violence of war, abortion and euthanasia, genetic manipulation, in sum, the old and new slaveries.”

In response to the challenges facing women, the cardinal encouraged a “new feminism nourished by the liberating strength of the Gospel” capable of courageously confronting the “cultural potholes” in the underdeveloped and overdeveloped world that endanger the dignity of women and their fundamental rights as persons.

For this reason, he explained, “There will be no new feminism without God, if there is no discovery of this God as Love.”

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More African Catholics voice support for Pope

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) - On Sunday African Catholics gathered in Saint Peter’s Square to support Pope Benedict’s comments on AIDS prevention and condom promotion. About a hundred gathered to wave African flags and show banners that read “Africa Loves the Pope.”

Benedict Ahamiogie, one of those attending, told VOA news that the condom promotes promiscuity and “gives a kind of illusive assurance to those who use condoms.” Those who think condom use keeps them save from AIDS are not absolutely safe, he said.

Father Dennis Isizo, an African Catholic priest, said Africans were open to Pope Benedict’s message.

"In Africa, we did not criticize the Holy Father, we received the message," Father Isizo told VOA News. "Criticism, that is maybe for Europe or any other place, but for Africa we are happy for the visit, we thank him for his visit, we thank him for his message.”

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English and Welsh bishops prepare new document on Church’s social doctrine

London, England, Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has announced it’s drafting a new document on the Church’s social teaching in response to concern over the global financial crisis. The bishops plan to explain how the Church’s social teaching springs from the message of the Gospel.

“The document we are about to write has great importance for our Church in England and Wales,” said Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, who, as leader of the group is charged with drafting the document.  The archbishop said that the document will not only help “to set out in a creative and constructive way the Church’s contribution to the debate about the sort of society we want to make, but also to give our own people confidence in their generous work for the common good which is part of the Kingdom of Christ.”

According to a press release, the document will have four sections: “the current social and cultural context (with globalisation, the need for a moral ecology of the markets and the changing meaning of family life being, among others, areas for exploration); the theological context; possible topics and crowd of witnesses – a section which would look at contemporary examples of men and women, and organisations and communities whose life and work are inspired and sustained by the Gospel.” 

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Obama embryo research policy ‘a step backward,’ bioethics council members say

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) -

Ten members of the President’s Council on Bioethics have issued a statement seeking to “clarify” President Barack Obama’s comments on human embryonic stem cell research. The council members said Obama’s policy is “a step backward” because it fails to reconcile the needs of research and moral concerns.

Noting that new forms of stem cell research do not involve killing human embryos, the council members also warned that the president’s policy could permit funding for human cloning while requiring that clones be killed.

The ten members who signed the March 25 statement were Gilbert Meilaender, Paul McHugh, Benjamin Carson, Nicholas Eberstadt, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Alfonso Gómez-Lobo, William Hurlbut, Donald Landry, Peter Lawler, and Diana Schaub.

The members said that President Obama made an inaccurate characterization when he said his executive order lifted the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).

“The policy announced by President Bush on August 9, 2001, did not ban federal funding of embryonic stem cell research; rather, for the first time, it provided and endorsed such funding (as long as the stem cell lines had been derived prior to that date),” the statement said.

Some pro-lifers had criticized Bush’s decision as an unacceptable compromise that would lead to further destruction of human embryos if the research progressed.

The council members said Bush’s policy was an attempt “to seek a way for science to proceed without violating the deep moral convictions of many of our fellow citizens.”

“Attention to the ethical principles that ought to guide and limit scientific research has been constant since the end of World War II. Different kinds of research have been limited, and sometimes prohibited, not in order to suppress science but in order to free it as a genuinely human and moral activity,” the group said.

Citing the President’s Council on Bioethics 2005 document “Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells,” the council members’ statement said researchers had advanced in other alternative methods. They also noted that The New York Times said in March that the embryonic stem cell research promoted by President Obama “has been somewhat eclipsed by new advances.”

The National Bioethics Advisory Commission, active under the Clinton administration, itself held that embryo-destructive research is justifiable “only if no less morally problematic alternatives are available for advancing the research.”

“Such alternatives are now available, and research on them is advancing,” the council members’ March 25 statement said. “With respect to the progress that had been made in reconciling the needs of research and the moral concerns of many Americans, we can only judge, therefore, that the president’s action has taken a step backward, and we regret that.”

Turning to President Obama’s March 9 remarks on cloning, the statement said that the president’s new policy would permit federal funding of research on stem cells from “spare” IVF embryos but also on lines derived from created or cloned embryos.

“In the latter two cases, we would be producing embryos simply in order to use them for our purposes,” the statement said, warning that the President’s opposition to cloning for human reproduction could require the destruction of existing human embryos.

An earlier bioethics council document, “Human Cloning and Human Dignity,” warned that preventing cloning for reproductive purposes would require a law prohibiting the implantation of cloned embryos for the purpose of producing children.

“‘To do so, however, the government would find itself in the unsavory position of designating a class of embryos that it would be a felony not to destroy,’” the document notes.

 “We cannot believe that this would advance our society’s commitment to equal human dignity,” the council members’ March 25 statement said.

In a separate personal statement, President’s Council on Bioethics member Edmund D. Pellegrino voiced his individual support for “the substance of the objections of some council members to recent relaxation of existing policies regarding human embryonic stem cell research.”

“Ethically, I cannot support any policy permitting deliberate production and/or destruction of a human fetus or embryo for any purpose, scientific or therapeutic.”

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Papal ceremonies for Holy Week published

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2009 (CNA) - Today the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff published the calendar of ceremonies to be presided over by Benedict XVI during Holy Week.

Sunday, April 5:  Palm Sunday and Our Lord's Passion; 24th World Youth Day on the theme: "We have placed our hope in the living God". At 9.30 a.m. in St. Peter's Square, blessing of palms, procession and Mass.

Thursday, April 9: Holy Thursday. At 9.30 a.m. in St. Peter's Basilica, Chrism Mass. At 5.30 p.m. in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, beginning of Easter Triduum of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection with the Mass of Our Lord's Last Supper. Collection to be given to the Catholic community in Gaza. 

Friday, April 10: Good Friday. At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, celebration of the Passion of Our Lord. Way of the Cross at the Colosseum at 9.15 p.m.

Saturday, April 11: Easter Saturday. At 9 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica, beginning of Easter Vigil. 

Sunday, April 12: Easter Sunday. At 10.15 a.m., Mass in St. Peter's Square. At midday, "Urbi et Orbi" blessing from the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica.

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