Arlington, Va., Apr 5, 2009 (CNA) - On a cool and rainy afternoon last week, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde visited Virginia’s Democratic Sens. James Webb and Mark Warner to demonstrate Catholic opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) and any similar legislation. The bishop was accompanied by Father Richard Mullins, Arlington diocesan director of Multicultural Ministries, and Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist Sister Clare Hunter, director of the Respect Life Office.
They brought 189,000 postcards that were the result of participation in a nationwide campaign by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to prevent the passage of FOCA. The local effort was coordinated by the diocesan Respect Life Office. The two senators received approximately 63,000 cards each while U.S. Reps. Gerald Connolly, Jim Moran, Frank Wolf, Bob Goodlatte, Eric Cantor and Rob Wittman will split the remaining 63,000.
The bishops state that FOCA goes far beyond even Roe v. Wade in allowing and promoting abortion, and would lead to the elimination of informed consent laws, partial birth-abortion bans, abortion clinic regulations and conscience protection laws.
Catholics in Northern Virginia agreed and came out strong in January picking up cards after Sunday Mass and filling them out for delivery to their representatives.
Bishop Loverde met with Webb in his office at the Russell Senate Building. The bishop told Webb that he represents 413,000 registered Catholics residing in Northern Virginia, and that they are concerned about FOCA and other similar legislation.
Bishop Loverde said FOCA would eliminate any legislation against late-term abortions and parental notification laws. The bishop also stated that Catholics are committed not only to a decrease in abortions, but to bringing an end to the killing of innocent human life.
“(FOCA) creates a fundamental right to abortion,” the bishop said.
He also voiced concerns over the possible revocation of the conscience rights regulation by President Barack Obama’s administration that protects Catholic medical workers who refuse to perform abortions.
“This is a basic right,” the bishop said, describing conscience clauses as they relate to medical procedures.
He cited as an example the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, which is the only full-service Catholic health care center in Northern Virginia.
The bishop said this service is important to women and revocation of any conscience protection clauses would have a detrimental affect on clinics like Tepeyac. They would be forced to close.
“Tepeyac reaches out to poor women,” the bishop said about the large number of Medicaid cases handled by the center.
Webb said, “I’ve struggled with this issue (abortion) all my life.”
He said he couldn’t argue with many of the bishop’s points.
“I strongly oppose late-term abortions,” Webb said.
He did say that if his daughter was raped and became pregnant as a result, he would support her decision regarding having the baby.
“These are extreme situations,” he said. “Every abortion is a tragedy.”
Bishop Loverde pointed out that the overwhelming number of abortions are not connected with rape or incest.
Warner was on the Senate floor for a vote so the bishop met with Jonathon Davidson, the senator’s administrative assistant and policy director.
The bishop reiterated opposition to FOCA and related legislation. Davidson said that although these are important issues, the senator and staff are “focused on getting the economy fixed.”
When Bishop Loverde expressed Catholics’ opposition to revocation of conscience clauses, Davidson said he needed to become more familiar with the issue and that Warner would like the bishop to return for a personal visit with him.
Davidson did express gratitude to the bishop for the visit and its importance.
“It’s good to have input (into the issues) early on,” he said.
Bishop Loverde was generally pleased with the visits and saw them as a first step to more dialogue.
“These visits make absolutely clear our grave concerns about these issues and our firm and committed determination to protect life from conception to natural death. I welcome future opportunities to make our position clear and, in fact, will seek them out,” he said.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.
London, England, Apr 5, 2009 (CNA) - Another John Paul II miracle is being investigated by the Vatican after the fourth anniversary of his death. Cardinal Stanislaw Dzisisz, Archbishop of John Paul’s former diocese in Krakow, Poland, has stated that they are investigating a report that a nine-year-old Polish boy was healed after making a pilgrimage to John Paul’s tomb this week.
The former Pope passed away on April 2, 2005, but pilgrims from around the world traveled to celebrate his life and pray for his beautification on Thursday with current Pope Benedict XVI.
According to the Daily Mail, the boy is reportedly from Gdansk, Poland, the infamous site of the Lenin Shipyard where Lech Walesa became the leader of a spontaneous strike that led to the creation of the Solidarity movement.
John Paul II supported the movement which ultimately led to the fall of communism in Poland and was the catalyst for its fall in Eastern Europe and Russia.
The Polish boy was brought in a wheelchair due to the effects of a kidney tumor, and was wheeled to St. Peter’s Basilica on a pilgrimage to pray at John Paul’s tomb on the eve of the anniversary of his death.
Dziwisz, who was John Paul II’s personal secretary, said in the Daily Mail that after the boy prayed for a while, "he told his parents that he wanted to walk, which they took with some doubt," but according to Dzisiz, "he stood up and began walking."
If no scientific explanation is found for the boy’s recovery, the healing could be proposed as the miracle needed to declare John Paul II "blessed."
Last month, CNA reported that Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow said the beatification process of Pope John Paul II was about to be concluded and that Benedict XVI himself wanted to close the process "as soon as possible" because that "is what the world is asking for."
London, England, Apr 5, 2009 (CNA) -
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will travel to Rome for their first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and will have a private audience with him later in April, it has been announced.
"Their royal highnesses' visit to the Holy See will include an audience with Pope Benedict XVI as well as a meeting with the Cardinal secretary of state to discuss, among other things, climate change and inter-faith understanding," a spokesman said, according to the Press Association.
Following Vatican protocol, Prince Charles will meet with Pope Benedict alone. They will then be joined by the Duchess Camilla and finally members of the royal household.
Camilla will be required to dress in black with a matching veil.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced that he has been speaking with Buckingham Palace about reversing a ban on heirs to the throne marrying Catholics, the Press Association says. Clarence House, the official residence of the Prince of Wales, would not comment on whether the proposal would be part of the discussions between Prince Charles and the Pope.
Charles had a private audience with Pope John Paul II when he visited the Vatican in April 1985.
The royal couple were both divorcees before their civil marriage in 2005, but the Press Association says that fact is not believed to be an issue for the Vatican.
Charles and Camilla will spend two days in Italy during their official trip, after which they will travel to Germany.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 5, 2009 (CNA) - The radical ex-president of Argentina, Raul Ricardo Alfonsin, who died Monday after a long illness, asked to receive the Sacraments of the Anointing of the Sick and Reconciliation before dying, despite the tense relationship his government maintained with the Catholic Church.
According to the AICA news agency, on Monday morning Alfonsin was visited by Bishop Justo Oscar Laguna, who told reporters afterwards that the former president "wouldn’t let go" of his hand during the brief moment they met.
Bishop Laguna said he gave Alfonsin "a blessing" and that in December he was asked to administer the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick to the former president.
The bishop said that Alfonsin was "very ill, but alert. I was getting ready to leave when he grabbed my hand and kissed my ring. I kissed him on the forehead and I wept," the bishop said.
Bishop Laguna hadn’t met the ex-president until after the elections of 1983, when he was asked by the Vatican to help resolve the Beagle conflict with Chile. He said Alfonsin, who was the first democratically elected president after the fall of the military regime in Argentina, "bore the sufferings of his illness with extraordinary serenity." Alfonsin will be buried at the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.
Although his election marked the restoration of democracy in Argentina, as a democratic socialist, Alfonsin’s administration often clashed with the Church, such as when it eased the country’s laws on divorce.
Vatican City, Apr 5, 2009 (CNA) - Following Palm Sunday Mass and before praying the Angelus with more than 40,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI greeted representatives from World Youth Day 2011 and discussed the transfer of the World Youth Day Cross from Sydney. Reflecting on the transfer of the cross to its Spanish delegation, he prayed that it be a sign of Christ’s “invincible love.”
Pope Benedict also used the occasion to make a twofold appeal to the world, asking its leaders to sign a ban on cluster munitions and to stop the tragedy of migrant trafficking.
The Holy Father commented on today’s transfer of the World Youth Day Cross from Australian young people, host of last year’s World Youth Day, to young people from Spain. "This 'passing of witness,'” he said, “takes on a highly symbolic value, with which we express immense gratitude to God for the gifts we have received in the great encounter of Sydney, and those he shall wish to grant us at the encounter in Madrid.”
The next international World Youth Day will take place in Madrid, Spain in 2011 according to the theme "Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith.”
Pope Benedict described the journey that the WYD symbols will take. “Tomorrow the Cross, accompanied by the icon of the Virgin Mary, will leave for the Spanish capital, and there it will be present in the great procession on Good Friday. After this, it will begin a long pilgrimage that, through the dioceses of Spain, will bring it back to Madrid in the summer of 2011.”
The Pontiff concluded his words before the Angelus, praying that “this Cross and this icon of Mary be for all a sign of the invincible love of Christ and of his and our Mother."
Before his discussion of World Youth Day 2011, the Pope recalled that April 4 was the observance of the United Nations Day for Mine Awareness. "I wish to encourage all the countries that have not yet done so to sign without delay these important instruments of international humanitarian law, to which the Holy See has always given its support,” he said. “I likewise express my support for any measure aimed at guaranteeing the necessary assistance for the victims of these devastating weapons."
Benedict XVI expressed “great sadness for our African brothers and sisters, who a few days ago met their death in the Mediterranean Sea, while they were trying to reach Europe."
"We cannot resign ourselves to such tragedies, which unfortunately have been repeated for some time!” he continued. “The dimensions of the phenomenon make it increasingly urgent to implement coordinated strategies between the European Union and African countries, as well as the adoption of adequate humanitarian measures, to prevent these migrants from resorting to unscrupulous traffickers.”
He added: “While I pray for the victims, that the Lord may welcome them into his peace, I would like to observe that this problem, further aggravated by the global crisis, will find a solution only when the African populations, with the help of the international community, are able to free themselves from misery and wars."