Washington D.C., Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - As the 40 Days for Life Campaign nears the completion of its spring session, its leaders claim to have helped saved nearly four hundred babies from abortion. Organizers are now judging the campaign’s effects and considering how to extend its success.
The campaign encourages actions like 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion, vigils outside abortion clinics and extensive community outreach.
“It was an amazing 40 days," said spring campaign director Shawn Carney. "Courageous people stood and prayed in rain, cold weather and snowstorms. Abortion workers tried to smear this effort with accusations that 40 Days for Life volunteers' prayers 'intimidated' their clients. But none of this could dissuade peaceful, determined people who know their efforts touch hearts and impact communities."
According to the campaign, participants’ efforts helped save 389 babies from abortion. Activities reportedly were held in 135 cities in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Northern Ireland.
“There are undoubtedly others that we don't know about," said Carney. "We're aware that many appointments were canceled when several clinics closed unexpectedly on days when abortions are normally scheduled.”
The campaign joined forces with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, in which men and women with abortion experiences came forward to pray at abortion clinics and to warn women about the physical, emotional and spiritual damage they risk by undergoing an abortion.
40 Days for Life reports that over its four campaigns 466 local efforts have taken place in 240 separate cities in all 50 states and seven other countries. The organization says that more than 200,000 individuals and more than 4,000 churches have participated. Additionally, at least 17 abortion clinic employees have quit their jobs.
Its next campaign is scheduled for the fall from September 23 to November 1. Its website is at www.40DaysForLife.com.
Vatican City, Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - A researcher in the Vatican Secret Archives claims to have filled a gap in the known history of the Shroud of Turin, saying that rediscovered records of the Knights Templar trials show the Shroud had been in the possession of the order before it was suppressed.
The Shroud had disappeared in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade and reports of it do not surface again until 1353, Researcher Barbara Frale said in L’Osservatore Romano. The Shroud was then displayed in a church at Lirey in France by descendants of Geoffroy de Charney, a Templar Knight burned at the stake with the last head of the order, Jacques de Molay.
According to L'Osservatore, Frale has uncovered new evidence concerning the Shroud in the testimony surrounding the Knights Templar, a crusading order.
Founded at the time of the First Crusade in the eleventh century, the Knights Templar protected Christians making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They took their name from the Temple of Jerusalem, near which they were first stationed.
After the crusaders lost the Holy Land with the fall of the city of Acre in 1291, support for them weakened. Accused of both heresy and engaging in corrupt and sexually immoral secret ceremonies, the order’s leaders were arrested by King Philip IV of France. The king pressured Pope Clement V to dissolve the Knights Templar, which he did in 1307.
Frale reported that a trial document recounts the testimony of Arnaut Sabbatier, a young Frenchman who entered the order in 1287. He testified that as part of his initiation he was taken to “a secret place to which only the brothers of the Temple had access.” He was shown “a long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man” and instructed to venerate the image by kissing its feet three times.
Frale said that the Knights Templar had been accused of worshiping idols, in particular a “bearded figure.”
According to Frale, the Knights took possession of the Shroud to rescue it from heretical groups such as the Cathars.
In 2003 Frale rediscovered her trial document source, known as the Chinon Parchment, after realizing it had been wrongly cataloged in the Vatican Library.
Radiocarbon dating tests conducted on the Shroud in 1988 indicated it was a medieval forgery. However, the tests’ accuracy has been challenged on the grounds the sample was taken from an area of the Shroud mended after a medieval fire.
The Catholic Church has not taken a position on the authenticity of the Shroud.
Bridgeport, Conn., Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Bridgeport William Lori has said he will not attend a Sacred Heart University dinner which will honor pro-abortion Catholic Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy.
He also commented on the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama, saying it was contrary to efforts to resist the president’s “anti-life” policies.
The April 4 edition of the Fairfield County Catholic reported: “Bishop Lori indicated that he will neither support nor attend Sacred Heart University’s Discovery Awards and Scholarship Dinner on April 22 because it will honor Kerry Kennedy, a longtime Catholic pro-choice activist. Bishop Lori is chairman of the Sacred Heart board.”
The Cardinal Newman Society, quoting the Connecticut Post, reported that Kerry Kennedy disagrees with the Catholic position on issues including abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and same-sex “marriage.”
Sacred Heart University, located in Fairfield, Connecticut, previously honored Bishop Lori at its 2004 Discovery Awards and Scholarship Dinner.
Bishop Lori also commented on the invitation of President Barack Obama to the University of Notre Dame to deliver the commencement speech and to receive an honorary degree.
“Notre Dame extended this invitation unilaterally, seemingly without regard for the consequences for the mission of the Catholic Church in the United States. It is contrary to the efforts of bishops, parish priests, and laity to resist the anti-life decisions, policies, and legislation promoted by the Obama administration,” he said in the Fairfield County Catholic.
Patrick Reilly, President of the Cardinal Newman Society, commented on Bishop Lori’s actions, saying:
“The nearly quarter million people who have signed the petition opposing Notre Dame’s honoring of an abortion rights supporter will be thankful for Bishop Lori’s public boycott of Sacred Heart University …SHU and all Catholic colleges must learn from the mistakes at Notre Dame, where defiance toward the U.S. bishops’ speakers and honorees policy has provoked outrage from Catholics nationwide.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2004 statement “Catholics in Political Life” said Catholic institutions should not honor “those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”
Tegucigalpa, Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - The House of Representatives in Honduras has approved a law prohibiting “the morning-after pill” as unconstitutional because of its abortifacient nature. The full Congress approved the measure which bans the purchase, sale, use and distribution of the morning-after pill.
The measure was sponsored by Liberal Party Representative Martha Lorena Alvarado and supported by a statement from the Medical College of Honduras, which pointed out the pill’s abortifacient effects.
The emergency contraceptive pill “is a hormonal bomb that acts directly in the body causing thousands of physical changes in girls, who are the ones taking it the most, 12, 14 and 16 year-old girls take it after a night of partying, making it a pharmaceutical abortion,” Alvarado said.
Abortion is unconstitutional in Honduras.
Alvarado noted that the sale of the drug has been criminalized in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina,” because it has been shown to be an abortifacient and very harmful to the youth.”
Representative Silvia Ayala of the Democratic Unification Party said the World Health Organization issued a statement claiming the pill is not an abortifacient. However, the WHO’s statement only considers abortion to take place after implantation, and therefore it does not see the elimination of an embryo between conception and implantation as an abortion.
Alvarado pointed out that Ayala’s arguments are part of a political agenda of groups financed by international organizations determined to make abortion a human right.
New York City, N.Y., Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - New York’s Archbishop, Cardinal Edward E. Egan, was hospitalized on Saturday with stomach pains, causing his surgeon to postpone an operation to install a pacemaker at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan.
Egan, 77, began to experience stomach pains on Saturday night and was promptly driven to St. Vincent’s to undergo testing.
The pacemaker, which according to the Archdiocese of New York was supposed to be implanted today, will be rescheduled until the Cardinal regains some strength. The pacemaker operation is not deemed to be “an emergency.”
The medical emergency means that Cardinal Egan's participation in Holy Week celebrations is still up in the air.
The Archdiocese reported earlier on Sunday that Egan was “awake and alert and his stomach pains [had] decreased.” He also was able to express “his disappointment at not being able to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Patrick.”
The New York Times reported that Cardinal Egan was seen with a cane last week, and upon being asked why, he said “his doctors had diagnosed [him with] post-polio syndrome.” According to his biography, Egan contracted polio at the age of 11.
Egan will retire as Archbishop on April 15, 2009 when Archbishop Timothy Dolan is installed as the new Archbishop of New York. The Cardinal has led the Archdiocese since June 2000.
Vatican City, Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - For the second year in a row, Pope Benedict XVI has asked that the meditations for the Good Friday Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) ceremony be focused on the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.
Last year's Via Crucis, written by the Archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, featured the reflections that were relevant to the Church in China. Cardinal Zen called on the Church to remember the persecuted, as they experience "in their bodies the Passion of Jesus."
This Good Friday, Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, India, will offer the meditations for the Via Crucis reflect on the question of evil in the world, on pain and on the various forms of suffering which are, he writes, a "symbol of the presence of the cross of Christ in our lives."
Archbishop Menamparampil will also mention the plight of persecuted Christians in India and the oppressed peoples of Sudan and the Congo. In these places, he says, we see a type of violence that "destroys ethnic and religious groups" and conflicts that are "fueled by economic interests."
The Way of the Cross will be presided over by Pope Benedict on the evening of Good Friday, April 10 at the Colosseum in Rome.
EWTN will feature coverage of all the major papal events during Holy Week as well as the papal nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Pietro Sambi, celebrating the Solemn Mass of the Lord's Supper live from The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.
Rome, Italy, Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati in India has described the opportunity to write this year's Good Friday Way of the Cross as “an expression of the Holy Father's closeness to the persecuted Christians in India who are victims of attacks simply because of their faith in Christ." The archbishop is taking his reflections from two months of visiting his suffering flock.
“I have spent about two months in personal reflection in carrying out this beautiful task, as I carried out intense evangelization and formation activities in the diocesan territory and beyond,” the archbishop explained in an interview with Fides news agency.
Archbishop Menamparampil related that, “Many times I was in isolated towns, without public facilities or electrical current. Sometimes I wrote down my notes on sheets of paper, during the night. I tried to immerse myself in the person of Jesus and, while I was on my pastoral trips, I was able to perceive first-hand the agony of mankind today, seeing so many people suffer from illnesses, hunger, and misery.”
During these difficult times, he continued, “I have tried to let myself be led by hope. In spite of the tragic situations around us, as Christians we are called to share in the hope of the weak and those who suffer. This is our mission.” “I have also tried to perceive the problem of evil, which is part of the spiritual battle of every Christian, myself included. I tried to respond to the question: Why do innocent people suffer? And I have lifted my gaze to the Cross, to Christ Innocent, who suffered for us,” he said.
Archbishop Menamparampil also explained that he used some elements of Indian culture in his meditations, such as the concept of “ahisma,” which goes much deeper than “non-violence” and that fully expresses the way in which Christ accepted and suffered His Passion with serenity and strength of spirit. One of the most important values in India is harmony, he added, which expresses the “coexistence amidst differences,” recalling the presence of the Christian minorities in India and in many other countries in the world.
Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Saenz, has called on the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) to cease hostilities. He also reminded them that the country demands they free all hostages because doing so will allow them to “find a way to reintegrate themselves into society.”
During Palm Sunday Mass, the cardinal expressed support for President Alvaro Uribe's call for the rebel group to end its violent actions for four months beginning this Holy Week in order to start peace negotiations. “As the ones always appealing to the kindness of the Church, why don’t they take into consideration this Holy Week and begin a period of four months without terrorist activities?” the Colombian president said.
Cardinal Rubiano said, “Everything that is done to build peace is important and deserves the support of Colombians.” The Church “has and always will be willing to collaborate” in whatever serves to put an end to a conflict that has lasted four and a half decades, he added.
Marquette, Mich., Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette, Michigan has joined the growing number of Catholic bishops and laity speaking out against Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama. Bishop Sample called the university's decision to honor Obama is "unconscionable" and "completely out of step with the Catholic Church’s teaching."
On Tuesday Bishop Sample joined an increasing number of bishops denouncing Notre Dame’s speaking invitation and bestowal of an honorary degree to President Obama. A petition asking the university's president Fr. John Jenkins to put an end to the scandal had nearly 250,000 signers on Tuesday afternoon.
In his statement, Sample said that Obama’s "campaign rhetoric" and the "actions he has taken since becoming president" have made it clear that he intends to fuel the Culture War and continue the "destruction of innocent human life."
Bishop Sample cited Obama’s "Mexico City Policy" executive order, approval of funding embryonic stem cell research, and "his pledge to sing into law a resurrected Freedom of Choice Act."
Given Obama’s record, Bishop Sample said it was "unconscionable" that a Catholic university would honor someone who is "so completely out of step with the Catholic Church’s teaching" on the protection of "human life in its most vulnerable forms, even if that individual holds the highest office in the land."
Bishop Sample also said he has personally written Fr. John Jenkins and asked him to withdraw the invitation.
He concluded his letter by saying that it "saddens [him] beyond words that the great university name after Our Lady" would honor a politician "who would seek to expand threats to such innocent human life."
Montpelier, Vt., Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - Today Vermont narrowly became the fourth state to legalize same-sex "marriage" joining Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa, despite opposition from the governor and the local Catholic bishop.
Unlike the previous three states who moved to allow gay "marriage," Vermont’s decision came through the legislature instead of the courts. The final vote in the House was 100 to 49, and at least 98 votes were required to override the governor's veto.
Less than a day after Republican Governor Jim Douglas’ veto on the same-sex "marriage" legalization, both the House and the Senate received enough votes to override his decision. Douglas told the Associated Press that he was not surprised with the vote and remarked that the gay "marriage" issue was a distraction from the more urgent current economic situation.
"What really disappoints me is that we have spent some time on an issue during which another thousand Vermonters have lost their jobs," Douglas stated. "We need to turn out attention to balancing a budget without raising taxes, growing the economy, putting more people to work."
Burlington, Vermont Bishop Salvatore R. Matano had previously spoken to the judiciary committee regarding the Catholic Church’s position of same-sex "marriages."
According to the Vermont Catholic Tribune, Bishop Matano testified that the Church desires “the good for all people” and respects “the rights of our fellow citizens to seek the truth and pursue the common good.” Nevertheless, we “have the duty to uphold and to defend the traditional definition of marriage as it has been upheld and revered over the ages.”
He continued by quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is our firm belief that “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring …”
Bishop Matano also emphasized that this “core teaching, which we believe to be rooted in God, does not allow the Church to give an alternate definition of marriage. ‘The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by Him with its own proper laws …God himself is the author of marriage’.”
Despite his opposition, the announcement of the legalization of gay "marriage" prompted cheers from activists in the gallery and lobby.
Wendy Wright from the Concerned Women for America commented on the vote legalizing same-sex "marriage" by saying that legislators are undermining society.
"Marriage is the unique relationship between a man and a woman who together provide children with the benefits of the two sexes, male and female” and “cannot be complete without both sexes. While government officials may change definitions, they cannot change nature. The first human relationship was between one man and one woman, and it became the foundation of all society,” she explained in a press release.
“Vermont legislators' futile attempt to replace God by vainly redefining marriage eerily follows how that first man and woman acted on the first temptation -- and the root of all temptations -- to act as if they were gods,” Wright said. “That one decision by Adam and Eve to believe that they could 'be like God' separated them from God, destroyed the peace that they had experienced, and ushered in what some would call 'unintended consequences' of pain and destruction.”
She closed her statement by urging other states to begin working to protect the institution of marriage.
Toledo, Spain, Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, criticized the Spanish government’s plan to broaden the country’s laws on abortion, saying on Sunday that it “goes against man and not only against God’s will.”
“We cannot just accept this, really, and it is not a political question, it is a question of humanity, of true humanity. It is not a question of parties, God knows I don’t look at any political issue like that, but I do say that we cannot again reject Christ, in whom all love is found, all the truth and all the greatness of man, which must be respected,” the cardinal said.
“It must be said; I cannot see the law on abortion being expanded,” the cardinal said during Palm Sunday Mass in Toledo. One cannot do whatever one pleases with his or her body, he said.
He also encouraged those who “truly love mankind without expecting nothing in return” to work to make love of God and neighbor the norm in society, in response to the “blind current of aggression, the lack of respect for man, the violation of human dignity, the elimination of human life, even of the innocent and the unborn.”
Cardinal Canizares also had words of encouragement for young people who are seeking God, because what they are seeking is “peace, happiness and joy.” His comments were in reference to the Spanish youth gathered this past weekend in Rome for World Youth Day, where they received the WYD cross, which will be brought back to Spain.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 7, 2009 (CNA) - Father Hugo Valdemar, spokesman of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, warned this week about the “terrorist” nature of the call for a “holy war” against the Catholic Church by the leader of followers of “St. Death.”
David Romo Guillen, leader of the devotion to “St. Death,” especially popular among drug traffickers and criminals, called for a “holy war” against the Catholic Church after the Mexican Army destroyed several places of worship it suspected to be criminal hideouts, especially in the northern part of the country.
"Only terrorist or fundamentalist leaders call for holy wars, like Bin Laden or the Taliban. It’s a shame that Mr. Romo makes himself equal to the Taliban or a terrorist by calling for a holy war,” said Father Valdemar.
After the destruction of the suspected hideouts, Romo blamed the military’s actions on the Catholic Church, because several bishops had warned against the devotion and called it un-Christian.
This Monday, the followers of St. Death, led by David Romo, protested outside the Cathedral of Mexico City, bearing pictures of the “White Child,” the name they have given to St. Death, represented by a skeleton dressed in a white tunic or sometimes in a wedding gown.
“Nobody has the right to call for a war, sedition, or a revolt. As far as I know that is a crime,” the archdiocesan spokesman said.
The priest denied that the Catholic Church has launched a campaign against the practice. “David Romo is only looking for someone to get into the ring with him,” Father Valdemar stated.
The spokesman for the archdiocese stressed that the bishops have limited themselves to “clarifying for the people that this devotion is superstitious and can lead to demonic practices, and that they should be very careful because it is not something insignificant or inoffensive.”
Holy Week, he went on, “is the least appropriate time to carry on these kinds of protests for holy wars. It should be a time of respect and peace.”
“St. Death has no business being in front of the Cathedral,” Father Valdemar added. The leader of the sect “should protest outside the Secretariat of the National Defense and the Attorney General because I understand it was soldiers from the military who destroyed the altars.”
Father Valdemar called on the Catholic faithful not to fall into provocations because “it is not legitimate to get involved in fights, and much less so in Holy Week.”