Mexico City, Mexico, May 22, 2009 (CNA) - The San Luis de Potosi State Congress in Mexico approved a measure Thursday reforming the State Constitution to protect the right to life of children from the moment of conception.
Representative Vicente Toledo Alvarez said the reform would ensure that the State’s Constitution clearly recognizes the right to life as the most basic of all human rights and protects it from the moment of conception.
Before passage of the measure, Archbishop Luis Morales Reyes of San Luis Potosi said, “The Church has her principles and one of them is life. I am only stating that the Church supports life and will always support life, regardless of the politics or laws of the moment.”
“God is the only owner of every life conceived by woman, and as such that life will always have rights, the most important of which is the right to life,” the archbishop said.
San Luis de Potosi now becomes the twelfth Mexican state to enshrine protection for the unborn into its Constitution. The protections became necessary after Mexico City legalized abortion in some cases.
Oklahoma City, Okla., May 22, 2009 (CNA) - An Oklahoma bill to ban abortions based on an unborn child’s sex has been passed by the state legislature and now heads to the governor for signing.
H.B. 1595 passed the Senate on Friday by a vote of 35 to 9. The bill had passed the House by 88 to 6.
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, urged Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry to sign HB 1595 into law.
“Aborting a baby because she's a girl or he's a boy is offensive on so many levels, it's hard to imagine anyone trying to justify the practice," Fr. Pavone said.
According to The Oklahoman, the bill requires the abortionist to report to the state Health Department the age, marital status and education level of the mother; the number of her prior pregnancies; the reason and method for the abortion; and the nature of the mother’s relationship with the baby’s father.
The bill also requires the reporting of the method of payment, the type of medical health insurance coverage, the cost of the abortion, and whether an ultrasound was given.
If the bill becomes law, abortionists will be required to report the information starting in 2011.
At present, the state currently tracks non-identifying information about women receiving abortions including their age and county of residence. Physicians at the three facilities in Oklahoma that are certified to perform abortions voluntarily report information, the Oklahoman reports.
Under the proposed law, doctors who do not report the information would be subject to fines of up to $100,000 after their third offense.
Health officials said the bill’s requirements could cost the state nearly $280,000.
Tony Lauinger, state chairman of Oklahomans for Life, said the legislation would help prove whether abortions are “safe, legal and rare” as some say.
"We don’t have a tangible way to prove the accuracy of that statement. Complications are seldom reported, and there is very little known about the damage to the health and well-being of women,” he said, according to the Oklahoman.
Last week, the Oklahoma House passed a human cloning ban, sending it to the Senate for final passage. Gov. Henry had vetoed a previous version of the anti-cloning bill.
Dublin, Ireland, May 22, 2009 (CNA) - Ireland’s Child Abuse Commission has released its report on the physical and sexual abuse inflicted on thousands of children over the past 70 years by religious and lay staff of institutions caring for disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children.
Responding to the release of the report, the new Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols said the report was “disturbing,” adding that every single incident of abuse in the Catholic Church should be “a scandal” and should never be “a matter of indifference.”
The inquiry has produced findings against 216 facilities, a number that includes both state and religious institutions. The Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers, which ran the largest number of children’s institutions, were among the religious orders investigated.
Institutions run by religious orders examined in the report included industrial and reform schools, institutions for the disabled, orphanages and day schools.
The report said that sexual abuse was endemic in boys’ schools while in girls’ schools children were subjected to predatory abuse by male employees, visitors, and also during outside placements.
The abuse was rarely reported to government authorities. On the occasions the Department of Education was informed, it colluded with religious orders in silence by dismissing or ignoring sexual abuse complaints and never bringing them to the attention of the Garda, the Irish police.
“The risk (to children), however, was seen by the congregations in terms of the potential scandal and bad publicity should the abuse be disclosed,” the report stated.
It said the safety of children “in general was not a consideration.” Religious authorities who had evidence of sexual abuse transferred the alleged offenders to other locations, where they were often free to abuse again.
"At best, the abusers were moved but nothing was done about the harm done to the child. At worst, the child was blamed and seen as corrupted by the sexual activity, and was punished severely," the report found.
Part of the nine year investigation by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse included interviews with 1,090 individuals about the abuse they suffered. The interviews revealed that more than 90 percent of the students who testified suffered physical abuse, while around 50 percent were victims of sexual abuse. The commission found that more than 800 individuals who were involved in carrying out physical or sexual abuse.
Some children were so badly neglected they had to scavenge for food in waste bins and animal feed, while unsupervised bullying also left smaller and weaker children without food.
Archbishop Nichols spoke to ITV News about the report, saying:
“It's very distressing and very disturbing and my heart goes out today first of all to those people who will find that their stories are now told in public... Secondly, I think of those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin who have to face these facts from their past which instinctively and quite naturally they'd rather not look at.
"That takes courage, and also we shouldn't forget that this account today will also overshadow all of the good that they also did."
The archbishop said those who committed violence and abuse and “abused the trust that was placed in them” should be held to account, “no matter how long ago it happened.”
He said the Catholic Church in England has a “very steady and reliable system” of cooperation with police and social services and said a legal and police process should “absolutely” take place if the offenses demand it.
When ITV asked Archbishop Nichols why abuse seemed more prevalent in the Catholic Church than in other faiths, he answered:
“Every time there is a single incident of abuse in the Catholic Church it is a scandal.
"And I'm glad it's a scandal. I would be very worried if it wasn't a scandal... I hope these things don't happen again but I hope they're never a matter of indifference.”
Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 22, 2009 (CNA) - Following the Sri Lankan government’s declaration of an end to the country’s civil war, the Archbishop of Colombo called for forgiveness and unity. He also expressed his “deepest sympathies” to soldiers who died in battle and civilians trapped or killed by the war.
The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has assured the government that she will help build reconciliation and peace. The Church has also requested a speedy resolution for Tamil refugees, the protection of minority rights for ethnic and religious groups, and measures to ensure a “fair peace.”
Speaking on May 18, Archbishop of Colombo Oswald Gomis expressed happiness that the war has ended and that government security forces have been able to release all civilians trapped in battle.
“I congratulate His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapakse, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, for his very courageous leadership and thank the Chiefs of the Defense outfit who supported him with deep commitment and self-sacrifice,” he said. “I also offer my deepest sympathies to those who laid down their lives in battle and those innocent civilians killed, trapped in war.”
The archbishop said that in a sense the war is not ended and would end only when the country realizes “that we are all one people in one country with equal right.”
“We have to realize the fact that we are a multiethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural community. As such we are now left with the great task of nation-building, forgetting our ethnic, political and religious differences,” he remarked.
He advocated a “political formula” to inspire confidence among minority groups.
“We have to leave the sad and bitter memories of the past three decades and look positively and optimistically towards the future in hope. All of us have to share the blame for our division and forgive each other. We should have the humility and wisdom to learn from the sad experiences of that past,” Archbishop Gomis said, adding that only then will Sri Lanka have true peace and prosperity.
Rome, Italy, May 22, 2009 (CNA) - The schedule for Benedict XVI’s May 24 visit to Cassino and Montecassino, Italy was released today. On his agenda are Mass, a visit to the Montecassino abbey and a stop at the nearby Polish military cemetery.
On Sunday, the Holy Father will depart by helicopter from the Vatican at 9 a.m. local time and arrive at Cassino’s Salveti sports ground at 9:30 a.m.
He will then preside over Mass in the city’s Piazza Miranda. After praying the Regina Coeli, he will travel to the Benedictine abbey of Montecassino, making a brief stop on the way at the "Casa della Carita" (House of Charity) in Cassino.
Early that afternoon, the Pope will have lunch at the abbey. Then, after greeting the monastic community, he will celebrate Vespers with Benedictine abbots and communities of Benedictine monks and nuns in the basilica of the abbey.
Following the visit at the abbey, the Holy Father will make a private visit to the Polish military cemetery at Montecassino.
The Pope will depart for the Vatican at 6:30 p.m.
Vatican City, May 22, 2009 (CNA) - The celebration of Sts. Cyril and Methodious, Greek missionary brothers who evangelized the Slavs, brought the presidents of Bulgaria and Macedonia to Rome on Friday. Pope Benedict received both of the presidents separately and encouraged them to take inspiration for building a peaceful, Christian Europe.
The first head of state to be received was Georgi Parvanov, president of the Republic of Bulgaria, followed by Gjeorge Ivanov, president of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Each of the men was accompanied by his wife and a delegation.
In his address to the Bulgarian delegation, the Pope highlighted how the spiritual heritage of these two saints, co-patrons of Europe, "has marked the lives of the Slavic peoples; their example has supported the witness and faithfulness of countless Christians who, over the centuries, consecrated their lives to spreading the message of salvation, while at the same time working for the construction of a more just and united society."
"May their spiritual witness abide in your nation," he added, "so that Bulgaria, thanks also to this source of light and hope, may make an effective contribution to building a Europe faithful to its Christian roots. And may the values of solidarity and justice, of freedom and peace ... find even greater force and solidity in Christ's eternal teaching, as translated into the lives of His disciples in all times."
Then, switching from French to English, the Pope spoke to group from Macedonia about how the memory of Sts. Cyril and Methodius "invites all of us who are united by the one faith in Jesus Christ, to contemplate their heroic evangelical witness. At the same time we are challenged to conserve the patrimony of ideals and values that they have transmitted by word and deed."
"Your beloved homeland, marked by the influence of these two great saints, seeks to become more and more a place of peaceful encounter and dialogue between the country's many social and religious spheres.
"My hope, which I renew today with all my heart, is that you may continue to progress on this path," the Pope concluded.
Rome, Italy, May 22, 2009 (CNA) - Romans will have their soccer appetite whet for the May 27 Champions League final—a match that will pit Manchester United against Barcelona—by Clericus Cup, a soccer tournament between the different groups of seminarians in Rome.
The SIR news agency reported that on Saturday, May 23, at 11 a.m. local time, the North American Martyrs will face off against the Neocatechumenals of the Redemptoris Mater seminary in the final match, organized by the Centro Sportivo Italiano.
This will be the third trip to the finals for the Neocatechumenals, led by Simone Biondi, associate pastor of Holy Mary Queen of the Martyrs in Rome, after they won in 2007 and lost in 2008 against the Mater Ecclesiae team.
On the other hand, the seminarians of the North American Martyrs, led the Australian Gannon “Ball” Jones, will have their chance for revenge, since they lost to Redemptoris Mater in the first annual Clericus Cup. The came in fourth place last year after Ucro, a team made up of Ukrainian and Croat priests and seminarians.
Westminster, England, May 22, 2009 (CNA) - During his installation as the new Primate of England and Wales, Archbishop Vicent Nichols of Westminster underscored the communitarian dimension of the faith and that “as a society,” “we must respect its outward expression.”
The installation had more than two thousand attendees, including his predecessor Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, 50 Catholic bishops, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
In his homily, the new Archbishop of Westminster said, “Faith is never a solitary activity nor can it be simply private. Faith in Christ always draws us into a community and has a public dimension. This community of faith reaches beyond ethnicity, cultural difference and social division, opening for us a vision of ourselves, and of our society, as having a single source and a single fulfillment.”
“As a society,” he went on, “if we are to build on this gift of faith, we must respect its outward expression not only in honoring individual conscience but also in respecting the institutional integrity of the communities of faith in what they bring to public service and to the common good.
“Only in this way will individuals, families and faith communities become whole-hearted contributors to building the society we rightly seek,” the archbishop stressed.
“Some today propose that faith and reason are crudely opposed, with the fervor of faith replacing good reason,” he noted. But Archbishop Nichols countered, “This reduction of both faith and reason inhibits not only our search for truth but also the possibility of real dialogue.”
This dialogue “is crucial today and I salute all who seek to engage in it,” the archbishop said. “In this the media have such an important part to play, not by accentuating difference and conflict, but by enhancing creative conversation.”
Vatican City, May 22, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, which has faced criticism from many pro-life U.S. Catholics for its positive assessment of Barack Obama’s presidency, finally reported today on the objection of U.S. bishops to both Obama’s pro-abortion record as well as to Notre Dame’s decision to invite him to its commencement speech.
In the article titled "U.S. Bishops and ethical questions," L’Osservatore quotes the strongly-worded statement from the Archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput which comments on Father John Jenkins’ commencement speech that justified his decision to invite the President of the U.S. to Notre Dame.
The Vatican newspaper does not mention that Chaput’s words were addressed to Fr. Jenkins, but quotes the Denver Archbishop saying that "the most vital thing faithful Catholics can do now is to insist – by their words, actions and financial support – that institutions claiming to be ‘Catholic’ actually live the faith with courage and consistency."
L’ Osservatore then explains that Archbishop Chaput "criticized the decision of the University of Notre Dame to honor someone who has demonstrated the willingness" to uphold Roe v. Wade.
"Other U.S. bishops recently," the Vatican newspaper continues, "have recalled the non-negotiable terms in which (Catholics) must confront ethical issues such as abortion, embryonic stem cell research and the right to conscientious objection of health workers."
L’Osservatore still seemed to defend Obama by saying that the President promised during the commencement speech at Notre Dame that "such a right must be defended," but concluded with the article quoting the Bishop of Kansas City - St. Joseph, Robert W. Finn, saying that "Obama has closed any door to dialogue, affirming that he will not change his position on abortion."
Los Angeles, Calif., May 22, 2009 (CNA) - The California Supreme Court has announced that next Tuesday it will issue its ruling on the three cases challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the successful California ballot measure which restored the legal definition of marriage to be a union between a man and a woman.
An announcement on the California Court's web site said the high court will issue its ruling on the cases on Tuesday at 10 a.m. local time.
The ruling will also decide the status of about 18,000 homosexual couples who were “married” last summer.
Proposition 8 was proposed in response to the court’s decision last spring to mandate the recognition of homosexual “marriages.”
On March 5 the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in support of and in opposition to Proposition 8.
Describing the hearings, Frank Schubert, Campaign Manager of the Yes on 8 campaign, told CNA that a “strong majority” of justices were not inclined to overturn the ballot measure.
Andrew Pugno, General Counsel for the pro-Proposition 8 group ProtectMarriage.com, commented on the scheduled decision in a statement.
“The wait is finally over,” he said. “We are looking forward to the Court’s decision, and we’re confident that the right of the people to protect traditional marriage in the state constitution will ultimately prevail.”
Jerusalem, Israel, May 22, 2009 (CNA) - The Custodian of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said this week that “conditions exists for finishing the fiscal agreement” between the Holy See and the State of Israel “by the end of this year.” He also reported that, “A good portion of the points have been resolved.”
Father Pizzaballa’s remarks were part of comments he made about the recent trip of Benedict XVI to the Holy Land, which ended on May 15.
Speaking to the Italian bishops' news agency, he explained that “the issue regarding the fiscal exception is at a good point, but there still needs to be discussion about the issue of the Holy Places, which is something we are discussing at this time.”
Regarding the Upper Room, which Israel is considering returning to the Church, Father Pizzaballa said, “It is an issue that has a long history and will be studied in detail. In fact, there has been no discussion on the matter since the year 2000.”
Asked later about the issuance of visas for religious and priests, in particular for those who come from Arab countries, the Custodian said, “That has already been discussed even recently with the Prime Minister, but there have not been any immediate exchanges. We hope, however, for a normalization in the short term.”