Belfast, UK, Jun 16, 2009 (CNA) - A mother of sextuplets in Northern Ireland says that she and her husband rejected doctors’ advice to abort several of her babies, whom she called “a wonderful gift from God.”
All six of Austin and Nuala Conway's children were born 14 weeks early by Caesarean section. They are now in stable health in intensive care.
Mrs. Conway said doctors “more or less” advised her and her husband to abort, according to news reports.
“They told us about the risks we faced if we went ahead with the pregnancy. Doctors gave us a couple of days to think about it, but we knew without discussion what we both wanted.”
The Conways’ six children, who were conceived without in-vitro fertilization treatment, have been named Ursula, Austin, Shannon, Karla, Eogan and Kerrie.
Mrs. Conway, a Catholic, said she had been praying to become pregnant after she and her husband had problems conceiving.
“These babies are a wonderful gift from God,” she said, according to the Christian Institute. “Whatever God laid out for our lives we were taking it.”
“I’m in love with every single one of them,” she added. “I fell in love when they were in the womb. When one moved they would all move and I could definitely feel 24 limbs kicking.”
Mrs. Conway said that since returning from the hospital, her house feels “so empty” without her children. She described the children’s condition at the hospital as “like a rollercoaster.”
“The babies have been on and off antibiotics and ventilators.
“They are thriving really well but it’s hard to get a good day. There are so many of them there are always days when one or two will not be doing so well.”
The children weighed between 1 lb 7 oz and 2 lbs 2 oz when they were born at Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Belfast, where a team of 38 people helped in the delivery.
According to the Christian Institute, neonatal consultant Dr. Clifford Maynes said the birth had taken a “massive amount of planning.”
He reported the babies all have normal head scans and have made progress. “But it is still very early,” he said, explaining that the present goal is to get the babies off drips and antibiotics and to have them gain weight.
Kathmandu, Nepal, Jun 16, 2009 (CNA) - Inspired by St. Paul’s conversion, a man whose wife and daughter were killed last month in a bomb attack at the Catholic cathedral in Kathmandu has forgiven the woman suspected to have carried out the attack.
He met with the accused female bomber in a police station near the site of the attack.
Balan Joseph Palamootil, a Catholic layman of Indian background, was himself wounded in the May 23 bombing of Assumption Cathedral in the Nepalese capital.
According to Fides news agency, Balan forgave “in Jesus’ name” one Sita Thapa Shrestha, who is in police custody in connection with the attack.
“When I saw Sita, I was reminded of the story of Saint Paul, who persecuted Christians and I thought of how Sita might also have this same experience of conversion. So, I conveyed Christ's message of love and forgiveness to her,” said Balan.
Balan, a native of the Indian state of Kerala, gave his testimony during a public celebration recently held in the cathedral. There, many Catholic faithful and those of other Christian denominations had gathered to pray for the victims and for peace in Nepal.
He declared his decision to remain in Nepal to work for peace and reconciliation, Fides reports. Balan, who came to Nepal as a migrant 20 years ago, also said he will dedicate his life to his other two children, taking care of his family and all those he will meet.
He added that he will offer his testimony of a Christian life by following Christ as a layman.
Sydney, Australia, Jun 16, 2009 (CNA) - A biology program originally approved in the Australian state of New South Wales to teach public schoolchildren about the “Wonder of Life” before birth has been banned because of its creator’s connections to pro-life groups.
In March, the New South Wales Department of Education and Training had approved The Wonder of Life (Before Birth) program to be taught in fifth and sixth year classrooms as part of the personal development, health and physical education curriculum.
The program, which uses life-sized dolls of the fetal development of a baby, was created by Bruce Coleman, a former executive director of the pro-life group NSW Right to Life.
The Sydney Morning Herald then reported on Coleman’s link to NSW Right to Life, which it characterized as an “anti-abortion lobby group.”
The report resulted in the state education department banning the group from visiting schools. The education department has also announced a review of the approval process.
Coleman, a former management committee member for the Christian Democratic Party, was an unsuccessful CDP candidate in the 2004 election.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Coleman said the program was “very much biology” and said he “doesn’t get involved in the politics at all.” The program does not mention abortion “in the primary context” because it is “not appropriate,” he said.
Coleman also runs the company The Choices of Life Inc., the Australian distributor of the pro-life merchandise marketed by Heritage House, a U.S. company. Its range of fetal life-sized dolls is used in the disputed program.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Greg Smith, a Liberal MP, supported the creation of The Choices of Life in 2007.
Smith, a former president of NSW Right to Life, said he did not see a problem with Coleman’s program being taught in public schools.
Associate Professor Anne Mitchell of La Trobe University, an expert in sex education in schools, told the Sydney Morning Herald it was entirely appropriate for children in years five and six to be taught about conception, pregnancy and life in the womb.
"My problem would be if it's put in an ideological framework, if it's being used to influence people's thinking about abortion," she said.
A spokesman for the Department of Education and Training said that the The Wonder of Life (Before Birth) presentation has been removed from the department’s website and the company responsible for presenting it has been told it is not authorized to present in NSW public schools.
Vatican City, Jun 16, 2009 (CNA) - This morning, the Vatican announced a significant change by Pope Benedict at the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, the body charged with overseeing the liturgy. The American priest, Fr. Agustine Di Noia O.P., was appointed by the Pope to be the secretary of the Congregation and raised to the level of archbishop.
Pope Benedict's appointment of a native English speaker will prove to be valuable as the Congregation prepares to approve and introduce a new English translation of the Roman Missal.
Archbishop-elect Di Noia will be working under Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, who was appointed by Pope Benedict last December.
Prior to his new appointment, the Dominican priest worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he served under the future Pope Benedict XVI from 2002-2005.
The archbishop-elect was born in New York City in 1943 and ordained a priest in 1970. He received his licentiate in theology at the Dominican House of Studies, and holds a doctorate in philosophy from Yale University.
As part of being assigned to his new post, Archbishop-elect Di Noia will be given the titular see of Oregon City, Ore.
The current secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, has been appointed by the Holy Father to be the Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 16, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Felipe Aguirre Franco of Acapulco, Mexico has confirmed that one priest and two seminarians were killed last week in the city of Altamirano in the Mexican state of Guerrero.
According to the newspaper “Milenio,” Archbishop Aguirre said during a press conference that Father Habacuc Hernandez Benitez, and seminarians Eduardo Oregon Benitez and Silvestre Gonzalez Cambron, were on their way to a vocations meeting when assailants fired upon their vehicle.
“Right now we don’t know exactly what happened. We assume that they saw that they were young people, there was a confrontation and they were driving in their car and didn’t stop,” the archbishop said.
He said officials from the four surrounding dioceses would be meeting on Monday and Tuesday of this week and that afterwards a statement would be issued.
The archbishop called the incident “a very painful blow to Guerrero and to the Church in the Diocese of Altamirano,” and added that, “We are saddened by the murder of the priest and the two young men, who were part of the seminary family.”
He said people in the region feel like they are hostages in the violent confrontations and revenge attacks between the drug cartels. “This has become contagious, as others imitate these violent actions and live by the law of the jungle,” the archbishop stated.
Expressing concern about the further spread of violence, Archbishop Aguirre said the diocese would be asking for increased security.
“We need the help of God, but there is no panic. We will only take the necessary precautions to prevent misunderstandings,” he said.
Vatican City, Jun 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today the details of Pope Benedict XVI's pastoral visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, the town in the Italian Region of Puglia where St. Padre Pio lived.
The Holy Father is scheduled to arrive at the “Antonio Massa” sports ground at 9:15 a.m. on June 21. He will proceed to venerate the tomb of St. Padre Pio at the shrine of Our Lady of Grace, where he will pray and light two candles, symbolizing his apostolic visit and that of Pope John Paul II.
Afterwards, the Pope will preside at a Mass in the Plaza of the Church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, where he will also pray the midday Angelus.
At 4:45 on Sunday afternoon, the Holy Father will meet with patients as well as medical and administrative staff at the “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza,” the Home to Relieve Suffering, founded by Padre Pio in 1956.
The Pope will then return to the Church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina to meet with priests, religious, and young people.
Pope Benedict will return by helicopter to the Vatican, where he is expected to arrive by 7:30 on Sunday evening.
The town of San Giovanni Rotondo is named after St. John, patron of the Pirgian inhabitants, and the small round church which they had devoted to him.
Padre Pio was assigned to a community of Capuchin friars in San Giovanni Rotondo in 1916. In the years that followed, he became a well-known confessor and spiritual director, battling the torments of the Devil and receiving the stigmata.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico issued a statement on Monday strongly condemning the killing of a priest and two seminarians in the city of Arcelia in the state of Guerrero.
In their statement the bishops expressed their “condolences to Bishop Maximino Martinez Miranda of Ciudad Altamirano, to the Seminary and to the families who are suffering the pain and irreparable loss of their loved ones.”
They also condemned “the violence that has slammed our country” and demanded that “officials at all levels of government carry out a prompt investigation and find those responsible for this cowardly crime.”
“Our faith gives us the certainty that Father Habacuc Hernandez, director of vocations, and seminarians Eduardo Oregon Benitez and Silvestre Gonzalez now enjoy the presence of the heavenly Father,” the bishops said.
They concluded by asking “the entire Church to unite with us in prayer for the Diocese, the seminary and the families, that the Lord will grant them strength and prompt consolation.”
Lima, Peru, Jun 16, 2009 (CNA) - At the conclusion of his homily during the Corpus Christi Mass last Sunday, the Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, called for reconciliation in the country, especially in the Amazon region, where confrontations between police and natives have left more than 34 people dead.
“Inside each person there is a daily struggle between the good of the life of Christ and the evil of the life of sin,” the cardinal said. “Out of struggle comes either joy, peace, justice, unity, affection, family and children, or violence, lies, hatred, abuse, and that first fracture goes against the Eucharist.”
“The Eucharistic person is a sower of peace, joy, unity, love for the family and love for life. He is a sower of Christ,” the cardinal preached.
“When we think about our brothers and sisters high up in the Andes who endure the terrible cold season, or when we think about the many different Peruvians in the Amazon, in the mountains, on the coast, what does the Eucharist mean for all of them? It means the sacrament of union in Christ. And that Christ calls on all of us to be sowers of peace, truth and reconciliation,” the cardinal continued.
Later, on his Dialogue of Faith radio program, Cardinal Cipriani criticized some politicians for manipulating the violent incidents in the Peruvian Amazon saying, “Political strength loses its moral basis if it does not have a more ethical content. I think there needs to be more honesty in politics. More honesty, more truth, more respect.
“It is of great concern that political advantage is more important than resolving problems,” the cardinal stated. “This is not a good sign for the country.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Bombay hosted an inter-religious meeting recently between Catholics and Hindus in order to discuss ways to promote peace and respect for religious freedom in the wake of attacks against Christians in India.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, the Catholic delegation was led by Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, while the Hindu delegation was led by Shankaracharya Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swami.
This meeting, Cardinal Tauran said, “has served to reaffirm the need to defend religious freedom in the country” after a series of attacks against Christians have taken place this past year.
“Minorities have the right to practice their faith in peaceful conditions,” he added. “Religious leaders have the duty to shed light on common points and discuss the differences clearly and calmly to reinforce peace and harmony.”
For his part, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and First Vice President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, said, “The attacks on Christians in various states in India have exposed the urgent need to promote dialogue between the two communities.”
He also expressed his hope that the “inter-religious dialogue would contribute to convincing the Hindu community in the country of the need for reciprocal understanding between the followers of religions different from their own.”
Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2009 (CNA) - Although the Department of Justice filed a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last week, the Obama administration has made it clear that promoting same-sex “marriage” will be an important focus of its political agenda.
Last Friday, the Department of Justice filed a brief to dismiss a federal lawsuit brought against DOMA, an act that allows states that limit marriage to a man and a woman to be exempt from recognizing homosexual “marriages” from other states. The act had been challenged by a gay couple in California who claimed that it had violated their rights.
In its brief, the Department of Justice stated that the question at hand was not one of “whether a same-sex couple may marry within the United States,” a matter determined by individual state legislation. Instead, the brief said, the case was a matter of “whether the federal government and State governments that do not recognize gay marriage should be constitutionally required to extend to them the benefits and privileges that they extend to traditional marriage.”
In examining this question, the Justice Department found that “there is no constitutional right to State or federal financial benefits,” and it therefore labeled DOMA a “valid exercise of Congress’ power.”
Furthermore, the Department of Justice noted that “while the Supreme Court has held that the right to marry is 'fundamental,' that right has not been held to encompass the right to marry someone of the same sex.”
The Justice Department brief closed by saying that the law draws a line “between different types of State-recognized marriage” and “the fact [that] the line might have been drawn differently is a matter for legislative, rather than judicial, consideration.”
This possibility of legislative action also drew attention from the Department of Justice as they defended their brief. Tracy Schmaler, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, told the Wall Street Journal that, “Until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.”
According to White House spokesman Shin Inouye, the Obama administration is committed to repealing DOMA on through legislative means. “The president remains strongly committed to signing a legislative repeal of DOMA into law,” Inoyue stated.
Nevertheless, the brief drew angry responses from the homosexual community, including withdrawal of financial support for the administration, and a scathing letter from Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, protesting the brief and calling on Obama to “send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress.”
In response to the outcry, John Berry, Obama's director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest ranking openly homosexual official in the Obama administration, reinforced the president’s commitment to the gay agenda on Sunday.
In an interview with the Advocate, a gay publication, Berry outlined the Obama administration’s “four broad legislative goals,” which include the extension of “hate crimes” to include those against gay and transgendered individuals, securing the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military, and repealing DOMA.
“The pledge and the promise is that, this will be done before the sun sets on this administration,” vowed Berry. “Our goal is to have this entire agenda accomplished and enacted into law so that it is secure.”
St. Paul, Minn., Jun 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican has designated the Cathedral of St. Paul to be the first national shrine in honor of the Apostle Paul, following the request of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The special distinction was granted by the Office of the Holy See and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, according to the Cathedral of St. Paul’s website. The cathedral will be the first national shrine in Minnesota and the only North American national shrine dedicated to honor St. Paul.
The church particularly honors St. Paul through a series of bronze grills that depict major events in his life, ranging from his conversion to his martyrdom.
A shrine has a specific designation under canon law. It is a church or other sacred place to which the faithful may make pilgrimages for “a particular pious reason.”
Those who wish to participate in the National Shrine can do so by becoming members of the Archconfraternity of the Apostle Paul.
Although the Cathedral of St. Paul already receives over 200,000 guests and visitors every year, the cathedral staff expects that number to increase as a result of the designation.