Archive of July 31, 2009

Life of young, vibrant Catholic, inspires many to come back to the Church

Seattle, Wash., Jul 31, 2009 (CNA) - The short life of a devout, Catholic, young girl from Seattle has brought many Catholics across the United States back to the Church.  Her holy and loving example, as well as her battle with cancer, have drawn others to convert to Catholicism and have inspired the creation of an organization to reach out to families with a loved one facing a chronic illness.

Gloria was born in 1996 to Doug and Kristen Strauss and was like any other seven-year old.  She enjoyed playing with her six siblings and friends, dressing up, playing board games, picking flowers and watching the Fox television show, “American Idol.”  The young girl also had a special place in her heart for the Rosary and for making people feel good about themselves. However, no one could have predicted the amount of people her brief time on earth would touch.

Cancer diagnosis

CNA spoke with her father, Doug, who explained that one day in 2003 when Gloria was seven years-old, she was hit in the face with a ball resulting in a black eye.  When the color returned to normal after the seemingly minor injury, a suspicious bump remained.  After two trips to the doctor, she was referred to a specialist who instantly had a hunch it was cancer.

Gloria was diagnosed with a cancer known as neuroblastoma and only given a window of three months to three years to survive.  Following the diagnosis, Gloria immediately went into surgery and began chemotherapy treatments.  Doug explained that though it was difficult, the family resolved to remain “open to God’s plan in hopes that the family would be strengthened.”

At the time, Doug was a high school basketball coach who knew Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer.  Brewer had planned to run a single column on the family’s struggles while Doug coached during the season.  However, the first column attracted so many readers that the idea expanded into a five-month series of interviews with the Strauss family sharing Gloria’s faith and trust in God with those in Seattle and around the United States.

When Gloria’s condition took a turn for the worse in 2007, the family opened their home for community members to come and pray over her.  Doug explained that for three weeks, 50 – 60 people showed up Monday – Friday to pray the Rosary and sing praise and worship songs.  Later, when it became too much for the family, five members of the community opened up their homes to continue the prayers for Gloria.

Drawing others to Christ

After Gloria endured seven rounds of chemotherapy, the doctors decided to try a stem-cell transplant using her own stem-cells.  Doug said that at that point, he knew that Gloria was at her lowest point.  He was desperate and started to pray, “God help me, I don’t understand.” 

He heard a voice say, “quality of life.”  He was confused, but went to Gloria the next day and asked if she’s had quality of life.  He didn’t expect her to understand, but she immediately responded, “yes daddy!”  She excitedly added that so many people have started praying because of her illness.

Doug explained that Gloria had a beautiful gift, she was able to draw people to Christ through her cancer.  “She taught us all how to carry a cross.  Her gift to us was her living example of her commitment to a relationship with God through constant prayer.  She always said, “yes.”

Writing in the Seattle Times column, Doug recalled that they “would ask if it was all right to have a healing Mass,” and she would answer, “oh yea!”  Other times they would ask: “How about if 50 people come over to pray the Rosary over you tonight?”  She’d say, “oh yea!”

“From shots to sickness it always began and ended with the sign of the cross,” Doug continued.  “Often doctors would have to stand and wait as she made the sign of the cross and prayed. Amazing to watch!”

It wasn’t just her actions that drew people to Christ. Doug recalled how everyone spoke of Gloria’s presence.  “She had this presence that allowed people to want to be with her and pray for her.”  Even at the age of seven, “she knew her calling to bring people to God through her cancer.” 

People from all religions were attracted to Gloria and her family through the front-page column in the Seattle Times.  “Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, they all wrote in to the paper talking about how they’ve been impacted by her life,” Doug said.  “Everyone knew we were Catholic – we didn’t have to profess it – we wanted prayers from everyone,” Doug continued. 

Doug even mentioned a blind man that had written him a letter saying that he had been praying Rosaries for Gloria and wanted to meet her.  Miraculously, when she entered the room he could see her dressed in white.  The man told Doug however that when she left, he was blind once again.

Though prayers for Gloria kept coming, her cancer continued to spread and she died on September 21, 2007.

Gloria’s impact

Immediately following Gloria’s death, the family realized the large impact that Gloria had on the community.

Doug explained that people came all over to view her body before and after the Rosary.  He added that he received a letter from a Lutheran man who attends Eucharistic adoration at a Catholic church who said that he had to go so that he could “see a saint in person.”

Then at the funeral, over 3,200 showed up and the family began to hear stories of how Gloria’s life and struggle had transformed lives.

One man from Virginia had read about Gloria and explained that he felt like he was “hit over the head by a 2 x 4.”  The man had been on a four-day drinking binge and he completely gave up alcohol after reading the story on her illness and strength of faith.

Not only do the Strausses have a list of others who have quit different drug addictions because of Gloria, but they are aware of at least ten people who have become Catholic directly due to Gloria’s story – and more are continuing to convert.  One in particular was a nurse at the Children’s hospital who hadn't grown up going to church.  After seeing little Gloria’s faith, she knew she had to do something about it.

According to the Catholic Northwest Progress, one Presbyterian family became Catholic after Gloria attended a camp for ill children and their families.  One of the volunteers, Brinn Funai continued to keep in touch with Kristen Strauss, Gloria’s mother, after the week’s activities.

Brinn explained that she had been checking into Catholicism, but meeting Kristen and the Strausses “was a big turning point for me.”  They “really helped kind of soften that road so to speak, to coming into the church.”

“I told her right before she died, ‘Gloria, we’re going to become Catholic,’” said Brinn. “And she said, ‘Wow!’” The Funais were received into Catholic Church at Easter 2008.

Not only did the girl’s life touch individuals, but she also inspired the organization, “Gloria’s Angels.”

Gloria’s Angels

At a point when Gloria’s health continued to fade, the family’s spiritual advisor spoke to Bob Turner, a Seattle business man, about assisting the family in the days following Gloria’s cancer.  “Either she was going to experience a miraculous healing or she was going to pass away,” Turner explained.  “In either case, [the spiritual advisor] recognized that the Strauss family would have some mission to serve.”

Turner explained that he decided “to bring his business skills into a partnership with the Strauss family to help them honor her and carry on her mission.”  After weeks of discernment, Turner and the Strauss family decided that Gloria’s mission could best be carried out by serving families facing life-threatening illnesses.

And so Gloria’s Angels was born. 

The organization works to smooth out the “roller coaster ride” that families with a sick member experience.  While many agencies exist to assist families in need, oftentimes loved ones are unaware of the services offered or need help with the coordination.  Gloria’s Angels steps in for guidance to piece everything together.

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Girl fighting for her ‘right to die’ chooses life

London, England, Jul 31, 2009 (CNA) -

A fourteen year-old British girl who fought last Fall for her ‘right to die,’ has changed her mind and chosen to continue her treatments, including a heart transplant.

In November 2008, Hannah Jones made headlines when medics took the then 13-year old girl to court after she refused a heart transplant, which was weakened by her treatment for  leukemia.  It was a decision her parents supported.

“Obviously we want to have Hannah with us as long as possible, but we are not going to force her to do something that she doesn’t want to do at this time,” her father, Andrew Jones told The Daily Mail.

At the time Hannah explained that her treatments were getting to be too exhausting and difficult.  “I don’t like to be like this but I live with it,” she said. 

In response to her refusal, administrators at the Herefordshire Primary Care Trust in Hereford, England decided to seek temporary custody of the child in order to “force” her to undergo the surgery.  However, after several court hearings and a report from a child protection officer, the hospital withdrew its legal action.

Pro-euthanasia groups praised the girl, while pro-life groups charged that the teen was being manipulated by “death with dignity” rhetoric.

Now it is being reported by Sky News and numerous other British news outlets that Hannah has changed her mind about the operation after suffering a partial kidney failure on July 12.

When a heart became available, she was transferred to London and underwent a six-and-a-half-hour surgery. Jones’ operation was a success, but she is still recuperating in intensive care.

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Refugees and persecuted Christians in Pope's prayers for August

Vatican City, Jul 31, 2009 (CNA) - Today, the Vatican published Pope Benedict’s prayer intentions for August.  The Pope will be praying for refugees and for those who are persecuted in Christ’s name.

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for August is “That public opinion may be more aware of the problems of millions of displaced persons and refugees, and that concrete solutions may be found for their often tragic situation.”

His mission intention is “That those Christians who are discriminated against and persecuted in many countries because of the name of Christ may have their human rights, equality and religious freedom recognized, in order to be able to live and profess their own faith freely.”

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U.S. Bishops warn against using 'abortion rights' agenda in health care reform

Washington D.C., Jul 31, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Bishops' Pro-life Committee chairman, Cardinal Justin Rigali, is calling on the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to amend the health care reform legislation so that it will not cover abortion and will protect the consciences of medical personnel.

Cardinal Rigali made the bishops' concerns known to members of the House  Energy and Commerce Committee in a letter sent on July 29.

With two House committees already finished with their recommendations for the House version of health care reform legislation, the cardinal's letter represents a final attempt to have Catholics' concerns heard in the House. Following the submission of the three House committees, the Senate will also have to approve legislation, which will then have to be reconciled with the House's bills.

While the U.S. bishops support health care reform, Cardinal Rigali stressed that it must be “genuine,” which he said means it must uphold “longstanding and widely supported policies against abortion funding and mandates, and in favor of conscience protection.”

“Much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding current policies against federal abortion mandates and funding,” he insisted.

On the issue of abortion, the Philadelphia cardinal listed several problems.

Chief among the cardinal's concerns is that the legislation “delegates to the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to make abortion a basic or essential benefit in all health plans, or in the 'public plan' created by the legislation.”

“This would be a radical change,” Rigali stated, pointing out that “Federal law has long excluded most abortions from federal employees’ health benefits plans and places no requirement on private plans, most of which also decline to cover elective abortions.”
In addition, the bill would also authorize federal funds that do not pass through the Labor/HHS appropriations bill, which enables the funds to circumvent the Hyde amendment and other provisions that have “prevented direct federal funding of abortion for over three decades.”

The solution, the cardinal wrote, is to create a new provision against abortion funding for the current legislation. This would “ensure consistency with the policy in all other federal health programs.”

Finally, Cardinal Rigali said that the provisions that require timely access to all benefits covered by qualified health plans “could be used by courts to override and invalidate state laws regulating abortion, such as laws to ensure women’s safety and informed consent and those on promoting parental involvement.”

On the issue of protecting Americans' consciences, the cardinal reminded representatives that several federal laws “have long protected the conscience rights of health care providers.” Noting that President Obama recently stated that he accepts these current laws and will do nothing to weaken them, he called on Congress to “make the same pledge, by ensuring that this legislation will maintain protection for conscience rights.”

Cardinal Rigali closed his letter by urging the House Energy and Commerce Committee to uphold existing federal policies on abortion and protect consciences by supporting amendments by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA)

The full letter from Cardinal Rigali can be read at:

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Vatican highlights: Holy Land trip, new saints and Year for Priests

Vatican City, Jul 31, 2009 (CNA) - Continuing its release of highlights from the last few months, the Vatican has published a summary of important events from April to July. Notable events included the Pope's pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the canonization of five new saints, the inauguration of the Year for Priests and a minor operation on the Pope’s fractured wrist.

A list of highlights from January to March was released yesterday, as part of the Vatican’s periodic publication of important events throughout the year. 

The full list for April to July is given below.

1: Cardinal Umberto Betti O.F.M., former rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, dies at the age of 87.

2: Benedict XVI receives a second group of prelates from the Argentinean Episcopal Conference at the conclusion of their "ad limina" visit.

2: Benedict XVI presides at Mass in the Vatican Basilica to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the death of his predecessor John Paul II.

3: Benedict XVI receives the Letters of Credence of Victor Manuel Grimaldi Cespedes, the new ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the Holy See.

5: Twenty-fourth World Youth Day, celebrated this year at a diocesan level on the theme: "We have set our hope on the living God".

16: Holy Father celebrates his 82nd birthday in the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo where he enjoys a brief period of rest following the ceremonies of Holy Week.

25: Holy Father receives in audience Amr Moussa, secretary general of the League of Arab States.

25: Holy Father receives in audience Ralph Everard Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

26: Canonization of the Italian Blesseds Arcangelo Tadini (1846-1912), Bernardo Tolomei (1272-1348), Gertrude Comensoli (1847-1903) and Caterina Volpicelli (1839-1894), and of the Portuguese Blessed Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira (1360-1431).

27: Benedict XVI receives in audience Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus.

27: Benedict XVI receives in audience His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall.

28: Holy Father visits the Italian region of Abruzzo to visit people affected by the April 6 earthquake.

30: Holy Father receives in audience Alvaro Uribe Velez, president of the Republic of Colombia.

30: Benedict XVI receives a third group of prelates from the Argentinean Episcopal Conference at the conclusion of their "ad limina" visit.

30: Pope attends a concert offered by Giorgio Napolitano, president of the Italian Republic, to mark the fourth anniversary of his pontificate.


7: Holy Father receives in audience Elias Antonio Saca Gonzalez, president of the Republic of El Salvador.

8-15: Holy Father's pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

18: Holy Father receives prelates from the Peruvian Episcopal Conference, who have recently completed their "ad limina" visit.

19: Benedict XVI receives in audience Lech Kaczynski, president of the Republic of Poland.

22: Benedict XVI receives in separate audiences first Georgi Parvanov, president of the Republic of Bulgaria, then Gjeorge Ivanov, president of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, for the commemoration of the Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

24: Solemnity of the Lord's Ascension: Pope makes a pastoral visit to Montecassino, Italy.

24: Publication on the official website of the Holy See of the "Compendium of the Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Church in China." The Holy Father's original Letter to the bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the People's Republic of China was dated May 27, 2007.

29: Holy Father receives the Letters of Credence of eight new ambassadors to the Holy See: Danzannorov Boldbaatar of Mongolia; Chitra Narayanan of India; Charles Borromee Todjinou of Benin, Robert Carey Moore-Jones of New Zealand; George Johannes of South Africa; Beyon Luc Adolphe Tiao of Burkina Faso; Neville Melvin Gertze of Namibia, and Rolf Trolle Andersen of Norway.

30: Benedict XVI receives in audience Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic.

1: Benedict XVI receives in audience Viktor Yushchenko, president of Ukraine.

8: Holy Father receives prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela at the conclusion of their "ad limina" visit.

18: Benedict XVI receives in audience George Abela, president of Malta.

19: On today's Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Pope inaugurates the Year for Priests, called to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney.

19: Benedict XVI receives in audience His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, the new Catholic patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians.

21: Holy Father makes a pastoral visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.

27: Holy Father receives prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Vietnam at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

28: Holy Father presides at first Vespers in the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, officially marking the closure of the Pauline Year.


4: Holy Father presides at Vespers in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Place to mark its reopening following seven years of restoration work.

4: Benedict XVI sends a letter to Silvio Berlusconi, Italian prime minister, for the meeting of the heads of State and Government of the industrialized countries (G8), due to take place in the Italian city of L'Aquila from July 8 to 10.

6: Holy Father receives the Letters of Credence of Carl-Henri Guiteau, the new envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Haiti to the Holy See.

7: Press conference in the Holy See Press Office to present Benedict XVI's new Encyclical "Caritas in veritate."

7: Holy Father receives in audience Taro Aso, prime minister of Japan.

8: Publication of Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data" of Pope Benedict XVI, "Ecclesiae unitatem." The document concerns the structure of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" which deals with questions involving the Society of Saint Pius X and which now becomes dependent upon the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

9: Holy Father receives in audience Kevin Rudd, prime minister of Australia.

9: Holy Father receives in audience Lee Myung-bak, president of the Republic of Korea.

10: Benedict XVI receives in audience Barack H. Obama, president of the United States of America.

10: Holy Father receives the Letters of Credence of Hector Federico Ling Altamirano, the new ambassador of Mexico to the Holy See.

11: Benedict XVI receives Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada.

13-29: Holy Father spends a holiday at the residence of Les Combes in Introd, in the Italian alpine region of Valle d'Aosta.

17: Holy Father undergoes a minor operation at the Umberto Parini hospital of Aosta to set a broken wrist, following a fall at his holiday villa in Les Combes.

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Young Catholic priest murdered in India

Rome, Italy, Jul 31, 2009 (CNA) - Father James Mukalel, a 39 year-old Catholic priest of the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Belthangady, was killed on Wednesday in the town of Mangalore in the Indian state of Karnataka. The priest’s body was found on a roadside near his moped.
According to UCA News, Father Thomas Kannakal, the Diocesan Director for Social Ministry, said, “Police are investigating the incident because last year a number of acts of violence against Christians took place in the Diocese of Belthangady.”
According to information from the SIR news agency, the slain priest was from the state of Kerala. He had just finished celebrating a funeral Mass for a parishioner, visiting families and eating dinner. He was returning to his rectory for the evening.  His body was found the next morning.

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FRC says Catholics United is ignoring facts of health care bill

Washington D.C., Jul 31, 2009 (CNA) - Catholics United, a group known for backing Democratic initiatives, issued a statement yesterday accusing a television ad campaign launched by the Family Research Council (FRC) of misinforming the U.S. public about the health care reform bill. FRC responded today to the allegations by saying that Catholics United is the one ignoring the facts.

Catholics United stated yesterday that “The Family Research Council's efforts are part of a broader ‘Stop the Abortion Mandate’ campaign that is using abortion scare tactics to turn pro-life voters against health reform.”

“In FRC Action's ad, entitled ‘After a Government Takeover,’ actors ... claim that current health care proposals would deny funding for essential treatments while providing public funding for abortions,” Catholics United said. 

Echoing a point made by several Democratic representatives, the group said, “Currently, no health care bill contains any reference to abortion, let alone a mandate for public funding of abortion. In a rebuttal to the attack ad, notes that ‘the current bill does not contain any provision for taxpayer-funded abortions.’”

Catholics United also argued that President Obama told CBS's Katie Couric on July 21 that the government should not try “to micromanage what benefits are covered,” and should continue to uphold a tradition of “not financing abortions as part of government funded health care.”

“Either the Family Research Council is seriously misinformed, or it is intentionally distorting the truth in order to derail health care reform,” charged Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United. “If the Family Research Council was truly committed to human life it would focus its efforts on ensuring that the tens of millions of Americans who currently lack heath insurance can get the care they need. This attack ad is unhelpful, untruthful, and not at all pro-life.”

“The actions of the Family Research Council and the 'Stop the Abortion Mandate' campaign pose perhaps the single greatest threat to the passage of health care reform,” Korzen opined. “We urge them to do the right thing and suspend these efforts immediately.”

But Tom McClusky, Senior Vice President for FRC Action told CNA that Catholics United is either being deceived or deceptive about the truth regarding abortion and the  health care legislation.

“On the issue of where in the health care legislation is abortion, Family Research Council Action agrees with Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the Pro-life Office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,” McClusky said.

In a letter dated July 29th, 2009, Cardinal Rigali stated indeed that “much needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding current policies against federal abortion mandates and funding.”

According to McClusky, The “where in the legislation” question is “one we saw back during the debate over the Clinton-Mitchell Health Care Reform plan of 1993, S. 1757.”   “The Clinton-Mitchell bill also did not include abortions, however President Bill Clinton admitted on ABC’s Nightline that abortions would be funded in his health care bill stating ‘it will be impossible to separate out the public and the private funds,’” FRC’s Vice President said. 

“While today we are dealing with a slightly different bill than in 1993, his truthful answer would still have to remain the same.” 

McClusky explained that “several provisions in H.R. 3200 provide mechanisms, some which are very similar to the 1993 legislation, for funding or mandating abortion coverage and even for overturning state pro-life laws.

“Under the minimum benefits package required under Section 122, abortion could be mandated as part of ‘outpatient clinic services.’ Abortion could be mandated under the auspices of ‘family planning’ coverage in Section 1714. Abortion could be funded under Section 221, which authorizes the Secretary of HHS to create a ‘public health insurance option’.” he said. 

“‘What about the Hyde Amendment?’ might be the next question,” McClusky said. 

“Both legislative and court history shows us the Hyde Amendment will not be sufficient.”  

Pointing to the origins of the Hyde Amendment, McClusky noted that “Medicaid funded over 300,000 abortions until Congress expressly stopped such funding in 1977 by passing the Hyde appropriations ban, which bars most taxpayer funding of abortions. 

“When the Hyde Amendment was challenged, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, while defending the legitimacy of Hyde, did, however, make clear that ‘abortion fits within many of the mandatory care categories, including  family planning,  outpatient services,  inpatient services, and  physicians’ services,’” he recalled. 

Additionally, McClusky also explained that the Hyde Amendment “needs to be renewed every year or it goes away.”

According to the FRC Vice President, the disappearance of the Hyde Amendment is something that then Senator Barack Obama stated he was in favor of in a 2007 presidential candidate questionnaire.  “In that same questionnaire Senator Obama also stated his health plan would include both a ‘public option’ and funding for abortion.”

FRC also faulted Catholics United for ignoring the “self-appropriating features” in H.R. 3200 that would allow funding to circumvent the Hyde Amendment.

“The question is,” McClusky stated, “if abortion is already excluded from the health care bill, as Catholics United claims and which a number of groups and Members of Congress dispute - what is the harm of adding wording to that effect?”  

“This debate is not about the legality of abortion, nor should it be - for all parties agree health care reform is needed, but whether the Federal government should fund or subsidize abortion services. It does not now, and it should not in the future,” FRC’s Vice President said.

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RU-486 is abortifacient and the Church rejects it, Vatican official says

Rome, Italy, Jul 31, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, on Friday lamented the decision by Italy’s government to allow the distribution of RU-486, which is a drug that aborts a developing child.  The Church will never accept it, he said.
In an article published by L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop pointed to the urgency of defending human life from conception to natural death, an issue addressed by Pope Benedict XVI in his new encyclical Caritas in Veritate.
Archbishop Fisichella also warned that “whether the use of this pill is less traumatic that undergoing an operation [surgical abortion] has yet to be demonstrated.  The initial trauma occurs when the pregnancy is not accepted and what must be done is to intervene and help the woman understand the value of unborn life.”
The embryo, he went on, “is not a mass of cells or a ‘thing,’ as some have defined it. It is a true and complete human life. No one can be allowed to kill it without fully understanding the consequences.”
After noting that the drug is just another method for obtaining an abortion, the archbishop underscored that this anti-life practice “is an evil in and of itself because it takes a human life. This life, which is only visible through the assistance of technology, possesses the same dignity inherent in every person.”
For this reason, he added, “the respect due the embryo cannot be less than that that is given to every person walking down the street, and it demands to be accepted for what it is: a person.”
The Church “can never be passive to what is happening in society,” Fisichella stated. “She is called to always make present the proclamation of life that has enabled her to be throughout the centuries a tangible sign of the respect for the dignity of the person.”
The task of forming consciences for the defense of life and human dignity not only entails a commitment from every person but also demands that one speak out and be convincing, he explained.

“The Church’s opposition to all methods of abortion is a 'yes' to life and everything that it entails,” he added.
In concluding his message, the archbishop called for better formation of young people in the defense of life, and that they be encouraged to embrace a correct understanding of sexuality, affection, and love, “rather than succumbing to worry, anxiety and distress.”

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Mexican bishop announces laicization of priest accused of sexual abuse of minors

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 31, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martinez of Tehuacan announced this week the Holy See has approved the removal of “Nicolas Aguilar Rivera from the clerical state,” a priest who has been accused of the sexual abuse of minors in Mexico and the United States.
Bishop Aguilar explained that the decision by the Pope, which was made public by the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, is final and cannot be appealed.  He said all the priests of the Diocese of Tehuacan have been informed of the decision.
While he expressed sadness over the case, Bishop Aguilar also noted that there are “many priests who have given and are giving honest and spiritual testimony to their priestly ministry, and this gives us comfort, peace and joy.”
Armando Martinez Gomez, president of the College of Catholic Lawyers, said in an interview that Cardinal Norberto Rivera is innocent of charges that he covered up the priest’s abuse. “He has zero tolerance for these types of situations.  His conscience is clear and he has said that if Aguilar Rivera has any debt to justice then he should turn himself in.”

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Bishop of Mallorca reiterates condemnation of terrorism after latest attack by ETA

Mallorca, Spain, Jul 31, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Jesus Murgui of Mallorca, Spain has expressed his condolences to the family and friends of two police officers who died after the second car bomb in 24 hours exploded in the city of Calvia on the island of Mallorca. The Basque separatist group ETA has been blamed for the attack.
In a statement released on Thursday, the bishop expressed his sincere condolences to the victims' family members and at the same time commended “the eternal repose of the officers as well as the quick recovery of the wounded to the Lord of Life.”
He also exhorted the Catholic community to pray for those suffering from the attack.  “In response to this act of barbarism, the Diocese of Mallorca reiterates its firm condemnation of terrorism,” Bishop Murgui said.
The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, and his auxiliary bishops, also condemned the latest ETA attacks, recalling that terrorism is an intrinsically perverse act.
Police have stepped up efforts in Mallorca to track down those responsible for the bombings, with check points at the airport and helicopter surveillance in the surrounding areas.

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Michael Phelps turns down chance to meet with Pope Benedict

Rome, Italy, Jul 31, 2009 (CNA) - Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has decided to skip a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in order to rest for his final individual race in the FINA World Championships.

CNA had reported that Michael Phelps would be among the approximately 100 swimmers to be met by Pope Benedict on Saturday at the pontiff’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

According to the Associated Press, Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman said the athlete will be resting after three races Friday and will have the final of the 100-meter butterfly on Saturday night.

Michael Phelps’ Facebook profile reports “No Answer” for his religion. His MySpace page describes him as “Christian-other.”

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