Archive of August 6, 2009

Vatican visitation of women religious to look at fidelity to doctrine and charism

Hamden, Conn., Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) -

The Apostolic Visitator leading the visitation to institutes of women religious in the United States has sent the effort’s working document to the heads of U.S. orders. The document details the aims of the visitation and encourages the orders to reflect on their fidelity to their original charisms and their conformity with the Second Vatican Council.

Mother M. Clare Millea, the sister in charge of conducting the Vatican visitation, sent the working document, known as an Instrumentum Laboris, to the hundreds of religious superiors around the U.S. on July 28, along with a letter of explanation. With the issuance of the working document, the first phase of the visitation has come to a close.

The Instrumentum Laboris contains an introduction to the nature and purpose of the visitation, the four phases of the process, and references to the principal Vatican documents.

The document also presents “reflection topics” for all members of religious orders to consider in order to prepare for the visitation. Topics include the religious identity of the respondent’s order, its governance and financial administration, and its spiritual and common life.

Questions are also presented concerning vocation promotion, admission and formation policies.

The reflections ask respondents about their concerns for the future of their religious order and how sisters in their order understand and express the “vows and virtues” of poverty, chastity and obedience. They inquire about whether daily Mass and frequent confession are a “priority” for sisters and how an order expresses the Eucharist as the source of their spiritual and communal life.

Liturgical norms are also one topic of inquiry, as is the practice of the Liturgy of the Hours, the manner of an order’s dress, and the order’s provisions for care of aging and ill sisters.

“Is your institute moving toward a new form of religious life? If so, how is this new form specifically related to the Church’s understanding of religious life?” one reflection asks.

Such questions recall concerns voiced earlier this year by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concerning the “tenor and content” of addresses at the annual assemblies of the 1,500-member Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In the keynote address of LCWR’s 2007 assembly, Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Laurie Brink spoke with apparent approval about religious congregations “moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus.” Saying some congregations have “grown beyond the bounds of institutional religion,” she described them as “post-Christian” in most respects.

The LCWR is undergoing a separate inquiry being led by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio.

The Instrumentum Laboris reflections also inquire about the process for responding to sisters who dissent publicly or privately from “the authoritative teaching of the Church.”

They ask respondents whether their order’s formation program offers the foundations of Catholic faith and doctrine through the study of Vatican II documents, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and post-conciliar documents.

“Are there reasons to be concerned about vocations or formation in your institute?” another reflection asks.

Mother M. Clare Millea’s letter to religious superiors reported that the questionnaire for phase two of the visitation is being prepared and will be sent to major superiors of religious orders early this fall.

She concluded by thanking the leaders of religious orders for their cooperation in the visitation, describing it as an endeavor “to strengthen, enhance and support the growth of our religious institutes in service of the Church.” The website for the visitation contains numerous positive responses about how the various religious superiors appreciated their initial visits with Mother Millea.

The Apostolic Visitation web site is at

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Australians prepare to celebrate ‘undaunted’ Bl. Mary MacKillop

Sydney, Australia, Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic Australians are planning to mark the August 8 feast day of Blessed Mary MacKillop and the 100th anniversary of her death with Masses and various other celebrations in honor of the co-foundress of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Australia.

Mary MacKillop was born to a Scottish immigrant family in Australia in 1842. The eldest of eight children, from the age of 16 Mary helped to support her family by working as a governess.

Mary met a priest named Fr. Julian Tenison Woods, who asked her to help with the religious education of children in the Outback. Later, in 1866, she opened the first Saint Joseph's School in a vacant stable in Penola. Young women came to join Mary, and so the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph was begun. The congregation later spread to the large cities in Australia, and is now also present in New Zealand, Peru, Brazil, Uganda and Thailand.

Pope John Paul II formally beatified the holy woman, known as Mary of the Cross, in a Mass at Randwick Racecourse during his 1995 visit to Australia.

“In the vastness of the Australian continent, Blessed Mary MacKillop was not daunted by the great desert, the immense expanses of the outback, nor by the spiritual ‘wilderness’ which affected so many of her fellow citizens. Rather she boldly prepared the way of the Lord in the most trying situations,” the pontiff said.

“With gentleness, courage and compassion, she was a herald of the Good News among the isolated ‘battlers’ and the urban slum-dwellers. Mother Mary of the Cross knew that behind the ignorance, misery and suffering which she encountered there were people, men and women, young and old, yearning for God and his righteousness.”

Thousands are expected in North Sydney at Mary MacKillop Place, a spiritual, cultural and hospitality center at whose chapel the tomb of the holy woman is located. Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, will concelebrate a Mass at St. Mary’s Church to mark the feast day.

Sr. Brigette Sipa, Director of the Mary MacKillop Center, said it was unlikely that Pope Benedict XVI would announce Mary’s canonization on her feast day, a news report from the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn says. However, she added that the day was still significant and an opportunity “to remember and pay respects to one of Australia’s true heroes."

The Archdiocese of Adelaide reported that Archbishop Philip Wilson will concelebrate a Mass at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral with Archbishop Emeritus Leonard Faulkner, Bishop of Port Pirie Greg O’Kelly and twenty priests. About 100 nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph will be in attendance, while students from Mary MacKillop College will join the choir.

“The Australian press, both secular and religious, spoke of her holiness, her heroic service to God, her love for the poor and deprived, and her determination to bring a Catholic education to the children of the colonies,” a press release from the archdiocese said.

Michael Malone, Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, will commemorate Bl. Mary MacKillop in a vigil Mass on Friday at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Speaking in a press release, he told of increasing devotion to Mary around the world.

“I hold high hopes for her imminent canonization,” he said.

Sr. Carmel Pilcher RSJ, Liturgy Consultant for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, said she was attracted to the life of Blessed Mary because she would “struggle for what she wanted no matter what, but all out of deep faith and prayer.”

“It was always God’s work, not her own. Mary was 24 years of age when she founded the Congregation,” she added, explaining that opposition from certain bishops required her to go to Rome to seek papal approval of her order’s rule.

“So, in the guise of a young widow, Mary begged a passage from Adelaide to Rome, and, eventually, succeeded in her quest,” Sr. Carmel added.

The process of Blessed Mary MacKillop’s canonization is underway, requiring one verified miracle and the approval of Pope Benedict XVI for its completion.

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New pro-life campaign will insist that abortion is not health care

Washington D.C., Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) - Pro-life advocates hoping to ensure that abortion is not furthered in proposed health care legislation are planning a campaign of public prayer vigils, rallies, lobbying and demonstrations urging “Abortion is Not Health Care.”

The campaign is scheduled to begin on September 12, with a large rally and 28 hours of prayer beginning September 13 on the West Lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. According to a press release from the campaign, it is being organized by the Christian Defense Coalition and other national pro-life organizations.

Campaign goals include ensuring that taxpayer money is not used to pay for abortion and that conscience protections are maintained for healthcare providers who decline to perform abortions. Organizers also hope to prevent federal mandates which require health plans to cover abortions and to prevent the invalidation of state laws restricting abortions.

Further, they insist that Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., should never become an “essential community health provider.”

Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said that stopping the “Obama/Pelosi health care plan” was “the most critical program on the pro-life agenda” because in his view it includes taxpayer funded abortions.

“If abortion becomes part of a health care entitlement, it will add at least 25 years to our struggle toward ending the violence of abortion in America,” he added.

If the bill is passed, he said, “pro-life Catholics and Evangelicals would be forced to pay for abortions. People of good will who believe that human rights begin in the womb would have to pay for the brutal crushing of that innocent life.”

He added that health care is supposed to heal and not destroy innocent life.

Rev. Mahoney predicted that the Abortion is Not Health Care campaign will be a “public and prophetic witness.”

Last week a U.S. House committee approved the Capps Amendment, which would allow the public health plan to cover abortion but without using federal funds. Instead, it would use dollars from beneficiary premiums.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, attacked the proposal as a “sham” and “a bookkeeping scheme.”

“The plan pays for abortion, and the government subsidizes the plan,” he commented.

According to the Associated Press, because abortion is a legal medical procedure, experts on both sides of the debate say that not mentioning it in the bill would allow health care plans in the new insurance exchange to provide unrestricted coverage.

"We want to see people who have no health insurance get it, but this is a sticking point," Richard Doerflinger, associate director of pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Associated Press. "We don't want health care reform to be the vehicle for mandating abortion."

Abortion proponents have argued that a federal health care plan which refuses to cover abortions will deny coverage for those who have it through workplace insurance, where it is claimed to be widely available.

An Allan Guttmacher Institute study has claimed that nearly 90 percent of private insurers covered abortion procedures in 2002, but that figure has been called into question because it includes non-elective abortions. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in 2003 found that 46 percent of workers in employer plans had abortion coverage, the Associated Press says.

Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the insurance industry trade association America’s Health Insurance Plans, told the Congressional Quarterly that most insurers offer plans that include abortion coverage but most employers choose not to offer it as part of their benefits package.

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Wyoming family wins ‘Family of the Year’

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Vetter family of Torrington, Wyoming is this year’s recipient of the Knights of Columbus award for Family of the Year. The honor was presented to Leland Vetter, his wife and 10 children yesterday during the awards session of the Knight’s annual conference in Phoenix.

According to the Knights, the Vetters were chosen as recipients of the award for their “extraordinary record of service to the Church and their community.”

Leland, who has been a member of the Knights for 33 years, has held several leadership positions within his council and is well-known for his service to the community.  For example, when it snows in his hometown of Torrington, Wyoming, Leland spends his early mornings plowing the church parking lot.  In addition, he has raised funds for parish hall expansion, helps train parish altar servers and teaches at Eastern Wyoming Community College.

Leland was also recently appointed by the Governor of Wyoming to the state’s Community College Task Force on Education.  He also comes from a family who won the Family of the Year award in 1994 for the state of North Dakota.

Leland’s wife Mary Ann has also contributed to the vitality of the parish by setting up and organizing Thursday Eucharistic devotions at their church. A “Mom’s Group,” which spiritually assists mothers in their parish, was also started by Mary Ann.

Their 10 children, who range from ages two to 27, are also highly active volunteers in the Church and the community.

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Sacramento bishop's cause for beatification advances, testimonies being gathered

Sacramento, Calif., Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) -

In October of 1991, Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso Gallegos of Sacramento died in a car accident. His Christian virtues, his defense of the unborn and his devotion to the needy, especially to immigrants, led to the opening of his cause of beatification, which recently received a new boost.

According to the late bishop’s religious congregation, the Augustinian Recollects, “The diocese (of Sacramento) is preparing a more than 1000-page report that summarizes the testimonies of more than 100 people about the virtuous life of Bishop Gallegos, and the declarations of those who claimed that the Bishop had interceded in their favor since his death 18 years ago.”

The report is expected to be sent to the Vatican by the end of the year.

Bishop Alfonso Gallegos Apocada is the son of Joseph and Caciana Gallegos and had 10 siblings. He was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on February 20, 1931. From an early age he suffered with eye problems and had difficulty reading.

At the age of 19 he entered the Augustinian Recollects and was ordained eight years later.

He devoted his ministry to the education of young people and to working with gangs. In 1979 he was named the first director of the Office of Hispanic Affairs of California.

On November 4, 1981, he was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Sacramento. “He was known for his constant joy, the patience he showed with this limited vision and his kindness and affection towards all, even those who made his ministry difficult. He also had an intense prayer life and commitment to the poor and the needy, especially the Hispanic immigrants who sought a better future in the United States,” his congregation stated.

Bishop Gallegos always supported the right to protest against abortion and prayed for the conversion of abortionists. He preached strongly against the culture of death, abortion and atomic weapons.

He died in a car accident on October 6, 1991, at the age of 60. Earlier that day he had joined the community in praying the Rosary for the end of abortion. In 2005, his cause of beatification was opened and one year later the diocesan phase was concluded. The case is now moving forward at the Vatican.

Speaking to the Sacramento Bee, Angela Zapata of Elk Grove, Calif. said she was thrilled about the news.  Her daughter Angelica was born prematurely and suffered from a brain hemorrhage. Doctors said she would only live a few days.

Things changed when an Augustinian Recollect priest visited them at the hospital and placed a holy card of the bishop in the incubator, baptized the baby and wrapped him in the stole of the deceased bishop.

Angelica “is now two years old, healthy and happy,” Zapata told the newspaper.

Fifteen-year old Sara Sevilla, born in Oxnard, told the Sacramento Bee that she was almost blind and that the intercession of Bishop Gallegos restored her vision a year ago: “My family and I prayed, asking for his help. I started to feel warmth all over my body and then I regained my eyesight.”

Supporters of the cause for sainthood of Bishop Gallegos have asked permission from Rome to transfer his body from St. Mary Cemetery to the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a parish in the heart of Sacramento where he served. 

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Bishops of Mexico call on drug lords to abandon violence

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops of Mexico announced this week they would be praying for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Holy Spirit that drug traffickers in the country would abandon violence, after police interrupted a Mass this week in order to capture a renowned drug lord.

“We continue to implore the Holy Spirit to move our hearts in these times in which doubt and uncertainty are devastating our country. Sustained by our faith, we have the firm hope of building a Mexico of peace, justice and harmony,” the bishops’ conference said in a statement.

They also expressed their “support and solidarity” for Bishop Miguel Patino Velazquez of Apatzingan and for the priests and faithful of his diocese, “which has suffered the consequences of drug trafficking violence in that region.”

The Diocese of Apatzingan was the scene of a police raid on a Catholic church during a Mass celebrating the fifteenth birthday for the daughter of Miguel Angel Beraza, who is one of the biggest leaders of the Michoacan drug cartel.

Bishop Patino Velazquez expressed his support for the “fight against organized crime, but with respect for human rights and without violating the religious right to attend church.”

He also called on citizens involved in organized crime to “abandon their illegitimate acts and come to the Church and begin their re-conversion to Christ, in obedience to the law.”

Federal police officials have apologized to the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico for the police raid in Apatzingan, which took place at the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

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Bishop Lori addresses the fear and ‘scandal’ of death

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Supreme Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus, Bishop William Lori, spoke to the Knights during their memorial Mass for deceased Knights and loved ones about the natural fear of death and what lies beyond this life.

On the Feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration, the Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut recalled that the feast is a beautiful day “to gather in prayerful remembrance of our beloved dead.”

“This feast, I daresay, shows us how to pray for our beloved dead, to pray in the hope to which we have been called.  We can see this if we enter into the Lord’s rest, that is, if, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we ascend the mountain of the Lord, together Peter, James, and John.  This is precisely what this Eucharistic liturgy enables us to do.

“The Transfiguration is an event recounted in all four Gospels where Jesus leads three of the apostles, Peter, James and John to a high mountain where he changed in appearance before them, surrounded by a glorious light.  A voice from the clouds spoke and said: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

“Dear friends,” continued Bishop Lori, “we’ve listened to the account of the Transfiguration for years.  We’ve heard it proclaimed on the Second Sunday of every Lent; and at every Eucharist, we share in what the Transfiguration foreshadowed:  the conquest of sin and death by the death and resurrection of the Incarnate Son of God.  Nonetheless, we are still scandalized by death and we still fear it.”

He then acknowledged that as humans, “we naturally fear our own death and wonder what truly lies beyond its threshold.  Sometimes we undergo temptations against faith, hope, and love when loved ones are taken from us,  particularly when they suffer from painful illnesses or die suddenly, or die far too soon, at least according to our reckoning.”

Bishop Lori then asked, how “do we square our loss with the gain of the Resurrection?”

“In today’s second reading, Peter tells us that the Transfiguration is not a clever story but rather something completely reliable, a lamp shining in dark place . . . those places in our hearts that are not yet brightened by full faith in the Resurrection of the Son of God.”

Similar to Peter, Lori continued, “our holy founder, the Venerable Fr. Michael McGivney, staked his entire life and priesthood on the reliability of the Lord’s glory,” which “does not consist so much in cosmic signs as in the love of God poured forth into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

“As the eyes of our soul gaze upon the Transfigured Lord, and as we receive the Body of the Lord, crucified, risen, and exalted . . . do we not taste a love stronger than sin & more powerful than death?” the bishop asked.  “Doesn’t his new, indestructible life course through us, body and soul?  This was the life and love which gave the Mexican martyrs, members of our Order, the strength and courage to lay down their lives for Christ!  And it is in this same love that we are united to those who have gone before us, so that we can pray for them and they indeed can pray for us!”

“During this Holy Mass,” he concluded, “we pray that all our beloved dead of the family of the Knights of Columbus may share eternally in the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.”

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Church will have no part in health care that destroys life, New York archbishop insists

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) - “Health care reform is a good thing,” New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan told CNA on Wednesday during in interview in Phoenix, Arizona. However, if it “leads to the destruction of life, then we say it’s no longer health care at all - it’s unhealthy care and we can’t be part of that.”

Responding to a question about the Catholic Church’s view health care reform, Archbishop Dolan explained to CNA that the Church regards health care reform as a good thing. “The Catholic Church has been saying that for a long time,” he explained, adding that because of our human dignity, “means that one has access to quality affordable first rate health care.”

Speaking directly to President Obama’s current initiative to reform health care, the archbishop said that “in principle” the Church says, “bravo!”

“That having been said, the devil is in the details,” he warned. While the Church agrees on the “what,” namely, “on the reform and renewed, reinvigorated health care,” it has some things to say on how it is carried out.

The Archbishop of New York explained that the first thing that needs to be said is that “every health care system exists only to serve human life, not the other way around.”

“Human life is not some commodity, some customer, some cog that is at the service of a bigger system or some bureaucratic network,” but rather, it is “the end in itself and health care is how it is protected."

If health care begins to lead to the “destruction of human life” through avenues such as abortion, end of life care, or the discarding human embryos, then “we say it’s no longer health care at all.

“It’s unhealthy care and we can’t be part of that,” Archbishop Dolan stated.

While some people question the Church’s involvement in the debate surrounding health care reform, Dolan insisted that the Church should have a voice in the health care debate “because nearly one out of every five patients in the United States who is in a hospital is under the embrace of the Church in a Catholic health care network.”

“So please listen to us because we’ve been in this business a heck of a long time,” he said recalling that members of the Catholic Church were the ones who “opened up the first clinics, hospitals and health care networks.”

“Don’t exclude us now because you might be uncomfortable with the very values that gave rise to this magnificent network,” he urged.

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Pro-lifers crash 'death line' in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) - A telephone service set up by the pro-abortion organization “Women on Waves” to explain how to get illegal abortions in Argentina was crashed by pro-lifers this week who saturated the line with calls and maxed out the system’s voice mail.

The toll-free service, known as the “death line,” featured a pre-recorded message informing callers of its hours of operation and allowing them to leave a message to get more information about abortion.

Members of pro-life organizations flooded the line with calls and maxed out the system’s voice mail. Pro-life leaders encouraged members to continue calling the number to voice their rejection of the service, which violates Argentinean law.

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Pro-life congress in Colombia calls on politicians to defend life and family

Medellin, Colombia, Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) - Participants of the 11th International Congress for the Defense of Life taking place in Medellin, Colombia, issued a statement on Wednesday, underscoring the essential need to defend the right to life, marriage and the family, especially on the part of politicians.


In their statement participants affirmed their clear position regarding the dignity of life from conception to natural death, as well as the defense of marriage as an indissoluble union between one man and one woman.


They also called on politicians to “eliminate all abortion under any form; to pass laws that guarantee the stability of the marriage bond; to respect the right of parental authority; to promote and finance programs that foster chastity before marriage and fidelity afterwards; and to respect the fundamental right of conscientious objection.”


Participants pledged to see that these fundamental rights are observed, to create organizations that defend them, to present new legal efforts to promote life, to increase the number of assistance centers for women and to support families in the raising of children and caring for the elderly.

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Vietnamese government expands internet censorship to block Catholic websites

Hanoi, Vietnam, Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) - Following international news coverage of its violent reactions to Catholic protests, the Vietnamese government is again censoring Catholic web sites.
The VietCatholic News site has long been blocked by the government. Now the censorship has extended to sites like Catholic News Agency, Catholic Online, Asia News, Catholic World News and Independent Catholic News, Sr. Emily Nguyen, who lives in Vietnam, tells CNA.

Previously, the government had blocked CNA for several months beginning in September 2008. The government has also monitored CNA’s reports on the protests in which Catholics are seeking the return of confiscated church properties.

Vietnam strictly regulates internet access, using both legal and technological means. The government claims its efforts protect the country from obscene or sexually explicitly content. However, according to Sr. Emily, “in reality most of the filtered sites contain politically or religiously sensitive materials that have been observed as undermining the Communist Party's hold on power while porn sites can be accessed unrestrictedly.”

Reporters without Borders considers Vietnam to be one of 15 “internet enemies,” while Amnesty International has reported many instances of internet activists being arrested for their online activities.

The collaborative academic project OpenNet Initiative, which investigates internet filtering practices, has classified Vietnam’s online political censorship as “pervasive.” Its research has found that Vietnam’s blocking efforts focus on overseas and independent media, sites with content about overseas political opposition, human rights topics and religious topics.

Proxies and other tools to circumvent the filtering, which are illegal to use in Vietnam, are also frequently blocked.

The majority of blocked web sites were initially specific to Vietnam and were written in Vietnamese or dealt with issues related to the country. Sites not specifically related to Vietnam or sites only written in English were rarely blocked.

Recently, however, popular Catholic English-language sites have been blacklisted, joining groups such as Human Rights Watch, Writers Without Borders, Amnesty International and other human rights groups.

On July 21, Asia News broke the story about persecutions of Catholics throughout the country, centering on the parishioners of Tam Toa church in the province of Quang Binh. Catholics tried to erect a makeshift tent for worship services on the property of a church mostly destroyed in a Vietnam War U.S. air raid.  The property had since been confiscated by the government for use as a war memorial.

Police attacked the parishioners, leaving hundreds injured and dozens arrested. About 500,000 Catholics across the country began their own protests in response. Many lay faithful and clergy were harassed and beaten in retaliation.

One priest visiting his injured fellow clergyman was thrown from a second story hospital window by a government-backed gang. His severe injuries left him comatose.

The Vietnamese government is the exclusive owner of a network of more than 600 media outlets, which work under the strict supervision of the ruling communist party.

“Since Vietnam has not been used to adverse news coming from a foreign, popular source they are apparently not happy with reports on an ongoing situation of abuse and persecution of Catholics,” Sr. Emily Nguyen remarked. “Action they took to make sure the Vietnamese public is shielded from the news is extreme, though not unexpected, for those who have to live under dictatorial, communist regimes such as China or Vietnam.”

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