Archive of January 11, 2010

Protect creation through education, Pope tells diplomats

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - The Holy Father addressed the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on Monday morning for what some call “the state of the world address.” Gathered in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace, the diplomats to the Vatican heard a message that reiterated the Pontiff’s hope for a new consciousness that pursues peace in the world through the protection of creation.

Pope Benedict made it a point to repeat once again the sentiment proposed in his encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” that the causes of the global economic crisis and consequent social instability can be found in “a current self-centered and materialistic way of thinking which fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature.”

The Pope cited the example of the communist regime in Berlin as an illustration of the way the “denial of God distorts the freedom of the human person, yet also devastates creation.”

He added that “the protection of creation is not principally a response to an aesthetic need, but much more to a moral need...”

The threats to man and creation, including nature, said the Pontiff, must be addressed “within the framework of a great educational program aimed at promoting an effective change of thinking and creating new lifestyles.” To achieve this, he said, freedom for cooperation and shared responsibility must be provided for between secular and religious communities.

Among global threats to which the Pope alluded were conflict-causing issues, including access to natural resources, misuse of arable land and the presence of widespread arms production and distribution. He also decried the existence of terrorism, which "endangers countless innocent lives and the generates anxiety worldwide,” and called for armed groups to “abandon the path of violence and to open their hearts to the joy of peace.”

In addition, the Holy Father spoke of another attack on creation in Europe and the Americas that “comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes,” stating that the path of man must “correspond to the structure willed by the Creator.”

This statement likely makes reference to the legislation passed in Portugal and Argentina legalizing gay “marriage” in the countries.

The Pontiff also referred to a number of successes in reaching peaceful agreements in 2009 in various nations of the world, notably a rapprochement between Columbia and Ecuador and re-established diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey. He then renewed his call for peace and full religious freedom in Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt and encouraged efforts towards peaceful solutions to political uncertainties in Iran, Lebanon, Honduras, Guinea and Madagascar.

Summing up his thoughts, Pope Benedict XVI said, “there is so much suffering in our world, and human selfishness continues in many ways to harm creation. For this reason, the yearning for salvation which affects all creation is all the more intense and present in the hearts of all men and women, believers and non-believers alike.”

Looking to Christ, the Holy Father exhorted “every person of good will to work confidently and generously for the sake of human dignity and freedom.”

He concluded by imploring that “the light and strength of Jesus help us to respect human ecology, in the knowledge that natural ecology will likewise benefit, since the book of nature is one and indivisible.”

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Attacks in Malaysia designed to 'annihilate' Christians, warns Vatican official

Rome, Italy, Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Robert Sarah, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples said last week that the recent attacks against Christians in Malaysia are designed to annihilate and reject “those who believe in Christ.”

The archbishop made his statements on Vatican Radio after Muslim extremists firebombed four Christian churches on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The attacks came after a controversy over whether to allow Catholics to use the term “Allah,” a traditional Malay word, in referring to the Christian God.

Archbishop Sarah also pointed out that “the fact that it has been forbidden to say the name of God is like considering them (Christians) to be pagans and therefore ‘in need’ of converting to Islam. That’s what is behind this,” he said.

“We must pray for these Christians who live in Muslim lands and suffer greatly,” the archbishop concluded.

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Adult stem cell research respects human integrity, says Mexican archbishop

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Emeritus Carlos Quintero Arce of Hermosillo in Mexico encouraged the use of adult stem cells in medical research last week, underscoring that such a practice does not violate the right to life of embryos and respects the integrity of human life.

In a statement, the archbishop recalled that the use of embryonic stem cells raises “moral and ethical problems” because embryos are destroyed in the process. He then pointed to scientific studies which have shown that such cells are often rejected by the immune system when transplanted into patients.

In contrast, he continued, adult stem cells are often not rejected by the patient's immune system and they do not pose any ethical or moral issues. However, adult stem cells “do not proliferate in abundance and cannot be applied to all the cells of the body. For this reason, some scientists use embryonic stem cells more” despite the inconveniences.

For this reason, Archbishop Quintero praised the discoveries by Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, who announced he had successfully reprogrammed ordinary cells from the tips of mouse tails to make them virtually indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells. He later carried out new re-programming experiments using human skin cells.

“American researcher James Thompson achieved similar results in cellular re-programming,” the archbishop noted, “and thus we can say that these studies are ‘the most significant step’ of our era.”

Archbishop Quintero expressed hope that the upcoming Second International Congress on Adult Stem Cells, organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, will further advance research with adult stem cells,” and thus “make us capable of effectively responding to the urgent therapeutic need that exists today.”

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Portuguese Parliament approves gay 'marriage'

Lisbon, Portugal, Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - Despite opposition from the Bishops’ Conference of Portugal as well as from a large portion of the country, Portugal’s Parliament passed a law last Friday making same-sex unions equal to marriage.

Europa Press reported that the bill, sponsored by the Portuguese government, was approved largely through the efforts of left-wing lawmakers despite opposition from numerous representatives.

Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon said, “The problem is not homosexuality,” but rather “what is at stake is the nature of marriage,” understood to be the union of one man and one woman.

“What is at stake is not a religious issue but rather a cultural one,” the cardinal said.

The executive committee of the bishops’ conference had already expressed the prelates' strong opposition to any law that “would make homosexual unions equal to marriage, which is where families are formed based upon the love between one man and one woman.”

“The unique, distinct and incomparable identity of the family, founded upon the marriage between one man and one woman, deserves to be recognized, without mixing it up or confusing it with other forms of living together.”

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Holy Father visits Cardinal Etchegaray in the hospital

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI dropped in to Rome's Gemelli Hospital for a visit to French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray on Saturday evening.  The cardinal appeared to be in good condition after an operation to rebuild his femur following the injury he sustained at St. Peter's on Dec. 24.

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi reported to the press on Saturday evening that the Holy Father had visited Cardinal Etchegaray at the hospital where he has been recovering from surgery.

Lombardi related that the visit "was characterized by a very cordial conversation in French between the Pope and the cardinal" in which the Holy Father "expressed his concern and his spiritual closeness."

The Pope also paid the visit to "assure himself personally of the favorable progress and post-operative rehabilitation" of the cardinal, reported Lombardi, who also included that the prelate's clinical conditions are excellent.

Perhaps the most telling testament of the cardinal's progress was the fact that following  his conversation with Benedict XVI he accompanied the Pope to the door on foot.

Also on Saturday, ANSA reported the release of the girl who caused the incident that led to Etchegaray's break.  She had been held for "obligatory health treatment" for two weeks a psychiatric treatment in hospital near Rome after causing a scene at Midnight Mass at St. Peter's when she attempted to approach the Pope.  Cardinal Etchegaray was brought to the ground in the commotion. 

Contrary to a report from La Repubblica last week stating that Etchegaray would be leaving the hospital on Jan. 10, Lombardi said the cardinal would be released sometime this week.


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Vatican releases Holy Father's prayer intentions for 2011

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - L’Osservatore Romano has published the prayer intentions of Pope Benedict XVI for 2011, a full year in advance. The Holy Father’s intentions will be as follows:


General Intention: That the riches of creation be preserved, valued and made available to all, as a precious gifts from God to mankind.

Missionary Intention: That Christians may achieve full unity, bearing witness of the universal fatherhood of God to the entire human race.


General Intention: That the family may be respected by all in its identity and that its irreplaceable contribution to all of society be recognized.

Missionary Intention: That in the mission territories where the struggle against disease is most urgent, Christian communities may witness to the presence of Christ to those who suffer.


General Intention: That the nations of Latin America may walk in fidelity to the Gospel and be bountiful in social justice and peace.

Missionary Intention: That the Holy Spirit may give light and strength to the Christian communities and the faithful who are persecuted or discriminated against because of the Gospel.


General Intention: That the Church may offer new generations, through the believable proclamation of the Gospel, ever-new reasons of life and hope.

Missionary Intention: That missionaries, with the proclamation of the Gospel and their witness of life, may bring Christ to all those who do not yet know Him.


General Intention: That those who work in the media may always respect truth, solidarity and the dignity of each person.

Missionary Intention: That the Lord may grant the Church in China the capacity to persevere in fidelity to the Gospel and to grow in unity.


General Intention: That priests, united to the Heart of Christ, may always be true witnesses of the caring and merciful love of God.

Missionary Intention: That the Holy Spirit may bring forth from our communities numerous missionary vocations, willing to fully consecrate themselves to spreading the Kingdom of God.


General Intention: That Christians may contribute to alleviating the material and spiritual suffering of AIDS patients, especially in the poorest countries.

Missionary Intention: For the religious who work in mission territories, that they may be witnesses of the joy of the Gospel and living signs of the love of Christ.


General Intention: That the World Youth Day taking place in Madrid may encourage all the young people of the world to root and found their lives in Christ.

Missionary Intention: That Christians of the West, docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, may re-encounter the freshness and enthusiasm of their faith.


General Intention: For all teachers, that they may convey love in truth and educate in authentic moral and spiritual values.

Missionary Intention: That the Christian communities spread throughout the Asian continent may proclaim the Gospel with fervor, bearing witness to beauty with the joy of the faith.


General Intention: For the terminally ill, that in their sufferings they may be sustained by faith in God and by the love of others.

Missionary Intention: That the celebration of World Mission Sunday may increase in the People of God the passion for evangelization and the support of missionary activity through prayer and economic aid for the poorest Churches.


General Intention: For the eastern Churches, that their venerable tradition may be known and appreciated as a spiritual treasure for the entire Church.

Missionary Intention: That the African continent may find in Christ the strength to fulfill the path of reconciliation and justice, indicated in the second Synod of Bishops for Africa.


General Intention: That the nations of the earth, through knowledge and mutual respect, may grow in harmony and peace.

Missionary Intention: That children and young people may be messengers of the Gospel and that their dignity may always be respected and preserved from all violence and exploitation.


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Prop. 8 backer asks to withdraw from trial as high court blocks YouTube broadcasts

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - On Monday morning the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the YouTube broadcasts of the hearings on California’s Proposition 8, but not before one backer sought to withdraw from the trial. He cited concerns for his safety and the safety of his family, also noting past death threats in YouTube comments.

The high court’s stay expires on Wednesday. The court said it will allow “further consideration,” according to the Washington Post.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker last week ruled that the proceedings could be uploaded at regular intervals to YouTube, whose owner Google, Inc. was an opponent of Prop. 8. The voter-approved California proposition defined marriage as being between one man and one woman in Nov. 2008 by a margin of 52 to 48 percent.

Hak-Shing William Tam, one of the official proponent defenders-interveners in the Proposition 8 case, last Friday submitted a motion to the District Court to withdraw as a witness.

“I am fearful for my personal safety and the safety of my family,” he wrote in the motion. “In the past I have received threats on my life, had my property vandalized and am recognized on the streets due to my association with Proposition 8.”

Now that the lawsuit is going to trial, he continued, “I fear that I will get more publicity, be more recognizable and that the risk of harm to me and my family will increase.”

He said that his car was vandalized during the Proposition 8 campaign and a young woman tried to remove the Prop. 8 yard sign from his front lawn.

“It is my belief that she knew who I was and deliberately targeted me. She knows where I live.”

Tam also noted a threatening message on a pro-Prop. 8 video he appeared in. The author of the message, who claimed to be a California resident, wrote, “I will destroy your hatred. I will poison your wells… I WILL F---ING KILL YOU ALL. DIE FASCIST SCUM.”

He said he takes the comment “very seriously” and he assumes the commenter meant what he wrote. He also noted anti-Chinese racial slurs have been posted on other YouTube videos supporting Prop. 8.

Tam added that he does not like the burden of complying with discovery requests and the “privacy invasion” on matters like old Chinese-language articles he posted on his website. He said he is also tired of the controversy, which is distracting from his work.

In Tam’s opinion, the other defendant-interveners in the trial are “well qualified and committed” and his withdrawal will not materially hurt the case.

The Supreme Court ruling temporarily blocking YouTube broadcasts was opposed only by Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Justice Breyer agreed that further consideration is “warranted,” but he argued that the court’s standards for issuing a stay were not met because there is not a likelihood of “irreparable harm” if the events are available on the internet.

Other proponents of Prop. 8, which restored California’s definition of marriage to being a union of the opposite sexes, have said the broadcasts could expose their witnesses to harassment and intimidation.

Last week, Brian Brown, executive director of the Prop. 8 backer National Organization for Marriage, told the Washington Times he is worried about the safety of witnesses, who include campaign contributors, staff and volunteers.

"The question is really whether Judge Walker can put people on the stand where they can be threatened," Brown commented. "It's a question of people's safety."

In October 2009 the Heritage Foundation released a report titled “The Price of Prop. 8.” That document reported that militant opponents of Prop. 8 targeted supporters with a range of hostility, including “harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry.”

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Pope decries violence against immigrants and Christians

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - After the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI called for respect between those of different religions or places of origin. The papal appeal comes in obvious relation to recent atrocities committed against Coptic Christians in Egypt and the continued “revolt” being led by immigrant workers in southern Italy in the last week.

Although he didn't specifically name an instance, the Pope said, "Two facts have drawn my attention in particular in recent days: the case of the condition of migrants seeking a better life in countries that, for various reasons, need their presence, and conflict situations in various parts of the world where Christians are under violent attack."

Protests turned violent recently in the Italian region of Calabria as immigrant workers spoke out against exploitation and poor working conditions on citrus plantations in the city of Rosorna.  After clashes with locals and subsequent police intervention, hundreds of the immigrant workers were evacuated to other cities where they've been taken in to shelters run by Catholic organizations, reported the Catholic newspaper L'Avvenire.

The Pontiff exclaimed that solutions are needed, "We must get to the heart of the problem!  We must go back to the meaning of the person!"

The Pope defended the immigrant, saying he or she "is a human being, different in origin, culture, and traditions, but a person to be respected with rights and duties, particularly in the workplace, where the temptation to exploitation is easy... ."

Denoting the problem as primarily human, Benedict XVI challenged, "I ask you to look at the face of the other and discover that he has a soul, a history and a life and that God loves him as he loves me."

The Holy Father also extended his thoughts to anti-Christian violence, saying, “I want to make similar considerations regarding man in his religious diversity. The recent violence against Christians in some countries has aroused the indignation of many, not least because it has been reported in the most sacred days of the Christian tradition.

"Institutions, both political and religious, must not ... deny their responsibilities. There can be no violence in the name of God, nor can we think of honoring Him by offending the dignity and the freedom of others.”

Among other occasions of violence against Christians in the last month, the most recent and gruesome attack was the drive-by killing of Coptic Christians in Egypt as they were leaving Christmas Eve Mass on the night of Jan. 6. Malaysia has also been enveloped in a series of petrol bombings against Christian churches of various denominations. The attacks are related to a court case on the use of “Allah” in a Malay-language Catholic newspaper to refer to God, in keeping with a longstanding tradition.

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U.S. bishops reactivate nationwide campaign against federal abortion funding

Washington D.C., Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - With House and Senate leaders meeting behind closed doors to forge a health care overhaul bill, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)  has reactivated its grassroots campaign to encourage Catholics nationwide to tell lawmakers they oppose  federal funding of abortion.

Bulletin inserts, a prayer campaign and pulpit announcements are all part of the effort to help ensure that the final version of the health care reform bill sent to President Obama will include Hyde amendment protections explicitly preventing the use of federal money in promoting, performing, or paying for abortions.

The bulletin insert, distributed to over 19,000 parishes, notes that the House health care bill, passed on November 7, 2009, “reaffirms the essential, longstanding and widely supported policy against using federal funds for elective abortions and includes positive measures on affordability and immigrants.”

However, the insert stresses, the Senate version of the bill “requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective abortions.  All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions through a separate payment solely to pay for abortion.”

“Outside the abortion context, neither bill has adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers,” it adds.

The insert summarizes the current legislative process by saying, “These two bills must now be combined into one bill that both the House and Senate will vote on in final form. Provisions against abortion funding and in favor of conscience protection, affordability, and immigrants’ access to health care must be part of a fair and just health care reform bill, or the final bill must be opposed.”

Commenting on the health care situation, Kathy Saile, Director of Domestic Social Development for the USCCB, said in a video statement, “Health care is a human right. And heath care reform is a moral imperative and a national priority.”

“Elements in the proposed bills do a great deal of good… But this reform has been sadly politicized by efforts to expand funding for abortion,” Saile remarked.

“The goals of the bishops are modest. They are not trying to advance an agenda. But rather they seek to keep in place the long-standing policies of no federal funding of abortion,” Saile said.

Noting that the health care reform package is expected to come to a vote this month, the Catholic bishops are urging the faithful to contact their Representatives and Senators.

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Relativism must not be allowed to deny religion's importance, Pope insists

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - In his "state of the world address" to the Diplomatic Corps to the Holy See on Monday, Pope Benedict surveyed the issues affecting the world today, emphasizing the importance of not allowing relativism to deny the "social importance of religion," especially in Europe.

Speaking about anti-Christian sentiments, the Pontiff expressed his sadness that "in certain countries, mainly in the West, one encounters in political and cultural circles, as well in the media, scarce respect and at times hostility, if not scorn, directed towards religion and towards Christianity in particular."

This is a threat to the Church, he added, because "if relativism is considered an essential element of democracy, one risks understanding secularity solely in terms of excluding or, more precisely, denying the social importance of religion."

The Holy Father warned of the confrontation and division brought about by such an approach, saying that it "disturbs peace, harms human ecology and, by rejecting in principle attitudes other than its own, finishes in a dead end."

"There is thus an urgent need to delineate positive and open secularity” that consists of a healthy cooperation between civil and religious authorities, the Pope said.

"I express my hope that in building its future, Europe will always draw upon the wellsprings of its Christian identity," he continued.

Pope Benedict concluded his thought by highlighting the "irreplaceable role" of Europe in forming "the conscience of each generation and the promotion of a basic ethical consensus that serves every person who calls this continent 'home.'"

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Pope addresses Israeli and Palestinian impasse

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) -

Pope Benedict XVI reiterated his stand on the rights of Israel and Palestine to be sovereign and mutually-respecting nations Monday morning to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps. He had expressed his appeal to the two countries to enter into dialogue and find a way to respect their respective rights on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land last May.

First, he called for "a universal recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist and to enjoy peace and security within internationally recognized borders," and then he added, "likewise, the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign and independent homeland, to live in dignity and to enjoy freedom of movement, ought to be recognized."

The Pontiff also made a request to the international community for "the protection of the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem, and of its cultural and religious heritage, which is of universal value."

The plea comes just days after another "working-level" session was held between delegates from the Holy See and the State of Israel, who have been attempting since 1993 to come to an agreement concerning the official rights of the Catholic Church to property in the Holy Land.

Benedict XVI said that only with this protection "will this unique city, holy yet deeply troubled, be a sign and foreshadowing of that peace which God desires for the whole human family."

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Obama nominee wants to 'punish the Church,' Bill Donohue argues

New York City, N.Y., Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - Following President Obama's renomination of Dawn Johnsen to head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League stated on Friday that Johnsen “is not someone who simply takes issue with the Catholic Church's pro-life position: she wants to punish the Church.”

Johnsen, who has faced criticism in the past for her strong pro-abortion stance, was nominated the first time by President Obama earlier last year. Though her nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee by 11 to 7, it eventually expired and due to bureaucratic maneuvering, she never officially served in that position.

“Having failed to secure her appointment last year, Obama has decided that he just can't proceed without her,” Donohue said Friday.

Besides her pro-abortion record, Donohue took Johnsen to task for allegedly taking part in a scheme during the late 1980's to strip the Catholic Church of its tax-exempt status for violating IRS strictures by holding a strong pro-life position.

Although the lawsuit did not succeed, Donohue charged in a January 8 statement that Johnsen joined the effort alongside Lawrence Lader, co-founder of NARAL, as well as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who later converted to Catholicism and became a pro-life advocate.

While Donohue says he is not surprised by Obama nominating a pro-abortion candidate, “it is an entirely different matter” that he has chosen an appointee with such an apparent vendetta against the Church.

“Johnsen is not the first anti-Catholic chosen by Obama, but she is by far the most extreme and most dangerous,” he concluded.

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U.S. bishops laud courage of N.J. Senate vote on gay 'marriage'

Washington D.C., Jan 11, 2010 (CNA) - On Monday, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz praised the efforts of the recent New Jersey State Senate vote to preserve the traditional definition of marriage on Jan. 7, expressing gratitude for the “courage” the senators displayed.

 “On behalf of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee, I am grateful for the courage of those New Jersey Senators who stood for the truth of marriage as a bulwark of the common good,” said Archbishop Kurtz, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage.

Last Thursday, the New Jersey Senate voted 20-14 to reject a same-sex “marriage” bill. The New York Senate rejected a similar measure on Dec. 2, voting by a 38-24 margin, and both of these Senate votes echo the recent “people's veto” in Maine during the November mid-term elections last year which also succeeded in maintaining the traditional definition of marriage, a statement from the U.S. Bishops noted.

“Preserving marriage between one man and one woman is a matter of justice,” Archbishop Kurtz stated on Monday, saying “indeed, it is one of the premier social justice issues of our time. It does not deny but rather supports basic human rights – especially the rights of children.”

“The recent New York Senate vote and the vote in New Jersey witness to this fact.”

Archbishop Kurtz also said that the these recent efforts to preserve the definition of traditional marriage should serve to encourage. “The recent decisions in Maine, New York and New Jersey are signs of hope and sources of encouragement,” he said, adding that “We are in a pivotal moment in this country on the issue of marriage, as more and more people recognize that protecting the basic rights of persons need not and should not come at the expense of the unique truth and value of marriage.”

The prelate concluded his statement, urging that “The good of the love between husband and wife, the vital responsibilities of mothers and fathers, and the rights of children all deserve unique protection under law – all of these are indispensable to a just society that serves the dignity of all people and the common good.”

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