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Archive of January 15, 2010

Mexican cardinal calls for solidarity with Haiti

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, is calling for solidarity with the people of Haiti, echoing the words of Pope Benedict XVI during his Wednesday General Audience asking for immediate help for the nation devastated by the January 12 earthquake.

In a statement published by the Archdiocese of Mexico’s News Service, Cardinal Rivera urged the faithful to “raise their prayers to the Lord our God that this noble nation may find consolation in the faith and the strength necessary to recover from this tragic situation.”

For this reason, the statement said, “the Archdiocese of Mexico City calls on all Catholics to generously assist our suffering brethren.

The cardinal offered his prayers and solidarity to “the Bishops’ Conference of Haiti and to our brethren in Port-au-Prince, as we learn of the damage to the Cathedral, hospitals, housing and government offices.”

“We raise our prayers to the Most Holy Virgin of Guadalupe and her beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that all may receive the loving sign of their love and protection,” the statement concluded.

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Hillary Clinton attempts to redefine U.N. agreement by adding abortion, experts charge

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - Claiming to honor the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population Control (ICPD), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared in Washington D.C. on January 8 that the U.S. government will push for international acceptance of reproductive health for women, including abortion, contradicting the conference's previous agreements.

The ICPD, which was held in Cairo, Egypt in 1994 with 179 participating countries, was part of a U.N. effort to address population concerns, including reproductive health initiatives for women.

“The Cairo document did not include abortion as part of reproductive health,” stated Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). “As a matter of fact,” he continued, “the Cairo conference formally said that abortion cannot be a part of family planning.”

Though Ruse told CNA that this was initially a “a great victory” at the time for pro-life supporters, things have now drastically changed under Secretary Clinton's influence. The C-FAM president underscored his claim by pointing to her testimony before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee in April 2009. Clinton told Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) in her testimony that “We happen to think that family planning is an important part of women's health and reproductive health includes access to abortion that I believe should be safe, legal and rare.”

Ruse says that “billions of dollars” from the U.S. have been pledged toward this agenda. 

According to Secretary Clinton, “This year, the United States renewed funding of reproductive healthcare through the United Nations Population Fund, and more funding is on the way … The U.S. Congress recently appropriated more than $648 million in foreign assistance to family planning and reproductive health programs worldwide.” She also mentioned a larger health initiative that will take place over the next six years which will spend $63 billion “to improve global health,” which includes prevention of “millions of unintended pregnancies.”

Secretary Clinton also used her speech to praise the Obama Administration's reversal of the Mexico City Policy, which served in the past to prevent U.S. money from funding organizations that supported abortions overseas.

“This goes against the agreement of the governments at Cairo, that family planning and reproductive health would include abortion,” reiterated Ruse, who also stated that Mrs. Clinton and the Obama Administration “are going to throw the full force of the U.S. government behind getting Catholic Countries to change their laws on abortion.”

Population Research Institute president Steve Mosher also criticized Secretary Clinton's initiative, telling CNA that “'Reproductive health' is a code word for abortion and population control.  It has little to do with women's health and everything to do with advancing an anti-life agenda worldwide.”

In her Jan. 8 speech Secretary Clinton also asserted, “Poll after poll has shown that a majority of Americans across the ideological divide support family planning programs and proven investments in women's health.”

In reaction to this, Mosher told CNA, “Polls that show majorities of Americans favor such programs are an artifact of the misuse of the word 'health.' Who isn't in favor of better health?” 

“But reproductive 'health' programs exist not to improve the ability of women to reproduce,” Mosher explained, “but to cripple or disable their reproductive systems by means of abortion, sterilization and contraception. They should more accurately be called 'reproductive crippling' programs.”

Secretary Clinton's goal of spreading the full range of reproductive measures is being supported by the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

“The fact that organizations like International Planned Parenthood Federation applaud such programs means little more than they expect to profit from the increased funding that Hillary promises for such programs, however much women have to suffer as a result,” Steve Mosher remarked.

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EWTN promises ‘most complete coverage’ of March for Life events

Irondale, Ala., Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - The Eternal Word Television Network says it will offer the “most complete coverage available” for the 2010 March for Life in Washington, D.C. and for the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco. Coverage includes Masses, marches, rallies, interviews, panel discussions and speeches from pro-life speakers around the country.

Many of the events will also be broadcast on the internet.

The Solemn Vigil Mass for Life will air live at 6:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 21. The Solemn Mass for Life will air at 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 22, followed by the March for Life itself at 11 a.m. An encore broadcast of the March is scheduled for 10 p.m.

Dough Keck, host of EWTN’s “Bookmark” series, will anchor the live coverage of the D.C. March for Life with Fr. Joseph. They will be joined by several other EWTN hosts.

The Walk for Life West Coast 2010 will be broadcast live at 1 p.m. on Jan. 23, with a rebroadcast at 9:30 a.m. the following day. The EWTN anchors will be Fr. Mark Mary and Doug Barry, hosts of EWTN’s Life on the Rock.

The International Rosary for the Protection of the Unborn will be broadcast on Jan. 17 at 3:30 p.m. and on Jan. 22 at the same time. “Thine Eyes: A Witness to the March for Life” documents the journey of young people traveling to the 2009 March for Life in Washington. It will be aired first at 10 p.m. on Jan. 13.

“A People of Life,” a documentary about the pro-life movement in North America and the Knights of Columbus’ involvement in it, will first air at 10 p.m. on Jan. 17. The documentary “Being Human III: What Is It?” will see pro-life figures, such as Priests for Life head Fr. Frank Pavone, discuss the impact of abortion on society.

At 10 p.m. on Jan. 20 EWTN will broadcast the documentary “Demographic Winter: the Decline of the Human Family” about the dangers of aging and declining populations around the globe.

The documentary “Demographic Bomb: Demography is Destiny” will discuss population control programs that violate human rights and create deep imbalances in the world’s economy. It will air at 10 p.m. on Jan 27.

From Jan. 21-24, live streaming audio and video of March for Life events will be on the EWTN website at www.ewtn.com.

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New petition asks Notre Dame’s Fr. Jenkins to drop charges against 88 pro-lifers

Chicago, Ill., Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - A new petition asks University of Notre Dame president Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., to request that charges be dropped against the 88 pro-life protesters arrested on the university campus during the controversy over President Barack Obama’s May 2009 commencement speech.

The petition is co-sponsored by Human Life International (HLI), the Chicago-based Thomas More Society and LifeSiteNews.com.

"During the Obama scandal controversy, Fr. Jenkins repeatedly assured us that he and Notre Dame are 100 percent pro-life. Yet, now he is refusing even this tiniest of olive branches to these 88 pro-lifers," charged Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, HLI President and Notre Dame Alumnus.

“Asking that the charges be dropped will cost Fr. Jenkins absolutely nothing, but it could save the ND88 from a protracted trial process, and possible jail time. As long as this situation persists with Notre Dame's cooperation, how can Fr. Jenkins possibly expect us to take him seriously?" Fr. Euteneuer said.

Many of the protesters’ activities on campus took the form of prayer and pro-life signs. Though these protesters were arrested, witnesses reported that pro-Obama demonstrators were allowed to walk throughout the campus, an announcement for the petition says.

The protesters’ attorneys have argued that Notre Dame campus police exercised state arrest powers in a manner that was “viewpoint discriminatory.”

The arrested protesters, called the “Notre Dame 88,” face charges of trespassing with a maximum sentence of up to a year in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. They are being represented by the Thomas More Society.

Thomas Brejcha, Chief Counsel for the Thomas More Society, said that Notre Dame “seriously tarnished its pro-life image when it honored President Obama earlier this year.”

“However, it is not too late for the university to restore its pro-life reputation. The first step in that direction would be to stop the persecution of these pro-life heroes by asking that the charges be dropped."

Notre Dame has claimed that it does not have the power to ask that the charges be dropped, but Brejcha said that was “flatly wrong.”

"They always have the power to ask," he said, noting the university would have “great weight” with the prosecutor.

Brejcha said it is important for pro-life advocates to let Fr. Jenkins know they have not forgotten the events on campus last May.

“We have not forgotten, and we will not forget as long as the ND88 are being forced to pay such a steep price simply for standing up for the pro-life values that Jenkins and Notre Dame profess to hold,” he added.

A web site backing the arrested protesters is at http://freethend88.org/

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Catholics must combat ‘shadow industry’ of human trafficking, Archbishop Vlazny says

Portland, Ore., Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) -  

Human trafficking is a “shadow industry” and an example of slavery’s persistence, Archbishop of Portland, Oregon John Vlazny has said. Discussing how Catholics can help combat the crime, he recommended former slave St. Josephine Bakhita as a patroness for its victims.

Writing in his Jan. 14 column in the Catholic Sentinel, Archbishop Vlazny explained that the illegal trade of human beings is the second fastest-growing criminal trade in the world after the drug trade.

Victims are subjected to fraud or coercion and many are forced to work in prostitution. Trafficked people also face labor exploitation in fields such as domestic servitude, restaurant and janitorial work, sweatshop factory work and migrant agricultural work.

“In many respects human trafficking is a shadow industry. Not many folks know anything about it,” the archbishop continued.

He reported that more than 18,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. annually for sexual exploitation or forced labor. According to a conservative estimate from the Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, about one-third of foreign-born victims are children.

U.S. citizens are sometimes trafficked within the country, but estimates on their numbers are not available.

Archbishop Vlazny noted that the Catholic Sentinel in 2009 had reported on trafficking in Oregon, adding that Catholic Charities of Portland works hard to serve victims of the crime.

Last year the Sentinel reported that Oregon police said they were encountering three to five victims of trafficking per week. About 80 percent were women and half were children.

The archbishop said that the global nature of the Catholic Church makes her well-positioned to respond.

“This crime is clearly an offense against human dignity and fundamental human rights. It is indeed [a] modern slave trade at work in our midst,” he wrote.

Archbishop Vlazny reported that a coalition of Catholic organizations have been established to eliminate the “scourge” of human trafficking. Members plan how to help victims and meet with government officials and others about relevant public policy.

The coalition members also strategize about how to educate the public.

Catholic Charities of Portland, he said, has created questions to help determine if suspected victims have indeed been trafficked. They should be asked if they have been forced to work against their will, if they can leave their job if they have to, and if they or their families have been threatened.

Additionally, victims can be asked where they sleep and eat, if there are locks on doors or windows to prevent them from leaving, or if their identification or documentation has been taken from them.

Archbishop Vlazny noted that victims of human trafficking do not know that they are eligible for public benefits and legal immigration status. The law considers them victims, not criminals, even if they agreed to be brought into the country for a job or if their current employment is illegal.

Because human trafficking is modern day slavery, the archbishop continued, St. Josephine Bakhita has been suggested as a patron for victims of trafficking. Born in Africa, she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders at the age of nine and sold and resold five times in the Sudanese slave markets.

After much brutality, she was purchased by an Italian diplomat and left in the custody of the Canossian Sisters. She was baptized at the age of 21, became a nun and ministered in Italy for 45 years.

There is interest in the Archdiocese of Portland for designating her feast day, Feb. 8, as a day of prayer and penance for victims of trafficking. A Feb. 8 service for trafficking victims will be held at Portland’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, Archbishop Vlazny reported.

“It is my hope that similar prayer services will eventually be held in other churches across the archdiocese on this feast, another way of highlighting the seriousness of the crime and the desperate need for conversion on the part of individuals who are engaged in this horrendous practice.”

“Unfortunately, slavery perdures and many of us remain blissfully unaware,” the archbishop concluded.

He encouraged his readers to learn more about the crime and anti-trafficking efforts. He also asked for prayers for all trafficking victims, through the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita, that they will be freed and that their rights will be restored.

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Diocese of Worcester seeking news about mission house in quake-struck Haiti

Worcester, Mass., Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - The Diocese of Worcester is still seeking news on the fate of its mission house in Les Cayes, Haiti after Tuesday’s devastating earthquake. The diocese has many ties to the country.

Chancery officials told the Telegraph and Bulletin that they have been unable to contact the Kay Sen Pol mission house in Les Cayes, a town on the southern coast about 150 miles west of Port-au-Prince. Les Cayes has a population of about 175,000.

“There’s no communication whatsoever,” said Raymond L. Delisle, vice chancellor of operations and diocesan spokesman. “Even the United States government can’t get through. We might not get word for some time.”

Sr. Marie-Judith Dupuy, director of the diocese’s Haitian apostolate, said she is hopeful that the facility was spared because the earthquake’s destruction centered around Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

However, she has received reports of collapsed buildings in Les Cayes.

“There is still much damage in areas away from Port-au-Prince,” she told the Telegraph and Bulletin.

Sr. Dupuy reported that it is difficult to get information because most of Haiti’s communications systems are centered in the capital and all were out of operation or severely damaged.

“There’s no electricity, so people can’t even use the Internet,” she said.

Sr. Dupuy had planned to fly to Haiti on Friday.

The mission house was founded about two decades ago. Worcester-area Catholics have supported the project to help needy Haitians.

Seventeen central Massachusetts churches are sister congregations to 17 of Les Cayes’ 44 parishes.

Last October Bishop of Worcester Robert J. McManus visited the city to renew a covenant with the Bishop of Les Cayes, Guyre Poulard.

There is no information about how many Catholics of the Diocese of Worcester are in Haiti at present.

Former Charlton residents Deacon Peter Faford and his wife Linda retired to Haiti to work at a boys’ school near Les Cayes. His sister-in-law Barbara Faford told the Telegraph and Bulletin that they are fine.

Peter was able to get through by telephone and he said they were shaken up, but they’re fine,” Mrs. Faford said, according to the Telegraph and Bulletin. “There was maybe a little bit of damage, breakage of things. Other than that, that part of the island was fine.”

Bishop McManus has issued a statement, to be published in the Catholic Free Press, asking local Catholics to contribute to relief efforts. He said that many survivors have lost everything and many remote villages have been “severely or totally destroyed.”

“Neither the Haitian government nor the people will be able to mount a substantive relief effort. The Haitian people will need a great deal of international support to rebuild their villages and their lives.”

A special collection will be taken at Masses this weekend for Catholic Relief Services’ work in Haiti.

Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley has asked parishes within the archdiocese to take up a collection sometime this month. He reported that Catholic Charities of Boston will assist Boston-area Haitians affected by the earthquake.

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Vatican spokesman says 'only real comfort' in Haiti is love

Rome, Italy, Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - As Haiti reels from the destruction left by Tuesday's devastating earthquake, messages of support and prayers are coming in along with aid from every corner of the globe, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi says "the only real comfort" of these days in Haiti is this "generous and genuine love."

“The world is rightly shaken by the tragedy of the people of Haiti," already some of "the poorest of the Earth," said Fr. Lombardi on “Octavo Dies,” weekly television program that will be aired on Saturday through the Vatican Television Center.

"Also the Church, that lives with its people, has been directly and painfully hit by the deaths of so many of its members," he continued, referring to the death of Archbishop Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince, in particular, and the disruption of the Church's activities on the island.

Fr. Lombardi called attention to the reaction of Pope Benedict who "immediately raised his voice with vibrant words of spiritual participation and a call for solidarity" along with "innumerable others, from all countries, in particular the closest on the American continent."  In this massive response, said the Jesuit, we see yet again that "the gravity of the tragedy becomes an occasion for an extremely vast contest for solidarity and love."

"This generous and genuine love is possibly the only real comfort, the only big answer to this sea of pain, as the love of Christ that dies on the cross is the only real answer to the suffering of man."

In his message, Fr. Lombardi quoted the words of a Haitian priest who said that amidst the many man-made and natural catastrophes to which the people of the island have grown accustomed, they always regain hope, "and this is a Christian Hope. For Haitians, love is stronger."

This is the love that was present in the work of so many now deceased social and pastoral workers, "witnesses of solidarity," said Fr. Lombardi.

"We should continue to accompany, through the solidarity of love, to bring back - yet another time - the hope and the love of the Haitians, of the poor and suffering of the world."

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Pope hopes for unity with SSPX, thanks congregation for work with Anglicans

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - In an address to members Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at noon on Friday Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the unity he wishes to see in the Catholic Church.  He  expressed his hope for "full communion" with the Society of St. Pius X and the adherence of Anglicans "to the truth received from Christ."

"Unity is first and foremost the unity of faith, upheld by the sacred tradition of which Peter's Successor is the primary custodian and defender," said the Pope to the dicastery's President Cardinal Willia Joseph Levada, and the other members present. 

"The Bishop of Rome," with the participation of the Congregation, must always proclaim "Dominus Iesus, Jesus is Lord," said Pope Benedict, who explained that he does this "so that the Truth that is Christ continues to shine forth in all its grandeur and resound for all men in his integrity and purity, so that there may be a single flock,  gathered around a single Shepherd."

Therefore, he added, the goal of a "common witness of faith of all Christians constitutes ... the priority of the Church of all periods of history, with the purpose of guiding all men to encounter God."

"In this spirit, I trust particularly in your dicastery's commitment to overcoming the doctrinal problems that still persist in achieving the full communion of the Society of St. Pius X with the Church."

The Pope also extended words of thanks to members of the dicastery for their hard work towards the "full integration of groups and individuals of former Anglican faithful into the life of the Catholic Church.”

He added that "the faithful adherence of these groups to the truth received from Christ and presented in the Magisterium of the Church is in no way contrary to the ecumenical movement, it reveals, rather the ultimate scope that consists in reaching the full and visible communion of the disciples of the Lord."

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Pope Benedict thanks CDF for bioethics contributions

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - Speaking with the members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) on Friday, Pope Benedict expressed gratefulness for their work, particularly focusing on their efforts to apply Christians ethics to in vitro fertilization, cloning and gene therapy.

The Pope first highlighted the 2008 Instruction "Dignitas Personae," which dealt with the morality of in vitro fertilization, new forms of contraception, freezing embryos, cloning, the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos, genetic screening and gene therapy, among other biomedical processes.

“Dignitas Personae” represents "a new milestone in the announcement of the Gospel, in full continuity with the Instruction 'Donum vitae' published by the dicastery in 1987,” the Holy Father said.

“In such delicate and pressing questions ... the Magisterium of the Church seeks to offer its own contribution to the formation of consciences, not only the consciences of believers but of everyone who seeks the truth and is willing to listen to arguments that arise not only from the faith, but also from reason itself," he explained.

Reflecting on how Christianity makes its truthful contribution in the field of ethics and philosophy, Pope Benedict said that it does not offer “prefabricated solutions to real problems such as biomedical research and experimentation, but presents moral standpoints within which human reason can seek and find appropriate solutions.”

"There are, in fact, certain aspects of Christian revelation that throw light on the problems of bioethics. ... These aspects, inscribed in the heart of man, are also understandable in rational terms as elements of natural moral law, and may find acceptance even among people who do not recognize themselves in the Christian faith," he observed to the Congregation.

Noting that natural moral law is accessible to all people, the Holy Father said this applies to both “civil and secular society." "This law, inscribed in the heart of all human beings, touches an essential aspect of legal theory and appeals to legislators' consciences and sense of responsibility," he concluded.

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Mass. Senate candidate’s remarks show threat to Catholics’ freedoms, critics say

Boston, Mass., Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Martha Coakley has come under fire for saying pro-life medical workers with conscientious objections to some treatments “probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.” One critic said her remarks are a “wake-up call” about the threats to the religious freedom of orthodox Catholics.

Coakley, a Democrat and Massachusetts Attorney General, is seeking to fill the former seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Recently her campaign has targeted her Republican opponent, state senator Scott Brown, for proposing an amendment to 2005 state legislation which mandated the provision of emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault.

Brown’s amendment, which was defeated, would have provided conscience protections for medical workers “to the extent that contraception conflicts with a sincerely held religious belief.”

Ethical and religious objections to “emergency contraception” for victims of sexual assault center on the possibility that the treatment will prevent the uterine implantation of any embryo conceived in the assault or in sexual relations before the assault.

Normally the drug works by preventing ovulation. There is debate over whether it renders a woman’s womb hostile to a fertilized egg, a new human being, if she has already ovulated.

Coakley’s controversial comments came in a Thursday interview with WBSM radio talk show host Ken Pittman.

Pittman asked if she would support health care legislation what would protect a “conscientious objector” to procedures such as abortion.

Coakley said she did not exactly understand the question and then criticized Brown’s 2005 amendment.

“I would not pass a bill, as Scott Brown filed an amendment, to say that if people believe that don’t want to provide services that are required under the law and under Roe v. Wade, but taken individually decides to not follow the law, the answer to that question is ‘no.’

She repeated that the amendment would allow hospital and emergency room personnel to deny emergency contraception to “a woman who has came who’d been raped.”

“Right, if you are a Catholic, and believe what the Pope teaches that any form of birth control is a sin. Ah, you don’t want to do that,” Pittmann responded.

Coakley replied: “No we have a separation of church and state, Ken, let’s be clear.”

“In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom,” he replied.

After a short stutter, Coakley commented: “The law says that people are allowed to have that. You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.”

“Wow,” Pittman remarked.

Her remarks drew sharp criticism from some Catholic leaders.

Political commentator Deal Hudson, writing at the organization Catholic Advocate, said Coakley’s comments on the separation of Church and State were a “dissenting, reflex reaction” that marked the radio conversation’s descent into “the pit of puerile anti-Catholicism.”

“If politicians like Coakley are put in charge of ‘health care reform,’ the day may come when orthodox Catholics will be excluded from any medical services where they might decide not to provide an abortion, prescribe contraception, or euthanize a suffering patient,” Hudson warned.

Noting her position as state attorney general, he continued: “Coakley’s willingness to use her political power against orthodox Catholics serving in the medical profession should be a wake-up call.”

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, also was critical.

Commenting in a Friday statement, he charged that Coakley was “so completely wedded to the extremists in the pro-abortion community” that she would not allow “Catholic doctors and nurses—who unlike her accept the teachings of Catholicism—to recuse themselves from participating in procedures they find morally repugnant.”

In Donohue’s view, the Senate candidate denied the right to exercise religious liberty objections.

“President Obama says he supports conscience rights for health care workers. The Catholic bishops support conscience rights. Survey after survey show that the American people support conscience rights. But Martha Coakley does not—she says they’re all wrong. Glad to know which side of religious liberty she is on.”

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Latin American bishops express solidarity with Haitian earthquake victims

Santiago, Chile, Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - Expressing their solidarity with the people of Haiti, the bishops of Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile announced they would organize national collections to help provide food, shelter and medicine to the earthquake victims. 

No one can remain indifferent in the face of the 7.3 magnitude earthquake, the bishops said.  They called on the international community to care for the immediate needs of the Haitian people and urged Christians to show solidarity with the Caribbean nation. 

Bishops in Chile, Bolivia, Brazil and Ecuador announced they would hold second collections on Sunday, January 24 in support of the relief efforts.  The Chilean bishops noted, “Monetary contributions are the best way to make a direct contribution to solving the grave needs that this violent earthquake has caused. With the help of the expert teams of Caritas International, these resources will be distributed in coordination with local organizations in Haiti.”

The Mexican Bishops’ Conference exhorted “all Catholics and people of good” to pray and generously “support our Haitian brothers and sisters.”

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'Yes to Life' referendum to call attention to new Spanish abortion law

Madrid, Spain, Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - Pro-life leaders in Madrid announced this week they will present the “Yes to Life” referendum in the Spanish capital on January 21, in order to raise awareness in Europe about the extent of the country’s new abortion law.

In statements to reporters, Gador Joya, the spokesperson for Spain's Right to Life said that during the first trimester of Spain’s turn in the European Union presidency, a number of protests and initiatives are planned to “inform the European public about the opposition of the majority of Spanish society to the country's new law on abortion.”

Gador said a petition signed by one million Spaniards will be presented to the Spanish House of Representatives on January 28, calling for a referendum on the law.

Pro-life groups are using Facebook and other social networking sites to invite people to send their petition directly to Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in support of the referendum.

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Priests must 'lead the charge' in proclaiming the Gospel, says Cardinal Ruini

Rome, Italy, Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - During a conference this week in Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini and secretary general of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Msgr. Mariano Crociata emphasized that priests must lead the faithful in confidently and courageously announcing the Gospel message.

The conference was held Jan. 11-13 for clergy and the lay faithful who work with the Unitalsi association, an Italian organization that organizes pilgrimages to holy sites around the world. The cardinal and Msgr. Crociata met with conference participants to prepare them for another year of pilgrimages.

Cardinal Ruini affirmed in his address that “religion’s sun has not set, but now, it is possibly more important than in the past.” The prelate emphasized the role of the priest in leading the charge, saying that his mission is that of announcing the Word of God seriously and confidently, without letting himself be taken down by pessimism.

In order to fulfill their mission with enthusiasm and conviction, continued the cardinal, “priests today must be men of prayer and also be very prepared on the theological and cultural plane.”

Msgr. Crociata built on the same theme, proposing that priests must hold to three principal requirements, the first being that of “guiding the faithful to a personal encounter with Christ, and more specifically to a capacity for a personal and autonomous faith, in profound communion with Him.”

The second, he continued, consists in having the courage and conviction to be a true believer in the Church. Finally, “there is no mediocre and relaxed way to approach the conquest of Christ; conquest means effort, tension, hard work and obstinate dedication, self-sacrifice.”

Msgr. Crociata concluded by saying that none of this is possible without an impassioned faith.

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Vatican releases Pope's Lent and Easter schedule

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - It's official. Malta is on the Holy Father's calendar for an apostolic visit in April.  The Pope's plans for Easter have also been made public on a calendar released on Friday by the Vatican.

On April 17 and 18 the Pope will be on the Mediterranean island of Malta for his first apostolic visit of the year.  The Pontiff will lead celebrations there for the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck there.  The Archdiocese of Malta has reported that Pope will arrive on Saturday afternoon, at which time he will visit the Grotto of St. Paul in Rabat. 

On Sunday, Benedict XVI is set to celebrate Mass in the city of Floriana and will later visit a group of Maltese youth before making an exit that afternoon.

This apostolic visit will be the first of at least three in 2010, according to Vatican Radio reports.  In addition to Malta, he will be going to Portugal in May and Cyprus in June.  It has also been widely reported that preparations are being made for a papal visit to Great Britain in September.

Other events on the Pope's agenda for the next three months include celebrations for the Lenten season and Easter. 

On Feb. 17,  Ash Wednesday, Benedict XVI will be presiding over the "statio" and the Penitential Procession at the Basilica of San Anselm.  He will also be at the Basilica of Santa Sabina for Holy Mass and the blessing and imposition of the Ashes.

On Palm Sunday (March 28, 2010), the Pope will oversee a morning celebration in St. Peter's Square with the Blessing of the Palms, to be followed by a procession and Mass.  

On Monday, March 29, the Pope will offer Mass to commemorate the April 2, 2005 anniversary of the death of Servant of God John Paul II.

On Holy Thursday, he will celebrate the Chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, followed later by the first Mass of the Easter Triduum in the Basilica of St. John Lateran. 

Good Friday's afternoon celebration of the Passion of the Lord will be will be held at St. Peter's Basilica and the "Via crucis" will take place in the evening at the Colosseum. 

Holy Saturday, will see the Pope at the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's.

On Easter Sunday, April 4, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Square in the morning followed by an appearance in the central "Loggia," the window above the main doors of the Vatican basilica, at noon, at which time he will give the "Urbi et Orbi" benediction.

Other notable events presided over by the Holy Father in the next three months include a Concistory for "some" Causes of Canonization, spiritual exercises in his private chapel Redemptoris Mater, a pastoral visit to a local Roman church and a meeting with youth to prepare them for next year's World Youth Day in Madrid.

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U.S. bishops urge Obama to grant Temporary Protected Status to Haiti

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter to President Obama on Friday, urging him to designate Haiti a country of Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

“It is clear that Haiti merits an immediate designation of TPS after suffering the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake of January 12, one of the worst in Haitian history,” the cardinal said on Friday.

Cardinal George explained that “a designation of TPS permits nationals of a designated nation living in the United States to reside here legally and qualify for work authorization and is based upon a determination that armed conflict, political unrest, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions exist in a nation and that the return of that country’s nationals would further destabilize the nation and potentially bring harm to those returned.”

“Mr. President,” the Chicago cardinal wrote, “by any measure, the conditions in Haiti meet the statutory requirements for TPS.” 

“To put it mildly, the earthquake has caused 'substantial disruption' in living conditions and Haiti is clearly 'unable to handle adequately' the return of its citizens abroad, as the TPS statute requires.”  
 
“Extending this mantle of protection to struggling Haiti is not only appropriate, but a just, compassionate, and concrete step the United States can take toward alleviating the human suffering of the Haitian people,”stated Cardinal George in his letter on Friday.  
 
“We urge you to grant a TPS designation for Haiti as soon as possible,” the prelate said. 

In other efforts, Catholic Charities and various other groups in South Florida are talking about the possibility of a massive airlift to transport the thousands of children who have been orphaned by the catastrophic earthquake.

The groups have been inspired by the Operation Pedro Pan model of rescue which was used 40 years ago to help remove children from Communist Cuba in 1960. Though Catholic Charities Legal Services Executive Director Randolph McGrorty acknowledges the difference between Cuba during the revolution and Haiti, post earthquake, the objective, he said, remains the same.

McGrorty also told the Sun Sentinel that the response to help the children “has been swift and overwhelming.” Officials in these groups have also been in contact with the Obama Administration to provide the children with humanitarian visas.

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Chief Rabbi of Rome defends Pope's visit to synagogue

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict's decision to advance the beatification of Pope Pius XII has caused one prominent Italian rabbi to withdraw from Benedict's first visit to Rome's synagogue. However, the Chief Rabbi of Rome plans to go ahead with the event, saying, "We still have to get together, even if we have different opinions."

Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, remains steadfast in his will to bring the event to fruition, despite members of the Jewish community in Rome branding it a "unilateral" decision.

At the root of the debate is Pope Benedict XVI's Dec. 19 approval of measure that put Pope Pius XII a step closer to sainthood.  The pope's signature authenticating the 20th century Pontiff's saintly life was met by immediate outcry from members of the worldwide Jewish community. 

Fr. Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See's press office released a statement in the days that followed, clarifying that the Pope's decision was a judgment of the man's faith and not based on the character of his actions during World War II in defense of Jews.

In an interview published in La Stampa newspaper on Thursday, the Chief Rabbi of Rome defended his decision to continue with plans for the visit, saying that for him the clarification released by the Vatican on Pius XII's "heroic virtue," served as a "signal that the 'all clear' of Benedict XVI for beatification was not a challenge."

However, the president of the Assembly of Italian Rabbis, Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, made known that for him this statement "clarifies nothing."  In an interview published in Friday's edition of "Juedische Allgemeine Zeitung," and translated in La Stampa, Rabbi Laras said it was "exactly for this reason that (he) won't take part" in the Jan. 17 visit. 

He did say that, in Chief Rabbi Di Segni's shoes, he would not have canceled what he called the "unilaterally made initiative" either, rather he would have "demanded of the Catholic Church a more significant clarification of the presumed 'heroisms' of Pius XII" including the release of documents from the Vatican archives regarding Pius XII's pontificate.

Rabbi Di Segni also acknowledged the quarrel, saying of the Vatican viewpoint, "On the pontificate of the Pius XII, we think of it in different ways, but it serves to get together even if we have different opinions."

"Just a few days from the visit let's take a closer look at what brings us together rather than that which pushes us apart," Rabbi Di Segni said.

Pope Benedict XVI will make his historic visit to the Synagogue of Rome on Sunday afternoon. 

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Caritas relief teams arrive in Haiti, say situation is ‘very bad’

Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - Teams from Caritas have arrived in Haiti to support local staff in relief work for survivors of Tuesday’s massive earthquake. The situation is “very bad,” they report.
The United Nations estimates that about 45,000 to 50,000 people have died since the quake and 300,000 are homeless. Another 3.5 million Haitians are affected by the disaster, Caritas says.

Caritas Haiti reports a high level of destruction in the predominantly Catholic country. Churches have been particularly badly affected, with almost all main churches badly damaged, if not destroyed.

Fr. Antonio Sandoval, Caritas Latin America Regional Coordinator, arrived in the capital Port-au-Prince on Thursday with an eight-man relief team.

“The situation is very bad and the people are in need of water, food, and medicine. People are still on the streets and in parks, where they must sleep. A great part of the city is without electricity,” he reported.

Fr. Sandoval explained that Caritas is coordinating relief efforts with the bishops and the papal nuncio. They are also coordinating with the national Caritas and regional and international Caritas members, as well as with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies.

In the neighboring Dominican Republic, Caritas USA and Catholic Relief Services staff and volunteers are preparing food boxes to feed 50,000 people. The first 500 boxes were scheduled to be delivered to Port-au-Prince on Friday.

More international staffers were to arrive Friday in Haiti to provide technical support on water, shelter and health care. The staff comes from Rome, Holland, the U.S., Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria.

Caritas has already provided tents, blankets and first aid to some of the most vulnerable families. It reports it has “a well established network of community workers” that will deliver further aid.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the Caritas President, commented from Honduras on the relief work. He called for special prayers for the people of Haiti on Sunday and also asked for support for the work of Church and aid agencies in Haiti.

Caritas lists suggested prayers on its website and is accepting donations for Haitian relief.

Its website is http://www.caritas.org.

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Oklahoma bill backs more marriage counseling, stricter standards for divorce

Oklahoma City, Okla., Jan 15, 2010 (CNA) - In a proposal aimed to reduce an extremely high divorce rate, an Oklahoma state legislator has introduced a bill that would reward engaged couples who obtain more pre-marital counseling and would require pre-divorce counseling for troubled marriages. It also creates “covenant marriages” with stricter standards for divorce.

Oklahoma ranks in the top five nationally for currently divorced men and women.

"State government currently spends hundreds of millions of dollars dealing with the fallout of divorce – exponentially more than it does supporting marriage," Rep. Mark McCullough, sponsor of the bill, said in a Jan. 13 statement.

“If we can encourage more couples to obtain counseling and carefully consider their decisions before entering into this supposedly life-long commitment, I believe we can drive down our divorce rate, save taxpayer money and improve the lives of thousands of Oklahomans every year."

McCullough’s bill, House Bill 2634, would require at least eight hours of pre-marital counseling for couples before they can obtain a marriage license. Those obtaining a minimum eight hours of counseling would pay $50 for a marriage license, but those who obtain twenty or more hours of pre-marital counseling would pay only $5.

Studies report that divorce has a major impact on the cost of state government, largely through public assistance programs. A report from the Institute for American Values and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing,” conservatively estimates the annual taxpayer costs of divorce at up to $430 million for Oklahoma and more than $112 billion nationwide.

Rep. McCullough said his legislation is a “first step” to drive down those statistics. He added that research consistently shows premarital counseling to have a positive impact on marriage.

In addition to the pre-marital requirements, the bill requires couples with minor children to go through pre-divorce education classes before a divorce can be granted.

"Every couple with children needs to think hard about the impact their divorce is going to have for those children," McCullough commented.

His office reported that children from broken homes are 12 times more likely to be incarcerated, seven times more likely to live in poverty and three times more likely to be expelled from school. They are also more susceptible to substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Another provision of HB 2634 would create a special “covenant marriage” license. Couples would sign a declaration of intent saying that if marital difficulties arise “we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling.

Couples bound by a covenant marriage can get a divorce for adultery, physical abuse of a spouse or child, abandonment, separation for a period of at least 18 months or fraud.

This type of marriage has been enacted in states including Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona.

A 2004 study reported that Louisiana’s covenant marriage law had a positive impact. While most non-covenant marriages did not receive pre-marital counseling, all covenant marriages did. The divorce rate among the latter couples was only 40 percent of that in non-covenant marriages.

McCullough noted that other state legislators such as Rep. Sally Kern have also filed marriage legislation, showing that they are taking seriously the problem of “family fragmentation.”

"By simply making the marriage process more deliberate, it’s been proven that you can help couples avoid mistakes that lead to divorce," McCullough commented. "Given the terrible impact divorce has on both children and parents and its cost to taxpayers, it is time the state provides incentives for strengthening marriages."

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