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Archive of January 26, 2010

Anglican bishop kidnapped in Nigeria

Benin City, Nigeria, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - The Anglican Bishop of the Benin Diocese in Nigeria was kidnapped on January 24 after celebrating Sunday mass at the Benin City cathedral.

According to the Missionary International Service News Agency (MISNA), Bishop Peter Imasuen, was abducted outside of his home by "unknown gunmen." He had only just returned from the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Benin City, capital of Nigeria's Edo state, where he had celebrated the Anglican mass.

The Nigerian Tribune reported on Monday that Bishop Imasuen was "trailed" all the way to his residence, called the "Bishop's Court," where the suspected gunmen managed to lock the gatekeeper in his security outpost and force their way into complex. They pulled the prelate from his car and took him away.

MISNA explained that the bishop's abduction comes just days after the local governor's request to withdraw soldiers and special forces from the streets. The servicemen were initially put in place to curb the city's attacks and abductions. The bishop is reportedly the first incident of kidnapping since then.

The Tribune added that the ransom being demanded is 50 million Nigerian naira, which is the equivalent of over $330,000 in U.S. dollars.

In addition to his post as the head of the Archdiocese of Benin, Bishop Imasuen is also the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria which claims on its website to be "the largest ecumenical body ever established in Nigeria and, indeed, Africa."

Representatives from the Anglican Church of Benin City were unavailable for comment.

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Thousands of West Coast pro-lifers decry abortion as ‘greatest human rights abuse’

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - Denouncing abortion as “the greatest human rights abuse,” over 35,000 pro-life activists gathered for the Walk for Life West Coast on Friday.

Among the banner-waving participants were toddlers, grandparents and college students. Their walk proceeded along the San Francisco waterfront and was the largest crowd in the six years of the march, organizers reported.

Students from area high schools and from Stanford, UC-Berkeley, St. Thomas Aquinas College and Wyoming Catholic College took part in the march, as did eight Catholic bishops.

A reported 120 Catholic seminarians carried banners. One seminarian, Tom Martin, said it was a “great opportunity” for people to see seminarians joining with them in praying for life and also “taking a stand.”

Frank Lee of Asian Americans Pro-Life opened the rally with a prayer.

"Every life is precious and should be cherished,” he said. “We have a tough battle in front of us, but we shall overcome when we combine our efforts to make it a perfect whole!"

Lila Rose of Live Action was among the speakers at the event.

"The fact that we have allowed abortion in this great nation, the killing of the most defenseless and weak among us has resulted in the greatest human rights abuse I believe our nation has ever seen,” Rose commented. “It is up to us to stand, raise our voices, and protect the smallest."

Another speaker, Abby Johnson, was a former Texas Planned Parenthood director who walked away from her job after assisting in abortion.

"If you are here, you are an activist,” Johnson told the crowd. “We can no longer just say the words but must put our words into action."

Evangelical pastor Jim Garlow of San Diego said that now was the time to “seize the moment” in the interest of unborn babies. Rev. Clenard Childress, founder of BlackGenocide.org, said there is now an “obvious shift” in the culture resulting from “advances in the pro-life movement.”

The Walk for Life West Coast presented the St. Gianna Molla Award to David Bereit, the national campaign director of 40 Days for Life.

Dolores Meehan, the Walk’s co-founder, praised its participants.

“The tenacity of pro-lifers, showing up in their tens of thousands, despite a downpour, is a testimony to their commitment!” she commented.

The Walk says it was founded in 2005 to affirm the right to life from conception to natural death and to change hearts hurt by the violence of abortion.

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Prayer making a difference in healing 'wounds’ of legal abortion, Bishop Isern says

Pueblo, Colo., Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - The new bishop of Pueblo, Colorado has warned of the “lingering wounds” of abortion and said the prayers and efforts of those who oppose it are making a difference.

Bishop Fernando Isern’s remarks came in his homily at a noon Mass in Pueblo’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Friday, the 37th anniversary of the pro-abortion Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.

He noted that though the earthquake in Haiti has killed an estimated 200,000 people, abortion has killed almost 25 times that number in the U.S.

“In the years since, 50 million lives have been lost,” he said, according to the Pueblo Chieftain.

Calling legal abortion “a terrible cloud over this great nation,” he said the laws show an “absurd logic” in criminalizing damage to an egg of an endangered bald eagle but not an early human embryo.

Bishop Isern said abortion harms the whole family and scars would-be mothers.

"These are wounds that linger years and years," he continued. "As priests we hear it over and over again in the confessional."

The bishop also urged the Catholic faithful to help expectant mothers and to say “We’re there, and we will help you.”

He noted that his former parish in Miami opened its arms and finances to a young single woman who was expecting a baby. The parish cared for her emotionally, spiritually and financially and the baby is now a student in the parish pre-school.

The mother now works in the parish’s maintenance department and has a second child, which she may not have done had she aborted her firstborn.

Bishop Isern said the girl is “the apple of her eye,” according to the Pueblo Chieftain.

He said that prayer is the key to stopping abortion both individually and as a legal practice.

The bishop also pointed out that a clear majority of Americans now oppose abortion.

“It is prayer that will make a difference,” Bishop Isern insisted.

Colorado was one of the first states to permit legal abortion. In 1967, Colorado Republican Gov. John A. Love signed the first U.S. law allowing abortion in cases of permanent mental or physical disability of either the child or the mother or in cases of rape or incest.

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Redemptorist Superior General urges prayer for persecuted Vietnamese Catholics

Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - Following continued government persecution of Catholics in Vietnam, the Redemptorist Superior General has appealed for prayers for the Redemptorists and other Catholics in the country.

Recent incidents have centered at Dong Chiem parish in the Archdiocese of Hanoi. There, government officials blew up a crucifix at a cemetery on Jan. 6. Officials have blockaded the area around the parish and parishioners have been subject to beatings and mass arrests.

Last week, 36-year-old Redemptorist Brother Anthony Nguyen Van Tang was brutally beaten by police near the parish. He was left unconscious in a pool of blood.

Fr. Michael Brehl, the recently elected Superior General of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, told Fides that the Redemptorists hope the Vietnamese government investigates the incidents and will “act with justice.”

Speaking from Rome on Sunday, Fr. Brehl reported that the Provincial Superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam has requested prayers.

“The situation is tense, not only for the Redemptorists but also for many lay people, especially those active in pastoral work. I assured all our fellow Redemptorists in Vietnam and all those for whom we work of our solidarity and especially our prayers. Let us not forget them in this time of need!”

The Superior General noted that the government has denied responsibility for the destruction on the crucifix, but this is disputed by the Vietnamese bishops, witnesses and some independent journalists.

“Our response is prayer,” Fr. Brehl said.

On Sunday a solemn prayer vigil was held at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi. Thousands participated in the vigil, at which Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence Chu Van Minh was the presider.

The faithful have prayed for Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet, who has often been criticized by the government and has asked to resign.

Thousands of Catholics also attended a Sunday prayer vigil at the Redemptorist monastery in Ho Chi Minh City, Fides says. They prayed for the victims of violence for the faithful of Dong Chiem. They also prayed for the Vietnamese government and the entire nation, exhorting that peace, harmony, justice and truth prevail in the country.

Hundreds of police mingled among the congregation, Sr. Emily Nguyen of VietCatholic.net reported.

At the vigil Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy addressed the police, saying, “If you wish to arrest me, you can do it right now. I am ready to go with you.”

He assured them that his congregation would not resist.

“Did you hear what our faithful are singing?” the priest asked the plainclothes police. “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon. Did you hear them praying for any evils against you?”

The vigil proceeded without incident. Previously, police had publicly threatened the vigil with “extreme actions” should it continue as scheduled.

The government of Ho Chi Minh City has accused the priest of abusing his role in prayer vigils to “distort” the situation of Vietnam and to denounce human rights violations. The city charged that these actions undermine national unity and enable forces hostile to the Vietnamese government.

The Vietnamese Redemptorists’ provincial superior Fr. Vincent Pham Trung Thanh also celebrated a Mass on Sunday before more than 2,000 Catholics. Fides reports that he sought prayers for the end of the persecution against the Church and for the innocent faithful.

The Redemptorists have asked Hanoi authorities to lift the “siege” of the Church of Dong Chiem, to stop intimidation towards believers, to release those arbitrarily detained, to prosecute those who attacked Catholics, and to respect freedom of religion and the symbols of the Christian faith.

Catholics abroad have also turned their prayers to Vietnam, VietCatholic.net reports. On Jan. 20 a vigil held in Sydney attracted thousands and on Jan. 23 a Mass at Orange County Catholic Pastoral Center in California to pray for Dong Chiem.

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Coalition asks U.S. leaders for investigation into breast cancer risks of abortion

Bethesda, Md., Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - Citing “confusing and conflicting messages” about the breast cancer risks of abortion and oral contraceptives, a coalition has sent a letter to President Obama and Congressional leaders calling for an investigation of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the cessation of federal funding for abortion.

The Jan. 20 letter was authored by the Coalition on Abortion / Breast Cancer (CABC) and was signed by several doctors and pro-life organizations.

The CABC letter cited the work of National Cancer Institute (NCI) researcher Dr. Louise Brinton. Brinton, the NCI’s Chief of the Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch, was a co-author of a 2009 study which reported a statistically significant 40 percent breast cancer risk increase for women who have had abortions.

According to the CABC, the study listed abortion among “known and suspected risk factors.”

The CABC has been critical of a 2003 NCI workshop organized by Brinton that said the non-existence of an abortion-breast cancer link was “well established.” The NCI has updated its web page on the workshop to say “the evidence overall still does not support early termination of pregnancy as a cause of breast cancer.”

The letter from the CABC reported that the web page had not been updated since 2003 until Jan. 12, 2010, soon after press inquiries began concerning the 2009 study. The Coalition questioned whether this change was coincidental.

In the Coalition’s view, the contrast between the results of the 2009 study and the information on the NCI’s web site appears “disingenuous.”

The authors of the 2009 study said their findings were “consistent with the effects observed in previous studies on younger women… induced abortion and oral contraceptive use were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.”

Other NCI information on the evidence for a connection between breast cancer and oral contraceptives is also outdated, the CABC charged.

“We request that any public funding of abortion be removed entirely from all legislation being considered by this Congress and that Congress also exercise its proper oversight authority and investigate the role of the NCI in communicating information about breast cancer risks to the American public,” the CABC letter read.

Professor Joel Brind, a professor of biology and endocrinology at Baruch College, City University of New York, was a signer of the letter.

Speaking in a CABC press release, Brind said there was a “direct contradiction” between Brinton’s findings and the NCI website. He called on Brinton to respond to the news reports on the 2009 study.

Karen Malec, CABC president, charged that the NCI “puts politics ahead of women’s lives.”

"That's why we're putting both parties on notice of the NCI's misconduct. If they decide to watch women die, instead of cleaning house when we have prima facie evidence of a cover-up, then both parties will have to answer to angry women."

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Vatican to raise funds for Haiti with new stamp

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - The Holy See's Philatelic and Numismatic Office, otherwise known as the Stamp and Coin Office, announced on Tuesday that it will "overprint" a stamp as a fundraiser for Haitian earthquake survivors.  The initiative is expected to bring in proceeds of over $210,000.

A stamp commemorating the 1,500th anniversary of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Graces already planned to be printed and released by the Vatican, will be sold for a higher price than was initially set as a "special initiative in favor of the population of Haiti," according to a communiqué from the Holy See's Press Office.

The 900,000 stamps will be sold at 20 Euro cents over its 65 cent postal value.  The price of the stamp will thus be "overprinted" to 85 Euro cents.

The subject of the stamp, Our Lady of Graces Sanctuary, is located in the mountains about 40 miles west of Vatican City.

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Pope asks for constant prayers for Christian unity

Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) -

The Holy Father closed the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with Vespers at the Roman Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-walls on the Monday evening. In his homily he emphasized that everyone is called to seek "full communion between all of the disciples of Christ."

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the archpriest and abbot of the basilica and a host of cardinals, bishops and representatives from other Christian Churches joined Pope Benedict XVI in the celebration of Vespers. The evening prayer service coincided with the Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul, whose tomb is under the altar of the basilica.

"As the theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 'You are witnesses of these things,' has reminded us, our call is to be missionaries of the Gospel," Pope Benedict said in his homily.

He recounted the story of St. Paul's conversion and his subsequent life of devotion to preaching the Word of God, which "reached it's culmination in his martyrdom," as a model of the Christian witness.

This event and the appearance of Christ among the Eleven after his death, continued the Pope, were those to which the disciples thereafter bore witness, as have believers in Christ "in every time and place."

Christian witness, "then as now, is born of the encounter with the Risen, it's nurtured by the constant relationship with Him, encouraged by the profound love of Him. Only the person who has experienced feeling Christ present and alive... sitting at table with Him, listening to Him so that their heart burns, can be His witness!" the Pope taught.

"The communion and the unity of the disciples of Christ is... a particularly important condition for greater credibility and effectiveness in the their witness."

The Holy Father concluded his message by saying that "each of us is called to do our part to take those steps that bring us towards full communion between all disciples of Christ, without ever forgetting that this is, above all, a gift of God to pray for constantly.

"In fact,” Benedict XVI stated, “the force that promotes the unity and the mission streams out from the fertile and exciting encounter with the Risen One, as happens to Paul on the road of Damascus and for the Eleven and the other disciples gathered in Jerusalem. The Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, says 'yes' that Her Son's wish is realized as soon as possible, 'that they may all be one... that the world may believe.'"

The ecumenical movement marks a milestone this year, celebrating a century since the missionary conference between representatives from Protestant and Anglican Churches met along with a single orthodox delegate in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1910. The goal of the gathering was work towards unity and define a shared approach to spreading the Good News.

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Benedict XVI gives Austin Catholics new bishop

Austin, Texas, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - Catholics of the Diocese of Austin rejoiced this morning to hear the words “Habemus episcopum! (We have a bishop!),” after it was made public that Pope Benedict appointed Auxiliary Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to be Austin’s new shepherd. Bishop Vásquez is the first Mexican-American to lead the diocese and will be its fifth bishop.

The Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Pietro Sambi, made the announcement in Washington D.C. this morning. The installation ceremony will take place in Austin on March 8, 2010.

Bishop Vásquez responded to his appointment, saying “"I wish to thank Pope Benedict XVI for the confidence he has placed in me in naming me shepherd of the Diocese of Austin." He also said that offered prayers of gratitude “for Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza and the priests, religious and laity of the Archdiocese for forming me as a bishop.”

“Most of all,” Bishop Vásquez said, “I give thanks to God for the gift of priesthood, which has brought me such joy for 25 years. I trust in the Holy Spirit to enlighten me for this next step in my journey,” he added.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Bishop Vásquez’s superior in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston noted the bittersweet nature of the occasion. “Though I take great pleasure in sharing the news of this episcopal appointment by our Holy Father, we will most certainly feel the loss of Bishop Vasquez in our Archdiocese,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “He has shown himself to be a generous and dedicated priest who brought a great sense of pastoral wisdom and administrative excellence to his ministry, most especially as Vicar General/Chancellor of our Archdiocese.”

“For eight years, he has blessed our Archdiocese with a clear vision for serving Christ’s people. He has been a humble, joyful bishop and it as been a privilege to know him and to work with him as my chief collaborator in this local Church,” DiNardo noted.  

Bishop Vásquez succeeds Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who left the Diocese of Austin in June of 2009 to become the Archbishop of New Orleans. He also takes over the diocese from Monsignor Michael Mulvey who had been serving as temporary administrator of the diocese until a bishop was appointed. Monsignor Mulvey was appointed Bishop of Corpus Christi on January 18, leaving the 19,000 square mile diocese once again leaderless.

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Consistory may be on the horizon, Vatican experts predict

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - Citing the high number of cardinals reaching 80 years of age, Vatican experts say the possibility of a consistory taking place soon is becoming evermore likely.  By the end of March 2010, there will be no fewer than 12 positions available for the elevation of new cardinals.

Cardinals reaching the age of 80 are no longer able to vote in the election of a new Pope, should the occasion arise.  Currently there are 182 members of the College of Cardinals, spanning all ages, with 112 eligible to vote in Papal conclaves.

The traditional number of cardinal electors is 120.

In addition to the eight cardinals who have already reached the 80-year ceiling, this Wednesday Archbishop Emeritus of Toronto, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic will celebrate his birthday, thus losing his vote in Papal conclaves and clearing the way for the creation of a new cardinal.  Within the next two months, three more cardinals including American Cardinal Adam Maida will celebrate birthdays and also reach the mark.

According to the experts, this puts Pope Benedict XVI in an interesting situation, with no other cardinal celebrating his 80th until July and an additional 13 reaching the milestone between then and March of 2011.  Therefore, an immediate consistory called for by the Pope around the end of February or the beginning of March wouldn't be a surprise, with another consistory to follow around the same dates next year.

Included among the 25 cardinals that will reach the limit in the next 13 months are Archbishop Emeritus of Washington D.C., Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore, Cardinal William Keeler.

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Pope invites Christians to join in 'new, intense evangelization'

Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) -

In his homily during the celebration of Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls on Monday evening, Benedict XVI outlined the essential elements of convergence between all Christian faiths. He also called for a "new, intense evangelization" to respond to important issues in the world today.

"In a world marked by religious indifference, and even by a growing aversion towards the Christian faith, a new, intense evangelization is necessary, not only among people that have never known the Gospel, but also among those in which Christianity has been spread and is a part of their history," Pope Benedict said emphatically.

Referring to the history of Christianity and the issues affecting the unity of all its branches, Pope Benedict explained, "Unfortunately, there is no lack of questions that separate some from others and we hope that they can be overcome through prayer and dialogue."

But, he added, "there is a central content of Christ's message that we can announce together: the paternity of God, the victory of Christ over sin and his death with his cross and resurrection (and) a trust in the transformative action of the Spirit."

"While we are on the path towards full communion, we are called to offer a shared witness against the ever more complex challenges of our time, including secularization and indifference, relativism and hedonism, the delicate ethical themes regarding the beginning and end of life, the limits of science and technology, dialogue with other religious traditions," Benedict XVI urged.

The Holy Father expressed the necessity of a united effort amongst all Christians to extend unity into other areas and that "from now on, we must give a shared witness (to) the protection of Creation, the promotion of the common good and peace, defense of the centrality of the human person, commitment to defeating the misery of our time, including hunger, poverty, illiteracy, unequal distribution of goods."

Joining members of the Roman Curia, bishops and religious in attendance at Vespers were members of various Christian Churches and ecclesial communities from throughout the city of Rome.

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Archbishop Nichols praises papal decree for encouraging Catholic-Anglican dialogue

Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said this week that the publication of the apostolic constitution allowing Anglicans the option of entering into full communion with the Catholic Church “will have important consequences” in England.

The apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum coetibus,” was issued by Pope Benedict last November.

In an interview with Vatican Radio in Rome, where the archbishop is with other English prelates for their ad limina visit, Archbishop Nichols said, “The reaction to this document is, in a certain sense, measured. There was a strong reaction at first, which was inflated by the media. Now we are in a phase of evaluation, reflection and prayer.”

In order for there to be a “complete assessment of the Pope’s initiative,” the archbishop said, “one must consider the important announcement of the start of the third phase of ARCIC talks, the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission.  In my opinion, the two are related.”

“The response of the Holy Father has given a positive stimulus to ARCIC's debates,” he continued adding that the coinciding of the launch of ARCIC III and the apostolic constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus" is not a coincidence.”

“In our joint declaration,” Archbishop Nichols stated, “the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and I have said that this move by the Holy See will end a period of uncertainty, and consider this to be a positive contribution to a wider dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole, which will have important consequences for the country.”

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Mexican cardinal: Church cannot only be concerned with 'the afterlife'

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - In a direct reference to political groups supporting same-sex “marriage,” Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the Archbishop of Mexico City, recalled that the mission of the Church is not limited to teaching about “the afterlife,” but that she must also address “today's problems and situations.”

During his homily on Sunday, the cardinal underscored that “the Gospel must be applied to the present-day situations of the here and now.”  He continued saying that the voice of the Church is not limited simply to speaking about “the afterlife.”

“The Church is the body of Christ and is the privileged place for proclaiming the Gospel,” Cardinal Rivera said.   He then encouraged the faithful to live and apply the Gospel of Christ to the public square, as “the mission of Jesus and of the Church is to be a spark of light, liberation, kindness and grace.”

“The Gospel must be read in light of present-day problems and situations, so that the spark of divine light, kindness and grace will be ignited for us. Only then will it truly be good news,” he added.

The cardinal criticized those who wish to limit the Church’s voice and work.  “We sometimes hear the nonsense that the Church should just worry about the afterlife, but we must see Jesus through the eyes of the present, with all of today’s problems and situations.”

In this sense, the cardinal concluded, Mexican Catholics “continue to feel sorrow for the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Haiti, and we must continue collaborating so that our aid will reach those in need.”

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Venezuelan bishops urge dialogue to promote reconciliation and peace

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - In a message concluding their recent plenary assembly, the bishops of Venezuela made a strong call for dialogue to foster peace and reconciliation in the country.

In their message titled "Justice and Truth, Avenues For Reconciliation and Peace," the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference described a series of deep rifts currently affecting the country, such as the incitement of "hatred and confrontation" in various sectors of the country, including from government representatives. 

The bishops criticized the disregard for the constitution and the increasing corruption of the Venezuelan government.  They also stressed the need to defend life against the various threats of today and the right of everyone to freely participate in politics to make their voices heard.

"In our current situation, as a country seeking peace and social harmony, the practice of truth in love is indispensable...The Church promotes the comprehensive growth of man following the proclamation of the commandment of love," they said. 

"The faith of Christians must be clearly made manifest, not only in the fruitful and intimate encounter with Jesus Christ...but also by meeting the needs of others in charity and solidarity,” the bishops added. 

Reiterating their call for dialogue, the bishops urged "the promotion of Christian principles and values that have traditionally characterized the life of the vast majority of Venezuelans.”

“To this end, we encourage the fostering of an encounter with the living and risen Christ. He who knows and loves Jesus Christ opens his heart to others, because only love in truth is the source of true development. We encourage all to exercise charity with greater imagination and creativity and to embrace the invitation of Jesus to make the Beatitudes our own through various initiatives, particularly by caring for the needy, the poor, the sick, children and the elderly.”

The Venezuelan bishops said they supported efforts to "eliminate the climate of war,” and expressed their “full support of the efforts of the presidents of the bishops' conferences of Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela to seek paths of peace, harmony and reconciliation." 

They also called for respect and harmony in the upcoming elections, as well as for an appropriate policy of respect for the environment, consistent with the views expressed by Pope Benedict XVI who recalled that the protection of the environment should always go hand in hand with the promotion and development of all people.

 

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Caritas worldwide donations for Haiti up to $65 million

Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - Following an appeal on Jan. 21 for $42 million to provide 200,000 survivors of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti with immediate food, water, shelter and medical assistance, Head of Communications for Caritas Internationalis, Patrick Nicholson, told CNA on Tuesday that cumulative donations since then have added up to $65 million.

On Jan. 21, the Catholic charitable organization reported that financial support had been "flooding into Caritas offices around the world" since the earthquake and that, as of that date, Caritas Internationalis had received $33 million destined for Haiti.  In the last five days the amount has very nearly doubled, bringing the total to $65 million.

Nicholson told CNA that contributions had come from all of the 165 countries where Caritas is present, in Asia, North and South America, Africa, Europe and the Pacific.  They had even received a $5,000 contribution from Caritas members in the Congo.

"Operations are up and running," he said.  "So far, we have 40 trucks bringing goods from the Dominican Republic."

There are currently about 500 Caritas staff working in Haiti, including 60 parish priests and religious working in 32 parishes to provide aid to around 150,000 people.

Asked what will be done with the donations in surplus of their appeal goal, Nicholson responded, "Caritas will use any remaining funds in the long-term reconstruction of Haiti. This will mean rebuilding schools and hospitals, providing permanent shelter, giving people back their livelihoods, and preparing them for future disasters."

These long term plans are still in their initial stages, he added, "at the moment we’re solely focused on the first phase of the emergency – saving lives by providing healthcare, food, water and temporary shelter."

Nicholson also expressed his concern at the lack of success stories being reported from Haiti in favor of news publicizing the difficulties facing aid operations.  He said that there are plenty of successes to be reported, citing the examples of the reopening of the St. Francis de Sales Hospital and the fact that assistance reaches more people every day.

Catholic Relief Services is a member of Caritas Internationalis. 

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Cardinal Ouellet defends the family as a child's first teacher of love and life

Lima, Peru, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Quebec, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, said last week that the family is a child's first educator in the values of love and life.  He noted that it is also primarily responsible for transmitting the faith to children, amidst today’s culture that often seeks to attack the basic unit of society.
 
In a speech delivered on his behalf by Auxiliary Bishop Cyprien Gérald Lacroix to the attendees of the 2nd International Congress of Families held in Lima on January 22-24, the cardinal explained that traditional marriage is under pressure from "sometimes openly anti-Christian ideologies" that push "states to make laws redefining the meaning of marriage, procreation, parenthood and the family.”  He added that these groups fail to consider “the fundamental anthropological realities that make up human relations." 
 
He then turned to the defense of life and explained why the Catholic Church rejects "artificial means of contraception.  The Church's “refusal to morally ratify the use of (contraception) contrasts with the contemporary mindset that promotes the use of all available techniques to perform the marital act without the 'risk' of procreation,” he explained. 

“Whereas the wisdom of the Church, founded on revelation, unites love, marriage and life, contemporary culture tends to separate them on behalf of an unabashed assertion of individual freedom.”
 
According to the cardinal, Bishop Lacroix said, "The first value that we must stress is faith as a personal encounter with Christ, which leads to a covenant that encompasses all dimensions of one’s being, including married love. As this love is elevated to the dignity of a sacrament by an act of theological faith, a serious preparation for marriage through an authentic education in sacramental love is clearly important.”

"It is in this light that the couple can more easily reach the balance between erotic love and generous and fruitful charity,” the bishop continued. “If they are animated by a profound theological life, they will learn to develop the human virtues that are essential for marriage and family life: prudence, self-control, dialogue and mutual forgiveness, patience and conjugal chastity.”
 
Thus, he continued, "the personal development of these virtues will improve their relationships and will create especially healthy educational environments, colored by authentic love, trust, tenderness, filial piety, respect and openness towards others. All these virtues and attitudes, penetrated by the Spirit of God, become mediations of the gift that Christ makes of Himself to the domestic Church, to make her His faithful and fruitful bride at the service of Love and Life. In essence, the educational atmosphere of a Christian family depends on a vocational culture which has as its declared aim, the perfection of love in all states of life and in all circumstances thanks to the living ideal cultivated by the Holy Family.”

According to Cardinal Ouellet, “notwithstanding current difficulties, the family is the most precious inheritance of the Christian tradition, 'the true heritage of mankind', the first school of human and ecclesial communion. However, we must recognize that its educational mission is currently disabled due, for sure, to lack of support in the dominant culture, but also due to a lack of a profound appropriation of its grace and values." 
 
It is necessary, he said, that the ministry of the Church have "a stronger commitment to the new evangelization of families, but also a new evangelization from families who have found Christ." 
 
"The family, the domestic church that evangelizes, provides a formation for communion and the apostolate.  As for the values of conjugal love and the virtues go with it, they must be rediscovered, because under the pressure of the dominant culture, hedonism and relativism, their source and their moral and spiritual articulation are not recognized. It matters that we redouble efforts to discover and rediscover the intrinsic link between love, life, spiritual fertility and all the virtues that ensure the growth and stability of families against enemy forces.” 
 
Cardinal Ouellet also stressed that "promoting a spirituality proper to marriage and the family, founded upon the ecclesial and social value of the family, should contribute more to forming consciences, to boosting the educational mission of parents and to multiplying apostolic, cultural and political initiatives that defend the rights of the family and protect its acquisitions." 
 
In conclusion, he said, "Holding high the banner of the family is a sign of the times and is a great need in the world today. 

“Enhancing its educational mission at its deepest identity is not only an urgent task in the “aggiornamento” (bringing up to date) of the Church, but also the “sine qua non” (essential condition) for ensuring the fidelity of the Church to its mission and a future for our civilization."

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New Washington state bill could have 'chilling effect' on pregnancy centers

Olympia, Wash., Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Planned Parenthood are supporting legislation that could have a “chilling effect” on faith-based pregnancy centers in the state of Washington, says a pro-life nurse who will testify against the bill in an upcoming legislative hearing.

The new Washington State bill, “Concerning Limited Service Pregnancy Centers” (HB 2837/SB 6452), will be heard in the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee on Jan. 27.

Paula Cullen, RN, founding director of Life Services of Spokane, plans to testify on Jan. 27 and told CNA on Monday that the new bills “attempt to regulate pregnancy centers” and would have “a very chilling effect on their ability to help women.”

Explaining some of the details of the legislation and how it would affect pregnancy centers in the state of Washington, Cullen said that if passed, it would require them to “provide reproductive health care according to standards set by Planned Parenthood” and groups like it.

According to Cullen, the bill would also require increased administrative regulations that could paralyze their efforts. An example of this, Cullen explained that pregnancy centers might be forced to post signs on their front doors and throughout their facilities saying that they do not provide abortions or any family planning services that Planned Parenthood and the like provide.

“That is a deterrent to any woman who's considering her options,” said Cullen. “We already disclose what we do and don't do through forms that we have women read and sign.”

NARAL Pro-Choice Washington's support for the bill was confirmed in a Jan. 13 press release that alleged, “Women who have sought help from such centers have gone there believing they were going to receive medical care and unbiased pregnancy options counseling from licensed professionals. Instead, they often received false or misleading information about abortion, pregnancy, contraception, or sexually transmitted infections, had their requested medical records withheld, and were denied needed referrals for reproductive health care.”

Washington state Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Wash.) also explained in the press release that the new legislation “isn't about burdening the centers. It's about establishing standards for transparency and accuracy for high quality care.”

Cullen countered these claims by noting there is a difference between pregnancy resource centers and pregnancy medical centers and that each comply with state law and medical accuracy standards.

“The medical pregnancy centers always work under the supervision and direction of a licensed physician,” Cullen stressed. “That is always the case.” Further legislative requirements for standards of accuracy are “unnecessary,” the pro-life nurse said.

The Attorney General's Office has also estimated the bill will cost Washington taxpayers more than a half million over the next four years.

Jim Thomas, Director of Adult Faith Formation for Catholic Social Teaching and Family Life for the Archdiocese of Seattle, sent CNA a statement which described another requirement of the new legislation.

Pregnancy centers would be expected to “inform a woman that she is about to receive an over the counter pregnancy test and allow her to self-administer it.” Failure to do this would be considered a violation of the Consumer Protection Act, which could bring about lawsuits against pregnancy centers where damages up to $10,000 could be awarded. “Many clinics may have to close as a result of a lawsuit,” said the statement.

According to a press release from pregnancy center supporters, in 2009, pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics in the state of Washington served over 60,000 women at no charge and provided support and social services for over 34,000. In addition, pregnancy centers had over 22 social service agencies in Washington State refer clients to them and provided free services to men, women and teenagers totaling a value of over $15 million.

“It will be critical for legislators to learn for themselves about the tremendous contribution of pregnancy centers in their districts,” said Cullen in Monday's press release.“They will find that these entities have been serving their communities for years without complaint and play a critical role in providing a web of support to women facing unplanned pregnancies. This proposed regulation is not only unnecessary and unwarranted, but also a slap in the face to these charities that have been working so hard for so long.”

Pregnancy centers have existed in Washington State for 25 years and have relied primarily on donations and volunteers.

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Critic denounces Guttmacher teen pregnancy study as 'terribly simplistic'

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - The Guttmacher Institute released a study on Jan. 26 claiming that abstinence-only education programs are to blame for a rise in teen pregnancies and abortions in 2006. However, abstinence education proponent Valerie Huber is denouncing the researchers' conclusions as “terribly simplistic” and “disingenuous.”

In a press release on Tuesday, the Guttmacher Institute gave a history behind its findings and claimed that the “significant drop in teen pregnancy rates in the 1990s was overwhelmingly the result of more and better use of contraceptives among sexually active teens.”

Noting that the decline in teen pregnancy rates began to stall in the early 2000s, Guttmacher analysts argued that this occurred “at the same time that sex education programs aimed exclusively at promoting abstinence – and prohibited by law from discussing the benefits of contraception – became increasingly widespread and teens’ use of contraceptives declined.”

“After more than a decade of progress, this reversal is deeply troubling,” said Heather Boonstra, Guttmacher Institute senior public policy associate. “It coincides with an increase in rigid abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which received major funding boosts under the Bush administration.”

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, echoed Boonstra's comments, saying that “This new study makes it crystal clear that abstinence-only sex education for teenagers does not work, and it should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who still believes that teenagers aren’t sexually active or that abstinence-only programs curb the rate of teen pregnancy."

Valerie Huber, Executive Director of the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) denounced these claims and told CNA that the Guttmacher study is a “terribly simplistic response to a very complex problem.”

According to Huber, abstinence education only receives 25 percent of government funding, “so how can they possibly ascribe 100 percent of the blame to our approach?” she asked.

“If you want to play that simplistic answer game, using their same logic, then you would say that 75 percent of the problem should be because of failed contraceptive sex education.”

“Additionally,” Huber said, “abstinence education only has about 25 percent of the nation's students receiving that approach,” making the Guttmacher findings “totally disingenuous.”

Huber also charged that “they are looking at a very myopic view of the overall trends.”

“Since about the early 1990s, teen birthrates and teen pregnancy rates have dropped about 30 to 35 percent, a tremendous drop,” she said in response to the study.

Huber acknowledged that in the last few years there has been a “very slight uptick” in the number of teen pregnancies and abortions, but said that overall “we have a cultural trend that is very positive.”

Commenting on NAEA's progress in what she described as a “hostile environment in Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill,” Huber said that the group is gaining unexpected political traction. Although President Obama has recommended the complete de-funding of abstinence education, Huber reported that she is seeing “members on both sides of the aisle voting for abstinence education for the first time ever in their career.”

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Gallagher and Rauch debate same-sex 'marriage' in Boulder

Boulder, Colo., Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - A crowd of hundreds heard two leaders in the debate over government recognition of same-sex “marriage” defend their positions Monday evening in a crowded lecture hall at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The event, sponsored by the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center, drew an audience generally supportive of the redefinition of marriage.

The debaters were Maggie Gallagher, an author, social commentator and the president of the National Organization for Marriage; and Jonathan Rauch, a senior writer for National Journal magazine and an author of several books on public policy, culture and economics.

Rauch began by discussing the difficulties homosexuals face in securing medical and legal rights, entry into the country for a relationship partner, and social respect for their relationships.

“Almost nobody challenges the idea that same-sex marriage is good for gays,” he claimed.

He cited Gallagher’s own book “The Case for Marriage,” saying that married men and women have greater “social capital.” He thought marriage, the “gold standard” of social recognition, would supply these benefits to homosexual couples and would send a “marvelous cultural signal” that marriage is still relevant.

The argument that marriage is intended only to help children is in his view “just wrong.”

“It seems to me obvious… marriage is good for children and for adults. What society needs is not fewer marriages, but more marriages,” he continued, claiming that over 25 percent of same-sex couples are also raising children.

Marriage, Rauch said, is more a “lifestyle choice” than ever before as more people decide not to marry or to stay married.

“That’s not a good thing for America,” he said.

While there may be risks to changing marriage, he contended, if marriage is not changed it will be redefined as a “civil rights violation” that excludes homosexuals. This would further discredit marriage for some people because it would make “heterosexuality itself” the defining point of marriage.

In skeptics’ eyes, marriage would be removed from its pedestal and placed “down in the gutter with other discriminatory institutions,” Rauch predicted, adding that if he thought same-sex marriage would destroy marriage he would not advocate it.

Addressing the argument that marriage is linked to procreation, he said procreation is contingent upon marriage and not the other way around.

Noting that elderly couples can marry despite being infertile, Rauch commented: “If you don’t keep them out because they’re not mommies and daddies, please don’t keep me out.”

For her part, Gallagher rested her defense of marriage on a question of truth. She said the parties to the debate were using the same words to mean different things.

“The first question for me is: Are same-sex unions ‘marriages’?”

“I’m against discrimination, I’m against hatred, I’m in favor of marriage equality, but I don’t think same-sex marriage is marriage. Therefore I think it is wrong for the government to insist, through the use of law, that we all believe that same-sex unions are marriages.”

She explained that she became interested in the topic of marriage out of “deep concern” about the high rates of divorce and unmarried childbearing. As an unmarried mother herself at the age of 22, and despite attending Yale, she had no idea that the best way for a woman to ensure having a father for her child was to be married.

“Marriage really matters because children need a mom and a dad,” Gallagher commented. “If you don’t have a strong marriage culture… opposite-sex unions go around creating children on a random basis. And children get hurt.”

In her view, human societies have universally recognized something “unique” about male-female relationships. As a sexual union that “points” men and women toward each other, marriage is “a public union, not a personal one.”

Gallagher granted that Rauch has presented a “very attractive” vision.

“I don’t see any signs it’s what gay marriage is going to be,” she remarked. Later she noted that after an initial “enthusiasm” same-sex marriages rapidly decrease in popularity and countries that recognize the practice have seen no revival in a marriage culture.

The movement’s focus on equality also tends to depict its opponents who defend the unique union of a man and a woman as similar to bigots.

“There are very few gay spokesmen who speak like Jon Rauch,” she explained.

In a society that recognizes homosexual marriages, she claimed, “the very real differences between these unions become privatized, officially disconnected from any public purpose for marriage, and stigmatized as bigotry.”

Though Rauch has pledged support for strengthening marriage, Gallagher warned, the civil institutions that strengthen marriage will be “driven from the public square” and “discredited” if the law treats support for traditional marriage as it treats racism or sexism.

Cases suppressing religion have already appeared in Massachusetts, where Catholic Charities had to withdraw from its decades of facilitating adoptions, Gallagher noted. The state now considers it discriminatory to place children with married men and women but not with homosexuals married under its laws.

If homosexual unions are recognized as marriage, she predicted, public schools will teach to children an understanding of marriage not shared by their parents.

Changing the “core understanding” of marriage will affect everyone, she added.

While expressing doubt that same-sex marriage will inevitably lead to polygamy, she reported she had just been asked to submit a brief for a British Columbia case considering the issue.

“Marriage has its own dignity and purpose,” she told the audience. Marriage should not be made the metric for respect for homosexuals because “it’s not true.”

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