Archive of February 10, 2010

Costa Rican president-elect praises Catholic values and teachings

San José, Costa Rica, Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Urena of Costa Rica sent his greetings to the country’s first female president, Laura Chinchilla, reminding her of the need for collaboration between the Church and the State. The new president responded by expressing her commitment to defending and promoting Christian values.

Radio Fides, the official radio station of the Archdiocese of San Jose, released a phone conversation between the archbishop and the president-elect. The prelate congratulated Chinchilla adding that he was proud she would become “the first female president to lead us in the executive branch...My prayer is with you.”

He went on to note that “the Church and the State are independent but not indifferent to each other.” For this reason, he continued, “those programs in which the human being is at the center will always have our support.”

“May God enlighten you so your policies will embrace those most in need. I know that you are a worthy person and of your great intentions to make Costa Rica better.”

For her part, Chinchilla responded, “I am grateful for the gestures of the Catholic Church in the creation of a climate of harmony...I will always be appreciative of the Church’s advice, which is welcome.”

She thanked the archbishop for his words, which she said were “very heartfelt and based on the social doctrine of the Church.”

“The latest papal encyclical (Caritas in veritate) sheds much light on this,” she added.

Chinchilla also expressed her commitment to the “defense of the truth and the values the Church proclaims. I will strive to keep them at the center of my administration.”

“Let us ask for strength of our patroness, Our Lady of the Angels,” said Chinchilla, who then traveled to the shrine to give thanks for her election victory.

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Allentown Catholic bishop teaches fundamentals of basketball, faith

Allentown, Pa., Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - At a recent Catholic Youth Organization basketball clinic in Pennsylvania, Bishop John Barres of the Diocese of Allentown gave young athletes a few pointers on improving their game and their faith life.

The Feb. 1 event, called “Buckets with the Bishop,” took place during Catholic Schools Week at the former Cardinal Brennan High School.

Bishop Barres, who played basketball for Princeton, spent time teaching the kids basic basketball skills, helped them make connections between sports and the Catholic faith and even took on Fr. Joel Kiefer in a three point shooting contest.

“I believe that a team sport like basketball teaches young people sacrifice, leadership and generosity – all qualities that are key to the building up of a vibrant Catholic Church,” Bishop Barres told CNA on Monday. “I found in basketball, when I dedicated practice, drills, basketball camps and games to Christ, the experience became so much richer.”

When asked how “Buckets with the Bishop” came about, the Allentown bishop explained, “At a Mass honoring Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J., at St. Casimir's Church in Shenandoah, PA, two altar servers named Ian and Matt said that they heard that I had played basketball at Princeton and would I mind joining their CYO basketball teams at the Cardinal Brennan gyms in Frackville, PA to give them some tips.”

“They were so enthusiastic and I loved their initiative – there was no way I could say no!” he continued. “One thing led to another, the parents and coaches got behind it and we ended up having a packed gym for 'Buckets with the Bishop.'”

“My sidekick in the video is Fr. Joel Kiefer, a 1992 graduate of West Point who served in the US Army in harm's way in such places as Haiti and Somalia,” Bishop Barres explained in reference to a YouTube video of the event. “He is an inspirational young priest who will be the instrument of many young men coming to the priesthood in the Diocese of Allentown. He actually beat me in the 3 point contest!”

When asked how long he has played the sport, Bishop Barres responded, “I've been playing basketball since I was four years old when we moved into a new house and I discovered a basketball court in the backyard.”

“I played high school varsity basketball at Phillips Academy (Andover) – my teammates are still lifelong friends. I played three years of JV basketball at Princeton University during the Coach Pete Carril era. Coach Carril since his retirement at Princeton in 1996 has been an assistant coach for the NBA Sacramento Kings and we are still loyal friends. He was present at my ordination as a Bishop on July 30, 2009.”

“When my Princeton and Andover teammates saw the video of me draining some three pointers, they joked that they wished I had shot that well when I played with them at Andover and at Princeton!” Bishop Barres remarked.

The Bishop of Allentown also mentioned that he handed out cards to each player.

One side “is a picture of me as a Bishop with a quote from Paul's Letter to the Philippians I used to use at Princeton when I entered the game in a pressure situation—'I can do all things in He who strengthens me,'” said Bishop Barres, adding that the other side “is a picture of me as a Junior at Princeton going up for a layup in my Princeton basketball uniform at Jadwin Gym.”

“I make the point that the leadership skills I learned as a Princeton point guard, dedicating my basketball experience to Christ, prepared me to be a 'point guard' in the Catholic Church as their Bishop and Shepherd in the Diocese of Allentown,” the recently installed bishop said.

Bishop Barres concluded by saying that “I believe strongly that a Catholic athlete, whether he or she is learning to dribble a basketball or whether he or she is playing in the NBA/WNBA, can connect their basketball experience to personal prayer, love for the Eucharist and the Bible, love for Mary and a missionary spirit to light the world on fire with their Catholic faith!”

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New York City church to mark 40 years of First Friday nightlong vigil

New York City, N.Y., Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - A New York City church will mark the 40th Anniversary of its nightlong First Friday vigil in March.

The anniversary celebration of the All Night Vigil will begin at Our Lady of Peace Church on March 5 at 9:30 p.m. and last until 5:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. Bishop Gerald T. Walsh, rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York, will be the main celebrant for the Vigil Mass at 11 p.m.

The Padre Pio Prayer Group at Our Lady of Peace is holding the celebration.

Layman Mario J. Bruschi co-founded the All Night Vigil with the late Fr. Archangel Scia, OFM, at St. Jean Baptiste Church.

"Forty years is a long time to be having All Night devotion and prayer before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament,” Bruschi commented. “It is such a blessing. We have seen many Catholics come in at all hours of the night to spend a few minutes or even a few hours in prayer. And that is our goal: to inspire people to pay a visit to God and to encourage them to talk to Him, to tell Him their problems and to keep him company throughout the night.”

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Catholic nominated for China's Top 10 People of 2009 awards

Beijing, China, Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - Media and government acknowledgment of two lay Catholics in China suggest an increasing social recognition of Catholics in the officially communist state. An elderly Catholic farmer is up for national honors for his work with the elderly and the homeless, while a Catholic college student won accolades for saving an imperiled young boy at the cost of his own life.

Wang Ping An, a 71-year-old Catholic farmer, was recently named as a candidate for the country’s list of Top 10 People of 2009, Fides reports. He has spent over 23 years taking care of the elderly, abandoned children, and the sick, lonely and disabled. He has welcomed hundreds into his home.

He has cared for 63 elderly people in their last months of life, even organizing their funerals.

In 2000, after taking out a loan, he built a house with 50 simple rooms to provide homes for those in need. He has often cited his Christian beliefs as motivation.

"Jesus taught us 'Whenever you did to this to the least of these my brethren, you did unto me'," he has remarked.

A benefactor sponsored his pilgrimage to Rome in 2007, where he attended the General Audience with Pope Benedict XVI. According to Fides, he thought this was the greatest reward of his life.

A commission of major media representatives and a popular on-line poll have named Wang Ping An as a candidate among the “Top 10 People of 2009” who have moved all of China. The award ceremony will be held on Chinese New Year, Feb. 14, and will be broadcast live on China Central Television (CCTV).

A heroic Catholic university student has also won praise.

The 21-year-old John Huang Chuan Ding, of the parish of Nan Guan in the Diocese of Bao Ji, died on Jan. 27 to save a five-year-old boy who had fallen into an icy river.

Attendees at his Feb. 3 funeral included over 3,000 faithful, fellow university students, and provincial and municipal authorities, Fides reports.

The government authorities officially presented him as a model citizen who was “courageous” and “of great moral height.”

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Tensions over women bishops in Church of England continue at General Synod

London, England, Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - As the Church of England’s General Synod begins, some Anglo-Catholic leaders have said if their concerns about the introduction of women bishops are not addressed they will withdraw their resources from the Anglican Church and focus them on ministries outside the formal church structure.

The Church of England introduced women to its priesthood in 1994. It is committed to the consecration of female bishops as well, The Telegraph reports, but controversy continues about the implementation.

Many of those who favor female bishops argue they should be introduced on the same basis and with the same powers as men. They fear the development of a two-tier system.

Those who oppose female bishops argue they had been assured that provisions would be made for them. They point to the current “flying bishops” arrangement for parishes that cannot accept the oversight of female vicars and so have bishops from other regions as their overseers.

The traditionalists, led by a group called Reform, seek either an entirely new province that could cover all of England or extra junior bishops in dioceses that had not ordained women bishops and would be answerable only to an archbishop.

The debate has been postponed until July. However, according to the Telegraph, Anglican Bishop of Manchester Nigel McCulloch’s comments to Synod members on Monday suggested that the proposals desired by traditionalists are no longer being considered.

He said that parishes with “conscientious difficulties” about women’s ordination would be addressed by means of a bishop chosen by delegation from diocesan bishops. According to the Anglican website Virtue Online, this would still be unacceptable to some Anglicans because the diocesan bishops would include women.

The Synod’s Anglo-Catholic group said it was “deeply disappointed and dismayed” by Bishop McCulloch’s statement. The group said it believed the vast majority of Church of England members would not want to see the episcopal consecration of women as the “trigger for the exclusion from the church of a large number of faithful Anglicans.”

“We have to say that if the legislation were to be passed in its present form, that is precisely what would happen.”

Rev. Rod Thomas, chairman of the Reform group, said traditionalists’ understanding was that proper provision would be made for those who did not believe in the consecration of women bishops.

"It seems to us a matter of simple integrity that Synod should now keep its word to us in this and not force us down a road none of us wish to tread.”

His group’s clergy claim to have contributed more than $34 million to the Anglican Church over the past decade and to have helped more than 180 men into ordained ministry, with 50 percent of those men being under the age of 30.

They warned that the introduction of women bishops without safeguards for objectors would render them unable to contribute to dioceses. Rather, they would spend resources on ministries “outside the formal structures of the Church of England,” a statement from Reform says.

The Catholic Church does not recognize the Anglican priesthood and episcopacy as validly ordained. The Church also teaches that the ordination of women is a sacramental impossibility.

Last year Pope Benedict XVI announced a special ordinariate for Anglicans seeking to enter full communion with the Catholic Church.

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Focus on the Family reports 760,000 have watched Tebow's story

Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - Gary Schneeberger, Vice President of Media Relations at Focus on the Family, has said his organization’s Super Bowl ad featuring Tim Tebow and his mother was “very directly pro-life” and has proven “extremely popular.”

The Super Bowl ad showed University of Florida star quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam, who spoke about her love for her son and how he “almost didn’t make it into the world.”

While Pam Tebow had refused doctors’ advice to abort her unborn son during a life-threatening condition, abortion was not mentioned in the advertisement, which directed viewers to the Focus on the Family website.

Schneeberger spoke about the Tebows’ ad in a Tuesday phone interview with CNA.

Asked to describe the impact of the Super Bowl advertising spots, he responded that the ad has become “extremely popular” and people generally recognize that the advertising was about “celebrating family and celebrating life.”

“It wasn’t political, it wasn’t anti-anything. It wasn’t controversial.

“We told people the truth. It was about a mother and son who love each other.”

He told CNA that viewers have watched the ad 305,000 times on the Focus on the Family website. The full interview, an eight-minute clip in which the Tebows tell the longer story of Tim’s birth, received over 760,000 viewers on Sunday and Monday alone.

The Focus on the Family website has also witnessed a twenty-fold increase in activity.

Schneeberger told CNA his organization expects the numbers to climb because of continued publicity.

The ads were a “great investment” for Focus on the Family because it provided a national opportunity to talk about “the sanctity of life, the importance of celebrating life, and celebrating family.”

“We’ve developed now all these potential new relationships with people who hopefully will reach out to Focus on the Family when they encounter life challenges.”

He said the organization provides “help and hope” to those suffering marriage problems, parenting issues, or unplanned pregnancies.

CNA noted that some observers have called the ad “anti-climactic” and asked whether the run-up to the ad’s broadcast was misleading.

“We never said anything other than that it was an inspiring story about celebrating family and celebrating life,” Schneeberger commented. “The controversy came up because some groups who had not seen the ad decided to protest it.”

“If it was anti-climactic, it’s not because we built up expectations,” he continued, crediting Focus on the Family’s ideological opponents for the claim the ad would contain political advocacy.

Asked whether the ad’s pro-life message was unclear, Schneeberger explained the campaign had two parts: the Super Bowl commercial and the longer video on the Focus on the Family website.

In the commercial Pam Tebow described her son as a “miracle baby” and in the video his birth was described as being “a God story.”

“Taken together I don’t know how anybody could see the ad and the video as anything but very unapologetically, very directly pro-life.”

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Holy Father meets with Lutheran delegation, encourages prayer and dialogue

Vatican City, Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - After today’s general audience, the Holy Father met with a delegation from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) in which he expressed hope for the “continuing Lutheran-Catholic dialogue.”

The Lutheran delegation was led by the ELCA’s Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who is also President of the Lutheran World Foundation, the global Lutheran partner to the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council.

The Holy Father addressed the delegation in English, saying that he hoped “the continuing Lutheran-Catholic dialogue both in the United States of America and at the international level will help to build upon the agreements reached so far.”

One such agreement is a joint declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation on October 31, 1999. It was the product of nearly 35 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in the United States and abroad.

The Pope the noted that an important additional task “will be to harvest the results of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue that so promisingly started after the Vatican Council II.”  In order to continue “what has been achieved together since that time, he encouraged Lutherans and Catholics toward “ardent prayer” and “conversion to Christ, the source of grace and truth” in order to build a “spiritual ecumenism.”

“May the Lord help us to treasure what has been accomplished so far, to guard it with care, and to foster its development," the Pope prayed.

The Holy Father concluded by echoing his predecessor, John Paul II’s words while addressing a similar Lutheran delegation in 1985: “Let us rejoice that an encounter such as this can take place. Let us resolve to be open to the Lord so that He can use this meeting for His purposes, to bring about the unity that He desires. Thank you for the efforts you are making for full unity in faith and charity.”

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Catholic hospitals comprise one quarter of world's healthcare, council reports

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - During its 25th anniversary celebrations, the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers announced that the Catholic Church manages 26 percent of health care facilities in the world.  According to a press release, the Church has “117,000 health care facilities, including hospitals, clinics, orphanages,” as well as “18,000 pharmacies and 512 centers” for the care of those with leprosy.

In the statement, the president of the council, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, added that as a part of its 25th anniversary celebrations, which are taking place February 9-11, Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass on Thursday at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Thursday, February 11 is also the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 18th World Day of the Sick.

Following Mass, Archbishop Zimowski, along with the mayor of Rome, the sick and several volunteers, will take part in a Eucharistic procession carrying relics of St. Bernadette and a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. The route will run the half-mile from Castel Sant'Angelo to St. Peter's Square, where the Pope will impart upon them the Apostolic blessing from the window of the papal apartment.

In this same spirit, a concert will be held today at the Paul VI Hall with Claudia Koll as host and performances by pianists Rolf-Peter Wille of Germany and Lina Yeh of Taiwan.

An international symposium will also take place today at the New Hall of the Synod on two apostolic letters: “Salvifici Doloris” by John Paul II and the motu propio “Dolentium Hominum” with which the late Pontiff instituted the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.

The event's theme will be, “The Church at the service of love for those who suffer,” which was chosen by the Holy Father in his message for the World Day of the Sick 2010.

More than 500 people from 35 different countries are expect to participate.

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Pope extols St. Anthony of Padua's insights on prayer

Vatican City, Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) -

In Wednesday's General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI spoke on the life and history of “one of the most popular saints of the Catholic Church,” St. Anthony of Padua, saying that his definition of prayer as “a relationship of love” is one of his most striking contributions to the Church.

The Holy Father outlined four aspects of St. Anthony's definition of prayer as a “relationship of love, which leads man into dialogue with the Lord.”

The first aspect, said the Pope, is “trustingly opening our hearts to God,” followed by “affectionately conversing with Him, presenting Him our needs, and giving Him praise and thanks.”

“In this teaching of St. Anthony we see one of the specific traits of Franciscan theology; ... that is, the central role of divine love which enters the sphere of the affections, of the will, of the heart, and which is the source of a spiritual knowledge that surpasses all other knowledge,” Pope Benedict said.

St. Anthony was born to a noble family in Lisbon in 1195, and later joined the Friars Minor in hopes of being a missionary in Morocco. However, he fell ill and had to return to Italy, where he dedicated himself to numerous fruitful apostolates. Anthony's saintliness was so evidenced in his short life of 36 years that he was canonized a year after his death by Pope Gregory IX.

“Anthony,” explained Benedict XVI, “made a significant contribution to the development of Franciscan spirituality with his outstanding gifts of intelligence, balance, apostolic zeal and, especially, mystic fervor. ... He was also one of the first, if not the first, master of theology among the Friars Minor.”

Speaking on the “wealth” of the writings of St. Anthony, the Holy Father recalled how in 1946 Pope Pius XII proclaimed the saint a Doctor of the Church, giving him the title of “Doctor Evangelicus” “because all the freshness and beauty of the Gospel emerges in his writings,” said the Pontiff.

At the same time, St. Anthony was also well acquainted with the defects of human nature, explained Pope Benedict. The saint knew “the tendency to fall into sin, and so he continually exhorted people to combat the inclination to avarice, pride and impurity. ... At the beginning of the thirteenth century, in a context of expanding cities and flourishing trade, a growing number of people were insensitive to the needs of the poor. For this reason, Anthony frequently invited the faithful to turn their thoughts to true wealth, that of the heart" and to seek the friendship of those most in need.”

Turning to modern society, Pope Benedict asked, “Is this not also an important lesson for us today, as the financial crisis and serious economic imbalances impoverish many people, and create situations of distress?"

The Holy Father also spoke on St. Anthony's Christo-centric worldview, which “invites us to contemplate the mysteries of the Lord's humanity,” particularly His birth and death.

“The vision of the crucified Lord,” said Pope Benedict, roused in St. Anthony “feelings of recognition towards God and of respect for the dignity of the human person.” It is this vision which ensures that “everyone, believers and non-believers, may find a meaning that enriches life,” he said.

This understanding of suffering shows “the importance of the crucifixion in our culture and our humanity, which are born of the Christian faith, … because God considers us so important as to be worthy of His suffering.”

The Holy Father concluded his Wednesday audience by invoking St. Anthony to pray for the whole Church including “those who dedicate their lives to preaching. Drawing inspiration from his example, may they unite sound and healthy doctrine, sincere and fervent piety, and incisive communication. In this Year for Priests, let us pray that priests and deacons eagerly carry out their ministry of announcing and contextualizing the Word of God for the faithful, especially in liturgical homilies.”

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Vatican official recalls impact of Eluana Englaro's death

Rome, Italy, Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - A year after the death of Eluana Englaro, known as Italy's Terri Schiavo, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life is encouraging Catholics to defend life “from conception to natural death.”

Recalling the case of 38-year-old Englaro, whose feeding tube was removed after being in a coma for 17 years, Archbishop Rino Fisichella told the magazine “Il Sussidiario” that the painful incident “tore our social fabric, especially because the people were not properly informed.”

The Englaro case, he continued, was “a very sad page in our history: a girl who was seriously ill, but alive was deprived of nourishment - she was dehydrated and exposed. Contrary to what was reported, it led to great suffering and death.”

After explaining that the Church should always be prepared for new bioethical challenges, the archbishop referred to the responsibility of the media to provide appropriate information.

“In recent days the media has finally reported on an important scientific discovery: In Belgium, several doctors have shown that brain activity can be observed, even if minimal, in people who are in a 'vegetative state' - a term which I don’t think is correct.” He went on to explain that “vegetative state” is an expression “that does not measure up to the objectivity of the clinical data. It is false and misleading.”

Archbishop Fisichella also said that Catholics have the important task of building greater consensus on issues having their foundation in natural law and that transcend cultural, religious and political differences.

“Catholics should be on the front lines of the defense of life in all of its manifestations, from conception to natural death, aware of the great responsibility they have in defending these principles,” he concluded.


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Colombian bishops call for further debate on health care

Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - During their 88th Plenary Assembly, the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia called for greater debate on the country's current health care system. President of the bishops' conference, Bishop Ruben Salazar Gomez said the issue must be addressed with great care in order to ensure that the majority of Colombians have access to basic services such as health care.

Bishop Salazar said further debate is needed in order to analyze the “deep, difficult and complex problems” of Colombia's health care system. He then praised the government’s openness to accepting the criticisms and observations in order to find the best solutions for the country.

Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba, secretary of the bishops’ conference, called on officials to refine such decrees to make sure they do not have a negative impact on Colombians, especially on the poor. “The government should analyze and come up with a plan in which Colombians do not have to dip deep into their own pockets to have basic health care, which is one of the duties of the State,” he said.


Later in his address, Bishop Salazar discussed the upcoming elections in Colombia and remarked that the bishops are convinced, “only the Lord, who is the way, the truth and the life, can guide us on the paths of life and peace.”

The bishops “do not intervene in partisan politics,” the prelate said. “We will not point to any one candidate as qualified or unqualified.”

“Our task is to raise awareness of the broad principles that should guide people and institutions so we can achieve a society in which we all have full access to our rights and can fulfill our duties,” he said.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe met with the bishops during their first session to discuss various issues facing the country.

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Planned Parenthood report criticizes Catholic Church for 'denying positive aspects of sex'

CNA STAFF, Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - The International Planned Parenthood Federation recently issued a report that advocates sex education being given to children as young as ten years old and criticized the Catholic Church for denying the “pleasurable and positive aspects of sex.” The report has faced backlash from religious communities, including one critic who claimed that it supports “physical and emotional bondage.”

Planned Parenthood's “Stand and Deliver” report, published in Nov. of 2009, states that “Young people's sexuality is still contentious for many religious institutions. Fundamentalist and other religious groups – the Catholic Church and madrasas (Islamic Schools) for example – have imposed tremendous barriers that prevent young people, particularly, from obtaining information and services related to sex and reproduction. Currently, many religious teachings deny the pleasurable and positive aspects of sex.”

The report states that children 10 and older should be regarded as “sexual beings” and given a “comprehensive sexuality education” by governments, aid organizations and the like. The report also asserts that sex education should reflect human sexuality as “a positive force for change and development, as a source of pleasure, an embodiment of human rights and an expression of self.”

Numerous critics have responded to the release of the report, including Teresa Tomeo, Catholic author and syndicated talk show host, who countered Planned Parenthood's claims in an email interview with CNA on Tuesday.

“Over and over again science and common sense affirm moral truths taught by Jesus and the Church especially in the areas of human sexuality,” Tomeo said in response to Planned Parenthood's attack on Catholic sexual values.

She backed up her argument for the truth of Church teachings, saying, “Studies from the Centers for Disease Control, the American Psychological Association and others show the damaging impact of pre-marital sex; STD's at epidemic proportions with one out of four sexually active teens contracting an STD by the time they graduate from high school; the objectification of girls and women leading to an increase in body image issues, eating disorders, depression and even increases in attempted suicide, not to mention of course the spiritual aspect that is ignored by the Planned Parenthoods of the world.”

“If their ideas are so grand then why is so much pain and misery attached to their idea of freedom,” she asked.

Tomeo charged that “What they are actually pushing is bondage both in the physical and emotional sense.”

Ed Machmann, spokesman for New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, told Fox News on Tuesday that Planned Parenthood's new report is “trying to teach children sex without values and that sex is a matter of pleasure and done without consequences.” Machmann also argued that “Stand and Deliver” is “part of an effort to get children to reject traditional values and accept a liberal American-European view.”

“In many traditional countries – Catholic and Muslim – it won't work and should be seen as cultural imperialism,” he added.

Both Mechmann and Tomeo noted that Planned Parenthood has a financial incentive for targeting children as young as 10 in their sex education efforts. “Money is a major part of their agenda,” said Tomeo. “They make money off of abortion and contraception. The more people engaging in risky sexual behavior the bigger their business.”

Machmann agreed with Tomeo's reasoning, responding, “The difference between Planned Parenthood and us is that we don't make money off what we teach and say. They do. They make money off contraceptives and abortions.”

“In the United States Planned Parenthood is the number one abortion provider,” said Tomeo. “All we have to do is simply start connecting the dots.”

“But there is also of a bigger agenda against family values,” Tomeo added. “Just look at what happened the last few weeks with the controversy over the Super Bowl ad featuring college football start Tim Tebow and his Mom. Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW made such a huge fuss about an ad that promoted strong family commitment. It's all about their particular brand of group think or liberal extremism.”

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Bolivian bishop urges catechists to proclaim Christ in a world that rejects him

La Paz, Bolivia, Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Sergio Gualberti of Santa Cruz encouraged new catechists in the Bolivian capital of La Paz to find inspiration for their work though a personal encounter with Christ and to proclaim God's presence to a world that rejects him.

The bishop urged the catechists to “find inspiration for your mission in the personal encounter with Christ,” adding that his advice “is valid not only for catechists, but for all of us, who are called to be disciples and missionaries of Jesus.”

Bishop Gualberti called on catechists to have the courage of Simon Peter to make a radical change in their lives and to remain in communion with the Lord. He told them this change can be “sustained each day” by prayer, the Eucharist, and an encounter with Christ. These things, he continued, “should bring forth in us a new dynamism that must be the inspiring force in our journey.”

Bishop Gualberti also recalled that the commandments of Christ “fill us with joy on our journey, because we want to be faithful disciples of the Word, concretely here in our Church in Latin America, in Bolivia and in Santa Cruz.”

The bishop warned catechists that the world's desire to “banish God” has made these times “difficult in every sense: in the cultural, social, political, and religious areas. “We are called to continue proclaiming the Lord, confident in his Word” and trusting that evangelization efforts will bear fruit.

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Malta bishops announce schedule for Pope Benedict’s April visit

Valletta, Malta, Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) -

The Archdiocese of Malta has announced the schedule of Pope Benedict XVI’s April visit to the island country for the 1,950th anniversary of the shipwreck of St. Paul. The country’s bishops have prayed that the pontiff will be welcomed to the island as warmly as St. Paul was.

Archbishop of Malta Paul Cremona and Bishop of Gozo Mario Grech announced the details of the visit in a letter to the Catholics of Malta.

Like St. Paul, the bishops said of Pope Benedict, “he shall come and abide among us for a brief period of time, in order to fulfill and fortify us in the faith which the Apostle Paul instilled within us. For this also, we wish to give thanks to our Lord.”

The Pope will arrive on April 17. He will be greeted by civil authorities at the Presidential Palace and by children gathered in St. George’s Square. He will then visit the place where tradition holds St. Paul preached the Word of God to the islanders.

Pope Benedict will proceed to St. Paul’s Grotto in Rabat and thank God for His providence. He will greet the general public along his route to Rabat and at the Grotto.

On Sunday, April 18 the Pope will celebrate Mass at the Granaries in Floriana. He will then travel to the Valletta Waterfront and preside over a gathering of youths.

According to the bishops of Malta, the Pope will encourage them to “strengthen their faith, fortify their hope and enkindle their hearts in love.”

The Pontiff will leave Malta on Sunday evening.

The bishops of Malta remembered St. Paul’s preaching in their letter:

“Imbued with the power of the Spirit and encouraged by the hope which God Himself instilled in Paul’s heart through His Angel, and as ordained by His Divine Plan, Paul brought to our ancestors, and to us, their descendants, the Good News of the Kingdom of God – a Kingdom as envisaged by Jesus Christ, Son of God made man, who through his birth, life, death and resurrection brought man to eternal life.”

“Today it is our turn, as heirs of the faith of our forefathers, to give witness to this faith and pass it onto our children. For this, we give thanks to our Lord.

“By the grace of God, may we as a nation, greet His Holiness warmly and welcome him as our Father, much in the same way that our ancestors paid homage to Paul and his friends,” Archbishop Cremona and Bishop Grech wrote.

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Illinois city reconsiders proposed ‘bubble zone’ after pro-life objections

Rockford, Ill., Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) -

Objections from pro-life advocates have prompted Rockford, Illinois city officials to reconsider a proposed abortion clinic “bubble zone” ordinance. The critics cited free speech concerns and argued the ordinance would defend the anti-Christian “bigotry” displayed by clinic staff.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society had sent a letter to Rockford’s mayor and aldermen which argued the law was an unconstitutional violation of protesters’ free speech. The letter also claimed the proposal was “anti-choice” because it would deprive expectant mothers of a genuine chance to make a fully informed decision.

The Society noted that Illinois' Labor Dispute Act precludes municipal regulation of labor picketing and would render the “bubble zone” discriminatory on the basis of viewpoint and thus illegal.

Local pro-life advocates argued the ordinance would overlook and validate the display of obscene images and harassment of protesters at the Northern Illinois Women's Center.

The abortion clinic’s window has shown anti-Christian symbols including images of Jesus Christ making an obscene gesture with the words "Even Jesus Hates You." The clinic has also shown a nun doll in a miniature casket, along with hand drawn signs attacking priests and other pro-life sidewalk counselors as HIV-positive child molesters.

Pro-life advocate Kevin Rilott in a letter to the city asked whether the clinic’s “bigotry” is the kind the Rockford city council wants to “protect, promote, and defend” with its bubble zone ordinance.

His pending civil lawsuit, Rilott v. Rockford et al, alleges hate crimes by the abortion clinic proprietor, Wayne Webster, and his ally, Keith Sterkeson. The suit also alleges defacement of a pro-life "bus bench" ad by a Rockford bus driver.

Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, reported that pro-life advocates had been involved in federal litigation with the clinic proprietor for two years. The proposed ordinance represented a “major setback” but his organization was “pleased” that discussions about its “patent illegality” and negative impact are proceeding.

“This two month delay is a legal victory, albeit a modest one, as prospects for passage of the bubble zone proposal have been dimmed, if not wholly curtailed. We trust that City council members will carefully reconsider this unwise, unwelcome, ill-timed and illicit proposal.”

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Homeland Security assessed threat of pro-life rally in Wisconsin

Madison, Wis., Feb 10, 2010 (CNA) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducted a “threat assessment” of a pro-life and pro-abortion activists before a planned Wisconsin rally last year, yet later admitted that the groups in no way threatened national security.

Although the DHS has since destroyed its copies of the assessment, a local Wisconsin pro-life leader is criticizing the DHS effort as “an attempt by the Obama administration to silence pro-lifers.”

The “threat assessment” was issued by the DHS in Feb. of 2009 when Pro-Life Wisconsin planned a rally to protest the University of Wisconsin's proposition to build a late-term abortion clinic in Madison.

An internal review of the assessment found, however, that it violated intelligence-gathering guidelines. Since the protest groups on both sides of the abortion debate “posed no threat to homeland security,” collecting and sharing information regarding group participants was a breach of protocol, said a 2009 department memo obtained by the Associated Press.

Although the DHS has since deleted its assessment, the Middleton Police Department still has a copy of the report and has refused to release it, says Pro-Life Wisconsin.

According to a letter sent to Pro-Life Wisconsin by Capt. Noel Kakuske of the Middleton Police Department, the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice similarly refused to give the local police permission to release the assessment. Capt. Kakuske cited the possibility that individuals named in the report on both sides of the issue could be endangered by “opposing radical extremists” as another reason for not releasing the report.

According to the Associated Press, the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinic authority board voted 11-3 to approve the plan for an abortion clinic at the Madison Surgery Center in Feb. of 2009. Though board members participating in the meeting went through police checkpoints, both sides of protests groups at the meeting site acted peacefully and did not cause any disturbances.

The state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, Peggy Hamill, has condemned the DHS's actions and said that her group is considering appealing to the district attorney or suing for the release of the documents.

“This move by DHS illustrates the Obama administration’s goal of silencing pro-lifers,” Hamill charged on Feb. 8 in a Pro-Life Wisconsin press release. “It is disturbing that a local police department has apparently tapped into the security apparatus of the federal government to potentially obstruct free speech.”

Hamill also spoke out against what she believes to be a violation of free speech rights.“The majority of Americans identify themselves as pro-life, and the Middleton Police Department has shown they are out of touch with this peaceful majority,” stated Hamill. “Pro-lifers are not a minority of the population, nor are they second-class citizens. We refuse to let our First Amendment rights be silenced.”

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