Archive of February 19, 2010

Children with same-sex parents prone to suicide, study reveals

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - A study presented at the symposium in Mexico, “Homosexual Adoption: What Science Has Discovered,” revealed that most children adopted by same-sex couples display “greater levels of stress,”  and suffer from “suicidal tendencies and attempts.”

The symposium was organized by the Mexican Institute on Sexual Orientation, “Renacer,” in order to provide scientific information about homosexuality, homosexual adoptions and their impact on child development.

During a presentation on research conducted by George A. Rekers, Professor of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of South Carolina, the presenters noted that “boys and girls adopted by lesbian and homosexual couples show a greater level of stress than that which is already generated by their status as orphans or children abandoned by their biological parents.”  They added that this situation “produces diverse trauma and behavioral disorders that can even lead to suicidal tendencies or attempts.”

“According to various studies containing testimonies from children of homosexual parents, most them of admit to suffering strong emotions, such as fear, anxiety, apprehension, shame and anger in trying to hide from their friends and relatives the homosexuality of their father or mother,” they continued.

Adoptive families

Likewise, addressing the issue of homosexual “marriage,” the study pointed out that “they are significantly and substantially less stable and shorter on average compared with marriages between a man and woman.”  Consequently, “homes with a homosexual adult inevitably contribute to substantially higher rate of changes in adoptive homes.”

“Due to the high incidence of psychological disorders among children who enter the  adoptive care system,” those “living with a practicing homosexual in the adoptive home,” are especially “ vulnerable to psychological damage and an increasing inability to adapt,” Rekers' study said.

Oscar Rivas, president of Renacer, underscored that “according to international experience, based on various studies and research, the conclusion is that in matters of adoption, the rights of the children, not those of the parents, are what should prevail.”

The symposium in Mexico took place after lawmakers in the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City approved reforms allowing homosexual adoption.  The study by Professor George A. Rekers was the basis for rulings in the state of Florida prohibiting the adoption of minors by same-sex couples.

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Politically motivated murders of Mosul Christians causing emigration, archbishop warns

Mosul, Iraq, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - Following a series of murders of Christians in Mosul, the Archbishop of Mosul has warned that they all may leave the ancient Christian center if the violence continues. The killings are part of an effort to force believers to leave Mosul, he reported, urging more media coverage of the persecution.

Speaking to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) from Mosul on Thursday, Archbishop Amil Shamaaoun Nona said a sudden surge of killings in the northern Iraqi city has prompted more Christians to emigrate. This threatens the survival of a local Church whose origins date back to biblical times.

“If the situation continues as it has done, especially over the past few days, all the people will leave. It is very difficult to live in this kind of situation,” Archbishop Nona said. “It is panic – panic always. The Christians don’t know what will happen to them – it is the same everywhere: in the office, at school or even at home. They don’t know if somebody is going to kill them.”

He described the murder of four Christians as part of a politically motivated drive to force Christians from Mosul, emphasizing that the attacks had specifically targeted Christians. He said some groups will gain politically if all Christians leave.

On Wednesday 20-year-old student teacher Wissam Georges was killed. Zayia Thomas, an engineering student from Mosul University, was gunned down in the city’s al-Tahir district, while a fellow student was injured in the shooting. Two traders in Mosul have also been killed and another Christian man was recently kidnapped from his home in Mosul.

Christians are describing the attacks as a “massacre,” comparing them to Good Friday.

Archbishop Nona told ACN that up to ten families have fled Mosul since Wednesday. The city’s Christian population has drastically declined since 2003 when there were up to 5,000 families living there.

“What we are seeing is an effort to force Christians to leave Mosul. We don’t know who is behind the attacks,” the archbishop said.

The Church has begged Mosul authorities to improve security but has been told it was impossible to guarantee the safety of Christians.

Archbishop Nona has been in office for less than a month. At 42 years old, he is the Catholic Church’s youngest bishop in the region.

His predecessor, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, died in captivity in March 2008 after being kidnapped.

In September 2008 a series of killings and abductions forced half of the city’s faithful to leave Mosul. Most returned over the following months.

Others have sought sanctuary in Kurdistan to the north, where security is better. Many also intend to join family and friends in neighboring countries such as Syria and Jordan.

Archbishop Nona told ACN that more media coverage of the plight of Mosul Christians was “very important.”

“We desperately need you to pray for us,” he said.

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Woman who brandished knife at abortion clinic protester now glad she did not abort

Duluth, Minn., Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - A pregnant woman who brandished a knife at a pro-life advocate outside a Minnesota abortion clinic is now grateful the protester helped her decide not to have an abortion. One pro-life leader said the case shows that many people are “conflicted” about abortion and that anger is often the beginning of conversion.

Mechelle Hall, 26, had threatened and brandished a knife at Leah Winandy, 21, who urged her not to have an abortion. The incident took place outside the Duluth Building for Women.

On Nov. 24, 2009, Winandy and her mother, Sarah, were passing out pamphlets and protesting abortion at the building on behalf of Pro Life Ministry of Duluth. According to the Duluth News Tribune, Hall confronted the women.

“I was there to ask mothers not to kill their babies at the abortion clinic,” Winandy said, reporting that Hall walked towards her. “She pulled out a knife and waved it at me saying ‘Don’t come near me.’ I said, ‘Please don’t kill your baby. Fear God.’ I came to the edge of the courtyard. I said, ‘Look and listen to your ultrasound.’ She turned around and came back with a knife and held it up to my throat.”

Hall told the Tribune that she never had the planned abortion but decided to keep the baby after the confrontation. She said she was stressed out and the protesters made her realize that she did not want to end the life she was carrying inside her.

She said she wanted to tell the Winandys “Thank you for being there.”

“If they weren’t there, I probably would have gone through with it and regretted it for the rest of my life. It probably would have gone the other way. I’m sincerely sorry for doing that to her.”

Hall will learn the sex of her child at her ultrasound next month.

The St. Louis County Attorney’s Office asked Winandy if she was agreeable to Hall receiving probation instead of a prison sentence. Winandy agreed, the Tribune reports.

“I forgive Mechelle for what she did; I do forgive her because God has given me forgiveness in my heart for her,” Winandy said.

On Thursday Priests for Life President Fr. Frank Pavone commented on the case, saying it illustrates that those seeking abortions, like those performing abortions, are “conflicted and ambivalent.”

“Despite any effort to appear sure of what they are doing, they aren't.  Despite the rhetoric about 'freedom of choice,' they resort to abortion because they feel they have no freedom and no choice,” he continued.

“And the lesson for pro-life activists is that what often presents itself as anger and upset is often the first stage of conversion. We should not be afraid of these reactions.”

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New website to examine harms of pornography ‘pandemic’

CNA STAFF, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - A new website called Pornography Harms has been launched to provide access to credible, peer-reviewed research documenting the ill effects of pornography. The site was created by Patrick Trueman, a former chief of the U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

Trueman described the site as “a one-stop location for sound research, news articles and opinion pieces” discussing the harmful effects of pornography.

“Since the advent of the internet, pornography has flooded homes, businesses, public libraries, and even schools. The results have been devastating to the social and family fabric of America," Trueman added.

He said that for nearly two decades a large segment of American children have had easy access to internet pornography. The latest trend of children producing and distributing pornographic images via cell phone, called “sexting,” may be an outgrowth of the regular viewing of internet pornography.

The habit may result in diminishing children’s natural inhibitions against such activity.

"Pornography, in other words, is altering minds, destroying taboos, and reordering society," Trueman continued, adding that pornography addiction is now common among men, women and even children.

Pornography use is a significant factor in divorce, a contributing cause of the spread of prostitution, and the sexual trafficking of adults and children.

The web site Pornography Harms uses research work from a multi-disciplinary group of professionals and concerned citizens.

"Pornography is a neglected pandemic and it will remain so until knowledge of its destructive forces is widely understood and disseminated. The Pornography Harms website is dedicated to this task of education," Trueman said.

The site’s address is

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Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ could affect military chaplains’ religious freedom

Washington D.C., Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - Proposed changes allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military could marginalize military chaplains from religions which consider homosexual acts sinful, a religious liberty group has warned.

Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said that if the military is forced to promote homosexual behavior there will be “open conflict between the virtues taught by chaplains and the moral message delivered by the military.”

“In such a conflict, it’s obvious who will win and who will lose,” Theriot claimed. “If the state favors the demands of the homosexual activists over the First Amendment, it is only a matter of time before the military censors the religious expression of its chaplains and marginalizes denominations that teach what the Bible says about homosexual behavior.”

A Feb. 17 letter from the ADF to President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates lists many possible conflicts centering on whether chaplains could sincerely adhere to their religious beliefs and still conscientiously preach and counsel while serving as military chaplains.

Problems may arise concerning whether chaplains must allow soldiers who openly engage in homosexual behavior to lead worship services or to serve in other lay leadership roles. Another concern for the ADF is whether chaplains may make public statements critical of homosexual behavior or military policy on the issue.

The ADF cited previous civilian conflicts between religious liberty and laws concerning homosexual behavior.

“Military chaplains who have volunteered to defend the liberties protected in our Constitution shouldn’t be denied those very same liberties,” Theriot argued.

He warned that forcing chaplains to “deny the teachings of their faith” in order to serve in the armed forces is a “grave threat” to the First Amendment and to the spiritual health of those in military service.

“We urge you to reconsider your decision and avoid this collision with America’s most cherished and fundamental freedom of religious liberty,” the ADF letter stated.

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Canada, Poland and Australia among nations to have new saints

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) -

A half dozen Catholics will officially join the ranks of the Church's canonized saints this autumn. Pope Benedict XVI and the College of Cardinals approved the causes for sainthood of all of the "Blessed" candidates proposed in a consistory on Friday morning.

Pope Benedict announced that the canonization ceremony will take place on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010. The announcement was the result of the Ordinary Public Consistory, which was held in the Consistory Room of the Apostolic Palace.

The six destined for sainthood include Fr. Stanislaw Soltys of Poland, Br. Andre Bessette of Canada, Sr. Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola of Spain, Sr. Mary of the Cross MacKillop of Australia, and Srs. Giulia Salzano and Battista Varano of Italy.

Catholics in the "Land down under" are particularly excited, as they will celebrate the addition of the first Australian to the Canon of Catholic Saints. Australian media estimate that the canonization of Blessed Mary MacKillop, founder and director of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, will draw many thousands to the Vatican.

"The sisters rejoice with the Australian Church and people on this news," the Sisters' congregational leader was reported as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald. "We look forward to the canonization and give thanks that God did bless our country with such a model of goodness."

Sr. Maria Casey, postulator for the cause of Blessed MacKillop, told Rome Reports in an interview released on Thursday that, in addition to the miracles attributed to her for curing cancer, "She’s particularly good for women who don’t have children."

"We have hundreds of what we call Mary MacKillop babies," she added.

Although no details have been provided, canonization ceremonies are normally celebrated by the Pope in St. Peter's Square. The ceremony usually consists of a reading of the saint's life history, a prayer chanted by the Pope to enroll the saint in the Canon and an official recognition marked by the unfurling of a large tapestry bearing the image of the saint.

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'Thriller' makes Vatican list of top 10 albums

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - The Holy See's newspaper has released its picks for the "top ten" albums "to take to a desert island."  Among the selections are works from the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Offering a list of favorites as "musical resistance" to the "growing tide of festival songs" released at this time of year in Italy, the Vatican paper, L'Osservatore Romano (LOR), suggests that its own "modest manual can indicate the way of good music."

The Beatles' "Revolver" is "definitely the first work to recommend," notes the Vatican daily.  The paper then cites some of its tracks which "anticipate the rock revolution represented by Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and still today manage to produce "goosebumps."

Pink Floyd's disc, "Dark Side of the Moon" is "extraordinarily enjoyable" and the words, described as "extremely beautiful," don't come anywhere close to giving it justice, LOR states. 

Michael Jackson's "Thriller," the Vatican paper continues, is a "masterpiece of the king of pop,” precisely because Jackson added his innovative style to the previously-stereotyped “black music.”

The article is the latest from LOR in a list of commentaries on elements of popular culture, covering everything from disappointment in the "stale" plot of Avatar to praise for The Simpsons' "realistic and intelligent writing," although the newspaper deplored the "excessively rude language, violence and extreme choices by the scriptwriters" in the series.

Rounding out the list of musical favorites "to take to a desert island" are albums from Paul Simon, Oasis, Santana and U2, as well as discs from Donald Fagen, Fleetwood Mac and David Crosby.


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Vatican spokesman: Pope has not received letter from Academy for Life members

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - A statement written and released this week by members of the Pontifical Academy for Life against the actions of their president has not reached the Holy Father or the secretary of state, Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi said on Friday. He also expressed his misgivings that such a document would be in circulation at all.

According to Vatican Radio, Fr. Lombardi responded to journalists' questions on Friday about the nature of a statement from members of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) outlining their criticism of the body's president, Archbishop Rino Fisichella.

The statement, bearing the signatures of five academy members, describes a lack of confidence in the archbishop as president of the Academy for Life and expresses their hope that "the Holy Father will recognize the need to provide him with an occupation better suited to his abilities. "

The statement refers particularly to the damaging effects of Archbishop Fisichella's response to the abortion of the twins of a nine-year old girl in Recife, Brazil last spring. They pointed to the ineffectiveness of his clarification in "dispelling the false understanding of the Church’s teaching about direct abortion conveyed by the 15 March 2009 article."

This article, written by the archbishop, seemed to condone "therapeutic abortions" in certain cases.

In response to requests for clarification from members of the PAV, first directly to Archbishop Fisichella and then, after he rejected the request for a formal explanation, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a "Clarification" was released. The Clarification said that Archbishop Fisichella's words were subjected to "exploitation and manipulation" to make it seem like he had accepted the doctors' decision to abort the twins.

At that point, the issue seemed to have been resolved.

One of the five signatories of the statement, Christine de Marcellus de Vollmer, told CNA on Thursday that Archbishop Fisichella caused a flare up in tensions with his opening remarks at the recently concluded plenary assembly of the Academy.

On the first day of the plenary, Feb. 11, Archbishop Fisichella blasted members of the Academy who had asked for a clarification and described the action as "malice," "spite," and as rooted in "a desire to cause a situation of conflict."

According to the statement from the five PAV members, the archbishop's remarks "had the effect of confirming in the minds of many Academicians the impression that we are being led by an ecclesiastic who does not understand what absolute respect for innocent human lives entails."

The signatories called this "an absurd state of affairs in a Pontifical Academy for Life but one which can be rectified only by those who are responsible for his appointment as President."

Vatican Radio reported Fr. Lombardi as declaring that this issue has not reached the Pope or his secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who are responsible for deciding the archbishop's fate.

The director of Vatican Radio and the Holy See's Press Office called into question the reasons for circulating such a document at all and pointed out that the Belgian priest and academic, Msgr. Michel Schooyans, whose name appears as one of the five signatories, was not even present at the PAV's plenary meeting from Feb. 11-13, which would have been the place to bring up a problem of this nature.

CNA spoke by telephone with Fr. Graham Bell from the Pontifical Academy for Life on Friday morning about the assembly. He informed CNA that the addresses from the plenary would not be released because they were "closed meetings."

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Benedict XVI to participate in March 14 ecumenical celebration

Rome, Italy, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, announced this week that Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Evangelical Lutheran Church located in Rome on March 14 for an ecumenical celebration.

The cardinal’s announcement was confirmed by the SIR news agency, which contacted the Pontifical Council.  Lutheran Pastor Jens-Martin Kruse was quoted as saying, “To have the Bishop of Rome among us will be a beautiful sign for ecumenism in our city.”

During the ceremony, Pope Benedict XVI will deliver a relfection on John 12:20-26 about the need for a grain of wheat to fall to the ground and die in order to bear fruit.  Pastor Kruse will then speak about the first chapter of Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians.

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Professor says Spain's new law will not reduce abortions

Madrid, Spain, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - The head of the Genetics department at the University of Alcala in Spain, Nicolas Jouve de la Barreda, warned this week that the government’s new law on abortion goes against medical ethics and will not reduce the number of abortions.

“Nobody believes this legislative reform will help reduce the number of abortions,” the professor told the organization, Professionals for Ethics.

“The promotion of contraceptive methods, the morning-after pill and abortion itself cannot result in the reduction of abortions but rather the opposite. The experience of other countries proves it,” he continued.

The professor noted that the law has an “ideological undercurrent” that seeks to impose pro-abortion beliefs on children through education and on college campuses by requiring medical schools to teach abortion methods.

He said medical students are taught how to carry out “a uterine evacuation, generally known as a “D & C.”  However, “the intention is not to teach these techniques as all gynecologists learn them at the university, but rather to teach techniques designed to kill a fetus,” something which conflicts “directly with medical ethics.”

Jouve de la Barreda said the new law also goes against science, which has demonstrated that life begins at the moment of conception.  Therefore “when an embryo is destroyed or a fetus is crushed in order to carry out an abortion, what is destroyed or crushed is the life of a human being in its first stages of development.”

After defending the right to conscientious objection, the professor called on the scientific and university community to act consistently “with the truth and to always defend it, without bending to ideologies or impositions that are contrary to scientific knowledge and professional ethics.”


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Cardinal reminds faithful: Christ wants true conversion, not hypocrisy

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, reminded Catholics during Mass on Ash Wednesday to strive for a “true conversion” rather than a mere cosmetic change in their lives.

He encouraged the faithful not to “put on appearances because the enemy of the Christian is hypocrisy.

“Jesus wants us to have an open heart.  He has no desire for hypocritical attitudes.”

“It’s not about putting makeup on the soul, but about changing it,” he continued. Consequently, he invited the faithful to fast and give alms, as well as to pray—the three traditional practices of Lent.

“Return to God, be reconciled with God. Harden not your hearts, listen to the voice of the Lord. Make room in your hearts through prayer, penance and almsgiving so that the Lord can enter,” he said.

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Mexicans seek 50,000 signatures to stop same-sex 'marriage'

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - Various civil and religious associations of Mexico, united under the organization “Man+Woman=Marriage,” are working to collect 50,000 online signatures from Mexican voters in order to stop the recently-approved law allowing homosexuals to marry and adopt children.

Guillermo de Jesús Torres Quiroz, organizer of the project, said the initiative “aims to protect children, whose rights will be harmed by the adoption of homosexual couples instead of by a family consisting of a father and mother.” 

The signatures will be delivered to the Mexico City Legislative Assembly.

“We soon hope to present a plan to stop this reform that goes against the institution of the family.”  The organizer added that they have had a good response so far.

Torres Quiroz said the petition will be delivered to the Legislative Assembly, where officials will review it to verify that it fulfills the legal requirements for such an initiative.

Mexico City law states that a petition can be presented to the Legislative Assembly if it has been signed by 0.5 percent of the electorate.

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Caritas Haiti working to make Haitians part of redevelopment

Rome, Italy, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - The director general of Caritas Haiti was at Caritas Internationalis' Vatican headquarters this week. In meetings to discuss the current situation in the nation, he expressed gratitude for the Catholic-based assistance and assured that his branch is working to make Haitians a part of their own redevelopment.

More than a month has passed since the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti brought the capital city of Port-au-Prince to the ground, claiming an estimated 230,000 lives.

In his introductory address at a meeting with members of Caritas Internationalis (CI) on Wednesday, Director of Caritas Haiti Fr. Serge Chadic indicated  the way to approach the current situation in the country.

“It is improper to dwell on other people’s suffering," he said. "The only appropriate response is resourceful charity to alleviate suffering and destitution, whilst respecting human dignity and evangelical principles.”

Fr. Chadic also praised the internal response to the tragedy, saying that "Haiti has shown such generosity and solidarity that people don’t know whether to cry or admire this nation for its courage."

The priest brought the "greetings, friendship, courage and generosity of the rest of the population" who survived the disaster to the meeting and thanked Caritas, members of the international community, Caritas and Christians from every continent who have pledged and provided relief.

Many others are involved in offering relief in Haiti, he added, "but without the CI network, I’m convinced that the extent of the post-earthquake disaster in Haiti would have been limitless."

As part of a two-month intensive assistance plan, Caritas members worldwide have distributed emergency shelter kits to more than 35,000 people and are continuing to provide health care, water and psychological support daily.

In his speech, Fr. Chadic acknowledged the necessity of Caritas Haiti taking on a greater role  to empower Haitians to "participate in their own development" and reassured members of CI that his office has already taken measures to implement this "consolidation initiative."

"Caritas Haiti," he observed, "has great confidence in its partners – CRS and the fellow Caritas organizations who are at the National Office. Caritas Haiti welcomes CI’s dedication, expertise and spontaneity, and we would like to reassure all its partners that they will not be disappointed with the confidence they in turn have placed in it."

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Announcement of Brother André’s canonization causes elated reaction

Ottawa, Canada, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - The announcement of Bl. Brother André’s Oct. 17 canonization has caused a grateful reaction and much anticipation among Catholics and Canadians devoted to the humble porter who showed great devotion to St. Joseph.

Pope Benedict XVI announced Br. André’s pending canonization in the Consistory Hall of Vatican City on Friday. The Oratory of Mt. Royal in Montreal said that his audience included priests and brothers of the blessed’s order, the Congregation of Holy Cross. They were joined by members of the Oratory and members of the Archdiocese of Montreal.

Those gathered showed elation and greeted the announcement with “warm applause.”

Fr. Hugh Cleary, CSC, Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross, and Rector of St. Joseph’s oratory, Fr. Claude Group, CSC, were part of the delegation, as was Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See Anne Leahy.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal, discussed the announcement at a press conference at St. Joseph’s Oratory. He said the announcement was “the best thing that could have happened this year for the Church of Montreal.”

“I have always been impressed by this man, both a humble man and a visionary, a man of deep faith. An example of determination, still relevant today in 2010,” the cardinal said of the soon-to-be saint.

Fr. Jean-Pierre Aumont, Canadian Provincial Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, called the announcement a “wonderful gift” that will be received with “delight” by Br. André’s beneficiaries and supporters.

“For the religious of Holy Cross, it represents more than ever a source of inspiration, a model of faith and trust in God and in the human condition. He shows us how to envision great things and how to look toward the future!”

Bishop Pierre Morissette of Saint-Jérôme, speaking in his role as President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), said Friday that the bishops of Canada welcomed the Pope’s announcement.

“Brother André lived his life with great humility. Guided by a deep faith and devotion to Saint Joseph, he dedicated his life to praying, serving the poor, welcoming strangers, healing the sick and comforting the suffering,” the bishop commented. “To this day, his memory remains an important witness to all Canadians of faith and love.”

Bishop Morissette cited Pope Benedict’s comments that each saint is unique in his or her own way but all of them have been “impressed with the ‘seal’ of Jesus or the imprint of his love witnessed through the Cross.”

The bishop’s statement closed with the hope that Brother André’s canonization will be “a moment of rejoicing” throughout Canada and that his legacy can remind us of the achievements possible through faith and love.

Bishop Morrissette quoted Brother André’s own words: “It is with the smallest brushes that the artists paint the most beautiful pictures.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a Friday statement said he joins Catholics, Quebecers and all Canadians in welcoming the news of Brother André’s canonization.

“Brother André’s life shows us the power of faith and the importance of concern for the sick and others in need. In this solemn act, the Roman Catholic Church is honoring a Canadian who achieved greatness through humility, determination and service to others.

“Brother André’s devotion to St. Joseph, the patron saint of Canada, led to the building of the magnificent Oratory on Mount Royal. Today’s news heightens the inspiration we feel on seeing that religious landmark, a symbol and center of faith in Montreal and all of Canada.”

Blessed André was born Alfred Bessette to a poor Quebec family in 1845, a biography from St. Joseph’s Oratory says. His father died in a work accident when he was nine, and his mother died three years later. His large family was split up and the future Brother André, barely literate and physically weak from birth, moved from job to job for years.

In 1870 he presented himself as a candidate for the novitiate of the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal. He was made porter at Notre-Dame College, where his daily tasks consisted of washing floors and windows, cleaning lamps, carrying firewood and working as a messenger.

He welcomed the sick and heartbroken, inviting them to pray to St. Joseph. His reputation grew as people reported that their prayers had been answered. He received visitors regularly for twenty-five years. Out of devotion to St. Joseph, he built a chapel with help from friends and money he earned from giving haircuts to students.

Larger versions of the chapel were constructed as more and more pilgrims came.

Brother André died in 1937. Over a million people attended his wake and burial.

A series of religious and cultural celebrations linked to his upcoming canonization will be announced soon for both Rome and Montreal, the Oratory of Mt. Royal reported.

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