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Archive of March 5, 2010

ND 88 member dies of cancer, court case continues

Chicago, Ill., Mar 5, 2010 (CNA) -

The Thomas More Society reported on Wednesday that one of the 88 pro-life protestors who was arrested at the University of Notre Dame last year has died.

Linda Schmidt passed away on Tuesday night after a terminal battle with cancer, said Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society in a statement yesterday. In spite of her illness, of which the prosecutors were given proof before her death, Brejcha said she still faced charges for protesting President Obama's speech at Notre Dame in May of 2009.

“It is with a heavy heart that we report that Linda Schmidt died early last night,” said Brejcha on Wednesday. “While she will be missed by her family and loved ones, as a woman of tremendous faith she will no doubt spend eternity with our Lord.”

“But our grief at losing this dedicated pro-life heroine is greater given the grim truth that she lived her final days under this cloud of criminal charges instigated by Notre Dame, which remained pending even as she departed this life,” he added.

Dr. Monica Migliorino Miller, fellow Notre Dame 88 member and a friend of 20 years, said on Thursday that “Linda was a very kind person and had a tenacious spirit, nothing could stop her” and that “she would just push through any problems.” “She was that way on May 19, when we were at Notre Dame,” she noted.

“She hadn't yet found out she had cancer, but she was nonetheless very ill. But she felt she had to be there to give witness to the truth about the sanctity of life. I remember that she was crying when they handcuffed her because having her arms pulled behind her back was causing her great pain. I even spoke up, asking if the officer could just handcuff in the front to alleviate the discomfort,” Dr. Miller told CNA.

“Before the officer could respond, she spoke up and said 'No, no, it's fine. I'm fine. I'm Ok.' That was Linda. She was willing to suffer for the truth.”

“It meant a lot to her to bear witness at Notre Dame and afterwards,” Dr. Miller added. “She has every intention of fighting these charges, even if it meant going to trial.”

Miller also criticized the Fr. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, saying, “One of the most troubling aspects of this entire mess is Fr. Jenkins' inability to recognize that he created the problem.”

“It is Fr. Jenkins' actions that brought scandal to Notre Dame, to the Catholic Church, to Christendom and to the society at large – yet he continues to obfuscate his responsibility in the matter.”

Tom Dixon, special council for the arrested pro-lifers told CNA on Thursday that “it is important to remember that these 88 individuals” are people whose “lives have been turned upside down simply for bearing witness to the truth at a Catholic university that all human life is sacred. For almost a year, these men and women have been forced to live lives with this heavy and undue burden hanging over them.”

When asked if he believes that Notre Dame has the influence to cause prosecutors to drop the charges, Dixon said that as a former prosecutor himself, he “can say with great resolve” that he couldn't “imagine pursuing cases like this if the complaining witness requested that they be dismissed.”

“I cannot fathom a circumstance where a prosecutor would see any purpose or value to advancing these cases to trial without the active support and participation of the complaining witness,” he added. “This is particularly true given our already overburdened criminal court system.”

The Thomas More Law Society reported on Wednesday that Schmidt leaves behind her husband and two daughters.

CNA contacted Notre Dame for a reply on the case against the now 87 pro-life protestors but did not receive a reply.

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Lawyer in infanticide case accuses Catholic judge of bias over his religion

Detroit, Mich., Mar 5, 2010 (CNA) - An attorney in Michigan defending a woman charged with smothering her newborn daughter to death has claimed that a judge’s Catholic religion and affiliation with Ave Maria Law School will color his judgment. The lawyer argued the judge’s work at the school was equivalent to attending a Ku Klux Klan meeting while trying a black man.

In October 2008 the body of a newborn girl was found in a plastic bag beside the bed of Emily Portellos. Now aged 29, she is accused of smothering her newborn and is on trial for first degree murder.

Her lawyer, Henry Scharg, has claimed his client has learning disabilities and did not know she was pregnant until she gave birth in her bedroom in an unassisted breech delivery. According to the Detroit Free Press, Portellos said the delivery was not painful and that she went to sleep afterwards.

She told authorities her baby was born limp and was not breathing, but tests showed the newborn’s lungs were functioning at birth.

Scharg has argued that the infant’s death was the result of Portellos’ pregnancy denial, a psychological condition. He said her actions amount to manslaughter at most.

He has also charged that trial judge Dan Ryan may be biased in the case because of his affiliation with Ave Maria Law School.

According to the Catholic League, on March 1 Scharg was angry that Ryan was taking vacation time to teach at Ave Maria on Mondays. A transcript from a Monday hearing on Judge Ryan’s fitness quotes Scharg as saying “This is the equivalent to an African-American man being on trial and the judge taking Mondays off to attend Klan meetings.”

Bill Donohue, Catholic League president, criticized the attorney, saying:

“Scharg has no business representing anyone. To compare an accredited Catholic law school to a racist terrorist organization is more than despicable—it constitutes rank anti-Catholic bigotry.”

In Donohue’s view, the remark was so egregious that it warrants “severe punitive sanctions, if not disbarment.” The Catholic League has filed a formal complaint with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Committee regarding the comments.

At a Tuesday hearing Judge Timothy Kenny ruled that Scharg’s argument that Judge Ryan was biased was “not persuasive,” the Detroit Free Press reports.

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Vatican paper looks at faith connection between saints and their mothers

Rome, Italy, Mar 5, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Italian historians are taking interest in the role mothers in transmitting faith to their sons. Referring to the examples of St. Jean Vianney, Popes Pius X and Paul VI, the Vatican newspaper suggests that this relationship is fundamental to religious vocations.

According to an article published in the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano (LOR), historians at a recent conference in Modena, Italy commented on the need to study the relationship that ties the man of faith to his mother. In studying biographies, they asserted that faith is almost always transmitted to a man by his mother.

LOR indicates that while research into this relationship can be useful in "reconstructing biographical events of public personalities, it assumes a deeper and almost essential significance" if one looks at the emergence and maturation of a religious vocation.

St. Jean Vianney, the Cure of Ars and patron of priests, spoke of this relationship often, telling his parishioners "virtue passes from the heart of the mother to the heart of the children," the Vatican newspaper noted.

In the book Mothers of Saints, by Albina Henrion, the prayerfulness of the Cure of Ars is attributed to the influence of St. Jean's mother who created an atmosphere of prayer that "he almost breathed in his family life."

The saint said about his gift of prayer, "After God, it is the work of my mother," and added that children "voluntarily do what they see done."

In the book, the story of his mother's great charity throughout her life is told as well as her encouragement of young Jean's vocation and how she convinced the boy's father to allow him receive religious instruction. Although she did not live to see him ordained, he carried her example on through the "inexhaustible and charitable exercise of his ministry," reported LOR.

Another example offered by the Vatican newspaper was Saint Pius X, whose mother, Margherita Sanson, raised him and numerous brothers and sisters. She taught them to pray first thing in the morning, communicate with God throughout the day in Mass and Scripture reading, and to end each day with prayer, bringing the family together for an open examination of conscience. After describing this tradition, a friend of the family said, "is it any wonder that a holy soul came out of there?"

Following her son's episcopal ordination and placement in Mantova, the future Pope Pius X visited his mother to thank her. After kissing his episcopal ring, she showed him her wedding ring and said, "Your ring is very beautiful, Giuseppe, but you wouldn't have it if I didn't have this."

Margherita lived to see her son become the Patriarch (Archbishop) of Venice.

The final example presented by LOR was that of Pope Paul VI, who talked of an "unpayable debt of gratitude to his mother." To her, he said, "I owe my sense of concentration, of interior life, of the meditation which is prayer, the prayer that is meditation. Her entire life was a gift."

After the deaths of his parents, he said, "To the love of my father and of my mother, to their union I owe my love of God and love of man."

Paul VI, indicates LOR, offered a further insight, saying, "We, they tell us, all live more or less from that which a woman has taught us in the sublime dimension. And boys feel it more than girls, because of nature... priest-sons even more strongly, because they are consecrated to solitude."

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Pro-life pharmacy in D.C. area closes due to financial difficulties

Chantilly, Va., Mar 5, 2010 (CNA) - The only pro-life pharmacy in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area has announced that it is closing because of financial difficulties.

The business’ pharmacist Robert Semler, quoted at the Save DMC Pharmacy website, said he could not stay open past March 4.

He reported that he needed “a couple of hundred thousand dollars and 5,000 customers” to stay open, five times as many customers as the business had at present.

A March 1 letter from Dr. John T. Bruchalski, M.D., President of Divine Mercy Care (DMC), announced that he had been authorized by the DMC Board of Directors to take necessary steps to close the pharmacy due to “financial difficulties.”

“We appreciate the sacrifices that Robert Semler and his family have made in taking on the challenge with us to build a faith-based pharmacy in Northern Virginia,” Bruchalski’s letter continued. “While we are extremely disappointed that we have not been able to provide the financial and customer support to continue the pharmacy operations, we remain totally committed to the ideals the DMC Pharmacy stood for - quality products, excellent service and a family-friendly atmosphere.”

At the time of the pharmacy’s opening in October 2008, Semler said he appreciated that his faith did not have to be “checked at the door” each morning when he started work. He reported that the pharmacy was free of “anti-life messages.”

In an October 2008 interview, DMC executive director Bob Laird discussed the economic realities of the venture with CNA. He reported that the pharmacy was positioned between two large Catholic parishes in the area whose combined parishioners totaled 20,000. Three other nearby parishes had a combined 30,000 parishioners.

The pharmacy stocked standard prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and “quality alternative products.” It did not carry contraceptive products and did not recommend them.

It also provided natural family planning materials from the Couple to Couple League.

In January 2009, the DMC Pharmacy fought a bill introduced into the Virginia House of Delegates that specifically regulated pharmacies which did not provide contraception. At that time, Laird told CNA he believed the pharmacy was targeted by the bill.

Because of its closure, the pharmacy’s prescription records were transferred to Virginia CVS Pharmacy. The closing of the DMC Pharmacy has no effect on the other DMC organization, the Tepeyac Family Center pro-life OB-GYN practice in Fairfax.

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New bishops' document assesses society ahead of British elections

Westminster, England, Mar 5, 2010 (CNA) -

On Wednesday the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales released a pre-election document about Catholic Social Teaching intended to help the debate about the values and vision of modern Britain.

The bishops’ document, titled “Choosing the Common Good,” says that social issues cannot be left only to government to solve but are the responsibility of all, according to a press release.

Choosing the Common Good explains the concept of the common good as “the whole network of social conditions which enable human individuals and groups to flourish and live a full, genuinely human life.”

The document argues that a just and civil society can be achieved because “the desire for love and truth is innate in all women and men.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate, whose title means “Love in Truth,” is quoted several times.

Despite a decline in trust in institutions and their countrymen, the bishops of England and Wales urged, everyone in society must help rebuild “essential trust.”

“Central to that task is the understanding that we are not self-contained individuals but inter-dependent, where human flourishing lies in the quality of our relationships and the practice of virtue,” the bishops’ press release says.

The document itself praises the virtues, saying they form men and women as moral agents who do what is right “irrespective of reward” and legal obligation.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, encouraged everyone to read the document and to participate in societal debates. Choosing the Common Good is ultimately about “human flourishing,” he explained, adding that it does not offer a direction on how to vote but provides a background to particular issues.

The document discusses life issues; poverty and inequality; care of the elderly; community relations and migration; the global community and ecology; marriage and family life and the role of faith communities.

It also warns against the privatization of religion, saying religious freedom means “the right to live by faith, within the reasonableness of the common good, and to act by faith in the public forum.”

In response to the charge that the bishops are telling people to vote for the Conservative Party because of their stance on marriage, Archbishop Nichols denied the accusation and said, “You mustn’t be surprised that the Catholic church speaks up in favour of marriage.”

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Italian bishops donate 1 million euros to Chile quake relief efforts

Rome, Italy, Mar 5, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Italan Bishops' Conference has announced their support, both financially and through prayer, to assist Chile after the devastating earthquake last weekend.

In a note posted on the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) website, the bishops expressed the "closeness" of the Italian Church to the victims of last Saturday's disaster, which killed 279 people, according to the official government count.

They also invited the Church to pray for those affected and to support the "initiatives of solidarity" being taken by Caritas Italy, which pledged 100,000 euros for immediate aid on Tuesday.

The CEI announced that to "face first emergencies and the essential needs of the people struck by the earthquake" it has allocated the use of one million euros to Church-based relief assistance for Chile. The sum, they indicated, comes from the "eight per thousand" program, which gives the bishops' conference 0.8 percent of the taxes paid to the Italian government by those who wish to contribute to the Church.

According to the CEI, its Committee for Charitable Interventions in the Third World will oversee the distribution of funds, responding to requests for assistance to directly support projects in the local Chilean Church.

Three days of national mourning have been called for by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet beginning this coming Sunday.

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Officials deny JPII beatification cause facing difficulties

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2010 (CNA) - A Polish daily published an article Thursday claiming that the beatification cause of John Paul II has hit a roadblock in regard to the miraculous healing of French nun who suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

The newspaper said the miracle of a French nun named Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who was cured of Parkinson's disease after asking the intercession of the late Pope,  had been “rejected” by the Vatican’s Medical Commission, alleging that the diagnosis of the disease had been an error.  It claimed officials were now sorting through some 271 other possible miracles to find a replacement.

Vatican sources quoted by ANSA news agency denied the reports saying the claims were “absolutely baseless.”

Nevertheless, details of the late Pope’s cause remain under wraps as it continues to move forward.  A “prominent Vatican source” consulted later by Apcom news agency reacted to the claims with surprise.

“It cannot be said that that miracle is not valid simply because the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has not yet officially analyzed it.”

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Christian Life Movement standing in solidarity with Chile

Santiago, Chile, Mar 5, 2010 (CNA) - The Christian Life Movement has launched a solidarity program to assist those affected by the earthquake in Chile, providing food, medicine and spiritual counseling.

The Christian Life Movement  (CLM) is an international association of the faithful that was recognized by the Holy See in 1994.  With members in 25 countries around the world, the CLM is the largest ecclesial movement born in the Americas. 

Members of the movement have set up a website at http://mvcsolidario.org/en/ where people can donate to the cause as well as offer prayers for the Chilean people.

Luis Fernando Figari, founder of the CLM, urged the faithful to pray for the victims of the tragedy and to help with their urgent material needs. He then noted that catastrophes like those in Chile and Haiti ought to lead believers into a deeper reflection on the true meaning of human existence.

“Tragic situations such as these should lead us to meditate on the fragility of life and the eternal horizon to which the human being is called,” Figari said.  “Together with our prayers, which are essential,” he continued, a concrete, fraternal love for the victims must arise from our hearts.

More information can be found at:  http://mvcsolidario.org/en/ or [email protected]

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Rep. Stupak prepared to strike down healthcare reform over abortion

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2010 (CNA) -

On Thursday, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) commented that he and his 11 Democratic allies within the House are prepared to strike down health care reform plans if they contain any provisions for federally funded abortions.

In his remarks to ABC's "Good Morning America," the Michigan congressman said, “Yes. We're prepared to take responsibility” if the health care bill fails because of his group's opposition to abortion provisions in the Senate bill.

“Let's face it,” he added. “I want to see health care. But we're not going to bypass the principles of belief that we feel strongly about.”

Although Rep. Stupak is satisfied with the current House bill, given his amendment to it that prevents federally funding abortions, he has been vocal in his opposition to the Senate bill. The representative stated on Feb. 23 that the Senate bill is “unacceptable” on the issue of abortion.  

The White House has claimed, however, that the Senate health care bill will not change U.S. law on abortion or alter the status quo. “The president is not and will not change current federal law in dealing with abortions and healthcare,” asserted White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Thursday.

In spite of the White House's insistence, the U.S. bishops disagree.

Richard Doerflinger, the associate director of the U.S. bishops Pro-life Secretariat, told CNSNews.com that the “abortion problems in the Senate bill are so serious that, despite our strong support for expanding access to health care, we will have to oppose the bill unless they are resolved.”

According to Doerflinger, the Senate health care bill contains some language limiting the direct use to subsidize abortion coverage, but still violates “longstanding precedent on abortion funding.”

The Senate bill limits only the use of tax credits for abortion in qualified health plans, and not other funding in the bill.

Doerflinger cited the $7 billion for services at community health centers, whose funding is increased to $11 billion in President Obama’s proposal.

“The Hyde amendment does not prevent direct use of these billions of dollars for elective abortions (because the funds are not provided through the appropriations bill governed by Hyde), nor does any provision in the Senate bill,” he told CNSNews.com.

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Meeting between Israel and Holy See postponed

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Plenary meeting planned between the Holy See and the State of Israel for May has been moved back. Talks have not been suspended, and the two sides have agreed to convene the meeting at a later date to "maximize" their time together.

The date for the Permanent Bilateral Working Commission's Plenary meeting scheduled for May 27 has been changed to June 15.

A joint communique was issued by the co-chairmen of the commission related the mutual agreement of the parties to "changes to the previously announced schedule of meetings."

The chairmen also announced their intention to meet before the plenary meeting for "Working-Level" meetings that have not yet been scheduled. Two joint working meetings of the commission have already taken place in 2010.

The changes are not due to any problems in the negotiations, which have had their complications, but is only due to the need to address "logistical needs" and "maximize" their time together, AsiaNews learned from a source "close to the negotiations."

The Plenary meeting on June 15 will take place in the Vatican.

Israel and the Holy See are still at the negotiating table to decide the legal and economic status of Catholic Church sites and personnel in the Holy Land, which would finalize the implementation of an accord signed in 1993.

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Despite anti-Christian violence, cardinal urges Iraqis to vote in elections

Rome, Italy, Mar 5, 2010 (CNA) - With elections just days away, and after weeks of violence by Muslim extremists that have left numerous Christians dead, the Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, called on “all Iraqis to cast their votes for the good of Iraq.”

Speaking to the Italian news agency SIR, the cardinal said, “We are praying that everything will take place orderly and without violence.  We will do everything in our power for the good of the country and the people.”

He then condemned the violence of recent days, which has pitted “Iraqis against Iraqis, parties against parties, each one fighting for his own interests ... These are internal struggles that are leaving many victims.”

The Patriarch also commented on his recent visit to Mosul, where Muslim extremists recently killed eight Christians.  “I met with the Christian population and with civil officials from local communities who came to the chancery to speak with me.  They are all in agreement about working and collaborating to restore calm and safety to the city,” he said.

“For our part, we are praying for peace and reconciliation.  We have the Synod for the Middle East on the horizon, which will be an occasion to work not only for Iraq but for the entire region,” he added.

Also urging participation in the elections was Auxiliary Bishop Shelmon Warduni of Baghdad who told the Fides news agency, “We exhort all Christians to vote and to elect candidates who will work for the good of Iraq, so that human rights and religious freedom will reign again in the country.”

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Pope Benedict calls for deeper Catholic culture in Uganda

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI met with the bishops of Uganda this morning in the Vatican on the occasion of their “ad Limina” visit to the Holy See. He urged them to be strong in renewing evangelization in the east African country and resisting "the seduction of a materialistic culture of individualism."

The President of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, Bishop Matthias Ssekamanya, began the audience at noon on Friday with an address in which he reported that the Church in Uganda has had "some success" since the bishops' last visit to the Vatican. But, he added, "we have many challenges to meet for the spiritual, pastoral and material needs of our people."

The Holy Father addressed some of these concerns in his discourse, calling on the bishops to continue to make efforts “in the service of a more profound evangelization”of Africa, which was a major theme of the Synod of African bishops last October.

“The power of the word of God and the knowledge and love of Jesus cannot but transform people’s lives by changing for the better the way they think and act,” explained Pope Benedict.

The Pope exhorted them to encourage “full appreciation of the sacrament of marriage in its unity and dissolubility and the sacred right to life” amongst the faithful. He also urged the bishops to help the nation’s Catholics, including priests, to “resist the seduction of a materialistic culture of individualism which has taken root in so many countries.”

Addressing the violence that has plagued the northeastern region of the country for two decades, the Holy Father asked them to continue to promote “lasting peace based on justice, generosity towards those in need and a spirit of dialogue and reconciliation.”

In response to concerns about the influx of evangelists from a wide variety of denominations, the Holy Father told them that in the promotion of “true ecumenism,” they must make an effort to remain close to the people “who are more vulnerable to the advances of sects."

“Guide them to reject superficial sentiments and a preaching that would empty the cross of Christ of its power," the Pope told the Ugandan bishops, advising them that "in this way you will continue, as responsible Pastors, to keep them and their children faithful to the Church of Christ.”

Going more in-depth on the topic of evangelization, Pope Benedict encouraged the Ugandan prelates to renew evangelization efforts, especially through education, thereby creating a “deeper Catholic culture.”

"As the first agents of evangelization," said the Pope, bishops have the vocation of bearing "clear witness to the practical solidarity born of our communion in Christ." So, he added, "In a spirit of Christian charity dioceses that enjoy more resources, both materially and spiritually, should assist those that have less" while also aiming to achieve self-sufficiency.”

"It is important that your people develop a sense of responsibility towards themselves, their community and their Church, and become more deeply imbued with a Catholic spirit of sensitivity to the needs of the universal Church,” Benedict XVI added.

Additionally, he asked them to maintain the paternal role of priests by always promoting vocations and providing constant support for religious men and women. With these priests and religious the bishops should promote “spiritual fatherhood and motherhood with which they can enrich and deepen the love of the faithful for the Creator,” Benedict XVI said.

At the beginning of his address, the Holy Father remembered the victims of recent landslides in the hilly Bududa region of Uganda, praying that the Lord “grant eternal rest of the souls of the deceased, and give strength and hope” to survivors.

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Work together as a people of hope, urge Chilean bishops

Santiago, Chile, Mar 5, 2010 (CNA) -

The bishops of Chile released a message Thursday encouraging Catholics to “lift their spirits, recover their confidence, and work together as one people” following the country's tragic 8.8 earthquake.

Co-authored by Bishops Alejandro Goic Karmelic and Santiago Silva Retamales, the message was titled, “In you Lord, we put our faith.”  The prelates acknowledged the work many have put forth to assist the victims and highlighted the intense efforts of the Caritas Network in facilitating aid distribution.

"We need to lift our spirits, recover our confidence and work together as one people. In addition to the reconstruction of buildings and roads, we need to purify our souls which have been fractured by fear, violence and lawlessness. It is time to build bridges that allow us to better recognize each other and embrace one another as brothers." 

The text also outlined "the painful and incomprehensible episodes of looting, plundering and speculation" which "force us to question our upbringing and values. However, at the same time, many people have risen above the turmoil and loss of material possessions to care for others.

“Today, we see an entire country, supporting and grieving with families who suffer, who have lost everything, and who need a glimmer of hope from us." 

The bishops pointed out that consolation for the suffering is found in God, "who offers his love in the gift of His Son to us. Because He is our hope, we put our faith in Him." The prelates then stated that, "a country is not constructed only by the labor of humans. A country needs the best from its people. For those that believe in Christ, the source of life, the best treasure we can offer to Chile in this time is Christ himself.

“In this, Chile’s bicentennial year, let us undertake a mission to make Chile a table where all are welcome, more now than ever." 

Finally, the bishops’ statement called upon "the God of Mercy to shelter all those who have died in his presence … We present our wounds and our hope to God with confidence. May He heal our wounds and awaken a true sense of solidarity within us."

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Bishops offer support on key health care vote if pro-life conditions are met

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2010 (CNA) - An official with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference has said that the bishops would work to secure a “key vote” for the progress of the Senate health care reform bill if an acceptable agreement on abortion funding restrictions is reached with House leaders.

Richard Doerflinger, the associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, told Politico that the USCCB would strongly urge Democrats and Republicans to vote to waive the point of order blocking a next Senate vote.

“Whether it would be enough to get to 60 votes, I can’t predict. We would certainly try,” Doerflinger commented.

The USCCB supported the amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), which added strong restrictions on the funding of abortion to the House health care legislation, in keeping with the Hyde Amendment.

However, that provision did not make it into the present Senate version of the bill.

Any revisions to the Senate bill would need 60 votes. Such success is unlikely because 41 Republicans are reportedly determined to stop the legislation. According to Politico, the bishops moved “forcefully” to stop Republican efforts to derail the Stupak Amendment when it was up for a vote in the House.

Doerflinger indicated the USCCB would take the same position in support of a pro-life amendment to the Senate bill.

“If the Stupak amendment or something equivalent to it were in the reconciliation package on the Senate floor and it was necessary to get 60 votes to waive the point of order,” Doerflinger told Politico, “we would strongly urge everyone, Democratic and Republican, to vote to waive the point of order.”

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), told Politico the proposal is something to be explored.

“It could be something that could carry out the bishops’ objective,” he explained.

“That could be the key vote,” Kildee continued. “The bishops could say, ‘Are you really with us?’ That’s the key vote.”

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Scranton bishop-elect laments young death of priest who struggled with drugs

Scranton, Pa., Mar 5, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop-elect of Scranton Joseph C. Bambera has lamented the “unexpected and untimely death” of a priest who struggled with drug problems.

Fr. James B. Shimsky, 50, died on Thursday at St. Mary’s Hospital at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He had been at an addiction treatment facility in the area but had been admitted to the hospital for a medical problem, a press release from the Diocese of Scranton says.

According to the Scranton Times-Tribune, the Scranton native was arrested Jan. 30 after police said he was seen buying cocaine from his parked car in North Philadelphia. He had been on a leave of absence from the diocese since Feb. 1.

After studies at the University of Scranton and Pope John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Mass. Fr. Shimsky was ordained in June 2001. He served as assistant pastor at several parishes and was a chaplain at St. Michael’s School in Tunkhannock. He directed Hispanic ministry for the Greater Wilkes-Barre Area.

Fr. Shimsky was a promoter of the Holy Name Society and the Sacred Heart and Rosary Societies in Wilkes-Barre.

In his last assignment he was pastor of Corpus Christi parish in Montdale, Pa.

“The unexpected and untimely death of Father Shimsky is a great loss for his family and friends, and for the entire Diocese of Scranton,” Bishop-elect Bambera said in a Thursday statement. “His ministry touched the lives of many people. He had willingly embraced his treatment program, and he was working hard to address his issues. It was our hope that through his efforts and with God’s grace he would be able to return to us and continue his priestly service.”

“Our prayers and thoughts are now with Father Shimsky, his family and friends, and all who knew him. May he rest in peace.”

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