Madrid, Spain, Mar 10, 2010 (CNA) - Nearly one million Spaniards marched in cities across the country on March 7 defending the right to life of the unborn and demanding that the government revoke Spain's new law on abortion recently passed by the Senate and signed by King Juan Carlos.
Over 300 pro-life organizations collaborated in the “International March for Life 2010,” which was held last Sunday in numerous cities across Spain.
The largest march took place in Madrid, where 600,000 people, including many families, dressed in red t-shirts and carried signs and banners. The protesters marched from Cibeles Plaza to the Gate of the Sun.
The event in Madrid concluded with the reading of a manifesto by journalist Sonsoles Calavera demanding the government revoke the new law on abortion—now the most liberal in all of Europe.
In other cities such as Burgos, 5,000 people took part in the march, while 7,000 took to the streets of Seville.
Hong Kong, China, Mar 10, 2010 (CNA) - About 3,000 catechumens will be received into the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Hong Kong. Two of their first Rites of Election were held this coming Sunday.
During his homily at one service in St. Francis Parish, Fides reports, Hong Kong Bishop John Tong spoke on the theme of living water, saying that constant prayer is the best way to receive the “living water” of Jesus.
He encouraged the catechumens to always reflect on the Word of God and to distance themselves from “all things that are incompatible with the faith.”
Only in this manner, he said, can Christians “get closer and closer to Christ and Our Heavenly Father, and bear witness to Jesus."
During the service the bishop handed over the Scriptures to the catechumens in order that the Word of God can become their life’s companion and keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts.
The next Rites of Election will be held March 14 in St. Andrew and St. Benedict Parishes, according to Fides. Two more services will be held March 21 in St. Andrew and Christ the King parishes.
Last year, over 2,700 catechumens took part in Lenten Rites of Election in the diocese.
According to the diocese’s web site, there were about 250,000 Catholics in Hong Kong in 2007. Hong Kong’s population numbers almost seven million people, according to the World Bank’s 2008 figures.
Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 10, 2010 (CNA) - An Indiana woman who inadvertently dialed a pro-life group instead of a Planned Parenthood clinic about her appointment for an abortion instead found the support she needed to decide to bring her child to term.
The story was recounted in a March 9 report from David Bereit, National Director of 40 Days for Life.
A young woman in Indianapolis, Indiana, named as “Erin,” had sent her children to school and childcare at a friend’s house when she noticed she was late for her abortion appointment at Planned Parenthood.
Though she thought she was calling Planned Parenthood to see if she could still have the abortion, she misdialed the number and instead called the cell phone of 40 Days for Life Indianapolis.
Joseph, the man who answered her call, tried to calm the woman. He took her name and number and said that a counselor would call her back.
The counselor, Elizabeth, called back and begged her not to hang up. She told Erin she had not reached Planned Parenthood and asked if she was a Christian.
When Erin said she was, Elizabeth told her God’s grace was at work in the “wrong number,” 40 Days for Life reports.
Erin explained that desperation had led her to the abortion center. She already had four children and their father was in jail. She had lost her job, her electricity was about to be shut off and she lacked rent money.
Elizabeth spread news about Erin’s situation to other pro-lifers. One volunteer offered to pay her electric bill, while ten others pooled their cash to pay her rent.
A local group is now working with Erin to help her find a job.
“She has a lot of potential,” Eileen said, “but needs support since her mother and sister are still encouraging her to abort the baby.”
Erin has reportedly reacted with “joy and disbelief” at the strangers’ help. She has called Planned Parenthood to cancel her appointment and to request a refund.
“God does work in mysterious ways. There are no coincidences … and in this case, no wrong numbers!” 40 Days for Life director David Bereit said in a statement.
The 40 Days for Life campaign is dedicated to prayerful pro-life witness and advocacy outside abortion clinics. Its website is http://www.40DaysForLife.com.
Vatican City, Mar 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father returned to St. Bonaventure for the subject of his catechesis at the General Audience on Wednesday morning. This saint, he said, not only kept the Franciscan order together with his theology that accepted "newness" into the Church but also teaches modern Christians how to be open to new charisms in the Church.
St. Bonaventure, from his place as general minister of the Franciscan Minors, refuted the idea present within the order in the 13th century that St. Francis had ushered in a “totally new phase in history.” Within this perspective promoted by so-called “spiritual” Franciscans, the Holy Spirit had come to replace Christ and the Church in a new and final age, Pope Benedict recalled.
Following of the ideas of Joachim of Fiore, these brothers believed that an “eternal Gospel” had replaced the New Testament and that history was divided into three phases, one for each person of the Trinity.
This new age was said to have been brought into being by St. Francis, who they believed had inaugurated a time when Church hierarchy was no longer necessary. The Holy Spirit, they thought, was at the base of a new age in which Christian brotherhood would bring peace and reconciliation.
But this perspective contained a “grave misunderstanding” which brought them to an erroneous vision of Christianity, the Pope said.
St. Bonaventure dealt with this question in his last work, "Hexaemeron," in which he explained that "God is one throughout history. ... History is one, even if it is a journey, a journey of progression” and that “Jesus is the last word of God." St. Bonaventure also taught that "there is no other Gospel, no other Church to be awaited. Thus the Order of St. Francis must also insert itself into this Church, into her faith and her hierarchical order.”
He also proposed that the Church always moves forward, is not immobile and experiences newness within it. In this statement, said the Pope, he adds to the theology of the Church Fathers in saying that in the Church there is room for newness, guaranteed through the uniqueness of Christ, and that "utopian spiritualism" cannot be constructed within it.
St. Bonaventure, said the Pope, "teaches us of the necessary discernment... of sober realism and of openness to new charisms given by Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to his Church."
The ideas of decline and "spiritualistic utopianism" continue to repeat themselves, Benedict XVI pointed out.
He explained, "We know how after the Second Vatican Council some were convinced that everything was new, that there was another Church, that the pre-conciliar Church was finished and that we would have another, completely other."
This, said the Holy Father was "an anarchic utopianism, and thanks to God the wise helmsmen of the boat of Peter - Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II - defended the newness of the Council on one hand and, at the same time, the uniqueness and the continuity of the Church," which, he said "is always the Church of sinners and always the place of grace."
In this sense, said the Holy Father, St. Bonaventure provided a clear line of government for the order in which, guided by healthy realism and spiritual courage, members had to bring themselves "as close as possible to the realization of the sermon on the mount, that for St. Francis was a rule."
Following his catechesis on the Franciscan saint, the Holy Father made an appeal for the victims of the earthquake in Turkey on March 8 and called for an end to violence and reconciliation in Nigeria.
Vatican City, Mar 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI remembered the victims of the recent sectarian violence in Nigeria during the General Audience at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Wednesday morning. The Holy Father defined the violence as “atrocious” and called for reconciliation in the country.
After expressing his prayer and appeal for aid for those affected by the earthquake in Turkey during the general audience, Pope Benedict sent his condolences “to the victims of the atrocious violence” in Nigeria which, he pointed out, “did not even spare defenseless children.”
The Holy Father stressed that “violence does not resolve conflicts, but only increases the tragic consequences.”
On Sunday morning, three villages of Christians of ethnic Berom origins were attacked by Muslim herdsmen in what the media termed “sectarian violence.” The attacks were said to be reprisals for the encounters that left hundreds of ethnic Fulani Muslims dead in January in nearby Jos.
According to Associated Press reports, the total number of deaths from the most recent attack was confirmed on Wednesday by a Nigerian police official at 109, revised from widespread initial reports of 500 deaths.
The Holy Father urged Nigerian leaders to take a role in guiding the people to peace, appealing “to everyone in the country that has civil or religious responsibilities to do everything they can for the safety and the peaceful coexistence of all the population.”
He concluding by expressing his “closeness to the Pastors and to the Nigerian faithful” and praying that “strong and firm in hope, they may be true witnesses of reconciliation.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Attorneys representing the alleged children of Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, have severed ties with them over their efforts to convince the religious congregation to fork over $26 million in exchange for their silence.
In a statement, attorney Jose Bonilla Sada said his firm would no longer represent the family in their lawsuit against the Legion founder. He explained that while he agrees the family deserves to receive legal compensation from the Legion, “We do not agree that the children have asked for money in exchange for their silence. That is unacceptable.”
A day after the accusations against the founder of the Legion were made public, the congregation released a letter written by Fr. Carlos Skertchly to one of the children, Jose Raul Gonzalez, on January 12. The letter revealed that Gonzalez was asking for $26 million in exchange for the family’s silence on the matter. Bonilla added, “It has been suggested that I was the one behind that money, which is false, and for this reason it is best to clear this up now and cut any ties with the aforementioned family.”
The lawyer then noted that recent public statements by both Blanca Estela Lara Gutierrez, with whom Fr. Maciel reportedly carried on an affair for three decades, and by her children Omar, Jose Raul and Christian Gonzalez Lara, differed "in some substantial points from what we had originally been told.”
Vatican City, Mar 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Beginning Thursday a two-day international theological convention will take place at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. Focusing on the "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of the Priest," the convention aims to shed light on priestly identity, the liturgy and celibacy.
According to a press release distributed for the occasion, 50 bishops and 500 priests are expected for the convention this week which takes place under the auspices of the Congregation for the Clergy. Addresses will be given between the two days of the meeting by some very well known leaders of the Church.
From March 11-12, seven cardinals and eight bishops and archbishops will give addresses. Talks to be delivered include: "The Priesthood and the Hermeneutic of Continuity" by Cardinal Archbishop of Bologna Carlo Caffarra, and "Priesthood and Liturgy: Education for the Celebration" by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Sessions will be presided over by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Cardinal William J. Levada and Cardinal Franc Rode.
A noon audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the Apostolic Palace is planned for Friday.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 10, 2010 (CNA) - A federal judge in Buenos Aires has nullified the “marriage” of two gay men that took place last week in the Argentinian capital, saying “no elements existed” for the union to constitute a marriage.
On Monday, Judge Felix Gustavo de Igarzabal of Buenos Aires reversed a decision which allowed two gay men to marry at the city's civil registry office on March 3. In his ruling the judge said no marriage took place “because of the absence of the institution’s structural elements,” in this case a man and a woman, and thus declared the act to be invalid.
He also said any “legal effects derived from the act shall be suspended.”
The judge ordered the two men to turn in any marriage licenses or documentation received from the civil registry office within 72 hours or face monetary penalties.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 10, 2010 (CNA) - An NGO in Argentina has issued a statement urging one of the country's governors to oppose the demands of the association, “September 20,” which is calling for the removal of crucifixes and other religious symbols from all public places.
This initiative, the directors of the NGO, "Para Hacerse Oir-Hablemos Claro" (To Be Heard, Speak Clearly) explained, comes in response to a campaign taking place in many parts of Argentina, “which if successful, would rob our society of its religious values, its culture and its traditions. All of which make up our national identity.”
Martin J. Viano and Araceli Alvarez Viano Ramilo, directors of the NGO, said that the “September 20” organization has requested that authorities in the city of Mendoza remove all crucifixes and religious symbols from public spaces, calling them an "invasion" upon modern society. Their organization argued that these “objects” contradict the principle of the "neutrality" of the state and hamper efforts that encourage democracy, pluralism and mutual respect.
Members of Hacerse Oir stressed the importance of understanding that in the Argentinean legal system, under Article 31 of the Argentinean Constitution, the display of religious symbols in public buildings is accepted. The constitution is also the supreme law in Mendoza, they noted adding that the same constitution gives continuity and permanence to both pre-existing and current social structures.
In addition, Article 2 of the constitution explains that the government supports the Roman Catholic religion. In this context, "support” means: “the unification of the morals of the state with the morals of the Church” as well as “the recognition of the Church as a public entity,” Hacerse Oir said.
Due to the purpose of the constitutional declaration regarding the Catholic faith, “the existence of crucifixes in public offices is a clear example of the juridical status enjoyed by the Church,” they stressed.
Vatican City, Mar 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - At today’s General Audience, the Holy Father remembered those affected by the earthquake in Turkey on Monday. He said he was “profoundly close” to those affected and urged worldwide support for them.
The Pope addressed the victims and their families, saying, “to every person I assure my prayer.” There were 57 confirmed victims and over sixty wounded on Monday when the earthquake near the city of Elazig in middle-eastern Turkey, an area of ancient Christian presence now populated by ethnic Kurds.
Benedict XVI also made an appeal to those providing assistance, expressing his wish for the international community to contribute “with promptness and generosity” to aid efforts.
Vatican Radio was in contact by telephone with Dr. Rinaldo Marmara of Caritas Turkey on Monday who told them that rescue squads were already on the ground there. Caritas, he said, was organizing first response assistance for the population, in particular tents, blankets and food items.
Vatican City, Mar 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishops representing the nine dioceses of Africa's largest country are at the Vatican this week for their "ad Limina visit." Among the contemporary issues the bishops will discuss with Pope Benedict are the upcoming elections, keeping peace and addressing poverty.
Speaking with Vatican Radio, Bishop Cesare Mazzolari of Rumbek in southern Sudan described some of the issues facing the Catholic Church and the people in the nation.
The meetings in the Vatican, he said, have an "immense value" in the days leading up to presidential and parliamentary elections that are set to take place on April 11. He expressed his hope that through a Vatican appeal this week the country can ensure a "serene road" to the elections and see a "true consolidation of peace."
A peace accord was signed in 2005 in Sudan that separated the parliament and the military, Bishop Mazzolari explained. This process is moving forward "very slowly," he said, and peace is fragile.
As for the Christian-majority regions in the south of the country, Bishop Mazzolari said that "the greatest poverty" of the people there is the lack of identity. With an identity, which has historically been denied them under the Islamic government, the people would be able to take responsibility for their destiny, he said.
After discovering their identity and capacity, they will better be able to make use of resources in the country and develop.
"In the meantime, however, we live in the poverty of insecurity and also the Church is poor and walks with the poor."
Bishop Mazzolari also said that the Church is working to help those in Darfur. There, he added, "we continue to exercise a constructive influence but with great difficulty."
The Sudanese bishops will be in the Vatican until March 13, reporting about the Church in Sudan and completing a pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Vatican City, Mar 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following a press conference on Monday to present a new book, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic announced that Pope Benedict XVI will soon release an apostolic exhortation on the Bible. The exhortation will address themes presented at the most recent general assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
In October of 2008, the Synod of Bishops met in the Vatican to discuss the relationship of the Word of God and the Church.
According to the secretary general of the Synod, Archbishop Eterovic, Catholis can expect the document from the Holy Father after Easter, according to Rome Reports.
Of the post-synodal exhortation, he said, "It is addressed to the whole Church and all people of good will. The pope will invite all to read the Word of God to find Jesus Christ, The Path, Truth and Life for everyone."
The archbishop was presenting the book "The Word of God. Reflections on the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops" in which he documents the discussions of the assembly of 2008 pertaining to the meaning of the Bible today and ways to better understand Sacred Scripture, in addition to teachings from Pope Benedict XVI.
Washington D.C., Mar 10, 2010 (CNA) - The head of Catholics United, a group advocating the passage of the Senate health care bill, says that the abortion funding rules in the Senate and House bills are too restrictive. He also criticized the U.S. bishops for being more interested in persuasion than in compromise but admitted that the Stupak Amendment “might be the only acceptable solution” from a Catholic moral standpoint.
Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, told ReligionDispatches.org that pro-life opposition to language approved by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) “suggests that they’re not really serious about finding a workable solution.”
Discussing the manager’s amendment added by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to the Senate bill, he said its “Nelson language” goes too far in Catholics United’s opinion. He reported that a survey of Catholics United members showed 48 percent believed the Nelson language is too restrictive regarding abortion.
CNA sought clarification from Korzen in a Tuesday phone interview.
He confirmed that his comments about “Nelson language” referred to the final Senate bill and not the Nelson-Hatch Amendment, which was defeated by a by a 54-45 vote on Dec. 9.
While many pro-life activists have criticized the Senate bill for not restricting abortion funding and subsidies enough, Korzen repeated that his group believes the language goes too far.
“The agreement was that we weren’t supposed to change existing federal policies in healthcare legislation. Both the Stupak and the Nelson language do.”
“I’m not commenting in any way on the moral considerations,” he qualified.
Defenders of the Stupak Amendment language, approved in the U.S. House by a vote of 240-194, are wrong to argue that their amendment simply preserves existing law, Korzen claimed.
According to Korzen, an existing health coverage tax credit allows someone to receive a federal subsidy to buy any insurance plan they want. COBRA operates similarly.
If someone is self-employed, he or she can deduct from taxes the purchase of any desired insurance. If one’s taxes are itemized, he told CNA, “you can write off an abortion.”
“I don’t see any case of a public tax subsidy under our current law where there are restrictions placed on what kind of plan you can purchase,” he added, charging that the Stupak language creates such restrictions under the new health care options. Under its rules, someone who receives a subsidy “cannot buy a plan that includes abortion coverage.”
“I understand from a Catholic moral perspective how that might be the only acceptable solution. But we’re not structuring health care reform from a Catholic moral perspective. The agreement is supposed to be in a way that upholds existing precedent.”
He claimed support from Cardinal Justin Rigali’s past letters against direct funding for abortion.
Under federal policies that exist right now, Korzen told CNA, no federal funds are ever allowed to be used to pay for an abortion.
However, he did not consider federally subsidized insurance plans that cover abortion to be “direct funding,” explaining that differing interpretations of federal funding were a “sticking point.”
“If direct funding of abortion means you can take a subsidy and buy an insurance plan that covers whatever services you want, then we have direct funding of abortion under current law. But I don’t think we do.”
CNA asked Korzen about his charge that that some pro-life advocates aren’t serious about finding a “workable solution” to the abortion controversy in the health care bill.
He said that in general, it appears to him that the pro-life side, including the Catholic bishops, is emphasizing “Stupak or nothing.”
He reported attending a meeting several months prior with a “high-level official with the USCCB.”
“This person said ‘We’re in persuasion mode, we’re not in compromise mode.’
“That tells the story right there,” Korzen commented to CNA.
He characterized “the pro-choice community” as generally engaging in “a good faith effort to find a middle ground,” citing some of its allies’ support for the Nelson language he believes goes beyond existing policy.
“So I see one side of this debate really coming to the table and trying to work ways that we can move forward. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen that from many voices in the pro-life community, including the USCCB.”
The U.S. bishops have been active in working for abortion funding and abortion subsidy restrictions in proposed health care legislation. Richard Doerflinger, the associate director of the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, recently said that the USCCB would strongly urge Democrats and Republicans to vote to waive a point of order blocking a Senate vote if an acceptable agreement on abortion funding restrictions is reached with leaders in Congress.