Lourdes, France, Aug 16, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate the Marian Sanctuary in Lourdes on Sunday because of a bomb threat. Allowed to return later in the day, the faithful resumed with the programmed schedule of worship and took part in the traditional afternoon procession.
The estimated number of pilgrims in Lourdes on Sunday was put at about 30,000 by local media, with large delegations coming particularly from France and Italy.
According to Agence France Presse (AFP), at around noon an anonymous call was made to the local police station warning that four bombs would explode at 3 p.m., the time that Mass was scheduled to start.
Having evacuated the sanctuary, police and bomb-sniffing dogs conducted a search of the site. It was reopened to the masses at around 4 p.m. when no explosives were found.
The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is traditionally one of the busiest days of the year at the sanctuary, for its importance as a Marian celebration and also for the practical reason that it takes place during the summer holidays of August. Many French Catholics take part in the National Pilgrimage organized every year to coincide with the solemnity.
Speaking about the bomb scare, a local police spokesman called it a "cruel hoax," saying that the caller did nothing more than cause additional problems for those already suffering from illnesses and handicaps.
While a prayer for France and the world and a chaplet originally scheduled to be said at the grotto had to be observed from outside the gates of the sanctuary, the evacuation did not keep people from taking part in the National Pilgrimage-organized Eucharistic procession at 5 p.m.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 16, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - The Archdiocese of Havana recently announced that the Cuban government will soon release six more political prisoners, adding to the list dissidents who have already been released following unprecedented talks between the Catholic Church and political authorities.
The six will follow in the footsteps of the 20 political prisoners released earlier this summer and will be sent immediately to Spain. The government announced last June its intention to release the 52 dissidents arrested during the Black Spring of 2003.
The spokesman of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez, confirmed that the six will be released and said it could take place this week.
However, Sanchez told Europa Press that there are “between eight and ten” prisoners who do not want to be “exiled” to Spain and that the Cuban government is deliberately delaying their release.
“Each day in prison counts,” he said, adding that Havana’s intention is to send the maximum number of prisoners possible to Spain. Those who refuse will be kept in prison “until the last minute,” Sanchez said.
Berta Soler, a spokeswoman for the Women in White—the spouses of the political prisoners—noted that until government officials allow them to stay in Cuba, “we cannot say that they are truly free.”
“This is undoubtedly a step forward, but until they are in a (Cuba) that is free we cannot say that they have been released,” she told Europa Press.
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 16, 2010 (CNA) - While in Mexico attending an event organized by the Latin American Bishops’ Conference, Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Chomali of Santiago in Chile, who is an expert in bioethics, stressed the urgent need to defend life, marriage and the family, both in pastoral work and in the political world.
Bishop Chomali said that in science and medicine, “the centrality of the human person, and not economic, political or social interests, must be prioritized. Also important is the unrestricted defense of human life, which involves the prohibition of any attack against life, health care and access to it for all human beings according to their needs.”
The right to health care must include access to basic care and must not be understood as permitting euthanasia or abortion, according to the logic that the “quality of life should prevail over the sacredness of life,” the bishop said.
After referring to the need to promote a more humane culture, Bishop Chomali said the proclamation of the Gospel of Life is needed at the pastoral level. “This requires that we recognize each attack on life as a sin against God. This implies bringing all men to recognize God as the only owner of life and death and that men merely exercise … a service towards it.”
Regarding action in the political sphere, Bishop Chomali underscored the urgency of “inviting Catholic politicians to obey God first before men” and demanding that the State not impose a particular ethical or anthropological understanding on the country. Politicians must promote a policy that assures the common good through the recognition and defense of the fundamental rights of the person, “beginning with the right to life,” he said.
Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2010 (CNA) - After the Federal Drug Administration recently approved the new drug ella, which is being marketed as emergency contraception, numerous pro-life groups reacted strongly to the move, claiming that the pill acts as an abortifacient.
On Aug. 13, the FDA released a statement announcing the approval of ella for distribution in the United States, explaining that in June, an advisory committee “unanimously voted that the application for ella provided compelling data on efficacy and sufficient information on safety for the proposed indication of emergency contraception.” Ella has been approved for distribution in Europe since May of this year.
Although the drug is being marketed internationally as a morning after pill, the FDA statement also noted that “women with known or suspected pregnancy and women who are breastfeeding should not use ella.”
Numerous pro-life critics denounced the FDA's approval of the pill, with many arguing that the drug is mislabeled and misleading because it acts as an abortifacient.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) wrote on Friday that rather “than doing its due diligence on the impact this harmful drug will have on women and developing unborn children, the FDA has turned a blind eye to the serious dangers posed by ella.”
“By misclassifying ella as emergency contraception, this administration has paved the way to covertly allow federal funding for abortion through Medicaid, Title X, and international family planning programs,” he noted.
Explaining how the drug works, the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) said that ella “is the first selective progesterone receptor modulator (SPRM) available in the United States for the indication of 'emergency contraception (EC).'”
“This class of drug (SPRM) blocks progesterone which is necessary to maintain a pregnancy. It disables the uterine lining, compromising it's (sic) ability to form 'secretory' endometrium – the lining which nourishes the fertilized, implanting new human baby.”
“This effectively deprives the brand new human child of oxygen and nutrients, and the child dies,” AAPLOG underscored. “This is abortifacient action.”
Dr. Charmain Yoest of Americans United for Life cited concerns on the potentially harmful effects that the drug will have on women.
“The chemical make-up and mechanism of action of ella are very similar to RU-486, which is known to cause serious adverse health risks such as severe bleeding, ruptured tubal pregnancies, serious infections, and even death,” Yoest wrote on Aug. 13.
The Americans United for Life leader also said that several members on the FDA advisory panel in June raised concerns about the effect that the drug would have on pregnancy, noting that there was “insufficient data.”
“However, at the end of the meeting,” Yoest said, “the panel inexplicably voted unanimously in favor of approving the drug as a contraceptive, and specifically recommended that the FDA not require a pregnancy test before dispensing ella.”
Family Research Council Jeanne Monahan, director of the organization's Center for Human Dignity, echoed Yoest's criticisms, saying that the “FDA advisory panel largely ignored important questions, including impacts on women's health and the abortifacient capacity of Ella.”
“By approving this drug quietly on a Friday afternoon when most of Washington was on vacation,” Monahan added, “the Obama Administration and the FDA once again placed politics above science, women's health and informed consent.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 16, 2010 (CNA) - Dean of the medical school at the University of Buenos Aires, Alfredo Buzzi, spoke out last week explaining that he cannot support the legalization of abortion because “life must be respected from the moment of conception.” His comments came in response to a resolution by the university’s board to support the legalization of abortion.
The board voted 23-1 with 1 abstention to support legalized abortion in the country.
“It is well known that from the time of antiquity, abortions have been practiced by illicit means,” Buzzi said. He added that the “the solution is not to legalize it,” but rather to have “clinics available where interventions can take place … and the baby can be given to parents who wish to adopt her.”
The only vote against was by Dr. Rodolfo Rothlin, who said his opposition was based on his biological beliefs about the moment in which life begins.
“I don’t feel bad for being the only one to vote against it because I’m not interested in convincing anyone,” he said. “As doctors, we defend life. I only ask that since it is a doctor who performs an abortion, that he be allowed to opt out if he believes it is an attack on life,” Rothlin stated.
Buzzi, who abstained from the vote, said, “While doctors see life as sacred, like the human body, there are some specific exceptions (for carrying out abortions), such as the life of the mother or because the fetus has anacepahly and lacks a central nervous system. Under these two conditions, the doctor is authorized to proceed legally to terminate the pregnancy.”
“Doctors take an oath to respect life from the moment of conception, and for this reason I abstained,” Buzzi said.
Vatican City, Aug 16, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pontifical Council for Social Communications (PCCS) has organized a conference to examine the role of the Catholic press in today's world. Among the themes to be addressed is the Catholic media response to controversy within the Church.
Over the weekend, the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) newspaper announced the Oct. 4-7 conference, which will focus on the comparison between traditional and new Catholic media.
According to the article and a program available on the PCCS website, each of the first three days of the conference will address a different aspect of the Catholic media presence around the globe.
The first day's panel and separate group discussions will focus on the challenges and opportunities offered to Catholic press in today's world. Then on Oct. 5, after a morning of looking at how Catholic media contribute to the public forum, culture and the life of the Church, conference participants will examine how to cover controversy in the Church.
A panel composed of a blogger, a Church spokesperson, a theologian, a sociologist and a secular journalist will take a look at the theme "Ecclesial Communion and Controversies. Freedom of Expression and the Truth of the Church." The names of the panel contributors have not yet been announced.
After the panel weighs in, press participants will divide into groups by languages to examine the central questions of whether or not Catholic press should avoid certain topics, how it should "speak of controversial issues and discuss the idea of giving "a voice to dissent."
A morning panel on the third day will look at economics, journalistic challenges, interactivity, language and the "digital divide," and seeking to be "effectively present" in the digital world. Later in the day, participants will examine successful Catholic media ventures and look at how they can collaborate and seek support.
The final day, Oct. 7, will be devoted to examining the results of groups discussions from the first three days.
Piura, Peru, Aug 16, 2010 (CNA) - During the second day of the Eucharistic and Marian Congress being held in Piura, Peru, Bishop Kay Schmalhausen of Ayaviri told the assembled youth, “Jesus knows you and always accompanies you,” because the love of Christ is always personal and he never abandons anyone.
Speaking to 24,000 people gathered at the Miguel Grau stadium, Bishop Schmalhausen gave a talk titled, “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.” In the presence of the well-known pilgrim statue of the Captive Lord from Ayabaca, the bishop declared, “even in the bitterest hours of loneliness or anguish, including when our friends have left us, Jesus is always with us. Standing at your side, he says ‘Do not be afraid, you are not alone. I, who have loved you from the beginning, am with you until the end’.”
“This certainty,” he continued, “is recorded in the venerated image of the Captive Lord of Ayabaca. Jesus has made himself our captive. He binds himself to man in his love. His faithful love is a tender love, a compassionate love, of pardon, and of piety. As our captive, he accompanies and sustains us always. When everyone has abandoned us, he stays by our side. It is important that we remember that love time and time again.”
During the catechesis, the bishop also exhorted the young people to be witnesses to pure and chaste love. “A love that knows how to respect the other, that recognizes just limits, an unselfish love that doesn't seek to use and manipulate the other, a love between lovers that knows how to say, ‘Yes, I love you’, but that is also capable of guarding the chasteness of heart and body –sanctuary of the Holy Spirit- for marriage. I know it is a demanding task. But if you give yourselves to prayer, the sacraments and a generous Christian life, none of that will be impossible.”
Bishop Schmalhausen also encouraged his listeners to respond to the call of the Lord with courage and generosity in their vocations. “If there are among you, young people, those who feel called to a testimony of radical commitment to the Lord, do not be afraid of responding. The Lord continues to call many young people to consecrate themselves to him with their whole lives for their whole lives,” he explained.
During his talk, the prelate recommended the practice of constant prayer, especially that of Eucharistic adoration, participating in Sunday Mass and going to confession frequently. He also recommended three simple practices for a full Christian life: to live the encounter with the Lord Jesus, to be true disciples of Jesus, and to be apostles and missionaries to the world.
Boston, Mass., Aug 16, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston declared Monday that the prayers of its faithful were answered after a relic of the True Cross that was stolen from the Cathedral of Holy Cross earlier this month was found in rural Vermont.
“Our prayers have been answered as the Relic of the True Cross has been recovered,” the Archdiocese of Boston said in its statement. “God has blessed us with His love and capacity to forgive. We prayerfully carry on His call for forgiveness for those responsible.”
The splinter of wood from the cross, encapsulated in a brass and glass reliquary, was discovered missing on July 1.
The archdiocese also expressed gratitude for the diligent work of the Boston Police Department as well as the Vermont State Police, who were instrumental in the recovery of the relic.
According to the Pilot, the newspaper for Boston's archdiocese, the Vermont State Police were called about a domestic dispute on August 9. When they arrived on the scene, Earl Frost, a 34-year-old Vermont resident told the police he had a relic stolen from a church in Boston and wanted to return it to a church. Frost added that he received the relic from an unidentified man in Rhode Island.
He surrendered the relic at the Royalton Barracks of the Vermont State Police, but was not arrested due to a lack of evidence. The relic was identified by an official from the Archdiocese of Boston a week later.
When the police went back to look for Frost, he had disappeared.
The relic is still in the possession of the Vermont police, who are seeking a warrant for Frost’s arrest on the grounds of possession of stolen property.
The Archdiocese of Boston will hold a prayer service on Wednesday, August 18 at 7:30 p.m. to welcome the return of the relic of the True Cross to the cathedral.