Detroit, Mich., Oct 6, 2010 (CNA) - Following the University of Michigan's announcement of a new embryonic stem cell line, Archbishop Allen Vigneron spoke out against the dangers of putting “human hands on the switch of life and death,” arguing that the protection of life “must extend to the laboratory.”
In an Oct. 3 editorial for the Detroit Free Press, Archbishop Vigneron began by stating that he “started out as an embryo.”
“So did you and everyone else who shares this planet with us,” he noted. “And there is great significance to this irrefutable fact beyond the shared experience.”
“Each human embryo is unique – it does not have the same DNA of the mother or father. That cell not only becomes us, it is us.”
The prelate continued by saying that this “reality is critical context as the World Stem Cell Summit meets in Detroit,” adding that progress “in research on umbilical cord blood cells and adult stem cells is to be saluted and supported.”
“Patients and advocates alike can look to the growing number of cures and treatments discovered through research that does not destroy the living human embryo,” he underscored. “Conversely, experiments on human embryonic stem cells deserve our scrutiny and scorn. If not us, who will speak for our fellow citizens-to-be?”
“We are blessed to live in a country with some of the most extraordinary founding documents in history,” the archbishop added. “If, indeed, we believe we were 'created equal,' doesn't that belief extend to the indefensible living embryo in a petri dish?”
“'Unalienable rights' means they can't be taken away by the state.”
“Embryonic stem cell researchers will attest that it is imperative to preserve an embryo because it is a living cell,” he wrote. “It is after the living embryo is preserved with its human DNA signature that it is dissected, cloned, destroyed or discarded. True democracy is built on life, not death.”
Archbishop Vigneron then warned that ours “is not the first country or culture to selectively pursue a moral calculus that justifies taking a life to enable scientific experiments. We know from sad experience that dangers follow when we put human hands on the switch of life and death.”
“Embryos are the genesis of human life, and it is morally unacceptable to intentionally destroy them, even if the scientist is trying to cure a debilitating disease or parents are responding to a difficult challenge in their family life,” he stated in his concluding remarks. “The country we live in defends human rights at home and abroad. That defense must extend to the laboratory.”
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 6, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento will host family scholar Jennifer Roback Morse to discuss how to defend Catholic teaching on marriage, especially as it relates to the debate over same-sex “marriage.”
Morse's presentation—titled “Same Sex Marriage: Why Not?”--will focus on why the Church teaches that marriage can only take place between one man and one woman. She will also discuss the serious consequences of changing the legal definition of marriage and offer practical tools to present the Church's teaching with “clarity, sensitivity and compassion.”
Morse founded the Ruth Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to education and encouraging lifelong married love. She is the author of several books, including “Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World” and “Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village.”
The diocese has encouraged teachers, administrators, clergy, catechists, directors of religious education, youth ministers and parents to attend.
Morse's talk will take place Oct. 21 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Good Shepherd Church in Elk Grove. The event is sponsored by the Diocese of Sacramento's Department of Evangelization and Catechesis and the Catholic Schools Department.
For more information, visit the Diocese of Sacramento's website at: http://www.diocese-sacramento.org/
Bethlehem, West Bank, Oct 6, 2010 (CNA) - The Knights of Malta-operated Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem is expecting the imminent delivery its 50,000th baby after 20 years of operation. Its backers have created a website “birth clock” to track the approach of the landmark.
As of Oct. 5, 49,824 babies had been delivered. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta reopened Holy Family Hospital in 1990 as a maternity hospital which refuses no one on the basis of race, religion or ability to pay.
A girl named Dina Atik was the first baby delivered on Feb. 26, 1990. Her parents Marlen and Edward had married a year earlier at the Church of the Nativity.
While the hospital has since become the premier institution of the district, the first-time mother Marlen was afraid because the medical center had just opened. “The staff was very nice and everybody was calming me down,” she said. “When Dina was born, everybody was so happy.”
The hospital's first baby was later baptized in the hospital garden, and the French consul was named her godfather.
Since her birth, Dina has survived the second intifada, become a basketball player, and joined her Catholic school's scout troop. She is now engaged to be married and is a second-year student in business administration at Bethlehem University, though her travel is limited by the restrictions placed upon Bethlehem residents.
In addition to delivering babies, Holy Family Hospital also provides outreach through a mobile van. Hospital staff visit three locations in the Judean desert every week. Scores of women and children from remote hillside communities visit the vans for medial services.
The medical outreach teams provide prenatal exams, lab tests, pediatric exams and gynecological exams. They also teach mothers about hygiene and childcare while observing living conditions. In an average stop, the team examines 30 expectant mothers who are in desperate need of prenatal care.
Colleen Marotta, executive director of the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation, said that the families live in “dreadful poverty and isolation.”
“They live in canvas tents or metal shacks with no running water, no electricity and no sanitation. They live in extended family groups of 20-40 … outcasts of a cast-out population.”
Marotta explained that the hospital foundation's website has a special resources section with stories about mothers and babies whose lives have been saved by the hospital. Website visitors will find features about the mobile outreach clinics and staff members. “And they’ll learn more about the various ways they can assist the hospital in its ongoing mission to provide a safe haven and the highest quality health care for mothers and newborns in the West Bank,” she commented.
The Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation's website and the “birth clock” are at www.BirthplaceofHope.org.
Rome, Italy, Oct 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Wednesday morning Pope Benedict focused his weekly address on the extraordinary life of a 13th-century German woman and saint, St. Gertrude the Great. From her life, the Holy Father said that modern Christians can see that true happiness still springs from a friendship with Christ.
More than 15,000 faithful and pilgrims joined Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square for Wednesday's general audience. Among the crowd were candidates for the diaconate from the Pontifical North American College, accompanied by hundreds of family members and friends.
Continuing his series of catecheses on 13th-century monastic saints, the Holy Father chose to recount the life of St. Gertrude the Great, the only German woman honored with the title of "'Great,' for her cultural and evangelical stature." He observed that it was "with her life and her thought that she left her mark in a singular way on Christian spirituality."
He called her "an exceptional woman, endowed with particular natural talents and extraordinary gifts of grace, of very profound humility, ardent zeal for the salvation of neighbor, of intimate communion with God in contemplation and readiness to aid the needy."
St. Gertrude entered the convent at Helfta at five years old, where she was taught by St. Matilda of Hackeborn, whom the Pope remembered for her intense spirituality in his catechesis last Wednesday. Gertrude was intelligent and studious, but also impulsive and described by herself as "negligent."
At 25 years old, however, she underwent a profound conversion when saw Christ in a vision and recognized the salvation he earned for the world with his blood.
The Pope remembered that her conversion led her to concentrate on theological studies and to leave concern of "external things" behind to dedicate herself to "intense, mystical prayer, with an exceptional missionary ardor." And, "in her religious practice, she pursued prayer with devotion and faithful abandonment to God," the Holy Father recalled.
"Gertrude transformed all of this into an apostolate: she dedicated herself to writing and divulging the truth of faith with clarity and simplicity, grace and persuasion, serving the Church with love and fidelity, so much so as to be useful and appreciated to theologians and pious persons."
She died at the convent when she was in her mid-forties, as the 14th century began.
Concluding his catechesis by making some unprepared remarks, Pope Benedict said that it is "obvious" that the characteristics of her life "are not things of the past," rather they tell us that "the center of a happy life, a true life, is friendship with Jesus."
"This friendship," he taught, "is learned in love for the Sacred Scriptures, in love for the liturgy, in profound faith, in love for Mary - to know ever more truly God himself and, in such a way, true happiness, the goal of our lives."
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 6, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina criticized a proposal by the country’s Chief Justice Carmen Argibay to remove crucifixes from the courtroom, saying such a move would leave the country empty of transcendent values and at the mercy of agnosticism and relativism.
During his program, “Keys to a Better World,” the archbishop explained that the proposal is in reality a call to relegate religious expression to the private sphere, especially since it was made by a person “who has publicly expressed her atheism.”
Beyond its meaning for Christians, he said, the crucifix is “a universal sign that lifts up love among mankind and the triumph of good over evil.” For this reason, “It is unthinkable that in Argentina, where freedom of worship peacefully holds sway, someone could be traumatized because crucifixes are hung in the halls of justice.”
“This goes for those on trial, whether innocent or guilty, as well as the judges themselves,” the archbishop continued. “Each of them can recognize in the sign of the cross the mystery of a superior justice; better yet, the mystery of a mercy that is bigger than the judgment of man.
“If those who administer justice were to assiduously contemplate that sacrifice, there would be fewer complaints against them,” the archbishop said.
Regarding the secularism of the state invoked by Argibay, Archbishop Aguer explained that “the religious neutrality of the state cannot be absolute because absolutizing that neutrality inevitably will lead to the atheism of the state. And thus there would be no neutrality.”
The archbishop then pointed to the example of the Soviet Union, “which always maintained in its written Constitution the affirmation of freedom of religion,” however there was still a “monstrous persecution of the Church and of all religion for 70 years.”
Archbishop Aguer warned that Argibay’s proposal to remove the crucifixes is reflective of the “progressive minorities” that ignore or have disdain for the sentiments of the majority. “Religious expression is a sign of authentic humanism for our people,” the archbishop said.
Rome, Italy, Oct 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In being truthful, transparent and loyal, the Church will be able to renew and purify itself from moral problems, Fr. Federico Lombardi said as he listed the Church's priorities for responding to controversy at a conference on Tuesday.
The Vatican's spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, addressed the Pontifical Council for Social Communication's Catholic Press Congress on Tuesday afternoon. His address was delivered as part of a series of presentations made by panel members who examined the topic "Ecclesial Communion and Controversies. Freedom of Expression and the Truth of the Church."
After describing some of the ways the Holy See's communications operations have adapted to a faster, more diverse and highly globalized news environment, he asserted that a strong grasp of the "correct 'hierarchy' of themes" is necessary for understanding the place of the different debates within the Church.
Topping the list of "essential priorities" for the Church, he explained, are matters relating to "God and the religious dimension of man (faith as a friend of reason), Jesus Christ who reveals to us the true face of God (God is love), and ecumenism as loyalty to the command of Christ."
The final two priorities of Church communication, Fr. Lombardi said, are "the dialogue between religions to feed the transcendent dimension of life (and) the commitment to translating the faith into works of charity and solidarity for the construction of an integral development."
This sequence of themes offers a "positive, substantial and rich message" in today's context, which is marked by the loss of "essential points of reference" in society. These priorities also serve as a "counter-current in the secularized world," observed Fr. Lombardi.
In this context where the Church is often "unarmed," he underscored the importance of focusing on these central themes, "on which converge the serious attentions of the Catholic press and of secular communications concerned for the destiny of the person and of humanity."
Fr. Lombardi said that beyond this "central content," the "credibility of the messenger," whether a person or an institution, is also "essential."
Posing the two most recent Popes as examples of this credibility, he noted that institutionally, as a result of cases of sexual abuse, there has been "a great loss of faith in the Church - in part justified, in part caused by the negative and partial presentation of the problems."
These damages, he added in reference to Benedict XVI's words, can be "compensated by a 'good' if the direction of profound purification and renewal is continued so that this wound is overcome in a stable way.
“One of the dimensions of 'overcoming'," he explained, "is the veracity, the transparency, the loyalty to see and confront the moral problems of the institution."
Noting the heightened public sensitivity to issues of "sex and money," he said that "a credible Church in the face of the world is a poor and honest Church in the use of assets, capable of accounting for such use, integrated loyally and legally in the network of economic and financial relationships, without anything to hide."
The Vatican's "bank," the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), has been under investigation by Italian authorities since last month after it was seen that several transactions between IOR accounts at different international banks did not follow standard European procedures.
Fr. Lombardi assured everyone that he is certain of the "upright intentions" of those in charge of the Vatican's economic institutions, but ceded that there is still some work to be done to show the public the "correctness" of these operations.
Vatican City, Oct 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Anticipating Thursday's celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Holy Father called on the faithful to make an effort to rediscover the prayer. He urged Christians to seek intercession, protection and personal encounter with Christ through the "simple but efficient prayer," especially during the Marian month of October.
Greeting the faithful in 10 different languages during Wednesday's general audience, the Holy Father spoke of the Rosary as "a particular prayer of the Church and a spiritual weapon for each of us."
He prayed that the meditation of Jesus and Mary's life through the Rosary might be, "for all of us, light on the evangelical path of spiritual renewal and conversion of heart."
Speaking in Portuguese, but referring to all people, he invited families to join together with the Virgin Mary so as to cooperate fully with the salvific designs of God. In Croatian, he said to ask for her intercession and protection for each person and family, exhorting prayers also for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
In still other languages, he asked that the faithful "rediscover the value" of the "simple but efficient prayer" of the Rosary "as a way for a personal encounter with Christ."
"October," he said in the Italian greeting that concluded his public words on Wednesday, "is the month of the Holy Rosary, which invites us to value this prayer so dear to the tradition of the Christian people."
Addressing some of the special guests at the audience, he said, "I invite you, dear young people, to make of the Rosary your daily prayer. I encourage you, dear sick, to grow, thanks to the recitation of the Rosary, in the trusting abandonment to the hands of God. I exhort you, dear newlyweds, to make of the Rosary a constant contemplation of the mysteries of Christ."
San José, Costa Rica, Oct 6, 2010 (CNA) - Two Costa Rican bishops will defend the institution of the family during a meeting with the country’s lawmakers on October 13.
According to Fides news agency, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica, Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Urena, and the president of the National Committee on Family Ministry, Bishop Jose Francisco Ulloa will attend a forum on human rights and the family that will take place at the Costa Rican capitol building.
The meeting is being organized by Representatives Rita Chaves Casanova and Oscar Alfaro Zamora, both members of the congressional committee on Human Rights. Bioethics expert Juan Manuel Burgos and representatives of the Evangelical Alliance and the Center for the Study of the Latin American Family will also be present.
Efforts are currently underway in Costa Rica to change the country’s laws defining the family.
During their last meeting, the Costa Rican bishops reaffirmed the traditional family and its “fundamental role in the formation of society.” They also emphasized that the home is primarily where the education and development of the human person takes place.
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 6, 2010 (CNA) - Various pro-life organizations spoke out Tuesday, promising to find ways to combat Mexico’s maternal death rate.
In a Tuesday statement, the groups recalled the World Health Organization’s statistics which state that only 13 percent of maternal deaths are due to “unsafe” abortions. They noted that combating the remaining 87 percent of the deaths – due to factors such hemorrhaging, infections, preeclampsia and labor complications - must be a top priority.
Clara Perez of Code Women in Morelos, Mexico explained that many women in poor areas of the country are without access to antibiotics for treating bleeding and infections. She said that society must address this problem by supporting women who have chosen life through health care.
Patricia Lopez Mancera of the Center for the Study and Comprehensive Formation of Women in Cancun said it is cheaper for some groups, politicians and leaders for women to “kill their child before birth or even upon birth” than to provide for their needs before, during and after pregnancy. She charged that if there was real interest in Mexican society to save the lives of these women, there would be a greater effort to provide basic medical care, as well as emergency obstetricians, competent medical personnel, maternity clinics, antibiotics and clean water.
Zita Herrador of the organization Be a Woman, added, “We need to work on public policies that support pregnant women, both teens and adults. Teens need to be given a home if they have been run out of their own, the means to complete their schooling and to obtain a job where all of their rights are respected.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 6, 2010 (CNA) - Mexican actor Eduardo Verastegui, known for his passionate defense of the unborn, will star in a new film on the life of Blessed Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, a Catholic who was martyred in Mexico.
The film, titled, “Cristiada,” is being directed by Dean Wright, the special effects producer for such films as “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and “Titanic.”
“Cristiada” is being filmed in Durango, San Luis Potosi and Mexico City, and also stars Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria and Peter O’Toole.
In an interview with Univision, Verastegui remarked that he is thrilled about the new role. “It is a film with a great message of faith, love, hope, loyalty and courage, about the religious persecution in Mexico under President Plutarco Elias Calles, whose war against the Church left more than 200,000 dead,” the actor explained.
“I play a Catholic lawyer, Blessed Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, called the ‘Mexican Ghandi,’ because he was a heroic pacifist who only wanted to defend his Catholic faith without violence.”
Through his pacifist strategies, Verastegui continued, Blessed Gonzalez Flores was able to lead “the resistance to the government and defend freedom of religion.”
“I was invited to give life to ‘Anacleto,’ and the truth is that this character is giving me life, as he was a great hero and a Mexican martyr who died to defend his faith. He was beaten, martyred and shot for defending his beliefs.
“The most beautiful thing is that he died forgiving his executors,” he added.
Verastegui said he is thrilled “because I am finally working on a mission that is greater than myself. It is very clear to me that my vocation is to participate in productions that recount stories that are inspiring to people, that bring a message of hope, faith, love and happiness. That’s what we did with ‘Bella,’ with ‘The Butterfly Circus,’ and what we are doing with ‘Cristiada’.”
A preview of the film can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utnRveBLjx0