Medellin, Colombia, Nov 15, 2010 (CNA) - Thousands of Colombians took to the streets in the cities of Bogota, Cali and Medellin on Nov. 11 to protest a program teaching students that abortion is a right.
Colombia’s Constitutional Court, which legalized abortion in 2006, also ruled that schools must teach students that abortion is a right. Educational programs developed to implement the ruling also describe masturbation as “an alternative for sexual satisfaction.”
In Medellin over 1,000 people, including politicians, teachers, parents and entire families gathered to denounce the program for its promotion of contraceptives, sexual activity among adolescents, and abortion.
The protests included testimonies from pro-life leaders. Participants were also given the chance to sign an enormous banner to show their support for the cause of human life.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 15, 2010 (CNA) - The bishops of Mexico have expressed their desire to become agents of peace and offer guidance amid widespread violence in the country.
The Mexican bishops met Nov. 11 for their plenary assembly and discussed ways to protect Catholics – and all citizens – from the increasing violence in the country.
Bishop Victor Rene Rodriguez, the secretary general of the bishops’ conference spoke to reporters during a press briefing after the meeting. He acknowledged that some bishops have changed their Mass schedules out of concern for the safety of Catholics in their dioceses.
He also noted that anxiety over lack of security has affected several public events, from national holidays to concerts to school assemblies.
The wave of violence in Mexico has claimed the lives of more than 100 people in recent weeks. Criminals linked to drug trade are believed to be responsible for the violence.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Several U.S. bishops gave an update on Church relief efforts in Haiti during their annual fall gathering in Baltimore. They urged patience for the recovery effort which one archbishop called “tragically slow.”
Bishop Kevin Farrell, chairman of the bishops' collection committee opened the report on the Church's work in Haiti at the annual Nov. 15-18 fall assembly in Baltimore, Maryland.
He recalled how immediately after the country was ravaged by a catastrophic earthquake in early 2010, a special collection for Catholic Relief Services across the U.S. was started up by USCCB president Cardinal Francis George and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.
“I can report that according to our most recent numbers,” Bishop Farrell said, $82.6 million “was collected from 176 dioceses.” Bishop Farrell urged those in attendance to pause and reflect on the “dedication” and “devotion” of American Catholics who gave to the fund, often in local parishes after Sunday Mass.
Archbishop Thomas J. Wenski of Miami, Fla., who heads the bishops' advisory committee on Haiti, reported to the bishops on a recent initiative called “PROCHE” – a French and Creole acronym which stands for “Catholic closeness with Haiti and her Church.”
The project, approved by the Haitian bishops, is designed to bring together Church personnel, donors, engineers and others to support building reconstruction across the various dioceses.
In addition to practical help, Archbishop Wenski noted the “ecclesial” assistance being given to Catholics in Haiti, such as sturdy tents for seminarians, vocational workshops, prayer books and pastoral training.
Archbishop Wenski then appealed to the bishops to continue bringing attention to the country within their local parishes.
“By uniting our efforts, we can lean on one another through the difficult times ahead, keeping up momentum to show the Haitians that they will not be forgotten.”
Archbishop Dolan also provided an update, praising the efforts of Catholic Reliefs Services, which he helps lead.
“In addition to food provided to nearly 900,000 people in the early months of the response, we continue to provide monthly food rations to more than 100,000 children in over 370 schools, orphanages and child-care centers, many of them run by Catholic parishes and congregations,” he said.
“Our relief efforts have been heroic,” he added, “but the rebuilding has been tragically slow.”
Looking to the upcoming one year anniversary of the earthquake, Archbishop Dolan asked the bishops for their help in “engaging the U.S. Catholic community in ongoing efforts to support the people of Haiti and the Haitian Church, strengthening our common understanding of true solidarity and partnership.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Colombia’s Constitutional Court has voted to uphold the sanctity of marriage in the country.
The court ruled 5-4 in favor of the Colombian Attorney General, Alejandro Ordonez Maldonado on Nov. 11. In its statement, the court said could not change the legal definition of marriage in Colombia, thus striking down a lawsuit filed by attorney Felipe Montoya Castro.
Montoya filed a lawsuit in September 2009 arguing that the words “man and woman” should be removed from the civil code in order to allow same-sex unions.
However, the court reaffirmed the wording that has been part of Colombian law since the 19th century. It defines marriage as “a contract through which one man and one woman unite together for the purpose of living together, procreating and mutually helping one another.”
The court said Montoya’s arguments that the traditional definition of marriage violates the right to equality, as well as the right to not be treated cruelly, were insufficient.
Ordonez said the plaintiffs in the case did not present “clear, certain, specific, pertinent and sufficient reasons” for changing the definition of marriage.
Same-sex unions in Latin America are only legal in Argentina and Mexico City.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Francis George opened the annual U.S. bishops' meeting today by stressing that Catholics “should not fear political isolation” when upholding their beliefs in the public square.
The U.S. Bishops' Conference leader also touched on the brutal terrorist attacks that killed dozens of Iraqi Catholics in Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation cathedral recently, calling the act a “martyrdom” of our “brothers and sisters.”
Cardinal George – who completes his three year term as president of the U.S. bishops' conference this week – kicked off the bishops' Nov. 15-18 assembly in Baltimore this morning.
The cardinal opened his remarks by recalling the bishops' public involvement in opposing President Obama's health care bill which passed this last March.
Although he called health care a “moral imperative,” he decried the removal of the Hyde Amendment from the legislation – a clause which bars federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the mother.
Laws “that have permitted now 50 million children of our country to be killed in their mother's womb” are “immoral and unjust,” he said. “They are destroying our society.”
Cardinal George then referenced challenges to “unity” within the Church on its position in the health care debate, saying there are “those who want to remake the Church according to their own designs or discredit her as a voice in the public discussions that shape our society.”
Catholic Health Association leader Sr. Carol Keehan and the social justice lobby of sisters called Network incited controversy this year for their public support of the health care overhaul in opposition to the bishops, a move that some have claimed was critical for the bill's passage.
Who “speaks for the Catholic Church?” the cardinal asked. “The bishops in apostolic communion and in union with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, speak for the Church in matters of faith and in moral issues and the laws surrounding them.”
The role of Catholics in political debate was also touched on by Cardinal George, who called for “orthodoxy in belief” and “obedience in practice” from the faithful.
“Orthodoxy is necessary but not enough,” he said, “the Devil is orthodox. He knows the Catechism better than anyone in this room; but he will not serve, he will not obey.”
“We should not fear political isolation,” Cardinal George added, saying the “Church has often been isolated in in politics and diplomacy.”
“We need to be deeply concerned, however, about the wound to the Church's unity that has been inflicted in this debate,” he said, expressing his hope that “ecclesial communion” could be restored.
Cardinal George then said that the “voice of Christ speaks always from a consistent concern for the gift of human life.” He decried birth control, embryonic stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, and abortion as “the technological manipulation of life.”
Closing his speech, Cardinal George said he cannot depart from his role as president without speaking of “our Catholic brothers and sisters in Iraq.”
On Oct. 31, gunmen linked to al-Qaida took over 120 faithful hostage at the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad during Mass, demanding that the Coptic Church of Egypt release the wife of one of its priests, whom the extremists claimed voluntarily converted to Islam and was subsequently locked up in a convent.
When the Iraqi military raided the cathedral to free the hostages, over 50 people, including 2 priests, were killed in a firefight and the explosion of suicide vests by the terrorists.
As he spoke about the attack, Cardinal George paused with emotion as he recalled the story of an American Dominican sister currently in Iraq. The religious sister told a friend of Cardinal George that witnesses saw a three-year-old boy named Adam follow the terrorists after the murder of his parents, admonishing them by repeating the words “enough, enough,” until he himself was killed.
“Dear brothers and sisters,” Cardinal George said, “we have all experienced challenges and even tragedies that tempt us to say 'enough.'”
“Yet all of our efforts, our work, our failures and our sense of responsibility pale before the martyrdom of our brothers and sisters in Iraq and the persecution of Catholics in other parts of the Middle East, in India and Pakistan, in China and Vietnam, in Sudan and African countries rent by civil conflict.”
“With their faces before us, we stand before the Lord, collectively responsible for all those whom Christ died to save,” he said. “May the Lord during these days give us vision enough to see what he sees and strength enough to act as he would have us act.”
“That will be enough.”
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A national conference of Catholic bishops exists so that pastors of the Church might "share the fatigue of their labors." But, according to Pope Benedict XVI, those national conferences can never substitute for an individual bishop's authority and duty to guide his people.
The Pope turned a Nov. 15 address to a group of bishops from Brazil into a lesson on the function of the bishops' conference.
The Catholic bishops of the world are divided into bishops' conferences depending on their geographic locations and language groups. For example, the more than 400 bishops of the United States, form the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; the English and Welsh bishops are combined into a single bishops' conference.
Since the Second Vatican Council (1963-1965), some critics have argued that bishops' conferences have assumed too much influence in the lives of local churches and in some cases have diminished the authority of local bishops.
In his address, Pope Benedict reminded the Brazilian Church leaders that “the counselors and structures of the episcopal conference exist to serve the bishops, not to replace them.”
The bishops' organization is meant to allow for "the joint and harmonious exercise of certain pastoral functions, for the good of the faithful and of all the citizens of a particular territory," the Pope added.
This cooperation of bishops leads to a more effective exercise of their duties while not giving up their responsibility to provide for the spiritual needs of members of their individual dioceses.
A conference of bishops "promotes unity of effort and intention among the bishops" and serves as "an instrument that enables them to share the fatigue of their labors," said the Pope. The conference, he said, must serve “the pastoral solicitude of bishops, whose principal concern must be the salvation of souls, which is also the fundamental mission of the Church."
The Pope reminded the bishops that they must employ the best and most appropriate ways of presenting Church teaching within their dioceses. Furthermore, they must be up to date on the issues of the day to guide the consciences of the people and provide adequate solutions for the problems posed by changes in society and culture.
Issues such as promoting and protecting faith and morals, fostering vocations and defending human life, religious freedom and human rights require a united action from bishops, he said.
The Brazilian bishops were in Rome as part of their “ad limina” visits, trips that bishops make to Rome once every five years to update the Pope on their ministries and to seek his guidance and direction.