Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston told over a thousand young people at a prayer vigil in D.C. that the pro-life movement depends on their loving witness in the face of a hostile culture.
“You are a good infection,” the cardinal told the youth gathered at the opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life. “Do not underestimate your presence.”
More than 10,000 people gathered on the evening of Jan. 22 for Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, including many young people from across the country.
The date marked the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in America.
Cardinal DiNardo, who serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, was the principal celebrant and homilist at the opening Mass, which was followed by confessions, a rosary, Night Prayer and holy hours throughout the night.
The Catholic University of America hosted almost 1,300 pilgrims overnight.
The vigil concluded on the morning of Jan. 23 with Morning Prayer and a closing Mass, at which Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York was the principal celebrant and homilist.
Participants were then able to attend the March for Life in downtown D.C., along Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court building.
In his homily, Cardinal DiNardo spoke about the call of Jonah. Although he first ran away, Jonah eventually realized “that the call of the Lord is serious.” When he finally responded to that call, his preaching converted the people of Ninevah.
“We are walking through Ninevah,” the cardinal said, emphasizing the need for “personal conversion.”
With millions of lives destroyed by abortion in the last 39 years, he noted the need for ministries of conversion, as well as compassion and mercy.
Through the work of such ministries, he said, “we witness the miracle of Christ’s mercy and healing grace” as broken hearts are “made whole” and “filled with new peace and hope.”
The cardinal also expressed grave concerns that the pro-life movement is threatened by recent attacks on religious freedom in America.
On Jan. 20, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized a rule that will require virtually all health insurance plans to include sterilization and contraception – including drugs that cause abortion – free of charge.
Cardinal DiNardo explained that this mandate violates the religious liberty and rights of conscience of Catholics and other religious employers by forcing citizens “to directly purchase what violates our beliefs.”
He called for “timely and unwavering actions” to defend religious freedom.
At the same time, the cardinal expressed hope for the future, observing signs of good news, such as the “record numbers” of pro-life laws passed on the state level in recent years.
In many ways, the youth are “weaving Christ into our culture,” he said, urging them to show the loving face of Christ to those who are hostile.
“Don’t be compromised in your dedication to the protection of life.”
San Sebastian, Spain, Jan 23, 2012 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla of San Sebastian, Spain has said that the country's victims of terrorism should occupy “the central place in the journey toward peace and reconciliation.”
To forget the memory of the terrorism victims would be “reason to question the authenticity of our commitment to peace and reconciliation,” the bishop said during a homily on Jan. 20, the feast of St. Sebastian.
He offered prayers that the patron saint of the diocese would grant “definitive peace to our people and particularly to our city.”
Victims must occupy “a central place in the journey toward peace and reconciliation, so that we do not add new injustices to those already committed,” the bishop said.
Bishop Munilla expressed gratitude that after almost 50 years of violence in the region, Catholics were able to celebrate the feast of St. Sebastian without the “explicit threat” of terrorism. “Let us be joyful and hopeful, not forgetful and unsupportive,” he said.
“May the Lord receive into glory all those who were cruelly snatched from this life and may he alleviate the suffering of their families and move all of us to conversion,” Bishop Munilla prayed.
The Spanish bishop went on to note the economic crisis that has gripped Spain and expressed solidarity with those who have been unemployed for long periods of time. He urged political leaders to “work together to find solutions” for the entire country.
On the other hand, he warned of the “great temptation” for believers to be “dragged into and absorbed by a worldly spirit, such that we end up thinking, feeling and acting as if God did not exist.”
“The religious meaning of our existence is perfectly reconcilable with the positive values that are derived from authentic progress,” the bishop explained. “In order to achieve that necessary maturity, in which modernity and religiosity are integrated, we need to live without hang-ups in the present day situation.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 23, 2012 (CNA) - Francisco “Kiko” Argüello, the founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, thanked the Vatican for approving special “celebrations” or non-liturgical prayers within the movement’s catechesis.
The gesture was “a huge consolation” and “an immense grace after so many years of suffering and work,” Argüello told CNA.
Pope Benedict XVI met with around 7,000 members of the movement in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall on Jan. 20 for an annual event to send families to mission destinations worldwide.
The invitation issued by the movement to bishops for the event said that the purpose of the meeting was for the Pope to “sign a Decree from the Congregation of Divine Worship recognizing the full approval of the liturgies of the Neocatechumenal Way.”
Instead, approval for the non-liturgical practices of the group came by way of another source. It was Pontifical Council for the Laity that issued a decree of approval – after having consulted the Congregation for Divine Worship – for those “celebrations” present in their Catechetical Directory.
A Vatican official who requested anonymity clarified to CNA on Jan. 21 that approval of the Neocatechumenal Way’s forms of “celebration” only applies to non-liturgical prayers within their catechesis and not to the Mass or other liturgies of the Church.
In this process “the Neocatechumenal Way obtained no new permissions whatsoever,” said the official, who is familiar with the approval process for prayers and liturgies.
“Essentially, the Pontifical Council is only approving these things that are found in the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way, and in no way touches those things contained in the liturgical books.”
He said that the decree served merely as an assurance that “there is nothing erroneous to the prayers that they use in the context of their catechetical sessions.”
The Neocatechumenal Way was founded in 1964 in Spain by Argüello and Carmen Hernández. It draws its inspiration from the practices of the early Catholic Church, providing “post-baptismal” Christian formation in small, parish-based communities. The movement is present all over the world, and has an estimated membership of more than 1 million people.
Since its foundation, however, the group has been cautioned by the Vatican for inserting various novel practices into Masses organized by the movement. These include lay preaching, standing during Eucharistic Prayer, the reception of Holy Communion while sitting down, as well as the passing of the Most Precious Blood from person to person.
Argüello stressed that the Neocatechumenal Way has no distinct liturgy of its own but uses the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite as approved by the Church.
“It’s the Mass of the Church. On the basis of catechesis, we insist on what the Council underscored, that we should celebrate with both species. This is very difficult in large parishes or in large celebrations for logistical reasons, because of the wine, because of other things, it becomes very difficult,” he said.
“It is clear to us that the Pope,” he added, “who has a special charism as we have seen, realizes that the future of the new evangelization passes through the Christian community, through families, and the Christian community saves families, and families save society and save the Church.”
He reflected on the history of the Neocatechumenal Way, noting that the group has “been around for more than 40 years, and we continue working with the same spirit.”
The movement is “still on fire, just like in the beginning, with the desire to evangelize in Asia and in China,” he said.
The Neocatechumenal Way currently has five seminaries in China and hopes to carry out further mission work in Thailand and Vietnam.
“I have told young people that we need 20,000 priests for China and five thousand young people have come forward. We have five thousand young people preparing themselves, finding out how much studies they have completed, how they can prepare themselves, how they can receive formation.”
During the Jan. 20 meeting with the Pope, the movement also sent out 18 mission groups “to the aborigines in Australia as well.”
The “state doesn’t know what to do with them because they are psychologically destroyed,” he explained. “Many drink and commit suicide. All they know how to do is give them money.”
“And yet,” he added, “we have sent an ad gentes mission there to evangelize them and bring them Jesus Christ, and we have already seen wonderful results.”
Argüello on called on the members of the Neocatechumenal Way throughout the world to join together in their communities and parishes at “a Marian shrine in order to give thanks” for the papal approval. “She is interceding for us. We sense her closeness to us,” he said.
Vatican City, Jan 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon later this year is “very possible,” according to the Vatican’s official spokesman.
The Pope would use the visit to deliver a document – known as an apostolic exhortation – that is the fruit of the discussions that took place at last October’s Synod for the Middle East.
“In the context of the publication of a synod document, it is very possible and reasonable for the Pope to go to Lebanon and deliver this message,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., told CNA on Jan. 23.
“Lebanon is certainly a country that desires the Pope’s presence. Given that the Pope has already been to the Holy Land, Lebanon is a place that would be an option to host the Pope for this purpose,” Fr. Lombardi said.
The Italian media is already speculating that the Pope will travel to the country in mid-September. Possible dates include Sept. 13, the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, and the following weekend, Sept. 22-23.
Pope Benedict could make stops in Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut and the seat of the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate, Bkerké, as part of his trip.
“Well that’s very much the hope there at the moment,” said Monsignor John Kozar, president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, who recently visited Lebanon.
“There is a lot that would have to go into such a decision, and there are a lot of parties that will have to weigh in on that,” he told CNA, adding that a papal trip “certainly would be a most welcome sign to the people and to the Church there.”
Just over a quarter of the Lebanese population is Catholic, with the majority of those belonging to the Maronite Catholic Church, an Eastern Church in communion with Rome.
Blessed Pope John Paul II made a two-day visit to Lebanon in 1997 to sign the apostolic exhortation “A Hope for Lebanon,” which drew together the work of the Special Assembly for Lebanon of the Synod of Bishops in 1995.
A papal visit later this year would be Pope Benedict’s first journey to the Middle East since the emergence of the “Arab Spring,” a series of popular uprisings across the region that have toppled a number of dictatorships over the past year.
Vatican City, Jan 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - St. Peter should be the model for all bishops because he allowed God to use his strengths and weaknesses, Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans said early this morning in Rome.
“My brothers, as we come to this tomb, as we have the privilege to stand before the remains of Peter, this great man, we certainly pray for ourselves as shepherds of the Church, that we can have the mind and heart of Christ to follow the example of Peter,” he said in his Jan. 23 homily.
The Mass in the Crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica marked the start of an official visit to the Vatican by the bishops of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Archbishop Aymond focused his reflections on the Gospel passage in which St. Peter declares Jesus is “the Christ.” He said the passage displays the apostle’s “profession of faith, his leap of faith, the courage, the boldness to step out into the deep and to say ‘You are indeed the messiah, you are the one who was promised.’”
But Archbishop Aymond also contrasted the strengths of St. Peter’s character with other times in his life when he failed to follow Jesus, even to the point of betraying him.
“It is important for all of us in ministry, in particularly for those of us in the episcopal ministry, that we look at the entire profile of Peter’s personality – his gifts as well as his weaknesses,” Archbishop Aymond told his fellow bishops.
“Peter’s weakness do not minimize his holiness ... because we see that Jesus uses both Peter’s strength as well as his weaknesses,” he observed.
Through this experience, the archbishop explained, St. Peter “learns humility and learns obedience,” giving an example for all bishops.
Archbishop Aymond is making the “ad limina” visit to Rome with 21 other bishops between Jan. 23 and 31.
The trips take place every five years and involve a meeting in which the bishops brief the Pope on the Church in their individual dioceses, visit with various Vatican departments, and make a pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul.
The group is the fifth delegation of U.S. bishops to make their way to Rome in recent months, leaving 10 more groups on the American roster.
After this morning’s Mass, the bishops met with officials at the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Clergy. Six of the bishops also had an audience with Pope Benedict.
In the evening they attended at reception at the United States Embassy to the Holy See, hosted by Ambassador Miguel H. Diaz.
Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pro-life politicians spoke to participants at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. about the need for America’s leaders to guide the country in affirming the value of every human life.
U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) explained that “life and liberty” are two foundational principles that are intertwined to “form the core of our national character.”
“When we affirm the dignity of life, we affirm our commitment to freedom,” he said. When we fail to defend life, “freedom itself is diminished.”
Hundreds of thousands of Americans, including many young people, gathered in the nation’s capital for the annual March for Life on Jan. 23, one day after the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.
Prior to a march to Capitol Hill, attendees gathered on the National Mall to hear from congressmen and pro-life leaders.
Speaker Boehner delivered opening remarks at the march, in which he affirmed that “human life is not a political or economic commodity.”
The Speaker explained that he has 11 siblings. “So I’ve never considered ‘pro-life’ to be a label or a position,” he said. “It’s just who I am.”
Defending life is “not a matter of party,” he said. Rather, it is “about standing on principle.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who is co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, told the crowd that the violent death of innocent children “is not an American value.”
He thanked those present at the march for their “selfless struggle by prayer, fasting and works” to participate in what he called “the greatest human rights movement on earth.”
The congressman also criticized President Obama for instituting policies and funding decisions that promote abortion throughout his last three years in office.
He explained that by appointing abortion advocates to key administrative positions, the president has worked to integrate abortion into national and international programs.
Rep. Smith observed that under President Obama the federal government has given more than $100 million dollars to the U.N. Population Fund, an organization that supports China’s one child policy, which relies on forced abortions and sterilizations.
The administration is also “lavishly” funding embryo-destroying stem cell research, he added, and organizations including Planned Parenthood are now titled “partners” of the U.S. government.
In addition, Congressman Smith warned, the pro-life movement is being threatened by the president’s “systematic undermining of conscience protections.”
He pointed to a federal contraception mandate that was finalized by the Health and Human Services Department on Jan. 20, as one of those actions by the Obama administration that is targeting people with pro-life convictions.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Jan. 20 that the administration would not expand a religious exemption for employers who object to a requirement that insurance plans cover contraception as part of “preventative services.” The policy requires free coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortions.
“Everyone must comply regardless of moral objections or religious tenets simply because Obama says so,” Rep. Smith said.
He also noted that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was recently “thrown out” of a federal grant program to aid human trafficking victims because it would not offer referrals for abortion and contraception.
The congressman emphasized the importance of the 2012 presidential election and said that if President Obama is elected to a second term, he will work “aggressively” to force “conformity and complicity” on the matter of abortion.
“No one who values life can sit this one out,” he said.
Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Young people from across America made up a significant amount of the huge crowds that gathered in Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life.
John Hughes, an 18-year-old student at Seton Hall Preparatory School in New Jersey, told CNA that he supports the event because “to not be pro-life is to be ignorant.”
“Science has shown that life begins in the womb,” he said, arguing that abortion advocates demonstrate a “lack of responsibility” in ignoring the science of fetal development.
Even most U.S. states, Hughes added, recognize an unborn baby as a living child if both mother and baby are killed in a violent crime.
The college student was among the massive crowds of young people who weathered fog and rain in the nation’s capital to attend the annual March for Life on Jan. 23.
Organizers said they believe the event attracted more participants than last year’s estimated 400,000.
The march was held one day after the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States.
Hughes said that he is “one hundred percent” hopeful about the future of the pro-life movement, given several legislative pro-life efforts on the state level such as abortion restrictions or Planned Parenthood defunding.
“It’s a youth movement,” he said.
Kari Boyd, a student at Michigan State University, added that she believes abortion hurts women.
She explained that Planned Parenthood and other organizations that support abortion “are not telling women the truth” when they say that an unborn baby is a “blob of cells” and fail to show women that the fetus they carry is “another human being.”
Support for women’s rights does not create the “right to kill an innocent unborn child,” Boyd said. “Women don’t have the right to murder.”
Matt Menendez, age 20, is the president of Harvard right to life. He explained that although the United States is largely pro-life, there are only a small minority of students at Harvard “who are willing to speak up” in defense of life.
“We’re always fighting an uphill battle,” he said. While the work is “very difficult,” it is also “very, very rewarding.”
He said that the group regularly receives calls and emails “from people who say they’re afraid to be prolife.”
Menendez described the group’s work as “fighting an intellectual battle” in the hopes of “opening discourse” on a topic that is considered somewhat “taboo” and is “often ignored” at Harvard.
“It’s really energizing to be part of that movement,” he said.
Luciana Milano, another member of Harvard’s right to life group, attended the march for the first time this year. She explained that attending Harvard strengthened her pro-life views because she was forced to defend her beliefs to those who disagreed with her.
She said that although the experience “has been difficult,” it has made her “a stronger believer” in the dignity of all human life.”
Describing the march as “awesome,” Milano said that she was impressed and overwhelmed by the large number of people attending the event.
“The second that I saw large amounts of people, I almost cried,” she said.