Denver, Colo., Feb 1, 2012 (CNA) -
Former Mexican soap opera star turned pro-life activist Eduardo Verastegui told a crowd of over 500 that he thinks abortion in the U.S. will one day come to an end.
“I think we will see regeneration and the end of abortion in this country,” he said at a sold out Jan. 26 fundraiser for Lighthouse Pregnancy Center in Denver, Colo.
Verastegui gave his testimony about growing up in a pro-life country and eventually seeing Mexico City legalize abortion.
“Pro-choice, pro-life, all that, all those terms in Mexico didn't exist until a few years ago when Mexico City passed that horrible law.”
Although abortion was legalized in Mexico City in 2007, 19 states have since passed constitutional amendments establishing the right to life for all, at the moment of conception. Once a total of 25 states pass similar amendments, the ruling in Mexico City can be overturned to reflect the majority.
“It was defined in our hearts, in all the Catholics in Mexico, but it was not defined in the Constitution,” Verastegui said.
He also spoke about his passion for the pro-life movement and his recent opening of Guadalupe Medical Center in Los Angeles. He called the center an “oasis of life” in a “desert of death” because of its location near 10 abortion clinics.
Verastegui said that the goal of his center is “to save the most important thing that God loves the most,” which is “to create human life.”
“The most amazing part is when they enter this place they don't feel alone anymore because there are so many volunteers, so many people just hugging them.”
When he heard about Lighthouse Pregnancy Center's goal to open a crisis pregnancy center near the second largest Planned Parenthood in the country, he said, “I am just so excited to hear that you are doing the same thing here … (it is) really the best way to really win this culture of death and turn this culture into a culture of life.”
Verastegui spoke about his conversion from being a popular Mexican soap opera star to becoming a “missionary in the media.”
When he realized that he had become a “poison in our society” through the characters he portrayed in film and on television, he made a promise to God to “never use any of my talents to offend my faith, my family or my Latino culture.”
Since then he has founded his own production company, Metanoia Films, with two friends, Leo Severino and Alejandro Monteverde, who also experienced conversions after working in the media for a number of years.
Metanoia, which means “conversion” in Greek, experienced great success with the critically acclaimed film “Bella.” The company is set to release another feature length film, “Little Boy,” later this year.
“The idea of this film is to inspire young people that after they see the film they leave not only entertained, but also inspired to ‘the list.’”
“The list” is the corporal works of mercy which the main character of the film, a young American boy, works through to grow in his faith while his father is overseas fighting in World War II.
Verastegui said he hopes that the film will “mobilize a big army of young people” to serve others through the corporal works of mercy.
Since Metanoia's success with “Bella,” Verastegui has been involved in making inspirational short films, a medium which he sees as having “the same potential to save life” as feature length films by making them more accessible to viewers on the Internet.
Verastegui showed the audience his latest short film “Crescendo,” which tells the story of a struggling mother contemplating aborting her child. The film will be available online later this year.
“We just want to send it to the whole world,” he said. “Short film has the same potential to save life because it is really artistic.”
He said Metanoia will make more short films based on true stories about choosing life.
“We're doing videos and just thinking about what else we can do to grow … anything I can do.”
Verastegui said he would like to come back to Denver for Lighthouse Pregnancy Center's opening and that he would “love to” share ideas and resources that have been helpful with the creation of his medical center.
Dallas, Texas, Feb 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In the midst of a congressional investigation, Planned Parenthood has lost the support of the nation's leading breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Last year Planned Parenthood received roughly $680,000 in grants from Komen and $580,000 the year before.
Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun told the Associated Press that the cutoff is a result of the charity's recently adopted criteria which prohibits giving grants to organizations undergoing investigations by local, state or federal authorities.
Planned Parenthood has been the subject of a federal investigation headed by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) since last year. The investigation was launched after the pro-life group Americans United for Life issued a report indicating financial irregularities and involvement in assisting those involved in sex-trafficking and prostitution.
Planned Parenthood officials reacted to today’s decision by Susan G. Komen with surprise and dismay. They claimed that the move was politically motivated.
“It's hard to understand how an organization with whom we share a mission of saving women's lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying. It's really hurtful,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America told the Associated Press.
With nearly 800 centers nationwide, Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading abortion provider.
San Antonio, Texas, Feb 1, 2012 (CNA) - The HHS contraception mandate is an insult to the Catholic community and shows that President Obama needs prayer, according to a national group of Latino leaders.
“President Barack Obama has not just given the Catholic community a slap in the face, he is telling Hispanic Catholics to limit our families and forget our religious beliefs,” Robert Aguirre, president of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders, said Jan. 31.
He cited President Obama’s May 2009 speech at the University of Notre Dame in which the president said “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause.”
The HHS mandate, Aguirre said, showed “the president’s promise was nothing more than a shell game.”
On Jan. 20 the Department of Health and Human Services finalized a rule requiring “preventive care” insurance coverage for sterilizations and contraception, including the abortifacient drug Ella. While the mandate has a religious exemption, the exemption will not cover many Catholic health care systems, colleges, and charities.
Over one hundred Catholic bishops have published statements objecting to the mandate and asking Catholics to voice their opposition.
“If ever there was proof that this administration takes the Hispanic vote for granted it is in this policy so lacking in respect for us, for our faith and for the religious liberty upon which this country was founded,” said Maria Suarez Hamm, a CALL member from Washington D.C.
“It is an insult to our intelligence to disguise anti-life products as ‘healthcare’ and then force us to pay for it,” Suarez continued, advising Latinos to take the new policy into account when deciding how to vote.
Aguirre characterized the mandate as “an assault on our faith as Catholics” that is demeaning towards their “belief in life.” It “obliterates our constitutional protection of religious freedom,” he stated.
President Obama, he charged, is “telling not just Hispanic Catholics, but all people of faith, that our faith-formed opinions have no place in the public square.”
“Hispanics are people of faith and family and these values are as unique as our culture,” Aguirre continued. “We believe that family and faith are not to be separated and we deplore in the strongest terms possible this administration’s attempt to curb the religious liberty of Hispanic families.”
The association urged prayers, saying, “We call on all Catholics – especially Hispanic Catholics – to pray for the president.”
The San-Antonio based organization has chapters in Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix, Denver, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Milwaukee, Miami and Washington, D.C.
San Bernardino, Calif., Feb 1, 2012 (CNA) - The faith-based marriage enrichment program Worldwide Marriage Encounter has announced the 2012 state winners of its Longest Married Couple contest: a Nevada couple who married in 1933.
“The number of years many of these couples are married is just awesome,” Scott and Karen Seaborn, the U.S. leadership team for Worldwide Marriage Encounter, said of the contest entrants.
“There are four couples married 78 years, many couples married 70 plus years and quite a few couples with 60 plus years of marriage. What a testament to having a commitment to a long marriage!”
The project received 256 nominations from 47 states.
The longest-married couple to be nominated is Wilbur and Theresa Faiss of Las Vegas, Nevada, who have been married for 78 years. They were married on April 14, 1933.
The Faiss couple will be honored by the Seaborns in a special Feb. 11 ceremony in their hometown.
Couples involved in Worldwide Marriage Encounter will recognize and honor individual state winners across the U.S. over the week of Valentine’s Day.
Last year, the longest-married couple contest honored Marshall and Winnie Kuykendall of Lordsburg, New Mexico, who were married for 82 years after their 1929 wedding. Three other couples who had been married 80 years won their state contests.
Winners of last year’s contest became members of the contest’s alumni group. Couples cannot succeed themselves each year as national or state winners so that other long-married couples can be honored.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter, based in San Bernardino, Calif., has a presence in more than 90 countries and is the world’s largest pro-marriage movement.
Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has offered his condolences to Philadelphia Catholics following the loss of their former archbishop Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who died on the evening of Jan. 31 at the age of 88.
In a telegram to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, the Pope said he joined the faithful of the archdiocese “in commending the late cardinal's soul to God, the Father of mercies, with gratitude for his years of episcopal ministry among Christ's flock in Philadelphia.”
Cardinal Bevilacqua, who led the archdiocese from 1988 to 2003, died in his sleep at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. He was suffering from cancer and dementia at the time of his death.
Pope Benedict conveyed his blessing to the faithful of Philadelphia, as he recalled the late cardinal's “longstanding commitment to social justice and the pastoral care of immigrants” as well as his “expert contribution” to the revision of canon law after the Second Vatican Council.
Archbishop Chaput said on Feb. 1 that he was “greatly saddened” by the death of his predecessor, “a servant of the Lord who loved Jesus Christ and his people.”
“Cardinal Bevilacqua has been called home by God,” he said. “I encourage all Catholics in the archdiocese to join me in praying for the repose of his soul, and that God will comfort his family as they mourn his loss.”
Archbishop Chaput acknowledged that Cardinal Bevilacqua's death came a time of “extraordinary challenges” for the local Church.
On Jan. 30, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina had declared that the cardinal was competent to testify in the trial of his former assistant Monsignor William Lynn. The monsignor is accused of failing to prevent child abuse that took place while he served as secretary of the clergy.
The ruling came despite the cardinal's inability to recognize or identify Msgr. Lynn, whose lawyer said attorneys would have “no hope to be able to cross-examine Cardinal Bevilacqua” due to his memory loss.
Sarmina said the cardinal was competent, and could be reevaluated if called to testify. Cardinal Bevilacqua, however, died the following day.
Born in Brooklyn, New York on June 17, 1923, the future cardinal was one of Luigi and Maria Bevilacqua's 11 children. Ordained a priest in 1949, he earned degrees in canon law, political science, and civil law before becoming a bishop in 1980. He joined the College of Cardinals in 1991.
Under his leadership, the Philadelphia Archdiocese reached out to non-practicing Catholics with its “Catholic Faith and Life 2000” initiative. Cardinal Bevilacqua was known for his stands against racism, his frequent pastoral visits in Philadelphia, and his openness to the public through a radio call-in show.
In addition to his work in canon law and immigration, the cardinal served as head of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Funeral arrangements for the cardinal are pending. He is survived by his sister Madeline Langan of Bayville, N.Y. and his brother Frank Bevilacqua of West Simsbury, Conn.
Vatican City, Feb 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Christians should trust in the loving providence of God, even when going through dark periods in life, Pope Benedict XVI said in his Feb. 1 general audience.
“In prayer we must be able to bring before God our fatigue, the suffering of certain situations and of certain days, our daily struggle to follow him and to be Christians, and even the weight of evil we see within us and around us, because he gives us hope, makes us aware of his nearness and gives us a little light on the path of life,” he said.
Pope Benedict offered his reflections to thousands of pilgrims who gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
His address continued an ongoing series on the subject of prayer and focused on the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, just prior to his arrest, passion and death.
While Jesus previously withdrew from the crowds and his disciples to pray in the wilderness or on a mountain, the Pope noted that this time Jesus did not want to be alone and called Peter, James and John to be closest to him. They were the same disciples who were chosen by Jesus to be with him during his Transfiguration.
“This proximity of the three during prayer in Gethsemane is significant,” explained the Pope, because “their presence is an invitation to every disciple to draw near to Jesus along the way of the Cross.”
Christ’s Fear and Anguish
Christ’s anguish, the Pope said, is articulated in his words to the three disciples – “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Stay here and watch.” His statement is foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament, the Pope taught, highlighting the suffering of the prophets Elijah and Moses. They experienced the same emotion after “finding hostility, rejection, persecution” following God entrusting certain tasks to them.
In the case of Jesus, his words show that he was experiencing the “fear and anguish at that ‘hour’ … the ultimate profound solitude as God’s plan was being accomplished,” said the Pope.
Christ’s fear and anguish also “summarizes all the horror that man feels at the prospect of his own death, its inexorable certainty and the perception of the burden of evil which affects our lives.”
Praying on the Ground
Jesus then moves away from the disciples and lays on the ground. The Pope noted that Christ’s prostration is “a position for prayer which expresses obedience to the Father’s will, an abandonment of self with complete trust in Him.”
Similarly, this is a position assumed by monks when professing vows, or by bishops, priests and deacons at their ordination. It is also the position priests assume when they begin the service for Christ’s passion on Good Friday. As a posture it expresses “in prayer, even bodily, complete reliance on God,” said the Pope.
Christ then asks that, if possible, he be spared his impending ordeal. “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want but what you want.”
Pope Benedict explained that this episode “is not just the fear and anguish of man in the face of death.” It is also the “distress of the Son of God Who sees the terrible accumulation of evil He must take upon Himself, in order to overcome it and deprive it of power.”
The Pope then highlighted three “revealing passages,” contained in this particular Gospel scene.
He first said that Jesus’ use of the Aramaic word “Abba,” which was used by children to informally address their fathers, expresses “Jesus relationship with God the Father, a relationship of tenderness, affection and trust.”
Jesus also teaches people about his Father’s omnipotence, the Pope noted, when he makes “a request in which, once again, we see the drama of Jesus’ human will in the face of death and evil.”
Most importantly, said the Pope, we see that ultimately Christ’s “human will adheres fully to the divine will.” In doing so “Jesus tells us that only by conforming their will to the divine will can human beings achieve their true stature and become ‘divine.’”
Pope Benedict said that if Christians pray the Our Father and ask that God’s will is done, “a little of heaven” is brought to earth as a “place where love, goodness, truth and divine beauty are present” but “only if the will of God is done.”
He concluded by telling the pilgrims that in daily prayer they “must learn to have greater trust in Divine Providence, to ask God for the strength to abandon our own selves in order to renew our ‘yes,’ to repeat to Him ‘your will be done,’ to conform our will to His.”
Madrid, Spain, Feb 1, 2012 (CNA) - Spain’s Minister of Education, Jose Ignacio Wert, announced on Jan. 31 that the government will eliminate the controversial course Education for the Citizenry from required school curriculum and replace it with a course on civics “free of controversial issues and ideological indoctrination.”
Beginning in 2006, the Socialist government began requiring all students to take Education for the Citizenry, which promoted secularism, gender ideology and abortion. The mandatory nature and the content of the course cause parents to strongly object to it as a violation of their right to educate their children according to their own convictions.
“Education for the Citizenry has been controversial from the outset and has created serious divisions in society and in the field of education,” Wert told a congressional committee on education.
He said the Socialist government course “went beyond what true civics education should be according to the directives of the Council of Europe.”
For this reason, a new course will replace it that will teach students about the Spanish constitution and about the values that make up a democratic and pluralistic society, as well as the history of the European Union and Spain’s place in it.
Numerous organizations have praised the decision. The president of the group Professionals for Ethics, Jaime Urcelay, said “It is a great joy that makes up for years of effort and struggle for freedom in the face of educational indoctrination imposed by the government.”
He noted that families have been protesting the course for years and that over 3,400 lawsuits were filed against the Spanish government and before the European Court in Strasburg.
Urcelay said a new course on civics and the democratic system would be in complete contrast with Education for the Citizenry and a welcome change “if it does not interfere in the values of the students and is not intended to shape their consciences and thinking against the will of their parents.”