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Archive of February 15, 2012

Effort to reverse Washington state ‘gay marriage’ law begins

Olympia, Wash., Feb 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Washington state governor has signed into law a bill that recognizes same-sex “marriage,” prompting those who support the traditional definition to file a referendum to challenge the law.

“Preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman is worth fighting for,” Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said Feb. 13.

“Marriage is a cornerstone of society that not only unites a couple to each other, but ensures that any children born of their union will have the best opportunity to be raised by their own mother and father. We're committed to giving Washington voters the right to decide the definition of marriage in their state, just as voters in 31 other states have been able to do,” Brown said.

In response to “gay marriage” being legalized, the group Preserve Marriage Washington filed Referendum 73 on Feb. 13. It must collect 120,577 valid voter signatures by June 6 to put the new law on hold until the referendum faces a vote in November.

"I think in the end, people are going to preserve marriage,” Joe Fulten, senior pastor at Cedar Park Church in Bothell, Wash., told the Associated Press.

The National Organization for Marriage has pledged to work with the state organization.

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the bill into law on Feb. 13. She said it was “a day historians will mark as a milestone for equal rights, a day when we did what was right, we did what was just, and we did what was fair.”

The governor identifies herself as Catholic, but her decision undercuts the teaching and work of the Catholic Church.

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle testified against the bill in January, saying the attempt to redefine marriage “ignores the origin, purpose and value of marriage to individuals, families, and society.” He voiced concern that the redefinition would eliminate special laws that support and recognize the “irreplaceable contribution” married couples make to society by “bringing to life the next generation.”

“Marriage makes a contribution to the common good of society unlike any other relationship, through the procreation, rearing and education of children,” he said.

In a Feb. 2 interview, Washington Catholic Conference executive director Sr. Sharon Park told EWTN News that the conference is prepared for a referendum process.

She said she has “no doubt” that organizers can gather enough signatures. She said the referendum has a good chance of success because polls indicate a majority of Washington residents support the definition of marriage.

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Denver Theology on Tap inspires controversy, venue change

Denver, Colo., Feb 15, 2012 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Denver's Theology on Tap program was compelled to seek a new venue after a lecture on religious liberty by Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley reportedly caused controversy among some patrons and staff.

“This was a misunderstanding and we hope to be able to work with the group again in the future,” Stoney’s Bar and Grill owner Stoney Jesseph told CNA on Feb. 10.

On Jan. 26 Bishop Conley spoke to hundreds of young adults at the bar, which is less than five blocks from Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. His topic was “Atheocracy and the Battle for Religious Liberty in America.”

Shortly after the talk, however, organizers were told to find a different location for the program because of its “controversial” content and the fact that that some of the bar staff said they would refuse to work the event again.

“It’s ironic that the talk itself pertains so well to what happened,” said Chris Stefanick, director of the archdiocese’s office for youth, young adults and campus ministry who helps run the event.

Stefanick said he was surprised to hear Jesseph's desire to work with Theology on Tap in the future given that the archdiocese was told by the restaurant that the gathering was “too controversial.”

“Those were the words they used,” he said.
 
But he suggested that Jesseph’s business partners may have had a role in the decision. “I don’t think it was all on Stoney’s shoulders. Frankly, if it was just up to Stoney, this never would have happened.”

However, for “whatever reason,” he added, “I think the establishment has made it clear that they’d rather not have a public, Catholic event there.”

Theology on Tap is an ongoing outreach program of the archdiocese. It meets in a bar, Stefanick explained, because it intends to provide “a non-threatening place to gather with friends” for Catholics to “draw people into the faith.”

“It’s also a great social connecting point for people to realize they’re not alone.”

The January event was in a section of the bar where other patrons wouldn’t be able to hear what the bishop was saying, added Stefanick, who thought it was only the appearance of a man in a Roman collar that provoked a reaction.

One bar patron, who Stefanick believes was not in a position to hear the talk, shouted obscenities at the bishop.

“The people at the talk couldn’t hear, because the way the amplifiers were set, but the bishop heard him and I heard him.”

Stefanick clarified that he thinks Stoney’s Bar and Grill has a right to refuse to host anyone they want.

“But they should expect those who are refused to react accordingly, and they shouldn’t be surprised at the angry e-mails and the Catholic groups who no longer want to go there.”

Jeanette DeMelo, the Archdiocese of Denver’s communications director, echoed Stefanick’s comments.

“A local bar is discriminating against our group and the content of our talks. For this bar, it’s a business decision and it’s acceptable for them to make that decision,” she told CNA Feb. 13.

“The bar has a right to be what it is, a sports bar with a noncontroversial atmosphere, which allows anyone and everyone to feel at home – except Catholics in collars.”

She lamented what she called a “double standard” in public opinion. The business decisions of secular businesses like Stoney’s Bar and Grill are seen as acceptable, while the Catholic Church is not allowed similar self-determination like refusing federal mandates for insurance coverage of contraception and sterilization.

“Catholics must make our stand – with charity but with great clarity. We can’t allow ourselves to be pushed out of the public square,” DeMelo said.

Stefanick added in his comments to CNA that the event draws a crowd. “There were about 300 people there on a night that otherwise would be kind of dead,” he said.

Theology on Tap’s next meeting will take place Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at Katie Mullen’s Irish Restaurant and Pub on Denver’s 16th Street Mall. Theology professor Tim Gray will speak on the topic “Religionless Christianity,” in response to a popular YouTube video which professes love for Jesus but hate for religion.

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Denver Catholic Charities stands with US bishops on contraception mandate

Denver, Colo., Feb 15, 2012 (CNA) -

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver is supporting the U.S. bishops' stance against the Obama administration's “accommodation” of religious freedom within the contraception mandate.

In a Feb. 14 announcement, the organization backed the bishops' rejection of the Department of Health and Human Services proposal which it said “continues to involve needless government intrusion” in the practice of all religions in the U.S.

On Jan. 20, the Obama administration announced that employers must provide free sterilization, abortifacients and contraception to employees as part of preventative healthcare, regardless of the employer's religious or moral opposition to such services.

After strong criticism from religious leaders, faith-based hospitals, charities and schools, President Obama offered an “accommodation” in a Feb. 10 announcement for those who said the original infringed on their religious freedom.

The revised mandate will require employers to contract with health insurance companies that offer contraceptive services free of charge, rather than directly pay for the services for employees.

However, even with the proposed accommodation, the mandate would “hinder our ability to serve communities” and make it “morally compromising” to provide healthcare, the charity said.

The mandate currently provides narrow exemptions for religious organizations that mainly hire and serve members of the same faith and for the purpose of promoting religious values.

But Denver Catholic Charities serves people in need “regardless of religion, gender, economic situation, or ethnic background” and therefore does not qualify for the exemption, it said.

The charity, which spends $35 million annually on services for children, elderly and homeless in Colorado communities, said that their operations would be hindered by the new mandate, even with the religious accommodation as proposed by President Obama.

The organization said they use public money for many of their ministries, but that they are “trusted” with public funds because they “provide excellent service.”

“This relationship has been mutually beneficial … without compromising the integrity of the Catholic Church.”

In its statement, the organization voiced hope that all Catholic organizations will “join the Catholic Bishops in their urgent and vigorous defense of conscience and the freedom of religion.”

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Adult stem cell institute undertakes ambitious campaign for cures

Iowa City, Iowa, Feb 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

With pro-life ethics and a patient-driven paradigm, the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute hopes to save lives and shape the future of medicine.

“Medical research is becoming too expensive and taking too long. It's not transformative enough, or impacting patients at a fast enough rate,” institute founder and director Dr. Alan Moy told CNA on Feb. 10, explaining the motivation behind his ambitious “Collection For Cures” project.

“It's more than just doing ethical research. We had to come up with a new paradigm,” Moy said of his institute's focus on patients and their immediate needs.

Both the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic bishops of Iowa are backing the “Collection For Cures,” which aims to raise $10 million for research into rare diseases, regenerative medicine, and personalized cancer treatments.

After he founded the adult stem cell provider Cellular Engineering Technologies in 2005, Moy became aware of key research areas neglected by both the government and the marketplace. He saw the need for a nonprofit enterprise that could fill these scientific and technological gaps.

In 2006, Moy established the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute in Iowa City, as a grassroots effort of Catholic laity and others concerned with the future of ethical biotechnology.

“The goal of the institute is to identify and solve some of the major deficiencies in this country – one of which is the ethical issues surrounding embryonic stem cells,” he noted.

In addition to its pro-life ethical basis, Moy's work stands out in the field for other reasons.

Another distinguishing mark is his interest in treating and curing “orphan diseases.” The term denotes  thousands of serious but rare ailments that fail to attract research dollars, because of the relatively small number of sufferers.

Many of these rare diseases may be treatable with existing FDA-approved drugs. But drug companies have little commercial incentive to discover these applications, particularly when extensive regulatory burdens are factored in to the equation.

Moy, however, wants to use disease-specific, non-embryonic stem cell lines to test the effect of existing drugs and therapies on these unusual ailments. The method saves both money and time over research protocols that would involve testing on animals before moving on to human tissue.

This approach streamlines the research process, often using patients' own cells to investigate possible cures and treatments. In 2010, the National Institutes of Health reported progress toward treatment of the fatal disease Niemann-Pick Type C, based on work with cells from the institute.

Along with its work on “orphan diseases,” the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute is also using adult cells to investigate new methods of cancer treatment, and ethical forms of the regenerative possibilities more often associated with stem cell research.

Development director Kim Lehman, who served as president of Iowa Right To Life before taking a full-time position with the institute, told CNA that the goal was “to do research that lands at the bedside of the patient, not just in the petri dish so that an article can be written.”

“That's our objective – to have therapies that are able to reach the patient,” Lehman said.

The program works by soliciting $1,000 yearly pledges from Catholic parishes. Lehman explained that the backing of larger donors allows the institute to direct all of the pledged money directly to research.

Dr. Moy, meanwhile, not only hopes to find new ethical cures and treatments, but also to change the direction of U.S. biotechnology research, by demonstrating the potential that other countries already recognize in adult stem cells.

Globally, he noted, over 90 percent of all stem cell trials involve adult cells rather than those derived from embryos. But only a quarter of these trials are taking place in the U.S., where Moy believes adult stem cells have been marginalized due to “hype” and controversy over embryonic research.

Although the institute is largely focused on the “niche” areas of cancer treatment and rare diseases, the researcher believes that “the outcomes of what we do will have a broader appeal and application” to the fields of medicine and biotechnology in the future.

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Church will prevent abuse through priestly formation, say Colombian bishops

Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 15, 2012 (CNA) - The bishops of Colombia said that the Church will prevent and confront sexual abuse through the formation of seminarians and by encouraging parents of victims to report their cases to civil authorities.

“The Church is aware that she must be in permanent process of renewal that includes purification and analysis what is going wrong in order to rectify it,” Archbishop Ruben Salazar, head of the Colombian bishops' conference, told newspaper El Tiempo on Feb. 11.

He said the victims of abuse should not only notify Church officials but also civil authorities, since civil and ecclesial trials are separate from each other.

“Our duty is to raise awareness about denouncing these abuses,” he said.

At the same time, Archbishop Salazar continued, “Priests must not be denied the right to rehabilitation, to undergo a process of psychological healing. Every person has this right, including the harshest of criminals.”

However, he clarified, the psychological healing of a priest guilty of abuse does not mean he can return to ministry.

The archbishop said that in Colombia, only “Four or five cases have been reported to the Vatican regarding persons who are already in jail.”

“We need to remember that in Colombia and in the rest of the world, the percentage of cases involving clergy is minute compared with the number of cases in general and the number of priests. It’s not even one percent,” he noted, observing a trend within the media to misrepresent the Church in this area.

“What has occurred is that the cases of pedophilia in the Church have been exaggerated in order to portray the Church as a corrupt institution in which all priests are sexually depraved and in which no child can feel safe,” he added. “This has been a demeaning campaign that has no basis in reality.”

Archbishop Salazar recognized, though, that while every human being is weak, people don’t expect priests to commit these crimes and rightly so. Priests “should be perfect models from the moral point of view. They must live their lives with absolute uprightness,” he said.

He noted that seminaries around the world today are striving to provide future priests with an understanding of authentic chastity and a greater ability to resist the temptations of a sex-saturated culture.

Archbishop Salazar also underscored in his comments that the victims of abuse suffer “psychological and moral repercussions that need to be healed. And the Church should contribute to this recuperation through spiritual guidance.”

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Jesus’ prayers on cross should inspire forgiveness, Pope teaches

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The final words of Jesus Christ as he died on the cross should prompt Christians to pray for those who have hurt them, Pope Benedict XVI said on Feb. 15.
 
“Jesus by asking the Father to forgive those who are crucifying him, invites us to the difficult act of praying for those who do us wrong, who have damaged us, knowing always how to forgive,” the Pope told over 6,000 pilgrims attending today’s general audience in Paul VI Hall.

The Pope urged people to pray that “the light of God may illuminate their hearts, inviting us, that is, to live in our prayers, the same attitude of mercy and love that God has towards us.”

This attitude, he explained, is summed up in one line from the Our Father – “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Over the past several months, the Pope has used his weekly general audiences to explore the issue of prayer. This week he focused on the three last prayers of Jesus from the cross.

The first prayer was pronounced by Jesus immediately after he was nailed to the cross, “while the soldiers are dividing his garments as sad reward of their service.” The prayer Christ uttered was: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
 
In his prayer of intercession, Jesus “asks forgiveness for his executioners,” and in doing so, “carries out what he had taught in the Sermon on the Mount” when he urged his followers to “love your enemy,” “do good to those who hate you,” and promised to reward those who forgive.
 
Crucially, said the Pope, Jesus gives “ignorance, ‘not knowing,’ as the reason for the request for forgiveness from the Father.” This should give “consolation for all times and for all men” because Jesus sees ignorance “as a door that can open us up to repentance.”

The second prayer of Christ is directed towards the good thief who repents after sensing he is “before the Son of God, who reveals the face of God.” Once he recognized this, the thief prayed, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” In doing so, Christ is “aware of entering directly into communion with the Father” and of “reopening the path for the man to God’s paradise.”

This should give all people hope, said Pope Benedict,since it shows that “the goodness of God can touch us even at the last moment of life.” And that “sincere prayer, even after a life of wrong, meets the open arms of the good Father who awaits the return of his son.”

The Pope then turned to Christ’s final prayer on the cross – “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” He noted how each of the Gospel writers describes different aspects of this moment in history, including the veil of the temple being torn down the middle, three hours of darkness over the land and earthquakes.

“The death of Jesus is explicitly characterized as a cosmic and liturgical event,” said the Pope, “it marks the beginning of a new worship in a temple not built by men.”

The prayer is also a “loud cry of extreme and total trust in God,” fully aware of “not being abandoned.” This is signified by the use of the word “Father,” which recalls Christ’s first declaration that he is the son of God when he was a 12-year-old boy and was found in the temple by his parents.
 
“Then he remained for three days in the temple of Jerusalem, the veil of which is now torn,” and so we see that “from beginning to end, what completely determines the feelings of Jesus, his words, his actions is his unique relationship with the Father.”

All in all, concluded the Pope, the three final prayers of Jesus are “tragic” for every man but are also “pervaded by the deep calm that comes from trust in the Father and the will to abandon himself totally to him.” They are a “supreme act of love” which went “to the limit and beyond the limit.”

As well as prompting us to pray for our enemies, the final prayers of Jesus should also teach Christians that “no matter how hard the trial, difficult the problem, heavy the suffering, we never fall from the hands of God,” Pope Benedict said.

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Mexican archbishop calls drug lords to conversion as papal visit nears

Leon, Mexico, Feb 15, 2012 (CNA) -

As Pope Benedict's visit to Mexico approaches, Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon urged members of organized crime and drug trafficking to repent and work for peace in the country.

“Once more we call on these people to realize that their behavior is destructive to peaceful coexistence and prevents any possible development and progress,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Rabago, who will host the Pope during his upcoming visit to Leon on March 23, underscored that he was not asking for a temporary truce, “which would be like telling those who do evil to stop doing so for three days and then continue on. Obviously this is not what we mean.”

According to estimates by local media, from 2006 – when violence sharply increased in the country – to December of 2011, more than 70,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug war.

Over 10,000 people are missing and more than 1.5 million have been displaced from their homes in regions where the drug violence is most severe.

Archbishops Rabago emphasized that the Church seeks to “disarm” hearts in order to foster peace in anticipation of the arrival of Benedict XVI.

“God is always willing to forgive us. I only ask you to acknowledge your mistakes, repent of them and stop offending and harming others,” he said, urging organized crime members to “repair the harm done and abandon their activities of death.”

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Bishops gather to examine Africa’s role in New Evangelization

Rome, Italy, Feb 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

A conference exploring how the continents of Africa and Europe can work together in the new evangelization is underway in Rome.

“Pope Benedict XVI refers to the Catholic Church in Africa as ‘the spiritual lungs of humanity’,” said Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, at the opening session.

“This is an enormous challenge to us, for which we shall do all that it takes to share what we have with the entire Church.”

The 2nd Symposium of African and European Bishops is meeting Feb. 13-17 at Rome’s Regina Apostolorum University. The gathering is entitled “Evangelization Today: Communion and Pastoral Collaboration between Africa and Europe.”

It comes only months after Pope Benedict’s November 2011 trip to the West African country of Benin, where he signed his Apostolic Exhortation “Africae Munus” (Pledge for Africa). In it the Pope outlined “a program for pastoral activity for the coming decades of evangelization in Africa, stressing the need for reconciliation, justice and peace.
 
Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, South Africa explained to CNA on Feb. 13 that the conference “has already helped because it is starting to clarify why Africae Munus was issued, what is important about that document, and why Africa should treat it very, very seriously.”
 
He said one of the key challenges laid down by the Pope is that “theology shouldn’t just be some speculative science,” but that bishops should “try and translate some of our theology into some pastoral teaching, some pastoral care, etc.”

Over the week the participants are using much of the Pope’s document on Africa as a template for their seminars and debates. They are also gathering every day to celebrate Mass together.

On Feb. 16, they will meet with Pope Benedict at the Vatican to discuss their work.

“It is up to us while we are here to become more deeply aware of what the Holy Father has said and how, in practical terms, we might be able to develop his ideas for the benefit of the people in Africa, and also for those in Europe,” Bishop Tom Burns of Menevia in Wales told CNA.

“We can do this by understanding what Africa has to offer -- and we welcome that -- but also by Africa understanding what we may have to offer. And I’m sure they can benefit from that as well,” Bishop Burns said.

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Leading consecrated woman leaves Regnum Christi

Rome, Italy, Feb 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Malén Oriol, the head of consecrated women in the Legionaries of Christ’s lay branch Regnum Christi, announced Feb. 14 that she has submitted her resignation.

Oriol, the assistant for consecrated life to the Legion’s general director Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, submitted her resignation to Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the papal delegate overseeing the reform of the religious congregation.

She did not state whether she intends to join the departing women, Regnum Christi said on its website Feb. 14.

Oriol also revealed that some consecrated women within the congregation have asked the Vatican to let them live out their vows under a bishop, not as part of the Legion.

Regnum Christi addressed the departing sisters in its statement:

“We don’t yet have details of this initiative, but we wish them all the best in their new endeavor and pray that they will be blessed with great success in their spiritual growth and service to the Church,” it said.

“We are deeply grateful for all the years that they have lived as consecrated members of Regnum Christi; let us pray for them and keep the gift of the consecrated life in Regnum Christi in our prayers so that God grant each one of us the grace to move forward in this path of renewal that the Holy Father has invited us to undertake.”

The Legion’s branch of consecrated women has about 800 members who work in Legion schools and in recruitment and fundraising activities.

Oriol comes from one of the wealthiest Catalonian families in Spain. Four of her brothers entered the Legion and became priests, but over the last three years, all four have left the Legion while still remaining  priests.

Updated Feb. 16, 2012 at 11:01 a.m. MST. Describes Oriol as head of consecrated women and changes number of consecrated women from 600 to 800.

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UK ambassador hopes visit will set trend for engaging Vatican

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The United Kingdom's Ambassador to the Holy See believes the two-day visit of government ministers to Rome Feb. 14-15 will set a new trend in how foreign countries should diplomatically engage the Vatican.

“Very few countries seize the opportunity that we have spotted, as far as the Holy See is concerned, of working with their network across all these issues that we are interesting and they are interested in,” Ambassador Nigel Baker told CNA Feb. 15.

Throughout the morning, a team of seven U.K. ministers took part in discussions with their respective Vatican equivalents. The result was a joint communiqué outlining areas of agreement between the U.K. and Holy See on issues such as culture, human rights, climate change and international development. 

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone “last night said at dinner that this is something we should have been doing in the past and maybe ought to be doing in the future,” said Ambassador Baker, “so I think we set a few hares running in the Holy See.”

The communiqué also noted areas of disagreement between the U.K. and the Vatican. It stated that in their talks, the Holy See “emphasized the need to ensure that institutions connected with the Catholic Church can act in accordance with their own principles and convictions,” and also “stressed the necessity of safeguarding the family based on marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience.”

The U.K.'s Conservative-Liberal coalition government, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, is currently committed to introducing same-sex “marriage” by 2015. They have also refused to give Catholic adoption agencies any opt-out from rules compelling them to place children with homosexual couples. In recent years 11 Catholic adoption agencies in England have been forced to close down or severe official ties with the Church.

After their bi-lateral discussions, the U.K. ministerial delegation had a 20-minute private audience with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the delegation’s lead minister, presented the pontiff with a message from Queen Elizabeth and a copy of the King James Bible courtesy of Prime Minister Cameron. As the U.K.'s first female Muslim cabinet member, Baroness Warsi also gifted the Pope a copy of the Koran and a gold-plated cube that opens up to reveal 99 smaller cubes, each inscribed with a reference to Allah.

“The Pope had a chance to talk to individual ministers in turn and also to talk to Baroness Warsi, particularly about some of her messages contained within her speech yesterday when she spoke about the importance of faith in the United Kingdom,” said Ambassador Baker.

On Feb. 14 Baroness Warsi told an invited audience of trainee Vatican diplomats that British society is under threat from “militant secularization” reminiscent of previous “totalitarian regimes.”

The U.K. ministerial mission follows-on from Pope Benedict’s successful 2010 visit to the United Kingdom. Ambassador Baker explained that the U.K. government didn’t want the Papal visit to be merely a one-time occurrence.

“You can’t just have this extraordinary event and then sit back for ten years and say 'well that’s that relationship sorted' so there was always a sense that some sort of follow-up should happen,” he explained.

The Ambassador said the past two days have surpassed his expectations and that he is now looking to build on the achievements of the past 48-hours.

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