Archive of January 16, 2013

Irish pro-lifers rally at defining moment in abortion law

Dublin, Ireland, Jan 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Jan. 19 pro-life vigil in Dublin aims to rally against the government's proposal to permit some abortions, warning that abortion advocates are blurring important moral distinctions in the debate.

“Time and again, when the distinction is made between current medical practice which cares for both the mother and baby and direct, intentional abortion, voters give their unambiguous support to pro-life laws,” Caroline Simons, a legal consultant for the Pro Life Campaign, said in a Jan. 14 announcement.

She said the debate over the legalization of some abortions is a “defining moment for Ireland” and Irish people need to “make their voices heard loud and clear.”

The rally will take place in Dublin’s Merrion Square Saturday at 4:30 p.m. local time. A Dec. 4 rally outside of the Dáil Eireann in Dublin drew over 10,000 people.

Simons on Jan. 15 further explained that everyone agrees women must receive life-saving treatments even if it may lead to the unintentional death of the unborn baby.

“Where the disagreement arises is that some are skilfully but unfairly using the occasion to push for an abortion regime in Ireland and are blurring the distinction between necessary medical treatments and abortion,” she said.

The Fine Gael party, which controls the Irish government, has said it will introduce legislation to legalize abortion where the mother’s life is at risk. The proposal would conform Irish law to a December 2010 ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that called for a clarification of abortion’s legal status in light of a 1992 Irish Supreme Court decision.

That decision said abortion must be permitted to save the life of a pregnant woman, including when she threatens suicide. Irish law was never changed to reflect the ruling.

Opponents of the proposed changes to abortion law say a possible exemption for suicide threats would effectively legalize abortion on demand. They support present Irish practice which distinguishes morally wrong direct abortion from medical treatments that may indirectly put the unborn baby’s life at risk.

Fine Gael had promised not to introduce abortion legislation during campaigning for the 2011 elections. That changed following media controversy over the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian woman who was admitted to a Galway hospital while miscarrying. She reportedly asked for an abortion and later died of a severe infection.

Although her death is still being investigated, abortion advocates quickly seized on her case to claim legal abortion would have saved her life. The inquest will begin Jan. 18.

Any abortion legislation will not be introduced until after Easter.

“Politicians of all parties, but especially Fine Gael, need to hear the message loud and clear: the Irish people don’t want laws which treat unborn children as second class citizens, and Irish doctors don't need abortion to treat pregnant women,” Simons said Jan. 14.

“Fine Gael made a made a promise not to introduce abortion. People need to turn up in force on Saturday 19th January to make them understand they can expect to pay a heavy electoral price if they break that promise.”

Simons said the vigil has the support of all the pro-life groups in Ireland, including the Pro Life Campaign, the Life Institute and Family and Life.

“Together we intend to send a strong message to the Government that we stand united to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves,” she said.

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Catholic journalist to run news at Cardinal Newman Society

Manassas, Va., Jan 16, 2013 (CNA) - The Cardinal Newman Society has named veteran journalist and author Tim Drake as its senior editor and director of news operations to help advance the group's work in following Catholic education.

“I am absolutely delighted to be utilizing my talents and experience on behalf of The Cardinal Newman Society,” Drake said Jan. 14.

“I am fully aware of their critical support for the Church and all that they do to promote and strengthen Catholic identity on college and university campuses. It’s vital work for the future of our campuses, the Church and our country. There's no other organization like it.”

Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Virginia-based Cardinal Newman Society, said the organization has worked to inform Catholic families who have “a right to authentic, faithful Catholic education.”

“I can’t think of a single person who is better qualified and prepared to improve and expand our operations than Tim Drake, Reilly said. “We are thrilled to have him on our team.”

Drake has worked for the National Catholic Register for 13 years as features correspondent, editor, staff writer and senior writer. He authored a series of articles on the implementation  of the canon law requirement that Catholic theology professors receive a “mandatum” from their local bishop affirming that they teach authentic Catholic doctrine. The Cardinal Newman Society awarded Drake its 2003 Ex Corde Ecclesiae Award for the series.

In his new position, Drake will edit the Cardinal Newman Society’s online reporting and member communications.

Drake is the author of six books on topics such as the Catholic Church, Catholic saints and the movie “Bella.” He contributed to the Cardinal Newman Society’s “Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.”

He has published articles in Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic World Report, Catholic Digest, Columbia Magazine, Gilbert! Magazine, This Rock Magazine and other publications. He has been a guest on Vatican Radio, Fox News, Relevant Radio, EWTN and The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. He co-hosted the EWTN weekly radio program “Register Radio.”

Drake is a former educator who has worked in both Catholic and public secondary schools.

The Cardinal Newman Society was founded in 1993 to promote faithful Catholic education. It is supported by over 20,000 individuals, businesses and foundations.

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Franciscans' prayer request texts met with enthusiasm

New York City, N.Y., Jan 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - U.S.-based Franciscan friars have enjoyed a widespread response to a service allowing Catholics to send in prayer requests via text message.

“It's an amazing thing,” Father David Convertino, OFM told CNA Jan. 14. “It's very touching to read the prayers.”

In the week that it has been online, Fr. Convertino estimated that his brothers had received more than 5,000 requests for prayer by text messaging.

Fr. Convertino is development director for the Holy Name Province of the Order of Friars Minor, or Observant Franciscans, which includes more than 325 friars up and down the eastern seaboard.

He recalled that the idea came to him while in a meeting at the provincial offices.

“Essentially, I was at a staff meeting one day noticing people were texting during our meeting, and realized how people are texting constantly.”

The priest put two and two together, and realized that the flood of prayer requests received by his Franciscan brothers could be submitted through text messages. His idea was warmly received, and quickly initiated.

“We had first thought about it maybe three weeks ago, and then last week we thought, 'Let's go with it now, let's move', so we did.”

The provincial office's technology guru set up the system, and the friars began receiving prayer requests Jan. 8.

“They're prayed for everyday at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and then also remembered at Mass,” said Fr. Convertino.

Currently the prayers are included at intentions at the provincial house, but they will soon be sent to the Holy Name Province's three retirement houses, as well.

Those wishing to have the friars pray for their intentions text 'prayer' to 30644, and they receive back a welcome message. Then the individual sends their prayer intention, which is logged in an email account.

The requests are then printed out, “so the guys, if they want to do private prayer for the intentions, can actually read all the intentions,” noted Fr. Convertino.

“They're very, very touching, I have to say.”

“We find there's a lot of alienation from the Church that people are asking prayers for,” he said. Many ask prayers for their estranged children or friends, and many ask prayers for those suffering illness as well.

The friars are also flexible in their initiative. After receiving emails from people internationally who cannot message the number provided, the province decided to add an email feature for sending prayer requests. Now those who live outside the United States or who do not use text messaging can send their prayer intentions to the friars by email.

The friars are even being joined in their prayers by people around the world. Fr. Convertino recounted that a South African woman had emailed him offering to “be a part of our prayer for these she's part of what we're doing too.”

The generous response reminds Fr. Convertino of St. Francis and the days of the Order's founding.

“It started not as an order, but a movement, the Franciscan movement. It was really a lay movement that Francis was part of. So you still have that now – people are joining us from all walks of life in this prayer movement.”

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Desire to see God's face fulfilled in Christ, Pope affirms

Vatican City, Jan 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict examined salvation history as the story of man's relationship with and thirst for God at his general audience this week at the Vatican.

“The desire to truly know God, that is, to see the face of God, is inherent in every human being,” he said Jan. 16 in Paul VI Hall.

“Perhaps we also, unconsciously, have this desire to simply see who he is, what he is, who he is for us. But this desire is fulfilled in following Christ so...we finally see God as a friend, his face the face of Christ.”

Pope Benedict began his audience by referring to Christ as “the mediator and the fullness of all revelation.” Salvation history begins after the fall of Adam because God “offers the possibility of his friendship.”

This friendship with God was offered especially through Abraham and then the people of Israel, who were chosen “not with criteria of earthly power, but simply for love's sake.”

This election of Israel by God “remains a mystery,” but his election is always for the sake of the other, said the Pope.

The process by which God revealed himself was gradual, and involved mediators, including Moses and the prophets, who kept alive “the hope of the full and definitive realization of the divine promises.”

“It is the realization of these promises that we have contemplated in Christmas,” continued Pope Benedict. “God's revelation reaches its peak, its fullness...God himself became man.”

In John's Gospel, the pontiff recounted, Philip asked that Christ show the Father to the apostles.

Christ's response, “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father,” Pope Benedict said, “lead us into the heart of Christological faith.”

“In this expression is summarized the novelty of the New Testament, the novelty that appeared in the cave of Bethlehem: God can be seen, God has manifested his face, and is visible in Jesus Christ.”

The Pope noted that “seeking the face of God” is a theme throughout the Old Testament – some 100 times it speaks about the face of God. The Old Testament recounts the desire for God as a “you,” a person with whom we can enter into relationship.

“God is certainly above all things, yet he turns to us, listens to us, sees, speaks, extends covenants, and is capable of loving,” said Pope Benedict. But this relationship is never completed in the Old Testament.

“Something completely new occurs, however, with the Incarnation. The search for the face of God is unimaginably changed because this face can now be seen. It is that of Jesus, of the Son of God who is made man.”
“He is the fullness of this revelation because he is the Son of God as well as 'the mediator and the fullness of all revelation'...Jesus, true God and true man, is not simply one of the mediators between God and humankind, but is 'the mediator' of the new and eternal covenant.,” the Pope reflected.

Christ's humanity is essential to our relationship with God because “ in him we see and encounter the Father...and are given salvation.”

“Our entire existence must be directed toward meeting Jesus Christ, toward love for Him. In such an existence, love for our neighbor must take a central position; that love that, in light of the Crucifix, allows us to recognize the face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, and in those who are suffering,” Pope Benedict exhorted his audience.

We can do this, he concluded, primarily through “the mystery of the Eucharist.”

“The Eucharist is the great school in which we learn to see the face of God, to enter into an intimate relationship with him.”

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Changes to March for Life focus on engaging culture

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - When hundreds of thousands of people descend upon the nation’s capital for the March for Life this year, they will be met with exciting changes aimed at young people and cultural renewal, said the event’s leader.

“I think it’s really a spiritual battle,” March for Life president Jeanne Monahan told CNA on Jan. 15. “This march does have a huge impact on actually saving lives.”
Forty years after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion throughout America, the March for Life is looking forward to continuing this impact with Monahan, who took over as head of the organization last year.

“The rally will have a really different spirit this year,” said Monahan, explaining that it will be much shorter, only about an hour, compared to several hours in the past.

In addition, she said, the rally will have a very different feel than in previous years, which have featured upwards of 50 legislators and other speakers. Instead, Monahan noted, the rally this year will spotlight a handful of speakers, “who are actually steeped in the issue,” and the speeches will “tap into all the cutting-edge pro-life issues,” both legal and cultural.

The March for Life will also incorporate new technology into this year’s event and those of the future, she continued. During the Jan. 25 rally on the National Mall, there will be “huge jumbotrons so that participants will be able to see what’s happening,” regardless of their proximity to the speakers.

The jumbotrons will also be utilized before the rally to play “interesting and engaging videos related to pro-life,” as well as to entertain those waiting for the march to begin.

The March for Life’s digital presence has also been updated, with a new website that was launched just two weeks before the event. Monahan described the site as having “gone from a relic to a very engaging and fun website.”

“We’re trying to do a good job of commemorating the unique 55 million lives that we’ve lost in the last four decades, but at the same time, capturing the enthusiasm of the march and young people.”

Looking towards the future, Monahan also anticipates some long-term changes for the organization.

“We’re the March for Life Education and Defense Fund,” she said, explaining that the organization has focused on the defense aspect of holding the largest pro-life event in the country each year.

“So now what I see happening in the future is that we’ll grow our education piece… in the larger context of trying to build a culture of life,” she said.

While the organization is making changes and embracing the age of digital communications and social networking, Monahan stressed that “it’s really only by now standing on the wonderful foundation that Nellie (Gray) has built that we can move forward and bring some new things to the march.”

Gray, the founder and former president of the March for Life, passed away in August 2012.

In particular, “one thing that I really admire and take from Nellie,” Monahan explained, “ is how she would pray for people and had a merciful heart towards people involved in the abortion industry.”

Recounting stories of Gray praying for the conversion of abortionists, she added that her predecessor “had a very merciful heart and very much knew that it was a spiritual battle.”
Monahan also responded to speculations of record crowds attending the march this year.

Earlier media reports have speculated that the attendance at the March for Life may outnumber that of the presidential inauguration on Jan. 21. However, while a greater percentage of the hotel rooms reserved for the march have sold out, Monahan confirmed, the inauguration committee had reserved more rooms overall than the March for Life and affiliated organizations had.

Still, March for Life organizers are expecting large crowds. Monahan said that the group’s hotels sold out about a month earlier than they normally do.

“We’re seeing all sorts of signs of increased enthusiasm and excitement,” she said, adding that there are “all sorts of indicators pointing towards a large crowd.”

Monahan estimates that about 80 percent of the crowd will be young people, and that this young presence is a hopeful marker of the future of the pro-life movement and the effect it has on the culture.
“I think that it just has a huge impact,” Monahan stated, “one that we can’t even begin to measure.”

This impact will not only be seen in Congress, she explained, “but also just the larger message that this says to the world and to Washington: that we are a pro-life people and that we respect life and want to protect life.”

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US asked to intervene for Christian citizen jailed in Iran

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith could face execution if the government is not pressured to release him, warned an international religious freedom advocacy group.

“As more individuals and governments around the world take notice of Pastor Saeed’s case, the pressure on Iran to release him and stop violating religious liberty will increase,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the Washington, D.C. – based American Center for Law and Justice.

In a Jan. 14 post on the law center’s website, Sekulow explained that immediate action is essential “as the Iranian regime is clearly bent on rushing through a sham trial that leaves counsel unprepared and in the dark about the nature of the charges against their client.”

Pastor Saeed Abedini, 32, is a U.S. citizen who initially invoked the anger of the Iranian government by helping start house churches after converting from Islam to Christianity.

However, the two parties arrived at an agreement in 2009 allowing the pastor to travel freely in the country if he stopped working with the underground churches. He instead turned his focus toward humanitarian efforts with non-religious orphanages.

Nevertheless, the pastor was arrested in September during a trip to work with those orphanages and visit family, the American Center for Law and Justice said, and he has been imprisoned illegally for more than three months.

Now, Sekulow warned, Abedini is scheduled to go on trial before one of Iran’s most notorious “hanging judges.”

He explained that Abedini’s lawyer was permitted to see the court file only one week before the Jan. 21 court date. The only charges that the attorney could decipher dated back to 2000, the year of the pastor’s conversion to Christianity.

“The supposed charge levied against him, actions against the national security of Iran, is a typical charged brought by the radical Islamic regime against those it wishes to persecute for their religious beliefs,” Sekulow said, adding that the court file “indicated that this national security charge was directly related to his work starting a house church movement in Iran.”

In a recent letter, Abedini said that he has been beaten and told that he “will hang” for his “faith in Jesus.”

The American Center for Law and Justice has been working to raise awareness of the pastor’s plight.

The U.S. State Department has expressed “serious concerns” about the plight of Abedini.

During a Jan. 11 press briefing, department spokesperson Victoria Nuland acknowledged that the pastor was arrested over three months ago “on charges related to his religious beliefs.”

“We understand that a hearing will be held soon,” she said, “and we call on Iranian officials to respect Iran’s own laws and provide Mr. Abedini access to an attorney.”

The American Center for Law and Justice welcomed the statement as a “great first step” but lamented that the State Department did not go as far as calling for the pastor’s immediate release.

The group also urged President Obama to speak out against Abedini’s imprisonment. On Jan. 15, the White House spokesman said he did currently not have a statement on the situation.

Sekulow and his organization have emphasized that efforts to raise awareness in the global community are key to keeping the pastor alive. They credit international pressure fueled by media attention for the recent release of another Iranian pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, who had spent three years in prison and was sentenced to death for converting to Christianity.

Now, the law center has launched a petition, signed by more than 100,000 Americans so far, to call for U.S. government intervention on behalf of Abedini.

Congressional efforts to advocate for the pastor are also underway, with letters calling for his freedom introduced in both the House and the Senate.

In addition, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom denounced Abedini’s continued imprisonment.

Commission chair Katrina Lantos Swett called the national security charges “bogus” and “a typical tactic” by the Iranian government to suppress religious beliefs it dislikes.

The commission called on the government of Iran “to release Mr. Abedini immediately and unconditionally.”

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