Archive of January 18, 2013

Denver Catholics prayerfully mark 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Denver, Colo., Jan 18, 2013 (CNA) - Archbishop Samuel Aquila of the Denver archdiocese will lead local Catholics in remembering the 40th anniversary of legalized abortion throughout America with a Respect Life Mass this Sunday.

The Mass will be said at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at 10:30 the morning of Jan. 20.

Following the Mass, many will participate in the March for Life Denver, beginning with speakers at 12:30 at the state capitol. The march will progress down Colfax Avenue from the Cathedral and Capitol to St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church.

The Denver march is in solidarity with the large events held in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Among its organizers is Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Littleton, and Students for Life of America.

Later that afternoon, Archbishop Aquila will again join pro-life activities with a prayer event at Lighthouse Women's Center in Denver. This pro-life medical center is located across the street from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, one of the largest clinics of that organization in the country.

The 3 p.m. event at Lighthouse is called “40-Year Remembrance: Honoring Denver's Children Lost to Abortion.” After song and prayer, Archbishop Aquila will address the crowd, and bless those making pilgrimage to the pro-life marches on the east and west coasts.

A life-sized image of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, will be on display at the event. It is to end with a procession to Planned Parenthood, where participants will pray for those children who have lost their life there. Participants are encouraged to bring flowers to leave in their memory.

Across the country events are being planned to commemorate the Supreme Court's Jan. 22, 1973 decision which legalized abortion throughout the country. Some 55 million human persons have been killed by abortion in the past 40 years in the U.S.

The March for Life will take place Jan. 25 on the National Mall in Washington D.C. and will feature exciting changes aimed at youth and cultural renewal.

San Francisco's Walk for Life West Coast will be the following day, Jan. 26. Speakers will include Archbishop Carlo Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., who will read a message from Pope Benedict.

Several bishops are releasing messages marking Roe v. Wade's 40th anniversary, including those of Nebraska.

The state's three bishops lamented the “catastrophic” results of the ruling yet see “signs of hope” among young pro-life advocates. They also prayed that the 40 years spent in the “desert” of legal abortion will lead to “a new culture of human life.”

And the U.S. bishops are inviting the faithful to participate in a novena of prayer, penance, and pilgrimage Jan. 19-27 to mark Roe v. Wade's anniversary.

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Colo. civil unions bill could endanger Catholic child services

Denver, Colo., Jan 18, 2013 (CNA) - A new version of a proposed Colorado civil unions bill has dropped provisions that protect agencies from being forced to place children with same-sex and unmarried opposite-sex couples – a change that could put at risk Catholic Charities' adoption and foster care services in the state.

Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, told CNA Jan. 16 that there have been “significant” changes to the bill from last year’s version, which failed to pass.

If the legislation passes this year, civil unions for two people of any sex would be legally equivalent to marriage under state law. The 2012 Colorado Senate bill proposing to create the unions had stated that the bill “shall not be interpreted to require a child placement agency to place a child for adoption” with a couple in a civil union.

That language, however, is absent from the 2013 bill, S.B. 11.

Kraska said this change means the legislation has the potential for “serious conflict with religious liberty” regarding religious institutions involved in charitable services as well as adoption and foster care.

Mark Rohlena, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, said if the bill passes it could threaten the religious liberty of agencies like his that decline to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples.

“We feel it would be a very sad commentary if Colorado forced religious institutions or those who believe in a different framework to do something against their conscience,” he told CNA Jan. 16.

If Colorado law forces the Colorado Springs-based agency to violate Catholic teaching, he said, “we probably would cease the operation of our adoption programs.”

“That risk is always there,” he said. “I think that we would try to explore every avenue available to us to provide this vital service to the community.”

He said a shutdown is “very well what could happen” given precedents in other states.

When Illinois passed a civil unions bill in 2010, its backers promised that religious freedom would not be affected. However, the next year state officials used the law to end Catholic Charities agencies’ $30 million in state contracts for its work in caring for about 2,000 foster children each year. The state ruled that the agencies were discriminatory against unmarried couples and homosexual couples.

In 2010, a “gay marriage” law in the District of Columbia forced Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington to end its foster care and public adoption program because the law required it to serve homosexual couples.

Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination law forced Catholic Charities of Boston to end its adoption program, one of the oldest in the country.

Rohlena said that Catholic Charities of Central Colorado does not receive state funds to “any significant degree.” It follows Church teaching in placing children only with married couples and does not see couples in civil unions as married. The agency has worked in foster care in the past and would like to do so  again in the future.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver, a separate Colorado agency, has provided adoption and foster care services since 1927. It also does not accept state funding for adoption services, but it can contract with county governments to place children with the agency’s certified foster families.

“We believe that children are best served by one mother and one father, and that belief guides our placement decisions,” the Denver-based agency told CNA Jan. 17.

Rohlena said the Colorado state constitution, like Catholic teaching, defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. He said this recognizes “the importance of that traditional marriage relationship for stability and advancement in society.”

He said the previous civil unions bill had “pretty robust” sections protecting charitable agencies.

“Not only did it say that we would have the freedom to continue to operate within our understanding of Church teaching. It also had protections for civil liability so that we couldn’t be sued for continuing to operate as we are now,” he said.

“Those are not currently in the version of the bill that is being presented,” Rohlena added, saying that he hoped that the protections will be put back into the legislation.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver said it will continue to monitor the bill, but its primary focus will be “to provide charitable, Christian service to those children in need, and to the families who so generously open their hearts and their homes to them.”

The Colorado civil unions bill was killed in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives committee in 2011. In 2012, an unexpected yes vote from one Republican on a House committee sent the bill to the House floor, where it died in the tumultuous final hours of the legislative session. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who backs the legislation,  called for a special session where the bill again failed to pass.

Colorado has become a center for gay activist groups and several influential multi-millionaires have supported these causes. In 2008, software entrepreneur Tim Gill told the LGBT Caucus at the Democratic National Convention in Denver that they should specifically concentrate donations on state legislatures and primary races to shift politics in their favor and to block potential rivals from rising to higher office.

In April 2011, Gill’s lawyer Ted Trimpa told Denver’s Fox 31 News that Gill could spend as much as $2 million in 2012 Colorado political races to shift the state House to Democrat control.

The Democrats took control of Colorado House in the 2012 elections and elected Rep. Mark Ferrandino as the first gay Speaker of the House. He is co-sponsoring the bill with Sen. Pat Steadman.

Kraska said the civil unions proposal contradicts the “will of the people” expressed in 2006, when voters rejected a civil unions equivalent bill and passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The Colorado Catholic Conference has organized a rally to support and protect marriage on Jan. 25 from noon to 1 p.m. on the west steps of the State Capitol in Denver.

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Possible Vatican ambassador picks draw concern

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2013 (CNA) - Amid speculation over the next U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, concerns have been raised about the possibility of appointing individuals known for criticizing the views of the bishops.

“From the steps Obama has taken in the last year, it would seem that he is trying to diminish Church influence,” a Vatican official told CNA.

The official, who requested anonymity, pointed to the administration's contraception mandate as an example. The controversial mandate, which has been repeatedly criticized by the bishops in the U.S., requires employers to offer insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and drugs that can cause early abortions.

The Vatican official explained that it is “contrary to the ends of diplomacy” to send a diplomat who has publicly expressed views that are “adverse to the institution of the country he is being sent to.”

“The choice of an outspoken critic of the Church would be an unfortunate misstep,” he said.

In a recent article in the National Catholic Reporter, renowned Vatican journalist John L. Allen Jr. listed names of individuals who are “making the rounds” as possible appointments for U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. The previous ambassador, Miguel Diaz, recently stepped down to teach at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

Two of the individuals listed by Allen are known for recently criticizing the stance of the U.S. bishops with regard to respect life issues and religious freedom.

One of these men is Stephen F. Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America and formerly the chair of the university’s politics department.

Schneck is affiliated with both Democrats for Life of America and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a social justice advocacy group that has been criticized by numerous bishops for causing confusion about the priority of moral issues by downplaying the significance of fundamental matters like abortion – while giving heavy weight to issues such as the environment.

Last spring, Schneck sparked controversy by charging that the Knights of Columbus was engaging in “scandalous” and “dangerous” behavior by using rhetoric that suggested that a war was being waged against the Catholic faith through various threats to religious freedom.

As the Knights joined the bishops in voicing serious apprehension over the contraception mandate, warning that it unfairly oppressed believers, Schneck dismissed these concerns as overblown, arguing that it was “ridiculously obvious” that there “is no persecution of Catholics in the United States.”

Although he said that he thinks the mandate rules should be relaxed as they apply to Catholic institutions, he has argued that the regulation – which could lead to stifling fines that force Catholic organizations to close – does not amount to religious persecution.

Despite Schneck’s criticism, the Knights of Columbus enjoy significant credibility in the Holy See, both for their charitable efforts and for their defense and support of the Catholic Church, especially on issues of life and marriage.

In an August 2012 letter, Pope Benedict XVI praised the Knights’ work to promote and defend religious liberty in the U.S.

The letter applauded the Knights’ efforts to protect “the right of all religious believers, as individual citizens and in their institutions, to work responsibly in shaping a democratic society inspired by their deepest beliefs, values and aspirations.”

The Knights have also offered support for the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson has been appointed by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to serve on several Vatican commissions.

Schneck also sparked debate in 2011, when he charged that Republican budget proposals were “anti-life” and discordant with Church teaching because their spending cuts could harm the poor and elderly. His critics noted that he has supported national candidates that openly embrace increased abortion access and funding.

Another name listed as a possible contender for ambassador was Nicholas P. Cafardi, the former dean of the Duquesne University School of Law. A canon and civil lawyer, Cafardi was an original member and the second chairman of the U.S. bishops’ National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth.

He drew criticism with a 2008 article arguing that while he was a “committed Catholic,” he was throwing his support behind Obama for president, despite his stance on abortion.

“I believe that we have lost the abortion battle – permanently,” Cafardi said.

In the article, he argued that “a vote for Obama is not somehow un-Catholic” but could instead provide a path to minimize abortion “without endorsing Republicans' immoral baggage.”

While believing that “abortion is an unspeakable evil,” he also stated his opposition to Republican stances on the war in Iraq and the treatment of suspected terrorists and detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
He also argued that the stronger social safety net proposed by Obama would lead to reduced abortion rates, regardless of Obama’s push to remove restrictions and increase funding of abortion.

The article elicited disagreement from numerous sources, including Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Catholic, pro-life college in Ohio where Cafardi served on the Board of Trustees. The university issued a statement distancing itself from his article, and he resigned from the board shortly afterwards.

Cafardi later sparked further controversy during the 2012 campaign by accusing several bishops of electioneering and lobbying for their criticism of Obama’s policies on abortion and religious liberty.

Both Schneck and Cafardi additionally caused a stir for their defense of Kathleen Sebelius for HHS Secretary despite her adamant support for abortion. Both men signed a 2009 letter calling Sebelius “a woman of deep faith” with a “record of building the common good.”

It was in this capacity as secretary that Sebelius later issued the controversial contraception mandate that has been challenged in lawsuits from more than 100 individuals and organizations.

Schneck and Cafardi called for the revision of initial mandate to broaden conscience protections for Catholic institutions. However, their opposition to the mandate did not prevent them for campaigning for Obama in 2012, assuming the role of national co-chairs of the Catholics for Obama campaign group.

Other names on Allen’s list of prospective picks were former Catholic Relief Services president Ken Hackett and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), a Catholic congressman known for his active pro-life work and his votes to defend marriage and protect freedom of conscience.

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Christ's beauty overcomes evil, archbishop says at Aurora theater

Aurora, Colo., Jan 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - At the reopening of the Aurora theater where a gunman took 12 lives last July, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said the darkness of evil cannot overcome the light and beauty of Christ.

“Seeing the beautiful helps put behind you the darkness, the evil, the horror of what occurred here. Opening yourself up to beauty, to receiving beauty, is a way of really pushing out that darkness that can be there,” he told CNA shortly after the Jan. 17 event.

“When the sunrise comes up, there's a real beauty and goodness there, that warms your heart and fills you with a certain peace and joy, to see the sun rising after the darkness of night.”

“Christ is the light of the world,” he added. “He identifies himself as the light of the world, and 'Aurora' means dawning, light...we cannot let evil have the final word, and good always triumphs over evil.”

The archbishop attended the reopening Thursday to offer a closing prayer at the event.

“I'm going because when a priest is asked to join a community in prayer, he goes. I'm going because the opening will be a night of remembering, and mourning, and because the Scripture I read instructs me to 'mourn with those who mourn,'” he wrote in a Dec. 17 column for The Denver Post.

Some 2,000 people attended the reopening, including victims and their families, first responders, and local hospital employees and volunteers.

On July 20 last year at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” James Holmes, 25, entered the theater dressed in black tactical assault gear. He threw a pair of tear gas canisters into the cinema before indiscriminately opening fire on moviegoers.

Holmes was arrested outside the cinema when he surrendered to police. He had murdered 12 people and wounded 58 more.

On Jan. 11, a Colorado judge chose to delay Holmes' arraignment until March 12, giving his defense lawyers more time to prepare his plea.

Speakers at the theater's reopening on Thursday included Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, Aurora mayor Steve Hogan and Tim Warner, CEO of Cinemark.

In his comments, Warner noted that the “selfless response” of all those who responded to the tragedy was “a testament that good always triumphs over evil, that love and compassion will always make a difference.”

The CEO's personal response to the tragedy was emphasized by Gov. Hickenlooper, who thanked him for coming himself to Colorado “the moment he heard” of the tragedy and not sending someone else. Gov. Hickenlooper said the reopening was part of the healing process, having “the ability to find light where there was darkness, the opportunity to push towards finding joy.”

In his remarks before the closing prayer, Archbishop Aquila quoted the Bible by saying that Christ came to “shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

He reminded those gathered that the world's redemption is rooted in suffering. “In suffering, and in the love of God, dawn breaks before us...we are here to stand together in mourning, in suffering, and we stand together in redemption.”

Archbishop Aquila said, “the way of peace means rejecting the violence of that night. It means giving to God our desire for vengeance, our hatred, our bitterness, and our anger...knowing that we are connected to one another – that in the family of humanity, each of our lives has worth, and dignity, meaning, and purpose.”

“God calls us to pursue together what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful. The way of peace means coming together in love,” he added.

“If we walk together in peace, we will honor those who died here more than words can. Our lives are the greatest tribute we can make to those who perished or were wounded here. We must not forget – we must make a memorial of the lives we choose to live.”

The archbishop closed the reopening in prayer, asking that God “transform us through our suffering” and “make of this community a community of peace.”

“Help us to know truth, and goodness, and beauty,” he prayed. “Help us to know you.”

During the event, counselors were available to those needing support. After the ceremony, the film “The Hobbit” was shown at the theater. Free movies will be offered to the community Jan. 18 to 21.

Cinemark chose to reopen the theater complex after Aurora residents expressed support for the move and mayor Hogan requested it. About $1 million was spent in remodeling, and the theater, formerly the Century 16, has been renamed Century Aurora.

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New journalism program launched amid Pope's Twitter success

Rome, Italy, Jan 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A pontifical university in Rome is launching a new digital journalism program on Feb. 14 as widespread response to Pope Benedict's Twitter account continues.

“This course puts our university at the forefront of studies in this field and confirms the Church's desire to be present with the greatest commitment in this area,” said Bishop Enrico dal Covolo, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University.

The new master's degree in digital journalism comes after Pope Benedict XVI reached 2.5 million twitter followers after posting his first tweet on Dec. 12, 2012.

This Sunday, the Pope will add Latin to his eight other languages he tweets in, which already include English, Spanish, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Polish and Portuguese.

Course lecturers for the Lateran university's new program include the Vatican's Secretariat of State media adviser Greg Burke, who took up office just last year after working for Fox News as Rome correspondent.

The master's degree will be in Italian and hold a maximum of 35 students who will study in depth online journalism and how to start up their own business in the industry.

The course leaders will be former director of Italian news outlet Sky Tg24 Emilio Carelli and Dario Edoardo Viganò.

Other lecturers will include director of Huffington Post Italy Lucia Annunziata, Mario Giordano – the director of Tg LA7 and Tgcom 24 – ANSA president Giulio Anselmi, La Stampa columnist Marcello Sorgi and writer and blogger, Vittorio Zambardino.

The program will offer students internships in Italian national newspapers as well as in the Huffington Post Italy, YOUniversalMedia, Tgcom24, Sky Tg24 and Google.

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Cardinal: If Lefebvre had seen proper Mass, he may not have split

Rome, Italy, Jan 18, 2013 (CNA) - According to a Spanish cardinal, the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X once said that if the group's leader had seen the Mass celebrated properly, he may not have broken off from the Church.

Cardinal Antonio Canizares, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, made this statement on Jan. 15 in response to questions from reporters after he delivered an address on Vatican II at the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See.

“On one occasion,” Cardinal Canizares recalled, “Bishop (Bernard) Fellay, who is the leader of the Society of St. Pius X, came to see me and said, ‘We just came from an abbey that is near Florence.  If Archbishop (Marcel) Lefebvre had seen how they celebrated there, he would not have taken the step that he did.’”

“The missal used at that celebration was the Paul VI Missal in its strictest form,” the cardinal added.

The Paul VI Missal contains the ordinary form of the Mass promulgated after the Second Vatican Council and is one of the points of contention that led to the schism with the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Archbishop Lefebvre.  

The Lefebvrists have insisted on continuing to celebrate the Mass according to the missal promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1962.

Cardinal Canizares later spoke with a reduced number of reporters and further amplified his remarks about the Lefebrvists and the Paul VI Missal.  

He elaborated on the idea that if the schismatic archbishop had seen the new Mass celebrated properly and reverently, he may not have rejected it.

“Even the followers of the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, when they participate in a Mass that is properly celebrated, say, ‘If things were this way everywhere there would have been no need for what happened’ and for what really caused this separation,” he said.

The cardinal went on to explain that Vatican II offered more than simply changes.  

“If offers a vision of the liturgy in continuity with the entire Tradition of the Church and the theological reflection it makes about the liturgy,” he said. “The changes are a consequence of this theological reflection within ecclesial Tradition.”

To show that the liturgy should not be a cause for division, Pope Benedict XVI published the Motu Propio “Summorum Pontificum” in 2007 to establish universal use of the 1962 missal.  

The Holy Father has taken several other steps towards reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X.  

On Jan. 21, 2009, he lifted the excommunications imposed on the four bishops ordained by Lefebfvre in 1988, including Bernard Fellay.  

In doing so, however, he stressed that they should give “full recognition to the Second Vatican Council,” as well as to the magisteriums of the popes after Pius XII as a condition for full communion.

In addition, Pope Benedict XVI gave the society the chance to end the schism in 2011 by accepting a doctrinal preamble.

In 2012, the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” charged with the ongoing dialogue with the Society of St. Pius X, announced that the society had requested “addition time for reflection and study” of the proposed preamble.

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Colombian bishop indignant over murder of priest

Bogotá, Colombia, Jan 18, 2013 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Roberto Ospina Leongomez of Buga, Colombia expressed sadness and indignation over the recent murder of one of the priests of his diocese.
According to the Vatican-based Fides news agency, Father Jose Francisco Velez Echeverri was found shot on Jan. 16 on the patio outside his home in Buga, some 250 kilometers from the nation’s capital city of Bogota.
Neighbors reported that they saw a person ride away from the priest’s home on a bike just hours before his body was found.  Police suspect the murder could have resulted from a robbery attempt that went awry.

According to parishioners, Fr. Velez Echeverri did not have any enemies and was devoted to social work.  His murder caused dismay and profound sadness in the Diocese of Buga.
In 2012, for the fourth consecutive year, America was the continent with the greatest number of murders of priests and lay missionaries.

Bishop Ospina Leongomez thanked the diocese for its solidarity and voiced his “sadness, anger, indignation” and “profound sorrow” over the priest’s killing.
He also decried the “loss of the sense of life and of values that is evidenced in the lack of God and of respect for the human being.”
“Murder will never be accepted for any reason, and the community should be assured that the investigation will continue until the person responsible is found,” the bishop said.
He added that the death of a priest always brings a bishop “deep sadness.”
Bishop Leongomez called on the faithful to pray for their country and for those who do evil and fail to respect life.

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New Coptic Catholic leader receives Pope's approval

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI approved Bishop Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak as the new Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts in Egypt, granting him "ecclesiastical communion.''

The former Bishop of Minya was elected during a Synod of Bishops of the Coptic Catholic Church in Cairo, which lasted from Jan. 12 to16. As part of the election, his rank was raised to archbishop.

The 57-year-old will replace Cardinal Antonio Naguib, aged 77, who resigned on Jan. 18 after suffering from partial paralysis and undergoing brain surgery.

The Vatican hopes his appointment will see more collaboration with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, who began his patriarchal ministry in Egypt just two months ago.

And the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, including the heads of the Roman, Melkite, Maronite, Syrian, Armenian and Chaldean Rites, all offered a formal welcome to the new leader.

"The international press has called you a 'young patriarch,'" they said in a letter dated Jan. 18.

"We are sure that with this 'youth' you will be a point of reference within the Council of Oriental Catholic Patriarchs and the Ecumenical Council of the Churches and for the Church of Egypt," they added.

Archbishop Sidrak was born in Assiut, Egypt, and studied philosophy and theology at a Coptic seminary in Cairo.

He was ordained a priest on Feb. 7, 1980 and incarnated in the Eparchy of Assiut.

He served two years in the Church Michael the Archangel in Cairo before moving to Rome where he received a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Archbishop Sidrak returned to Egypt where he taught theology at his seminary, the Patriarchal Seminary of Maadi.

He was elected Bishop of Minya in 2002 after working as rector of the seminary and as secretary general for the Coptic Catholic Church's office for catechetical teaching.

The Egyptian is the second bishop of Minya – an area south of Cairo holding one-fifth of the country's estimated 200,000 Copts – to be elected patriarch.

His ministry as bishop was marked by his efforts to help farmers and people in need, regardless of their faith, through increased social and charitable activities in the villages of the diocese.

The Coptic Catholic Church was established in 1824 and there are five parishes in the United States and in Canada.

Egypt now has two heads of Churches – Archbishop Sidra and the Coptic Orthodox leader Pope Tawadros II.

Over 10 percent of Egyptians are Copts, which makes them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.

The Orthodox and Coptic leaders will surely be discussing the saftey of Egyptian Christians, which became a topic of concern after President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood Party and radical Salafis took up power in the country.

Christians also fear that the recently approved constitution will fail to protect them.

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Priest's arrest on meth charges shocks Conn. diocese

Bridgeport, Conn., Jan 18, 2013 (CNA) - The arrest of suspended priest Monsignor Kevin Wallin on six drug charges involving methamphetamine has caused “shock and concern” in the Diocese of Bridgeport, where he once served as pastor of the cathedral parish.

“The diocese stands ready to help as it has throughout the past two years,” the diocese said Jan. 16. “We ask for prayers for Msgr. Wallin during the difficult days ahead for him.”

The Connecticut diocese said that Msgr. Wallin resigned as pastor of Bridgeport’s St. Augustine Cathedral in June 2011, telling parishioners and friends that he was “struggling with a number of health and personal issues.” He was granted a sabbatical in July of 2011.

Msgr. Wallin, 61, was arrested Jan. 3 and charged with six counts of possession with intent to distribute crystal meth. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the priest is accused of receiving drug shipments from a California distributor and selling them to an undercover officer on six occasions between September 2012 and January 2013.

Court statements say a search of Wallin’s residence on Jan. 3 found suspected methamphetamine and alleged drug paraphernalia and drug packaging materials, the Orange County, Calif. news site the OC Patch reports.

Wallin also faces one count of conspiracy to distribute the drug, with four other people. His alleged conspirators include two Connecticut residents, Kenneth Devries and Michael Nelson, and two California residents, Chad McCluskey and Kristen Laschober.

He could face ten years to life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million if convicted of the conspiracy charge. In addition, the drug possession charges each carry a sentence of a maximum 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick Caruso and H. Gordon Hall are prosecuting the case.

Msgr. Wallin was ordained a priest in 1984. He served as a secretary to Bridgeport bishops Walter Curtis and Edward Egan, now emeritus cardinal of New York, before his appointment as pastor of St. Peter Parish in Danbury from 1996 to 2002.

The indictment alleges Msgr. Wallin sold over $9,000 of meth a week. He bought an adult video store in North Haven, Conn. that investigators believe he used to launder the drug profits.

The priest continued to receive his stipend from the diocese until his Jan. 3 arrest.

Diocese spokesman Brian Wallace told the Connecticut Post that the diocese had no indication the priest had a drug problem and no complaints regarding the priest and drugs. He said the diocese became concerned in spring 2011 after complaints of the priest’s appearance and erratic behavior.

The diocese’s Jan. 15 statement said that during Msgr. Wallin’s sabbatical, the diocese became concerned about his “well-being” and reached out to him. “To date, he has not spoken directly with diocesan officials,” it said.

His faculties for public ministry as a priest were suspended in May 2012.

Citing unnamed sources, the Connecticut Post says Msgr. Wallin was suspended after cathedral rectory staff notified the diocese that the priest was a cross-dresser who entertained other sometimes cross-dressing men who engaged in sex acts.

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US states' pro-life legislation in 2012 deemed historic

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2013 (CNA) - A new report finding “significant victories for life” in state-level legislation during 2012 has left a leading U.S. pro-life group hopeful about the coming year.

“More than half of states have pro-life governors and pro-life majorities in their legislatures,” said Dan McConchie, vice president of state legislative action for Americans United for Life, “so we expect pro-life advances to replicate the high levels of success in the past couple of years across the country.”

McConchie told CNA that he expects to see “continued interest in restraining abortion coverage” in the new health care law throughout 2013, as well as “late term abortion bans, regulation of abortion-inducing drugs, and clinic regulations.”

On Jan. 16, Americans United for Life released its annual “Life List,” ranking all 50 states according to their ongoing legal efforts to protect life.

The 2013 list observed that the past year had seen “historic progress for life-affirming legislation” throughout the country.

“Last year, at least 60 new life-affirming laws, including at least 38 measures related to abortion, were enacted,” the report said. “Additionally, 16 pro-life state resolutions were adopted.”

Americans United for Life has worked for years to model and help enact language for pro-life legislation in states throughout the country.

Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of the organization, said the state-level successes lay “the foundation for rolling back and reversing Roe v. Wade,” the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationally 40 years ago.

She predicted that the coming year will see numerous bills “that also work to protect the First Amendment Freedom of all Americans who do not want to be forced into business with Big Abortion.”

The “Life List” found that the most legislatively pro-life states in America are Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Arizona, while Washington state, California, New York, Vermont and New Jersey are the least protective of life.

Most improved in 2012 was Arizona, which rose to number 5 on the list from number 14 the previous year. This was partly due to the adoption of the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which bans abortions after 20 weeks gestation based on medical evidence of the danger that such abortions pose to women’s health, as well as the unborn child’s capacity to feel pain.

In addition, South Carolina became the eighth state to pass legislation banning insurance plans that cover abortion from participating in any exchanges operating in the state under the health care reform law.

Among the most popular abortion-related legislation in 2012 were bans on government and insurance funding for abortion and restrictions on drugs that can induce early abortions. Ultrasound requirements, abortion clinic regulations and informed consent laws were also common.

Americans United for Life also noted a nearly 40 percent rise in the number of measures initiated to protect freedom of conscience in healthcare, as well as a significant increase in end-of-life measures.

However, the group said, 2012 saw a nearly 50 percent decrease in biotechnology measures from the previous year, with only two states considering bans on embryo-destroying research and none initiating bans on human cloning.

The report observed that many of the least pro-life states on the list have had a state court “manufacture” a constitutional “right” to abortion beyond what is federally recognized. Others have enacted legislation that effectively blocks laws and regulations that would protect women and unborn children from abortion.

“For those states that have the least protective laws, the priority really should be the basic protections, especially informed consent and parental involvement,” said McConchie. “Women considering abortion deserve both information and support before they make a monumental decision of this nature.”

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