Archive of January 25, 2013

Catholic Relief Services helps refugees in Mali conflict

Bamako, Mali, Jan 25, 2013 (CNA) - Catholic Relief Services is working to assist tens of thousands of refugees in Mali as the clash between government and rebel forces continues.

“Peace is their main need,” Sean Gallagher, Catholic Relief Services' Country Representative in Mali, said of the refugees.

Refugees with host families in rural areas still have access to food from “a relatively good harvest.”

Those in urban areas, however, will need money to purchase food and other necessities to feed those new to the cities.

“As they settle into host families, most will need food and protection. As families accommodate the newly arrived, over time, they will seek to put their children in school and find additional space,” he told CNA Jan. 24.

The fighting in Mali began in April 2012 after a military coup provided Islamist fighters and Tuareg rebels the opportunity to seize northern Mali.

An estimated 228,000 people have been internally displaced in Mali, while another 140,000 refugees have registered in neighboring countries, a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says. There are about 15.4 million people in the predominantly Muslim country.

French military forces intervened on Jan. 11 to counter rebel attempts to move into southern Mali. The intervention has helped split the rebels, with some groups now saying they want to negotiate for an end to the fighting or ally against their former cobelligerents, USA Today reports.

Gallagher reported that French-led foreign troops continue to move into northern Mopti, which is in the center of the country. They have taken the Mopti town of Douentza and their planes have bombed the rebel-held historic city of Timbuktu.

Helen Blakesley, the CRS Regional Information Officer for West and Central Africa, said the agency has been helping families who fled the north since the crisis began last year. The agency’s aid has reached over 7,000 households with around 50,000 people.

“For those who came to the Mopti region in the middle of the country, we’ve distributed food, cash, and toiletries, built latrines and kitchen sites at a camp for displaced people,” she said. “For those who came to the Mopti region in the middle of the country, we’ve distributed food, cash, and toiletries, built latrines and kitchen sites at a camp for displaced people.”

The agency is helping about 4,000 refugees in the national capital Bamako with monthly cash distributions, targeted according to criteria like large family size, single-parent status, or special needs like disabilities, illness or old age.

Each family receives the equivalent of $16 per person, per month, a figure calculated based on daily food intake.

“That doesn't sound like much, but it's a lifeline. That helps cover basic needs like food, health costs, school fees or rent, if they’re not staying with a host family,” Blakesley said.

Gallagher said the Catholic agency is still helping the “first wave” of refugees from when fighting began. It is assessing the situation of displaced persons in Bamako and in several cities and towns in the south-central region of Segou.

Catholic Relief Services has been working in Mali since 1999. Other projects are still continuing despite the military conflict.

In the far-west commune of Sahel the agency is addressing a food crisis through agriculture, nutrition, education, and community infrastructure like water holes. The agency is supplying hot, nutritious meals to schoolchildren each day in around 300 schools in two vulnerable regions.

The Catholic Relief Services website is

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Democrats for Life challenge New York abortion law

Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2013 (CNA) - A group of pro-life Democrats is protesting radical abortion legislation in New York, as well as assertions that there is no place for them in the Democratic Party.

“New York women do not actually need greater access to abortion, but a more supportive system to allow real choice should they want to bring their pregnancies to term,” said Democrats for Life of America in a Jan. 17 statement.

“Looser abortion restrictions will do nothing to help women who feel financially strapped or who lack family support and often turn to abortion as a last resort,” the group added.

The statements come in response to the reintroduction of New York’s “Reproductive Health Act” to the state senate. Catholic governor Andrew Cuomo has supported the measure as part of a larger plan to advance “women's equality” within the state.

Democrats for Life also voiced strong objections to New York senator Jeff Klein's suggestion that in order to be a true Democrat, one must support the abortion expansion.

“It is clear that Senator Klein does not fully understand the importance of diversity within our party, the strength of a big tent policy, or the real needs of women,” the organization said, noting that “there are 21 million Democrats who self-identify as pro-life.”

The statement pointed to Gallup polls in recent years showing that 84 percent of Democrats support informed consent laws and 61 percent support parental consent requirements for minors seeking abortions.

A majority of Democrats also supported a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion and a ban on partial-birth abortions.

Democrats for Life rejected the proposed “reproductive health” bill, calling it the “most sweeping abortion legislation in the nation.”

The group explained that the bill would allow abortions throughout all nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason with almost no restrictions.

Many of the potentially far-reaching consequences of the legislation are due to provisions that circumvent abortion limitations when necessary to protect a woman's health.

In the historic Doe v. Bolton case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “health of the mother” provisions can include nearly any justification for abortion, including stress, morning sickness or a general decrease in quality of life.

Critics of the bill argue that this would result in nearly unrestricted abortions in the state, allowing late-term abortions, permitting non-doctors to perform abortions and rendering abortion limitations meaningless.

Concerns have also been raised over the bill's conscience protections, which may be too narrowly crafted to allow hospitals and clinics to continue receiving state funds if they refuse to perform abortions.

The proposed legislation would also change the state’s definition of manslaughter so that it would no longer apply if a woman was killed from an abortion. 

Democrats for Life criticized these radical aspects of bill, arguing that they are “out of touch with the views of most Americans, out of touch with the views of most Democrats, and could hamper real reform for women's rights.”

“New York City has the highest abortion rate in the nation with 40 percent of pregnancies ending in abortion,” the organization pointed out. “Among non-Hispanic blacks, 60 percent of pregnancies end in abortion, and among non-Hispanic black teens that number grows to 72 percent.”

“Even a majority of pro-choice women believe the abortion rate is too high,” the group said. “How will greater access and less safe abortions help women?”

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Colo. bishops to review health system's fidelity to Church

Denver, Colo., Jan 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Colorado's three bishops will examine litigation surrounding Catholic Health Initiatives, after its lawyers allegedly argued in a wrongful-death lawsuit that human fetuses are not persons.

“The Catholic bishops of Colorado are not able to comment on ongoing legal disputes. However, we will undertake a full review of this litigation, and of the policies and practices of Catholic Health Initiatives to ensure fidelity and faithful witness to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” the bishops said Jan. 24.

“Catholic Health Initiatives has been accused by some of undermining the Catholic position on human life in the course of litigation," they added. "Today, representatives of Catholic Health Initiatives assured us of their intention to observe the moral and ethical obligations of the Catholic Church.”

In 2006, Lori Stodghill and her two unborn children died at a hospital operated by Catholic Health Initiatives. Lawyers for the health system argued that Colorado's wrongful death legislation does not apply to fetuses.

Attorney David Woodruff, one of those representing the plaintiff, told CNA Jan. 24 that “a lawyer doesn't typically take a position on behalf of a client without the client approving it.”

“I can't really speak for the relationship there, what actually occurred between lawyers and adjusters – I wasn't there and it would be inappropriate for me to comment – but we as lawyers aren't supposed to be conveying a message in the world that doesn't directly reflect our client's wishes...that's why it's so surprising.”

In their statement Thursday, the Colorado bishops said that from “the moment of conception, human beings are endowed with dignity and with fundamental rights, the most foundational of which is life.”

“Catholics and Catholic institutions have the duty to protect and foster human life, and to witness to the dignity of the human person – particularly to the dignity of the unborn,” they said.

“No Catholic institution may legitimately work to undermine fundamental human dignity.”

On Jan. 1, 2006, Jeremy Stodghill took his wife Lori, 28 weeks pregnant, to St. Thomas More Hospital's emergency room in Cañon City. She was complaining of nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. There, she suffered a heart attack due to a blood clot which traveled to her lungs.

Her obstetrician, Pelham Staples, was on-call that day, but failed to arrive at the hospital. Both Lori and her unborn sons, Samuel and Zachary, died.

A nurse listened for the boys' heartbeats, and not hearing any, doctors decided against performing an emergency C-section.

Stodghill chose to sue the hospital, its owner Catholic Health Initiatives, Staples, and the emergency room doctor for the wrongful death of his family members.

In defending Catholic Health Initiatives, their lawyers have argued that no act could have saved Lori's life. But they have also argued that the 28-week old fetuses are not human persons.

“Catholic Health argued...that it could not be held liable for the wrongful death of a fetus, because a fetus is not a person until it is born alive,” according to a legal document filed Sept. 27, 2012, by Stodghill's attorneys.

Only after Catholic Health Initiatives was the first defendant to advance this argument – that a human fetus is not a person – did the two physicians raise the same contention, Beth Krulewitch, one of Stodgehill's attorneys, wrote to Colorado's appellate court Aug. 10, 2011.

According to the Westword, one of the defendants' lawyers, Jason Langley, argued in a brief that the judges “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term 'person,' as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive...therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

In a Jan. 24 statement, Catholic Health Initiatives stated that, “In this case, St. Thomas More, Centura Health and Catholic Health Initiatives, as Catholic organizations, are in union with the moral teachings of the Church.”

Catholic Health Initiatives did not answer specific questions, though they added that “first and foremost, our heartfelt sympathies have always been with the Stodghill family as a result of these tragic circumstances.”

Stodghill's attorney's have argued that because the fetuses were viable – which none of the defendants has disputed – their father should be able to sue for their wrongful death.

Catholic Health Initiatives have won two cases in the saga so far.

On Dec. 5, 2010, Fremont County District Court judge David Thorson dismissed Stodghill's lawsuit. Thorson said that “a fetus is not a 'person' for purposes of wrongful death liability,” according to an appeal filed by Stodghill's attorneys.

Stodghill appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals. That three-judge panel decided on Aug. 16, 2012, to affirm the district court judge's decision. The appellate judges affirmed because they found there was “a lack of evidence” the fetuses died because of negligence on the doctors' part.

Following this decision, Stodghill has appealed to the state's supreme court. He asked that the Colorado Supreme Court decide “the issue that the Court of Appeals refused to decide,” whether physicians are immune to malpractice suits when their negligence leads to the death of a viable fetus before its birth.

Stodghill is awaiting to hear whether or not they decide to hear the case – which has significant implications for the liability of physicians when a viable fetus in their care dies before birth.

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Pope Benedict tweets support for US pro-life rallies

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict has sent a Twitter message expressing his solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people marching in America this week for a culture of life and an end to abortion.

“I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life,” he tweeted Jan. 25.

From coast to coast, pro-life marches and rallies in America continue to mark the week of Jan. 22 as the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade – the Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized abortion throughout the nation.

San Francisco's Walk for Life West Coast on Jan. 26 will be attended by Archbishop Carlo Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The March for Life in Washington, D.C. is occurring today, Jan. 25, and has drawn hundreds of thousands of participants.

Bishop Carrasco de Paula, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told CNA Jan. 23 that “These marches for life that are taking place across the United States are very important, not only for the country, but for the whole world.”

“These events which favor human life without limits, from conception until the end, have become a very important historical reference for all other Catholic countries worldwide,” he added.

“And if we talk about the Vatican as another face of the Church, then we can say the Church supports these marches in the whole world because the participants are the Church themselves.”

Pope Benedict's tweets reach 2.5 million followers. He tweets in nine languages, English, Spanish, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Latin.

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Rio de Janeiro safe for visitors, World Youth Day official says

Rome, Italy, Jan 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - After meeting with the Vatican, an organizer for World Youth Day 2013 said that fear for safety should not keep visitors from traveling to Rio de Janeiro this summer.

"I feel the city has changed a lot and there are no reasons people should have any fear in Rio," said Fr. Leandro Lenin Tavares, the catechesis director for this year's World Youth Day.

The priest and 15 Brazilian authorities – including military, federal, state and city authorities – spoke with the Pontifical Council for the Laity on security concerns of the event during a Jan. 9 to Jan. 25 Rome visit.

Authorities launched a security plan in the city four years ago, called "the pacifying plan," ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

"I offer Mass on Sundays at the dangerous neighborhood of Penha, which is in the middle of huge slums and has a lot of drug trafficking," Fr. Tavares told CNA.

"But since the plan started, the military and police ensure there are no guns taken into dangerous neighborhoods and now we have more tourists," said the Carioca, or Rio-native.

Fr. Taveres, who was ordained to the priesthood just 10 months ago and is the director of Seminário Propedêutico Rainha dos Apóstolos in Rio, was appointed as director of organizing the catechesis talks for Brazil’s World Youth Day in March 2011.

"World Youth Day is a moment of grace and I feel blessed that we can show the Church our way of evangelizing," said the priest, who worked in youth ministry before he entered the seminary.

He said he was moved after personally meeting Pope Benedict during a general audience.

"I kissed his ring and after my archbishop told him I was in charge of the WYD catechesis, Pope Benedict told me I was a very important person," said Fr. Tavares.

It is estimated that the number of people attending will double Madrid's World Youth Day with two million expected in Copacabana Beach and over 2.5 million in Guaratiba from July 23 to 28.

"We want this year to let others know about us, we want to be instruments of evangelization, and this is going to mark the beginning of new times," he stated.
Fr. Tavares' main job now is to organize 300 places where 21 bishops will talk on the Catholic faith in seven main languages.
The Pontifical Council for Laity, in charge of organizing World Youth Day, chose the bishops after they subscribed online where they were able to choose their preferred topic for each talk.

"Presenting the faith to young people, who live in a secular world, is a challenge," said Fr. Tavares.

"We need to be where they are, like on Facebook and new media, to speak their language, without reducing the truth," the 30 year-old priest said.

Although Rio de Janeiro is a secular city, Fr. Tavares noted that already he has witnessed many young people returning to the Church after the city was chosen for World Youth Day 2013.

There are currently 60,000 volunteers working to coordinate the World Youth Day efforts, with over 35,000 of them from the city.

Rio de Janeiro has 275 Catholic parishes, each of which will offer at least three Sunday Masses, while many will offer up to seven.

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Pope transfers responsibility for catechesis, seminaries

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict has written two new directives modifying the departments in the Roman Curia which are responsible for catechesis and the formation of priests throughout the Church.

The Pope gave the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization the task of “caring for...the relevant instrument of evangelization that the Catechism, along with catechetical teaching in all its diverse forms, represents for the Church in order to bring about a more organic and effective pastoral outreach.”

“This new pontifical council will be able to provide the local churches and the diocesan bishops an appropriate service in this area,” he wrote Jan. 16 in the motu proprio “Fides per doctrinam,” or “Faith, by doctrine.”

A motu proprio is a letter issued by the Pope “on his own initiative” which typically makes minor changes to canon law. The two motu proprios signed Jan. 16 but released Jan. 25, modify Pope John Paul II's apostolic constitution “Pastor bonus,” which reformed the Roman Curia.

Formerly, the Congregation for the Clergy had been responsible for catechesis. Pope Benedict chose to transfer that responsibility to the new evangelization council because Vatican II and the subsequent Magisterium “have connected the Catechism ever more closely to the process of evangelisation,” he wrote in “Fides per doctrinam.”

“The Catechism, therefore, represents a significant step in the daily life of the Church, announcing and communicating the Word of God in a living and effective manner, so that it might reach all and that believers might be trained and educated in Christ to build his body, which is the Church.”

He wrote that “faith needs to be supported by doctrine that is capable of illuminating the minds and hearts of believers.” There is currently a “dramatic crisis of faith” which “requires an awareness that is able to respond to the high expectations that arise in the hearts of believers when facing the new questions that challenge the world and the Church.”

This, therefore, intimately links catechesis and the new evangelization. “Understanding faith...always requires that its content be expressed in a new language, one capable of presenting the living hope of believers to those inquiring into its purpose,” wrote Pope Benedict.

He said that while since Vatican II, catechesis has travelled a “long path,” though it has been one “not without errors, even grave ones, both in method and in content.”

Pope Benedict referred to the publication of the Catechism, and the apostolic exhortations “Evangelii nuntiandi” and “Catechesi tradendae” of Paul VI and John Paul II as high points in the last 50 years of catechesis.

In giving his reasons for his decision, the Pope cited the Church's “particular task” to “keep alive the effective proclamation of Christ, through the exposition of the doctrine which must faith in the mystery of the Incarnation.”

The  Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization was established in 2010, and identifies and promotes ways of accomplishing the new evangelization. One of its tasks has been to “promote the use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an essential and complete formulation of the content of the faith for the people of our time.”

The Pope's second motu proprio released signed Jan. 16 and released Jan. 25 is “Ministrorum institutio,” or “Ministers' formation.” This document transfers responsibility for priestly formation and major seminaries from the Congregation for Catholic Education to the Congregation for the Clergy.

“I find it opportune,” wrote Pope Benedict, to give responsibility to the congregation for clergy for “everything regarding the formation, the life, and the ministry of priests and deacons.”

This includes the “pastoral care for vocations and the selection of candidates for Holy Orders, including their personal, spiritual, doctrinal, and pastoral formation in seminaries and in special centers for permanent deacon, and also their permanent formation, including living conditions and procedures for exercising their ministry and their welfare and social assistance.”

Pope Benedict's move reflects his and his predecessor's view that there is a close, and intrinsic, link between formation for the priesthood and ongoing formation following ordination.

The Congregation for Catholic Education will now be responsible for “the ordering of academic studies in philosophy and theology.”

The Pontiff had previously announced his intention to make the changes which were made public today. At the conclusion of October's synod on the new evangelization, he stated his plan to reform the Curia's competences for catechesis and seminaries.

Both motu proprios will go into effect 15 days after they are promulgated in the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

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March for Life participants offer joyful witness

Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Young participants at the 2013 March for Life voiced enthusiasm and hope as they stood up for the dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death.

This year's march has “a lot of energy,” observed Tony Visintainer, a 23-year-old seminarian at Mount St. Mary's in Maryland.

“I don’t know if it’s the 40th anniversary,” Visintainer told CNA, “but there’s a difference in the atmosphere.”

He noted that the massive crowds were chanting and dancing in the streets.

Hundreds of thousands of participants - mostly young people - braved freezing temperatures and snow to attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 25.

The annual march commemorates the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized abortion throughout the nation.

Marchers listened to speakers at a rally on the National Mall before walking to the Supreme Court. Many carried signs voicing their support for life and prayed silently.

Christy Guillory, a student at St. Emory Catholic High School in Louisiana was “very excited” to be at the march for the first time, despite the cold weather.

“Snow’s a new thing for me,” she said, adding that the experience of being there with such huge pro-life crowds was “a lot to take in.”

Guillory said that she came to the march this year in order “to give witness” to the lives of the unborn, echoing the sentiments of many other participants.

Derek Smith of Chillicothe, Ohio, also came with his parish to the march in order to give witness. He explained that he had converted to the Catholic Church after his first March for Life four years ago.

“Really, this is what made me decide to be Catholic,” Smith said, noting that one thing that changed his mind about the Church was “the power behind” the march, both in prayers and the dedication of the individuals who participated.

Some women and men who attended march spoke out from experience about the pain that abortion left in their hearts and minds.

Josephine Todd, 59, of St. Petersburg, Fla., had an abortion in 1980 before becoming pro-life.

She explained that she came to the March for Life to “give my heart,” and stand up for what is right, showing “what I should have never done” and encouraging others to avoid her mistake.

Attendance among college students was also high, with many schools sending record-breaking numbers of students to the nation's capital.

Pro-life groups from several Ivy League schools gathered together for a group picture before the rally and lent their support to the march.

Caroline Bazinet, a student at Princeton University, noted the similarities between the civil rights and pro-life movements.

She explained that it is important to help people realize that the lives of millions of children have been lost by “standing in" for the missing members of her generation.

Harvard University student Chrissy Rodriguez, age 20, said that she is confident in the ability of the pro-life movement to bring about change.

“I’m only one person,” she said, “but I’m one person who can shout to the world: ‘This is what I believe!’”

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Bishop: National Catholic Reporter undermines Church teaching

Kansas City, Mo., Jan 25, 2013 (CNA) - Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-Saint Joseph announced his discouragement that the National Catholic Reporter has failed to live up to the “Catholic” portion of its name.

“In light of the number of recent expressions of concern, I have a responsibility as the local bishop to instruct the Faithful about the problematic nature of this media source which bears the name 'Catholic,'” he wrote in his Jan. 25 column for his diocesan paper, “The Catholic Key”.

His comments on the National Catholic Reporter came in the context of World Communications Day, held on Jan. 24. He noted that the day is celebrated then as it is the the feast of Saint Francis de Sales, patron of journalists and the Catholic press.

Bishop Finn reflected on the role bishops play in fostering Catholic media, and their responsibility over local media for the promotion and protection of the faith.

The bishop noted that he is well-pleased with The Catholic Key and its staff, who “use the paper to teach Catholic doctrine, to provide trustworthy reflections on issues that take place in our culture, and to provide stories of apostolic life and work – particularly from our local diocese – that inspire us to live our Catholic faith more fully.”

Bishop Finn said he is similarly happy with the Catholic radio station located in the diocese, KEXS 1090, for helping Catholics to “know and live their faith.”

In contrast to these positive, faithful Catholic media outlets located in the Kansas City-Saint Joseph diocese, Bishop Finn examined the National Catholic Reporter.

“I have received letters and other complaints about NCR from the beginning of my time here,” saod Bishop Finn, who was consecrated the diocese's coadjutor in May, 2004.

He continued, “In the last months I have been deluged with emails and other correspondence from Catholics concerned about the editorial stances of the Reporter: officially condemning Church teaching on the ordination of women, insistent undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching, and a litany of other issues.”

He noted that the problems associated with the National Catholic Reporter did not start under his time as bishop.

“Bishop Charles Helmsing in October of 1968 issued a condemnation of the National Catholic Reporter and asked the publishers to remove the name 'Catholic' from their title – to no avail. From my perspective, NCR’s positions against authentic Church teaching and leadership have not changed trajectory in the intervening decades.”

He noted that early on in his time as bishop he asked that the Reporter “submit their bona fides as a Catholic media outlet in accord with the expectations of Church law.”

“They declined to participate,” he wrote, “indicating that they considered themselves an 'independent newspaper which commented on 'things Catholic.'' At other times, correspondence has seemed to reach a dead end.”

Bishop Finn wrote that “While I remain open to substantive and respectful discussion with the legitimate representatives of NCR, I find that my ability to influence the National Catholic Reporter toward fidelity to the Church seems limited to the supernatural level.”

Noting Bishop Finn's column, Edward Peters, professor of canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, posited that National Catholic Reporter's use of “Catholic” in their title is canonically illicit.

“There is simply zero question about this assertion, for they 'claim the name Catholic without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority.' Second, once one is shown to be acting illegally under canon law, a number of canonical responses to illicit activity come into play including precepts, the invocation of penal law, and certain sacramental consequences for organizational leadership,” Peters wrote Jan. 25 at “In the Light of the Law.”

Bishop Finn's column concluded as it began, with an appeal to St. Francis de Sales.

Realizing that by natural means he has been unable to bring the Reporter to fidelity to the Church, he wrote: “For this we pray: St. Francis DeSales, intercede for us.”

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Cardinal O'Malley calls pro-life movement to grow in faith

Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley of Boston encouraged pro-life pilgrims from across America to deepen their faith, explaining that a culture of life must be founded upon the conversion of our own lives.

“Our task is to live our faith so intensely,” the cardinal said, “that we will generate a culture of life.”

Over 13,000 people gathered on the evening of Jan. 24 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. for the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life.

Cardinal O’Malley, recently appointed chairman-elect of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass, which was concelebrated by 324 priests, 41 bishops, and six cardinals.

The vigil continued with confessions, prayer and holy hours celebrated throughout the night. It concluded on the morning of Jan. 25 with a closing Mass, at which Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas was the principal celebrant and homilist. Over 5,500 were in attendance.
Participants were then able to attend the annual March for Life in downtown D.C., along the National Mall to the Supreme Court building.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley focused on “great pro-life Gospel” that takes place during the visitation of Elizabeth. In the Gospel, he said, “John dances like David dancing before the Arc of the Covenant” when he first encounters his unborn cousin, Jesus.

The cardinal also highlighted the importance of Mary, noting that by saying “yes” to carrying Christ, “Mary is saying yes to God, yes to life, yes to love, and yes even to the Cross.”

He explained that because of this emphasis on accepting life, “the Gospel of Life is an imperative to Christ’s disciples,” both in the first centuries of the Church and today.
“Christ through his Church is urging us to be defenders of life in a culture of death,” he said.

“We have been wandering in the desert for 40 years,” Cardinal O'Malley said, however recent cultural shifts show that we “are nearing the promised land.”

As technology advances, the dignity of the human person becomes more evident, he observed, and according to recent surveys, “young Americans are now more pro-life than ever.”

However, there is still a battle to be fought, he cautioned, as Roe v. Wade has institutionalized a grave injustice against the unborn within the Constitution.

“Too many Americans see abortion as a necessary evil,” said Cardinal O’Malley.  Going forth, he urged, the pro-life movement needs to work to show that abortion is not “a necessary evil: it’s simply evil.”

The cardinal pointed to work that pro-life groups within his own diocese have done to expose the evils of the culture of death. A wide coalition of pro-life and disabilities advocates succeeded in halting an attempt to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts in Nov. 2012, despite significant initial support for the measure.

Cardinal O'Malley said the motion “was like the race between the tortoise and the hare,” gaining slow and steady support for protecting life within the state.

Still, he warned, although the pro-life movement won a victory in that instance, the continuation of abortion in the U.S. will lead to more efforts to support euthanasia.

“A society that allows parents to kill children will allow children to kill parents,” he cautioned.

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