Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2013 (CNA) -
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have requested a report from the government on the use federal funds given to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortions.
“Planned Parenthood showed in its most recent annual report that they are providing fewer health services, while abortions and federal funding are going up,” said Rep. Diane Black (R- Tenn.).
“Nevertheless, Planned Parenthood and others like them continue to receive millions of taxpayer dollars each month despite the repeated red flags raised by their own annual reports and accounting gimmicks.”
In a Feb. 21 letter to the Government Accountability Office, Congresswoman Black, Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) and Senator David Vitter (R-La.) – along with more than 50 members of Congress – asked the office for a report on the use of taxpayer money by federally-funded health clinics, including Planned Parenthood.
This analysis Rep. Black said, “will give lawmakers and the public the most up to date and accurate information on the use of federal funding for abortion providers and the alternative options available for critical health care services.”
“My hope is that through greater transparency and accountability we can successfully mobilize the support needed to defund abortion providers – once and for all.”
In addition to funding information, the congressmen pressed the office for information on the kinds of services provided and the number of individuals served by these clinics. They also asked for documentation of the kinds of services and funding provided to Federally Qualified Health Centers, which are prohibited from providing abortions, and typically offer a wider range of services and are more numerous than Planned Parenthood clinics.
In January, Rep. Black introduced the “Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act,” which would ensure that family planning grants are not awarded to organizations or clinics that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood. This investigation would provide additional information on what sorts of procedures clinics that provide abortion use, as well as if they prevent federal funds from covering abortion, as the law requires.
Sen. Vitter explained the request for an investigation, noting how Planned Parenthood “and other organizations who provide abortions are dependent on Uncle Sam, but there is no accounting with what they are actually using the money for.”
In 2012, he said, Planned Parenthood “performed a record 333,964 abortions last year, almost 1 million in the past three years.” Last year, “federal taxpayers gave Planned Parenthood a record $542 million, which is an 11 percent increase over the past two years.”
Congressman Olson added that federal tax dollars are “legally prohibited from being used for abortions.”
“Under our constitution, the Obama Administration has a duty to enforce these laws,” he said. “And under that same constitution, Congress has a duty to ensure that the executive branch follows the law of the land.”
Baghdad, Iraq, Feb 26, 2013 (CNA) -
Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, says greater security is needed for Christians in Iraq who are leaving their homeland for fear of local disorder.
“They are leaving the country because there is no stability. Another reason is the rise of fundamentalism,” the patriarch told Aid to the Church in Need Feb. 25.
“Security and freedom” are the most important issues for the Church's survival in Iraq, he said.
Patriarch Raphael is head of the Chaldean Patriarchate of Babylon, and is Archbishop of the Chaldean Archdiocese of Baghdad. The Chaldean Catholic Church is one of the Eastern-rite Churches which is in full communion with the Pope.
Patriarch Raphael was confirmed in his position on Feb. 1. He is 64, and in 1974 was ordained a priest for the Chaldean Archeparchy of Mossul. He then served as archbishop of the Chaldean Archdiocese of Kerkuk from 2003 until his selection as patriarch of Babylon.
He said that when Iraqi Christians “feel secure, free and equal with the others, they will stay, otherwise they will leave.”
In 1990 the Chaldean Archdiocese of Baghdad had some 481,000 members. That had dropped to 140,000 in 2003, when Saddam Hussein's Baathist government fell. In the first three years of the introduction of democracy to Iraq, the archdiocese lost another 5,000 members.
“Christians have lost their trust in the future. They are disappointed,” said Patriarch Raphael.
Bomb attacks in Kerkuk and Tuz Khurmatu in January left at least 30 people dead and more than 200 wounded, according to Aid to the Church in Need, which said that violence was politically motivated.
“Fundamentalism does not accept Christians... Extremists think that the reason for their predicament is the West, i.e. Christians,” Patriarch Raphael noted.
He said there is unhealthy tension among political factions, and between the national government and the Kurdish government which controls much of northern Iraq.
“The whole situation is bad. There is tension between the government and the opposition, also between the central government and the Kurdish regional government.”
Patriarch Raphael said that Pope Benedict welcomed his confirmation as patriarch with prayers and congratulations, and that the pontiff said, “I hope you can stimulate the dialogue in your country.”
The patriarch has long been a part of dialogue with Muslims in the country. Iraq's population is roughly 95 percent Muslim, and three to five percent Christian.
“The Pope appealed to me so that we remain, as in the past, a bridge for all, between Christians and Muslims and between Iraqi citizens.”
Wichita, Kan., Feb 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A former Kansas Congressman has indicated that Servant of God Father Emil Kapaun will be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor later this year, prompting excitement from those who know of the U.S. Army chaplain’s heroic service in prison camps during the Korean War.
“Like everybody else, I think it’s great news we’ve been waiting for some time,” said Fr. John Hotze, a priest from the Diocese of Wichita who heads the Father Kapaun Guild.
“We’re thrilled he’s finally going to be awarded the Medal of Honor. I think most people would agree he’s been deserving that for some time,” Fr. Hotze told CNA Feb. 25.
The Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest military award for bravery.
Former Kansas Congressman Todd Tiahrt on Feb. 22 told the Wichita Eagle that he had received a note from a military officer in the Pentagon about preparations for a White House ceremony to be held April 11. The Pentagon will honor the Kansas priest on April 12.
Fr. Kapaun was born in Pilsen, Kansas and grew up on a farm. He was a parish priest before he joined the U.S. Army. He served as a chaplain with the Eighth Cavalry Regiment in North Korea, which was overrun by the Chinese army in late 1950.
The priest courageously rescued wounded soldiers from the battlefield, risking his own life to save them from execution by the Chinese. Later taken as a prisoner of war, he heroically worked to tend to the starving and sick in a camp that would reach subzero temperatures.
The priest’s service to his fellow prisoners has become legendary. Scores of men attributed their survival to his deeds.
He sneaked out at night to steal food from the prison guards to share with those who were starving, the Wichita Eagle reports. He picked lice off of sick prisoners and shaped roofing tin into cooking pots so the prisoners could boil water.
The priest also encouraged the prisoners to endure despite their terrible conditions, and despite the abuse he himself faced from prison guards.
Fr. Kapaun died in a prison camp hospital on May 23, 1951 two years before the end of the Korean conflict. Prison authorities denied him medical assistance for a blood clot in his leg.
The Catholic Church named the priest a Servant of God in 1993, an early step on the road to sainthood. At present the Congregation for the Causes of Saints is considering two alleged miracles as it investigates whether he should be beatified.
Fr. Hotze told CNA that the military chaplain exemplified hope and charity.
He instilled in fellow prisoners of war the hope “that they would return home and be reunited with their families.”
“His whole life was an act of charity ... both as a priest and as a chaplain,” Fr. Hotze said. “He was willing to give up his life for others.”
President Barack Obama is expected to present the Medal of Honor to Fr. Kapaun’s sister-in-law Helen Kapaun, 83, and her children. He called Mrs. Kapaun in December to tell her about the honor. An official announcement is expected later this month.
Only 3,460 military service members have received the award since its introduction during the Civil War.
Vatican City, Feb 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Holy See press office revealed today that Pope Benedict XVI will retain his papal name but will be called Pope Emeritus.
“He will still be called His Holiness Benedict XVI,” said the press office director, Father Federico Lombardi.
“But he will also be called Pope Emeritus or Roman Pontiff Emeritus,” he added at the Feb. 26 press meeting.
Pope Benedict is currently receiving hundreds of letters from authorities from around the world bidding him farewell.
“He has put his personal secretary and head of the pontifical household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, in charge of reading them and passing their messages to the Pope,” said Fr. Lombardi.
There will also be a highly symbolic moment to signal the end of the Pope’s ministry.
The Swiss Guards will be standing at the gates of Castel Gandolfo and at 8:00 p.m. they will leave their stations.
“They symbolically protect the Pope, so they will no longer be necessary. But don’t worry because there will still be Vatican police protecting the Vatican gardens and its surroundings,” Fr. Lombardi explained.
Fifty thousand tickets have been given out for Pope Benedict’s last general audience tomorrow, but Vatican officials are expecting more people.
Fr. Lombardi said the general audience will follow its usual procedure and will have the pontiff travel around St. Peter’s Square in his popemobile.
But this time there will be no “bacce mano,” where select guests are able to kiss the Pope’s ring after the audience, because of the large amount of people expected.
Vatican officials are expecting the College of Cardinals to hold their first meeting, which could reveal the conclave date, early next week.
Vatican City, Feb 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict has decided what he will wear once he is no longer Pope – a simple white cassock, and brown shoes given to him in Leon, Mexico.
“The city of Leon is known for beautiful shoes, and very comfortable shoes. And when the Pope was asked what he wanted to wear he said, ‘I want the shoes from Leon in Mexico,’” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told journalists Feb. 26.
“It will no longer be the red shoes that you have seen him wear. He has chosen to keep brown shoes that were given to him on his recent trip,” he said.
As for his apparel, the Pope emeritus will wear a simple, white cassock without the mozzetta – the short cape that covers his shoulders.
His outfit will be complemented by the simple monastery he will be living in, starting around May.
He will replace the Fisherman’s ring worn by Popes with an episcopal ring from his time as Cardinal Ratzinger. The Pope’s ring and seal will be broken at a particular moment determined by the College of Cardinals and its chamberlain, in accordance with the sede vacante norms.
The main news that Fr. Lombardi announced at the Feb. 26 press conference was what Pope Benedict will be called after he resigns.
He will have three titles: His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus or Roman Pontiff Emeritus.
The formal end of his ministry will occur on Feb. 28 at 8:00 p.m.
Fr. Lombardi reiterated that it is important to note “the Pope is in a spirit of prayer as he brings the pontificate to a close.”
Vatican City, Feb 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
An Irish theologian who is familiar with the life and thought of Pope Benedict XVI says his decision to resign was not because of Vatican difficulties.
“The media keeps focusing on the Vatileaks as key element to his resignation, and I think that’s absolute nonsense,” said Jesuit Father Michael P. Gallagher, who came to Rome about 20 years ago to work for the Pontifical Council for Culture.
“I’m sure he was worried and shocked by it, but we take him on his word that his resignation is a call from God.”
Fr. Gallagher, who is rector of the Jesuit Collegio San Roberto Bellarmino, made his comments to CNA in a Feb. 25 interview.
In his opinion, Benedict XVI is the Pope with the highest intellectual formation the Church has ever had in its 2,000 years of existence.
“No other Popes have published so many books before being elected,” he pointed out.
“Being an intellectual comes with advantages and perhaps some disadvantages,” Fr. Gallagher observed.
“He loves his books, he loves writing, he loves thinking and he loves communicating his thoughts, and that’s one of his great qualities,” he added.
According to Fr. Gallagher, Pope Benedict has a vision with two sides.
“On the one hand, he’s worried about the world, about the culture, about the way we see ourselves today, which stems from his rationalism and being a German,” he said.
“The other side is his fundamental passion to give what he calls his freshness to faith.”
Although Pope Benedict headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before becoming pontiff, Fr. Gallagher noted that during his pontificate “his emphasis is not so much on doctrine at all, but faith as an encounter with the Lord, as an event and as a prayer.”
“That spiritual side to him hasn’t been recognized so much,” he asserted. “He said in an interview once that faith is the love story between God and humanity.”
But Fr. Gallagher, who has taught on Joseph Ratzinger’s theology, is not surprised that the Pope is resigning on Feb. 28.
“I was expecting this,” he remarked. “I was surprised when it happened, but not surprised that it happened.”
“He said in an interview with Peter Seewald very strongly that if a Pope was unable to go on serving the Church because of age or health that, not only did he have the right to resign, he had the duty to resign,” he recalled.
According to Fr. Gallagher, the Pope has had to fight against the secular media, who “continue to look for scandal.”
“This is changing history and the feeling as to what a Pope should do when he arrives in a situation of weakness,” he stated.
In an interview with Irish television reporter who labeled Benedict XVI “the German shepherd,” the Jesuit said, “give him time and you will see he is not only a gentleman, but a gentle man.”
“I think I’ve been proved to be 100 percent correct because of his humility and honesty, which made him offer his resignation, and (by) the non-dramatic and spiritual tone of it,” said Fr. Gallagher.
“What I’ve admired the most of it, which hasn’t been seen by all the public, is the spiritual tone of his homilies which stem from his world vision of the Church,” he added.
Fr. Gallagher wants the next Pope to have “energy to communicate Christ” and to “care for the bureaucracy at the Roman Curia that isn’t quite right.”
“When someone has been in a place too long they tend to block things, and we need a Pope to cut through that and make the servants of the faith serve the faith,” he said.
Vatican City, Feb 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican has dispelled claims that Pope Benedict XVI's “Pontifex” Twitter account will be shut down permanently, clarifying that it “will be available for use by the next Pope as he may wish.”
Monsignor Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said Feb. 23 the Twitter account was created for the Pope’s “exclusive use.”
In a statement published by Vatican Radio, he said the account will be inactive during the interim “sede vacante” period between the Feb. 28 resignation of Pope Benedict and the election of a new Pope.
Many media outlets misinterpreted an earlier account from Vatican Radio and reported that the Vatican would be shutting down its ten-week-old effort on the social media site.
Since the Pope launched his first Twitter accounts in early December, he has accumulated hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. His English-language account alone has nearly 1.6 million followers.
Father Paolo Padrini, a collaborator of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told CNA last month that the Pope’s presence on social media is a form of evangelizing.
“It’s a great joy to see the Pope’s words being disseminated, a joy that is held by all believers.”
The Pope has sent out tweets in nine languages, including Latin. He has sent out messages of Christian reflection and encouragement while not exceeding Twitter’s 140-character limit,
He sent a special message of solidarity to those attending pro-life marches in the U.S.
The Pope’s most recent Tweet of Feb. 24 alluded to his upcoming resignation and the selection of his successor.
“In these momentous days, I ask you to pray for me and for the Church, trusting as always in divine Providence,” he said.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 26, 2013 (CNA) - A group of young people from Madrid have posted a two-minute video online with international messages thanking Pope Benedict XVI for his service to the Church.
“We young people are with you,” the video emphasizes to the Pontiff, who will be retiring from his role as Pope at the end of February due to waning strength.
Entitled, “For the 85 year-old young man,” the video has already gone viral, receiving more than 50,000 views on YouTube in just five days.
In the video, young people from around the world thank Pope Benedict for his “teachings of reason, faith and humility,” as well as for showing them the “tenderness of Christ” and offering a sincere witness of hope, generosity and courage.
They reminded the Holy Father that they are praying for him.
Pablo Larrocha, one of the young people promoting the video, said he got the idea to make it after the Pope announced his resignation.
“I felt a silence in the Church that I didn’t like at all,” he said.
The silence was “in a certain sense normal because the news was unexpected,” he continued. “But I felt I had to do something so that people could see that the Pope is not alone.”
The Pope needed to know “that we young people are at his side, that we continue to be his sons and daughters and that we are going to love him to the end,” Larrocha said.
With the help of his friend Chechu Fuentes, he decided to record thirty young people in Madrid, but another friend suggested they also videoconference with young people in different countries.
“So we clearly realized that this had to be a worldwide expression of thanks,” Larrocha continued.
The video features young people from numerous countries including Germany, Romania, France, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, Slovakia, Australia, Russia, the United States, New Zealand and China.
Chechu García, Miguel del Moral, Bruno Contreras, Iziar Francín, Pilar Muñoz-Elena and Javier Contreras all contributed to creating the video.