Archive of January 17, 2014

Supreme Court hears abortion zone case, declines 20-week ban

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Supreme Court will rule this year on a case involving “buffer zones” outside abortion clinics, but it has declined to hear a case on state abortion bans after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

On Jan. 15, the court heard oral arguments in McCullen v. Coakley, a case challenging a Massachusetts state law requiring a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, in which protestors and pro-life counselors may not enter to speak with patients.

Supporters of the law say it is a matter of safety and unobstructed access to clinics, while opponents argue that it infringes upon freedom of speech and unfairly targets those who hold pro-life viewpoints.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the case in June.

The state's brief on the case argues that the law is “justified solely by legitimate government interests in public safety and health care access.”

However, pro-life challengers to the law say that it infringes upon their constitutionally-protected First Amendment right to the freedom of speech. They have argued in a legal brief that the law “indiscriminately criminalizes even peaceful, consensual, non-obstructive conversation and leafleting” and that it unfairly targets certain kinds of speech, namely, pro-life counseling and views.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the buffer law in January 2013, ruling that the First Amendment does not guarantee an audience “available at close range,” and arguing that pro-life counselors still have access to women seeking abortions, even with the 35-foot buffer zone in place.

Pro-life organizers from around the country have questioned the ruling.

“Though the Massachusetts law in question certainly has to do with abortion, and the risk to thousands of innocent human lives is severe, this is a First Amendment issue first and foremost,” said Lila Rose, president of the pro-life investigative organization Live Action, in a Jan. 14 statement.

“The Constitution of the United States does not become void as one gets close to an abortion facility. The Court has a crucial opportunity today to defend our nation's foundational commitment to freedom of speech.”

Dana Cody, president and executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, called for the “Supreme Court to put an end to these perverse attempts to silence pro-life speakers.”

“Massachusetts is grasping at straws and its 'bubble zone' law flies in the face of the very notion of Freedom of Speech,” she said.

The oral arguments in the Massachusetts case were heard two days after the Supreme Court announced that it would not be hearing an appeal from the state of Arizona which seeks to re-instate its law barring most late-term abortions.

Enacted in April 2012, the Arizona law prohibited most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, measured by the date of the woman's last menstrual period. About a dozen other states have similar restrictions, although they generally measure from fertilization – about two weeks later than the Arizona law. Several other states ban abortion at 24 weeks, the point of fetal viability.

Advocates of the Arizona law point to evidence that unborn babies can feel pain at 20 weeks of development and argue that late-term abortions pose a greater risk to the mother.

In May 2013, a panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals ruled the law unconstitutional, saying that Arizona's limits on late-term abortion violated previous Supreme Court rulings that expanded access to abortion, including the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” case.

Appeals court judges also dismissed arguments based on the unborn baby's ability to feel pain, saying that the state of Arizona can instead handle this problem by “requiring anesthetization of the fetuses about to be killed.”

The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, offering no comments on its decision. This allows the ruling from the appeals court to stand, overturning the regulation. Other state laws will not be affected.


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Bishops ask Congress to support, resettle Syrian refugees

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops have encouraged Congress to work to end the violence in Syria, and to help address the major humanitarian crisis facing the conflict’s more than 2 million refugees.

“The Syrian refugee crisis deserves the full attention and mobilization of the international community,” Bishop Eusebio Elizondo Almaguer, Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle, told a Senate subcommittee on human rights Jan. 7.

“With the brutal conflict and ever-growing forced migration, there is a serious lack of shelter, food, water, sanitation, education, health care and protection inside Syria and in neighboring countries that host Syrian refugees,” said Bishop Elizondo, who chairs the U.S. bishops' committee on migration.

The Syrian civil war, now in its 32nd month, has claimed the lives of more than 115,000. There are 6.5 million internally displaced Syrians, and another 2.3 million have become refugees, most of them in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.

The humanitarian crisis is “among the worst refugee crises on record,” the bishop said.

Many parents have died or have been separated from their children. Refugee girls face dangers such as sexual violence and forced marriage, while boys face recruitment back into the civil war.

Facing this, the bishops are asking that Congress work for a ceasefire in the conflict; this comes as Secretary of State John Kerry is urging a rebel group, the Syrian National Coalition, to attend the Geneva II peace talks, aimed at setting up a transitional government.

Bishop Elizondo also suggested that legislators assist countries neighboring Syria to accept and accommodate refugees; increase caps on resettlement in the U.S.; and remove “unjust impediments to U.S. resettlement” in immigration law.

He cited Catholic social teaching in support for these positions, noting that “every person is created in God's image” and Pope Francis' statement that “where there is suffering, Christ is present. We cannot turn our back on situations of great suffering.”

In August, the U.S. agreed to accept 2,000 refugees for resettlement; according to the International Rescue Committee, fewer than 100 have been resettled so far.

Bishop Elizondo called on the senators to “meaningfully increase U.S. resettlement” to at least 15,000.

“The U.S. Catholic bishops and our affiliated agencies stand ready to assist you in this effort,” Bishop Elizondo said.

He also noted that immigration law includes anti-terrorism provisions that are “overly broad” and bar applicants who have in any way supported Syrian rebel groups, even those who are moderates rather than Islamists, urging that Congress allow for case-by-case exemptions to these provisions.

The bishop also pointed out that Syrian minority groups, including Christians, are facing particular difficulties.

“These are among the most ancient and venerable Christian communities in the world that have a history of peaceful coexistence with their Muslim neighbors. They long to remain in Syria.”

The Syrian conflict began when demonstrations sprang up nationwide on March 15, 2011 protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president and leader the country's Ba'ath Party.

In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters.

The war is now being fought among the Syrian regime and a number of rebel groups, including moderates, Islamists, and Kurds.

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LA immigrant kids implore Pope to help detained parents

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Immigrant children in California have written heartfelt letters to Pope Francis seeking his help and his prayers for their parents who have been deported or arrested.

“They know that Pope Francis himself is the son of an immigrant. They know that he has the heart to understand what they are going through,” Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez said Jan. 14.

The archbishop said that reading the letters “makes my heart ache.”

“They are so beautiful and so sad,” he told the civic group Town Hall Los Angeles. “My friends, this is what immigration is doing to the soul of our country. How we respond to these children is a challenge to our conscience – and it will be a measure of our humanity.”

A letter from Karla, a 15-year-old girl born in Los Angeles, told Pope Francis she has a “very religious” family. Both her parents and her two older siblings are immigrants from Mexico.

“My mom is slowly going blind and my dad has a heart problem. My sister is in a wheelchair and she needs medical help, but they can't get the medical help they need because they don’t have their legal documents,” she said.

“I know there are more people with the same or even worse situation. Some kids even younger than me have been separated from their parents and family,” Karla added. “I ask you to keep me and my family in your prayers.”

She also asked the Pope to pray for President Obama “so he can stop all deportation.”

The children's letters were collected through a coalition seeking full rights for immigrants. The children brought the letters to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Archbishop Gomez said he was forwarding the letters to the Pope. According to the archbishop, the U.S. government has deported nearly two million immigrants in the last four years.

Another young girl, Guadalupe, asked for the Pope's help “to stop deporting families and separating families because its sad to see kids be separated from their parents and the kids ending up as orphans.”

“I hope you can help us with this fight. You are our hope for all the families getting separated,” the girl told Pope Francis. She said she knew how it feels to be separated from her father, who died in October 2013.

“It could be the worst feeling you can experience in life. I was not able to see him ever again,” she continued.

“The last time I talked to him he said he was coming soon,” said Guadalupe, who wrote her letter “with tears in my eyes.”

Mario, 14, told Pope Francis he was “a Dreamer – a person who is not born in the United States.”

He said his father had provided for his family, but is now in jail. His mother has since been providing for the family through “non-stop hard work.”

“I beg you with all my heart to pray for all the people who are going (through) my situation,” Mario wrote.

A 17-year-old girl named Leydi asked the Pope to pray for her father “because they are going to deport him.”

Leydi, who has three brothers and a sister, said her father left for Tennessee two years ago to work and was now in jail. “He isn’t mean, he isn’t a bad father, he has always been there for me and my family,” she said.

“I miss my father so much,” she said, adding that she would like “the most” to have her father at her graduation.

“I would want for you to please help us,” she said to Pope Francis. “My family has always been close and the only reason we accepted him leaving was because we need the money in order to survive.”

She also characterized herself as a “Dreamer,” saying she came to the U.S at the age of four.

“I am doing the best that I can in order to succeed and become a U.S. citizen,” Leydi wrote, adding that she is looking for work to help support her family.

Another girl, Jersey, wrote the Pope on her birthday, wishing that her father were with her. “It has been so long that he hasn’t been with me on two of my birthdays, last year and today.”

She said her father had been working in construction to support the family. “Every single day he used to come home from work exhausted and tired.”

Jersey said her father has been detained by immigration police.

“The police will be deporting him and I wonder what will happen and how this will affect my family,” she told Pope Francis. “I hope that you can please do something about all families that are going through the same situation.”

“Since you are the closest to God I beg you to help my family,” the girl said. She also asked for prayers for her grandfather Felix “because he was very sick and today he passed away.”

Archbishop Gomez is one of the U.S. bishops' leading advocates of comprehensive immigration reform. He has called on U.S. citizens and leaders to remember “the human faces of immigration reform.”

According to the archbishop, there are about 2.6 million undocumented immigrants in California and 11 million in the U.S. as a whole.

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Pope: Christians have not been chosen for 'small things'

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis urged youth to listen to the call of God, stating that this is often faced with obstacles and requires “going against the tide.”

“We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for small things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals!” the pontiff remarked in his Jan. 17 message to youth.

The 51st World Day of Prayer for Vocations is slated to occur on May 11, 2014, which is the fourth Sunday of Easter, and will be dedicated to the theme: "Vocations, Witness to the Truth."

Beginning his address with the image in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus states that “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” the Pope highlighted that what Jesus is asking of the Church “concerns the need to increase the number of those who serve his Kingdom.”

Reciting St. Paul’s words in his First Letter to the Corinthians, Pope Francis observed that we Christians “are God’s field,” which “is why wonder first arises in our hearts over the plentiful harvest which God alone can bestow.”

Emphasizing how we are “possessed” by God through his “steadfast love,” the pontiff explained that everything we have “comes from him and is his gift: the world, life, death, the present, the future…”

“Christ, therefore…continually summons us by his word to place our trust in him, loving him ‘with all the heart, with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’” he said, quoting the Gospel of Matthew.

“Therefore every vocation, even within the variety of paths, always requires an exodus from oneself in order to center one’s life on Christ and on his Gospel.”

“Both in married life and in the forms of religious consecration, as well as in priestly life, we must surmount the ways of thinking and acting that do not conform to the will of God,” explained the Pope, adding that “it is an exodus that leads us on a journey of adoration of the Lord and of service to him in our brothers and sisters.”

“He never abandons us,” the pontiff noted, “He has the fulfilment of his plan for us at heart, and yet he wishes to achieve it with our consent and cooperation.”

Pope Francis then highlighted how even today Jesus is among us, seeking to draw close to everyone, “beginning with the least,” and to heal our wounds.

The pontiff then extended an invitation to all youth “to listen to and follow Jesus, and to allow yourselves to be transformed interiorly by his words, which ‘are spirit and life.’”

Echoing the words of Mary to the servants of the wedding feast in Cana “Do whatever he tells you,” the Pope explained that this attitude “will help you to participate in a communal journey” that is able to bring out the best in those around us.

“A vocation,” he explained, “is a fruit that ripens in a well cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic ecclesial life.”

“No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love.”

This “high standard” of living as a Christian “means sometimes going against the tide and also encountering obstacles, outside ourselves and within ourselves,” noted the Pope, adding that Jesus warns us in the Gospel that “the good seed of God’s word is often snatched away by the Evil one, blocked by tribulation, and choked by worldly cares and temptation.”

“All of these difficulties could discourage us, making us fall back on seemingly more comfortable paths,” noted the pontiff, however “the true joy of those who are called consists in believing and experiencing that he, the Lord, is faithful.”

Only with him can we “walk, be disciples and witnesses of God’s love, open our hearts to great ideals, to great things,” the Pope observed, highlighting that “we Christians were not chosen by the Lord for small things.”

He then implored the “bishops, priests, religious, Christian communities and families” to “orient vocational pastoral planning in this direction,” and to accompany youths “on pathways of holiness.”

Concluding his message, the pontiff asked that all “dispose ourselves” to having “good soil” in our hearts “by listening, receiving and living out the word, and thus bearing fruit.”

“The more we unite ourselves to Jesus through prayer, Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the Sacraments celebrated and lived in the Church and in fraternity,” he observed, “the more there will grow in us the joy of cooperating with God in the service of the Kingdom of mercy and truth, of justice and peace.”

“And the harvest will be plentiful, proportionate to the grace we have meekly welcomed into our lives. With this wish, and asking you to pray for me, I cordially impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing.”

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Pope Francis warns against a 'worldly uniformity'

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily, Pope Francis cautioned the faithful not to fall into the temptation of worldliness which hardens our hearts and makes us forget our “election” as children of God.

“The normality of life demands fidelity from Christians to their election, and to not sell it to go towards a worldly uniformity,” the Pope stated in his Jan. 17 homily.

Pope Francis began his daily Mass, held in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, by returning to the day’s readings, giving special emphasis to the first reading taken from First Book of Samuel.

Recalling how the people of Israel asked Samuel to appoint a king so that they would be like other nations, and did not listen to the prophet’s warning against it, the Pope stated that the people “reject God,” and that “not only do they hear the word of God, but they reject it.”

In denying the Lord as their ruler and requesting a “king of the court” so as to be “like all the nations,” the pontiff explained that they “reject to Lord of love” and “they reject their election and seek a path of worldliness.”

Many Christians today do the same thing, the Pope noted, observing that the temptation of worldliness “is the temptation of the People, and also ours.”

“So many times, we forget the word of God, what the Lord tells us, and we take the word which is fashionable, right?” he continued, adding that “the word of the soap opera” is always “fashionable and more fun!”

However, the Pope went on to explain that “apostasy is precisely the sin of breaking with the Lord,” and “is clearly seen,” but that worldliness is “more dangerous…because it is more subtle.”

Pope Francis acknowledged that while “the Christian must be normal, as normal people are,” there are certain values that “the Christian cannot take for himself.”

A true Christian, he noted, “must assume upon himself the Word of God which says ‘You are my son, you are elected, I am with you, I walk with you,’” and must resist the temptation of feeling like victims of “a certain inferiority complex.”

“Temptation comes and hardens the heart, and when the heart is hard, when the heart is not open, the Word of God cannot enter,” he reflected, repeating the words of Jesus to the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Oh foolish men, and slow of heart!”

“They had a hardened heart, they could not understand the Word of God,” the pontiff observed, explaining that worldliness “softens the heart, but in a bad way: a soft heart is never a good thing!”

“What is good is a heart that is open to the Word of God, that receives it. Like the Virgin Mary, who pondered all these things in her heart…receiving the Word of God so as not to turn away from election.”

Concluding his homily, the Pope urged those present to ask for the grace to “overcome our selfishness: the selfishness of wanting do to my own will.”

“We ask for the grace to overcome it and ask for the grace of spiritual docility,” he stated, “that is, to open the heart to the Word of God and not to do as these brothers of ours, that have closed their hearts because they had gone far from God and for a long time had not heard the Word of God.”

“May the Lord give us the grace of an open heart to receive the Word of God and to ponder it always; and from there take the true path.”

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The Pope 'came out to meet me', says priest who rode on popemobile

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - “I was in Rome to meet the Pope, but it was the Pope who came out to meet me.” This is how Fr. Fabian Baez explained his impromptu Jan. 8 ride in the popemobile with Pope Francis.

Pope Francis spotted the Argentine priest in the crowd at the General Audience that day, and welcomed him onto the popemobile. Fr. Baez spoke with CNA Jan. 16 about the experience.

“I didn’t have a ticket for the audience, but I felt like seeing the audience (from afar). So I arrived to St. Peter's Square looking forward to at least taking some pictures of the Pope and the popemobile.”
“Since I didn’t have a ticket, I could not get into the audience … but I was looking forward to at least taking some pictures of the Pope and the popemobile.”

“I was outside the last barrier when the popemobile drove by and I was able to take a picture of the Holy Father, and he recognized me and asked me, ‘What are you doing here?’ I answered, 'Well, I came to see you.'”

“The pope mobile kept going and the second time around, something unusual happened. The popemobile stopped, and he invited me to climb over the barrier. I thought he just wanted to greet me, so imagine my joy. I gave him a hug, and he invited me into the popemobile!”

Fr. Baez recounted that while riding, “he asked me every once in a while, ‘How are you?’ Afterwards, he even took the trouble to see that they gave me a seat with the ambassadors.”

At the end of the ride, a few minutes before imparting his catechesis, Pope Francis told him, “If you are in a hurry don’t worry about it, but if you stay until the end, we can talk for ten minutes.”

“So I stayed, of course. I didn't have absolutely anything else to do except hoping to see the Pope.”

“After greeting the sick one by one as he always does, with tenderness and kindness … I was able to chat with him for ten minutes outside the entrance to his home at St. Martha’s.”

Fr. Baez called the meeting “a sign … we Christians do not believe in coincidences, coincidences are, as a friend of mine says, 'God-incidences'.”  “God in his infinite mercy had that invitation for me, but not just for me. I think it's an invitation to all priests. The Pope receives us,  he invites to be with him and to entrust to him and to the Church our anxieties, sorrows, problems; to feel that we are sons of the Church.”

He said that while he did not have a close friendship with Cardinal Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, he had been ordained a priest by him, and the Pope remembered his face. This attentiveness to each person, so exemplified by Pope Francis, is something that “hopefully all priests can have the grace” to imitate, he reflected.

Commenting on the change from Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio and Pope Francis, Fr. Baez said he “is the same, and at the same time, he is different. He was like that before, with his closeness, his goodness. But at the same time, he is different because he radiates serenity and peace. Being with the Pope, seeing him, is like an entrance, a window to God, to heaven. His mere presence radiates peace.”

“He just radiates something, so yes, I think he is the same, but evidently there is something different. I perceive something different.”

Fr. Baez said that when he returns to Argentina he will continue working among the people as always, “just as the Pope always tells us.” Beginning in March, he will return to Buenos Aires to work at the Shrine of St. Cajetan in the Liniers neighborhood. The shrine is dear to Pope Francis, as he said Mass there the seventh day of each month, a commemoration of the Aug. 7 feast of the founder of the Theatine order.

The priest concluded, “In the popemobile, what really impacted me was the look of the Pope, how the Pope doesn’t look at a crowd. He looks at the person, which is what happened with me when he recognized me in a crowd and he called me - that’s what I perceived.”

“I was attentive to how he would look at each person, which was like the look of God, who doesn’t see a uniform mass, but rather every person. That was what most impacted me on the popemobile, and I kept that in prayer, the Pope’s look, the affection with which he holds children. It is what one can see in pictures, but to be there, three feet away, was something really moving.”

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Benedict XVI celebrates brother's 90th birthday with day of music

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Retired pontiff Benedict XVI celebrated his brother Monsignor Georg Ratzinger's 90th birthday on Jan. 15 at the Vatican with a sung Mass and a simple concert.

The director of the Holy See's Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters the celebrations began in the morning at the former pope's Vatican residence, Mater Ecclesia.

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, prefect of the papal household and personal secretary of Benedict XVI, concelebrated at the Mass which was attended by close friends and Benedict XVI's “family” of religious women from Communion and Liberation's consecrated lay order Memores Domini.

The celebrations continued with a Bavarian style breakfast and joyful song. At 5:45 p.m., the Ratzinger brothers attended a music concert in honor of Monsignor Ratzinger at the studios of Vatican Radio, featuring piano, violin and a tenor singer.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller – who worked with Msgr. Ratzinger when he was director of the choir at the Cathedral of Ratisbona – also attended the concert.

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March for Life broadens focus to engage cultural, political realms

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - As hundreds of thousands of pro-life Americans prepare for the annual March for Life, organizers of the event are already making plans to enhance their impact long after it concludes.

While many people associate the March for Life Education and Defense Fund with the massive pro-life event it holds each year in Washington, D.C., President Jeanne Monahan told CNA that the group's “plan and our hope is to be more of a year-round organization.”

This involves increased educational and political efforts, cooperation with other pro-life groups and work to expand the yearly march in D.C. through the use of technology.

Now in its 41st year, the annual March for Life is held as a demonstration against the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, in which the Supreme Court mandated legal abortion throughout the country.

Generally held on or near the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the march runs from the National Mall to the Supreme Court. Last year, it was estimated to have drawn more than half a million participants.

Monahan described the march and preceding rally as an opportunity to witness to the 56 million individual persons whose lives have been cut short through legal abortion.

As in past years, speakers at the 2014 rally will include pro-life leaders from the religious, political and cultural realms.

Also speaking will be Molly Anne Dutton, who made headlines last fall when she became Miss Homecoming at Auburn University by sharing her story of being conceived in rape and given a chance at life by her mother, with the help of an adoption agency.

Metropolitan Tikhon, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will offer an invocation prayer during the rally, and Grammy-nominated musician Matt Maher will lead the crowd in prayerful music.

As is usual for the March for Life, Monahan said, the majority of participants are expected to be young people, and the event will be marked by a “joyful, respectful and enthusiastic spirit.”

New to this year's march, however, attendees will see “an increase in social media and technology.”

This change springs out of the organization's growth in the past year, including the addition of a new employee dedicated to “putting up our digital media strategy.” This has allowed the March for Life's online presence to be “widely, widely expanded,” Monahan explained, adding that the organization introduced a new logo in late 2013.

As the organization continues to grow and expand – doubling its number of full-time staff members and moving into new office space in downtown Washington, D.C. – Monahan hopes to cooperate with other pro-life groups.

“One of the things we're trying to do is not recreate the wheel,” she said, explaining that there are already “so many tremendous resources out there building a culture of life.” The March for Life hopes to “point towards great resources” that are already being provided by other pro-life organizations.

This year, the March for Life will focus on the theme of adoption.

“Annually there are 1.21 million abortions in our country and there are only 18-20,000 infant adoptions every year,” Monahan said, explaining that the group will work in the coming year to focus on encouraging women in difficult situations to choose adoption and give their child the gift of life.

Outreach to a variety of religious denominations and those of no religion at all will also be a part of the coming months.

In addition, emphasis will be placed on education through public speaking and web seminars, as well as staying in touch with activists around the country, helping equip those who attend the annual march so that they can return to their local communities and make a difference.

The organization is also hoping to delve into political matters with a new March for Life Action Fund that will be able to “give a voice” to pro-life activists on Capitol Hill. In addition to holding briefings on topics such as adoption, the action fund will aim to assist pro-life lawmakers in promoting measures that protect both women and unborn children.

Monahan characterized the past year as “really exciting” in terms of “common sense” laws passed at the state level.

She pointed to the murder trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell as an opportunity for the nation to have “light shed on what is happening in abortion clinic.”

Gosnell was convicted in May 2013 of first-degree murder for killing babies born alive from his abortion procedures. Investigations into his clinic found unsanitary conditions, filthy equipment and poor health protocol.

As Americans realized that many abortion clinics are currently “held to beauty parlor standards” for health and safety, Monahan said, it became a “no-brainer” to pass legislation such as the clinic regulations and late-term abortion ban passed in Texas last year.

“We ardently support those late-term abortion bans, because it's just common sense,” she stressed, observing that such legislation has the support of “a broad majority of Americans” and adding, “There's no reason not to support it.”

Social media such as Twitter and Facebook have also had a “whole lot of influence” in spreading the pro-life message, she observed.

“Those moments where we are able to go inside an abortion clinic and really see what's happening...that's changed public opinion significantly, and can have a huge impact on legislation.”

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Vatican spokesman to receive award from Spanish bishops

Madrid, Spain, Jan 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Holy See's press officer, will take part in a media conference organized by the Spanish bishops next month, during which he will receive an award for his work in communications.

The conference for diocesan communications leaders will take place Feb. 3-5 in Madrid, and will include a presentation by Fr. Lombardi. At the conference's conclusion, he will be given the 2013 Bravo award.

The conference will also include an address on the mission of  Church represntatives by the spokesman of the Spanish bishops, Fr. Jose Maria Gil Tamayo. In addition, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Msgr. Paul Tighe, will speak on Church’s institutional presence on the internet and social networks.

According to the Spanish bishops’ committee on social communications, the aim of the conference is to help delegates from diocesan communication offices to share experiences and to collaborate on common projects. It will also focus on the role and mission of diocesan spokesmen and their relationships with the news agencies that report on the Church’s activities.

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