Little Rock, Ark., Mar 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A U.S. District Court’s ruling against Arkansas’ fetal heartbeat-based abortion restrictions disappointed pro-life advocates, but they said the effort still helps the unborn.
Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert, who sponsored the legislation, said that despite the ruling, the law was still “a win for the pro-life movement” because of its other provisions.
“When people have to face the reality that there’s a living heartbeat in their womb, that will make them rethink about taking the life away from their baby,” he told the Associated Press.
Jerry Cox, president of the Arkansas-based Family Council, said advocacy for the law was still worthwhile.
“I believe the only way we’re going to change things for the better is by challenging the status quo of abortion,” Cox said, according to ArkansasNews.com.
The March 2013 law would have barred most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy on the grounds that the unborn child has a heartbeat at that point. The legislation would have created the strictest restrictions on abortion in any U.S. state.
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, in a March 14 decision, said the law was unconstitutional on the grounds that only a doctor can determine whether or not an unborn child can live outside of its mother.
The judge stated that viability, an unborn child's ability to survive outside of its mother, rather than heartbeat should determine whether abortions should be allowed. Viability is typically placed at around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Her decision said that legal precedent means only “viability ‘begins’ with a heartbeat” and precedent “does not declare that viability is fully achieved with the advent of a heartbeat.”
She added that the Supreme Court has “stressed that it is not the proper function of the legislature or the courts to place viability at a specific point in the gestation period.”
Laws based on fetal heartbeat, she wrote, "would undoubtedly contravene the Supreme Court’s determination that viability in a particular case is a matter for medical judgment.” She said viability is attained when “there is a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival outside the womb.”
She added that the state “presents no evidence that a fetus can live outside the mother's womb at twelve weeks.”
Last year Webber Wright halted the law’s enforcement pending judicial review. She left in place other parts of the law that require doctors to search for a fetal heartbeat and to tell the mother if a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Before the law passed, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed the bill, saying its lack of a viability standard would lead to legal challenges. The state legislature overrode his veto.
The state attorney general’s spokesman Aaron Sadler told the Associated Press March 14 that Webber Wright’s decision was “not a surprise.” As of March 14, the attorney general had not decided whether to appeal the decision.
Sen. Rapert urged an appeal, saying that a national pro-life organization has volunteered to defend the law at no cost to state taxpayers if it is designated special counsel.
Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholic University engineering student James Roche hopes to raise money for a disabled children's home in Jamaica, not only for those he met while on a 2013 mission trip but in memory of his sister.
After his sister Caitlin – who lived with cerebral palsy and seizure disorders – passed away last November at the age of 29, Roche and his mother decided to raise funds for the Missionaries of the Poor who run an outreach in Kingston.
“We thought it would be a great way to honor her,” he told CNA.
Roche aims to raise $29,000 – a thousand dollars for each year of his sister's life – for Bethlehem House by the time he returns to Jamaica later in the spring semester. He has already raised $12,000 in funds since his sister's funeral from his local community at home in New York, through his “big family” and from donors from the Catholic University of America community.
Bethlehem House is one of five similar homes serving disabled, homeless and at-risk people around Jamaica operated by the Sisters of Charity, and it currently serves around 60 disabled and at-risk children, many of whom have no one else to care for them. The homes rely completely on volunteer and charitable support.
Roche said that when he visited Bethlehem House while on a school-sponsored mission trip, he “had a really great experience,” and was looking forward to returning during this year's mission trip. The mission trip also features other service activities in Jamaica, including spending time with the elderly and visiting the poor in the city.
“A lot of those kids don't have the resources” his sister and other persons living with disabilities have, Roche said. “We're definitely looking forward to giving them a lot of money, because they'll definitely put it to good use,” he added.
Catholic University provides students with the opportunity to apply for school sponsored mission trips throughout the world, but typically limits students to one trip due to the limited space available and high interest from the student body. However, Brother Jim Moore, associate campus minister for justice and missions, told Catholic University that Roche will be allowed to return as a trip leader.
“He demonstrated an ability to work with diverse personalities and foster positive relationships with his peers, his supervisors, and with those to whom he ministered, especially the disabled children,” Br. Moore told the university in a Feb. 12 article.
“We were impressed with his energy, commitment, and joyfulness in his service. Needless to say, he was a natural pick as a student leader for this year’s summer trip to Jamaica.”
Funds can be donated to Roche's project here.
Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Ahead of Bl. John Paul II’s April 27 canonization, the U.S. bishops have named a D.C.-based facility as a national shrine to commemorate the beloved Roman Pontiff.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said the action reflects “the love of Catholics in America for John Paul II.”
“This national shrine is truly America’s fitting tribute and remembrance of his legacy,” said the archbishop, who signed a March 19 decree recognizing the shrine.
Patrick Kelly, the shrine’s executive director, voiced gratitude for the designation, saying the shrine is “dedicated to a great saint who bore courageous witness to the love of God and the dignity of the human person.”
The Saint John Paul II National Shrine will mark its namesake’s canonization with liturgical celebrations, a reception, and a gathering for young people.
The shrine, currently known as the Bl. John Paul II Shrine, was acquired by the Knights of Columbus in 2011 to create a memorial to the Polish Pope and to teach about his contributions to the Church and society.
The shrine hosts a relic of the saint: a vial of his blood given to the Knights of Columbus by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, the Pope’s longtime personal secretary.
Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, said that the late Pope “shaped an entire generation of Catholics,” adding that the shrine will serve as a reminder of John Paul II’s saintly life and “his call to holiness for each of us.”
“This shrine gives us the opportunity and privilege of continuing Pope John Paul II’s mission of the new evangelization for future generations of Catholics and we gladly accept it.”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington said the late Bishop of Rome was “an important force for good in America.” He said D.C. Catholics are “particularly honored” to have his shrine and to be “one of the first places of worship in the world to bear his name.”
He said the facility, in its three years as a local shrine, has become “a place of pilgrimage and prayer” that attracts many people from beyond the city.
The shrine’s main floor will be converted to a church, and its chapel will serve as a reliquary chapel. Both places of worship will have mosaics from floor to ceiling.
Beginning later this year, the shrine’s lower level will host a 16,000 square foot permanent exhibition on the Pope’s life and teaching.
John Paul II served as Pope from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was the first Polish-born Roman Pontiff, and played a key role in the end of the Cold War.
Vatican City, Mar 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis drew on today’s readings from the Gospel of Luke and the Psalms to warn listeners against putting one’s faith in man or accomplishments, rather than God.
“Let us ask the Lord for the grace that he would give to each of us the wisdom to have confidence only in him — not in things, not in human powers; only in him,” the Pope preached in his homily at his Mass said March 20 at the chapel of St. Martha guesthouse in the Vatican.
Only in God do we receive our true name, which is not “I” or “me,” but “Son,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. But when we place our trust in others, our accomplishments, or even ourselves, we lose sight of our true worth as a child of God.
Just as in today’s Psalm, the one who trusts in the Lord “is like a tree planted by the waters” while the one who trusts in man or himself is “like a barren bush in the desert,” the Holy Father said.
“Today, in this day of Lent, we would do well to ask ourselves: where is my confidence? In the Lord?”
“Or am I a pagan, who confides in things, in the idols that I have made?”
He said that the “worst misfortune” of the one who trusts in his own strength and the strength of other human persons is that they “lose (their) name.”
“Do I still have a name or have I begun to lose my name and … call myself ‘I’? I, me, with me, for me, only ‘I’? For me, for me . . . always that self-centeredness: ‘I.’”
Just like the rich man who ignored Lazarus the beggar, the one who trusts in himself and his accomplishments walks along the path of “unhappiness” and “self-centeredness,” taught Pope Francis.
“This will not give us salvation.”
However, God always provides us with a chance to turn back to him: “To the end, to the end, to the end there is always a possibility.”
Concluding his homily, the Pope said God is waiting to give us back everything that we have lost in our selfishness.
“If one of us in life, having so much trust in man and in ourselves, we end up losing the name, losing this dignity, there is still a chance to say this word that is more than magic, it is more, it is strong: ‘Father.’”
“He always waits for us to open a door that we do not see and says to us: ‘Son.’”
Rome, Italy, Mar 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Sr. Cristina Scuccia is a 25 year old member of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family who has appeared on "The Voice of Italy," a reality show akin to "American Idol" or "Britain’s Got Talent."
Sr. Cristina surprised the four judges on The Voice of Italy March 19 with both her talent and her habit.
The judges on the show begin with their backs turned to the performer, and turn around only if they like what they hear.
As the judges turned to face Sr. Cristina, their astonishment was visible at seeing a young nun singing Alicia Keys’ “No One.”
A native of Sicily, Sr. Cristina arrived at the show accompanied by four sisters from her community, as well as her parents.
The four judges of the popular TV program are the Italian singers Raffaella Carra, J-Ax, Noemi, and Piero Pelu.
After her performance, Carra asked Sr. Cristina if she is really a nun, and why she chose to compete on the show.
“Yes, I am truly, truly a sister,” she replied.
“I came here because I have a gift and I want to share that gift. I am here to evangelize.”
According to the show’s format, when a participant receives the approval of the judges, they then choose which judge’s team to join.
Sr. Cristina chose J-Ax “because I told myself that if they turned around, I would choose the first one.”
J-Ax, who was visibly moved when he saw Sr. Cristina, said he was thrilled to have been chosen by the most popular participant on the show.
Sr. Cristina is trending on Twitter with “#suorcristina.”
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, used the hashtag in a tweet Thursday, commending her for sharing her talent with the Italian people: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others (1 Peter 4:10)”.
Colombo, Sri Lanka, Mar 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Archdiocese of Colombo celebrated its recent “children’s day” with the performance of a newly-created musical recounting the period in Mary’s life from the Annunciation until the birth of Christ.
“It pictures a kind of moral dilemma, and thoughts that may have passed in the mind of Mary from the time of her consent (at the Annunciation), with the consequences seeming to contradict the law of Moses,” Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando, the writer and director of the musical, told CNA March 18.
Fr. Fernando serves as episcopal vicar for the Colombo archdiocese, and called the presentation “a theological, musical drama.”
“Mahoththamawi,” or “Greatest Mother” in Sinhalese, premiered March 1 outside on the grounds of Tewatta Basilica, the national shrine of Our Lady of Lanka, located in the Colombo suburb of Ramaga.
The performance followed a Mass, and more than 3,000 students and faithful attended the premier of the 45-minute musical which features choreography, singing, and dancing.
It was performed by an acting troupe led by Rajini Selvanayagam.
Fr. Fernando said it reflects the “quandary and fear” that may have been in Mary’s mind, presented with Mariological reflections, taking into account her meditative, prayerful background and her knowledge of the Pentateuch and the prophets of the Jewish Bible.
“She was very well aware of the law, the consequences in society, and the Law of Moses, but she trusted in the Word of God,” Fr. Fernando stated.
He produced the musical as part of the Archdiocese of Colombo’s designation of the 2013-2014 academic year as a “Year of Mary.”
“We are taking this opportunity to explore her importance and role in the salvation and redemption of mankind,” the priest said.
The archdiocese’s annual children’s day gives students the opportunity to attend an exhibition on religious vocations, where they get to know the history of the Church in Sri Lanka and its various religious congregations.
In addition, they toured the basilica, learning about historic engravings established by Archbishop Oswald Gomis, who led the archdiocese from 2002 to 2009, as well as an exhibit on Bl. Joseph Vaz, a 17th century Oratorian known at the “Apostle of Sri Lanka.”
The day was presided over by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, and the homily at the Mass was preached in dialogue by four priests, in both Sinhalese and Tamil.
Cardinal Ranjith told the children that he had visited Rome last month and that “when I met the Holy Father Pope Francis in February, I told him about the Children's Day and then the Holy Father conveyed his loving greetings and blessings to you all.”
Vatican City, Mar 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis addressed the central role of employment in realizing human dignity during a special audience with steelworkers and residents from Umbria, Italy at the Vatican.
“Labor is an essential reality for society, for families and for individuals. Labor, in fact, directly regards the person, his life, his liberty and his happiness,” Pope Francis said March 20 at Paul VI Hall.
“The primary value of labor is the good of the human person, as it allows the person to be fully realized as such, with his attitudes and intellectual, creative and manual capacities. Therefore, it follows that labor has not only the economic objective of profit, but above all a purpose that regards man and his dignity.”
The Pope was addressing the laborers, and their families, of Acciaierie di Terni, a leading Italian steelworks, which is this year celebrating its 130th anniversary. Also present at the audience were the faithful of the Diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia.
Beginning his address, Pope Francis greeted Bishop Ernesto Vecchi, apostolic administrator of the diocese, and thanked him for his service to the local Church: “It is a service at a time in his life in which he was entitled to rest, and instead of resting he continues to work: thank you, Bishop Vecchi, thank you so much!”
Bishop Vecchi retired in 2011, shortly after his 75th birthday. Two years later, he agreed to come out of retirement to act as the administrator of the Diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia, and he is now 78.
Turning to the immediate topic of his address, Pope Francis began to speak of labor’s role in actualizing the experience of human dignity: “the dignity of man is connected to labor.”
He relayed talks he had with unemployed young adults, who said that their families are able to eat daily, through the charity of their parishes or the Red Cross. They told him, “but, Father, I don’t know what it means to bring home bread, and I need to eat, but I need to have the dignity of bringing home bread.”
“This is labor,” Pope Francis exclaimed. “And if there is no labor, this dignity is wounded!”
“The unemployed and underemployed, in fact, risk being relegated to the margins of society, becoming victims of social exclusion. Often it happens that persons without work – I think especially of the many young people unemployed today – slip into chronic discouragement, or worse, apathy.
Discussing the unemployment crisis in several European countries, including Italy, Pope Francis said it is “the consequence of an economic system that is no longer able to create work, because it has placed at its center an idol, the idol of money! Therefore, the various political, social, and economic actors are called upon to promote a different approach, based on justice and solidarity.”
“Solidarity is important, but this system is not so fond of it, preferring to exclude it. This human solidarity which assures all the possibility of dignified labor.”
“Labor is a good for all, and must be available to all,” he added.
Pope Francis recommended solidarity and creativity as responses to the crisis of unemployment: creativity of entrepreneurs and artisans, and solidarity “among all components of society, all foregoing something, adopting a more sober lifestyle, to help those in a state of need.”
“This great challenge requires the involvement of the entire Christian community,” the Pontiff said. “For this reason you have come here together: the steelworks, the bishop, the diocesan community … the whole Church is engaged in a pastoral and missionary conversion.”
The first part of this, Pope Francis reflected, is “to revive the roots of faith and of our adherence to Jesus Christ. This is the inspiring principle in the choices of a Christian: his faith.”
“Christian faith is able to enrich society through the concrete element of brotherhood it embodies. A faith accompanied by joy, lived fully and with generosity can give a humanizing force to society. Therefore, we are all called to seek new ways to give testimony with courage to a faith both living and live-giving.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, never cease to hope for a better future,” he encouraged them. “If everyone does what is proper to him, if all of us always put at the center the human person, and his dignity, not money; if we consolidate an attitude of solidarity and fraternal sharing, inspired by the Gospel, we can emerge from the swamp of this difficult and burdensome period of economic turmoil.”
At the end of his address, Pope Francis entrusted his listeners and the whole of their diocese to Mary’s maternal intercession, praying with them the Hail Mary.
“And I ask you, please, pray for me! Thank you!”