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Canadian Catholic diocese aims to repair defaced Stations of the Cross

CNA Staff, Jun 30, 2020 / 02:35 pm (CNA).- A Canadian diocese said it will aim to repair six statues whose heads and arms were cut off in an act of vandalism.

The statues were part of a walking Stations of the Cross at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Sudbury, Ontario. Some statues were beheaded, while the legs of one statue were partially cut through. The heads were not found in proximity to the statues.

The vandalism is not part of the recent spate of incidents in which statues have been toppled amid protests in cities across the U.S., including two statues of St. Junipero Serra that were toppled in California cities.

David Sirios, an administrator at the Sault Ste. Marie diocese, told the Sudbury Star that the vandalism took place May 22, and was reported to the police then, but that the matter has only become public recently because police initially wanted to explore leads.

Protests in the U.S. began May 25, after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

In Sudbury, no suspects have been identified, according to local media, and the investigation has reached a standstill.

Sirios told the Sudbury Star that the diocese has begun working with a sculptor to develop a cost estimate for repair.

“We’re looking at different artists who could maybe re-sculpt the missing pieces, and then re-braze them onto the current statues,” Sirios said. “If that’s not possible, we would basically have to re-pour six new statues.”

The Stations of the Cross were cast and placed in the early 1950s. The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was built in 1907 by the region’s French Canadian community, and remains a place of pilgrimage and prayer.


New Amazon region 'ecclesial conference' created

Rome Newsroom, Jun 30, 2020 / 10:45 am (CNA).- Following a recommendation by the Amazon synod, a new “ecclesial conference” for the Amazon region was created Monday.

The Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon was established as a functionally autonomous group connected to the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM). Its creation was announced on the CELAM website, together with REPAM (the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network), June 29.

According to a press release, an assembly was held virtually June 26-29 and resulted in unanimous approval by voting members of the “identity, composition and general form of operation (statutes)” of the new conference. 

“The composition of this assembly reflects the unity in diversity of our Church and its call to ever greater synodality,” the press release stated.

The statement also noted the participation of “important members of the Holy See ... who will undoubtedly continue to follow these new paths from their respective offices.” 

Among those who took part in the virtual assembly were several Vatican representatives: Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; Cardinal Luis Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; and Cardinal Michael Czerny, secretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees. 

The creation of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon followed a proposal in the final document of the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian Region for “a permanent and representative bishops’ organism that promotes synodality in the Amazon region,” connected with CELAM and REPAM.

“So constituted, it can be the effective instrument in the territory of the Latin American and Caribbean Church for taking up many of the proposals that emerged in this synod,” paragraph 115 of the synod final document continued. “It would be the nexus for developing Church and socio-environmental networks and initiatives at the continental and international levels.”

The synod members said in the October 2019 document that having this organism “helps to express the Amazonian face of this Church and continues the task of finding new paths for the evangelizing mission, especially incorporating the proposal of integral ecology, thus strengthening the physiognomy of the Church in the Amazon.”

Pope Francis responded to the proposal in his own comments at the end of the Amazon synod Oct. 26, suggesting that the idea of a smaller regional bishops’ conference could be applied in the Amazon.

According to the press release, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the 85-year-old president of REPAM, was elected president of the new Amazon bishops’ conference and Bishop David Martínez De Aguirre Guinea, 50, vicar apostolic of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, was elected vice president.

The executive committee will include the presidents of the state bishops’ conferences, as well as CELAM, REPAM, Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious (CLAR).

The press release also noted the participation of “three designated representatives of original peoples,” a religious sister and a lay woman and lay man, who also took part in the founding assembly.

REPAM (the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network), a group backed by the bishops’ conferences in Latin America, describes itself as an advocacy organization for the rights and dignity of indigenous people in the Amazon.

Catholic bishops of Uruguay oppose assisted suicide bill

Montevideo, Uruguay, Jun 26, 2020 / 04:44 pm (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Uruguay have spoken out against a bill that would allow for assisted suicide, calling it “homicide carried out in a clinical context.

“It is not ethically acceptable to cause the death of a patient, not even to avoid pain and suffering, even if he expressly requests it,” the Uruguayan Bishops’ Conference said in a document presented a June 19 press conference.

“Neither the patient, nor the medical staff, nor family members have the authority to decide on or cause a person’s death,” they said

The document was prepared by a team of experts, led by Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Jourdan of Montevideo, who is also a medical doctor, in response to the bill introduced in the legislature in March

The bill creates legal protections for doctors “who freely agree to help those who, in the circumstances and with the procedures established by law, ask them for assistance to end their lives.”

In their statement, the bishops argue that the legislation challenges “the absolute value of human life and its character as an untouchable and inalienable fundamental human right, and goes against the Constitution and human rights.”

If passed, the bishops said, the bill would open the door to euthanasia and assisted suicide, as well as the abuses seen in other countries where such practices are legalized, such as failure to obtain patient consent, and financial or family pressures leading to assisted suicide.

Opposing assisted suicide does not mean it is necessary to keep a patient alive through any means, the bishops clarified. They cautioned against an obstinate insistence on treatment that will prolong life without prospect of recovery, saying, “The application of disproportionate therapeutic and diagnostic procedures only serves to uselessly prolong the agony.”

However, they continued, palliative care can be properly used to alleviate suffering in the face of an untreatable condition and is a morally acceptable alternative to causing death in the patient.

People living with serious illnesses or approaching death “especially need and want all kinds of support, as well as pastoral care,” the bishops of Uruguay said. “It’s a fact consistent with the spiritual nature of the human being confirmed by sociological science.”

As the servant of humanity, they said, the Church wants to offer the light of Christ to illuminate the most painful and difficult human circumstances.

The bishops prayed that God would guide the legislators in their deliberations, toward “an Uruguay that welcomes, protects, supports, and accompanies each person throughout his existence, including the final stage of his earthly life, with the much needed assistance of the family, palliative medicine, and genuine religious experience.”

Catholic Church in Colombia welcomes freeing of hostages by ELN

CNA Staff, Jun 16, 2020 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The Colombian bishops have welcomed the release of several hostages by the National Liberation Army (ELN), a left-wing guerilla group.

"The Colombian Bishops view with hope for the Colombian people the recent release of the 5 men abducted by the ELN in the town of Arauca and the Catatumbo region," the bishops’ conference tweeted June 14.

In another tweet the same day, the bishops’ conference said: “We share the joy of the families of Pedro Pérez and Óscar Rodríguez, released on June 12; and Besley Navarro, Dayan Flórez and Jhon Torres, handed over today by the ELN”, adding: “The Church calls for the release of all those kidnapped" and for “humanitarian actions to continue paving the way to reconciliation and peace."

"We pray for those who are still held captive and their loved ones," the bishops concluded.

Two police officers and four civilians were released to the Red Cross June 14; two other civilians had been released June 12.

The Colombian government believes the ELN has at least 10 more hostages.

A 2016 peace deal between the national government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was meant to wind-down the country's now 56-year conflict among the government, right-wing paramilitaries, and left-wing guerillas.

In February 2017 peace talks were established with the ELN. However, in 2018, after the first period of the ceasefire expired, the guerrilla group undertook various military operations.

In January 2019, the ELN bombed a police academy, killing more than 20 persons.

Colombian president Iván Duque Márquez has insisted that the resumption of peace talks with the guerillas was to be conditioned on the release of all those kidnapped and the suspension of all criminal activities.

In March 2020, the ELN announced a unilateral ceasefire due to the coronavirus.

Maternity, early childhood organizations form new alliance in Chile

Santiago, Chile, Jun 14, 2020 / 04:06 am (CNA).- More than 30 organizations serving maternity and early childhood needs in Chile have come together to form an alliance to better meet the needs of women and children.

Known as the Collaborative Network for Early Childhood Care, the non-profit network includes a total of 33 organizations, including Catholic and other faith-based groups.

The alliance was established June 9 during an online meeting that included donors; representatives of different public, private and civil society organizations; and Chile Crece Contigo,” a national government program aimed at breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

The agreement is intended to guide and strengthen collaboration between local organizations to meet the needs of mothers experiencing crisis or at-risk pregnancies, and to care for children, beginning in utero and up to four years of age.

The different organizations composing the new network have specific areas of focus, including at-risk pregnancy, adoption, children with Down syndrome, and children with a fatal diagnosis. They also offer support for women mourning the loss of an unborn child and provide guidance for teenage mothers and fathers.

In 2018, seven organizations that today are part of the new network collaborated with the town of Puente Alto in metro Santiago in support of their program for teenage parents.

From there, a system began to develop to provide all necessary services to the mother and unborn child. When the public health system cannot meet all the needs, these cases are referred to civil society organizations.

After a few months of working with this pilot program and observing the benefits of cooperation between government agencies and civil society organizations, the effort was extended to 20 towns, and more than 30 organizations in the country banded together to formally create the network.

Among the network’s latest efforts was coordinating the distribution of 58,000 donated diapers among the related organizations.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


Coronavirus lockdown sees abortion rate drop in Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 11, 2020 / 12:55 am (CNA).- Abortion clinics in Mexico City are reporting decreases in abortion by as much as 40% due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The Mexican daily El Universal reported June 7 that measures implemented by the government to stop the spread of the coronavirus have prevented pregnant women from getting to abortion facilities.

The article laments the delay of imported contraceptives and abortion pills, as well as the situation of women from outside Mexico City, who have not been able to travel to the Mexican capital to get abortions.

Abortion on demand through 12 weeks gestation has been legal in Mexico City since 2007. However, abortion is restricted in other parts of the country to varying limited circumstances, such as rape, incest, danger to the life of the mother, fetal non-viability or deformity.

Alison González, spokeswoman for Pasos por la Vida (Steps for Life), which organizes the March for Life in Mexico City every year, said that it is “incredible that given the times we’re living in there are institutions that only think about abortion.”

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, González said that “some international organizations exert pressure to introduce this type of procedure instead of promoting public policies in all countries to end the true causes of abortion.”

“For example, this is what ought to be promoted: access to education--because at least in Mexico it’s insufficient, low quality and not equal for everyone--having comprehensive maternity insurance for all pregnant women, and job opportunities for women,” she stressed.

Also needed, she said, are “access to childcare services, poverty reduction, vouchers for early childhood products, support programs for pregnant women, and housing plans for women in vulnerable situations.”

Instituting these policies, she said, would lower abortion rates by offering real solutions for women, rather than “ideologies or impositions that come from abroad," González said.

“Women must be protected, accompanied and supported so that they can experience integral personal development within their family,” she said.

María Lourdes Varela, director of 40 Days for Life in Ibero-America, criticized “the strong push for abortion at home during the pandemic.”

“We’re asking people not to see children as the enemy,” she said. “If there are more babies, they should be welcomed as they are human beings who deserve the same rights and opportunities as we do.”


Catholic churches vandalized during march against police repression in Mexico

Xalapa, Mexico, Jun 9, 2020 / 01:49 pm (CNA).- The Xalapa Cathedral and the Expiatory Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Mexico’s Veracruz state were vandalized June 8 during a march protesting local police repression.

According to La Silla Rota, the incident that sparked the demonstration was the death in police custody of Carlos Andrés Navarro. Family and friends of the young man, who had demonstrated peacefully, disavowed and condemned the violence, the media reported.

Graffiti spray painted on church walls included the messages “pedophiles,” “oppressive state,” “rapists,” “war on the state and capitalism,” and the anarchist symbol.

Various public and private buildings in downtown Xalapa were damaged by about 50 marchers.

ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, reported that a statue of the Blessed Virgin in the Xalapa cathedral was also damaged,

Five churches in Xalapa were tagged during the early hours of June 1 with slogans such as "keep your rosaries off our ovaries," "(abortion) will become law," "get angry sister," "no more femicides," "abortion will be legal," "pederasts," and "pedophile murderers."

Speaking to ACI Prensa, Fr. José Manuel Suazo Reyes, communications director of the Archdiocese of Xalapa, commenting on the June 8 incident, said that “unfortunately we’re experiencing these kinds of demonstrations that in their passage destroy everything they find.”

“We lament that law enforcement would tolerate these kinds of outrageous acts against third parties. We citizens are defenseless,” he added.

“Vandals this day sprayed painted graffiti on walls and buildings, broke windows and damaged businesses, sowing terror and fear among the people. That’s the scene we saw this morning. We condemn this kind of violent demonstration and denounce the inaction of law enforcement,” Suazo said.

The priest underscored that “freedom of expression and demonstrations have a limit--the rights of third parties. You can’t demand the end of violence with more violence.”

Catholic ministry in Colombia marks three years of feeding migrants

CNA Staff, Jun 9, 2020 / 12:10 am (CNA).- June 5 marks three years since the Diocese of Cúcuta, Colombia opened its Divine Providence House of Transit in response to the thousands of Venezuelan migrants streaming into Colombia.

In those three years, the charitable ministry has provided more than 3.5 million meals to needy people fleeing the economic, political and social crisis in Venezuela.

In a June 5 statement, the diocese said the Transit House “is a work of charity that arose from the desire to help our brother migrants from Venezuela and Colombians returning home” due to the crisis in Venezuela. The ministry is located just a few blocks from the bridge and highway that join the two countries.

Since Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen hyperinflation and severe shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities, and millions have emigrated.

Colombia has been a major destination for Venezuelans fleeing their homes.

The Diocese of Cúcuta has been serving the migrants through the Divine Providence House of Transit in addition to eight parish soup kitchens.

From its beginning, the Transit House has provided ongoing spiritual support, balanced meals, and medical care, as well as free medicine, psycho-sociological care and legal aid with the support of volunteer professionals.

During its first year, with the support of individuals and organizations, the ministry provided 421,400 lunches, serving 1,500 migrants daily. In the second year, the figure rose to 1,500,000 meals between lunches, breakfasts and other food, serving 5,000 people daily, with priority given to children, pregnant women and older adults.

“After almost three years of service, on March 13, 2020, the Transit House had served 3,530,520 meals. That was the day it had to close its doors in order to comply with the regulations issued by the national government due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19),” the diocese explained.

Father José David Caña Pérez, coordinator of the Transit House, said that although the humanitarian aid center is no longer operating as it did, it has still managed to prepare close to 300 lunches for places where the greatest number of homeless people and people in extreme need are found.

The Transit House has received support from Pope Francis, people and businesses in Cúcuta, and international organizations including the World Food Program, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Cáritas Internationalis, Adveniat, Caritas Colombia, Spanish Caritas, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Spanish Bishops’ Conference; and the Spanish radio station COPE.


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Pro-life group in Mexico offers aid to domestic violence victims

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 8, 2020 / 06:42 pm (CNA).- With reports of domestic violence on the rise during the coronavirus lockdown in Mexico, one pro-life platform is offering women help, shelter and legal advice.

Linda Rebolledo, the coordinator and spokeswoman for La Vida Por Delante (Life Going Forward), lamented that during the lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, “unfortunately domestic violence has increased against women, [including] women with an unwanted pregnancy [and] women in vulnerable situations.”

Various organizations have estimated an increase in reports of violence against women ranging from 30% to 70% during the coronavirus lockdown, which began March 23 in Mexico.

Rebolledo told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that Life Going Forward “is dedicated to supporting all women in vulnerable situations,” so they can feel “safe and supported.”

Women in Mexico experiencing any type of violence or abuse can contact the pro-life platform via its website (, WhatsApp (52 553 677 8518) or by phone (01 800 6853 777).

The pro-life group can connect women in need with shelter, medical specialists, psychological support, and legal advice.

Through the different organizations linked to Life Going Forward, women can also get job training “so that they can get a job and not depend financially on the person who’s abusing them,” Rebolledo said.

She emphasized that “no woman should be violated in any way, not psychologically, mentally, or financially--much less physically or sexually.” She encouraged women in abusive situations to seek help.

In addition, the order only allowed only businesses deemed essential to remain open. The coronavirus lockdown in Mexico was originally set to end April 30, but the government extended it to May 31.

Starting May 18, some parts of the country have begun the gradual reopening of the economy and social activities.

According to Johns Hopkins University statistics, Mexico has reported more than 113,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 13,500 deaths.


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

El Salvador pro-life groups decry 'misleading' CBS report amid abortion fight

CNA Staff, Jun 5, 2020 / 12:35 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders in El Salvador say a recent CBS News report on abortion in the country is misleading, and does not accurately portray factual narratives, amid a fight over the legalization of abortion in the country. 

A CBS documentary “Jailed for Abortion in El Salvador” and an accompanying print report, were published online May 28. Pro-life advocates in the country say the report leaves out or misrepresents crucial information regarding landmark fights over abortion in the country.

The CBS report claimed that “more than 140 women have been charged under El Salvador's total ban on abortion since 1998, incarcerated for up to 35 years in some of the world's most notorious prisons. Many say they never had an abortion, but instead claim that after suffering a miscarriage they were wrongfully convicted when their doctors accused them of intentionally terminating their pregnancies.”

Alabama state Representative Merika Coleman visited last November a prison in El Salvador where some of those women are incarcerated. She told CBS News that if Roe vs. Wade is overturned “things that are going on in El Salvador could actually happen in the United States,"

The report mentioned the case of “Manuela,” whose real name is María Edis Hernández de Castra, a woman who according to CBS, claimed to have had a miscarriage and “was charged and convicted for aggravated homicide, and sentenced to 30 years in prison.”

Hernández served two years of her sentence before she died from Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2010.

“But a lawsuit brought on behalf of Manuela's family after her death may bring change. Next year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is expected to hear her case, and if the international body sides with Manuela and her family, El Salvador could be barred from prosecuting women who say they miscarried, according to an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, the law firm representing the family,” CBS reported.

El Salvadoran pro-life organizations say that the case of Hernández, or Manuela, is one of numerous cases in El Salvador in which acts of infanctide have been reported as miscarriages, and used in litigation intended to promote the legalization of abortion.

According to VIDA SV, the trial documents in Hernández’ case indicate that her child died when he was discarded in a latrine shortly after his birth. At trial, Hernández claimed she did not know she was pregnant until she miscarried in the latrine. Prosecutors presented evidence that she discarded her child while he was alive, and argued that evidence indicated she’d done so knowingly. A jury agreed with the prosecution.

Sara Larín, president of the Fundación VIDA SV, and Ligia Castaldi, a professor at the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida, published this year in the International Human Rights Review an exhaustive legal investigation of 25 cases, which explains in detail "the fraud involved in the Hernández case before the Inter-American Court" and the other cases.

Speaking June 3 to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Larín said that the Center for Reproductive Rights had "sent an intimidating letter” requesting Hernández’ name be redacted from that investigation, “alleging that it is necessary to protect the privacy of the relatives of the alleged victim."

Larín pointed out that "CBS News itself and a documentary made by the Center for Reproductive Rights show the faces of family members and the family's living conditions to emotionally manipulate public opinion in favor of this case."

Larín further noted that Hernández "was not a victim, but a victimizer," given her conviction for aggravated homicide.

"The sentence is public precisely because the right to privacy is reserved to the victims and not to the victimizers," Larín stressed.

"She never disputed her guilt, did not file any appeal for review, and gave conflicting versions of the facts. The evidence shows that she committed the crime and those false versions were never found reasonable by the Court. It’s not true that she didn’t know that she was pregnant, she had already had three children previously, ”Larin explained.

In her testimony, “Maria Edis said that she had fallen into the river, that she had inadvertently expelled the child in the latrine, which according to forensic doctors was not possible; there was no evidence of any injuries from the alleged fall into the river. It was determined that the child was born alive, breathing, and survived between 10 and 20 minutes after being thrown into the latrine," Larín said.

The court’s sentence said that Hernández’ statements were "contrary to logic and medicine," and concluded that she deliberately caused the baby's death.

The international campaign to legalize abortion

According to Larín, abortion proponents intend to create a legal precedent that forces the Salvadoran government to pay millions in compensation to the organizations that filed the lawsuit.

"That money will have to be financed from the taxes of the entire Salvadoran people so these pro-abortion groups can continue to use it to bombard us with ideologies contrary to the law, morality and good customs," she said.

Another pro-life leader, Julia Regina de Cardenal, the president of the Fundación Sí a la Vida (Yes to Life) in El Salvador, told ACI Prensa June 3 that this “slanderous international campaign against El Salvador to legalize the abortion industry is financed by petty interests capable of the worst tricks to achieve their goal. "

De Cardenal said that the other cases presented in the documentary and in the CBS News articles were also "being manipulated" since "they have nothing to do with abortions."

"These women were convicted for the aggravated homicide of their children who were born alive," she said.

Babies allegedly miscarried have been found “strangled, struck with a stone, with fractures to the neck, stabbed, abandoned in septic tanks or inside plastic bags that had been hidden,” she said.

"They were all full term babies who breathed, but were cruelly killed."

De Cardenal pointed out that in El Salvador “there is not a single serious media outlet that has published the lies repeated in the international propaganda media, that women are hated and persecuted here; that hundreds of women are imprisoned for abortion; that poor women who had ‘miscarriages,’ ‘obstetric emergencies’ or ‘non-hospital deliveries’ are given 40 years in prison.”

“That’s false,” she underscored.

De Cardenal emphasized that in El Salvador miscarriage is not punishable, and that "this farce is so absurd because women are not even imprisoned for induced abortion."

"Why? Because the penalty for induced abortion is 2 to 8 years (not 40) and the judges don’t hate or persecute the women, instead they give them alternative sentencing, " she explained.

The Yes to Life Foundation representative said that the Salvadoran people “are fed up with the lack of respect and insults of deceitful foreign actresses and journalists who accuse us of having a 'medieval, draconian law,' when in reality we have legislation that truly protects equal human rights for all people, which ought to serve as a model for the rest of the world. ”

"Why are they lying? Because they know that very few people would support the infanticide they are defending, ” she said.

De Cardenal believes that "it is not surprising that those who profit from exploiting women in crisis pregnancies by killing their unborn children, also defend killing them after they’re born."

"Fortunately, we Salvadorans are pro-life and we know that these women need all our support, not violence and death," she added.


This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.