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Guatemalan Supreme Court halts distribution of pro-abortion manual

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Dec 15, 2017 / 12:05 am (ACI Prensa).- The Supreme Court of Guatemala has ruled that the distribution of a manual promoting abortion must be stopped.

The manual, “Human rights, sexual and reproductive rights and healthcare for girls and adolescents,” had been financed by the UN Population Fund.

It had been promoted since 2015 by the Ombudsman for Human Rights at the time, Jorge De Leon Duque.

The Guatemalan judiciary issued its ruling Dec. 8. A press conference held by the Family Matters Association (FMA) and congressman José Rodrigo Valladares discussed the decision.

The Family Matters Association had filed for an injunction on June 22, 2017 against De Leon Duque “to invalidate the use of the manual and to demand the ombudsman's office stop promoting abortion.” Congressman Rodrigo Valladares subsequently joined the injunction filing.

The Supreme Court's ruling also ordered the Ombudsman's Office for Human Rights “to refrain from carrying out any activity which entails supporting or promoting abortion or abortion practices, their presentation (of it) as a right, the promotion of its legalization or the violation of the right to life from conception,” the FMA reported.

It also set a deadline of three months for the current ombudsman, Jordan Rodas Andrade, “to develop the necessary materials to counteract the harm done by the manual in question.”

In addition, the FMA stressed that the court has recognized that the ombudsman “has the grave and solemn obligation to defend life from its conception, an obligation he freely and voluntarily assumed by the oath to uphold the Constitution which he took in Congress at the time he accepted his office, if he wants to serve the nation.”

The court ruling states that “any report, study, investigation, publication, campaign or activity that the Ombudsman carries out must seek to defend the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Otherwise he would be exceeding his authority as provided by law.”

The FMA also emphasized that the court enjoined Rodas Andrade to avoid “reverting to the actions of your predecessor, and to refrain from carrying out any activity which promotes abortion directly or indirectly” and to not join the campaigns or use the slogans “ of those who in the supposed defense of the rights of women in vulnerable situations are promoting abortion under the disguised label of 'sexual and reproductive rights.'”

Current Ombudsman Jordan Rodas posted on his office's website a statement in which he disclaimed any responsibility for the manual promoted by his predecessor.

He pointed out that the manual “was not developed under my management,” but “was presented, published and distributed by the administration of my predecessor, Jorge De Leon Duque.”

In addition, Jordan Rodas emphasized that “starting August 20, the day I took office, until this very day, at no time have I made a statement about abortion.”

The FMA offered that it is “at the disposal of the ombudsman and his entire team, to give priority to and timely compliance with the Supreme Court's order.”


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

Peruvian prosecutor requests jail for Sodalitium founder

Lima, Peru, Dec 13, 2017 / 03:08 pm (CNA).- Criminal prosecutors in Peru have requested that Luis Fernando Figari be incarcerated by a court order, while he is investigated for charges of psychological and sexual abuse.

Figari is the founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a religious community of men, and the Marian Community of Reconciliation, a community of women.  In 2002, he was named a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and served in subsequent consultative roles at the Vatican.  

He has been the subject of abuse allegations since 2011.

According to local press reports, the Peruvian prosecutor requested that other former members of the SCV also be incarcerated while they are subject of investigations. Virgilio Levaggi, Jeffery Daniels and Daniel Murguia are also suspected of sexual and psychological abuse of Sodalitium members, and of collusion with Figari in covering up abuse.

The prosecutor also requested that Ricardo Treneman and Oscar Tokumura, members of the Sodalitium, be subject to travel restrictions.
Peruvian law permits judges to remand suspects of criminal activity to incarceration while they are being investigated, if they are considered flight risks, or a risk to pose grave danger. A criminal investigation against the men began in January 2017.

A judge must decide within 48 hours whether to grant the prosecution’s request for temporary incarceration.

In February of this year, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that  "Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

The investigative team included a former FBI agent, and several experts on sexual abuse. All details of the independent investigation were given to the media and to Peruvian authorities.

The report concluded that "between 1975 and 2000 and once in 2007, five members of Sodalitium, including Figari, sexually abused minors."

The five members alleged to have committed sexaul abuse are Figari, German Doig, who died in 2001, Virgilio Levaggi, Jeffrey Daniels and Daniel Murguía.

Of these five, only Figari remains a member of the Sodalitium. In February 2017, the Vatican’s congregation for religious life issued a decree forbidding him from any contact with the religious community, and banning him from returning to Peru without permission from the current superior of the Sodalitium. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

The executive director of CNA and ACI Prensa, Alejandro Bermudez, is a member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae.

This story was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. CNA has adapted it and provided additional reporting.

Due to violence, Mexican diocese avoids Christmas Masses at high-risk times

Villahermosa, Mexico, Dec 9, 2017 / 06:08 am (ACI Prensa).- A diocese in one of Mexico's most violence-ridden states has indicated it will avoid scheduling Masses for Christmas and its octave at “high risk” times. It has also asked the state's police to protect parishioners.

“With respect to the problem of insecurity, for the most part the established schedule has been kept, but we are trying to avoid scheduling certain times that could be high risk,” Fr. José Luis Compeán Rueda, vicar general of the Diocese of Tabasco, said at a Dec. 3 press conference in Villahermosa, capital of the Mexican state of Tabasco.

El Heraldo de Tabasco reported that Fr. Compean said he had met with the head of Tabasco's Department of Public Safety, Jorge Aguirre Carbajal, to talk about the problem of the lack of public safety and said that “they will take appropriate steps as needed.”

“We hope the different state or municipal authorities will take corresponding measures to provide protection, not exclusively to the Church, but to all of society,” he said.

Fr. Compeán noted that during the year end festivities crime increases because people are getting paid Christmas bonuses and buying Christmas presents.

A September report prepared by the Tabasco Citizens' Observatory revealed that in 2017 Tabasco occupied first place in the nation in kidnappings per capita.

“The State of Tabasco held first place in five categories of crime: kidnapping, aggravated robbery, robbery of businesses, holdups of passersby and livestock rustling” the director of Analysis and Statistics of the Tabasco Citizens' Observatory, Julia Arrivillaga, told Televisa.

The Catholic Multimedia Center released a report in August showing that Tabasco is one of the most dangerous states for priests, and that Mexico is the most violent country for priests in Latin America.


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

Nearly 80 prisoners baptized in Argentina

San Isidro, Argentina, Dec 8, 2017 / 12:26 am (ACI Prensa).- Seventy-eight prisoners were baptized, confirmed, and received their First Holy Communion in an Argentine prison Dec. 1.

The inmates are entering the Catholic Church after working with the Diocese of San Isidro’s prison ministry, which operates in the greater Buenos Aires metropolitan area.

With the pastoral support of Bishop Oscar Ojea of San Isidro and Auxiliary Bishop Martín Fassi, the ministry is led by Sister María Cristina Albornoz and served by 20 volunteers. They have been active since 2007 in both male-only and mixed gender units of the Buenos Aires Province prison system.

The sacraments were administered to 68 men and 10 women during a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Fassi and attended by the prison ministry volunteers.

In his homily, Bishop Fassi encouraged the inmates to take the same path as Jesus, uniting their lives to him.

“Jesus was rejected. But just as he did back then, he comes to us to change our mentality. He comes to us to bring a new way of thinking,” the bishop said.

The prison ministry offers catechesis, Mass, and other sacraments. In addition, it offers workshops in pottery, weaving and gardening.

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

Pope Francis prays for Honduras as election crisis turns deadly

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Dec 7, 2017 / 12:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A contested national election in Honduras has enflamed a civil crisis, leading Pope Francis to pray on Sunday for Hondurans to “peacefully overcome the current difficult moment.”

Juan Orlando Hernández, the incumbent president, faced opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla in the Nov. 26 presidential election.

Early returns from the election, with nearly 58 percent of votes counted, showed a five-point lead for Nasralla, a popular television star. The count slowed and his lead disappeared, amid claims from Nasralla supporters that the election was being stolen by Hernandez, the British newspaper The Guardian reports.

Nasralla has claimed victory, saying, “I am the president-elect of Honduras, the president chosen by the people.”

Early Dec. 4, the Supreme Electoral Commission said Hernandez led Nasralla by 42.98 percent to 41.39 percent, based on a recount of suspicious votes from over 1,000 polling stations. However, the commission refrained from declaring a winner and a wider recount may still be possible.

The Organization of American States’ mission in Honduras was among the international observers calling for the recount. The mission cited irregularities, errors and systematic problems.

Allegations of voter fraud have triggered major protests and violence that has killed at least 11 people. There have been confrontations between protesters and security forces in riot gear using water cannons and tear gas. A curfew has lessened some of the protests, but not put an end to the violence.

The conflict may be the country’s greatest political crisis since a 2009 coup.

The Society of Jesus’ Central American province was outspoken, backing the protesters and criticizing the electoral commission for “lack of professionalism and ethics” due to its alleged systematic failure to track and report election results, the Jesuit-run America Magazine reports. They charged that its actions “hide an unexpected victory by the opposition over the current president who did everything that he could, legal and illegal, to be re-elected.”

Released Dec. 3, the statement was signed by Central American provincial Alvarado Lopez, S.J. and the province’s social apostolate coordinator Francisco Iznardo Almiñana, S.J.

The Jesuits denounced “the crude manipulation of this situation by the magistrates, influenced by the real and shadowy power from the state and other places in an attempt to disregard the popular will expressed in the polls.”

They charged that agents of the state are engaged in “the repression of the Honduran people.” The Honduran people are teaching “a lesson about civic duty, dignity and the peaceful defense of the rights of citizens,” they said.

Honduran national police have said they will not obey orders from the current president until the crisis is resolved. National police in the capital have said they will refuse to enforce a curfew.

Hernández is a close U.S. ally, The Guardian reports. He has worked closely with the U.S. on border security, anti-drug operations and migration.

The U.S. State Department has certified Honduras as a supporter of human rights and opponent of corruption. The certification allows the U.S. to provide Hernandez’s government millions of dollars in security assistance. In 2017 such aid totaled about $17.3 million dollars.


Why is St. Francis Xavier's arm flying across Canada?

Ottawa, Canada, Dec 5, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While he was alive, St. Francis Xavier never got to ride in an airplane. They would not be invented for 400 more years after his death.

But now, his severed arm will get to take a trip across Canada in its very own seat.

The relic of the Jesuit missionary, ordinarily kept in the Church of the Gesù in Rome, will be making a cross-country trip through Canada this winter, as part of an initiative from the university group Catholic Christian Outreach.

The arm of St. Francis Xavier, on display for veneration in Rome.

Angèle Regnier, co-founder of Catholic Christian Outreach, told CBC radio that travelling with the saint’s arm will be "like doing a road trip with a friend."

"I mean, I know it's bones, but connected to that is a living friendship with St. Francis Xavier," she said.

In the Catholic Church, relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Jesus. The arm of St. Francis Xavier is considered a first class relic, which is the body or fragments of the body of a saint. The practice of venerating relics has been a Scripture-based tradition in the Church for centuries.

Regnier will be accompanying the saint’s arm on its trip from Rome to Canada, where the relic will make a month-long tour through much of the country.

The fragility of the relic, which is encased in a gold and glass reliquary and has its own padded duffle bag, necessitated that it travel in its own seat on Air Canada.

"We can't put it underneath. We can't even put it in the overhead bins. Like, he has to have his own seat," she told CBC radio.

"You're trying to explain this to Air Canada. We need to book a seat. He is a person in a way, but it's not a person, it's an arm."

The saint’s arm is a significant relic. With that arm, it is estimated that St. Francis Xavier baptized hundreds of thousands of people during his time as a missionary in Asia. The relic is also considered to be partially incorrupt, which means that it has not decayed in an ordinary way.

Regnier said that the group wanted to bring the saint’s relic to Canada because he is one of their patron saints. While a university student, Francis Xavier was known for being athletic and the “cool guy,” Regnier said. But it was also during time that he underwent a conversion, and his roommate, St. Ignatius of Loyola, became his spiritual mentor.

St. Francis Xavier would become one of the founding members of the Jesuit order, along with St. Ignatius of Loyola and Blessed Peter Faber.

"So for us, as a university student movement, we want university students to come alive in their faith, so we find a lot in common with St. Francis Xavier's history," Regnier said.

The saint’s arm will be traveling throughout Canada from Jan. 3 - Feb. 2, during which time the faithful are invited to venerate the relic.

"It's quite a production," Regnier said. "We want to touch most of Canada with it."

The schedule for the relic tour is as follows:
* Jan. 3: Quebec City
* Jan. 5: St John's
* Jan. 7: Halifax
* Jan. 8: Antigonish, N.S.
* Jan. 10: Kingston, Ont.
* Jan. 12-14: Toronto
* Jan. 16: Winnipeg
* Jan. 18: Saskatoon
* Jan. 20: Regina
* Jan. 21-22: Calgary
* Jan. 24-25: Vancouver
* Jan. 27: Victoria
* Jan. 29-30: Montreal
* Feb. 2: Ottawa



Salvadoran charged with killing 5 Jesuits to be imprisoned in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Dec 1, 2017 / 11:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A former colonel of the Salvadoran military, Inocente Orlando Montano Morales, has been ordered to be imprisoned in Spain, as he awaits trial for his alleged participation in the murder of five Jesuit priests in 1989.

Montano, was extradited to Spain from the United States on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. He had been in US custody for six years, after being arrested for charges of immigration fraud.  

The former colonel was El Salvador’s vice-minister for public security during the brutal civil war that divided El Salvador in the 1980s. He will be tried for terrorist murder, and crimes against humanity, in the killing of five Spanish priests. Another priest, their cook, and her daughter were also killed. Montano maintains his innocence.

Photo: Inocente Orlando Montano Morales. Credit: US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement

The Jesuits in El Salvador were active proponents of peace talks and a negotiation between the government and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, an organization of left-wing guerillas. The priests were targeted because of one of them, Father Ignacio Ellecuria, SJ, was an outspoken critic of El Salvador’s government, according to Reuters.

The killings took place on Nov. 16, 1989, during a battle being waged across the city of San Salvador. Ellecuria served as rector of the Central American University, which was occupied by an elite battalion of the Salvadoran army. The Spanish government alleges that Montano ordered that the priests be executed because of their apparent support for “subversive movements” critical of the government.   

The government was supported by the United States during the twelve year conflict, which killed 75,000 people, and during which 8,000 people disappeared. The United Nations has estimated that 85% of civilians killed during the conflict died at the hands of government forces.

Although widely regarded to have ordered the killing of the Jesuits, Montano, 74, was not charged by Salvadoran authorities. He will be required to testify in Madrid next week as his trial begins, according to the Associated Press.

Peru to withdraw controversial “gender ideology” curriculum

Lima, Peru, Dec 1, 2017 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The Peruvian government will withdraw a 2016 national school curriculum that has been widely criticized for its “gender ideology.”

In a Nov. 24 statement, Peru’s Department of Education announced that a 2009 version of the National Curriculum will be reimplemented in Peruvian schools. The former curriculum does not include the gender ideology concepts addressed in the 2016 version.

The announcement  was celebrated as a “new victory for parents” by a group using the hashtag #ConMisHijosNoTeMetas, which translates as “don’t you mess with my children.” In March 2017, the group organized marches in Peru, drawing more than 1.5 million people to demonstrate against a progressive gender ideology.

The 2017 National Curriculum for Basic Education was approved by the Department of Education in late 2016, despite criticism from parents, teachers, the Catholic Church, and several Christian groups in the country.

The Peruvian bishops’ conference had criticized the Department of Education for including in the new curriculum “concepts which do not proceed from the Constitution, but rather are taken from so-called gender ideology.”

“Pope Francis has warned that gender ideology denies the difference and the natural reciprocity of man and woman,” the bishops stated.

In August, Peru’s Superior Court of Justice ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed against the Department of Education, arguing that the curriculum was an attempt to indoctrinate schoolchildren.

In a statement to ACI Prensa, Sergio Burga, a researcher with the Population Research Institute’s Latin American office, described the measure taken by the Department of Education as “a great victory for the thousands of parents represented by #ConMisHijosNoTeMetas.”

Burga said that by removing the 2016 curriculum from schools, “pernicious expressions have been eliminated, such as ‘construct your identity,’ ‘gender identity’ and even ‘what is masculine or feminine is constructed day-by-day.’”

Burga said that although it was less offensive to parents’ groups, some similar concerns have been raised about the earlier curriculum, which will now be reviewed by advocates and parents.

For Burga “the fight” in the defense of the family “goes on.”

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

Could Catholic actor Eduardo Verastegui be the next President of Mexico?

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 28, 2017 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Several Mexican media outlets reported on Nov. 24 that Eduardo Verastegui, internationally known Catholic actor and producer, could be a serious candidate in the country’s 2018 presidential elections.

“Eduardo Verastegui could be the Social Encounter Party candidate in 2018” an El Universal headline read.  

On the same day, El Debate led with “Eduardo Verastegui, a candidate for the presidency in 2018?”  

Mexican media speculated on the possibility of Verastegui’s candidacy after statements made by the president of the Social Encounter Party, Hugo Eric Flores, who confirmed to the press that he is in “conversations” with the Catholic actor and producer for an “important” position on their slate of candidates.

If his candidacy is confirmed, Verastegui would not be the first to take the unusual route from acting to the presidency; Ronald Reagan who served as U.S. president from January 1981 to January 1989, had a decades-long film career before entering politics.

The Social Encounter Party is the newest national party in Mexico, officially registering in 2014. This will be the first time that it participates in the country’s presidential elections.

The new party says it wants to “reconcile political activity with the ethical principles and values based in the building block of society: the family.”

Since the rediscovery of his Catholic faith 15 years ago in Hollywood, Verastegui has pushed for the right to life of the unborn, the strengthening of marriage and family, and religious freedom.  These principles align with the platform of the Social Encounter Party.  

To further these goals, Verastegui founded the production company Metanoia Films, along with associates Alejandro Gomez Monteverde and Leo Severino. The company was created to propagate the values of life and marriage and family in order to “reach people’s hearts and minds.”

Their first production, “Bella” directed by Alejandro Monteverde, and starring Verastegui, won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006. The film depicts a journey to redemption involving the central characters’ commitment to the right to life of an unborn child.

Their most recent project is the movie “Little Boy,” in which a young boy learns how to live the virtues, starting with faith, and in turn teaches them to others.  The film became a blockbuster in Mexico.

Verastegui is now developing “Sound of Freedom,” a film which addresses the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation. The film, which is in pre-production, traces the true story of Tim Ballard, a former Department of Homeland Security agent. Ballard quit his job to launch an international organization aiming to rescue children who had been kidnapped for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

Verastegui told ACI Prensa that “the story is hard hitting, full of hope and very encouraging. Ballard is acting as an adviser to the project and I’m sure the film will help liberate thousands and thousands of children enslaved right here in the 21st century.”

Metanoia Films has also completed a documentary entitled “The Other Party” which addresses the issue of crime prevention in Mexico. Verastegui has a tour planned to premiere the documentary in 20 Mexican cities, encouraging public dialogue on personal safety, one the greatest concerns to the Mexican electorate.

Besides his performance as an actor and work as a producer, Verastegui has been promoting life, the family and religious freedom through numerous solidarity initiatives, especially those developed by his non-profit organization “Manto de Guadalupe” --The Mantle of Guadalupe—and the pro-life clinic, Guadalupe Medical Center, which opened its doors in Los Angeles on August 10, 2010.

In addition, the Catholic actor and producer is president of the “Let’s be Heroes” foundation dedicated to encouraging volunteerism throughout the world.

Verastegui has not confirmed whether he will run for any political position, or his affiliation with the Social Encounter Party.

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


In Argentina, 600 missionaries renew commitment to spreading Gospel

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 25, 2017 / 11:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 600 people participated in the 5th National Missionary Conference held this week in Neuquen, Argentina, and committed to redoubling their efforts for a “Church that goes out.”

The theme of the Nov. 18-20 event was “Argentina in Mission, the Gospel is Joy.” It was hosted by Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Croxatto of Comodoro Rivadavia.

Pope Francis sent a letter to the congress, expressing his desire that participants “would grow in the missionary spirit, with that attitude of coming out of yourselves to proclaim Jesus.”

“Don’t be afraid – when there is love for Jesus Christ, this desire to make him known grows, to bring his love to everyone, with the enthusiasm that comes from faith,” the pope said in his message.

In the closing Mass, Bishop Croxatto said that Jesus encourages missionaries to stay strong and take courage, ready to choose death over betraying the Lord.

“The true missionary, who never stops being a disciple, knows that Jesus walks with him, speaks with him, breathes with him, works with him,” he said.

“Going out on mission means going out in order to spend time with people; it means going through far away remote areas, towns, cities, social environments, the modern Areopagus,” he said. “Not just passing through, but spending time with people. Letting ourselves take the time to get close to people, to see those crying out from the fringes of society.”

Bishop Croxatto warned against “the greatest danger which is that gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, where everything appears to be proceeding as usual but in reality the faith is wearing thin, degenerating into pettiness.”

“Make us always see that faith in you, the Son of God made flesh, is inseparable from the gift of ourselves,” he prayed. “So enable us to take the risk of coming face-to-face with others, with their sorrows and their complaints, the risk of belonging to a community and becoming servants. Let us not tire of opting for brotherhood.”

At the conference, diocesan teams met to discuss how to implement the mission of Ad gentes – the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church – to strengthen and encourage communities, and to spiritually prepare for the American Missionary Congress to be held in July 2018 in Bolivia.

Working in groups over the three-day event, the teams also acknowledged obstacles to their ministry, including poor communication, lack of communion, clericalism, signs of fatigue, disinterest, a lack of passion in the work of evangelization, resistance to change and “a lack of confidence in the effectiveness of the Gospel.”

The diocesan missionary groups renewed their commitment to create opportunities to “encounter Christ through the Eucharist and the Word of God; to increase missionary formation in all areas of pastoral ministry; to foster the bonds of communion and teamwork for a fruitful missionary witness.”

In addition, they committed to “increasing outreach to the poor and revitalizing ways of spreading the message, formation and support for missionary Ad gentes vocations.”

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