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Posted on 05/27/2020 00:00 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
CNA Staff, May 26, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Mexican state legislature of Nuevo Leon passed an education reform bill May 21 to foster a “respect for life from conception to natural death” in students.
The law reflects the state constitution, which affirms that “the state recognizes, protects and defends the right to life that every human being has. From the moment of conception that life comes under the protection of the Law and is considered as having been born with regards to all corresponding legal effects until its natural death.”
The new bill also calls for the “inclusion, through the development of special training, programs for the employment of people with some kind of disability.”
Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish languages news partner, state legislator Juan Carlos Leal, who introduced the education reform bill, said the law will “definitely have a big impact especially on the values of Mexican citizens.”
“We want to create a new generation of students that have values and respect, which unfortunately in Mexico, we have seen is being lost,” he explained.
The director of the ConParticipación platform, Marcial Padilla, stressed the importance of incorporating pro-life principles into constitutions and laws, inlcuding the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights or the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.
“The initiative to recognize the right to life in education will help young people, adolescents and children learn to appreciate human life,” Padilla said.
The pro-life leader said he is hopeful the reform bill will “help reduce suicide rates, reduce addictions and will also help young people understand that abortion is not an option. ”
Above all, students “will be able to know that abortion is always an attack on human life,” he said.
Fr. José Manuel Suazo Reyes, director of the communications office of the Archdiocese of Xalapa, welcomed the passage of the law in a May 24 letter on behalf of the archdiocese.
In the letter, titled The Culture of Life Advances, Suazo said that “Mexico continues to cry out that it loves and wants life” and that “abortion is not the solution” for distressed mothers, and that it is essential that the government support the a broader culture of life in the country.
“It’s important for the state to protect life, but it is also essential that it form citizens in respect and care for life,” the letter said. “This reform creates awareness in students of the dignity that every human life has, thus contributing to the reduction of discriminatory, aggressive and even criminal behavior, as is the case with abortion.”
The priest called the law “a very important step in the culture of life,” while noting that “thousands of children are aborted year after year in Mexico City, where killing babies up to 12 weeks gestation is permitted.”
While government officials “want to promote abortion on demand,” he said, wider efforts to promote the dignity of all human life were gaining support, including the recent ninth annual March for Life in the country on May 23 - held online this year due to the coronavirus - which, he said, attracted more that 500,000 participants on Facebook alone.
“These manifestations of the culture of life seek to put a stop to all these criminal initiatives throughout the country to promote abortion,” said Suazo. “Today more than ever life is threatened. We must protect ourselves from those anti-life mentalities that despise the lives of others.”
Posted on 05/21/2020 23:55 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Mexico City, Mexico, May 21, 2020 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- When Fr. Antonio Pérez Hernández was recently hospitalized with COVID-19, he said he was able to witness firsthand how God is present in the midst of suffering.
The priest shared his experience in a recent video posted by the archdiocese of Tlanepantla, Mexico, where he serves.
After Pérez fell sick with the virus, he was admitted to a public hospital where he shared a room with other patients, some of whom died.
“When I was in that place, there came a time when I did feel like God could call me into his presence,” he said.
“And that's when you discover abandonment, the total abandonment of saying to the Lord: ‘Here I am, if you want to call me, I am willing; if you want to leave me, I am also willing. I only ask that you please give me the strength to give absolution and attend to my brothers who are suffering from the disease just like I am’.”
The priest said that despite the illness, his experience at the hospital was beautiful and freeing, because he “felt the loving presence of God.”
While at the hospital, Pérez said he always introduced himself as a priest and gave absolution to the sick who requested it. He said he found Christ in the sick patients and was reminded that “we all need Jesus.”
He witnessed four patients die, but said that after giving them absolution, he could see that “they were comforted, they were at peace.”
Through constant prayer, the priest said he watched the hospital rooms be transformed into places of peace where the presence of God could be felt and encountered.
When Pérez was discharged, he said some people told him, “Father we’re going to miss you, you gave us hope, you made us feel Christ in the midst of all this.”
“I said to them: ‘Christ is going to stay with you. I am leaving, but Christ remains. God is not leaving you alone’,” he continued.
Pérez believes God is using the pandemic to heal hearts. “God is making us see what is truly important,” he said.
“Those of us who were there had no contact with family. Those who died, died without having any contact with the family," Pérez recounted, and stressed the importance of “valuing the presence of the family, valuing friends, valuing life.”
“There comes a time when you only have your hospital gown, you have nothing,” he said, but at that moment “you experience that abandonment of saying to the Lord: ‘Lord, I have you. What more do I want if I have you?’”
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 05/17/2020 12:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
CNA Staff, May 17, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Pro-life groups in Ecuador say that United Nations aid to combat the coronavirus pandemic should not require access to abortion as a condition for assistance.
On April 30, Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Relations and Human Mobility confirmed it had presented to the United Nations a $46.4 million budget request to implement the U.N.’s “Humanitarian Response Plan COVID-19” whose goal is “to support national response efforts and ensure the aid is delivered in an organized manner.”
One objective of the U.N. plan is to “maintain continuity of maternal, neonatal and children’s health and other sexual and reproductive health services during the pandemic.” These terms are understood to include access to abortion.
In addition, the plan aims to “sensitize and train healthcare personnel to implement the “Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for Reproductive Health in Crisis Situations” which includes promoting “access to contraception including emergency contraception, safe legal abortion and post-abortion care.”
Abortion is illegal in Ecuador, except when continued pregnancy threatens the life and health of a woman.
Against this background, Ecuadorian pro-lifers have launched a petition drive, calling on President Lenin Moreno to “not accept ideological interference by the UN.”
The citizen petition says that “in the face of the COVID-19 drama, the United Nations has offered to send humanitarian aid to Ecuador, but the aid is not free, since in various sections of the document it is explained that said aid is conditional on Ecuador legalizing abortion.”
“And it seems it has already begun to produce results because Ecuador is one of the 59 countries that in the midst of the pandemic has already committed to promote abortion,” the petition adds, referring to a May 6 joint declaration signed by a number of countries, including Ecuador “to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights and to promote gender-responsiveness” during the pandemic.
In an interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Martha Villafuerte, who represents the Guayaquil Family Network, said the “fear is that our highest authority in Ecuador will even consider accepting this economic shakedown of $46 million in exchange for the lives of thousands of unborn children.”
Villafuerte said the U.N. plan “it goes against the Constitution, specifically article 45, which guarantees the right to life from conception, a right that was ratified last September 17 at the plenary session of the National Assembly.”
“The U.N. …intends to shakedown the country by offering it more than 46 million dollars, of which 3 million would go directly to 'sensitize and to train health personnel on safe, legal abortion and post-abortion care when this is expressly prohibited by law in Ecuador,” Villafuerte stressed.
Members of the National Assembly "are already publicly denouncing the plan and expressing their objection to international organizations placing conditions on their financial contributions,” she added
Assemblyman Héctor Yépez tweeted “Unbelievable! The UN conditions ‘safe legal abortion’ in its humanitarian support plan for Ecuador. While we all want to save lives, some insist on eliminating the lives of unborn girls and boys.”
In a statement to ACI Prensa, Yepez pointed out that the National Assembly had already "voted on abortion and the pro-life position won, preventing abortion from being legalized and protecting life from conception, as our Constitution says."
"The UN must respect the Assembly’s decision, the sentiments of the majority of families in Ecuador and the right to life, which is inviolable," he emphasized.
Posted on 05/15/2020 01:51 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 14, 2020 / 06:51 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Orani João Tempesta, the archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, consecrated Brazil to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
“Mary wants to be a presence of trust and hope” amid the present pandemic, the cardinal said at the consecration Wednesday, adding that “wherever she goes, she brings her son.”
The consecration took place in the Chapel of the Apparitions of Brazil, the only Fatima replica in the world authorized by the original Fatima Shrine in Portugal.
The consecration and accompanying Mass were followed online by thousands.
“Today is a very special day for our people. May the devotees of Our Lady of Fatima experience the comfort of the presence of the Mother of Jesus in their lives,” Tempesta said.
He said that because of the coronavirus lockdown, the May 13 event was a kind of pilgrimage in reverse. Rather than the faithful coming to the chapel to honor Mary, she goes out to every home, through the virtual transmission of the ceremony, he said.
The cardinal noted that the Fatima apparitions came in the context of the First World War, the Spanish flu, and the spread of ideologies contrary to the Catholic faith.
“God knows the reasons for the exile we’re going through,” he said, adding, “we pray that we can again participate in the celebrations in the churches” soon.
Tempesta invited all those watching the ceremony to hear anew the Fatima message and call to personal conversion.
“Given current events, these signs of the times, which remind us of human fragility, we must seek Jesus even more. It is necessary to live each day in the Way of the Lord,” he said.
“It is up to us Christians to announce that man needs God to have meaning for his life and for eternal life, without the illumination that comes from the cross of Christ, we would not be able to resolve the inner issues of our hearts.”
He prayed for the protection of Mary, “that she cover us with her mantle and give meaning to our journey.”
After the conclusion of the ceremony, the cardinal blessed all the cameras and electronic equipment used for the online transmission.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 05/9/2020 21:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Lima, Peru, May 9, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Peruvian congresswoman Luz Milagros Cayguaray Gambini has demanded the country’s health minister provide the legal and scientific basis for a directive that would allow abortion when a pregnant woman is infected with the novel coronavirus.
Abortion is illegal in Peru except when pregnancy would cause death or permanent harm to a pregnant woman.
On April 22, Peru’s Minister of Health Victor Zamora issued a directive calling for provision of emergency contraception in the country, and allowing abortion for pregnant women who test positive for the coronavirus.
In a May 5 letter, Cayguaray demanded Zamora to “Indicate what the legal basis” is for the directive that allows doctors to “end the pregnancy,” if the mother has contracted COVID-19.
The legislator also challenged Zamora to indicate “the scientific and medical basis the norm is based upon.”
At issue is whether a positive test for coronavirus is sufficient to establish that a pregnancy threatens the life of a woman. Gambini says that assertion is unproven and unfounded.
Cayguaray has also written to Dr. Enrique Guevara Ríos, director of the country’s Perinatal Maternal Institute, asking him to report how many pregnant women with COVID-19 have been treated to date, “how many have had their pregnancies terminated,” “on what grounds,” and “what current regulation has been applied to carry out the interruption of those pregnancies.”
The Arequipa Doctors for Life Association has criticized the health directive in a statement.
"At this time in which all our efforts as a nation should be aimed at improving our precarious health system to mitigate the serious impact of the pandemic, the circumstances are being used to dictate measures that threaten the lives of Peruvians in their most vulnerable stage, life in the womb,” the group said.
Regarding the “morning after pill,” the group expressed surprise and concern “that the Ministry of Health promotes the irresponsible and reckless use of this drug in the general population and particularly for minors, and even worse, dispenses with obtaining the person’s medical history, which is an essential tool for the responsible practice of medicine, thus seriously exposing the users to danger."
Aborting a child because the mother has COVID-19, the doctors said “is contrary to the principles that govern medical practice, which must always be based on the application of therapies that are based on rigorous scientific studies and with respect to elementary ethical principles” which guide medical science in providing the best strategies to protect patients.
When a woman is pregnant “we have two patients to take care of, the mother and the unborn child," the doctors association stressed.
Concerning the babies themselves, five newborns whose mothers have COVID-19 were recently discharged from a government hospital in Peru. A sixth, also born of a coronavirus patient who is in serious condition in the intensive care unit, was born prematurely and remains hospitalized. None of the babies have tested positive for COVID-19.
In a May 5 interview with the El Comercio daily, Dr. César García Aste, who heads the hospital’s neonatology department, explained that there are strict protocols as to how the baby is to be fed in order to avoid infecting it.
A doctor from the hospital is assigned to follow up daily by phone on the baby’s condition for an average of 14 days, and “so far we haven’t had a problem with any of the five babies,” Garcia said.
A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news agency. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 05/7/2020 13:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Lima, Peru, May 7, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Two priests in a rural area of Peru aimed to fight the coronavirus pandemic by finding a way to supply oxygen tanks, much needed for medical treatment, to their region.
The recent death of two doctors from coronavirus in Iquitos, Peru, underscored the hard-hit region’s shortage of medical equipment and medications. Both doctors died because of the lack of oxygen to treat them.
The Medical Corps of Hospital III of Iquitos and the Medical College of Peru said in a joint statement last month that there is a shortage of medications in the Loreto region, and its capital Iquitos is "one of the cities hardest hit by the infection."
“We don’t have medications” to treat coronavirus patients and “not enough oxygen tanks, pressure gauges and refilled tanks,” they reported.
One doctor was in intensive care at Loreto Regional Hospital and the other at a hospital under the country’s universal health insurance program, both in Iquitos, the Medical College of Peru said on social media.
Fr. Raymond Portelli, a parish pastor in Iquitos, along with the diocesan administrator of the Apostolic Vicariate of Iquitos, Fr. Miguel Fuertes, decided to start a fundraising campaign to acquire an oxygen plant for the city.
Portelli himself is a doctor caring for COVID-19 patients.
To purchase the machinery, they needed to raise about $118,000.
The city does have an oxygen plant, but it only produces between 100 and 160 tanks a day. The dean of the Medical College of Peru, Miguel Palacios, told local media that quantity is not enough and that current production would need to be tripled.
The priests’ campaign was launched the morning of May 3 on social media, and in less than a day, they had raised about $300,000.
Both priests thanked contributors, and said that thanks to the amount collected, a “high capacity” plant could be purchased for Iquitos.
Portelli added that Fuentes is currently in Lima coordinating with a specialist for the acquisition of the plant.
“Pray a lot that this work can be accomplished quickly. May God bless all who have contributed. We hope to continue to cover all the expenses,” he added.
This story was first published by CNA's Spanish-language news partner, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 05/4/2020 22:53 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
CNA Staff, May 4, 2020 / 03:53 pm (CNA).- When he was just 15 years old, Fr. Geison Gerardo Ortiz Marín had to quit school and find a job to help support his family.
Faced with a difficult economy, Ortiz’s family was struggling financially. He quit school and found a job opportunity at a neighboring family’s bakery, where he worked for five years.
The priest told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that he learned important life skills from the job, such as “knowing what it is to meet a schedule, getting up at dawn and working overtime. In short, it was an enriching experience.”
He took those life skills with him when he entered seminary at age 21. He has now been a priest for 10 years and serves as pastor of Saint Rose of Lima parish in Ciudad Queseda in northern Costa Rica.
Recently, however, Ortiz has returned to his roots as a baker to raise funds for the needy in his parish during the coronavirus pandemic.
Public Masses were suspended a month ago in Costa Rica due to the pandemic. As the lockdown continued, the priest could see the financial strain mounting on members of the community.
“A lot of people starting knocking on the rectory door asking for help, while the parish and local charitable groups weren’t getting any income from the collection,” he explained.
So Ortiz began baking. He uses around 55 lbs. of flour each workday to bake different kinds of bread, rolls and other items. A bag of baked goods sells for 1500 colones, or about $2.65.
“With 1500 colones here we can buy perhaps a 5-pound package of rice,” he said, adding that he has been able to help about 60 families so far.
From the sale of baked goods, he was able to raise extra funds, he said, which have ensured that anyone who has knocked on the rectory door has left with a package of rice, sugar or beans.
No one has been sent away empty handed, the priest said.
“I work all day long baking bread, selling it, and in the evenings I celebrate the Eucharist. I always tell the Lord, 'Thank you for the true bread that gives eternal life, which is the greatest of riches and is what I want our people to have, receive, taste and feel',” he said.
Ortiz encouraged other priests to find creative ways to help serve those in need during the challenging times presented by the pandemic.
“I believe that this is a special moment,” he said. “God has allowed me to return to my origins. God has allowed me to help meet the needs of our brothers. This is a moment in which the Lord is allowing us to live in solidarity and to reach out in a very special way.”
Posted on 05/1/2020 00:47 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
CNA Staff, Apr 30, 2020 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- When Bolivia closed its borders March 25 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, hundreds of Bolivian seasonal farm workers in central Chile found themselves stranded.
With their seasonal work ended and their savings depleted, many of the farm workers had no choice but to sleep on the streets of Santiago, unable to obtain food or shelter.
In the weeks that followed, Catholic groups stepped up to arrange shelter, food, and additional aid for the migrant workers.
Red CLAMOR, a network coordinating efforts among numerous organizations to serve migrants, refugees, and human trafficking victims, led the effort to provide temporary shelter for the Bolivians starting the night of April 28.
The network coordinated with the Chilean Catholic Institute for Migration, the Archdiocese of Santiago, the Vicariate for Social Ministry, the Human Mobility Ministry, Jesuit Migration Services, and Caritas Chile, as well as municipalities and the central government to arrange for shelter and meals for the Bolivians.
Initially, the network found accommodations for 600 people. By the first evening, however, the total had risen to 950, lodged at parishes and a local retreat house.
The migrant workers were provided with masks and hand sanitizer, meals, and sleeping mats. They are also being aided with legal advice on their employment situation and access to unemployment insurance.
Auxiliary Bishop Cristián Roncagliolo of Santiago said the effort was coordinated with the municipalities and other government authorities.
“For the moment it’s a solution so that they can stay somewhere more decent than the street,” the prelate said.
“It’s our Gospel duty to welcome the stranger. But we know that’s not enough. Because there are many more people that still need be in lockdown in order to later return to their country,” he continued. “We encourage other social actors to be welcoming to the Bolivian brothers.”
Lorenzo Figueroa, the director of Caritas Chile, called the situation “a new wakeup call about what the migrant communities are going through, especially during times of pandemic.”
Caritas Chile reported that the Foreign Ministries of Chile and Bolivia have reached an agreement that if Bolivian citizens stay quarantined for 14 days in the city of Iquique in northern Chile, which is close to Bolivia, they can then return to their own country.
Posted on 04/29/2020 23:30 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
CNA Staff, Apr 29, 2020 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- Venezuela’s prolonged social, political and economic crisis has only been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, the archbishop emeritus of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, charged Tuesday.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval under the socialist administration of Nicolas Maduro, with severe shortages of food and medicine, high unemployment, power outages, and hyperinflation. Some 4.5 million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015.
In response to the threat of the virus, the government imposed a nationwide stay at home order March 17. According to government statistics, to date there have been 329 cases of COVID-19 with ten deaths. The country is ill prepared to handle the crisis, with chronic shortages of medical supplies, and many doctors have left the country.
“The national reality is terrible,” and the government has no answers, Urosa said in an April 28 statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.
While the cardinal acknowledged the lockdown has prevented the spread of the virus, he pointed out that “the quarantine has hurt a great many people because the economic, social and logistical conditions in the country weren’t taken into account,” including “the extremely serious problem of the gasoline shortage for transport, especially for food.”
In some cases, crops are rotting in farmers’ fields due to lack of fuel to transport them to market.
Especially hard hit, the cardinal said, are “informal” workers who are paid off the books, and who are now “barely surviving,” and only with “the help of family members, social organizations and the Church.”
On April 25, Venezuelan vice president Delcy Rodríguez announced state intervention and oversight of several food supply companies in order to control the prices of 27 products for 180 days.
Urosa criticized the intervention, calling it “an extremely serious mistake, since it will probably result in greater shortages. Price controls are acceptable, but intervening in efficient businesses is not. The government can’t even manage to supply gasoline.” “The state-run petroleum industry has collapsed, and now Venezuelans’ food is in danger!”
“The current government doesn’t have any answers for such elementary things such as the extremely serious problem of the gasoline shortage” and runaway inflation. “In the last 40 days, the dollar has doubled in value, which is undoubtedly the fundamental cause of the spike in prices,” the cardinal said.
Urosa decried political persecution, which “has gotten worse since March because amid the quarantine, the government has ramped up the repression. During these weeks the government has jailed, even without due process, many political activists, especially from the inner circle of Juan Guaidó, president of the National Assembly and leader of the Venezuelan opposition.”
Guaidó declared himself the nation's interim leader Jan. 23 last year following Maduro’s inauguration for a second term. Maduro won a May 2018 presidential election, which was boycotted by the opposition and has been rejected by much of the international community. The United States was swift to recognize Guaidó as interim president, eventually followed by over 60 countries. Both the National Assembly and the Venezuelan bishops' conference declared Maduro's reelection to be invalid.
With the military firmly in support of Maduro, however, opposition protests calling for his resignation have failed to oust the leader.
On March 30, Guaidó charged that the Maduro regime had unleashed a new wave of harassment against his close collaborators. Andrea Bianchi, the wife of close associate Rafael Rico, was kidnapped, beaten and then left naked on a highway. Two others, Rómulo García and Víctor Silio were also picked up and later charged with possession of marijuana and a handgun.
The NGO Venezuelan Program for Education-Action in Human Rights reported that during the state of emergency, 34 people have been arbitrarily arrested and attacks against politicians, journalists and healthcare workers have increased.
“The bishops have always strongly criticized the political repression by the government and once again I call for the release of all political prisoners. They are even in greater physical danger because of the pandemic situation we’re going through,” Urosa stressed.
On March 26, “the Trump administration unsealed sweeping indictments against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and members of his inner circle on narcoterrorism charges, a dramatic escalation in the U.S. campaign to force the authoritarian socialist from power,” even offering “a $15 million reward for information leading to his capture or conviction,” the Washington Post reported.
In response, the Maduro regime activated a plan against the Venezuelan opposition called “Operation Bolivarian Fury.”
The archbishop emeritus denounced these recent “threats of violence by the government against Venezuelans. Maduro himself has spoken of a supposed ‘Bolivarian fury’ as a threat against members of the Venezuelan opposition in case of international problems. That’s illegal, unconstitutional and unacceptable from every point of view. That threat of violence is intolerable.”
The cardinal said the government has used the quarantine simply as an opportunity to strengthen its social and political control.
On April 25, the Maduro regime placed shipping containers on the Caracas-La Guaira highway to prevent demonstrators from other cities who have been protesting the shortages of food, water and electricity in other cities from getting to the capital.
“Why restrict the right to free transit?” the cardinal asked.
The Maduro regime also blocked the highway in February 2019 to prevent humanitarian aid from entering the country from Colombia.
Guaidó charged April 24 on Twitter that “a dictatorship of corrupt and incapable people has brought us to a crisis where farmers are losing their crops while families are starving to death in the barrios. They turned the richest country in the region into a hell. They’ll leave here, the sacrifice has been enough already.”
As signs of hope, Urosa pointed to ongoing work of Caritas Venezuela and the creative ways the clergy has reached out to the faithful through social media. “Our message is one of encouragement, trust in God, solidarity and hope in this dark hour,” he said.
Catholics “have an unshakeable faith in God who is love,” who had died and risen and “has shown us the merciful face of God.” “We’ll come out of this,” the archbishop said, “the suffering we are experiencing has united us closer to God and opens to us the gates of heaven.”
The archbishop encouraged Venezuelans to always stand in solidarity with each other and “to be the face of God to those in need. God is love and is with us. Let us join ourselves to him and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy in this painful hour.”
A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.
Posted on 04/29/2020 00:17 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Denver Newsroom, Apr 28, 2020 / 05:17 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver has announced that he is donating to the University of British Columbia’s research toward a COVID-19 vaccine.
“May the search for COVID-19 solutions also be a moment of solidarity, of collaboration, and of growing together as a visible sign to the world of the healing and reconciliation so needed right now,” Archbishop Miller said April 27 as reported by the B.C. Catholic.
Ryan Thomas, a special advisor to the archdiocese, told CNA that Archbishop Miller wanted to express, through his donation, the Catholic Church’s support for science and medicine that contribute to the common good.
“The Church— as Pope Francis has said from the beginning of his pontificate— is called to go out, we're called to engage, not called to retreat,” Thomas told CNA.
“From a scientific standpoint, that means identifying the research that is worthy of our investment, that meets the high standards that we have to protect life,” he said.
Thomas declined to specify the amount of the donation, but said that it was in the thousands of dollars.
The global effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine includes at least 50 other research teams, the university says, many of which in the U.S. and Canada have received government funding and are being conducted by large pharmaceutical companies.
Pro-life leaders have warned in recent months that among the many COVID-19 vaccines currently in development worldwide, in some cases researchers are using old cell lines derived from the cells of aborted babies.
It was important to Archbishop Miller, Thomas said, that the Church be seen to be promoting research into a vaccine that Catholics can support in good conscience.
A group of Evangelical Christians and Catholics in Vancouver began to rally around the idea of supporting a vaccine that corresponded to Christian ethical standards, and eventually presented the idea of supporting UBC’s research to Archbishop Miller.
Thomas said Miller made sure to inquire about whether UBC’s vaccine research makes use of aborted fetal cells, which it does not.
Dr. Wilf Jefferies, the project’s lead researcher, told CNA via email that his research team is currently in the process of validating the potency of vaccine candidates in preclinical trials, in order to assess their potential toxicity before trying them in human subjects.
The UBC lab is using immune-boosting components called adjuvants in its vaccine candidate, with the hopes of reducing the dosage of vaccine required for complete protection against the disease. In addition, Jefferies hopes that UBC’s vaccine will continue to provide protection against COVID-19 even if the virus mutates over time.
“I am heartened by the unity and kindness that is being demonstrated during this pandemic,” Jefferies told CNA.
“I think the response by the archdiocese is an affirmative and practical way to address the critical need in our society to develop a vaccine...I am sincerely humbled by the support we have received from the archdiocese and from other groups and individuals.”
So far, Jefferies’ lab has received grants from the government-funded Michael Smith Health Research Foundation and the Sullivan Urology Foundation affiliated with the University of British Columbia, as well as a number of private donations.
There are at least 1,000 clinical trials currently taking place around the world to test potential COVID-19 vaccines.
A group of pro-life leaders in a letter to the Trump administration earlier this month reiterated that development of a COVID-19 vaccine should avoid unethical links to abortion.
“No American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience,” reads the April 17 letter to Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Fortunately, there is no need to use ethically problematic cell lines to produce a COVID vaccine, or any vaccine, as other cell lines or processes that do not involve cells from abortions are available and are regularly being used to produce other vaccines,” it continued.
The letter’s signers include Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities; the heads of three other bishops’ conference committees; and leaders of many other Catholic and non-Catholic groups.
The Pontifical Academy for Life has noted that Catholics have an obligation to use ethically-sourced vaccines when available, and have an obligation to speak up and request the development of new cell lines that are not derived from aborted fetuses.
The 2008 Vatican document Dignitatis personae strongly criticized aborted fetal tissue research. However, as regards common vaccines, such as those for chicken pox and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), that may be derived from cell lines of aborted babies, the Vatican said they could be used by parents for “grave reasons” such as danger to their children’s health.
In a 2017 document on vaccines, the academy noted a “moral obligation to guarantee the vaccination coverage necessary for the safety of others… especially the safety of more vulnerable subjects such as pregnant women and those affected by immunodeficiency who cannot be vaccinated against these diseases.”