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The unborn child is a person with the right to an identity, say bishops of Panama

Panama City, Panama, Sep 18, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The Panamanian bishops expressed their support last week for a bill that would allow parents to register their children who were miscarried, as this would help “the parents alleviate the pain and make more bearable their mourning over the loss” of their baby.

The bishops made the statement in a Sept. 12 communiqué titled “The right to registration of identity of the child in the womb” regarding Bill 18 on “Identity of child who was miscarried,” proposed by Corina Cano, a legislator of the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement, which is the junior partner in a governing coalition with the Democratic Revolutionary Party.

According to La Prensa, a Panama City daily, this law would create at the national level “a book of deceased persons who were conceived but not born” and would amend Article 60 of the Civil Registry to include “those that occur in the mother's womb whatever the cause of death, gestational age, or weight that it had at the moment of death.”

The bill also says that the registration would be made within 72 hours of the death's occurrence.

Panamanian media indicate the initiative has been criticized by some feminist groups who believe the bill violates the law, puts the Civil Code at risk, and confuses the tasks of the Civil Registry.

In their statement, the bishops recalled that “the Catholic Church has defended the rights a person has from the moment of conception until the person's natural death.”

“In the Family Code this is recognized in Article 484, which regulates the rights and guarantees of the minor child by defining the minor as: 'every human being from its conception to eighteen (18) years of age'”, the prelates stated.

They also stressed that “the unborn child is a person who has the right to have an identity. We can't discard it as if it had never been conceived. It existed for its parents  and thus it ought to be recorded by giving it official recognition.”

In their statement the bishops also referred to the upcoming appointment of justices to the Supreme Court, a process that must be “independent of political, partisan and individual interests given the  weak shape of the institution and the low confidence the the citizenry has in the justice system.”

An open application period began Sept. 2 for the appointment of three chief magistrates and six alternates for the Supreme Court of Justice.

In the appointment of judges, the prelates said, “certain aspects ought to be considfered, such as: moral soundness and reputation; legal experience and academic preparation; service to society and scientific research; as well as citizen participation in solving the problems of justice.”

Therefore “the Church urges that in this process the profile of each aspirant be truly analyzed, so the citizenry can be informed  and give their opinion, so that the most suitable people are appointed  to these high positions in the Panamanian justice system.”

This, they concluded “is an historic opportunity to begin a process of strengthening as an institution one of the most strongly questioned bodies of the state, considering the legal norms and the ethical, moral, and spiritual values, on which this country has been built.”

Ecuador votes not to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape

Quito, Ecuador, Sep 18, 2019 / 12:15 pm (CNA).- A bill to decriminalize abortion in all cases of rape failed in the Ecuadorian legislature Tuesday, amid opposition from the Church and civil organizations.

It would have allowed abortion also in cases of non-viable fetal deformity, incest, and nonconsensual artificial insemination.

Sixty-five members of the unicameral National Assembly voted in favor of the bill Sept. 17, five short of the number needed for it to pass. Fifty-nine voted against the bill, and six abstained.

Abortion is legal in Ecuador only in cases of the rape of a woman with mental disabilities or when the mother’s life is determined to be at risk.

The bill to decriminalize abortion in some cases was introduced to the full legislature in January.

The proposal was first made in 2016, and it was approved by the legislature's Justice and the Structure of the State Commission in December 2018.

Some legislators proposed that instead of decriminalizing the abortion of children conceived in rape, rapists be given greater penalties.

Tens of thousands of Ecuadorians marched on the streets of Guayaquil in June to protest the bill, as well as to support marriage, conscience protectiosn, and parental rights.

Archbishop Alfredo José Espinoza Mateus of Quito issued a statement Sept. 17 saying, “abortion cannot be the answer that a civilized society gives to the pain and anguish of women, men, and their families. Talking about abortion as a solution is a painful irony … abortion cannot be a 'solution', it is a drama, a failure of every society.”

“Neither the embryo nor the fetus is a simple part of the mother's body that carries it; it is in it and depends on it, but it is a biologically different reality and is not comparable to any other part of the woman's body. The first solidarity and the first hospitality that every human being finds is the maternal womb. It is the first experience of welcome and tenderness,” Archbishop Espinoza continued.

He said, “no law that legalizes the death of a defenseless human being can be ethical … The pregnant woman knows well that she carries a human life in its beginnings.”

The archbishop added: “Abortion does not remedy rape. The child conceived through rape is completely innocent. We must work on the prevention and care and protection of girls and young people in our country. Defending the life of the conceived child does not mean defending, protecting, or covering up rapists, or approving violations.”

Together with leader of evangelical ecclesial communities, the Archdiocese of Guayaquil organized a day of prayer for life held Sept. 16 that invoked God's wisdom and strength for the country's legislators.

The Ecuadorian constitution states that “girls, boys and adolescents shall enjoy the rights common to human beings, in addition to those specific to their age. The state shall recognize and guarantee life including its care and protection from conception.”

An effort to expand abortion access in Ecuador also failed in 2013.

Women who procure abortion in Ecuador can face up to two years imprisonment.

Academics object to pro-choice federal appointment in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 13, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The deans of five Argentine law schools have protested the appointment of a supporter of legalized abortion as Argentina’s Ombudsman for the Rights of Girls, Boys and Adolescents since “it's a clear violation of the federal juridical order.”

On June 26 the Argentine House of Representatives confirmed Marisa Graham, a well-known abortion advocate in Argentina, to lead the nation’s Ombudsman's Office for Boys, Girls and Adolescents.

Graham’s appointment now awaits confirmation by Argentina’s senate.

The signatories to a letter of objection are the deans of the law schools of the Argentina Catholic University, the Catholic University of  La Plata, the Saint Thomas Aquinas University of the North, the University del Salvador, and Fasta University.

Graham's “public and manifest advocacy in support of the legalization of abortion is discriminatory with respect to countless people who would be unprotected, helpless and deprived of the defense of their most elementary rights,” the deans said.

These rights are contained in the articles of the National Constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Civil and Commercial Code.

The regulations recognize “that people's lives begin with conception and from that moment they are already children up to 18 years of age; that all children have the intrinsic right to life from conception and that their survival and development are to be guaranteed from that moment to the maximum extent possible, by the State and without any discrimination,” they said.

“The arguments invoked by Dr. Graham that her position on the legalization of abortion would not influence the exercise of her office are unsustainable, while it is not understood how she will defend the right to life of the unborn child, that they are persons according to the norms of the highest level in our legal system,” they warned.

The Ombudsman Office for Boys, Girls and Adolescents monitors public policies on childhood and ensures that the State guarantees compliance with the rights of minors.

This office has been vacant since it was created in 2005 with the Law on the Comprehensive Protection of the Rights of Girls, Boys and Adolescents.


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

Court orders Mexican Senate to take up pro-family constitutional amendment bill

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 9, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A Mexican federal circuit court has ordered the country's Senate to consider a pro-family constitutional amendment bill filed more than three years ago.

The Mexican Council on the Family (ConFamilia) filed in February 2016 a federal constitutional amendment bill recognizing “the right of man and woman to enter into marriage and found a family.”

The bill also says that marriage “is an institution in the public interest and the natural foundation of the family,” and as such “must be protected by the state.”

The constitutional amendment proposal is the first citizen initiative introduced in the Mexican Senate. It had the support of 200,000 signatures, nearly twice the number required by law.

Under Mexican law, a citizen initiative is a means for citizens to directly file a specific bill or have a particular issue taken up by the Congress.  

In a video message released Sept. 5, Juan Dabdoub, president of ConFamilia, lamented that the previous Legislature of the Mexican Congress ignored the citizen initiative.

“In face of the refusal of the previous legislature, a federal judge ordered that the Senate had to consider the citizen initiative,” he said. However, “distressingly, the Senate again refused to fulfill its obligations and appealed.”

“But they lost the appeal and a court ordered the Senate Board of Directors that it had 20 business days to fulfill its responsibility,” he said

The court indicated that the 20 business days would begin Sept. 3.

“Thus the senators of the current legislature have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for the  fundamental element of society, the family, to be protected, and thereby greatly benefit all of Mexican society.”

Argentine bishops ask government to declare food emergency

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 6, 2019 / 03:49 pm (CNA).- Catholic bishops in Argentina are calling on the government to declare a food and nutrition emergency in response to heightened inflation and rising poverty rates.

“Faced with a severe increase in homelessness, poverty, unemployment and the indiscriminate increase in the price of the basic food groups, we find ourselves in an emergency food and nutrition situation which essentially affects the most vulnerable, especially children,” said the Bishop's Commission for Pastoral Social Ministry.

The commission asked the government to “provide the necessary measures to declare a food and nutrition emergency throughout our country” and take swift action to remedy the situation.

The bishops asked the government to create early childhood baskets, to be distributed free or at a subsidized cost, offering diapers, medications, vitamins and dietary essentials including milk, meat, fish, eggs, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

They also asked the government to increase “the budget allocated for soup kitchens and schools, community and family gardens, and family and social farming ventures, guaranteeing equity and the quality of the federal food and nutrition assistance services.”

“Pope Francis reminds us that fraternity is the main foundation of solidarity and that effective policies are also needed to promote the principle of fraternity, ensuring people—equal in their dignity and in their fundamental rights—access to goods so that everyone has the opportunity to fully develop themselves as persons,” they said.

In addition, the bishops called on volunteers to help out where they can.

Bishop Carlos Tissera, president of the local Caritas chapter, stressed that food aid from the government “is not enough to alleviate the deficiencies of this time.”

Faced with the current crisis, he said, “Caritas is making their…resources available to the community so more aid can arrive quickly, through their soup kitchens, food stands, neighborhood centers and volunteer teams from all over the country.”

Tissera, who is also bishop of Quilmes, noted that Caritas “is day by day alongside the most vulnerable communities creating hope and encouraging everyone to recognize their dignity, fostering the culture of work, solidarity and the common good.”

Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, who took office in 2015, introduced austerity measures including cuts to years-worth of government subsidies, leading to sharply increasing gas and electrical bills.

Following a drop in investor confidence, the Argentinian peso has dropped in value by more than 20% against the dollar in the last two months, while inflation has climbed above 50%.

Data from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina’s Social Debt Observatory estimates that some 35% of the population is living in poverty.

Archbishop Jorge Lozano of San Juan de Cuyo lamented in a recent statement that “having a job today doesn't ensure getting above the poverty line.”

“Having a job today doesn't ensure getting above the poverty line. There are a lot of people that don't have quality of life in terms of their food, their education. They have a job… but that job is not enough to be able to cover basic necessities.”

Lozano said that there are neighborhoods in the province where “the number of children coming to the soup kitchens has doubled.”

“Food deliveries have been bolstered and in the Church there are several initiatives that Caritas is promoting, but we're overtaxed,” he said.

The archbishop voiced optimism that the national government would respond to the bishops’ call for a food and nutrition emergency to be declared in the country.

“I hope that the necessary means to assure quality food for the entire population will soon be organized,” he said.


Colombian bishop decries assassination of mayoral candidate

Popayan, Colombia, Sep 4, 2019 / 05:29 pm (CNA).- The secretary general of the Colombian bishops' conference has deplored the assassination of Karina García, a mayoral candidate in the country's southwest, and called for an end to the bloodshed in the country.

García, 31, was running for mayor of Suárez, in Cauca Department. She was killed in a Sept. 1 ambush along with her mother and four others.

Bishop Elkin Fernando Álvarez Botero, auxiliary bishop of Medellin, told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, Sept. 3 that “as a Church we receive with profound sorrow this murder of one of the candidates for local office. We sent a message in the past few days with an appeal to avoid all forms of violence in the political campaigns, but this murder is a sign that we're returning to those ways of violence which do not allow us to move forward.”

According to BBC World News Spanish edition, prosecutors indicated that the vehicle the victims were riding in was ambushed by another car crosswise in the middle of the road. Several men got out with high powered weapons, who fired on García and those accompanying her. They then pulled the bodies out of the vehicle and incinerated it.

The Colombian Liberal Party candidate had been warning for several weeks that her life was in danger. She began to get worried when unidentified persons began painting her campaign posters black.

Garcia also charged that fake news started to appear about her saying that if she becomes the mayor of Suárez, she would bring in paramilitaries and take away land from the people, accusations which she denied.

“I ask the other candidates and their supporters to not continue making, in face of these armed groups, irresponsible commentaries about my candidacy (…) For God's sake, don't be irresponsible! This could have consequences for me, even fatal ones,” García said in a video posted a few days ago.

Álvarez told ACI Prensa, “This is a very serious situation. Just as we are saddened by the death of this candidate we are also grieved by all the lives that are being ended in Colombia because of the violence.”

“We have to get back to valuing life as a gift from God.  Not just that of the community leaders, whose deaths are painful because they're ending the hopes of the country, but of all human lives,” he said.

The bishop recalled the importance of participating in elections, and encouraged the candidates to run “political campaigns according to democratic principles that actually help and not divide.”

“The message we want to send to the candidates and the voters is let's not polarize the country any more, let's seek unity and let's run principled democratic campaigns.”

Álvarez asked “those who still continue to take the path of violence, to be very aware that with violence, death and eliminating people, we're not going to achieve anything for the country.”

“The violence has got to end. No more bloodshed,” he concluded.

Regional and municipal elections will be held in Colombia at the end of October. To be elected are governors for the 32 administrative districts representatives to the district assemblies, mayors of 1,099 towns, city council members, and members of the local administrative boards of the national territory.

The BBC also reported that different institutions maintain that between 200 and 400 community leaders have been killed in the last three years.

Thousands participate in Costa Rican pro-life march

San José, Costa Rica, Sep 4, 2019 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- Thousands participated in Saturday's March for Life in the Costa Rican capital, urging that the president not sign a technical regulation for the performance of therapeutic abortion.

The Aug. 31 event was organized by Wake Up Costa Rica, Democracy in Action, and the Autonomous University of Central America.

Joining the march were politicians who urged president Carlos Alvarado not to sign the “Technical Norm for Non-Punishable Abortion” which would regulate Article 121 of the Criminal Code for the performance of therapeutic abortion in public and private clinics nationwide.

The government announced in early 2019 that the technical norm was being drafted by a team from the Department of Health and was going to be signed by the president during this year, though an exact date has not yet been set.

Pro-life groups however charged that the norm could be a window to allow abortion on demand.

Costa Rica's Criminal Code considers abortion a crime, decriminalized only in cases of risk to the life of the mother. The Political Constitution states in Article 21 that “human life is inviolable.”

Carmen Chan, an opposition legislator of the New Republic Party, said while attending that march that “life is inviolable and no one has the right to put an end to it and our duty is to promote laws and policies that contribute to the improvement of living conditions for Costa Ricans.”

“But no, the direction and the defenses that this government has chosen are quite different, that's why we're on the front lines today as a people, defending the most basic right of all—the right to life – which goes hand in hand with all those social guarantees that correspond to the state to offer,” she said.

Democracy in Action posted on social media that the activity “ended in success” and that “it brought together thousands of people who marched peacefully.” They also said that for 2020 there will be “a lot more.”

“The pro-life people of Costa Rica took to the streets to demonstrate that we're against abortion on demand, and we're not going to remain silent in face of the pretensions of abortion advocates, that we're going to defend life from conception and do so because we are indeed a people of pure life,” Democracy in Action added.

Days prior to the march, the Costa Rican bishops' conference invited all citizens to participate, and thanked the secular organizations that “with great dedication and zeal for promoting the culture of life, have organized this event.”

Border bishops 'filled with mourning' over deaths of migrants

Matamoros, Mexico, Sep 4, 2019 / 12:09 am (CNA).- At the end of their recent semi-annual meeting, Catholic bishops from dioceses along the Texas-Mexico border lamented the challenges facing migrants and called on governments to welcome newcomers and help them adjust to life in a new country.

“We are filled with mourning that many people seeking a better future have lost their lives” in fleeing their homelands, the bishops said.

From 2015-2018, nearly 4,000 migrants had died or gone missing along the route through Mexico to the U.S., the Associated Press reported.

The bishops said they are also deeply saddened by the uncertainty and rejection facing those requesting asylum, as well as growing racism and discrimination toward foreigners.

“The drama of those who suffer deportation, who see their dreams, efforts, and sacrifices cut short and who return penniless and in debt to dangerous conditions pains us,” they said.

“We shall continue to advocate for the human rights of the poor and of migrants, in particular children and young people,” they continued, calling for immigrants to receive “the possibility of integral development, a decent and peaceful life” in their new homeland.

Bishop from along the Texas-Mexico border met Aug. 30-Sept. 1 in the Mexican diocese of Matamoros, across the U.S. border from Brownsville, Texas.

Attending the meeting from the United States were Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Mario Avilés and Bishop Emeritus Raymundo Peña, Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo, and Bishop Emeritus Michael Pfeifer of San Angelo.

Participating from Mexico were Bishop José Guadalupe Torres Campos of Ciudad Juárez, Bishop Hilario González García of Linares, Bishop Eugenio Lira Rugarcía of Matamoros, Bishop Jesús José Herrera Quiñonez of Nuevo Casas Grandes, Bishop Enrique Sánchez Martínez of Nuevo Laredo, Bishop Alonso Garza Treviño of Piedras Negras, and Bishop Raúl Vera López of Saltillo.

On Aug. 31, the bishops celebrated Mass next to the Rio Grande, which separates the United States and Mexico, and prayed for migrants, living and deceased.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, Bishop Eugenio Lira of Matamoros stressed that the reality facing migrants is rapidly changing, “and this requires us to be attentive in order to respond appropriately.”

For example, he said, “in some border towns, the migrants are no longer going so much to the migrant houses [run by the Church], but are instead camping on the bridges so they don't lose their place to have their asylum request processed. This has required us to adapt and go out to them, bringing food and clothing, providing them the support that we can.”

In addition, the Church continues to serve those who come to migrant houses and service centers, he said.

He also stressed that the bishops “will continue our dialogue with the authorities of our countries so that the life, dignity and fundamental rights of all people continue to be respected… and that situations forcing many people to migrate – such as poverty, inequality and violence – will be eliminated.”

The Mexican bishop emphasized that it is key to “continue above all our task of evangelization, which is the best way to create a culture that respects, promotes and defends the life, dignity and rights of all people, particularly migrants.”

Society must realize that they have been entrusted by God with the wellbeing of migrants, he said, “so that we can, as the pope says, welcome them, integrate them, protect them and help them along.”

Evangelization fosters this whole process, Bishop Lira said, “because it leads us to an awareness that we are all children of the same Father, and therefore brothers. We cannot see the other person as some thing, but someone.”

“The invitation that Jesus makes to us to ‘Do unto others as we would have others do unto us’ will always continue to be timely,” he said.


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

'Enough of the violence' – Mexican archdiocese laments massacre at night club

Veracruz, Mexico, Aug 30, 2019 / 12:53 am (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Xalapa in Mexico called for peace after a massacre at a night club in the town of Coatzacoalcos claimed 26 lives on Tuesday night.

According to the Veracruz state Attorney General's Office, 10 women and 16 men died in the attack, and 11 more people were injured. The office said the attack was clearly deliberate.

The local press reported that a group of armed men entered the Caballo Blanco bar, opened fire and threw Molotov cocktails.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called the attack “lamentable,” saying “it fills us with sadness.”

López Obrador condemned those responsible for the attack, and noted claims that the attackers may have been previously arrested and released by authorities.

Fr. Manuel Suazo, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Xalapa, told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language sister agency, that the local Church “deeply laments the tragedy that took place.”

“We journey in solidarity with the relatives who are suffering grief and pain in face of this terrible situation, which once again fills with mourning the homes of many people in Veracruz,” he said.

In the most recent report from the Executive Secretariat of the National System of Public Safety in Mexico, Veracruz had seen 133 first-degree murders in July of this year, making it ninth in the country.

Through July 31, the agency reported 1,550 homicides in the state of Veracruz.

According to the Mexican newspaper El Universal, the first half of 2019 has been the most violent on record in the country, with 17,065 homicides nationwide.

Suazo said that the area is already experiencing a “continued situation of insecurity and violence.” This new tragedy, he said, “makes citizens feel helpless because the insecurity has not been brought under control, but has increased.”

“Enough of the violence and insecurity. Not one more victim! We want to live in peace,” he said.

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


Mexican bishops call for justice following murder of priest

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 27, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of Mexico offered prayers and called for justice after the murder of Fr. José Martín Guzmán Vega, a priest in Matamoros, along the country’s northern border.

Fr. Guzmán Vega was stabbed to death the night of Aug. 22 at his parish, Cristo Rey de la Paz in Matamoros, a border city near Brownsville, Texas.

“We express our solidarity and offer an embrace of faith to his relatives, friends and the lay faithful of the beloved Diocese of Matamoros,” read a statement from the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, published Aug. 23.

“By our faith we know that death is not the end, and that love destroys death, because hope is the victory in face of despair.”

The Mexican bishops expressed their trust that the authorities will investigate to determine the facts of the murder and carry out justice.

“From our faith in the resurrection, we trust with certain hope that the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, has led him to rest in the verdant fields and pastures of eternity with Him,” they said.

The bishops pointed to the death of Fr. Guzmán Vega as an indication of violence as an ongoing problem in Mexican society.

The Catholic Multimedia Center, which keeps a record of murders and attacks against priests in Mexico, said that the attack “joins the long list of religious murdered in recent years.”

“The death of Fr. José Martín makes 27 priests killed from 2012 to 2019… so far this year, several incidents against priests and religious have been recorded, such as the case of a priest shot and wounded in Cuernavaca, Morelos state and death threats against several priests in various areas of Veracruz.”