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Canadian Indigenous leaders' trip to Vatican delayed by Omicron variant concerns

Amemorial in Ottawa, Canada, in tribute to 215 indigenous children whose remains were found in unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, June 1, 2021. / meandering images/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 7, 2021 / 15:32 pm (CNA).

The scheduled meeting between Pope Francis and a delegation from Canada has been delayed to 2022, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami announced in a joint statement on Tuesday, Dec. 7. 

“After careful assessment of the uncertainty and potential health risks surrounding international travel amid the recent spread of the Omicron variant, the Canadian Bishops, Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami have jointly decided to reschedule a delegation to the Vatican in December 2021 to the earliest opportunity in 2022,” they said. 

“It is also important to note that the delegation is postponed, not canceled,” said the statement, adding that the Holy See advised that safety concerns of the delegates should be paramount in deciding when to travel to the Vatican. 

The delegation of approximately two dozen First Nations, Inuit, and Métis elders, knowledge keepers, survivors of residential schools, and young people, along with a “small group of Canadian bishops,” was due to meet with Pope Francis and other officials in the Vatican from Dec. 17-20. The visit had been in the works since June 2021, following the discovery of many unmarked gravesites at the site of former residential schools. 

“The decision to postpone was a heartbreaking one, made after careful consultation with

delegates, family members, community leaders, public health officials and the leadership of

each of the three National Indigenous Organizations,” said the statement, adding that there were additional concerns about the safety of elderly members of the delegation and those who live in remote communities in light of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. 

“As more information becomes available, we will continue to assess the feasibility of future travel plans, based on guidance from the Canadian government and relevant international authorities,” they said. 

The Omicron variant was formally named at the end of November. It was first identified in South Africa, and scientists are still unsure about the transmissibility and lethality of this new variant.

Despite the delayed plans, the statement said the “shared commitment to walking together towards healing and reconciliation remains strong.”

“We understand that the Holy See is very much committed to rescheduling this visit in the new

year and we look forward to the opportunity for Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers,

residential school survivors, and youth to participate in private meetings with Pope Francis,” they said. 

Once the delegation arrives in the Vatican, they intend to ask Pope Francis for an apology for the Church’s role in the country’s residential school system, as well as for the release of all records that relate to the residential schools, and for the return of any Indigenous items from Canada that the Vatican may possess in its archives.

In 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a Catholic, requested that Pope Francis issue an apology for the Church’s role in the country’s residential school system. The pope declined to give an apology, but has repeatedly expressed “sorrow” at the various atrocities which occurred at the Church-administered schools. 

In late October, Pope Francis said he would be open to the idea of a papal visit to Canada. Should the visit happen, it would be the first time a pope has visited Canada since 2002, when St. Pope John Paul II visited the country for World Youth Day. 

Canada’s residential school system operated from the 1870s until 1996. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children were separated from their families and sent to the schools, established by the federal government and run by Catholics and members of Protestant denominations, to force assimilation and strip them of familial and cultural ties.

The Catholic Church, or Catholic religious orders, ran more than two-thirds of these schools.

According to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an estimated 4,100 to 6,000 students died as a result of neglect or abuse in the schools. Many unmarked graves located on or near the locations of the former schools were discovered during the summer of 2021.

Report: Pro-life pregnancy centers in Latin America unfairly attacked by Spanish newspaper

null / ACI Prensa

Madrid, Spain, Dec 7, 2021 / 11:50 am (CNA).

Pro-life pregnancy centers in Latin America were unfairly and inaccurately portrayed in a recent article published by a Spanish newspaper, an investigation by ACI Prensa has found.

The article, titled “The New Anti-Abortion Tactics of the Far Right in the Americas" was published on Oct. 23 by the El País newspaper.

Based on undercover reporting by journalists who posed as pregnant women, the El País ­­article accuses pregnancy centers in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Mexico of using “strategies that include deceptive advertising, shelters for pregnant women and false promises of adoption to convince vulnerable women to not interrupt their pregnancy.”  

These organizations “are promoted on the internet as feminist sites and with deceptive language in favor of abortion, but in reality they function as avenues to manipulate and instituionalize women and try to get them to carry their pregnancy to term,” El País claimed.

A subsequent investigation by ACI Prensa, the Spanish-language sister news agency of CNA, found that El País article contained a host of misleading and unsubstantiated claims. Among ACI Prensa’s findings:

El País uses the misleading term “institutionalize” to refer to the housing, medical, psychological, and material assistance these pregnancy centers provide women in need. El País’ own reporting acknowledges that “some of these women, according to their own testimony, were grateful to have a place to live and carry their pregnancy to term; others, of having been able to get out of a situation of domestic violence.” 

The two “experts” El País cites to verify its claims are both pro-abortion activists. One has stated that she does not believe “that adoption is a morally superior option to abortion, or that increased adoption would be good for women and families.” The other heads a Peruvian NGO that has received more than $1 million in funding from Planned Parenthood.

There is no evidence that any of the pregnancy centers have been sanctioned for offering to provide illegal adoption services, as El País suggests. The article alleges that a child protection agency in Costa Rica has taken legal action against one of the pregnancy support organizations, but the organization’s director told ACI Prensa that she’s never been notified about any legal action and said, “we work according to the law.”

The pregnancy centers cited in the report aren’t posing as abortion clinics, as El País claims. El País accuses the same Costa Rican organization of presenting itself as an abortion clinic, but the director says that the organization’s website clear states that it provides counseling and other support, not abortion services.

●  The “false information” El País alleges the pregnancy centers share about the dangers of abortion are supported by medical studies. The El País article states that their undercover reporters “were shown videos and pamphlets with false information about abortion,” including increased risks of suicide and breast cancer, and the possibility that using chemical means to induce the killing of a fetus can result in an incomplete abortion and dangerous heavy bleeding. But there is medical evidence to support all these advisories, ACI Prensa found.

Jesús Magaña, president of the United for Life platform in Colombia, told ACI Prensa that the El País article "has a clear tendency to promote organizations that want to impose abortion on us in the region."

“It’s not true that the women's aid centers carry out any activity that is illegal in relation to adoption” in Colombia, Magaña explained. 

“On the contrary: They are women's support centers where they are welcomed, received, listened to and supported; and thanks to this work it is possible to save the lives of mothers and babies,” he said.

The El País journalists who produced the article did not respond to ACI Prensa’s requests for comment.

Pro-abortion support for article

To validate their report, El País journalists cite two abortion advocates as “experts”: Susana Chávez and Gretchen Sisson.

Chávez is a veteran activist in support of legal abortion, with many years at the head of Promsex, a Peruvian NGO that has received more than a million dollars in 16 years from Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion multinational organization.

This money came from both its parent company, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and its U.S. branch, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which has been accused of trafficking in organs and tissues from babies aborted at its facilities. Chávez failed in her bid to win a seat in Peru’s Congress in the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. Chávez also led Promsex in its failed attempt to silence ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, and hide its ties to Planned Parenthood.

A recent ruling by the Second Constitutional Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of Lima dismissed all charges filed by Promsex against ACI Prensa for allegedly making false statements and defamation.

In early October 2021, Planned Parenthood awarded the “We Are Courage” award to Promsex, calling the NGO “one of the most courageous and inspiring voices for sexual and reproductive rights.” 

Chávez told El País that it’s a lie that the organizations that give shelter to women in crisis pregnancies really help them with the adoption procedures when they don’t want to keep their children.

"In reality, what they seek is to discourage the girl, the adolescent, the women, from having an abortion with a false promise that they will never keep," Chávez charged.

Sisson, the other expert cited in El País’ report, is the principal investigator of the "Abortion on Screen" program of the research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIHR) at the University of California, San Francisco.

"Abortion on Screen" is a program that is dedicated to evaluating and listing films and television productions with “stories about abortion."

Sisson told El País that she’s not sure "that there are many women interested in abortion who then turn to adoption unless they are given a lot of misinformation about the accessibility or safety of abortion itself."

Sisson has been explicit in the past that she doesn’t believe "that adoption is a morally superior option to abortion, or that increased adoption would be good for women and families."

The El País article itself was funded by a pro-abortion foundation supported by CNN, CBS, and other U.S. media outlets, ACI Prensa found. El País states that the reporting for the story was done “with the support of the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) as part of its initiative for the Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice in the Americas program.” 

IWMF says on its website that “this initiative supports reporting on issues that impact women and girl’s daily lives in the region, including abortion and contraception access, maternal health, reproductive health policy and abortion bans.”

The El País presents the article as a “follow-up to an Open Democracy investigation of Heartbeat International's operations” in Latin America.

That report was published in February 2020 and leveled accusations against Heartbeat International and Latin American pro-life centers.

Open Democracy is a publication that claims to seek to "educate citizens and challenge power and encourage democratic debate across the world."

Between 2016 and 2020, Open Democracy has received more than $1.6 million from the Open Society Foundations, an organization established by George Soros, who is an open promoter of legal abortion in the world, ACI Prensa found. The CIDE, where Eliezer Budasoff teaches, has received between 2016 and 2018 more than $470,000 from the Soros foundation, the news agency reported.

Interview distortions

Isabella Cota, one of the authors of the El País article, made a phone call Oct. 18 five days before the publication of the article to Dr. Miguel Ángel Salazar, medical advisor to the Latin American network of Women's Aid Centers (CAM), a pro-life organization.

El País includes brief segments of Salazar's response in the article and ends by saying that he "abruptly hung up."

ACI Prensa reported that its review of an audio recording of the interview shows that Salazar ended the conversation in a friendly manner in the face of a series of false accusations from the El País journalist.

Salazar provided ACI Prensa with a sworn statement that Cota had identified herself to him as a journalist from the New York Times. ACI Prensa sent a query to the Times on Nov. 2 about its contractual relationship with Isabella Cota but did not receive a response.

Salazar told ACI Prensa that “from the beginning, far from being an interview, [Cota] described all the false accusations aimed at CAM by the group that allegedly infiltrated it. Acting as a judge and a prosecutor, and in an inquisitorial way, she asks me for comments on the aforementioned accusations.”

Salazar stated that "it was clear" that "Isabella Cota's intention was to create a provocation that was intended to manipulate me and make me mention accusations that [the journalists] themselves could use against CAM."

Salazar said that “none of the CAMs carry out adoption procedures. For this we work with sister and respectable institutions such as Vida y Familia A.C. (Life and Family) which for many years has been dedicated to promoting a culture of adoption and performs these services in a professional, legal and transparent manner, always in accordance with the legal framework in force in our country and in each state of the Mexican Republic.” 

In addition, Salazar stressed that “before going to a CAM” none of the women “are deceived or informed that an abortion will be performed there,” as the El País article claimed.

On the contrary, Salazar explained, "they are offered support where we assess their situation, respecting the decisions of each one of them."

Although Cota and her fellow journalists from El País present the protection of pregnant women as a series of “new tactics,” the CAM network has provided the same services for 32 years, ACI Prensa noted. The first of the Women's Help Centers opened its doors in Mexico City in 1989.

In the photographs that accompany the article, games for children can be seen as an example of a safe and welcoming environment.

‘They want to torpedo something so good’

Another organization attacked in the El País article is Vida y Familia A.C. (Vifac) is even older than the CAM network and has assisted more than 46,000 pregnant women during its 36 years of work. 

On its website, Vifac explains that its objective is "to support vulnerable pregnant women who face an unexpected pregnancy and require help and support to move on in their lives with their children and achieve better living conditions."

Vifac offers lodging, food, medical and psychological care, job training workshops, talks for the prevention of teen pregnancy, and help with the adoption process for women at risk.

Despite noting the gratitude of the women served at the Vifac facilities in the state of Mexico, El País cites a source from the National System for the Integral Development of the Family (DIF), stating that the Mexican government agency has advised Vifac of “possible illicit practices concerning adoptions.”

Vifac denies that it has violated the law. “The trafficking of minors is a criminal offense. Vifac has never been tried for this crime,” the organization states on its website.

Vifac denies “forcing” women to give their children up for adoption, stating that each woman who seeks the organization’s assistance “comes of her own free will with the intention of being helped, supported and to move on in life with her child.”

Vifac claims that only 10% of its clients choose to place their children up for adoption. “In 2020 of the 3,535 babies that were born under our protection, only 51 were given up for adoption and in accordance with DIF regulations,” Vifac states.

Mariana Ariza is a 22-year-old Mexican woman who was adopted thanks to the help of Vifac. Her two younger brothers are also adopted.

"I’m disappointed they want to torpedo something so good,” she said of the El País article.

For Ariza, now a pro-life leader as director of the Juventud y Vida (Youth and Life) platform in Puebla, Mexico, the story of "happy adoptive parents" should be known.

"They have to meet the women who have given testimonies of ‘thank you because I was able to go on with my life and I was able to give life to a baby and that it could have parents and be happy,’" Ariza said.

"Really these associations, foundations, what they do is create families, save lives, help women," she said.

While Ariza doesn’t know the exact life story of her biological mother, she told ACI Prensa that "because of Vifac she was able to make the best decision."

"Thanks to that support, she had the courage to say 'yes, I give her life, I give her the opportunity to live.' And that option saved her at that time and saved me, because thanks to all that support, she was able to say yes to life," Ariza said.

For the Women’s Institute for Comprehensive Health of Costa Rica (IFEMSI), another of the organizations accused by El País, the article is nothing more than "a rehash," a text that collects old reports and makes them pass for something new.

In an interview with ACI Prensa, Priscilla Díaz García, executive director of IFEMSI, warned that the Spanish newspaper’s journalists “are getting involved with a very sensitive issue because they are claiming that adoptions are taking place outside the framework of the law, which is totally false.”

"The reason why they’re doing it, according to my reading, is that, as the first time they did an article, they were ridiculed, this time they tried to introduce the legal issue to create more controversy,” Díaz García said.

El País accuses IFEMSI of presenting itself “on the internet as an abortion clinic,” which Díaz García denies.

The organization’s website, www.quieroabortarcr.com, which means “I want to abort,” [SM2] states “at all times that we provide counseling, unlike what this media says: that we deceive women and all those kinds of things they mention,” Díaz García said.

“What our organization does through this page is to give counseling to these girls so that they have more alternatives, one of them is to continue with the pregnancy through the support they receive from our organization," she stressed.

Díaz García also denied the assertion in the El País article that the National Children’s Trust (PANI), a government agency that safeguards the rights of children and adolescents in Costa Rica, has taken legal action against IFEMSI.

Díaz García told ACI Prensa that "I haven’t received any kind of notification," about any legal action. “We work according to the law,” she stressed.

"The government agencies know how we work," she continued, noting that "if this possible complaint comes, we have a record of visits from government agencies to learn how we operate," she said.

Another pro-life organization targeted in the El País article is the Fundación Hogar Margarita (Margarita Home Foundation) in Costa Rica.

The article charges that the foundation “promises to facilitate or arrange adoption, even if they are false or illegal.” The article claims that the organization gave an undercover journalist “confusing messages” suggesting “that the foundation would be in charge of the process outside the Colombian Family Welfare Institute, the agency in charge of adoptions in Colombia.”

The foundation denies the charges and has demanded that “the El País newspaper rectify the information they gave."

The foundation states that it has spent "34 years dedicated to the comprehensive protection of pregnant women in a vulnerable state and in conflict with their pregnancy, with a No. 3102 operating license dated March 31, 2020 from the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare in the category of a Home."

When mothers decide to give their babies up for adoption, they are referred "to the Colombian Family Welfare Institute, which is the only regulatory agency for childhood in the country, therefore the only one authorized to carry out adoption processes,” the foundation states.

Abortion warnings aren’t ‘false’

The El País article states that their reporters who visited the pregnancy help centers “were shown videos and pamphlets with false information about abortion, such as that it could lead to suicide and they could suffer from post-abortion syndrome, a kind of psychological impact whose existence has not been proven.” 

The El País journalists continue: “They said that the use of the misoprostol pill can lead to an 'incomplete' abortion that can cause an infection; that an abortion can cause breast cancer, uncontrollable hemorrhaging, death and even a possible leg amputation.”

Dr. María José Mancino, a psychiatrist and specialist in psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrinology, told ACI Prensa that "post-abortion syndrome is a reality, it’s a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome."

Mancino, who is also founder and president of Doctors for Life Argentina, as well as a professional advisor to Project Rachael, which helps women who have undergone an abortion, said that "the most characteristic symptoms" of post-abortion syndrome "are depression, anxiety, stress and difficulty sleeping.” 

Psychological symptoms, she said, “range from general symptoms of denial in the early years, followed by depression, feelings of guilt, the need to make amends for or change what happened, recurring nightmares, behavioral disturbances, flashbacks (constant memories of the abortion), avoidance and/or rejection of stimuli that recall the episode.”

You can also see "impulsive disorders," she continued, such as "increasing addictions, alcoholism, and suicide, depending on the woman's personality base and her prior psychological condition."

Dr. Guillermo Kerz, a specialist in gynecology and obstetrics and vice president of Doctors for Life and academic vice-rector of the Catholic University of Santa Fe in Argentina, stressed that “abortion is a violent intervention performed on women, not to mention that the baby is cruelly killed in the act.”

“Every medical surgical intervention has its consequences and this is no exception. It’s reckless from every point of view to argue that it is false that women do not suffer after an abortion, medicine is a factual science, based on facts,” he said.

MedlinePlus, an information service of the United States National Library of Medicine, recognizes the risks of an abortion performed with medications such as misoprostol, including the possibility of "an incomplete abortion,” after which "it will be necessary to have an abortion at the clinic to complete the abortion.” MedlinePlus also states that "heavy bleeding," "infection" and "blood clots in the uterus" may occur.

Heavy bleeding may entail that the woman "is soaking 2 sanitary napkins every hour for 2 hours," while "blood clots for 2 hours or more" can be expelled, in some cases "larger than a lemon." These cases, MedlinePlus notes, "should be dealt with immediately for your safety."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that it has been reported that the use of misoprostol to induce labor, as is the case with chemical abortions, can cause “pelvic pain, retained placenta, severe genital bleeding, shock, fetal bradycardia and fetal and maternal death.”

Pro-life centers ‘work as they should’

El País says its undercover journalists went to pregnancy help centers in El Salvador, but, as in the case of Argentina, it doesn’t say which ones.

If they had contacted the Yes to Life Foundation of El Salvador, their journalists would know of the nearly 12,000 lives that they have managed to save from abortion.

For Julia Regina de Cardenal, president of the Yes to Life Foundation, the text of El País is an “absurd article,” since its authors “defend the indefensible, a legal barbarism against defenseless little people.” 

"In our Help Center, almost 12,000 lives have been saved just by showing them the reality of abortion," she said.

The women whom they receive at their shelter, she said, “are the ones who have nowhere else to go. All receive shelter, a balanced diet, clothing, if they are poor, training, medical care, psychological and spiritual help, etc.”

"And if they stay with us for a long time and their children are already two years old, they also go to school," she stressed.

To Sara Larín, founder of the VIDA (Life) SV Foundation of El Salvador, the El País report shows “that pro-life homes work as they should.”

“The report confirms what we have always said: A pregnant woman in crisis who receives unconditional support decides in 90% of the cases to not have an abortion and keep her baby. That’s wonderful!”

In addition, she said that the El País report reveals "two important things." The first is that "it’s the pro-life groups that really take charge of helping vulnerable women so that they can be genuinely free to live their motherhood without being conditioned by the circumstantial problems that are pressuring them."

The second thing, she added, is "that the Open Society Foundation is obsessed with imposing abortion on us culturally."

For Magaña, president of Colombia’s United for Life platform, the position of the journalists is "sad and regrettable," because "it seems that they are doing a job in some way previously 'paid for' to obtain an expected result and not an objective investigation."

“This situation is very sad but predictable, because this abortion industry is an industry of death. If you don't mind killing, much less will you mind lying, confusing or cheating in order to remove this ‘obstacle’ for the industry and your business,” he said.

The pro-life leader lamented that the El País article shows "the tendency to criminalize or stigmatize extraordinary heroines and heroes who give their time, energy and life to help moms and their unborn babies."

Harumi Suzuki, Diego López Marina and Walter Sánchez Silva contributed to this article.

As three more hostages released in Haiti, Christian group thanks God and asks for more prayers

Rebuilding project in Haiti / Christian Aid Ministries

Denver Newsroom, Dec 6, 2021 / 14:07 pm (CNA).

Three more hostages from an Ohio-based Christian group were released in Haiti, leaving 12 captives of the 400 Mawozo gang. The gang previously kidnapped and released a group of 10 Catholics, including priests and religious.

“We are thankful to God that three more hostages were released last night. Those who were released are safe and seem to be in good spirits,” the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a Dec. 6 statement. The group said they are not able to provide names of those released or any other details.

Seventeen missionaries and family members with Christian Aid Ministries were kidnapped by 400 Mawozo Oct. 16, when they were working at an orphanage in Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

“As announced on Friday, we would like to focus the next three days on praying and fasting for the hostages,” the Christian group said. “Please continue to intercede for those who are still being held as well as those who have been released. We long for all the hostages to be reunited with their loved ones.”

The initial group of hostages ranged in age from 8 months to 48 years. Of the 17 hostages, 16 were American citizens and one was Canadian. The missionaries are from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist communities in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and the Canadian province of Ontario.

On Nov. 21, Christian Aid Ministries announced the release of two of the captives.

The ringleader behind the kidnappings, gang leader Wilson Joseph, had initially threatened to kill the hostages unless he received his demands, in a video posted online in October. The gang had sought a $1 million ransom for each hostage. It was not clear whether this ransom applied to the five children, the Associated Press reported.

Other observers saw this demand as an opening for negotiations, the New York Times said. It is not clear if any ransom money has been paid so far.

The 400 Mawozo gang is the same criminal gang behind the April 2021 kidnapping of 10 Catholics, including priests and nuns. All of those kidnapped in April were released within several weeks. Ransom was paid for just two of the kidnapped priests, according to a Haitian official.

Christian Aid Ministries on its website says it aims to be “a trustworthy and efficient channel for Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups and individuals to minister to physical and spiritual needs around the world.” It supports aid and anti-poverty efforts in countries such as Haiti and Kazakhstan, but also promotes billboard evangelism in the United States and advertises assistance for any conscientious objectors in the event of a U.S military draft.

The abductions come at a time of major political and economic crises for Haiti. Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July, and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake killed 2,200 people in mid-August. The country also faces a major fuel shortage, the Associated Press reports. Port-au-Prince has seen a wave of kidnappings and the rise of criminal gangs, and more gang conflict is threatened.

On Dec. 5 a gang leader Ti Lapli released a video message warning people to avoid passing through the capital’s Martissant section, an area which has suffered from violent gang clashes. Ti Lapli said the people of Martissant should stock up on supplies.

“The next few days will be difficult... We will not remain with our arms crossed in face of those who try to destroy us,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

In April, the Catholic Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince warned that gang violence had reached “unprecedented” levels. In September, 70-year-old priest Father André Sylvestre was shot to death by several gunmen on motorcycles outside of a bank. The gunmen did not take the money he carried.

What would the overturning of Roe mean for Latin America?

A pro-life march in Mexico City, Oct. 3, 2021. / David Ramos/CNA.

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 2, 2021 / 14:02 pm (CNA).

If the US Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion across the country in 1973, what impact would it have on Latin America? Pro-life leaders in Latin America spoke to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, about how a ruling reversing Roe v. Wade would impact each of their countries.

A key effect, the leaders explained, is that there would be less pressure to legalize abortion in the region, which often comes politically and economically from the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week state abortion ban Dec. 1. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, could overturn the court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which has barred restrictive early-term abortion laws like Mississippi’s for the past 48 years.

Rodrigo Iván Cortés, president of the National Front for the Family of Mexico, and vice president of the Political Network for Values, told ACI Prensa that a decision reversing Roe v. Wade "would mean a huge setback for the ideological activism for the culture of death" that the United States exerts in Latin America, especially under the Biden administration.

Cortés said, "it has been clearly noted that that administration is putting pressure on Mexico to change laws and policies to impose abortion."

In addition, he said that this change "would mean a very important example" for the magistrates on Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, who "are clearly subservient to that ideology of death."

Julia Regina de Cardenal, president of the Yes to Life Foundation of El Salvador, stressed that if Roe v. Wade were overturned "it would help El Salvador, in the sense that the arguments and lies that were used in the United States to legalize abortion, and that are still used here by those promoting the abortion industry, would be undercut."

Although one would expect "more pressure from International Planned Parenthood Federation, in a desperate attempt to legalize its lucrative business that would be greatly affected," the president of the Yes to Life Foundation emphasized that with a pro-life ruling by the United States Supreme Court "the humanity of the 15-week fetus would become more evident, which has already been demonstrated by science and technology."

Ligia Briz, executive director of the The Family Matters Association of Guatemala, said that reversing Roe v. Wade "would be excellent news for us."

"The organizations that are trying to push this issue in our countries, going against our legislation, especially in Guatemala, by law they will have to cease and desist," she said.

Giuliana Caccia, director of the Origen Association in Peru, said that reversing Roe v. Wade "would be a clear example of an indisputable premise, which is that the truth always triumphs."

“In Peru, I think that, if it were reversed, it would give us an indisputable argument, because this ruling was always invoked. Abortion has no legal basis, and no ruling or law can deny that it is a duty to defend life from conception, under any circumstance," she said.

“Our country is one of the nations that has resisted the most, because abortion is legal in Argentina and in many countries in the region. The reversal of the ruling would be one more weapon to continue containing the advancement of this regional agenda that is making steady progress through NGOs financed by international collaboration,” she said.

The president of the More Life Foundation of Argentina, Raúl Magnasco, told ACI Prensa that "the possibility of reversing" Roe v. Wade “means for the whole world a very important ray of hope.”

“As the United States is the most influential country in terms of the communications media, it would mean great progress for the entire region and the world, which would understand, in light of the North American experience, that the future is inclusive regarding the care and recognition of both lives, the mother’s and the unborn child’s,” he stated.

Jesús Magaña, president of the United for Life platform in Colombia, stressed that the Roe v. Wade decision "has been disastrous not only for the United States but for the world," because "abortion was legalized through a juridical act that ended up exceeding the functions of the Supreme Court, because it’s practically a kind of legislation contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, which protects human nature and the people as a whole.”

"In fact, in Colombia the model that has been used to decriminalize abortion has been precisely that of the United States, since the Constitutional Court, acting against the Constitution, has decriminalized abortion," he said.

For Magaña, "if the ruling is reversed, it would be very important because it would put the Judiciary back within its just limits and the democratic process."

Thus "this terrible imbalance” would be avoided “that we have today in our countries, where the interference of the judiciary is so aggressive that it ends up destroying the democratic system by invading the domains of the legislative or executive branch,” he said.

For Elizabeth Bunster, director of Project Hope in Chile, “the possibility of reversing Roe v. Wade would be a sign of hope in the face of a powerful onslaught against life in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Although Chile’s Chamber of Deputies narrowly defeated a bill Nov. 30 that would have legalized elective abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, "we know that there are groups that will continue to insist on this law," she said.

If Roe v. Wade were reversed “it would represent great hope for Chile because one of the arguments wielded to legalize abortion is to talk about the progressivism of developed countries.”

"The United States is seen as a model for these issues," she noted.

Also contributing to this article were Walter Sánchez Silva and Diego López Marina.

Chile legislature defeats bill that would have permitted elective abortion

Credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock. / null

Santiago, Chile, Nov 30, 2021 / 16:23 pm (CNA).

The lower house of Chile’s legislature defeated Tuesday a bill that would have legalized elective abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill was defeated in the Chamber of Deputies Nov. 30 by a vote of 65-62, with one abstention. 

Since September 2017, abortion in Chile has been legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy on the grounds of rape, and there is no upper limit for fetal non-viability or risk to the life of the mother.

Rosario Corvalán, a lawyer with the legislative department of the Chilean NGO Comunidad y Justicia, expressed her joy over "the result and for the message it sends to citizens."

"They must stop giving us the message that ‘the majority of citizens want these bills,’ because our representatives have spoken and they don’t want abortion," Corvalán said.

Voting against the bill from the Christian Democratic Party were Matías Walker, Jorge Sabag, and Joanna Pérez, among others.

One of those absent for the vote was Gabriel Boric of Social Convergence, who is also a presidential candidate for the Apruebo Dignidad coalition who will be in the Dec. 19 presidential runoff election against José Antonio Kast of the Republican Party.

In his campaign platform, Boric promises to work to incorporate a comprehensive feminist perspective and to implement policies such as “legal, free and safe abortion on demand” as well as changes to the gender identity law.

Corvalán explained that some legislators who voted against the bill were in favor of abortion on the grounds passed in 2017. However, "they aren’t going to vote for abortion on demand" because they realize the manipulation involved and the end to be achieved.

“Although the law can’t change reality, it can be instructive. If you see that the majority of Congress says that ‘abortion is a crime,’ that helps citizens to reflect and say that ‘abortion is a bad thing,’” the lawyer said.

Corvalán encouraged pro-life people “not to stop defending their ideas, thinking that they’re an exception or something unusual. Let's go back to this common sense idea of defending the life of an innocent person."

The bill was introduced in January. 

The Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Women, Equity and Gender had voted 7-6 against recommending the bill in August, but the larger body discussed it nevertheless.

After the debate in the lower house, the bill was sent back to the committee and was tabled until after the first round of the presidential elections Nov. 21.

The bill was debated during three sessions amid other issues, and was defeated in a full session of the Chamber of Deputies.

Bolivian archdiocese condemns feminist violence against those protecting churches 

Red paint is splashed on the cathedral of Santa Cruz de la Sierra - Members of Mujeres Creando. / Graciela Arandia de Hidalgo - Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Nov 29, 2021 / 15:42 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra has condemned the violence perpetrated outside its cathedral by feminist demonstrators Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In a Nov. 27 statement, the Bolivian archdiocese deplored the recent violence and insults by a group of feminists who attacked and  "viciously and violently" beat a woman outside the cathedral.

"It’s astonishing that the self-proclaimed defenders of women would act violently against women themselves,"  the archdiocese said, adding that their “intolerant and aggressive attitude belies the goodness of the cause.”

In various cities in Bolivia and other parts of the Americas, feminists demonstrated violently, damaging public and private buildings, and attacking Catholic churches.

The Santa Cruz archdiocese also expressed its concern about “the absence of law enforcement, whose mission is to avoid confrontations, defend the personal safety and lives of the people, as well as preserve peace for the citizens and the historical, cultural and religious heritage of our city.”

In La Paz, video surveillance footage showed an unidentified person placing an explosive device around 4:30 a.m. Nov. 24 outside the doors of the Bolivian bishops’ conference’s offices. 

The device exploded moments later and local media reported that the explosion damaged a step and part of the door.

Also in La Paz, at dusk on Nov. 25, a mob of women approached Mary Help of Christians church where a group of Catholic women were standing on the steps accompanied by some men in order to protect the church.

As the group was praying the rosary, the protesters began shouting pro-abortion slogans and for the separation of church and state. The demonstrators threw red paint, feces, bottles, and other objects at those defending the church from attack.

"We ask the authors of these excesses and everyone to accept the Lord's call and to work for peace and life” and not to incite “hatred and violence" the Santa Cruz archdiocese concluded its statement.

Bishops of Puerto Rico express their solidarity with Cuban bishops’ 'desire for freedom'

Fernando Medina/Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 28, 2021 / 00:00 am (CNA).

The Puerto Rican Bishops’ Conference expressed its solidarity with the desire of the Cuban bishops “to be heard, for peace, freedom, sincere dialogue and freedom of speech to address the major problems” confronting the island nation.

"From Puerto Rico we join in their hopes for a Cuba that, in peace and brotherhood, will achieve the desired changes for a more decent and happy life," the Puerto Rican bishops wrote in a statement published earlier this month.

The message of the Puerto Rican bishops was published as a show of support for their Cuban counterparts, who three days before the planned Nov. 15 nationwide demonstrations supported the people’s right to publicly express "their discontentment over the deterioration of the economic and social situation" on the island.

In their Nov. 12 message, the Cuban bishops also pointed out that the solution will not be reached with "impositions, nor by calling for confrontation."

The Cuban bishops implored “that the paths of understanding, reconciliation and peace be paved so that the various proposals on the present and future destiny of Cuba find an area of common sense, tolerance, fraternity and harmony; and a harmonious and civilized dialogue be established in which the best solutions to the challenges that concern them can be found” in a Cuba in great distress.

Recently, activists and priests in various places in Cuba have denounced the persecution, harassment, and the militarization of the streets to prevent the peaceful marches for freedom in Cuba called for Nov. 15.

The protests were also intended to repeat the massive and historic demonstrations of July 11. Thousands of Cubans took to the streets and raised their voices that day for the first time in decades to demand the end of the communist dictatorship established by the late Fidel Castro 62 years ago and today led by his successor Miguel Díaz-Canel.

According to the Center for Incident Reports of the Foundation for Pan-American Democracy (FDP), part of a Florida-based NGO whose mission is to publicize cases of abuse and persecution in Cuba, since Nov. 15, there have been 108 people arrested and 131 under surveillance in various cities on the island.

Given the situation, the bishops of Puerto Rico urged the faithful to also pray for their brother bishops’ desire for "a gesture of clemency" for "the imprisoned" to be fulfilled.

“We echo their call for non-violence and non-confrontation. We pray for all the Cuban people so that, in these moments of so much anguish, upheaval, pain, and material scarcity as well as a lack of rights and freedoms, they know how to embrace the Christian discourse of peace, love and hope in a Provident and attentive God," they wrote.

Finally, they asked Our Lady of Charity for her intercession and sent a "strong fraternal and supportive embrace."

“Together with you, we pray to Our Lady of Charity who has also made herself known in our homeland due to the devotion of so many dear Cuban brothers and sisters who live in our midst. May she accompany you in your concerns as pastors and intercede for a Cuba, joined together in brotherhood, unified and clothed with true hope,” the Puerto Rican bishops concluded.

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

Colombian court lifts ban of video by influencer Kika affirming traditional marriage

Colombian influencer Erika "Kika" Nieto / Screenshot from ADF International tweet

Mexico City Newsroom, Nov 25, 2021 / 00:00 am (CNA).

The Constitutional Court of Colombia has overturned a lower court’s decision that forced Colombian influencer Erika “Kika” Nieto to take down a video in which she expressed her Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

“No one should be censored or fear criminal penalties for expressing their beliefs,” said Santiago Guevara, a lawyer for Nueva Democracia, an NGO that with the support of the Christian legal defense organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, represented Nieto.

“Together with Kika, we are delighted that the Court has reversed this censorship decision. Kika stood firm during this ordeal to defend everyone's freedom to share their beliefs," Guevara said. 

Kika Nieto, who is a Christian, has faced legal proceedings since April 2020, initiated by José Francisco Montufar Rodríguez, a lawyer and LGBTIQ+ activist.

Montufar Rodríguez demanded that the Colombian courts censor a video in which Nieto said: “It is my opinion that God made us all, and created man and created woman so that man is with woman and woman is with man and that's it.”

“What we have done after that, as man with man and woman with woman, I don't think is right. However, note this: I tolerate it,” Nieto added.

In the recording, posted in 2018 under the title “My most sincere video,” Nieto answered questions from her followers.

After Montufar Rodríguez filed a complaint about the views of the Colombian influencer, a court ordered the young woman to remove the video and denied her the right to free speech. Then, on Nov. 23, the Constitutional Court overturned that decision and dismissed the lawsuit.

In an interview with ACI Prensa, Guevara said that although his client is once again free to share her convictions, the defense is disappointed by some details of the Constitutional Court ruling.

"Although the lower court’s ruling that violated Kika's rights has been  overturned, [the Court] did not rule on the content of those rights," Guevara lamented.

"This criticism is based on the fact that, regardless of whether the (plaintiff’s) petition for judicial protection was declared admissible or not, the truth is that the Court was expected to reaffirm the precedent set in SU-355 of 2019 and point out that what was expressed by Kika in her video was protected by her fundamental rights to free speech and religious freedom,” he said.

“In this regard, the Court left out an analysis of absolute relevance," he Nieto's lawyer explained.

SU-355 involved a journalist claiming in a YouTube video that “Kika Nieto hates gays even if she says otherwise.” The case distinguished between the subjective opinions of free speech and the requirement of news reporting to be based on objective verifiable facts.

Guevara said that although the ruling is “final” for this specific case, “regarding the rights that we sought to protect, both those of the plaintiff and Kika’s, there is no position of the Court on the underlying issues that closes the debate definitively.”

“Therefore, if a similar case is presented, this judgment does not set a precedent for how to resolve it, except in procedural matters … it would have been appropriate to have a precedent that would give clear and bolstered protection to free speech when court rulings are issued based on religious beliefs,” he said.

Guevara explained that the court “resolved the case by focusing on  procedural matters. It considered that the requirements of immediacy and subsidiarity of the legal action weren’t met, since the plaintiff didn’t first resort to (other avenues) and filed long after the events took place.” 

He continued: “Therefore, it was decided to declare the petition for protection inadmissible, which has a positive effect, since the lower court ruling that violated Kika's rights was overturned, but the court made no pronouncement on the content of those rights.”

In that regard, the lawyer for Nueva Democracia stated that this shouldn’t be considered a victory for free speech and freedom of religion.

“Although Kika can repost her video because the ruling that unjustifiably censored her was overturned, the truth is that this is due to procedural reasons. There is no decision here that allows us to affirm that the Court ruled in favor of freedom of religion and free speech,” he reiterated.

Guevara criticized the Constitutional Court for not giving Nieto’s case "the importance it deserved.”

"We were dealing with a case that obviously violated free speech, religious freedom and there was a Court precedent (SU-355 of 2019) and none of that was taken into account," he added.

Tomás Henríquez, ADF International Area Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, declared that "if we value a free society, protecting the right to speak freely is paramount."

“We welcome with satisfaction the Court's decision to overturn the ruling censoring Kika Nieto. However, we regret that the underlying issue of censorship wasn’t addressed and affirm the right of everyone to speak freely. We must always choose debate over censorship,” he said. 

“Ultimately, people and democracy suffer when voices are silenced,” he added.

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

Relic of Saint John Paul II stolen from historic basilica

Blessed Sacrament Basilica in Buenos Aires, Argentina. / Flickr/Luis Alveart (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 22, 2021 / 13:07 pm (CNA).

The rector of the Polish Catholic Mission in Argentina, Father Jorge Jacek Twarog, reported Sunday that the relic of Saint John Paul II, which was kept in Blessed Sacrament Basilica in Buenos Aires, was stolen.

The relic, which came to Argentina from Poland in 2016, consists of a drop of the blood of Saint John Paul II held in a small square shaped case with a golden frame and mounted on a metal representation of the pope’s papal coat of arms.

It was personally given to Twarog on August 19, 2016 by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow, at the Archbishop's Palace in the former capital of Poland.

The basilica’s pastor, Father Rafael Cáceres Olave and the Catholic community are taking all measures to find the relic and praying that it is retrieved soon.

Pro-life Catholic is surprise winner in first round of Chile’s presidential elections

José Antonio Kast. / Official Facebook page.

Denver Newsroom, Nov 22, 2021 / 01:30 am (CNA).

José Antonio Kast, a Catholic politician who supports socially conservative policies and a free market economy, won a surprise victory on Sunday in the first round of Chile’s presidential elections.

He will now face a run-off against Gabriel Boric, the leader of a leftist coalition, on Dec. 19.

Kast, 55, the son of German Catholic immigrants who started a successful sausage business, is the father of nine children and has always been an outspoken supporter of the right to life of the unborn, traditional marriage, and the rights of parents concerning the education of their children.

He is also a member of the Schoenstatt Catholic movement, which was founded in Germany in 1914 and has a strong presence in Chile.

Kast started his political career as a congressman representing the center-right Democratic Union. In 2016, he left the party and became an independent until 2019, when he founded his own movement, Republican Action.

When Kast ran for president for the first time in 2017, he gained just 6% of the vote, running with the slogan “Fewer taxes, less government, pro-life.”

According to local analysts, Kant’s unexpected victory is a reaction to the crisis produced by violent protests that started in October 2019, driven by demands for higher salaries, improved pensions, and greater state participation to level the economic field.

The conservative Sebastián Piñera, the outgoing president, was forced into calling a plebiscite that decided in favor of re-writing the current constitution.

Chile was until recently regarded as the most stable and developed country in Latin America. But the ongoing violent protests moved many Chileans to vote for Kast, who promises stability, economic recovery, and support for traditional values.

Kast was projected to win 28% of the votes, followed by former protests leader Boric with 25%. The U.S.-educated libertarian Franco Parisi placed in third, with 14% of the votes, although he didn’t fly back to Chile from the U.S. for the elections.

Due to his conservative message, critics have called Kast “the Chilean Trump” and “the Chilean Bolsonaro,” after the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. They have also highlighted that he received support from several retired military officers and his oldest brother held ministerial positions during the infamous dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Kast presents himself as the leader of a new political movement in Chile based on three pillars: freedom, the strength of the traditional family, and the defense of law and order. Unlike Trump and Bolsonaro, Kast is known for his polite manners and respect for his ideological rivals and critics.

During a late-night off-the-cuff speech following his victory, Kast told a crowd of supporters: “The first thing is to give thanks to God, because this has been a peaceful day... and after God, I want to thank my family, my wife, and each one of my children.”