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Update: Trump tells March for Life crowd he welcomes their commitment

IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Donald Trump credited attendees at the 47th annual March for Life for their commitment to protect the life of unborn and born children.

"Together we are the voice for the voiceless," Trump told tens of thousands of people gathered at a noontime rally Jan. 24 on the National Mall.

"You stand for life each and every day. You provide housing, education, jobs and medical care for the women that you serve," the president said.

Trump was the first president to speak in person in the 47-year history of the March for Life. He spoke for about 10 minutes at the start of the rally and before attendees began their march to the Supreme Court.

"Today, as president of the United States, I am truly proud to stand with you. We're here for a very simple reason: to defend the right for every child, born and unborn, to fulfill their God-given potential," Trump said.

He also credited the young people who made up a large portion of the crowd for their commitment to life, saying they were "the heart of the March for Life."

"It's your generation that is making this a pro-life nation," the president said, adding, "You are powered by prayer and motivated by pure unselfish love."

Trump's speech before the largely supportive crowd was punctuated by applause and cheers. Calls of "Four more years" welcomed him to the podium.

The pro-life movement has been buoyed by Trump's appointment of two conservative justices to the Supreme Court. Their goal has been a reversal of the court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, addressed the rally in a video recorded in Rome prior to Trump's arrival at the rally. Pence met with Pope Francis earlier in the day.

He said in the video that he thanked the pope "for all that he and Catholic Americans have done to defend the sanctity of human life in the history of this movement."

Karen Pence thanked attendees for their witness and compassion for the unborn. "Thank you for standing for life," she said. "We cannot be more proud to be on this journey with you."

The vice president called Trump the "most pro-life president in American history" and a "champion for the movement."

"So keep standing strong and stand with that love and compassion that has always defined the movement for life," Pence said.

Not all participants in the rally agreed with the single-issue stance of Trump and Pence. A group of Franciscan friars and their supporters held signs aloft outside of the security barrier with messages reading "I am 100% Pro-Life." "Care for the Unborn." "Protect the Earth" and "Seek Justice for the Poor."

Franciscan Father Jud Weiksnar, pastor of Sts. Columba Brigid Parish in Buffalo, New York, said he attended the March for Life to encourage people to embrace a wider call in support of life, including care for the environment and peace.

"I'm very deeply convinced that my religious calling calls me to something like the March for Life," he told Catholic News Service in a phone call from a point just off the Mall.

His group included about 20 people, among them priests, men in formation and laypeople.

His friend, Franciscan Father Jacek Orzechowski of Maryland, said he joined the march and rally "to remind others about what it means to be authentically pro-life."

"It's not enough to say that a person is against abortion, but especially about other concerns at this time when we as humanity are standing on the verge of ecological catastrophe," he explained. "I'm not willing to fall into a false choice in caring four our common home or caring for the unborn."

Rally-goers also heard from members of Congress and several other speakers, including women who survived attempted abortions, over the course of an hour following the president's appearance.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, urged the audience to support the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act that has been introduced in Congress. The bill would ensure that any child born alive after an abortion received medical care. It would also institute penalties for doctors who allow such infants to die or who intentionally kill a newborn.

He said he is working to bring the bill to a vote in the House of Representatives by filing a discharge petition, meaning it would by pass committee action and go directly to the full House. He said 204 House members have signed the petition -- all 197 Republicans and seven Democrats -- and that he is working to gain 14 more Democrats to gain a majority that would force a vote on the bill. He encouraged those at the rally to contact their member of Congress to express support for the petition and the bill.

At times the rally turned to politics as speakers called on rally-goers to vote for pro-life candidates in the upcoming presidential election. They also complimented Trump for his appointment of 187 federal conservative judges who are more likely to support restrictions on abortion.

"We are at a pivotal moment for the pro-life movement and this great nation," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life education organization, in crediting legislative efforts nationwide to limit abortion.

She encouraged the crowd to "go for the win" and "put the will of the people into law" in an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court in the November election. "It's the most consequential for the cause of the unborn," she said.

In brief remarks, Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, noted how there have been incremental steps to end abortion throughout the nation.

"We're making progress," Smith said. "Be very encouraged. With the help of ultrasound imaging, we will tirelessly struggle to ensure that unborn children are no longer invisible, trivialized, mocked, dehumanized and killed."

Smith, who co-chairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, credited the crowd for their activism that has resulted in "countless" women and babies who have been spared "the violence of abortion and today live, love and thrive."

Others addressing the rally included Elisa Martinez, founder of New Mexico Alliance for Life and co-chair of Native Americans for Life, and Democratic Louisiana State Rep. Katrina Jackson.

 

 

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Update: Pope, Pence meet at the Vatican

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After Pope Francis and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met privately for nearly an hour at the Vatican, Pence told the pope that his Roman Catholic mother will be pleased with the visit.

"Thank you, Your Holiness. You have made me a hero," said Pence, who was raised Catholic but became an evangelical Christian.

The vice president, along with his wife Karen and daughter-in-law Sarah, arrived 10 minutes early for the meeting with the pope Jan. 24. They were welcomed by Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, regent of the papal household.

As the pope and Pence sat down in the papal library of the Apostolic Palace, the vice president relayed greetings from U.S. President Donald Trump, who met with the pope in 2017.

"I wanted to extend the warmest greeting on behalf of President Donald Trump who so enjoyed his visit here," Pence told the pope before reporters were ushered from the room.

After speaking with Pence for 59 minutes, with interpreters present, the pope greeted those accompanying the vice president on his visit, including Callista Gingrich, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See; her husband, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; and Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, Pence's national security adviser.

Pence then presented the pope with a wooden cross "made from a tree at the vice president's residence."

"Every other vice president since Walter Mondale has lived" at the residence, he told the pope.

The pope then presented a medallion, describing it as "angel of peace" conquering "the demon of war."

Additionally, he gave Pence copies of several of his documents, which he jokingly called "a Vatican library." The documents included "The Joy of the Gospel" on evangelization, "Amoris Laetitia" on the family, and "Laudato Si,'" on the environment.

Pope Francis also gave the vice president a copy of his message for World Peace Day 2020.

"Here, I prepared for you the message for peace," the pope said. "I signed it personally for you."

Neither the Vatican nor the vice president's office were expected to issue a statement on the issues discussed in their private meeting. However, Pence tweeted that the two discussed "today's March for Life, Venezuela, and displaced religious minorities in the Middle East."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Pope Francis 'has our backs' on pro-life cause, says archbishop

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis "has our backs" in the pro-life cause, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said to applause in his Jan. 23 homily at the opening Mass of the National Vigil for Life.

During an "ad limina" meeting with bishops from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska the week before, Archbishop Naumann said Pope Francis had told them, "If we do not defend life, no other rights matter."

"The Holy Father said that abortion is first a human rights issue," added Archbishop Naumann in his homily, delivered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

"Pope Francis was aware of the March for Life in the United States and was delighted to know the anticipated large numbers of pilgrims, especially the participation of so many young people," said Archbishop Naumann, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Although the "ad limina" meeting was confidential so that the pope and the bishops could speak freely, Pope Francis "encouraged me -- I dare say, ordered me -- 'Please tell the pilgrims at the March for Life and the entire pro-life community: The pope is with you! He is praying for you!'" the archbishop said.

"God and 14 other bishops are my witnesses that Pope Francis was passionate in support of the church's pro-life efforts. The successor of Peter has our backs."

Archbishop Naumann dwelt mainly in his homily on what he called a "moral 'Twilight Zone,'" based on an episode of the old television science-fiction series in which surgeons worked time and again to repair a young woman's disfigured face through plastic surgery. After the final operation, he recalled, the bandages were removed from the woman's face and she is "stunningly, drop-dead beautiful."

Surprisingly, the surgical team apologizes for their failure. "They remove their own surgical masks revealing their own grotesquely hideous appearance," Archbishop Naumann said. "You begin to realize that in this fictional 'Twilight Zone' world, beautiful is ugly and the hideous is gorgeous."

Such it is with abortion in American society, he asserted. "The killing of one's child is exalted as heroic and brave," he said. "Abortion was described by early feminists Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul as the ultimate exploitation of women, but in this ethically topsy-turvy twilight zone, it is now hailed as the cornerstone of women's rights."

He told the worshippers, estimated at 10,000, inside the basilica, "Jesus never promised that discipleship would be easy. He told his first disciples that in order to follow him they must be willing to take up their cross."

Archbishop Naumann added, "In this cultural, moral twilight zone to stand for the sanctity of the lives of unborn children, you may face ridicule and social exclusion. You may be penalized in the academy and workplace."

But he cited "signs of hope," garnering applause when he talked about "our nation's youth being more pro-life than their parents." Archbishop Naumann said, "There is also reason to hope the United States Supreme Court, which imposed by judicial fiat our current liberal abortion policy, may be poised to return to states a greater ability to protect the lives of unborn children" through the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that allowed legal abortion virtually on demand.

Archbishop Naumann also heralded the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II's encyclical "The Gospel of Life," St. John Paul "did not make reference to any 'Twilight Zone' episodes," he noted, but he said in the encyclical, "When conscience, this bright lamp of the soul, calls evil good and good evil, it is already on the path to the most alarming corruption and the darkest moral blindness."

"Freedom separated from truth," Archbishop Naumann warned, "in the end creates a tyrant state that allows and even encourages the disposal of life when it is weakest."

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Bishops express sorrow, support after U.S. firefighters die in Australia

IMAGE: CNS photo/AAP Image, Coulson Aviation via Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Representatives of the U.S. bishops expressed sorrow after three U.S. firefighters died in an air crash while fighting bushfires in Australia.

"As the people of Australia continue to endure terrible fires, let us renew our prayer and generosity. Today, the suffering was brought even closer to home with the loss of three brave American crew members who died in the crash of a tanker airplane used in fighting wildfires in Australia. We join in prayerful solidarity with their families and with all the people of Australia and all those in regions affected by these terrible fires," said a statement from Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The three Americans were among eight firefighters and 31 people total who have died in the wildfires since September.

The Americans, all military veterans, were identified as Capt. Ian H. McBeth, 44, of Great Falls, Montana; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, of Buckeye, Arizona; and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr., 43 of Navarre, Florida. They died when the C-130 aerial water tanker they were in crashed in New South Wales.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those who are suffering from this tragedy and from the disaster these dedicated professionals were fighting. In our prayer, we recall in trust that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, offering himself to us and calling us to himself even in our hardest hour," said the statement from Archbishop Coakley and Bishop Malloy.

They also encouraged Catholics "and all appropriate parties to be generous in their financial support of these recovery efforts. We pray for the safety and well-being of those affected and those fighting the fires, and hope for the eventual restoration of the homes and natural habitats that have been destroyed."

Catholic parishes in Australia were set to take a special collection the weekend of Jan. 25-26, with proceeds going to the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Australia. The Vinnies, as they are known, also set up an online site for donations -- https://bit.ly/37pSfLc -- with assurances that credit cards from other countries could be used.

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

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