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Planned Parenthood reports record number of abortions in latest annual report

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 18, 2024 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Planned Parenthood’s latest report reveals that the abortion giant performed its highest-ever number of abortions the year Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Released on Tuesday, the 2022-2023 report, titled “Above & Beyond,” shows that Planned Parenthood performed 392,715 abortions between Oct. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2022. This is an increase of 18,560 — or 5% — from the previous report, which showed 374,155 abortions in a one-year period.

According to an analysis by the faith-based law firm Liberty Counsel, Planned Parenthood’s latest abortion numbers mean that the organization ended 1,075 human lives through abortion every day and 44 every hour.

Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver said that despite the Supreme Court’s 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade, “Planned Parenthood’s annual report reveals once again that its primary mission is making huge profit by aborting innocent babies.”

The Planned Parenthood report reflects abortion numbers in the months before and after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. The document says that locations in states “where abortion is protected” saw a 700% increase in demand. The report also said that Planned Parenthood helped to refer and coordinate travel for over 33,000 abortions.

While showing a 10-year high in abortions, overall services offered by Planned Parenthood, such as cancer screenings, prenatal services, contraceptive services, and STD prevention, continued a downward trend, according to the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute.

The Lozier Institute’s analysis of the report found that Planned Parenthood’s total services are down by 17% since 2010 while cancer screenings and prevention services are notably down 71%.

According to the Lozier Institute, Planned Parenthood performed 228 abortions for every adoption referral between 2021 and 2022.

Planned Parenthood’s 2023 revenue, meanwhile, amounted to nearly $2.1 billion, which is an increase from approximately $1.9 billion reported the previous year. As much as $699.3 million of that revenue came from tax-dollar-funded government grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements, according to the report.

Pro-life advocates responded to the report by criticizing Planned Parenthood for its emphasis on abortions rather than health care.

“Planned Parenthood murdered an average of: 1,076 babies every day 45 babies every hour 1 baby every 80 seconds,” Lila Rose, the founder of Live Action, said on X.

“We must defund & shut down Planned Parenthood NOW,” she said.

Michael New, a senior associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, wrote at National Review that the figures were “consistent with Planned Parenthood’s long-term trend of performing more abortions and providing fewer health services.”

“This is helpful information as pro-lifers continue our efforts to defund Planned Parenthood at both the state and the federal levels,” New said.

“This report is jarringly titled ‘Above and Beyond.’ The sick irony is that they are going ‘above and beyond’ not to care for women but to expand abortion,” Human Coalition President Jeff Bradford said in a statement to CNA. 

The result, Bradford continued, is “more wounded women” and “more dead children.” 

“At Human Coalition, we know full well that vulnerable women are victims of the abortion industry because we see the walking wounded all the time,” Bradford said in the statement. 

“They leave abortion clinics and return to the very circumstances that pressured them to abort in the first place — poverty, unemployment, family pressure, or domestic abuse. Abortion solves none of these problems,” he said.

Cardinal Gregory recalls time when Black Catholics could not study in U.S. seminaries

Cardinal Wilton Gregory speaks at an interview in Rome on April 11, 2024. / Credit: “EWTN News Nightly” screen shot

Rome Newsroom, Apr 18, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

As the Catholic Church’s first African American cardinal was honored at a U.S. seminary in Rome, he recalled the legacy of faith and perseverance of Black Catholics in America, including at a time when they were not accepted by U.S. seminaries. 

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, received this year’s Rector’s Award at an April 11 banquet at the Pontifical North American College, where seminarians from across 99 dioceses in the U.S. live while studying for the priesthood in Rome.

In an interview with CNA before the award ceremony, Gregory pointed out that in the 19th century, African Americans who had a vocation to the priesthood were sent to study in Rome and then to serve as missionaries in Africa because at the time they were not allowed to enter U.S. seminaries.

“Being in Rome reminds me also that Rome is the place that provided a seminary education and formation for Augustus Tolton, the first African American priest to serve openly in the United States,” Gregory said.

Tolton “came to Rome because Rome … was willing to take him on as a seminarian when no other seminary in the United States would accept that.”

Venerable Augustus Tolton, a former slave turned Catholic priest, is now on the path to sainthood in the Catholic Church. He studied in Rome near the Spanish Steps at the Pontifical Urban University, run by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, from 1880 to 1886, when he was ordained in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

Tolton offered his first Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 25, 1886. One hundred and thirty-four years later, Pope Francis made Gregory the first African American cardinal in a ceremony in the same basilica in 2020. 

“I know that the honor that was given to me by Pope Francis rested solidly on the faith of African American Catholics,” Gregory told CNA.

“Even in times when we weren’t respected, or understood, or honored, we remained faithful.”

“And the fact that I can enjoy the office, knowing that it rests on the quality of goodness, faith, and charity of the African American community, humbles me deeply,” the cardinal said with tears in his eyes.

Gregory has led the Archdiocese of Washington since 2019. He said that navigating a U.S. presidential election year as the archbishop requires prudence.

“We’re living in a very divisive moment, both in our political life in the United States, but sometimes also … in our Church,” he said.

“In the United States, we’re struggling with trying to be one people —  one people with a common purpose, a common future. And sometimes the rhetoric gets to be so hostile and so vitriolic that it causes us to step back and say, ‘Is this really the nation that is the land of the free and the home of the brave?’”

The cardinal, who will be in Rome for the month leading up to the U.S. election as a delegate in the Synod on Synodality, said that his task is “difficult, but not impossible.”

“As the archbishop of Washington, I have to focus on the fact that in spite of all of the differences that are at play, I have wonderful people in my archdiocese. And people have great generosity and devotion to the country and to the Church.”

Gregory recently made headlines for calling President Joe Biden a “cafeteria Catholic” in an Easter interview on “Face the Nation,” explaining that Biden “picks and chooses dimensions of the faith to highlight while ignoring or even contradicting other parts.”

While he did not receive a response from the White House to the comments, the cardinal said that “the overwhelming response was positive” from the Catholics in his archdiocese.

“I respect the president. I believe that he is a sincere man of faith, I really do believe that. I would just ask that he would somehow find a way to better allow his personal religious convictions to engage in the public forum,” Gregory said.

The cardinal pointed to the Vatican’s recent declaration on human dignity, Dignitas Infinita, as “a wonderful summation of the Church’s moral teaching.”

Gregory said that he hopes that the Eucharistic revival in the U.S. will lead American Catholics to “draw closer together as a family of faith around the altar that Christ sets for us.”

“The emphasis on the Real Presence also should generate the next question: If Christ is really present and I receive him in the Eucharist, what does that demand of me?” he said.

“His Eucharistic presence is a gift of unquestionable importance. But it’s also a challenge that those of us who dine with him must live like him and have the same values that he expressed in the Gospels as his legacy of faith and love.”

Tennessee names first English-language Bible translation in U.S. as official state book

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks during the signing of the ELVIS Act to Protect Voice & Likeness in Age of AI event at Robert’s Western World on March 21, 2024, in Nashville, Tennessee. / Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Human Artistry Campaign

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 18, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

The first English-language translation of the Bible in the United States will become an “official state book” in Tennessee on July 1.

Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed a bill on Tuesday that names the Aitken Bible and nine other texts as official state books in the Tennessee Blue Book (an official manual on the state government). This is the first time Tennessee has formally recognized any official state books.

The Bible translation was published by Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken in 1782 and received an official endorsement from Congress. The American Revolution, which began in 1776, halted trade with Great Britain and cut off the supply of Bibles, which prompted Aitken to publish an English-language Bible in the country, according to the legislation.

Aitken’s translation received its official endorsement from the Congress of the Confederation in 1782, which was the American legislative body that preceded the establishment of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The 18th-century resolution states that the lawmakers “highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as the interest of the progress of arts in this country.” It further states that the lawmakers “recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States.”

The translation, which is a version of the Protestant King James Version of the Bible, is not approved by the Vatican for Catholics. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops lists approved translations of the Bible on its website.

Tennessee’s legislation that names the Aitken Bible as an official state book notes that the state is home to “the largest publisher of authentic reproductions of the Aitken Bible,” which is the Aitken Bible Historical Foundation. It adds that Tennessee is home to “three of the five privately owned original first American Bibles remaining in the world today.”

The legislation received strong support from Republicans in the Tennessee House and Senate, who hold strong supermajorities in both chambers. The bill faced opposition from most Democrats but received one Democratic vote in the House.

Some of the other historic books designated as official state books in this legislation included President George Washington’s “Farewell Address” and “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville. The bill also recognized the 1977 book “Roots” by Alex Haley, which discusses slavery in the United States, and the 2016 book “Coat of Many Colors” by the Tennessee-born country singer Dolly Parton.

Tennessee lawmakers also passed a bill that would recognize November as “Christian Heritage Month.” The legislation was sent to Lee, but the governor has not yet taken any action on it.

‘I forgive whoever has done this’: Australian bishop who survived stabbing speaks out

A member of New South Wales Forensic Police is seen at Christ the Good Shepherd Church in the Sydney suburb of Wakeley, Australia, on April 16, 2024. Hundreds clashed with police in western Sydney on April 15 after Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was stabbed at the altar. New South Wales police have declared the attack a terror event. Police apprehended a 16-year-old in connection with the attack. / Credit: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Apr 18, 2024 / 13:35 pm (CNA).

The Assyrian bishop who was attacked at an Australian church earlier this week shared that he is “doing fine” and told his attacker: “You’re my son, and you’ll always be in my prayers.”

In what Australian police are calling a terrorist attack, a young male entered Christ the Good Shepherd Church on Monday evening, April 15, and stabbed Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel. The bishop is a leader in the Assyrian Church, a branch of Eastern Christianity.

New South Wales police have the suspect in custody — a 16-year-old boy whose identity has not been released due to laws protecting minor offenders. 

The attack on Emmanuel was inadvertently livestreamed on his YouTube channel and came in the wake of a mass stabbing at an Australian shopping mall in the Bondi area on Saturday. 

Father Isaac Royel and other church members were also injured during the attack in their attempts to protect the bishop. 

In a video announcement from Christ the Good Shepherd Church, Father Daniel Kochou confirmed that Emmanuel endured “non-life-threatening injuries” and is “stable.” 

Emmanuel said in the parish announcement, posted to YouTube, that “we need to be always thankful to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ of Nazareth for whatever trials and tribulations we go through.”

“We are carrying the cross,” he said. “Let us not forget that at all.”

Speaking from his hospital bed, Emmanuel confirmed that he is “recovering very quickly” and said that “there is no need to be worried or concerned.”

“For this young man, I say to you, you’re my son, and you’ll always be in my prayers,” he said, speaking to his attacker. “May the Lord Jesus forgive you, may the Lord Jesus bless you and show you the way, my dear son.” 

“I forgive whoever has done this act, and I say to him you are my son, I love you, and I will always pray for you,” he continued. “And whoever sent you to do this, I forgive them as well.”

Emmanuel emphasized that he has “nothing in my heart but love for everyone,” noting that Jesus taught that Christians should love their neighbors as themselves.  

Shortly after the stabbing, protesters began rioting outside of Christ the Good Shepherd Church, leading to some property damage and blockage of the emergency responders.

“The unfortunate events which took place outside the church caused unnecessary delays and threats to both victims, paramedics, and police,” Kochou said, noting that the church “does not condone” the activities that led to property damage, injuries, and delays in assistance due to the riot.

“I need you to act Christ-like,” Emmanuel said. “The Lord Jesus never taught us to fight. The Lord Jesus never taught us to retaliate. The Lord Jesus never said to us ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ The Lord Jesus said, ‘Never return evil with evil, but return evil with good.’”

“My beloveds, I want you to always be calm,” he continued. “We need to be always law-abiding citizens as well. We need to cooperate with the police… whether it be at a state level or federal level.”

“And once again, to our beloved faithfuls, we need to reflect Christ in our life,” Emmanuel said. “The Lord Jesus never said go out and fight on the street … but to pray.”

“We pray for our beloved country Australia and our beautiful city of Sydney,” he concluded. “We should never forget that we are very blessed to be Aussies. But above all we are Christians, and we need to act like it.”

Michigan priest resigns amid dispute over school appearance by ‘openly gay’ author 

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CNA Staff, Apr 18, 2024 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

A priest at a Michigan parish has resigned his post following a controversy over an “openly gay” author’s appearance at the parish parochial school’s pre-kindergarten class.

Father Thomas Held has resigned from the pastorship at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Beal City “effective immediately,” Diocese of Saginaw Bishop Robert Gruss said in a statement on Tuesday.

The parish and Held himself have been at the center of controversy since last month after area author Dominic Thrasher made an appearance at the parish’s school to read one of his children’s books, which are based on his family’s dogs. 

Thrasher has identified himself as “openly gay.” About a week after he visited the school, the church’s Facebook page was updated with a message from Held in which he wrote that “a guest who does not represent the values of our Catholic faith read to our pre-k children” as part of a schoolwide reading program. 

“To my knowledge, the book and any related conversation [were] appropriate for our students. A St. Joseph teacher was present in the room at all times,” the priest wrote. 

In the post, Held said he was “unaware” that Thrasher had been invited. 

“As your pastor, I will see to it that a new vetting police is put in place in order to minimize anything of the sort from happening again in the future,” he wrote. 

Backlash erupted following the message, with protesters demonstrating against Held and local businesses calling for his removal. A Facebook group demanding his dismissal grew to hundreds of participants, while critics urged residents to write to the diocese with complaints about the priest. 

On Tuesday, Gruss said that the controversy led Held to “come to the decision that it would be impossible for him to bring unity to the parish.”

The bishop in his statement criticized what he said was uncharitable “disunity” on display amid the controversy.

“The division, lack of charity, and the wounds caused by the division in the St. Joseph the Worker Parish community has brought deep sadness to the Lord Jesus, especially when we are living in the light of the Resurrection we celebrated on Easter Sunday,” Gruss wrote in his statement. 

“Jesus weeps when he sees division and disunity in the body of Christ, his Church. It is not his desire nor his will,” the prelate said. “The Gospel of Jesus calls all of us to be a healing presence in the community in which we live and worship.”

“My prayers and concern go out to all the members of St. Joseph the Worker Catholic community, that Christ’s peace may be a uniting force for a greater good,” the bishop added. 

Visiting priests will oversee Mass at the Beal City parish until a permanent pastor can be appointed, the bishop said.

In the weeks since the controversy began, Thrasher himself has expressed anger over the priest’s decision to post the statement, telling local media that the priest’s remarks had “made me out like I’m some predator or convict coming in to read to these children.” 

Thrasher did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday morning. Following Held’s resignation, meanwhile, he told a local news station that “a battle has been won, but the war is not over.”

The Saginaw Diocese is located in the central part of the state. Beal City is about 60 miles northeast of Grand Rapids. 

St. Joseph Parish dates back to the 1880s and was originally called St. Philomena. The school serves preschool through sixth graders.

House Republicans call for NCAA ban on biological men in women’s sports

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 18, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

A group of 17 House Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Claudia Tenney from New York, is urging the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to prohibit biological men from participating in women’s sports.

Under current NCAA rules, biological male athletes who self-identify as women can participate in women-only sports competitions if they take testosterone suppressants and bring down their testosterone levels to the maximum allowed for a specific sport. The athletes must provide documentation several times per year to show their testosterone levels.

The lawmakers penned a letter to NCAA President Charlie Baker that asks him to limit participation in women-only sports to biological women. They sent the letter to Baker about a week after a smaller college athletics association — the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) — unanimously voted to restrict most women’s sports to biological women and forbade biological males from participating in such competitions.

“We must protect the opportunity for women and girls to compete and succeed in athletics fairly,” Tenney said in a statement.

“While I applaud the NAIA’s recent decision to ban biological men from women’s sports, I am deeply disturbed that the NCAA is ignoring the facts and failing to do the same,” Tenney added. “Women fought hard to earn the critical protections of Title IX, and we must continue to protect these opportunities for generations to come. I am dedicated to defending the future of women’s sports and providing a level playing field for all female athletes.”

The letter praises the NAIA decision, stating it “appropriately recognizes the natural advantages that biological men have in certain athletic competitions.” It asks Baker “to reconsider [the NCAA’s] current policy that allows biological males to deprive women of a fair opportunity to compete and achieve athletic success.” 

“All women in NCAA-affiliated schools should not fear having their athletic accomplishments minimized by biological males, as happened in the 2022 NCAA 500-yard freestyle event, with Lia Thomas, a biological man, taking the championship over Emma Weyant,” the lawmakers wrote. “This cannot be allowed to ever happen again. The NCAA must follow the NAIA’s lead and prohibit biological males from competing in women’s sports.”

In the letter, the lawmakers cite a 2022 study that found that biological men have certain physical advantages over biological women, even after taking testosterone suppressants. The study, titled “Transwoman Elite Athletes: Their Extra Percentage Relative to Female Physiology,” noted that many anatomical sex differences that are driven by testosterone are not reversible. 

“The NCAA’s current transgender policy fails to take these scientific facts into consideration,” the lawmakers said.

The NAIA is the governing body for about 250 colleges and universities. The NCAA represents more than 1,100 colleges and universities, which includes dozens of Catholic institutions. The NCAA rules do not require Catholic institutions to permit biological men on the women’s teams; however, they may be forced to compete against colleges and universities that include biological men on their teams. 

About two dozen states have passed legislation to restrict women’s and girls’ sports to only biological women and girls in recent years. Still, more than half of the states in the country allow biological men who identify as women to participate in women’s sports.

Rite of peace is not just a greeting or friendly gesture, nun explains

A bishop and a priest exchange the sign of peace during Mass. / Credit: Father Lawrence Lew, OP; photo courtesy of Martin Beek via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 18, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The director of the Chair of Theology of the Consecrated Life at San Dámaso Ecclesiastical University in Spain, Sister Carolina Blázquez Casado, OSA, explained that the rite of peace at Mass “is not a greeting or friendly gesture.”

The sister explained the meaning of the rite in a video posted by the university, which is under the Archdiocese of Madrid.

The sign of peace, which takes place between the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and the Fraction (breaking) of the Host, “is a prior step to be able to approach Communion with the body of Christ in a dignified manner,” the Augustinian sister explained.

The sign of peace is exchanged in recollection of the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5:23-24, namely: “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Blázquez noted that “Christians, from when they first began to celebrate the Eucharist, had these words of the Lord in their minds and hearts. And that is why the rite of peace has been present since very ancient times in the Eucharistic celebration.”

Consequently, the sign of peace is not a simple polite gesture or a gesture of human love, but rather it expresses “the sincere desire to be reconciled among ourselves, to overcome all divisions between us, to be instruments of peace, to be truly members, one of another, of the one body of Christ.”

The video posted by the San Dámaso Ecclesiastical University is part of a series titled “The Eucharist. Learn More” in which several teachers from the institution explain various aspects of the sacrament.

Abuses of the rite 

In 2014, while Cardenal Antonio Cañizares was prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a letter on the subject titled “The Ritual Meaning of the Gift of Peace in the Mass” was approved and confirmed by Pope Francis.

The letter addresses problems arising from some “exaggerated expressions” of the rite of peace, which led Pope Benedict XVI to consult the bishops’ conferences on the possibility of the rite being modified or eliminated from the Roman Missal.

In the end, it was decided to keep it in place while offering a series of “practical provisions to better explain the content of the exchange of peace and to moderate excessive expressions that give rise to disarray in the liturgical assembly before Communion.”

The letter emphasized that “if the faithful through their ritual gestures do not appreciate and do not show themselves to be living the authentic meaning of the rite of peace, the Christian concept of peace is weakened and their fruitful participation at the Eucharist is impaired.”

Among the provisions, the letter stated that the rite of peace can be omitted “and sometimes ought to be omitted” if circumstances deem it advisable. The bishops’ conferences should consider, “in those places where familiar and profane gestures of greeting were previously chosen,” replacing them with “other more appropriate gestures.”

Abuses to avoid include “the introduction of a ‘song for peace,’ which is nonexistent in the Roman Missal; the movement of the faithful from their places to exchange the sign of peace; the departure of the priest from the altar in order to offer the sign of peace to some of the faithful” or taking advantage of the occasion “for expressing congratulations, best wishes, or condolences among those present.” 

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

As new altar is consecrated at destroyed Iraq church, former parishioner recalls ‘wonderful days’

Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako presides over the dedication ceremony of the altar of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Mosul, Iraq. April 5, 2024. / Credit: Fadi Dinkha/ACI Mena

CNA Newsroom, Apr 18, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

When the altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chaldean Catholic Church was consecrated earlier this month in Mosul, Iraq, a former parishioner now living in the United States said she was moved to tears.

“My eyes were filled with tears as I watched my church and my school return to the beautiful picture engraved in my memory,” said Georgena Habbaba, who used to attend the parish and study at the parish school with her brothers. Her own children studied there, too, before the family had to flee Mosul amid worsening violence in 2007. (Note: Habbaba also writes for ACI Mena, CNA’s Arabic-language news partner.)

“I remembered the wonderful days I spent studying at this school and praying in this church. Very close to my family’s house,” she told CNA.

Georgena Habbaba pictured circa 1985 in the front kneeling, third from the right with her school scout team at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chaldean Catholic School in Mosul, Iraq. Habbaba, who now lives in the United States, said her memories of her childhood days at the school and parish are "wonderful." Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgena Habbaba
Georgena Habbaba pictured circa 1985 in the front kneeling, third from the right with her school scout team at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chaldean Catholic School in Mosul, Iraq. Habbaba, who now lives in the United States, said her memories of her childhood days at the school and parish are "wonderful." Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgena Habbaba

Habbaba remembers how all the statues as well as the altar and everything in the church were destroyed by ISIS. “I especially missed the statue of Our Lady of Perpetual Help above the altar,” she said.

On April 5, Chaldean patriarch Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako presided at a Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and consecrated the altar, expressing his happiness at its reconstruction. He said it “gives hope for a safe and better future for the people of this city.”

“It is a distinguished achievement that may encourage Christians to return to their dear city and contribute to building confidence, promoting harmonious coexistence, and preserving the fabric of Mosul,” he added.

In his comments, Sako also recalled when the foundation stone for the church was laid in 1944 and the construction of the school was finished in 1946.

“It is a great spiritual and cultural joy that we celebrate today the restoration of the opening of this great religious and educational edifice,” he told ACI Mena, CNA’s Arabic-language news partner. The school has also been completely reconstructed.

Habbaba recalled that when the school first opened, it was directed by Chaldean nuns. “The school and the church owe a lot to the nuns,” she said.

A photo of a Chaldean Catholic nun with school children circa 1973. Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgena Habbaba
A photo of a Chaldean Catholic nun with school children circa 1973. Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgena Habbaba

Habbaba also recalled that the school was a mixture of Christians and Muslims without discrimination, ”although the numbers of Christians decreased beginning in 2003 until the school in its last days before the occupation of ISIS in 2014 was almost free of Christian students.”

Before 2003, Christians in Iraq numbered nearly 2 million. Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, had nearly half a million Christians. Today, Iraqi Christians number fewer than 200,000, though a lack of official statistics makes it difficult to know for sure. Christians are returning to Mosul but so far in small numbers. 

Georgena Habbaba on her wedding day in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chaldean Catholic Church in Mosul, Iraq, on Oct. 14, 1998. Habbaba, who now lives in the United States, said her eyes filled with tears when she recently saw photos of her home parish and school rebuilt and consecrated. Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgena Habbaba
Georgena Habbaba on her wedding day in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chaldean Catholic Church in Mosul, Iraq, on Oct. 14, 1998. Habbaba, who now lives in the United States, said her eyes filled with tears when she recently saw photos of her home parish and school rebuilt and consecrated. Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgena Habbaba

The most prominent pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was Father Faraj Rahho, who became the archbishop of Mosul and was kidnapped and martyred by terrorists in 2008. Sako, the current patriarch, also spent 15 years as pastor of the parish.

Also present at the special Mass on April 5 was Bishop Najib Mikhail, the pastor of the Chaldean Diocese of Mosul, who thanked the French donors, the SOS organization, and all those responsible for accomplishing the restoration work. The church was rebuilt according to its original architecture and building materials, despite difficult circumstances. 

Earlier this year, ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language partner, reported on another Catholic church in Mosul that was recently restored. The Dominican Church of Our Lady of the Hour was completely restored after destruction by Islamic State terrorists 10 years ago.

ACI Mena, CNA's Arabic-language news partner, contributed to this story.

Arizona lawmakers vote to retain law protecting life at conception

null / Credit: Jill Sauve/Unsplash

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 17, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Arizona House Republicans blocked two attempts on Wednesday to repeal an 1864 law protecting life at conception.

In a near party-line 30-30 vote on Wednesday, House Democrats failed to gain a majority of votes to suspend the Legislature’s rules to fast-track a so-called “abortion ban repeal” bill that would have overturned the 1864 pro-life law

Dormant since being invalidated by Roe v. Wade in 1973, the 1864 law protects all unborn life from conception and imposes prison time for those who “provide, supply, or administer” an abortion. 

This temporarily stalls ongoing efforts to repeal the law, which is set to go into effect in the next 37 days.

Debate on the House floor was tense just before the vote as Democrats called the pro-life law “abhorrent” and “archaic.” 

Democratic Rep. Alma Hernandez bashed Republicans, saying that “the fact that we will not even entertain a motion to allow those who have been raped or pregnant by incest to be able to have an abortion is extremely, extremely disappointing.” 

Republican Rep. Ben Toma, meanwhile, said: “I understand that we have deeply held beliefs [about abortion], and I would ask everyone in this chamber to respect the fact that some of us believe that abortion is in fact the murder of children.” 

Abortion is currently legal in Arizona until the 15th week of pregnancy. If the 1864 law takes effect, however, all abortion will be illegal, except in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger. 

Outrage from abortion advocates erupted last week when the Arizona Supreme Court issued an April 9 ruling that cleared the way for the law to go back into effect. The court ruled that since the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe in the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson decision, there were no legal reasons to keep the law from being enforced.

Planned Parenthood is continuing abortions in Arizona for the time being. The abortion organization holds that a separate ruling by the Maricopa County Superior Court keeps the 1864 law from being enforced until 45 days after the high court’s ruling. 

After the state Supreme Court’s ruling, Democrats in the Arizona House moved quickly to repeal the law, demanding a vote on the measure on April 10. That attempt was also blocked by Republicans. After their efforts to repeal the law were blocked, Democrats began shouting “shame” and “blood on your hands” at their Republican colleagues on the House floor.

This comes as Arizona will likely be one of several states considering an abortion-until-birth amendment on the ballot this November. If passed, the amendment would enshrine a “right” to abortion in the state constitution, strike down virtually all of Arizona’s pro-life protections, and legalize abortion until viability and through all nine months of pregnancy for physical or mental health reasons.

The group advocating for the amendment, Arizona for Abortion Access PAC, has surpassed the required number of signatures and already filed language with the state to include the proposal on the November ballot.

The Arizona secretary of state’s office has yet to verify the signatures, which must happen before the initiative will officially be on the ballot.

The Arizona Catholic Conference, which consists of the state’s four bishops, has spoken out against the ballot initiative, saying that it would “remove most safeguards for girls and women” and “allow for painful late-term abortions of viable preborn babies.” 

“We do not believe that this extreme initiative is what Arizona wants or needs, and we continue to pray that it does not succeed,” the Arizona bishops said in a statement published April 9.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 11,530 babies were killed through abortion in Arizona in 2022. 

Belgian court overturns ban on conservative conference attended by German cardinal

Father Benedict Kiely, founder of Nasarean.org, speaks during a panel discussion on Day 2 of The National Conservatism Conference at the Claridge on April 17, 2024, in Brussels, Belgium. / Credit: Omar Havana/Getty Images

Brussels, Belgium, Apr 17, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Belgium’s highest court ruled late last night that a conference upholding conservative values in the public square could go ahead in the country’s capital after a Brussels district mayor had ordered police to shut it down yesterday. 

Emir Kir issued the order to halt the National Conservatism conference that was scheduled to take place April 16–17 and that featured among its speakers the Vatican’s former doctrinal chief, Cardinal Gerhard Müller.

Police surrounded the venue on Tuesday, denying access to speakers and guests. 

The conference, organized by the Edmund Burke Foundation, a public affairs institute, aims to promote conservatism as “inextricably tied” to the idea of nation, national independence, and the revival of national traditions. 

The event has been held in various capitals including Rome, London, and Washington, D.C., since its founding in 2019.

Among other speakers at this year’s conference were Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Britain’s former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and the founder of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage. The British politician called the attempted shut down “a disgrace” and accused the EU of becoming the “new form of communism.”

Kir said he made the decision because the conference’s vision “is not only ethically conservative (e.g., hostility to the legislation of abortion, same-sex unions, etc.) but also focused on the defense of ‘national sovereignty,’ which implies, among other things, a ‘Eurosceptic attitude.’” 

His order also stated that some of the speakers “are reputed to be traditionalists” and that the conference must be banned “to avoid foreseeable attacks on public order and peace.”

Prior to Kir’s attempted shutdown, political pressure had already forced the organizers to cancel two other venues shortly before the conference had begun, after which they found a third hotel venue, called Claridge, located in Kir’s district.

Cardinal Müller told author Rod Dreher, who was also speaking at the conference, that the attempt to shut down the conference was “like Nazi Germany” and that the authorities were acting “like the SA” — Hitler’s brownshirts who used violence and intimidation against opponents. 

The attempted forced cancellation also drew opposition from Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who defended the rights of the conference participants to freedom of speech and of assembly. 

Writing on X before the court’s decision, he called the attempted shutdown “unacceptable” and said that “banning political meetings is unconstitutional. Full stop.”

The Belgian court overturned Kir’s decision after the order was challenged by conference organizers with the support of ADF International, a Christian legal group that works to oppose threats to religious liberty. 

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, said that while “common sense and justice” had prevailed, the attempt to shut down the conference was a “dark mark on European democracy.” 

“No official should have the power to shut down free and peaceful assembly merely because he disagrees with what is being said,” he said in a statement. “The kind of authoritarian censorship we have just witnessed belongs in the worst chapters of Europe’s history.” 

Belgian ADF lawyer Wouter Vaassen called the attempt to shut down the conference “unjust” and said that it “should never have happened, especially in Brussels — the political heart of Europe.” 

“We must diligently protect our fundamental freedoms lest censorship become the norm in our supposedly free societies,” he added.

Along with Müller, other Catholic speakers at this year’s event included Father Benedict Kiely, founder of Nasarean.org, which helps persecuted Christians; the German aristocrat Princess Gloria von Thurn and Taxis; and Gladden Pappin, president of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs.

Another speaker, Jewish author and broadcaster Melanie Phillips, told the audience that she was in Jerusalem on Saturday night when Iran launched aerial attacks on Israel. 

“At 2 a.m., the air raid siren wailed, and I huddled in my stairwell for safety,” she recounted. “Well, I left a war zone to come here. I didn’t realize that I was coming into another war zone in Brussels.” 

This story was first published by the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, and is reprinted here on CNA with permission.