Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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A pro-life way for Americans to help Christians suffering in Syria, right now

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, September 12, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – With nearly 2 million people estimated as displaced by the Syrian civil war, many of whom are Christians fleeing violent persecution and death at the hands of Islamic extremists, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has heeded the calls of Pope Francis for help. To assist pro-life people, LifeSiteNews.com has contacted a fully pro-life and Catholic aid organization, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), endorsed by the bishops, that specializes in sending material assistance directly to distressed Christians in the Middle East.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York and president of the conference, said that the USCCB's administrative committee “in solidarity with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and the suffering bishops, churches and people of the Middle East,” have unanimously agreed that the solution to the crisis in Syria is political and humanitarian aid, not military intervention. “Violence spurs more violence, and innocent people, many of them Christians and other vulnerable minorities, pay the price. We bishops offer our prayers and ask the United States to work with other governments to begin building an inclusive peace in Syria.”

The world’s Catholic bishops, along with the pope, have appealed to Catholics and others of good will to donate to aid Syrian refugees and residents. In a statement today, the U.S. bishops said, “We make our own the appeal of Pope Francis: ‘I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.

“May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.’”

CNEWA, that has workers on the ground, reported, “Surveys or statistics about displaced families is not available yet, but given the level of destruction and violence, it is believed to represent a significant humanitarian catastrophe.”

In one week, Pope Francis has made three separate, urgent appeals to the world leaders and to the people of the world to help. On September 5, the Holy See released a letter to Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, urging leaders to “find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution” in Syria.

“Let there be a renewed commitment to seek…a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties”, Pope Francis wrote. “Moreover, all governments have the moral duty to do everything possible to ensure humanitarian assistance to those suffering because of the conflict, both within and beyond the country’s borders.”

On Wednesday, September 4, Pope Francis said, “I renew the invitation to the whole Church…, and even now I express gratitude to the other Christian brethren, to the brethren of other religions and to the men and women of good will who desire to join in this initiative, in places and ways of their own…to ask the Lord for the great gift of peace. May a powerful cry for peace go up from every land!”

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Pope Francis repeated the appeal at the Angelus address the following Sunday, saying his “heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria, and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.” Millions of Christians and others around the world were able to participate in a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the Middle East called by Pope Francis for Saturday, September 7.

Reports are increasing daily of violent attacks and ongoing harassment of Syria’s Christian population. CNEWA cited UN statistics from 2012, saying that of 1.5 Syrian million refugees, at least 300,000 are Christians displaced from their homes since the start of the war who have fled the country. Thousands more are homeless but have remained in Syria, seeking refuge in mainly Christian towns, many of which are under attack. “However,” CNEWA reports, “as the host families’ ability to host becomes strained and refugees can no longer afford even the most basic rents, they will become more visible as a refugee population in need of immediate aid.”

The news is widely reported of Christians suffering atrocities including beheadings, widespread rape, shootings and beatings, forced “conversions” and confiscation of property by “rebels” who reportedly have come from many countries to further their jihadist goals. Those who have left the country have fled mainly to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

CNEWA reports that in June, in the town of Qusayr, near rebel-held Homs, some mosques in the city announced from the minarets, “Christians must leave Qusayr within six days.”

CNEWA has been able to help thousands of Christians affected by the conflict, both those in refugee stations and those who remain in Syria. Christian families, of all communities and denominations, have received food, hygiene products and other daily necessities, “winter kits” and school supplies in Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and around the country. Children have been able to attend summer camp and mothers have received necessities for their babies.

They have provided, exclusively for LSN readers, a “device code” to be included in donations made through this special LSN appeal. Just type the number “8879” into the comment box on the CNEWA donation page to allow them and LSN to track the response. LifeSiteNews.com will not benefit financially from any donation made through this special appeal, which is not part of our annual fundraising efforts.

To donate to CNEWA from the U.S. click here, and remember to type the device code, “8879” into the comment box.  

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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