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Kristi Hofferber

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At 30, I learned that my mother was raped by her father…and I was that child

Kristi Hofferber
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In May of 1978, God put forth the plans for my life. I was given up for adoption when I was only three days young. My adoptive parents were unable to have any children of their own, and were ecstatic that their dream of raising a child was about to come true. God placed me in the arms of two very loving people who took me in and provided me with unconditional love, support and opportunities that shaped the foundation of the person that I am today.

I was raised in a Christian home, and attended a Christian school up to the fourth grade, which set the foundation of my faith. Although I remained active in the youth group at church, I still struggled through school, both socially and emotionally. I was not the social butterfly, and often enjoyed my time to myself. I did not make friends easily. This pattern would continue through high school and even into college. I had a few close friends, but that too was difficult. If I began to feel like I was being left out, as I often did, it would put me into a state of depression and panic. I knew deep down what the real issue was, but I did not want to admit it, even to myself. I did not know how to handle the fact that I was adopted. I did not know anyone else who was adopted who I could turn to for advice, and going to the psychologist for my behavioral outbursts with my family did not seem to be much help either. I could not open up to anyone, let alone find someone who understood my frustrations.

For as long as I can remember, my parents have been open with me about being adopted. It was not something that I needed to be ashamed of, but in a way, I was. I was not ashamed of being adopted, I was ashamed of the way it made me feel. I was always angry. I felt like I did not belong in this world. As a matter of fact, I would often ask God “Why am I here?” and “Why did I have to feel like this?”  My high school years were the toughest years of my life. I would cry myself to sleep almost every night, praying to God to take away the pain in my heart. Thank God that I had my faith to turn to, because I felt that I had nothing else. It was only when I was at church that I felt any semblance of peace.  Something told me that I belonged there. 

One particular person at church made an impression on me that will last throughout my life. She is someone I will always look up to. She was my first grade teacher, and she was the one person in this world that I wanted to ask for help and guidance. If only I had had the confidence. Ironically, I now interact with her often. 

My husband is a minister, and is called to the same church where I grew up. God is a marvelous God! I know for a fact that God placed certain people in my life for his purpose, including my first grade teacher. I feel the same way about my husband. He and I have been married almost 10 years, and have one son. As a family, the three of us share something very special, we were all adopted. We are a family stitched together with God’s love and that was God’s plan from the very beginning. God has provided our family with unending blessings, even through the difficult times. 

I had a low self worth, and would often question my very existence. I cannot pinpoint exactly what brought a change to that view. I believe it was a gradual change, beginning with a speaker that I saw while attending a youth gathering in 2004. Her story moved me to the point that I felt something telling me that we had something in common, I just had no idea what it was. She was survivor of an attempted late-term abortion who fought for her life, and now brings awareness of the effects of such procedures. No, I was not an abortion survivor, or an attempted abortion. However, as I would find later, I do indeed have a story to tell!

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In April of 2008, I attended a mission trip to New Orleans to help rebuild homes from Hurricane Katrina. It was there that I made the decision in my life that the time had come for me to know exactly where I came from. I would be turning 30 in a little over a month, and I was going through the reality that I had dreams that were not fulfilled. The “what ifs” were weighing heavy on my mind, as well as many other unanswered questions. There was never a day in my life that went by without me thinking “Is that person related to me?” wherever I went. It was also on this trip that I met a new friend who would be a God sent support in my journey. I am eternally grateful to her for all of her support and the strength she helped me to find. I finally had the courage to face the unanswered questions that I had for a very long time. I knew my adoptive parents had always told me that they would support me if I wanted to research my adoption, but I have always told them I did not want to know. The last thing I have ever wanted was to hurt them. I did try first to get information through the legal system without telling anyone. I have always been told that I would have that option as long as I was 18 years old. However, the judge determined that the case was sealed, and would remain sealed. I was crushed, but at the same time, I knew that God wanted me to do things the right way, not my way. My parents are very important to me, and even though I thought it may bring them a bit of heartache, they deserved to know the truth that I did want the information I had denied numerous times. 

By mid July of 2008, I was very interested in knowing what needed to be done to begin my search. I remember picking up the phone several times with the intention of telling my parents that I wanted to know about my adoption, but I could not follow through. Finally, after a few weeks of anxiety, I brought myself to ask my mom and dad for the information. It was almost as if, in an instant, I went from having no courage, to having more than I ever knew possible. My adoptive mother almost sounded relieved that I had finally asked. She invited me over, and she and my adoptive father were very honest with me. What I would find out was something that had never and would never in a million years cross my mind.  After knowing only that my biological mother was 16 when she gave birth to me, I was told that she was also a victim of incest and rape by her father, and I was likely the result of these actions. I was speechless! It took all I had to keep my composure. I went from having about a dozen questions in my mind, to having hundreds. 

The first question that I remember asking was, “How would you know that if my adoption records were sealed?”  Ironically, my adoptive mother worked at the hospital where I was born. She is unable to remember exactly how she had my birthmother’s name, but having her name is also how she knew about the possible situation with my biological father. The incest was published in 1991 when my biological mother prosecuted her father, for not only the one pregnancy resulting in my birth and adoption, but also for six other pregnancies resulting in five abortions, and one forced miscarry by her father.  Words could not begin to describe the emotions going on inside my mind at that moment.  What kind of monster would do such a thing to his own daughter? Another thought going through my mind was, given the fate of the other six children, why was I spared? 

As a teenager going through the struggle within my mind about being adopted, I had also wondered if my birthmother had thought about aborting me. I did not, however, imagine that my very existence would be so controversial. When I was told the circumstance, I kept asking myself, “Why wasn’t I aborted also?” I thank God for showing me where to turn in times of crisis because this question could only be answered through scripture. Romans 9:20, NLV states, “But who are you, O Man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it ‘Why did you make me like this?’” I do not need to ask why. I already know why I survived—I was created intentionally by God for his purpose. He chose me! 

I did have heartache for the others who did not survive, but I had more concern for the true survivor, my biological mother. How could one person be put through such trauma? I also thank God that my faith was strong at the time that I asked to know about my adoption. If my relationship with Christ was not as mature, my view may have been very different. This just reinforces the fact that God’s timing is perfect!

I really stewed on the information I received for about a week, praying and asking God to guide me to do His will. I felt that I was being guided to continue my search for my biological mother and the truth of my existence. I also wanted to consult with my husband before continuing with my search. It did take me a few days to tell him what I had found out also. I did not fear his reaction, but at the time, I was not even sure of my own reaction. After sharing the information with him, he expressed that he was supportive of me continuing my search if that is what I felt led to do, and that where I came from was indeed God’s doing, not man’s. I could not have asked for a better man by my side.

I had many things to consider as I decided how to begin a formal search. First of all, was my biological mother or father still alive? Second, would she want anything to do with me if the circumstances were in fact that I was a child of incest? Another consideration was facing the possibility that my biological father was present in his daughter’s life, and what his reaction to me would be. On the other hand, my strength lies with God and in my faith. No matter how I got here, I know I am his child. Matthew 10:30, NLV states, “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” I knew I had to trust in Him, especially now. Ultimately, my thought was that if she has been through so much in her life, does she know that there is someone out there who loves her unconditionally and does she also know Jesus as her Savior?

After only two short days of searching the internet, I came across a popular website that reunites schoolmates, revealing a photo of my biological mother. At this point, I had so many emotions going on in my head that I did not know what to do. The moment that I had imagined for so long was no longer just a dream, it was finally a reality. I could not believe it! My first thought was, “Where do I go from here?” Would a picture and a small amount of information be enough to satisfy my desire to find her? Should I contact her? How do I contact her if I decide that is what I want? There were too many “what ifs” not to try to contact her, but was I really ready? After much prayer and a lot of support from my husband and a close friend, I decided to follow through with the journey I had started. I really felt that if God brought me this close, how could I stop now? I searched again on the internet in hopes of finding some way to contact her, but the only thing I found was a partial email address. At the bottom of the website where I originally found her picture, there was a note that she could be contacted at an email address, but it was only a partial email address. Now I was really confused. The address ended with ym.com. I was not familiar with this particular email, so I searched it online. After finding nothing matching ym.com, the only possibility I could think of is yahoo mail. Since this was the only information I had to go on, I had to try it. It was definitely a shot in the dark, but if I had no guts, I knew I would have no glory. I sent a blind email to a yahoo email address that I believed was the correct one with the intention of never hearing from the recipient. I simply asked if she was the correct person from the area where I grew up. What were the chances that it was really her? But that is just it, there are no chances in life.

Later that night, I had a message back from her stating “Yes, Who is this?”  As I read this, my jaw dropped. It was really her! Now I had to figure out how to tell her who I was, and also ask myself if I was prepared should she tell me she wanted no contact. I knew it was time to face the reality that had bothered me for so long. I brainstormed for an hour trying to decide how I would word my response. Finally, I simply let her know that I thought we had a connection, and asked that she please visit my page on the same website where I found her picture. I also stated that I wanted to honor her wishes if she chose not to contact me again. Ironically, our internet went down that evening shortly after I sent the last email so I had no way to see if she responded back. It was like sitting on pins and needles. First thing the next morning, the internet was working and I immediately checked my email. Sure enough, she had responded. Not only was that a pleasant surprise, but she wanted me to call her right away. I can still remember the feeling I had in my stomach.

It is like having a hundred butterflies fluttering around uncontrollably. I quickly sent her another email letting her know our internet was not working, and that I had just gotten the message. I also told her that I was getting ready to go to work, but she was welcome to call me. She replied back that she would call me at 8:00 that morning which was in about half an hour. I was counting the seconds, as it seemed like the longest half hour of my life. At 8:10, I began to get worried because my phone still had not rung. All of the “what ifs” began to enter my mind, but I quickly reminded myself that God was in control. Patience has long been one of my weaknesses. When my phone did begin to ring at 8: 15, I was frantic. What would I say to her? What would she say to me? As I answered the phone, I could tell she was nervous, as she could tell I was also.  After about the first 5 minutes of conversation, the awkwardness left, and it was smooth sailing. She and I spoke on the phone for well over an hour about some of the family’s history and my upbringing. 

At one point, she told me that both she and my biological father thought I had not survived when I was born. The reason that this was assumed was because of a hospital bill that she had received by accident. I was born with an infection in my body, and was very sick. I was transferred to a bigger hospital that could provide me with the intense treatment needed to recover from the infection. My biological mother received a bill from the hospital for the services I received, and at that time was told by her mother that if a child is taken to this hospital, it is likely not to survive. Not only did I survive, I also completely recovered from the infection.

After our initial conversation, we both agreed that we wanted to meet, along with her younger daughter—my half sister—who I found out was expecting a child in a few days. My half sister was very excited, and asked if I would like to visit when she had the baby. I was thrilled! I made quick arrangements to drive there over the coming weekend, and we were all very excited. That same evening that we had talked, my half sister had her baby. What a day to remember! Three days later, I was on the road to visit. I decided it was a trip that I would take alone, even though my parents were concerned about the drive by myself. I knew that God would guide me and protect me. 

The drive only took about 5 or 6 hours, which went very quickly. We all met for breakfast, including my new nephew. I could not believe that the day I thought about for so long was finally here! We talked briefly at breakfast, and spent the morning together looking at pictures and getting to know each other. I was literally in awe with the resemblance between my biological mother and myself.  Later that afternoon, my biological mother wanted to spend time showing me around the area where she lived. She and I took a drive around the downtown area and eventually stopped at a park to sit and talk. I will never forget this day!  We sat on a bench near a beautiful lake just talking about everything. 

It was also at this time that she felt comfortable enough to tell me about my biological father and who he was. My half sister and biological mother’s fiancé suggested she wait to tell me because they feared I would turn and walk away from her. I had no intention of ending the relationship, and I told her that there was nothing she could tell me that would make me want to run away from her.  My biological mother was unaware that I or my parents knew her name or about the prosecution of her father. As my biological mother began to explain to me who my biological father was, I let her know that I already had an idea about it.  My biological mother was very surprised that I had chosen to find her even after knowing the truth about my biological father. This is when I let her know my faith and how I felt about who I was. He may share my DNA, but God created me. No matter the circumstance, it is of God’s will and purpose that I was conceived.  I do not want anything from my biological father, nor will I ever. 

It is very hard for me to describe the feelings towards my biological father. The sinner in me wants to see him punished for his actions, considering he only served less than 18 months in prison due to lack of evidence, (which would have been me.) However, my Christian upbringing taught me different. Don’t get me wrong—in no manner what-so-ever do I agree with what he has done. It is tough to explain exactly how I feel, and I do not even understand completely how I feel toward him. If I were given the opportunity to speak to my biological father, I really would simply tell him that I pray he has asked for forgiveness in his heart.

The second day of my visit with my birthmother, reality hit me. I woke up early in the morning and sat on the porch for several hours by myself, crying profusely.  No matter how hard I tried, I just could not stop. It was 29 years of bottled emotions that were pouring out. All I could do besides cry at this point was pray prayers of thanksgiving that I finally got to meet the person who gave birth to me. It was truly a miracle! 

That evening, we drove about an hour to visit with my biological mother’s brother and his family. This was something that meant a lot to my biological mother.  Growing up, her brother did not believe that his father had been raping his sister, as his father wanted him to believe she had made it all up. Finally showing her brother that there was relevance to the claims was a form of closure for her. For her brother, it was a shock! He now believed her after all of this time, and this was a good feeling for me to know the truth finally brought them closer again.

A few short weeks after my first visit with my biological family, my biological mother came to visit with me and my family. I was able to introduce her to my adoptive parents and to many of my close friends. Although this was a bit awkward for all of us, it was one of the most precious moments in my life! I also got to meet some of my biological mother’s family who still lived within a 40 mile vicinity from where I live now, as her family is also from the area where I currently reside. It really is a small world! Her family here was also happy that the truth was finally revealed and the family was brought together again. My hope is that the family that was torn apart by secrets and lies can now be brought together and begin to heal by the truth.

There is no doubt in my mind that God was in control of it all. There is no other explanation! I was finally beginning to see the pieces of my life fitting together.  He turned my feelings of being broken and unworthy to that of having unending value. Through Christ, I have gained the confidence necessary to fulfill my dreams after searching for so long on my own. I am not defined by my DNA, but by the calling I have received as a child of God. No one can take that away from me. My calling in Christ Jesus is my destiny!  He is my foundation, and with Him I cannot crumble. Now I am able to share my faith with someone who has had many obstacles to overcome in life, and to help her to move on. 

I have learned something very important in the last year. Life is about the Faith that we have in Christ, the Hope he gives us for tomorrow and spreading his Love to everyone around us!  Look to Christ for strength in everything! Even in cases of rape and incest, each unborn child is created by God for a purpose.  As my story reveals, God can take something bad and make it an opportunity to do something miraculous! The legalization of abortion is nothing short of playing God, and who are we to question God? 

Kristi Hofferber may be reached here. She blogs at speakupforlife.blogspot.com.

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BREAKING: In historic meeting Pope, Russian Patriarch decry abortion, defend traditional marriage

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Feb. 12, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - A joint declaration signed by both Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, head of the Orthodox Church of Moscow and All Russia, issued today after their historic meeting in the Havana Cuba airport issues a strong call for the defense of life and family. 

The declaration commenced with a wish to reestablish Christian unity, stating a “determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited.”

The religious leaders expressed the wish to combine the efforts of Orthodox and Catholics “to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world” since “human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change.”

"We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience."

After discussing the violent Christian persecution underway in the Middle East and North Africa, the Pope and Patriarch turned their attention to the West. “At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them.”

“In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom,” they said. “It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.”

The declaration expresses concern about the “crisis in the family in many countries” and notes “Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family.”

“The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman,” it says. “We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.”

Marriage, they said, “is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.” It is “a school of love and faithfulness.” Love, says the declaration, seals the union of the husband and wife “and teaches them to accept one another as a gift.”

The Pope and Patriarch called for an end to abortion. “We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life,” said the declaration. “Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).”

The declaration also condemned euthanasia and immoral reproductive technologies, which would include IVF and destructive research on human embryos.

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general. We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

The declaration decries the persecution of Christians, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, where “whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated.” 

They called on the international community to act urgently since “churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed.”  With “pain” they called to mind “the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.”

They specifically called on all Christians to pray that may “not permit a new world war.”

 

The complete text of the joint declaration follows:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).

1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the  Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.

2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.

It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way.  The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.

3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate.  Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.

5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).

6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!

7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.

8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.

9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.

10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.

We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.

11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.

We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).

13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.

15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom.  It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.

16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.

18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).

19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.

20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.

21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.

We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.

23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm 15:20).

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.

29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!

Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!
 
Francis                                  Kirill
Bishop of Rome                      Patriarch of Moscow 
Pope of the Catholic Church    and all Russia



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Congress subpoenas StemExpress, notorious late-term abortion facility in body parts investigation

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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Planned Parenthood has declared itself innocent - but it forgot to consult Congress.

The special committee investigating Planned Parenthood, the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, announced on Thursday night that it is issuing subpoenas to three organizations involved in the possible trafficking of human organs.

StemExpress, the company that partnered with Planned Parenthood to extract tissue and organs from aborted babies' cadavers, is the most conspicuous of the three.

Former StemExpress technician Holly O'Donnell described how a technician restarted an aborted baby's heartbeat, then told her to cut through the child's face to harvest his brains.

The National Institutes of Health paid StemExpress thousands of dollars for fetal tissue samples, records show.

Undercover videos depict the biotech company's CEO, Cate Dyer, boasting, "I have a picture from Hillary" Clinton on her desk. In another video, she jokes about shipping the fully intact bodies of aborted babies to unsuspecting lab technicians.

StemExpress publicly cut ties with Planned Parenthood last August.

The University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women’s Options have come under investigation after it became clear the university had a close relationship with one of the nation's most notorious late-term abortionists to receive aborted babies' tissues and organs for scientific experiments.

Last year, investigators discovered that the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center obtained its samples from SWO, where Dr. Curtis Boyd is one of a handful of people in the nation willing to perform abortions in the third trimester.

University officials told the Albuquerque Journal they had no documentation of the specifics of arrangement - how many organs Boyd supplied, for instance. But the New Mexico Alliance for Life uncovered a document containing the information.

"Fetal liver and kidney samples were obtained 15 minutes after termination from six fetuses ranging from 12 to 22 weeks gestation," the document states.

The group questions whether he changed the abortion technique to obtain the greatest number of organs, and whether he employed the illegal partial birth abortion method.

As part of the arrangement Dr. Boyd, who was deemed "faculty" in university documents, also trained UNM students in his industry. The university later ended that program.

All three organizations had been asked to comply with the Congressional investigation but had failed to do so voluntarily, according to the panel's chairwoman.

“By failing to fully cooperate with our investigation, these organizations have compelled our panel to subpoena these documents in order to acquire information that is vital to the completion of our work,” said the panel's chair, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN. “Without these subpoenas, the American people and the House itself would be left to speculate about what is going on in the fetal tissue industry."

"We cannot leave questions unanswered,” she said.

StemExpress has stonewalled before, seeking a legal injunction forbidding David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress from releasing undercover footage of its CEO. A judge in California ruled against the company last summer.

Meanwhile, New Mexico pro-life leaders welcome the focus on their state.

"The fact that UNM HSC disbanded its late-term abortion resident program at SWO is a tacit acknowledgement of guilt in violating their own policies, procedures and blatant misuse of public trust and funds," said Elisa Martinez, executive director of the New Mexico Alliance for Life. "The flimsy agreement between UNM and late-term abortionist Curtis Boyd, signed by UNM's Dr. Eve Espey, appears to be constructed to conceal the potential sale of late-term baby body parts to UNM, which to date, has withheld any documentation as to the compensation of Curtis Boyd, the compensation of residents and any record of their late-term baby body parts inventory."



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Clinton and Sanders commit to fund abortion worldwide by gutting the Helms amendment

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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Both candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have endorsed a key pillar of the population control agenda, for the first time pledging to "fix" a U.S. law prohibiting foreign aid from funding abortion overseas.

Hillary Clinton makes the new promise in a new video posted online by the Population Connection Action Fund, formerly Zero Population Growth.

An unidentified activist for the group asks if the former Secretary of State will "help fix the Helms Amendment" - a 1973 law that blocks federal dollars from paying for abortion “as a method of family planning" overseas.

"Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm on record on that," Clinton replies on the video, which was publicized by The Huffington Post.

She continues, "One of the reasons why I -" before abruptly interrupting herself and giving the activist a thumbs-up as the video ends.

Despite her comment, Clinton had not publicly said she would change the way the law is implemented in any way. In an Iowa town hall meeting last November, she said she would "we have to take a look at this for conflict zones" where rape is used as a weapon, but held out the possibility that a future government "maintains our prohibition."

Her chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, went further, promising to fund global abortion providers by executive order.

“Sen. Sanders is opposed to the Helms amendment,” Arianna Jones, Sanders' deputy communications director, told The Huffington Post. “As president, he will sign an executive order to allow for U.S. foreign aid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is at risk. He will also work with Congress to permanently repeal both the Hyde and Helms amendments.” The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortions for American women except in the cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

The question is the latest in an ongoing attempt to siphon money from the U.S. Treasury into the hands of abortionists, at home and abroad.

While the late Sen. Jesse Helms, who was staunchly pro-life, intended to prevent taxpayers from underwriting abortion, population control advocates and others who promote abortion say the law he authored never did that - but three Democratic presidents somehow missed that fact.

"The restriction has been wrongly implemented by all eight presidential administrations since its inception, as a total ban on abortion care," according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Feminist activists and non-governmental organizations like the Global Justice Center have lobbied President Obama to reinterpret the rule and fund abortion for African women raped by Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations in the region.

Although President Obama shown little restraint in recasting the law - for instance, claiming that civil rights laws banning sexual discrimination apply to transgender people - he has declined to do so in this case.



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