By John Jalsevac

FRONT ROYAL, VA, April 17, 2009 ( – Representatives from Human Life International (HLI) presented Brazilian Archbishop Dom Jose Cardoso Sobrinho with the Cardinal von Galen Award in acknowledgement of his heroic defense of Catholic Church teaching and human life. The ceremony took place at the Damas College Auditorium in Recife, Brazil on April 16.

In March Archbishop Sobrinho made international news after he declared that the Catholic doctors and counselors who facilitated the abortion of the unborn twins of a nine-year-old girl had incurred a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication.

The tragic story of the nine-year-old girl, who had been impregnated by her step-father had captured global headlines in March. The “hard case” was used by international pro-abortion groups to criticize the Catholic Church’s strongly pro-life position and to further the pro-abortion cause in Latin America, where pro-life sentiment remains strong.

However, Archbishop Sobrinho, who had worked to give the unnamed girl whatever assistance she needed in the effort to save the lives of her unborn children, observed that doctors originally refused to perform the abortion because the girl’s life was not in danger. It was only later that pro-abortion doctors and an international pro-abortion organization intervened and told media that the abortion was necessary to save the girl’s life.

Despite the doctrinal soundness of his decision, Abp. Sobrinho has been vilified by critics in and out of the Church. His decision was even criticized by Archbishop Salvatore “Rino” Fisichella, the President of the Pontifical Academy of Life, in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

However, the archbishop has said that he has no regrets about his decision, despite the criticism he has received. “I want to say that I have a clear conscience,” the Archbishop told the Brazilian magazine in March. “I fulfilled my obligation. I could not foresee that reaction at the national and international level, but I would feel remorse if I had remained in silence.  Humanly speaking, it is much more comfortable to cross one’s arms and close one’s eyes. I am at peace.”

“I hope that the Catholic faithful become conscious of the seriousness of abortion. We know that in the entire world 50 million abortions occur every year.  In Brazil, there are one million every year. I want to remember what happened in the Second World War.  Hitler, that dictator, wanted to eliminate the Jewish people and they say he managed to kill six million Jews. We cannot forget that crime.”

“Today, I ask: why are we going to stay in silence when 50 million abortions are happening in the world?  I call that the silent holocaust.  And we, the Christians, cannot remain silent.”

“With this award, we are affirming that Archbishop Sobrinho stands solidly with the Church in defense of all innocent human life,” said Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of HLI.

“Archbishop Sobrinho acted with great compassion toward the young girl and her family, and with even greater courage in making what he surely knew would be an unpopular decision. It is a travesty that, even now that the facts of the case have become known, certain officials in the Church have refused to reverse their precipitous judgments and publicly acknowledge the rightness of the excommunications.”

The Cardinal von Galen Award is presented by Human Life International to courageous bishops around the world who defend life from conception to natural death. The award is named in honor of Blessed Clemens August von Galen (1878-1946), who was bishop of Münster (Germany) during the Nazi era. Known as the “Lion of Munster”, von Galen both served and defended the poor and the sick, protesting against euthanasia and the persecution of the Jews.

The award was presented by Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula, JD, STD, head of HLI’s bureau in Rome; and Raymond J. DeSouza, Program Director for Portuguese-speaking nations worldwide for HLI. During the presentation, DeSouza honored Archbishop Sobrinho by stating: “Human Life International is honored to grant to Dom José Cardoso Sobrinho, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, the Cardinal von Galen Award in acknowledgement of his heroic attitude in the fulfillment of his episcopal ministry, facing the displeasure of so many who promote the culture of death.”

Among previous recipients of HLI’s Cardinal von Galen Award are Cardinal López Trujillo of Colombia, Cardinal Tumi of Cameroon, and Archbishop Antonio Arregui of Guayaquil.

See related coverage:

Pro-Life Brazilian Archbishop Abandoned by Fellow Bishops, Vatican Official, for Excommunicating Abortion Doctors