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By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

March 4, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) has elected a strongly pro-life prelate, Cardinal Archbishop Antonio María Rouco Varela of Madrid, as its new president.

The move is seen as a decisive expression of the Spanish bishops’ will to fight the Spanish government’s pro-abortion and anti-family policies, which the Cardinal has denounced repeatedly and clearly in many venues. 

Significantly, the selection of Rouco was made only five days before the general elections in Spain, which will determine if the strongly pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality regime of socialist Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero will continue.

Rouco beat out the Bishop of Bilbao, Ricardo Blázquez, who will now become the Vice President of the CEE. Blazquez lost the vote by only two votes, 39 to 37.  In the last election in 2005, Rouco was ousted from the presidency by Blázquez in only one vote.

The difference this year was determined by the votes of new bishops appointed in recent years by Pope Benedict XVI.  The influence of Benedict’s papacy is being felt worldwide in the form of new, stronger initiatives to defend the values of human life and family.

The Spanish media sees the election of Rouco as a clear and strong act of defiance on the part of the Catholic bishops against the socialist government’s policies regarding human life and family.

“The bishops have broken with the tradition of reelecting the outgoing president – Blázquez – an unequivocal sign that the hard line wanted to return to the head as soon as possible and that, in consequence, the agreement among factions doesn’t become a cosmetic operation without political or ecclesial reach,” said the Catalonian newspaper El Periodico in an editorial published today.  “Five days from the elections, this is a declaration of principles, if not a challenge, in the face of predictions of a socialist victory.”

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