By Hilary White

ROME, June 30, 2010 ( – Pro-life leaders are expressing their hopes that the new head of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) can re-forge the organization’s unity and get back to work promoting the Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life. Among the important curial appointments made today, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Msgr. Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, formerly chancellor of the PAV, will be taking over as president.

The academy has been wracked with controversy over the last year after its former head, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, wrote an article, published by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, that appeared to condone the abortion of twins in Brazil. The scandal of the so-called “Recife Affair” made headlines around the world, with the secular media and abortion advocates welcoming the article, claiming it indicated a “softening” of the Church’s stand on abortion.

Prominent members of the PAV, which was founded by Pope John Paul II to promote Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life, and other pro-life leaders around the world called for Fisichella to be removed.

The director of Human Life International’s Rome office, Mgr. Ignacio Barreiro, welcomed the appointment of Carrasco de Paula, saying that it will restore “unity” to the organization and enable it to get on with its work.

Carrasco de Paula brings his experience as a medical doctor, a professor of bioethics at University of the Holy Cross, and as director of the Institute of Bioethics at the University of the Sacred Heart in Rome to his position.

Mgr. Barreiro, who took classes under Carrasco de Paula, said these roles give him the “ideal background” to take over as head of the PAV.

“He was my professor at Holy Cross, and I have a high regard to his professional and academic abilities. I have no doubts that he is an orthodox theologian, absolutely faithful to the magisterium of the Church.”

“It’s hopeful that things will again run well, and that the academy will continue in the course established by [former president] Bishop Elio Sgreccia,” Barreiro added.