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In US, abortion rates reach new low

Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2017 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that abortion rates in the country are at a historic low since the nationwide legalization of abortion in 1973.

According to the study, abortion rates have fallen 22 percent between the years of 2005-2014. In 2014, the CDC cited 653,639 performed abortions, while over 1.4 million abortions took place in 1990.

“The CDC report indicates the percentage of abortion rates declined across all race, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds, which means pro-lifers are continuing to make great strides in protecting women and the unborn child,” Kathleen Neher, the president of the National Catholic Social Workers Association, told CNA.

The study included both surgical abortions and chemical abortions, which include abortifacient pills that end a pregnancy before 8 weeks gestation.

A number of different factors are playing into the overall decline in abortions. The CDC reported that “the proportion of pregnancies in the United States that were unintended decreased from 51 percent in 2008 to 45 percent during 2011–2013.” It pointed to increased use of long-acting contraceptives such as IUD and hormonal implants as one reason for this decrease.

However, another factor is the declining birthrate in the U.S. The National Center for Health Statistics found that the number of babies delivered in the U.S. has declined by about 1 percent over the past few years. It said that 3,941,109 babies were born in the U.S. in 2016, which was 37,388 fewer babies than were born in 2015.

Fertility rates hit a record low in the U.S. in 2016, bringing the number of births to 62.0 per 1,000 women, compared to the previous 62.5 births.  

“People are choosing less frequently to be parents, and women who are pregnant are choosing less frequently to abort the baby,” said James Studnicki, a statistics expert from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, according to The Hill.

While Neher considers the overall decline of abortions to be a positive sign, she had additional concerns about the high number of women living in poverty who are still choosing abortion.

“This is a concern, as various factors contribute to these decisions – the day-to-day complexities of economic challenges, and the break-down of the family in our society, often leaving women to make these choices on their own,” Neher said.

“The response to this is to support and offer women alternative choices,” she continued, saying efforts to promote alternatives should include support for adoption, prenatal care, housing, and connecting women to programs that care for the dignity of both mother and child.  

The number of abortions could potentially hit an even lower rate in the year to come. Of the abortions performed in 2014, about 1.3 percent took place after 20 weeks gestation. The practice of abortions after 20 weeks could be outlawed if the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act becomes a law. The bill has passed the House but is currently pending in the Senate.

While the CDC numbers do show an overall decline in abortions, the study is limited in its findings. States are not obligated to report their abortion data, and California, New Hampshire and Maryland did not include their numbers in the report.

 

Pope Francis says Our Father is poorly translated

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2017 / 10:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a video series for Italian television network TV2000, Pope Francis said that “lead us not into temptation” is a poorly translated line of the Our Father.

“This is not a good translation,” the Pope said in the video, published Dec. 6. “I am the one who falls, it's not (God) who pushes me toward temptation to see how I fall. A father doesn't do this, a father helps us to get up right away.”

He noted that this line was recently re-translated in the French version of the prayer to read “do not let me fall into temptation.”

The Latin version of the prayer, the authoritative version in the Catholic Church, reads “ne nos inducas in tentationem.”

The Pope said that the one who leads people into temptation “is Satan; that is the work of Satan.” He said that the essence of that line in the prayer is like telling God: “when Satan leads me into temptation, please, give me your hand. Give me your hand.”

Just as Jesus gave Peter his hand to help him out of the water when he began to sink, the prayer also asks God to “give me your hand so that I don't drown,” Pope Francis said.

The Pope made his comments in the seventh part of the “Our Father” television series being aired by Italian television network TV2000.

Filmed in collaboration with the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, the series consists of nine question-and-answer sessions with Pope Francis and Fr. Marco Pozza, a theologian and a prison chaplain in the northern Italian city of Padua.

In each of the sessions, Fr. Pozza asks the Pope about a different line in the Our Father prayer, and the Pope offers his insights. A preview of the series was presented at the Vatican's Film Library by Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano, head of the Secretariat for Communications.

The show also led to the publication of a book titled “Our Father,” which was released by the Vatican Publishing House and Italian publisher Rizzoli Nov. 23, and is based on Pozza's conversations with the Pope in the video series.

Each of the first eight episodes of the series begin with an excerpt from conversation between the Pope and Pozza, which is followed by a second conversation between Pozza and another guest. The final episode will consist of the priest's entire conversation with Pope Francis.

In his question to Pope Francis on the line “lead us not into temptation,” Pozza noted that many people have asked him how God can lead someone into temptation, and questioned what the phrase actually intends to say.

The question is one of the reasons the French bishops decided to make a request for a new translation of the Our Father that they believe conveys the meaning more clearly.

According to the French episcopal conference, the decision to make the change was accepted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in June 2013.

The new translation, released Dec. 3 to mark the first day of Advent and the beginning of the new liturgical year, now reads “ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation,” meaning, “do not let us fall into temptation,” versus the former “ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,” or “lead us not into temptation.”

The Pope’s remarks do not change the translations of liturgical texts. Such a change would begin with a resolution by an episcopal conference in English-speaking countries.

In a previous episode of the “Our Father” series, Pope Francis said “it takes courage” to recite the prayer, because it means calling on someone else and truly believing that “God is the Father who accompanies me, forgives me, gives me bread, is attentive to everything I ask, and dresses me better than wildflowers.”

“To believe is a great risk,” and means daring to make the leap of faith, he said. Because of this, “praying together is so beautiful: because we help each other to dare.”

Vatican nativity scene, Christmas tree unveiled

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2017 / 08:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an inauguration ceremony Thursday, the Vatican officially unveiled this year’s nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square, also lighting the 69-foot Christmas tree for the first time this year.

In an audience with the tree and nativity donors Dec. 7, Pope Francis reflected on the symbolism found in the two Christmas traditions, which he said are “signs of the compassion of the heavenly Father, of his participation and closeness to humanity” even in its “very difficulties.”  

The branches of the tree, “reaching upward,” remind us to reach for “the highest gifts,” he explained. And in “the simplicity of the crib we meet and contemplate the tenderness of God” as manifested in the Child Jesus.

This year’s Vatican nativity scene was created by artisans in a local workshop and donated by an ancient Benedictine Abbey, the Sanctuary of Montevergine, which lies near Naples.

A special detail of this year’s scene: in one corner hangs a replica of the icon of Our Lady of Montevergine, a nod to the abbey which donated it. The original image, which is 12 feet tall, hangs in the chapel of the Sanctuary of Montevergine.

Outside of the traditional nativity figures of Mary, Joseph, the child Jesus, the Wise Men, shepherds, an angel, and animals, the other figures are represented in the act of performing the 7 Corporal Works of Mercy, such as burying the dead, visiting the imprisoned, and clothing the naked.

The approximately 6 1/5-foot-tall figures are made of colored terracotta and dressed in traditional eighteenth-century Neapolitan costumes. The whole scene is built on a platform about 861-square-feet in size.

In a change from past years, this one includes a technological element; visitors can connect to a special Wi-Fi access point in St. Peter’s Square and scan a QR code to watch a video to learn more about the nativity.

The Christmas tree is a northern European tradition which has only recently become more common in Italy. The tradition to have a tree in St. Peter’s Square was begun by St. John Paul II in 1982.

This year’s tree, which comes from Poland, is 69-feet tall and about 60 years old. Its tip was lost when it was struck by lightning several years ago.

It was donated by the Archdiocese of Elk and cut down by a local forestry service, which transported it by truck over more than 1200 miles in 12 days to reach Rome, traveling mostly by night, when traffic is less dense.

The ornaments which decorate the spruce were created by children with cancer and their parents from several hospitals in Italy, as well as by children from Italian zones affected by earthquakes the past two years.

The ornaments were created in clay by the children and then reproduced using synthetic materials which can stand up to the weather in St. Peter’s Square.

The nativity and tree will remain in St. Peter’s Square until Jan. 7, 2018, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Beauty advice from Pope Francis: Be virtuous like Mary

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2017 / 04:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis offered his own ‘beauty secret’ – with Mary as model – saying beauty does not come from age or appearance, but from living a virtuous life rooted in scripture.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, though a simple and humble person, “lived a beautiful life,” the Pope said Dec. 8, asking “what was her secret?”

The answer can be found in the story of the Annunciation, he said. “In many paintings, Mary is depicted sitting in front of the angel with a small book. The book is scripture.”

“The Word of God was her secret: close to her heart, it then took flesh within her womb. Remaining with God, dialoguing with Him in every circumstance, Mary made her life beautiful.”

In his special Angelus address for the feast day, Pope Francis emphasized that what makes someone’s life beautiful is “not appearance, not what passes, but the heart focused on God.”

Francis noted how Mary came from a simple family and lived in a humble fashion in Nazareth, which was an almost unknown village. She was not famous. “Our Lady did not even have a comfortable life,” he said. Yet the angel greets her with the words, “hail, full of grace!”

The Church extols the Mother of God as “all beautiful,” or “tota pulchra,” in Latin, the Pope continued. This is because her beauty is not found in her outward appearance, but in her total freedom from sin.

“There is only one thing that really does grow old: not age, but sin,” he emphasized. “Sin makes (us) old, because it fossilizes the heart. It closes it, makes it inert, it makes it fade. But the (woman) full of grace is empty of sin.”

Let us ask for her help to remain free of sin, he concluded, so that we too can live a beautiful life, saying “yes,” to God.

After reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis noted how later in the afternoon he will visit Rome’s Piazza di Spagna to venerate the statue of the Immaculate Conception overlooking the Spanish Steps.

He asked those gathered to join him spiritually in this act, “which expresses filial devotion to our heavenly Mother.”

The statue of Our Lady, which sits atop a nearly 40-foot-high column, was dedicated Dec. 8, 1857, just a few years after the Catholic Church adopted the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Since the 1950s, it has been a custom for popes to venerate the statue for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The statue is usually adorned with homages of flowers hung in the form of wreaths around Mary’s outstretched arms and laid at the base of the statue. Early in the morning Dec. 8, firemen placed a large wreath of white and yellow flowers upon Mary’s arm, reaching the statue with the ladder from a firetruck.

During his visit Pope Francis will place flowers at the base of the statue and recite a short prayer to Our Lady, made on behalf of the people who live in Rome.

After the visit to Piazza di Spagna, the Pope is scheduled to stop at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where he will venerate the image of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani.

Nearly 80 prisoners baptized in Argentina

San Isidro, Argentina, Dec 8, 2017 / 12:26 am (ACI Prensa).- Seventy-eight prisoners were baptized, confirmed, and received their First Holy Communion in an Argentine prison Dec. 1.

The inmates are entering the Catholic Church after working with the Diocese of San Isidro’s prison ministry, which operates in the greater Buenos Aires metropolitan area.

With the pastoral support of Bishop Oscar Ojea of San Isidro and Auxiliary Bishop Martín Fassi, the ministry is led by Sister María Cristina Albornoz and served by 20 volunteers. They have been active since 2007 in both male-only and mixed gender units of the Buenos Aires Province prison system.

The sacraments were administered to 68 men and 10 women during a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Fassi and attended by the prison ministry volunteers.

In his homily, Bishop Fassi encouraged the inmates to take the same path as Jesus, uniting their lives to him.

“Jesus was rejected. But just as he did back then, he comes to us to change our mentality. He comes to us to bring a new way of thinking,” the bishop said.

The prison ministry offers catechesis, Mass, and other sacraments. In addition, it offers workshops in pottery, weaving and gardening.


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.