The president of the Brazilian bishops’ conference has criticised a proposal by the UN Human Rights Commission that countries should allow abortion in cases where the mother has been infected with the Zika virus. “Abortion is not the answer for the Zika virus,” Archbishop Sergio da Rocha of Brasilia told reporters during a press conference to announce the bishops’ Lenten fraternity campaign. “We need to value life in any situation or condition. Less quality of life does not mean less rights to live or less human dignity.”
On the same day, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff met members of the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil to seek their help in fighting the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the Zika virus. Rousseff asked the religious leaders to urge parishioners to look around their homes and neighbourhoods for possible breeding grounds for the mosquito, which also transmits dengue and chikungunya fever. The Zika virus, which has made headlines worldwide in the past few weeks, has been linked by the Brazilian government to the surge in microcephaly cases, although only 400 of 3,670 suspected cases of microcephaly have been proven to be linked to the virus.
The possible link has led to the rekindling of the debate on the decriminalisation of abortion in Brazil. Pro-abortion groups are said to be preparing a suit to be taken to Brazil’s supreme court for the introduction of abortion in cases of confirmed Zika infection in pregnant women. Auxiliary Bishop Leonardo Steiner of Brasilia, secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, said groups were taking advantage of a painful situation to promote abortion. He said the Church’s position would always be in favour of life.
In the United States, a congressional hearing examined the growing threat of the Zika virus and the response of American health officials. Chris Smith, the congressman who led the hearing, stressed the need to “work harder to prevent maternal infections and devise compassionate ways to ensure that any child born with disabilities from this or any other infection is welcomed, loved and gets the care he or she needs”. He called for research to be undertaken to work out how mother-to-child transmission of the virus could be prevented, just as is now possible with HIV/Aids.
BBC claims St John Paul II had ‘intense’ friendship with woman
The BBC has broadcast a documentary claiming that St John Paul II had an “intense” friendship with a married woman. The friendship, which appears to have lasted for more than 30 years, began in the 1970s when the then Cardinal Karol Wojtyła met Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a Polish-born philosopher. They later collaborated on an English-language version of Person and Act, a book on philosophy that he wrote while he was teaching at Lublin University.
This week’s Panorama programme was based on previously unseen letters to her, which were sold to the National Library of Poland in 2008. The BBC has not seen her letters to him. Presenter Ed Stourton stressed that there was no suggestion that St John Paul’s broke his vow of celibacy, but that the friendship was close. The pair went on country walks and skiing holidays, and there are photographs of him with her on a group camping trip. The friendship continued after he became Pope. She last visited him the day before his death in 2005. St John Paul granted a papal knighthood to Tymieniecka’s husband, the Harvard economist Hendrik Houthakker.
Director hails abuse campaigner
The director of Spotlight, the film about The Boston Globe’s investigation into clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston, has paid tribute to British abuse survivor Peter Saunders. Tom McCarthy and his co-writer Josh Singer won the Bafta for best original screenplay. During his speech, Mr McCarthy said: “I’ll give a shout out to Peter Saunders, a survivor, and the great work he is doing now in this country and at the Vatican. You are an inspiration to us all, quite truly.”
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