MANCHESTER, England - Catholic medical professionals have questioned the reliability of a British review concluding that women who have abortions have no increased risk of developing mental health problems.

The British government-funded "Systematic Review of Induced Abortion and Women's Mental Health" found that although an unwanted pregnancy may cause mental health problems, it made no difference to the mother's mental well-being if she continued with the pregnancy or had an abortion.

The review was carried out by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatry and published by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

Dr. Roch Cantwell, a consultant perinatal psychiatrist who led the review, said that the work showed "that abortion is not associated with an increase in mental health problems."

Cardinal Foley great friend to press


PHILADELPHIA - U.S. Cardinal John P. Foley, longtime Catholic journalist and advocate of Catholic communication, was being fondly remembered after his Dec. 11 death as a friend to the Catholic press around the world.

The cardinal, a Philadelphia native, was residing at Villa St. Joseph in Darby, the home for retired Philadelphia archdiocesan priests, when he died of leukemia at age 76.

“I was pleased that he was able to come home during the final months of his life. No matter where he lived or how he served the Church over the years, he always considered Philadelphia his home,” said Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

Climate change is a faith issue, Honduran cardinal says


VATICAN CITY - Climate change is a faith issue because it deals with God's creation and with poverty, said Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

The cardinal, president of Caritas Internationalis, was in Durban, South Africa, for the U.N.-sponsored international conference on climate change Nov. 28-Dec. 9; he discussed the conference Dec. 13 with journalists at the Vatican.

Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 165 national Catholic charities, provides emergency relief and development aid around the globe. But it also teaches Catholics about the church's social doctrines, advocating and educating people about issues of justice and peace, he said.

Cardinal Foley dies; was Vatican communications chief, Mideast advocate


DARBY, Pa. U.S. Cardinal John P. Foley, who spent more than two decades leading the Church's social communications council and later worked for the Church in the Middle East, died Dec. 11 after a battle with leukemia.

The cardinal, who had been residing at Villa St. Joseph, the home for retired Philadelphia archdiocesan priests, was 76. Cardinal Foley's media-friendly style and quick sense of humour shone in person and throughout the numerous speeches and homilies he delivered around the world. He often spoke of the joys of working for the Church, telling his audiences that while the pay often is not great "the benefits are out of this world."

Cuban bishops declare Marian jubilee year, confirm papal visit


HAVANA - The Cuban bishops announced that 2012 would be a Marian jubilee year and that Pope Benedict XVI would come to Cuba as a "pilgrim of La Caridad," the popular name for the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, the country's patroness.

In a Dec. 8 pastoral letter, they declared a jubilee year from Jan. 7, 2012, through Jan. 6, 2013, and said Cubans need the joy of faith, the strength of Christian love and the light of hope that can come from "a reunion with our Christian roots" and with the "enthusiastic reception of the teachings of Jesus Christ."

Girls under 17 must consult doctors to get 'morning-after pill'


WASHINGTON - The U.S. bishops' pro-life spokeswoman said she was relieved that the Obama administration has decided not to allow the Plan B One-Step "morning-after pill" to be sold without a prescription to those under 17.

"Luckily, things did not go from bad to even worse," Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, told Catholic News Service Dec. 8. "We're pleased that they did not expand access to this very powerful drug."

McQuade said Plan B One-Step, known generically as levonorgestrel, "is 40 times more potent than comparable progestin-only birth control pills for which a prescription is required" even for adult women.

Pope taps tablet, lights world's largest Christmas 'tree'


VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI tapped a tablet computer and successfully lit the world's largest electronic Christmas "tree" located in the Italian town of Gubbio.

Before turning on the tree with a tap on the Sony S Tablet, the pope addressed the citizens of Gubbio via a video link from his apartment in Vatican City Dec. 7, calling on Christians to serve as a light in the lives of others.

In his talk, the pope said that just as the tree design in Gubbio was made up of tiny individual lights, each person needs to bring light to the people and places in their lives, to their family, workplace, neighborhood, town or city.

Pursuit of money destroying environment


DURBAN, South Africa - Excessive focus on money is destroying the environment and dehumanizing people, said Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis.

Religious communities have a duty to call attention to the importance of the human person, who is “at the centre of creation,” he said while international leaders were debating the extension of legal limits on the production of greenhouse gas emissions.

Officials from nearly 200 countries were in Durban Nov. 28-Dec. 9 for United Nations-sponsored climate change talks.

Vatican official urges end of violence, 'real reforms' in Syria


VATICAN CITY - A Vatican official deplored the growing violence in Syria, and called on political leaders there to enact "real reforms."

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi made the remarks Dec. 2 to a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, which was discussing the Syrian crackdown on regime opponents that has left an estimated 4,000 people dead in recent months.

Archbishop Tomasi, the Vatican's representative to U.N. and other agencies in Geneva, said the Vatican was following "with great concern the dramatic and growing episodes of violence in Syria, which have caused many victims and grave suffering."

Catholics organize protest against NATO strikes that killed Pakistanis


KARACHI, Pakistan - The Catholic Church's justice and peace commission organized a protest condemning a NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The Asian church news agency UCA News said that, holding pro-army banners and national flags, more than 50 protesters from several Catholic institutions gathered outside the press club in Karachi Dec. 2. They shouted slogans, prayed and lit candles for the "faithful martyrs."

The protesters -- including two priests and 10 friars -- expressed outrage at what they called an attack on their country's sovereignty and demanded justice for the affected families.

Obama said to seek balance on contraceptive coverage, religious beliefs


WASHINGTON - A White House spokesman said the Obama administration is working to "strike the right balance between expanding coverage of preventive services and respecting religious beliefs" as it decides on a religious exemption to the mandate that all U.S. health plans cover contraceptives and sterilizations by Jan. 1, 2013.

"This decision has not yet been made," said Jay Carney, press secretary, in response to a question at the Nov. 29 White House press briefing.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced an interim final rule Aug. 1 that would require all health plans to cover contraceptives — including some that can cause abortions — and sterilizations free of charge.