Syrian nun awarded by US will back any leader who brings peace

April 15, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Apr 15, 2017 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the conflict in Syria rages on, a Salesian nun honored by the White House as a “Woman of Courage” said that no matter who is in charge, as long as they work for peace they have her vote.

“I like anyone that can help me achieve peace, whether it’s Assad or President Trump, or whoever can support us in peace,” Sister Carolin Tahhan Fachakh told reporters April 11.

The nun said that in her opinion, there is still hope for peace in Syria, but that whenever steps in that direction seem to be taken, something happens and “we go backwards.”

Yet despite the ongoing violence, “there is always hope for the future,” she said, “there are steps of peace, we continue to look to the future with a lot of hope, because everything has an end. There will be an end.”

Tahhan, a member of the Salesian Daughters of Mary Help of Christians Order, was one of 13 women who received the “International Woman of Courage Award” from First Lady Melania Trump in Washington March 29.

She was nominated for the award by the U.S. embassy to the Holy See for her work running a nursery school in Damascus that her order established as a safe and friendly space where more than 200 children traumatized by the war, both Christian and Muslim, can play and just be children.

In addition to the school, Tahhan also manages a tailor workshop in collaboration with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, providing much-needed community and support for women who are vulnerable and displaced.

The nomination for the White House award were accepted by the Obama administration, but were held until Rex Tillerson, the current Secretary of State, approved them, allowing them to be handed out. After receiving the award, she came to Rome and spoke to reporters about her work during a roundtable sponsored by the U.S. embassy to the Holy See.

In her comments to journalists, Tahhan said meeting the other 12 women who received the award alongside her is something that “enriched me.”

As part of her trip to the U.S. to receive the award, the nun was also taken to visit several projects that work with refugees and which also offer psychological services, which she said was “helpful for my work.”

Many of the children who come to the school suffer from the effects of war, she said, explaining that while some are less affected, others don’t speak.

She voiced fear for the future of the culture the children are growing up in, noting that “they are all damaged, they have this fear from the war, they have a bit of violence inside, and this is normal.”

Recalling a conversation she had with one of the children after a canon had gone off, the nun said she had heard a loud noise and asked what it was. Immediately one of the children near her said it was a canon.

When she asked the 4-year-old child how they knew, the child responded by saying “when it’s a missile it goes ‘sss-boom,’ and when it’s a canon it immediately goes ‘boom.’”

“I was bothered by this. This is the culture of our children,” she said, and recalled how in a video sent to her by family in Aleppo, one of her nephews showed her a box of “toys” he had collected, which ended up being different sized shells that had landed on their balcony.

“What do we do for the future to take this violence out of our children?” Tahhan asked, noting that the video from her nephew “hurt me a lot.”

However, she cautioned against falling for what she said are false media reports that say that everything is Syria is only destruction.

“It’s not true that everything is terrible in Syria, that everything is this civil war,” she said, explaining that “there is still solidarity, there is still coexistence between Muslims and Christians.”

“We live together, there is co-existence,” she said, explaining that there are many Muslim women who participate in the tailoring workshop, and when she needs materials, it is they who go to purchase them.

“Since 2010 to now, more than 500 women have entered our houses, have gone to sewing classes, and the majority are Muslims,” she said, explaining that if she were to accept only Christians, “then I also become like them, I become a fanatic.”

Many times when bombs go off near the convent, shortly after there will be a knock on their door from Muslim men who come to check on them, saying “Sisters, do you need something? Are you okay?”

Even in the school children don’t distinguish between Christians and Muslims, she said, noting that they are damaged above all by war, rather than religious differences. “I’m not saying there’s not fanaticism,” she added, but stressed that there is still coexistence between them.

Going against a growing distaste for President Assad in the global public eye, Tahhan voiced her support for Assad, saying “I like our president.” She said that he and his wife are “very close to us” and have protected and offered material and financial support to the Christians in Syria, including for the school her order runs. She added that Assad’s wife called and asked for her personally and met with her and several other sisters to ask if anything was preventing them from carrying out their work and to ask what support they needed.

The international community, however, is beginning to unite in opposition against Assad. On Tuesday G7 leaders – which include the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and Canada – met with allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to discuss the possible need for new leadership in Syria and to agree on sanctions for his biggest ally, Russia.

Referring to Trump’s decision to bomb Syria’s Shayrat Air Base after the sarin gas attack, Tahhan said the move was “a step back from peace.”

When it comes to the peace process in Syria, the nun said that while there is always hope for the future, it frequently happens that whenever a step forward is taken, “then something happens and we go backward.”

She recalled receiving the news after walking out of a reception for the award winners in Washington, saying that when she heard about the bombing, “I was very hurt,” and that in her opinion, “right now, for me, we are going backward.”

The war, in her opinion, erupted not because Assad was causing problems, but because “there are different interests” involved, including the country’s natural resources.

Pope Francis “is doing a lot” with all the appeals he is making, particularly to the international community, she said, calling him “a true prophet.”

His words “awaken the conscience…he doesn’t stay quiet. He is awakening, his voice is strong. He is also entering into the conscience of everyone.”

Regarding the fear that if Islamic terrorism isn’t curbed, there will no longer be Christians living in the Middle East, the nun said the Church is working to ensure this won’t happen.

“The Church is working to keep the Christians,” she said, adding that “if the Church exists, then Christians will continue to be there.”


Study finds religious persecution spread to more countries in 2015

April 15, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Global religious persecution spiked from 2014 to 2015, the Pew Research Center noted in a new report released this week.

“Government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion increased in 2015 for the first time in three years,” the latest annual Pew Research Center report on “Global Restrictions on Religion” began.

In 2015, there were “very high” or “high” levels of animosity shown towards religious groups in 40 percent of countries, the report noted, either through restrictive government laws targeting religious groups or violence or harassment toward adherents of specific religions by other members of society.

The 2015 percentage was up six points from 2014, when 34 percent of countries reported such levels of hostility to religious groups.

Pew’s report drew from various sources on global religious freedom, both from the U.S. government (annual international religious freedom reports of the State Department and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom), the European Union and United Nations, and other non-governmental organizations.

The report was part of the “Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project,” funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation.

Certain countries and regions of the world showed especially high hostility towards religious groups. Russia, Egypt, India, Pakistan, and Nigeria all showed both government harassment of and social animus toward certain religious groups.

Some of the most common instances of hostility included “mob violence” waged against people for their religious beliefs or violence conducted in the name of religion, and also “government harassment and use of force against religious groups” Pew explained.

Certain regions fared worse than others on religious tolerance. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa featured the highest median levels by far of both “government restrictions on religion” and “social hostilities involving religion,” Pew reported.

However countries in sub-Saharan Africa showed the “largest increase” in the median levels of government restrictions in 2015, Pew noted, and both Europe and sub-Saharan Africa showed marked increases in “social hostilities involving religion.”

In Europe, there were many reports of harassment or violence against Muslims and Jews, continuing a pattern of both anti-Semitism on the continent and verbal or legal harassment of Muslims as the European Union deals with an influx of refugees from Muslim-majority counties like Syria and Iraq.

For instance, Switzerland showed an increase in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents, including the desecration of a Muslim cemetery and an assault of an Orthodox Jew where one perpetrator shouted “Heil Hitler!”

Mosques and Muslims were targeted for vandalism or violence in the wake of the January, 2015 terror attacks on the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher market in Paris.

“France’s Interior Ministry reported that anti-Muslim incidents more than tripled in 2015, including cases of hate speech, vandalism and violence against individuals,” the report noted.

Thirty-two countries in the continent showed “social hostilities toward Muslims” in 2015, more than the 26 countries reported in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of European countries where there were social hostilities shown towards Jews remained high.

“The widespread harassment of Jews is notable because about eight-in-ten of the world’s Jews live in just two countries – the United States and Israel – but Jews continue to be harassed in a relatively large number of nations (74 in 2015),” Pew stated.

However, government officials also showed hostility to religious groups either through restrictive laws or rhetoric.

France and Russia in particular showed a spike, with over 200 “cases of government force against religious groups,” the report noted. These were mostly due to laws aimed at specific religious groups targeting the public exercise of religion, from France’s burqa ban to Russia’s treatment of some Muslims and groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses as extremists, jailing them without due process.

Some governments have been particularly restrictive of religious freedom for years, like those of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, and Uzbekistan, the report noted. Others have more recently shown greater hostility, like Iraq, Eritrea, Vietnam, and Singapore in 2015.

Some of the government restrictions on religion were supposedly in reaction to terrorism. For instance, Muslim women in Cameroon and Niger were barred from wearing full-face veils after militants wore those veils to conceal bombs.

Both Christians and Muslims saw a sizable increase in the number of countries where they experienced harassment in 2015. Christians “were targeted by the highest number of governments in the Asia-Pacific region, where 33 countries harassed Christians in 2015,” the report said.


Pope Francis reflects on sin, Christ’s mercy at Stations of the Cross

April 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Apr 14, 2017 / 04:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis presided over the Stations of the Cross at Rome’s Colosseum on Good Friday, asking Christ’s forgiveness for the ways we may have fallen short, and imploring the grace to do better in the future.

“O Christ our only Savior, we come back to you again this year with eyes downcast with shame and with a heart full of hope,” the Pope prayed April 14.

“We ask you to break the chains that hold us prisoners in our selfishness, in our voluntary blindness and in the futility of our worldly calculations.”

Offering his prayer at the conclusion of the annual Good Friday tradition, Francis recalled the different reasons we may have for bringing our shame before Christ on the cross, such as the bloodshed of women, children, and immigrants, or the persecution of people based on race, ethnicity, or religion.

He also called out the shame that comes with running away from our responsibilities, being silent in the face of injustice, perpetuating laziness and greed, and being self-interested and selfish.

The Pope in a particular way called out clergy and religious, saying: “shame for all the times that we bishops, priests, consecrated men and women have scandalized and hurt your body, the Church.

“We have forgotten our first love,” he continued, “our first enthusiasm and our total availability, leaving our hearts and our consecration to rust.”

But even in this shame, we also have hope, he said, praying that the Lord would “not treat us according to our merits but solely according to the multitude” of his mercy.

We have hope “that your cross turns our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh able to dream, to forgive and to love,” he prayed.

The Church has hope that she can be the voice that cries in the “desert of humanity” to prepare the way for Christ’s second coming, Francis continued, knowing that God’s truth is not based on our own understanding.

The Pope also said that we have hope that those faithful to Christ’s cross will “continue to remain faithful like yeast that gives flavor” and “that good will win in spite of Christ’s apparent defeat!”

“O Christ, we ask you to teach us to never be ashamed of your Cross, not to exploit it, but to honor and worship it, because with it you have shown us the monstrosity of our sins, the greatness of your love, injustice of our judgements and the power of your love,” he concluded.

At each of the 14 stations, the cross was carried by different people – both religious and lay – from countries around the world, including Poland, Italy, India, Africa, Egypt, Portugal, Colombia, France, China, and Israel.

At several stations, the cross was held by a family with young children.

For the third station, the cross was carried by members of the Italian organization UNITALSI, which organizes pilgrimages for people with illnesses and disabilities to visit Marian shrines, such as Lourdes.   

This year’s meditations on the Stations of the Cross were written by French biblical scholar Anne-Marie Pelletier.

Using more than just the accounts of Christ’s Passion in the Gospels, Pelletier’s reflection weaved in Scripture and biblical references from both the Old and New Testaments as she reflected on how the entire life of Christ has been leading him, and us, to his ultimate sacrifice.

Pelletier’s meditations also reflected significantly on the perspective of the women along Christ’s path, especially his mother, Mary.


Nebraska prays for pro-lifers injured in vehicle accident

April 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Lincoln, Neb., Apr 14, 2017 / 03:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Lincoln is praying for several pro-life witnesses who were struck, unintentionally, by a vehicle as they were praying outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in the city on Friday afternoon.

“Please join the Diocese of Lincoln, Bishop Conley, and those involved in praying for those who were injured, and for the driver of the vehicle,” the Lincoln diocese said in an April 14 statement. “And please join us in praying for a culture of life, an end to abortion, in union with those who were injured today.”

The driver of a white pickup “veered to the right when he tried to stop for a vehicle slowing in front of him,” the Lincoln Journal Star reports.


LPD says hit was unintentional. A car was slowing down in front of him, so he veered and didn’t see the group of people outside #LNK

— Nichole Manna (@LJSNicholeManna) April 14, 2017


Three or four persons were struck by the pickup.

According to the diocese “the roads were quite slick in that area, and traffic was heavy. There is nothing to suggest the accident was intentional. Those who were hit are receiving medical attention now. The injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.”

“Bishop Conley, along with other priests who were present, were able to pray with those who were injured.” As many as 200 were present at the prayer vigil.


Good Friday papal preacher: In a changing world, the cross remains the same

April 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 14, 2017 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Even as sinful people in a society filled with violence and increasing secularism, we have hope because Christ’s cross perdures, the papal preacher said at the Vatican’s Good Friday Service.

“The cross, then, does not ‘stand’ against the world but for the world: to give meaning to all the suffering that has been, that is, and that will be in human history,” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., said April 14.

He gave the homily during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica. Fr. Cantalamessa also gave the homilies at Mass at the chapel of Casa Santa Marta on Fridays throughout Lent.

Today, we are constantly hearing about death and violence, he said. “Why then are we here to recall the death of a man who lived 2,000 years ago?”

“The reason is that this death has changed forever the very face of death and given it a new meaning,” he said.

Fr. Cantalamessa preached: “The cross is the living proclamation that the final victory does not belong to the one who triumphs over others but to the one who triumphs over self; not to the one who causes suffering but to the one who is suffering.”

He explained how the Carthusian monks have adopted a coat of arms that hangs at the entrance to their monastery. It has a globe of the earth with a cross above it, and written across it: “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis,” or “The cross stands firm as the world turns.”

He described a painting by Salvador Dali, called “Christ of St. John of the Cross.” It depicts Christ on the cross as if you are looking from above. Beneath him are clouds, and below that, water.

In a way, the water beneath Christ in this image, instead of earth, is a symbol of the lack of firm foundation of values in our current society, he explained. But even though we live in this very “liquid society,” there is still hope, because “the cross of Christ stands.”

“This is what the liturgy for Good Friday has us repeat every year with the words of the poet Venanzio Fortunato: ‘O crux, ave spes unica,’ ‘Hail, O Cross, our only hope.’”

The point of Christ’s Passion, however, is not an analysis of society, he said. “Christ did not come to explain things, but to change human beings.”

In each of us, to varying degrees, is a “heart of darkness,” he said. In the Bible, it is called “a heart of stone.”

“A heart of stone is a heart that is closed to God’s will and to the suffering of brothers and sisters, a heart of someone who accumulates unlimited sums of money and remains indifferent to the desperation of the person who does not have a glass of water to give to his or her own child; it is also the heart of someone who lets himself or herself be completely dominated by impure passion and is ready to kill for that passion or to lead a double life,” he said.

He explained that even as practicing Christians we have these hearts of stone when we live fundamentally for ourselves and not for the Lord.

Quoting God’s words through the prophet Ezekiel, Fr. Cantalamessa said: “I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.”

He went on to explain how in Scripture we are told that at the moment of Christ’s death, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.”

This description, using apocalyptic language and signs, indicates “what should happen in the heart of a person who reads and meditates on the Passion of Christ.”

“The heart of flesh, promised by God through the prophets, is now present in the world: it is the heart of Christ pierced on the cross, the heart we venerate as the “Sacred Heart,’” he said.

We believe that though he was slain, because Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, his heart has also “been raised from the dead; it is alive like the rest of his body.”

And when we receive the Eucharist, we “firmly believe” that the very heart of Christ has come to “beat inside of us” as well, he explained.

“As we are about to gaze upon the cross, let us say from the bottom of our hearts, like the tax collector in the temple, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ and then we too, like he did, will return home ‘justified’.”


A Medieval devotion alive and well for a handful of modern Romans

April 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Apr 14, 2017 / 01:51 am (CNA).- In the hours after evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, a few pilgrims in Rome make their way to the Church of Saint Praxedes, home to a fragment of stone alleged to be the pillar upon which Jesus was scourged.

Known as the Column of the Flagellation, the stone offers an object of contemplation for those visiting the church to reflect on Christ’s Passion. This is especially true on Holy Thursday, when pilgrims traditionally go to churches throughout the city to venerate the decorated altars within which the Eucharist has been reposed in anticipation of Good Friday.

The column is kept in a glass reliquary in one of the side chapels of Saint Praxedes, a 9th century church named after an early Christian martyr who has long-standing devotion in Rome, but about whom little is known for certain.

The pillar itself, sculpted from black-and-white marble, was retrieved from the Holy Land during the medieval period.

Is the artifact which continues to be visited by pilgrims as the column of the scourging a true relic of Christ’s Passion? Most scholars would say this is highly doubtful.

Yet the probable in-authenticity of the pillar does not take away from the value in venerating it, says one expert. Rather, it is reminiscent of the genuine spirituality of medieval Christians, like those who found the pillar and brought it back from the Holy Land.

“The Middle Ages had a very powerful sense of God’s Providence,” said Gregory DiPippo, managing editor of the New Liturgical Movement website, “and to them you could almost say it was illogical that God would allow something like (the pillar) – which would have been Sanctified by being part of the Lord’s Passion – to go missing.”

Whether the true pillar of the flagellation still exists anywhere is uncertain. Jerusalem’s Chapel of the Apparition claims to have the true pillar: a broken red porphyry column which bears no resemblance to the artifact in Rome.

However, in speaking of Saint Praxedes pillar, DiPippo explained it was improbable that the original would have survived on account of the 1st century uprisings which led to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Nonetheless, there is inherent value in venerating an object that may not be genuine, when one takes into account the objective of veneration, he added.

In the Western tradition, “you aren’t venerating the object for its own sake, necessarily, but rather as an expression of a sort of realized presence of the person or the event that it represents.”

This point is further illustrated by comparing Western and Eastern liturgical practices, he said, observing that in the West, the priest incenses the relics of the saints, whereas Byzantines incense the images and icons.

“It is the living presence, realized presence in this case, of the Passion of Christ,” DiPippo said. “Even if it isn’t authentic, we are still honoring the Passion of Christ by venerating it as such.”

The pillar of Saint Praxedes was first brought to Italy by Cardinal Giovanni Colonna, a 13th century prelate appointed by Pope Innocent III, who had been serving as papal legate in the Holy Land during the sixth Crusade. Returning to Rome in the 1220s, he brought with him the column in question.

“One mustn’t think of this as a conscious fraud on the part of Cardinal Colonna, or the people who received it as the relic of the flagellation,” DiPippo explained, but rather of Medieval devotion.


This article was originally published on CNA April 3, 2015.


What Holy Week looks like in a remote Indian diocese

April 13, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Miao, India, Apr 13, 2017 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the Diocese of Miao, located in India’s northeasternmost state of Arunachal Pradesh, Bishop George Pallipparambil does not stay quietly in his cathedral for Holy Week, but rather holds services across the diocese in an effort to better serve his people.

“What we’re trying to do is to reach to as many places as possible. I’m not confining myself to the main church in Miao,” the bishop told CNA in a 2015 interview. “I’ll be there only for the Easter Sunday Mass.”

“I finished today in one place, tomorrow I’ll be in a big community called Khonsa, and for Good Friday I’ll be in another district headquarters. For the [Easter] Vigil I’ll be in another place, and then for Sunday Mass I’ll be in Miao.”

The Miao diocese covers a vast area of nearly 17,000 square miles, and it is home to the easternmost portions of the Himalayas.

The terrain ranges “from the very low plains to the high snow-covered Himalayan peaks,” Bishop Pallipparambil explained. “Some of the biggest rivers in the world are in this region, coming down from the Himalayas flowing down to the plains.”

Mountainous terrain coupled with a lack of infrastructure explains why the diocese held its Chrism Mass entirely outside of Holy Week, that year on March 26.

The Chrism Mass is traditionally said on the morning of Holy Thursday, and it gathers all the priests of a diocese together with their bishop to emphasize their common ministry. The bishop blesses three kinds of oil – chrism, oil of the catechumens, and oil of the sick – which are distributed to the priests and used in sacramental anointings throughout the following year.

However, the Diocese of Miao has had to change this practice to adapt to its needs. The diocese was established in 2005, and Bishop Pallipparambil is its first ordinary.

“The first year we had [Chrism Mass] on Tuesday of Holy Week, and we found many of the priests could not reach back to their own places for Holy Thursday,” he explained. “So, we started in the last eight years to have the Chrism Mass in the previous week.”

Bishop Pallipparambil himself is sometimes beset by travel difficulties: in 2015, heavy rains had made the road to Kulagaon village extremely muddy, and on his way to Holy Week services there, he had to get out and push his jeep along with passersby.

Another adaptation: the Chrism Mass was not held in the cathedral at Miao, but rather in Minthong parish in the Longding district.

“It is one of the decisions we made when the diocese was created,” Bishop Pallipparambil said.

He explained that “having the Chrism Mass in the cathedral, at least for me, didn’t make sense,” because each year, the same people would attend and carry the holy oils back to the distant villages and parishes, where the local people “just don’t know what it is.”

“(W)hereas if the Chrism Mass is held in their place, they come to know because it is always done in their language, and so they know what it is. And when it’s time to have an anointing, whether it be for baptism or confirmation or another occasion, they know the sacredness of this oil.”

He added that “it brings all the priests and religious to pray together with the people the whole day before the Mass, so that also has a positive catechetical influence.”

That year, the Chrism Mass was the occasion for Bishop Pallipparambil to present the first translation of the entire New Testament into the Wancho language.

At the bishop’s request, Father TJ Francis spent three years working with Wancho leaders in preparing the translation, which will serve the 60,000 Wancho people who live in the Longding and Tirap districts.

Fr. Francis’ work “must inspire many of us to take up a similar responsibility to translate the Message of the Gospel to the language of the people we serve,” Bishop Pallipparambil said at the Mass. The Miao diocese is home to more than 100 distinct tribes, many of which have their own language.

Bishop Pallipparambil told CNA that the Wancho, of whom 95 percent are Christian, now have printed in their own language only the Bible and a few prayer and hymn books.

As the language had no written form, it also lacked its own script, the bishop noted, and Fr. Francis wrote the works with Latin letters. The priest has also produced a Wancho grammar.

Despite lacking access to written Scripture until now, many of the Wancho have converted “just by hearing and seeing” the Gospel.

“Some of their children in the ’80s and ’90s travelled outside their area and attended Christian schools, and when they got knowledge of Christianity they helped by teaching Bible in their own language,” he explained. The diocese also hold four to five-day Bible camps in which biblical stories and the catechism are explained.

Asked if the diocese hopes that the Old Testament will now be translated into Wancho, Bishop Pallipparambil affirmed “yes, we want to do it by all means at the earliest.”


This article was originally published on CNA April 3, 2015.


It’s the law: once again, states can stop funding Planned Parenthood

April 13, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2017 / 02:03 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders applauded President Donald Trump for signing a repeal of what they called President Obama’s “parting gift to the abortion industry.”

“Today we thank President Donald Trump for restoring states’ freedom to direct taxpayer dollars away from abortion providers in favor of supporting community health centers that deliver comprehensive women’s care, and already outnumber abortion providers 20 to 1,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said Thursday.

In December, President Barack Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule that states could not deny federal funds to health clinics simply on the grounds that they provided abortions.

The funding program, Title X, consists of “family planning” grants for services like contraception, pregnancy testing, and infertility treatments.

Those federal grants, dispersed by the states, had to go to clinics that provided the “family planning” services, HHS said, and could not be denied to any clinic that provided those services.

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) introduced H.J. Res. 43 to the U.S. House of Representatives, which nullified the HHS rule. The measure passed the House easily and then passed the Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence as the tie-breaking vote.

President Trump signed the resolution into law April 13.

Susan B. Anthony List thanked Rep. Black and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), saying they “led this effort in Congress.” When the measure was introduced, Rep. Black had said that her state of Tennessee had tried to stop giving Title X grants to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers in order to redirect those grants to other health providers.

The HHS had explained that the rule was created in reaction to states that tried to stop funding abortion providers.

Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser added that “prioritizing funding away from Planned Parenthood to comprehensive health care alternatives is a winning issue.”

She pushed for Congress to take up more legislation to strip Planned Parenthood and abortion providers of other federal funds like Medicaid reimbursements. She said they should “redirect” federal funds to other health providers that do not perform abortions.

“The resolution signed today simply ensures that states are not forced to fund an abortion business with taxpayer dollars,” Dannenfelser said ahead of the signing of the bill.

“Rather, states have the option to spend Title X money on comprehensive health care clinics that better serve women and girls,” she said.