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Amnesty International reports decline in capital punishment
VATICAN (SE): Encouraging statistics are contained in Amnesty International’s latest report, released on April 12, according to Vatican News. The numbers show at least 993 recorded executions in 23 countries throughout 2017, down by four per cent from the previous year and down by 39 per cent from 2015.
The report shows that most executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan. But Amnesty International notes that the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown.
In 2017, Guinea and Mongolia, abolished the death penalty for all crimes and a number of others moved decisively to end the use of capital punishment.
Vatican News quoted the report  as saying that by the end of last year, 106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes, while 142 countries had eliminated executions in law or in practice.
For the ninth consecutive year, the United States of America remained the only country to carry out executions in the Americas, while Belarus was the only one to do so in Europe and Central Asia.
Pontifical commission proposes synod on women
VATICAN (CNS): The Catholic Church in Latin America must recognise and appreciate the role of women and end the practice of using them solely as submissive labourers in the parish, said members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. 
At the end of their March 6 to 9 plenary meeting at the Vatican, the commission proposed that the Church hold a Synod of Bishops “on the theme of the woman in the life and mission of the Church. There still exist macho, bossy clerics who try to use women as servants within their parish, almost like submissive clients of worship and manual labour for what is needed. All of this has to end,” the final document from the meeting said. 
L’Osservatore Romano, reported on April 11 that the theme of the meeting, The woman: pillar in building the church and society in Latin America, was chosen by Pope Francis. 
The pope asked that some leading Latin American women— eight laywomen and six women religious—also be invited to participate in the meeting. 
Vatican Museums offer new dawn tours
VATICAN (SE): Vatican News reported that the Vatican Museums now offers an exclusive dawn tour of one of the world’s most famous art collections.
Called, Good Morning Vatican Museums, the guided tour offers the opportunity to enter the museums at 6.00am and witness the solemn ceremony of opening up the various exhibition rooms.
Visitors enter the building in the dark, watching as staff unlock the doors and switch on the lights to illuminate artistic treasures such as the Raphael rooms, the Maps gallery and the Sistine Chapel.
Vatican News reported that the exclusive tour includes breakfast in the Cortile della Pigna, a courtyard containing a modern globe sculpture and a giant, first-century bronze pine cone that was discovered near the Baths of the Roman consul, Agrippa.
Each year, some six million people visit the Vatican Museums. 
Society damaged by artificial contraception and abortion 
WASHINGTON (CNS): Medical and legal experts addressing the damaging effects of artificial contraception and abortion on health care, law and society as a whole urged hundreds of attendees at a symposium to evangelise and transform the culture through Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life) the Church’s profound encyclical reaffirming the sanctity of marriage and human life. 
The April 4 to 6 symposium, Embracing God’s Vision for Marriage, Love and Life, marked the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical and was hosted by The Catholic University of America.
Helen Alvare, a professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, observed, “Poor women and poor children have suffered the most since contraception,” she said. “(Society’s message is) sexual expression without marriage is freedom.”
As a result, “being without children is (believed to be) women’s highest goal. … The courts have made women’s chief freedom the right to be alone with their contraceptives and abortion clinics,” Alvare warned.
Elizabeth Kirk, who writes and speaks on matters of family law and religious freedom, said Humanae Vitae affirms the inseparability of the unitive and procreative meanings of conjugal love, adding that it specifically notes that all couples are called to live fully fruitful lives, even if they are infertile.
“The beauty of Humanae Vitae is that it tells infertile couples that conjugal love expressed fully and faithfully always carries both meanings,” even if it does not result in biological children. 

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