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Four underground priests reportedly disappeared in China's Hebei province

Jum, 09/11/2018 - 05:28

Xuanhua, China, Nov 8, 2018 / 03:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Four priests from the underground Catholic Church in China's Hebei province have been taken into policy custody for indoctrination, AsiaNews reported Monday.

The publication wrote Nov. 5 that the priests are being “indoctrinated on the religious policy of the Chinese government … because they refuse to enroll in the Patriotic Association.”

The abducted priests are Fr. Zhang Guilin and Fr. Wang Zhong of the Diocese of Chongli-Xiwanzi, and Fr. Su Guipeng and Fr. Zhao He of the Diocese of Xuanhua.

Fr. Zhao He may be under house arrest, according to some sources.

Reports of the destruction or desecration of Catholic churches and shrines have come from across China, including the provinces of Hebei, Henan, Guizhou, Shaanxi, and Shandong.

The Church in mainland China has been divided for some 60 years between the underground Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a government-sanctioned organization.

A Sept. 22 agreement between the Holy See and Beijing was intended to normalize the situation of China’s Catholics and unify the underground Church and the Patriotic Association.

The agreement has been roundly criticized by human rights groups and some Church leaders, including Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong.

Zen wrote in a column for the New York Times that the agreement was a step toward the “annihilation” of the Catholic Church in China.

While Pope Francis is “very pastoral,” Zen said does not think that he properly understands how communist China works. In Pope Francis’ home country of Argentina, the communists worked to defend the poor against government oppression, often alongside Jesuits, he said. This could be why the pope “may have a natural sympathy for Communists,” as he views them to be persecuted.

It is far different, said Zen, in places where communists are the ruling party – like China. When they acquire power, the communists become the persecutors themselves, he said.

While the exact terms of the agreement between China and the Vatican were not released, Zen is not optimistic about the future of the underground church. While Pope Francis could still “veto” the nomination of a state-approved bishop, “how many times can he do that, really?”

“What good is having the last word when China will have all the words before it,” he asked. He also expressed doubt that the approximately 30 bishops of the underground Church will still be permitted to function as bishops if the two Churches are reconciled.

Since the agreement in September, two CPCA bishops were invited to attend the synod on youth. These men are “known to be close to the Chinese government,” and their attendance at the synod is “an insult to the good bishops of China.”

EWTN launches expanded podcast lineup

Jum, 09/11/2018 - 04:27

Irondale, Ala., Nov 8, 2018 / 02:27 pm (CNA).- The largest Catholic media network in the world has launched an extended lineup of podcasts.

EWTN Global Catholic Network announced last month that it had begun offering "great Catholic podcasts with programs that feature interviews with Catholic newsmakers taking on the issues of the day, Catholic authors of just published books, Catholic apologists answering questions about the faith, Catholic leaders discussing the day's most important moral and theological issues," among other things.

Among the podcast offerings is a daily recording of the Mass, available for Catholics who wish to listen to Mass but are unable to attend, and a weekly Bible study.

Other podcasts include audio content from EWTN foundress Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, PCPA, news programming from EWTN News Nightly, and audio programming featuring the hosts of EWTN television programs.

EWTN's expanded podcast network can be found at the network's web site and on major podcast subscription apps.

EWTN Global Catholic Network, in its 38th year, is the largest religious media network in the world. EWTN's 11 TV channels are broadcast in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 287 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories. EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 domestic and international AM & FM radio affiliates; a worldwide shortwave radio service; the largest Catholic website in the U.S.; electronic and print news services, including Catholic News Agency, "The National Catholic Register" newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.






Irish physicians complain they've been ignored by health minister on abortion

Jum, 09/11/2018 - 04:05

Dublin, Ireland, Nov 8, 2018 / 02:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Some 640 general practitioners in the Republic of Ireland have signed a petition saying their concerns have not been listened to regarding the government's plan to have abortion services led by general practitioners.

“Instead of reaching out to the hundreds of GPs, Minister Harris has adopted an utterly dismissive tone from the get-go,” said Dr. Aisling Bastible, according to The Irish News.

The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 proposed by health minister Simon Harris will have a general-practitioner led abortion service. It would require pro-life healthcare professionals to provide abortion referrals, though not to perform them.

“No matter what your stance on abortion, you would surely expect the minister to consult with GPs on the ground before legislating,” said Dr. Andrew O'Regan.

“General practice is at maximum capacity, we have a big problem trying to recruit GPs and now the government are saying, 'We want you to do this as well', it's just not on.”

O'Regan commented on the importance of conscientious objection, saying, “There's plenty of doctors willing to do this, we don't want to block those doctors but don't force us to be part of it.”

The Irish bishops have lamented that the bill would require pro-life healthcare professionals to provide abortion referrals, calling the provision “an affront to conscience.”

They noted that the bill envisages that in the first twelve weeks, abortion will generally be chemically induced.

“This presumes that pharmacists, whether in hospitals or in private practice, will routinely stock and dispense drugs whose specific purpose is to end human life. No provision is made for pharmacists to opt out on the grounds of conscientious objection.”

“We ask the Government, and wider society, to respect the right of all healthcare professionals and pharmacists to exercise conscientious objection not only by refusing to participate actively in abortion but also by declining to refer their patients to others for abortion,” the bishops said.

They said, “Healthcare professionals, pharmacists and ancillary healthcare workers, should not face legal, professional or financial penalties or any form of discrimination for their commitment to respect life.”

The bishops noted that in New Zealand, healthcare professionals “opt in” to the provision of abortion, rather than opting out; nor are those who object to the procedure obliged to provide referrals for it.

Irish Health Minister Simon Harris criticized the opt-in stance, which is supported by the National Association of General Practitioners. In June, the group of 2,000 practitioners unanimously voted in favor of the “opt-in” method.

Ireland faces a potential shortage of doctors willing to participate in abortions; a March survey of Irish healthcare professionals found that that roughly seven out of 10 general practitioners in Ireland are unwilling to perform abortions.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar clarified to the Dáil in June that individual medical professionals will be able to opt out of performing abortions, but entire hospitals will not be able to do so. Many publicly-funded hospitals have historic ties to the Catholic Church and operate under Catholic ethics.

Pope Francis advocates for global access to clean drinking water

Jum, 09/11/2018 - 03:01

Rome, Italy, Nov 8, 2018 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis spoke of the importance of increasing access to clean drinking water around the world Thursday, calling current statistics “a huge shame for the humanity.”

“Water is essential for life. In many parts of the world, our brothers and sisters cannot have a dignified life because of the lack of access to clean water,” Pope Francis told participants in an international conference in Rome Nov. 8.

Worldwide, 2.1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water according to the World Health Organization’s 2015 statistics. This means that at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces, the WHO explains.

“The dramatic statistics of thirst, especially the situation of those people who get sick and often die because of unhealthy water, is a huge shame for the humanity of the 21st century,” Pope Francis said at the Pontifical Urban University.

Contaminated drinking water can lead to diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. An estimated 842,000 people die from diarrhoea alone each year as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation, and hand hygiene.

The Vatican conference, “Managing a Common Good: Access to Drinking Water for All” addressed solutions to this global issue through the creation of infrastructures, training, advocacy, and assistance to endangered populations whose water supply is compromised.

“The Holy See and the Church are committed to access to drinking water for all,” Pope Francis said.

The Dicastery for Integral Human Development organized the conference in partnership with the U.S., French, Italian, and Monegasque embassies to the Holy See.

Pope Francis said, “In every thirsty man we perceive the same image of God, as we read in Matthew's Gospel: ‘I was thirsty and you gave me no drink.’”

When self-driving cars are forced to crash, whom should they hit?  

Jum, 09/11/2018 - 02:00

Boston, Mass., Nov 8, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- If a self-driving car is about to crash into a crowd, and it can only swerve to hit a baby stroller or a large man, whom should it decide to kill?
Questions like that were the focus of a massive global survey by researchers who say the results could help program autonomous vehicles to behave “ethically” in split-second, life-or-death scenarios.
Their paper, titled, “The Moral Machine Experiment,” was published in the journal Nature Oct. 24. The researchers’ internet platform, called the Moral Machine, asked participants to consider practical dilemmas autonomous vehicles might encounter in daily operation. Participants were asked their moral preferences about how an autonomous vehicle should respond in crisis situations- like whether to swerve to hit a crowd of people or stay on course to hit two people.
Commonalities among respondents included a preference for humans over animals, for the young over the old, and for preserving the lives of many people rather than a few people. Respondents also showed a moderate preference for sparing law-abiding bystanders over jaywalkers.
Among the authors of the paper was Iyad Rahwan, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab.
“On the one hand, we wanted to provide a simple way for the public to engage in an important societal discussion,” Rahwan said, according to the MIT News Office. “On the other hand, we wanted to collect data to identify which factors people think are important for autonomous cars to use in resolving ethical tradeoffs.”
The paper discusses how these preferences can contribute to developing “global, socially acceptable principles for machine ethics,” its abstract said.
For Stephen Barr, a Catholic scientist who is a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Delaware, the survey results show some merits.
“Favoring humans over animals is obviously right,” he told CNA. He compared distinctions among humans envisioned in the scenario to “triage situations” in hospitals.
“Some of the rankings one finds in this survey make sense and are perfectly traditional. Others are a bit strange, such as disfavoring large people,” he said.
While not necessarily endorsing the preferences, Barr said, “some rules must be given to the machines that reflect human moral judgments, and they must be the kinds of rules that a machine can apply.”
“The rules people come up with for the machines to follow will not be perfect, but they may be better than the way a human driver in a state of panic would respond,” he said.
The researchers’ Moral Machine platform collected 40 million decisions in ten languages from millions of people around the world, in 233 countries and territories. Over 490,000 respondents gave demographic data, which researchers split to subgroups by age, education, sex, income and political and religious views.
The top six strongest preferences to spare a character in the scenarios, in descending order, were a baby stroller, a girl, a boy, a pregnant woman, a male doctor and a female doctor.
Respondents rated criminals of lower importance than dogs, who in turn were lower than an old woman, an old man, a homeless person, a large man, a large woman and a male business executive.
Researchers documented individual variations based on respondents’ demographics, as well as cross-cultural ethical variation. Their analysis found three major clusters of differences, clusters researchers said “correlate with modern institutions and deep cultural traits.”
The researchers categorized these clusters as “western,” “eastern” and “southern.”
Those in “southern” countries showed a stronger tendency to save young people over the elderly, while those in the “eastern” cluster, which included many Asian countries, showed a weaker tendency to save children instead of the elderly compared to the other two groups.
Catholic ethics generally hold there to be a natural law standard of ethics that transcends cultural groups.
Barr said that widespread moral preferences “can be in error” but by definition the natural moral law is not.
“But natural law is often reflected in very widespread and transculturally held moral ideas,” he said. “The preferences for saving the child over the adult, the pregnant woman over other adults, the human being over the animal, and several other preferences seen in this survey are quite consistent with traditional Christian values and with the natural law.”
Other preferences seemed arbitrary to Barr, such as the ranking for the large man.
“Since questions of the common good are clearly involved, ultimately public authorities must be involved in setting the rules,” he said. “In one way or another, public opinion will play a large role, especially, but not only, in democratic societies.”
If responsible people perceive the rules to be unreasonable, “they will not be tolerated for long.”
Because public opinion can be influenced by various authorities, the Church “should do what it can to enlighten people on the principles that should apply,” said Barr.


Capuchin priest arrested in Washington DC

Jum, 09/11/2018 - 01:45

Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2018 / 11:45 am (CNA).- A Capuchin priest was arrested in Washington D.C. Nov. 7 after he was accused of sexually abusing a teenager in 2015. Fr. Urbano Vazquez, OFM Cap., had served as parochial vicar of Shrine of the Sacred Heart in northwest Washington since 2014. He has been charged with second-degree child sexual abuse.


The charges concern a claim that Vazquez had put his hand down the shirt of a 13-year-old girl on two occasions and had touched her bare chest.


The Archdiocese of Washington said they learned about the allegation Oct. 26, after being informed by the Capuchin Order of Friars Minor. The archdiocese confirmed to CNA that they immediately removed Fr. Vazquez from the parish, suspended his priestly faculties in the diocese, and informed local police who then arrested Vazquez.


Since Vazquez’s arrest, the archdiocese said they had recieved additional alleagations against the priest. Due to the nature of the police investigation, this information was kept private until Wednesday.


The Shrine of the Sacred Heart, while within the Archdiocese of Washington, is administered by the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, and the church is home to many of the D.C.-area’s Hispanic Catholics. Vazquez was not ordained by the Archdiocese of Washington, but like his brother Franciscans, was permitted by the archdiocese to work within its boundaries. The Archdiocese of Washington has since forbidden Vazquez from exercising ministry, but it will be the Capuchin Order which handles further disciplinary action.


The Archdiocese of Washington said in a statement that Vazquez had passed all required background checks and other investigative measures prior to his arrival in the city.


Also in the statement, the Archdiocese of Washington said that Vazquez’s superior at the shrine, Fr. Moises Villalta, OFM Cap. had been removed from his post as pastor.


The Archdiocese determined that Villalta “failed to follow appropriate protocols related to reporting claims” and had previously known about the allegations and had not reported them to either the police or the archdiocese.


The parish’s child protection coordinator was also placed on administrative leave.


The Archdiocese of Washington recently published a list of 28 clergy to have served within the archdiocese who had been credibly accused of sexual misconduct or abuse over the last 70 years.


Since the publication of that list, three additional names have been added, Fr. Vazquez will be the fourth.

Kidnapped students in Cameroon released

Jum, 09/11/2018 - 01:01

Bamenda, Cameroon, Nov 8, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Seventy-eight students and a driver kidnapped from a Christian school in Cameroon were released late Tuesday.

The students were recovered the evening of Nov. 6 at a building of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon in Bafut, fewer than 15 miles north of Bamenda, whence they were taken.

The principal and a teacher of the Presbyterian Secondary School were also abducted Nov. 5, but were not released with the students and driver.

The Cameroonian government and Anglophone separats have accused each other of being behind the abduction; both have denied involvement.

Fonki Samuel, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, told BBC Focus on Africa that the students, aged 11-17, were “frightened and traumatised but in good shape.”

Samuel said the release “was done peacefully... by unidentified gunmen.”

It had earlier been reported that 79 students were taken, but Samuels said it was in fact 78.

The Nov. 5 kidnapping was the second such incident at Bamenda's Presbyterian Secondary School in recent weeks. Another 11 students were abducted Oct. 31, and released for a $4,000 ransom.

Samuel suggested that “armed groups, gangsters and thieves” could be using the insecurity in Cameroon, blaming kidnappings on either the government or the separatists.

Separatists have set fire to more than 100 schools, taking them over as training grounds, the AP has reported. The groups protest the bias toward the French language over English in the educational system.

On. Oct 30, an American Baptist missionary was shot in the head amid the fighting in Bamenda.

“This tragedy occurred in the midst of the Anglophone crisis that affects the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon. Both the separatist fighters and government security forces have used violence against innocent civilians,” State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Palladino said Oct. 31.

Earlier in October, a seminarian in Bamenda was shot by Cameroonian soldiers outside of a church following Mass.

Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua of Bamenda called the 19-year-old seminarian, Gerard Anjiangwe, a “martyr of the Anglophone crisis” in his funeral Mass Oct. 16. Anjiangwe died holding his rosary.

More than 160,000 people have been forced out of their homes by the conflict according to Caritas International.

The crisis in Cameroon is rooted in conflict between the English- and French-speaking areas of Cameroon.

The area was a German colony in the late 19th century, but the territory was divided into British and French mandates after the German Empire's defeat in World War I. The mandates were united in an independent Cameroon in 1961.

There is now a separatist movement in the Southwest and Northwest Regions, which were formerly the British Southern Cameroons.

Unrest in Cameroon has been ongoing since 2016, when the country’s Anglophone community began protests to demand the return of federalism. These protests have gone so care as to call for secession from the current government, run by President Paul Biya.

Biya was sworn in to his seventh term Nov. 6. He has ruled Cameroon for 36 years. Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala has voiced concern that Biya's election was marred by fraud.

Wisconsin native and Guatemalan martyr: Br. James Miller to be beatified

Jum, 09/11/2018 - 00:00

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2018 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Thursday approved the beatification of American Br. James Miller, who was martyred in 1982 in Guatemala.

The declarations were made following a meeting Nov. 7 with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Pope Francis gave his approval for Miller’s beatification, declaring he was killed “in hatred of the faith,” and advancing 23 other causes for canonization.

The pope also confirmed the heroic virtue of Servant of God Michael Giedrojć and approved his beatification.

Now-Bl. Michael Giedrojć was a brother of the Order of St. Augustine born in Lithuania around the year 1420. He died in Krakow, Poland on May 4, 1485.

Giedrojć was approved through an “equivalent beatification,” a process by which the pope may declare a person to be a “blessed” without the typical investigation and miracle, due to a long-standing recognition of the person’s holiness and virtue, usually in the place where he or she lived, called a “local cult.” The same process may be used for a canonization.

Br. James Alfred Miller, who was a religious brother of the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools (called Christian Brothers) was serving in Guatemala when he was shot to death by three hooded men in the afternoon of Feb. 13, 1982, dying instantly. He was 37.

Miller, who was born near Stevens Point, Wisconsin in 1944, took the habit of the Christian Brothers in August 1962.

He coached football, and taught Spanish, English, and religion in a high school in St. Paul, Minn. There his construction and maintenance abilities gained him the nickname "Brother Fix-It."

Miller was later sent to teach in Nicaragua, where under his leadership a school grew from 300 to 800 students and he supervised the construction of 10 new rural schools.

In July 1978 his superiors asked him to leave the country because of the danger amid the Sandinista Revolution. He returned to the U.S. and again taught high school.

He was sent to mission territory in Guatemala in 1981, teaching at a secondary school and at a center for studies for young indigenous Mayans from rural areas.

He was assassinated in February 1982, while standing on a ladder, repairing a wall of a school building.

Local authorities did not identify the gunmen.

Miller’s killing was one in a string of assassinations of priests and religious in the country, including that of Bl. Stanley Rother five months later.

Aware of the danger present to him in Guatemala, in one of his last letters before he died, Miller wrote: “I am personally weary of violence, but I continue to feel a strong commitment to the suffering poor of Central America. …the Church is being persecuted because of its option for the poor.”

“Aware of numerous dangers and difficulties, we continue working with faith and hope and trusting in God’s Providence. … I pray to God for the grace and strength to serve Him faithfully among the poor and oppressed in Guatemala. I place my life in His Providence. I place my trust in Him.”

The date of Miller’s beatification has not been announced but is expected to take place sometime in 2019.
In addition to Miller, Pope Francis Nov. 8 declared the martyrdom of Angelo Cuartas Cristobal and eight companions, alumni of the Seminary of Oviedo, Spain, who were killed in Oviedo between 1934-1937; and Mariano Mullerat i Soldevila, a layman and father, who was killed near Arbeca, Spain in 1936.

The pope also recognized miracles attributed to Venerable Edvige Carboni (1880-1952) and Benedetta Bianchi Porro (1936-1964), paving the way for their beatification.

The heroic virtue of nine other Catholics was also declared, advancing their causes along the path of beatification.

They are: Italian Bishop Giovanni Jacono (1873-1957); Filipino Bishop Alfredo Maria Obviar, founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Catechists of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus (1889-1978); Italian Fr. Giovanni Ciresola, founder of the Congregation of the Poor Servants of the Most Precious Blood-Cenacle of Charity (1902-1987); Italian Fr. Luigi Bosio (1909-1994); Italian Fr. Luigi Maria Raineri, member of the Congregation of the Clerics Regular of St. Paul (1895-1918); Spanish Sr. Maria Antonia di Gesu, member of the Discalced Carmelites (1700-1760); Spanish Sr. Arcangela Badosa Cuatrecasas, member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel (1878-1918); Italian Sr. Maria Addolorata del Sacro Costato of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Passion of Jesus Christ (1920-1954); and Italian Lodovico Coccapani, lay member of the Secular Franciscan Order (1849-1931).


LA archbishop offers prayers for victims following attack

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 23:12

Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 8, 2018 / 09:12 am (CNA).- Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles has offered prayers for the victims, and all who were affected by a Wednesday evening shooting at a country club in Thousand Oaks, California.


At least 12 people, including a Sheriff's deputy, were killed in the attack at Borderline Bar & Grill. The venue was hosting a country-themed night for nearby college students. The shooting occurred shortly before 11:30 pm.


More than 20 people were taken to area hospitals for treatment following the attack.


The shooter, identified by authorities as 28 year-old Ian David Lang, also died of a gunshot during the attack, though it is not clear under what circumstances.


In a statement released by the archdiocese, Gomez said he awoke to news of “horrible violence last night at the Borderline Grill in Thousand Oaks.”


Gomez urged prayers for the families of the victims and for those who were killed or hurt in the shooting. He singled out Sgt. Ron Helus of the Ventura County Sheriff's office as an “heroic officer” who was killed defending others during the attack.


Helus, who was due to retire next year, was the first victim to be publicly identified. After responding to the attack, he sustained multiple gunshot wounds and passed away at a nearby hospital.


“May God grant perpetual light to those who have died and may he bring comfort to their loved ones and peace to our community,” said Gomez.


A motive for the attack was not immediately available. The suspect has been identified as a Marine veteran who had numerous past run-ins with police. According to a New York Times report, Lang, a Marine Corps veteran, was the subject of a disturbance complaint at his home in April following which he spoke to mental health specialists, who concluded that he was not an immediate danger to himself or others.


The shooting follows an brutal anti-semitic attack on a Pittsburgh synagoge, Oct. 27, in which 11 people were killed during a service. It also follows similar mass-casualty attacks, including the Las Vegas shooting one year ago, in which 58 people lost their lives.

Catholic mother Asia Bibi moved from prison to Islamabad amid death threats

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 20:01

Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov 8, 2018 / 06:01 am (ACI Prensa).- Pakistani Catholic Asia Bibi was released from prison and moved to Islamabad late Wednesday as her family seeks asylum due to the riots and death threats following her acquittal of blasphemy charges.


The mother-of-five had spent eight years on death row in Pakistan on blasphemy charges after she was accused of making disparaging remarks about the Islamic prophet Muhammad.


Until yesterday, Bibi remained in prison one week after Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted her charges Oct. 31, which sparked protests by Islamic hardliners who called for her to be hanged.


Pakistani authorities flew Bibi to an undisclosed location in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad the night of Nov. 7 for security reasons, two senior government officials told AP.


Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, has appealed to several Western countries for asylum for their family. The Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said said Tuesday that he would do “everything humanly possible” to help secure Bibi’s safety in Italy or another European country.


Alessandro Monteduro, director of Aid to the Church in Need Italy, has served as an intermediary with the Italian government in the Bibi family’s appeal for asylum in Europe.


“They want to leave Pakistan as soon as possible,” Monteduro told CNA Nov. 7 after speaking with Bibi’s husband over the phone earlier this week.


Bibi’s husband told Monteduro that although his family has already lived through an unimaginable experience, they had not anticipated that things would get so bad that they would need to go into hiding.


“They [Bibi’s family] are grateful for all the people, for the charities in this moment involved in trying to raise awareness,” he added.


Speculation continues as to whether Bibi will receive asylum in Europe.


On Nov. 7, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani tweeted, “Asia Bibi has left the prison and has been transferred to a safe place! I thank the Pakistani authorities. I look forward meeting her and her family, in the European Parliament as soon as possible.”


A spokesperson for Pakistan’s foreign office said Nov. 8 that there is “no truth” in reports that Bibi had already left Pakistan.


“There is no truth in reports of her leaving the country -- it is fake news,” Dr. Mohammad Faisal said at a press briefing.


Pakistan’s blasphemy laws impose strict punishment on those who desecrate the Quran or who defame or insult Muhammad. Pakistan’s state religion is Islam, and around 97 percent of the population is Muslim.

Although the government has never executed a person under the blasphemy law, accusations alone have inspired mob and vigilante violence.

Blasphemy laws are reportedly used to settle scores or to persecute religious minorities; while non-Muslims constitute only three percent of the Pakistani population, 14 percent of blasphemy cases have been levied against them.

In 2009, Bibi was accused of making disparaging remarks about the Islamic prophet Muhammad after an argument stemming from a cup of water. Bibi was harvesting berries with other farm workers when she was asked to get water from a well.

Another person saw her drinking water from a cup that had previously been used by Muslims, and informed Bibi that it was not proper for a Christian to use that cup, as she was unclean. An argument ensued, and Bibi was reported to a Muslim cleric five days later for her supposed blasphemy. Bibi and her family were the only Christians in the area, and had faced pressure to convert to Islam.

She was convicted of blasphemy in 2010, and was sentenced to death by hanging. She immediately appealed. Islamic hardliners in Pakistan have called for her execution since her initial conviction.

Since her arrest, Bibi has garnered international support from numerous world leaders calling for her immediate release, including Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. In 2015, Pope Francis met with her daughter and offered prayers.

Catholic schools in Australia to receive funding increase

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 07:10

Canberra, Australia, Nov 7, 2018 / 05:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic schools in Australia have secured an increase in funding from the government following an outcry from Catholic leaders, but some Australians have been questioning the Church’s tactics in securing the funding.

In July, the socioeconomic status review board in Australia announced changes to their methodology to measure more precisely parents’ capacity to pay for schools. The new methodology would use parents’ tax information rather than geographical census data.

This new model could lead to a $74 million a year funding increase for Catholic schools from 2020 onward.

This model replaces a controversial 2017 funding model put forth by then-education minister Simon Birmingham. He delivered a funding package in that would end special deals and create one funding system for all schools, public and private, The Guardian reported. That model would have resulted in funding increases for schools in some areas, but in others, such as the Australian Capital Territory, it would have deceased funding by nearly two percent.

Catholic leaders, including Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, reportedly objected to the funding plan at the time, and parents in several districts holding elections received warnings in the mail of possible fee increases and school closures. Several members of the Australian Labor party expressed worry that any cuts to Catholic education would cost them votes in their districts.

The Catholic Education Commission in the state of Victoria campaigned for the Labor Party in at least one district, after the party pledged to increase Catholic school funding. Stephen Elder, the head of the commission, said that the lobbying was needed because 750,000 Catholic school students nationwide were likely to have to pay higher fees, and some schools faced closure.

Australia elected Scott Morrison, a member of the Liberal Party, as Prime Minister in August, and he replaced education minister Simon Birmingham with Dan Tehan.

Morrison then delivered a new school funding package in September that includes $3.2 billion to fund non-government schools over the next decade. It also includes a $1.2 billion “choice and affordability fund,” only for independent and Catholic schools, to support rural and drought-affected schools and other schools that require extra aid.

An Australian public policy think tank released analysis suggesting that the $1.2 billion was more than enough to cover fee increases for low-income parents. The National Catholic Education Commission gave its full support to the new funding package.

Morrison stressed the importance of school choice, while also reiterating a commitment to government schools, which will receive increased funding, from $7.3 billion this year to $13.7 billion in 2029.

According to the National Catholic Education Commission, one in five Australian students attends a Catholic school, for a total of some 765,000 students in 1,741 schools.

Trump administration announces new conscience exemptions for contraceptive mandate

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 06:30

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- The Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor released two updated rules concerning conscience protections for organizations and individuals in relation to the HHS contraception mandate.


Under the new rules, organizations and individuals objecting to the controversial mandate’s provisions on either religious or moral grounds will be exempt.


According to a press release from HHS, the new rules “provide an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate to entities and individuals that object to services covered by the mandate on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs.”


“Thus,” the release said, “entities that have sincerely held religious beliefs against providing contraceptive services (or services which they consider to be abortifacients) would be exempt from the mandate and no longer be required to provide such coverage.”


The new rules also cover nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and individuals that have “non-religious moral convictions” opposed to the services covered by the mandate.


Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, offered praise for the new rules, saying they signaled the end of a “long, unnecessary culture war.”


Under the Affordable Care Act, employer-provided health insurance plans are required to cover certain “preventative services.” These were defined by guidance issued under the Obama Administration as including all contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including abortifacient birth control pills, IUDs, and sterilization procedures.  


This provision was not included in the original bill, but was announced in January 2012 by then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.


Initially, there were no exemptions for those opposed to the distribution of contraceptives due to their deeply-held religious beliefs. Eventually, an exemption was made, but it was so narrow in scope it excluded religious orders such as the Little Sisters of the Poor.


The Little Sisters of the Poor, along with several other organizations, including EWTN, filed suit against HHS over the mandate.


Rienzi, whose organization represented the Little Sisters of the Poor, said that the change in administration policy meant attention could now turn to ongoing cases in the states.


“Today, at long last, the federal government finalized the rule providing a religious exemption from the HHS Mandate to the Little Sisters and other religious non-profits.”


“All that is left is for state governments to admit that there are many ways to deliver these services without nuns, and the Little Sisters can return to serving the elderly poor in peace.”


The Little Sisters of the Poor are currently being sued by the state attorney general’s office in Pennsylvania and California.


In May of 2017, Trump issued an executive order asking that conscience-based objections to the HHS Contraceptive Mandate be addressed.


In October 2017, the Trump administration announced additional exemptions to protect those with religious objections to the distribution of contraception. These have been the subject of ongoing legal challenges.


Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the Federal District Court in Philadelphia issued a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration's initial rules Dec. 15, 2017, saying Pennsylvania could suffer “serious and irreparable harm” from the rules because a lack of cost-effective contraception would mean “individual choices which will result in an increase in unintended pregnancies” burdening the state.


Shortly after Beetlestone's ruling, Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. of the Federal District Court in Oakland also blocked the Trump administration's rules, saying they would “transform contraceptive coverage from a legal entitlement to an essentially gratuitous benefit wholly subject to their employer’s discretion.”


Both of these cases were appealed by the administration and remain pending.


In April, 2018, District Court Judge David Russell issued a permanent injunction and declaratory relief against the mandate for members of the Catholic Benefits Association.


Russell also ruled that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by attempting to force employers to provide contraception and sterilization in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.


The updated exemptions, released Wednesday, will not include publicly-traded businesses. Employers that still wish to cover contraceptives as part of their insurance plan remain free to do so.


In addition to the exemption, employers and other affected bodies can still choose to arrange for a third-party accommodation, which would provide contraceptive coverage to its employees and their dependents either through independent action by their insurer or insurance administrator.


A press release for HHS also confirmed that government programs providing contraception either for free or at a lower cost to low-income women will not be impacted by these new rules.


In addition to these two rules, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a proposed rule concerning eligibility for premium subsidies through the Affordable Care Act Exchange.


This rule, titled “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA): Exchange Program Integrity,” looks to ensure that patients are eligible for these subsidies. It also proposes that issuers bill patients abortion services separately from other medical services.

Thousands march in support of life, family in El Salvador

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 06:13

San Salvador, El Salvador, Nov 7, 2018 / 04:13 pm (ACI Prensa).- Thousands participated Nov. 3 in the “Family is Life” march in San Salvador, calling on authorities to end efforts to legalize abortion and implement gender ideology in schools.

The march, which organizers estimated drew around 5,000 people belonging to 70 organizations, began at the Salvador del Mundo (Savior of the World) Plaza and ended up in downtown San Salvador.

Julia Regina de Cardenal, the president of the Yes to Life Foundation, said that many people in El Salvador are “calling for the right of parents as the first and irreplaceable educators of our children to be respected in face of the threat of gender ideology that is advancing in the programs of this government.”

Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language sister agency, she said that one of the threats being posed to strong families is the educational document “Comprehensive Sex Education,” since “it encourages children, starting with preschool, to encourage sexual pleasure individually or with another person.”

She further warned that another danger for Salvadoran society “is the National Interagency Strategy for the Prevention of Pregnancy” sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund and the European Union. The program promotes contraception as one of the 'sexual and reproductive rights' for girls, without the knowledge of parents, she said.

Regina de Cardenal noted that “on February 3, 2019, we will have presidential elections, and we hope that the candidates see that these issues are important to the people.”

The theme of the Nov. 3 march, she said, “is a message of unity and love, because it is proven that the intact family is key for development, as it provides greater stability, security and opportunities for the children and therefore to society.”

She pointed to the correlation between broken families and gang activity among young people, stressing the value of strong families for the well-being of children.

Sara Larín, of the VIDA SV (Life El Salvador) platform, who also participated in the march, said that the event also sought to “celebrate life, family and values,” as well as “to reclaim the right of parents to educate their own children.”

Gender ideology, she said, “is a violation of the rights of children.”
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Four people, including priest, kidnapped in southern Nigeria

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 05:01

Warri, Nigeria, Nov 7, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic priest and three other persons were kidnapped in Nigeria's Delta state Tuesday night, according to local media.

Fr. Emmanuel Obadjere and his companions were taken hostage by unknown gunmen Nov. 6 while on their way to Ekpoma, in neighboring Edo state, Pulse reports.

Fr. Obadjere is a priest of the Diocese of Warri, whose website says he was ordained June 26, 2008. According to Pulse, he is pastor of St. William's parish in Orerokpe, about 10 miles northeast of Warri. It is at least 100 miles from Orerokpe to Epkoma.

Delta Commissioner of Police Muhammad Mustafa told Pulse Wednesday that a suspect has been arrested.

Last month, five nuns were abducted in Delta.

At least six priests have been kidnapped in the state this year.

Violence against Christians has significantly increased in Nigeria in recent years, with the radical Islamist group Boko Haram threatening safety in the north, and smaller violent gangs threatening security in the south.

Jeff Sessions resigns as Attorney General

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 04:31

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2018 / 02:31 pm (CNA).- Jeff Sessions has stepped down as attorney general. The decision came at the request of President Donald Trump.

A known defender of religious liberty and the right to life of the unborn, but a controversial actor in recent asylum and immigration debates, Sessions submitted his resignation on Wednesday afternoon.

In an undated letter, Sessions said “At your request, I am submitting my resignation.”


He continued, “I came to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country. I have done so to the best of my ability, working to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice.”


Sessions cited his successes in prosecuting “the largest number of violent offenders and firearm defendants” in history, as well as his work targeting transnational gangs, combating the opioid epidemic, and enforcing immigration law during his time as attorney general.


Rumors of Sessions’ departure from the administration had been circulating for months. In August, Trump said that Sessions would be staying as attorney general until at least November, but only weeks later appeared to avoid the question when asked if Sessions’ job was safe.


Tensions between the president and AG were said to begin following Sessions' decision to recuse himself from oversight of the Justice Department invesitgation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.


Trump’s nomination of Sessions as attorney general was cheered by pro-life groups due to his record in Congress as a Senator for Alabama. National Right to Life gave Sessions a perfect 100 percent rating throughout his Senate career.


In July of this year, Sessions created a religious liberty task force to ensure proper implementation of a memo from the year prior. In announcing the task force, Sessions said there was a “dangerous movement” afoot that was “challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom.”


Sessions also garnered significant controversy over his handling of immigration issues, particularly the family separation policy. In June, he was criticized after citing Romans 13 to justify the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration.


“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” said Sessions.


Romans 13 states, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Those critical of Sessions noted that the same verse had been invoked in the past to defend slavery.


Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the USCCB, was publicly critical of Sessions stance on immigration at the start of the conference’s Spring General Assembly.


DiNardo said that Sessions’ alteration of the United States’ policy on asylum seekers “elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection,” and could “erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors.”


DiNardo also joined Bishop Joe Vasquez, who chairs the USCCB’s migration committee, in condemning family separation as “not the answer” to immigration issues, as well as being “immoral.”


Until a replacement is nominated, Matthew G. Whitaker, Sessions’ former chief of staff, will serve as Acting Attorney General. President Trump said that Sessions’ replacement “will be nominated at a later date.”

Catholic vote split in midterm elections, pro-life amendments adopted

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 04:10

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2018 / 02:10 pm (CNA).- The 2018 midterm elections saw the Catholic vote split evenly between the two main parties, while down-ballot measures to protect life and religious freedom were adopted by voters in several states.

According to Pew Research Center, the Nov. 6 poll saw 50 percent of Catholics vote for Democrats, while 49 percent voted for Republicans. The figures represent a significant tightening between Catholic support for the two parties compared to previous midterm elections.

In the 2014 midterms, 54 percent of Catholic voters backed for the GOP with 45 percent supporting the Democrats.

Four years prior to that, in 2010, 54 percent of Catholic voters favored Republicans compared to 44 percent for Democrats. Those results were nearly the reverse of 2006’s percentages, where 55 percent of Catholics went for Democrats and 44 percent voted for Republicans.

Unlike other religious or faith demographics, Catholics do not tend to vote reliably en bloc. Evangelical Christians, by contrast typically support Republican candidates, and have done so for over a decade. In 2018, 2014, and 2010, more than three fourths of these voters backed Republicans.

Away from the national results, several states had pro-life and religious liberty measures on the ballot.

In Alabama, both Amendment 1 and Amendment 2 passed by wide margins.

Amendment 1 proposed a specific constitutional guarantee that “a person is free to worship God as he or she chooses, and that a person’s religious beliefs will have no effect on his or her civil or political rights.”

It also specifically provided for the public display of the Ten Commandments on government property “so long as the display meets constitutional requirements, such as being displayed along with historical or educational items.”

Amendment 2 was proposed as an effective law-in-waiting should the US Supreme Court overturn the decision Roe v. Wade, which recognizes a constitutional right to abortion. With its passage, the Alabama constitution now “recognizes and supports the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and provides that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

While the law will have no immediate effect because of the national applicability of Roe, should that decision be overturned and the issue of abortion returned to the individual states, it would prevent a state-level legal ruling from finding a similar constitutional protection in Alabama.

A similar measure was passed by voters in West Virginia. Amendment 1 on that ballot also  amended the state constitution to include a clarification that abortion would not be considered a right.

In Oregon, Measure 106 would have forbidden the use of public money to pay for an abortion, except in cases of medical danger to the mother’s life, but was rejected by voters. The Oregon proposal was put on the ballot following a public petition, while pro-life proposals in other states had the backing of state legislators.

A number of closely contested Senate elections also featured abortion as a prominent issue.

Democrat incumbent Joe Donnelly lost his Indiana seat to Republican challenger Mike Braun. Braun continually raised Donnelly’s voting record on abortion during a debate between the candidates, who were polling neck-and-neck.

Similarly, North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp lost her seat to a pro-life challenger, Kevin Cramer. Despite running six years ago as a candidate opposed to government funded and late-term abortions, Heitkamp had a 100% voting record score from Planned Parenthood, and repeatedly cast her ballot to continue funding the abortion provider.

Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life, told CNA that although the Senate appears to have a solidly pro-life base of members, results in the House of Representatives were a source of concern.

“Now that Democrats control the House, we can expect the Committee Leadership to fall in line with the pro-abortion lobby, pushing an extremist agenda that undoubtedly includes undoing all the pro-life progress made by this administration.”

Mancini expressed her hope that any change in priority by in the House would be offset by strong action by the Trump administration.

“President Trump should by default issue a veto threat any time pro-life policies are stripped from legislation and continue to appoint pro-life leaders to fill critical positions within the administration.”

Despite these concerns, some pro-life victories were won in the House of Representatives too.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), one of the few staunchly pro-life Democrats in Congress, faced an intense challenge primary challenge, during which his opposition to abortion was repeatedly targeted by members of his own party.

In Tuesday’s vote Lipinski was easily reelected to his 7th term in Congress with 73.5 percent of the vote. Lipinski’s opponent, Arthur Jones, had been disavowed by the Illinois Republican Party due to his self-professed Nazi views.

Indian diocese will not fund defense for bishop accused of rape

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 04:00

Jalandhar, India, Nov 7, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Jalandhar will not pay for the criminal defense of its bishop, who is accused of serially raping a religious sister.

Bishop Agnelo Gracias, who was appointed Sept. 20 by Pope Francis as interim leader of the Indian diocese, told reporters Nov. 6 that Bishop Franco Mulakkal’s brother has been paying for the bishop’s legal expenses.

“His family back home is quite well off. So, no request has come to us from his side,” Gracias said Nov. 6, adding that the diocese would consider providing financial support to Mulakkal’s accuser if she requested it.

Mulakkal, who remains head of the Diocese of Jalandhar but was sidelined by the appointment of Gracias, was arrested Sept. 21. He is suspected of having raped a member of the Missionaries of Jesus more than a dozen times during a two year period that began May 5, 2014.

The bishop claims that the nun accused him of rape as retaliation, because he had ordered an investigation into a claim that she was having an affair with a relative. He maintains his innocence.

Mulakkal was released from police custody on bail shortly after his arrest. However, police threatened last week to revoke his bail unless the bishop turned over by Nov. 5 a laptop believed to contain evidence in the case. Indian officials have not yet reported whether the bishop has turned over the laptop, or whether he will face reincarceration.

A government panel last week conducted an autopsy of Father Kuriakose Kattuhara, a priest who was found dead Oct. 22, weeks after providing police with testimony against the bishop. Family members have alleged foul play, but results of the autopsy have not yet been released, NDTV has reported.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Jalandhar told reporters Nov. 6 that it was the diocese “who insisted that everything should remain transparent,” during the autopsy and investigation into Kattuhara’s death.

“I suggested that his post-mortem could be filmed so that there would be no fingers pointing at us later,” added diocesan spokesman Fr. Peter Kavumpuran.

Mulakkal also faces criticism over charges of mismanagement at a religious congregation he founded in the diocese, the Franciscan Missionaries of Jesus. The congregation is accused of recruiting seminarians who had been rejected by a regional seminary, and questions have been raised about the congregation’s financial administration, according to India’s Tribune News Service.

Kavumpuran told Tribune News Service that charges against the congregation were unfounded.


Amid abuse lawsuits, Guam archdiocese to file for bankruptcy

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 03:12

Hagatna, Guam, Nov 7, 2018 / 01:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Agaña, Guam has announced that it will file for bankruptcy, following mediation efforts in September regarding clerical abuse claims in the country.

Archbishop Michael Byrnes said the bankruptcy declaration “will bring the greatest measure of justice to the greatest number of victims,” allowing them to know “that they've been heard and understood,” the Associated Press reported.

Leander James, an attorney working with alleged victims in the country, welcomed the announcement, saying, “Bankruptcy provides the only realistic path to settlement of pending and future claims.”

There are currently $115 million in lawsuits from over 180 abuse claims pending in Guam.

In March, the Archdiocese of Agaña announced plans to sell its chancery property and move offices, as part of a broader move to liquidate and sell archdiocesan property to settle sex abuse cases.

Anthony Perez, another victims’ attorney, explained that the local diocese will not necessarily be forced to close its doors.

“In my discussions with attorneys from my team with extensive experience in these types of bankruptcies, this filing will allow the archdiocese to reorganize and still be operational after the claims are paid and the bankruptcy is closed,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

In March, Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron was found guilty of “certain” charges and sentenced to be removed from office and forbidden from living in the archdiocese. Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Michael Byrnes as Apuron’s successor.  

The Vatican did not state the charges for which Apuron was found guilty. He had been accused of a multitude of offenses, including raping his nephew in 1989 or 1990.

Apuron maintains his innocence and immediately filed an appeal, which Pope Francis said he was personally evaluating.

Cardinal O'Brien: Don't let Holy Land become a 'museum'

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 02:29

Vatican City, Nov 7, 2018 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, told journalists Wednesday that the order of knighthood is committed to providing good educational opportunities in the Holy Land to help Christians remain in their homeland.

“We don’t want the Holy Land to become a museum,” O’Brien said Nov. 7. He spoke in advance of the general assembly of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, which will take place near the Vatican next week.

O’Brien said he believes education, at all levels, is one of the greatest contributions the order has made. Education offers stabilization by giving young people in the Holy Land the foundation for a better future, and by contributing to inter-religious dialogue and harmony, since both Christians and Muslims attend order-funded schools, he noted.

The order provides around 80 percent of the total operating budget of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, supporting around 68 parishes, 44 schools, and 90,000 Christians in Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus.

This aid is coordinated through the governing body of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, called the Grand Magisterium.

O’Brien told EWTN Nov. 7 the order has seen success in the cooperation among Christians and between Christians and Muslims in the area of the patriarchate.

“The effective role that we play is in dialogue,” he said, “but especially in education, because for many [Christians in the Holy Land] there are no real solid education opportunities.” The order provides education for Christians “no matter what they can do to pay,” he said.

The order’s members “are committed to doing whatever’s necessary to advance the pastoral, educational, and humanitarian needs of Christians and others in Palestine, West Bank, Jordan, and Israel,” he said.

“And I think we very effectively do that... People depend on the help that they receive from us because there’s very little else to look for.”

The “consulta,” as next week’s general assembly is called, takes place every five years and brings together a portion of the estimated 30,000 knights and dames of the order to discuss future projects and the mission of the order.

Members come from 40 countries and make both a spiritual and financial commitment of support of the Church in the Holy Land, particularly the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

O’Brien told EWTN that a part of the assembly will be to hear from members “what their local needs are, and to respond to them.”

“It’s very important that we know whom we’re serving and what they’re accomplishing in their various lieutenancies, and that they coordinate and collaborate together, and in and through us, to make our members’ charity and generosity more effective,” he said.

Manx legislature passes most liberal abortion law in British Isles

Kam, 08/11/2018 - 01:17

Douglas, Isle of Man, Nov 7, 2018 / 11:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The upper house of the Isle of Man's legislature passed Tuesday a bill that will liberalize abortion access in the territory. The Abortion Reform Bill 2018 now needs only receive royal assentand promulgation before it becomes law.

Members of the Legislative Council unanimously passed the bill with its amendments Nov. 6.

Abortion policy on the the Isle of Man, a crown dependency located between England and Northern Ireland, is currently governed by the Termination of Pregnancy Act 1995, which allows abortion only in cases where the mother’s life is endangered or if the baby has a low survival rate.

The Abortion Reform Bill 2018 decriminalizes abortion. It will allow elective abortion up to 14 weeks; up to 24 weeks if medical reasons or “serious social grounds” were presented; and, according to Isle of Man Today, “in certain emergency or serious situations after 24 weeks.”

Among amendments made to the bill were measures regarding counseling services and conscientious objection.

It will provide for buffer zones around medical centers to keep pro-life counselors and protesters at a distance from women procuring abortion, as well as measures to prevent sex-selective abortions.

The Anglican bishop of Sodor and Man, Peter Eagles, who is ex officio a member of the Legislative Council, had voted against the bill earlier in the year, but was in favor of it Tuesday.

“I see these amendments as being entirely within the spirit of the discussion held in this council earlier and as being instrumental in enhancing the bill’s effectiveness,” Eagles said, according to Isle of Man Today.

The bill has been opposed by the Catholic Church on the island and by Humanity and Equality in Abortion Reform.

Supporters of abortion rights have expressed hope that the bill's passage will strengthen abortion reform across the United Kingdom.

The bill will go to Richard Gozney, Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man, to receive royal assent Nov. 20. It will be promulgated on Tynwald Day, July 5, 2019.