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Vatican soccer champs dedicate victory to Coptic Christians

May 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, May 31, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Upon winning the Vatican’s annual soccer championship last week, the victorious team honored Christians in Egypt who have faced increasingly brutal persecution in recent years.

“I would like to dedicate this trophy to our friends from the Coptic Church,” said Deacon Sama Joan Romeo of Cameroon, the team captain of the Urban Lions.

Catholic seminarians and clergy drew soccer teams from the pontifical universities and colleges of Rome May 27 for the 13th annual Clericus Cup competition.

The competition’s press officer, Felice Alborghetti, said the competition should be considered a “world cup” because players from five continents and 66 countries are on the teams, which went through four qualifying rounds to reach the finals.

“In the final we have at least 20 countries (represented),” he told the EWTN news show Vaticano. “There are a lot of Europeans, Spaniards, Rumanians, Germans, a Croatian and a Hungarian player.”

African players are  heavily represented on the team from the Pontifical Urban University, nicknamed “The Lions of Africa.” They hail from countries including Uganda, Cameroon, Tanzania and Botswana.

“All the world is playing in the field, not so much to highlight the word of soccer, as that of the Gospel,” Alborghetti said.

Over 400 players competed, but the May 27 finals came down to two teams: one from the Pontifical Gregorian University, called “Gregoriana,” the other from the  Pontifical Urban University, the “Urban Lions.”

Classmates and fans of the teams gathered to show support in the bleachers around a field in view of St. Peter’s Basilica. Some wore painted faces and played guitars. The rectors of both schools cheered on their teams.

Monsignor Nuno da Silva Gonçalves, rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, reflected on the nature of the competition.
“We’re very committed to supporting our own team,” he told Vaticano. “Our university is trying to give thorough training programs, with a global and academic reach – which is very important to us – but also human and spiritual training and sport is part of this thorough approach.”

The players have also “sacrificed a lot to be here,” said Monsignor Vincenzo Viva, rector of the Urban College. “We mustn’t forget that it’s the exam period now at the university, so they’ve really made a great effort.”   

Amid the festivities, the final match of 2017 began with a serious moment of prayer. Then the opening whistle blew.

The Urban Lions took advantage, scoring the first goal. With high passions, the bleachers roared. There were fouls and penalties. Then a corner kick led to a second goal for the Urban Lions.

They took the match, and the Clericus Cup, with a 2-0 win.

“We came here and we knew we could win because last year we almost won the cup, and anyway it was a great match and a match of brotherhood,” said Antonio, an Angolan a seminarian from the Urban College. “This is the joy of being here and taking part in all this.”

Pour Porbumbi, a Kenyan seminarian at the same college, noted the fans’ effort to sing and sing so that their team could play well.

Deacon Sama Joan Romeo added that the team is “not playing for honor or for any glory, we are just playing for friendship, for fraternity for our spiritual goals.”

The win marks the third time the Urban College’s team has won a Clericus Cup.


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Trump admin ponders new religious freedom rule for HHS mandate

May 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., May 31, 2017 / 03:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A leaked draft of a federal rule that would protect religious organizations from the controversial federal contraception mandate has won the support of religious liberty advocates, who say that it is sorely needed. 

“What the rule ultimately says, is that, given how widely available these products already are, there is simply no need for the government to force unwilling religious groups who serve the poor to provide them or to pay massive fines that would shut down these types of ministries,” said Mark L. Rienzi, an attorney at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the legal group that represents the Little Sisters of the Poor.

“As I understand it, this rule shows the United States government finally acknowledging that people can get contraceptives without forcing nuns to provide them,” he said May 31.

Rienzi spoke to reporters in a Wednesday conference call about a 125-page draft memo of a religious liberty rule reportedly under consideration at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The rule would add to, not replace, an Obama-era HHS rule, announced in late 2011, that required employers’ health plans to include coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortion. The initial rule’s religious exemption was so narrow it only exempted houses of worship, drawing widespread objections and lawsuits from more than 300 plaintiffs. Among those suing over the mandate is EWTN Global Catholic Network. CNA is part of the EWTN family.

Subsequent revisions allowed some changes to the mandate for some religious entities. However, groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor objected that the rule still required their complicity in providing such coverage, which violates their religious and moral standards. Refusal to comply with the rule would result in heavy – potentially crippling – fines. 

The draft religious liberty rule would allow any employer to request an exemption based on moral or religious objections.

“Expanding the exemption removes religious and moral obstacles that entities and certain individuals may face who otherwise wish to participate in the healthcare market,” said the May 23 draft posted to the news site Vox.

Employers seeking an exemption would have to have a clear statement in their health plan documents that they do not cover contraception or related products. The rule would also allow health insurers to decline to cover contraception and allow individuals to object to participation in a health plan that covers birth control.

During his presidential run, Donald Trump had pledged to aid the Little Sisters of the Poor in an October letter to Catholic leaders.

And in a May 4 executive order, he asked three cabinet departments to consider amended rules that would “address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.”

The same day, he hosted the Little Sisters of the Poor in the Rose Garden of the White House.

“With this executive order,” he said, “we are ending the attacks on religious liberty.”

However, their legal fight continues. Rienzi said the Little Sisters will still seek a court order to bar the government from imposing similar requirements in the future.

While a new federal rule protecting religious liberty would be “a very good thing,” he said, the Little Sisters have always wanted a court to definitively say that “the government cannot force them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception.”

“The alternative would be a world where the Little Sisters of the Poor and other groups, every four to eight years, have to be staring at the Federal Register, waiting and worrying to see whether the government is going to try to re-impose this.”

The Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision of 2014 ruled that the mandate violated the religious freedom of closely-held private companies, but this did not apply to the Little Sisters’ case, as their organization is a non-profit. In May 2016, the Supreme Court ordered a lower court to re-hear the nuns’ case, a decision considered a technical win for the Little Sisters.

One backer of the Obama-era rule, National Women’s Law Center vice president Gretchen Borchelt, told the New York Times she did not know the details of the new rule. Nonetheless, she charged that whatever the rule is, her group thinks it will “allow an employer’s religious beliefs to keep birth control away from women.”

She said her organization was preparing a lawsuit to challenge the proposed rule. Possible grounds for the lawsuit could be inadequate explanation or justification for the rule, which makes it “arbitrary and capricious.” She thought the lawsuit could argue that the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act bars discrimination in health programs that receive federal funds. The act also bars the health secretary from issuing any rule that “impedes timely access to health care services” or creates “unreasonable barriers” for individuals seeking “appropriate medical care.”

Rienzi said such lawsuits would not succeed, given that these groups did not challenge the Obama administration’s other non-religious exemptions from mandatory contraception in health plans.

“There’s nothing at all unreasonable about the federal government respecting religious liberty. Congress didn’t impose this requirement in the first place, the agency did,” he said.

The Kaiser Family Foundation said that before the mandate, more than 20 percent of U.S. women of childbearing age paid out-of-pocket for oral contraceptives. After the mandate, that number is now 4 percent.  

According to Rienzi, figures on contraception coverage and contraceptive use ignore that the Obama administration had already exempted about one in three Americans, either on grandfathered plans or other government plans like military families. Big companies like Chevron and Pepsi were exempted by Congress for reasons of finance and convenience.

“About 100 million Americans did not have plans subject to this mandate,” he said.

“Some of the criticisms of the rule, at least that we’re seeing so far, suggest that it will take contraceptives away from many people,” he added. “That is quite inaccurate.”

Rienzi estimated only 120,000 to 130,000 people were employed by religious employers that would qualify for exemptions.

“Obviously this country has a lot of ways to get contraception to people without forcing Catholic nuns to get involved. It’s certainly a big enough country that we have room both for religious Catholic nuns and for people who want access to contraception,” Rienzi said.

Other backers of the draft religious freedom rule included the Susan B. Anthony List.

“The taking of human life is the antithesis of health care,” the group said. “No one, including religious orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor, or groups like Susan B. Anthony List should be forced to be complicit in the provision of abortion inducing drugs and devices.”



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Rome conference to tackle safeguarding children online

May 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, May 31, 2017 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An international congress in Rome this autumn will bring together experts to focus on the problem of online sexual abuse of minors and how to better safeguard children on the internet.

The Oct. 3-6 meeting is hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection and will conclude in an audience with Pope Francis during which he will be presented a “Declaration on Child Dignity in the Digital World.”

According to a May 31 statement, there are 3.2 billion internet users worldwide, children making up over one quarter of these – about 800 million users. These children and adolescents “are vulnerable to entirely new forms of harm and abuse such as trolling, cyberbullying, sextortion, and grooming for sexual exploitation.”

The international congress “will focus on the latest scientific research and technical understanding in this field, bringing together global experts and decision makers to discuss the risks and challenges of the digital age and its impact on the dignity of children.”

The invitation-only meeting intends to bring in more than 140 academic experts, leaders in business and civil society, high-level politicians, and religious representatives recognized around the globe.

The four days will include keynotes, plenary sessions, workshops, and a discussion forum focusing on the fields of cyber protection, cyber education, and cyber responsibility.

Afterward, the conference will issue a “Call for Papers” with the hope to stimulate innovative research and solutions to the problem of child protection online.

The congress is organized in partnership with WePROTECT Global Alliance, a movement dedicated to changing the handling of online child sexual exploitation around the world, and Telefono Azzurro, a non-profit whose purpose is the protection of minors from abuse and violence.

Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, president of the CCP and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said in a statement that “the congress provides an outstanding opportunity to exchange knowledge and good practice on risks and prevention as children navigate this new digital world.”

Ernesto Caffo, the scientific coordinator of the congress, added that they “are proud to bring
together many of the world’s leading scholars and researchers in the field of child

Their goal for the conference being to “substantially expand the body of knowledge on these complex issues and generate true global dialogue.”

UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security Joanna Shields said that while our increasingly connected society greatly empowers children, it “also exposes them to risks that compromise their safety and wellbeing.”

“To address these escalating global threats we need a broad coalition of government, faith leaders, academia and industry, all committed to protecting the dignity of children in this digital age.”

The congress follows a day-long seminar held March 23 on the prevention of child abuse, hosted by the CCP and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The seminar narrowed in on the importance of education in schools and parishes in the safeguarding of children – not only for teachers, but for parents and children – and on the Church’s role.


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Pope Francis: A shepherd must freely follow the Spirit

May 30, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, May 30, 2017 / 04:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday urged priests and bishops not to be afraid to “step down completely” from their assignment when they are called to a new duty.

“All shepherds have to step down. There comes a moment where the Lord says ‘go to another place, come here, go there, come to me.’ And it’s one of the steps that a shepherd must take,” he said during his homily May 30 at the chapel of the Vatican’s Santa Marta residence.

The shepherd must “be prepared to step down in the correct way, not still hanging on to his position,” he said.

In the first reading of the Mass, St. Paul addresses the Church leaders in Ephesus. The Pope said Paul left the Ephesus to go to Jerusalem, following the Holy Spirit’s call.

The Pope highlighted what he called the three “apostolic attitudes” demonstrated by St. Paul during a council with the priests of Ephesus, and he urged the faithful to pray that priests, bishops, and the Pope would live their lives accordingly.

The first attitude involves never turning back, and guiding the Church without compromise.

The second is obedience to the Spirit and the recognition that the life of a shepherd is a “journey,” always open to the voice of God.

St. Paul left Ephesus “because he had nothing of his own, he had not wrongly taken control of his sheep. He had served them … this is a shepherd without compromises who is now a shepherd on a journey.”

The third attitude involves the acknowledgement that “I am not the center of history. Whether it’s large history or small history, I am not the center, I am a servant.”

“With this most beautiful example, let us pray for our shepherds, for our parish priests, our bishops,” Pope Francis exhorted. “Let us pray for our shepherds.”