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Catholic leaders lament assassination of Maltese journalist

October 20, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Valletta, Malta, Oct 20, 2017 / 11:29 am (CNA).- Both Pope Francis and the bishop of the local Church have expressed their sorrow over the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist who died in a car bomb attack on Monday.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta condemned her murder, saying Oct. 16 that “The loss of this brave journalist fills us with sadness and with determination to continue defending democracy until the very end.”

“This is not a time to wage war between us or to blame one another. As a people we must wake up, defend the dignity of each one of us, and stop the verbal attacks on each other. We must defend the great value of democracy by moving from words to actions.”

“I pray for the soul of this victim and her family, and I extend my solidarity to all journalists. I encourage them to defend the truth, to be afraid of no one and to be servants of the people and of democracy,” Archbishop Scicluna concluded.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, sent the archbishop a telegram Oct. 20 on behalf of Pope Francis.

It said the Pope is praying for Caruana Galizia’s “eternal rest, and asks you kindly to convey his condolences to her family. The Holy Father also assures you of his spiritual closeness to the Maltese people at this difficult moment, and implores God’s blessings upon the nation.”

Caruana Galizia, 53, was killed when the rental car she was driving exploded shortly after she left her home in Bidnija, 9 miles northwest of Valletta, the Maltese capital. She was known for her investigations into corruption among the island nation’s politicians, of both the ruling and the opposition parties.

Earlier this year she claimed that prime minister Joseph Muscat was linked to the Panama Papers scandal – that he and his wife had used offshore bank accounts to hide payments from the Azerbaijani ruling family.

Her claims triggered early elections, which Muscat’s Labour Party nevertheless won.

Muscat has condemned Caruana Galizia’s murder, saying there was absolutely “no justification” for “this barbaric attack on a person and on the freedom of expression in our country.”

Caruana Galizia’s sons have called on Muscat to resign, and to replace Malta’s police commissioner and attorney general.

The journalist had reportedly told police two weeks ago she had received threats.

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Australian state’s lower house passes assisted suicide bill

October 20, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Melbourne, Australia, Oct 20, 2017 / 10:31 am (CNA).- A bill to legalize assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia was passed by Victoria’s Legislative Assembly on Friday after 26 hours of debate.

The bill will now advance to the upper house of the Australian state’s parliament, the Legislative Council, where it is expected to pass. If it is signed into law, Victoria would become Australia’s first state to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The bill passed in the Legislative Assembly in a 47-37 vote Oct. 20. Hundreds of amendments were proposed, but none were accepted.

Critics of the bill worry it abandons the vulnerable, among other problems.

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill is based on similar laws in the U.S. It allows adults who are terminally ill, expected to die within 12 months, and mentally competent to ask their doctor to prescribe a drug that will end their lives, the U.K.-based news site Politics Home reports. Physicians would be allowed to administer a lethal injection only when the patient is physically incapable of doing so.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, of the Australian Labor Party, had introduced the bill.

Victoria’s coroner told the members of parliament that one terminally ill Victorian was taking their own life every week because of intolerable pain.

Critics of the bill questioned a lack of detail about what lethal drugs will be used. They said there is not a requirement for a psychological assessment to determine whether the patient suffers depression, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports. They also cited the risk that the elderly will be coerced into committing suicide.

Backers of the bill said it would only affect a small number of people who suffer terminal illnesses. They objected that palliative care cannot deal with all pain. They also claim the bill has among the most stringent safeguards in the world.

Paul Keating, who was Prime Minister of Australia from 1991 to 1996 and a member of the Australian Labor Party, lamented the bill’s advancement, calling it a “truly sad moment for the whole country.”

“What this means is that the civic guidance provided by the state, in our second largest state, is voided when it comes to the protection of our most valuable asset,” Keating said in a statement. “To do or to cause to abrogate the core human instinct to survive and live, for the spirit to hang on against physical deprivations, is to turn one’s back on the compulsion built into the hundreds of thousands of years of our evolution.”

Keating also wrote that “Under Victorian law there will be people whose lives we honour and those we believe are better off dead.”

Bishop Peter Stasiuk of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Saints Peter and Paul of Melbourne said support of euthanasia and assisted suicide is “motivated by a false sense of compassion.” He wrote in an Oct. 12 pastoral letter that “Endorsing suicide as a solution to pain or suffering sends the wrong message, especially to the young. Suicide is a tragedy for the person who takes their own life, but it also seriously affects their family and community. It would be morally corrupt to legally endorse any form of suicide.”

And the Roman Catholic bishops in Victoria wrote a similar pastoral letter Oct. 9, noting that Victoria has “abolished the death penalty because we learnt that in spite of our best efforts, our justice system could never guarantee that an innocent person would not be killed by mistake or by false evidence. Our health system, like our justice system, is not perfect. Mistakes happen. To introduce this law presuming everyone will be safe is naïve. We need to consider the safety of those whose ability to speak for themselves is limited by fear, disability, illness or old age.”

In July Catholics, including Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, and leaders from several Christian denominations joined together to sign a letter protesting the proposal, charging that euthanasia and assisted suicide “represent the abandonment of those who are in greatest need of our care and support.”

In April, the local Catholic bishops said the proposal was based on “misplaced compassion.”

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are the opposite of care and represent the abandonment of the sick and the suffering, of older and dying persons,” they said in a pastoral letter. They also invoked the commandment “You Shall Not Kill” and cited the situation in countries like Holland where there are pressures on the elderly to commit suicide.

The effort to legalize assisted suicide in Victoria has been debated for more than a year. In June 2016, a parliamentary committee recommended legalizing voluntary euthanasia.

At the time, some physicians criticized the move. They charged that some lawmakers had naïve expectations and overestimated the speed and painlessness of a euthanasia death.

They warned that the legalization risked diminishing palliative care, which they said was already underused and underfunded.

A proposal similar to the Victorian bill will be debated in New South Wales in November. Last year, the national parliament defeated a euthanasia bill, as did the parliament of Tasmania in 2013.

Australia’s Northern Territory legalized assisted suicide in 1995, but the national parliament overturned the law two years later.

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Georgetown pro-marriage group faces sanctions after students complain

October 20, 2017 CNA Daily News 4

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2017 / 09:53 am (CNA).- A pro-marriage student group at Georgetown University is in danger of being defunded and barred from campus facilities, after fellow students have petitioned that it be recognized as a “hate group.”

The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, reported on Oct. 20 that Love Saxa, a student organization promoting Catholic doctrine regarding marriage, will undergo a Student Activities Commission hearing on Oct. 23, to defend itself against charges that the group fosters hatred and intolerance. The hearing is a response to a petition filed by a student-senator in the Georgetown University Student Association, and supported by leaders of gay pride student organizations at Georgetown.

Love Saxa intends to petition for a delay before the hearing takes place. The group told CNA they were only officially informed of the hearing’s date on the evening of Oct. 19, giving them an insufficient amount of time to prepare. The group also says they haven’t been given a copy of the petition, or an exact rendering of the charges against them.

Lova Saxa’s student-president Amelia Irvine told CNA, “I believe that Love Saxa has the right to exist, especially at a Catholic school. We exist to promote healthy, loving relationships at Georgetown.”

In a Sept. 6 column in The Hoya, Irvine wrote that “we believe that marriage is a conjugal union on every level – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental – directed toward caring for biological children. To us, marriage is much more than commitment of love between two consenting adults.”

Leaders of gay pride student organizations at Georgetown denounced this language as “homophobic,” and claimed it violated university standards.  

The university’s Student Organization Standards state that: “Groups will not be eligible for access to benefits if their purpose or activities … foster hatred or intolerance of others because of their race, nationality, gender, religion, or sexual preferences.” Love Saxa is accused of fostering hatred and intolerance, because of its support for Catholic teaching regarding marriage.

Love Saxa receives $250 of funding from the university, and is permitted to use university facilities for its activities, according to The Hoya. Results of the hearing could lead to loss of funding and facility access, among other sanctions, the newspaper reported.

Irvine told CNA that Love Saxa is hopeful about the results of the hearing. “We’re optimistic that the university will uphold our right to exist, given that we share the Catholic view on marriage,” she added.

In an Oct. 20 editorial, The Hoya’s editorial board advocated for Love Saxa’s defunding. The editorial board wrote that Love Saxa fosters intolerance by “actively advocating a limited definition of marriage that would concretely take rights away from the LGBTQ community.”

Georgetown is a Catholic university in Washington, D.C., founded by the Society of Jesus in 1789.

 

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Burma’s cardinal: ‘The Pope will come to heal the wounds of the country’

October 20, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Yangon, Burma, Oct 20, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis’ trip to Burma will help heal the wounds of his country, especially for minorities under attack, the nation’s sole cardinal maintains.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon is the first Burmese cardinal in the history of the Church. He was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2015.

Speaking with CNA about the upcoming papal trip to the country, Cardinal Bo stressed that the “Vatican and others need to work toward healing the wounds of our nation, by showing a future that can bring positive results for all communities.”

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has garnered increased international attention in recent years because of an escalating persecution of the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group within the Buddhist majority state.

Pope Francis has made a number of appeals for the protection of the Rohingya, since at least May 2015.

Since late August, the United Nations estimates that 582,000 Rohingya have fled Burma’s Rakhine state for Bangladesh.

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Cardinal Bo told CNA he “hopes that the Pope will address the burning questions” of Rohingya persecution in a meeting scheduled with the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi during the November trip.

He also said that the Pope will likely “encourage good steps”, and said that “as a Church, we want to affirm the intensity of human suffering” experienced by the Rohingya because “this problem has been there for last 60 years, and most intensely since 1982, when an unjust citizenship law passed.”

The cardinal also noted that “there is a new energy let loose by the global Islamophobia. The xenophobic regulations in rich countries against Muslims encourages this. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Muslims are not suffering only in Burma.”

He explained that recent government persecution of the Rohingya was a response to attacks on police stations by Rohingya militant groups. “Yet,” he said, “nothing can justify what happened afterwards.”

Cardinal Bo also addressed controversy surrounding Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Burma’s State Councillor, the nation’s head of government. A longtime human rights activist, she has been criticized for failure to recognize or stop military atrocities against the Rohingya, and for assigning blame to both sides of the conflict.

The cardinal said that “Aung San Suu Kyi could have done better, but to stigmatize her as if she did nothing is a far fetched theory.”

The cardinal recalled that Aung San Suu Kyi formed the Kofi Annan Commission, an advisory commission on the Rakhine State chaired by the former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and composed by six Burmese and three international members.

The commission issued a final report in August, requesting that Burma’s 1982 citizenship law that classifies Rohingya as illegal immigrants be reviewed. As a short term recommendation, the commission requested that Burma clarify the rights of people who are not granted full citizenship, including the Rohingya.

Cardinal Bo noted that Aung San Suu Kyi “agreed to implement the recommendations” of the Annan Commission.

Cardinal Bo noted that, unfortunately “the very day the Commission report was released, there was a militant attack and the reprisal started.” This, he explained, prevented implementation of recommendations.

But, he said, “by attacking Aung San Suu Kyi, nobody wins. She is still a hope for democracy.”

Cardinal Bo underscored that “Burma is one of the poorest countries in the world, and Rakhine State is the poorest: 70 percent of its people live in extreme poverty.”

In the end, Myanmar “has so many resources, but these do not go to the poor. The Pope is a great prophet of economic justice and environmental justice. He should raise his voice against these two injustices.”

The Archbishop of Yangon also emphasized that the Pope needs to “shed light on other unresolved conflict and displacements.”

The cardinal mentioned the situations in the states of Karen, Kachin, and Shan. Anti-Christian persecutions in Myanmar were highlighted in a 2016 report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The report said that in three Burmeses states, Christians are subjected to forced relocation, attacks on their places of worship, and an ongoing campaign of forced conversion and brainwashing in schools funded by the government.

According to the 2016 Report on Religious Freedom by Aid to the Church in Need, minorities are often targeted in Burma in a sort of continuous conflict that takes place in ethnic states.

The report refers in particular to Kachin, where at least 66 churches have been destroyed in ethnic conflicts ongoing since 2011.

The report also underscored that “in the prevalent Christian states of Chin and Kachin, the Burmese army has promoted a policy that forces Christians to remove crosses from the hills and the top of the mountains, sometimes forcing them to build Buddhist pagodas to replace them.”

This practice, the Report stressed, has “diminished since 2012, but never ceased.” In the state of Chin, a Christian was jailed for the crime of building a cross.

Cardinal Bo stressed that the “Rohingya situation is a great tragedy,” but added that “the country needs healing on various fronts.”

“The Holy Father,” he concluded, “has stood against the winds of criticism and mourned the suffering of Muslims and Rohingyas. With unflinching courage we need to stand against global Islamophobia. What happens here is a spill-over and to see this tragedy detached from other human tragedies would be a fragmented truth.”

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News Briefs

How Los Angeles Catholics help the homeless

October 19, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 20, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With growing numbers of people suffering homelessness in the expensive megalopolis of Los Angeles, Catholics and people of other religions are working together to provide a serious response… […]