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Venezuelan bishops denounce pro-government bias in elections

October 22, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 22, 2017 / 06:02 am (ACI Prensa).- The Venezuelan bishops’ conference has criticized bias by the National Electoral Council in favor of the government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro during last Sunday’s regional elections.

The regime took 18 out of 23 disputed governorships, amid allegations of fraud leveled by the opposition. The opposition won five states, an increase of two.

It had been expected that the opposition would win a majority of states, given the economic crisis and months of anti-socialist protests in which more than 120 people were killed.

Regional elections were held Oct. 15. The US State Department has said the elections were neither “free nor fair,” citing last-minute changes to polling station locations without public notice, manipulation of ballot layouts, and limited availability of voting machines in opposition neighborhoods.

The 18 newly elected socialist governors were sworn in by the constituent assembly Oct. 19, while the five governors of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable boycotted the event. Maduro has said the governors who will not be sworn in by the constituent assembly may not take office.

The constituent assembly is itself the product of contested elections, which took place July 30. The body has superseded the authority of the National Assembly, Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature.

The Venezuelan bishops stated Oct. 19 their denunciation of the National Electoral Council for “ignoring the appeals made by various national and international bodies, has once again shown itself to be a biased arbiter in the service of the governing  political party,” the bishops charged in an Oct. 19 statement.

Even though Venezuela’s constitution indicated regional elections should have been held in October 2016, through the National Electoral Council the government delayed the date of elections.

According to various media, this was became the regime feared losing some of the 20 states they controlled, as their United Socialist Party of Venezuela had low approval ratings. At the same time, protests in recent months had become widespread in the county due to the social and political crisis.

In its statement, the bishops’ conference pointed out that there were “multiple irregularities committed in the implementation of the electoral process: preventing political organizations from substituting candidates as provided by law, sending voters over to other polling stations at the last minute, the lack of neutral international observers, and voters being pressured into voting a certain way.”

“All this constitutes an obstacle to exercising one’s right to vote and creates mistrust in the election processes,” they charged.

The bishops also referred to “the decision to create new authorities, preventing from taking office governors elected in those states that did not support the Maduro regime in the elections.” This “is clearly ignoring and mocking the will of the people on which  the legitimacy of any election rests,” they stated.

However, despite the irregularities that led to a “pro-regime advantage,” the bishops called on Venezuelans to not lose “credibility and confidence in the power of voting as the way to a peaceful and democratic solution for the urgent and momentous changes that the country requires … We cannot do without the electoral route. Let us not lose hope!”

The bishops stated that “it is indispensable to restore justice and ethics to the electoral system” so that citizens “can freely and confidently express themselves” and that in the future, “elections supervised by neutral international bodies may restore peace and tranquility to Venezuelan society.”

The bishops’ conference reiterated “the primacy of the individual and his universal rights over and above ideologies, systems of government and special interests.” They  called upon “all institutions of social life to respect, defend and promote civil rights and to not become discouraged in claiming them,” and they urged citizens to “not be carried away by irrationality or fanaticism in the political controversy.”

“The people have the right to demand that the political leadership concern itself primarily with their most felt necessities, to know and experience them firsthand and to offer to the people a coherent plan for the country, founded on justice and the common good without exclusions,” they said.   

The statement concluded asking God to raise up hope in Venezuelans “in face of the serious problems affecting our society, which creates anxiety and discouragement in many hearts.”

“We commend ourselves to the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Coromoto and we ask her to watch over us to that we can live in harmony, freedom and peace,” the bishops’ conference stated.

Frustration in Venezuela has been building for years due to poor economic policies, including strict price controls coupled with high inflation rates, which have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers, and medicines.

Venezuela’s socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

The International Monetary Fund has forecasted an inflation rate of 2,300 percent in Venezuela in 2018.

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Five keys to Catholic education, according to Cardinal Versaldi

October 18, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Santiago, Chile, Oct 19, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, proposed last week five keys for pastoral education “to respond in depth to the current challenges of society.”

The cardinal participated in Chile’s Sixth National Congress on Catholic Education, Oct. 12-13, organized by the Chilean bishops’ conference and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

In his keynote address,  Cardinal Versaldi explained that education “must be careful to avoid  two  extreme and opposite dangers: that of an educational program imposed on the student without respecting his autonomy and requirements; and an educational program that simply goes along with whatever the  students ask for, or without any consideration for their personal growth.”

The cardinal then proposed five keys for education in Catholic schools:

Proclamation of the Christian life

“The Catholic school has both the right and duty to not only teach in consistency with its own values, but also to have an inner dynamic of  proclaiming and living the Christian life,” Cardinal Versaldi said.

“Such an educational program  becomes for believers in Christ an opportunity for  growth and the  integration of faith and reason and also for living out the life of the Church.”

For non-believers it is “an opportunity to better know the authentic Gospel message which their conscience has to then consider and  which they’re always  free to accept or not,” he said.

“It would be unjust to ask, in the name of tolerance for Catholic schools to take a neutral approach  in what they teach  and to not to be able to foster a religious way of life, while still respecting  people’s freedom, since the students  have decided to go to an  institution they already know is Catholic.”

The witness of charity

Cardinal Versaldi said a school community’s  witness must be “obviously noted for” its charity, which makes “the values conveyed through its teaching credible and attractive.”

“A Christian school community imbued with this charity is in and of itself the best means of pastoral ministry.”

Ongoing formation of teachers

The ongoing formation of professors in teaching methods and especially in “their spiritual growth  and their truly living out their faith … is not a waste of  time or effort which takes way from their actual  teaching,” Cardinal Versaldi said.

Such formation can make both the faculty and the administration able to “credibly engage with and also to be a partner in dialogue with civil society and the state schools in order to create a Chilean society founded on the  shared values of respect for cultural and religious diversity.”

Working together with the Church

Cardinal Versaldi said the school’s pastoral ministry must work side by side with the local Church and parishes so that they “mutually help each other out in their different  roles” without “imposing  on the school the responsibilities that mostly belong to the parish or vice versa.”

In addition “it is important to foster a consistent witness, including that of their lives outside the classroom, such that the Church community would think the school a living example of her realities.”

Providence as a guide

“Schools need to deepen their knowledge of what’s going on in society in both its positive and negative aspects, discerning  the signs of the times, animated not by a paralyzing pessimism but rather with Christian hope founded on the faith that human history is always guided by Divine Providence despite people’s free will,” the cardinal stated.

“It is important to maintain this faith and translate it into the work of education as an overriding way of acting in order to become protagonists in a true renewal of the social scene without letting oneself be manipulated by the various political factions.”

“Thus the Catholic school will always be on the forefront of dealing with the new challenges that the world must face such as care for the environment and immigration that politics in general tends to discount, marginalizing more people and creating dangers for future generations,” Cardinal Versaldi concluded.

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World Youth Day cross, Marian icon console Mexican earthquake victims

October 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Oaxaca, Mexico, Oct 5, 2017 / 12:07 am (ACI Prensa).- A team of pilgrims representing World Youth Day 2019 offered a message of hope and consolation to Mexicans impacted by a devastating Sept. 7 earthquake.  

On Oct. 2, the team visited areas affected by the earthquake with the official World Youth Day Pilgrim Cross and a Marian icon, as a sign of solidarity.

The team is touring Mexico as part of an international pilgrimage promoting the 2019 World Youth Day, to be held in Panama City, Panama. They had been scheduled to stop in Oaxaca, in the south of Mexico, during their tour, but local churches cancelled their visits after the earthquake, due to the extensive damage in that area.

The group decided to “make a visit anyway as a sign of solidarity, as a sign of the presence of Christ through the cross and the Blessed Mother with the icon,”  Fr. José de la Luz López, national adviser to the Mexican bishops’ youth ministry, told CNA.

They received permission to bring the World Youth Day symbols to the cathedral and two shelters in Tehuantepec, an area heavily impacted by the earthquake. Young people from the Tehuantepec diocesan team also participated in organizing the reception of the cross and icon.

Fr. José de la Luz said that the symbols were transported to Oaxaca in a pickup truck from Acapulco, a distance of 400 miles that typically takes more than 12 hours by car.

The priest said he would “sum up in two ways” the reaction of the earthquake victims when they received the cross and icon.

“First, these symbols gave a lot of hope. The young people were very enthusiastic, they were very hopeful in the midst of all their bewilderment and pain, and they were committed to rebuild their homes,” he said.

“The second thing I take away is that we Mexicans are going to have a lot to learn from the young people from these hard hit places. The people of Oaxaca have shown us a great deal of fortitude and faith,” he continued.

At the cathedral in Tehuantepec, the World Youth Day cross was displayed during a service drawing more than 120 people.

From the cathedral, the cross was taken to a nearby shelter, where nearly 100 people gathered to pray.  Most of them were elderly, the priest said, because the young people and adults were out removing the debris from their homes in order to rescue their belongings.

The team then transported the cross through devastated areas, displayed in the bed of their pickup truck. “We passed through the most affected areas and we prayed from the pickup truck. Then we went to the town of Ixtepec, where the situation is somewhat different – the shelters are very small because most of the people have set up tents next to their homes,” Lopez said.

Besides visiting one of the shelters in Ixtepec, the cross and icon were also present at a Holy Hour that a local parish held for the victims.

The pilgrimage will continue in Mexico until Oct. 13, before travelling through Central America and the Caribbean, and concluding August 2018 in Panama.

The 8.1-magnitude earthquake that struck the southern coast of Mexico on Sept. 7 resulted in widespread damage and nearly 100 deaths. It was followed less than two weeks later by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake 400 miles away, which killed more than 300 people and injured 6,000.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa.  It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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Pope Francis will re-use popemobiles for his Chile trip

September 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Santiago, Chile, Sep 28, 2017 / 03:59 pm (ACI Prensa).-

The commission planning Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Chile has announced that the popemobiles which the Holy Father will use in the country have all been used during previous papal trips.

“We’ve made an agreement with the Vatican to reuse the popemobiles so as to comply with the Holy See’s request to avoid a proliferation of these vehicles in the world, and also to carry the message of environmental sustainability that we want to give this visit,” said Javier Peralta, executive director of the Chilean commission planning the visit.

“Although we received proposals from different businesses in Chile to make them locally, we considered, along with the Vatican, that the most appropriate thing to do is to re-utilize vehicles that already have all the technical specifications,” he said.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”es” dir=”ltr”>Chile reutilizará tres papamóviles que llegarán desde Estados Unidos y Bolivia para visita <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/FranciscoEnChile?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#FranciscoEnChile</a><a href=”https://t.co/cYERwTMpgE”>https://t.co/cYERwTMpgE</a> <a href=”https://t.co/0qzYTXCud9″>pic.twitter.com/0qzYTXCud9</a></p>&mdash; IglesiadeSantiago.cl (@Iglesiastgo) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Iglesiastgo/status/913079851535536128?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 27, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

Two identical 2015 Jeep Wranglers – which were used during the Holy Father’s 2015 visit to New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and his trip to Mexico in 2016 – will be imported to Chile.

These vehicles will transport Pope Francis in Santiago and Temuco on Jan. 16-17.

The popemobile that will be used in Iquique on Jan. 18 was built for the pontiff’s 2016 visit to Bolivia. It is a 2015 Toyota Series 70 Land Cruiser.

The vehicle was modified with solar protection, due to the high temperatures and exposure to ultraviolet rays common in the northern part of the country.

Peralta said that the popemobiles will arrive in mid-December.

The Toyosa S.A. business, which represents Toyota in Bolivia, contacted the Chilean commission directly to offer the Bolivian vehicle. Meanwhile, the U.S. vehicles were coordinated between the Vatican and Fiat-Chrysler.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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Mexico City archdiocese offers free medical care for earthquake victims

September 26, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 26, 2017 / 11:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of last week’s devastating earthquake, the Archdiocese of Mexico City has announced that anyone needing medical care can go to the Catholic Church’s clinics and hospitals even if they are unable to pay.

On Sept. 19, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake devastated Mexico City and surrounding areas, killing more than 300 and leaving thousands homeless.

Health care law in Mexico requires that medical services are provided on a sliding scale, considering the ability of patients to pay. In light of the current situation, the archdiocese has announced that it will provide medical services “even if you can’t pay on the sliding scale.”

To help defray their costs, donations of any kind are also being requested, especially “bandages, toiletries, antiseptics, gauze or medications in good condition, not used or expired.”

Fr. Pedro Velasquez, director of the Pastoral Commission on Health Care for the Archdiocese of Mexico, noted that this service is being provided thanks to volunteers from Catholic universities, especially from Anahuac University’s north and south campuses.   

Cardinal Rivera also shared his appreciation for all the youthful volunteers during a recent homily at the Guadalupe Basilica: “What a moving lesson it has been to see so many young people, day and night, helping those affected, distributing food supplies, removing rubble, going up and down  the streets anxiously looking for someone to help! Just for the joy of seeing someone being reborn out of the rubble!”

Fr. Velasquez described the first moments after the quake struck. “Initially people cut with flying glass came in, or with various kinds of trauma; we’ve treated fractures, bruises, those are the things we normally treat when there’s an emergency,” the priest said.

“We also give medications to people with chronic problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure or even a nervous breakdown,” he added.

Finally, Fr. Velasquez encouraged Mexicans to keep their faith, and to see that despite the suffering brought by the quake, “natural catastrophes are an opportunity God gives us to show our support for one another and to use our personal talents to serve others.”

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa.  It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

…..

Related news:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Church collapses in Mexico quake during baptism, killing several <a href=”https://t.co/xgOM2DHzlw”>https://t.co/xgOM2DHzlw</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Catholic?src=hash”>#Catholic</a></p>&mdash; Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) <a href=”https://twitter.com/cnalive/status/911652640320364544″>September 23, 2017</a></blockquote>
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Catholic group continues Blessed Stanley Rother’s work in Guatemala

September 25, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 25, 2017 / 10:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Father John Goggin was serving as a missionary priest in Guatemala on July 28, 1981, when he was woken up early with the news that Father Stanley Rother, from the parish just up the road, had been killed in the night by a government-backed death squad.

While another priest went to be with Fr. Rother’s people, it became Fr. Goggin’s job to drive an hour to the Sololá-Chimaltenango diocesan office to alert the people there. He also had to tell the news to the American embassy and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

Fr. Goggin said he knew Father Stanley for many years, having been missionary priests in the same region of Guatemala.  

Fr. Stanley was a priest from the small town of Okarche, Oklahoma, and spent 13 years of his priesthood as a beloved missionary in Santiago, Atitlan in Guatemala before he was killed. Pope Francis declared him a martyr last year, paving the way for his beatification.

His sacrifice is something that continues to inspire and challenge Fr. Goggin as a priest, which is why he made the nearly 2,000-mile journey to Oklahoma City to be present for his beatification on September 23.

“I certainly wanted to be here, I never thought I would know a person who would be (on the path to canonization),” he said. “Being able to come to Fr. Stan’s beatification is just wonderful to me.”

“In all the prayers as a priest–it’s the whole idea of trying to give yourself, doing what the Lord asks, what the people ask, and you find that in Fr. Stan,” he added.

Fr. Stanley was also known for not wanting to abandon his people, even though he knew his life was at risk. After Fr. Stanley died, Fr. Goggin said he still did not want the people to feel abandoned.

That’s why he was grateful when the opportunity came to work with Unbound, a non-profit founded by lay Catholics who had also spend time serving as missionaries in Latin America.

The group works as a sponsorship program, pairing children and elderly people with sponsors in other countries, who provide monthly financial aid and moral support in order to help them achieve their own dreams and goals. Sponsors communicate with their partners through letters and e-mail, and also have the opportunity to visit the communities through awareness trips sponsored by Unbound.

Unbound currently serves in 19 countries, including countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

“When the opportunity came to become part of Unbound…I felt it was the direct result of a gift from Fr. Stanley Rother,” Fr. Goggin said, “because we were trying to fill a little bit of his shoes.”

One of the founders of Unbound had known Fr. Stanley while serving as a missionary in Guatemala, and was inspired by his spirit of solidarity with his people, which he kept in the ethic of Unbound.

Fr. Stanley had once flunked Latin studies, but he had mastered the local indigenous dialect of Tzutuhil and had become a beloved member of his community in Santiago Atitlan. He would share meals with them, visit them in their homes, and lived a simple life just like his people.

“We come from the same roots,” said Andrew Kling, director of community outreach and media relations for Unbound.

“Walking with, rather than speaking for the community, is part of our ethic. Rather than passing out stuff, we walk with the families. We have social workers who ask them: what are your dreams, what are your goals, how can we help you get there with a little bit of help every month. We don’t just parachute in western aid workers, we’re developing an ear and listening to the community,” he said.

Chico Chavajay is a Guatemalan who works as the coordinator of Unbound’s largest project, based in the region around Lake Atitlan where Fr. Stanley worked.

Chavajay grew up speaking the same native language that Fr. Stanley learned to speak. While he was only one year old when Fr. Stanley died, Chavajay told CNA that the impact of Fr. Stanley is still strongly felt by everyone in the region.

“Everyone knows him, if you just mention his name, people respond, because he rescued people and people knew they were rescued by him,” Chavajay said.

And it doesn’t matter if someone is Catholic or not. “Padre A’plas is Padre A’plas,” Chavajay noted, using Fr. Rother’s other name.

“Stanley” was such a foreign name that the people of Guatemala took to calling the priest Fr. Francisco, after his baptismal name of Francis, which in Tzutuhil translates to A’plas.

“There’s lots of connections of spirituality of Fr. Stanley and the spirit of Unbound,” Chavajay added. “Our program prioritizes education and health, just like Fr. Stanley.”

Fr. Stanley had helped to establish the first hospital in the area, which was free and open to anyone, Chavajay said. That hospital saved his sister’s life when he was just 8 years old.

Chavajay noted that Unbound has also, in a way, adopted the signature phrase of Fr. Stanley: “The shepherd cannot abandon his sheep at the first sign of danger.”

This was something Fr. Stanley wrote in a letter home, explaining why he would not abandon his missionary post, even as the threats of the Guatemalan civil war escalated.

“We have the same belief that we’re not going to abandon the people that we serve,” he said.

The connection that Chavajay feels to Fr. Stanley is strong, particularly because they spoke the same language, he said.

“I feel that I have a real blood connection with the community in Santiago and Padre A’plas because our language is the same,” he said.

Furthermore, his younger brother also became a priest and served at the same parish where Fr. Stanley had been a priest.

An increase in vocations is something that the whole region has seen since Fr. Stanley’s death, Fr. Goggin added. Five or six priests have come from Fr. Stanley’s own parish, and several more have come from the local diocese.

“My own feeling is that Fr. Stan is making some of this happen,” Fr. Goggin said.

On the morning of Fr. Stanley’s beatification, Unbound sponsored a walking pilgrimage from their hotel to the beatification Mass, with Fr. Goggin, Chavajay, and Kling in attendance. Fr. Goggin also got to take part in the procession of Fr. Stanley’s relics up to the altar at the beatification Mass.

They each said it was a privilege to be at the Mass to honor someone who had and continues to have such a strong impact on their mission.

“His same spirit really permeates what we do,” Kling said, “and we hope an event like this could really highlight the importance of walking in solidarity with people.

“You don’t have to be a martyr to change the world. Fr. Stanley’s example shows that love is a choice, and that if you make that choice you can change the world. Love requires sacrifice, it requires vulnerability, it requires dedication, and sometimes it requires everything. But the fact that 36 years later it lives on in such a profound way is a powerful testament,” he added.

“My hope is that we will have many more people (who loved) like him, because if you look at the news today, we desperately need it.”  

The Unbound website is at www.unbound.org.

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Paraguay’s government rejects gender ideology

September 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Asunción, Paraguay, Sep 24, 2017 / 02:42 pm (ACI Prensa).- Paraguay Secretary of Education, Enrique Riera told reporters that the country’s constitution recognizes “the traditional family” consisting of “dad, mom, and children,” and stated that the government would remove from schools all material promoting false gender ideology, introduced by the previous administration.

At a September 18 press conference, Riera lamented the “confusion” and criticism the government received after posts on social media stated that the country’s schools were teaching that gender is a social construct, that man and woman are not born as such, among other concepts related gender ideology.

The Secretary blamed this content on an agreement signed between the administration of former president Fernando Lugo, and a homosexual group called “We are Gay.”

The Lugo administration signed an agreement between We are Gay and the Directorate of Ongoing Education. That agreement generated some educational materials, and they remained in use and available on the government’s website, Riera said.

The Secretary explained that his office “ordered them to be taken down and revised because there is a phrase which created the whole problem,” which is “where it literally says that gender is a social construct.”

“I want to tell you that the Ministry of Education is basing itself on Article 52 of the National Constitution, on the traditional family, on traditional values, with dad, mom and children: It’s also my personal position and we naturally respect different options, but we’re not going to inculcate them in our public schools,” he assured.

Article 52 of the Paraguayan Constitution establishes that “the union in matrimony of man and woman is one of the fundamental components in the formation of the family.”

Riera indicated that he informed the President of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes “where this confusion came from. We all saw WhatsApp, there was some very severe criticism from some quarters.”

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News Briefs

Paraguay’s government rejects gender ideology

September 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Asunción, Paraguay, Sep 24, 2017 / 02:42 pm (ACI Prensa).- Paraguay Secretary of Education, Enrique Riera told reporters that the country’s constitution recognizes “the traditional family” consisting of “dad, mom, and children,” and stated that the government would remove from schools all material promoting false gender ideology, introduced by the previous administration.

At a September 18 press conference, Riera lamented the “confusion” and criticism the government received after posts on social media stated that the country’s schools were teaching that gender is a social construct, that man and woman are not born as such, among other concepts related gender ideology.

The Secretary blamed this content on an agreement signed between the administration of former president Fernando Lugo, and a homosexual group called “We are Gay.”

The Lugo administration signed an agreement between We are Gay and the Directorate of Ongoing Education. That agreement generated some educational materials, and they remained in use and available on the government’s website, Riera said.

The Secretary explained that his office “ordered them to be taken down and revised because there is a phrase which created the whole problem,” which is “where it literally says that gender is a social construct.”

“I want to tell you that the Ministry of Education is basing itself on Article 52 of the National Constitution, on the traditional family, on traditional values, with dad, mom and children: It’s also my personal position and we naturally respect different options, but we’re not going to inculcate them in our public schools,” he assured.

Article 52 of the Paraguayan Constitution establishes that “the union in matrimony of man and woman is one of the fundamental components in the formation of the family.”

Riera indicated that he informed the President of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes “where this confusion came from. We all saw WhatsApp, there was some very severe criticism from some quarters.”

[…]

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Church collapses in Mexico quake during baptism, killing several

September 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Puebla, Mexico, Sep 21, 2017 / 02:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sept. 19, a family in Puebla, Mexico was attending the baptism of their daughter when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake shook the church, cracking the dome above them, which collapsed and fell on top of them.

At least 11 people were killed when the Church of Saint James the Apostle collapsed, including the baby Elideth Torres de Leon, there for her baptism, her sister, mother, godmother, and a local alderman named Jacinto Roldan Capistran.

Graciano Villanueva, Elideth’s godfather, managed to escape from the wreckage, along with the church’s pastor and sacristan.

Villanueva told the El Universal newspaper that he lost his wife in the earthquake, along with his daughter, his son-in-law and his two granddaughters. “I have nothing left of my family,” he said.

One of Villanueva’s relatives told reporters that the victims died while they were praying, and therefore “the only thing left to do is to resign oneself to the Lord’s will.”

After the earthquake, the people of the town of Atzala worked all night to recover bodies lying beneath the ruins of the 17th century church.

On Wednesday morning they placed the bodies they managed to remove in coffins and wrote their names on them. Dozens of people came by to pray and to leave flowers.

The El Sol de Puebla newspaper reported that after the dome fell, three injured people were taken to a hospital and that two people remain unaccounted for.

Shortly after the earthquake, the Archdiocese of Puebla released a statement expressing their condolences to the families of those who died in the church.

“We profoundly lament the deaths that occurred due to the quake, especially the…people who died because of the collapse of the church in Atzala near Chietla; and the three in Jolopan,” the text states.

The Archdiocese of Puebla said in the statement released this Wednesday that there are 163 damaged churches in their jurisdiction, including the Church of Saint James the Apostle.

They also encouraged people to “stay calm, be attentive to directions from the authorities, be in solidarity with those asking us for help and not risk our lives and those of others unnecessarily.”

On Wednesday, the auxiliary bishops of Puebla, Rutilo Felipe Pozos Lorenzini and Tomás López Durán, celebrated a Funeral Mass in Aztala for those who died in Saint James the Apostle Church.

To date, the 7.1-magnitude earthquake has left more than 200 dead throughout the country, including 43 in Puebla state, which was one of the hardest hit.

 

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