Pope Francis: ‘God loves you, even if you forget Him’

January 16, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jan 16, 2019 / 05:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- God the Father will always be there for his beloved children, Pope Francis said Wednesday, with a reminder that the unconditional love of God is not limited by our own sense of guilt or unworthiness.

“God is looking for you, even if you do not seek Him. God loves you, even if you forget Him. God sees beauty in you, even if you think you have squandered all your talents in vain,” Pope Francis said in his general audience Jan. 16.

The pope reflected on the first two words of the “Our Father,” focusing on the depth of personal love for each person found within God’s fatherhood.

“It may be that we too happen to walk on paths far from God, as happened to the prodigal son; or  fall into a loneliness that makes us feel abandoned in the world; or, again, do wrong and are paralyzed by a sense of guilt,” Pope Francis explained.

In those moments, one’s prayer should simply start by saying the word, “Father,” with the tenderness of a child who calls out “Papa” or “Abbà,” in the original Aramaic, Francis said.

“You have a father who loves you!” Pope Francis said enthusiastically. Call out to God as “Father,” and God will answer you, he said.

If you respond to God by saying, “But, Father, I have done this …” God will answer, “‘I never lost sight of you. I saw everything. But I was always there, close to you, faithful to my love for you,’” Pope Francis said.

To call God “Father,” the pope explained, is to have  “the whole world of Jesus poured into one’s heart.”

Pope Francis described the intimacy of the Aramaic expression “Abbà” used twice in the letters of St. Paul. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul wrote, “As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!'”

Francis repeated the words that Italian children use, “Papa” and “Babbo,” which are equivalent to saying “Daddy” to exemplify the depth and closeness found in the word “Abba.”

“We continue to say ‘Our Father,’ but with the heart we are invited to say ‘Papa,’ to have a relationship with God like that of a child with his father, who says ‘Papa, Babbo,’” he said.

“These expressions evoke love, evoke warmth, something that projects us into the context of childhood: the image of a child completely enveloped by the embrace of a father who feels infinite tenderness for him,” he said.

Pope Francis continued, “dear brothers and sisters, to pray well, we must get to have a child’s heart … like a child in the arms of his father.”

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Duterte open to dialogue with bishops after suggesting Filipinos kill them

January 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Manila, Philippines, Jan 16, 2019 / 12:38 am (CNA).- A government spokesman said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is open to dialogue with the country’s bishops, after the president recently suggested that citizens of the country kill the Church leaders.  

Tensions have increased between Duterte and the bishops as Church leaders have continued to condemn the president’s brutal war on drugs. Since Duterte’s rise to power in 2016, thousands of people have reportedly died in extrajudicial killings.

In a speech on Dec. 5, Duterte said people should “kill and steal” from Catholic bishops, stating “this stupid bunch serve no purpose – all they do is criticize,” according to UCA News.

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon and Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga condemned the statement, describing the comments as dangerous and inappropriate remarks that cannot be dismissed as an attempt at humor.

“Again, his mouth has uttered absolutely silly things! And his ‘fans’ consider his murderous words as a mere joke! Is it a joke to advise people to kill?” said Bastes, according to Philstar.

“It is no longer funny and does not deserve laughs or applause from audiences but condemnation. The advice just promotes criminality, encourages lawlessness. What kind of authority that calls for killing?” said Santos.  

Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s lawyer and spokesman, responded to the bishops on Jan. 13. He said the president was open to conversation with the Catholic leaders, according to UCA News.

“[Duterte] is up for talks, if that’s what [the bishops] are asking for,” said Panelo. “Anything that is beneficial to the nation, the president is easy to talk to.”

Vicente Sotto III, president of the Philippine Senate, has offered to mediate a discussion between Duterte and the Church leaders, noting that the tension between the parties has citizens in the largely Catholic country worried.

Duterte has a history of criticizing the Catholic Church. He has called the bishops “idiots” and “sons of wh-res” and told the people that they should stay at home and pray rather than attending church services.

According to the president’s spokesman, the context for Duterte’s insults is the sexual abuse he underwent in Catholic school. Duterte has said he was molested by Fr. Mark Falvey, SJ, who has been accused posthumously of serially sexually abusing children. In May 2007, the California province of the Society of Jesus reached a $16 million settlement with at least some of his victims.

Duterte has been accused of “social cleansing” for his bloody war on drugs in the country. The country’s bishops offered to provide sanctuary for any whistleblowers in the Philippine police department who spoke out against various human rights abuses. In response, Duterte said the Church was “full of sh-t.”

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British women in their 50s increasingly requesting in-vitro fertilization

January 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

London, England, Jan 15, 2019 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- In-vitro fertilization clinics in Britain are increasingly helping women over age 55 to conceive children because there is currently no legal age limit for the treatment, according to news reports.

“Women have been expected to cram all their life tasks into 15 years between the age of 25 and 40, including having a career, finding a man and having children,” Dr. Nick Macklon, medical director of the London Women’s Clinic, was quoted as saying in the Daily Mail.

“The technology we have opens that up so that they have longer. We believe an age limit for them to deliver at 54 is reasonable.”

Women are at greater risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth if they conceive after menopause, which occurs on average at age 51 for British women. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a British professional organization, recommends women have children between the ages of 20-35, and women older than 40 are considered to be at a higher risk of pregnancy complications.

Macklon said at his clinic, women over 50 are asked to confirm with an obstetrician that they are fit and healthy for pregnancy, while their medical and social circumstances are also assessed. The London Women’s Clinic has accepted 26 women aged 51 to 54 for egg donation treatment in the three years since it instituted a policy of treating women before their 55th birthday.

Dr. Marco Gaudoin, medical director for the Glasgow Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Scotland, told the Daily Mail that his clinic’s maximum age of 55 for women using donor eggs was set by its ethics committee, but also that he would consider treating a 60-year-old woman if she were mentally and physically well, and would ask the ethics committee to consider the request.

Dr. Gaudoin said it was “sexist” to believe that older women could not have children, when men of the same age could.

The Catholic Church has judged IVF treatment to be immoral because it separates the act of procreation from the marital act between a husband and wife.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008 issued instruction that laid out guidelines for treatment assisting with infertility, writing that medical techniques regarding fertility must respect the right to life and to physical integrity of every human being from conception to natural death, the unity of marriage, and the requirement that “the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses.’”

The CDF also noted that even in modern IVF treatments, the number of embryos sacrificed in order to achieve pregnancy remains high, and embryos with defects may be discarded altogether. Moreover, IVF disassociates procreation from the personal marital act of a husband and wife, which in itself is ethically unacceptable.

“The Church recognizes the legitimacy of the desire for a child and understands the suffering of couples struggling with problems of fertility,” the CDF wrote.

“Such a desire, however, should not override the dignity of every human life to the point of absolute supremacy. The desire for a child cannot justify the “production” of offspring, just as the desire not to have a child cannot justify the abandonment or destruction of a child once he or she has been conceived.”

In order for there to be an age limit for IVF treatment set in Britain, the Department of Health would have to change the law. Alternatively the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority could issue guidelines telling clinics not to exceed a certain age.

In 2009, a British woman gave birth at age 66 after undergoing fertility treatment in Ukraine. In July 2018, a 58-year-old paid woman £4,500 to undergo IVF in India because British clinics would have turned her down because of her age.

 

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AG nominee says Catholic faith not an issue

January 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general William Barr said Tuesday that he does not think his Catholic faith is an impediment to leading the Department of Justice.

 

Barr, a pra… […]

China’s crackdown on Christians continues

January 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Beijing, China, Jan 15, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A campaign by the Chinese government to ‘Sinicize’ religion is ongoing, with detention and indoctrination of Muslims in the far west of the country, and the closing of underground churches to the east.

In early December, Wang Yi and more than 100 members of his congregation were detained in Sichuan province. Some were released the next day, but then put under house arrest.

The Observer, a sister paper to The Guardian, reported Jan. 13 that Wang’s ecclesial community, Early Rain Covenant Church, has now been closed, and that Wang and his wife remain in detention,charged with inciting subversion. Some members of the community are in hiding, some have been effectively exiled from the Sichuanese capital, and others are under surveillance.

The building rented by Early Rain Covenant Church has new tenants, and police turn away those looking for the church.

According to The Observer, another church was put under investigation in the Sichuanese capital last week, a Sunday school was raided in Guangzhou in December, and a 1,500-member church in Beijing has been “banned … after its pastor refused to install CCTV.”

Part of the plan to Sinicize Christianity, The Observer reported, is “thought reform”: “The plan calls for ‘retranslating and annotating’ the Bible, to find commonalities with socialism and establish a ‘correct understanding’ of the text.”

Religious freedom is officially guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, but religious groups must register with the government, and are overseen by the Chinese Communist Party. The Sinizication of religion has been pushed by President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2013 and who has strengthened government oversight of religious activities.

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.

In December, two bishops of the underground Catholic Church agreed to step aside in favor of bishops of the CPCA, in the wake of a deal signed between the Holy See and the Chinese government.

And the month prior, four priests from the underground Church in Hebei province who refused to join the CPCA were taken into police custody for indoctrination.

The US Commission on International Religion wrote in its 2018 report that last year China “advanced its so-called ‘sinicization’ of religion, a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with ‘Chinese characteristics.’” Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners have all been affected.

The September 2018 agreement between the Holy See and Beijing was intended to normalize the situation of China’s Catholics and unify the underground Church and the CPCA. 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.

In 2017, Xi said that religions not sufficiently conformed to communist ideals pose a threat to the country’s government, and therefore must become more “Chinese-oriented.” Since he took power, crosses have been removed from an estimated 1,500 church buildings.

And a government official who oversees religious affairs said in April 2018 that government restrictions on bishop appointments are not a violation of religious freedom, as he emphasized that religions in China must “adapt to socialist society.” The official, Chen Zongrong, added that “I believe there is no religion in human society that transcends nations.”

Restrictions put in place in February 2018 made it illegal for anyone under age 18 to enter a church building.

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.

Muslims, too, have come under pressure from the Chinese government. It is believed that as many as 1 million Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnoreligious group in China’s far west, are being held in extra-legal detention. Mosques in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region have had Islamic icons, Arabic signs, and domes removed.

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