Pope Francis tells Christians to share their gifts with each other

January 18, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Jan 18, 2019 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The path to Christian unity takes a willingness to acknowledge and share in the gifts other Christian communities have also received, Pope Francis said at an ecumenical Vespers service Friday.

To take the first step toward unity requires humble recognition of the fact that the blessings Catholics and other Christians have received do not belong to them by “right,” but are a gift meant to be shared with others, he said Jan. 18.

“Then, we must acknowledge the value of the grace granted to other Christian communities,” he continued. “As a result, we will want to partake of the gifts of others. A Christian people renewed and enriched by this exchange of gifts will be a people capable of journeying firmly and confidently on the path that leads to unity.”

Held at Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the service marked the beginning of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the week’s theme, “Seek to be truly just,” inspired by the line from Deuteronomy which says: “Justice, justice alone shall you pursue, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord, your God, is giving you.”

One of the grave injustices of today, he said, is the vast disparity in wealth which exists in many countries around the world.

“When society is no longer based on the principle of solidarity and the common good, we witness the scandal of people living in utter destitution amid skyscrapers, grand hotels and luxurious shopping centers,” he said. “We have forgotten the wisdom of the Mosaic law: if wealth is not shared, society is divided.”

He pointed out that in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the same idea is applied to the Christian community: “those who are strong must bear with the weak.”

“Following Christ’s example, we are to make every effort to build up those who are weak. Solidarity and shared responsibility must be the laws that govern the Christian family,” Francis urged.

He also reminded Christians that it is a “grave sin to belittle or despise the gifts that the Lord has given our brothers and sisters, and to think that God somehow holds them in less esteem.”

“When we entertain such thoughts, we allow the very grace we have received to become a source of pride, injustice and division. And how can we then enter the promised kingdom?” he asked.

“It is easy to forget the fundamental equality existing among us,” he said, “that once we were all slaves to sin, that the Lord saved us in baptism and called us his children. It is easy to think that the spiritual grace granted us is our property, something to which we are due.”

“The gifts we have received from God can also blind us to the gifts given to other Christians,” he noted.

The Vespers was attended by representatives of various Churches and ecclesial communities, including the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, and students from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in Finland. Members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were also present.

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At pro-life Mass, Naumann calls for mercy

January 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 2

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 09:00 pm (CNA).- The pro-life movement must be one of mercy, said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City Thursday night, at the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine … […]

New birth control patch would administer contraception via self-injecting needles

January 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Atlanta, Ga., Jan 17, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Scientists and researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta are working on a birth control patch that would inject a contraceptive drug into women’s skin through biodegradable microneedles.

The quarter-sized patch would be applied to the skin for five seconds, allowing the needles “painlessly” to pierce the skin and break away, remaining in the body to slowly administer the contraceptive hormone levonorgestrel.

Currently, the needles are designed slowly to release the contraceptive hormone over the course of one month, though the team of scientists has said that the goal would be to develop a six-month patch.

In an article on the patch recently published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the authors said it could eventually be used instead of the birth control pill, or other forms of long-term birth control such as hormone shots or implantable devices such as IUDs.

“Non-hormonal contraceptive methods, such as condoms and diaphragms, provide physical barriers for pregnancy protection, but these barrier methods, even when accompanied by spermicide, usually have high failure rates due in part to poor patient acceptance and compliance with correct use,” the study, authored by Dr. Mark Prausnitz and team, states.

“Hormonal contraceptives, such as oral pills, vaginal rings, intrauterine devices, subdermal injections and implants, generally provide a better level of effectiveness, but either require frequent dosing, which has significant compliance problems, or delivery by healthcare professionals, which can be especially problematic in low-income countries,” it adds.

“Hence, there has been tremendous interest in a contraceptive that is safe and effective, enables long-term contraception, facilitates good patient access and compliance through self-administration, and has low cost suitable for use globally.”

In the study, the scientists expressed hope that the patch could make long-term contraceptives more widely available, especially in developing countries, since women will be able to apply the patch themselves.

“To provide greater access to contraception, we developed a delivery system for contraception based on a microneedle patch designed to enable self-administration of a long-acting contraceptive that is safe, effective and low cost,” they said.

The study, which was received by Nature Biomedical Engineering in March 2018, was made possible through funding from the United States Agency for International Development.

The Western push to increase access to contraceptives and abortion has been denounced by critics as ideological colonization.

“By what moral right do Westerners send the message that the world would be a better place with fewer Africans in it?” Mary Eberstadt, senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, told CNA in 2018. She was responding to a report from the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission, which declared a need for universal access to contraception and birth control within the next 12 years, particularly in the developing world.

“Such campaigns are going to look as ugly in history’s rearview mirror as the twentieth-century eugenics movement does today,” she said at the time.

Nigerian Catholic Obianuju Ekeocha, the author of “Target Africa,” has also been an outspoken pro-life advocate who has opposed bringing contraceptives to Africa and other developing places.

“Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI’s Humanae vitae. For these African women, in all humility have heard, understood, and accepted the precious words of the prophetic pope,” Ekeocha wrote in a 2012 open letter to Melinda Gates.

The patch is still in development, and has only been tested on rats thus far. Scientists cited concerns about skin irritation at the site of the patch and the need for more clinical trials before the patch could be released to the general public.

The microneedle patch technology could also potentially be used to deliver vaccines throughout remote and underdeveloped areas as well, the study noted.

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Mexican bishops make statement on gasoline shortage

January 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 17, 2019 / 03:19 pm (ACI Prensa).- Amid a crisis caused by the shortage of gasoline in Mexico and the government’s fight against the theft and adulteration of fuel, the country’s bishops have appealed to the citizenry and called for more truthful and objective information to be given.

Several Mexican states and the country’s capital have been affected by a shortage of gasoline in recent days, with long lines at operating gas stations.

The situation is related to a series of measures taken by the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to deal with the theft and adulteration of fuel, which is costing the country around $3 billion a year. The government has shut down pipelines, from which fuel is tapped, using trucks and trains to transport fuel instead.

López Obrador has charged that the fuel theft has occurred with complicity within the government and Pemex, the state-owned oil company.

The shortage,which has produced long lines at gasoline stations in several cities, has caused a controversy among the citizenry and political groups a little more than a month after Lopez Obrador took office as president.

Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López of Monterrey, president of the Mexican bishops’ conference, expressed in a Jan. 13 statement his support for “the measures taken by the president of the Republic to address the problem of the theft of gasoline which has negatively affected our country.”

“I ask citizens to support this measure, asking the authorities to not let themselves be intimidated by actions which, in the past, were common and which caused so much harm, but rather enforce the laws and quickly respond to this situation, hoping that as soon as possible this problem will be resolved,” he said.

Archbishop Carlos Garfias Merlos of Morelia, vice president of the conference, encouraged waiting for “adequate information” on Lopez Obrador’s strategy to deal with the theft of gasoline.

“At this time, there are many versions, many interpretations, which I don’t think give us enough specifics to be able to give an opinion. I hope we can have objective information as soon as possible and have an explanation about everything that has happened.”

Archbishop Garfias expressed his desire that those affected by the shortage will have their dissatisfaction redressed.

In the states where there has been a fuel shortage, he said, “there has been a lot of discontent, a lot of dissatisfaction, and I hope that we will have an adequate explanation.”

However, he noted that “when corruption appears, when there are signs of a lack of truth, when there is deception, when there are lies, it’s always going to be important to have a strategy to be able to find a way to make it clear where is the lie, the corruption, the theft, and that justice be done.”

 

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

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Amid shutdown, DC Catholic Charities aids furloughed workers

January 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- It is a crowded-but-calm scene on Thursday morning, just before 9 a.m., in the lobby of the James Cardinal Hickey Center in downtown Washington, DC. About 50 people, including a woman with a seven-month-old baby girl, are packed in chairs against the walls, waiting for Catholic Charities of Washington, DC to officially open for the day.

 

A little after 9 a.m., people are asked to check in with a receptionist before they are led downstairs to begin meeting with Catholic Charities workers.

 

Unlike the majority of the people serviced by Catholic Charities, these people are not homeless, or even jobless: they’re furloughed government workers facing a partial government shutdown which has already lasted 26 days.

 

“We don’t normally serve people who are government workers. That’s not our normal population; (which is) people who are homeless, or have lost their jobs or don’t have the ability to feed their families,” Catholic Charities President and CEO Fr. John Enzler explained to CNA.

 

“So this is a different group, and we want to be there for them as well, because this is a shock to their system to have no income, to have no paycheck.”

 

This is the first time anyone can recall Catholic Charities of Washington being asked to provide assistance for furloughed workers.

 

For three days, at a set time and location, any furloughed government worker or federal contractor is eligible to receive up to $500 to help with rent, medical needs, or “essential home supplies.” Catholic Charities writes a check directly to the service provider. Catholic Charities explained on their website that they are not currently assisting with water, gas, or electricity bills because companies that service the Washington area have already established programs to help furloughed workers.

 

While the first two distribution days saw a “decent crowd” according to Enzler, Thursday’s was by far the largest. He told CNA that he suspected this was due to the location of the office, which is near all of the city’s metro lines. The first two locations were accessible only by car.

 

Catholic Charities of Washington got involved through a partnership with United Way of the National Capital Area. The President and CEO of United Way, Rosie Allen-Herring, reached out to Catholic Charities, and asked them to be one of the three charities to receive money to assist furloughed workers. Catholic Charities was picked because they have a “pretty broad spectrum of services,” Enzler said, and are present throughout the southern Potomac area.

 

“It’s a chance for us to become a player in trying to help people who have been affected by the shutdown,” he added.

 

Catholic Charities COO Pat Dunne told CNA that he “didn’t know what to expect” when it came to assisting furloughed workers. He said that it was “a question of getting the word out, and our communications folks worked really hard to get the word out to everyone.”

 

One of the people who received word that Catholic Charities would be providing assistance to federal employees was a woman named Zenola.

 

Zenola told CNA that she has worked for Housing and Urban Development for nearly 20 years. She has been furloughed the entire length of the shutdown.

 

She said that her daughter saw a notice about the program on Facebook, and she called Catholic Charities to ensure she would be able to receive assistance.

 

“They told me to come on down,” she said.

 

This past month without pay has been tough for Zenola and her family.

 

“We’ve been hit pretty hard as far as our January bills,” she said, and although she has tried to save money, she’s “exhausted” her savings account trying to keep up with bills for her mortgage, car, and other expenses.

 

Zenola was grateful to Catholic Charities for the assistance, and said she and her family “really, really, really” appreciates it.

 

Catholic Charities received $36,000 to allocate on a first-come, first-served basis, and Enzler expected that money would be exhausted on Thursday. His prediction looked to be accurate: by 9:45 a.m., the lobby was full once again.

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