India bishops slam ‘brutal’ disruption of Good Friday service

April 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Apr 21, 2017 / 10:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- India’s Catholic bishops have strongly condemned a violent police disruption of a Good Friday service at a small parish in the south of the country.

The Dhalit Catholic community in the village of Sogandi was holding a liturgy for the Passion of the Lord April 14 when they were disrupted by the Tehsildar – local tax and revenue officers – as well as police during the Veneration of the Cross and distribution of Holy Communion.

“The Catholic Church in India is very distressed and saddened by the happenings in Sogandi, Tamil Nadu, on Good Friday, a day very sacred to Christians everywhere,” the April 19 press release stated.

“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India expresses its full solidarity with the people of Sogandi and condemns in very strong terms the brutal action of the Tehsildar.”

The statement, signed by the secretary general of the bishops’ conference, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX, said that they are proud of their country and the major part of the Hindu community has always treated them with respect and goodwill.

However, recently, fundamentalist forces have disturbed “the traditional peace and harmony” of the country, they said.

The bishops expressed concern at rising intolerance in India toward people of all religions from “fundamentalist fringe” groups, calling on the government to ensure that everyone in the country continue to feel safe and “enjoy the basic right to worship freely and without fear.”

Concern about religious intolerance has grown across India particularly since the May 2014 election of Narendra Modi as prime minister, which saw a spike in the number of attacks against Christians and Muslims.

After Modi took office the country saw a sharp rise in attacks against people and property, most of them perpetrated by the radical Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, also referred to as the RSS, or the “the Sangh.”

The group, which has been described as “fundamentalist” and “violent,” sits on the right-wing and has no official, legal registration in India. However they maintain strong ties with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Modi has been criticized for his silence regarding the mostly small-scale attacks, which have continued to take place.

The event in Sogandi on Good Friday was only the latest in a string of escalating anti-Christian incidents in the village, Bishop A. Neethinathan of Chingleput wrote in a report April 19.

The Catholic parish there, under the patronage of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, was erected in 2007. It has 125 families, who also make up the population of the village.

In order to help foster strong Marian devotion, when the parish was built 10 years ago, the priest also developed a portion of a nearby hill into a little grotto with a covering and a statue of Our Lady.

The grotto and other public religious symbols have been at the center of the clashes between the Christian village and a nearby Hindu village, also of a different caste identity. The Hindu village is known to have temples and houses erected on the other side of the same hill, Bishop Neethinathan stated.

On April 14, the parish gathered at the grotto at 3 PM to celebrate the Lord’s Passion service. Many police were stationed around the area throughout the service, the bishop’s report states.

As the service continued, the local Tehsildar disrupted the Veneration of the Cross and the distribution of Holy Communion, not allowing them to finish.

The disturbance and subsequent disorder resulted in reactions from some of those present. Most of the local men, as well as some priests, have been booked for serious offences by the police, Bishop Neethinathan wrote.

The following day, April 15, the revenue department bulldozed large ditches around the area, preventing access.

It is believed that the recent incidents are the result of planned and systematic operations by anti-Christian Hindutva and anti-Dhalit caste fundamentalists, including pressure on the police and revenue departments.

Other recent actions include the demolition and removal from the hill Dec. 31, 2016 of many of the statues and crosses of the parish by more than 500 police officers “under the pretext of illegal occupation,” according to Bishop Neethinathan. The statues were not returned until April 19.

In February, every stone and boulder on the hill was found marked with the Hindu symbol and the Palm Sunday procession, though able to conclude, was also interrupted by objections and disturbances.


In Missouri, a court decision means lower health standards for abortion clinics

April 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Jefferson City, Mo., Apr 21, 2017 / 08:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Stronger medical standards for abortion clinics were thrown out in Missouri by a federal judge who cited a Supreme Court decision on a similar law in Texas.

The Missouri law required abortion clinics to have the same standards as similar outpatient surgical centers. The clinics’ doctors were also required to have hospital privileges.

U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs of the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City said April 19 that “relief should be prompt, given the needs of women seeking abortions and the need for available clinics to serve their needs.” He cited the 5-3 ruling of the 2016 Supreme Court decision Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said he would appeal the decision, the St. Louis Dispatch reports.

“Today a federal court struck down large portions of Missouri law that protect the health and safety of women who seek to obtain an abortion,” he said. “Missouri has an obligation to do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of women undergoing medical procedures in state-licensed medical facilities.”

The surgical center standards, implemented for abortion clinics in 2007, include wide halls and doorways that can accommodate emergency personnel and equipment; separate male and female changing rooms for personnel; and a recovery room with space for at least four beds with sufficient clearance around each bed.

The law was credited for closing some abortion clinics in the state that could not meet the surgical standards.

There had been only one abortion provider in the state before the judge’s decision.

Now, Planned Parenthood has said it would start to restore abortion services in Columbia and Kansas City. It plans to begin performing the procedures in Joplin and Springfield.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling said that the Texas law under consideration placed an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion and posed a “substantial obstacle” to that right without showing the benefit of regulation.

At the time of the decision, Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said the court “rejected a common-sense law protecting women from abortion facilities that put profits above patient safety.”


How the upcoming canonization affirms the Fatima apparitions

April 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Fatima, Portugal, Apr 21, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The canonization of Fatima visionaries Francisco and Jacinta Marto has been hailed as an exciting moment for the Church, but the rector of the Marian shrine has said that it bears an even greater significance in terms of putting a spotlight on Our Lady’s message.

“I think the canonization in a certain way helps to give credibility to the apparitions and to the message of Fatima,” Fr. Carlos Cabecinhas told CNA.
This is an “indirect credibility,” he said, but one which nonetheless “makes us look to the protagonists of the events of Fatima and to see their holiness, the holiness with which they challenge us to live this message.”

Mary appeared to Francisco, Jacinta and their cousin Lucia May 13, 1917, for the first time, asking them to pray the rosary and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, which they did with decisive commitment.

Our Lady continued to appear to them on the 13th of each month until October of that year, making constant appeals for an increase in faith, hope, conversion and prayers for peace. In addition, she also revealed to the children three “secrets,” which are now known to be a vision of hell interpreted as scenes from World War II, the rise and fall of Soviet Communism, and what was a foreshadowing of the 1981 assassination attempt on St. John Paul II.

After the apparitions, Francisco and Jacinta Marto died in 1918 after a serious bout of the Spanish flu at 9 and 11, but were known to pray often and offered up daily sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and an increase in love for God.

In this context, Fr. Cabecinhas said he believes the canonization of siblings Francisco and Jacinta “has this value: not only two Saints in the Church, but two Saints who challenge us to look to the message of Fatima and to understand that Fatima is also a school of holiness for each one of us.”

Fr. Cabecinhas has been the rector of the Fatima Marian Shrine since 2011, and is in charge of the bulk of preparations for the Pope’s May 12-13 visit.

He said the centenary of the apparitions, the canonization and the growing anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit “is a moment of great joy” for the people of Portugal, but also for him personally.

“For me it has been a great gift of God to be able to live this moment before the shrine and to have in my hands the decisions of the Shrine. It’s a gift of God, but also a great responsibility,” he said, explaining that they are in the midst of making final preparations.

In general, preparations are going “very well,” he said, noting that all of the big decisions have been made and things are falling into place, so it’s down to the final, last-minute work of getting ready to host an estimated 500-800,000 pilgrims during the May celebrations.

Speaking of the reason why pilgrims choose to visit Fatima in particular, the priest said it’s “without a doubt” because “they seek a strong experience of God, a strong encounter with God.”

“This is specific to Fatima,” he said, noting that while other shrines and holy sites are associated with physical healings or other fruits, the people who come to Fatima “come to have a strong experience with God, they come to change their lives, and many times this is the experience they transmit.”

“We say that at Fatima there are no physical healings – there are some, but (what is) specific to Fatima is the change of heart, the change of life, orienting one’s life toward God,” he said, saying that another characteristic unique to Fatima is “silence.”

Cabecinhas said that when pilgrims speak to him about their experience visiting the shrine, many of them comment on how silent and prayerful the environment is, which is something he hopes each person who comes is able to experience.

The shrine has also been a popular place for Popes to visit, with Bl. Paul VI being the first pontiff to do so in 1967. St. John Paul II followed suit in 1982, making a trip that was largely intended to pay homage to Our Lady of Fatima, whom he credited with saving his life when he was shot May 13, 1981.

Benedict XVI also visited the Fatima shrine in 2010, continuing the papal tradition of traveling to the holy site, and cementing even further it’s link to the Pope.

Fr. Cabecinhas said he believes Popes come to Fatima so often is because it has “a universal message, a message for the entire Church,” which is something each one of them have understood.

“They have seen that Fatima has something to say to the entire Church on the place of God in the life of the believer, and it’s because of this they have come, to highlight this message,” he said, adding that he has no doubt that the presence of Popes at the shrine “has helped to then diffuse the message in the entire world.”

With an entire year of celebrations extending beyond just the May celebrations, Cabecinhas said he hopes those who come even after Pope Francis’ visit get to experience and understand Our Lady’s message on a deeper level.

The priest said he wants pilgrims to have “a joyful experience of being at Fatima” and to have “an experience of encounter with God through the Madonna.”

“She is presented here as a path toward God and a refuge in our hardship,” he said, so “what we want is that each pilgrim who visits this year can have this experience and can say, ‘yes, I went to Fatima, and the Madonna for me was a refuge in difficult moments, but a path that guided me to God.’”


Argentine priest in railway accident attributes life to Eucharist

April 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Mendoza, Argentina, Apr 21, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Holy Thursday Father Alejandro Béjar, a priest of the Archdiocese of Mendoza, narrowly escaped being killed by a train. He attributes his survival to consecrated Hosts he was transporting on his way to visit the sick.

The April 13 incident took place at a railroad crossing in San Roque as Fr. Béjar was on his way to visit several sick persons, in addition to saying three Masses in the communities under his care.

Fr. Béjar, 50, told CNA that he crossed the railroad tracks that day for lack of a signal and got trapped. He explained he did not see the rails because of some bushes, and that there was no railroad crossing barrier.

Trapped on the tracks he could hear the train’s horn, and saw the train appear, coming around a curve.

Within seconds, he tried moving his car. He was unable to, so he quickly unfastened his seat belt and ran from the car.

His Ford Escort was struck, and dragged some 80 feet by the train, which was unable to brake in time. The vehicle was destroyed but the priest could not get over his astonishment that the bag holding the consecrated Hosts on the front passenger seat was undamaged and remained in place.

“That’s strange because in the back of the car there was a bag of fine flour I was taking for the community where I was going to celebrate Mass. That bag opened up and (the flour) spread all over, but the bag (with the Hosts) didn’t even move,” he said.

Fr. Béjar said he was ashamed he did not take with him the consecrated Hosts when he abandoned the vehicle, but he thanked God for saving him from the onslaught of the train.

“I thank God because I was calm and didn’t despair. It was a sign from God that he was present at that moment and helped me have those reflexes to stay calm and not give up hope,” he said.

The priest was unable to get the first Mass on his schedule for that day.

Fr. Béjar noted that eight years ago two women died in similar circumstances, and so he hopes the authorities will clean up the area from bushes and put up appropriate railroad crossing signage.


Pope Francis sends regrets to Brazil for not visiting this year

April 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2017 / 08:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent a letter to the president of Brazil, apologizing for his inability to visit in 2017 and encouraging the leader’s attention to the country’s social issues.

“Since in his letter President Temer made reference to his efforts to confront the social problems of the country, the Pope underlined that aspect and encouraged him to work for the promotion of the country’s poorest people,” the Vatican press office said April 4, confirming a letter the Pope sent a few days before.

President Michael Temer invited Pope Francis to visit Brazil for the 300th anniversary of a Marian apparition known as Our Lady of Aparecida.

The story behind the apparition involves a clay statue of Mary Immaculate that was caught by three fishermen in October 1717 in preparation for a feast dedicated to royalty passing through the town.

Guarantinqueta, a small city along the Paraiba River, was expecting to receive the Count of Assumar on his travels to a gold mining site in Vila Rica.

The feast required a vast amount of fish, but it was not the season for it and weather conditions proved to be a challenge. After a night of fishing, the men caught nothing.

Having prayed to our Lady of Immaculate Conception, the fishermen first brought up the body of the statue and then the head. After the statue was brought up, the men decided to pray with faith to “Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida” – which means Our Lady of the Appeared Conception. Their nets suddenly became very full, and the catch has been considered a miracle.

During an inauguration of a statue of Aparecida at the Vatican Gardens in 2016, Pope Francis said he did not know when he would be able to visit Aparecida in Brazil again “but at least I will have her very close, here.” The new statue was designed by a Brazilian artist and depicted Our Lady of Aparecida next to the three men with full nets of fish.

The Pope said Our Lady of Aparecida is close to the heart of the working class, “especially those who need work, education, those who are deprived of dignity.”

He encouraged President Temer’s for the efforts made to resolve the county’s social issues, reiterating Aparecida’s closeness to the poor.

President Michael Temer was brought into office last August when his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached from office for an alleged abuse of power. Brazil’s economy has been in its worst recession since the 1980s; inflation increased by 10.7 percent and unemployment increased to 9 percent in 2015. Prices for Brazilian oil, iron ore, and soya also dropped.

Since his induction into office, Temer has aimed to reduce the country’s spending and the level of public debt.


After court ruling, Tennessee to stop enforcing two pro-life laws

April 20, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Nashville, Tenn., Apr 20, 2017 / 01:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The state of Tennessee has agreed to stop enforcing two abortion restrictions which are similar to those in Texas that were struck down by the Supreme Court last year.

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery III, said the laws’ enforcement will cease immediately “in light of the Supreme Court’s current case law and to avoid the expense and utilization of resources on continued litigation.”

One of the Tennessee laws, introduced to the state in 2012, required doctors who perform abortions to receive admitting privileges at a local hospital in case there were any serious complications during or after the procedure. According to The Tennessean, two abortion clinics were forced to close after physicians failed to receive clearance.

Another restriction was added in 2014, which required clinics performing over 50 surgical abortions a year to meet the same safety requirements as ambulatory surgical care centers.

Supporters of the laws say they help ensure that women’s health and safety are protected.

In striking down the similar Texas legislation, the Supreme Court said that the laws were not medically necessary and were an unconstitutional limit on woman’s “right to an abortion.”

Three Tennessee clinics challenged the laws in 2015, but Nashville’s federal court agreed to halt the proceedings until the Supreme Court resolved a similar case in Texas last summer. That case led to the abortion regulations being struck down.

The Tennessee attorney general’s office says it will continue to defend a separate law requiring a 48-hour waiting period and counseling for those seeking an abortion. That regulation was also challenged in the lawsuits, which will proceed in the court system.

Tennessee is currently debating another pro-life measure. Entitled the “Tennessee Infants Protection Act,” the proposed legislation would bar abortions of babies who would be able to live outside the womb, except in cases of medical emergency.



Ukrainian Catholic eparchy of Chicago receives new bishop

April 20, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Chicago, Ill., Apr 20, 2017 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on April 20 appointed Bishop Venedykt (Valery) Aleksiychuk as Bishop of the Saint Nicholas Ukrainian Eparchy of Chicago.

Bishop Venedykt, 49, was born in Borshchivka, Ukraine in January 1968. He graduated from Rivne medical college in 1987, and worked as a physician’s assistant for several years. He also served in the Ukrainian military for two years.

He attended the seminary of Drohobych and was ordained a priest of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Lviv in 1992, at the age of 24. Until 1994 he was responsible for organizing missionary work in eastern Ukraine, and he also served in Belarus.

He was professed as a member of the Ukrainian Studite Monks in 1995, and earned a master’s degree in theology at Lublin Catholic University the following year.

Bishop Venedykt was transferred to St. Catharines, Canada in 1996 to found a monastery, and while there he served at several parishes of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Toronto.

In 1999 he returned to Ukraine after being elected hegumen of the  Holy Dormition Univ Lavra religious community, serving three terms in this position.

Continuing his theology studies in Lublin, he received a licentiate and a doctorate in 2006 and 2008, respectively. He has written on St. John of Kronstadt, a Russian Orthodox priest of the 19th century, and St. Theodore the Studite, a Byzantine monk of the 9th century who was a defender of icons.

Bishop Venedykt also completed courses in psychology and mental disorders at three institutions in eastern Europe.

In 2010 he was consecrated a bishop, and appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Lviv. He has served as chief of staff of the archeparchial curia, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s liturgical commission, and is chair of the synodal committee on liturgy.

Since 2014 Bishop Venedykt has been a member of the Saint Sophia charitable religious community in Rome.

In June 2016 he received a master’s degree in Business Administration from the Ukrainian Catholic University.

Bishop Venedykt was preceeded as Bishop of Saint Nicholas Ukrainian Eparchy by Bishop Richard Stephen Seminack, who died Aug. 16, 2016.

The eparchy is responsible for all Ukrainian Catholics in the United States west of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. There are currently around 70 priests and deacons working in the eparchy in 46 parishes and mission stations.

Since the death of Bishop Richard, Saint Nicholas Ukrainian Eparchy had been served by Fr.  Richard Janowicz as administrator.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite which is in full communion with the Bishop of Rome.