No Picture
News Briefs

Saint statue vandalized at Ukrainian Catholic cathedral in Canada

May 24, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Winnipeg, Canada, May 24, 2019 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- St. Vladimir died of old age in 1015, but his modern-day statue in Canada met a much more gruesome end.

The rector of Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral in Winnipeg said he is “devastated” after a statue of St. Vladimir was found decapitated Tuesday.

The head, along with pieces of the statue’s staff, are still missing, church officials told the CBC.

Fr. Michael Buyachok is pastor of the cathedral of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Winnipeg. The statue was a landmark of the parish, beloved by parishioners, and created by a local sculptor, Buyachok told the CBC.

“It’s a tragic event, because the statue symbolizes something for us. Our congregation, they know the statue from memory. But that’s the way it is,” he said.

It’s especially devastating because the statue had been blessed by St. John Paul II during his visit to Winnipeg in 1984, Buyachok added.

Police have been informed of the incident, which they described as vandalism and theft, they told CBC.

St. Vladimir the Great, Grand Prince of Kiev, is venerated for being baptized in 988, which resulted in the Christianization of Kievan Rus’, a state whose heritage Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus all claim.

It is yet unclear who cut off and stole the head of the statue and parts of the staff. Church officials said nearby residents of a nursing home reported teenagers playing around the statue on Monday night, while residents of an apartment complex behind the statue reported hearing a grinding sound early Tuesday morning, they told the CBC.

“I really couldn’t tell you. I think it’s just vandalism, straight vandalism,” Buyachok told the CBC. “They wouldn’t have anything against the cathedral, because the statue’s been there for years, since 1984.”

The church has informed local metal scrappers of the incident, in case they are sold the head or staff.

Buyachok said he just hoped the pieces would be returned.

“I would just simply tell them, just return the head to us. We won’t prosecute you,” he said. “Let those that prosecute people, let them do that. But we won’t do anything to you, because what’s the point?”

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

MS-13 gang member suspected in Salvadoran priest’s death

May 20, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

San Salvador, El Salvador, May 20, 2019 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- A priest has been shot and killed by a suspected gang member in El Salvador, Vatican News reported Sunday. His funeral was held today in Sonzacate, El Salvador.

Father Cecilio Perez Cruz, 38, was pastor of San Jose La Majada Parish in Juayu, El Salvador, in the Diocese of Sosonate near the Guatemalan border.

A group of parishioners found his body Saturday morning; he had been shot three times.

There was a handwritten note next to the priest’s body, signed by the Mara Salvatrucha gang saying “he did not pay the rent,” Vatican News reported. Gangs in El Salvador often use extortion as a means of control.

Mara Salvatrucha is more commonly known as MS-13, a gang formed by children of Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1970s and 80s.

Bishop Constantino Barrera of Sonsonate asked Catholics to pray for Father Perez, and praised the priest’s pastoral ministry, saying he was “close to his people.”

The Government of El Salvador condemned the murder and in a statement expressed condolences to the priest’s family and to the Catholic community.

“We stand in solidarity with all the victims of violence, of any type of violence, and we ask the authorities to administer justice in all cases,” Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador said at a news conference yesterday.

“It’s not that we seek revenge, but justice is necessary for the good of the victims and for the good of the whole society, because violence will only be overcome if impunity is not allowed. It is truly worrisome the degree of violence that our country suffers. We must work and pray intensely for peace,” the archbishop said as quoted by Catholic News Service.

A local police officer told AFP an investigation was in its earliest stages and the killer was not yet known to the police.

El Salvador has one of the highest rates of murder in the world, with 51 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants last year, and gang violence is especially acute.

The Salvadoran government also announced Sunday new orders have been issued to security forces to make sure the priest’s killers are brought to justice, Vatican News said.

Gangs such as MS-13 compete with the government for power and in some cases control entire neighborhoods.

Rick Jones, a policy expert for Catholic Relief Services, told CNA last October that after the United States began deporting large numbers of Salvadorans from Los Angeles after the country’s civil war ended, many of the young people who returned were already involved in gang activity.

“You have a situation where in the mid-1990s most young boys were out of school and unemployed, and only made it to 6th grade. And so they started organizing and [the gangs] spread through the metropolitan area,” he said.

“Then, in 2003, the [US] government decided to put out the ‘Iron Fist’ policy. Meaning zero tolerance. Meaning any kid with baggy clothes, tattoos and a hat on backwards could get picked up and thrown into prison.”

These hardline policies backfired, however, as the homicide rate continued to increase despite the changes.

“The level of violence has risen ever since the country put in these hardline policies,” Jones said.

“What you have in the country, as I said, is you have the underlying conditions of people living in marginal, overcrowded neighborhoods, that were created spontaneously because of the war, so there’s no social service, kids don’t have access to school, and the communities are all living in fear during the war, and that just gets translated to the next generation. And this generation acts out on that by joining gangs.”

“I think it’s the latest manifestation of both structural issues, lack of opportunity, and then trauma from the war getting worked out in a new way, and thirdly the levels of repression that they’ve had now under the Iron Fist policies for over a decade,” he said.

Clergy in El Salvador continue to be outspoken about human rights violations, in the country, with many working with young people, to try to turn them from gang violence, while also speaking out against El Salvador’s highly overcrowded prison system and the hardline policies that have led to it.  

“We’re now working with governments, we’re trying to work with the police, to try to help them understand that the repressive tactics are not being effective, and to get better community policing, and more targeted, focused policing, and working with the kids before they get to the point where they need to be locked up…We need to work with adolescents and their families before they get engaged in gangs,” Jones said.

“You have to work with the guys that are locked up. So that when they get out, they don’t just go back into the gangs or into criminal behavior, that they actually become peace promoters among some of these neighborhoods.”

Catholic organizations and leaders in El Salvador have recently decried the “impunity” with which gangs often operate, including in the death of another Salvadoran priest killed last year during Holy Week.

Fr. Walter Osmir Vásquez Jiménez was shot and killed the afternoon of March 29, 2018, Holy Thursday, on a dirt road outside of the town of Lolotique, El Salvador, as he was on his way to celebrate Mass. The local press attributed the crime to gangs active in the area.

 

 

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Venezuelan bishops say ending legislative immunity ‘hijacks’ democracy

May 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The Venezuelan bishops’ conference has expressed opposition to a decision of the country’s Supreme Court, which has requested that legislative immunity be revoked for members of the National Assembly accused of treason, conspiracy, instigation of insurrection, civil rebellion and other charges.  That would open the way for legislators to be tried for those alleged crimes.

“With this request, the will of the Venezuelan people, who freely elected the National Assembly is, in fact, abolished,” the bishops charged in a May 15 statement.

They also said that Supreme Court requests on the matter “constitute disrespect and a transgression of the commitments enacted with the different international bodies on human rights.”

“The denial of immunity without previously determining its merits and ignoring the rights of the National Assembly, contravening the express constitutional provisions, gravely harms the functioning of democracy,” the bishops added.  

They also explained that these decisions in practice constitute “the hijacking of popular sovereignty,” which is represented by the legislators elected by the will of the citizens.

“That is the essence of a democracy: respect for the will of the people and the observance of the due legal and judicial processes.”

They also reminded that in the face of a political crisis a peaceful solution is required. “We reaffirm  the will for an institutional and democratic solution to the political and social situation in Venezuela.”

The Venezuelan bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission pointed out that more than 30 representatives of the National Assembly are not exercising their functions because of the violation  of their parliamentary immunity, while others have been arrested, are in exile, or their election was invalidated as occurred with the representatives from Amazonas State.

“We categorically reject the persecution against the political and social leaders, especially against the Representatives of the National Assembly by means of criminalization and stigmatization, placing pamphlets on their residences or graffiti that put their lives at risk and that of their families,” the reaffirmed.

The bishops’ conference has asked the authorities to respect the will of the people. They also demanded  that “the security of persons that are the object of persecution and intimidation be guaranteed.”

“We ask God for the wisdom necessary for an institutional and peaceful solution to the grave political, social and economic crisis that has deepened in recent weeks, deteriorating democracy and the quality of life of the Venezuelan people, especially the poorest,” they concluded.

 

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Pro-life activists call for acquittal of doctor who refused to perform abortion in Argentina

May 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 17, 2019 / 10:55 am (CNA).- Pro-life advocates in Argentina have called for the acquittal of Dr. Leandro Rodríguez Lastra, whose trial started May 13 in Rio Negro Province in Argentina for refusing to perform an abortion.

Rodríguez is the head of the department gynecology at the Pedro Moguillansky Hospital in Cipoletti. In May 2017, he treated a 19 year old woman who was suffering severe pain due to ingesting misoprostol, a drug administered by an abortion group.

The doctor confirmed that the woman was almost 23 weeks pregnant and the baby weighed more than 1 lb. 2 oz., so in conjunction with the medical team and the hospital board, he decided not to terminate  the pregnancy.

Rodríguez stabilized the patient and when the baby reached 35 weeks gestation, labor was induced. Days later, the baby was adopted and will soon be two years old.

However, Rodríguez and Dr. Yamila Custillo, who also refused to perform an abortion, were cited by Río Negro legislator Marta Milesi, an advocate for the protocol of non-punishable abortion, which the province had adopted in the case of rape, which the woman alleged.

Custilla was dropped from the complaint in May 2018. But the case against Rodríguez continued since the professional had allegedly stopped an abortion in progress.

Organizations including CitizenGo Argentina. Lawyers for Life, Doctors for Life, the March for Life. Medical Students for Life and Independent Federal Women delivered on May 14 more than 50,000 digital signatures calling for the acquittal of the doctor to Judge  Álvaro Meynet and Governor Alberto Wereltineck.

“It is obvious that the accusation made by provincial representative Marta Milesi, who is an abortion activist, seeks to intimidate doctors into doing abortions, even when these pregnancies are advanced,” the letter they delivered states.

“Dr. Rodríguez Lastra fulfilled his duty and the Hippocratic Oath as a doctor, committed to the defense and care of life. We  hope that justice will be done,” they concluded.

On Twitter, the hashtags #SalvarVidasNoEsDelito (Saving lives is not a crime) and #JusticiaParaRodriguezLastra (Justice for Rodriguez Lastra) were trending.

“We repudiate this persecution of a doctor who did his job: he saved both lives. Because of an illegitimate complaint, today there’s an absurd trial. The only thing they want is to intimidate and impose their ideology,” wrote Twitter user Ana Marmona.

Health professionals from Costa Rica also expressed their support with photo messages.

Dr. Fernando Secin of Doctors for Life said “We are very  concerned about the persecution that we doctors are receiving.” “We’re seeing a justice system acting in concert with politics, instead of going after all those people like the La Revuelta (The Revolt) group that is illegally distributing medications and illegally practicing medicine.”

Since the trial began, different groups have come to the Río Negro Court with banners expressing their opposition to the trial of Rodríguez.

 

This article was originally published by CNA’s Spanish-language partner, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Colombia food bank calls for ‘heroes’ to serve those in need

May 14, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Bogotá, Colombia, May 14, 2019 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- A major food bank in Bogota, Colombia, is calling for local people and organizations to partner with them as they serve hundreds of thousands of at-risk people in the area.

“It’s important for the people to be well fed, and have a culture of good habits, [and to] accompany the poorest so their children can go to school, and for the older adults to be placed in jobs,” said Fr. Daniel Saldarriaga, executive director of the Archdiocesan Food Bank of Bogota, Colombia.

The Bogota Food Bank is a completely self-sustaining foundation that began in 2001 with the goal of responding to Pope John Paul II’s call in the Apostolic Letter “Novo Millenio Ineunte.”

The bank has a group of 126 collaborators that serve as “a bridge” that joins them to the most needy, and allows them to reach more than 313,000 people in at-risk conditions in Bogota.

This food bank is currently serving more than 61,000 children, 22,000 young people, 24,000 adults, 10,000 elderly and 47,000 families.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency, Saldarriaga said there is a need for more community involvement to continue meeting the needs of those served by the food bank, including children and the elderly, the sick, and those with disabilities.

The food bank has launched a new campaign, asking individuals and organizations to donate food, toiletries, personal hygiene products, as well as other items and services which are allocated and distributed to the NGOs registered with the bank.

To receive this support, the NGOs must demonstrate that they work with a vulnerable population to provide food or other material assistance.

Saldarriaga said the campaign is inviting people to “be heroes” by alleviating the suffering of their neighbors.

For example, the priest said, a hero is someone who “instead of throwing away products they were unable to sell, delivers them to be sent to organizations where they can improve living conditions and vulnerable situations.

“In our country, we only manage to utilize two-thirds of what we produce, harvest or market, the rest is wasted. That’s why in Colombia we are contributing to the number of people suffering from hunger,” he said. 

In addition to providing food for the poor, the Bogota food bank is working to create a culture of sound and healthy nutrition and fight the culture of begging.

“It’s not right that we’re making beggars. We need to alleviate hunger and fight poverty. Otherwise, we’ll go on doing works that seem very interesting, but don’t have the positive effect of our truly bringing dignity to the quality of life of the people that most need it,” Saldarriaga stressed.

The priest also emphasized the importance of working with young people. They must have opportunities that allow them to “have the dream of preparing themselves for the workplace and engaging in the economy,” he said.

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Cupich denounces pastor’s decision to host Nation of Islam leader

May 11, 2019 CNA Daily News 8

Chicago, Ill., May 11, 2019 / 02:20 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago is distancing himself from the decision of a pastor who invited controversial preacher Louis Farrakhan to speak at his parish, saying that he was not consulted before Farrakhan’s talk.

“Antisemitic rhetoric — discriminatory invective of any kind — has no place in American public life, let alone in a Catholic church,” Cupich said in a May 10 statement.

Farrakhan, 86, is the founder of the Chicago-based group Nation of Islam and has a history of anti-Semitic preaching.

“I’m here to separate the good Jews from the satanic Jews,” Farrakhan said at one point during the talk.

“I have not said one word of hate. I do not hate Jewish people. Not one that is with me has ever committed a crime against the Jewish people, black people, white people. As long as you don’t attack us, we won’t bother you.”

Fr. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church, invited Farrakhan in response to Facebook’s decision May 2 to ban him from its platforms, due to Farrakhan’s violations of the site’s policies regarding “hate speech.” St. Sabina is a predominantly African American parish in Chicago’s South Side.

The Archdiocese had released a statement May 9 reiterating that the event was not sponsored by the archdiocese.

“Minister Farrakhan could have taken the opportunity to deliver a unifying message of God’s love for all his children. Instead, he repeatedly smeared the Jewish people, using a combination of thinly veiled discriminatory rhetoric and outright slander,” Cupich said.

“He referred to Jewish people as ‘satanic,’ asserting that he was sent by God to separate the ‘good Jews’ from the ‘satanic Jews,’” Cupich noted.

”Such statements shock the conscience. People of faith are called to live as signs of God’s love for the whole human family, not to demonize any of its members…I apologize to my Jewish brothers and sisters, whose friendship I treasure, from whom I learn so much, and whose covenant with God remains eternal.”

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center has reportedly extended an invitation to Pfleger to meet with their leadership and dialogue with survivors. Cupich encouraged the priest to accept the invitation.

This is reportedly not the first time Plfeger has hosted Farrakhan to speak at his parish, and also not the first time the archdiocese has had to walk back controversial comments by the priest. In 2008, the late Cardinal Francis George had to publicly respond to comments Pfleger made deriding Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton and advocating the candidacy of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

In addition, George suspended Pfleger from his ministry at St. Sabina in 2011 and barred him from celebrating the sacraments because of public statements Pfleger had made, the Chicago Sun Times reports. Pfleger reportedly threatened to leave the priesthood unless George relented.

“He said there were good Jews and there are bad Jews, true. There are good Catholics and bad Catholics,” Pfleger told ABC7 news regarding Farrakhan’s talk.

“I’m doing what I believe the Gospel calls me to do and continue to try and bring people together and try to speak truth.”

Pfleger said he has known Farrakhan for 30 years and embraced him after the talk. Pfleger has said that Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam are respected locally for their anti-violence and anti-drug campaigns, CNN reports.

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Canadian MPs fight to protect doctors, patients against euthanasia

May 11, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Ottawa, Canada, May 11, 2019 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Canadian members of parliament are attempting to pass a law that would protect the conscience rights of doctors as the government looks to expand access to euthanasia in the country.

Conservative MP David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Saskatchewan) introduced bill C-418 in October as a private member’s bill, seeking to protect medical practitioners unwilling to euthanize their patients or provide referrals for medically induced deaths.

Anderson told CNA that he was inspired to submit the bill after hearing complaints from doctors that Canada’s MAID policies were a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

“One of that oath is ‘we will not administer poison,’” Anderson told CNA in an interview. “So it’s clear, right? And yet, now the medical system is expected to be the ones who actually administer these drugs that terminate people’s lives.”

The legislation would make it illegal to “intimidate a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the purpose of compelling them to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying.”

The bill would also make it an offence to fire someone for refusing to take part in “medical assistance in dying” (MAID). Canada’s healthcare system is government-run, tying doctors working conditions and practice closely to ministerial policy.

Last year, 1.12 percent of all deaths in Canada were as a result of MAID. Although Canadians have an option to self-administer the drugs to end their lives, only a single person chose this option.

Anderson told CNA that he is concerned that MAID, coupled with Canada’s aging population and increasingly expensive healthcare system could result in dehumanization.

Presently in Canada, women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of disability are “encouraged to abort (their preborn child) so they’re not part of our medical system beyond that one event,” said Anderson. The MP is worried that this attitude could be expanded to view the elderly and persons with disabilities as unnecessarily expensive costs to the healthcare system.

“Certainly, seniors, disabled people cost the system more than the healthy people do,” said Anderson. “You can see people justifying assisted suicide, euthanasia in the future in order to save money, and we don’t want to get to that point.”

Right now, Anderson said that there are posters in hospitals that explain MAID, and who can request that their doctor end their life. He told CNA that he thinks this is “entirely inappropriate,” and that people “shouldn’t go into the hospital in order to facilitate (their) death.”

Currently, only those who are over the age of 18, have been deemed to be “mentally competent,” and have been diagnosed with a terminal physical illness are eligible to receive MAID.

But these restrictions could be changed, Conservative MP Michael Cooper of St. Albert-Edmonton warned CNA.

The existing MAID policy that was passed into law is “far more limited” than the version originally recommended by the joint legislative committee, said Cooper.

“My concern at this point in time is that the limited safeguards that have been put in place–namely that it’s got to be a competent adult person, that there needs to be two physicians or two nurse practitioners, the fact that it can only apply in the case of a physical illness as opposed to a mental illness, and the fact that consent must be contemporaneous with the carrying out of the death of the patient,” said Cooper.

“All of that now is potentially on the table to be opened up, whereby there would be virtually no safeguards in place.”

Potential changes being considered, Cooper explained, include allowing those with mental illnesses as well as “mature minors” to request MAID, and the creation of an “advanced directive” whereby a person can give instructs for their own death as a contingency plan.

“At this point, there has been no indication that further changes to the law are going to be made,” said Cooper. “But I’m not optimistic that over the long term that won’t be the case.”

Both Cooper and Anderson expressed concern about the state of palliative care in Canada as a result of the MAID law and a lack of clear conscience rights for doctors.

“We do have a strong palliative care community in Canada, who have been encouraging governments to really commit to that,” said Anderson. “One of the things that concerns me is that I’m hearing about doctors who have been involved in palliative care in the past who are shutting down their practices because of the threat of being forced to participate in assisted suicide.”

This results in fewer palliative care doctors in Canada, “in a time when we probably should be encouraging it and strengthening it.”

“This government has basically window-dressed when it comes to palliative care,” said Cooper, the Albertan MP. “There’s very little movement on the palliative care front.”

Cooper told CNA that he thinks it “essential” that palliative care be expanded in Canada and that it is not currently available to most Canadians, a problem he said predates the passage of MAID.

“Absent palliative care, many individuals may feel there is no other choice but to go down the road of physician assisted dying, or may even feel pressure from family members or friends who may be otherwise in a position of looking after them,” said Cooper.

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Mexican bishops ask government to assist in migrant crisis

May 9, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Tapachula, Mexico, May 9, 2019 / 05:52 pm (CNA).- The Mexican Bishops’ Conference has made a public request for help from the country’s authorities, as well as all people of good will, in addressing the migration crisis at the country’s southern border.

In a May 7 statement entitled “Request for Help,” the bishops noted that “we Mexicans have always been known for our joy, solidarity, treating others well and hospitality.”

However, they lamented, with the recent migrant caravans, “some people have taken on attitudes of rejection, indifference, xenophobia, discrimination and racism.”

Thousands of migrants have arrived in recent months at the southern border of Mexico on their way to the United States. Many come from Central American countries facing gang violence, economic crisis and environmental instability, as well as from Haiti, Cuba and African nations.

While Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador campaigned on a pledge of protecting migrants and their rights, the Mexican government has begun detaining caravans as numbers of migrants arriving in the country increased.

Mexico is currently facing a “humanitarian emergency” as migration caravans move through the country, often lacking basic shelter and necessities, the bishops warned.

They pledged “to do everything possible to be a Samaritan Church to make the journey of our brother migrants less onerous.”

“We have requested Caritas National’s action in organizing the aid in our country, just as we are motivating the different dioceses in our homeland to raise up an additional effort of generosity among our parishioners on behalf of our brothers,” they said.

The bishops particularly noted concern over the situation on the southern Mexican border, “specifically what the city of Tapachula is experiencing in Chiapas.” They said that the vast number of migrants has outpaced aid from the Church and government.

With the migrant assistance station overburdened, the migrants now wander the streets in search of help, they said.

“At the door of the southern border there are thousands of our brothers, people who have already gone several days without eating and who are sleeping in the streets. There are children, elderly people, the sick, some women close to going into labor.”

The bishops of Mexico called on the federal government to activate an emergency plan and request humanitarian assistance for those in need, particularly in Tapachula. They also asked for clarification regarding the legal situation of those seeking to pass through the country.

“We urge adequately addressing this moment of crisis in which our country has the opportunity to show its true level of humanity,” the bishops said. “As a Church we offer our prayer, all our support and help.”

[…]