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Australian bishops: Assisted suicide is the opposite of health care

April 25, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Melbourne, Australia, Apr 25, 2017 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Proposals to legalize euthanasia in the Australian state of Victoria are based on “misplaced compassion,” the local bishops said.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are the opposite of care and represent the abandonment of the sick and the suffering, of older and dying persons,” the bishops said April 18.

“We ask Victorians to continue to love and care for those who are sick and suffering rather than abandoning them to euthanasia or supporting them to suicide. Our ability to care says much about the strength of our society.”

Their pastoral letter was signed by the four bishops with dioceses in Victoria state, including Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne.

Lawmakers in Victoria aim to allow “assisted dying,” meaning both euthanasia and assisted suicide, in limited circumstances.

In 2016 a parliamentary committee recommended that Victoria advance towards legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia. The Government endorsed the proposal and at present there is a consultation to determine how such laws can be made “safe.”

The bishops countered: “We should be clear – there is no safe way to kill people or to help them to their own suicide.” The commandment “You Shall Not Kill” is central to both biblical and civil law, they said, encouraging the Catholic faithful and others to pray and act against the bill.

“While it is never easy to face the end of life of a loved one, we cannot support this kind of legalization however it is described,” they continued.

“Assistance in our time of dying is something that we should all want for ourselves and for others – however, this should not involve a lethal injection or offering a lethal dose.”

Instead of legalizing assisted suicide, everyone should respond to the sick and the suffering with “truth and compassion,” the bishops said, affirming that everyone has the duty “to protect, nurture and sustain life to the best of our ability.”

The bishops cited Pope Francis’ Nov. 15, 2014 speech to Italian physicians, which contrasted the false compassion of assisted suicide with “the compassion of the Gospel” that accompanies us in times of need and the compassion of the Good Samaritan who “draws near and provides concrete help.”

According to the Victorian bishops, euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation has been “continually rejected” since a short experiment in Australia’s Northern Territory state.

“Why? Because when parliamentarians take the time to debate the issue fully and to consider all the consequences they realize that to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide would threaten the lives of vulnerable people,” the bishops said.

The bishops warned that the legislation could create a lower threshold of care and protection for the sick, the suffering and the vulnerable.

“Such a law would serve to exploit the vulnerability of those people, exposing them to further risk,” they said.

Even limited legalization would be a first step towards further expansion, the pastoral letter continued. Where assisted suicide and euthanasia have been legalized, their legality has been broadened to apply to children or psychological illness.

“In Holland, there is pressure to allow assisted suicide for people over the age of 70 who have simply become ‘tired of life,’” said the bishops.

The bishop stressed the blessings the elderly provide for society. Care for them should be done in gratitude, as “part of a culture of love and care.”

The Victorian bishops thanked the government for its commitment to palliative care and encouraged more investment in this path instead of assisted suicide or euthanasia. They pointed to Catholic contributions in networks of hospice care, hospitals, aged care, and other services, encouraging further support for these.

[…]

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Why Russia’s new ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses is so troubling

April 22, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Moscow, Russia, Apr 21, 2017 / 08:01 pm (Aid to the Church in Need).- The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been banned as an extremist group in a Thursday Supreme Court decision that observers feared signaled a further step back for religious liberty.

“For Jehovah’s Witnesses, this is going to be a frightening time,” Lorcan Price, ADF International legal counsel in Strasbourg, told CNA April 21.

“It effectively means that holding their beliefs and manifesting them is tantamount to a criminal act in Russia. They risk new levels of persecution by the Russian authorities.”

Price saw the move as continuing the reversal of positive trends in post-Soviet Russia.

“What we’re seeing really is the slide back into the type of attitude that characterized the worst of oppression in the 20th century by the Soviet regime in Russia,” he added. “It’s obviously very sad and disheartening to see that happening again.”

Russia’s Justice Ministry in March ordered that the Jehovah’s Witnesses denomination be liquidated and disbanded. Judges ordered the closure of the denomination’s Russian headquarters and almost 400 local chapters. The denomination’s property would also be seized.

The denomination’s lawyer, Viktor Zhenkov, said the group would appeal the court ruling upholding the order.

“We consider this decision an act of political repression that is impermissible in contemporary Russia,” Zhenkov told the New York Times.

Russia has duties under the European Court of Human Rights to protect freedom of worship and belief.

The Russian Orthodox Church is predominant in Russia, and some of its members have pushed to outlaw or curb the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Russia’s federal security service, the FSB, also holds the denomination under deep suspicion.

Svetlana Borisova, who represented the Justice Ministry in the Supreme Court, charged that the denomination’s members had shown “signs of extremist activity that represent a threat to the rights of citizens, social order and the security of society.”

Price said the ruling was “very disappointing and shocking,” but not surprising given negative trends.

“Last year in particular the government adopted some very draconian and far-reaching legislation that has severely disrupted the right of worship and freedom of belief in Russia,” he said.
 
Anti-terrorism measures have given Russian police powers to disrupt private worship services, to arrest and detain individuals handing out unapproved religious materials, and to outlay any publish preaching without prior approval from Russian authorities.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered intense persecution under the Soviet era until the fall of communism in 1991. A 2002 anti-extremism law and a broader definition of extremism in 2006 once again put legal pressure on the denomination

Price said an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights could produce a positive response, but Russia has “a long history of ignoring decisions” from that court, which relies on diplomatic pressure to enforce its decisions.

“For Christians and minority faiths in Russia this is a frightening time,” he said. “Obviously we hope that people will pray for them.”

“What we hope is ultimately the Russian government will take notice of international condemnation and reverse these policies.”

[…]

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What Holy Week looks like in a remote Indian diocese

April 13, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Miao, India, Apr 13, 2017 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the Diocese of Miao, located in India’s northeasternmost state of Arunachal Pradesh, Bishop George Pallipparambil does not stay quietly in his cathedral for Holy Week, but rather holds services across the diocese in an effort to better serve his people.

“What we’re trying to do is to reach to as many places as possible. I’m not confining myself to the main church in Miao,” the bishop told CNA in a 2015 interview. “I’ll be there only for the Easter Sunday Mass.”

“I finished today in one place, tomorrow I’ll be in a big community called Khonsa, and for Good Friday I’ll be in another district headquarters. For the [Easter] Vigil I’ll be in another place, and then for Sunday Mass I’ll be in Miao.”

The Miao diocese covers a vast area of nearly 17,000 square miles, and it is home to the easternmost portions of the Himalayas.

The terrain ranges “from the very low plains to the high snow-covered Himalayan peaks,” Bishop Pallipparambil explained. “Some of the biggest rivers in the world are in this region, coming down from the Himalayas flowing down to the plains.”

Mountainous terrain coupled with a lack of infrastructure explains why the diocese held its Chrism Mass entirely outside of Holy Week, that year on March 26.

The Chrism Mass is traditionally said on the morning of Holy Thursday, and it gathers all the priests of a diocese together with their bishop to emphasize their common ministry. The bishop blesses three kinds of oil – chrism, oil of the catechumens, and oil of the sick – which are distributed to the priests and used in sacramental anointings throughout the following year.

However, the Diocese of Miao has had to change this practice to adapt to its needs. The diocese was established in 2005, and Bishop Pallipparambil is its first ordinary.

“The first year we had [Chrism Mass] on Tuesday of Holy Week, and we found many of the priests could not reach back to their own places for Holy Thursday,” he explained. “So, we started in the last eight years to have the Chrism Mass in the previous week.”

Bishop Pallipparambil himself is sometimes beset by travel difficulties: in 2015, heavy rains had made the road to Kulagaon village extremely muddy, and on his way to Holy Week services there, he had to get out and push his jeep along with passersby.

Another adaptation: the Chrism Mass was not held in the cathedral at Miao, but rather in Minthong parish in the Longding district.

“It is one of the decisions we made when the diocese was created,” Bishop Pallipparambil said.

He explained that “having the Chrism Mass in the cathedral, at least for me, didn’t make sense,” because each year, the same people would attend and carry the holy oils back to the distant villages and parishes, where the local people “just don’t know what it is.”

“(W)hereas if the Chrism Mass is held in their place, they come to know because it is always done in their language, and so they know what it is. And when it’s time to have an anointing, whether it be for baptism or confirmation or another occasion, they know the sacredness of this oil.”

He added that “it brings all the priests and religious to pray together with the people the whole day before the Mass, so that also has a positive catechetical influence.”

That year, the Chrism Mass was the occasion for Bishop Pallipparambil to present the first translation of the entire New Testament into the Wancho language.

At the bishop’s request, Father TJ Francis spent three years working with Wancho leaders in preparing the translation, which will serve the 60,000 Wancho people who live in the Longding and Tirap districts.

Fr. Francis’ work “must inspire many of us to take up a similar responsibility to translate the Message of the Gospel to the language of the people we serve,” Bishop Pallipparambil said at the Mass. The Miao diocese is home to more than 100 distinct tribes, many of which have their own language.

Bishop Pallipparambil told CNA that the Wancho, of whom 95 percent are Christian, now have printed in their own language only the Bible and a few prayer and hymn books.

As the language had no written form, it also lacked its own script, the bishop noted, and Fr. Francis wrote the works with Latin letters. The priest has also produced a Wancho grammar.

Despite lacking access to written Scripture until now, many of the Wancho have converted “just by hearing and seeing” the Gospel.

“Some of their children in the ’80s and ’90s travelled outside their area and attended Christian schools, and when they got knowledge of Christianity they helped by teaching Bible in their own language,” he explained. The diocese also hold four to five-day Bible camps in which biblical stories and the catechism are explained.

Asked if the diocese hopes that the Old Testament will now be translated into Wancho, Bishop Pallipparambil affirmed “yes, we want to do it by all means at the earliest.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA April 3, 2015.
 

[…]

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Don’t misuse Bible to push death penalty, Philippines bishops say

March 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Manila, Philippines, Mar 20, 2017 / 08:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Remember what Jesus’ cross stands for, and don’t misuse the Bible to justify the death penalty, the Philippines’ Catholic bishops have said.

“To the people who use the Bible to defend the death penalty, need we point out how many other crimes against humanity have been justified, using the same Bible?” the country’s bishops asked.

“We humbly enjoin them to interpret the Scriptures properly, to read them as a progressive revelation of God’s will to humankind, with its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, God’s definitive Word to the world.”

Their words came in a March 19 pastoral statement on the death penalty signed by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen Dagupan, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. The statement was read at all Masses in the country on Sunday.

Jesus came not to abolish the law, but fulfill it, the bishops explained: “Jesus was never an advocate of any form of ‘legal killing’. He defended the adulterous woman against those who demanded her blood and challenged those who were without sin among them to be the first to cast a stone on her.”

The letter opened with a quotation from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “God proved his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The death penalty was abolished in the Philippines in 2006. At present President Rodrigo Duterte, who is also leading a brutal crackdown on drugs, has advocated its restoration.

In their letter, the Catholic bishops recounted the passage of a House of Representatives bill that would restore the death penalty.

“It was Ash Wednesday when members of the lower House, on the second reading of the death penalty bill, outvoted by voice-voting the nays with their ayes. Ironically, they were captured on television shouting in favor of death with their foreheads marked with crosses made of ashes,” the bishops said.

“Could they have forgotten what that cross meant?”

They questioned whether the legislators had missed that the crosses on their foreheads “were supposed to serve as a loud statement of faith in the God who, for love of us, chose to give up his life for our salvation, rather than see us perish.”

According to the bishops, the saying of the Bible, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” was challenged by Jesus, who advocated non-retaliation of evil for evil and justice founded on mercy.

“Even with the best of intentions, capital punishment has never been proven effective as a deterrent to crime,” they continued. “Obviously it is easier to eliminate criminals than to get rid of the root causes of criminality in society. Capital punishment and a flawed legal system are always a lethal mix. “

The statement also spoke about the victims.

“We are not deaf to the cries of the victims of heinous crimes. The victims and their victimizers are both our brothers and sisters. The victim and the opressor are both children of God,” they said.

They said the guilty should repent and make reparation for their sins. The bishops offered love, compassion and hope to crime victims.

The death penalty will be applied more to the poor, who cannot afford adequate legal defenses, the bishops said.

“As a law, death penalty directly contradicts the principle of inalienability of the basic human right to life, which is enshrined in most constitutions of countries that signed the universal declaration of human rights,” they said.

The Philippines bishops called for prayers for the country’s legislators.

“Let us offer all our Masses for them, asking our Crucified Lord who offered his whole life, body and blood, for the salvation of sinners, to touch their consciences and lead them to abolish capital punishment once and for all,” they said.

[…]

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Guam bishop aims to resolve ‘distress’ regarding Neocatechumenal Way

March 18, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Hagatna, Guam, Mar 18, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The practices of the Neocatechumenal Way in Guam have drawn attention from the island’s coadjutor archbishop, who has said its members are to stop forming new communities for a year, in the interest of healing divisions in the archdiocese.

Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes of Agaña cited “a growing sense of distress about the multiplication of small communities in some parishes and about some of the differences in the way the Mass is celebrated among the small communities of the Neocatechumenal Way.”

The movement must celebrate Mass at a consecrated altar and members of the congregation who receive the Blessed Sacrament must consume it as soon as they receive it, the archbishop said in a March 15 pastoral letter to his flock on the northwestern Pacific island, a U.S. territory.

The Neocatechumenal Way is a new ecclesial movement that focuses on post-baptismal adult formation in small parish-based groups. It is estimated that the movement contains about 1 million members, in some 40,000 parish-based communities around the world.

Archbishop Byrnes was appointed as Coadjutor Archbishop of Agaña in October 2016 to replace Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who was relieved of his pastoral and administrative authority in June 2016 after allegations surfaced that he had sexually abused minors.

Archbishop Apuron is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way. He has also been accused of mishandling control over Guam’s seminary, reportedly using it as a Neocatechumenal seminary rather than a diocesan seminary, which led to the withdrawal of all Samoan students.

At his appointment, Archbishop Byrnes was given all the faculties, rights, and obligations of the Archbishop of Agaña.

“In the conversation with Pope Francis last October, he appealed to me in a particular way to do what I can to bring some healing to the divisions existing in the Archdiocese of Agaña,” he wrote in his pastoral letter.

“I realize that a number of factors have contributed toward the divisions. I cannot deal with them all at once hence what I outline below represents a beginning.”

He presented his decisions regarding the Neocatechumenal Way “in the context of the pastoral change entrusted to me by the Holy Father.”

Archbishop Byrnes will appoint a priest delegate to to review the Neocatechumenal Way’s catechetical directory and to ensure its catechists  are sufficiently formed.  

He is also regulating the liturgies of the Neocatechumenal Way in his local Church, to foster clarity and unity.

“The sooner we have unity and universal adherence as an archdiocese to the norms established by the Church in celebrating the body of Christ during the sacred celebration of the Mass, the sooner we shall be on the path to reconciling with one another and bring healing to our divided diocese,” Archbishop Byrnes said.

Since the Neocatechumenal Way says Mass on Saturday evenings, the coadjutor archbishop stipulated that all Masses on Saturday evenings be said at a consecrated altar. This norm will go into effect April 2.

He also directed that if the Neocatechumenal Way’s Mass is one of a parish’s regularly scheduled Masses, its special character be noted in the bulletin; if the Mass is in addition to a regularly scheduled Mass on Saturday evening, a portion of its collection should go to the parish; and that the pastor has the authority to direct how many additional Masses may be said.

Archbishop Byrnes also directed that, in accord with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the celebrant of a Mass must consume the Body and Blood of Christ prior to distributing Communion, and that communicants are to consume the Body and Blood as soon as they receive the host or chalice, without any delay. These norms take effect March 26.

The archbishop recognized the good that the movement has brought to many people’s lives and he noted that it is recognized and approved by the Holy See.

However, it is imperative that it adhere to liturgical norms, he said, and this adherence “will only enrich the fruits of the Neocatechumenal movement.”

Fr. Paul A.M. Gofigan, rector of Dulce Nombre De Maria Cathedral-Basilica, told the Pacific Daily News that when the movement aims to start a new community, it offers testimonials at churches.

“Many have been very offended that the non-Neos have become a captive audience because these testimonials have been inserted into the Mass,” he said.

Since the Neocatechumenal Way was founded, the group has sometimes been cautioned by the Vatican for inserting various novel practices into the Masses it organizes. These include practices such as lay preaching, the reception of Holy Communion while sitting, and the passing of the Most Precious Blood from person to person.

[…]

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Catholic church guard attacked over personal feud in Bangladesh

March 11, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rajshahi, Bangladesh, Mar 11, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A man acting as a guard outside a Catholic church in Bangladesh was injured in a knife attack on Friday. Local authorities attribute it to a private feud, and not terrorism.

According to local reports, Gilbert Costa, 65, was guarding Saint Rita parish in the Chatmohar upazila of the Pabna district, about 55 miles southeast of Rajshahi, when he was attacked in the early hours of March 10 by several young men from his village wielding knives.

“He was hacked randomly by sharp knives and was left severely injured. He was shifted to a hospital where his condition is now stable,” local police chief Ahsan Habib told AFP.

Officials have ruled out a link to Islamic terrorism, and have said that the attack was motivated by “personal enmity.”

“Costa and his relatives have identified the attackers with whom they had personal feud in the village. We have found no extremist connection whatsoever,” Habib told AFP.

Three young men from Costa’s village have been arrested in connection with the attack.

Christians have suffered numerous attacks in the country, where they make up approximately 0.2 percent of the population in the Muslim-majority nation.

While the country has a history of violence against Christians, violence has spiked in the wake of the rise of extreme Islamic terrorism. In November 2015, an Italian missionary priest working at a hospital in Bangladesh, was shot and critically injured an attack claimed by the Islamic State. In summer 2016, several attacks left dozens dead, including a Catholic man coming home from Sunday prayers in June and 28 people who died in a hostage situation in July.

Pope Francis recently met with families of the victims of the 2016 hostage scenario, most of whom were foreigners from Italy and Japan. During his visit with the families, he offered his prayers and encouraged forgiveness.

“It’s easy to take the road from love that leads to hatred, while it is difficult to do the opposite: from bitterness and hatred to go towards love,” he said.

Despite the persecution, the Catholic population in Bangladesh is reportedly on the rise. In 2015, Pope Francis established a new diocese in the south-central region of the country, due to an increase of Catholics in the region.

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More than 200 Korean martyrs are up for beatification

March 9, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Seoul, South Korea, Mar 9, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The first Bishop of Pyongyang, an American born-bishop, and numerous priests and laity are among the 213 who could be beatified and advanced on the process to sainthood under a process begun in South Korea.

Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik of Daejon predicted it will take at least ten years before any beatification or canonization, “but for our people, these people are already holy.”

The bishop heads the Korean bishops’ committee considering the beatifications. He told Asia News that important parts of the path to beatification are the Catholic faithful’s prayer and “desire to follow the spirit of the martyrs.”

One group under consideration for beatification includes Servant of God Bishop Francis Borgia Hong Yong-ho and 80 companions. This broad group ranges from the martyrs of the 1901 Jeju massacre, in which about 300 Catholics were killed, to the victims of persecution following the division of Korea following the Second World War.

Bishop Hong, born in 1906, was ordained a priest in 1933 under Japanese occupation. He was named the first native Bishop of Pyongyang in 1944. He was an apostolic vicar to a region considered mission territory by the Church. With the rise of communism, he was imprisoned in 1949. His fate is unknown, but he is believed to have died in a concentration camp in North Korea.

Until 2013, when he would have been 107, the Vatican considered him missing. Acknowledgment of his death opened the path to possible beatification.

Bishop Patrick James Byrne, a native of Washington, D.C., is also among the group. The Maryknoll missionary was born in 1888. He was ordained a priest in 1915, then served in Korea and Japan before the Second World War. In April 1949 he was named the first apostolic delegate to Korea, and ordained a bishop at the age of 60 in 1949.

In July 1950 he was arrested by communists and put on trial. He and other priests were put on forced marches. During a four-month-long forced march, suffering from bad weather and a lack of food and shelter, he died Nov. 25, 1950.

Altogether, the group associated with Bishop Hong includes two bishops, 48 priests, three seminarians, seven religious sisters, and 21 lay people.

The second group, Servant of God John Baptist Yi Byeok and his 132 companions, were all lay people killed for their faith between 1785 and 1879. Yi was from a family of court dignitaries who under the Joseon dynasty converted to Catholicism and helped evangelize Korea. He was martyred at the age of 33.

One of their number, Alexius Hwang Sa-yeong, died by martyrdom when his arms and legs were tied to four animals which were then driven away in opposite directions, dismembering him.

Another in the group died in exile and his martyrdom must be verified.

The Korean bishops’ conference has set up a special committee for the causes of saints with a Vatican mandate to consider martyrs who belong to different dioceses.

[…]