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South Korean archbishop voices hope for new president

May 11, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Seoul, South Korea, May 10, 2017 / 09:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An archbishop in South Korea encouraged the country’s new president to bring unity to a nation struggling both from recent scandals and fears over North Korea’s weapons tests.  

“I would like him to promote balanced development of the nation, and to appoint his staff in a fair and impartial manner so that all selected competent persons may take part in the new government administration,” Archbishop Hyginus Hee-joong Kim of Gwangji said in a May 10 statement.

“We also would like him to propose a clear vision and governmental management philosophy for the future which can make all Korean people in the North and South Korea reconcile and coexist in peace.”

The statement congratulated President Moon Jae-in in his victory on Tuesday. He won with over 41 percent favor of South Korea’s population against two other candidates, according to the South Korea’s National Election Commission.

President Moon replaced the former president Park Geun-Hye who was ousted after a scandal broke last November, leading to her impeachment and ultimately her imprisonment this year. The scandal involved bribery and abuse of power with one of her close friends, Choi Soon-sil, who together used their positions to demand money from major companies in South Korea.

Geun-Hye has been accused of using her power to coerce companies in donating nearly 70 million dollars, which was funneled through two foundations run by the former president. The National Assembly began stripping her of power last December and prosecution began with 13 criminal charges in March. Since then the charges have increased to 18.

The archbishop acknowledged the difficult times surrounding the months of angry mobs demanding for the ex-president’s resignation, and expressed the need for a president capable of uniting South Korea.

“Now we are in urgent need of a credible leader who keeps principles and steps towards true peace and justice beyond today’s conflicts and confrontations. May the new president be a great leader who can make democracy take root in this country, and bring peace and prosperity to the Korean people.”

President Moon’s landslide victory still faces the aftermath of political corruption, but he is also challenged by the looming issue of North Korea’s recent missile and nuclear tests.

North Korea has continued to pursue nuclear and ballistic missile tests, despite a ban from the United Nations and trade restrictions from China. The country has so far conducted five missile tests in 2017, including a failed attempt on April 28. Most successful tests have landed missiles into the Sea of Japan, but spectators have agreed that the tests are steps to extend North Korea’s reach of nuclear weapons to other areas of the world.

South Korea’s new president has vowed to immediately tackle the issues regarding their northern neighbor. During his first speech as president, Moon said he would aim to sooth tensions between Beijing and Washington. He even said he would be willing to meet with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un if the conditions were right.

Controversy over a U.S. anti-missile defense system, which was recently implemented in Korean peninsula, has caused for skepticism from China, whose leaders say the system threatens the security of their country as well.

Along with his promises to tackle serious international issues, Moon said he would cut ties with South Korea’s conglomerates and leave the office uncorrupted.

“I take this office empty-handed, and I will leave the office empty-handed,” President Moon said during his May 10 inauguration speech, according to Reuters.

Archbishop Hyginus Hee-joong Kim further encouraged the new leader to attend to the dignity of all citizens: “the vulnerable and disadvantaged in the society can be treated with human dignity and respect, where everyone enjoys the right to freedom of thought and conscience.”

The archbishop ended his statement promising to pray for the good of Korea’s people under the leader’s service.


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Demolished cross in India sparks outrage among Catholics

May 3, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Mumbai, India, May 3, 2017 / 03:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite being located on private property, a 122 year-old cross was demolished late last month in a suburb of Mumbai, sparking legal action from the archdiocese.

“This is gross misuse of authority and the archdiocese, in collaboration with various representative bodies, will legally pursue the matter,” archdiocesan spokesperson Father Nigel Barrett told Matters India in an April 30 article.

Local civic officers had demolished the cross a day before, inciting an angry response from the Catholic community. A makeshift cross was established hours later.

In 2016 the Allahabad High Court issued a directive calling for the removal of all religious structures which infringe upon any public roads, ranging from highways to pathways. The ruling is meant to restrict religious activities hindering the flow of traffic on public roads.

The court ordered any religious structure raised before 2011 to be removed within two months, and those issued before would need to be moved to private land or removed in six months. However, the cross was already located on private property.

Assistant municipal commissioner Sharad Ughade had sent notice to the church on April 26 that the cross would be demolished, referring to the ruling. In response, the owner of the land that the cross was located on provided documents that proved the land was private.

Father Barrett said that legal action was on its way over the destruction of the cross, decrying that the proper documentation was seemingly ignored by civic authorities.

The representative for the area’s state legal assembly, Ashish Shelar, met with all affected parties on May 2. According to Mid-Day, he said the cross was included on a list of illegal structures which interfere with the development plan of the city.

He said the cross was mistakenly added to the list “without proper homework.”

Moving forward, he said the plan would be to reexamine the documents of the demolitions completed so far, to give all religious structures on the list a month to be relocated. Shelar also granted the request for a Christian cemetery to be built in Malad, a suburb on the other side of Mumbai.

Thirty-two temples and six crosses have also been removed since the court order, according to the Times of India.


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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.