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On St Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s religious leaders stress progress and continued engagement

March 17, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Mar 17, 2021 / 05:36 pm (CNA).- Christianity can shed light on the path forward for the peace process in Ireland, religious and political coexistence, and understanding the shared the history of Ireland’s peoples, religious leaders of major religious groups said in a joint St. Patrick’s Day message as major centenaries approach in 2021.
 
“Christ’s teaching, ministry and sacrifice were offered in the context of a society that was politically divided, wounded by conflict and injustice. His call to ‘render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things of God’ conveyed the reassurance that beneath these societal fractures lay a deeper source of connection because all things belong to God,” said the March 17 statement “In Christ We Journey Together.”
 
“Jesus lived out this message of hope by repeatedly and intentionally crossing social boundaries to affirm the dignity of those who had been marginalized or excluded by his own people and by society,” the message continued. They cited gospel stories like Christ’s encounter with the woman of Samaria, saying, “Christ does not seek to minimize differences, but rather to establish connection through gracious listening, replacing exclusion and shame with the hope of new beginnings.”
 
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh was a signer of the statement, as was his Church of Ireland counterpart, John McDowell. Other signers were Dr. David Bruce, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Dr. Thomas McKnight, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and Dr. Ivan Patterson, President of the Irish Council of Churches.
 
The signers also filmed readings of the statement in a video message at St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh, the historic center of Irish Christianity.
 
“In our approach to the past we have a moral responsibility to acknowledge the corrosive impact of violence and words that can lead to violence, and a duty of care to those still living with the trauma of its aftermath,” the statement said.
 
The year 2021 will mark the centenary of the close of the Irish War of Independence and the Truce of July 11 which halted the war. This is followed by the Dec. 6 anniversary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which led to the partition of Ireland into the predominantly nationalist and Catholic Irish Free State, and the predominantly pro-United Kingdom and Protestant Northern Ireland.
 
Disputes over the treaty among nationalists led to the Irish Civil War, while Catholics in Northern Ireland would suffer discrimination and political and economic exclusion that helped to fuel further discord. A period of civil strife, reprisals, and terrorism known as The Troubles began in the late 1960s and largely closed with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
 
However, the departure of the U.K. from the European Union called “Brexit” has caused continued uncertainty and fears that the political border will again be a source of difficulty. There have been occasional violent paramilitary actions driven in part by renewed sectarian or political tensions.
 
In such a situation, the Christian leaders called for wisdom.
 
“Every generation of leaders, civil and political, is called to make choices about the structures that govern our life in community, now and in the future, in circumstances that will always be less than ideal,” they said. Significant anniversaries are a chance to reflect and re-examine “the contrasting and intertwined narratives of conflict and compromise that surround these pivotal points in our history.”
 
“We find inspiration and encouragement in the progress that has been made through our peace process in building relationships of mutual respect and trust across these islands,” they continued. “These relationships are often tested, and will at times be found wanting, but our communities have also demonstrated great resilience, solidarity and compassion, evident most recently in the response to Covid–19.”
 
“Some may struggle with the concept of a shared history when it comes to the centenary of the partition of Ireland, the establishment of Northern Ireland and the resulting reconfiguration of British–Irish relationships,” they added. “What is undeniable, however, is the reality that we have to live in a shared space on these islands, and to make them a place of belonging and welcome for all.”
 
The ecclesial leaders praised “considerable progress” in “addressing unjust structures that excluded people and unfairly limited their life chances.”
 
“The power of institutions has diminished, leading to greater accountability for those in leadership. This helps create an environment where we can value our different identities in a pluralist public square, conscious of both our rights and responsibilities. Yet there is much work still to do,” they said.
 
They warned against the temptation to retreat into online spaces or other areas where “our definition of community is limited to those who agree with us.” Doing so, they said, “leads to an increasingly fragmented society in which too many people fall through the cracks.”
 
They said there is a need “to be intentional in creating the spaces for encounter with those who are different from us, and those who may feel marginalized in the narratives that have shaped our community identity.”
 
“This will require us to face difficult truths about failings in our own leadership in the work of peace and reconciliation,” the leaders said. “As Christian churches we acknowledge and lament the times that we failed to bring to a fearful and divided society that message of the deeper connection that binds us, despite our different identities, as children of God, made in His image and likeness. We have often been captive churches; not captive to the Word of God, but to the idols of state and nation.”
 
That said, they added that Christian communities can contribute to society.
 
“Churches, alongside other civic leaders, have a role to play in providing spaces outside political structures that give expression to our inter–connectedness and shared concern for the common good,” they added. “It is our hope that shared reflection on our past will support and strengthen this engagement, inspiring us to renew our commitment to the work of building peace for the future.”


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Brazil’s military archbishop distances himself from Lenten campaign over gender ideology

February 17, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Brasilia, Brazil, Feb 17, 2021 / 03:52 pm (CNA).- The head of Brazil’s military ordinariate has told the nation’s bishops’ conference he will not use material from this year’s ecumenical Lenten campaign because it contains gender ideology concepts.

“The evangelization of the faithful at any time, but especially in a special time such as Catholic Lent, is not a place for dialogue on themes that are polemical and contrary to the authentic doctrine of our Church,” Archbishop Fernando Jose Monteiro Guimarães of the Military Ordinariate of Brazil wrote Feb. 8.

“Interreligious dialogue is necessary and opportune when, respecting various expressions of faith, it is carried out in the competent sees,” Archbishop Guimarães added in his letter to Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo of Belo Horizonte, president of the National Conference of the Bishops of Brazil.

The military archbishop stressed that “it is the responsibility of the diocesan bishops, as authentic teachers and guardians of the deposit of faith, to guarantee the orthodoxy of the faith that is preached to the faithful in their diocese.”

“This mission, the object of solemn oath on the part of each one of us before our episcopal ordination, commits my conscience as bishop and I will never be able to renounce it.”

“For this reason, I inform you that in the Military Archdiocese of Brazil, during Lent this year, we will follow the theological-liturgical guidelines proper to the Lenten season and will not use any of the materials officially produced for this year’s Fraternity Campaign,” Archbishop Guimarães stated.

He added that “our military chaplains are being given guidelines, in case they wish to address the Fraternity Campaign, to use only Pope Francis’ Fratelli tutti.”

“Also the percentage of the collection allocated to this episcopal conference – and distributed to other entities promoting the campaign – will not be sent and, of course, really and effectively, it will be used to help the poor, through the social work recognized by the Military Ordinary. Regarding this use, it will be my responsibility to present the accounts respectively to the presidency” Archbishop Guimarães concluded.

The Fraternity Campaign is a prominent Catholic fundraiser celebrated in Brazil during Lent; every five years it is carried out in conjunction with mainline ecclesial communities.

This year’s campaign is entitled “Fraternity and dialogue: commitment of love”, and the motto is a phrase from the Letter from Paul to the Ephesians: “Christ is our peace: he who made one of both peoples.”

Controversy over this year’s campaign arose because the material for parish meditations during Lent includes a text that says: “another social group that suffers the consequences of systemic politics and violence and the creation of enemies is the LGBTQ+ population.”

It provides information on alleged violence against gay people sourced from the “Grupo Gay da Bahía,” a homosexual lobby group, and claims that “193 LGBTQ+ were murdered in 2017.”
“These homicides are the effects of hate speech, religious fundamentalism, voices against the recognition of the rights of LGBTQ+ populations and other persecuted and vulnerable groups,” the text says.

The presidency of the Brazilian bishops’ conference issued a statement Feb. 9 explaining that the materials for the Fraternity Campaign were prepared by the National Council of Christian Churches, and “therefore, it is not a text in the style of what would happen if it were prepared by the CNBB commission, since we have two different theological understandings, although around the same ideal of serving Jesus Christ.”

The bishops’ statement referenced numbers 67 and 68 of the Fraternity Campaign text and quoted the 2003 Pontifical Council for the Family’s “Lexicon on ambiguous and debatable terms regarding family life and ethical questions” that gender “must obey the natural order already predisposed by the body.”

The Brazilian bishops state that the money will not be spent in projects that are inconsistent with Catholic teachings.

“From the beginning of the 2021 Fraternity Campaign, we have informed the NCC about the difficulty and even the impossibility of working together in the structure of the Fraternity Campaign, unlike previous ecumenical campaigns. On this point, based on the last campaigns, that of 2016, this presidency (of the CNBB) has already expressed the difficulties and, in a spirit of communion and co-responsibility, will discuss the matter in a future meeting and the conclusion will be reported immediately,” concludes the bishops’ statement.


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Brazilian bishops discuss controversial text of ecumenical Lenten campaign

February 17, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Brasilia, Brazil, Feb 17, 2021 / 12:39 pm (CNA).- The National Conference of Bishops of Brazil has issued a statement to confront a wave of complaints over the inclusion of gender ideology and the almost null presence of Catholic concepts in the base text of the Ecumenical Fraternity Campaign for Lent 2021.

The Fraternity Campaign is a prominent Catholic fundraiser celebrated in Brazil during Lent; every five years it is carried out in conjunction with mainline ecclesial communities.

This year’s campaign is entitled “Fraternity and dialogue: commitment of love”, and the motto is a phrase from the Letter from Paul to the Ephesians: “Christ is our peace: he who made one of both peoples.”

The controversy in social networks arose because the material for parish meditations during Lent includes a text that says: “another social group that suffers the consequences of systemic politics and violence and the creation of enemies is the LGBTQ+ population,” and provides information on alleged violence against gay people.

The manual quotes the “Grupo Gay da Bahía,” a homosexual lobby group, and claims that “193 LGBTQ+ were murdered in 2017.”

“These homicides are the effects of hate speech, religious fundamentalism, voices against the recognition of the rights of LGBTQ+ populations and other persecuted and vulnerable groups,” the text says.

After the storm of protests and calls to boycott the campaign, the CNBB released a statement claiming that “for 2021, as approved in our 2018 general assembly, the campaign was meant  to be ecumenical and, according to a custom since 2000, under the responsibility of the NCC,” or National Council of Christian Churches.

“In the first meetings, the urgency to address these times of polarization and fanaticism was discerned and this chose the topic of dialogue, but the elaboration of the basic text was assigned to NCC.”

“Consequently, the text followed the structure of NCC’s thinking and work. Several meetings were held, the text went through the revision of the theological consultancy of NCC, a consultancy of members of various churches, reaching then what we have today. Therefore, it is not a text in the style of what would happen if it were prepared by the CNBB commission, since we have two different theological understandings, although around the same ideal of serving Jesus Christ,” the CNBB statement says.

The text of this year “must be understood in this way, as it was in the fraternity campaigns carried out in an ecumenical way,” they added.

To answer the problem of gender ideology, the bishops cite page 673 of the Lexicon of ambiguous and disputed terms on families, life and ethical issues, of the Pontifical Council for the Family. The bishops affirm in this regard that “Catholic doctrine on gender issues affirms that ‘gender is the transcendent dimension of human sexuality, compatible with all levels of the human person, among which are the body, mind, spirit, the soul. Gender is therefore malleable and is subject to internal and external influences to the human person, but it must obey the natural order predisposed by the body.’”

Several lay Catholics questioned the wisdom of the CNBB in releasing the material for the campaign, especially when the significance of mainline ecclesial communities in Brazil is negligible and the brunt of the collection depends on the hundreds of thousands of Catholic parishes in the country.

Bruno Braga questioned the response of the bishops and said on his Facebook account that the episcopal note tries to defend “a campaign evidently incompatible with the Catholic faith that does not justify the absurdities committed in the name of a false ecumenism.”

Braga explains that the note speaks of the responsibility of the NCC in the text that will be “distributed and worked in parishes and churches throughout the country,” but does not mention that “who coordinated the preparation of the text is the pro-abortion pastor Romi Bencke.”

Bencke is a Lutheran pastor who supports abortion and same sex marriage, and was heavily involved in drafting the text for the campaign.

The Dom Bosco Center also published a video explaining Bencke’s pro-abortion, feminist, and pro-gender ideology stance.

“The problem is that there is no space to talk about sexual and reproductive rights for women. People know these issues are very difficult, an abortion for example,” says Bencke in the video made available by the Don Bosco group.

The video also shows Catholic priest Oscar Beozzo, a well-known liberation theologian in Brazil, who considers Bencke to be “the soul” of the 2021 ecumenical Fraternity Campaign.

“In a sense, the 2021 Fraternity Campaign pretends to be like something like a Socialist Worker’s Party or the Democratic Party infiltrating the Catholic Church. The doctrine of these organizations is fully replicated in a document prepared to be executed in all the Brazilian dioceses. That must be an alarming sign for us,” the group said in a video released Feb. 5.

“The campaigns of Fraternity are carried out during Lent until Palm Sunday, it is a time of penance, prayer and conversion. It is a very important time to reflect upon our lives,” the Don Bosco group also said.

The video also indicates that the words Mary, Saint Joseph or the sacraments are not found in the text, and Pope Francis is mentioned only once to make a reference to caring for the environment.

Braga also said that “the 2021 Fraternity Campaign is an aberration and should be abandoned immediately.”

Braga also argued that the money collected annually on Palm Sunday is used in “causes that would not be consistent with Catholic doctrine” and asked Catholics not to contribute to it. The campaign raises annually the equivalent to $700,000.

But in their statement, the Brazilian bishops argue that the money will not be spent in projects that are inconsistent with Catholic teachings.

“From the beginning of the 2021 Fraternity Campaign, we have informed the NCC about the difficulty and even the impossibility of working together in the structure of the Fraternity Campaign, unlike previous ecumenical campaigns. On this point, based on the last campaigns, that of 2016, this presidency (of the CNBB) has already expressed the difficulties and, in a spirit of communion and co-responsibility, will discuss the matter in a future meeting and the conclusion will be reported immediately,” concludes the bishops’ statement.


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