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European basilicas amp up security after recent terror attacks

August 26, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Barcelona, Spain, Aug 26, 2017 / 04:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- From Spain’s revered Sagrada Familia basilica to Germany and even the Vatican, churches across Europe are taking measures to increase security following several acts of terrorism in recent weeks.

Churches and other highly symbolic Christian landmarks have been a prime target for radical Islamist militants, and with the number of vehicle attacks increasing, many churches throughout Europe are taking new measures to ensure their area is protected.

Although so far neither Italy nor the Vatican have been hit by terrorism, Swiss Guard Commander Christoph Graf said last week that “it may only be a matter of time before such an attack occurs in Rome.”

He spoke during the Guard’s 27th general assembly in Solothurn, Switzerland, which was held Aug. 19-20 and drew the participation of some 450 Swiss Guards and their relatives.

However, according to French news agency La Croix, despite the threat of an imminent attack, “we are prepared,” Graf said, stressing that the Swiss Guards aren’t just a photo op for tourists, but are highly trained with the most modern military techniques, and adapt their training to meet current challenges.

In fact, in light of recent attacks, the Guards – charged with watching over the personal safety of the Pope – have increased their initial training from two months to four months.

In collaboration with the police of Ticino, an Italian-speaking region in southern Switzerland, they are focusing specifically on marksmanship, fire protection, first aid and maintaining tight security.

Likewise, the Aug. 17 attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils prompted police in Germany to take new security measures, especially in areas that see heavy tourism.

Cologne has taken especially unique measures to protect its historic Domplatte cathedral against possible terrorist threats.

Rather than putting up typical metal barricades in front of the cathedral, a key tourist stop in the city, security has placed barricades made up of large stones weighing several hundred pounds around the perimeter of the church.

In order for emergency vehicles and vans to get through, a “mobile barrier” in the form of a police vehicle has also been placed in the area.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>New barricades made from ancient stone guard <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cologne?src=hash”>#Cologne</a> Cathedral in wake of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Barcelona?src=hash”>#Barcelona</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/terror?src=hash”>#terror</a> attack <a href=”https://t.co/BjA7vMe7oo”>https://t.co/BjA7vMe7oo</a></p>&mdash; CNAdeutsch.de (@CNAdeutsch) <a href=”https://twitter.com/CNAdeutsch/status/900440710771605504″>August 23, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

In comments to RP Online, Cologne police chief said “The (Domplatte) certainly protects its visitors.”

Barcelona’s Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is also holding discussions to see what more can be done to protect the structure, its visitors and those carrying out the construction of the church.

Designed by famed Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, whose cause for beatification is currently open, the basilica has been under construction for more than 100 years and is still unfinished, yet it is one of Barcelona’s most famous and well-loved buildings, each year drawing thousands of visitors from all over the world.

One of the suspects arrested following the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils last week said that the ultimate plan had originally involved a much larger attack, which included bombing the Sagrada Familia.

CNA spoke with a representative of the basilica, who said that the Sagrada Familia “has a system of security, of prevention, which has been adapted to the characteristics of the church, which has always worked well” for both visitors and employees.

“Every day we work with all security forces, not only because of what happened with the attack, but it has always been that way,” she said.

Following the recent attacks, however, extreme caution is being taken, and meetings are being planned with the police to examine “how improvements can be made and what new (security) methods can be implemented.”

No details of that plan are being publicly released at this time, but after last week’s attack, extra policemen have been deployed to the site, both internal and external surveillance have been increased, and several police personnel are serving “incognito” around the basilica.

“Security measures are extreme,” the basilica representative acknowledged, but “we’re going to see what further measures can be taken in order to control anything (that happens)…we’ll see what we can do.”

 

[…]

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News Briefs

Australian priest rips confession proposal as government ‘intrusion’

August 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 3

Rome, Italy, Aug 25, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An Australian priest has called the Royal Commission’s recent proposal to enforce law requiring that clergy face criminal charges if they do not disclose details of sexual abuse revealed in the confessional a breach of religious tolerance.

Fr. Kelvin Lovegrove, Episcopal Vicar for Clergy in the Archdiocese of Sydney, told CNA Aug. 24 that he was “surprised” by the suggestion made by the Royal Commission that priests be forced “to break the law in regard to the Seal of Confession.”

“Australia is religiously tolerant country, and many people have emigrated to Australia from other countries so that they can freely practice their faith,” he said, calling the proposal “an intrusion by the Government into the realm of the spiritual relationship between priest and penitent, which up until has been sacrosanct.”

He said the proposal is out of step with expectations for others who maintain similar confidential relationships, noting that “other professionals such as psychologists, lawyers and journalists are not required to break confidences in regard to confidential information between them and their clients.”

Fr.  Lovegrove’s comments come less than two weeks after Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, established in 2013, on Aug. 14 released a sweeping 85 proposed changes to the country’s criminal justice system.

In addition to several other suggestions for abuse prevention, the commissiona recommended that the failure to report sexual abuse, even in religious confessions, be made “a criminal offense.”

“Clergy should not be able to refuse to report because the information was received during confession,” the report said, adding that if persons in institutions are aware of possible child abuse or suspect it, they ought to report it right away.

The commission cited cases brought before them in which perpetrators who had confessed the sexual abuse of children to a priest then “went on to re-offend and seek forgiveness.”

Therefore, while it recognized the importance of Confession to the Catholic Church, “the report recommends there be no exemption, excuse, protection or privilege from the offense granted to clergy for failing to report information disclosed in connection with a religious confession.”

According to the Church’s canon law, “the sacramental seal is inviolable. Therefore, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other manner.”

A priest who directly violates the “Seal of Confession” incurs a “latae senentiae” excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See, which can only be lifted by the Pope himself.

Despite hearing the testimony of several bishops during their investigative phase, who pledged full cooperation with civil authorities, but drew a line when it came to the confessional, the commission insisted on the proposal to break the seal anyway.

In his comments, Fr. Lovegrove noted that “few perpetrators confess such a sin or crime as pedophilia.”

However, if the commission’s suggestion is adopted as law, priests who do hear such confessions are still “bound by the Seal of the Confessional,” he said, “and if the law were enacted, then yes they would face criminal prosecution.”

As it stands, the pastoral approach between a priest and penitent is for the priest to meet the penitent, whether perpetrator or victim, outside of the confessional, in order to “look at ways in which they might approach the civil authorities and resolve the dilemma in that way,” Fr. Lovegrove said.

Until now there has been no concrete advice from the bishops on how to respond to the proposal, he said, but explained that they are discussing the matter, “and will advise clergy as to the most appropriate course of action to take in regard to upholding the seal of confession.”

The priest stressed that in Australia, the Church and State have always maintained “a fairly amicable relationship” on topics related to religious freedom, and that as far as possible, both parties would seek to continue this relationship.

“Hopefully, there will be an agreeable outcome to this dilemma,” he said, noting that Church officials have already apologized publicly for sexual abuse within the Church, which continues to support the victims and their families.

“The Church has always sought to co-operate in any way with the civil authorities, especially regarding this situation,” he said. “It would be my hope that continuing dialogue between the Church and State may be able to resolve the proposed law in a way which respects the work of the Church in society.”

The Church, he said, “has been at the forefront of education, health care and social work in Australia,” and it would be “in the best interest of all to try and continue to work together for the betterment of all Australians.”

[…]

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News Briefs

Parolin, Kirill: we have reached a ‘new stage’ in Church relations

August 23, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Moscow, Russia, Aug 23, 2017 / 12:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a joint meeting during Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s visit to Russia this week, both he and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill said the trip marks “a new stage” in relations between their Churches.

This stage, they said, is thanks not only to Pope Francis’ meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Havana in February 2016, but is also due to the loaning of the relics of St. Nicholas to Russia over the summer, drawing millions of Orthodox faithful for veneration.

Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, was welcomed to Patriarch Kirill’s residence at the monastery of St. Daniel Aug. 22, where the two met as part of Cardinal Parolin’s Aug. 21-24 visit to Moscow.

Taking place 18 months after meeting between Francis and Patriarch Kirill, Parolin’s visit marks the first time a Vatican Secretary of State has traveled to Moscow in 18 years.

According to an Aug. 23 statement from the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, at the beginning of the meeting Patriarch Kirill said the meeting between he and Cardinal Parolin was possible due to “the development of relations between the Russian Federation and the Holy See.”

“But it is with still greater satisfaction that I see the development of relations between our Churches,” he said, noting that his meeting with Pope Francis provided new impetus for cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.

“This fact testifies that a new stage has indeed begun in our relations with events of great importance, which have been possible because in Havana we agreed our positions on many current issues,” he said, adding that “this communion of positions allows us to build plans and give them real content.”

Cardinal Parolin echoed the sentiment, offering Pope Francis’ greeting to “my brother Kirill,” and affirming the patriarch’s observation that the Havana encounter “has laid the foundation for a new stage in the relationship between our Churches, giving new impetus to these relations,” according to Vatican Radio.

A key highlight of the conversation between the two was the transfer of the relics of St. Nicholas of Bari, one of the most revered saints in the Russian Orthodox Church, to Moscow earlier this summer.

Consisting of several fragments of his ribs, the relics were flown on a chartered plane to Moscow, where they stayed in the Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior from May 22-July 12 before going to St. Petersburg from July 13-28, marking the first time in nearly 1,000 years that the relics of the 4th century saint had been moved from their resting place in Bari.

Calling the visit of the relics an “exceptional event for the story of our Churches,” Cardinal Parolin said the event is an example of “the ecumenism of sanctity, it’s true, it exists.”

“The saints unite us because they are close to God and so it is they who help us to overcome the difficulties of past relations due to previous situations, and to always walk more rapidly toward fraternal embrace and Eucharistic communion,” he said.  

According to the statement from the patriarchate, more than 2.3 million Orthodox faithful from all over Russia cued up to venerate the relics, at times waiting 6-10 hours to get in. Many elderly and sick also came, and were able to skip the long lines.  

Patriarch Kirill noted that when they waived goodbye to the relics, he told his faithful that “neither ecclesiastical diplomacy nor government diplomacy could do as much for the development of relations between the Catholic world and the Orthodox world as what St. Nicholas did.”

St Nicholas, he said, “has entered into the history of relations between our Churches as a particularly brilliant and luminous page. It is a spiritual consequence of our meeting in Havana.”

As with prior meetings Cardinal Parolin had this week, other key talking points between the two were conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, and the need to seek peaceful solutions while working together to provide humanitarian aid.

On the crisis in Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill stressed that the Church “can play no other role than that of pacification when people are in conflict with each other,” and voiced gratitude for the fact that “our Churches share much the same position on the role of the Church in the conflict in Ukraine.”

Cardinal Parolin voiced much the same point of view in his meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, the day before.

In his comments, Patriarch Kirill noted that “conflicts do not last forever and sooner or later they end,” but questioned that “if all social efforts are involved in the conflict, then who will pick up the stones?”

“I appreciate very much the fact that once again we have found mutual understanding on the role that our Churches must play in the reconciliation of the population in Ukraine,” he said.

When it comes to the Middle East, mention was made of the agreement the two Churches found on conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa during last year’s meeting in Havana.

“The collaboration between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in providing humanitarian assistance to the populations suffering due to conflicts in the Middle East can be an important factor of unity,” Patriarch Kirill said, adding that cooperation in providing aid can provide a basis for common projects in the Middle East in the future.

Following his meeting with the patriarch, Cardinal Parolin visited Putin at the presidential residence in Sochi, nearly 900 miles southwest of Saratov.

During their hour-long meeting “carried out in a positive and cordial climate, one of respect and listening to each other,” they had an “open exchange of views on various subject matters relating to international and bilateral relations,” according to a statement from the Holy See press office.

They exchanged gifts, with Cardinal Parolin giving the Russian president a bronze olive branch as a symbol of peace, and Putin giving the Vatican secretary of state a set of collector coins commemorating the 2014 Olympics, which were held in Sochi.

Cardinal Parolin is travelling back to Moscow, where he will say a private Mass at the nunciature Aug. 24 before his return to Rome.

[…]

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Top Vatican diplomat focuses on Ukraine, Middle East in Russia talks

August 22, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Moscow, Russia, Aug 22, 2017 / 10:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The need to find peaceful solutions to global conflicts, particularly in Ukraine and the Middle East, has taken a front seat so far in the Vatican Secretary of State’s meetings with Russian government and Russian Orthodox Church officials.

In a statement following his Aug. 22 meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the meetings so far have been intense, and offered his thanks to the Russian authorities for their cordial welcome to the country.

He met with Lavrov on the second day of his Aug. 21-24 visit to Russia, which marks the first time a Vatican Secretary of State has traveled to Moscow in 18 years. It also falls 18 months after Pope Francis’ meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana.

While conversation with Lavrov touched on several issues, Cardinal Parolin said that when it came to topics of international interest, he first of all reiterated the Holy See’s desire to find “just and lasting solutions” for the global conflicts raging in “the Middle East, Ukraine and various other regions of the world.”

“If, in such dramatic situations, the Holy See is more directly active in the effort to promote initiatives aimed at alleviating the suffering of peoples, at the same time it clearly expresses the appeal that the common good prevail; principally justice, lawfulness, the truth of facts and the abstention of manipulating them, and the safe and dignified living conditions for civilian populations,” Cardinal Parolin said.

He stressed that the Holy See does not, nor can it, affiliate itself with any particular political position. As such, he reminded the parties of their duty “to strictly adhere to the principals of international law.”

Respect for these laws, he said, “is indispensable for the protection of world order and peace, for the recovery of a healthy atmosphere of mutual respect in international relations.”

On the situation in the Middle East, Cardinal Parolin said that while the two states have different approaches to the issue, they share a “strong concern for the situation of Christians in some countries of the Middle East and the African continent, as well as in some other regions of the world.”

He also voiced the Holy See’s concern for religious freedom, specifically that it is “preserved in whatever state and whatever political situation.”

Discussion also touched on bilateral relations between Russia and the Holy See, and special attention was paid to the positive experiences the countries share in terms of collaboration between scientific and medical institutions.

To this end, both Cardinal Parolin and Lavrov affirmed their commitment to continuing this collaboration, and the two signed a joint agreement to waive visa requirements for individuals who travel with diplomatic passports.

Concern was also raised for the life of the Catholic Church in Russia, specifically in regards to the ability to obtain working residence permits for non-Russian religious who come to serve in the country, as well as the return of Church property which is “necessary for the pastoral care of Catholics in the country.”

Cardinal Parolin said that when these issues were voiced, Lavrov showed “great attention to the solution to these problems and the desire to follow them.”

He met with Lavrov a day after speaking with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, whose role as President of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate makes him more or less number-two in the Russian Orthodox Church.

During the discussion, concerns surrounding conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East also came up as major talking points.  

Attention was immediately brought to the “tragic situation of Christians in the Middle East,” which Metropolitan Hilarion called “one of the most burning problems today.”

Reference was made to the efforts on the part of the Moscow patriarchate to provide humanitarian aid to suffering populations in Syria, as well as an ad hoc working group that has been established to help broker greater cooperation with the Presidential Commission for Cooperation with Religious Associations, and includes several representatives from the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, as well as Muslim communities and several other Christian confessions.

Both parties agreed that in order to reach a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis “it is necessary to put an end to terrorism in the territory of Syria,” and only after peace has been reached should “its political future be determined.”

The two voiced their agreement on the need to consult each other more often on the Middle Eastern crisis, and to continue cooperation in providing humanitarian aid to the area.

On Ukraine, Metropolitan Hilarion took issue with several bills he said are aimed at “discriminating against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church” and which are still on the agenda for Ukraine’s parliament. He thanked Cardinal Parolin and the Holy See for supporting the stand taken by the Moscow patriarchate on the issue.

Concern was raised by Metropolitan Hilarion regarding what he called “cases of politicized statements and aggressive actions” on the part of some members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

However, he and Cardinal Parolin were able to voice a shared conviction that “politics should not interfere in Church life,” and stressed the important role that Churches in Ukraine play in terms of peacemaking and in helping to “establish a civic accord in the country.”

Discussion between the two closed after touching on various opportunities for greater bilateral collaboration in the cultural and educational fields.

Following his meeting with Lavrov this morning, Cardinal Parolin is set to visit with Patriarch Kirill later on in the evening, and the two will hold a brief press conference afterward.

On Aug. 23, the last day of his visit, Cardinal Parolin will head to Sochi for an official meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting marks the last official event on the cardinal’s schedule before his return to Rome Aug. 24.

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N. Ireland high court: No European right to ‘gay marriage’

August 22, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Aug 22, 2017 / 09:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Northern Ireland’s High Court has rejected two legal challenges that sought to recognize same-sex unions as marriages, saying it is a matter for the legislature.

Justice John O’Hara said that European law allows governments to introduce “gay marriage,” but does not require it.

Lawyers for several couples had argued that the Northern Ireland law violates Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights and denied respect for their clients’ private and family lives, BBC News reports.

Any further action is affected by the political crisis in Stormont, the Northern Ireland legislature. A power-sharing agreement between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party collapsed in January 2017, after more than 10 years of joint rule between nationalist and unionist politicians.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein resigned in protest Jan. 10 over allegations that First Minister Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party mishandled overspending on a renewable energy heating program.  

The collapse triggered fresh elections.

Ahead of the elections, Northern Ireland’s Catholic bishops issued a February statement stressing the importance of recognizing marriage as the union of one man and one woman, among other issues. To recognize other relationships as the same thing undercuts the importance of the biological bond and natural ties between parents and children, they said.

They cited Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” which said same-sex unions are not the same as marriage and are not analogous to God’s plan for marriage and the family.

In the debate over restoring the power-sharing agreement, Sinn Fein has demanded that the Democratic Unionist Party allow same-sex marriage to be recognized, the Belfast Telegraph says.

Northern Ireland had introduced same-sex partnerships in 2005, the first place in the U.K. to do so.

The first couple to contact such a partnership, Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close, were among the parties to one of the cases before the High Court. The other parties to their case were Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane, the second couple to contract a same-sex partnership in Northern Ireland.

Close said their children were being treated differently as a result of the court’s decision.

A second case under consideration involved an anonymous couple who had contracted a same-sex union recognized as a marriage in England, and wanted it legally recognized in Northern Ireland.

Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly had voted five times on whether to recognize the unions as marriages. The fifth vote, held in November 2015, resulted in the first time such unions were approved, by a vote of 53-52.

The Democratic Unionist Party then used a Stormont veto, called a petition of concern, to block the motion and prevent the law from changing. It cited the need to protect traditional marriage.

Paula Bradshaw, an assembly member for the Alliance Party, said both Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party had rejected her party’s proposal to reform the petition of concern.

Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democrat and Labour Party, was among those who voiced opposition the court’s decision.

 

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Iceland is ‘eradicating’ Down syndrome…by aborting everyone who has it

August 16, 2017 CNA Daily News 4

Reykjavik, Iceland, Aug 16, 2017 / 03:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent article from CBS News proclaims that “few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.”

The operative word here is “births.”

Has Iceland discovered, through some groundbreaking technology and research, a cure to the chromosomal abnormality? No.

How do you “disappear Down syndrome” then, as one of the article’s taglines states?

You “disappear” people with Down syndrome.

“Iceland isn’t actually eliminating Down syndrome. They’re just killing everybody that has it. Big difference,” tweeted actress Patricia Heaton, who has been outspoken about her pro-life beliefs.

“There is nothing to celebrate in Iceland’s ‘eradication’ of babies born with Down syndrome through abortion,” stressed Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, a network of 1,800 pro-life crisis pregnancy centers that counsel women and connect them with resources throughout the country.

“These are precious human beings hand-crafted in the image of God, and no government or person on earth has the authority to rob persons with Down syndrome of their lives,” Godsey told CNA. “Down syndrome is not a death sentence, and it is monstrous to suggest otherwise.”

Every pregnant woman in Iceland is given an option of a prenatal test that can detect Down syndrome with 85 percent accuracy. “Nearly 100 percent” of pregnancies that tested positive for Down syndrome were aborted, CBS reports.

While prenatal testing is not required in Iceland, healthcare providers tell every pregnant woman that the test is an option. The country, which has a population of 330,000, usually sees only one or two children a year born with Down syndrome – often the result, the article reports, of faulty testing.  

Other countries “aren’t lagging too far behind” in Down syndrome abortion rates, the article states. “The United States has an estimated (abortion) rate for Down syndrome of 67 percent (1995-2011); in France it’s 77 percent (2015); and Denmark, 98 percent (2015).”

The CBS article included some discussion of the ethical dilemmas that prenatal screening and abortion of babies with Down syndrome present.

Geneticist Kari Stefansson said for the piece, “My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society – that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore.”

But when asked what this means for society, he cautioned: “It reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling. And I don’t think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable…You’re having impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way.”

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with aspiring to have healthy children, but how far we should go in seeking those goals is a fairly complicated decision,” he said.

The article also admits that while people born with Down syndrome are at risk for various other health problems, many people with Down syndrome also live full and healthy lives, and are able to live independently or semi-independently, hold jobs, and have relationships.

“Many people born with Down syndrome can live full, healthy lives, with an average lifespan of around 60 years.”

Perhaps the best argument against the eradication of Down syndrome is Augusta, the cute little seven-year-old pink-clad girl peering out from the pages of the CBS article. Her mother, Thordis Ingadottir, took the test when she was pregnant with Augusta, but it failed to detect Down syndrome.

Now, Ingadottir has become an advocate for people with Down syndrome.

“I will hope that she will be fully integrated on her own terms in this society. That’s my dream,” Ingadottir told CBS. “Isn’t that the basic needs of life? What kind of society do you want to live in?”

Godsey told CNA that parents whose children have Down syndrome or other genetic abnormalities need love and support – not abortion.

“(These parents)…deserve love and support that will benefit their growing families, and abortion fails categorically to deliver on its false promises to benefit families, individuals and society as a whole,” he said.  

Godsey added that almost anyone who knows someone with Down syndrome would be completely against its elimination.

“As anyone who knows a person with Down syndrome can tell you, these beautiful people are an absolute joy to their families and communities. The world grows exponentially poorer as we kill innocent babies for the ‘crime’ of failing to match up to our self-aggrandizing expectations.”

The joy of life with a family member who has Down syndrome was celebrated CBS in a different article, published to mark World Down Syndrome Day in 2015. It was a column by Marguerite (Maggie) Reardon, a senior writer at CNET, about when she found out her daughter would be born with Down syndrome.  

For a long time, she considered abortion, though her husband was against it. What changed her mind was the day she found a community of other people with Down syndrome and parents of children with Down syndrome.

She’s still an exhausted, stressed out parent, she wrote, but that’s not because her child has Down syndrome. It’s because she has two little kids who keep her busy.

“It’s true my daughter has some developmental delays. And she receives a bevy of therapies through Early Intervention to help keep her on track,” she said.

“But she’s also wonderful. She has a twinkle in her eye and an infectious grin that makes even the most miserable looking people on the subway smile when she stares them down. When she puts her head on my shoulder as I rock her to sleep each night, my heart melts no matter what kind of day I’ve had.”

“I do think she is more special than other children, but it’s not because she has Down syndrome. It’s because I’m a completely biased and doting mother who thinks no one could possibly be as adorable, bright or funny as my own child,” she wrote. “And her name is Margot.”

 

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News Briefs

Twelve killed by falling tree before Marian procession in Portugal

August 15, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

Funchal, Portugal, Aug 15, 2017 / 11:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A tree fell on a crowd taking part in the largest religious festival in Portugal’s Madeira region on Tuesday, killing 12 persons and injuring 52, according to local press reports.

The 200 year-old tree fell on the crowd at Nossa Senhora do Monte parish in Funchal, the capital of Portugal’s autonomous region of Madeira, an archipelago in the Atlantic ocean, Aug. 15.

The faithful were preparing to celebrate a procession in honor of Madeira’s patronness, Our Lady of Monte. Bishop Antonio José Cavaco Carrilho of Funchal said Mass before the procession, which was cancelled.

The Portuguese government is providing medical support to the victims.

Madeira has declared three days of mourning in light of the tragedy.

Archbishop Jorge Ferreira da Costa Ortiga of Braga tweeted, saying, “Faith is not life insurance, but a secure life. My prayers are for the victims of Funchal and for their families.”

 

A fé não é um seguro de vida, mas uma vida segura. A minha oração pelas vítimas do #Funchal e seus familiares. #tragédia #Madeira #Senhora pic.twitter.com/66USOAan5h

— D. Jorge Ortiga (@djorgeortiga) August 15, 2017

 

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Holy Snakes! A Marian feast day’s strange, stunning miracle

August 15, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Athens, Greece, Aug 15, 2017 / 03:03 am (Church Pop).- Every year, on the Orthodox feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, a monastery on a Greek island experiences a miracle – dozens of snakes come to ‘venerate’ an icon of Mary.
 
In a phenomenon that has reportedly been happening for hundreds of years, black snakes begin appearing on the Greek island of Kefalonia between Aug. 5 and Aug. 15, the days when the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the dormition of the Theotokos (Mother of God).

According to tradition, the miracle of the snakes began in 1705, when nuns of the monastery were about to be attacked by pirates.

Legend has it that the nuns prayed fervently to the Virgin Mary, asking her that she turn them into snakes to avoid capture. Other versions say that the nuns prayed that the monastery be infested with snakes so as to scare away the pirates. Either way it happened, they were spared.

Since then, the small black snakes, known as European Cat Snakes, appear every year just before the feast, and make their way to the walls and entryways of the Church to ‘venerate’ the silver icon of Mary known as the Panagia Fidoussa, or the Virgin of the Snakes.

The snakes’ patterning can produce a small black cross on their head, and they have a forked tongue, adding to the legend that these snakes are marked by the sign of the Cross.  

In recent years, the faithful have taken to transporting snakes to the church in jars and bags, to protect them from being run over by unwitting motorists.

The usually-aggressive snakes are reportedly docile and calm during these days, when they are welcome in the church for Mass and prayers, and disappear from the island completely after the feast until the next year.

Reportedly, the only years the snakes have not appeared on the island were during World War II, and in 1953, the year of a massive earthquake. Locals now take the lack of the snake’s appearance as a bad omen.

Every year, the island celebrates the Theotokos and the miracle with a Snake Festival.

[…]