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German court reverses school’s niqab ban

February 4, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Hamburg, Germany, Feb 4, 2020 / 11:01 am (CNA).- A court in Germany overturned Monday a school’s ban on niqabs, ruling that Hamburg law does not allow educational authorities to impose such a ban.

The niqab is a face veil worn by some Muslim women.

The Feb. 3 ruling by an administrative court come after a 16-year-old student was told she must expose her face to her teachers.

According to the court, the student has “a right to unconditional protection of her freedom of belief.”

Hamburg’s state minister for education, Ties Rabe, said in response to the ruling that he would seek to change the state’s law, and that “only if students and teachers have a free and open face can school and lessons function.”

The German state of Schleswig-Holstein recently failed to pass a ban on niqabs in universities and colleges, but Bavaria has had a similar ban since 2017.

European countries have moved toward banning niqabs and other religious garments in recent years.

A Dutch ban on wearing “face-covering clothing” in hospitals, schools, government buildings, and on public transit went into effect in August 2019. One law professor at a Dutch university suggesting it would be to the detriment of religion’s role in the public square.

Austria implemented a bans on wearing burqas or niqabs in some public places in 2017. They have been banned in public in France since 2010.

In a 2017 ruling The Court of Justice of the European Union allowed a qualified ban on hijabs in the workplace. The ban additionally forbade other religious garb, including crucifixes, skullcaps, and turbans, from being worn while at work, depending on internal company rules.

A German court ruled in 2015 against a blanket ban on teachers wearing headscarves.


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German lay leader condemns cardinal for opposing ‘synodal way’

February 3, 2020 CNA Daily News 5

Cologne, Germany, Feb 3, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- A leading lay Catholic in the German city of Cologne has openly condemned his own archbishop for voicing concerns over the ongoing “binding synodal process” underway in the country.

Tim Kurzbach, chairman of the Diocesan Council of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cologne issued a public denunciation of Cardinal Rainer Woekli on Monday, accusing the cardinal of “destroying the authority of his episcopal office” by failing to support the so-called “synodal way.”

The statutes for a “synodal way” were formally adopted by the German bishops’ conference  in September last year, despite repeated warnings and interventions from the Pope Francis and the curia. The two-year process proposes to debate and reform issues of universal Church teaching and discipline, including clerical celibacy, Church-approved blessings for same-sex couples, and the sacramental ordination of women.

After months of controversy, including several interventions by the Vatican, the synodal assembly met for the first time last week in Frankfurt. Speaking after the session, Cardinal Woekli said that speeches at the meeting had made it clear to him that the assembly was not functioning as a Catholic body.

“I basically saw all my fears confirmed. We witnessed the implementation of a de facto Protestant church parliament,” Woekli said in an interview Feb. 1.

“The essential prerequisites of an ecclesiological nature with regard to what the Catholic Church is were – in my opinion – ignored in many speeches,” the cardinal said, explaining that the hierarchical communion of the Church was being set aside for a democratic reinvention of the faith.

“That was already the very clearly defined image when entering the [liturgical] service, when bishops and lay people all processed in together and thus it was expressed that everyone is equal. And that actually has nothing to do with what the Catholic Church is and means.”

In his statement on Monday, Kurzbach said that Woekli and a few “traditionalists” were “overwhelmed by the fact that suddenly everyone can speak with equal rights in the ‘synodal way’,” and accused the cardinal of refusing to listen to those demanding reforms and insisting on the authentic teaching authority of the Church and bishops.

Calling the synodal discussions “fearless,” Kurzbach said that bishops like Woekli had to convince the assembly of their defense of traditional Church teachings and that “he should have long since recognized that the office [of bishop] alone no longer establishes true authority.”

In an interview Saturday, Woekli was asked about the seating in the synodal assembly, in which all participants were seated alphabetically and not by group or status. “I can live with that,” said the cardinal, but explained that the so-called synodal process was proceeding in a way which undermined the teachings of Vatican Council II.

The seating arrangements were just one of “many other small sings” which “simply make it clear that the hierarchical constitution of the Church, as documented again in Vatican Council II and expressed in Lumen Gentium, is questioned,” Woekli said.

Pope Francis and curial officials issued repeated warnings to the German bishops last year ahead of the synodal process.

In a June letter to the whole Church in Germany, the pope warned against a false synodality rooted in making the Church conform to modern secular morals and thought, which he called “a new Pelagianism” which seeks “to tidy up and tune the life of the Church, adapting it to the present logic.”

The result, Francis said, would be a “well organized and even ‘modernized’ ecclesiastical body, but without soul and evangelical novelty.”

In response, Woelki urged the other bishops in Germany to “take the pope very seriously.” He told the plenary session of the German Episcopal Conference in September that the Church in Germany must begin by “re-evangelizing itself” as an “indispensable prerequisite” for its wider mission, noting that Francis’ letter made clear that this required the bishops to remain rooted in the essential unity of faith, in Christ, and with the whole Church.

“This is the indispensable sign for our synodal way, which has to run like a thread through it, so that the Synodal Way can bear true fruit. The Pope’s letter leaves no doubt about that,” the cardinal said at the time.

Different curial heads also made explicit interventions, first in private, then in public, telling the German bishops that their synodal plans were a challenge to the universality of Catholic teaching and discipline and not valid.

A legal assessment of the German synodal plans from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts concluded that the German bishops’ plan confers to the synod’s membership the ability to make new policies for the Church in Germany. This, the Vatican concluded, is not acceptable.

The Vatican letter also said that the proposed make-up of the synodal assembly is “not ecclesiologically valid.” It cited the bishops’ proposed partnership with the Central Committee of German Catholics, a lay group that has taken public stances against a range of Church teachings, including on women’s ordination and sexual morality.

The Vatican assessment noted with concern that the Central Committee of German Catholics only agreed to be involved in the process if the synod assembly could make binding policies for the German Church. 

“Synodality in the Church, to which Pope Francis refers often, is not synonymous with democracy or majority decisions,” wrote Archbishop Filippo Iannone, head of the PCLT.

“The synodal process must take place within a hierarchically structured community,” the letter added, and any resolutions would require the express approval of the Apostolic See.

On Jan. 27, the secretary of the German bishops’ conference gave a pointed interview insisting that it is “unacceptable” that Rome continue to have full discretion over universal teaching and discipline.

Instead, Fr. Father Hans Langendörfer, SJ, called for other regions to follow the German’s example and effectively force through a new federal model on the Church.


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Homeless gather in Roman basilica to pray for those who died on the streets

February 3, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Feb 3, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Hundreds of homeless people and volunteers prayed together in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere Sunday to honor those who have died on Rome’s streets.

A lit candle was placed before an icon of the merciful Christ for each of the deceased as their names were read aloud in the basilica.

The Catholic community of Sant’Egidio organized the memorial and a lunch reception for all of the participants.

Six homeless people have died in Rome this winter, according to the Catholic movement, who decorated a side altar in the basilica dedicated to their memory. The community also prayed by name for other homeless people who have died in recent years.

The Sant’Egidio community was first inspired to organize the memorial by the story of Modesta Valenti, a woman who died in front of Rome’s Termini train station on Jan. 31, 1983 after an ambulance refused to take her to the hospital because she had lice.

Each following year, the Catholic lay movement has gathered to pray near the anniversary of Valenti’s death for those who have died on the streets.

There are an estimated 8,000 homeless people living in Rome about half of whom are cared for in shelters run by charities, according to La Repubblica.

Throughout the year, Sant’Egidio volunteers aid Rome’s homeless with a meal delivery program, overnight shelters, and medical clinics.

In November, Pope Francis opened a 4-story homeless shelter right off of the St. Peter’s Square colonnade. The homeless shelter, staffed by the Sant’Egidio community, has two floors of dormitories that can sleep 50 men and women, a kitchen to provide breakfast and dinner, and a recreation area for fellowship, educational programs, and psychological counseling.

Sant’Egidio has also organized similar memorials for the homeless in at least 5 other cities around Italy, including Genoa and Turin.


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Filmmakers point to Knock Shrine as a place of hope for Ireland

February 2, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Dublin, Ireland, Feb 2, 2020 / 02:11 pm (CNA).- As Ireland grapples with high rates of depression and suicide, Irish filmmakers point to the Knock Shrine as a place of hope and healing.

“We want to put Our Lady, our Blessed Mother, front of stage for the Irish people and the world as a beacon of hope. We want this film to be a message for people that there is hope,” Aidan Gallagher, CEO of EWTN Ireland told CNA.

“Hope,” a new docudrama produced by EWTN, tells the story of the Knock apparition.

On a very rainy August 21, 1879, 15 official witnesses saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, angels, and Jesus Christ (as the lamb of God) on the south gable of the town church, which was named St. John the Evangelist. For a period of about two hours, a crowd gathered to adore the apparition and to pray the rosary. Despite the rainstorm, the ground around the gable did not get wet.

Unlike most other Marian apparitions, the Virgin Mary was silent the entire time and did not offer any sort of message or prophesy. Some have theorized that she was silent due to the cultural changes occurring in Ireland at the time–the oldest of the 15 witnesses could only speak the Irish language, and the youngest, who was only six years old at the time, was being taught only English.

Vatican officials found the apparition at Knock to be “trustworthy and satisfactory” after two separate commissions; in 1879 and again in 1936.

The new film contextualizes the apparition with the sufferings endured by the Irish people in the 19th century, particularly in County Mayo, which was hit especially hard by the potato famine.

The Great Famine of 1845-1849 devastated Ireland resulting in the deaths of an estimated 1 million people, with 1 million more emigrating from the country by 1951.

Recurring famines plagued Ireland in the decades that followed, particularly in the northwest.   The year 1879, when the apparition took place, was itself “a famine year” for the Irish people.

“When Mary appeared at Knock in 1879, she brought light and hope to the Irish people, and she did so at a time of great darkness,” Gallagher said.

“Today it could be said that there is another famine or blight over Ireland, a spiritual one. We have a massive problem of suicides, as well as depression. It has been called a national crisis,” he said.

Ireland has the highest rate of chronic depression among young people in E.U. countries. The latest Eurofound statistics state 12% of Irish between the ages of 15 and 24 were chronically depressed.

Northern Ireland, where Miller is based, has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Knock Shrine is just under 70 miles from the Northern Ireland border.

“This film shows us that no matter how desperate we are or how serious our circumstances through Mary there is hope — hope in Christ,” Gallagher said.

The film’s director, Campbell Miller, said that Ireland and the world need this sense of hope “now more than ever.”

“We hope to give the young people who get a chance to watch this [the message] that there is a sense of hope, that things can get better,” Miller told EWTN News.

A statue of Our Lady of Knock was present on the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica for the papal Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 26.

The rector of Knock Shrine, Fr. Richard Gibbons, traveled to Rome for the Mass and attended the Vatican premiere of the film Jan. 27.

“The Word of God is important in the apparition,” Gibbons told EWTN, noting that St. John appeared preaching the word of God, alongside Mary, in the apparition at Knock.

The Irish priest also highlighted the Eucharistic message of the apparition, in which a lamb appeared on top of an altar and in front of a cross.

“The message is Eucharistic …. the Mass is so important. During the penal times, the persecution of Catholics in Ireland, there was a saying, in Irish. The saying was ‘For the Irish, it is the Mass that matters.’ So the Mass maintained the faith of the people during very, very bad times in terms of our faith,” he said.

The film also tells the story of a miraculous healing involving Eucharistic adoration that occured at Knock Shrine in 1989 and was officially recognized in Sept. 2019.

Marion Carroll, a woman who had been bedridden for years with multiple sclerosis, was healed during a blessing with a monstrance at Knock Shrine.

Fr. Gibbons said that the Knock Shrine, built on the site of the 1879 apparition, is a place where many people find spiritual healing and peace by reencountering the sacraments.

On average, 4,000 confessions take place each week at the shrine.

“At Knock people come to confession all the time. I call it our engine room — that’s where the miracles happen and the dynamic happens — in the confessional,” Gibbons said. “People that come to Knock wouldn’t even think about going to confession, but they see others going … it gives them such peace and hope and joy that they in turn then speak that to other people.”

“It is a place of hope, a place of peace, and a place of reconciliation. That is what Knock offers to people,” Fr. Gibbons said.



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Church of England maintains sex guidance, despite apologizing for it

January 31, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

London, England, Jan 31, 2020 / 02:04 pm (CNA).- The Church of England will not be withdrawing its recent pastoral guidance affirming that sex is reserved for married, heterosexual partners, despite an apology over the statement from two of the ecclesial community’s bishops.

The guidance, “Civil Partnerships – for same sex and opposite sex couples. A pastoral statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England”, was issued last month after civil partnerships were first made available to heterosexual couples.

The guidance draws a clear distinction between marriage and civil partnerships, noting that sexual relations are not proper to the latter.

“Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings,” says the guidance on the issue. “The introduction of same sex marriage, through the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, has not changed the church’s teaching on marriage or same sex relationships.”

Civil partnerships were created in 2004 for same-sex couples but are legally distinct from marriage. Same-sex couples were given the legal right to marry in the England and Wales in 2013, but civil partnerships had been available to same-sex couples only.

In the guidance, the Church of England states that because of the “ambiguity” regarding sexual activity in civil partnerships, combined with its teaching on the nature of marriage, it does “not believe that it is possible for the church unconditionally to accept civil partnerships as unequivocally reflecting the teaching of the church.”

Although the Church of England acknowledges that “many of the provisions in the legislation on civil partnerships are, however, similar to, or identical with, those in marriage law,” the nature of the commitment in a civil partnership is different than that of a marriage.

“In particular, [civil partnerships are] not predicated on the intention to engage in a sexual relationship,” says the guidance.

“There is likely to be a range of circumstances in which people of the same sex or opposite sex choose to register a partnership, including some where there is no intention for the relationship to be expressed through sexual activity.”

Some pairs of people who are not romantically involved have entered civil partnerships for tax or benefit purposes.

The Church of England does not conduct or recognize same-sex marriages as marriage. In December 2012, the Church of England permited same-sex attracted clergy in civil partnerships to become bishops, provided they observe continence.

Justin Welby and John Sentamu, the Anglican archbishops of Canterbury and York, said Jan. 30: “We as archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”

They added that the Church of England’s College of Bishops is continuing its study on human sexuality, which they said “is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England.”

The College of Bishops have voted against a proposal to withdraw the guidance.


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Priest in N Ireland cancels Sinn Féin meeting at parish hall over abortion

January 27, 2020 CNA Daily News 2

Armagh, Northern Ireland, Jan 27, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- A pastor in Northern Ireland barred earlier this month the Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin from holding a meeting at a church-owned hall over its support for abortion rights.

The party has historically enjoyed significant Catholic support.

The Irish News reported Jan. 17 that Fr. Eugene O’Neill, parish priest in Coalisland, 15 miles north of Armagh, cancelled a Sinn Féin meeting at St. Patrick’s Hall “after being contacted by pro-life campaigners.”

In 2018 party members endorsed the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in the Republic of Ireland, which protected unborn children. The party has endorsed legalized abortion in cases of rape, fetal abnormality, and where a woman’s mental or physical health faces serious threat, and it supported the liberalization of abortion laws in Northern Ireland imposed by the British parliament.

The party also demanded the recognition of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland in 2017.

According to The Irish News, Fr. O’Neill wrote to pro-lifers saying that he had not been involved in the hall’s booking by Sinn Féin, but that he contacted the party “to cancel it immediately” once he learned of it.

“In light of their recent behaviour regarding the abortion debate and due to their long-running policy on pro-life matters I would not entertain the use of church property for any such meeting,” he stated.

The priest was lauded by pro-lifers for his decision.

Bernadette Smyth, spokeswoman for Precious Life, said that “Fr. Eugene O’Neill has stood up for the faithful and strongly reaffirmed church teaching. He has informed us he was not aware of this meeting, but that he contacted Sinn Fein, who have a radical pro-abortion position, to cancel this meeting as soon as people responded to our action alert.”

“Fr Eugene must be commended for taking a strong stand for life, and standing up against Sinn Féin’s radical and cruel abortion agenda,” she told The Catholic Universe.

Francie Brolly, a former Sinn Féin politician who resigned the party in 2018 for its abortion support, said Fr. O’Neill had “led the way” by his decision.

According to Mid-Ulster Mail, he said that “all the churches should be more vocal in supporting the right of the unborn to live.”

Brolly added that he anticipates that Catholics in Northern Ireland will “go against their religious beliefs to vote for Sinn Fein for various other reasons… fundamentally to keep the [Democratic Unionist Party] down.”

Catherine Sewell, spokeswoman for Tyrone Pro-Life Network, said: “No pro-abortion outfit should be allowed to use Catholic Church property. We determined to stop them and immediately began a mobilisation of activists.”

Sinn Féin’s abortion policy has allowed for some political realignments among Catholics in Ireland.

Michael Kelly, editor of The Irish Catholic, told CNA in 2018 that pro-life voters “have been left unrepresented by the mainstream political establishment” and that “Ireland is crying out for a new political movement.”

Kelly noted that “many pro-life voters remain reluctant voters for their traditional political party,” but that “there is some evidence that this is changing and that people are willing to set aside old tribal loyalties.”

In the Republic of Ireland, the legislator Carol Nolan resigned from Sinn Féin in June 2018 over the party’s abortion policy. She had earlier been suspended from the party for voting against a bill allowing a referendum to be held on repealing the Eighth Amendment. She now sits as an independent in Dáil Éireann.

Peadar Tóibín, another deputy to the Dáil, was twice suspended from Sinn Féin for breaking with the party’s platform on legalized abortion. He resigned the party in 2018, and launched Aontú as a pro-life, nationalist party last year. He is Aontú’s sole member in the Dáil.

“Aontú want to make sure that there is a real voice and a real alternative for many people who feel that they have no-one to vote for,” Tóibín said at the party’s launch. “We are simply saying that this is a core value for ourselves, and we won’t let you down on this issue.”

Aontú members are standing for 26 constituencies in the 2020 Irish general election, being held Feb 8. The party contested seven of the 18 Northern Irelands seats in last year’s UK general election, but won none.

In October 2019, ahead of the 2019 UK general election, a parish priest in Northern Ireland exhorted pro-choice politicians not to receive Holy Communion, and Catholic voters not to vote for pro-choice candidates or parties.

Legislation expanding abortion access in Northern Ireland had taken effect shortly before because the Northern Ireland Assembly, which had been suspended the prior two years due to a dispute between the two major governing parties, was not able to do business by Oct. 21.

Pro-life members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, largely comprised of members of the DUP, recalled the assembly in order to block the relaxed abortion restrictions, but members of the assembly from Sinn Fein, the Green Party, and People Before Profit did not participate.

“For Catholics and nationalists/republicans, in particular, Sinn Féin and the SDLP have betrayed us in a most hideous fashion,” Fr. Patrick McCafferty, parish priest at Corpus Christi in Belfast, wrote on Facebook Oct. 21, noting that “Sinn Féin is avowedly pro abortion.”

“The collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly, due to the RHI Scandal, has left the door wide open for a phalanx of determined and fanatical pro abortion MPs in Westminster, led by Stella Creasy – unelected by the people of Northern Ireland – but aided and abetted by pro abortion-choice politicians in Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance, PBP and the Green Party – to railroad through, at Midnight last night, one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world,” the priest lamented.

The DUP have emerged as a leading pro-life party in Northern Ireland. However, the unionist party has had links to a the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, an ecclesial community particularly hostile to the Catholic Church; the community’s website lauds the leaders of the Protestant reformation for “their militant witness against the antichristian system of the Papacy.”

Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, wrote in September 2019 that the party’s “position on abortion remains resolute and unchanged since the Party’s inception. We are a pro-life party and will continue to support the rights of both the mother and the unborn child.”

She noted that “the DUP is the only pro-life party in the [Northern Ireland] Assembly”, besides Jim Allister, the Traditional Unionist Voice’s sole member of the legislative body.


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French Senate passes controversial IVF bill

January 25, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Paris, France, Jan 25, 2020 / 04:43 pm (CNA).- The French Senate this week passed a bill that would allow access to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for single women and lesbian couples.

The bill passed 160-116 on Wednesday and is part of a larger bioethi… […]