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Argentine bishop says Vatican ordered seminary closed

Denver Newsroom, Aug 10, 2020 / 04:34 pm (CNA).- An Argentine bishop said Friday the seminary in his diocese was ordered closed last month by a decision of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, after a controversy surrounding the reception of the Eucharist during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bishop Eduardo Maria Taussig of San Rafael said Aug. 7 that the Santa Maria Madre de Dios Seminary in Mendoza, Argentina was ordered to close in December, at the conclusion of the academic year, by the Congregation for Clergy, and not the Diocese of San Rafael.

"The decision took me by surprise, but it is a directive that comes directly from the Holy See,” Taussig said.

The bishop said the decision to close the seminary was deeply upsetting, and he has since been discussing with the Vatican where the former students of the school will be sent to in order to continue their studies.

Each seminary transfer will be made on an individualized basis, Taussig said to local media on Friday.

“We are going to discern for each [seminarian] and decide the most appropriate school and timeline for their transfer. Some will go to Mendoza, to San Juan. We will see these changes in the coming weeks.”

As many offices in Rome are closed during the month of August, those talks will continue in early September, said Taussig.

Taussig said that the Vatican’s decision to close the seminary was made in early July, in a move that took him by surprise.

The bishop said that the Congregation for the Clergy informed him that due to the trouble the seminary had maintaining a rector--having had seven in the past 15 years--it did not seem worth it to keep the seminary open.

Taussig said that he spoke for an hour with Cardinal Stella, and on July 8 he received a letter from the Congregation for the Clergy which stated “the need to close the diocesan Seminary at the end of the academic semester.”

“As a bishop, I know that when Rome has spoken, the discussion is over.”

“We bishops make a promise of fidelity and obedience to the Holy Father,” said Taussig, adding that the Vatican has many perspectives to consider when making decisions, and that these decisions were made in light of similar situations around the world.

The diocese announced the closure July 25, and the bishop noted at that time “difficulties that the diocese is going through were taken into consideration, in the context of the measures related to COVID-19 prevention,  and the reluctance or lack of obedience to the provisions that had been established.”

A large number of the priests in San Rafael have not complied with COVID-19 directives regarding the distribution of communion in the hand, among them many former students of the Santa Maria Madre de Dios seminary, which has been seen by some to be behind the priest’s “reluctance” to require communion in the hand, the bishop said.

This refusal to comply had caused “serious scandal inside and outside the seminary and diocese,” said Taussig. 

Taussig said that reception of the Eucharist in the hand or on the tongue are both equally accepted by the Church.

 

A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

 

Nicaraguan cardinal says Mass at entrance of firebombed cathedral chapel

CNA Staff, Aug 6, 2020 / 03:46 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano of Managua said Mass Wednesday at the entrance of the Blood of Christ chapel in his cathedral, which was firebombed last week.

"The Church has always suffered and will continue to suffer, but our assurance is that the Lord is with us,” Cardinal Brenes said during the Aug. 5 Mass.

He called the July 31 firebombing "an act of terrorism."

Anti-government protests in Nicaragua began in April 2018. They have resulted in more than 320 deaths. The government has accused many bishops and priests of siding with the opposition.

A small group of priests and religious participated in the Aug. 5 Mass. Behind the cardinal could be seen the large image of Christ crucified that was scorched by the attack. During the Mass, the cardinal showed the face of Christ, which had broken away from the corpus during the fire.

The Archbishop of Managua said there is "an atmosphere of sadness and pain...because what we feel from this nightmare is: When are we going to wake up?" He urged clinging to "the cross, because if we are clinging to his cross, who can separate us from the love of God?”

Cardinal Brenes said that looking at the image of Christ crucified, "we see our Blood of Christ charred, but still standing."

“The image and the cross resisted the forces of the flames as a testimony to us that the cross is not so easily defeated, the cross is not so easily destroyed. That is why today I call on you to cling to the cross, at the foot of the cross like Mary and that small group that accompanied him," the cardinal said.

The Blood of Christ chapel of Managua’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral has been home to a crucifix made in the 17th century.

Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, chair of the US bishops’ international justice and peace committee, said Aug. 5 that the crucifix “has become a poignant image of the country’s suffering Church, which has sustained repeated rhetorical and physical attacks (three in the last three weeks) since attempting to mediate peace in 2018.”

He added that “The Church in the United States stands with the suffering Nicaraguan faithful, and with all people of goodwill striving for peace and reconciliation in Nicaragua.”

Msgr. Carlos Avilés, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Managua, said Aug. 4 that "the only threats we have gotten have been from the government, they’ve been publicly speaking out against the bishops, calling them  'terrorists' trying to overthrow the president, and they’ve been criticizing the Church."

"We condemn both nationally and internationally the irrational actions of the government through its violent repression and not accepting the humanitarian aid which the Church has offered,” he added.

The vicar general said that there is "an undeclared persecution, an open persecution against the Church.”

The identity of the man who perpetrated the attack on the chapel is unknown; he wore a hood while in the cathedral.

Several churches or chapels in Nicaragua have been vandalized in recent weeks.

On July 29, Our Lady of Perpetual Help chapel in Nindirí, about 13 miles southeast of Managua,was attacked. The perpetrators stole the tabernacle and the ciborium, smashed statues, and trampled the Hosts.

There was an attack on Our Lord of Veracruz parish in Masaya district, fewer than 20 miles southeast of Managua, July 25. The chapel was desecrated, and audio equipment and money boxes were stolen.

Nicaragua’s crisis began in 2018 after president Daniel Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega’s authoritarian bent.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

Ortega was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

The Nicaraguan clergy have not hesitated to call out the government for its violent repression of protests and for human rights abuses, making the Church an adversary in the eyes of the government.

On various occasions both bishops and priests have been physically assailed by pro-government supporters, and other acts of vandalism and intimidation have occurred.

Managua’s cathedral was also the site of a hunger strike in November 2019. The hunger strikers were calling for the release of their relatives, whom they believe to be political prisoners. Pro-government forces besieged the cathedral in response.

Nicaragua Catholic cathedral attacked with firebomb

CNA Staff, Jul 31, 2020 / 07:15 pm (CNA).- An unidentified man threw a firebomb into a chapel of Managua’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Friday, severely damaging the chapel and a devotional image of Christ more than three centuries old.

 

Acabo de comunicarme con religiosas y sacerdotes de la Catedral de Managua. Hemos llorado juntos a causa del incendio que ha ocurrido en la capilla de la venerada imagen de la Sangre de Cristo. ¡Mi cercanía y mi oración con el pueblo de Nicaragua en este doloroso momento! pic.twitter.com/VuDFB4jSRj

— Silvio José Báez (@silviojbaez) July 31, 2020  

“This was a planned act, very calmly planned,” Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes of Managua said. “So I want to say it clearly: it is a terrorist act, an act of intimidating the Church in her mission of evangelization.”

The man wore a hood and held something in his hands that witnesses could not identify. He entered the Chapel of the Blood of Christ and said “I come to the blood of Christ,” the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa reports. The witnesses saw the man throw the object in his hands.

The cardinal said witnesses saw the man circle the cathedral in the Nicaraguan capital for 20 minutes and he planned his exit through a gate which was recently stolen.

“In other words, he calculated everything: how to enter, where to do it, and then where to escape. This was planned,” the cardinal said.

A church worker and a parishioner were in the chapel. They noticed the fire and reported it to authorities. While the man was not identified, witness Alba Ramirez said the man was known to some in the area. According to Radio Corporacion, men in civilian clothes with a threatening attitude were in the vicinity of the cathedral.

The chapel houses a 382-year-old image of the Blood of Christ, a depiction of Jesus Christ crucified..

Cardinal Brenes said due to the fire’s heat “half of the face came off, but the image was charred. We are going to evaluate this calmly because it is a beautiful image more than 300 years old.”

The Archdiocese of Managua said the act was “a totally condemnable act of sacrilege and desecration.”

“We must remain in constant prayer to defeat evil forces,” the archdiocese said.

The cathedral’s gates were closed after the fire. Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes visited the chapel to inspect the damage.

Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Baez said on Twitter that he contacted the religious and priests of the cathedral after the fire. He voiced his prayers for the Nicaraguan people and his closeness to them “in this painful moment.”

“We have cried together because of the fire that has occurred in the chapel of the venerated image of the Blood of Christ,” he said.

The apparent attack comes after tensions between some Catholics and supporters of President Daniel Ortega, who previously led the country for over a decade after the Sandinistas’ 1979 ouster of the Somoza dictatorship. Ortega has again been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

Ortega’s government has accused many bishops and priests of siding with his opposition.

Backers of Ortega have led actions against some churches, including Managua’s cathedral when critics of Ortega took refuge there.

Ortega’s wife, First Lady Rosario Murillo, is also vice president.

In reaction to the fire, she suggested, without evidence, that candles were to blame, as were people who placed candles too close to religious images. She did not condemn the attack on the church. She said she would wait for the opinion of police experts on the causes of the fire.

On Wednesday, unidentified people desecrated the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Nindiri, Masaya, a municipality about 13 miles outside of Managua. They stole the ciborium, profaned the tabernacle, and trampled on the hosts. They also broke images, broke benches, and damaged other furniture, doors and pipes, La Prensa reports.

On July 25 there was an attack on the chapel of Our Lord of Veracruz parish in Masaya district. The chapel was desecrated and audio equipment and money boxes were stolen.

In November 2019 Mothers holding a hunger strike seeking the release of their relatives, whom they consider political prisoners, took refuge at Managua’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral. They were soon followed by the mob of government supporters. The mothers removed themselves to another part of the cathedral.

However, the pro-government forces beat a priest and a religious sister who had reprimanded them.

At the time, Msgr. Carlos Avilés, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Managua, said “there are a number of unjustly detained political prisoners in the country. Their mothers desperately tried to enter the cathedral to pray … then the government with the police helping them, let in a mob of government supporters backed by the police to violate the cathedral.”

The protests were part of a crisis which began in April 2018 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protesters were killed by security forces.

Security forces have killed at least 320 protesters, with hundreds more arrested.

 

Physician assisted suicides double in Canada

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 30, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The number of Canadians killed by physician-assisted suicide nearly doubled between 2017 and 2019, according to a report released by the Canadian government. More than a third of those who opted for “medical assistance in dying” cited concerns of being a burden to family or carers.

The “First Annual Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada 2019” was published in July. It follows a series of interim reports that were published over the last year. 

In 2019, a total of 5,631 Canadians ended their lives through the country’s “Medical Assistance in Dying,” or “MAID” protocols. This amounts for 2% of the total deaths in Canada, an increase from 2018’s percentage. In 2018, the number of MAID deaths accounted for 1.12% of the total number of deaths in Canada.

The report found that cancer was the most common condition among those who ended their lives with MAID, followed by respiratory conditions and neurological ailments. Slightly over two thirds of those who used MAID had cancer as an underlying condition.

Along with having a “reasonably foreseeable” natural death, a person who wished to receive MAID also had to show that their condition was causing them “enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and cannot be relieved in a manner that they find acceptable.” 

In just over a third of 2019’s MAID deaths, a “perceived burden on family, friends or caregivers” was one of the reasons cited, and in 13.7% of cases, “isolation or loneliness” was a factor.

“When asked to describe the nature of the suffering prompting their request, patients most often reported ‘a loss of ability to engage in meaningful life activities’ followed by ‘loss of ability to perform activities of daily living’ reported in 82.1% and 78.1% of cases, respectively,” says the report.

“Inadequate control of pain” was cited in 53.9% of cases, followed by “loss of dignity” in 53.3% of cases. 

In U.S. states with legal physician-assisted suicide, less than one half of one percent of deaths are due to euthanasia, the lowest rate in the world. If Canada’s numbers were extrapolated to the United States, approximately 50,000 people each year would end their lives with MAID. This would put euthanasia in the top 10 causes of death for the United States, just above “intentional self-harm (suicide)” and just below kidney disease. 

Countries that permit physicians to administer euthanasia and do not mandate self-administration have higher percentages of deaths from euthanasia. Similar to countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, Canadian law permits doctors to administer the lethal dose of medication to the patients. In the United States, the drugs must be self-administered. 

While Canadians have the option to self-administer the drugs, the number of people who chose to do so last year was “fewer than seven.” 

In 2019, the average age of a person who received MAID in Canada was 75.2 years, but 103 people between the ages of 18 and 45 received MAID.

Last year, 92.2% of requests for MAID were approved, out of a total of 7,336 applications. 

Only 3.6% of people who were deemed eligible for MAID withdrew their request. 

Of those who were deemed ineligible for MAID in 2019, about a quarter were denied because death was “reasonably foreseeable,” and an additional quarter were denied due to not being “in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability.” Those requirements are likely to change for future years. 

In September 2019, the Superior Court of Quebec found that the requirement that a person who receives MAID have a “reasonably foreseeable natural death” was unconstitutional. The Canadian government later announced that they do not intend on appealing this decision, and a piece of legislation titled Bill C-7 was introduced in February 2020 to further expand MAID criteria. 

In addition to removing the requirement of a reasonably foreseeable death, Bill C-7 would also allow for advanced directives. 

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, released a statement in February criticizing Bill C-7 for expanding the criteria for MAID without expanding the availability of palliative care. 

“Where is the political will to push forward on palliative care for all Canadians? Only 30% of Canadians have access to quality palliative care even though we know that pain and loneliness are among the biggest fears of those who are suffering. Palliative care can address these issues,” said Collins. 

“If all Canadians had access to quality palliative care, fewer would seek lethal injection. But instead of developing an overall culture of care, we are rushing towards death on demand,” adding that doctors will be forced to comply with requests for euthanasia as Canada does not have conscience rights protections for medical professionals. 

“We should take time to be truly present to those who may feel that they are on the margins in our community,” said Collins. 

“Those who feel that their life no longer has value must be assured by all of us that this is absolutely not the case — there is dignity within each human life, not just when we are young, healthy and able, but even more so, when we are fragile and vulnerable.”

Mexican bishops hail pro-life victory at nation’s Supreme Court

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 30, 2020 / 11:52 am (CNA).- The Mexican Bishops' Conference hailed the Supreme Court’s 4-1 decision striking down a lower court ruling that had ordered the state of Veracruz to legalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

“Today in Mexico the culture of life is triumphing,” the conference tweeted after the Supreme Court announced its ruling Wednesday.

The conference thanked “each and every one who joined together to pray and to raise their voices.”

Veracruz state’s constitution protects life from conception to natural death, and state law provides few exceptions.

However, a legal challenge alleged that the ban on abortion constituted discrimination against women. A lower court had instructed state lawmakers to enact legislation allowing for abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The state appealed, and the case was sent to the first bench of the Supreme Court.

If the Supreme Court had upheld the lower court ruling, it would have opened the door to the legalization of abortion throughout the country. Currently, only Mexico City and Oaxaca state have legalized abortion on demand up to 12 weeks’ gestation.

Supreme Court Justice Juan Luis González Alcántara Carrancá, nominated to the bench in 2018 by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, presented arguments backing the lower court’s ruling and was the only judge to vote in favor of it.

Voting against were justices Norma Lucía Piña Hernández, Margarita Ríos Farjat, Jorge Mario Pardo Rebolledo and Alfredo Gutiérrez Ortiz Mena.

Auxiliary bishop Alfonso Miranda of Monterrey, Guardiola, secretary general of the Mexican bishops’ conference, posted on Twitter after the ruling, “Thank you. Blessed be God. #Yes to life.”

The Archdiocese of Mexico City tweeted that “today life won in Veracruz--and in the country itself--thanks to the Supreme Court’s rejection of the effort to decriminalize abortion in the state, recognizing that this procedure is not a right in any law, whether national or international.”

In the run up to the vote, the Mexican bishops’ conference and other pro-life organizations had spoken out strongly against the expansion of legal abortion.

More than 200 local and federal legislators, joined by more than 200 jurists, had presented an open letter to the Supreme Court on July 28, asking them to overturn the lower court’s decision.

In addition, more than 200,000 people signed a CitizenGO petition asking the Supreme Court to reject the appeal and defend the right to life.

 

A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.

 

Knights of Columbus in Alberta build gardens for maternity house

CNA Staff, Jul 29, 2020 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- Members of the Knights of Columbus in Alberta have built a raised garden for a maternal care home to provide the women and their children with fresh vegetables.

Two new garden beds were added to the backyard of the Elizabeth House in Calgary, which provides at-risk-women and single mothers with a safe place to raise their baby.

Michelle Haywood, the program coordinator for Elizabeth House, told CNA that the garden not only provides fresh vegetables, but the backyard has also become a place of refuge for the women during the pandemic.

“We have green grass that the babies can play on. We have patio furniture that the women can go and enjoy. It has become a refuge especially in a time right now where leaving your house to go anywhere in public you're taking a risk,” she said.

“It means that they have somewhere in the back where they can play and adventure and feel safe. The garden is also important in terms of it’s a sense of pride, like watching something go from seed to crate is an incredible journey.”

The Elizabeth House, founded in 1996, moved to their current property about five years ago after structural problems were discovered at the previous house. Left behind were a garden and a Marian grotto.

At the residence, the women are provided with a fully furnished bedroom, food, and child care. They are helped to find medical and education resources, and can be given help to connect with estranged relatives.

The program is fully funded by the Diocese of Calgary through private donations. 

“We were started by the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis, the Catholic order of nuns here in Calgary, who had a heart for homeless young women who found themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy,” said Haywood.

“We're here to build relationships, build trust, and to promote healing and to help young women raise their child right in love and security … [It’s] such an incredible time in a child's life to have this kind of wrap-around support.”

Haywood said the organization has provided many women with the freedom and means to rediscover their faith. She said even the new garden has been a source of teaching.

“We can use [the plants] as a talking point … We can pinch off the broken parts and launch new sprouts. I think when we're talking about why this garden is here and what it brings to us, it brings a completely new way, a new perspective of looking at, I guess, the challenges that we've been through and we're going through,” she said.

“A lot of times the biggest impact we can have [is] sitting out on that green grass, being with the women in a very connected, very grounded way … It may be the first time in her life that she can trust someone.”

The Knights of Columbus struck up a relationship with Elizabeth House four years ago and have continued to support the women by developing the facility’s landscape.

In 2017, they raised $15,000 to help redo the entire backyard, adding new soil, irrigation, patio, furniture, and a grill. Following the project's completion a year and a half ago, the Knights then offered another $10,000 to landscape the front yard. This year, they spent $2,000 to refurbish plants and build the garden.

Peter Dugandzic, who has been in the Knights for 15 years, expressed the importance of the Elizabeth House. He said the Knights will continue to support the group, noting that the Knights’ next project will be to construct a Marian grotto in the backyard. He said the Knights are already in contact with the previous designer of the last grotto and they expect construction to begin in the fall.

“[This facility provides] for these young ladies and it brings in the appropriate support to help them emotionally, financially, and from a health perspective to ensure that they're under the best of care and that they begin a new life with a stable environment for success moving forward in terms of helping them develop life skills, a plan for the future, which would include education,” he told CNA.

“We'll continue to support this work as the Knights of Columbus because it's consistent with our faith but also because we believe that we're having a positive impact on the ladies’ lives moving forward. We take great pride in being able to help any way we can.”

Mexican Supreme Court rejects effort to expand abortion nationally

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 29, 2020 / 02:45 pm (CNA).-  

The first bench of the Mexican Supreme Court on July 29 overturned a lower court’s ruling that could have opened the door to legalized abortion throughout the country.

In a 4-1 ruling, the panel of justices rejected a lower court’s attempt to require the state of Veracruz to legalize abortion. Supreme Court Justice Juan Luis González Alcántara Carrancá cast the sole vote in favor of upholding the lower court ruling.

Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Rodrigo Iván Cortés, president of the National Front for the Family, hailed the decision.

“Today, life has triumphed,” he said. He voiced gratitude for “all the effort, the dedication of the entire society” to defend life in recent days.

Veracruz state’s constitution protects life from conception to natural death, and state law provides few exceptions.

However, a legal challenge alleged that the ban on abortion constituted discrimination against women. A lower court had instructed state lawmakers to enact legislation allowing for abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The state appealed, and the case was sent to the Supreme Court.

If the majority of the five-judge bench had upheld the lower court decision, Veracruz would have become the third jurisdiction in Mexico to legalize abortion, following Mexico City and Oaxaca state.

Pro-life advocates had warned that a ruling expanding legal abortion in Veracruz would be used to push for a similar expansion throughout the whole country.

Cortés said that although the July 29 ruling constitutes a significant victory, threats to life are still looming in the country.

“The fight for life is going to continue,” he said, noting that most of the states in Mexico have bills pending that could expand legal abortion.

The Mexican bishops’ conference and other pro-life organizations had spoken out strongly against the expansion of legal abortion.

More than 200 local and federal legislators, joined by more than 200 jurists, had presented an open letter to the Supreme Court on July 28, asking them to overturn the lower court’s decision.

In addition, more than 200,000 people signed a CitizenGO petition asking the Supreme Court to reject the appeal and defend the right to life.

A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.

Mexican bishops reject abortion ahead of Supreme Court decision

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 28, 2020 / 03:58 pm (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Mexico have spoken out strongly against any effort to justify abortion ahead of a Supreme Court ruling that could affect the legalization of abortion throughout the country.

“We affirm, in accordance with scientific evidence, that human life begins from the moment of conception,” said Bishop José Jesús Herrera Quiñones of Nuevo Casas Grandes in Chihuahua state.

Abortion does not help women, said Herrera, who heads the pro-life committee of the Mexican bishops’ conference, in a July 24 press release.

“Human dignity must be recognized and cared for,” he said, stressing that women in crisis pregnancies should be offered material, physical and psychological support rather than abortion.

The Mexican Supreme Court’s first bench is expected to issue a decision July 29 on a case from the state of Veracruz, where a lower court instructed lawmakers to enact legislation allowing for abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

If the majority of the five-judge bench upholds the lower court decision, Veracruz would be the third jurisdiction in Mexico to legalize abortion, following Mexico City and Oaxaca state.

Bishop Herrera said the ruling “could have a direct impact on the legal protection of the fundamental human right to life, specifically in its early stages.”

He cautioned that while the immediate effects of the ruling would be felt in Veracruz, it could ultimately lead to changes in the whole country.

Government is responsible for protecting human life, Herrera said. He asked Catholics and all citizens to work “to ensure that the dignity of each human being is valued and to come out and address the serious challenges that are presented to us at this time in the history of our country.”

Rodrigo Iván Cortés, president of the National Front for the Family, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that the constitution of Verzcruz includes a clause protecting human life “from the moment of conception to natural death.”

Cortés said approving abortion in Veracruz would be “an attack against the fundamental right to life, the basis of all other rights.”

“It would be a crushing blow to the rule of law and democratic institutions in Mexico," he warned.

“The separation of powers in Mexico would be violated, state sovereignty would be violated, it would be an invasion against the state’s legislative powers.”

Such a ruling, Cortés told ACI Prensa, would prompt a “domino effect,” with abortion advocates filing appeals in other states as tools to spread the legalization of abortion.

In an effort to witness to the dignity of human life, Cortés said that a rally in defense of the unborn will be held July 28 in Constitution Plaza in Mexico City.

In addition, a CitizenGo petition entitled “You’re judges, not legislators” has gathered over 140,000 signatures urging the court to reject the legalization of abortion.

 

Arson at Caribbean church sparks tension between Catholic and Rastafarian leaders

CNA Staff, Jul 24, 2020 / 06:35 pm (CNA).- A man on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia attempted on Sunday to set fire to a crucifix outside a Catholic church, while parishioners worshiped inside the building.

The man, whose name has not been released to the public, threw two homemade incendiary devices at the crucifix of St. Martin De Porres Catholic Church in the village of Pierrot, part of the town of Vieux-Fort on Saint Lucia - a small island in the eastern Caribbean.

While the perpetrator tried to set fire to the statue, which only burned briefly before it was extinguished, he yelled “judgment.” He then entered the church with two more incendiary devices, but parishioners restrained the man before handing him over to the police.

In a video of the incident, parishioners can be seen running from the building in panic as the perpetrator yelled inside the church.

Deacon Harris Wilfred said he first noticed the disturbance as parishioners began to run outside. The deacon then held a cross in front of himself and urged the trespasser to leave.

“The guy came inside the church where I was standing saying 'fire burn, fire burn'… What I had to do was to hold a cross in front of me and tell him, 'Look, go back, go back,’” he told local news outlet Loop St. Lucia.

Archbishop Robert Rivas of Castries lamented the event, especially as it takes place during the pandemic and people are faced with numerous uncertainties. He stressed the sanctity of churches and their contribution to the community.

“That there would be an attack on sacred worship where people are in communion with each other and with their God, praying for the good of their country and their nation and for others … In the midst of their goodness, we have an infiltration, a perpetration of evil,” he said in a video response to the incident.

“The Church is one of the places where people seek solace, where people go to be in communion with their brothers and sisters and faith. The Church is a place of worship where we give honor and praise and glory to God. The Church is a place of peace.”

Rivas said the young man has a psychological disorder, and has attempted similar actions in the past. He encouraged the community to be more compassionate, and to support mental health services but stressed the importance of ensuring the community’s safety.

“Maybe we have another social issue here - how we care as a society for the mentally ill. If this a known person in a community, how is the community dealing with mental illness in the community?” he asked.

“He is a person that needs help. As a Church, I certainly would be very compassionate towards him and I’m sure the Church community too would be compassionate towards him. But, it is a crime.”

“If something similar was done inside the church it could have endangered the lives of worshipers during Mass. It is a serious offense, a serious matter that needs to be dealt with.”

The archbishop said the perpetrator spoke in slogans associated with the Rastafarian religion, and he offered to meet with Rastafarian leaders, who have distanced themselves from the crime.

“[If] we met and had some dialogue so that there would be better understanding and that we could also look at the language that we use in religious groups and to see [if] it is language that builds peace or is our language that creates conflict and can lead to violence.”

Peter ‘Ras Ipa’ Isaac, a former President of the Iyanola Council for the Advancement of Rastafari (ICAR), demanded an apology in response to the archbishop’s remarks. He told local media the perpetrator should not be assumed to be Rastafarian simply because he wears his hair in dreadlocks, a style with religious meaning for Rastafarians, or because he used language associated with the religion.

“Not everyone who misses a fall and says ‘Oh Jesus’ is a Christian,” Isaac told the St. Lucia Times.

“For Archbishop Rivas to suggest that this young man is a Rasta and he is requesting discussion with the Rastafarian community is insulting,” he added.

Isaac said he was personally insulted by the remark.

“We want Rivas to apologise to the Rastafarian community and to me as a Rasta because I do not take lightly to calling anyone who has matted hair a Rasta,” Isaac added.

There are approximately one million Rastafarians worldwide, most of them resident in the Caribbean. On the island nation of St. Lucia, which has a population of roughly 200,000, there are fewer than 4,000 Rastas. The majority of the nation’s population is Catholic.

In his remarks, Archbishop Rivas stressed the importance of forgiveness.

“What happened in Pierrot should never have happened, and we don’t want it to happen again. We should be taking the measures [to ensure] it doesn’t happen again …. by having hearts that are willing to forgive and to be understanding, to be kind and gentle,” he said.

“These are all virtues that Jesus has taught us, and if we can practice them we can change the world which we live, and make it a better place for all.”

 
 

 

Venezuelan bishop pleads for help: ‘Either COVID kills us or hunger kills us’

CNA Staff, Jul 23, 2020 / 04:52 pm (CNA).- The dire economic situation in Venezuela, combined with the effects of the pandemic lockdown, has led to a crisis more severe than the biblical plagues in Egypt, said one local bishop.

“The plagues of Egypt are nothing compared to what we are suffering here,” Bishop Polito Rodríguez Méndez of San Carlos, Venezuela told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in a recent interview.

He called for international aid to alleviate the crisis, which has hit the poorest of the poor especially hard.

Under the socialist administration of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages of food and medicine, high unemployment, power outages, and hyperinflation. Some 4.5 million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015.

The coronavirus pandemic has now exacerbated a situation that was already at a crisis point, the bishop said.

With a paralyzed economy and GDP now below zero, he told ACN, “those most affected are the poorest of the poor - they have nothing to eat, they have no chance of living a decent life.”

Some 96% of households in Venezuela are living in poverty, according to studies.

“A family earns about three or four dollars a month. A carton of eggs costs two dollars and a kilo of cheese costs three dollars,” Rodríguez explained. “We’ve been under the lockdown for more than two months, and everything has become very expensive. It is impossible to go on like this.”

The bishop said the crisis in Venezuela is likely to worsen in the coming months, which will seriously affect the Church in the country, which is already lacking financial resources.

“Our churches have been closed for four months and the priests have nothing to eat,” he added.

Another big problem is the decrease in money sent back from abroad by the nearly 5 million Venezuelans who have emigrated.

“The other day, I met with a seminarian who was crying. His parents had been let go, they have nothing to live on and can’t send their son anything,” he said. “We’re living on God's providence.”

Due to the pandemic, the country's borders are closed to prevent the entry of migrants who have lost their jobs and are trying to return to Venezuela from Colombia, Peru, Chile or Argentina.

Additionally, a recent plague of worms has devastated plantations in the states of Cojedes, Portuguesa and Barinas, adding to the food insecurity in the region.

Rodríguez said he is asking God to give them the strength to help those who are in need and are facing a crisis that continues to grow.

“Despite personal limitations, we’re not going to abandon the people in this terrible situation we’re going through,” he said.

He also called for international support to aid the struggling nation.

“We don’t want outside intervention, especially armed intervention, but we have to ask for international humanitarian and health care aid because if not, we have no other alternative: either COVID kills us or hunger kills us.”