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Europe at a crossroads

Paris, France, Oct 19, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, the people of Austria elected a new government. At 31 years of age, Sebastian Kurz is poised to become Europe's youngest head of government. The Chancellor-to-be of Austria is a Catholic who says of himself that he has a cross hanging in his apartment and that "the faith is very important to me", though he doesn't make it to church as often as he would like to.

Kurz won his landslide victory by doing two things. Firstly, emphasising a strong national identity in general, and secondly, taking a harder line on mass immigration in particular – at least by Western European standards. Like it or lump it – and much of the German speaking media is indeed aghast at the outcome – Austria's election result, for all its idiosyncrasies, is part of a broader revolt against the EU and what it stands for.

On Oct. 7, a week before Austrians went to the polls, ten intellectuals from eight European nations published a call for "A Europe we can believe in". This "Paris Statement", they declared, purports "to actively recover what is best in our tradition", and to build a "peaceful, hopeful and noble future together". Comprising more than 4,000 words, the manifesto is reminiscent of what the popes have warned Europe about time and again: losing her Christian soul.

As Pope Francis put it when addressing the European Parliament Nov. 25, 2014: "In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a ‘grandmother’, no longer fertile and vibrant. As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions."

Three years later, this European malaise has broken out in a rash, from the streets of Barcelona to the bureaucracies in Brussels and Berlin, from the shiny offices of London’s City to the beaches of Lampedusa.

As the Paris Statement warns, Europe is facing a challenge of epic, indeed, historic proportions, of which the demographic decline, institutional distrust, rise in populism and independence movements, waves of unregulated mass immigration and rising concerns over Islamism are all but symptoms.

What is at stake, according to its signatories – which include the Catholic philosophers Robert Spaemann (a friend and advisor to Pope Francis's predecessors), Rémi Brague (a Ratzinger Prize winner), and Ryszard Legutko (a member of the Polish government) – goes deeper: If Europe abandons her Christian roots, rather than drawing on them for renewal, Europe's peoples and cultures will lose their "home".

What is meant by "home" – the word used in the German version, Heimat, expresses it more starkly – is not just a place or a roof over your head. It is ontological: A place of being-at-home, of belonging. The opposite is not just homelessness, but annihilation, be it cultural or physical – a point brought home by the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

From Oct 9-13, government officials, religious community leaders and non-governmental organisations, including Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), met in Budapest for an International Consultation on Christian Persecution.

ADF Executive Director Paul Coleman said during the conference lead-up: "In the Middle East, ISIS has deliberately targeted Christian communities for destruction. We went to Beirut, Amman and Erbil to meet with Christian refugees from Iraq. We spoke with them, cried with them, prayed with them. We documented their testimonies, and provided this evidence to those in power. Successive governments and recently even the United Nations are recognising that ISIS is committing genocide."

Addressing the 300 participants from 30 nations, Hungary's head of government, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, said that while the “intellectual discrimination” against Christians in Europe is “painful but tolerable,” the physical suffering endured by those in Africa and the Middle East is being ignored by an “apathetic Europe” that “denies its Christian roots.”

“A group of Europe’s intellectual and political leaders want to create a mixed society that would completely change the continent’s cultural and ethnic identity, and Christian nature, within just a few generations,” Orbán said. “Hungary, however, is doing the opposite of what Europe is currently doing.”

British intellectual Sir Roger Scruton, one of the signatories of the Paris Statement, agrees with this stance.

"Poland and Hungary are on the right track. You only have to see the dogmatism and cruelty of the Islamic revival in Africa and the Middle East to recognize how threatened we are", the philosopher told CNA in an email interview.

Even critics of the Paris Statement agree that there are valid reasons for this existential angst for Europe. If anything, they scold the scholars for not being clearer about it. “What is Europe?” Matthew Walther asks in "The Week”, and then continues: “For me Hilaire Belloc put it best: ‘Europe is the faith, and the faith is Europe’” – and, laconically, Walther adds: “He should have said ‘was’."

Not everyone is as pessimistic – least of all the popes. In the early 2000s, Saint John Paul II eloquently, albeit unsuccessfully, appealed for the European Union’s constitution to mention Europe’s Christian roots.

Undeterred, the then-Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, continued the struggle. In a 2004 interview with Le Figaro magazine, Cardinal Ratzinger judged the EU’s decision to avoid any mention of God a mistake.

As Pope Benedict XVI, he then used the occasion of his very first general audience in 2005 to point out "the inalienable Christian roots of [Europe’s] culture and civilisation”. Later that year, visiting Cologne for World Youth Day, he urged one million people attending mass there to recover their Christian roots. Time and again, he emphasised that the future of Christianity is a bright one in Europe – albeit only in the long term.

For now, Europe is at a crossroads; and the actual role of the Church in helping the continent rediscover its Christian soul is clear, at least to Roger Scruton.

"The Catholic Church should do what it is called to do, namely preach the gospel and defend the faith", he told CNA.

Excluding people with disabilities makes Church 'incomplete'

Rome, Italy, Oct 19, 2017 / 03:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A leading expert on faith and disabilities has said that people with disabilities are an essential aspect of the Church's life and mission, and that parishes which exclude them are “incomplete.”

“It's important to say from the very beginning that any parish that doesn't have people with disabilities in it, is an incomplete body of Christ...their full capacity to evangelize and catechize is impoverished,” Cristina Gangemi told CNA Oct. 18.

Gangemi is co-director of The Kairos Forum, and an expert in pastoral care for people with intellectual disabilities. She has partnered with the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization to host a conference on catechesis for people with disabilities.

The conference, titled “Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church,” will take place Oct. 20-22 at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome.

Gangemi told CNA that “to have everybody the same doesn't celebrate the beauty of diversity, because one thing that we're all the same in, one true moment of equality, is that we're all different.”

But, she said, when people with disabilities participate in parish life, it is sometimes “presumed by the priest…that they don't have the learning capacity to be able to be prepared for First Communion or the Sacraments.”

While people with disabilities are often described as having “learning difficulties,” Gangemi said the reality is actually the reverse: “the problem is that there are lots of teaching difficulties.”

She noted that many resources used in catechetical preparation for the reception of the sacraments are not adapted to the learning styles of intellectually disabled people, who frequently learn best through action, drama, art and music.

“So we've got this paradox. You've got people with disabilities who long to receive the sacraments, who from the moment of their conception are touched by God's grace, and so therefore are called to the sacraments, and then you've got this problem in parish structures where nobody really knows how to make all their programs accessible.”

Because people with disabilities often struggle to learn using traditional methods, “the presumption is they can't be catechized.”

The heart of catechesis and evangelization is essentially “the echoing down of faith from one generation to another, from one person to another in the parish,” she said. “And as for evangelization, everybody, no matter who they are, holds the capacity to be an agent of evangelization.”

Pointing to another example, Gangemi recalled the story of a 50-year-old man with disabilities at a parish in London, who at every Mass, during the consecration or when people went up for Communion, would extend his hand toward the altar and make unintelligible sounds.

Typically the man's caretakers would tell him to be quiet and not to make noise. However, one day as the man was watching others receive Communion, he again reached out his hand and said, “Why not me?”

“This reaching out for 40-45 years, watching everybody go up to Communion and come back again, was his longing for the Eucharist,” Gangemi said. “And if you think of what Jesus did and what Jesus said, he made a special focus on people who are left out.”

“His lament, 'why not me?' was no different than the psalmists and the people that were exiled. So I think that's got to stop, my hope is that that will stop, she said.”

In 2016, Pope Francis told an Italian group that excluding anyone from parish life because of a disability is wrong, stressing that it is better to “close the door” of a parish than to exclude the disabled.

Disability catechesis, Gangemi said, is not simply about making sure people with disabilities have access to the Sacraments, but is more broadly focused on “how can we ensure that every single person, born and baptized, can be an agent of evangelization and can have the faith echoed down to them so that they can echo down the faith to others.”

“People with disabilities who become active in the Church through their own creative skills then become people that can evangelize to others and call others to salvation,” she said.

The catechetical conference was proposed in 2016 by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for the New Evangelization, and approved personally by Pope Francis. Gangemi, who has a number of family members with disabilities, was invited to help organize the event because of previous Vatican conferences on disabilities she’d arranged.

So far, 420 people who work in catechesis have signed up, coming from professions and countries all over the world. Archbishop Fisichella, Baroness Sheila Hollins of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and representatives from dioceses around the world will present methods for the catechesis of disabled people. Participants will also have an audience with Pope Francis on day two of the event, demonstrating the Pope's keen interest in the topic.

In her comments to CNA, Gangemi called the conference “historic,” since it is among the first global events to address the topic of catechizing those with intellectual disabilities.

Gangemi is also partnering with the Archdiocese of Newark's office for Pastoral Ministry for Persons with Disabilities, to launch a parish training course on catechesis for the disabled.

The goal, she said, is to engage people so as to “try to make a shift in the way we see and think” about disability, “because the Catholic Church teaches that all life is gift.”

“That's our starting point: all life is gift,” she said, and voiced her hope that the conference would be “the beginning, and that those of us who live now will leave a legacy for those to come, that it won't die.”

 

Pope meets students, staff of “Institution des Chartreux”‎

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Thursday urged students of a French Catholic School to watch out against the lure and slavery of money, and train themselves to be promoters and defenders of equality and justice in the world. 

Some 80 students and staff of Institution des Chartreux of Lyons, in Rome as part of their semester, met the Pope in the Vatican.  Known commonly as Les Chartreux, the private school is managed by the Carthusians. 

Lure and slavery of money

The Pope expressed satisfaction that while they were preparing themselves to enter the big commercial schools to pursue professional careers in the world of finance, their current academic formation at Les Chartreux was providing them a strong human, philosophical and cultural dimension.  “It is essential,” he said, “that from now on and in your future professional life you learn to be free from the ‘lure of money’, from the slavery into which money shuts those who worship it.”    He said it is also important that they have the “strength and courage not to blindly obey the invisible hand of the market.”  “Hence,” he said, “I encourage you to make the best of your study time to train yourselves to become promoters and defenders of growth in equity, and artisans of an upright and adequate administration of our common home, the world.” 

Just and humane world

Pope Francis further exhorted them to become responsible for this world and for the life of every man, never forgetting that “every injustice against a poor person is an open wound and belittles your very dignity.”    He told the students to find the means and the time to take on the path of brotherhood to create bridges rather than walls among men in order to add their stone to building a more just and humane society.   He concluded encouraging them to work for good and be a humble seed of a new world.  

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican hosts conference on Disability and Catechesis

(Vatican Radio) A global conference will open in Rome on Friday looking at best practices to help people with disabilities fully engage in the life of the Church.

The event entitled "Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church", is being sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization and partnered by The Kairos Forum, a UK based organization that focuses on the spiritual and religious needs of people with disabilities.

Over the course of the three day gathering 450 experts from around the world will share their insights.

Lydia O’Kane spoke to Monsignor Geno Sylva, English language official at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, about the goals of the conference.

Listen to the interview:

 

Speaking about how the conference came about, Mons Sylva said, “this international conference is the fruit that was sewn during the Jubilee (of Mercy) with all the other discussions that took place afterwards.”

He underlined that, “the aim and the goal is for us as a Church and for this Pontifical Council to really learn what are the best practices that are already taking place throughout the world in catechizing people with special needs …”

The Church and Disability

But, Mons. Sylva also added that, what this conference is also meant to do is to “highlight the responsibility that we have as a Church to take into account the special needs for each of the baptized, so that we can present to him or her the catechism, the catechesis of our Church in a way that they can receive it; they can grasp the elements of it .”

The global conference, "Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church", will run from the 20th to the 22nd of October at the Urbaniana University in Rome.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Mass: The gift of God's salvation opens the door to all

The Lord gives us the memory of  God's salvation which is “a gift” and close to the concreteness of the works of mercy he wants us to do, whether they are "material or spiritual": so we will become people who help to "open the door" to ourselves and others. That was Pope Francis’ prayer at morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. Recalling the passage from Luke's Gospel in which the Scribes and Pharisees considered themselves righteous, and Jesus makes known to them that God alone is just, the Pope explained why law practitioners had "taken knowledge away" with "the consequence of not being able to enter the Kingdom nor let others enter either".

Listen to our report:

"This leads us to understand the revelation of God, to understand God's heart, to understand God's salvation - the key to knowledge - we can say it is very neglected. One forgets the freedom of salvation; forgetting the closeness of God and forgetting God's mercy. And those who forget the gift of salvation, the closeness of God, and the mercy of God, have taken away the key to knowledge. "

Therefore, this gift was "forgotten". It is "God's initiative to save us and instead stand on the side of the law": Salvation - said the Pope - "is there for them", thus arriving in "a bunch of prescriptions" which in fact become salvation. So, "they do not receive the power of God's righteousness." The law, however, is always "an answer to God's generous love", which has taken "the initiative" to save us. And, continued Pope Francis, "when you forget the gift of salvation you fall, you lose the key to the intelligence of the history of salvation", losing "the sense of God's closeness":

"For them, God is the one who has made the law. But this is not the God of revelation. The God of revelation is a God who has begun to walk with us from Abraham to Jesus Christ, God walking with His people. And when you lose this close relationship with the Lord, you fall into this dull mindset that believes in the self-sufficiency of salvation with the fulfillment of the law. The closeness of God ".

When the closeness of God is lacking, when prayer is lacking, the Pope emphasized "doctrine cannot be taught" and not even by "studying theology", much less "moral theology": The Pope reiterated that theology "kneels down, always close to God ". And the closeness of the Lord comes "to the highest point of the crucified Jesus Christ," being "justified" for the blood of Christ, as Saint Paul said. For this reason, the Pontiff explained, the works of mercy "are the stone of the fulfillment of the law," because they touch the flesh of Christ, "touch Christ’s suffering in a person, both corporally and spiritually." Also, when the key to knowledge is lost, one also becomes "corrupt". The Pope finally noted the "responsibilities" of shepherds, now in the Church commenting that  when they lose or take away the "key of intelligence", they close  "the door on themselves and on others":

In my country, said the Pope,  "I have heard several times of parish priests who did not baptize the children of the mothers because they were not born in  canonical marriage. They closed the door, why? Because the heart of these parish priests had lost the key to knowledge.

Three months ago, in a country, in a city, a mother wanted to baptize her newly born son, but she was married civilly with a divorced man. The priest said, 'Yes, yes. Baptize the baby. But your husband is divorced. So he cannot be present at the ceremony. ' This is happening today. The Pharisees, doctors of the law are not people of the past, even today there are many of them. That is why we need prayers for us shepherds. To pray that we do not lose the key to knowledge and do not close the door to ourselves and the people who want to enter. "

(from Vatican Radio)

Five keys to Catholic education, according to Cardinal Versaldi

Santiago, Chile, Oct 19, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, proposed last week five keys for pastoral education “to respond in depth to the current challenges of society.”

The cardinal participated in Chile's Sixth National Congress on Catholic Education, Oct. 12-13, organized by the Chilean bishops' conference and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

In his keynote address,  Cardinal Versaldi explained that education “must be careful to avoid  two  extreme and opposite dangers: that of an educational program imposed on the student without respecting his autonomy and requirements; and an educational program that simply goes along with whatever the  students ask for, or without any consideration for their personal growth.”

The cardinal then proposed five keys for education in Catholic schools:

Proclamation of the Christian life

“The Catholic school has both the right and duty to not only teach in consistency with its own values, but also to have an inner dynamic of  proclaiming and living the Christian life,” Cardinal Versaldi said.

“Such an educational program  becomes for believers in Christ an opportunity for  growth and the  integration of faith and reason and also for living out the life of the Church.”

For non-believers it is “an opportunity to better know the authentic Gospel message which their conscience has to then consider and  which they're always  free to accept or not,” he said.

“It would be unjust to ask, in the name of tolerance for Catholic schools to take a neutral approach  in what they teach  and to not to be able to foster a religious way of life, while still respecting  people's freedom, since the students  have decided to go to an  institution they already know is Catholic.”

The witness of charity

Cardinal Versaldi said a school community's  witness must be “obviously noted for” its charity, which makes “the values conveyed through its teaching credible and attractive.”

“A Christian school community imbued with this charity is in and of itself the best means of pastoral ministry.”

Ongoing formation of teachers

The ongoing formation of professors in teaching methods and especially in “their spiritual growth  and their truly living out their faith … is not a waste of  time or effort which takes way from their actual  teaching,” Cardinal Versaldi said.

Such formation can make both the faculty and the administration able to “credibly engage with and also to be a partner in dialogue with civil society and the state schools in order to create a Chilean society founded on the  shared values of respect for cultural and religious diversity.”

Working together with the Church

Cardinal Versaldi said the school's pastoral ministry must work side by side with the local Church and parishes so that they “mutually help each other out in their different  roles” without “imposing  on the school the responsibilities that mostly belong to the parish or vice versa.”

In addition “it is important to foster a consistent witness, including that of their lives outside the classroom, such that the Church community would think the school a living example of her realities.”

Providence as a guide

“Schools need to deepen their knowledge of what's going on in society in both its positive and negative aspects, discerning  the signs of the times, animated not by a paralyzing pessimism but rather with Christian hope founded on the faith that human history is always guided by Divine Providence despite people's free will,” the cardinal stated.

“It is important to maintain this faith and translate it into the work of education as an overriding way of acting in order to become protagonists in a true renewal of the social scene without letting oneself be manipulated by the various political factions.”

“Thus the Catholic school will always be on the forefront of dealing with the new challenges that the world must face such as care for the environment and immigration that politics in general tends to discount, marginalizing more people and creating dangers for future generations,” Cardinal Versaldi concluded.

Central Americans fleeing violence can't return home yet, bishops warn

Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2017 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As a temporary immigration permit program for families fleeing violence in Honduras and El Salvador is set to expire, the U.S. bishops warn that requiring immigrants to return to unsafe countries is unjust.

“There is ample evidence to suggest that current TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador cannot return safely to their home country at this time,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Migration.

He urged the faithful to keep the people of El Salvador and Honduras, including those with Temporary Protective Status “in your thoughts and prayers,” while introducing a report on the issue, released by the USCCB this week.

The bishop and the report expressed support for an extension of TPS – a kind of temporary immigration status– for people from Honduras and El Salvador, and called for a long-term legislative solution to the situation.

Temporary Protective Status allows people who are unable to safely return to their home nations because of armed conflict, other violence, natural disasters or other extraordinary and temporary circumstances to remain in the United States while the situation in their home country resolves.

In August, a group of researchers from the USCCB’s Office of Migration and Refugee Services traveled to Honduras and El Salvador to assess the circumstances TPS recipients returning to their home countries would face.

The trip was inspired by the upcoming expiration of TPS status for Salvadoran and Honduran nationals. The TPS designation for Honduras is set to expire on January 5, 2018, and El Salvador’s will end on March 9, 2018, unless the Department of Homeland Security authorizes an extension. If the designations expire, more than 200,000 people from El Salvador and 57,000 people from Honduras will need to return to their home countries. These temporary immigrants are parents to more than 270,000 children who are United States citizens.

In El Salvador, gang-related violence has led to widespread crime and extortion, the bishops’ report said. In addition, children and their families are targeted for gang recruitment. This has also led to the displacement of between 200,000 and 400,000 persons in El Salvador.

In Honduras, the bishops’ report said, high homicide rates and internal displacement of families has led to the designation of TPS status for some Honduran refugees. Currently, there are at least 174,000 people who are internally displaced within the country.

Many of the affected families sought TPS as part of the Central American Minors refugee program in order to protect their children from violence and gang recruitment.

The bishops observed that the security situations in both countries has not been fully resolved, and their report warned that the end of TPS might “negatively impact regional security, and have negative economic and humanitarian consequences” in El Salvador and Honduras, as well as in the United States. They also observed that neither country is prepared to receive and reintegrate the full population of citizens that would need to return.

The bishops warn that forcing families to return, including those families whose children are US citizens, would leave returned people at grave risk of violence and targeted gang action.

On top of the policy ramifications of the political situation in Honduras and El Salvador, the destabilization and insecurity in these two countries has made it more difficult for the Church to operate and adequately minister to those in need, the bishops’ conference reported.

The report quoted Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador: “It is truly unfortunate and painful that the Church cannot work because of this atmosphere of insecurity and anxiety that shakes our beloved country.”

The bishops offered a number of policy recommendations for the United States, as well as to the impacted countries and Church leaders. To the US government, they encouraged the extension of the TPS program for 18 months, and also backed efforts to ensure permanent lawful status for some, namely those who are parents of U.S. citizens or who have found employment in U.S. businesses.

The bishops also urged the U.S. to work with both Honduras and El Salvador to help the countries end the violence – particularly violence that targets youth – and form a solid plan to reintegrate families who will need to return. The U.S. government, they said, should “support anti-gang, anti-corruption and systematic integration efforts to ensure greater regional stability and human security.” They encouraged the Central American countries to improve job access and help ensure that Internally Displaced Persons can also return to their homes.

The bishops encouraged the Church and charitable organizations to help with humanitarian aid and supporting a solution to displacement – an issue which will be essential for “possible future TPS returnees.” They also encouraged Church-government partnerships to help people returning to their home countries, as well as any who might seek legal status in the United States and Canada.

“We look forward to working with Congress, the Administration and others in pursuing humane and just solutions for the long-term TPS beneficiaries currently residing in the United States,” the bishops concluded.

Assisted suicide legislation advances in Australia's Victoria state

Melbourne, Australia, Oct 18, 2017 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- American-inspired legislation to legalize assisted suicide has advanced in the Australian state of Victoria, leading critics to worry that it abandons the vulnerable.

On Oct. 18, Ministers of Parliament in Victoria voted to advance the bill by a 49-37 vote. It will face consideration by the full body before being advanced to the Legislative Council, the upper house.

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill is based on similar laws in the U.S. It allows adults who are terminally ill and mentally competent to ask their doctor to prescribe a drug that will end their lives, the U.K.-based news site Politics Home reports. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews had introduced the bill.

A parliamentary inquiry found that one terminally ill Victorian was taking his or her own life every week.

Critics of the bill questioned a lack of detail about what lethal drugs will be used. They said there is not a requirement for a psychological assessment to determine whether the patient suffers depression, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports. They also cited the risk that the elderly will be coerced into committing suicide.

Backers of the bill said it would only affect a small number of people who suffer terminal illnesses. They objected that palliative care cannot deal with all pain. They also claim the bill has among the most stringent safeguards in the world.

Catholics, including Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, and leaders from several Christian denominations joined together to sign a letter protesting the proposal, charging that euthanasia and assisted suicide “represent the abandonment of those who are in greatest need of our care and support.” The letter appeared July 31 in The Herald Sun newspaper.

In April, the local Catholic bishops said the proposal was based on “misplaced compassion.”

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are the opposite of care and represent the abandonment of the sick and the suffering, of older and dying persons,” they said in a pastoral letter. They also invoked the commandment “You Shall Not Kill” and cited the situation in countries like Holland where there are pressures on the elderly to commit suicide.

The effort to legalize assisted suicide in Victoria has been debated for more than a year. In June 2016, a parliamentary committee recommended legalizing voluntary euthanasia.

At the time, some physicians criticized the move. They charged that some lawmakers had naïve expectations and overestimated the speed and painlessness of a euthanasia death.

They warned that the legalization risked diminishing palliative care, which they said was already underused and underfunded.

A proposal similar to the Victorian bill will be debated in New South Wales in November.

 

Philippines mourns Cardinal Vidal, who leaves a legacy of service

Cebu, Philippines, Oct 18, 2017 / 01:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, who was Archbishop of Cebu from 1982 to 2010 and a leading Catholic figure in the fall of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, died Wednesday at the age of 86.

Pope Francis praised the cardinal’s “untiring and devoted service to the Church” and his “constant advocacy of dialogue and peace for all the people in the Philippines.”

“I commend his soul to the infinite love and mercy of our heavenly Father,” he said in an Oct. 18 telegram, voicing condolences to Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu and the clergy, religious, and laity of the archdiocese.

In the early 1980s Vidal became vice-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. He served as the conference’s president from 1985 to 1987. With Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila, he took a lead role in what has become known as the People’s Power Revolution.

He issued a famous letter denouncing the results of the country’s February 1986 snap elections that gave a slim victory to longtime ruler President Ferdinand Marcos over his challenger Corazon Aquino. The elections were denounced for widespread fraud. After widespread non-violent protests, Marcos would leave office to live in exile.

During another period of political tensions in 2001, Cardinal Vidal urged then-president Joseph Estrada to resign amid allegations of corruption, ABS-CBN News reports. The cardinal later convinced Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to pardon Estrada after he was convicted.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato remembered Vidal as “a true servant-leader, rather than a ‘prince’.” He said the late cardinal left a legacy of outstanding character, CBCP News reports.

The cardinal showed humility and had a low-profile style, according to Quevedo. He was approachable and was able to listen to opposing views. He showed prudence in political issues, charity towards those considered “enemies,” and “courage” in presenting the Catholic bishops’ position ahead of the People Power Revolution.

The future cardinal was born Feb. 6, 1931 in Mogpoc, a city in the central island province of Marinduque. He studied for the priesthood at the minor seminary of the Most Holy Rosary, later named for Our Lady of Carmel. He also studied at the seminary of San Carlo.

Bishop Alfredo Maria Aranda Obviar of Lucena, who has been named a Servant of God, ordained him a priest in March 1956. Bishop Obviar named Vidal spiritual director of the local seminary of Mount Carmel, which the priest later served as superior.

In September 1971 he was named Coadjutor Bishop of Malolos, a diocese in the Central Luzon province of Bulacan. He did not succeed as ordinary of Malolos, however, as in August 1973 he was named Archbishop of Lipa in the province of Batangas. In April 1981 he was named Coadjutor Archbishop of Cebu, whose archbishop at the time was Cardinal Julio Rosales. He succeeded Cardinal Rosales in August 1982. He was named a cardinal by St. John Paul II in 1985.

Msgr. Joseph Tan, a spokesman for the Cebu archdiocese, said Vidal had become seriously ill and was admitted to hospital Oct. 11. He said the cause of death was infection leading to septic shock.

He asked for prayers for the cardinal’s soul.

A wake for the cardinal has begun at Cebu’s cathedral. On Oct. 21 his body will be brought to the St. Pedro Calungsod Shrine, inside the compound of the archbishop’s residence.

His funeral will take place Oct. 26 at 9 a.m. in the cathedral. He will be laid to rest in the mausoleum at the back of the cathedral’s sacristry.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Philippines bishops’ conference, praised the cardinal’s legacy.

“Cardinal Vidal cannot die,” Villegas said. “He who has always shared in the dying and rising of the Lord daily in his priestly life cannot die. He now joins the immortal ones who served the Lord faithfully here on earth. His wisdom and his humility, his love for priests and his devotion to the Virgin Mary must live on in us whom he has left behind.”

“Rest well Eminence,” said the archbishop. “Pray for us in the Father’s House.”

Kidnapped priest in Nigeria released, doing well

Benin City, Nigeria, Oct 18, 2017 / 10:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Maurizio Pallù, an Italian missionary who was kidnapped in southern Nigeria last week, was freed Tuesday.

He was freed late in the evening of Oct. 17, according to authorities, and is doing well.

“The devil is cowardly, he wants to make us afraid but he has chosen the wrong way because we are poor men, that have fear, but are sustained by the grace of God,” Fr. Pallù told Vatican Radio Oct. 18.

Noting that it was actually the second time he’s been kidnapped in Nigeria, Pallù said that it was more difficult this time, but he saw “the miracles that the Lord did, just great miracles that the Lord did to keep us alive.”

“It means that the Lord has a big plan in this country because the devil is attacking with great force to destroy the work of God in this nation.”

Pallù, 63, is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way. He has served as a missionary in Nigeria for three years. He and two companions were kidnapped Oct. 12 by armed men near Benin City.

According to Vatican Insider, the kidnapping was carried out by a group of criminals who robbed the priest and others while they were travelling from Calabar to Benin City by car.

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano told Radio Capital Wednesday that Pallù had been freed and is doing well. “We await him in Italy soon,” he said according to Italian news agency ANSA.

They had the intercession of the saints and of the Blessed Virgin Mary over these last few days, Pallù said, pointing out that both times he’s been kidnapped, it has been on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.  

The first took place Oct. 13, 2016. He was released after only an hour and a half.

This time, he was taken captive on the eve of Oct. 13 and kept in the woods along with a Nigerian student and brother for five days.

According to Vatican Insider, Pallù had called his mother on Sunday night to tell her he was well and would be released soon. Pallù's mother, Laura Pallù, made the phone call public during a prayer vigil for her son's release in parish of Santa Lucia La Sala in northern Florence.

The priest said he has been asked to return to Italy for the time being, though he would like to stay in Nigeria if he can.

The devil “is keeping millions of people slaves here with lies, cowardice and corruption,” he said, “and when they allow me to return I will return here very happy and offer my poor person for the evangelization of Nigeria.”  

Fr. Pallù is a native of Florence. As a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, he was a lay missionary for 11 years in various countries. In 1998, he entered the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Rome.

After serving as a chaplain in two parishes in Rome, he was sent to Holland, where he was a pastor in the Diocese of Haarlem. From there, he was sent to the Archdiocese of Abuja.

Several other priests have recently been kidnapped from the Nigerian state of Edo, where Benin City is located, and one has been killed.